Every time I see this, I get excited all over. Because? If a wooly rhino can be frozen in a frozen place for 39,000 years, then . . . so could a Denosivan. I mean, maybe a Neanderthal too, but Denosivans were in the more tundra-ey places, so I think they’re the better bet.

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This is some cool stuff. And, I can see it being used as kind-of support for what I keep hearing: that we sapiens-types evolved not in a single push from heidelbergensis or so, but in both Africa and Asia from erectus. Just, as with these spiders, we ended up so much the same that we then mingled up and became what we are today. Really? I do think we found ourselves in Asia when we came up out of Africa, but I kind of doubt we’d evolved to be that similar—though, yes, with primates, if two lineages share a common ancestor  within the last couple million years, they can mate and produce fertile offspring. So, I mean, yeah, Peking Man, Java Man, they were of course there. And it’s kind of hard to argue they weren’t somewhere in the mix that’s now us. Just, they’re maybe a step before the Denisovans, I’m thinking (which are now, like Neanderthals, in us, as we’re very Borg: we assimilate).

Anyway, it’s all wonderfully confusing and endlessly fun to argue. And, I only really meant to be pasting this in, as it’s super, super cool:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/hawaii-stick-spider-evolution-predictability/555149/ 

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Not talking about the Jeremy Robert Johnson story, although it’s one of my favorites of his, but the kind of endurance running we hominids used to use (used to use more) to run down prey. I mean, of course we did that—it’s what my “Chapter Six” story argues. Also, I’ve read accounts that, in the Great Plains, long before Kevin Costner got there, it was kind of a Sunday sport for white guys (I specify because in the accounts I know, it’s only ever white guys doing this) to find a wolf, put on some old-timey running shoes, and take off after that wolf. Trick is, that wolf’ll always stay just ahead of the runner, and after a while it just dies. This always struck me as half made-up, since we all see the helicopter footage of wolves bounding through snow for half a day after an eventually foundering elk. And they’re not dying then, are they?

But, finally, I think this is the explanation of that. I mean, this TEDx talk below, it’s really about “exercise is good, it’s how we evolved,” all that—which, again: yeah—but long about eight minutes in, he gets to talking about the trot/gallop transition speed of all these animals we used to run down. All these animals which were and are so much faster than us But? Trick is, they don’t turn on all their burners when we pop up from behind a bush and start giving chase. They just stay ahead of us, at a gallop, which, as it turns out, is a super inefficient way to cross great distances. But we’re making them cross those great distances, and inefficiently. So of course they collapse. We, being efficient runners, and not galloping but actually going closer to the best speed we can maintain, are working hard, sure, but we’re working efficiently. Our cool sweat-system is happening, our bipedal locomotion is happening, our lungs are happening, our ears are balancing us, we’ve maybe got ostrich eggs of water planted all around here to drink from, and we’re probably plugged into some good chase music besides.

We last longer at close to our high speed than a horse, say, does at its easy looking gallop. Or, in the Great Plains, we never outpace that wolf, but the wolf does lay over and die after an afternoon of this kind of so-called sport.

Very cool. I had no idea.

Here’s the talk, if you’re interested:

Also, this puts me in mind of an article I read, man, probably nearly thirty years ago, now. In a hunting magazine; I used to read every hunting magazine on the shelf (also? I’d read them from the shelf, since who can buy that many magazines). This feature was on these two brothers up in Maine, who carried just little .30/06 carbines. Effective, sure—lots of knockdown, which you need for those big deer up there—but strictly close-range (at least by our spoiled 20th c. standards). Why they could carry a short-range rifle, though, it was their style of hunting. Apparently, they would dress light, even though it was bitter cold, and then they would walk through the trees until they saw a set of tracks they liked (depth, width—they liked the big bucks). And, instead of setting up a blind or staking out a trail or sitting or any of that, they would simply take off running, after those tracks.

This would never work in Texas, say, because tracking a deer at a run through the tree requires snow. So: Maine.

And then they’d just keep running all day. Soon enough the deer would figure out some flannel monster was on its trail, so it, like that wolf, would steadily keep ahead. And then keep ahead some more. And some more.

