Sunday, November 27, 2011

The cutting-edge of research can be damned scary

A lab makes a virus that could kill half of every human living on the planet. What should be done with it, and who should have access to the technical information about it? Sounds like science fiction, right?

In fact, its creator, Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, first announced that he had accomplished this feat at an influenza conference in Malta in September. (The virus is an H5N1 bird flu strain which was genetically altered to become much more contagious.) Academics and bioterrorism experts are arguing about whether the research ought to have been done in the first place and whether to publish the "recipe" for producing the virus in the second place. RT reports:
"I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one," Paul Keim, a microbial geneticist who has worked on anthrax for many years, told Science Insider. "I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this."

Now Keim, who chairs the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), and other members of the body, have a very difficult decision to make. Fouchier wants his study to be published. So does virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who led similar research in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and reached comparable results. And it is up to NSABB to give them the green light.
Many academics and biosecurity experts are naturally cautious about releasing information which could provide any bioterrorist with a ready recipe to hold the world to ransom. Some argue that such work should never have been done in the first place and call for international monitoring of potentially harmful research.

"It's just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it's a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it," believes Dr. Thomas Inglesby, a bioterrorism expert and director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

However the very same data, if made available to the scientific community, could potentially allow humanity to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic, which Fouchier’s study has shown to be far more probable than was previously believed. Clamping down on freedom of information in the scientific domain may in the end leave us defenseless against the flu, should it arise naturally.
For more, see the report at NPR's blog here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

"It is nevertheless true that they are more like us than mice" (ASA 2011)

The sixth in a series of reports from the American Studies Association.

“War and/on the Environment: Critical Directions in American Studies”

H. Bruce Franklin, impassioned as ever, spoke on “Victory Culture and the U.S. Wars on the Environment 1945 – 1962.” Among the wars in question he includes collateral damage from the Cold War, notably the lunatic production and testing of nuclear weapons in the 1940s. The production contaminated sites across the country; Hanford still contains 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste and hires contractors to hunt down radioactive rodents, birds, snakes, and insects. Much graver were the effects of testing those weapons, which persist in the aquifer under the Nevada test site as well as in the Pacific Islands most associated with such tests. Fifty miles west of us is Fort Detrick, a main center for development of chemical and biological weapons. HBF visited Fort Detrick in 1954 and heard an enthusiastic description of a new type of nerve gas; his guide did not mention that the toxin in question was already being put into production in the lucrative pesticide business.

Silent Spring was published in 1962, the year the U.S. began its ten years of chemical warfare in Vietnam, aimed not only at the destruction of crops but of rain forests, “the lungs of the world.” Carson, of course, was chronicling the war against almost all insects, arachnids, undesirable birds, and undesirable plants, labeled with the highly contingent and subjective term “weeds.” In these years, U.S. culture defined many plants as enemies to be exterminated by unrestrained technowar, in the creation of the great postwar American dream, the suburban lawn. Nature itself was figured as the enemy. Cold War rhetoric labeled weeds — clover, honeysuckle, dandelions, daisies, violets, anything but the approved type of grass — as subversives, infiltrators, and foreigners: ads proliferated for herbicides such as the Weed Gun and the Weed-a-Bomb, advising “not infantry tactics but wholesale slaughter by chemical warfare.”

Dow, Monsanto, Diamond Alkali, and other corporations could saturate the U.S. market and still have the capacity to turn out tens of millions more gallons of toxins: Vietnam, with its insects and Reds, was the ideal place to turn to fulfill the cultural logic of environmental war, a form of which was articulated in Reagan’s 1965 “parking stripes” speech. The effects of this war appear in Stephen Wright’s Meditations in Green, in Le Guin’s The Word for World Is Forest, and in “Knowing,” a poem by Marilyn McMahon, who served as a nurse in Vietnam and decided not to have children, never to learn “If my eggs are/misshapen and withered/as the trees along the river/if snipers are hidden/in the coils of my DNA.”

