Princess Dancer Finally Here

We did it. We finally finished the Princess Dancer book teaser. Princess Dancer is a short story of mine that appeared in the Beyond Grimm e-anthology published in March by Book View Cafe. The story is based on Twelve Dancing Princesses and includes two different types of dance and I thought it would make a nice visual presentation. Tracy Schott produced the video, Kevin Hackenberg organized the shoot and all post-production. There was a whole slew of people—dancers, actors, tech people—involved.

We showed the short film at our local film festival and also got the dancers in the film to do a live exhibition at the festival’s opening event.

It’s been fun. I’m glad I can now move on. Enjoy the video! Buy the book.

Meet the Other Half

I first came across Athena Andreadis online after I read something of hers at the Singularity Hub. I like to hang around the fringe of the Singularity just so I won’t miss out when it happens. I mean that only slightly sarcastically because, although I’m not sure I buy the theory, I like to keep up with news and gossip just the same. I want to know who has signed up for SmartBlood transfusions and where to get the freshest organs for transplant.

The Singularity is strange and not for everybody. People like me prefer to occupy a spot somewhere between the conservatives who believe heaven makes a good enough afterlife, and the cheerleading transhumanists who do not. Us fringeheads watch from the rim of the event horizon with our cryogenically frozen heads stuck in the sand.
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Book View Cafe Giveaway

I’m taking a break from blogging for a while, but I’m still active at Book View Cafe. This group of authors includes such folks as Ursula K. Le Guin, Laura Anne Gilman, Patricia Rice, Judith Tarr, Sherwood Smith, and a whole bunch more.

The great thing about BVC is they’ve recently revamped their bookstore. Which means their having a big hoopty do grand opening celebration with lots of…stuff. They’re discounting their anthologies and running a contest for some lucky person to win a free e-copy of his or her choice of BVC book.

The promotion runs until June 7 at the BVC website. You can get more information here: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/grand-opening-celebration/

Basically, you enter the bookstore (http://www.bookviewcafe.com), browse around, find something that interests you. (Eligible titles are marked with a gold star.) Once you decide which BVC book you’d love to have more than anything else in the whole wide world, leave a comment telling BVC which book you want and why (you have to do both).

A bunch of members are also holding giveaways at their own sites. Here’s a list: Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff, Chaz Brenchley, Patricia Burroughs, Jeffrey Carver, Amy Sterling Casil, Laura Anne Gilman, Lois Gresh, Kit Kerr, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Kelly McClymer, Vonda N. McIntyre, Nancy Jane Moore, Linda Nagata, Pati Nagle, Steven Harper, Phyllis Irene Radford, Patricia Rice, Madeleine Robins, Deborah J. Ross, Sherwood Smith, Jennifer Stevenson, Judith Tarr, Dave Trowbridge. If you see any of your faves there, head over to their blogs to try and win something there as well.

I haven’t had time to put a contest together for this, but if anybody wants a free ecopy of any of my BVC titles: (We, Robots; Tritcheon Hash; Uncategorized; The Textile Planet) let me know and I’ll put something together. You can find info on my titles here: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/bvc-author/sue-lange/.

Let the games begin!

New Science: Where is all this Going?

I could ask where all this is going in reference to any number of weird or repugnant things you come across in the newspapers, blogs, and real life. This week it refers to an article in the March 4th issue of New Scientist describing a “coral forensics expert.” Imagine that: a detective that investigates reef murders. And there’s more than one of them on the planet. Where’s all this going?

Interestingly, one of these detectives is working on the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Dr. Illiana Baums had just finished sampling the Gulf of Mexico’s Leiopathes glabberina when BP’s oil rig blew a gasket. So? Well, that means she’s got current baseline data with which to measure damage from this oil spill.

This kind of information, this data point, is hard to come by. Believe it or not we do not have continuous monitors hooked up to every one of the 200 million species on the planet, let alone specific numbers from the thousands of places they live. Sadly that’s the exact information you need to determine the damage from an ecological disaster. Considering the varying opinions on last year’s Gulf spill, you need the data to just determine if it was indeed a disaster in the first place. Who do you believe? What’s really going on? Where’s it going? If you don’t have baseline information on the health of an ecosystem such as a coral reef, it’s very hard to prove anything to skeptics. They hardly care, let alone believe. In fact, who does care about the health of our coral reefs? Not many people. Not when protecting them might mean it costs more to drive our cars around.

But everything is connected and death of a reef will come back to bite you in the ass at some point. Mark my words. That’s where all this is heading.

