Review: Jonathan Issue 11

Jonathan Issue 11: A Queer Fiction JournalJonathan Issue 11: A Queer Fiction Journal by Raymond Luczak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With issue 11, Jonathan diversifies from fiction written by gay men to fiction written “by self-identified queer writers from all across the LGBTQ spectrum.” I haven’t read the previous ten issues, but the quality of the stories in issue 11 convinces me to purchase the back issues and also look forward to upcoming issues.

Many of these stories are about acceptance and transformation. “Skylark” by Lucy Jane Bledsoe is about a song that needs to be sung, and it sets a tone of affirmation for the entire issue that I just love. This first story leads into “The Wilderness” by Norman Belanger, one that captures coming-of-age in the 1970s, and a different kind of affirmation. I love how the tone and mood changes from story to story, providing a variety that led me eagerly from one story to the next.

Some of the stories lead to danger. “Bird Bones” by Calvin Moen abruptly confronts the dangers of violent bigotry near the end, and I held my breath while reading how it turned out for the protagonist. “Going to the Grampas” by George K. Isley is even darker: what begins as a beautiful, idyllic fairy tale setting and circumstance is eventually revealed as something evil and stomach-turning. Not every story can have a happy ending.

For whatever reason, I was expecting realistic fiction, but I was delighted to read both realistic and fantastic stories, including magical realism, fairy tale, and supernatural. I also appreciate how these stories explore the complexity of their characters rather than just their queerness. Stories like “Pilgrim Soul” by Trebor Healey is about pain and death and human connection, with a protagonist that just happens to be gay. Whether these stories are specifically about LGBTQ-related experiences or explore more universal topics, they are all wildly successful. The editor obviously took great care in selecting these stories and arranging them in a fascinating order.

I’m eager to read more issues!

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Review: The Machinery Second Edition

The Machinery Second EditionThe Machinery Second Edition by Himanshu Goel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the previous issue, I love the art that illustrates each poem and prose piece. Standouts include Mawia Hunter illustrations for the poems “Clarity” by Jason Alford and “Pathetic Fallacy” by Maximilian Heinegg, illustrations in which figures emerges out of colorful and vibrant splatters and drippings of paint. The artists and the writers are from various parts of the world and part of the charm and enjoyment of The Machinery is how writer and artist from different backgrounds are paired together.

I also really enjoy the writing this time. Even poems I found somewhat opaque in meaning were gorgeous in imagery and language. Several made good use of repeating phrases (anaphora), such as “I don’t” in “Reasons to Skip Breakfast” by Larissa Wirstuik, and repeating lines, such as the wishes in “Wish” by Chris Stewart. I particularly love poems that end with a final line or two that takes the poem in a new direction or toward a philosophical moment or a surprise, and several of the poems do so here, such as the surprising use of “penultimate” in the last line of “We Wanted to Write the Poem” by Corey Mesler, the heartbreaking and hopeful possibility at the end of “I Blush for Erza” by Amanda Besserer, and the unexpected recent memory at the end of “Earthbound Words on a Flight of Fancy. ETA Uncertain.” by Sangeetha Balakrishnan. I want my black socks to fly away and return with a gift, too!

My favorite of the short stories is “For Better and Worse” by Yi Han, a wonderful and inventive fairy tale that subverts the cliches of the genre with a magical corner of a room, inclusive characters, and acute longing. This is the second time I’ve read “For Better and Worse” (The Machinery also publishes each piece on their WordPress website and I had read this particular story a few weeks ago) and I think I understood this time how the characters know each other, an understanding that makes the story even better and more poignant.

Some of the stories also have surprises in their last few sentences. The twist at the end of “Gone Riding” by Sue Ann Porter is humorous, but also a little shocking; just why has the character been feeling so intensely throughout the piece!? The funny ending at the end of “The First Plague” by Phil Temples contrasts with the revelation of what is going on.

I think The Machinery improved greatly between the first and second editions, and now I’m really looking forward to the third!

