Paging Mr. Bradbury

Fractures on Mt. Sharp

So it’s a little late, but I wonder if he got to see this before he left us. On the left is a picture from the slopes of Mt. Sharp, on the planet Mars. It is described as a strange geologic formation created by internal stresses and fracturing in the Martian surface. And no doubt that’s true, and interesting on the face of it. The gradual fading of the pattern on the perimiter suggests some natural process at work. Yet the romantic in me just cannot stop comparing this photograph to aerial photographs of archelogoical sites on Earth, especially the Southwest and Middle East. And I see walls and alleyways and rooms and houses packed close together for a people who had to cluster together around the site of scarce resources on a dying planet. Part of me, even though pretty much all of me knows better, would like to see this as the remains of a Martian city. I think I can lay at least some of this attitude at Ray Bradbury’s feet. I mean, he wasn’t the only one with such notions. Edgar Rice Burroughs was writing about Martian princesses and four-armed tharks before Ray Bradbury was born. But you obviously won’t find Dejah Thoris hanging out in a dump like that. This is The Martian Chronicles territory.

In a little over a month, assuming all goes well, NASA will be dropping a new robotic rover, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) into the vicinity, a rover with a pretty boring name but much more muscle and payload than Spirit and Opportunity carried. (See full article at Wired Magazine). I’m sure the MSL will get to the bottom of this, since Mt. Sharp is apparently on its agenda. And we’ll discover something marvelous, like a really strange set of perfectly natural formations due to internal stresses below the Martian surface. Perhaps even some insight into how geologic processes on Mars compare to similar ones on Earth. What’s the same, but also perhaps what is totally unexpected, which is the real prize and the sort of thing that usually precedes breakthroughs in our understanding of how the universe works. And I will think that is cool, too.

“Too?” Yeah, I know. But despite the slings and arrows and yadda yadda we all have to go through, I haven’t quite managed to lose that old-fashioned sense of wonder. Granted, it takes a lot these days to pump up the spark, but it hasn’t gone out completely. Still there, still smoldering. I think Ray Bradbury may have something to do with that.

And I’m still holding out for a city.

Talking to Myself and Feeling Old

Sometime back in the mid-nineties, just a year or two after I’d started publishing regularly, I was asked to write a profile. I don’t remember by whom. I don’t even remember what for. But I stumbled upon it a while back. Most of it is out of date, other parts are simply overblown and embarrassing, and show just how full of myself I was at the time(Which makes me wonder how much has really changed). But as a document of where I was and what was passing for reflection in my feeble excuse for a brain at the time, I found it interesting. I can’t see how anyone else would but, hey, tough noogies. This is my blog and I feel like sharing. Or in the words of past philosophers– “I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.” Continue reading

Subverting the Subversive

 I’ve been thinking, yet again, about the notion of “subversion” in general as it relates to sf/f. Unlike the alleged real world, where subversion is what outfits like Homeland Security and the NSA will try to get you disappeared over, in our genre subversion is rated a Good Thing by reviewers and academics alike (readers perhaps have a different idea, but we’re not talking about them right now). Perhaps even the highest achievement to which a sf/f story can aspire. If you doubt that, just try to remember the last time you saw the term “subversive” used in a genre review where it was regarded as a bad thing. Take your time. Continue reading

“Don’t Share That! You Don’t Know Where It’s Been!”

What does this mean? Maybe it means there’s nothing new under the sun. Or there are only so many ideas that can exist at one time. Or someone else is always smarter than you are. Or Ray Bradbury’s passing has me unhinged and I need to talk about something at least marginally less depressing. Lots of potential significance to hand out, for those interested in significance. Sometimes I am. Interested, that is. Not significant. And I certainly wouldn’t rule out the “unhinged” part.

That bit of surreality brought to you by my prior reading, a collection of interviews with the likewise gone but always eccentric Edward Gorey. He said, among other things and I do paraphrase, “I have this crazy theory–I think that good art is not about what it seems to be about.” The interview was from, oh, twenty years ago or so. It just smacked me on the head because, now and then when I do panels at conventions, some wannabee/hopeful/beginner/glutton for punishment sometimes asks, “How do you know if a story you’re writing is going to be any good?” The obvious answer of course is “You don’t.” Even so, at least in my case, there eventually comes a point, usually before the end, when I do, in fact, know that I’ve hit the mark or missed it. And I’ve said it so many times it’s become my stock answer, mostly because it’s true: “For any given story, you have to ask yourself two questions: 1) What’s the story about? and 2) Ok, now what’s it really about? If I can answer both questions, then the story usually works.” This is not meant to be flip. On the contrary, it is deadly serious, since the first question refers to what happens in the story, but what happens in the story isn’t the story. On the surface, “Romeo and Juliet” is about a family feud, but that’s not what it’s really about. Anyway, Gorey said it first. Or at least before I did. Probably because it’s really obvious. Well, once you see it, that is. Like most “obvious” things.

Okay, there’s also something else we need to get out of the way while we’re both here–I have no Inner Child, okay? I am my Inner Child. I think Ray Bradbury is primarily responsible for that–he certainly led by example. So what I’ve got here is an Inner Fatuous Old Man, and sometimes he takes over. Maybe like now.

Just consider the source.