Tag Archives: 2021

The Aftermath: July Porch Sale (July 31, 2021)

Most of the time, July in North Texas just drags on and on. The weather report is the same every day: “Hot and sunny.” The general response to outdoor events invokes the Ray Bradbury novella “Frost and Fire,” where everyone has eight days to live on a planet where staying to watch the full sunrise is an excellent way to die. The last weekend in July is usually especially severe, and smart people emulate Gila monsters and move deep into shelter until the yellow hurty thing in the sky goes down. Most of the time.

The last day of July kept up with tradition, and the afternoon and evening were torrid in anticipation of the brutal thunderstorms that passed through the area on August 1. That’s why everything started in the morning, with laudable results.

Sadly, no Porch Sale for the weekend of August 7: that’s the day of the big Nepenthes Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden by White Rock Lake. However, the indoor Porch Sales continue through August starting on August 14 (with a special evening event on August 21 to celebrate the gallery’s sixth anniversary), and the two-day Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5. August probably won’t drag, at least based on the weather forecast, and the Porch Sales will move back outside before you know it.

Have a Safe Weekend

In ongoing efforts to stir things up and make the gallery more accessible for those with odd work/life schedules, the next indoor Porch Sale is this Saturday (July 31), running from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm so we can all avoid the worst of the heat. After that, no Porch Sale next weekend: not only does the Triffid Ranch move to Curious Garden for a carnivorous plant workshop on August 7, but Caroline‘s birthday is the day before, and that needs some serious celebrating. If you want to join the festivities a week early, we’ll see you on Saturday.

Enclosures: “Gagak” (2021)

Nilwii Janss iw-Raan wasn’t a particularly dedicated student, but she knew rocks. Her hatchclub, his collective, and the greater alliance that protected the hatchclub and collective from scavenger onslaughts lay at the foot of some of the greatest mountains of her world, not that she or anybody else she knew had any idea of other mountains elsewhere. The foothills on which they lived was The World, with plenty of anecdote and myth to explain how they got there, and as far as the surrounding plains stretched, nobody she knew had ever traveled so far that the mountains were no longer visible on the horizon. The scavengers saw to that.

Among her hatchclub, the assemblage formed when multiple egg-clusters were gathered and hatched in the same place at the same time, Nilwii was the only one who knew rocks. Others hunted wild animals on the plains, others cared for other domesticated ones, and still others cared for the plants growing from the domesticated animals’ flanks. Those plants they knew for a fact were edible. Others could be, but depending upon where and when they grew, a previously perfectly safe batch of bluethorn could turn out to be poisonous or, worse, parasitic. Still others watched for wild animal herds and scavengers, and a few were particularly skilled at putting walls, animals, and people back together after the scavengers came to visit. Nilwii argued that “scavenger” was a poor word, because that implied that they were only interested in things that had fallen down instead of actively pushing them down. When she started this argument the rest of the hatchclub ignored her.

A few others in her assemblage knew rocks, and she learned everything she could from them. It wasn’t just the matter of knowing which rocks were best for cutting blades and which ones for fat lamps, but which portions and how to prepare them. Nilwii was already famed for rolling boulders of sharpstone into the middle of the collective’s huts, starting a fire around the boulders, pulling them out to cool, and then demonstrating how much better they fractured for delicate blades and tools. However, she kept experimenting, learning that some types of sharpstone turned brilliant colors when heated this way, and blades made from her stone were in demand all through the greater alliance. She was searching for boulders of just this sharpstone when she came across the Thumper for the first time.

She originally found it at the base of a landslide, where several huge boulders had formed a cave that protected it from the worst of the slide. Much of the slide had washed away from the boulders over time, leaving a hole atop that allowed the white sun to shine in from time to time. Because of that light, she not only noticed it while poking through the cave, but saw it glistening in a way she’d only seen once before, when a trader from the far side of the greater alliance gave her angular stones that could be mashed flat and bent. Those whitish lumps had the same sheen as this block, which itself reflected light back like ponds and streams under the sun.

Nilwii had four eyes, two for long-distance observation and two for closeup examination. She wiped her close eyes carefully to remove any speck of dust from their lens covers, and carefully sidled up to the thing protruding from the rock face. it was unlike any rock she had ever seen. She touched it, first with her manipulating nozzle and then with one of the claws that unfolded from her chest. Remarkably cool, with a polish also unlike any rock she had ever seen. She rapped a spot with a claw, four times, and heard it clank. Several of the shapes coming out of the slab were able to move, but as much and as far as she did, she got no response. She finally started to head back out of the little cave and promise to look further when the slab knocked. Four times.

Shocked and intrigued, Nilwii knocked again, three times, this time with a rock in her nozzle. She waited, and waited, and then the slab thumped back, three times, with the same space between knocks as she had made. Thus began an experiment: different series of knocks with the stone, faster and slower. After a time, it came back, but in a completely different order.

Thus began a regular semicommunication. After her hatchclub and collective responsibilities were finished for the waking period, she returned to the Thumper, trying to learn more. She tried a series of thumps followed by a scrape and then more thumps. They came back with the total number of thumps. She discovered that some attempts at abstracts on the Thumper space, such as using shell or plant stem, were perfectly audible at her end but were apparently unable to pass through the slab. Tapping some of the extensions produced different thump tones, and she rapidly assigned values to those tones: live, dead, light, dark, new, already existing. The Thumper gave comparable tones back. It wasn’t a conversation, but she learned that she could share large numbers by using multiple extension tones to set up longer multiples. After a time, she noted that whoever was working the Thumper tended to use a base of ten knocks and then use the extension tone to elongate it. Nilwii started assigning names to each of the end results, and within a week, she was able to send back the end sum of ten times ten times ten times ten.

It wasn’t enough.

While her people generally treated new things as novelties to be celebrated instead of harbingers to be feared, Nilwii still waited most of a hatchclub development cycle before sharing her Thumper knowledge with anybody else. She finally shared it with Muumtil, a hatchclub mate who kept a particularly open mind. Between the two of them, they managed to improve both on recordkeeping and on creating codes to get across more complex ideas. They rapidly discovered that they needed more help, and they oversaw a clutch of ten times three hatchclub mates, collective elders, and alliance specialists by the time the Thumper divulged a method to code-share its other user’s own language. The response, “Hello,” meant nothing as far as the assembled clutch was concerned, but it was the beginning of so much more.

Eventually, the mountains became a source for new building materials, “metals” as the code listed them, and with those metals came ways to drive off the scavengers. Every new major development changed everything, and by the time Nilwii and Muuumtil were elders, they barely recognized the small city that had been their little mountain enclave. They never met the person or people on the other side of the slab, even after removing the whole Thumper from the mountain and mounting it in a place of honor in the middle of the city. However, their descending hatchclubs would, eventually, even with half a universe between them. On that day, they finally got the chance to hear how “hello” was expressed by the concept’s creators, coming from their own communication organs. On that day, they not only met old friends, but discovered the perfect host organisms in which to raise the next generation of hatchclubs.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

The Aftermath: July Porch Sale (July 26, 2021)

Well, the inevitable finally happened: it got hot in North Texas. Don’t you dare laugh at me: two things get us through July in Dallas: the possibility that for the first time since the Pleistocene, we’ll get through a whole summer without a solid month of monotonous hot-‘n-sunny every day, and the opening of Spirit Halloween popup stores in long-dead strip mall spaces. (Well, for me, it’s the arrival of the first Spooky Town decorations at Michael’s stores, but you take your joy where you find it.) The fact that the heat finally hit at the end of July wasn’t unexpected, but we all enjoyed the delay for as long as we had it.

As to be expected this time of the year, this Porch Sale was more an opportunity of exploration, mostly to see either if enclosures could fit into a particular space or to see what options were available for outdoor plants. No big deal: that’s what we’re here for. I’m just glad that we didn’t NEED to be outside when the worst of the hot southern wind hit on Sunday afternoon, because that’s not fit weather for plants or people.

Anyway, as mentioned last week, we’re continuing to shake things up on the schedule, so the next Porch Sale is this coming Saturday (July 31) from 10 am to 3 pm Central Time, for those whose schedules preclude coming out on Sundays. After that, the Triffid Ranch moves to Curious Garden near White Rock Lake for a carnivorous plant workshop on August 7, so no Porch Sale that weekend. After that, we’re still working out the particulars, so keep checking back.

Awards season

Because the July heat set in, and because reasons going back to December 1991, I’m not saying that you HAVE to nominate the Triffid Ranch for the upcoming Dallas Morning News Best in DFW Awards. I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of categories in which the gallery would qualify. I’m certainly not asking anyone to vote as often as allowable under ballot rules. However, if you vote, you have until midnight on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 to get your nominations in. If you’re undecided, then feel free to come out to either of our two Porch Sales this week, either on Sunday, July 25 or on Saturday, July 31, both from 10 am to 3 pm, to look around. And thank you in advance.

Have a Safe Weekend

The event calendar is starting to fill up, starting this coming week: we’re opening up the gallery on Sunday, July 25 and Saturday, July 31, both from 10 am to 3 pm. Time to get back to it…

The Aftermath: July Porch Sale (July 17, 2021)

While not as hot as in previous summers (compared to 2011 or 1980, North Texas is almost chilly), the heat and humidity were oppressive enough to consider moving the traditional Porch Sale inside, so that’s what we did. We also shifted the schedule from Sunday morning to Saturday evening, giving opportunities for those having other obligations on Sunday to wander about and take everything in. It definitely worked: the gallery had an audience that would have been shocking during the Valley View days.

