Strange Seas [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Suzy McKee Charnas
eBook Category: General Nonfiction/Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: "I am woven through your past, as you are through mine--and both of us through theirs, the sea-peoples'." Hugo- and Nebula Award-winner Charnas has written a book about humans, her own past, and how our lives have always been intertwined with the creatures of the seas. Strange Seas is Charnas' first nonfiction book, and her first eBook. An investigation into personal questions about herself and her writing grew to encompass not just her past, but the pasts of all of us. "I saw a lot of closed doors inside the house of myself, labeled 'I don't care,' 'I don't know,' and--the majority--'I don't remember.' But one stood open, the one that Miriam's words had unlatched and flung wide--'I don't believe.' There was no denying what lay beyond. The whales had souls, and I had been a killer of whales."
eBook Publisher: Hidden Knowledge, Published: 2001
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2005
I There Has To Be More, and There Is
1 Reader Ratings:
"A strange and interesting book ... Charnas fans will find Strange Seas fascinating."--Analog
Millbrook, Connecticut, Summer, 1950:
"If there are intelligent beings in the universe besides us," my uncle said patiently, not for the first time, "why haven't they called us up?" On a rainy Saturday afternoon at my aunt and uncle's house in Millbrook, Uncle Jules was teaching me to play chess. And, I suppose he hoped, teaching me to think critically instead of with my heart, as I was inclined to do. I wasn't learning chess very well. I was too impatient. When my turn came I generally made a move that was reckless if not actually incorrect.
I liked arguing better, especially about my conviction that human beings were not alone in the universe. We weren't the only thinking, conscious beings. We couldn't be; it didn't make sense. Something whispered this to me in my sleep, in my heartbeat, and I believed it with a child's passion.
My younger sisters and my cousins were out back under the porch overhang with my uncle's old .22 caliber rifle, waiting for the turtle to show itself in the pond down at the foot of the back garden. The turtle was fair game because it ate up the fish my uncle kept stocking the pond with.
I liked shooting the .22 because I was surprisingly good at it despite my near-sighted vision. But I had a nasty, want to/don't want to feeling about actually trying to kill the turtle. So I had chosen to learn chess instead. The day had been overcast, and it was likely to be a long evening because I wouldn't be able to do the one thing I really wanted to do.
Uncle Jules had a telescope, and on a clear night you could actually see stars instead of the vague smears you got in New York. In fact it was the telescope that clinched the argument for me: aliens existed, because you couldn't have all those stars, plus all the ones we couldn't even see, without somebody else living out there among them.
I moved my knight in the required pattern (not noticing that two moves on, my uncle could swipe him with his bishop). "There's got to be at least one other world with intelligent creatures on it."
Uncle Jules said, "Mmm," considering the board and my remark.
He was a businessman who manufactured special foods for diabetics. Our family was of European Jewish origin with a middle-class background and at least one professor in the mob, but no Hassids that anyone knew of. No visionaries, no mystics. Smart people, practical people, that was what we were. Brains were important; skepticism was important.
I, on the other hand, had cried at the end of Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End, I had exulted with the group-protagonist of Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human. I spent a lot of afternoons hanging out in the corner drugstore, reading the science fiction magazines as fast as I could (I couldn't afford to buy them on my allowance, but having a chocolate malted at the soda fountain seemed to serve as a sort of rent for the magazines).
In fact I was an isolated science fiction fan unaware of the existence of the galaxy of science fiction readers known as fandom. If I had known I wouldn't have joined. I was never a joiner.
My uncle was trying in his persistent, unhurried, and serious way to cure me of my soft-headedness using something like the Socratic method.
"If you were a traveler from another planet," he said at last, sucking at his pipestem with that soft pup-pup sound that I've always thought of since as the sound of thinking, "wouldn't you try to communicate with human beings?"
"People see flying saucers," I ventured (and good grief, how badly I wanted to see one of those wonders myself). "The saucer people take them on board to study them."
"Would that be enough for you if you were a visiting spaceman?" my uncle said, duly taking my knight. "Terrorizing a few farmers and suburbanites in secret? How much could anybody learn that way about another culture? Wouldn't they take the next step--communication? Contact?"
I squirmed in my chair. "You mean talk to the President, or the U.N. or somebody?"
He nodded. Pup-pup-pup went the pipe. "So why haven't they?"
This was long before the X-Files, when the idea that alien visitors might be in secret contact, not to say active collusion, with the governments of the world simply did not occur. But all the same, this was a complicated matter.
Suppose the fabled starship did try to set down on the White House lawn. The first thing that would happen would be that our highly prepared, Cold War army would blow the newcomers to kingdom come. Who in their right mind would want to get mixed up in that? What chance would the brightest space-being with the neatest technology have against the Army and the House Un-American Activities Committee?
My mother was a commercial artist in New York City. She knew people who had gone to Mexico because of the House Un-American Activities Committee. She knew some one who had dived under a subway train because of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Certain kinds of confidence and na´vetÚ were never an option in our house.
My uncle persisted. "If your aliens are intelligent, they're going to be curious; if they're curious, they're going to communicate. Intelligence is curiosity, Suzy. If they were out there, really out there, they'd have started asking questions. We'd have heard from them by now."
Epiphany: my uncle the rationalist wanted the little green men, or whatever, to get in touch! He wasn't arguing because he refused to believe in such things. He too hoped the "aliens" would show up, but he longed for them too much to cheapen his longing with easy credulity.
The rain stopped. No turtles showed up, so none were shot that day. After dinner, we kids went up the hill behind the house, straggling along the dirt track beside the neighbor farmer's hay meadow, giggling and shoving each other into the puddles and the long wet spears of weed and grass.
I slipped away from the others and went to sit alone on a rock and look at the sky. Looking for flying saucers, or at least shooting stars. For anything besides just us.
Nothing came zooming out of the Heavens to answer my hunger. I got a crick in my neck from looking up at the spangled night, and I grew tired of thinking about things so big that I didn't even have words for some of them. After a while I wandered back to rejoin my sisters and my cousins and to talk about how gross it was when Uncle Jules killed a chicken for dinner and it really did run around with its head chopped off, flapping and jumping.
About what you'd expect from a chicken.
There had to be more to the universe than us and chickens.