Jul 232011
 

.

In the tradition of J. R. Ackerley”s My Dog Tulip and Christopher Smart’s “My Cat Jeoffry,” Patrick Keane’s “Rintrah” is a gorgeously jubilant, poignant, mysterious paean to the lifelong companionship of a pet. Patrick Keane is a great friend, a brilliant raconteur, an eminent scholar, and, yes, a lover of cats. This is his second contribution to the pages of Numéro Cinq; see his essay on the “lost” Waste Land manuscript here. But first, read “Rintrah.”

—dg
.

Rintrah

By Patrick J. Keane

.

In researching a book I recently wrote on Emily Dickinson, I came across a letter, written in the autumn of 1858, which has become controversial. Overwhelmed by the world of mutability in which she found herself, she seemed to equate the death-by-frost of flowers in her garden with the death of a servant’s “little girl through scarlet fever.” I was reminded of Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway, who imagines people saying of her, “she cared much more for her roses” than for human “victims of cruelty and injustice.” But the comparison was unfair. Emily wasn’t being insensitive or callous. In addressing “Democratic Death,” she was really expressing the communion and equality of all living things that come to dust.

The life and death memorialized here span a near quarter-century that began with the end of my marriage and includes the pain-filled final years and death of my mother. Along with the ending of another long relationship, these losses affected me deeply and, though they are not front-and-center in what follows, they are an implicit part of my recounting of the adventures of Rintrah. Since Rintrah was “just a cat,” the love, admiration, and sense of loss expressed may seem excessive. But love is not restricted to our human relationships. Emily Dickinson herself, who anguished over the loss of so many close to her, was devastated by the death in January 1866 of Carlo, her beloved dog and constant companion. Anyone who has had a similar experience with a cherished animal will understand both her love and her mourning for what can never return.

.

1

I didn’t know then, and never found out afterward, where he came from. And, though I wish I could take the credit, I didn’t give him his wonderful name. One of my students did. We had just begun William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell when the kitten walked into the classroom. I almost said “strode” because, from the first instant, he displayed complete self-assurance. For all his confidence, he was small, not much beyond weaning. But his front paws seemed large (I later discovered he had six claws on each); and he already possessed a kind of majesty and grace. He even seemed aware that he was beautifully colored: a white mask and underbelly, tawny coat and ears, with that same soft amber surrounding a white star-shape between his gold-green eyes.

He took the measure of the room, then proceeded to stroll among the desks. At the end of his tour, he returned to the front, looked me over, leapt effortlessly to the chair, then to the desk. A student filled a paper saucer with water and placed it near him. The kitten nosed it, then took a few diffident sips. I petted him and he permitted me, despite the affront to his dignity, to pick him up and display him, tummy exposed, to an appreciative audience. The work we had been reading prior to this mysterious visitation opens with a poem that begins, “Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air.” The kitten’s boldness and color inspired one of the students to propose Rintrah for a name.

Continue reading »

Jul 222011
 

.

The poets special to us, poets that we can turn to again and again, both for provocative thought and solace, gift us with bodies of work—progressions through which we can experience their personal journeys. When Jack Myers died in November 2009, he left us The Memory of Water (New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University) the closing chapter of his journey.  Jack’s long illness kept him from compiling the manuscript in accordance with a new title and concept. In consultation with his widow, Thea Temple, who knows his inclinations and wishes better than anyone, I tried to refine and organize this final book in a way that would please him.

Please him, yes, and honor him. Without fanfare, overlooked between West and East Coast publishing, he produced some of the most valuable poetry of his generation. He showed me just how insignificant the career and ego issues of poetry really are. He showed me that to write seriously is to live seriously, and with an abiding, ever-deepening attention to the past and an increasing sense of responsibility for the future.

It is my hope that this book will offer Jack’s many fans an enactment of the tensions and energies flowing through his last years. I hope, too, that it will welcome many new readers into an appreciation of the whole of his poetry, which is a remarkably consistent and brilliant body of work.

—Mark Cox
.

From The Memory of Water

Poems by Jack Myers

.

.

Doggies’ Day Out

— Because we are also what we have lost.
…………………from the movie Amores Perros

The door to the world opens
and my dog and I take a walk.
He’s tiny so he has to trot
to keep up, much like me.
With his wolf’s heart he listens,
sniffs, and pisses on each mailbox,
even after his ambition, like mine,
is long out of ammunition.

