Kage Baker loved the quiet parts of the winter holidays – the off-days, the filler days, the days between the great high holy days when one could lie about and eat leftovers and engage in entertaining research. When the King Tides of the main celebrations had retreated, she liked to go stroll along the empty beaches (as it were) and see what fascinating sea-changed treasures had washed up on the dark ballroom stretches of sand.
The day after Thanksgiving was one of her favourites – even though, in the last 10 years of her life, we spent it at Dickens being frenzied Victorians. At least we weren’t out shopping at Black Friday madhouses. (If Black Friday is one of your favourite sports, Dear Readers, please do not take offense. It’s just me. I don’t like football, either.) And in the evenings, Kage could roam through the aether, sharing out funny bits from her Buke as we all sat about weary and happy in our 19th century underwear, eating hot biscuits and swilling rum and chocolate milk … her favourite kind of scholarship.
I, too, like those quiet times. They are great occasions for casual wandering through the groves of scholarship, sipping from the weirder Pierian Springs, adding a bit from one’s pocket flask. As kids, we always made sure we’d gone to the library before a long holiday; nowadays, I anxiously load up my Kindle so as to have survival rations in the case of an emergency. Two nights ago, for instance, we had a power failure here near Griffith Park (someone had a bad evening and hit a power pole). My family lit a lot of candles, and spent a pleasant evening reading their Kindles and discussing strange science … we were the only house on the block with lights in the windows (candles and oil lamps are everyday items in my house.) For all I know, we were the only people talking to one another, too.
In the interests of that civilized pastime, here are few of the more interesting things I’ve found amid the aether lately. They’re just fun.
Do you like trilobites? Come on, who doesn’t? They’re the original cute critters, adorably ergonomic designs even before Bambi eyes and fur were invented. I’ve always suspected they probably tasted like shrimp, too. And one of their amazing traits was their sparkling crystal eyes – made of aragonite: which is calcium carbonate: which is freaking limestone. I have always loved the idea of all those trilobites, from the size of a baby’s fingernail to a good yard long, flitting about the Permian seas with their glass eyes glinting. I think the world is a poorer place without their glittering optics.
Luckily, there are chitons! Modern animals, these, many coloured like musical comedy cocktails Kage adored; each studded with hundreds of aragonite eyes! Read and rejoice, Dear Readers.
Next comes a sheerly romantic tidbit: a cyborg rose has been grown. The components were induced to spread via the rose’s own circulation and cells, producing a true cyborg. What it does – or can do – I have no idea. Maybe it sings softly, repeating your vows of love to your beloved; maybe it spreads customized perfumes, or radiates in glowing colours. Maybe they can be programmed as wifi hot spots, and you can communicate through the aether via the chaplet in your hair; like the aristocracy of the Sidhe. It’s just an incredibly cool idea.
Next, we have an article on the ever-fascinating Underworld of Los Angeles. For a city on the constant literal edge of plunging into the Abyss, there’s an amazing amount of tunnels and subterranean kingdoms under our grid-locked streets. There are still-undocumented mazes under Chinatown, some of which connect to weird corners of Union Station and Olvera Street; there were several attempts at subways, of which the doomed Red Cars were the acme and apogee. (Kage always maintained that Roger Rabbit was a documentary.) And of course, there were the Lizard People … and as the Company has taken over all these derelict metropolitan Morias, this is relevant to our interests.
Last of all, I give you another hilarious example of pareidolia. The photographs from Mars are an unending source of these goodies, ranging from sublime Faerie Queens to this charmingly homely ROUS. While you can tell it looks like a rodent, it also looks a hell of a lot like a rock. Which is what is is: unless you are one those hopeful and determined armchair xenologists who spend all their spare time looking for cartoon characters and cryptids amid the Martian rocks.
In any event, all these tidbits are marvellous fun, and certain to inspire invigorating conversation among your friends and families. They’re somewhat safer to discuss than religion or politics, too. And for once, you can out-weird your crazy uncle.
Feel free, Dear Readers, to discuss these among yourselves. I hope you like them as much as I did. And enjoy your leftovers, too.