Random bits of weirdness for the week of May 22, 2018


“Trapped underground in the Svalbard Seed Vault, Mavin Cedarstrom is rescued by a band of strange women dressed in furs.  The Peregrine scout Simone Kita was sent to recover seeds from the top of the world and bring them south to the floating gardens of Kashphera.”

Much as we try (and frequently fail) to be clever with craziness in this space, sometimes it’s best just to let others’ words speak for themselves. Such is the case with the new self-published book “River’s Child” by Mark Daniel Seiler, featuring the plot summary quoted above. The rest of the pitch, via Amazon: “Conjuring myth and magic, this fun, action-packed novel is a delight. ‘River’s Child’ is a wild ride into an ancient future. Fasten your seat belt as our spirited heroes ride icebergs from the frozen north, battle wild men, and fall in love while they race to prevent world war.” It’s just one more entry in the endless range of zany fiction and non-fiction books, movies, video games, etc. about the Doomsday Vault, but it is touted as winning or being a finalist for a half-dozen literary awards we’re not familiar with. Plus it has a 4.8 star rating (out of five) from five Amazon Reviews Who Can’t Possibly Be Shills Even Though They All Sound Alike. Of course, there’s always a risk locals who have Actual Knowledge about Svalbard and the vault might weigh in and judging by this free preview of the first chapter (titled “Longyearbyen Village, Spitsbergen”), it might lose a bit of star power. The opening scene features a Native American enduring the usual racial insults from drunk Russians and describes a place called the Five Bells “the fisherman’s pub at the harbor. The island’s only ambulance was parked permanently across the pier. Bloody brawls were common.” Still, while locals might slam such narratives as absurd as the overall plot, people elsewhere might be impressed and outsider could so quickly discover and expose the seedier side of our existence here…


Turn to the dark side: It seems Hell is Longyearbyen during the summer of the midnight sun. Photo courtesy of Cathy Bird.

Switching to factual freakiness, you might think there’s a bright outlook ahead since we’re in the early stages of the nearly four-month-long polar summer. But a London author and religious leader says we should be embracing the divinity of darkness as inspired by Svalbard, which is apparently “a place where no matter how long you stay, your eyes will never adjust to the light.” Catherine Bird, a superintendent of the Methodist Church in a region of London, makes her three trips to the the archipelago in recent years a focus of her new book “The Divine Heart of Darkness,” “the imagination apparently freed as a result of a lack of optical stimulation.” She did have an enlightening moment outside Svalbard Church when a local pointed out a “strong strand of light” in the dark sky – but probably not the one the host was hoping for. “‘Look,’ I was told with some degree of vigor, ‘the light is always stronger than the darkness,'” Bird writes in her book. “After the day’s events I reflect somewhat differently. Not that the light is stronger than the darkness, but rather, that light needs darkness to live – we cannot see light for what it is without the dark. Yet darkness can live alone, without light, as the fundamental state of things from which creation sprang.” We won’t speculate on whether the souls of her congregants are glowing after a sermon, but she might not be the best pick to light up your next party…

Finally, returning to the always-reliable Doomsday Vault (at least when it comes to material for these rants), it’s on yet another of those survivalist listicles, in this case headlined “Secluded places on the planet where you can survive the ‘end of the world.'” Ranking up there with places like Illoqqortoormiut in Greenland and Pyongyang in North Korea (apparently the metro tunnels are nuke proof, even if you might have to resort to cannibalism for food) the entry for the vault states (bad grammar and all) “if in the case of the End of the world, most plant life on Earth will be swept away, you will probably want to move in the Svalbard global seed vault on the Spitsbergen island or as it is called Svalbard, in the Arctic ocean. In the end, it’s selenoprecise was built for the protection of planting material of plants in the event of a global catastrophe. May have to start with plants that grow in the Svalbard to have something to eat in the short term. And although not everyone can withstand such harsh climate, the Islands are much warmer than other regions at the same latitude due to the North Atlantic current.” Normally we don’t let such bad writing go unedited, but we’re intrigued by the name of publication – The Mice Times of Asia – and the very real possibility that if infinite monkeys can at some finite time replicate Shakespeare, it’s possibly this demonstrates a lot fewer mice in a much shorter time can replicate what passes for journalism these days.