Kage Baker loved the annual recurrance of The Silly Season. She said it was a goldmine of ideas for a writer, and a treasure trove of entertainment for anyone who cared to examine it. She watched eagerly each year for the tell-tale signs of its time coming round again.
It’s usually expected to occur in late to mid summer – August is pretty average. It’s the season when news is slow; lots of people are vacationing (or at least staying home hiding from the heat); when all the folks who – generations agone – would have been revving up for the harvest suddenly have nothing to do. So they spread rumours, report goofy stories, see weird lights in the sky and strange shadows in the neighbors’ garages. It’s time for UFOs and Bigfoot and skunk apes and lake monsters. It’s the Man Bites Dog season.
Clifford Simak, one of the Good Old Men of science fiction, set an entire novel in the Silly Season – They Walked Like Men, where a bunch of sentient smelly bowling balls almost take over the earth because the story gets reported during the Silly Season, and no one believes it. Luckily for the earth,s a clever newspaper man can sort the dross from the gold, and find out what is really happening … but he does point out that it’s the perfect time of year for aliens to invade.
In reality (or what passes for it) UFO sighting are more frequent in the summer months. Partly, of course, it’s because more people are running around in the summer dark than in the midwinter – so whatever is there to be seen, gets seen. And misinterpreted, usually. But there’s no denying that lots of folks report hovering ships, shiny strangers, weird lights on hot dark summer roads. Kage and I spent lots of summer nights avidly watching the stars for UFOs. We saw some, too. If you can’t figure out what the thing in the sky is, it’s a UFO, right? At least until you realize you are looking at a high-flying bird, its breast white as snow in the moonlight, blinking in and out of visibility with the beat of wide wings …
Other folks come to other conclusions, of course.
Explanations for the famous Lubbock Lights range from a distant highway on a mountainside, to hoards of migrating moths reflecting street lights. (Realy? Enormous crowds of moths? Left handed ones, doubtless.) Venus apparently zips around the sky like a demented bumper car, impersonating spacecraft from pole to pole, horizon to horizon. Something flies over the mountains edging Phoenix, Arizona at intervals – while the idea that it’s flying saucers may make you laugh, Kage could take no more seriously the solemn suggestion that it’s military flares strung together on lines miles wide and set to drift over the city like a burning seine net: but it’s been suggested, and with a straight face, too.
In Texas right now, a local lake has turned blood red. Common sense indicates it’s due to lots of dead fish, low oxygen and an algae bloom gone bad. But the local mayor is reporting it to be a sign of the End Times. He means it. And he’s being taken seriously. Of course, it’s awfully good for the tourist trade …
A lady in Louisiana claims to have been attacked by a giant rat with orange teeth while shopping in her local Walmart. The Walmart says, No Way – except for the employees who say, Yeah, that’s just Norman; he gets loose now and then. WTF? Norman might be a nutria, which is a ROUS that has grown habituated to the American South – but even if he is a perfectly ordinary nutria, what’s he doing as a pet in a Walmart? Is he a greeter? Is he a guard nutria? The lady has announced she is taking her custom to another Walmart, thank you very much. No other solution has been suggested by any of the involved parties.
China has a rising plague of STDs. A recent government study has concluded that casual sex leads to an increase in the clap … Despite advice to the young and horny to choose their paramours from among nice Party kids and to meditate on Communist philosphy, disease is spreading like wildfire. Drug-resistent too. It appears syphilis is not susceptible to ideology, but the government can’t seem to think of anything else to do about it …
Siberia is experiencing a sudden influx of chupacabras. They are attacking livestock, wild animals, and Siberians. Suggestions that they are local predators stressed by something have been met with indignation by the Siberians, who say they certainly know a chupacabra when they see one!
The Christian Science Monitor – a really very serious source for news, usually – has reported that free oxygen has been detected in outer space. Below the fold, the article’s subtitle reads: “Do astronauts really need space suits? Of course they do, don’t be an idiot.”
The Silly Season is very much upon us. I encourage you all, Dear Readers, to explore the news for these special tidbits right now. They are no end of fun, and there is nothing quite like them the rest of the year.They are born of the hot summer air and the strange miasmas rising from that sand pit just outside town. You know, the one where the green lights show at night. Where dogs and hikers disappear.
Yeah, that one.