LITERARY SCIENCE FICTION--The Archives of Varok
Dr. Jean Bolen (author of Goddesses in Every Woman) calls this story "…a perfect metaphor of Jungian individuation." Now back in print in POD version as an Authors Guild Backinprint.com Edition. Originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1975; Millington, London, 1976; and Dell Publishing Co., New York, 1977.
The 1990 updated version of "A Place Beyond Man," coming in 2014. Excerpt on Goodreads, Cary Neeper, first blog. Comment on the new action-packed beginning!
80,803 words. Can two individuals, alien to each other, find a way to communicate before their species destroy each other in a clash of values?
Released December 4, 2012 in hardback, trade paperback, and e-editions. Disruption and re-instating of the steady-state on Varok serves as an example for Earth
96,302 words. Dangerous alien venture on a recovering Earth.
118,424 words. Exploration of self-actualization and theology on the aquatic world of ellls.
No-growth economics depends on a stable population.
Anything we do could be amplified in the long run.
Complexity defines meaning for our lives, even if the long run cannot be predicted.
A naive geologist attempts to help New Mexico control its oilfield wastes, but finds his efforts entangled in two murders and a supranational conspiracy.
A thousand years from now a young woman with an identity crisis defends the personhood of her alien and animal friends, as humans tackle their most difficult challenge.
In this sci-fi musical melodrama set in 3002 CE, aliens and humans discover the danger of putting too much stock in occult symbols.
Exploration of complexity, its indicators, embedded chaos, and value in human organization.
Books recommended to thrill you with what we have learned lately
May 21, 2013
This blog may get me into hot soup, but I’ve got to write it. I’ve been a student of writing for forty years, read writer’s magazines, and revised and updated at least four novels every ten years. I love a well-told story. It bothers me when good writers twist their stories to pander to the current market—at the insistence of their producers, I suspect. Does blatant pandering attract more viewers and sell more books?
I’m sure you can guess what I’m talking about. I loved Downton Abbey, loved the characters—but did Ethel’s plot need to do a direct take-off on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? The attractive suitor has a crazy but healthy wife in lockup. I couldn’t believe it. When the attractive prospect told his sad tale, I laughed out loud. Also, equally unforgivable, Ethel’s first suitor suddenly jumped character and waited for the dramatic moment at the altar to dump her. Any normal nice guy would dump her in private.
Then there is the TV soap General Hospital. I’ve watched it for forty years. The characters are like old friends, though the plots are too dependent on refusal to communicate. I loved how the writers melded two stories to rescue some characters from the cancelled soap “One Life To Live.” And I bet our favorite detective, John McBain had a ball playing two parts. But do so many stories these days have to feature a vampire? Surely there can be too many variations on a fun theme. Isn’t GH a little late for a fading vampire era?
Maybe it’s not pandering to go with the flow. Maybe it’s smart to go for more readers. Makes me wonder, though, when vampires repeat their toothiness in every variation imaginable, and dystopias drone on and on with violence or whining.
Maybe such stories are therapeutic. Maybe dystopias help up withstand (or dodge?) the emotional horror of tornadoes in Oklahoma and rapid gunfire aimed at children. But is that kind of conditioning healthy? I don’t think so. It’s time to focus on what we need to do, to decide who we are, how we can cure our society, not how bad it can get.
We make our own reality. Self-fulfilling prophecies are for those with no courage or energy to build a bright future. We can do it, but it takes persistence and education. We know how. The guidelines are clear.
May 15, 2013
Geese must have sensitive taste buds. Lucy is very picky. If a melon is too ripe, she shakes her head, and spits it out with an expression that says, “Puew.” Same for melon that is too green.
The hens are not so picky. They will eat cantaloupe rinds, even the tough green layer just inside the rough brown exterior. And they’ll eat carrot peelings. That’s why we don’t have enough wet garbage to make compost. They love bread, go nuts for meat scraps
Lucy will have none of that stuff, though she will eat apple cores and fresh lettuce. Dandelions are her favorite treat. She cleaned them out of the backyard long ago. Now I have to try and find them in the front xeriscaped garden. They’re a special treat.
