Saturday, April 28, 2007

The White Tree

I just finished watching episode twenty-four of the original Twilight Zone, "Long Live Walter Jameson." Outstanding. But of course, being immortal and allowing oneself to stagnate is not necessarily representative of all humanity. I believe the screening process would be "simple" enough, if one could create it: those who have demonstrated growth, evolution, some kind of journey during their normal span of years would make good candidates for immortality or at least should deserve a considerable extension of their years. Those who haven't would not. Of course, how one goes about measuring the growth of another human being -- and if this is even possible in principle -- is a whole separate question. It's not our mortality that defines us, as the lead claims, but our endless quest for transformation and transcendence.

I was so excited today! Got the e-mail letting me know I will be going on to the second round of interviews, after all. Contained therein also were the files and instructions for the data analysis. It took a little bit of rust-scraping my Excel skills at first but I completed the analysis tonight. I'll sit on it today, re-do it tomorrow, check for errors and send the completed package on Monday. The second interview is on Tuesday morning. I am cautiously optimistic. Hey, at least I've made it this far.

Today I read Neal Asher's short story "Bioship", which appears in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction (2007) and provides my first taste of this recent, critically well-received anthology. The story captured my imagination from the start. It is brief and well-written, managing to conjure the aesthetic of an organic ship and it's semi-altered crew, along with a claustrophobic vortex of emotional entanglement and urge, all set against a stark, naturalistic backdrop. After the first few paragraphs I couldn't help but think of Robert Silverberg's fascinating The Face of the Waters (1991). This was almost like a self-contained, coiled, amphetamined chapter excised from that wondrous journey. I think, in particular, that the heavily descriptive opening -- a challenging proposition in a short story -- is handled with confidence and gusto. The climax seemed almost perfunctory (I was more captivated by the literal climax that preceded it) and the very end seemed structurally less sound. But, again, the opening will stay with me. I'll quote the first line, hopefully enough to whet your appetite for this oyster-shell of a story:

"The sea is a deep umber, carrying peaty silt in every wave."

"Bioship" is my first exposure to Neal Asher and I'm sufficiently impressed to consider reading his longer work.
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