Cat Berserkers, UFOs, and Zombies in Venice

I’ve been particularly busy these past few weeks, revising an alternate history novel I’m working on, finishing two contracted stories, and toiling away at something that for the moment I’ll call Project Valhalla (I’m not trying to vaguebook here, so I promise to reveal more very soon.)

Amid this frenzy, I had to bring my cat Cyrus for a medical check-up, and I’m forced to wonder: Does anyone else have cats that go berserk at vet appointments?

I’m not saying that Cyrus gets troublesome when he needs to see the veterinarian. Rather, he undergoes a prehistoric transformation in temperament. Hissing, growling, spitting, and spastically fighting with the staff like a sabertooth on speed. It’s actually embarrassing, and more than a little intimidating for all involved. Do cats grow out of this? Do they eventually find their Zen… or at least a grudging acceptance? Because this is borderline shapeshifting, from his usual status as affectionate kitten to snarling lunatic worthy of the Nemean Lion. I honestly think I could sell a recording of the sounds he makes to a Hollywood studio.

And once home? He’s his usual affectionate, cuddly self, as if the earlier display of Pleistocene mania never happened.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

When he was asleep on my lap, I decided to check the news, because nothing lifts the human spirit like checking the news. It seems that UFOs are once again the talk of the town… despite the fact that this latest “whistleblower” testimony (from Major David Grusch) is almost certainly one big nothingburger.

We’ve all seen this movie before. Someone claims there are flying saucers at Area 51, and alien bodies in Hangar 18 (cue the Megadeth riff).  Yet as with the 1948 Roswell Edition of this story, there’s never any hard evidence brought forward; rather, we get blurry photos and boisterous grandstanding. Without a scientific examination of hard data, this is a recycled fairy tale. To underscore this point, Grusch isn’t even saying that he’s seen UFOs or aliens; rather, he knows a guy.

“But the Pentagon has admitted they don’t know what this photo shows!” So? Jumping from a blurry pic to “it’s aliens!” is the same leap in logic it’s always been. It would be the same as seeing a dark photo on your camera roll, and declaring it was taken inside the stomach of a dragon. Hell, Marjorie Taylor Greene claimed the Pentagon photos were showing angels, which is exactly as credible as the “hot rods of the gods” interpretation.

Every single time this subject comes up, someone says, “We can’t be the only intelligent creatures in the universe”. But that’s a separate debate. It’s one thing to posit that aliens exist somewhere in the cosmos. It’s quite another to claim they’ve crossed interstellar distances to come to Earth right at the time we exist… and through sheer amazing coincidence, they happen to be humanoid, too! It’s this latter point that rarely gets talked about, because it’s fairly damning. Life on Earth includes everything from the octopus to the slime mold; to assume that extraterrestrial evolution would produce a species resembling our physiology is beyond absurd.

Issues like this have been getting under my skin lately, because it’s a microcosm of a larger cultural problem: our tribal fetish for believing things, as opposed to engaging in rational discussion of data. A fellow sci-fi writer and I were recently talking about the persistence of cyberpunk as a subgenre, and why this is the case; I remarked that cyberpunk’s nihilistic vision seems on the mark, whereas other notions (say, Clarke’s spacefaring futures, or Asimov’s uber-logical societies) have fallen by the wayside. From Flat Eartherism to astrology, conspiracy theories to homeopathy, there’s a renewed cultural backslide that doesn’t bode well. I suspect the continued popularity of zombie fiction is a subconscious acknowledgement of this ugly truth, too. It certainly is the dark star that my own fiction revolves around.

Speaking of fiction and zombies, the cover for the upcoming anthology United We Stand has been released (this is the latest installment of John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series, which includes a story by yours truly):

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