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A. M. Dellamonica

Hi, everyone! My name is Alyx and I'll be posting the occasional note here over the next few weeks, because Charlie was kind enough to hand me the mic. I thought I'd start with a long, musing whimsical thing about mincing subgenres and the nature of ecofantasy, because my upcoming book A Daughter of No Nation lies within that particular subgenre--when it's not passing for portal fantasy or a pirate story or crime fiction with magic.

Sadly, the opening of that essay is wayyyy too stuffy, at present, and needs to be beaten with a sack of oranges. Don't worry, I'll fix it before you see it. Anyway, I should introduce myself first, right?

So--official details: I'm in Toronto, I have gobs of stories out along with the four ecofantasy novels, the first two of which, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, are chock fulla magically mutated animals, magical objects and queer folk. Seriously. I mention this last because a) I have the exceptional good fortune to be incredibly gay married to author Kelly Robson; b) my most recent book, Child of a Hidden Sea, was to my utter delight and astonishment nominated for a Lambda Award this year. The above-mentioned A Daughter of No Nation is its sequel. There will be a third; its current title is The Nature of a Pirate.

I do all the social media things, of course: Twitter, Instagram, Book of Face, Pinterest, all under the name alyxdellamonica.

Unofficially, here are five random medium-known facts about me:

  1. The last four albums I bought were by Charlie Brand, Lord Huron, Corb Lund, and The Kills. The one before that was the Across the Universe soundtrack.
  2. In person, I have a severe case of potty mouth and tend to use the Effbomb, as it's charmingly euphemized by the parents of preschoolers, in place of a comma.
  3. I will alwaysAlwaysALWAYS click on the kitten video. Even if I was the one who uploaded it.
  4. I will never click on the current news story, unless it is about climate change or other green stuff. I am not following the U.S. election. That war? No clue. Worrying too much about the state of the world, you see, makes it impossible for me to write. (I did try following the recent Canadian election and that was bearable, on a par with eating cold polenta because it let you get through a particularly trying day without having to cook, but I don't think it's an experiment I'll repeat anytime soon.)
  5. Perhaps as evidenced by the polenta comment, I have occasionally been accused of committing surrealism.
  6. I am, nevertheless, a kick-ass story doctor and teacher.
  7. I am easily distracted. If you hate the idea of an ecofantasy essay, wave something shiny under my nose, preferably in the form of a question.
  8. It's possible that counting to five may not be my strong suit.

Put another way, I'm happy to be here and look forward to talking to you all!

63 Comments

1:

Charlie's got quite a lineup of us now, doesn't he?

Welcome!

2:

What, no welcome yet? The others must be busy getting attracted to stranger stuff.

Hi there then! Looking forward to the ecofantasy essay. That's short for economics fantasy or for ecological fantasy?

3:

Hi Alyx and welcome!

5:

Hi, Andreas,

It's short for ecological fantasy. I write books where people from Portland discover magic in their basements and loose it as a contaminant into the forests of Oregon.

7:

Like bringing the Solonaceae to Europe, then?

8:

Welcome, Alyx ... always interesting to hear from a new voice in SF/F.

Okay, having a difficult time reconciling 'concern with environment' and 'not staying tuned to (avoiding) the news'. This crowd seems to be pretty on top of things, so I look forward to your explanation. (I know Charlie doesn't watch TV ... but he clearly stays connected with goings-on via other info sources.)

So, how are you enjoying having some honest-to-god scientists in the new Justin Trudeau Liberal Cabinet? And, any speculations/hopes as to what Canada will put on the table at the upcoming Paris UN Climate Change Conference? (What is Canada's current/future strength re: environment?)

Regards,
SFreader

9:

Cats cats cats.
I'll buy your books.

10:

Aha, a tidbit on the third novel. Excellent!

I've already read and loved an ARC of the second Stormwrack novel. If you haven't read the first...well, go forth and do that. It's been a while since someone has really gone for Portal Fantasy, and Alyx is making it happen with a 21st century sensibility.

11:

Yes, exactly that kind of thing, Greg. Climate change, terraforming, rewilding... those are the links.

12:

Thanks, Robby. And if you are hanging on to some of the cats, it's possible I haven't seen them all yet.

13:

Are you commenting from your fabulous Roman vacation, Prince?? Because that is above and beyond the call.

Thank you for the kind words.

14:

It does take a bit of doublethink and a lot of effort. What I mostly read are science articles and features--Longreads type stuff--in a narrow band of categories. I don't generally read about war, upcoming wars, elections, crime, politicians, the Famous or even what Justin Trudeau's been up to now he's gotten elected. Steve Harper's gone, and... you know. Yay.

