Filed under: Promotion, Science Fiction, Marketing, NPR | Tags: jim downey, blogging, Science Fiction, free, NPR, promotion, Communion of Dreams, Her Final Year, short story, Réunion, Flight MH370, flash fiction
She stood there before the large table at one end of the closed hanger. The whole space was brilliantly illuminated by the lights high overhead, but additional work lights illuminated the piece of debris on the table from several additional angles, so that there were almost no shadows cast. The white paint had been abraded. There were smudges of something like algae here and there. Barnacles were clustered along joints, where they could get purchase either on the flaperon itself, or on other barnacles which had attached before them. There were even bits of seaweed, still drying.
“It looks fine to me. I mean, just what I would expect after more than a year in the ocean.”
“So, it’s from Flight MH370. What’s the problem? Why’d you call me in?”
The man handed her a clipboard containing a paper report. She took it, glanced at it. “I don’t read French. What’s it say?”
“Well, among other things, the barnacles are dead.”
“I guessed that from the smell.”
“Yeah, but what’s interesting is that the lab determined that the barnacles were more dead than they should be. I mean, they had been dead longer than expected.”
“Oh? Why? What killed them?”
He reached out, as if he were going to touch one with his gloved hand, then thought better of it. He continued to look at the encrustations. “Starved to death. Seems they couldn’t digest the plankton there off of Réunion.”
“Why not? That’s where the barnacles are from, aren’t they?”
“Yep. That’s exactly the type found there.” He turned to look at her again. “Just one problem: these barnacles can only digest left-handed proteins.”
She sighed, looked down at the clipboard out of habit, even though she knew she couldn’t read what was there. Then she looked back to the man. “Mirror lifeforms. Dammit.”
“And they promised — PROMISED — that this wouldn’t happen again! OK, I’ll alert the Council.”
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, General Musings, movies, SCA, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: art, blogging, bookbinding, Chrissie Iles, Communion of Dreams, Double Negative, Doug Pray, Grinnell College, jim downey, John Bowsher, LACMA, Legacy Bookbindery, Levitated Mass, Louis Zirkle, Michael Heizer, Moon, movies, Paint the Moon, SCA, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, Wikipedia, writing
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
* * *
I first heard of Michael Heizer in a sculpture class in college, sometime in the late 1970s. Well, that I remember. It’s entirely possible that I had seen some coverage of his work in the press before then. But my professor got me thinking about how sculpture defined space both by physical presence and absence, and I know that it was then that I became aware of Heizer’s work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his basic concepts would manifest in my life in many ways, showing up in my interests in martial arts, book design, even writing.
* * *
His ideas are incredibly simple, when you pare it all down to just its physical nature, it’s really quite simple, and you see it again and again in his work. To achieve that degree of simplicity is like, almost the hardest thing in the world to do.
* * *
Not being there when your opponent strikes.
Drawing the eye to the empty space.
Allowing the reader to fill in the suggested, but missing, description.
Each of these engages and enlightens in ways that no amount of force, or color, or detail ever could.
* * *
Micheal Heizer makes you aware of space and your relationship to space and how you move through space,the role of the sky, the role of the land, beyond what you’re looking at. You have to rethink the nature of who you are physically in relation to what you are walking around inside and observing from a distance and up close.
* * *
We’re not always aware of what we do while we’re doing it, or why. Sometimes, the trajectory of a life is determined by little things, subtle things. Even things which are mssing.
* * *
I finally got around to seeing this the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since:
Shortly after I had conceived of the idea behind Paint the Moon, I knew that it wasn’t actually feasible. But the idea delighted me. And after some thought, I realized why: it was taking the principles of Michael Heizer’s art — of paring down art to the very simplest, physical elements of experience — and going one step further. Remove the physical object altogether, and replace it with pure experience, pure concept. Hence my description of the project as a “collective lyric fantasy”.
You can’t see the artifact of that project at a museum. There is no massive boulder to walk under, or a negative space in the desert to encounter.
But there is the Moon overhead, and the memory of a moment in time.
Filed under: Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, excerpt, Habren, jim downey, Lydney Roman temple, River Severn, Roman, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
It’s been a few months. Have another taste, from the chapter of St Cybi’s Well that I am currently writing (meaning that this is very much just a rough draft, subject to change or deletion). Links added for your amusement.
“Here’s your fish,” said the girl as she placed the basket down in front of him. “Will ya be needin’ anything else, then?”
Darnell looked down at the golden planks of Haddock and the pile of chips. Then back to the girl. “I think that’ll do it. Thanks.”
She nodded, turned and went back through the small chippy, which was still mostly empty, it being before the usual lunchtime. Her amber hair bobbed as she walked, and that jogged a memory in him. The memory of a dream he had had the night before. He had stayed at a little inn not far from the River Severn in Gloucester, and had eaten in the small pub there. While he sipped his ale, waiting for his dinner, he had read about the history of the inn, and the legend of the river’s name. That legend had evidently fueled his dream.
It was a strange dream. A real dream, during real sleep, but with … echoes … of the ‘dream’ he had experienced earlier in the day at Stonehenge.
He was standing on a high hill, looking down at what must have been the Severn, watching the bore surge coming up the estuary. Just behind him was a great temple, classical in design and almost new, but empty save for himself and the old man. The air still held the fragrance of burnt herbs and offerings, banners and ribbons still fluttered from standards marking some kind of ritual path down the hill.