So we have a dearth of ecological information that’s going to come back to bite us. I know you’re shrugging your shoulders, but I’ve seen the future and it’s not pretty. The future is my little creek. I live in the country, farm country. What that means is population density is low. What that means is that the idiots like me, who live out where the buses don’t run, do not matter. There is safety in numbers and out here, there ain’t none. When I got the letter that said the waste haulers were going to dump sludge on my neighbors’ cornfields, I was more than a little concerned.

In our area, sludge dumping has a bit of a history. Distant communities have sued over deaths and disease associated with sludge dumping. Who knows if there’s really a connection between spongy lung diseases and dumped sludge because in our post-industrial days, industries pay off people who sue, even if they’re wrong. The plaintiffs, that is. We never get to the bottom of anything because people with money don’t care about having a day in court. They just want to get on with it.

In the case of the waste haulers in question, I can see why. They are under contract to dispose of the waste from no less than 38 municipalities and other entities. That’s got to be a lot of dough, cabbage, scratch, whatever you want to call it.

I called up the number they gave us in case we had any questions. The company rep assured me they’d be dumping at most one or two times a year. They’ve actually been doing it for about five years and it’s not that a big of a deal. It smells for a week and then we’re back on track. It’s not nearly as much of a nuisance as when the duck manure gets spread. Anyway, our sludge dumpers have been at it for five years now and the only reason they sent out the new letter is because they’ve added new inputs. In other words they’ve contracted with more communities that don’t know what to do with their shit so they pay the waste hauler to take it away to where I live so I have to deal with it.

Of course there are all kinds of monitoring and rules and limits to protect those of us who live contiguously with the fields in question. I’m quite safe the man told me.

I know this, I used to have an NPDES permit. I know there’s monitoring in place and rules and limits and they wouldn’t think of putting paint thinner on my neighbors’ fields which would then end up in my creek.

But I want more assurances. Preferably from someone who’s not making money on the transaction. So I called the second number they suggested, the PA DEP. Assurances abounded. The guy pretty much reminded me that there is monitoring in place and rules and limits. And that there would never be a problem with paint thinner in my creek.

Which I believe because I spent about a $1000 last year to test the creek for paint thinner. It’s not there, but you know what is? Coliform. Of course, every creek has coliform. The question is does it have more coliform than it had before? And the answer is, how the hell do I know when I have no baseline data? Dr. Baums had not made it to my creek before the start of the sludge dumping.

I’m sure everything is above board. I’m sure the monitoring is going fine. I’m sure they are not allowing paint thinner and medical waste into the sludge. There’s no industry left in America, anyway so I don’t really have to worry about paint thinner, which in this blog rant stands in metaphorically for any kind of repugnant industrial waste. Medical waste? I’m not so sure. Everybody and their brother is on Prozac and Cialis so there’s little chance medical waste doesn’t make it into the waste stream somewhere. My water test didn’t show any, though, so I remain unconcerned about untoward amounts of hormones in my dog’s bathing water, aka the creek.

The point of all this, though, is that this problem is never going to go away. The more paint thinner and medicine we decide we must have, the more of it will have to be disposed of in some kind of way. And those idiots who live where the buses don’t run will increasingly be the recipients of it. And we don’t have any baseline data so if strange lumps start appearing on the backs of our knees, we’re going to have a tough time proving anything untoward. That’s pretty much what the DEP rep said. I may have embellished a bit.

To be honest what good would baseline data do me anyway? The EPA is getting its funding cut. Can the PA DEP be far behind? Who’s going to take action when the lumps show up? Do you really think that anybody cares if a little Sr90 gets dumped into my creek? A little benzene or Agent Orange? The only thing that people care about is not having to pay taxes. Most people live in the city, they don’t have to deal with the health of my personal wild space. National Parks, sure, but private property? No.

As if nature can be fenced in. Mark my words, my little creek debacle is going to come back and bite everyone in the ass. Check the back of your knees after your visit to Yellowstone. We’re all connected.

Meantime, I am on my own. I could solve this problem by moving back to the city to avoid the eventual decline of my little creek and quality of life. Apart from losing my sanity, though, there is a worse problem that a move to the city will entail. People in urban areas wind up being guinea pigs in hellacious governmental research projects. Doesn’t make sense to test in the wide open spaces where the buses don’t run. Nope. Gotta have a statistically large enough sample. The people that cram themselves like sardines into areas too small to change their minds in are perfect for that.

So there you are. That’s where all this is going, and there is no escape.

Sue Lange

Check out Book View Cafe’s benefit anthology for the Gulf Oil Spill Relief fund, “Breaking Waves.”

