Searching for the Other

Human beings are monotypic: we’re the only species within our taxonomic genus. Monotypic genera are relatively rare—it’s unusual for there to be no other species within a genus, especially among higher level complex organisms. (*)

We weren’t always monotypic. We shared Ice Age Europe with Homo neanderthalensis for tens of thousands of years. We shared parts of the planet with H. erectus for much of our early existence. It’s possible we even overlapped somewhat with H. heidelbergensis (I don’t know what the scholarly consensus is on this—recent discoveries have complicated the origins of H. sapiens. There were also many more coexistent relatives during our early evolution.)

For well over half of our existence on this planet as H. sapiens, there were other people out there who were within our taxonomic genus but who weren’t our species.

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Book Review: Warlock Holmes by G. S. Denning

A Study in Brimstone by G. S. Denning
A Study in Brimstone
by G. S. Denning
Titan Books, 2016

I’m not a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories (although I’ve read all of them at least once, some more than once, and I’ve see all of the major BBC television adaptations). I dislike Victorian literature in general.

I’m also not much of a fan of contemporary paranormal fiction—I don’t dislike it but it’s not something I seek out.

So there’s really no reason why I should like G. S. Denning’s “Warlock Holmes” series as much as I do.

Because I kinda love it.

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On Food and Headaches

I started getting headaches in my mid-20s. I threw out my back at work one day and never did anything to fix it—I relied on my standard “ignore it and it’ll go away” strategy. This caused entrenched muscle imbalances, which led to steadily mounting tension along the length of my spine, which eventually came to rest in my neck and shoulders.

I started getting tension headaches at the back of my head, where my spine connects to my skull. These headaches are a dull throb on one side or the other, sometimes nothing much, sometimes bad enough to make me sweaty and nauseous and shaky. I always knew when one was coming on because it would be preceded by a few hours of mounting tension in my back and shoulders. I always knew when one would be really bad because my neck would start cracking every time I moved my head.

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“Remembrance of Earth’s Past” by Liu Cixin: A Critical Follow-Up

Shortly after I published my review of the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy by Liu Cixin, I tweeted a link to it and @ referenced both the author and the two English language translators of the series, Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen. Shortly after that tweet, Ken posted a series of tweets in response.

I’m incredibly grateful that Ken took the time to respond. His tweets are insightful and his critique of my review is helpful. I’ve included them here with his permission. Please read through them.

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Book Review: “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” by Cixin Liu

Remembrance of Earths Past by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
(translated by Ken Liu)
Tor, 2014

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
(translated by Joel Martinsen)
Tor, 2015

Death’s End by Cixin Liu
(translated by Ken Liu)
Tor, 2016

In my review of Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, I compare reading it to reading Asimov’s Foundation when I was a kid.

I’m going to make the same comparison with the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” series by Cixin Liu. Reading this awakens the same sense of discovery and amazement as reading Asimov when I was a child. Liu gifts us a story that’s astounding in scope and vision, with some of a biggest Big Ideas in science fiction.

The English translations of Liu’s work boast an admirable level of stylistic polish. There’s a spare and refreshing lyricism at work here. I’m as impressed with the quality of the translations as I am with Liu’s story.

This is what science fiction should be. I’m in awe of Liu’s imagination and accomplishment.

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Unreliable Narrators

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn & The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Crown, 2012

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books, 2015

In 2012, Gillian Flynn published Gone Girl and kick-started our current craze for unreliable narrator stories. 2015 saw the release of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and the unreliable narrator novel was firmly ensconced.

Rarely have I witnessed two books compared to each other more than these.

Not only was The Girl on the Train trumpeted as “this year’s Gone Girl,” not only did every critic and reviewer on the planet compare the two, but just about everyone I knew picked a favorite and took a side in the which-is-better debate.

Most people I know like both but have a clear preference for one or the other, and there are more than a few who love one and hate the other.

For most, their preference seems to boil down to which narrator appealed to them best. It’s not a matter of which you like best, as neither narrator is intended to be likeable. But both are meant to be intriguing.

I’m convinced that character appeal isn’t all that’s going on here. I think focusing on which narrator appeals the most is circling around a deeper issue.

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Artists vs. Craftsmen, or: Why I’m Not Participating in NaPoWriMo This Year

I won’t be participating in NaPoWriMo this year. I waffled for the past couple of months as to whether or not I should. To explain why I’m not, I need to tell you about a recent revelation I had about myself:

I finally realized that I’m not actually a creative person. More importantly—I’m happy with that. I’m tired of feeling like I’m supposed to be creative when I’m clearly not.

To explain this revelation, I need to tell you a story about LEGO…

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