Mike Hill spoke of what Defense Secretary Gates calls RMA, the Revolution in Military Affairs. The lines separating war and peace have blurred in the face of technological innovation, and the human being is disappearing under the aerial empire. Drone war has enabled extrajudicial assassination. They are just now starting to use drones in Texas. U.S. drone strikes have risen by two thousand percent in the past two years; traditional fighting tools are superseded. In this dangerous new Drone Imaginary, the military identifies high density sites as potential locations of insurgency and uses UAV imaging to identify “normal” and “anomalous” patters of movement. The system, in its engineers’ words, “compresses the kill chain,” condensing the time between confronting and killing the target. Under this pre-emptive technology, the enemy exists in an autogenic way: it blurs the friend-foe distinction as well as eliminating the time gap so that the target is not seen and then destroyed: compression marks and destroys simultaneously. It moves technology further into the human brain/computer interface. This weaponization of time and newly violent understanding of space go beyond what David Cole or Paul Virilio has analyzed: with the dronological revolution’s intensities of proximity and distance, of speed and latency, the aerial empire makes war ubiquitous and eternal.

DeLando [or possibly a project or document called “Delando”: my notes are ambiguous] asked in 1981 about the possibility of executive function being moved from the human to the robotic. Now we have to account for nonbiological factors of war, such as climate being used for purpose of war. Of course, Archimedes and Elizabeth I had some successes on that front, and Napoleon was very keen on weather. And the U.S. climatological work originated to facilitate war efforts. Other forms of environmental warfare include the buffalo wars of the late 19th century U.S. and 1960s efforts to affect the monsoon season and rain on the Ho Chi Minh trail. A 1977 treaty prohibits Environmental Modification as a weapon, but has loopholes: it only addresses “widespread or longstanding severe effects.” The caveats about temporality, geography, and economy are going to be seen very differently in undeveloped countries. Of course, the military currently uses Environmental Modification “by default,” using climate change as a weapon. We call the source of climate change “anthropogenesis,” but, ironically, the exploitation of this phenomenon will not engender but cancel out the human being

Liz DeLoughrey discussed the mutually constitutive relation between the rise of environmentalism and the nuclear economy. Think about the surveys that led Tansley in 1935 to popularize the term “ecosystem” and the new version of ecology this was part of. The development of that science included, for example, Atomic Energy Commission -funded research to study the Marshall Islands in 1955 after the serious of nuclear explosions the U.S. had perpetrated there: Operation Greenhouse in 1951, Operation Ivy in 1952, and Operation Castle, which began in 1954 with the unprecedented explosion codenamed Bravo. This ecological and political relations disaster, according to the experts, “gave us the first real clues” to environmental degradation, and was a catalyst and signifier for a global consciousness about a militarized and imperiled planet. The 1955 study is seen as a landmark in ecological research.

After researching Eniwetok, AEC scientists got permission to irradiate El Verde, a locale on another remote island, Puerto Rico. See, ecology was modeled on the concept of closed systems, an ideal of isolation that suppressed the realities of communication and transportation. Presenting aerial views of Eniwetok, educational filmstrips styled it “an outdoor laboratory.” Aerial subjectivity and surveillance films conditioned the conceptualization of the globe: the island is a distinct microcosm. The older horizontal view, looking at the island as your canoe approaches it, reveals a perspective that the aerial view conceals.

The AEC experiments were at the time against international law. As if the fact that American soldiers and scientists were evacuated from the islands prior to the experiments was not enough, there’s new evidence of the deliberateness of radiation exposure and of the illegal collection of biomaterials, with researchers writing that such exposure “will afford most valuable ecological data on the effects of radiation on human beings.” Merril Eisenbud noted in his research the discovery that “While it is true that these people do not live, I would say, the way Westerners do, civilized people, it is nevertheless true that they are more like us than mice.” Nonetheless they were not given pain medication for their ailments. Seeing the horrific teratogenesis and miscarriages that have occurred since the nuclear tests, scientists explained to the islanders that such difficulties “were to be expected in small island populations,” notwithstanding the fact that they had not occurred prior to 1951. Islanders were also injected with radioactive isotopes.

To this day, the islanders have been refused access to medical records. A 1995 investigation concluded that “The AEC had a moral imperative to use the data gained from radiation exposure.” It was in 1975 that the Rongelap Magistrate wrote to Robert Conard, “You have never really cared about us as people -- only as a group of guinea pigs for your government's bomb research effort. For me and for other people on Rongelap, it is life which matters most. For you it is facts and figures. There is no question about your technical competence, but we often wonder about your humanity. We don't need you and your technological machinery. We want our life and our health. We want to be free.” Elsewhere, scientists were experimenting on Alaskans and Amazonians, because both were believed, ecologically, to be “discrete populations.”