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Review: The Machinery First Edition

The MachineryThe Machinery by The Machinery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A young group of artists from India has organized a new literary magazine of poetry, prose, and art and photography. I liked the poetry and prose, but none of the pieces really stood out, in my opinion. I was most captivated by the lovely photographs and drawings that illustrate each piece. For example, in “Home Cooking” by John Grey, a soldier home from Iraq reflects on how a domestic setting is different from the war front; the illustration is of an empty egg shell in black and white set against a black background, which helps illustrate the meal preparation and kitchen setting of the poem.

I was a little worried at first about the diversity of writers in the issue: the first several poems all seem to be written by white men from western countries (based on included bio images.) Later in the issue, however, there are a few writers from other backgrounds. The illustrators are all young men and women from India, I think, and I’m eager to see more of their work in future issues. The art really is stunning.

I like this first issue and it was strong enough for me to want to seek out the second issue.

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Book Review: The Year’s Best Fantasy First Annual Collection

The Year's Best Fantasy First Annual CollectionThe Year’s Best Fantasy First Annual Collection by Ellen Datlow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me over a year to read this 1988 collection of short stories selected by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, but it wasn’t because of any problems I had with the anthology. I’m rating this 5 stars for a very good reason: nearly ever story in the collection are themselves 5-star worthy. Some stories overwhelmed me so much with their greatness that I had to take a break to process them, which led to gaps in my reading this anthology when I fell into reading some other book. Every time I came back to this anthology, though, I immediately encountered another incredible, thought-provoking story.

I mean, the anthology starts with “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” by Ursula K. Le Guin! This is one of my absolute favorite stories and it is one that lingers. So many stories in this anthology are like that. I sometimes didn’t want to move on; I wanted to savor and think about what I had just read. Sometimes I even fell into a jealous gloom, despairing that my own writing will ever come close to the level of craft on display here.

There are other stories that simply shattered my understanding of how short stories in particular fantasy genres should work. Stories like “Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates and “Halley’s Passing” by Michael McDowell scared me half to death! These are decidedly disturbing, even icky, horror stories that showcase their author’s incredible use of craft. In “Halley’s Passing,” for example, McDowell uses a close third-person narrator that relays real-time violence in matter-of-fact, even bureaucratic detail. That combination elevated my terror from the very beginning, so that when I reached a horrifying further revelation near the end, it wasn’t all that surprising, considering.

Yes, absolutely chilling and disturbing horror, often offset by other genres of fantasy that are more humorous, soaring, and absolutely gorgeous in setting and detail. Mood often shifts story by story, though there are also interesting pairings of stories with similar moods and subject matter throughout the anthology. Stories like “Words of Power” by Jane Yolen and “The Maid on the Shore” by Dalia Sherman offer powerful moments of empowerment and achievement soon after other stories of frightful horror.

I would love to write a review about each and every story, but the last one I’ll focus on has to be Alan Moore’s “A Hypothetical Lizard.” Until this last story, the one criticism I had about the anthology was the lack of diversity in characters. There are (too) few people of color, though it is possible that readers could see diverse characters in stories that don’t really describe the characters in great detail. Until “A Hypothetical Lizard,” there are no LGBT characters; instead, there are jarring uses of “faggot” in a couple stories, though the characters uttering this word are meant to be despicable.

The last story, and Windling’s pick for best fantasy story of the year, is “A Hypothetical Lizard,” and it is a stunning and inclusive story to end on. Not that it has a happy ending, but Moore’s characterization of the transgender character Rawra Chin is very loving, though in keeping with 1988 one would not expect Her story to have a happy ending. I think that Moore’s use of homosexual and transgender characters to tell a universal story of love and betrayal is powerful and very much appreciated in an anthology of stories that otherwise ignores LGBT people.