Some of this stuff leaks through, but I try to keep it at arm's length. Mostly I do this by refusing to click and frequently telling Facebook DO NOT WANT.

I have a TV, but fired the cable provider ages ago so there are no commercials on anything I watch except, increasingly, Youtube.

Hmmm, maybe there's a news avoider lifestyle post in this.

15:

I am looking forward to your posts, but as far as I am cocerned you are married (full stop/period) there is no need for a modifier in that sentence
Regards

16:

WJW just namechecked you as one of the Faces he met in Saratoga. Now you're here. Strange attractors indeed. Welcome to the innermost fringe of the future.

And keep on clicking on kittens all weekend, anything but the news.

17:

Sounds pretty similar to my own practice (major apparent difference being that I don't watch TV or any other kind of video, except youtube once in a blue moon, and that not in the browser but from the command line, hence ad-free).

I wouldn't call it so much "news avoidance" as "crap overload avoidance". We are flooded with crap and propaganda in the name of "news"; most of the "events" reported aren't worth knowing about at all, and of those that are most of the stuff reported of them is crap. Not engaging with the channels that disseminate the floods of crap only means you miss out on a whole load of negative emotional input and therefore makes life less crap. You don't miss out on anything genuinely important because anything that is important enough to be worth knowing about gets enough people talking about it that you still do get to know about it (and can then choose to research it yourself, selectively, if it's worth it). So it is all win.

18:

Indeed, as OGH said on this very blog: PSA: Ignore the news. "Just a brief reminder that news is bad for you."...

The pattern he describes the media following after the Boston marathon bombing will no doubt be evident today.

19:

So is this a bad contaminant or a good contaminant? Is it like suddenly there are magical beings everywhere, escaped from basements, or is it like in The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi, where use of magic has the side effect of helping an invasive weed to thrive? Or is it like, the magic got loose and now it's out there, and if you leave it alone everything will be OK, but if you use it then it will be bad for somebody? And how do people not in Portland know that this stuff is coming for them? If it is, and it's not where they are too.

20:

That's why I get my news from the Huffington Post. It is highly diluted with kitten videos.

21:

Terrorists murdered a bunch of people in France yesterday. And look at these cats being frightened by cucumbers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sneaky-cucumbers-startle-unsuspecting-cats_56465306e4b0603773490b54

22:

(Just back from an exhausting weekend trip to see relatives.)

Wrt. Da'esh's latest outrages -- in Paris, in Lebanon, in Baghdad, all on the same day -- I think they've misunderestimated the French. This is never a sensible thing to do militarily; 1940 was a howling exception (the result of about 20% of France's male population having been injured or killed a generation earlier), and as far as their non-involvement in the 2003 Iraq invasion goes, history seems to have proven Chirac right. But attacking what was Europe's pre-eminent military power for the best part of six centuries is a really bad idea: I suspect the reaction may be as drastic as the British reaction to the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands.

Which is what the bastards want, of course: Da'esh is all about breaking up the relatively tranquil relationship between the multicultural west and the 99.98% of the Islamic world who aren't apocalypse-obsessed murderers.

23:

Oh, and back on topic: welcome, Alyx, and I'm looking forward to "A Daughter of No Nation" (I have it on pre-order).

24:

It looks like they believed the particularly dumb section of the US population that called the French 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys'. Which happily ignores the way that it was only the continual problems that the British had in holding them off that permitted the great Slave Owners' Treasonous Rebellion to actually succeed.

(Yes, I flying tomorrow to somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line.)

25:

NB: I think I may just duck back in tomorrow to do a brief blog entry on this topic, reminding folks what the "strategy of tension" is all about, how Da'esh are using it to drive a wedge between moderate muslims and the rest of the world, and why the bait they want us to take is poisoned.

But for now (a) it's late, (b) that's a depressing subject, and (c) this is the "welcome Alyx" thread.

So consider further discussion of yeaterday's atrocities on this posting to be ruled off-topic.

26:

I'm trying to figure out what a "good" environmental contaminant would be, and all I can come up with is high explosive and Chernobyl chunks (the Zone of Alienation and bombing ranges as endangered wildlife refuges). Everything else tends to destabilize in ways we dislike.

27:

Hadn't heard of Longreads before ... nice mid-sized chunks of reading materials/information. Thanks!

As for information/news filters ... increasingly important and common considering the range and number of media out there. As a society I think we've gone from which source can I afford to buy/subscribe to, to which source can I afford the time to look at.