Edwin Martini asked that we keep in mind our interdisciplinarity, our environmental history and our military history. Look at the rainbow herbicides — Agents Orange, Purple, Pink, Blue, and White. The weaponizing of herbicides required a global apparatus; hence, years after their use, millions who’d never set foot in Southeast Asia would find their lives altered by it. Martini showed a series of great slides illustrating the trajectory of a barrel of Agent Orange, from its manufacture in, say, Midland, MI to its shipping in Mobile to its storage in Saigon to one of the various military sites that supported Operation Ranch Hand to the trailer tanks that transported it to airplanes. There were always from two to five liters left in each barrel after it was emptied; there were “procedures in place” (never followed) to dispose of that residue. Lots of leakage occurred, and many barrels were recycled for fuel storage, leading to motorcycle exhaust full of dioxin. For all of the concern about the forests sprayed with Agent Orange, the greatest problem now is in the areas where the barrels were stored.

Prior to 1964, most herbicides were manufactured for domestic use. Subsequently, over seventy-five million pounds were annually produced, distributed, and tested around the United States and the world. Hence a lot of places have their own dioxin narratives. Vietnam is the best-known laboratory, but New Plymouth is also important: New Zealand produced and consumed more 2,4,5-T than any other country, continuing up to 1987. New Zealand and Australia were very supportive of the U.S. effort. So total global demand for 2,4,5-T was driven by the Vietnam War, creating a global commodity chain for weaponized products that have significant long-term effects. Dow tried to make a less destructive manufacture and storage process available to the other chemical companies, but they were not interested. The global scale of these activities’ legacies can be grasped by the interdisciplinarity of American Studies.

A questioner asked about the competing discourse of South Pacific-as-paradise with propaganda films on the island laboratory. Bruce cited a scene in Atomic Café and then said there are similar contradictions in our cultural conceptions of American Indians. De Loughrey noted that the language of the AEC films characterize Eniwetok as wonderfully “primitive” and remarked on the recuperation of indigenous symbols to name military operations. Another audience member reminisced about soldiers putting Agent Orange into their water supply, specifically one soldier who drank Agent Orange, thinking it purified the water, and said that the cohort of veterans he’s describing is still enthusiastic about the war. Franklin reminded us that the plaintiffs in the Agent Orange case, by and large not enthusiastic about the war, sued the chemical companies because they couldn’t sue the government, and were ultimately sold out by their lawyers, notwithstanding the high incidence of spina bifida and other characteristic ailments. We know when we see evidence of genetic effects in male vets that it’s not just ova that are affected.

A question emerged about the laboratory mentality, and the Closed System conceived by ecologists and nuclear scientists — were the two demonstrably connected? De Loughrey said, well, as with other human experimentation traditions, they took advantage of it: the ecologists and environmental studies scholars applied to the AEC for permission to do this work, and their labors ended up establishing the field of ecosystem study. Robert Marzec noted, in that context, that there’s an incapacity at a science level to think of the environment as a set of complex relations.

Martini said that the U.S. has ended up giving some support to all its affected Vietnam War veterans, and that we have the capacity to clean up all of the horribly toxic dioxin hotspots in Vietnam, but we lack the will. One auditor opined that the bad guy ends up being a certain structured technology of knowledge. So from a world view side of it, is there anything reparative in science that rejects seeing systems as closed: is there a potential Other in science? De Loughrey explained that ecosystems theory has been supplanted, but the Odoms’ models are still used in the classroom. Franklin explained that science isn’t something abstract. Scientists come out of a culture and they operate in a social structure. For example, he’s been finding in his environmental activism that the scientists in ecosystem work operate under NOAA’s fishery management, which frames its mission as supporting a profit model for the companies. Their whole set of assumptions is so ahistorical that they are impenetrable to Franklin’s plea that they consider history. Similarly, Martini pointed out, medicine is not used to thinking of a human body as part of a larger system but as an autonomous entity moving through nature.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hoodoo and Good Weird

Yesterday was Shopping Bag Day in my quaint New England town. The streets and stores, parking lots and sidewalks were jammed with people come to get 20% off one item or their entire purchase at most of the stores in our downtown. Once in a store, once in a full-blown buying mood, who could buy just one item? The local newspaper provided the 20% bag for our goodies in Thursday paper. Hordes of people surged through town in a shopping frenzy which was so contagious that even reluctant anti-shoppers (who perhaps had forgotten that it was Bag Day) joined in and spent money too, swiping their credit cards with abandon. Up with the local economy!

