Feb 20


From the Washington Post: “Dead foxes were piled high in the pickup truck after the hunting contest in Frederick County in January. Men lifted the bloodied animals out of the truck by their legs, dropping them on the ground to be counted. The winner of the contest killed 38 foxes and won about $400, said the undercover investigator for the Humane Society of the United States whose graphic video footage of the event was made public Wednesday…. Such hunting contests are legal in Maryland and 44 other states.”

“That which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts. One thing befalls them. As the one dies, so dies the other. Yes, they have all one breath. So that a man has no preeminence above a beast. For all is vanity.”  — Ecclesiastes 3:19

Feb 20

Some have Suggested we can Compute Consciousness

Regarding the computing of consciousness– and the reductionist subsuming of it to a  math based computation, for AI and transhumanist purposes….Perhaps Math can describe consciousness, if you can come up with one capable of operations in four dimensions at once. Consciousness is a gestalt. This is one of the things not understood by adherents of the notion of a “conscious” AI and a human consciousness transferred to a digital-electronic sheath for supposed Transhumanist immortality. One could probably come up with a feasible pseudo-copy that seems somewhat like the person “copied” but it wouldn’t be them. There would be no true continuity between the copy and the originator, and the true organizing principle of consciousness would be lacking. Some of us believe that there are discrete wave-forms which are in a sense “particles of consciousness” and which work together to create a field which is the substrate of consciousness.

Dr Stuart Hameroff notes life’s dualistic “Cartesian theater” and proposes that the lag between perception and cognition is at the root of the appearance of dualistic separation. Hameroff envisions a quantum jump “back in time” to compensate for the gap between perception and consciousness. He has worked with physicist Roger Penrose who  suggested in his 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind that Platonic values including mathematical truth, ethical values and beauty are “embedded in the fine structure of the universe, specifically in fundamental spacetime geometry at the inifinitesimally tiny Planck scale.” These subtle forces may be resonating in “microtubules” which form the tiniest parts of living cells including brain cells where “quantum computation with objective reduction may be somehow involved in consciousness.” Our direct conscious connectivity to the cosmos might be found at these levels, transcending dualistic separation.

Consider this too: The Strange Link Between the Human Mind and the Quantum World

Feb 20

John Shirley & the Screaming Geezers Opened for the Blue Oyster Cult last night! Photographic Evidence!

John Shirley & the Screaming Geezers played for 1200 people at the sold-out Blue Oyster Cult show last night as the opening band. We got a wonderful reception from audience–we rocked it–and the BOC gave us compliments and so have people writing in at screaminggeezers.com. The BOC were GREAT. Guitar beauty. Brilliance.  Subtlety and powerful hard rock at once. Here’s a kinetic pic from the show at the Roseland Theater in Portland, that’s me at the mic. A Screaming Geezers album is coming soon, from Black October Records, and there will be a new BLUE OYSTER CULT album in September, from Frontier Records–on which are five songs for which I wrote the lyrics…Was thrilled when, backstage on Saturday, Richie of the Blue Oyster Cult let me hear, from his laptop, a nearly-finished mix of one of my songs on that new BOC album –and it’s sounding so great. I also saw the songlist for the album and I have (as lyricist) five songs on it. Watch for the new Blue Oyster Cult album in September.

Feb 20

the union of the mathematician with the poet

The union of the mathematician with the poet,
fervor with measure,
passion with correctness,
this surely is the ideal.

–William James, Collected Essays

(thanks to Abstruse Goose)


Feb 20


I just got a phone call a few minutes ago: Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult wanting to play a few songs for me–on the phone! Songs from the new album, one of which I wrote.  Not the ideal way to hear them but I got the gist–great rock, masterfully wrought. It does seem to be shaping up to a powerful new, fresh BOC album. It’s coming from Frontier Records later this year. There will be at least four songs with lyrics by me.

