Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

Creative Coolness

September 11, 2019

Creativity Takes Many Forms

This past week was special because it brought two of my favorite opportunities to immerse myself in cool creativity: the New Mexico State Fair and the third issue of DreamForge magazine.

DreamForge readers, no worries.  I’m not going to provide any spoilers, but I am going to remind readers that this issue contains the first ever Firekeeper short story.  It’s called “A Question of Truth,” and is set shortly before the events in the newly-released Firekeeper novel, Wolf’s Search.

As with all DreamForge stories, “A Question of Truth” is non-dystopian.  As with all Firekeeper stories, the perspective is Firekeeper’s own.  What a wolf thinks is right or wrong can differ greatly from what a human would.  Moreover, Firekeeper and Blind Seer are very unusual wolves.  Part of my joy in returning to writing about them is considering how they’ve changed while keeping their own strong assurance of who they are.

DreamForge is available only by subscription, but you get a lot for that subscription, including  the option to sign up for a free digital subscription to Space and Time magazine.  Details are available at the DreamForge website.

I know that for a lot of people the words “State Fair” conjure up crowds, carnival rides, and overpriced junk food.  For me, the State Fair is closer to the harvest festivals of old.  I rarely make it onto the midway at all and, if I do, it’s to look at the carousel.  While I’ve been known to try some of the food weirdness (a deep-fried Snickers bar, for example), I’m more likely to be indulging in a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade pie at the Asbury Café, a long-time tradition run by a local United Methodist Church.   This year I had blueberry-rhubarb.

When I go to the Fair, I’m there to look at animals, plants, and art, in no particular order.  If I was absolutely forced to choose a favorite building, it would be the hobby building.  This is where you can find arts and crafts ranging from woodworking to needlepoint to rock collecting to photography to baking and canning to quilting and sewing to doll collecting to Lego constructions to leather work to stained glass to beading…  Well you get the idea.  These are all on display under one roof.  Often there is someone there to tell you all about their particular favorite or to give a demonstration.

Wait!  Maybe my favorite thing is the rabbit and poultry show.  The bunnies and chickens have a new building this year.  We walked all over until we found it.  (For some bizarre reason, there were no signs telling visitors where to go!)  It’s down at the western end of the dairy barn, inside the barn, in case you’re wondering…

Then there’s Sheep to Shawl, where you can watch a sheep being sheared, see demonstrations on how the wool is cleaned, carded, spun, dyed, and then transformed by a wide variety of techniques including knitting, weaving, crochet, and felting into everything from hats and gloves to toys and, of course, the promised shawls.

Then there are the art shows…  Not one or two, but at least five, if you count the school art, which I absolutely do!

I could keep listing, but lists don’t really capture how wonderful it is to be on the fairgrounds, surrounded by creativity in its many and varied forms.  I come away every time impressed and awed and just generally happy.

We’re going back on Thursday to see what we couldn’t manage on our first trip.  I can hardly wait!

Weirdest Thing I Heard

August 28, 2019

The DreamForge Panel At Bubonicon

The weirdest thing I heard at Bubonicon this weekend weren’t Ursula Vernon’s tales of potatoes and her of exploration of the Dog Skull Patch.  It wasn’t even Alan Steele’s heart-stopping account of the fearsome Psycho Chicken, although that one (complete with sound effects) was pretty strange.

No, the weirdest thing I heard this weekend was this: “There’s a new Firekeeper novel?  I hadn’t heard!”

Now, before you think I’m a mad egoist who thinks that everyone spends all their time talking about me and my books, let me clarify.  Bubonicon is my hometown con.  Most of the people I heard this from were fans who regularly show up each year to buy my latest.  Many of them even are friends with people I know have bought Wolf’s Search.

So, set to the tune Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs,” “Here I go again!”

There’s a new Firekeeper novel out.  It’s called Wolf’s Search.  Yes.  It’s somewhat shorter than the Firekeeper novels of yore, but I explain the reasons why this is so hereWolf’s Search does have its own story arc, and if seeking to find one thing led to finding another thing, well, the way I see it, that’s how life works.  If you’d like to know more about where you can get Wolf’s Search, here’s a link to my post of about a month ago.  And here are a few of the FAQ that have come up since.

I’d really appreciate your help in pushing out the word that Wolf’s Search exists.  The help of Firekeeper’s Pack will keep me jazzed as I work on getting Wolf’s Soul ready to put in your hands.  Here’s how even the shyest of you can be part of the effort.