The other thing I love about “A Hypothetical Lizard” is Moore’s level of craft. In fact, he’s on an entirely different level than any other writer in the anthology, and this story, at least in my opinion, seems the most timeless because of it. The cinematic vividness of his descriptions includes a scene where the character imagines the black stones of the courtyard below her as a pool of water, and what it would be like for her to dive into the water and swim away. I’m going to be studying this and other passages for years as I try to improve my own writing. Another example: a perspective change that is jarring but absolutely perfect for the story. I cannot rave enough about Moore’s level of craft. It’s just stunning.

So, yes, this anthology took me over a year to read, but it is also my most favorite book over that same period of time. It includes some of my favorite short stories ever. What Le Guin, Oates, McDowell, Moore, and everyone else in the anthology accomplish with their tales is so inspiring.

I’m in awe.

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A Transhumanist’s Essays: Finding Ghosts

The ghosts found me young.

The first came, when I was no more than six, from the hallway in my parents’ friends’ home. The cowboy stood tall and blue in the doorway of the bedroom where I lay in a sleeping bag on the floor. He stared at me. I pulled the sleeping bag over my head and shuddered. When I was brave enough to chance another look, the ghost was gone.

The next arrived, when I was no more than eight, from the closet in Grandma Etchemendy’s bedroom, in the tiny ochre-painted home in southeast Portland, Oregon where she lived. They were wispy white figures that flew around the room at phenomenal speed. They weaved in and out of the folds of thick curtains that kept the room in complete darkness during the day. I screamed and my mom and my Grandma Etchemendy came to rescue me immediately. But they told me there was no such thing as ghosts and I must have been dreaming.

I don’t know if my great-grandma believed in ghosts. She was a lapsed Catholic, she read books and attended conferences about the metaphysical, and I remember she was reading Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. Until her devastating stroke, she was sharp-witted and curious about a great many things. She embraced her interests with passion, but what she really believed she did not live long enough for me to be old enough to want to ask her. How I wish I could ask her now.

There were other paranormal experiences.

Out with another grandmother—Grandma Hinkley—I saw an unidentified flying object. We were coming out of a diner where I’m certain I ate french fries and drank a milk shake, and several people in the parking lot looked up and pointed at the sky. What I remember is a slow-moving object with blinking lights around its equator. The UFO drifted overhead and across the town until it was too far away to see.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that she was Grandma Etchemendy’s daughter, but when I asked Grandma Hinkley about the incident years later, she did not recall it. She found my memory amusing. She guessed that I must have seen a blimp. I’ve seen many blimps. What I saw that night wasn’t a blimp. The UFO must have come from the stars.

Mars has ghosts, too.

PIA01141: Geologic 'Face on Mars' Formation, Image Credit: NASA/JPL
PIA01141: Geologic ‘Face on Mars’ Formation – Image Credit: NASA/JPL

The “Face on Mars” was the most extraordinary image I had ever seen. I was no more than thirteen. It’s there in an image taken of the Martian surface by the Viking 1 orbiter on July 25, 1976: a kilometer-wide humanoid face in a helmet, carved out of the very ground. The Face is situated in a region of Mars named Cydonia Planitia, where there are other mysterious and huge stony objects that look a lot like the ruins of an ancient city in Viking orbiter images. I kept a newspaper clipping of the Face in my scrapbook devoted to horses and planets.

The Face was one to launch a thousand conspiracy theories, most notably those touted by the writer Richard C. Hoagland. He has spent the past several decades promoting his ideas in books, on mail-order VHS tapes, and on websites, and he has been a frequent guest commentator in documentaries and radio shows devoted to the paranormal. He regularly criticizes NASA for their cover-up of evidence for alien civilizations elsewhere in our solar system and for their lack of follow-up on interesting features he and others frequently spot in images of the surface of Mars and other celestial bodies.