I ventured forth with a list in my fist and the iron focus of an actor doing tricky blocking through treacherous territory. One false move and I could plummet into spending too much of my hard earned money on things nobody needed. So I had my shields up against opportunistic buying of shiny this and sparkly that. I felt smug and safe as I whizzed past $500 sweet nothings.

“Oh, I read your book,” said the store manager (proprietor?) in a lovely boutique.

She and I chat from time to time as I regularly buy clothes to wear at conventions or readings or lectures from her. Her store is always filled with lovely hand-woven, hand-dyed, wearable art, and if you know me, you know I have a jones for wearable art (see Bill Clemente photo of me at Peru State College). Over the years I have often shopped in her store, celebrating five thousand words written, a book coming out, a tour, a play opening, or just a beautiful day.

“I loved your book,” she said.

What author wouldn’t be pleased? I smiled, encouraging further comment, even though the store was jammed with fervent Bag Day shoppers starting to look feral as the sun dipped behind the hills.

“Loved it.” She shook her head. Maybe that was all she had.

“Thank you,” I said.

“It was hard getting into at first.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t really looking for a critique at the moment. I assumed she read Mindscape. The first fifty pages might give anyone pause. But, what could I do about that except write a better beginning to my next book?

“Really hard.” She furrowed her brow, remembering the effort.

I had my eye on a purple and green reversible jacket with wonderful buttons that would lift any mood, even in the middle of a dark New England winter. It was only four thirty, but the sun was now a fading memory on the horizon.

“I’m white, you know, so it was hard,” she said.

“Uh huh.” I realized everyone in the store seemed to be white with her, except for me. Race hadn’t been on my mind, and her being “white” certainly didn’t explain her response. All white people wouldn’t read any book the same way. I’m sure she knew this too, but was running for cover under a monolith. I nodded politely and grabbed the jacket that was actually 50% off. “This has my name on it!” I said.

“The language was hard you know,” she said. “That dialect thing, but it wasn’t just that. The language is beautiful really. And after a while you’re caught in the rhythm of it. Not hard at all. It was, you know, the whole deal, the guilt, the hard, painful history, just glaring at you, not just black and white, Indians too—who wants that when you’re trying to have fun?” She was talking about Redwood and Wildfire, not Mindscape.

Everyone in the store was listening, feral energy focused on us now.

“Is everything with a red dot 50% off?” I asked. I didn’t want her whole deal, her guilt, or hard painful history when I was trying to buy some glad rags to strut my stuff!

“But you got me,” she smiled. “No, you really did. I just kept reading. It was beautiful. You just made me read and read to the end. That’s good writing. No. Really. All the way to the end.”

Redwood and Wildfire had hoodooed her!

The shoppers were riveted. They looked up for that kind of art. So I said, “Well, you can buy it just down the street. Broadside Books, 20% off. Redwood and Wildfire—Andrea Hairston.”

A few people laughed, one woman clapped, a husband shook his wife to get her back to shopping.

“No. As a writer myself…” She had written a novel and asked me once for advice about getting her book out into the world. I don’t recall having much good advice. “We’re losing touch with that history you write about, conjuring and all, and we shouldn’t, but…Well I wouldn’t dare touch that kind of material,” she said. “That’s writing. I’m jealous.”

I quickly bought my bargains and escaped out into the night (4:45) air.

The next stop on my disciplined shopping list was a boutique that sold the German face cream I love to pamper myself with. Short of flying to Munich, this is the one store where I can get it. The 20% discount is a big help to my cash flow.

I was at the counter with my happy purchase and the owner said, “I read your book.”

I tried not to cringe. “Redwood and Wildfire,” I said, remembering that I’d told her about the book coming out. She liked historical novels.