Weirdness aside, it was a fun Bubonicon.  Our friends Scot and Jane Noel, of DreamForge magazine, came out from Pennsylvania.   Our Saturday morning panel on DreamForge (which in addition to us included Emily Mah Tippetts, Sarena Ulibari, Lauren Teffeau, and Elizabeth Leggett) was amazingly well attended.   Someone told me we had sixty or so people in the audience!

I lucked into a programming schedule that, while busy, gave me time to wander around, chat with people, visit the art show, and tour the Dealer’s Room.  A special bonus event was when Jim and I were interviewed by Kevin Sonney for his highly popular “Productivity Alchemy Live” podcast.  I’ll let you know when that’s available.  It’s a rare interview in that both Jim and I are featured.

This weekend we also let our new kitten, Mei-Ling, have the entire spare room to herself while we were gone.  Monday night, we let her join the household.  She promptly discovered the cat tree on the porch and after valiantly battling the toys hanging from it (including hanging from her teeth in mid-air after biting into the felted fish Rowan made for our cats, then losing her balance), she tucked herself into the little cubicle where she could watch both indoors and out, while feeling secure.  To our amusement, two of our other cats, Persephone and Keladry, took turns babysitting Mei-Ling through the night.

However, this morning, Mei-Ling has apparently wandered off to another dimension.  Before I get back to work, I’m going to go see if I can find the secret portal so I can call her back for lunch.

Then it’s off to writing.  I did manage to get back into the flow of Wolf’s Soul last week before the con took over my life.  I’m looking forward to getting back to it today.

Carrots, Tree Rings, And A Question

August 21, 2019

Kuroda and Black Nebula

I want to ask your opinion on something but, before I do so, there’s a horticultural experiment I forgot to report on last week.

This involves carrots.  The Black Nebula variety have proven magnificent.  They carry their dark purplish-black color right to the core.  Sometimes even the “greens” should be called “purple-blacks” instead.  The first time I noticed this, I was very startled.  For one worried moment, I thought we’d discovered a strange new virus.

Even when the Black Nebula greens stay green, they’re purple at the base, which definitely makes distinguishing which carrots are which a lot easier.   The guinea pigs fully approve of “purple-blacks,” which is a good thing, since we grow the carrots partly to share with them.

Our other new (to us) carrot was the Kuroda, which we tried because it’s supposed to be very good at handling heat.  So far, that’s proven true, and the carrot itself is quite tasty.  The greens (which are green) are more delicate than those of the Black Nebula.  Ziggy O’Piggy shows a slight preference for these, while Dandy likes those “purple-blacks.”

One thing I definitely learned this year is that what most catalogs mean when they say “handles heat well” is not the sort of heat we’ve been getting in New Mexico lately.  We’re still routinely hitting between 99 and 100 daily in our yard, dropping to 59 to 61 at night.  Forty degree temperatures shifts are confusing our plants to no end.

We tried four types of beans that were all supposed to be good with heat: Purple Queen (bush), Dragon Tongue (bush), Rattlesnake (pole), and Red Noodle (pole).  Only the Red Noodle, which are a liana variety, have thrived.  The rest have either refused to grow at all or have given up.  I think next year we’ll go with the Red Noodle or another liana variety, and skip bush beans entirely other than the tepparies.

This week we had to take down most of a catalpa tree I planted soon after I moved into the house.  Even with us watering it regularly, the stress of the increasing duration of hot days was too much for it.  It is trying to come back from the base, so we took it down in the hope that, without the rest of the trunk to support, it will make a comeback.  There are types of trees that do this and, as this is not a graft, we’d get the same variety, not the rootstock.

Although taking down a tree that we’d had for over twenty years was hard, doing so provided an interesting data point.  The tree rings showed conclusively the results of the hotter, dryer summers we’ve had lately.  Given that some of the inner rings (which are from further back in time) reflect before we were routinely watering the tree, this proves how much less useful rainfall we’ve experienced the last ten years or so.  By “useful,” I mean rain that the tree could draw upon.  Our soil is very sandy so, while a gully washer may give us a lot of moisture, much of it runs off or drains away before the plants can use it.