There’s nothing dangerous here,
I laugh at him. A little old lady groomer
pinned a pretty pink bow on his head
where it floats like a clichéd thought.
He doesn’t understand humiliation
because he and his image of himself
are so solidly in coincidence he sees things
in black and white, literally. He asks
am I welcome here or not?

To him the old man sweeping the sunset
behind the hills comes directly from
the default archetypal forest of his heart
where discretion and attack play leap frog
over bogs of sleep. We are brothers
with the wilderness gone out of us.
The world once beyond the end
of my thumb and his black nose
is now inside us. Everything we’ve lived
is now part of us, and this new forgetting
and confusion is the beginning of giving
it all back, becoming everything, the whole
unspooling ribbon and blur is itself a thing
of beauty. I pin a pink bow on it. It goes
through me in one long continuous shock
of recognition though it’s only a walk around the block.

 .

Dark Matter

I’ve lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip— I’ll need this and that
and I can’t possibly do without that!

But now I’m about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.

There’s no place on earth
where I can’t unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.

No place where I can’t enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering

I’ll need this and I’ll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.
.

Cirrus

I’d like to leave
an imprint
on the world
lighter than
I’d formerly meant.
Just a scent,
not the thud
of the thing
steaming on a plate.

Instead of “I told you so!”
let my epitaph be
the glance, the edge,
the mist. The delicately
attenuated swirl
of an innuendo
instead of the thunderhead.

The rain that fell
when I was ambitious
seemed conspiringly rushed
in my way. But the same rain
today tastes of here and now
because of where it’s been.

I’d like to be gentle
with small, great things.
They are larger
than what we think
we came here for.
I’d like to be an eye of light
that opens the air
and burns beyond ambition,
like the sun that can’t see us
and is beyond our human reach,
yet is in us trillions of times over.

—Jack Myers

———————————————

Mark Cox teaches in the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and in the Vermont College MFA Program. His books are Smoulder (David R. Godine), and Natural Causes and Thirty-seven Years from the Stone, both published in the Pitt Poetry Series.

Jul 202011
 

.

When I first met the young Vancouver writer Ben Johnstone, he was a teenage political activist wearing sneakers held together with red duct tape. One of his protest activities was a hunger strike in support of Amnesty International. In recent years Ben’s political engagement includes a study of the ways in which art and entertainment bounce off one another and influence how people think and live. Ben has a B.A. in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. He is a musician and an aspiring screenwriter. It is my pleasure to introduce Ben to Numéro Cinq. This is his first published story.

— Lynne Quarmby

.

The Plumber’s Dream

by Ben Johnstone

.

“It was weird, everything was flat.”

“Like a desert?”

“No, horizontally flat.  No depth.  But actually, I think at one point I was in a desert.  But the desert also had no depth.”

“OK, continue.”

“And I was me, I think, but I had this big belly.”

“With no depth?”

“Yeah, and it felt like I had a moustache.”

“That would not look good.”

“So anyway, I just appeared there and then I was running along and I kept finding all this money, these huge gold coins.  But as soon as I touched them they would disappear.  But somehow, it still felt good.  So I kept doing it.  And even though I had this big belly and even though I was really short, I could jump pretty high.  And so I was jumping for these coins, even though I didn’t know why I wanted them.  And it was hard to control how high I jumped and sometimes I would hit things with my head and more coins would appear. And even though it really hurt, I would keep hitting my head against these bricks to get the coins.”

“That just disappeared, but made you inexplicably happy.”

Continue reading »

Jul 202011
 

 

Brianna Berbenuik likes to shoot guns and track nuclear disasters. She’s a 20-something misanthropist and student of Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She is an avid fan of kitschy pop-culture, terrible Nic Cage movies, the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek, and Freud. You can find her at Love & Darkness & My Side-Arm. All of the above can be deemed occasionally unsafe for work. In this provocative essay, Brianna manages to get Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk and Gore Vidal on the same page and make sense of that collision. It’s an essay about culture, about the end of one culture and the coming of the new and the message loops that whirl in the space between. (See her essay on Tyler Durden and the Fight Club Identity Crisis here,)

dg

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.
People are afraid to merge.
Disappear here.