Hoagland was my hero. Hoagland touted his good fight on TV and radio and I cheered him on while jeering at his critics, most notably that rascal Carl Sagan. Oh, sure, Sagan seemed calm and rational when I watched or read him say that extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence, but I knew he was one of the conspirators, tasked with keeping the public ignorant. What with his constant media presence and popular science-themed series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage on PBS, Sagan did not seem to me a real scientist. He was, I thought, a glorified actor. The magnitude of the conspiracy against Hoagland and his intrepid kind was, to me, not that frightening but it was incredibly frustrating. Why, I whined to myself with perpetual impatience as I studied the image, hadn’t NASA immediately built and launched a new spacecraft with a better camera? This was during the long dry spell between 1980 and 1997 when NASA had no assets on or orbiting Mars to take new images. I wanted to know the truth about aliens. People had a right to know.

Scientists like Sagan scoffed at the paranormal and most of the public ridiculed it, but it was my favorite subject. I felt for the paranormal one part terror, two parts wonder, and three parts escape. Through most of my childhood, I was a scared and lonely little boy terrified by an abusive father. The paranormal gives people like me a glimpse at powers that connect us to something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than abusive parents and other bullies, something bigger than our constant fear and pain and loneliness. I wanted the paranormal to be real. If I survive my childhood, I told myself frequently, then there will be a great and grand adventure in store for me when I reach adulthood. I would be able to tell my dad and the bullies at school look how important I am now, and how insignificant you are. Look at what I’m a part of and you are not. The paranormal chose me!

In libraries I gravitated toward the nonfiction books about ghosts, UFOs, astral projection, ESP, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster. I read at least as many books about the paranormal as I did science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. At night I practiced: I tried to feel for the universal energies, the psychic links, the astrological signs that would let me know I was special and powerful and better than my tormentors. I wouldn’t have to wait until adulthood if I could manifest my latent psychic powers and prevent my dad from beating me up. Maybe aliens would abduct me and I would be done with the Earth and its real monsters forever. I just had to wait a little longer and keep practicing. Something big was going to happen to me.

The ghosts found me even while I excelled in science and mathematics in school. Science and the paranormal were the same to me. I earned straight A’s quarter after quarter, school year after school year, all through high school, until I received a single B grade in one class my senior year. My grade point average was enough, though, to get me a full paid scholarship to attend the University of Rochester in upstate New York. There I would study physics and astronomy. There I would learn what I needed to become a scientist, work in planetary science, and investigate the paranormal. At the University of Rochester I would be an adult and free from abuse.

My dad was not going to let me go.

This is how you create a ghost: you traumatize the living person and then to death. He is so upset and afraid and enraged that he becomes trapped between existences. Instead of moving on to the next world, he remains behind to haunt the setting of his trauma.

When I graduated from high school, my dad informed me I could only go to college if I worked full-time that summer and saved all my money. He ordered me to convince him by the end of those three months that I was ready to take on the responsibilities of college and adulthood. I had to want to go and he had to see my dedication.

What I did, though, was enjoy myself that summer. During the day I worked at McDonalds and had a great time with my coworkers, many of them my age or a year or two older. My boss, the franchise owner, was proud of me. When I graduated from high school, he had awarded me the Ray Kroc award and a small scholarship. Evenings after work, I hung out at my friend Jessica’s house, just up the street, with her and Becky and Scott, my best friends from high school. We watched movies, played games, ate fast food and junk food, and talked about the future.

I stayed away from home as much as possible. My dad had stopped hitting me, maybe because I was eighteen, maybe because I wasn’t around as often, maybe for other reasons I will never understand. He didn’t stop having angry outbursts when I was around, though. My younger brother, Paul, the one dad tortured the most, had run away again, so when I was at home my dad focused his rage on me. Some days he told me to get out of the house and stay gone until dark. Other days he screamed at me for never being home. Coming home late from Jessica’s house one night, he wouldn’t let me in. He threatened to call the police. He had never set a curfew before, but that night I had broken it. He eventually let me in and for an hour more he yelled at me. He had no idea, I think, if he wanted me there or wanted me gone. He didn’t want me gone. He wanted me to stay forever. He didn’t want any of his children to leave him. We thought he hated us. He beat us, screamed at us, made up new rules on the spot, berated our interests, raised us with vile bigotry and hatred, and that’s the only way he knew how to love us.