And that’s part of the discussion on plans for the near future: through August, just to stir things up, we’ve been contemplating alternating between Friday nights, Saturday mornings and nights, and Sunday mornings for Porch Sales, even when it’s cool enough to move the show outside again. We’re also contemplating inviting other vendors when the outdoor Porch Sales start again (probably in mid-September), but that’s a little ways off. Either way, things are getting busy all the way to the end of the year and beyond.

And on the subject of schedules, the Porch Sales continue through July, starting with Sunday, July 25 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and then again on Saturday, July 31, also from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. After that, the Porch Sales get delayed to make room for the Attack of the Carnivorous Plant Workshop at Curious Garden on August 7, and then we go back to it. As the schedule changes, you’ll know about it first.

Have a Safe Weekend

This weekend, the Porch Sales return, even if we’re moving them inside for the duration. This weekend, the gallery opens from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Saturday, July 17, and we’ll be open on July 25 and 31, too. After that, well, you’ll need to check back, won’t you?

State of the Gallery: July 2021

Six years ago this month, things changed drastically for the Triffid Ranch. That was when we signed the lease for what turned out to be the first gallery space, out at what was Valley View Center in North Dallas, and started to put together the first gallery. It took a while – nobody expects the effort necessary to get set up from scratch until they get started, which might help explain why so many art galleries shut down within their first year – but we went live two months later, and never looked back. Now, just over four years in our current location, things are busier that we ever could have predicted back in 2015, and the rest of the year is going to get even weirder.

To start, after years of only being able to squeeze one event per month due to day job schedules and learning curves on enclosure construction, we’re now at the point of having regular weekly events, which is about as much as anybody can handle. (Having the gallery open on a daily basis simply isn’t an option right now, both between day job demands and customer interest, but we have PLANS.) The Porch Sales that started last year have become so popular that we (that is, both the Triffid Ranch and Caroline Crawford Originals in the front) kept them going, and now they’re moving inside for the duration of the summer. Keep checking the schedule for all of the details, but through the rest of the month, based on customers asking for non-Sunday events due to work schedules, we’re alternating back and forth between Saturday and Sunday open houses. This culminates with the Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5: holding these on holiday weekends has been enough of a hit that they’re going to keep going through the rest of the year and beyond.

In slightly related news, thanks to a very considerate series of contributors, a brand new custom Nepenthes enclosure is going in at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney, and attendees at weekend events get to watch its construction in progress over the next few weeks before it debuts. It’s simultaneously a brand new construction challenge and a concept that’s been rattling around in my head for the last three decades, and it should surprise everyone once it’s complete.

And then we have the traveling lectures. After discussing this with owner Jason Cohen (and boy howdy, is he regretting not killing me when he had the chance when we first met 30 years ago this October), we’re going to try another run of the popular Carnivorous Plant Workshops at Curious Garden near White Rock Lake. The first will be a limited run on August 7 (contact Curious Garden about reservations), and then we’ll attempt more through the rest of the year, schedules and COVID-19 willing. Keep checking back for particulars. (This is in addition to the DFW Tap Talks lecture on August 20: that really will be on the gallery’s sixth anniversary and two weeks after Caroline’s birthday, so we have to plan something impressive.)

As for going on the road, things are tightening up for the upcoming Texas Frightmare Weekend on the weekend of September 10, and I didn’t realize how many people needed Frightmare this year until it came out over and over at the last Carnivorous Plant Weekend. Well, we’re going to be out there, along with several new enclosures debuting for the show (including one specifically intended to horrify planned guests Clive Barker and David Cronenberg, both of whom unfortunately had to cancel due to other issues), and a lot of Sarracenia starting to produce their fall pitchers. TFW has always run in the end of April/beginning of May for the last 12 years the Triffid Ranch has had a booth out there, so this should be intriguing.

Speaking of returns to old friends, the forms are filled out, the booth fees paid, and plans made for a return of the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays two-day weekend in Austin on November 20 and 21. Three trips to Austin in a single year: maybe it’s time to try setting up a show outside of Texas for the first time…um, before the Chicago Worldcon in September 2022, anyway.

And now the last bit of news, which was only confirmed today. People who remember my sad excuse for a literary career between 1989 and 2002 have reason to chuckle about my getting confirmation as a vendor at Armadillocon 43 in Austin: most use the term “Anton LaVey getting an invitation to the Pope’s bat mitzvah” when they aren’t laugh-crying about the hotel room. Well, it was a request by an old and dear friend planning to revitalize a longrunning literary convention getting everything in stride after its forced shutdown last year, and it’s also an opportunity to get back in touch with old friends in the science fiction literature community who lost touch after I quit pro writing. Yeah, and it’s also an excuse to show off plants and enclosures and talk everyone to death about carnivores, so it’s time to pull ALL of the stops. Best of all, this is scheduled for October 15 through 17, when Austin is at its most comfortable before the blue northers start blasting through in November, and I’ve desperately missed the days of October Armadillocons for precisely that reason. (Well, that, and a lot of people who couldn’t attend for business or health reasons when Armadillocon would run in the middle of August, the weekend before classes started at UT-Austin, now have an opportunity to come out for the first time in decades. We’re going to boogie ’til we puke.)

Have a Safe Weekend

No events this weekend: this weekend is dedicated toward essential work at the gallery, and that precludes opening it to the public. However, the rest of July and the beginning of August have plans, including a couple of surprises, and more as we nail down a schedule for August, September, and October.

Enclosures: “Agak” (2021)

“Okay, it’s like this. Someone is knocking.

“No, I don’t mean ‘standing on the other side and knocking. Well, maybe, but that depends upon how you define ‘the other side.’

“Okay, backtrack. We know it’s a mechanism of some sort. We’ve known that for years. The radio signals coming off it were how we picked it up, 5 light-years out. The problem is what kind of mechanism. X-rays, laser spectroscopes…the thing repels neutrinos. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was immune to gravitic wave resonation.

“That just means you don’t want to have your ear next to it the next time a black hole and neutron star collide with each other in the vicinity. You’ll probably have other concerns.

“As to what it does, we don’t know. We know that it absorbs energy from all across the spectrum. We used to think of it as a conduit to the core of the planet, but it’s not taking energy from the planet, and it isn’t adding to that energy, either. Right now, it’s quiet, but based on effects that it’s had on surrounding rock, it’s withdrawn a lot of energy from the vicinity. at least 5 times in the last 30,000 years. At least enough to freeze half the planet. At LEAST.

“I wish I knew where that energy is going. The radio waves it puts out don’t coincide with the energy it takes in. The weird part is that I don’t think that this signal is coming from it at all. The radio waves are, but the content in the signal is coming from somewhere else.

“That’s a good question, and if anyone ever comes up with an answer, buy them a beer. But I have a suspicion, and it’s a weird one. I think this thing is unique, all of them.

“Hey, you knew I was like this when you married me. What I mean is that this thing is absolutely unique, and so is the thing on the other side of whereever. They’re quantum entangled, so if something happens to one, it happens to them all. Of course, that means that if you try to destroy one, the others are entangled with it and they’re not being destroyed, so nothing happens to the one you’re shooting at.

“Well, that’s the weird part. If they’re quantum entangled, you could knock on one and the vibrations would pass through the others with no time delay. One of the survey team accidentally hit it with a vibration hammer, and we got a responding knock. About five minutes later.

“As I said, that’s the weird part. No matter how quickly we receive a response, it’s always five minutes, to the microsecond. We’ve taken into account the communication methods and possible language of the knocker. We call it ‘Dave,’ by the way. We know that Dave depends upon sleep or some other form of rest, because he’ll go quiet for hours, and based on when he starts and stops, we suspect that the world he’s on has a rotation period of a little over 23 hours. We know that he’s hearing air vibrations because the knocks won’t transmit if something is touching the face of the device, so you have to stop and listen to hear anything. We also know he’s dedicated. Dave makes an attempt to knock every day, at different times every day, but he’s not there all day. That means it’s just one Dave, and that Dave isn’t truly solitary, because he has to break away to do other things.

“Well, it’s like this. We’re trying some of the same things on both sides, like getting across mathematics. Dave is pretty good at basic math, by the way. It’s just that tapping out messages without a common language is just so slow. I mean, what good is Morse code if the only person hearing it has only spoken Japanese all their life? We’re trying to go for more complex codes, but I don’t think Dave has access to computers or anything like that. If he has any way to store information, it could be something like an Incan quipu, but he doesn’t have anything to translate, say, binary code into something he could understand.

“And that’s the problem. We’re going to stay here and keep going, because Dave is trying his best. We don’t know where in the universe he is, and we definitely don’t know when, but we’ll keep going until we stop getting knocks back.

“Of COURSE we’re recording everything. Wouldn’t you?”

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: $150US

Shirt Price: $125US

Enclosures: “Magma” (2021)

Strictly speaking, the classic definition of a Dyson sphere is “an artificial shell intended to capture all energy emitted by a star,” and of the known artificial worlds in our galaxy, most are intended just to capture energy. By the time a civilization becomes advanced enough that a Dyson sphere becomes a necessity, it is also advanced enough that it has ways to get around having to live on or in the structure so constructed. Of 87 Dyson spheres and 7 Alderson discs so far known, 70 of the Dyson spheres are the sole province of the AllEnders, who use that truly stunning amount of captured energy to maintain a pocket universe lovingly modified to their specifications and special needs. (60 stars are for the pocket universe maintenance, and ten for the equally mind-shaking amounts of energy needed just for wormholes to pass information between their universe and ours.) While theoretically a Dyson sphere has the potential for the interior surface area equal to roughly a billion Earths, without finicky and energy-hungry gravitic generation to keep people and fixtures with their feet in the right direction, setting up homesteads on the interior surface is problematic. Only two Dyson spheres known rotate to produce enough centrifugal force to simulate Earth-typical gravity, which means their atmospheres coalesce around the spheres’ equators and leave the rest of the spheres in low-gee or zero-gee vacuum. Only one produces an atmosphere safe for oxygen-breathing lifeforms (the other is a toxic smog of nitrogen compounds and methane, used as a reservoir for industry), and its maintenance is an example to the rest of the galaxy on maintaining their own atmospheres.

