Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Constitution, Feedback, Humor, Kindle, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: Amazon, blogging, Christians, Communion of Dreams, Constitution, direct publishing, Edenists, feedback, free, highlights, humor, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Thanksgiving
I was scheduling a “free Kindle copy” promotion of Communion of Dreams a while ago, and as part of that I was poking around a little deeper into the Amazon ratings/rankings/comments. Something they evidently added a while back that I hadn’t noticed is that people can “highlight” passages in the Kindle edition, and share that info with other readers.
Anyway, about a year ago someone highlighted a passage (in italics below) and added a comment which I find rather amusing, and I thought I’d share it:
JohnB: I resent the author’s allusion to Christians in this negative light. More unConstitutional bashing.
Take your worst nightmare right-wing Christian fundies,
Really makes me wonder if he continued to read the book at all past that point.
Filed under: Astronomy, Connections, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: astronomy, Communion of Dreams, exoplanets, Gliese 1214 b, jim downey, Norio Narita, science, Science Fiction, space, Space.com, St. Cybi's Well, writing
From the article at the link:
A nearby alien planet six times the size of the Earth is covered with a water-rich atmosphere that includes a strange “plasma form” of water, scientists say.
Astronomers have determined that the atmosphere of super-Earth Gliese 1214 b is likely water-rich. However, this exoplanet is no Earth twin. The high temperature and density of the planet give it an atmosphere that differs dramatically from Earth.
“As the temperature and pressure are so high, water is not in a usual form (vapor, liquid, or solid), but in an ionic or plasma form at the bottom the atmosphere — namely the interior — of Gliese 1214 b,” principle investigator Norio Narita of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan told SPACE.com by email.
You should read the whole thing, it’s pretty cool.
And yes, there is a reason why the prequel to Communion of Dreams is based around visits to holy wells in Wales …
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Gardening, General Musings, Government, Habanero, Italy, Predictions, Psychic abilities, Religion, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, Society, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: art, augmented reality, Beccaria, Communion of Dreams, Constitution, dreams, gardening, Habaneros, Italy, jim downey, law, legal, literature, Marc Hermann, photography, predictions, Prometheus, Roman, Science Fiction, sculpture, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Voltaire, writing
Well, yesterday afternoon I got around to prepping about half of them to dry:
Overnight I dried the peppers.
* * * * * * *
An interesting take on incorporating an additional dimension into photography:
Photographer and historian Marc Hermann has done a beautiful job pulling historic crime scene photos from the New York Daily News archive to blend them with photographs of the same locations today. For those who live in New York now, it may be easy to forget just how rough the city was in the not-too-distant past.
Grisly violence is an undeniable part of New York’s DNA and the juxtaposition of the old, black and white images with the modern “Times Square” version of what most people expect today is incredibly fascinating – truly making ghosts walk amongst us.
* * * * * * *
What has also been my plan, but which I hadn’t quite been able to sort out how to accomplish, was that in St. Cybi’s Well much of the story will revolve around *how* this character came to have those dream-visions in the first place. This is further complicated by the fact that I don’t necessarily want the character to realize the full import of what he experiences within the context of the story – the reader should be able to draw out conclusions which the character wouldn’t, especially if the reader had already read Communion of Dreams.
OK, got all that? So, here’s what I experienced at Baia Castle: the revelation that the classical sculptures of Greek and Roman mythology could themselves be the conduit for the dream-visions. I got this by walking through the collection – not just walking through it, but by seeing the juxtaposition of different sculptures within the somewhat under-lit and under-stated layout of the museum.
See, like in most of the museums we had visited, the climate control there was non-existent. And whether in order to keep down temps a bit, or just to save money on electricity, the only lighting throughout the space was from windows along one side of the building. And the layout of the building was a series of almost cave-like ‘bunkers’ – rooms which were kinda long & narrow with a relatively low ceiling, and done up in neutral grey tones.
It was perfect. And in a moment my mind made the leap to imagery for St. Cybi’s Well. Because, like many of the different ‘holy wells’ in Wales, it dates back to the middle of the 6th century – not that long after the fall of Rome. And, in fact, the spread of Christianity to the Celtic lands was part of the cultural transference which took place. It’d be easy to tweak the history just a bit to include ‘lost’ sculpture & myth.
I felt in that moment the same way I feel now: like laughing maniacally.
And an appropriate (and somewhat telling) image from that same blog post:
* * * * * * *
A passage from an excellent essay on the roots of Enlightenment thought about justice.