I was not going to miss him. I kept out of his way as much as possible and spent most of the money I earned at McDonalds that he didn’t steal from me on having fun with my friends. I was going to miss them.

Then he told me I couldn’t go. “I guess you really didn’t want to go after all,” he said. He said I did not deserve to go: no money saved, wasted months with my friends, and who did I think I was to tell him that it was my decision! He had other reasons why I couldn’t leave for college. He scoffed at my interests in astronomy and planetary science. Space missions were just an excuse for NASA to find other places to turn into garbage dumps. I should have been outside every night with a telescope instead of spending time with my friends. He had made his final decision and I was not allowed to leave.

My mom purchased my Greyhound bus ticket. When it was time to leave, she waited to drive me to the station. My dad stopped me in the kitchen while she waited quietly in the doorway. He disowned me. He said I was going without his permission and without his blessing. But my mom and I made it out of the house and we made it to the station. She told me on the way there that dad was going to miss me and the only way he could deal with such strong emotions was through anger and violence and dramatic ultimatums. This is the mom I got for having a dad who routinely beat me up: a mom who loved her children very much, who didn’t want to see her children beaten, who didn’t know what to do about it, and who helped her children to escape when it was time for each of them to leave. I made it onto the bus. I watched my mom cry uncontrollably through the window and I cried uncontrollably. I waved. I watched her shrink and vanish.

The bus travelled three long days from Portland, Oregon to Rochester, New York, stopping at one station after another all along the way. The trip was long enough for me to get sick from the fumes coming from the chemicals in the bathroom in the back of the bus. It was long enough for me to regain my excitement. Long enough to sense my freedom. I was afraid, but it wasn’t the fear of a fist or belt or shouting. This was fear of the unknown. At the end of summer 1991, I arrived in Rochester, about as far away from home as I could realistically get at the time. I had made it to the university where I would become a scientist and figure out the secrets of the universe and the paranormal. I thought it was going to be amazing.

This is how you create a ghost: you isolate him, you let him isolate himself. He is so terrified of other people and new experiences that he becomes trapped in one place, forever. He builds a shell around himself and dies within it. Instead of moving on to the next world, he remains behind, alone, encased, haunted, haunting.

College, it turned out, was not what I had imagined. I didn’t make any friends; I was too scared of people and too self-conscious. My roommate in the dorm, George, was a nice guy, but everyone else on the floor thought I was strange. By the second semester, they were calling me “The Ax Murderer” because I was so quiet and kept to myself. Meanwhile, I struggled in my classes. College wasn’t like high school at all. I had no idea how to study. I had no focus. I couldn’t see the chalkboard or projector screen very well from where I sat in the back row by myself, with no idea my eyesight was fading. I couldn’t understand (but really I didn’t try very hard) the English-as-a-second-language of the graduate student who taught calculus. In high school, I had skipped over much of what turned out to be the prerequisites for calculus, and for the first time in my life math was a complete and utter mystery to me. With near-complete freedom from strict parents, I didn’t study very much, I ate Sprees and Pringles by the pounds, I depleted in one semester all the money for food that was supposed to last until the end of the school year, and I stayed up too late, lying in bed every night until the early morning listening to Coast to Coast AM.

Coast to Coast AM is a radio show broadcast across the United States and Canada. It’s about the paranormal. I discovered the show on a local AM station on my transistor radio soon after I arrived at the University of Rochester. The topic changes night to night. Sometimes episodes are devoted to UFOs, with guests who claim to have obtained physical evidence from UFO crash sites, uncovered relevant government documents, or snapped the best photograph yet taken of a UFO. Other nights are devoted to monsters, predictions, conspiracies, etc. Every night guests talk about their experiences and the forces aligned against them and the truth.