Just saw the proofs for the JOHN SHIRLEY ISSUE of the new WEIRDBOOK, which as I’m sure you know is a big magazine style / slash WeirdTales-ish book coming out at intervals every year. The issue will contain a new 40 thousand word fantasy novella by me, sword and sorcery, called Swords of Atlantis, plus two new short stories, plus reprints of some others, plus reprints of some of my weird-tales-style poems. This’ll come out fairly soon. Next month probably, or even late this month. Links will be provided.

My work with the editor at Blackstone books is complete and my new science-fiction/detective thriller novel STORMLAND is getting closer to publication. I hope for it by summer.

AND my band, John Shirley and the Screaming Geezers, will be opening for the Blue Oyster Cult at the big Roseland Theater in Portland, OR on February 15…Here’s the Screaming Geezers website.

Jan 20

My story MEERGA now up at this free, online journal of science-fiction

Here’s the link to this rather provocative story. https://www.bigecho.org/meerga


“Big Echo is a free, online journal of critical science fiction. By science fiction we mean writing that retains, to some degree at least, what Fredric Jameson described as a “‘hard-core’ commitment to old-fashioned ‘scientific’ SF.” By critical we mean science fiction that provides the interested reader with a considered assessment of the social and cultural circumstances in which it was produced.”

Jan 20

“Dad, What Will Climate Change Do to Me and My Kids?”

Well, son, it’s going to be very rough on you and my grandkids. It may be too late to do much about it but we have to try–we have to work hard to mitigate the effects of climate change;-plant a trillion trees (not a joke!) and do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gases. But it’s too late to stop the worst of it. The massive displacement of populations, the destruction of agriculture, the spread of pandemics, the explosive social chaos… I think humanity will have to suck it up and face a dominoes-falling series of inexorable climate change effects, which will probably reduce global population by 20 to 35 % in a frighteningly short time, and which will put such a strain on resources, especially food resources, our tendency in desperate circumstances to fall into the sheltering arms of autocracy will take hold like mold in hot wet places and we’ll tumble headlong into techno-fascist plutocracy of some kind. And since the ground has been prepared for hyper, brutal centralized control (as opposed to intelligent centralized government), and you have Putin smirkily saying that “liberalism is over in Europe”, an uneasy configuration of competing plutocracies seems inevitable.

And we have to hope that humanity will learn. That we’ll clean up our environment, overthrow the coming dictatorships, that we’ll come to respect nature, that we will learn to respect — and demand–education for everyone and that we build a new world worth living in. I’ll be gone by then. But you, your kids and your grandchildren have to be ready…

Jan 20


I was scarcely more than a boy when I attended the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. One of the instructors was Harlan Ellison, and being a fan of Ellison’s I was on edge with excitement, even more like a cat on hot bricks than usual. In those days I was wildly callow, the very soul of impulsiveness. One night I dropped acid — and I dropped down on Ellison, just missing him, from the boughs of a tree as he walked underneath. After the necessary fulmination, Harlan let it go. He put up with me, he said, because I “heard the music in the sentence”. You either heard the music in prose, he told us, or you didn’t.

I’ve been singing lead in rock bands for more than thirty years. I still write songs, sing, and perform. Tracks I recorded from 1978 to 2012 are found in the Broken Mirror Glass collection from Black October Records and newer sonic works in Spaceship Landing In a Cemetery.

You see, for years, writing science fiction and fantasy was mostly my day job. Music was my real life, then–first punk rock, then something I called “futuristic funk” and then a post-industrial sound. I wrote paperback novels chiefly to support the band. Book advances paid for rehearsal rooms, bought hamburgers for players, paid for studio time to work up demos, paid for gas to the gig. Music made me feel good–otherwise, I was bad at feeling good. I signed a record deal, made a record, played at CBGB and the Pyramid, and crashed through the china shop of my youth. The rock scene was powder keg volatility and I was always flicking lit matches; it’s possible I’d be dead now, if I’d taken a certain deal at CBS records — the drugs would’ve been too easy for me to get.