These refrains appear throughout Ellis’s seminal work Less than Zero; to put it simply: a novel about a group of entitled and privileged white kids doing drugs and fucking in the 1980′s. Certainly it is about much more, and it is a paranoid, dubious novel of mounting suspicion and tension with no heroics and no payoff.

Everybody suffers, even the rich and privileged. They just have the resources to hide it, or get high enough to forget or become apathetic.

You’d think that reading about poor little rich LA kids would be annoying, enraging and most of all, boring. (Although if you’re like me and follow White Whine on tumblr, you might actually think the opposite.)

But it’s not boring — not when Ellis is behind the novel.

Last year he released the follow-up to Less than Zero, a novel titled Imperial Bedrooms. It’s been a long time coming since in between his first novel and Imperial Bedrooms Ellis wrote classics like The Rules of Attraction and American Psycho, rising to prolific and cult status in the popular culture of North America. Imperial Bedrooms follows Less than Zero‘s “protagonist” Clay who is now all grown up and successful. Coinciding with the release of this novel, Ellis coined the ideas of “Empire” and “Post-Empire”.

It’s no secret that American essayist, author, playwright/screenwriter and political activist Gore Vidal heavily influenced these ideas. Even the title of Imperial Bedrooms is likely influenced by Vidal, who wrote a book called Imperial America and said, “The empire is collapsing.” You don’t really need to be acquainted with Vidal’s ideas in order to understand Empire and Post-Empire, though. Vidal more or less elucidates the concepts in a socio-political light. Ellis does it in a much more interesting way: through pop culture.

Ellis places Empire America circa 1945-2005. Empire is essentially complete delusion: misguided ideas and inordinate investment in the power of celebrity; patronizing political correctness that actually covers up insidious oppression and hides truly damaging opinions. An overall denial of the ultimate frailty and delicateness of human existence. An attitude of self-righteousness and indestructibility, hiding behind politically correct outrage.

The Empire is collapsing.

Ellis has really only elucidated the ideas of Empire and Post-Empire via example. Things that are Post-Empire, according to Ellis? Twilight, Jersey Shore, Charlie Sheen’s breakdown, Tracy Morgan saying he’d kill his son if his son turned out to be gay.

Empire? The Hills, R.E.M., and everyone’s outraged reactions to the emerging Post-Empire zeitgeist. I haven’t read it anywhere explicitly, but I’m pretty sure we can file Oprah under Empire, too. Maybe founding her own channel is a last-ditch attempt to keep the crumbling Empire from entirely collapsing.

Ellis’s twitter account is largely devoted to calling out Empire attitude vs. Post-Empire manifestations in pop culture. Calling out things for being Empire is the new, biting insult – insinuating over-sensitivity, being ‘behind the times’ and generally taking oneself much too seriously.

Empire is ego: ego in the sense that all the arrogance of oneself is in seriousness rather than satire.

So if Empire can loosely be defined as having a stick up one’s ass, what is Post-Empire?

Post-Empire is a new kind of realism. Calling bullshit as it is, stripping celebrity of its bulletproof myths, candidness, breakdowns, testing “politically correct” boundaries, irony, offensiveness in the face of a reserved attitude that hides insidious cultural uptightness for the last 60 years.

You may have noticed recently the internet exploding with “socially conscious youth” calling out establishments previously thought of as benevolent and beneficial as inherently racist and oppressive horseshit. This is Post Empire. Really believing “Multiculturalism” actually means colourblindess and equality is so very Empire.

North America is crumbling and it is denial vs. realism. Entitlement complexes everywhere are being challenged. The indoctrinated children of Empire do not like this. It might be worth noting that Empire children are largely made up of baby boomers, who are now, as a collective generation, being blamed for shitting on the most recent generation’s chances at the American Dream. Or to put it more succinctly, lying about the American Dream, and becoming a generation of greedy liars who killed their grandchildren to feed themselves. It’s a harsh depiction but this is how Post-Empire eyes might see it.

Ellis has boiled down these concepts into useable, and I’d like to say palatable terms – and these terms are coined for and owned by the masses. This is not academic theory with complex ideologies that must be distilled in condescending pablum form for consumption of the uneducated. Hell no – Empire and Post-Empire are the observances of those who can’t or haven’t accessed the Ivory tower; these concepts come from “the bottom up.” And academic arrogance? That is so fucking Empire.