Coast to Coast AM was another way for me to try to escape my problems instead of confronting them. The paranormal was all I could think about. Outside my lonely, failed college existence, there were incredible paranormal forces at work. During the day I haunted my dorm room and at night Coast to Coast AM haunted me.

My transcript from the University of Rochester tells a lie. I earned credit for seven classes my freshman year, but none of them are listed with a grade. This was a perk of being a freshman at that university at the time: a chance to learn how to be a college student without having the details recorded permanently. The transcript is missing the poor grades I earned and the classes I dropped or flunked that school year. The transcript tells the truth, however, about what came next: semesters with no credits earned, failing grades, classes repeated, classes selected seemingly at random, being kicked out of school and being let back in, and struggling all over again. I did best in English and creative writing classes, worse in everything else, especially physics and mathematics. By the time I left Rochester for good in the spring of 1996, I had made little progress toward any undergraduate degree.

I moved back in with my parents. My dad’s emotional abuse began again just a couple weeks later. After two months of hell, I moved out and into an apartment and that’s when I discovered transhumanism.

But there’s more to the ghost story. While researching this essay, I discovered an anomaly in my memory. It begins with the Shadow People.

I heard about the Shadow People for the first time on Coast to Coast AM. These beings, according to the guest that night, look like shadows and live in shadows, which are the gateways between dimensions. The Shadow People are unpleasant and dangerous.

What I wanted to write about in this essay is how I came to reject the paranormal. How I came to realize that the ghosts and UFO I thought I had seen had never been real. How in the spring 1992 semester of my freshman year, after listening to hundreds of hours of Coast to Coast AM, it finally dawned on me while I listened to a woman talk about the Shadow People that everything I had heard on the show was bullshit. I remember it like it was yesterday: lying on my dorm room bed, frustrated at the lack of evidence, and that silver moment of early morning insight: the show was about claims, not evidence. I wanted evidence, and all I heard night after night were claims. What these guests of the show had were their stories and their belief in conspiracies, but, I thought that night in surprise, they were shirking their responsibility: instead of working against the conspiracy, collecting evidence, running experiments, building up their case, and having their rigorous and peer-reviewed research published in reputable science journals, they were seeking 15 minutes of fame on the radio. It didn’t matter if they believed what they said or if they were outright lying. It didn’t matter if they had mental issues or were as sane as the paranormal allows anyone to be. They were simply not doing their job. Conspiracy or not, it was up to them to overcome such obstacles. All they had to show for it instead were Coast to Coast AM appearances and endless claims. Coast to Coast AM: the radio show for claims, not evidence. I had had enough of the show and its guests, and I had had enough of the paranormal. I quit cold turkey. I had found the ghosts: the fraud of them, the way they haunt, how they waste time and lead to incorrect and harmful ways of thinking. I had wasted my own time. I was a college idiot, unprepared for the rigors of higher education.

Even after confronting my delusions, I continued to stumble and when I failed out of the University of Rochester the first time, so began the pattern that would repeat for twenty more years: a successful return to school for a semester or two, followed by a desperate year or two of skipping and flunking classes before being kicked out again, followed by a year of remorse and rebuilding and eagerness to try again. I came to haunt various halls of higher learning from one side of the country to the other, and though I learned a lot and earned a ridiculous number of credits, it was a desperate kind of learning, a lazy kind, a kind that wanted for academic skills I should have honed in high school instead of seeking out the paranormal.

That was going to be the sad ending to this essay: how having had enough of the paranormal, it wasn’t enough and I didn’t do any better in school. I would move on in later essays to how I eventually put that chapter of my life behind me and only decades later finally managed to finish an undergraduate degree.

But I wanted to get my facts straight in this essay. I didn’t want to just write down what I think I remember; I also wanted to find corroborating evidence that what I remember is factually true. So I looked up the Shadow People. I remember the night I abandoned pseudoscience forever in 1992, but who was the guest that night? Wikipedia lists her as Harley “SwiftDeer” Reagan, and, oh, RIGHT, I remember her! I remember how her story was just one story too many for me.

