Isn't that like recommending other books printed in the same font?
Today is the official publication date of Athena Andreadis's and Kay Holt's anthology of space opera stories featuring strong female characters, The Other Half of the Sky. I'm pleased that my story "Bad Day on Boscobel" is one of them.
Aside from me, the anthology includes stories from Melissa Scott, Nisi Shawl, Sue Lange, Vandana Singh, Joan Slonczewski, Terry Boren, Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Martha Wells, Kelly Jennings, C. W. Johnson, Cat Rambo, Christine Lucas, and Jack McDevitt.
Reviews and interviews about the anthology.
When I was in Moab a few months ago, after my hike through the Maze, my friend Paul and I stopped by the wonderful Back of Beyond Books on Main Street and I picked up a copy of House of Rain, by Craig Childs. It is about the Anasazi, whose territory we had been hiking through. I meant to write about it then, but it has been sitting on my desk since, and it's about time it moved from there to the shelf where it belongs.
Ah, that term, "Anasazi". Paul was immediately suspicious. It's an obsolete term, no longer used by the up-to-date. It refers to the inhabitants of the Colorado Plateau before about the thirteenth century. The more correct term nowadays is "Ancestral Puebloans".
This change is more than political correctness, by the way, though one is always suspicious of rectification of the names. The name Anasazi was given to the ruins by Navaho pothunters, and means something like "enemy ancestors": Navaho are relatively recent on the plateau, and part of a complex system of alliance and hostility.
Childs has a nuanced defense of his use of the term. I won't go into it, because I know the real reason he used it: marketing. It's a totally cool name, and nothing else even comes close. Technical correctness, if you can achieve such a thing, has to run a distant second to that.
The books is half history and half Childs' strenuous and, to be frank, intimidating travels through the plateau, riding cloudbursts, climbing cliffs, enduring bitter cold and brutal heat.
And he travels with eccentrics and obsessives, people who think the Anasazi (let's stick with that, understanding its limitations) did everything in pairs, or people who think they extended far outside of the territory usually assigned to them, or laid out travel routes across hundreds of miles. Even as he goes on trips with these guys, and ably explains their theories, its pretty clear that Childs thinks they are cracked.
And Childs tries to boost the Anasazi as some transcendent notion, some way of living and perceiving that remained as a constant through the centuries.
Maybe. I tend not to be romantic about these things. Anasazi are interesting because they left picturesque stone ruins in some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet. They make great photographs, and a great thing to come upon during a hike. And they did this in what is now the United States, so they get a lot of push from the National Park Service.
Does that make them interesting in some deeper sense? Well...no. Childs does his impressive best, and the book is a fun read, but if you think it will tell you something significant, you're wrong. There are many peoples in the world, and many interesting ways of living, and the Anasazi, finally, are just one of them.
But this is one of those situational books. Hanging out having a beer in Moab? Hiking through Grand Gulch, visiting Mesa Verde or Chaco, climbing down from Maze Overlook? Thent his is the book you want. It will make you feel you are doing something other than just being a tourist or a hiker. It may not have the same resonance at home.
This morning, as I was getting ready to get on my bike to go to work, I got a robocall from the City of Cambridge. It told me to stay home today. There had been gunfire, and a suspect from the Boston Marathon bombing was being hunted. I don't remember if the message used the phrase "shelter in place", previously unknown to me but now utterly familiar.
I let my coworkers know that I would be working from home today, and went to check out what was going on. There were a lot of updates, serious-looking police telling me to stay in my house, and helicopters and Humvees. Later, the governor closed down Boston as well. Pictures of normally busy intersections devoid of people and cars proliferated.
As far as I know, what happened is a couple of guys set off bombs at a popular event, killing three people and injuring a number more. Later, they robbed a convenience store, killed a security guard, and got into a gunfight with some cops. One was killed, the other fled, and may or may not be under siege in Watertown, the next town over from Cambridge.
That's all bad. But is it bad enough to shut down an entire metropolitan area? The immediate area of anything going on, sure. Even a fairly large area. But all of Boston? Bombings are not unusual in American history, including Haymarket in 1887, Wall Street in 1920, LaGuardia in 1975. Bombs are relatively easy to make and hard to protect against. Ditto guns and other weapons. What makes this situation different enough to require this level of response?
Smart, dedicated people can cause a lot of damage if they want to. They can kill people, sometimes a lot of people. But their danger is limited to what they themselves can do. They are not all-powerful. Now, I might not know things. There might be evidence of a much larger conspiracy. We might all actually be in danger.
Or this could be ass-covering security kabuki writ large. If so, I'm going to be irritated. To be clear: I am not minimizing the danger to the police and other forces pursuing a dangerous fugitive. But proportionality is important. Otherwise I should just huddle in my basement and never leave.
Two forces are at play here, I think. One is just the sheer mass of information, useful, useless, and misleading, that pours out of our communication devices. The other is the increasing power of the security state, which accurately represents our own willingness to trade freedom for some perceived safety. Together, they allow a couple of killers to hold an entire city hostage.
If I had just ignored the shelter order, what would the consequences have been? Could I have been restrained in some way? It is genuinely astonishing that places like Downtown Crossing and Harvard Square were completely empty just because authorities told us we needed to stay home.
Again, as I said, it might have actually been necessary. I would not have wanted to get in the way of some essential operation. But, as you can tell, I have my doubts. Someone is going to have to explain this to me.
Mary and I have been watching the the AMC series The Killing. We tend to have different viewing habits, but we're both enjoying it a lot.
One thing struck me with the first episode, though: the uptight, withholding, driven, duty-focused redheaded homicide cop Sarah Linden (played by Mireille Enos) seems like exactly the same character as the uptight, driven, etc. redheaded CIA agent Maya (played by Jessica Chastain) in Zero Dark Thirty. Is this some kind of "leaning in" cultural stereotype in the making? And who is going to direct Legally Blunt?
Sarah Linden does have a son, and seems to occasionally have relationships, sexual and otherwise, unlike Maya. She also has a last name. But there is a more important difference between the two.
Sarah Linden is sometimes wrong. She'll even admit it. Maya is never wrong. Sarah may destroy herself. but Maya will someday be responsible for an incredible disaster--and that story is one I think I will try to write, because Maya was one of the most annoying and dishonest and potentially fascinating characters I have seen in a while. She deserves to be freed of the frame she had to fit for the movie.
But two redheads don't make a trend. If we spot a third one, I can say you heard it here first.