In Place

by wjw on March 21, 2020

I’m rusticating in place these days.  Not because I’m showing symptoms of COVID 19, but because our governor has closed all theaters, gyms, bars, and restaurants (other than take-out).  My karate school has closed, and so has my masseuse.  I should be in Orlando right now for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, but it got canceled (and left me stuck with a non-refundable $700 hotel reservation).  The Jack Williamson Lectureship is moving to next autumn.

There’s no place to go, so I’m staying home.  Fortunately we have a month’s supply of food and an adequate supply of toilet paper.  I’m trying and failing to fix my tractor.  I’m watching a lot of TV.  I’m reading applications for Taos Toolbox.

The big excitement today was that I took a walk in the park.  It was easy maintaining my social distancing, because practically no one was there.

It’s like one of those cozy catastrophes, where most of the population disappears but the lights stay on and there are still big freezers full of food, and you have the consolation of listening to music on the gramophone.  (Except the tractor hasn’t signed up for the cozy catastrophe, it just flat doesn’t work.)

I’m in a category for increased risk of death should I actually get the disease, so for the moment I’m content to remain in my rural paradise.

What should I be reading?

Ralf T. Dog. March 21, 2020 at 2:55 am

You are living in a very good place to socially distance. Stay safe.

I am going to be an evil bad person and ask you to use your predictive superpowers. When do you think this will be over? Do you think the theaters and indoor dining will start again anytime soon? Do you think they will open them back up too soon, before it is safe?

I am betting three months, but if it just keeps skipping from state to state, It could be longer than a year.

Chris Heinz March 21, 2020 at 9:39 am

After 1 year of nothing but escapist reading (sci fi & fantasy) due to my depression over the current political situation, I am actually going to try “Modern Money Theory” 2e, L. Randall Wray. If you are interested in updated economic thinking:
“The Economics of Arrival”, Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams, 2019.
“Doughnut Economics”, Kate Raworth, 2017.
“Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future”, Paul Mason, 2016.
“Capitalism 3.0”, Peter Barnes, 2006.

If you want some new tunes, I listened to this on loop for over a week. Fabulous grooves, 33 tracks, 2h26m, only £10! Wikipedia says Omar was one of the founders of the Brit neo-motown movement, of which I am a fan. Be prepared to be dancing around your house.

Foxessa March 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm

The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, Metropolitan Books, 2019 by Greg Grandin. Vaquero had already read it, but I haven’t, and he loved it so much he wanted to read it again, but with us doing it together.

This is Greg’s latest work, the first book to put the great saboteur in the context of our whole history of national mythology. These are along the lines of which I’ve been talking myself, for quite some time — meaning quite some time prior to 2016, like decades. But Greg has pulled it all together showing how this mythology inevitably brought us to catastrophe, and not for the first time. But this time, between economic disaster and climate catastrophe, maybe for the last time. He is a deeply intellectual analyst, but he possesses as well the poetic tools of metaphor and poetry, as well as the capacity to dissect them (we really do need poetry now), and symbolic thinking, presenting this all in easily comprehensible and gorgeously composed prose. Between listening to Afro Latin orisha music, and then Vaquero and I reading this, for the first time in days and nights, my stomach, first, and the rest of my body following, unclenched.

Greg writes so well, it leaves one breathless. He cites us even. Plus he’s clearly influenced in his thinking by the writers I’ve been living with in terms of our national mythology almost all my life, Leslie Fiedler and Richard Slotkin.

Slotkin was one of the innovators of American Studies, which brought together history, literature and pop culture, which meant music, movies and tv too. Slotkin’s essential trilogy is:

Regeneration Through Violence: the Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Wesleyan University Press, 1973)

The Fatal Environment: the myth of the frontier in the age of industrialization, 1800-1890, (Atheneum, 1985)

Gunfighter nation: the myth of the frontier in twentieth-century America (Atheneum, 1992)

They do not need to be read in order at all.

Ralf T. Dog. March 21, 2020 at 8:14 pm

Have you read the Murderbot Diaries? I can’t want for the next book.

wjw March 22, 2020 at 12:03 am

I’ve enjoyed the Murderbot stories I’ve read, but I haven’t read them all.

I’ve also enjoyed the tee shirt that reads, “Murderbot doesn’t love you, he just wants to watch his shows.”

Ralf, you asked for my prediction on the plague. I’m guessing the curve will start to flatten in a couple weeks, and with luck CORVID will be over by the middle of summer. Or it’ll be with us over the next year and a bunch of people will die.

pixlaw March 22, 2020 at 10:42 am

If you like the Murderbot books, you should check out Martha W’s backlist, at least some of which are very cheap on e-book. All of her books are good, but my favorites are Wheel of Infinity, a stand-alone, and the Ile-Rien series, starting with Element of Fire, which is 3 Musketeers w/ magic, follow-up Death of the Necromancer, set in the same world featuring a Dr. Moriarty-esque protagonist as (kind of) the good guy, and the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy whose protagonist is the daughter of the previous novel ‘s hero and just as screwed up, in a completely different way. I like all of her stuff, but those are the ones I return to for a comfort read, just as I return to yours.

And if you’re looking for something completely different, read the 2 latest Bill Gibson books, which are both enthralling and really bleak in a very sneaky way.

Foxessa March 22, 2020 at 11:22 am

The curve of covid 19 infections and deaths is not about to begin flattening within two weeks. Just the opposite. Not here where I am. Not there, where you are.

Had a long conversation with a friend who works in health in Albuquerque two days ago. You have no idea what’s going on in the Southeast Heights.

Phil Koop March 22, 2020 at 5:07 pm

What should I be reading?


I’m guessing the curve will start to flatten in a couple weeks, and with luck CORVID will be over by the middle of summer.

You can probably infer my estimate on the length of this plague by my choice of reading material: after I finish A. R. Moxon’s The Revisionaries (600 pages), I’m going to read Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality (1045 pages, including a fair amount of topology and some theory about number systems.) I’ve updated my priors because of , which reports that simulations over a fairly broad set of parameters suggest eight months of “aggressive social distancing” (a truly great oxymoron) will be required.

Phil Koop March 22, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Oops. I neglected to close that “a”. Sorry.

Steinar Bang March 27, 2020 at 4:44 pm

I was going to suggest Murderbot as well.

I like Marko Kloos’ stuff.

For non-SF and non-fantasy: I’ve just read John Le Carre’s last two books (“Agent running in the field” from 2019, and the somewhat older “Legacy of spies” (last outing of George Smiley)).

Right now I’m reading Kate Elliot’s icepunk saga (glaciers, celtic, phoenician, airships, revolutionaries, and yea: intelligent dinosaurs), starting with “Cold Magic”, continuing with “Cold Fire” (that’s what I’m reading right now).

Robert M Roman March 28, 2020 at 10:54 am

DeFoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year”.

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