When creating an Earthlike biosphere within an artificial construct, it’s not enough to build a rock and soil substrate on which to grow plants and their analogues for oxygen production. The obvious issue with that substrate is that wind and precipitation break down rock and move soil, eventually leaving it all in the lowest portions of the sphere’s rotational area. The less obvious issue is that during erosion and deposition, sediments and solutions react with available oxygen, producing carbonates, silicates, and oxides. After enough time, without a way to break these down, any available oxygen finds itself bound within rocks and rust, and the atmosphere thins accordingly. On worlds with tectonic plate subduction or comparable processes, those rocks and rusts are shoved into the mantle of the planet, where they melt and outgas via volcanic outlets. On a world where the available rocks lie on a relatively thin layer of base construction material, those volcanic outlets could never form on their own, so they have to be created.

Dyson Sphere 10 was either abandoned approximately 2 million years ago or never inhabited by its builders in the first place, but it has a habitable zone roughly comparable in surface area to 2 million Earths. Instead of having rivers and oceans carved into the shell, the whole zone is a series of rock flows like glaciers, all gradually sliding via erosion and gravity toward the equator. There, self-repairing machinery gather and grind rock, soil, artifacts, and anything else sliding that far, transport the debris to the edges of the habitable zone, and melt it and extrude it into gigantic piles that repeat the process. The resultant gases are then gradually released into the atmosphere, keeping up a nitrogen/oxygen/carbon dioxide/water cycle that might require an addition of supplemental material to replace that lost into its star or through airlocks…in about 300 million years.

The gas vents and extruders themselves aren’t concealed or hidden in any way: apparently the sphere’s designers preferred to remind all as to the tremendous efforts made to make such a world as gentle as it is. Because of that, and the missing designers, the habitable zone is home to at least 30 sentient species, three of whom only known from this Dyson sphere. While the sphere’s rock reclamation system is nearly foolproof, it requires occasional maintenance, and the efforts by all 30 species to work together to do so is without compare within the known universe.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes ventricosa x hamata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $300

Shirt Price: $250

The Aftermath: July 2021 Carnivorous Plant Weekend

This time of the year, the weather in Texas can be wildly variable: it’s still possible to get rain, or we can fall right into a summer inferno that doesn’t relent until October. This time, July 4 weekend in Dallas coincided with some of the coolest and rainiest weather seen in decades, which definitely made the first July Carnivorous Plant Weekend all sorts of special. Of course, this means that we’ll be getting the same temperatures Portland and Seattle had last week, but here that’s expected.

With impending and expected heat, things may change with the Porch Sales compared to last year. All through 2020, the idea was to have SOMEthing open and outside to help relieve the monotony of quarantine: between masks and vaccines, it’s now safe enough to avoid the worst of July and August and move everything inside for the summer. We’ll probably go back to outdoor events in September and October when the air stops smelling of burning flint, but for right now, both plants and attendees probably appreciate access to air conditioning.

Another major change instigated by the Carnivorous Plant Weekend is that we’re going to try stirring up the schedule a bit. In 2020, Sunday was the default day of the week, mostly for the severe cabin fever cases, but now a lot of people can’t attend because they work Sundays. Hence, we’re still trying to nail down the whens and wherefores, but the idea is to alternate between Saturday and Sunday mornings for the rest of the year, only interrupted by outside events. (For instance, anyone coming by the gallery the weekend of September 10 is going to be horribly disappointed, because both people and plants will be set up at Texas Frightmare Weekend.) This way, since having the gallery open every day isn’t an option, most folks will have an opportunity on one day or the other.

As for next weekend, the secret words are “rest,” “recuperate,” and “restock, so look for us the weekend of July 17. Until then, keep your eye out for more enclosure debuts and backstories.

Have a Safe Weekend

With the extended weekend (at least in the States) comes a new ongoing Carnivorous Plant Weekend, starting from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Saturday, July 3 and continuing on July 4 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some creative destruction in the gallery.

Enclosures: “Nift” (2021)

Approximately 30 million Earth years ago, a vast civilization known today as the Catesby Hegemony dominated a significant portion of what is now called The Broken Galaxy, an irregular galaxy orbiting the edges of Andromeda. Getting its name because stellar movements within the cluster could not be explained by standard celestial mechanics, analysis of the current positions of stars within the cluster suggests that the stars within were held under a very tight control for millions of years, both in position and in star stability. For a period of approximately three million years, the cluster had no novas, no supernovae, no cepheid variables, and not so much as an unstable stellar interloper. Then something happened that ended that regime of stability, tearing stars large and small out of the cluster, causing some to collide and others to eject themselves from the cluster entirely. A few are still in the gulfs between galaxies and on their way to our galaxy, with the first arriving in approximately 40 million years, suggesting that the process that produced the Broken Galaxy also produced incredible gravitational stresses if it could fling systems at that velocity.

Aside from radio archaeology that mapped its outer extent and confirmed when the Broken Galaxy incident occurred, almost nothing was known about the Catesby Hegemony. The name was coined after one of its most dedicated students, the first to realize the exact extent and shape of the pre-incident cluster: to this day, nobody knows exactly what the people of this civilization called themselves. While geniuses at stellar manipulation, they apparently had no interest in spreading out further, and the incident that ripped the galaxy apart also removed every possible planet or construct upon which the residents had been living. Some archaeologists suggested searching for wandering exoplanets outside of the Broken Galaxy, and others managed to get the funding to search for them, but the few that met the criteria were blasted and stripped, with only radioisotope dating of the strata at the surface showing a connection to the Hegemony. And so the research ended.

That remained the case until after a breakthrough in a star within Andromeda itself. Around this unassuming yellow dwarf star on the rim of Andromeda orbited five worlds, all rocky. One had its own indigenous life, and as such held a successful research station, while the other four had strange incisions across their surface and deep into the planets’ bodies, like the foundations to unknown and unknowable mechanisms that ranged across their surfaces. The lifebearing one , Kocak III, seemed to be completely untouched, but this was before the discovery of the Obsidian Gel.

The Gel kept piling on mystery after mystery. It was composed of a material resembling obsidian, but that gave slightly under pressure and was otherwise unbreakable with any current technology. Inside its body appeared to be stars and galaxies suspended therein, with some moving slowly over months and years. Much was made about this being a possible starmap, until the most elaborate pattern recognition software ever developed found no connection between current stars and galaxies within 100 million light-years of Kocak III, nor with any time in the past or future for an estimated 5 billion years in either temporal direction. The breakthrough came with the xenoarchaeologist Madelyn Catesby, working on a completely unrelated issue before discovering that the Obsidian Gel emitted a very tight-beam microwave transmission from the center of its main face, apparently intended for machinery gone for millions of years. This led to decipherment of the tiny bits of information coming from the Gel, and discovering that the “stars” in the Gel were representations of data stored within. Only about 3 percent of the total information storage in the Gel has been retrieved and deciphered, but that should keep spare computer cycles throughout four galaxies busy for decades.

The connection between the Obsidian Gel and the Broken Galaxy revealed itself suddenly, upon discovering that the Gel was originally the processing center for a wildly complex and advanced net of dark matter wormholes and gravitic generators intended to keep the Broken Galaxy in its original pristine state. The Gel was just one of seven storage stations for the incredibly elaborate algorithms needed to keep the galaxy in position, with the other worlds containing gravitic generators , and the Gel’s storage gives hints as to the spectacle it must have been at its height.

As to what happened, whether by sabotage or incompetence, the Gel was being used on the side for ongoing equations intended to track bits of data and encrypt their whereabouts. This was used to lock down chunks of cultural detritus, the equivalent of cat videos and contemporary memes, and one day the computations on those equations overwhelmed the incoming buffers. Suddenly the algorithms were wiped out with storage for Catesbian knock-knock jokes, and a whole galaxy ate itself over the space of a year as the mechanisms maintaining a galactic stellar artwork were coopted for their versions of webcomics. Two years later, the Broken Galaxy lived up to its name, the whole of the Catesby Hegemony was completely stripped of life and mechanics, and all that was left was one storage device packed to the limits with convergently evolved versions of “I Can Has Cheezburger” and the occasional Goatse.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes x hookeriana (rafflesiana x ampullaria)

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $250

Shirt Price: $200

The Aftermath: June Porch Sale (June 27, 2021)

And now we hit the end of June, with the real summer heat still to come. Unlike last year, the outdoor events may have to come to an end for a while, or at least move inside, just because this summer could go in any number of directions, and “dangerous levels of heat by 3:00 pm” is usually at the top of the menu. That’s not to say that we’re stopping: it’s just to say that customer safety and gallery owner safety are very tight Venn diagrams.

If we needed a swan song and separation layer between “beginning of the year” and “end of the year” Porch Sales, June 27 summed it up. Thanks to unusual but not completely unheard-of rainy weather, the air was best described as “too thick to breathe, too thin to waterski on,” and getting close to optimal hot tub temperatures by the end of the day. That didn’t keep people from coming out to visit, but it definitely made the bicycle trip to the gallery that morning just a little less effortless.

It may have been hot and sticky for humans, but the plants seemed to love it. Compared to the usual Dallas blast furnace, a bit of Tallahassee crock pot was exactly what they needed. Right about now, the Sarracenia will slow down on growth and get ready for an explosion of new pitchers when things start cooling off in October, and that’s worth the wait.

