Once there was this lemming who convinced a bunch of other lemmings to put on some blindfolds and follow him around. These lemmings hated lemmings with squeaky voices and this one guy, let’s call him Stu, did not have a squeaky voice. A bunch of the squeaky lemmings said, hey, maybe that’s not such a good idea. But all those squeaky-hating lemmings were all, what do you know, squeakers, poo! The squeaky lemmings just sort of rolled their eyes. They weren’t so concerned at first. But then a LOT of lemmings started putting on blindfolds and rushing around after Stu. Including rushing near this massive cliff at the bottom of which were rushing rocks and resounding locks and crashing clocks of coastal turbulence (it was the infamous seacoast, after all, upon which many creatures and mariners had lost their lives). Soon the squeaky lemmings were squeaking as loud as they could, look! for the love of god just take your blindfolds off! You’re all going to die! But those blindfolded lemmings just chortled and pulled their blindfolds on more tightly. It was just so satisfying to irritate those squeaky lemmings, I guess. Stu kept shouting about how great everything was and how everyone could take their blindfolds off as soon as they got where they were going, but they never seemed to get anywhere, just rushing back and forth, getting closer and closer to the edge of that terrifying cliff. Some of the squeaky lemmings just covered their eyes, it was too scary! They also tried to tell the blindfolded lemmings that Stu was blindfolded too, but the blindfolded lemmings just screamed that they were liars, even though they were getting a little dizzy from all the running back and forth. Finally, inevitably, all the blindfolded lemmings ran over the edge of the cliff, tumbled down among the crashing rocks and surf, and died.
Moral: Everyone knows that lemmings don’t really rush off cliffs, in spite of that staged bullshit in a Disney nature documentary and that ancient, popular video game, but it goes way, way back beyond that.
Another moral: Just because you hate someone, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Epic, millenia spanning science fiction. Clearly inspired by David Brin’s Uplift novels (a craft in the novel is explicitly called the Brin). Sentient spiders, crazy AI computer systems, the slow social-breakdown on a generation ship traveling for hundreds of years, and more: this book has so much going on. I very much enjoyed it.
Long ago (at least last Tuesday) a Baron Von Vetteler demanded a large soup be filled with apes. To be clear, the apes weren’t cooked in the soup. They were added later. (It was a very large tureen and its top was shaped like a blowfish riding a unicorn.) The apes weren’t too keen on being in the soup, even though Baron V.V. had thoughtfully added a hint of banana to it and given them all banana-shaped beach balls to play with. It was a soup tureen full of cranky apes and that’s the truth! No one told the Baron any of this was a bad idea, because his money had purchased their silence and tacit approval. Still, pretty much everyone had thought it was a terrible idea from the start. If anyone had asked the apes, they would’ve said so too. Next week: cats in a mulligatawny stew.
Moral: If you’re not mocking the ridiculousness of the wealthy at every turn, you’re doing it wrong.
Additional moral: You have to be a pretty great ape to stoically put up with being put in a soup tureen with banana-shaped beach balls.
Mind’s Eye by Håkan Nesser. I keep reading detective and spy stories. (And also watching things like True Detective.) I’m not sure what’s driving this, what I find comforting in these fictions about people attempting to conceal and reveal the truth. This novel’s detective, Van Veeteren, is delightfully world-weary. There’s a pretty satisfying courtroom secene, too.
Death Will Have Your Eyes by James Sallis. What if a poet wrote a spy novel? This is about what you’d get, I think. Not sure why I’ve been reading so many spy and detective novels lately. Perhaps there’s some solace in these archetypal roles. An escape from the tyranny of the real. Perhaps they just suit my current melancholy frame of mind.
Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. One of the reasons I read books is to meet people who are very different from me. It helps me understand the ways I am a stranger. Strongly recommended.
Once upon a time there was a vagabond who was possibly also a scallywag. This vagabond wondered and wandered hither and yon, taking in the sights, rolling over and under hills and vales, generally avoiding the affordances and moral and ethical conundrums posed by the peoples of the farms and cities. The vagabond (who might’ve been a scallywag) once met a baboon hiding under a tree trunk and at first there was much screeching and to and froing, but eventually things settled down and they had teatime on an old mouldy stump.
Moral: Just because you’re a vagabond (or maybe a scallywag) doesn’t mean you can’t resolve your differences in a civilized way.
It was winter. It was cold. It was wet. It was almost snowing, but not quite. And the sun had gone packing off to, er, sunnier climes. The bear was hiberating. The rabbit was hibernating. The wolf was hibernating. The marmot was hibernating. The long haired guinea pig was hibernating. The hedgehog was hibernating. The earthworm was hibernating. The people were scurrying around trying to get stuff done, some of them miserable in wet socks and trousers. At least a couple had left their brelly at home.
Moral: On some of these winter days, hibernation sure does sound nice.
Once there was a monster called the Mumpler. The Mumpler basically constantly screeched things that everyone knew to be false. At first it was just an annoyance, really just a headache inducing scrawp. Some people just wanted to eat breakfast, but it was tough to enjoy the buckwheat pancakes with marionberry syrup with a side of bacon and a fruit cup with all that nonsense screaming by. The Mumpler sure bounced around a lot and seemed especially agitated when no one was paying it any mind. Some people tried reasoning with the Mumpler, providing evidence for things like, you know, left being left and black being black and other things like that. Really, they couldn’t even get a word in edgewise. To everyone’s horror, soon there were some people who thought that Mumpler was all right, wearing “white” shirts and dangerously signaling the opposite turn direction when driving. There were still others who, wanting to appear fairminded, discussed the possible merits of blue being red or zero being one. This was enough to get people to tear their hair out, not literally, but still. Finally, they decided they had enough. They used a shrink ray to shrink the Mumpler down to a manageable size and then stuck him in a sound-proofed terrarium. They weren’t monsters. There was plenty to eat in there. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Except for all the people in the “white” shirts, of course.
Moral: Sometimes it sure would be nice to have a science fictional solution to one’s problems.