Catalpa Tree-Rings

Hmm…  I’ve gotten carried away here and nearly forgot to ask my question.  This week is Bubonicon, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  My first item of programming is Friday at 5:00 p.m., and it’s my reading slot.  I was thinking about reading from Wolf’s Search.  It will have been out only about six weeks by then, and I’m hoping that those in the audience who have read it wouldn’t mind.

Does that seem like a good plan?  I have a few short stories I could read, but I’m so immersed in Firekeeper and her world right now, that I’m eager to share this novel.  Copies will be available at the convention, so you won’t be left hanging.

Bubonicon’s schedule is now available on the web.  I hope I’ll see many of you there!

Escape Into the Dream

January 23, 2019

Rowan, Dominique, Jim, Melissa, Cale (me up front)

What do escape rooms and a new magazine have in common?  Keep reading and I’ll tell you!

Last Sunday, as our Christmas present, Jim and my gamers (Cale, Dominique, Melissa, and Rowan) took us to our very first escape room.  This one was called Nefertari’s Tomb, and it was both visually and intellectually very, very satisfying.

Escape rooms are basically complex puzzles built around a plotline.  For Nefertari’s Tomb, the story was that we had been hired by a definitely shady individual who claimed to have found access to a hidden tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses.  Our job was to blast our way in, solve the various puzzles, and get out with as much loot as possible.  We had one hour in which to do this.  The timer started running the second our introductory briefing had ended.

(In the interests of not providing spoilers for those who may want to enjoy Nefertari’s Tomb themselves, that’s all I’ll say about this particular escape room.)

Our group has been gaming together for something like six years now, so we’re very used to working as a team.  This was an advantage when two years ago we all went to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and solved the imbedded puzzle.  It was even more of an advantage this time because, with the timer running, we had to split up and hit different puzzles simultaneously.

How did we do?  Well, our game master told us that if we didn’t have the highest score ever for the room, we were definitely in the top three.  He looked both pleased and a little awed when he said this.  We were rather pleased ourselves.

So, what does this have to do with a new magazine?  Last week, I talked about DreamForge: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  The Kickstarter for this lushly illustrated magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy hit its base goal this Monday.  They’re now working toward the stretch goals.  DreamForge is the brainchild of Scot Noel, but the team working on it includes Scot’s wife, Jane, who is putting her artistic talents into layout, design, and illustration; artist, Mark Zingarelli, who is art director; Leah Segal on research and support, and Jamie D. Munro who is the Editorial  Assistant.  Oh, and me.  Scot calls me “Senior Advisor and Creative Consultant,” which basically means I believe in the value of this project enough to donate my time to helping out.

As with my gamers in the escape room, those of us on the DreamForge team are working toward our goal both separately and together.  It’s a very 21st Century team.  I’ve only met Scot and Jane.  As for now, Mark and Leah are sparkles in my e-mail or voices on the phone during conference calls.  Jaimie’s in Australia…  I mostly interact with him on Twitter.

The Kickstarter remains live for another sixteen days.  Some of the incentives are really great.  One that’s easy to overlook is the Founder’s Bonus.  This includes personal feedback on up to five story submissions.  Feedback of this type is the sort of thing writers dream about getting, instead of the form: “Thank you very much, but your story doesn’t suit our needs this time.”  Now you can assure personalized feedback for five stories – and get a cool magazine as well.

Aren’t a writer but know one?  Consider giving a Founder’s Bonus subscription.  Help your favorite writers achieve their dream.

Now, speaking of dreams, I have a couple of novels that I’m working on, and dream of someday actually finishing.   I’m off run with the wolves…

Hard Right Turn

October 31, 2018

Jim’s Halloween Diorama: Beaded Spiders By Jane

So, today is Halloween, and with singularly poetical timing, Jim is having knee replacement surgery on the one day of the American calendar when it is considered perfectly appropriate to wear a mask.  The surgeons should be very happy.  This event is the next hard right turn in our lives, which I hinted about at the end of last week’s Wednesday Wandering.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either getting ready to go to the hospital, am at the hospital, or maybe even am home from the hospital and racing around taking care of all the chores that I didn’t do because I spent the day at the hospital.

For the next few weeks, my social media presence may be limited.  Unlike some people who would doubtless be posting updates every half-hour or so, that’s just not my thing.  And, hey, I don’t even own a smartphone, so even if it was, I couldn’t.  I will check and respond to e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook as I can, but taking care of Jim and our home are going to be my first priorities.