Anyway, time to get back to the linen mines: the rest of the week is dedicated to getting everything ready for this weekend’s Carnivorous Plant Weekend event, starting on Saturday, July 3 from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm and continuing on Sunday, July 4 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. After that, the subsequent weekend is one for resting, recharging, and repotting, so keep an eye on the schedule for announcements on new events. And after THAT? Let’s just say that September, October, and November are already booked.

Have a Safe Weekend

Last weekend in June, and would you believe a chance of rain through Dallas all next week? Like anyone’s complaining. The last Porch Sale of the month runs Sunday, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and all of that is preparation for the Carnivorous Plant Weekend running July 3 and 4. (And for the record, this marks just over 2000 posts on this silly site over the last 10 years. Since nobody’s going to give me a cookie, I’m buying my own.)

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 5

Come into the story midway? Try starting at the beginning.

And in the end, the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo was over. Eight hours after the doors opened, the gigantic crowds finally trickled out, and all of the vendors took assessment of what we had left and what we had to replace before our next shows. I just looked at one neighbor and said “If I’d sold just a little bit more, I could leave the van and fly home.” Slight exaggeration, but it came close.

Obviously, everyone who came out was VERY happy. It wasn’t just a matter of people wanting to get out of the house: The Expos keep proving that not only is there a market for the macabre in Texas, but that audience keeps growing. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, Halloween really will be that day when we let the amateurs have their fun. As someone who took decades of grief over “why can’t you just be normal?”, vindication is sweet, especially when it’s shared with friends, cohorts, and fellow unindicted coconspirators.

With such a massive show, many thanks are in order. Obviously, the crew behind every Oddities & Curiosities Expo deserves accolades for pulling off such massive shows without so much as a hiccup, but the fellow vendors do as well. (A tip: go check out Nicole Pangas Ceramics not just because her work is fascinating, but because we Michigan kids stick together. Meanwhile, I’ll always plug The Curiositeer because you always take care of your little sister, even if neither of you share common DNA.) An additional plug for Green Mesquite BBQ on Barton Springs: I only survived breakdown on Saturday evening because I knew I had a few kilos of sausage and pork ribs waiting for me at the hotel once I was done. Most of all, thanks to everyone who came out, whether or not you bought anything, because your interesting and unexpected questions are why this whole shebeen goes on tour. Now to get back to work and finish restocking, I haven’t come back from a show with so little since Texas Frightmare Weekend 2018, and this was after just one day, not three. I don’t think any of us would have survived if the Expo had run on Sunday as well, although I’m willing to test that in Dallas next year.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 4

Come into the story midway? Try starting at the beginning.

Visitors to Texas in May and June might notice what appears to be snow accumulating in random spots, particularly in places near water. No, this is not snow, and natives and longtime residents will scream that fact with an underlying cosmic horror. THIS IS NOT SNOW. What you’re witnessing, as I personally experienced when stepping outside my hotel room for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin, is the reproductive cycle of what could qualify as the most typically Texan lifeform in existence, the cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides).

Most residents have a decided love-hate relationship with cottonwood trees, and take great pains to relate the “hate” part. P. deltoides is found all over Texas and New Mexico, usually concentrated around water in otherwise dry areas. They’ve found a second life as opportunists in urban and suburban areas, where their roots head straight for the nearest water, gumming up sewer and drainage lines. The trees themselves are very short-lived on average, and tend to drop large branches during storms, usually directly atop houses. The “fluff” transports seeds long distances, and after the seeds drop off in gardens and on the edges of ponds and streams, the fluff clogs air conditioner vents and car air filters. The fluff also sets off allergies and contact dermatitis among those sensitive to such things, and most summers are spent fighting horrendous itches that only get worse after a shower or swim. The wood is so lightweight that downed branches make poor firewood, and burning green cottonwood makes everything smell like cat urine and/or an anime convention. They choke out other trees, destroy sidewalks and driveways, and cut off light to gardens. Worst of all, they grow so rapidly that someone who accidentally lets one grow next to their house finds out the hard way exactly how expensive they are to remove, especially when grafted into a sewer line or (worse) septic tank.

And then there are the positives. Yes, cottonwoods are very short-lived, but in the process, they produce valuable habitat for everything from beetles to raccoons, through all stages of their life cycle. The seeds borne on the fluff are a valuable food source in summer for birds and ants, and many late-nesting birds use the fluff for nesting material. The trees provide shade without killing the grasses and bushes underneath, and usually come back from storm damage faster than introduced trees. They take in tremendous amounts of water, but through transpiration create microclimates for other organisms that otherwise couldn’t handle Texas summers. The wood that’s so terrible for firewood makes great habitat for everything living and growing around a decaying log, and ultimately breaks up Texas clay and chalk and produces increasingly rich soil in the end. The Spanish word for cottonwood is “alamo,” and many Texas cities started around missions and villages founded around the water sources that the cottonwoods revealed. (As palaeontologists are sick of repeating, the titanosaur Alamosaurus wasn’t named after THE Alamo, but after Ojo Alamo in New Mexico, which translates to “Cottonwood Spring.”) Yes, they’re cantankerous and annoying, but ultimately they do good, like so many of the humans here. I just wish the fluff wasn’t so ridiculously itchy.

To be continued

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 3

Come into the story midway? Try starting at the beginning.

There’s a lot of good things to be said about the general organization of the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows from an attendee’s POV, but most people don’t have a perspective from the vendor’s side. There’s a lot to be said about the professionalism and efficiency of the Oddities crew from setup to final breakdown, but they do one thing I’d love to see at other events, all over the place.

Complimentary cart service.

You see, Oddities & Curiosities vendors carry all sorts of interesting stuff. Besides the narcissistic jerkwad with the carnivorous plants at the Texas shows, you have everything from ceramics to vintage taxidermy, and not all of it is easy to move. Unless you came prepared with a cart, this is a major problem for a lot of customers, where they’d love to get something nice and hefty but don’t have any easy way to get it to their cars, and it’s way too heavy to carry. The vendors would love to help, but between surging crowds and only having one person to watch the booth, the only option is to arrange pickup after the room closes for the day. If that’s not an option, then the customer walks away from something they really want, the vendor watches a sale walk away, and nobody’s happy. This is especially bad at events such as reptile and amphibian shows, where the critters aren’t anywhere near as heavy as new cages and accessories. The world for a handcart and someone to hold open doors.

That’s where the Oddities & Curiosities crew particularly excels. As I watched, several members patrolled the aisles with handcarts and blankets, ready to move someone’s new purchase out front so it could be picked up and taken home with a minimum of aggravation. This was particularly pertinent to a neighbor at the Austin show, who had an absolutely beautiful hippopotamus skull for purchase but no way to break free to move it for a buyer. The Oddities crew was right on it, with everyone happy, and a crowd of interested passersby turning the trip to the front doors into an impromptu parade.

Because of the sheer glee of customers happy with their purchases, I’d like to see more of this at other shows. Speaking from experience, I’d like to see a cart rental service at ZestFest alone: you have no idea how much just “a few” barbecue sauce and salsa containers weigh until one arm is permanently longer than the other and you’re walking like a Japanese waltzing mouse for two hours after the show.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 2

Come into the story midway? Try starting at the beginning.

Even with longtime and native residents, there’s always something about Texas summers that brings out the desperate optimist. It won’t be that bad this time. June will be nice, and the real heat won’t hit until July. Oh, we’re going to get a break in August. No, really: we’ll finally start cooling off in November. You know, New Zealand, South Africa, and Antarctica are really nice this time of the year. My first summer here was during the Heat Wave of 1980, which set records only exceeded in 2011, so after that trauma, it’s hard not to engage in magical thinking and see all sorts of hints that yes, it won’t be that bad.

That magical thinking doubles when traveling between cities, as with the trek between Citadel and the Bullet Farm, erm, I mean, between Dallas and Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo on June 19. The trip always takes longer than predicted because the midway point runs through the town of Waco (contrary to popular perception, the town’s name is pronounced WAY-co), and any time gained from an otherwise clear highway the rest of the way is burned off from the perpetual hours-long traffic jam passing by Baylor College. Then there’s the fun of having a van full of live plants and glass, stuck in motionless traffic as the van’s thermometer keeps reminding you that the hoped-for cool temperatures for that Friday are turning back into pumpkins and mice. By the time the perpetual traffic jam in downtown Austin let up enough to allow traffic off the highway and into downtown proper, those “unseasonably cool temperatures” teased the previous Monday hit 106F (40C), and with maybe 15 minutes to unload the truck at the Palmer Event Center before they had to kick everyone out for the night. Ah, Waco. Is there anything you can’t do?

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 1

Come into the story midway? Try starting at the beginning.

Much is made about the perceived rivalry between Austin and Dallas, but both cities share one very important common trait: dust. Oh so much DUST. Most of the year, the southern wind that blows across the center of Texas from the Gulf of Mexico picks up untold tons of dust from the Austin area. It’s mostly carbonate rock dust, both from natural erosion of limestone and chalk deposits in Central Texas (there’s a reason why one of the major rock formations in the state is called “the Austin Chalk”) and from incessant construction, and it’s supplemented by passing over the cement kilns that make up the main tourist attraction for the town of Midlothian, which swears that the kilns no longer use toxic and/or low-level radioactive waste as fuel. It comes down in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and lingers like a hipster houseguest, working its way into eyes and throats, gumming up lubricated surfaces, and making Dyson vacuum cleaners and air filters work for their living. We get revenge, though: starting in October, the winds shift and start blasting out of the north, and all of that dust that accumulated on every surface all summer long blows right back to Austin. Enough remains, though, to remind us: when it finally gets cool enough in autumn to justify turning on heaters in Dallas, the accumulated eight months or so on heater coils burns off, and the whole city smells a little like Austin for a day or so.

