Saturday, December 19, 2009

Taking a break from Phylogenetics.

     I had to read something a little less painful, so I picked up a new Philip K. Dick novel I purchased from Amazon. The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike was written in 1960, right before he wrote the Hugo award winning novel The Man in the High Castle. Here's a scan of the most uncomfortable and odd-looking cover art:

     This is a realist novel, capturing the actual life of a small town in 1960 California. It was never published while Dick was alive; no one would buy it. The first printing was in 1984 and that one is very expensive. I was only able to read this book because of the reprinting, in 2009.
     Just because this book is not science fiction doesn't mean you're going to walk away without something interesting to chew on. On page 136 he writes:

     "It's always that way. The guilty party never pays. It's the innocent. That's the real meaning of Christianity."

     Besides reading that excellent and very strange book I also saw Avatar. The most interesting thing about watching James Cameron's Avatar was the imagery it provoked in my mind. Normally my mind wanders when I watch movies because they are not good enough; I have to supplant the images with those from my own imagination. I had to do no such thing while watching Avatar - the imagery is on par with what one imagines while reading a first rate science fiction novel. Notably, the impressive use of bioluminescence brought to mind the following novel:

     The movie Avatar looked exactly like what I had imagined while reading that book, many years ago. Although the locations were different as Avatar took place in a forested environment and The Hero of Downways took place underground, the imagery is remarkably similar.
     The main idea in Avatar, that is, of transplanting a human into an alien environment by changing the species of the human into that of an alien is not new. Clifford D. Simak wrote about that in City and Timothy Zahn wrote about it in Manta's Gift.
     Most disturbingly, I must now resume my studies of Phylogenetic Systematics. Perhaps I will benefit from it, perhaps not. Either way, I feel it is something I must understand (I don't know why).

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