And there, on the bank of the estuary below, was a wide wooden platform, covered in a bright and colorful canopy. It had a score or more of people on it from what he could see, and they were looking down on something on a smaller, lower platform just above the level of the river. The tidal wave swept up the estuary, two meters or more high, and swept over the low platform as the people watched. As it did, there was the distant sound of horns and the deep thrumming of drums.
“That’s it. She’s gone,” said Eleazer, standing next to him, watching the scene below.
“Habren. The river has claimed her, and henceforth will carry her name as well as her spirit.”
Filed under: General Musings, Writing stuff, tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, Depression, Society, Connections, Book Conservation, Brave New World, Ray Bradbury, Discover, Science, Bipolar, Survival, Mars | Tags: blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Charles Lindbergh, Chris Hadfield, Globe and Mail, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, Mars, Martians, predictions, Ray Bradbury, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, The Martian Chronicles, writing
Bradbury’s Mars offered unlimited new opportunity for exploration and discovery, and expansion of human awareness. Yet virtually every step in the Chronicles, as through much of human history, is a misstep. Mutual ignorance and distrust between normally peaceful peoples leads to violence and death. Greed causes unfathomably bad behavior; uncomfortably reminiscent of gold-hungry Conquistadors in the New World, ﬁve hundred years previous. Anger and frustration at the constraints of an intensely bureaucratic society somehow permit the craziest of personal behavior. And the ultimate threat of the destruction of it all somehow draws everyone back into the maelstrom, as if there is no escape. As if we all have a necessity to accept the consequences of everyone’s actions, and take our punishment, no matter how deadly.
Bradbury’s inclusion of the repeated patterns of human behavior, right down to inadvertent genocide caused by external pestilence and unfamiliar disease, makes The Martian Chronicles an ageless cautionary tale. It made me pause and ask myself – could it be possible that we are forever unable to go beyond who we were? Will every great opportunity of discovery be tainted, tarred and eventually destroyed by our own clumsy, brutish hand?
Are we so cursed by our own tragic humanity?
Wrestling with that very question … and depicting it … has been at the heart of my struggle to write St Cybi’s Well. And wrestling with my own demons at the same time has led me into some very dark moments, particularly over the last couple of months.
But there is hope. Here is the closing of Hadfield’s essay:
Their spaceship will be improbable, and the voyage will have been long. But as our ﬁrst emissaries thump down onto Mars, stand up and look around, they will see who the Martians really are. And with that sense of belonging will come the responsibility and appreciation that has allowed us to ﬂourish and grow on Earth for millennia, in spite of ourselves. By the time we land on Mars and ﬁrst step onto the dusty, red soil, it will be alien no longer. We will know that we are home. And that may be what saves us.
As chance would have it, yesterday I started working on another conservation project which, in its own way, also affirms how exploration may save us. You’ve probably heard of the author, who had his own struggles and failings. Here’s the title page:
Maybe there’s hope for all of ‘we’, after all.
Thanks to Margo Lynn for sharing the Hadfield essay.
Filed under: Connections, Constitution, Fireworks, General Musings, Government, Kindle, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: Amazon, America, blogging, Civil War, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Fourth of July, free, freedom, history, Independence Day, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction
I wrote this nine years ago, and posted it to this blog seven years ago. It seemed like a good time to repost it.
Thoughts on This Day
One birthday, when I was nine or ten, I woke with anticipation of the presents I would receive. Still in my pajamas I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were having coffee, expecting to get the loot which was rightfully mine. My father happily handed over a small, wrapped box. I opened it eagerly, to find a little American flag on a wooden stick. My father said that since my birthday was July 4th, he thought I would appreciate the gift.
Horror-struck first at not getting anything better, then a moment later at my own greed, I guiltily told my parents that I thought it was a fine gift.
After a moment, of course, my folks brought out my real presents, and there was a fair amount of good-natured teasing and laughing about the little trick they had played on me.
That was almost 40 years ago, and I can no longer tell you what presents I received that day. But the lesson in expectations and perspective my dad taught me that morning always remained with me. My dad had been a Marine, fought in Korea, and was a deeply patriotic cop who was killed while on duty a couple of years after that birthday. I have no idea what happened to that little flag on a stick, but I do still have the flag taken from my father’s coffin, carefully and perfectly folded at the graveside when we buried him.
I’ve never looked at the American flag without remembering what a fine gift it really is and, as so many others have written, what it represents in terms of sacrifice. I love my country, as any Firecracker Baby is probably destined to do. You just can’t ignore all that early training of patriotism, fireworks, and presents all tied up together.
But that doesn’t mean that I am blinded by patriotism. As I’ve matured and gained life experience, I’ve learned many other lessons. Lessons about tempering expectations, living with occasional disappointment, accepting that things don’t always work out the way you plan no matter how hard you work, how good your intentions, or how deserving you are. Still, you learn, grow, and do the best you can. This, it seems, is also the story of America. I believe we are an exceptional people, holding great potential, with our best years still to come. But nothing is guaranteed. We must honestly, and sometimes painfully, confront our failures, learn from them, and move on. The original founders of our country were brilliant, but flawed as all humans are flawed. Some of their errors led directly to the Civil War, that great bloody second revolution of the human spirit. That they made mistakes does not negate their greatness; rather, it shows us our potential even though we are not perfect. They knew, as we should know, that only we are responsible for our self-determination. Not a king, not a God, not a ruling political class. Us.
Today we’ve been gifted with a small box with a flag inside. A token of our history. Let us not take it for granted. Let us not think that the thing itself is more important than what it represents. Let us look on it and declare our own responsibility, our own self-determination.
Happy Independence Day.