Most of these new dystopian stories take place in the future, but channel the anger and anxieties of the present, when women and men alike are grappling with shifting gender roles and the messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement. They are landing at a charged and polarizing moment, when a record number of women are getting involved in politics and running for office, and more women are speaking out against sexual assault and harassment.
For me, as the years have gone by, the specific stories, the jokes, the information, the wins—matter less and less. This haunts me. It makes me recall a line from “Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas” by the MIT scholar Natasha Dow Schüll. She’s interviewing a compulsive gambler at a slot machine, and this woman tells her that she’s stopped caring about winning. “Why, then, does she play?” Dow Schüll writes. “‘To keep playing—to stay in that machine zone where nothing else matters.’”
Nominally, I’m on Twitter to be informed, to catch potentially useful information, to see the world from other perspectives. All of which happens.
But, emotionally, I’m just on Twitter to be on Twitter.
As any historian of the genre will tell you, horror has had previous golden ages. Perhaps ours is just a random quirk of popular taste. But perhaps not. Perhaps we are intoxicated by horror today because the genre is serving a function that others aren’t. Can’t. Horror’s roots run deep, but they twist themselves into forms very modern. The imagination’s conversion of fear into art offers a dark and piercing mirror.
I can never pass up an opportunity to recommend The Passage. It’s one of the best books — horror or otherwise — I’ve ever read. Devastating and brilliant.
Consider the basic science of crime-scene analysis. In the dry, freezer-like air and extreme solar exposure of Mars, DNA will age differently than it does on Earth. Blood from blunt-trauma and stab wounds will produce dramatically new spatter patterns in the planet’s low gravity. Electrostatic charge will give a new kind of evidentiary value to dust found clinging to the exteriors of space suits and nearby surfaces. Even radiocarbon dating will be different on Mars, Darwent reminded me, due to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry, making it difficult to date older crime scenes.
Sarah Miller’s essay The Movie Assassin has been all over my Twitter feed this week, so I finally took the time to read it last night. It’s not easy to classify what it’s about. It’s about the movie The English Patient, but also really not. It’s about writing and being true to yourself and the power of words to shape a person:
If you write thousands of sentences that have absolutely nothing to do with what you think or feel those sentences are still what you will become. You can turn yourself into another person. I turned myself into another person.
I’m not sure what else to say about it, except this: take the time to read it.
I always think about how we’re trying to create album packages that 50 years from now, someone’s grandkid or whatever of a Vinyl Me, Please member is going to inherit this record collection and stumble across this Donald Byrd album and be able to read the Listening Notes and maybe discover something. I like the idea that we’re just creating these very well-crafted, sturdy packages that I think will stand the test of time.
It reminds me of a chat I had with my 9-year old daughter recently. I was doing some vinyl sorting while she was watching, and out of the blue she goes, “You know, when you die I’m probably going to sell all your vinyl because it seems pretty valuable… but I’ll hang on to the really nice ones so I have something to remember you by.”
The hunger for deep reading endures. We still read intricate, involving novels. We still seek out layered, contemplative writing online that resists the impulse to reduce itself to glibly articulate opinion. We still want to savor slowly gestated ideas and carefully chosen words. Even in a fast-moving age there is time for slow reading.
Finding a good camping spot in Oregon can be a little stressful. Competition for reserving the prime spots is fierce, and if you’re not online the minute reservations open, you’re often out of luck.
So that’s the reason why our family went camping at Lost Lake on the last weekend in September. It isn’t the smartest thing to do considering Oregon’s weather patterns, but it’s all that was available, and I really wanted to experience this place I’ve heard so much about. But through some kind of miracle, we completely lucked out on the weather. It was sunny and in the high 70s all weekend. Lost Lake is, indeed, a beautiful place. Next year I plan to join the reservation stampede to make sure we can get a spot in the middle of summer.