Rarely in the history of thought do I have a chance to say the outcome was so simply good, but it worked. Within their lifetimes, Voltaire and Beccaria saw real reform, a sincere and solid transformation of the legal codes of most of Europe, the spread of deterrence-based justicial thought. Within decades, judicial torture virtually vanished from European law. The laws of America, and of the other new constitutions drafted in the latter 18th century, all show the touch of Beccaria’s call. It worked. The change was not absolute, of course. Torture, the primary target, retreated, as did the notions of retributive justice, avenging dignity, and purging sin. But prisons were still squalid, punishments severe, and other things Beccaria had campaigned against remained, capital punishment primary among them. But even here there was what Beccaria would call progress. The guillotine lives in infamy, but it too was a consequence of this call for enlightened justice: a quick, egalitarian execution, death with the least possible suffering, and equal for all, giving no advantage to the noble, who had long been able to hire an expert and humane headsman while the poor man suffered the clumsy hackings of an amateur who might take many blows to sever a writhing neck. Most states judged death still necessary, but agreed that law and punishment should bind all men equally, and that unnecessary pain did not serve the public good. It is strange to call the guillotine a happy ending, but it was in a small way, and even more victorious was the dialog it that birthed it.
* * * * * * *
Overnight I dried the peppers. Here they are this morning:
Why, yes, all of these things are connected.
Filed under: Art, Babylon 5, Book Conservation, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Health, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Kindle, Marketing, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, appendicitis, art, Babylon5, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, G'Kar, health, heliosphere, J. Michael Straczynski, jim downey, JMS, Kindle, leather, NASA, NPR, predictions, promotion, revelations, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Voyager, writing, Z'ha'dum
“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation.”
Sometimes you don’t recognize when things change — the moments of transition — except in hindsight. That could be because the change is incremental enough that you don’t notice it for a while, or it might be that you’re so completely involved in the moment that the realization of what just happened doesn’t sink in immediately.
* * *
This morning there was a news item on NPR which caught my attention: that perhaps the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already left our solar system.
Scientists have known for a while that it was approaching the limits of the heliosphere. The expectation was that there would be a fairly clear change in orientation of the magnetic field when the craft crossed the boundary of the Sun’s influence into true interstellar space. But perhaps that boundary was less defined than we thought. From the story:
How did we miss that? As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely our fault. Researchers thought the solar system was surrounded by a clearly marked magnetic field bubble.
“There’s one at the Earth, there’s one at Jupiter, Saturn, many planets have them. And so just by analogy we were expecting there to be something like that for the solar system,” Swisdak says.
Scientists were waiting for Voyager to cross over the magnetic edge of our solar system and into the magnetic field of interstellar space. But in in the September issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters, Swisdak and his colleagues say the magnetic fields may blend together. And so in July 2012, when Voyager crossed from the solar system into deep space, “Voyager just kept cruising along,” Swisdak says. All they saw was a change in the field’s direction.
* * *
Last Thursday my wife had a follow-up with her surgeon to see how she was doing in recovering from her emergency appendectomy. She had been released from the hospital the previous Saturday, but there was some concern over the risk of secondary infection within her abdomen.
Well, without getting too much into the details, tests indicated that she might be developing exactly that sort of infection. The surgeon ordered a procedure called a needle aspiration and scheduled it for the following day.
We dutifully reported to the hospital for the procedure. It didn’t go smoothly, and the upshot was that it didn’t help her condition at all. A couple hours later we left the hospital, and she’s been mostly resting since. We’re now waiting to hear from the surgeon about what happens next. And what it means.
* * *
“Yeah, but it’s like the way that the people involved in your book – the characters – are all struggling to understand this new thing, this new artifact, this unexpected visitor. And I like the way that they don’t just figure it out instantly – the way each one of them tries to fit it into their own expectations about the world, and what it means. They struggle with it, they have to keep learning and investigating and working at it, before they finally come to an understanding.” He looked at me as we got back in the car. “Transitions.”
* * *
Where Communion of Dreams was largely about transitions, in many ways St. Cybi’s Well is about revelations. How we experience them. How we understand them. How we do or don’t recognize them when they happen.
The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams is free today. And you have less than two weeks to enter into the drawing for a hand-bound, full-leather copy of the book. So far only two people have entered. Don’t miss the moment.
Filed under: Augmented Reality, Connections, Faith healing, Religion, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: faith, faith healing, jim downey, Pennant Melangell, religion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, St. Melangell, Wales, writing
This is from the working draft of Chapter One: Pennant Melangell
“C’mon in,” she said, unlocking the door and stepping inside. They passed through the porch, into the church itself. Just inside she stopped, turned on the lights. With a sweep of her arm, she gestured across the interior of the space. “Now, where do you go?”
Darnell furrowed his brow, scanned the interior. “What do you mean?”
