As a Science Fiction Geek…

The most important environmental novel.

As a science fiction geek, I ought to be able to predict the future. The lord knows, I have spent enough time in the company of Ray Bradbury, Ann Leckie, Clifford D. Simak, Frank Herbert, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Of course the writers never get it quite right, but metaphors can be close; the TV pundits and newspaper columnists are less reliable as they spout ever-changing opinions on a daily deadline. Nonetheless, despite my eclectic reading, I have a bad feeling about the future.

With so much of the world ill or in lockdown, we are often depressed. And at the present moment, I am dismayed by our ineffectual government’s wasting weeks trying to nail Trump for the assault on the U.S. Capitol. We were all terrified by the attack, though I’m not at all sure it was an attempted coup. Of course the plotters and the violent attackers should be brought to justice. But it is ironic that the House and Senate allowed Trump to threaten national security for four years by constantly firing people in important positions–that scared me as much as the assault on the Capitol! No, they dare go after him now that he is out of office, and because they personally felt threatened when the Capitol was attacked. They did not show the same degree of concern for mass shootings in churches and schools, or for police violence, or the many other terrors set loose on the population by maniacs. Was this really a coup d’tweet?

A great political and environmental novel.

I try to avoid reading about politics. I voted for the Dems because I want to see green energy implemented, the vaccines distributed quickly, strategies for dealing with pandemics and climate change, and the completion of the thousand and one other important things the government owes.

For the last year, we have looked to infectious disease specialists and other scientists who have tried to hold this country together. Some states and the federal government actively interfered (and still interfere) with mask mandates recommended by the CDC. What is to be done? Where is all the government brain power?

The Cumaean Sibyl, also probably has a Zh.D.

But with my Zh.D. in Vampire and Zombie Lit , I am relieved that it is at least not the zombie apocalypse. The movies 28 Days Later and 28 Months Later can be viewed as a terrifying metaphor for a pandemic. Of course in the zips of this century, good vampires were as fashionable as the bad zombies. In the Twilight books, which I binge-read on the recommendation of a fortysomething friend, the witty, klutzy heroine, Bella Swan, moves to the small town of Fork, Washington, to live with her policeman father, and is not impressed with the fog or the small-town culture. But Edward, the gorgeous perfect gentleman vampire, saves Bella’s life when a car almost rolls on top of her. The two fall in love: Edward is something of a human rights activist; he drinks animal blood instead of human blood. Bella’s best friends are vampires and werewolves, and it is only a matter of time before she will have to make a change. But there is a place for infectious disease specialists in their Twilight world: medical experts are called in!

Somehow we never expected the pandemic, or any of it. It’s all horrifying, but it could be very much worse . Some people are suffering horribly, some people are terrified, some view this era as an inconvenience–and I might try the latter for a while, if I can just wing it.

Spring is coming–then we’ll be more positive! At least we hope so.

The Boredom of American Politics

How many times have I clicked on a newspaper today? Who, I wondered idly, will be our next president? This year the election is like Jeopardy, that most boring of game shows: the answer will either be, Who is Joe Biden? or Who is Donald Trump? We know this, because Biden and Trump were the only names we recognized on the presidential ballot, though several other people, it turned out, were also running.

Anyway, we waited edgily on Tuesday night for the final presidential tally. Then Wednesday night. Then Thursday. Still counting…still counting…still counting…

It is all about story, isn’t it? And I am tired of this story. In this particular country at this particular time in history, it is a comedy. Lord, it isn’t a comedy to most people: it is the most important election in American history! I keep reading that. But it’s always the same. One popular guy campaigns against another popular guy, and the two you least expect become the candidates. At least the election is your steady date in November and gets you out of the house. Only this time, we voted by mail.

I tried to distract myself today by reading innocuous articles. All of them are downers. If there is a down side, they will find it. How do you like this headline? “Even if Biden wins, the world will pay the price for the Democrats’ failures.” And the following unpolitical article is even more upsetting: “Denmark to kill 15 million minks after coronavirus mutation spreads to humans.” Your best bet is, “Why are the media reporting different US election results?” Boring but not depressing.

Anyway, I’ve decided to keep a diary about how I feel every time I go online to check the news. Shitty, is the answer today. I borrowed this idea from the fascinating experimental novel, Eleanor or The Rejection of the Progress of Love, by Anna Moschovakis. Eleanor decides to keep a record of her thoughts about being on the internet.

Perhaps this diary will keep me away from the news for a few weeks. Surely someone will tell me if they make a decision!

Meanwhile, have a great day while we wait to know who the next president will be!

From the Groundhog to the Caucus

the Iowa Caucus

It has been hectic.  So much going on!

First Groundhog Day, then the Iowa Caucus.  Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, and yet it’s Tuesday and we don’t know who won the Caucus.

Like many Americans, I’ll vote in November for any Democrat who wins the nomination.  But I’m curious to see who won in  Iowa, because it provides a basis for comparison in the months to come–at least in the midwest.

Politics has been stressful for the last three years, but I have been touched by the Democratic candidates’ talk of the need for empathy (a word rarely used by politicians), social justice (another forgotten concept),  environmental justice (God, we need it!), equal pay for women (after all these years),  protecting the right to choose (I am shocked by the erosion of Roe v Wade), and raising the minimum wage to $15 (a necessity).

If politicians don’t strive for high ideals, things go downhill fast. We’ve seen it many, many times.  And so it is a pity about the malfunction of the Caucus app,  which was supposed to ensure accuracy and prevent the cheating, or perhaps the errors,  if one is being kind, that occurred during the 2016 caucuses, when Hillary was neck-and-neck with Bernie and declared the winner. 

Today the app was fixed, they say, and they have slowly, painstakingly been computing the numbers. It has been frustrating and depressing for politicians and political junkies. But for the first time there is paper backup, photos of cards filled out by caucus-goers, in addition to the  head count by precinct captains.  Ironically, this slow vote-count may be more accurate than past caucuses.  They’re probably counting on paper!

At least Punxsutawney Phil says it’s almost spring.  

Light Reading: Future Politics on the Planet Earth

Ah, Sunday! My favorite day of the week. Slouching around in L. L. Bean sweatpants, repotting a plant or two. 

And then I sat down to read the newspaper. I am  horrified by reports of the wild fires in California and the power outages for millions of people.  The Democratic race for president is still light reading at this point, because it is so far away, so I focused on that. 

But several bad news items caught my eye.  

For instance, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke allegedly said that he “was open to allowing people to use assault weapons at gun ranges and hunting clubs.”  In the past he has declared he would ban assault weapons, so my guess is this quote was out of context.  

Then in The New York Times (Oct. 22), I read a depressing article about elite members of the Democratic party turning on their own.   Apparently they are concerned  about whether Joe Biden can beat Trump and are thinking about finding someone new to enter the race.  And they think Elizabeth Warren is too liberal, and that Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, would not get the black vote.  

So whom do they like?

Several high-profile politicians say they’ve been approached and would stomp out of their dusty stables and run for president if they thought they could win, but they doubt there will be an opening.  Among them are Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.  That’s all we need:  a rerun of politicians past.  I voted for them both, but they have had their turn. 

Then there are the obscure guys who campaigned last spring and dropped out because they didn’t have the support.   If you recognize the names Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, and  Sherrod Brown, a senator from Ohio, you are ahead of me.  Who?  Why?

Let us pray that no more Democrats enter the race.  The field is too crowded.

But if they can get Oprah, she could beat anyone.  Celebrity vs. celebrity.