For the love of heroes

March 19, 2020

First they fought with heart-devouring hatred
then they parted, bound by pacts of friendship.

Homer
Iliad
Trans. Robert Fables

(Hence Hector reflects on his fight with Ajax)

Safe for now…?

March 19, 2020

Aliens have postponed Earth visits / Invasion due to Coronavirus concerns!

You’re safe for now. But watch out in eighteen months time, boys & girls, they’ll be back with their probes and instruments!

Rod Serling would like you to consider the last man on earth.
He is the original smoking man,
in a dark suit, his cigarette’s curling trail a sinister signal.
How we become the monsters we fear.
The lonely alien lost on our home planet.
He knows the end of the world can be a playground
or a parable. He invites us into alternate dimensions.
We understand his clipped sombre tones take us on a tour
of gambling casinos in which we are always winning,
scary doors leading to nowhere, manicured lawns
weeping with dread. Airplanes carry gremlins on their wings,
and history is subject to change without notice.
If it could happen on Maple Street,
could it happen in your town, in your dreams?
Drunks become emperors. Beauties become beasts.
Every person born is condemned to die, he intones,
time and method to be determined.
We can race alone through space on a meteor,
perhaps prevent Pearl Harbour, or the earth sizzles
beneath an unrepentant sun. The end is always nigh
in Serling’s worlds, one push of a button, one minor twitch
away from melting before our eyes.

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Things alive…

March 19, 2020

“What do you mean, you can’t help? No phone? Are you actually telling me there’s no telephone? Then how are we to contact civilization? I have to speak to someone in the town, find a doctor. My husband, George, needs a doctor! Can’t you understand that? His lumps are moving. Things are alive under his skin!”

Brian Lumley
The Sun, the Sea, and the Silent Scream

Right now is an extraordinary time to be an author, because you have the digital renaissance, and audiobooks exploding all over the place. It’s great for authors, but it’s also unsettling. It used to be, you would do X, Y, and Z, and that would lead to your book going out, and then you could repeat that process until it stopped working for you. And now, in addition to conventional publishing, you have micropublishing, you have small presses expanding — like Subterranean Press, which I do a lot of work with — you have the folks who are doing Kindle exclusives, who are actually making a good living. There are lots of options for writers to get their words out there, and develop an audience.

John Scalzi
The future of publishing – interview with Andrew Liptak 22nd March 2017.

Whisper

March 19, 2020

She catches the whisper between my demon and my desire.

Paul Valéry
Laura

ten-book deal

March 19, 2020

I signed a ten-book deal in 2009. It’s not been as smooth a process as it could have been. By rights I should be near the end of those ten books now, on book eight or so. I should be well into it, and I’m still only on book five at the moment. There have been a few speedbumps on the way, and a few delays. But it’s okay. It does give me that security of not im­mediately worrying about the next contract. I felt going into it that I had more or less written ten books in ten years before I started that contract, so it was more of the same, really. But life throws stuff at you that you didn’t see coming.

Alastair Reynolds
Expanding Universe

Reading today

March 19, 2020

At first I saw absolutely nothing. My eyes, wholly unused to the effulgence of light, could not bear the sudden brightness; and I was compelled to close them. When I was able to reopen them, I stood still, far more stupefied than astonished. Not all the wildest effects of imagination could have conjured up such a scene! “The sea — the sea,” I cried.

“Yes,” replied my uncle, in a tone of pardonable pride; “the Central Sea. No future navigator will deny the fact of my having discovered it; and hence of acquiring a right of giving it a name.”

It was quite true. A vast, limitless expanse of water, the end of a lake if not of an ocean, spread before us, until it was lost in the distance. The shore, which was very much indented, consisted of a beautiful soft golden sand, mixed with small shells, the long-deserted home of some of the creatures of a past age. The waves broke incessantly — and with a peculiarly sonorous murmur, to be found in underground localities. A slight frothy flake arose as the wind blew along the pellucid waters; and many a dash of spray was blown into my face. The mighty superstructure of rock which rose above to an inconceivable height left only a narrow opening — but where we stood, there was a large margin of strand. On all sides were capes and promontories and enormous cliffs, partially worn by the eternal breaking of the waves, through countless ages! And as I gazed from side to side, the mighty rocks faded away like a fleecy film of cloud.

It was in reality an ocean, with all the usual characteristics of an inland sea, only horribly wild — so rigid, cold and savage.

One thing startled and puzzled me greatly. How was it that I was able to look upon that vast sheet of water instead of being plunged in utter darkness? The vast landscape before me was lit up like day. But there was wanting the dazzling brilliancy, the splendid irradiation of the sun; the pale cold illumination of the moon; the brightness of the stars. The illuminating power in this subterranean region, from its trembling and Rickering character, its clear dry whiteness, the very slight elevation of its temperature, its great superiority to that of the moon, was evidently electric; something in the nature of the aurora borealis, only that its phenomena were constant, and able to light up the whole of the ocean cavern.