And when I say “uneducated,” I don’t mean stupid. I mean simply those who haven’t gone through the motions of paying for a post-secondary education. In a lot of ways not paying through the nose for education in this economic climate is far more intelligent and utilitarian than doing so. In a lot of ways not entering college or university is Post-Empire. In so many ways, Post-Empire is about street smarts, not book learnedness.

Ellis isn’t the first author to conceptualize the “fall of America,” but he is one of the few who feel that it’s deserved. I have often heard Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club, Choke, Survivor and a short story called “Guts” that has made people pass out and vomit at readings) compared to Ellis. They both do similar things with the grotesque, but I find Ellis a much more elegant and minimalist author, whereas Palahniuk is less refined and more up-front about the gross stuff. Ellis instead builds to near-poignant moments of profound disgust. The difference between the two is simple: while Ellis dissects the grotesque with precision in his writing; Palahniuk hangs it from a tree and guts it.

Not to say one is superior to the other – Palahniuk was recently named the most likely heir to Vonnegut’s throne, and I can see why. He has the same penchant for short, truthful quips that are audacious, hilarious and true.

In Choke, Mrs. Mancini, says:

“We’ve taken the world apart … but we have no idea what to do with the pieces … My generation, all of our making fun of things isn’t making the world any better. We’ve spent so much time judging what other people created that we’ve created very, very little of our own. I used rebellion as a way to hide out. We use criticism as fake participation.”

If you’re like me and come from a liberal education background, and even if you don’t, that statement should give you the chills. You should feel accused, you should feel like a fraud, and you should feel utterly useless. If you don’t, maybe you’re in denial. The thing is, there is no way you are not somehow participating in this attitude.

But once you get over that, you’re Post-Empire. We don’t have to do anything, just sit back, grab a beer or some fine wine, maybe some drugs if that’s your preference, and watch it all crumble. The greatest show on earth is getting our asses handed to us by ourselves.

And here’s the thing about Ellis and Palahniuk: they both give the distinct impression that the decline of the Western, First-World way of life is absolutely deserved. They both force readers to look at what we have done with no sympathy for what has led us here, just the facts. Just the horrifying truth of our greedy, ego-obsessed selves digging our own hole with fervor.

We brought ourselves to this point, and now everything we held so dear is being shown as nothing but illusion perpetuated over the last six plus decades. And guess what? We’re pissed. We are in the Post-Empire now, and there is no going back.

The most chilling part is that neither author nor the concepts of Empire and Post-Empire give us a solution. This is simply the way things are and we don’t really have a choice.  We’re left cut loose to figure it out for ourselves because nobody is going to save us from this one. Don’t bother looking to God – he died with the Empire.

In the end of Less than Zero, Clay narrates the final lines; perhaps as a prophet of the Post-Empire era that, at the time, the world was gearing up to enter.

“The images I had were of people being driven mad by living in the city. Images of parents who were so hungry and unfulfilled that they ate their own children. Images of people, teenagers my own age, looking up from the asphalt and being blinded by the sun. These images stayed with me even after I left the city. Images so violent and malicious that they seemed to be my only point of reference for a long time afterwards. After I left.”

People are afraid to merge. Disappear here.

We’re all fucked now.

It’s Post-Empire, baby. Grab a seat and enjoy the show.

—Brianna Berbenuik

Jul 192011
 

While salivating my way through the most recent issue of Creative Nonfiction (the “food issue”), I encountered a discussion (some might say THE discussion) that continues to define (plague?) creative nonfiction writing in general.  I am of course referring to the issue of accuracy.  The old argument goes like this: on one hand, this is NON-fiction, so everything must be accurate, wholly accurate, and verifiable.  On the other, this is CREATIVE, so bending, slanting, embellishing is just fine as long as the spirit of truth is upheld.

This debate is not engaged directly in the pages of issue 41, but rears its head in two places.  There is this, in an interview with Ruth Reichl, restaurant critic, former editor at Gourmet, and nonfiction writer:

You can’t [make things up in a memoir] but you can combine things… Certainly in “Tender at the Bone,” for instance, the best story is the one about my brother Bob’s engagement party.  It’s a wonderful story, all true, but it’s really two parties conflated into one….. Nothing in there is made up, but it makes a much better story put all together in one place.  I think one of the great things you get to do with memoir is selectively cherry-pick your memories.

