Kage Baker enjoyed not just the standard seasons of the calendar year. She also got a lot of pleasure out of celebrating seasons of her own devising. Part of it was her firm belief that there were simply not enough reasons to celebrate in your plain vanilla year. Some of it was, I think, that she got an extra kick out of declaring definitions of reality out of her own busy head, and then enforcing them.
As the redoubtable Adam Savage has said: I reject your reality and substitute my own.*
October starts the Official Season of the Weird, in my personal calendar; it usually extends about to the end of February, and definitely depends on as many trips up and down I-5 as I can manage. It has a brief resurgence in late summer, when the Silly Season usually takes over the news cycle. You know, thing like men biting dogs, UFO swarms, mysterious odors or vagrants or unearthly animals strolling though neighborhoods. Lake monsters. Huge hairy green and purple things romping down Los Feliz Boulevard (true story).
Kage also lit our several Lava Lamps whenever we were engaged in brain-storming on a story. That is because Lava Lamps are the Official Lamps of the Weird. We have three in the household now; a yellow one with coloured glitter, a blue one with silver glitter, and a clear one with purple goo. That last one makes shapes like mutant brains and alien internal organs, and can inspire no end of demented ideas.
Of course, it also helps to search for, note and file away such interesting weirdnesses as may come to light at any time. One of the newer (and most tragic) phenomena I’ve noticed lately is the animal or plant that has been sighted only a few times, and is now being declared extinct. Let us raise the final glass to a few of these unfortunate species, now known only to the denizens of the Western Isles …
Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog, discovered in 2005 and gone from the wild in 2007. Schomburgk’s deer, whose last known representative was killed by a drunk in a Thai temple (hey, these things happen …) a few years after it was identified. Several varieties of Hawaii’an birds, whose names consisted mostly of the letter “O”. The Stephen’s Island wren, who was discovered by a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall: and was rendered extinct within the year by Mr. Lyall’s pet cat, Tibbles.
On the other hand, an extraordinary number of things have been declared extinct, only to be inexplicably found alive and breeding somewhere unexpected. I’ve covered lots of these, attributing them to the Company, of course; but there are more and more of them each year! Something is going on … By now, Dear Readers, you must all be familiar with reputed revenants like the thylacine, the North Pacific Right whale, the Cuban solenedon, and – my personal favourite – the Lord Howe’s Island Giant Stick Insect. And, of course, the poster creature of not-extinction, the coelocanth – a huge, inedible fish still constructed along lines all other fish gave up 65 million years ago.
However, other, less well know and slightly more recent extinct animals now known not to be gone include: the dwarf elephants of Java; the Australian Night Parrot (a flying cousin of the New Zealand kakapo; the 5-foot long Palehouse Earthworms of Washington State, which are said to smell like lilies of the valley; and the pottok – Basque ponies that look precisely like the horses portrayed in cave paintings 30,000 years ago. Pottoks have been living quietly unremarked lives for 30 millennia, up there in the Pyrenees with Joseph’s relatives …
There are also non-biological weirdnesses, too, that seem to get more common in this season. For instance, there is a recent new theory that Planet X – oft-predicted and so far undiscovered – is actually a mini-black hole, left over from the birth of the Solar System. Something with an enormous gravitational drag is out there playing pinball with the frozen objects of the Kuiper Belt. Within the last year, Mars has been shown to possess vast underground seas – albeit mostly frozen – as well as its very own teeny-tiny, eccentric magnetic field. More stars have been found dimming at peculiar and unanticipated intervals, like Tabby’s Star: are they all orbited by alien mega-structures? Who knows?
A mineral never before seen on Earth has been found inside a tiny diamond speck (https://tinyurl.com/yy6d4ltr). Tardigrades , perhaps the cutest microscopic animals in the world – okay, maybe the only cute microscopic animals – are theorized to be living on the Moon, abandoned there like Matt Damon on Mars (https://tinyurl.com/y5kthwyt). There is an actual brain drain in the human skull (https://tinyurl.com/y6lgad6t).
As Kage used to say, Life is not only better than we were ever told – it’s much stranger.
On a purely personal note, I recently stubbed my toe on something peculiar in my bedroom. Not that there is anything peculiar about tripping on something in there – my room is a morass of discarded objects, fallen books, mismatched shoes, sleeping cats: if it can be fallen over, it lives in my room. And I fall over it. Anyway, on seizing up the offending thing, I brandished it in outrage and demanded to know what it was. That was when I recognized it as a weird sort of mallet doohickey found in the Northern Inn decades ago. We never knew what it was supposed to be, but Tom Westlake used to pursue suspected vampires with it, followed by his minions brandishing stakes. This is what it looks like:
It’s a bit battered. It has been used to chase vampires, smash rats and pumpkins, and is at least as half as old as I am.
Now: this is what Ronan’s the Accusor’s war mace looks like, from Guardians of the Galaxy:
Why did I find Ronan’s mace in the Green Man Inn, 30-odd years ago? How did I carry it with me for all the intervening years, and never notice what the damn things is? In fact, I don’t even know how it got into my bedroom.
The Season of the Weird, Dear Readers.
It’s… right … behind … you!
*One of the founders of Mythbusters; now the head of Savage Builds (on Discovery).