Jim is a good candidate for knee replacement, being more or less in shape (other than having a knee that doesn’t work right), relatively young, and supremely determined.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that these days almost everyone either knows someone who has had knee replacement surgery or has had some joint replaced, that doesn’t change that this is a major surgical procedure with a long recovery period.  (As in several months, minimum, perhaps a year before full strength and flexibility returns.)

Yes.  We know that Jim needs to do his PT.  Yes.  We do know pain control is important.   Yes.  We do know he’s going to hurt like hell but, in the end, be so glad that he did this.  Thank you.  Please don’t share your horror stories about what went wrong for you or for a friend of a friend.  We’ve heard those stories.  They don’t help.

Since Jim has always done his share of chores around our house – up to and including cooking, laundry, and pet care – I’m going to have a lot of extra work, above and beyond being the only driver and the main caregiver.  If and when I have any extra energy, I hope to put it into writing.  That may be a fantasy.  I won’t know until I get there.

So, Happy Halloween.  Wish us more treats than tricks…  I’ll catch you when I can!

Toby the Frog

August 29, 2018

I Read Aloud While Matt and Bob Listen

For those of you who didn’t get enough of me talking this weekend at Bubonicon, this Saturday, September 1, I will be giving a presentation for Southwest Writers.  My topic is “Work Habits for Successful Writers.”  It will be followed by a Q&A.  Bring your questions, the more difficult the better!

Some of my books, including my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing (which talks about writing the art, craft, and lifestyle) will be available for purchase.  I will also have copies of Asphodel, which sold out early in Bubonicon’s Dealer’s Room.

My talk is open to the public, and you can get details as to location here.  A small note: The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m., but I will not go on until sometime closer to 11:00.  There is a business meeting before.  You might enjoy attending the meeting as a window into an active writer’s group whose offerings include, among other things, lectures and conferences.

As I mentioned above, this past weekend I attended Bubonicon.  For the second year in a row, Bob Vardeman, Matt Reiten, and I offered ourselves as victims – oops, I meant “participating authors” – in the Snack Writes writing exercises panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.

How it works is like this.  Josh provides a short prompt, then we have five minutes to write what we can in that time.  Audience members are encouraged to do the same.  Then, after time is called, the panelists are required to read what they have managed to write in that time.  (That’s why we’re the victims.  We don’t get to bow out.)  Then audience members are given the choice to read what they have come up with.  Usually, several bravely take the option.

What amazes me about this exercise is how different the responses are.  Let me give one example.  For this one, Josh asked the audience to come up with a genre, a character, a setting, a prop, and a line that had to be used in the course of the story.

The audience gave us the following: medical mystery, Toby the Frog, library, candlestick, and “What the…”

When I started writing, my thought was that surely everyone’s pieces would be very similar.  Weren’t the choices obvious?  Well, about the only thing that recurred was that the library was dark, thereby requiring the use of a candle.  Otherwise, the little pieces were wildly different.

I’ve met a lot of would-be writers over the years who defeat themselves before they get started because they fear they have nothing unique to offer.  A group exercise like this one is very encouraging, since it shows just how different people’s life experiences shape how they will approach the same creative stimulus.

Here’s what I wrote:

“What the…”  Joe’s voice trailed off in barely concealed shock and disbelief.

The library was dark except for the light from a single candlestick that illuminated the body of Asby, the young and overly-eager medical student.  Toby the Frog stood over her, a long needle in one webbed foot, a scalpel in the other.  His wide mouth hung open and he was laughing maniacally.

“Toby!  What have you done?”

“Huh!  See how she likes being pithed!  Wait until I slash her open and examine each of her organs, commenting snidely on her dietary habits and the health of her liver.”  [Time called]

For me, the combination of medical mystery and Toby the Frog came together with a traumatic moment from high school biology.  Even as I was writing my piece, I’m thinking: “Everyone is going to do pithing a frog or dissection.  I mean, it’s the obvious link between ‘medical’ and a ‘frog.’”  Guess what.  No one else even came close.

So, just remember.  You’re a unique voice.  That’s becoming harder to value in this day and age when it’s considered smart to pitch your work by comparing it to someone else’s work.  If that’s what you want, fine.  But feel free to feel to present yourself as original, too.  After all, you are!

Hold Music

August 22, 2018

Ziggy Relaxes

The last week has been too full, so that right now I don’t have the mental energy to come up with a tidy little essay.