“It was such a weird experience for me,” she replied.

This store was not as crowded as the last, but everyone tuned in, curious to have an author who offered weird experiences among them.

“Good weird,” the owner said. “I’m from where the book is coming from. And, well, I have visions of those conjure women from your book. I do. All the time. Before reading your book. Those women are with me. I couldn’t believe you were writing about my visions. I had to put the book down and catch my breath. I mean, you were describing just what I see in my visions! Colored women, tall, stunning, just like your characters, conjuring up a storm. It was amazing. Incredible. Isn’t that incredible?”

“Yes,” I said. “Incredible.”

The owner’s a white lady close to fifty or just looking back at it. She sounded like she had a Southern accent once upon a time. We hadn’t talked enough for me to know where she was from. Who’s from where they are anymore?

“I loved the language,” she said. “It was sweet. It was home, you know. It was my story. It was our story. Wow. You’re like my long lost sister or something. Right?”

I nodded and didn’t take a bag for my tiny jar of eye cream. I had bought way too much stuff and my knapsack was heavy, yet all my purchases managed to fit. It was dark, and the cold was creeping in. I had to get on my bike and get home. I was about to go out the door but she nabbed me.

“I almost had to stop reading because the book was so close to me, you know? A me I don’t quite know. I mean, I had to stop for a minute and just…”

“Feel yourself. Written down,” I said, thinking of books that grabbed me, that shook me at my core.

“Do I sound ridiculous?” She looked embarrassed. The long lost sister and vision bit was weird, but good weird. Nobody looked disturbed. The other shoppers were riveted. Word by word, they’d been drawn into the spell.

So I said again, more shameless self promotion, “Well, you can buy it just down the street. Broadside Books, 20% off. Redwood and Wildfire—Andrea Hairston.”

Customers nodded, curious enough to go check it out.


The first lady didn’t want to deal, but Redwood and Wildfire hoodooed her, made her read on, and she was glad. The second lady wanted to deal, and Redwood and Wildfire let her embrace the hoodoo she’d already been doing, and she was glad. I rode home down the bike path, gliding over these good thoughts, oblivious to the cold edge to the wind.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bloomberg: What a Brave, Fearless Leader He Is

It seems I spoke too soon, about the OWS library having been decently preserved. That information came from Bloomberg, and it appears he either didn't know what he was talking about, or else... lied. According to the Occupy Wall Street Library site,
“Many books destroyed. Most equipment -and structures missing. . . most of library is missing (ALL of the reference section btw), damaged or destroyed. “
Update 11:14am
Among the missing or destroyed materials are Between 2,000 and 4,000 books (we’ll know if it looks right when we see it ), this includes five boxes of “Reference” materials many of which were autographed by the authors."

The police raid also apparently destroyed things like medical equipment. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

p. 48: "polar bear-- preg."

I'm reading Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes. The copy I happen to be reading is a paperback I bought years ago, its pages accordingly yellowed. (Cheap paper, don't you know.) As is sometimes the case with used books, though the book itself bears no indelible traces of its previous owner(s), as soon as I picked it up and started reading it, I found something in its pages, probably used as a bookmark. Sometimes I find a bookstore receipts, or an old photograph, or a postcard, or a page of notes or even a shopping list. In this case, it's a business card, with Japanese characters on one side, and English on the other. (Heavy pasteboard, but as yellowed as the book's pages.) It's the card of a journalist, by name David T____, employed by a Japanese newspaper. On the card someone has jotted: p.48 polar bear--preg.

When I saw the page number, I didn't check it out. There was, after all, the possibility that the page number referred to another book entirely. When I got to the bottom of p. 48, though, that possibility was ruled out. "Among zoo-keepers, there is no known test for pregnancy in the polar bear."

Why in the world would anyone choose that particular reference to jot down? This made me a bit more curious about the card. What do you do when you're curious about someone you don't know? You go to Google, of course. So I did. There were four separate individuals with the name David T____ that was on the card who according to Google are living in the US. I'm not sure, though, that this particular David T_____ is actually living in the US. I'm sure this David T_____ is the person who's been published in numerous literary magazines (one of which even provides a photo of David T____ ) and apparently lives the life of an expatriate, moving from country to country, usually in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Having learned this, I then realized I'd been making an unwarranted assumption: viz., that the person whose name was on the card was the same person who'd been using the card as a bookmark for this copy of Flaubert's Parrot. No name had been inscribed in the book, after all. So for all I know, the person whose name was on the card (David T_____) might very well have given his card to the book's owner, who then found a use for it...