The thing is, Wikipedia lists the date of her first appearance on Coast to Coast AM as April 12, 2001. Either Wikipedia is wrong, or my memories are faulty. And in trying to tell the rest of this story about finding ghosts, I find myself back in 2001, remembering the night that I had truly had enough of the paranormal. This is a much stronger memory, a much better one, and one that I find documented in my own journal entries from 2001.

And so the ghosts have found me again. This is how you create a ghost: you make him remember. He remembers falsely. He’s so certain of his memory that he constructs a narrative that traps him in this one story, forever. He dies by narrative. Instead of moving on to the next world, he is stuck forever between pages.

With memory so faulty, what evidence do I have of my own brushes with the paranormal? Did I really witness a cowboy ghost, or did an adult come in the dark to check on me? Did I really see ghosts in Grandma Etchemendy’s bedroom, or was I a little boy with an overactive imagination, a headache, and bad dreams that woke me up screaming? Did I really see a UFO or was it a blimp, reasonable and likely, of terrestrial and explainable origin? I have nothing but anecdotes. The Face on Mars? I know now how tricks of shadow and light can, like the Man in the Moon or Jesus on toast or in a tree knot, suggest things to our brains that aren’t really there. By now there have been several new images taken of the Face on Mars by more recent orbiters with much better cameras than those on board the Viking vessels, including this image taken in 2007 by the HiRISE Camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Popular Landform in Cydonia Region - Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Popular Landform in Cydonia Region – Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

With memory so faulty, I find in writing this essay two pasts, the one I thought was real, and the real one, the one evidence I have at my fingertips tells me is the truth. The first faulty one might have a kernel of truth to it, though. That would result in a slightly different story to tell: How at the end of the fall 1991 semester or sometime in the spring 1992 semester of my freshman year, after listening to hundreds of hours of Coast to Coast AM, it finally dawned on me that everything I had heard was bullshit. I remember it vaguely: lying in my dorm room bed, frustrated at the lack of evidence, and an early morning insight: the show was about claims, not evidence. I wanted evidence, and all I heard night after night were claims.

But in 1991 or 1992 it couldn’t have been the Shadow People that finally got to me. There was another guest that night and they were making claims about some other paranormal phenomenon, claims I have now forgotten. The truth is, I didn’t stop listening to Coast to Coast AM that night like I thought I remembered. No, I kept listening on and off for a decade more, leading up to another night in 2001 when I was 28 and had the most profound religious experience of my life.

Olivia De Havilland at 100

Fantastic list from the Nitrate Diva and now I want nothing more than to dive into these movies. I have been wanting to watch The Heiress for years.

This is the age of Olivia de Havilland. We’re just lucky to be living in it. Today, on July 1, 2016, she turns 100. To celebrate her talent, her courage, and her breathtakingly diverse legacy of screen performances, I embarked on an “Oliviathon” and vowed to watch or rewatch all of her films by the end […]

via 100 Reasons to Love Olivia de Havilland (Part I) — Nitrate Diva

Book Review: Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper

Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story.Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story. by Steven Harper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper covers beginning writing with a focus on paranormal genres. There are sections I particularly enjoyed and found helpful, including advice about how to conduct research, interview experts, etc (Chapters 4 and 10). There are sections that served as good review about elements of craft (the chapters in Part III) and getting published (Part IV.) It’s always nice to be reminded that “writers write” and Harper provides lots of this kind of inspiration, with a healthy dash of humor. He uses several good examples from the works of other writers of the paranormal.

I think the book was a little long for this basic material, and at times repetitive. It also relies on platitudes and generalizations, a style that put me off a little. There isn’t a lot of depth, but for beginners and those in need of a review, I think this book may be handy, and it will suggest to you topics you’ll want to explore further elsewhere.

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