I hope that by next week things will have quieted down.

For those of you who will be attending Bubonicon, I hope to be there on Friday and Saturday.  Friday, I’ll be reading my latest Prudence Bledsloe story: “Dost Make Thee Mad.”  I’m also on a panel right after Opening Ceremonies.  Saturday, I have a couple of panels, and will be there for the mass signing.  Sunday I may or may not attend, so if you want anything signed, be sure to come to the mass signing.

For now, I leave you with a picture of Ziggy O’Piggy, relaxed and enjoying her personal armchair.

Visiting the Wild Spirit Pack

May 2, 2018

Welcoming Wolf

A while back, our friend Melissa Jackson suggested that we plan a road trip out to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, New Mexico.  Jim and I had been out a couple times before, but we hadn’t visited for several years, so we were eager to go.  But one thing led to another, and we never quite got around to making plans.

However, as I started working on the newest Firekeeper novel (working title, Wolf’s Search), the urge to see some wolves up close and personal became very strong.  I spoke with Melissa and we firmed up plans.   Last weekend – in company with Rowan Derrick and Cale Mims – we made the two-plus-hour  drive out from Albuquerque.  (For those of you who might want to visit from out-of-town, estimate a drive of two and a half hours from the Albuquerque Airport.)

Wild Spirit has a spiffy new website that explains its mission in detail, but it can be summed up by their slogan: Wild Animals Are Not Pets.  This is a message I’ve tried to share via essays prominently displayed on my website.  I’m fully aware that lots of us – me included – would love to have the sort of relationship Firekeeper and Blind Seer share, but I’m also very aware that what I’m writing is Fantasy fiction, and that such relationships are more likely to end up in tragedy – and often with the wolf or wolf-dog dead.

That’s what makes going to Wild Spirit so special.  The wild canines there are not expected to perform for humans.  Even those on the tour trail have places where they can retreat if they don’t feel like company.

Jessica’s Pal Flicker

The basic tour is very affordable and includes a slow ramble with a knowledgeable guide.  On this trip, our guide was a relatively new volunteer named Jessica.  Jessica had only been at Wild Spirit for a month and a half, but she knew every one of the many wild canines on the tour trail by name, as well as some tidbit of personal history.  It was evident that the wild canines knew her, too, and considered her a friend.  Several came over to say “hello” with no other incentive than a chance to greet Jessica.

All the pictures featured here were taken by my husband, Jim.  He has a nifty new telephoto lens that enabled him to focus past the chain link fence, so you’re actually seeing the wolves without the impediment of the barrier.

Although every enclosure was a delight, there were a couple encounters that will stick with me for a long time.  One was when we stopped to see wolf hybrid, Koda.  Koda is a magnificent creature whose great size actually comes from his dog heritage, not his wolf.  He was up close to the fence (which is why Jim couldn’t eliminate it from the photo) and seemed to be posing.  At one point, he did something incredibly cute that caused all the humans in the group to coo “aww…”  Immediately, he snarled.  Apparently, Koda doesn’t like “baby talk” one bit.

Koda: Don’t Babytalk Me!

Another encounter was more personal.  Any of you who have gone to my website have seen the picture of me with a very large wolf puppy named Dakota in my lap.  I’ve retained a fondness for Dakota all these years.  In fact, I’ve been one of his sponsors for most of his life.  I didn’t expect Dakota to remember me, but I did hope we could see him, since I hadn’t for a good many years.  As Jessica brought us to the enclosure where Dakota lives with two of his childhood buddies, she said, “This is where Dakota lives.  He doesn’t usually come down when I do a tour but…”

She trailed off because Dakota was making a beeline for the fence, his nostrils flared, intently sniffing.  Maybe I’m just indulging in a sentimental moment, but it seemed to me that he remembered me and Jim perfectly well, and was coming over to say “Hi.”  Yeah.  Melt…

(I don’t have a picture of Dakota here because he was so close to the fence and so active, we couldn’t get a really good shot, but you can see him on the Wild Spirit website.  He’s grown up to be a very good-looking fellow.)

At the end of the tour, as we were viewing the Nola Pack – a group of very wolf-like dogs, Wild Spirit’s director, Leyton Cougar, came wandering out with a tub of a new, very green, health food he’d been making up for some of their residents.  He offered me and Jim a taste, and we took the dare.  It was actually quite good – like dense scrambled eggs with a dandelion tang.