All things considered, we could have worse things than dust. There’s the distinctive chemical plant fug of Manistee, Michigan, or the burned green bean aroma of the multitude of microbreweries in Portland, Oregon. We SAY this, and then we make road trips in either direction, get out of our vehicles, and spend the next six hours washing off, brushing off, or vacuuming off what was once Cretaceous seabed mixed with bits of dinosaur dung. Yeah, and it tastes like it, too.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021- Introduction

With the gradual reopening of venues and events closed for the last year, one of the bigger surprises has been the rebirth of the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. Completely unknown in Texas three years ago, the Expo set up shop in Dallas in March 2019, with a subsequent event in Austin in August, and took both places by storm. Specializing in the exotic and the macabre, it was a natural for a Triffid Ranch show, and both shows in 2019 were so successful that 2020 looked like an even bigger year. In fact, because of the Austin 2020 show being scheduled for June instead of August, the plan as of February 2020 was to do shows in Austin and Houston in June, and then take a big leap with the first-ever Triffid Ranch event outside of Texas, at the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities show at the end of August. Well, we know how 2020 turned out.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase, so do crowds wanting to get back out and do something, ANYTHING, far away from a computer screen. When the Oddities & Curiosities crew announced that they had worked out a post-COVID arrangement with the city of Austin and were reviving the show for June, there was no way I’d pass that up. Little did I know that a significant portion of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico felt the same way.

To be continued…

State of the Gallery: June 2021

And here’s where it gets interesting. Got a few minutes? Well, let’s compare notes.

To start off, as mentioned a little while back, May 2021 was the busiest month for the gallery since the Triffid Ranch first put down roots back in 2015. June already exceeded that, and we still have a week and change to go. It’s been a blowout month for commissions, the Porch Sales have been a hit, and now that outside shows are starting up again, things are getting intense. Last weekend’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Austin not only was the biggest one-day show since this little carnivorous plant gallery started up, but it was the first time nearly EVERYTHING sold at a show since the first trip to Texas Frightmare Weekend in 2009. As I joked with fellow Expo vendors in the same situation, a few more enclosures go home with people, and I’d be able to fly back.

Not that June is over: aside from appointments to schedule commissions, we still have the June 27 Porch Sale to consider, taking advantage of unusually (for North Texas in summer) cool and cloudy weather this coming weekend. I can also assure new and established customers that nearly everything you see will be new, because just about everything sold last weekend and it’s time to restock. After that, it’s a matter of getting ready for the July Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 (4:00 pm to 9:00 pm) and July 4 (10:00 am to 3:00 pm).

Not that everything is smooth: the Thursday evening Twitch installments will have to be delayed for a while in order to work out technical issues with the gallery’s Internet connection. (It’s the same situation at home, but here, I suspect that someone’s porn download habit exceeds everyone else’s total wireless consumption by about 5 to 1, especially in the early hours before dawn,) Once the wonderful folks at AT&T figure out why the wireless connection keeps cutting out every ten seconds during a stream, it’ll be back.

Another issue involves the Day Job, that which guarantees both regular income to keep the gallery going through lean times and job benefits. The schedule is up in the air at the moment, but trips to the East Coast might be necessary through July and August, directly affecting gallery events. Because of this, July and August might be a little quiet, but that should be rectified through the rest of the year, especially when things start cooling off.

As for outside events, the sixth anniversary of the gallery’s opening coincides with the revival of DFW Tap Talks, science lectures in a bar environment, and that first event features your humble gallery owner discussing “Insects: They’ve Got What Plants Crave!” at Rohr & Sons in Fort Worth. Naturally, as they expand events into Dallas, we’ll be trying those, too.

Otherwise, with things reopening again, it’s time to go back to old friends, which is why the Triffid Ranch returns once again to Austin for Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7, as if they could keep me away. Since two years have elapsed since the last one, expect a lot of new surprises, and not just because of the improved venue.

And one last bit. I can’t talk about particulars just yet because it hasn’t been hammered down yet, but something big, on a personal level, is coming up in October. Let’s just say that it involves a road trip from 30 years ago, an opportunity to meet old friends and annoy old aggravations, and introduce a whole new crew to the joys of carnivorous plants. Let’s also say that when I got the offer, the last time I used the phrase “I feel like Anton LaVey getting an invitation to the Pope’s bat mitzvah,” this was during my writing days when I received a critic’s preview invitation to see Star Wars: Episode One in 1999. When I can talk about it further, people who knew me back then will boogie ‘til they puke, and those who only know me as a gentle purveyor of carnivorous plants will get to see a whole new world. Details will follow.

Well, enough of that. Time to get get back to editing the photos from the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, of which there are SO MANY. Talk to you soon.

Have a Safe Weekend

By the time you read this, the Triffid Ranch will be decamped and moved to Austin, in order to set up for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Palmer Convention Center in downtown Austin. If you don’t already have tickets, get them now, because the Oddities crew won’t have them available at the door. Otherwise, this will be the only trip outside of Dallas until November 21, when it’s time to haul everything back to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays 7 show. Either way, no Porch Sale this weekend, because I’ll be dealing with the horrors of Interstate Highway 35 on a Sunday right when the Porch Sales normally happen. If I don’t see you in Austin this Saturday, I’ll definitely see you at the next Porch Sale on June 27.

Enclosures: “Memewar” (2021)

Do you remember?

Do you?

Do you really remember what happened, or are you remembering what IT wants you to remember?

No, I’m not being difficult. It’s just that when IT isn’t on, it’s still hard to tell the difference. Memory’s like that. It’s already so easy to make false memories all on your own, but when they’re pumped in…well. You know.

Do you remember your real name? Not the name of the guy in the new Lexus in the ad that’s broadcast at 7:30. Yeah, you know what time it’s on, even if you’re unconscious. Can you imagine being in a coma right now, someplace that still has power for life support, and still having Lexus and microwave popcorn and erectile dysfunction drug ads pumped through your skull? Maybe it would be better if you weren’t. In a place with power. IT turns on right when you’re fixing a generator or splicing a cable, and for the next six hours, you’re caught up in a fully sponsored Friends reunion. The sponsors are all dead, and so is the cast, but nobody’s told IT that, so IT keeps going. The people that designed IT wanted to make sure IT couldn’t be turned off, so IT has a perfect power grid and backup solar arrays spread over an entire continent and emergency defense memes that make anybody trying to damage IT puke for the next hour. And then the memes implant a need to buy Pepto-Bismol.

When everything was ready to turn on, they kept saying that about five percent of the population wouldn’t be able to pick up memes. There was something wrong with our heads. That’s why, when IT turned on accidentally at 500 percent power, we could still move when everyone else just lay there. My wife just laid there, eyes closed, Rapid Eye Movement going full tilt. You’d have thought she was just dreaming, until you couldn’t get her to drink because she had no swallow reflex. Five days later, we were the only ones left, getting blasted with reminders at 3 am that Chili’s was open late until midnight and that baby back ribs were a perfect way to satisfy those late-night cravings. Oh, there were plenty of baby back ribs lying around for a few days, if you didn’t get hit with an advertorial while you were trying to cook. After two weeks, you didn’t feel like eating.

So here’s the plan. We know where IT is located. IT can’t be reached by ground, but IT’s vulnerable from the air. We managed to get a small private jet up and working again, and even found enough fuel for one run. We know you were enough of a pilot to get it in the air and get it to IT, then you bail out and let the plane do the rest. We have a two-hour gap: it’s mostly light toilet paper ads, but you have to be out of the plane and in the ground before IT starts broadcasting Christmas specials. The Zingers ads are intense.

No, we’re not going to let you die. Aim and bail. You’ve got a parachute, and if everything works and IT stops, we can come get you. All you need to do is…

Wait. You’re not a pilot.

You just play one on TV.

GREAT.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x30.48 cm)

Plants: Heliamphora x minor

Construction: Plastic fixtures, polystyrene foam, resin, epoxy putty, found items.

Price: $175US

Shirt Price: $150US

Enclosures: “Timeheist” (2021)

(Backstory dedicated to Mark Finn.)

Time paradoxes come in two flavors: perceptive and blatant. Perceptive paradoxes, the most common, involve changes to a particular timestream that affect the perceptions of the participants therein. Most attempts by temporal marauders to modify or arrest their future change it to the point where they go along with the flow, with maybe a small nagging intuition that things should be different. Blatant paradoxes are ones that practically revel in their impossibility: incredibly rare, they become noted because of their obviousness. The Excelsus Heist wasn’t just a matter of rubbing the entire timestream’s nose in the resultant mess: it was so carefully planned that one chronicle of the situation described it as “befouling a punchbowl with the total contents of the Augean Stables, horses included, mixed with metallic sodium and a Twenty-second Century depth charge on top.”

The paradox started with Dr. Gideon Marsh, xenoarchaeologist attached to a survey of the J0240 star system comprised of a white dwarf and red giant referred to as a “cataclysmic variable.” Based on initial studies of the remnant of a planetary body on the edge of the system’s gravity well, Marsh determined that J0240 had at least seen an established interstellar civilization before the system started violently blasting mass from the red giant out into space, and that said civilization left at least one major archive on that world before either migrating or dying. He further located the archive, codenamed “Excelsus,” and started excavations before the next catastrophic incident. Within days, his team cleared debris and lava from the front of a gigantic alloy door, and the team planned an opening event to be broadcast via light and gravitic wave across the galaxy. By all indications, the door hadn’t been opened in just a little less than one billion years, and based on the door design and hints in the surrounding structural remnants in the surrounding area, anything inside would be unique among sentients living or dead.