Personally, I use/read multiple sources - the details tend to vary as do the POVs and analyses. Then turn to Wikipedia for an overall picture of a situation. Despite some criticisms, I've found Wikipedia to be pretty reliable in their fact-checking. (I do click the reference links especially for new stuff.) Plus it tends to get updated regularly. But most importantly, there's a beginning, middle and end in the narrative.

28:

Oxygen's probably the first and greatest good environmental contaminant. Arguably fossil fuels count, because they're stuff that keeps getting surplused from a functioning biosphere that almost invariably cause trouble when they re-emerge.

29:

From the perspective of the biosphere at the time, wasn't contaminating the environment with oxygen an unmitigated catastrophe?

30:

An alien walks into a bar ... and describes her last visit to Earth [SPOILER WARNING]:

The depressing silence was broken by Chorrikst herself. "Well, the Earth is greatly changed, and of course your own evolution began with the green plague. I have heard tales of humanity from my companions. Would you tell me something of your lives?"

And we spoke of humankind, but I couldn't seem to find much enthusiasm for it. The anaerobic life that survived the advent of photosynthesis includes gangrene and botulism and not much else. I wondered what Chorrikst would find when next she came, and whether she would have reason to toast our memory.

From Larry Niven's "The Green Marauder", one of his Draco Tavern series.

31:

France, 1940 ...
According to William Shirer, the French defeated themselves in 1940 - I must get hold of a copy of his book & read it properly.
But you are correct - this open attack on France's almost-aggressively secular values ( Le Loi de 1905 is pretty central to their thinking ) will provoke a tremendous backlash.
I am still of the opinion of course that this is just WW II against the Nazis, round II, given the erm, "values" that Da'esh are backing.
Vive la France!

Oops, I forgot Link to Shirer's book here

32:

Oops - sorry - I just read your later post ....
[ Scrape it up & put it into new thread when it appears? ]

33:

Probably oxygen wasn't the catastrophe people thought it was when they first realized that Earth didn't start off with an oxygen rich atmosphere.

There are three lines of evidence for this:
--There are huge numbers of anaerobes around, including in places like seawater and your GI tract. Many of them tolerate oxygen.
--Speaking of the ocean, every hothouse Earth period (so far as I know) has been marked by large dead zones in the ocean (dead zones are dominated by anaerobic bacteria, but can't support aerobic life). The evidence for this is shale rocks, which are produced by organic building up in sediments in an anoxic environment. The idea that we flipped over to a totally oxidized planet and stayed that way is silly. The planet has spent more time with large anoxic zones in the oceans than it has without, again so far as I know.
--As with that kerfuffle in the previous thread, it took well over a billion (1,000,000,000) years for Earth's atmosphere to switch from reducing to oxidizing, simply because there was so much iron, sulfur, ad nauseum lying around in highly reduced states, gobbling up the oxygen as it was produced. A billion years is a very long time for life to adapt to the presence of a new chemical.

While I remember Niven's Green Plague idea, it almost certainly didn't happen that way. Indeed, there's reason to think that multicellular life is difficult to impossible without aerobic respiration, so the cyanobacteria didn't wipe out an ancient anaerobic civilization when they first appeared. We'll have to file that on the shelf next to his Protectors, sad to say.

34:

"I think they've misunderestimated the French"

I think it's a sign that Da'esh are losing.

Much commentary I ready seems to act as if Da'esh, like Al Qaeda exist to fight us. They don't. Their aim is regime-change in the middle-east, their main enemies are the govts there that they want to overthrow.

I've read a fairly good argument that Al Qaeda strike against the US in 2001 was also caused by weakness: by the very late 90s security crackdowns in areas they cared about such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia had made operations there too hard.

(But muuuuum, he went off-topic fiiiiirst...)

35:

Oops, hadn't read far enough to see this topic ruled out-of-bounds.

My apologies, to those few who will see this...

36:

"So is this a bad contaminant or a good contaminant?"

Isn't that often a POV thing?

I live on a beautiful island, home to many happy kittens. Who annihilated and exterminated many amazing local endemic species.