After our trail tour, we had arranged to have an “extra” – a private educational lecture.  This was conducted by the Assistant Director, Crystal Castellanos, and her husband, Research and Development director, Ramon Castellanos.  Crystal and Ramon told us they had a new presentation on the Canine Continuum they’d like to try, and asked if we would be their first audience.  Needless to say, we were thrilled.

Me and Leia at the Educational Talk

The focus of this talk was about the connections between different types of wild canines.  We began with three of the resident New Guinea Singing Dogs, moved to the wolf/ wolf-dog, then moved to the dingo.  For each part of the presentation, Crystal brought out a leashed representative.  The educational encounters are “hands off” with the caveat that if the canines are interested in looking at the humans, and the humans welcome the chance connection, then this may happen.

We five humans sat in a row on the bottom of the bleachers, ears, eyes, and hearts open.  We were very lucky and had a chance to get closer to our canine hosts than we had dared hope.  The most out-going was Leia, the wolf-dog, who at two is still young enough that she is inclined to trust.  Ramon and Crystal’s talk was very informative – even for me, who is something of a wild canine junky – which is a high recommendation, indeed.  I’d happily listen to the same talk again, just to soak in more.

As you probably can tell, we had a wonderful time.  Many thanks to Josh who helped me with reservations; to Tina in the gift shop, who helped us in many ways; as well as to Jessica, Leyton, Crystal, and Ramon.  We’ll definitely be coming back, and we hope to encourage many of those who are reading this to visit as well.

Come and See Us!

Zoos: Changing Faces

April 25, 2018

Tiny Teacher

I’ve almost always lived near a good zoo.  I grew up in Washington, D.C.  which hosts the National Zoo.  My dad took us there frequently when we were small.  These were the days when you were still encouraged to feed the elephants peanuts, so my first memories of those magnificent creatures includes looking up into questing trunks while my feet crunched on peanut shells.  We also always made a point to go visit Smokey the Bear.  My dad would hoot at the howler monkeys and they would hoot back at him.

For the longest time, I treasured a memory of patting a white tiger kitten that had been let run around in an enclosure that was little more than a chain-link fence surrounding a grassy area.  I squeezed through the towering adults, hunkered down, and pushed my hand through to pat the big kitten.

As I grew older, I decided that I had probably imagined that incident.  Then, when I was a freshman at Fordham University, I went to the Bronx Zoo, which was an easy walk from campus.  There, in the building that housed the big cats, I read on a sign how the magnificent white tiger lounging on the other side of the bars had been born at that National Zoo at just the right time to match my memory.

What do you know?  I probably did pat that tiger.

As much as I treasure those memories, one of the things I am happiest about zoos is how I’ve seen them change.  When I was a child, many animals were kept in iron-barred, concrete-floored cages.  The exception to this were hoof stock.  They at least had dirt-surfaced or grassy holding areas.

The change started when I was a kid.  Signs began to include the little antelope head emblem that indicated an endangered or threatened species.  Holding areas began to include toys or play areas.   The message that the older style “zoological garden” had sent was “Here are animals for you to look at, just as you might go to a flower garden to look at flowers.”  Now the message was, “Here are rare creatures.  Treasure them.  They might not be around much longer.”

Change was a slow process and one that didn’t happen overnight.  My first visit to the Bronx Zoo was definitely a mixed experience.  While I delighted in finding my childhood dream had been a childhood reality, I also teared up when I saw that many of the big cats were being held in cages of the sort that had long vanished from the National Zoo.   However, during my eight years in the area (I stayed for graduate school), I saw exhibits change.  By the time I left, the concrete-floored cages were either empty – their occupants moved to much nicer areas – or the cages were being used to house much smaller creatures.  Enclosures had also been adapted so that vertical as well as horizontal space was useable.

Jim tells me that the Rio Grande Zoo – now part of the Albuquerque BioPark – has undergone a similar transformation during the years he’s been going there.  I’ve certainly seen changes during my twenty or so years as a visitor.  Many of the larger animals are housed in exhibits that are lower than the walkway, giving the animal room and privacy, freeing them from being encased within four walls and a ceiling.  Even those animals that live in more traditional “cages” often have access to more than one exhibit area.  Best of all, they can take themselves off exhibit if necessary.