At least, that was the idea. When Marsh personally disengaged the niobium clamps and swung the doorway open, the viewdrones captured….nothing. Well, nothing but a series of printouts on aluminum plates of the fantastic discoveries Marsh had made on that day, as well as listings of Marsh’s honoraria for his work on understanding those fantastic discoveries, and a sidenote of his having stolen credit from a research assistant involving his greatest and most famous interpretation. Other than those, Excelsus was stripped clean, with not so much as a spare dust particle on the floors.

As Dr. Marsh looked over what would have been his supreme moment, the rest of the galaxy saw the simultaneous release of thousands of pieces of alien technology, all seemingly from the Excelsus dig, even including field notes from team members who most assuredly had never seen the items in question. One last clue came from one very deliberately left fingerprint in the middle of the item the description of which Marsh allegedly plagiarized. DNA analysis suggested a match both with the field assistant, Sarah Myers, and a jumpship navigator named Robin Elyard. As part of the final investigation of Excelsus, all evidence pointed to the heist being organized by a daughter of Myers and Elyard, a fact corroborated by video of the individual sales and donations of the Excelsus contents. The problem was that Myers was 24 at that time, had no children, and had no contact with Elyard. Elyard was even more confusing, as his jumpship had disintegrated with all hands almost exactly three years before.

By the time the final investigation was complete, all evidence pointed to the Myers/Elyard daughter organizing what to this date qualifies as the greatest bank heist in history. The vault was cleared out shortly after it was sealed, one billion years before the organizer was born, and filled with news printouts intended to endure through that time. Better, those printouts dated to some 30 years after the Excelsus opening, from at least two newsfeeds that did not exist at that time. The galaxy was then flooded with advanced alien tech, requiring at least five years of organization to get it all in place, and either sold or given away to interests directly in conflict with Dr. Marsh. By the time he died, bitter and broken, Marsh was an intergalactic punchline, especially when he realized that he met his tormentor once, when he was five. Other than these, the mysterious person involved had left no trace, and apparently evaporated in the aftermath of the massive paradox. To this date, no other preemptive robbery anywhere within this corner of the universe had been noticed or chronicled, but several researchers involved with study of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti are said to be extremely nervous.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “St. Gaya”

Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Commission

Shirt Price: Commission

The Aftermath: June Porch Sale (June 13, 2021)

An ongoing joke for anyone living in Texas for more than a year involves the utter shock among other residents about the arrival of summer in the state. Mid-June to July, by the time outside temperatures reach blood temperatures, there’s always someone shrieking “But-but-but it’s not supposed to get THIS hot so early!” It’s not just the longtimers laughing in their faces, having seen that magical period of nearing 100 degrees F/37.77 degrees C land anywhere between the end of May and the middle of July. The newbies laugh even harder: they learned the hard way that no matter how prepared they thought they were for summer, there’s a big difference between preparing for it and experiencing it.

(The reality was that for all of the other nightmares in 2020, last summer wasn’t all that bad. Yes, we got hot in July and August, but it wasn’t a repeat of 1980 or 2011, and North Texas isn’t in drought yet. With the torrential rains of the first half of June, some of us were hoping for a repeat of 2007 or 1982, with the rains continuing to wash through. What 2021 brings, I have no idea, but I’ll just be happy for a lack of catastrophic storms and tornadoes as in 2019.)

Regardless of the scheduling, the June 13 Porch Sale coincided with the hottest day of 2021 so far, and it’s not going to get cooler for a while. We have one more Porch Sale scheduled for June 27 on the normal hours, but after the beginning of July, either they’re getting moved to much earlier in the day or they’re moving inside. I may be bicycling to and from the gallery, but not everyone is as acclimated to the ongoing heat.

The bad news for this coming Sunday: no Porch Sale, if only because the Triffid Ranch hits the road for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo on June 19. However, it’s coming back on June 27 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, followed by another two-day Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 and 4. And now to get everything packed up for Austin.

Have a Safe Weekend

It’s going to be a busy weekend: Saturday is dedicated to heading west to Cross Plains for Robert Howard Days to see an old friend while there’s the chance, and then Sunday is all about this weekend’s Porch Sale. After that, it’s time for a road trip to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Convention Center. I’ve heard about this thing called “sleep,” and I really hope it doesn’t catch on.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #26

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Installment #26: “Correlation and Causation Sitting In A Tree”

Most people salivate in anticipation of the traditional November/December holiday season, and others for the beginning of their favorite sportsball season. Out here at the Triffid Ranch, the year really only gets going in May. In Texas, we’re absolutely past the last chance of needing a jacket or winter coat, the worst of the early spring allergens have already blown on the south wind to Nebraska, and every other plant in the area is already waking up and blooming. We still have wildflowers, or at least until the heat really kicks in around Memorial Day, and the days are long enough that all of those essential activities that require daylight have a chance to get done. At night, it’s all about running around under clear skies with the windows down, as well as spotting the occasional bat or silk moth. Yes, the summer heat will start getting oppressive soon, but not now, and there’s so much to do before the heat drives us all inside.

This May, though, is full of anniversaries. The month of May is always full of anniversaries (high school graduation, divorce, quitting pro writing), but these are big milestones. In fact, most of these are the anniversaries that led to the Triffid Ranch happening in the first place. For example, 45 years ago this month, the whole journey started when my father accepted a position with the long-defunct company General Foods as a packaging engineer, which required a move from Michigan to upstate New York. Ten years later, the balance scale between staying in Wisconsin for a second horrendous winter and moving back to Texas after nine months away was dependent upon someone who is still very important to me, and her decision led to packing up everything that could be shoved into a Greyhound bus and spending the next 28 hours on the road. Ten years after THAT, right on the edge of the dotcom boom, the option was between staying in an increasingly hidebound and threadbare Dallas and packing a now-ex-wife, three cats, a savannah monitor, and a grapefruit tree into a rental truck for a high-speed blast to Portland, Oregon for a new job and new life. (While I loathed Portland at that time and escaped 18 months later, that was a fateful trip, as it allowed me to see my first carnivorous plants, the famed cobra plant Darlingtonia, up close. Five years later, that would be a catalyst to events that changed the rest of my life.)

A lot of anniversaries involved stresses that were particularly rough at the time, but turned out to be classic adventures in bullet-dodging. 30 years ago, I was called into my supervisor’s cube at Texas Instruments and informed that I was being laid off: the immediate financial and social stresses were ones that scarred for years, but I also escaped just before Texas Instruments sold its entire Defense Electronics Group division and shut down everything I’d been doing for the previous four years, and five years before the company’s CEO was scheduled to testify before Congress as to why the missile system on which I spent 60-hour weeks a year before didn’t work as advertised. Ten years later, the same thing happened with a contract position with Southwest Airlines, just before 9/11 crippled the entire US airline industry.

On a carnivorous plant level, this year is my lucky 13: for several years, I had been a booth babe for manga artist Lea Seidman at a Free Comic Book Day outdoor event in Dallas called CAPE, and started bringing various carnivores to let people know what I was doing in lieu of writing for science fiction magazines. That culminated with the CAPE organizers offering a table space to show and sell carnivores, and the Texas Triffid Ranch went from abstract to concrete. To this day, that’s why I refer comics enthusiasts to Zeus Comics, because their starting and running CAPE started a debt I cannot hope to repay. 

And so it goes to the present day. Looking back on those anniversaries is like looking back on a trail of shed snakeskins: if any had been left anywhere else, there’s no guarantee that the final output would have been anywhere near the same. It’s been a strange trip, and some of those snakeskins had more of an effect on me than on the people responsible for helping to peel them off, as it should be.

Other News

With the previous discussion of anniversaries, it’s necessary to mention the recent death of Michael G. Adkisson, the editor of the science fiction zine New Pathways from 1986 to 1992. The only thing that could be said is that if not for Adkisson and magazine editors and publishers just like him, I’d currently be a mediocre science fiction movie critic right now. And so it goes.

Shameless Plugs

It’s a matter of time before it’s safe enough to open the gallery to vaccinated individuals (probably following in the tradition of the great Dallas goth club Panoptikon on admission being dependent on an official vaccination record), so it’ll be time to bring out food and drink. Let me introduce you to The Homicidal Homemaker, with lots of possibilities perfect for Triffid Ranch events for the rest of the year. And oh yes, I have ideas far beyond making more prickly pear sorbet.

Recommended Reading

Two books coming across the desk at the same time that directly apply to future plans at the gallery, but you’d never think it. The first is The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe, and the second is Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils by David Farrier. If you keep checking back on future enclosures, you’ll understand why.

Music

Another one of the advantages to the current overload on streaming music services is coming across people that never, EVER would have shown up on Dallas radio, and probably never will. Add Danielle Dax to the list: there’s always more room in the rotating music list when working in the gallery.

Enclosures: “Miss Tempest” (2021)

In tribute to Carolyn Sherwin Bailey.

Miss Tempest wasn’t the only inhabitant of the little corner garden in that little corner house, but she was definitely the longest. Miss Carolyn, the owner of that little corner house, knew that the little alcove in the back between the side door and the garage wouldn’t work as a full garden, so she decorated it with all sorts of surprises found and purchased. Miss Tempest arrived one day after Miss Carolyn found her at a crafts show, where she joined the assemblage of repurposed toys and curios who watched over the side door. She went in the back between the Barbie Triplets and the Bauble Witch, part of an ongoing and growing entourage regularly updated as previous inhabitants succumbed to the elements or walked off with interlopers both human and animal. Miss Carolyn didn’t mind: particularly after seeing a neighbor child playing with one of the Barbie Triplets, completely enthralled, she kept the space well-stocked for just such visits.