37:

Hiya Alyx! {Alyx}

Oh yes and Jedi Kittens!! :-D

38:

"Good" and "bad" can be purely from a point of view, in which case it would seemingly be simple to evaluate consequences for the intended beneficiary. For a maize farmer, anything but maize growing is a bad contaminant, while all the pesticides and fertilizers he puts on the farm are good contaminants. But I guess we need to define "contaminant". How about it's something that changes the balances of what is present. On a mono-cultural maize farm, contamination is anything that reduces purity. In a complex ecosystem, contamination is anything that increases purity. But if a contaminant creates instability, as do herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers--not to mention purity itself--then there's a time dimension to evaluating it's goodness or badness. A fertilizer that gives the farmer a great crop this year but ruins the soil so it can never be used again would be considered a bad contaminant. Anything that creates stability, avoids this and can be evaluated purely on it's direct effects. Further, there's the notion that we can create an objective set of criteria for "goodness" and "badness" of a contaminant based on the idea that there are more and less desirable ecosystems. Usually the idea is that complex, diverse, and stable ecosystems are good. Some try to assert that natural, originally existing ecosystems are the standard of good, but I think that's a bridge too far--all we can hope for is to find some new balance that's also cool. So in most general terms, a good contaminant would increase complexity, diversity and stability. An example would be a simple ecosystem of just herbivores and grass. Periodically, the herbivores eat most of the grass and start starving. Adding wolves would introduce a complexifying and stabilizing factor. The wolves would be a good contaminant.

39:

If you want to know what Islamic state wants, this is an excellent article:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

40:

A crappy time for a kitten-video-posting guest blogger -- so sorry about that, Alyx. (The dark strange attractors want their limelight back.)

Charlie ... still waiting for your op-ed piece ... any update on when you'll post?

41:

Reread Pratchett's Small Gods last weekend ... the leadership described in the Atlantic piece you linked could be a clone of Exquisitor Vorbis (minus the Apocalypse).

42:

Dirk, I found the fact that they ("Atlantic") chose to compare & contrast with Eric Blair's review of Mein Kampf very revealing.

I agree with "Atlantic" in one thing, that's certain - they are profound ( as in - deeply in shit ) religious believers.
If correct, then they are Nazis PLUS, with the "plus" being the religious baggage & "justification" for their actions, added to their Kinder, Kirche K├╝che attitude to women, killing all the jews, having their version of the nazi Lebensraum - the world caliphate & 1000-year Reich, oops eternal caliphate, etc in all its sickening details.

One point emerges - whatever "we" do - don't fight them at Dabiq - if only to bugger up their prophecies ....

43:

Rex, I agree in principle, but having spent more than half my life believing my marriage wouldn't be legit within my lifetime, I still enjoy being able to say "Incredibly Gay Married!"

44:

That's funny--Metropolitan by WJW is one of the books I'm about to mention if I can ever get that ecofantasy essay posted.

45:

I would so patreon/kickstart the hell out of WJW writing the third book in that trilogy.

46:

I wouldn't call it so much "news avoidance" as "crap overload avoidance"

Pigeon, you've pretty much expressed everything I believe about this practice, elegantly and in fewer words than I'd have used.

47:

It has its upsides and its downsides, RDSouth, but the invasive weed element is very much part of the package.

49:

This is why in my current series, the race of cats is cursed. They can survive aboardship or on islands where they're already part of the ecosystem; nowhere else.

50:

If you look at their predation mode and lifestyle, Felis catus appears to be simply a velociraptor in a fur coat: the post-CT mammalian remix.

51:

I like that: not only is it a pithy way of expressing it, it also encapsulates the reptilian inflexibility of feline responses. I think the potential complexity of their responses fools people into crediting them with more intelligence than they have, but the very limited repertoire of responses and the inflexibility and frequent inappropriateness with which they are deployed makes it obvious that they are really quite simple x-maps-to-y machines. If neither "hunt" nor "run away" fits the situation they're pretty stuck.

Cat sitting on cardboard box decides to get inside it to see if there is anything alive in there. Probability of success is proportional to percentage of area of top of box not covered by flap: if cat happens not to be sitting on flap, flap opens; if cat is sitting on flap, all she succeeds in doing is pulling chunks of the edge off.

Contrast with pigeons, who are capable of understanding not only basic physics but also basic physiology, and furthermore can synthesise that knowledge into methods for playing practical jokes.

52:

Thus speaks, I suspect, a non-cat-owner. Trust me, they're a lot weirder than that -- although there's wide variation between individuals, and some are clearly more flexible/intelligent (in human terms) than others.

Hint: yes, cats play practical jokes. And some of them know how to bluff and employ misdirection.

53:

I think it was the ubiquitous WJW who kept folding a piece of paper to see how small it would get before his cat would automatically perch on it as "higher ground"--I believe he got to post-it-note size before he stopped.

54:

"not automatically perch" obviously

55:

Having owned both pigeons and cats...I guess I'm weird.