The tremendous vault above our heads, the sky, so to speak, appeared to be composed of a conglomeration of nebulous vapours, in constant motion. I should originally have supposed that, under such an atmospheric pressure as must exist in that place, the evaporation of water could not really take place, and yet from the action of some physical law, which escaped my memory, there were heavy and dense clouds rolling along that mighty vault, partially concealing the roof. Electric currents produced astonishing play of light and shade in the distance, especially around the heavier clouds. Deep shadows were cast beneath, and then suddenly, between two clouds, there would come a ray of unusual beauty, and remarkable intensity. And yet it was not like the sun, for it gave no heat.

The effect was sad and excruciatingly melancholy. Instead of a noble firmament of blue, studded with stars, there was above me a heavy roof of granite, which seemed to crush me.

Gazing around, I began to think of the theory of the English captain who compared the earth to a vast hollow sphere in the interior of which the air is retained in a luminous state by means of atmospheric pressure, while two stars, Pluto and Proserpine, circled there in their mysterious orbits. After all, suppose the old fellow was right!

In truth, we were imprisoned — bound as it were, in a vast excavation. Its width it was impossible to make out; the shore, on either hand, widening rapidly until lost to sight; while its length was equally uncertain. A haze on the distant horizon bounded our view. As to its height, we could see that it must be many miles to the roof. Looking upward, it was impossible to discover where the stupendous roof began. The lowest of the clouds must have been floating at an elevation of two thousand yards, a height greater than that of terrestrial vapours, which circumstance was doubtless owing to the extreme density of the air.

I use the word “cavern” in order to give an idea of the place. I cannot describe its awful grandeur; human language fails to convey an idea of its savage sublimity. Whether this singular vacuum had or had not been caused by the sudden cooling of the earth when in a state of fusion, I could not say. I had read of most wonderful and gigantic caverns—but, none in any way like this.

The great grotto of Guachara, in Colombia, visited by the learned Humboldt; the vast and partially explored Mammoth Cave in Kentucky — what were these holes in the earth to that in which I stood in speechless admiration! with its vapory clouds, its electric light, and the mighty ocean slumbering in its bosom! Imagination, not description, can alone give an idea of the splendor and vastness of the cave.

I gazed at these marvels in profound silence. Words were utterly wanting to indicate the sensations of wonder I experienced. I seemed, as I stood upon that mysterious shore, as if I were some wandering inhabitant of a distant planet, present for the first time at the spectacle of some terrestrial phenomena belonging to another existence. To give body and existence to such new sensations would have required the coinage of new words—and here my feeble brain found itself wholly at fault. I looked on, I thought, I reflected, I admired, in a state of stupefaction not altogether unmingled with fear!

[…]

I looked with awe. My worst fears were realized.

“It is a colossal monster!” I cried, clasping my hands.

“Yes,” cried the agitated Professor, “and there yonder is a huge sea lizard of terrible size and shape.”

“And farther on behold a prodigious crocodile. Look at his hideous jaws, and that row of monstrous teeth. Ha! he has gone.”

“A whale! a whale!” shouted the Professor, “I can see her enormous fins. See, see, how she blows air and water!”

Two liquid columns rose to a vast height above the level of the sea, into which they fell with a terrific crash, waking up the echoes of that awful place. We stood still — surprised, stupefied, terror-stricken at the sight of this group of fearful marine monsters, more hideous in the reality than in my dream. They were of supernatural dimensions; the very smallest of the whole party could with ease have crushed our raft and ourselves with a single bite.

Hans, seizing the rudder which had flown out of his hand, puts it hard aweather in order to escape from such dangerous vicinity; but no sooner does he do so, than he finds he is flying from Scylla to Charybdis. To leeward is a turtle about forty feet wide, and a serpent quite as long, with an enormous and hideous head peering from out the waters.

Look which way we will, it is impossible for us to fly. The fearful reptiles advanced upon us; they turned and twisted about the raft with awful rapidity. They formed around our devoted vessel a series of concentric circles. I took up my rifle in desperation. But what effect can a rifle ball produce upon the armor scales with which the bodies of these horrid monsters are covered?

We remain still and dumb from utter horror. They advance upon us, nearer and nearer. Our fate appears certain, fearful and terrible. On one side the mighty crocodile, on the other the great sea serpent. The rest of the fearful crowd of marine prodigies have plunged beneath the briny waves and disappeared!

I am about to fire at any risk and try the effect of a shot. Hans, the guide, however, interfered by a sign to check me. The two hideous and ravenous monsters passed within fifty fathoms of the raft, and then made a rush at one another — their fury and rage preventing them from seeing us.

The combat commenced. We distinctly made out every action of the two hideous monsters.

Jules Verne
Journey to the center of the earth

Important notice

March 19, 2020