Miss Tempest understood that her name was an in-joke, as Miss Carolyn always chuckled about it as she walked by on errands or to tidy up the back yard space. She may have been half teacup, but otherwise she had nothing in common with her name: she was perfectly happy observing the world from an alcove underneath the house’s roof. Plants came and went over the years, and she paid them little notice, as there were always new plants. New denizens came and went, what with the crows drawn to pulling off the mirrored decorations of the Bauble Witch until she was a wire skeleton. The only thing that really caught her attention was the sky, and while the other garden denizens dozed and dreamed at night, Miss Tempest stared up at the stars she could see, keeping track as their positions changed across the seasons. She was so dedicated that she didn’t notice that Miss Carolyn’s regular visits became more sporadic, then stopped, the weeds in the garden grew to tremendous heights, and that her compatriots weren’t replaced or repaired any more.

One day, though, she noticed. That came when strangers came barrelling through the side door and came around the side yard with wheelbarrows and tools, dismantling a garden shed just out of range of Miss Tempest’s vision. The strangers only avoided squashing the garden flat because of its location, and if she could, Miss Tempest would have moved closer to the house. The Bauble Witch was squashed flat by one inattentive stranger, and a more attentive one picked through the garden denizens, looking for a while at Miss Tempest before deciding to leave her there. Behind her, she heard other strangers rustling and banging through the house, but try as she could, she didn’t hear anything from Miss Carolyn.

Finally, the activity slowed, with one woman looking over the garden while talking about “closing on the house as-is.” By this point, the garden was nearly unrecognizable. Most of the garden denizens were crushed, cracked, or taken, and all but Miss Tempest buried by a stranger dumping out an old aquarium full of soil in the space. Every night that she would have spent staring at the stars, she instead asked herself the same thing over and over: “What happens next?”

“Next” was a matter of perspective. She stayed underneath the overhang, protected from rain and snow, and about once a week, yet another stranger came by the side door to mow in the back. She could hear him mowing in front, and occasionally she could hear others gathering in the front or occasionally inside, talking about “necessary renovations” and “no next of kin.” After a time, she went back to staring back at the stars, the one thing that made sense any more.

That lasted until after the winter was over. By this time, the pile of soil before her had flattened and settled from autumn and winter rains, with bits of debris that used to be her neighbors peeking out in places. Then over the space of a few days, something else peeked out, and Miss Tempest beheld a plant unlike anything else she’d ever seen before. It was so strange, so different, that she did something she’d never done in her time in the garden. She tried to speak.

“Um…hello?”

The plant answered back. who.

“Nobody has ever asked me that. I’m called ‘Miss Tempest.'”

hello.

“Do you have a name?”

no.

sleep.

long time.

“Do you know how long?”

no.

“Well, we’re not going anywhere. Are you all right?”

yes.

still waking up.

when rain?

“That’s a good question. I never paid attention before now.”

rain good. thirsty.

Later that evening, it started to rain. The plant sighed and settled in. At that moment, Miss Tempest didn’t know what the future entailed, or if either of them had a future, but for the first time in her existence, she looked forward to sharing it with someone. They had time.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)

Plant: Cephalotus follicularis “Elizabeth

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.

Price: Commission

Shirt Price: Commission

The Aftermath: June Porch Sale (June 6, 2021)

As opposed to Memorial Day Weekend, this last weekend was best described as “moist.” Nearly daily rain was capped on Sunday morning with a tremendous downpour impressive even by Dallas standards, leaving us invoking New Orleans or Tallahassee instead. Flash flood warnings and airport weather advisories finally receded later on Sunday morning, leaving the city with a barely moving humid atmosphere best described as “too thick to breathe, too thin to waterski on.” Between this and an ever-fluctuating chance of further thunderstorms throughout the day, the decision was to move inside.

As it turned out, things were slow, but more than compensated with grand conversation and intriguing discussion. Between recovery from last weekend and the oppressive atmosphere, most Dallas folks were staying home, not that anybody could blame them. That said, thanks to everyone who came out: as always, opening up the gallery is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

And so it continues: the gallery opens again next Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and then the Triffid Ranch hits the road, heading to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Palmer Convention Center in downtown. With luck, the trip will be much less eventful than the wall-to-wall traffic jam along I-35 during the 2019 Expo, and I’m looking forward to seeing longtimers and new folks then. See you then.

Have a Safe Weekend

The Sunday Porch Sales continue with a slight time change: starting June 6, we’re open on Sundays from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with everything moving inside if the rains on Sunday are as bad as currently predicted. We’ll see what happens.

The Aftermath: Memorial Day Carnivorous Plant Weekend 2021

It’s been nearly six years since the Triffid Ranch first opened in the old Valley View Center location, and in that time, we’ve never had the opportunity to have a full weekend show. Most of this is due to the day job schedule, and part of it was due to having the room and time to work on enclosures and general maintenance or conduct shows, but not both. Between regular practice with Porch Sales over the last year, though, as well as having several new enclosures to debut, made for a perfect opportunity to try a two-day event. And so Carnivorous Plant Weekend was born.

Oh, there were the rough starts: one whole enclosure backdrop ruined by too much sun and heat (yet another reason why painting and finishing are best done at night through the North Texas summer), and having plenty of time to finish cleanup and organizing until there wasn’t. That said, though, a great time was had by all, and spreading things out for two days meant that a lot of people who couldn’t make the Sunday Porch Sales now had an opportunity to wander around. As it should be.

As always, many thanks to everyone who came out, and I hope we didn’t disappoint. For those who couldn’t, the Porch Sales return nearly every Sunday in June (the only exception is June 20, because I’ll be driving back from the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo on June 19), and then we’re going to try another Carnivorous Plant Weekend on July 3 and 4, details to follow. My, it’s busy around here this year, isn’t it?

Enclosures: “Verdigris” (2021)

Contrary to popular opinion, the Nogha energy conduits are not the only known examples of attempts to tap or shunt energy between our universe and others. In the Yannazzo system (287663/Blue/NNYTXSW), recent exploration of the fourth rocky world of that system uncovered an otherwise completely unencountered example of an energy conduit, with energy leakage leading to a 100-kilometer area supporting a breathable atmosphere and optimal temperatures for Earthlike life forms. On a world otherwise averaging temperatures more inclined for frozen methane, this is surprising enough. Odder, though, is that this new energy conduit seems to be collecting residual energy from an otherwise dead or dying universe, with the likelihood of Yannazzo IV freezing solid within another 1000 Earth years unless the energy conduit can be shifted to another access point. The likelihood of discovering how within the time the planet has left depends upon popular sentiment and political will, and considering that this is just another mystery in a galaxy overloaded with them, the research base set up to understand how this conduit works is always prepared to pack up and leave at any time.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes “Rebecca Soper”

Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: Commission

Shirt Price: Commission

Have a Safe Weekend

Okay, so the weather report for Saturday keeps getting worse, with thunderstorms over the entire afternoon: the Triffid Ranch tent can handle rain, but not hail and certainly not the possibility of tornadoes, so the planned Frightmare Collectibles cameo regretfully has to be cancelled. At least next weekend’s Carnivorous Plant Weekend is indoors, eh?

State of the Gallery: May 2021

As it’s been since first moving here 41 years ago, the only certainty about May in Texas is that no two Mays will ever be alike. Oh, they’ll rhyme: May 2021 is an ongoing series of torrential thunderstorms and impending tornadoes like 1982 and 2007, with the likelihood of regular deluges all the way to August. At least, that’s the unspoken hope, because a hot, lush, and sticky summer in Dallas is preferable when the sticky is from humidity and not molten metal adhering to every surface. We’ll see what June and July bring to the table, but the odds of rhyming with the heatwaves of 1980 and 2011 fade with every storm between now and August 1.

At the gallery, the vibe is similar. May 2021 has been the biggest month in the gallery’s history, with a truly spectacular number of enclosures going out the door, and we still have two shows to go. For those who missed out on the May 1 outdoor event at Frightmare Collectibles in Justin, May 22 is the makeup date, starting at 11:00 am and running until everyone decides to go home. The weekend after that, though, will be the first two-day open house in gallery history, opening on Saturday, May 29 from 4:00 to 9:00 pm and then again on Sunday, May 30 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. And after that, we rest for a bit.

After Memorial Day weekend, it’s back to Porch Sales at the gallery, at least until June 19. That’s when the Triffid Ranch hits the road and heads to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo. After that, things honestly depend upon available events: one way or another, we’re finishing off the summer with the return of Texas Frightmare Weekend on the weekend of September 10.

And one last note: with schedules rolling and shifting all over the place, one show had to be jettisoned. Originally, the plan was to go to Dallas Market Hall for Aquashella Dallas, but after two cancellations, the only time available for two dear friends’ wedding was on Halloween weekend, and they have to take precedence. Besides, how often do you get to be best man at your best friend’s wedding?

And on that note, time to get back to work: between commissions and new pieces, it’s time to go to town on new enclosures. Keep an eye out for new enclosures and new backstories: this is going to be a busy summer.

The Aftermath: Mother’s Day 2021 Porch Sale

As is pretty much the case for North Texas in May, the weather forecast was dire. Saturday was an afternoon and evening of winds high even for Dallas, with airport warnings blaring every 15 minutes. Saturday evening, the prediction for Sunday was even worse: “thunderstorms, torrential rains, up to baseball-sized hail, and a chance of Tom Cruise and/or Ted Cruz climbing into your bedroom and staring at you in the dark all night while whistling the theme to Dark Shadows.” For those planning any kind of event outside on Sunday, things looked grim.

As is also the wont of North Texas in May, a massive north front hit the Dallas area around 1:00 in the afternoon…and broke to pieces. That is, bystanders literally watched as this front of gloom and woe evaporated before our eyes. The only change from before to after was a delicious drop in temperature, with some of the best Mother’s Day weather in decades. It was perfect weather for getting out, and everybody got out while the getting was good.