“You want to be healed. Where do you go?”
“Well,” he hesitated. “Well, to the Shrine?”
“You know the legend of St. Melangell. What if you didn’t?”
He looked around. “The frieze?”
She nodded. “All these places tell a story. Sometimes it is just in the layout of the building or what is left of it. Sometimes it is represented in paintings, friezes, or stained glass. You have to understand the story of the place before you can hope to use it.”
“An instruction manual.”
“Of a sort. Some of it will be intuitive – these are built spaces, created by other humans. And so in some sense just part of your heritage. But some of it will be based on symbolism which is drawn from a different culture than what we’re used to now. It may take a little while before your brain adjusts, and sees the proper cues.”
“Learn the language.”
“Close. More like learning the patterns. The rituals.”
“I’m not looking to get religion, sis.”
She considered him. “I know. Think of religion to be just one interpretation of the text. First you need to learn to read. Interpretation can come later, when you’re more fluent.”
Back to work.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Book Conservation, Connections, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, free, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction, technology
Remember that 700+ year old bible I posted about the beginning of June? This one:
Well, this weekend I got started working on the book. And I thought I’d share a couple of images of what I found inside, and what I’ve done to it so far.
Here’s the spine of the text block, once it had been freed from the cover seen above:
That’s after I’ve removed the gross chunks of paper liners which were applied between the cords. I’ve since removed all the rest of the liners, first using a jeweler’s tweezers and then a scalpel. Anyway, I want to note the very evident lines of sewing stations (holes punched through the folios) from the original binding. That shows that the book has been rebound at least once.
Here’s another image:
That’s an image of the interior of the cover. Which shows a couple of interesting things. First, you can see how the vellum of the cover molded itself to the spine of the text block over time. That sort of thing happens over *centuries*.
Second, how the supporting cords are laced into the cover. The sewing was done in a way that it wrapped around the cords, which helps to support the overall structure. The cords are then laced into a channel, looped over the board material, and then come back on the inside and are pasted down. This is VERY common of medieval and Renaissance bindings.
And lastly — note that the cover material is an early variety of bookboard. It’s NOT wood. This is a clue to the age of the binding. It means that it is after the introduction of papermaking to Europe. Which is to say, this book was probably rebound sometime in the 14th or 15th century. (Papermaking technology was introduced to Southern Europe late in the 13th century, but it took a little while to disseminate across the continent.)
So, I removed a couple of layers of more modern papers on the inside, and pulled the old ends of the cords out of the bookboard. Then I dampened the board on the inside, put it between moisture barrier sheets, and put it into a press to flatten overnight. Then once the spine of the text block was fairly clean I applied a layer of conservation adhesive (a blend of methyl-cellulose and poly-vinyl-acetate) and some fairly heavy Kozo-fiber paper, which I stippled onto the spine so that it would conform to the existing structure and hold everything in place. Like this:
You’ll note that it extends past the text block on the left-hand side of the spine. I can trim that excess off with a scalpel once everything is dried. I should finish up the rest of the work tomorrow.
Oh, and speaking of tomorrow … remember, the week-long give-away of my books starts then!
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Constitution, Expert systems, Government, Heinlein, Humor, movies, Philip K. Dick, Predictions, Preparedness, Privacy, Religion, Reproduction, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: augmented reality, Heinlein, humor, jim downey, movies, NSA, Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, predictions, privacy, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, simulated reality, simulation, technology, The Matrix
Everyone is thinking about the whole “NSA Spying” thing all wrong. This isn’t about surveillance. It’s not whether there is a trade off to be made between security and privacy. It isn’t a question of how much the government is watching you or that you shouldn’t worry at all if you have nothing to hide. Nope. It’s not about any of that.
It’s about whether you want to live forever or not.
The idea that we’re living in some kind of ‘simulated reality‘ has been a mainstay of Science Fiction for just about forever, whether you want to credit it to Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, or for that matter, Genesis. One popular twist on this perhaps best seen in The Matrix where at some future time hyper-intelligent computers have re-created our reality for their own purposes, using the best records available to run simulations and better understand us.
So don’t think of it as the National Security Agency. Think of it, rather, as a records-keeping entity. One which is doing everything possible to record as much of this world, and your life, as possible so that later it can be used to make an accurate simulation. Just call it the Nascent Simulation Archive, and rejoice that our government is being so ecumenical in trying to document as much as possible about not just America, but the whole wide world. Because it means that you’ll live forever.
And you want to live forever, right?