Melon rind that was not too ripe, not to green, just right—was the reason she finally accepted husband Don into her circle of acceptable people (humans), without sticking out her long neck and hissing. He had sense enough to hold out her favorite treat with an outstretched hand. She doesn’t like her melon rind contaminated with dirt or straw.
I’m still wondering how birds in the wild know what to eat. And what not. Rather important bit of wisdom that--necessary to stay alive in a complex world growing with all kinds of potential food or poison. It helps to read the wonderful “Natural history of who birds are, where they came from, and how they live.”
Colin Tudge’s The Bird
May 7, 2013
Lucy, Bobbi and Turkey Two (Little Bear)
This column is about jealousy, which turkeys are not. They simply demand attention and swipe bites of sandwich when they get a chance.
I hate to complain, but it’s only been a few short decades since animal behavior scientists could publish words like affection or empathy in their scientific papers, thanks to Frans deWaal
and others on the Discovery Channel and PBS broke the ice.
All good soap operas should deal with jealousy once in a while, instead of relying on poor communications to turn the plot. I’ll deal with it right up front, right now, while Bobbi goose rapidly attains status as the dominant personality in the Hen House. Jealousy is the most prominent driving force of Hen House sociology. I watch it every day, amazed.
Dogs are the most jealous of critters. DeeDee, being the most alert of our two canine family members, can’t stand to watch me murmur sweet nothings to the birds of the Hen House.
There doesn’t need to be any food involved. If I kneel down to talk to young Bobbi goose and scratch the bottom of her neck, I immediately have two wet noses nudging my hand and wet tongues washing my face. DeeDee and Scooter can’t stand to hear me sweet talk the baby goose without getting some for themselves, and a neck massage to go with it.
Baby goose Bobbi also has a jealous streak, and it prevented my making friends with Motley and Lance, the ducks Ms. Ritz raised one spring. When Bobbi scarped the melon rind I held for her, I tried offering it to Motley. The yellow and black hybrid duckling cocked his head and looked at me straight in the eye as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Still, Bobbi wouldn’t ever stand for my approaching Motley with the leftover Honey Dew rind. With her raspy complaint she’d get between us, and sometimes Lucy would join her, as if to protect their treat from such lowly beings. Lucy acts the same way toward the chickens, so I’m reduced to squatting at the chicken wire barrier between the wet nursery and the dry hen/turkey pen, holding one melon rind in one hand for the chickens while the other hand holds a rind for the geese.
The ducks watch, but not jealously or longingly, not even very interestedly. I think they know it’s a hopeless cause. They even give way to the geese at the ponds. Taking turns, I call it.
But the real reason the melon rinds don’t interest them is probably because their bills aren’t made for scraping out bites of fruit. It took Lucy some time to master the art, and she can scrape out a bit with the tip of her beak or chew up the entire rind with the serrated edges of the back of her beak. No problem. However, it’s taken Bobbi some time to learn the technique, and she still doesn’t get it. Or maybe her beak or jaw muscles are not strong enough yet. She can sure pick apart the little green apples that fall into the pen, so maybe she just isn’t motivated by the taste of Honey Dew melon.
April 30, 2013
DeeDee and Scooter--prime bird-sitters
Martha’s incident was one of many that filled our lives as our three daughters grew up and left home to go to college. Soon the childhood dog Poncho died, as tradition would have it, and we found ourselves with a very empty nest.
Our suburb on the canyon is in ponderosa country at 7200 (more…)
April 23, 2013
Selective breeding has done a real number on layers and broilers—chickens, that is. The layers I’ve had, poor things, don’t live long after a life laying a two-ounce egg every day or so, even in winter, after they reach six months. Modern chickens are living examples of how rapid evolution can be. At two years of age they sit around one day and fall over dead the next. Or they walk around like they’re carrying a load, and are put to sleep by sympathetic vets who can tell a rampaging cancer from a stuck egg, At least death comes quickly to the kindly birds.
Some vets don’t know much about chickens. I discovered this shocking fact some time back in the 1970’s, when Martha started walking around splay-legged, like a bird with a loaded diaper. I drove her, with her suspiciously balloon-shaped abdomen, to the vet ten miles down the road. The young vet extracted some clear fluid from Martha’s belly and admitted to being somewhat puzzled. I suggested I would be willing to pay for an x-ray, and the deed was done. In the x-ray, to our horror, we spotted a very clear dark object framed by the l-shaped bones of the overloaded chicken.