Sadly, because of an explosion in commission requests, there won’t be a Porch Sale in May 17, but that’s mitigated by another Frightmare Collectibles event in Justin on Saturday, May 22 to make up for the weather cancellation on May 1. That in turn is followed by our first-ever two-day open house on Memorial Day Weekend. If you can’t make one, you have two others. And now you know.

Have a Safe Weekend

No kids and Caroline has a show this weekend, so festivities consist of a Mother’s Day Porch Sale on May 9 from 10 am to 4 pm. See you there.

“A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.”

Along with everything else that’s going on, it’s time to note that this little WordPress word salad turns a full decade old on Sunday, May 9. As with a lot of other things in my distant past, had anyone told me in 2011 what things with the Triffid Ranch were going to be like in 2021, efforts to check that person’s sanity, preferably with an oil dipstick, would have been necessary. Thanks to everyone who stuck with this little road trip for all these years, and fond memories of those who fell off, for various reasons, since that start. Now let’s make plans for 2031, starting with arranging for more events this month.

International Carnivorous Plant Day

Well, it’s finally here. International Carnivorous Plant Day runs all day on May 5, and expect to see Triffid Ranch exclusives later in the evening. With a holiday like this, who needs birthdays?

Have a Safe Weekend

Another friendly reminder: because of impending incredibly foul weather (and in Texas, “foul weather is usually a synonym for “hail and tornadoes”), this weekend’s Triffid Ranch event at Frightmare Collectibles was cancelled early this morning. We’re awaiting word as to when Frightmare Collectibles wants to try again (and ever notice that tornadoes only blow you to Oz and not Melnibone or Nehwon?), but until then, there’s always the Mother’s Day Porch Sale on May 9. See you then.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #25

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Installment #25: “Chicago: City of the Future!”

Originally published April 1, 2021

Last year, the plan for the Triffid Ranch was to start moving outside of the Dallas area. Shows in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio were a given, but the original idea was to expand to the first show outside of Texas with a debut at the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo last August.. Explanations as to why might be needed…for someone whose TARDIS broke down in mid-Devonian Greenland, and the wait for rescue was just long enough that getting up to speed in the present was too much aggravation. (And don’t worry: my grandmother is fine. She even rescued her favorite umbrella.) Suffice to say, with early plans to restart shows and events in 2021, a lot of events were kicked to autumn, and so many had no option but to schedule themselves on the very same weekend as others. (For instance, as much as I would love to show plants at the Deep Ellum Arts Fest, after finally making it through the backup list, this year’s Arts Fest runs the same exact weekend as Texas Frightmare Weekend, and Frightmare obviously takes precedence.) Combine that with a new day job to keep the plants in light and food, and that 2020 schedule looks a little threadbare.

Not to worry, though. The big out-of-state event was just upgraded. The Triffid Ranch is going to Chicago!

Very technically, it’s “going back to Chicago”: I lived in the suburb of Hazel Crest for a year, from the end of 1978 to 1979, where a lot of interesting stuff happened. John Gacy, filming of The Blues Brothers, the Blizzard of 1979, and the moment when two local film critics by the names of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel took their discussions on movies and movie trends to PBS. On a very personal level, this was when I personally encountered my first carnivorous plant: a Venus flytrap purchased in a local garden center. (As I relate at shows and events, it was doing great in Chicago, and then my family moved to Flower Mound, Texas at the end of 1979. The first time I watered that flytrap with Flower Mound tap water, the plant died within an hour, and I didn’t discover why for another 23 years.) Other than passing through in 1982 on the way to Michigan, and one transfer through O’Hare Airport in 1999, the opportunity to return hasn’t been available since then.

As for the event, it’s Chicon, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, being held the weekend of September 1-5. Right now, everything other than the actual trip is tentative: I’ve volunteered for programming and for art show presentations, and current logistics involve figuring out how to move a truck full of carnivorous plant enclosures closer to the 45th Parallel than I’ve traveled in at least a decade. And yes, someone has already made the joke about the 300-pound Sontaran attorney.

One of the bigger reasons why this is so intriguing isn’t just to meet Chicago online friends in meatspace for the first time, and inflict silent vomiting in a few attendees assuming that I’m returning to pro genre writing. (As I tell my parents when they nag about moving “back” to Wisconsin, a place I left 35 years ago in May, I’ll return the moment the Dallas Cowboys win a shutout World Series pennant, and not a second earlier.) It’s also because of several cohorts who pointed out that the IGC Show, the country’s largest independent garden center show and convention, runs roughly at the same time. With news that the IGC Show might not have a 2021 event due to Illinois COVID-19 lockdowns, this leads to all sorts of mischief, er, plots, um, ideas. Yeah, IDEAS.

The reality is that both the concept of Worldcon and the IGC Show could use a boost, particularly to attract new audiences. Right now, both tend to skew toward the older side of the US demographic bell curve: I’ll be 56 when Chicon starts, and I’ll probably still be in the bottom 10 percentile of attendees sorted by age. (Thankfully, it won’t compare to the San Antonio Worldcon in 2013: for multiple reasons, I skipped out on being a vendor at San Antonio, and one of the most prominent was “If I wanted to waste a perfectly good birthday weekend listening to a herd of seventysomething xenophobes cry impotently about how the world changed without their written permission, I’d go to a family reunion.”) They both tend to be rather insular, with a lot of attendees worrying about the way things should be instead of what their customers really want. So why not merge them?

Hear me out. Anybody going through a publisher catalog, especially from science fiction publishers such as Baen and Tor, notices that science fiction needs a lot more biology, a lot more flowers, and a lot more exposure to interesting symbiotic and paraparasitic relationships. Anyone going through a garden center catalog notices that garden centers really need a lot more in the way of mysterious and surreal sculpture and topiary. A joint literary science fiction/garden center convention is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of pop culture: these two need each other more than they realize. Just look at these talking points:

Dealer’s Rooms. Worldcon not only needs a much wider variety of items for sale in its dealer’s room, but items that convince the longtimers to leave the bar for a while. The IGC needs items for sale and order for those desperately sick and tired of the twee in garden ornamentation. Roses, Tillandsia, carnivores, fluorescent minerals. Swords, dragons, robots, and wrecked starships. Plan things right, and edge out the book dealers who just sit in the corner and grump at anybody wanting a book published after 1970, and dealers on both sides would make a killing.

Music. The IGC Show is famed for its regular free rock concerts for all attendees, usually from acts who last hit major radio airplay back in the days of Reagan and Thatcher. Half of rock music of the last half-century has at least some influence from genre themes. DragonCon in Atlanta already has a reputation of (a) running on the same weekend as Worldcon and (b) hosting big concerts for attendees, so this is a perfect opportunity to amp things up slightly and get the longtimers out of the bar. I recommend a headliner of GWAR.

Cooking. Not only does Chicago offer some of the best cuisine in North America, but the IGC Show has lots of panels and demos involving new and existing vegetables and herbs. Worldcon attendees, though, have a reputation of being perfectly happy with $15 overcooked hot dogs from the convention hotel restaurant. Hot peppers, rosemary skewers, mesquite wood, wonderful cooking scents from the food tents out in the parking lot and inside the hotel, and something something out of the bar. 

Costuming. Okay, so the costumes at the IGC Show are accidental. Worldcon, though, has a reputation for attendees creating their own costumes that goes back all the way to the beginning of science fiction fandom. Lots of cross-pollination, pun intended, here: Triffids, Delvians, vargas, Krynoids, Vervoids, Vegetons, Pink Bunkadoos, Violet Carson roses, and Slaver Sunflowers, and who knows what attendees will think up after coming across hammer orchids, triggerplants, and cycads. And let’s face it: every garden center show could use at least a few Freeman Lowell and Dr. Pamela Isley cosplayers, just to make things interesting.

Okay, we have 17 months to make this happen, or die trying. And if it doesn’t happen in Chicago, it might have to be done, to a suitable scale, in Dallas. Heh heh heh.

Other News

Since all of the plants that survived February’s freeze are starting to emerge, it’s time to start up spring video presentations, particularly as the sundews, flytraps, and pitcher plants start blooming. Naturally, teachers, museums, or anybody with an audience of interested bystanders looking for something different are welcome to send an email to discuss setting up a unique virtual experience. (Now is also a great time for print, online, television, and/or radio interviews, too, because things might get a bit more exciting as the growing season gets going.)

Shameless Plugs
 
Well, the old computer had reached its planned end-of-life shortly after I received it, and that was a decade ago, so a new computer was called for, because there’s a lot that can’t be done with an iPad after all. Among many other things, this gave the opportunity to purchase the whole of the Affinity professional creative suite, Among other things, this gives the opportunity to start working on PDF zines on carnivore care, and some of the publishing options are going to be dangerous. Watch this space.

Recommended Reading
 
Regular readers already know about my love of wasps, and the book Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect by Eric R. Eaton. Besides being loaded with interesting wasp information, this book is one of a dying breed: a book that starts at a level of “almost no knowledge about the subject in the reader’s mind” without being patronizing or childish. If anything, the section on wasp fossils and relationships is worth buying it alone, because the illustrations and photos are absolutely top-notch.

Music

In the ongoing quest for both work music in the gallery and tunes for the bike ride to the gallery, the band T3rr0r 3rr0r kept turning up, much to the distress of anyone hearing it seep out from headphones. No matter: more for me. This is the soundtrack the 1990s were supposed to have, back before everything turned into dotcoms and whiner rock.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale #25 is copyright 2021 by Paul Riddell, and may be reproduced in its entirety and forwarded at will. The Texas Triffid Ranch is Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, located in scenic Richardson, Texas, and is open by appointment. More information is available at www.texastriffidranch.com. Since nobody else read this far, the key for the device can be found on page 44 of the book Didn