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Religion, Science Fiction, University of Missouri, Writing stuff | Tags: art, Bible, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, calligraphy, jim downey, manuscript, MU, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, University of Missouri, vellum, writing
It isn’t the oldest, rarest, or most interesting item I’ve ever worked on. But it’s not everyday that a 700+ year old book comes into my shop for conservation work. This one did yesterday:
Here’s the official description of it, for those who might be interested:
Bible. Latin. [Biblia Latina] 1300. Bound in parchment ms. with neumic notation over boards ; leaf  torn with part of 1 column wanting; small stain on p. 1 partly hides incipit; trimmed, headings mostly lost. Prehumanistic minuscule script; rubricated. Lectionary? with different pen on final 2 leaves. Contents: Prol. in libros Salomonis — Proverbia — Ecclesiastes — Canticum canticorum — Sapientia — Ecclesiasticus — Joshua — Isaias –Jeremias — Ezechiel — Daniel — Osee — Joel — Amos — Abdias — Jonas –Michaeus — Nahum — Habacuc — Sophonias — Aggaeus — Zacharias — Malachias — Job – Judith — Esther — [Novum Testamentum]. Cover is a manuscript leaf of a parchment page with nuemes and a Gothic script with red initial letters from about about the same time.
It’s been a while since I shared any images from my conservation work, so thought I would.
Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Book Conservation, Connections, Kindle, Publishing, Religion, Society, tech | Tags: Amazon, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, caligraphy, direct publishing, economics, Erik Kwakkel, history, jim downey, Kindle, technology
A lot of folks don’t know it, but I have an undergraduate degree in Economics (and another in German). And, while I haven’t really done anything with that degree, it does still largely inform how I see the world: in terms of economic forces at play.
So this nice little explanation of how the industry of making books worked during the Medieval Period … and the forces which led to it … as well as how it relates to modern publishing … well, let’s just say it ties a lot of my interests together. Here’s an excerpt:
The professionals who made books for profit were usually found near the biggest church in town. This was a well-chosen spot as canons and clerics (i.e. people who visited the church and who could read) formed an important part of the clientele. By the 14th century true communities of the book had formed in the neighborhoods around churches and cathedrals. Evidence from such cities as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, London and Paris suggests that in these communities a diverse group of artisans interacted with clients and with each other. It was a world bound not only by the book, however, but also by profit.
The whole thing is worth a read, and it’s actually quite brief. Brief, but insightful.
Filed under: Connections, Faith healing, Predictions, Religion, Science Fiction, Travel, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Celtic, faith, jim downey, Pennant Melangell, predictions, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, Tanat, travel, Wales, writing, Yew
No, not from St. Cybi’s Well. Not exactly, anyway. Rather, from a travelogue I wrote following my 2006 trip to Wales. This is how I describe the small chapel of Pennant Melangell, which is the site where a lot of the book will be based:
The shrine is to St. Melangell, supposedly one of the earliest such shrines in northern Europe. It’s been nicely restored, using new local materials to recreate missing pieces, but in such a fashion as to be clear what is old and what is new. Yeah, that’s the professional book conservator talking there – I appreciate good craftsmanship when I see it. Evidently the shrine had been pitched (literally) into a local ditch during the Reformation, but was (much) later recovered, then even later properly restored.
The rest of the chapel is stunning, though in an honest and simple way. It has seen multiple alterations and revisions in the last 800 years (big surprise), but still maintains a sense of what it is all about. And what it is all about is grace. No, not in the strictly Christian sense of the term, but in something older, something deeper . . . dare I say in the sense the early Christians wanted to appropriate?
Here we get into what I was talking about when I said that this trip was partly a spiritual quest. The Celts had notions of holiness tied up with location, of ‘thin’ places where the boundaries between this reality and the other side came together. You’ll frequently find a river, stream, or spring at such a location. The whole valley of the Tanat has that feeling to it, but it seems to be particularly strong here, where the young river wraps itself around the church grounds. The rough circle of the churchyard is bounded by a coarse wall, more like an earthwork than anything. More importantly, while the wall is higher than either the interior or the exterior ground, the interior is on a slight rise, a slight dome with the chapel at the apex. It’s almost like it is a lens of earth, focusing spiritual energy. And that Big Damned Yew tree? It isn’t the only one. There are several others of almost the same age at other points on the wall, the anchors of the lens, both to the earth and to the sky.
So, go. If you make it to Wales, and have an afternoon or a morning to spare, go. In the coming travelogues I will have other places you might want to visit, each one special in its own way. But go to Pennant Melangell. Make a donation of a few pounds if you can spare ‘em. Avowed atheist that I am, I now carry a wallet with a religious inscription that I got at Pennant Melangell, from the self-service/honor system selection of items in the office. And yes, I even paid for it.
Just thought I would share that passage. Trust me, you’ll see a lot more about this place over the coming year.