I don't quite understand why this card has become so interesting to me-- interesting enough, that is, to cast a shadow over my reading of the novel. But it's a fact that I keep wondering if, by the time I finish reading the book, I'll have discovered some extraordinary significance to "polar bear--preg" on p. 48. Certainly, Barnes is pushing numerous associations between Flaubert and various animals. Perhaps, just perhaps, that sentence will prove to be the key to understanding the novel. Once I'm finished, of course...

Mayors and their police enforcers are living in an alternate reality

"Militarized" police raids (I take the term from former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper's Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street posted yesterday at the Nation) often get full coverage from the media. That's because police like to show off their superior force and fire power in taking down "bad guys." Not so with last night's middle-of-the-night raid in NYC, when the jackboots went wild, beating and arresting the people spending the night in Zucotti Park (and, incidentally, trashing their 5000-book lending library: nothing like wanton, public book destruction to show whose side you're on). Not only did the NYPD not invite the media to film their post-midnight knock on the door, they actually imposed a media "blackout" when journalists from all the US's major outlets showed up. That blackout put the airspace above the Park off-limits to news helicopters and had police officers variously beating, arresting, and shoving around people like the highly respected Janet Maslin. (The police also arrested a city councilman, Ydanis Rodriguez.)

To top it off, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings signed a restraining order a couple of hours ago ordering that the protestors be allowed back in to Zucotti Park. Mayor Bloomberg is defying that order. (Remember Scott Walker? He defied a court order, too. And got away with it.) Once again, we see that courts matter only when they're rubber-stamping powerful government officials. (This has been a theme of the last decade.)

Brutal raids made in the middle of the night, raids that the media aren't allowed to witness, have an incredibly bad odor about them. An odor that I'm sure offends a lot more noses than just mine. The 19 mayors with "OWS problems" who according to Oakland Mayor Quan shared a conference call together a couple of days ago really need to do some actual thinking about what they're doing instead of reacting in an hysterical, kneejerk fashion to whichever powers that be are putting the squeeze on them.

ETA: The good news is that the books in the OWS library were not trashed. The LA Times reports:
The books that librarians and other protesters at Occupy Wall Street feared had been thrown out in a police raid on Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning have been located. The books are being stored in a sanitation garage in Manhattan. The mayor's office tweeted a photograph of the stored books, saying, "Property from #Zuccotti, incl #OWS library, safely stored @ 57th St Sanit Garage; can be picked up Weds."

The library had more than 5,000 books, which had been catalogued by volunteers. They had been stored in a tent donated by author/rocker Patti Smith.

(Link thanks to Gary Farber.)

ETA: A second judge has now ruled-- against the protestors, backing Bloomberg's move to eject them from the park.

Also ETA: Turns out the LA Times report on the library being saved was bull. See the update Bloomberg: What A Brave,  Fearless Leader He Is

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New deadline for "Missing Links and Secret Histories" submissions

I am extending the submission period for my "Missing Links and Secret Histories" anthology, to January 1, 2012.

Call for Materials for “Missing Links and Secret Histories” 

Most writers leave out a lot of what they know about their characters and the histories and workings of the worlds their characters live in. And that’s practically an invitation for readers to barge in and read between the lines and invent more than is actually on the page in the official, authorized version of the story. For “Missing Links and Secret Histories,” an anthology to be published by Aqueduct Press, I’m looking for wikipedia-page-style entries with the aim of compiling a Treasury of Missing Links and Secret Histories of stories we know and love. Such Missing Links and Secret Histories must shed critical or transformative light on the works they riff rather than appropriate them. These entries will probably not include zombies, sea-monsters, vampires, werewolves, and other such frequently interpolated monsters. They must, of course, make sense within the framework of the official, authorized version of the story they are glossing, and the more Wikipedia-like the better. Hyper-links are encouraged. Stylishness, wit, and ingenuity will be especially prized. And for Secret Histories, the more byzantine and buried they are, the better. A word of caution: if the official, authorized version of the story is not in the public domain, it behooves the contributor to be certain that author of the original story being riffed will not view the contribution as infringing their copyright.

