Tuesday, May 16, 2006


photo of kos

Back soon ...

(Photo courtesy of this website)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Surviving Kalieda

Perusing the ZBB forums this evening, I came across this question posed by "Turtlehead": Whats the biology and chemistry like in your conworld? Do you have strange new elements and compounds? What is the main element used for the biology of your conworld?

How can I resist such a question! This is the response I posted ...

Kalieda is mostly like Earth, except for a few crucial differences. For instance the bulk of the protein-forming amino acids in Kaliedan lifeforms are D form whereas terrestrial amino acids are mostly L form (Aidan convinced me that this is a stupid idea a couple of years ago, but I'm still emotionally attached to it). There are 23 mainstream Kaliedan amino acids, compared to the 20 mainstream terrestrial ones, but only 16 are common to both. There's also some small but critical differences in DNA structures.

The reason I chose to incorporate these anomalies in my conworld was to give me a plausible reason why the human (terrestrial) inhabitants found it so difficult to establish viable settlements on the planet. They may find themselves in the midst of an ecological paradise, but they can't survive by eating it. They need to establish and maintain "plantations" - in effect oases of terrestrial ecologies - to provide them with the food they need to survive.

Competition between the native and alien (terrestrial) ecologies provides the second strand of my conworld's narrative. Over the course of 6,000 years the two ecologies have been busily adapting themselves to feed off each other, evolving proteins capable of breaking down and converting the "wrong" types of amino acids into forms they are able to make use of. This competition is mostly taking place at the bacterial level, but has impacts on the human population - for instance in the form of novel diseases that every so often crop up and wipe out 80-90% of the population (I used to call them "assimilation plagues", but then Star Trek nicked the word "assimilation" for their Borg and I haven't got round to choosing another name for them yet).

People use these adaptions for their own purposes. Have you heard of kombucha tea? Vile stuff, believe me. The Kaliedan humans have something similar - a pancake concoction of bacteria and yeasts that they can place on top of a vat of "native broth" (for a better phrase) which converts the broth into something they can survive on. Terrestrial ruminants have internalised something similar into their guts, which explains why the goat is percieved by many cultures as the epitome of resourcefulness, determination and luck. Goats survive in vast numbers across all continents of the planet, happily eating terrestrial crops and native vegetation.

Interesting place to live, Kalieda: gorgeous, yet deadly.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I suppose I ought to work on the alleged "love" poems before I revise the NaPo stuff. This one used to go under the name of Love Poem #7, but not anymore ...


Such a stupid hat.
Not you, the way it falls
across your eyes, the brim
sieving dust mites;
a swatch of orange
without feathers
- felt, maybe,
or shoddy.

So many rags and snags
rolled tight to fit
in this cupboard.

Dress up for me.
Let fall your hat, your shirt -
wear me, tonight, my supple
leather laced tight
to you, your fingers
my wicker crown.

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's all Julie's fault ...

... for derailing my thoughts - which should be on things like writing up notes of meetings with various people, etc, etc. Instead Julie posted a short note about the wierd concept of publishing for prosterity. Which got me thinking.

I mean, I can understand people's desire to publish their poems. While it's not a desire I share with them, I can understand that there is a poetry community out there, and that publishing poems is somehow related to a person's standing or worth in the eyes of that community. Because poetry is, first and formost, a social construct and wherever you get social constructs you get hierarchies, and most people have a genetically driven need to climb as high as they possibly can within the hierarchies they associate with.

It's what I call The Great Game, and you're right in thinking I'm more of an audience than a competitor when it comes to playing.

But what's this "posterity" thingy that some people think is a good reason for poets to publish their work?

What is "posterity"?

Dictionary.com is succinct on the definition. Posterity is "Future generations: 'Everything he writes is consigned to posterity' (Joyce Carol Oates). No arguing with that definition.

But that means that I'm part of the posterity for all those poets who were publishing their poems down the centuries. I'm Shakespeare's posterity, Owen's posterity. Coleridge and Wordsworth wrote and published their poems for me. Whoever wrote down Beowulf and Gawain and Homer's Iliad did it for my benefit.

And what did I do to thank these wonderful people for their gift?

Well, at school I was made to sit down and dissect their poems. I cut open their strophes and rhymes and looked for the magic that (I was told) made them the best poems ever written. Some poems I was forced to memorise, some poems I was compelled to psychoanalyse by teachers who knew scarcely more about psychoanalysis than I did. Over the course of 12 years of formal schooling I spent perhaps a month at most in the company of these gifts.

Not once was I told to go away and read these poems for the pleasure they could give me. At no time was it suggested to me that my time with these poems served any purpose apart from furthering my education and contributing to a scorecard at the end of the term, the year.

These poems left to me were products to be processed, assessed and discarded. That's posterity for you.

Fuck posterity!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

NaPo revision: Coots

And so the real work starts ...


Look at you, sloven shortwings, your nests
a dereliction of twigs poked in sludge
beyond the gardened soils of the pond.

Tourists gather to watch you fornicate,
his grub-chain toes scouring oil from plumes
as her head dives to avoid the bloodeye leer.

Last year I watched you hatch four cuties,
bundles of floating chirrups, watched you peck
each to death in turn when you tired of them.

Still you flirt your jaundiced legs, squabble
as you wave your saddle-white heads like liars
while scrumping breadcrumbs from the geese.

If you get the idea that I'm not keen on coots, you may be right. I went to watch them again today in the park, and they really are the epitome of passive-agressive bullies. I've tried to add in a bit more close observation stuff - like their headshields reminding me of a horse's saddle. Describing their feet is really hard: they're not webbed, but rather they have semicircular flaps in a row down the side of each toe (one side on two toes and both sides on the third) - the closest image that came to mind was those insects that look like offwhite birdscat, flat and clinging to the twigs they feed off (mealybugs?), but in the end I went with "grub-chain toes" which seems close enough for my purposes.

I'm not going to waste my limited capacity for critting other's poems by workshopping this one online. Instead I'll just revise it on the website and stick it in the archives.