Then…I became the father of twin boys, and the responsibility eased me away from bands–and away from drugs. I felt a genuine grief in letting rock’n’roll be displaced from the center of my life, and wrote about the feeling of loss, transposed into a near-future cyberpunk setting, in the story “A Walk Through Beirut”.

Fortunately, I love science fiction. But music kept cropping up in my books. My novel City Come A-Walkin’ was set in a futuristic rock club, featuring a character inspired by Patti Smith. A near-future rocker features prominently in the Eclipse volume of my cyberpunk trilogy, A Song Called Youth. The sf novel I’m writing now, Stormland, doesn’t involve rock characters, but it has its own soundtrack, in my mind, including “Black Planet” by the Sisters of Mercy.

For me, writing prose has always been intertwined with music, while writing a song — for most anyone — involves storytelling. Rare is the song which doesn’t tell a story. Often the story is hinted at; you can infer a great deal from the lyrics of “Mack the Knife”. Sometimes, as in Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, it’s a view from on high, a whole dramatic landscape revealed. Other times, as in many a Lou Reed song–”Street Hassle”, say–an entire story is told, with a beginning, middle, and end. Every country-western song tells a story, as do most rock songs. There’s a clear-cut scene playing theatrically out in “Honky Tonk Women”. And I do hear the music in prose. When I give a live reading of a story, I hit the rhythms of the sentences hard, I explore resonance, like the vibration at the heart of music; at key moments I ring the emotional bells of the imagery. I’ve written countless song lyrics, some for myself, some other artists like the Blue Oyster Cult (18 songs they’ve recorded and five more in their new album, coming in 2020 from Frontier Records), and Blue Coupe, and that medium of composition comes to me so flowingly I can improvise lyrics live at a jam session; lyrics that are in meter, that rhyme, and make sense. So the artistic symbiosis between words and music is second nature to me.

When I write, I usually listen to music; it might be Stravinsky, it might be John Coltrane, it might be Savages, it might be Blue Öyster Cult or it might be Motorhead or it might be Ennio Morricone. I don’t find it distracting–music embeds me in the energetic fields of the writing, and somehow makes my composition in prose come alive for me…

Dec 19

The Worst–and the Worst

The Internet brings out the worst in people–and it brings out the worst people.

Let us review a few facts. There were harassers and stalkers and bullies before the internet existed, but far fewer; the internet has offered cover to people who would have been too scared to act this way before; with its ease of access, its bells and whistles, it has even seduced people, who might’ve stayed harmlessly in the background, into bullying, into lying, into targeting innocent people for kicks. Recently, a man on the left side of a political argument was discovered, by the Trumpies who wanted to bully him, to have epilepsy. So they targeted him with a tweet that flashed in certain patterns, saying he “deserved a seizure”–and he did have a vicious seizure as a direct result. He might’ve died if his wife hadn’t found him. The internet seduces by offering more ways to do harm…

There was a time when white supremacists mostly stayed hidden under their rocks. But Trump’s Bully(ing) Pulpit and the internet’s anonymity has allowed them to emerge into a digital public space where they’re free to use the Big Lie, repeated over and over–with Conspiracy Theory as its verbal delivery system–to increase their numbers and their sway; indeed, to give them real power for the first time. Russian operatives, child molesters, con artists of all kinds, purveyors of the *actual* fake news, are empowered by the web. Yes, our media now brings out the worst in people and brings us the worst people. The internet has many good uses; medical and scientific data passed, legit news, contact for shut-ins, the better forms of free expression–I’m using it here to make a statement on my blog–but it’s out of control; it’s  a wilderness, and we’re lost in it.

Strange to think that we must also be clear on what fake news is fake news. The President appropriated the term, in his instinctive 1984-style “up is down, blue is red” system of applied chaos, so that he can point at legitimate news sources–The Washington Post, or for that matter the Denver Post, any genuine newspaper or legitimate media outlet– and tell his followers it’s “fake news”. And they’ll believe him. Whereas right-wing extremists, purveyors of conspiracy theories, Russian bots and operatives, and the Alex Joneses of the world are spewing *actual* fake news.