By the end of the day, the brothers would come upon this wore-down deer just standing there, waiting for them to line up a shot on it.

Persistence hunting, it’s not just something the anthropologists get to study. It’s something still in use—or, as of a generation ago, in use.

Yeah, that big whitetail could bolt so far ahead of those brothers. But a whitetail won’t. A mule deer will, sure. They don’t look back. But you can do this kind of hunting on a white tail, if you’ve got the stamina. Pretty sure you could also do it to a rabbit—cottontails and whitetails are practically the same animal—except that rabbit’ll duck into a hole, first chance.

Anyway, this is pretty cool to me. Now I’ll be thinking a few days, about how this trot/gallop transition changes everything I know.

Exciting days ahead.

 

 

 

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Back when The Fast Red Road wasn’t called that—this is late 1997, early 1998—the way I intended to write it was as a series of long answering machine messages left in this one guy’s trailer while he’s off gallivanting around with a carnival or something (he’s got pet jackals—this is the kind cool stuff you think of, first novel out, that you then don’t get to use until, say, you write a novel about a bunnyheaded zombie coyote/smuggler/father). The guy on the answering machine was supposed to be this guy named Golius, a thinly-veiled Vizenor character, monologging on and on about, you guessed it: hominids. Each message was going to be a different theory about why our primate selves finally stood up. And these messages were going to matter so, so much to Golius, like, they’re the tether just barely keeping him attached to the surface of the planet. They’re not so important to the guy listening. To the guy standing there deleting them.

Fast-forward twenty years and twenty-plus books, and I’m finally starting to publish about hominids, some. There’s “Chapter Six,” from Tor.com:

And now I’ve got a couple from more recent—one today, one a couple months ago.

The first is in a journal that was always one of my targets in grad school, one of my dream places, my somedays. Denver Quarterly. Story’s not online, and it would be kind of rude for me to scan it in—it’s only three pages—but, here’s the first paragraph, anyway, from which you can maybe get the tone or slant or voice or angle of approach & delivery:

My second hominid piece of 2017 is in a relatively new place, but with a name that’s so much older: Uncanny Magazine. They have a good aesthetic, good editing and copyediting, good people—are just generally a solid publication all around. My story out with them as of today is ramping out of the Rising Star fun, that, when I first started hearing about it, so changed my world, and continues to every day, every single thing I read about it.

My story? It’s called, you know: “Rising Star” (tagalong interview).I don’t have the scientific tools or training to explain how those bones got where they got, no. Right now, nobody does. But I can dig in with fiction. It’s the sharpest thing I got.

And, yes, it can’t be too long now until I just sit down and write a novel about all this. I mean, Almost Adam and Neanderthal and The Neanderthal Parallax and Darwin’s Radio proved the audience has a hankering for this kind of stuff. Where it all starts for me, though? With these two books:

And, that Asimov-one, that’s where it start-starts, for me. Lucked into that book when . . . I don’t know, I feel like I was about twelve? It was one of my two bibles (my other: Strange Stories, Amazing Facts). I carried it around for years, even gave it to my mom when I was sixteen, insisting she read it, and then stole it back from her a couple months later. I don’t have that original copy anymore, either. I gave it to Joe Lansdale, who’s the only other writer—only other person—I’ve found as into Neanderthals and hominids and evolution and all this as I am, in my pop-science way. But, of course, I eBayed another—that’s the one I’m holding up there (as for why I gave my prized copy away? that’s what you’re supposed to do, with your favorite things. far as I know, anyway).

Also, I started actually and finally (and scarily) writing my big anthropological thriller three or four years ago, but dove out a hundred or hundred-and-fifty pages in, as I’d somehow forgot to build an antagonist into the story. For me, it was enough just to get talk hominids. Conflict? I didn’t need any stinking conflict. Just more hominids, please. And then also some more after that. But I’m regrouping. I’m going to do this right, just wait and see.

Until the next big bone cache turns up,

 

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is the author of 22 or 23 books, 250+ stories, and all this stuff here. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and has a few broken-down old trucks, one PhD, and way too many boots

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