“How much would it cost to have that removed?” I asked
The answer was also shocking. $100 was real money in the 70’s. Sadly, I took Martha home, but something about that x-ray bothered me. When I deposited the sick chicken in the back yard, she ran off to greet her nest mates, apparently relieved at having escaped major surgery.
I ran for the bookshelf still loaded with text books from my college days and found the basic zoology text. There it was, on page 108, a simple anatomic diagram of a domestic chicken, a familiar dark spot framed nicely by the l-shaped bones of leg and pelvis. It was labeled “gizzard.”
I laughed out loud, then smirked knowingly to myself and gave myself ten brownie points for not calling the young vet with the good news. Martha lived another happy six months before she succumbed to her mysteriously bloated belly.
April 16, 2013
Since viewing the Nature program “Animal Odd Couples,” a PBS video,
I’ve been focused on the many engaging stories aired by PBS and by many authors, including Penny Patterson, and Koko
, Temple Grandin, making a difference,
and Frans deWaal, studying animal emotions
. Therefore, I expected more anecdotes when I started reading Gary Kowalski’s Blessings of the Animals.
Indeed, in the middle of that book, there are some good stories--a polar bear coming nightly to play with Huskys in Alaska, a young leopard playing with a Golden Retriever puppy in South Africa, the friendship of two Groton goats and a timber wolf at the San Diego Zoo, the gorilla Koko and her kitten.
As I began reading I became disoriented. The first two chapters of Kowalski’s book talked about animals in church and something about old saints. I should have known better. The book was about blessings. The title said so.
Once I woke up to that fact, I was ready for the wonderful examples of blessings the author had written. Each chapter illustrated a different way in which animals have blessed human life.
Our job as writers clearly demands that we do our best to reflect the essence of our stories in our titles and 25-word tags. As readers, it might be helpful to believe what the titles of books are trying to say.
April 9, 2013
I could use a few more bullsnakes. (We called them garter snakes in California.) A lovely long one lives under the dog igloo where Kiebler and Ms. Ritz reside, but he has not been able to keep up with the mouse population, now that they have learned not to drown in the ducks' bathtubs.They scamper away into the ground when they hear me filling the water tubs. They don't bother anything, and they don't eat more than their share, but it means I have to be careful how I handle things. I don't want to encourage hanta virus.
This Friday the Los Alamos Daily Post will publish my column about the rattlesnake we met while working on a Seismosaurus dinosaur site here in New Mexico. As a result, I heard from Jan Macek, who has published her snake rescue stories on Animalrescuechase.com. Here is her bullsnake story from that site. Her "rattlesnake" story appears as a comment on today's other blog, below.
by Jan Macek
"I should explain that I have a great love for reptiles especially snakes and do free educational snake programs. Snakes, especially in New Mexico, and elsewhere, don't have much of a voice so I try to give them one. Early Nov. 2010 I got a call from a lady who told me that her kids had found a snake stuck in a hole. When we got to the site, sure enough, there was a bullsnake head protruding from a hole. Somehow, a bullsnake had gotten into a gopher hole but for some reason, the hole had caved in and the snake couldn't get out. We live in the mts of NM and the nights were getting cold so if this snake hadn't been rescued when it was, it would have frozen in the near future. When I dug the snake out, I discovered a very skinny bullsnake about 5 ft. long. I have had him for almost 5 months and he will not eat on his own. I have had to tube him with turkey babyfood to get this system ready for food items. He will not eat on his own so I have had to assist feed him with large (frozen/thawed) pinkies and fuzzies. I am hoping he will eat on his own in the future. I am not sure what happened to him but I suspect that he was someone's pet for many years and then he was let go and couldn't fend for himself. I had been hearing about this large bullsnake all summer and it is strange for so many people to see the same snake in the same area all summer. I should have known that this is not normal for a snake. I don't know if he will survive but I do know that if he does, he has a forever home with me. This picture was taken right after he was rescued. He looks the same after 5 months because one can"t stuff a snake in order for them to put on weight quickly. It has to be done slowly. Reptiles, deserve the same compassion as we give our 4 legged pets."