The actuality of fake news –that is, of the existence of fake news–is an irony, but false news stories are a fact in the new reality of the popularization of the Big Lie in all its forms…

Dec 19

Extraterrestrials Decide What Should be Done with the Dominant Species of Inhabited Planet 38790

“Isn’t it too early to despair of Inhabited Planet 38790, Inspector 71,844? Most early civilizations are barbaric. They engage in the sort of unfortunate things confused infants do if unattended in a room filled with dangerous objects. Tragedy ensues. Eventually these creatures will either go extinct — most civilizations destroy themselves — or evolve to something saner, and more adult. I see no reason to put them out of their misery yet. They may grow up.”

“Simple barbarism isn’t the problem, Supervisor 9,221! Barbarism — yes, as for example their many wars, but…let me give you some examples. They’re the kind of species which spawns males who brutally sexually assault females and then set them on fire for complaining — as happened in a land called ‘India’ recently. Meanwhile, a female in a land called ‘the United States’ hanged her two small children, aged eight and four, by the neck, thus strangling them to death, whereupon she informed the authorities they had ‘committed suicide’. She does not seem to be psychotically insane — she said she just ‘didn’t care about her children anymore’. Also, in the ‘United States’, it is a matter of policy to separate innocent offspring from their desperate migratorial parents, when the family is simply fleeing intolerable conditions; this policy thereupon subjects small children to caging, sometimes death, just to make a point about the society’s dislike of migrants.”

“That is a high degree of vileness. But how many support the policy in that nation?”

“At last count, about 45%.”

“Inspector–should you really categorize the entire ‘human’ species of Inhabited Planet 38790 as ‘innately vile’? It is a rather extreme category.”
“Look at that which they delight in! For example, their popular entertainment transmissions. Here is ‘The Bachelor’, a sample of something they are pleased to call ‘Reality Television. Observe.”

[An interval of time in which Supervisor 9,221 takes in several episodes of The Bachelor.]

“But — it’s so humiliating to the female participants,” the Supervisor burst out at last. “And it curries the worst in the males!”

“Yes indeed: the worst aspects of everyone involved — the ‘producers’, the ‘contestants’, and the viewers. This ‘Reality Show’ is a celebration of an utter lack of real self-awareness, and an innate liking for passive aggressive cruelty. And that kind of thing is common in their entertainment. Some of their ‘television’ extols the use of torture to stop miscreants — ”

“But this global culture should be too advanced to sustain torture!”

“Oh, but they not only promote it, they carry it out in many, many forms. Another example of innate vileness: a remarkable number of them also show an eagerness to sexually assault children and watch images of them being assaulted — ”


“Oh yes! Many of this world treat the unwary of their own species as prey! They have a surprising number of ‘serial killers’, as they are called, and ‘mass shooters’ — and many humans regard these sport murderers as a form of celebrity! They celebrate them in books and movies and extensive television documentaries; they enable those who enter educational institutions with powerful weapons, so to slaughter children; they then publicize them widely, which seems to generate yet more mass murderers who try to outdo one another.”

“There is a good deal of vileness among them, yes — but it sounds as if these may be problems brought about by inbreeding.”

“We checked. That isn’t it.”

“Well then, it may be brain damage from environmental toxicity.”