Mashup: National Geographic and Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Light at an oblique angle illuminates more than when it is face on an object. Like how I experience moments of clarity while reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance alongside a text completely different in subject matter, intent, and style: the December 2009 National Geographic’s article by Michael Finkel on East Africa’s Hadza, one of the few remaining hunter/gatherer groups on the planet. I was drawn to the article because a few months ago I did some research on the Hadza for a steampunk story I wrote for Volume II of Book View Café’s Shadow Conspiracy to be published later this year.

The Hadza are an anomaly in Africa. Not just because they remain staunchly anti-agrarian, but because they are so amazingly successful. They live a stone’s throw from Olduvai Gorge (or would that be a prehistoric human skull’s throw?) where they have probably lived for 10,000 years. Are they the oldest culture on the planet? Were our ancestors members of the Hadza?

Their language is unrelated to that of any of the groups surrounding them, most of which speak a version of Bantu, (Swahili is just such a version) or a Nilotic (having a connection to the areas around the Nile) tongue. The Hadza truly are alone in the universe.

Neither livestock herders nor crop tenders, the Hadza are considered backwards and unsophisticated by their Bantu- and Nilotic-speaking neighbors. It’s the same sort of attitude that city-dwellers have about farmers, and post-industrialists have about factory workers. We’re all so much more evolved than they, aren’t we?

Coming up with complicated tools and rules, though, is not an indication of intelligence or facility with brain function. In Guns, Germs, and Steel (not part of this mashup, but referenced nonetheless), Jared Diamond noted that the New Guineans, another primitive group, had an impressive amount of information residing in their skulls, much more than he, or anyone he knew, was capable of holding. With our computer memory, pocket calculators, and programmable phones, we have no need of biological memory anymore. The New Guineans’ only mnemonic devices were their individual brains. And what their brains had in them surpassed what any American Idol-watching, football-stadium going, sex-drugs-and-rock&rolling early adopter out there has in theirs.

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance portrays a civilization well beyond that of the Hadza. With its depiction of one man’s intellectualization to the nth degree, it could almost be considered a look into the post-Singularity world. One wonders if heavy intellectualization will drive us all mad once the Singularity hits. Maybe, instead of passing on our genetic materials, our life’s goal will become overcoming insanity. Or accepting it.

On another level the book is a manifesto for dealing with technology, an urging to embrace it and not separate yourself from it. Pirsig insists there is a bridge between rational thought and intuitive thought. How to build that bridge is anyone’s guess. He went mad thinking about such things, so we’re not left with much help.

The point of all this is that in one instance you have the modern world with its inhabitants thinking dualistically instead of holistically. In the other instance you have a pure holistic culture. The Hadza seem backward and in need of saving. A life without semiconductors is hard and doesn’t have to be that way, we believe. We want them to progress the way we did. We are convinced that our move from the hunt to the plowed field was a step to a better lifestyle. A necessary step, in fact, to get us to the cities where living was even easier. The next stop from the cities, of course, is virtual reality via The Singularity.

For the benefit of our species, we must progress to our manifest destiny where life will finally reach its pinnacle. We are sure of this, but do we really know? The agrarian lifestyle gave us diseases via domesticated animals. City living further weakened our health with its overcrowded conditions. Factory work gave us cancer and industrial accidents. A high tech intellectual lifestyle brings insanity.

Certainly down through the ages, the privileged who never had to sully their hands with pig stys, ghettoes, coal mines, and office drudgery, have felt the benefits of all that social evolution. But most of humanity has not been part of that elite class. Most people had to sully their hands. Even today, most, if not all, of us work for a living. Even if we’re no longer grubbing or doing manual labor, we all still work and work hard. Are we truly better off than our foreparents?

Hunting and Gathering may be the very best lifestyle for the most of us, after all. According to Finkel, the Hadza do not engage in warfare, they rarely have outbreaks of infectious diseases, they are not subject to famine, their diet is “more stable and varied than most of the world’s citizens,” they work only four to six hours a day in the pursuit of necessities, they have an almost non-existent carbon footprint.

The list can go on, but you get the point. In fact, this is nothing new; we know it all already. But we won’t go back to the forests. We would never give up our tech. We need our diversions, our toys, our shiny lights, and high-fructose corn syrup. We want our MTV even if it makes us depressed.

So what do these people, these Hadza do without their MTV? Who knows, but Robert Pirsig has an idea:

“Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV, it’s a shame more people don’t switch over to it.”

Sue Lange

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