May 18th, 2009


Learning from Mistakes, or Not

I saw this ...

Benjamin M. Friedman | The Failure of the Economy and the Economists
Benjamin M. Friedman, The New York Review of Books: "By now there are few people who do not acknowledge that the major American financial institutions and the markets they dominate turn out to have served the country badly in recent years.... But despite the universal agreement that no one wants any more such failures once this one has passed, there is a troubling lack of attention to reforms that might prevent such a crisis from recurring."

... and it makes me wonder what will happen if people decide to leave the financial industry so unregulated. That is, the next likely outcome is another severe disaster of some sort, as the people who love to play with money continue frolicking in an open environment. And then what? How many disasters, how close together, will it take for the populace to respond? And are they going to be rational, or just suddenly snap and start returning the damage?

*sigh* Humans. Sometimes I really wish I wasn't stuck standing next to them while they play with matches in the fireworks factory.

The Admonishments of Kherishdar -- Hardcopy!

I'm pleased to announce that The Admonishments of Kherishdar is now available in hardcopy from and haikujaguar has a post with more details about it. This is a cyberfunded creativity project that has been enthusiastically supported by its audience in several ways.

For those of you interested in sociological science fiction, this is the cream of the crop. For folks in our recent discussion of "science fiction with few or no humans in it," this qualifies. Most highly recommended. (If you haven't read the first book, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, I recommend starting there.)

Poem: "The Webs of Death"

This poem came from the May 5, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by tabard. For those of you participating in the recent conversation about "science fiction with few or no humans in it," this poem qualifies as an example. Like the "sunken Nebraska" poems -- though not set in the same timestream -- it involves another species on Earth after humans are long dead.

The Webs of Death

It was a strange planet,
covered with blustery air that
whipped the words away from everyone’s antennae,
making conversation difficult even at close range.
Dried seedpods stirred in the stiff wind,
clattering like the carapaces of the dead.

At first they thought
it was uninhabited,
had never been inhabited
by anything higher than the tiny furred things
that ran among the rocks.
They crew watched them nervously as they worked,
gnawed by a primal fear
of creatures that could bite through chitin.

Then one of the geologists
came scuttling back to camp,
reeking with excitement.
The crew put their heads together,
scent whispering about the discovery –-
long lines of hydrocarbon
buried under a few feet of soil and stone,
not the tremendous distance of natural deposits.

They brought their scanners to bear
and mapped out the ancient, broken lines.
They marveled over the extent and
speculated about the purpose.
Perhaps the lines were territorial markers
or warning signs. Then someone
mused that they might be art, of the sort
sometimes made to be viewed from above.

The lines, even fragmented by time,
showed a certain organization
but formed no pattern, no picture –-
until one scent-whisper suggested,
“They look like webs, don’t they?”

Webs, symbols of death, traps
created by ancient enemies
to snare their unwary prey.
Wherever they walked after that,
the crew imagined webs
and eight-legged eaters.
Sometimes they dug for artifacts two-handed,
keeping their secondary hands free for weapons,
just in case.

The crew were nothing if not dutiful:
they completed their assignment
and all the surveys.
Then they scurried back to their ship
as fast as they could, eager to be away
from the home of beings who once worshipped death
and now were dead.