“That is a factor in some cases — and they don’t seem to care. They have a very toxic herbicide all over the world, and besides causing dreadful environmental problems, it often brings about severe diseases in users and those exposed, and its neurotoxicity is such that it seems to be damaging the brains of the young at a remarkable rate of speed. But as there is a great deal of what is called ‘financial gain’ involved in the manufacture and sale of it, it goes on unabated. Yes, some of the vileness may arise from various extent artificial toxins but I put it to you that as they’ve saturated the world with neurotoxins it’s too late for them to do anything significant about it. Also, many of these cases of abject vileness are not neurotoxic psychosis; many seem to be cases of innate species vileness. Reflect on what the very populous place called ‘China’ does to animals, especially canines — in a certain ‘Chinese’ city they traditionally torture these canines to death at a feast festival, after which they eat them. They believe the suffering makes the meat taste better! But there is plenty of cruelty to animals in every nation and culture on Inhabited Planet 38790…”

“It’s true that cruelty to animals is an indicator of irremediable vileness in a race…”

“Oh, they’re vile indeed. Consider their tendency to enslave other members of their own race — yes, common among primitive civilizations but this crops up over and over even now, when they are in the Penultimate Stage — they claim to have ended it yet vast numbers of workers are little more than slaves; worse, in many places they permit the forced trafficking of women, even children, for sexual satisfaction.”

“That is quite a repugnant thing to see in a civilization so comparatively technologically advanced, yes. Have they no guiding philosophers?”

“The benevolent ones are overbalanced by those who enable selfish impulses — there is one called ‘Ayn Rand’ who spouted a philosophy of selfishness, the rejection of empathy for the under privileged, the worship of an uncontrolled marketplace, who is widely influential. Many powerful elected officials in ‘the United States’ and ‘the United Kingdom’ are adherents of her vile, soulless philosophy. Suppose they were to spread this ‘philosophy of selfishness’ intra-galactically? It could destroy many of our best civilizations!”

“But — I am simply not certain of this broad-brush categorization of Extreme Vileness you advocate, Inspector…”

“As an example of Extreme Species Vileness on Inhabited Planet 38790: There is a syndrome in which young people try to persuade those with whom they engage romantically and sexually — to kill themselves! And, strangely, they often succeed. This is partly enabled by the tortured psychological contortions arising from a particularly vile and gigantically popular technological cancer which they call ‘social media’. Observe this case in point, entitled ‘Instagram’…”

“Ugh! Please turn that off! I don’t understand…No sentient species can be that shallow and self-obsessed…”

“Shallow? Very much so. Willfully stupid as well. You know, their brains are, on average, quite capable of advanced cognition and well equipped with creativity. Some of their artistic expressions are intricate and profound. But as a whole the species works hard to suppress its intelligence. The species squanders what it has been given — that is humanity’s hallmark. If you doubt it, let me tell you about their Flat Earth movement — an astonishingly vigorous, growing movement of people insisting their planet is a flat disk floating in space, with the sun revolving around it…”

[An interval in which the Supervisor hears the statements of believers in the Flat Earth]

“What an odd sense of humor they have.”

“They are not joking, Supervisor.”

“But…that sort of thing is an obviously primitive belief—it is infantile! How can they have it in an era of space travel and astronomy?”

“They turn their backs on whatever evidences they prefer to ignore. Indeed, they often spurn the workings of their own brains — they are prone to shrugging off the normal operation of these powerful biological thinking engines, in favor of something that our analysis categorizes as ‘selective stupidity’. They select only self-serving data that sparks in them a pleasing neurological stimulus. The creatures cling to a variety of obvious falsehoods despite all evidence; despite rationality. They still cling to ancient creation myths! Billions of people believe the universe is only 6000 years old! Even at this late stage in their development they take myth as fact and superstitious illusion as evidentiary.”

“I am now officially sickened by these creatures. I trust that’s all the testimony against them you have?”

“Far from it! Still widespread among them is the self-aggrandizing xenophobia they call ‘racism’…Look at this account of an event called The Holocaust…”

“Monstrous! Unspeakably cruel!”

“And yet on a smaller scale not uncommon in their history — large numbers of these creatures have cheerfully enabled genocide. I could provide many other examples.”

“But they should have outgrown racial xenophobia many centuries ago! It has no basis in fact!”