Continue reading »

Jul 192011
 

Editor’s Note: Sharon McCartney’s poem “Katahdin” (below) has been selected by Carmine Starnino for inclusion in The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012. The series advisory editor is Molly Peacock.

Sharon McCartney is an old friend, one of the Fredericton, New Brunswick (the centre of the universe—let’s be clear), literati, also a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, also a prolific, prize-winning poet. These are poems about the body and transcendence, about the contradictions of love, about flying yet being buckled down—the normative tensions we all feel, in spades. Sharon is the author of For and Against (2010, Goose Lane Editions), The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2007, Nightwood Editions), Karenin Sings the Blues (2003, Goose Lane Editions) and Under the Abdominal Wall (1999, Anvil Press). In 2008, she received the Acorn/Plantos People’s Prize for poetry for The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s lovely to have her poems grace these pages. (Author Photo by Gabriel Jarman)

dg

Antiques Road Show, Kathadin & Other Poems By Sharon McCartney.

Antiques Roadshow, Katahdin & Other Poem

By Sharon McCartney

.

Giardia

The dog’s crushed mien, ears underslung, brow
low, as if he anticipates a cuffing, so mortified
by his unbidden inner turmoil, intestines bubbling.
He refuses his meat, corkscrews his torso, nose to ass,
as if to ask, Why? What does this mean? Or simply
to snap away the itching chigger of ignition. But
the root’s too deep, the inbound cysts redoubling
in subdermal subterfuge, his bowel’s womb warmth.
Poor sad thing. Empathy won’t cheer him, but I do
know how it feels, pain without meaning. Nowhere
to look but within. Whatever the cause, the impurity’s
source, he took it in, bad river water, morsel of carrion,
just as we all ingest delusion, denial, self-deceit,
the insalubrities that corrupt our gut and send us lurching,
chest-clutched, to the nausea of defeat, unmasked,
that demon in the mirror who points a digit and laughs.

.

Leg Press

Nearly prone, heels pushing ceilingward,
then ceding to gravity, to fear, knees descending
to sternum, a worthwhile grind in the hamstring.
The new pain is all self-inflicted, like gouging
a wound, a willingness to suffer and in that
extremity, transcendence, freeing oneself from
triviality. The bodybuilder says, pain is weakness
leaving the body. Each day a different muscle group,
yet always seeking symmetry, balance. He knows
it’s not what you lift, how many pounds, but how
you lift it, that the range of movement is what
quickens the muscle to consciousness. The bulge
of the quadricep surfacing like that awful awareness:
my love did not have to die, but I had to kill it.
.

Reverse Fly

Gravity’s the man beneath me, anchoring
me to the up-tilted bench, seductive, sweat-
beaded embrace that engages the rhomboid,
the rear delt. Not the weight, itself, but the force
that bestows weightiness, disheveled hombre
whose romantic fantasy feeds me, who would
drag me down if I did not resist, 17.5 lbs. in
each fist, straining back and away. Gravity’s
that urgency, the abyss of desire, divine madness
somewhere within that makes me not only gasp
for his illicit kiss in the dark, husk to husk, back
to wall, but also to beat him off, to disever.
Not the struggle, but the strength unearthed,
molten matter of nickel and iron inwardly spinning,
adamant and unrelenting, endless and unfathomable.
.

Katahdin

Why couldn’t I love him? He was all good morning
beautiful and you deserve to be spoiled, bringing me coffee
in bed, balancing the cups in that prissy way. Why couldn’t
I ignore that? His air of resignation, slumped behind the wheel,
always just under the speed limit, docile yes officer at the border.
Nothing on him to give those in authority what they want.
To my, this isn’t going anywhere, he said, well, I like what I see.
His respect for social order, corporations, the business section.
Not rights, but responsibilities. His regret for the years I spent
smoking dope. A whiz with engines, quadratics, but not overly
analytical. Something about beer, pizza and women, he said.
And mountains, escorting me to the top of Katahdin, a mile
high, on a lucent autumn day, a small Gore-Texed crowd
dazzled at the summit, taking in Chimney Pond, the knife
edge. But all I wanted to do was get back down.
.

