5 Interesting Links for 03-27-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Animals (Conservancy)

An early attempt at IVF in cheetahs, allowing genetic material from older or unlikely donors to be preserved, shows stunning results.

Technology (Military)

A laser technique developed for the US military can identify a target by their unique heartbeat rhythm from up to 650 feet away using vibrometry. This is a leap ahead of the facial recognition or stride signature techniques. While interesting technology, if you read science fiction as I do, there are many flags raised.

Coronavirus (Myths)

Between click-bait titles and misunderstandings, it’s easy to confuse rumor with fact. This article addresses many of the myths surrounding COVID-19 with answers straight from scientists and those responsible for protecting the public. First published in February, the article was updated in mid-March. As our understanding grows, some of its statistics may be out of date, but the article helps clarify what is known about the new Coronavirus and COVID-19.

Writing (Philosophy)

This article looks at creativity in a different way than those I usually share. Rather than a technique, it offers a philosophy and approach toward your writing. I have many novels that are not publishable. Some can be polished, but for others, the value was in the writing not in going any further. (Via Phoebe Darqueling)

Interesting People (Scientists)

While technically a book review, this article lays out some of astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin’s discoveries along with the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field.

Keep your body
safe and healthy at home.
Seek adventure in your mind.
Read a book or ten.

Note: Most libraries have an eBook program. If that’s where you choose your reading supplies, you don’t have to go to the library to get new titles to enjoy.

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Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth

Lander is the second in The Oberon Cycle and a middle book, though one with its own issues and resolutions. It starts right after Skythane, making me wish I’d binge read the two though I rarely do that.

There’s a large cast, some introduced in Skythane and others new. Most I could remember based on the introduction or re-introduction context. I only noticed one I didn’t know when Xander clearly did, and her backstory wasn’t critical to this tale for all she played an important role.

While most books hold to a few main characters, and often restrict the POV even further, Lander uses a broad range of voices. This allows the reader to see the characters through many viewpoints. You get to know the characters much better this way because they interact with people differently.

The mentions of Xander’s ex in Skythane are ambiguous at best. They are seen through Xander’s perspective, and only after abandonment taints those memories. I didn’t realize this until Alix reappears and we get to know him from his own POV. He’s much more complex than I imagined, with a surprise or two up his sleeve, and he truly cares for Xander. This last is a big issue because what’s good for Xander isn’t always what Alix wants. There were hints of a better solution that hasn’t come to be yet, but Alix grows on me as much as others in the story.

Lander starts in a new POV, but one we know of and which complicates the situation right off. I thought Jessa, Jameson’s fiancée whom he hasn’t broken up with yet, would just be a plot point to balance Alix at first. But like the other characters, Jessa develops into a full person with strengths and weaknesses, who I came to enjoy spending time with.

It’s a sign of the character complexity that I worried at points when a rescue came at what might be considered a little too perfect moment. It was hard to know for sure if a character had been compromised. Speaking of characterization, I enjoyed how each character’s history, good or bad, offered details that helped them in their current life, though not always in favor of others.

The book has a good number of simultaneous plot threads. Some are primary, but you only figure that out when they resolve at the end (yes, this book has its own resolutions), while others carry the series forward. Still, even the latter type often adds layers to the main plots, especially when the POV moves rapidly from one group to another, ramping the tension as events collide.

I found it interesting how the book both has religion as a consistent element (two different ones at least) but none of the main characters are particularly religious. At the same time, many turn to faith when in danger, and the lines between blind faith and misunderstood truth blur during the story. Jessa also provides a broader perspective on Jameson’s adopted home and reveals his parents to be the conservatives rather than the entire planet.

The book has closed door, gay, intimate scenes along with a good bit of kissing, but unlike the first book, relationships are a primary, driving force. I found the actual description was inconsistent in heat level between the initial scenes and the later ones, but not so much that it changed the closed door standing. While this part focuses on romantic relationships, though, the many ways people can care for each other, along with some of the possibilities for dysfunctional or harmful relationships, play a role in this book. I think the blurb gave away one conflict too early, but for the most part I liked how Xander and Jameson’s relationship developed through rocky times and how they each worked through the problem differently.

I like the more well-rounded presentation of homosexuality in lander society over what we saw in Skythane. There is bias for sure, but it’s less a generic everyone and more specific to certain people. I don’t know whether this is a sign of the world maturing in the author’s mind or getting a broader view of the world through the wider POV. It’s one advantage to spreading the viewpoints out across more characters.

Seeing the strategies and hard decisions that bring about success helped increased my engagement with the events, especially as Xander and Jameson mature into their new responsibilities. Nothing comes easy or without cost, but Xander’s commanding presence, something odd in a former lone wolf as much as it suits him, both invigorates and secures the willing commitment of their people.

The setup for the next book is also intriguing, opening many opportunities for disaster to come. We learn more about the ancient peoples who came before and their technological prowess, which I find fascinating.

