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Friday, February 27th, 2009

Time Event
I am sitting with my very own uncorrected advance copy of SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH in my coldblooded  Vulcan hands, complete with the gorgeous cover illustration by Tom Kidd, who also did the interior illustration. The headpiece of the page for 'Guyal the Curator' (my own modest offering to this feast of splendor) has a Tom Kidd illustration, showing Magnatz the titan looming over the hills of Sfere.

The first story in the book is by Robert Silverberg, and the final story is by Neil Gaiman. In between, are tales by Dam Simmons, Mike Resnick, Kage Baker, and Tanith Lee. Yes, that Kage Baker, who wrote the 'Company' stories; yes that Tanith Lee, who wrote everything from 'Tales of the Flat Earth' to 'Silver Metal Lover.' 

As a fan, not merely as a huckster hawking his wares, I assure you this is the most impressive, the most lumenous, the most astonishing line up of famous names I have ever seen in an anthology: and the tales all take place in Jack Vance's crytpical, over-refined, puzzling, and morbid backdrop of eriee magnificance: the Dying Earth, where humanity sags beneath the pressure of a thousand forgotten eons, the sun flickers like an exausted ember, footpads and rogues haunt the twilight cities, and monsters gambol in the twilight forests, while magicians cram their brains with the extracted lore of polydimensional thaumaturgy.

For those of you impatient to read the next installment of George R.R. Martin's GAME OF THRONES -- and I am one of your number -- please be patient. Mr. Martin both helped edit this anthology, and contributed a story to it. He had to do it. Dennis Lanning of the Legion of Time returning from the future aboard the Chronion, appeared in a time-vision to Martin and assured him that, unless this anthology was successfully printed this year, the utopia of far distant Jonbar would never come to pass, but instead the future be occupied by the subhuman Gyronchi, ruled by the demonic but beautiful Sorainya!

So, while you are waiting, rush out a get a copy of this, or else just reread his DYING OF THE LIGHT (which I recall as 'After the Festival' when it appeared in magazine form.) 

The Nation State and the Citizen Soldier
Mark Steyn at NRO mentions that the Daily Star reports that some 4000 Britons (subjects of Her Majesty) have enlisted to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and hence, are shooting and being shot at other subjects of the Queen presumably more loyal to the Queen than the first group. Steyn interprets (perhaps jokingly) this as being evidence of a civil war.

Yes, this was the same Mark Steyn that was hauled before a court in Canada to answer for being quoted in an Article in THE ATLANTIC magazine where he reported demography statistics; and yes, Canada is part of the same commonwealth, once known as the British Empire, that recently refused to allow a Dutch Member of Parliament, when invited to do so by the House of Lords, to enter England's green and pleasant land, on the grounds that he made a film comparing paynim enormities to the Koran verses that inspired them, and Her Majesty's Muslim subjects exercise a de facto veto over visits by members of the governing parliaments of foreign states.

On a perhaps unrelated topic, let me draw your attention to the opinions an observations of David Brin over at Sigma, who here relates that the move from a robust if amateur citizen-soldier army to a highly specialized and highly professional army implies an innate brittleness which speaks poorly to an ability to fight a no-front terror war.

My question for fans of science fiction (or anyone who likes, either seriously or as daydream, to think in the long term) is this: if the nation-state should pass into insignificance, what political and social structure is likely to replace it?

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I remember Starbuck
... And not just Melville's version of him. For those of you old enough to remember Dirk Benedict, NRO has an article on him here and Big Hollywood posts a recent screed against antimasculinism (if I may coin the term) here titled 'Lost in Castration.'

Apparently he was as taken aback as I was to have Starbuck 're-imagined' from a gallant cigar-smoking man to an angry cigar-smoking woman in the revised BSG.

(I was not taken aback because the pilot was female, merely because she was unfeminine. By 'unfeminine' I do not mean she was wearing trousers, I mean that the writers treated her like a pseudo-masculine caricature. There was one scene where her superior officer hits her in the face, something, I am sure, would be OK for Sergeant Rock and his Howling Commandos, but not something little girls want little boys to learn is honorable behavior. Considering the innate, inherent violence which lurks at the back of all masculine behavior, peeling away the safety feature known as chivalry, even in the name of so noble a word as equality, is imprudent, to say the least.)

Here are two quotes from the NRO article: 


“Even up in Montana I’ve spent the last 20 years defending the right of my boys to throw a frickin’ snowball, to climb a tree, to jump off a little cliff, to go out in the canoe off my dock without a life jacket,” he says. “All the little boys that refused to give into that were put on Ritalin. The future warriors of America are all on Ritalin in the second grade.”

During his recent appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, a wildly popular reality-TV show in the U.K., he was greeted by a snotty British punk-rock singer, who announced: “It’s Dirk [expletive redacted] Benedict.” Without missing beat, Benedict replied, “I seldom use my middle name.” It’s an unscripted quip more than worthy of Face or Starbuck.

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