Deadline for submissions is January 1, 2012. Submissions should be made by email to L. Timmel Duchamp (use this email address: ltimmel [at] You may either paste your submission into the body of the email or attach it as an rtf or Word Doc file. Payment will be 1 cent a word and two contributors’ copies. Query me first before making multiple submissions.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Being a publisher has its moments

...and I had one of them Tuesday morning, when I went into my office and found an ARC sitting on my desk. Kath arrived with them Monday night, and unbeknownst to me, Tom had put one on my desk so that I'd see it first thing in the morning. Not recognizing it by its look, and without noticing what it was, instead of pushing it to the side, as I would have done with a book that I'd put there myself, I picked it up to look at it and saw that it was a novel by Rebecca Ore, turned it over, and read the description on the back cover. Three thoughts then rippled through my mind in lightning-swift succession:

Have to read this. Soon! (Salivating.)
Wait! This is the book we're publishing! (Laughing)
Wow! Isn't it cool to be this book's publisher??? (Bursting with elation)

I've had that third thought often since starting Aqueduct-- which, unpacked, is at least partly about how wonderful it is to be publishing work by authors whose work I've been devouring for years. After all, our second book, which I bought shortly after deciding to start Aqueduct Press, was Life, by Gwyneth Jones. But I haven't had the experience of that sort of double-take before. (Well, it was early in the morning, before I'd had my coffee, and this was the first time I'd laid eyes on the ARC, & so it was a bit unfamiliar to me: I don't suppose I'll ever have that experience again...)

Here's a description of the book, by the way (from the press release, rather than from the back of the ARC), which is called Time and Robbery and will be out in March 2012:

Time and Robbery features the protagonist of Ore’s Centuries Ago and Very Fast, Vel, a gay immortal born in Paleolithic who jumps time at will. Unless Vel can help out his younger self, Vel’s tribe’s descendants—a big chunk of the 21st-century British population—will be eliminated from the timeline. Present-day Vel, though, has problems of his own, so he takes a chance and outs himself (and his talented teen-aged daughter Quince) to Joe Tavistock, a subcontractor on the weak end of the plausible deniability chain dangling off British intelligence, making it Joe’s problem. Joe's superiors are dubious, and Joe doesn't know who to trust. The stakes are high not just for Vel, but for everyone involved.

Terry Bisson, author of Fire on the Mountain and TVA Baby, writes of Time and Robbery, “Rebecca is up to her old tricks here: surprising, puzzling, and delighting us at every turn; and in this sleek, lean detective tale, coolly twisting the tail of Time itself. Ore is that rarest of creatures, a writers' writer that readers also love.”

Rebecca Ore’s first book about Vel, Centuries Ago and Very Fast, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick and the Lambda Awards. As Jeff VanderMeer wrote for Locus Online: “Centuries Ago and Very Fast by Rebecca Ore (from the truly amazing Aqueduct Press) has a kinetic energy and hard-to-define originality that held me captivated from first word to last. Profane—scandalous?—the book wraps stories around stories, combines the surreal with the mundane and every-day.”

Friday, November 11, 2011


Pan Morigan and I have been on the road since January, 2011 promoting my novel, Redwood and Wildfire, and her album, Wild Blue. We've met great people everywhere. The 99% are working hard. We are appreciating all the Good News!

We enjoyed going to vote on Tuesday and electing a progressive Mayor in Northampton. We were thrilled to hear that voters elected a 22-year-old, progressive, gay mayor in Holyoke, MA, rejected personhood at inception, and re-elected mayors (highly) supportive of the arts in Philadelphia, Houston, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Charlotte, Baltimore, Carmel, IN, and Charleston, SC.

The Senate voted down the resolution that would have shuttered the open Internet.

The U.S. State Department will delay making a final decision on the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline pending a new environmental review.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Respect for Marriage Act.


In a guest Blog, I shout out praises to Aqueduct and Aqueductistas at The Rejectionist. I end that Blog with: Here’s to the 99% writing the future.