“They stubbornly cling to ignorance — it seems to make them feel good in some aberrant fashion. They also rush headlong into addictions, of all kinds. Besides narcotics, they cheerfully become addicted to their communications devices, to ritual games of competitive low-grade violence, to endless images of their reproductive processes — they call it ‘internet pornography’…”

“Wait — how could they become addicted to that? Nature has seen to it that it is enjoyable to engage in the reproductive process in person — but to stare at it for hours on a screen?”

“It seems to be a peculiarity of their neuronal function. Worse is a kind of constant interchange of something they call ‘conspiracy theory’ with which they pick and choose the data they prefer, and twist it to come to bizarre, radically improbably conclusions. Look at this documentation of their ‘anti-vaxxer movement’. To reject the gift of reason…the horror of it…”

“It truly is vile! But still, they may evolve…”

“As to that, Supervisor 9,221, they have reached the penultimate environmental tipping point. They had an exceptionally beautiful, ecologically intricate planet, and they trashed it. In an incredibly short time they have choked their magnificent seas with waste products so that their magnificent leviathans die horribly of the inadvertent ingestion of discarded polymers; variants of the same carbon-based synthetic now saturate the seas, causing destruction to thousands of species. The concatenation of the unintended consequences of greedy acquisition and barely modulated industrialization, and destruction of wildlife habitat has led to hypertrophic climate change. In places called ‘Southeast Asia’ and ‘South America’ they deliberately burn up their forests, destroying the source of much of the world’s breathable air, purely out of monetary greed — this of course is altering their climate so much they’re about to ‘fry in their own juices’ to use one of their grotesque expressions. They’re so sunken in their entertainment media trances they are scarcely aware of all this. There are those who try to raise the alarm, who extol rationality and an appreciation of the beautiful ecological matrix of their once-rich world — but they are a minority. Most of them are simply…”


“Yes. In consequence this species will simply not have time to improve. Environmental catastrophe will destroy their civilization, likely leading to widespread famines, and a struggle for resources, leading in turn to an exchange of nuclear weapons — ”

“Good Cosmos — don’t tell me they still have large numbers of that crude weapon of mass destruction!”

“Oh, but they do! They recently decided to end the limitations on them and everyone is building more. Besides that, their ‘anti-vax’ movement will lead to enormous pandemics…They’re quite doomed. The problem is they are taking the gorgeous interlacing biomes of this particularly environmentally rich planet with them. They’ve driven countless animal species to extinction and now they will eradicate the rest. If we act quickly to remove them, then clean up the seas, remove the hideous ‘box stores’ and the other concrete and asphalt wastelands, replant the forests, we can save much of the natural world…What a lovely intergalactic touristry park it would make if we could just…”

“Say no more. Morally and, especially, aesthetically, I cannot bear these people. I will order the ‘humans’ of Inhabited Planet 38790 exterminated in consequence of Extreme Vileness — of course we’ll do a scan of their young, and save those that are not too damaged, for rehabilitation.”

“You’ve made the right decision. I haven’t even mentioned their embrace of situational empathy, often an abandonment of empathy entirely. Just have a look into their slaughterhouses. And they constantly looking for new ways to prey on one another; millions of elderly are defrauded, ‘scams’ of all kinds spread like wildfire. They make vast industries of selling poisons to one another, and then they conspire to lie about it — just look at their tobacco industries, their marketing of nightmarishly toxic Teflon products, the toxic pesticides they allow in foods —”

“Inspector, I’m becoming concerned that you’ve suffered trauma in the course of your study of these creatures — perhaps you should have a session with the perspectivizer — ”
“The horrific concentration camps of the place called ‘North Korea’; powerful nations ‘Russia’ and ‘Saudi Arabia’, where the rulers are murderers; and in ‘China’ the forced labor prisons— ”

“Enough! I will use System 77, which will be painless and quick. We’ll break down their bodies into harmless components, and use them as compost for the natural world.”’

“System 77? That one is quite — ironically, they would call it, humane. Which is a term they use quite casually. As if most ‘humans’ were capable of being ‘humane’!”