Lander offers a satisfying read all on its own while increasing the characters I care about and pulling me toward the next book in the series. It maintains the complex world building I enjoyed in Skythane and reveals even more layers. The characters are similarly designed with hidden depths that can help explain their actions and make everything worse for the main characters. I look forward to reading the third book to see how everyone responds to this new, even greater, threat.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 204: Ancient Music

This smile is a bit longer and more academic than most of the ones I post, but fascinating. What they are doing in bringing ancient sounds to life, and the enthusiasm of the various performers when they engage in this project, captured my interest. Don’t think by this description that the music isn’t beautiful, though. It has a haunting quality, especially the double pipe, that brings to mind satyrs dancing in the forest.

Referred by Aeon Magazine

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5 Interesting Links for 03-20-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Health (Precautions)

A reaction to the somewhat cavalier attitude some people are adopting to what’s a serious medical crisis, especially for those vulnerable to infection because of age or other health problems. It’s worth reading to see through someone else’s eyes.

Technology (Innovation)

I’ve shared articles in this vein before, but Not Impossible Labs is taking the brain to ‘paper’ revolution into reality by using innovations in brainwave readers to translate thought to word. The product seeks to assist disabled folks, but Mick Ebeling envisions much broader possibilities once technology innovators stop seeing limits and start working to exceed them. (Via Pat MacEwen)

Journalism (Access)

This article shows how those fighting against true censorship (where the government prevents its people from accessing information it doesn’t approve of) can get really innovative and take advantage of technology. My father worked at Voice of America for a while when I was a kid, so this concept is nothing new to me. Still, hiding in Minecraft is one (or a thousand) steps further than sending radio waves over the border.

Reading/Writing (Philosophy)

The article explores how the subgenre hopepunk exemplifies a stress response that is only now being recognized alongside the well-known flight-or-fight, that of tend-and-befriend. It also offers tips on how to incorporate this stress model in your writing. (Via Liminal Fiction)

Marketing (Approach)

You might have noticed I tend to include articles such as this with a disclaimer about how different techniques work for different articles. Penny Sansevieri makes that point herself as she offers approaches to take beyond traditional marketing along with specific action items to help you move forward with your author career.

Keep your body
safe and healthy at home.
Seek adventure in your mind.
Read a book or ten.

Note: Most libraries have an eBook program. If that’s where you choose your reading supplies, you don’t have to go to the library to get new titles to enjoy.

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The Electricity Fairy by Alex Mar

The Electricity Fairy by Alex Mar

Loïe Fuller, or La Loïe, is the inventor of modern dance as we know it. She transfixed her audience through movement embellished with light and costume design. This short history reveals the moment where she takes a small, uncredited part and creates something new. As with most novelty, it doesn’t take beyond the performance. In part because of her ordinary appearance, she can find no support in the late 19th Century United States as an actress.

She switches her interest to dance performance and turns to Paris, France, to find a willing audience. La Loïe becomes a star so popular that she’s internationally well-known and admired. This book follows both her artistic progress and her life, including her romantic relationship with a cross-dressing woman (or possibly transman). It brings to light a bit of forgotten history, pointing to her brilliance in use of illumination, choreography, and even chemistry as she continues to push the barriers of what is possible. At the same time, her singlemindedness doesn’t always work in her favor, as this account shows.

History may have forgotten her beyond mis-labeled, and rare, early footage, but during her era, La Loïe is famous. She’s welcomed by the elite and scientists, who let her in to see research in progress. Edison tries to convince her to be filmed with no success, but some research his company pursues ends up embellishing her dance. Copycats spring up, appearing in early films when she herself holds firm to the transient nature of performance. She’s unwilling to trust scientists to preserve her performances without corrupting them.

When visiting the Curies, she tries to convince them to allow her to use some radioactive materials in her performance. They refuse to expose an unsuspecting audience to what they already suspect of being dangerous, much to her disappointment.

These are just a few of the encounters described within. It’s a fascinating look at how she was perceived in her own time, and her lasting impression on many aspects of dance performance for all her name is all but lost. The book also gives a glimpse of the changing times as cinema impinges on the world of live performances. Recordings might reduce the impact of performances, but at the same time, film makes the art available to the masses instead of only the wealthy elite. Even the Edison/Tesla conflict is given some space.

This is a short, evocative, and at times, lyrical narrative of a dancer’s life who created her own techniques that still influence modern dance today. I enjoyed learning her history, especially in how it comes along with a sense of the changing era. The world trembled on the edge of a technological leap forward that would make the fascination with live performances dim as cinema brought even grand operas to a stage within the budget of the average person. And yet, because of her own wish for an ethereal performance, she refuses to grace the repetitive format of film. La Loïe has faded from the public’s memory until any of her filmed imposters is mistaken for her.

Two other elements added depth to this fascinating account.

She was not a beautiful, slender woman, but rather captivated audiences with her style and graceful choreography. La Loïe used light and moving fabric for a living canvas until audiences forgot her nontraditional appearance and became enamored of her art.

The second is simply this…she lived to explore new enhancements that would strengthen her next performance, becoming as much a chemist and light scientist as a performing artist. She was ahead of her time in many aspects. I’m glad to have met her through this moving account and its awareness of both the social mores and the scientific breakthroughs making her moment all that more exceptional.

P.S. This title and the Inventions-Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection is available for purchase, and to borrow, on Amazon.

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