April 9, 2013
Seismosaurus Site Rattlesnake
Now that we’ve reviewed Rob Dietz’s “encouraging scenes from the steady state” in his recent guide to the future Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough
, we should move on to the other issues that the books in “The Archives of Varok” address. We are running a comment contest until June 20—a set of books going to the most thoughtful ideas about two issues.
The first issue is directly related to the Hen House theme of our responsibility to animals that we adopt. Also to those who live near the Hen House and keep the mice under control, like this friendly rattlesnake who lived at the Seismosaurus Site and warmed himself around the generator. He politely let me take this picture, but only if I stayed back exactly 3 feet.
My reviewer at the Los Alamos Daily Post asked the best question so far--could an extended family, including aliens and humans, really work? The mixed family of The Archives surely do have their problems, and though they’ve met them head-on in both A Place Beyond Man
and The Webs of Varok
, there are more to come in the next volume, Conn: The Alien Effect
, to be released early this summer.
I’d like to believe that we humans have matured to the point where we could appreciate the alienness of other beings. We’re doing much better with animals now, since Temple Grandin shared her experiences with us in her book Animals In Translation
, New York: Scribner, 2005. (more…)
April 2, 2013
Regarding money, the authors of Enough Is Enough point out that in the steady state "...get-rich-quick dreams blink out of existence, replaced by investment in real wealth [like chickens] that earn modest returns...[and] build low-carbon infrastructure, restore ecosystems, improve social conditions, and develop useful technologies [as on Varok in my novel The Webs of Varok]...No one becomes obscenely affluent." This is the end of the series on "encouraging scenes from the steady state."Don't miss the whole story.
Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough.
Here's my problem. The Hen House is not a cheap hobby. Although I do hire locals to take care of the birds when we are away, thus boosting the job rate, I drive 50 miles round trip to get their cracked corn and lay pellets, alfalfa and straw for bedding. Some animal feed is grown locally. but who knows where the dogs' food comes from?
We do reuse the feed bags for garbage. And all our kitchen scraps--except onion peels, citrus, and banana peels--disappear at 4 p.m. into the Hen House pen. I carry the scraps down in a large yogurt bucket to chum in the birds from the yard. I suppose I should be making compost out of the scraps, but the birds love to work them over, and I do use their dirty straw as mulch. Maybe that counts.
The point is that we need to do better about how we throw money around—both in earning it and in spending it. On a full Earth, we need to conserve what we can and invest our precious time to produce useful goods and helpful services that enhance life, not abuse it.
March 26, 2013
March 26, 2013
The steady state requires energy conservation, a rational phasing out of fossil fuels in favor of solar--like using rooftops in LosAngeles to collect it--and wind--where the birds don't swarm--and algae--do they really produce more oil if they are starved?--and hydroelectric generators--like tides and waves? There are a lot of alternatives, especially local solutions too often ignored. We really don't want to subject our great grandchildren to a sudden loss of power. Smart grids would also help that.
Don't miss the whole story.
Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough.
The estimate now is something like fifty years of tearing up the U.S. to get at shale oil? Then what? Oh, yes. Then there's the gunk in the ocean. That makes for even more CO2 in the air. How hot can we stand? How much extreme weather? How many coastal cities will remain? We are rational beings, smart enough to do the gradual transition, beginning now.
Maybe we aren't smart enough. I'm using energy to keep my birds warm in the Hen House tonight because the temperature suddenly dropped to ten degrees F. Bringing ducks and geese into the garage, even just overnight, makes an unbelievable mess. I try not to drive too much. I buy groceries once every two weeks, use the hubby to buy ketchup or carrots when he goes downtown to the gym, and I work at home. But I also use a dryer so I won't have to iron shirts. Who knows which is more energy efficient? I fill the ducks' bowls full every morning so they can have fresh water, which they love, and on and on.
The problem and the guilt, however, should not rest with us little guys. Didn't DuPont save millions just by instituting efficiency measures in their operation? Maybe we should lean on the big guys, so the hens don't have to suffer frozen combs or the ducks dirty water. What is really scary is how much water fracking for oil requires.