I’ve heard some older people complain about how these changes make it harder for “the kids” to see the animals.  Funny, but I don’t see “the kids” doing much complaining.  In fact, they seem delighted with the need to search for the animals.  What used to be a shuffle from cage to cage is now closer to a treasure hunt.

During our visit to the building that housed reptiles and amphibians, we were right behind a trio of energetic kids – probably eight or nine years old.   They paused at every exhibit, no matter how small, searching for the snake or lizard or turtle or frog.  Every discovery was crowed over, the cleverness of the creature’s natural camouflage a never-ending delight.  Often they paused to read the sign, exclaiming over what the creature ate or some other neat fact.

There’s also a greater emphasis on preservation and breeding programs.  No longer are we just warned that a creature is endangered, we’re given a chance to be part of saving that species.  Recently, the Albuquerque BioPark has hosted events encouraging responsible purchasing, recycling, providing education about renewable resources, and similar topics.

In addition to giving humans a chance to see living representatives of exotic animals (as opposed to the taxidermy displays that were common in museums when I was young), zoos also provide homes for representatives of the local ecosystem.  On our last visit, Jim and I had a very nice visit with a Western screech owl who – because of a damaged eye that meant she couldn’t be safely released into the wild – is now a member of the education staff.  Several avian exhibits housed injured roadrunners along with the more exotic birds.  On another visit, we met the education team’s porcupine.

Zoos are no longer gardens for viewing animals; they’re places that seek to educate humans about the vast biosphere in which we live.  It’s a change I really enjoy, and one reason that – even though I usually don’t have time to visit the zoo more than a couple times a year – I have a membership that costs me more than the price of admission would.  It’s my way of saying I appreciate what they’re trying to do.

Shining Legacy

December 13, 2017

On Saturday, Jim and I drove up to Santa Fe to have dinner at the invitation of Warren Lapine who, along with Trent Zelazny, co-edited the tribute anthology to Roger Zelazny, Shadows and Reflections.  Jim and I arrived early enough to walk around the plaza and enjoy the glittering lights.  As we were turning to head toward the restaurant, we encountered our dear friends, Steve (S.M.) and Jan Stirling, and learned they were going our way.

The Santa Fe Plaza

Several other contributors to the anthology were part of Warren’s dinner party.  These included  Trent Zelazny, Gerry Hausman (and his wife, Lorry), and Shannon Zelazny.  Rounding out the festive board were Warren’s wife (and frequent partner in things editorial), Angela Kessler, and the aforementioned bonus guests: Steve and Jan Stirling.

We met at the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill, which, in an earlier incarnation, was a place that Roger very much enjoyed, so this seemed like a nicely appropriate setting.

Chat was lively and general, one of those lovely occasions where everyone – even people who hadn’t met before – quickly arrived at the conclusion that we were all friends.

A few words about the Shadows and Reflections anthology, for those of you who are curious.  It includes both fiction and non-fiction.  The introduction by George R.R. Martin is a reprint of a piece he wrote in 2009.  The final piece, by Shannon Zelazny, who was in high school when her father died, is probably my favorite bit in the entire book.  Of all the many biographical remembrances of Roger that I have read, Shannon’s comes closest to capturing the man I knew, loved, and lived with.

There’s also a little known short story by Roger, “There Shall Be No Moon!”

The other fiction draws on a wide variety of Roger’s universes, from the science fiction Isle of the Dead (Steve Brust’s “Playing God”) to the sword and sorcery Jack of Shadows (Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “The Lady of Shadow Guard”).  Gerry Hausman (who co-wrote the novel Wilderness with Roger) contributed “Nights in the Garden of Blue Harbor,” based on a story idea Roger gave him.  One thing that’s nice about the collection is that both Roger’s short and long fiction are represented as sources of inspiration.

My own piece, “The Headless Flute Player” is set in the same universe as Lord Demon, one of the two novels that, at Roger’s request, I completed for him after his death.  It’s a prequel to the novel, and incorporates a few ideas Roger casually mentioned that someday he’d like to use in a story.

Full disclosure.  I haven’t read the entire anthology yet, so I can’t tell you much about the stories.  What I hope is that this anthology inspires readers to go back and read the original works that have inspired such devotion and enthusiasm over twenty years after their author’s death – and in many cases, several decades after they were originally written.

One wonderful thing about Roger’s writing is how well it has held up to the test of time and how it can still stir the heart and imagination.  Not a bad legacy at all…