A few of my favorite things: The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice’s Moon Colony Bloodbath (2009)

In 2009, The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice released Moon Colony Bloodbath. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle described the nineteen minute EP as a “loose” concept album with a science-fiction theme: “Some of the songs have something to do with a loose rock opera/’concept album’ idea about organ harvesting colonies on the moon and the employees thereof, who spent their off months living in secluded opulence in remote American locations. Concepts like this are actually more fun when you abandon them but leave their traces kicking around, so that’s what we did.”

I discovered Moon Colony Bloodbath from this io9 article, for which I will be forever grateful. After I got ahold of the EP, I must have listened to it on repeat dozens of times in the first week alone (though that’s admittedly easy to do with something just nineteen minutes long). The first song, “Surrounded,” begins with the line “pale white moon shines down on Colorado,” and, at the time, I was in Colorado in winter. With its chilling theme, and Moon Colony Bloodbath was the perfect accompaniment for driving down dark winter roads at night.

Continue reading

A few of my favorite things: Creatures game series

In my previous post about Isabella Rossellini and Green Porno, I mentioned reproductive biology as something I have always found fascinating. I want to return to this subject by talking about the Creatures game series.

Creatures game logo

Released in 1996 by Mindscape, Creatures was one of the first artificial life simulation games. Centered around a little creature called a Norn,1 the user guided their ward through its life cycle until its inevitable death. Along the way, the Norn would explore the world, learn vocabulary, and breed with other Norns. The complexity of the game’s inner workings was amazing for the time: the Norns were controlled by an advanced AI program, influenced by digital chemicals in their bodies, and the game had an entire genome built in, so offspring resulting from breeding were not just simply determined or randomized, but specifically generated from the parents’ “digital DNA.”

Continue reading

A few of my favorite things: Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno

In my novella The Joining, the aliens’ reproductive method is described in great detail. For comparison, the human biologist uses some parallel examples taken from Earth’s own animal kingdom. If you find reproductive biology interesting and want to get into some bizarre and downright alien reproduction right here in our own backyard, you need to check out Green Porno.

Isabella Rossellini writes, directs and stars in this webseries that explores a variety of reproductive methods from all over our crazy little planet. I discovered Green Porno soon after it began in 2008 and I have really enjoyed watching the series develop. I am fascinated by the reproductive biology of different species and through some of the examples brought up in this webseries I have found food for thought and sometimes inspiration in developing alien biology for stories.

Green Porno - "Limpet"

Rossellini in “Limpet”

Green Porno is not your average nature documentary of David Attenborough narration spoken over gorgeous scenery, lush landscapes, and spectacularly filmed animals doing whatever it is those particular animals do. No: this is Isabella Rossellini dressed up as the animals and acting out the nature documentary. Sound funny? It’s supposed to be: though the information is accurate and educational, ultimately “the purpose of each film is to make people laugh, to entertain them.”

Continue reading

A few of my favorite things: Cowboy Junkies’ Open (2001)

When I write, there is a certain kind of music I like to listen to. It is difficult to pin down exactly what kind of music it has to be, but I notice that most of the music has a narrative thread running through it.

Sometime in 2005, I was browsing my local library’s CD rack for new music. I don’t remember how I conducted my search exactly, but, somehow, Open fatefully caught my eye. I had not heard of the Cowboy Junkies—not surprising since they are relatively unknown outside of Canada—but I checked out the CD and listened to it.

Cowboy Junkies OpenThe opening song, “I Did It All For You,” is a haunting narrative, about death, murder, guilt, and rage. What the narrative exactly is must be teased out from the lyrics and calls for the listener to dwell on its meaning. After years of listening, I am not even sure that I can entirely define what story, or stories, it tells. But the emotions communicated throughout the song are clear, and I listen to “I Did It All For You” when I am teasing out aspects of intense scenes.

Continue reading