November 30th, 2007

new year

Reading, plus reality check

Highly recommend Holly Black's YA fantasies, beginning with Tithe, A Modern Faerie Tale. I first read it in 2003, then recently noticed she had a couple more out: Valiant, A Modern Tale of Faerie and Ironside, A Modern Faery's Tale. The second is not a direct sequel, but the third is sequel to both, carrying forward central characters from the earlier books, so I had to check out all three and re-read the first. And then the third again. Her threateningly baroque faeryland is like Arthur Rackham on a bad trip, intertwined with urban east coast music scene. Scarier and more elegant than Delia Sherman's Changeling, on similar themes, which I read earlier this year. Now if only Black would write as many books as Laurell Hamilton (whose faeries are relative paper dolls).

I read a couple more of the 700-page tomes in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series, which begins a new generation story arc with Kushiel's Scion and Kushiel's Justice. As the backstory grows ever more complex, the characterizations are wearing thinner.

But then Karen Traviss! Yay! In her "wess'har" series, environmental copper Shan is the best hard-ass space queen since Sgt Bet Yeager in Rimrunners... AND she gets to settle in a polyandrous alien society... with alien sphinx as Number One Husband. Very complicated plotting, and more cool alien species than anyone. The ecologist aliens have had to take the overpopulating spider aliens sternly in hand, because of an environmental crisis involving the classic squids in space, and the humans, light-years from home, are not just standing around watching, but of course putting their foot in it. When I was reading the Tiptree list last summer I tried Matriarch, and was actually able to keep up, which has got to be the acid test of the fourth book in a series. But so of course I had to go back and read from the beginning, City of Pearl, Crossing the Line and The World Before, and now I'm re-reading Matriarch and have HOORAY another to follow, Ally. These proceed through various interesting ethical considerations of the good of the many versus the few, and how cultures assign responsibility for retrospective bad decisions -- all occurring trillions of miles and 25 years away from Earth, which even with instantaneous BBC coverage is like the ADD planet, can't keep its political eye on the Threat Now of ecological catastrophe, in a universe where self-absorbed humans are no longer the top of the food chain. Cue chords of doom for life as we know it.

Save the planet! which is where we live at our house. Votes for the trees -- they'll know how to take care of us. (Not Insane!)

Mr S has spent part of the last week Out Standing In The Field, defending habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterflies which aren't even on the map anymore for this part of the state. But the nature-conservancy-prairie-enthusiast-fish&wildlife-resources crew found some, over by Barneveld. There seem to be more of them on the internet than there are left in the world. Imagine not so long ago: fields that were for a week in May filled with thousands of tiny blue wings.
new year

Refuge for the Endangered Karner Blue

One week at mid-May, there were once whole fields
where lupines grew, wild, a flowering pea,
and there the Karner blue butterfly
in thousands fluttered, clouds of blue, tiny,
small as nickels, smaller than two bits --
bright fields like that were found from coast to coast.

In July again a second hatching:
pupae open, indigo and paler
wings fill sunlit meadows, feeding, laying
only on the palmate leaves of lupine.
The Karner blues do not fly far. A mile
for wandering males, and females keep at home.

Those fields of purple legume now are rare.
The barrens grow potatoes, pines, or houses.
Lost, the vivid fairy flocks, our wealth, our
trove of silvery coin. The buffalo
on five-cent pieces, they were nearly gone,
extinct, the mint predicted then. Not yet.

Ontario, to River Falls, and south
to Indiana, tangled across some fence
a stand of few blue flowers. Old farmhouse is
torn down, trees felled, and fire-breaks opened up.
From these we conjure hope: small flights, from remnant
prairies, oak savannahs, scattered fields.