Anyway, I agree. There are geniuses and idiots in every species (I've even seen smart and dumb hummingbirds). Still, smart pigeons are annoying at how fast they learn stuff, and, like parrots, they are like two year-olds with wings. They hit the equivalent of that human emotional age and never get past it. But they are more socially intelligent than cats, but less intelligent (fortunately!) than parrots.

Cats, conversely, mature emotionally past the two year-old stage and do so in short order. They're not as socially intelligent as pigeons or other birds, but they're quite aware of normal routine and when something is amiss in it (probably more so than pigeons), which leads to a different kind of awareness. Having a smart cat around who's learned to come and get the humans when something's wrong is a real blessing, because sometimes they'll notice a problem before you do. Of course, if you mess with their routine, they'll tell you about it at great length, but that's okay. It's a different style of intelligence.

56:

Cats are small predators who are also prey; they are intelligent enough to actively stalk prey. As with parrots and Prattchettian vampires, put them in a situation where they don't have to use all of their intelligence for mere survival, and they get curious (at best, bored at worst).

Cats have also been neotenized for domestication, so that factors into it a lot as well.

57:

Hi, Alyx! (Waves paws in the air.)

58:

Not at all, she is asleep beside me as I type. Though I must admit I do sometimes wonder if she was dropped on her head as a kitten. Compared to the several cats I grew up with she is beyond question extremely thick. But still, I don't remember any of them playing practical jokes. I've heard of it happening, but it has never been part of my experience.

Heteromeles - "two-year-olds with wings": oh yes, oh so much yes :D

59:

Hint: yes, cats play practical jokes. And some of them know how to bluff and employ misdirection.

My family once had a dog and a cat with kittens at the same time; the mother didn't fully trust this big drooling critter. (The dog was kind of a moron.) One day the unsuspecting dog wandered into the living room and one of the kittens jumped out from beside the couch, flung herself onto the carpet in his path, and yowled loudly. Mama cat appeared out of nowhere to fling herself into the dog's face; the confused and fearful dog fled into the kitchen. He was comically intimidated for weeks afterward.

At only a few months of age the kitten had a model of mind not only for her mother but for the dog. She hid and waited for him...

60:

"More trouble than a three-year-old"
And when being especially "intelligent" & demanding of attention - make that a FOUR year old.
Is a good description of "Sir" who is a lilac-point Birman.
Car maintenance? Oh yes, can I supervise?
Where's my next squirrel coming from?
Can I sit here & sneer at you?
And ...
"NO Ratatosk, you CAN'T get behind the computer/screen & dabble at the light-cord!" - when he really wants attention from the human servants.
Also: UNSPEAKABLY CUTE

61:

"Car maintenance? Oh yes, can I supervise?"

HA.

Mum's cat wanders up; "hello there, what are you doing? Sod that, I want to be friends. (nuzzle, rub head, extend back legs and shove arse upwards) ... OK, I'm bored now, I'm off to lie on the sofa."

What I was doing was lying on my back underneath a car refitting the gearbox. Clearance was limited, and the result of the extend-back-legs manoeuvre was the cat's back coming into intimate contact with the layer of thick oily muck on the underside of the car. And who got the blame for the subsequent transference of said thick oily muck to the sofa cushions, well, it wasn't the cat.

"Lots of wires and a crackly blue line thing? What happens if I stick my..."/"DON'T DO THAT YOU STUPID BIRD..."
A dead parrot may not VOOM if you put 10kV through it, but a live pigeon goes supersonic. (Unharmed - high impedance; but definitely wiser.)

Though more often they just nick wires to make nests with, and eat resistors and diodes to use as grit. I know this because they eventually come out the other end; the extent to which gizzard muscles can fold and crumple a 10mm stub of component lead - and without lacerating the lining, either - has to be seen to be believed.

One thing I will say in favour of my cat is that she won't chase the big lasers. 5 or 10 mW she'll go mad for, but the ones which are capable of setting fire to things on the other side of the room she shows no interest in at all.

62:

"Pigeon" - yes sick joke ...
About 3 years back, I was just about to get on to a train ...
It rolls into platform & feral pigeon notes train, so flew over the top - directly between the pantograph & the coach.
BANG!
Puff of oily smoke ... a few feathers
Well, a 25kV AC power-supply WILL do that.
It tripped-out the train's controls & the driver had to re-set - we re-started 4 minutes down on time ...

63:

See also: dead hawks around the bases of pylons where transmission lines cross desolate areas. Apparently the insulators squeak in the wind and make a noise like a hawk mating call.

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This page contains a single entry by Alyx Dellamonica published on November 13, 2015 11:59 AM.

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