First Flight in Five Years

No need for fear, nor hope, flight’s
timelessness coursing through me,
humming with the engine’s overture,
acceleration fueling euphoria as I dare
myself to look down, all of the paralytic
restrictions of the past, my anxiety of
incompleteness, grasping, as far away
now as the frost-heaved tarmac below,
wings tilting, banking, that wonky view
imparting a new perspective. Free of the
binary logic of groundedness, the be or
not be, pull and release. Yes, I’m buckled
in, book on my lap, as caged as the flock
of finches stowed, oddly, in the cramped
aft of this commuter aircraft, but I’m also
out there, aloft in the thin air, the updraft
of ambiguity, delimitation, giving in and
giving up and the transcendence of that,
birdsong, enginesong, dermis and hull,
indivisible as we ascend and turn.
.

Antiques Roadshow

But for his pearl buttons, he’s a dead-ringer
for my long-gone father, silver mop swept back,
comfortable paunch, blue hint of bemusement
in the iris. Arrives with an old Indian blanket
he’s slung over the back of a rocker forever.
Says it belonged to Kit Carson once. Dignified
in his discomposure, shifting on his toes.
He’s pleased to tell the story, his link to immortals,
but too proud to grasp. The appraiser’s apoplectic,
choking, his voice cracking, “Did you see my face?”
It’s a Ute “first phase” chief’s wearing blanket,
the purest form of Navajo weaving. Priceless
in its simplicity, yet the bidding would start
at half a million. More if the Carson link’s proven.
It’s like glimpsing my father crying in the garage
so many years ago to see this man’s unconcealed
confoundment. Overwhelmed, he confesses,
“There’s never been any wealth in the family.”
Now there is and all he can do is weep.
.

—Sharon McCartney

Jul 182011
 

Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons)

.

  Chatting with ET: Dialogue between The Actual and The Possible

By Lynne Quarmby

.

Yet, while science attempts to describe nature and to distinguish between dream and reality, it should not be forgotten that human beings probably call as much for dream as for reality.

— François Jacob, The Possible and The Actual, 1982

.

Ancient Greeks knew that unicorns were exotic animals observed in India. Even by 1600 it is unclear whether translators of the King James Version of the Bible were thinking of creatures real or allegorical when they wrote “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn” (Numbers 23:22).  Either way, while the translators were writing about unicorns, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for, among other transgressions, his belief in extraterrestrials.

In 1967, Roger Patterson filmed a female Sasquatch walking across a clearing in a northern California forest. The 16 mm footage remains the only evidence we have of this presumed intelligent and elusive ape, all other reports of sightings have proved to be hoaxes. Patterson toured Sasquatch country, from northern California to British Columbia, showing the film and telling his story. I was ten years old when my father and I sat in those folding chairs, believers.

.

YouTube Preview Image

.

The other day I called my father to ask him if he still believed in Sasquatch. “No,” he said. “I think if they were real we would have more evidence by now.” That is pretty much how I feel too, but we could be wrong.

The B.C. Scientific Cryptozoology Club lists 212 “cryptid” mammals – the Sasquatch is one of 36 putative primates. Club founder Paul LeBlond is a respected scientist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada – he was also one of my professors when I was an Oceanography student. Paul’s avocation is the search for scientific evidence of cryptids and when it comes to Sasquatch, he remains open to the possibility of their existence.

What of extraterrestrials? The soul-stirring wonder and awe of a clear, dark star-filled sky has fuelled the creation of a fantastic diversity of fictional extraterrestrials. Might there actually be something out there?  In the race to be real, one thing ET has over Sasquatch is more room to hide.

Beyond the vastness of space and the depth of our desire for company, there are growing scientific reasons to be optimistic about finding extraterrestrial life. Ongoing work on the emergence of life on Earth indicates that life may be a common phenomenon in our universe. Last month NASA announced unexpected observations of a potential new cradle of life in our solar system. Data from the Kepler space telescope has begun to arrive and as summer progresses we are discovering that our universe is littered with planets.  These are exciting times. Living generations may witness the discovery of extraterrestrial life – are we ready for that?

Continue reading »