A lone gunman walked into Los Angeles Airport last Friday and began shooting. Less than five minutes later, my cab pulled up. What happened next is in my piece at The Awl, which you can read here.
Yesterday I had a piece in the Sunday New York Post about how I fell away from my belief in Bigfoot. The Post’s web version doesn’t include all the hyperlinks I gathered that lead to more discussion of Sasquatch, however, so I thought I’d reproduce my original draft here on the site:
Bigfoot exists, and we’ve got his DNA. At least, that was the claim of a group of researchers led by a vet from Texas, Dr. Melba Ketchum, at a press conference on Oct. 1. She says analysis of DNA samples proves that Bigfoot is the product of interbreeding between humans and some other, unknown primate species. (Yes, that means someone would literally be able to say, “I had Bigfoot’s baby.”)
When I was 13, I would have been overjoyed at this news. I would have taken it as the long-needed proof that a hairy ape-man actually does leave giant footprints all over the United States.
I grew up in Idaho, supposedly prime Bigfoot country, and I was a hard-core Sasquatch believer. It didn’t matter to me that actual, lifelong outdoorsmen like my grandfather thought it was utter crap, or that all I ever saw on my Boy Scout camp-outs were rain clouds and partially raw hot dogs. Bigfoot was proof that there was more to my home state than limited horizons and abundant potatoes. I would argue — passionately, with many people who did not care — that there was too much evidence for these mystery creatures to ignore.
That made me a lifetime ticket-holder to the cryptozoo, the shadowy realm where Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Mothman lurk. My library is still filled with Charles Fort and John A. Keel and Loren Coleman.
My public evangelism for Bigfoot cooled when I started dating, but even a few years ago, I would have said I held out hope for Sasquatch to be revealed.
Today, there are more people than ever who agree. The Olympia Brewing Company has a standing offer of $1 million dollar for anyone who can capture Bigfoot. (You are not allowed to shoot, stab, or even net the creature. You can, however, lure him into your car with cookies.) Olympia is also helping to fund The Falcon Project, which will use a flying drone to search for Bigfoot from the skies. This is in addition to the thousands of plaster casts of footprints. And the dozens — possibly hundreds — of murky photos and video and film clips. There’s alleged Bigfoot hair and poop. There are multiple TV shows that trek into the backwoods with ‘Squatch hunters who yodel out Bigfoot calls in the night.
Sadly, I’m not on the team anymore. Despite all these people looking for him, none of the evidence has improved much since I was in junior high.
Abominable Science! Origins of The Yeti, Nessie, And Other Famous Cryptids, a recently released book by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, sums up all the reasons to be skeptical of Bigfoot better than I ever could. It goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend, and dismantles it brick-by-brick.
Loxton and Prothero reveal that many footprints and plaster casts of Bigfoot are admitted or proven fakes — and that there’s no way to tell which ones are “real” and which are not, even by the self-proclaimed experts. Bigfoot poop and hair? From other, known animals.
Most important, no one has ever produced a corpse of a dead Bigfoot. Or even a single fossil, not even of a toe bone, which, the authors point out, should be present if the creatures have lived in North America as long as humans. In 2008, two guys claimed to have a dead Bigfoot in a freezer. It turned out to be a rubber suit filled with roadkill.
As for Ketchum and her group, other scientists say they are misreading contaminated DNA samples that are actually from a possum. Ketchum maintains that she’s seen the Sasquatches in the wild several times. And yet, she has not produced a video of them that doesn’t look like a shag rug attached to a Halloween Chewbacca mask.
It’s telling that the best evidence for Bigfoot is still a grainy, 10-second snippet of home-movie footage shot on October 20, 1967 — 46 years ago — by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, which supposedly shows a female Sasquatch walking near Bluff Creek in California.
For some reason, this film has never been equaled, despite the fact that nearly everyone now carries a camera around all the time, everywhere they go, in their pocket. Even the professional TV crews on shows like “Finding Bigfoot” always manage to point their lenses in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately for believers, when the Patterson film is stabilized to remove the handheld jitters, it does look a lot like a man in a suit.
But let’s imagine, for a moment, that Bigfoot is real. That we do find him, and bring him out into the light for everyone to see.
Would that really be better? History is filled with wonders we’ve ignored after the initial thrill of discovery. In the real world, Bigfoot would become one more pain-in-the-ass endangered species for loggers and environmentalists to argue over, or just another animal kept in some vaguely depressing exhibit in a zoo.
Bigfoot is probably better off in the realm of folklore. As long as he’s there, his followers can keep believing in rubber suits and possum DNA, and ignoring anything that might cast a shadow of doubt.
That’s not a search for truth. That’s a religion.
So until someone produces a body, I’m a Bigfoot atheist.
That’s the rational, grown-up answer, anyway. If I went back and told my 13-year-old self, it would break his heart.
He really wanted to live in a world where we can have adventures with ape-men and living dinosaurs, a world that was wild enough and big enough to contain giants.
I know better now. But a big part of me still wishes that world was real, too.
And here’s the page proof in PDF for those not lucky enough to live where you can get a hard copy of the Post: SASQUASHED
Yes, you can probably file this under “Chris is thinking too much about Superman again.” But the latest trailer for Man of Steel is out, and I am almost physically excited by the chances for this movie now.
I admit, I’m an easy target for anything about Superman. As a kid, I wore the Underoos, I ran around in a red cape, and read the comics. I saw Superman III in the theater, and even that did not kill my love of the character. So I was going into the theater on opening day, no matter what.
To put it in the kindest terms possible, that hasn’t always been the case.
Superman, despite being on the level of a primal myth for us now, is not an easy character to bring to life. The idea behind him is elegantly simple, and almost encoded into our DNA: a perfect man comes from the stars to save us all. That’s easy to understand and often incredibly hard to pull off in execution.
But two things in this trailer makes me think that’s going to be time and money well spent, that make me believe the filmmakers really understand what a Superman movie needs — what every Superman story needs.
This is the first: when Lara says to Jor-El, “He’ll be an outcast. They’ll kill him.”
And Jor-El responds with one word: “How?”
That’s brilliant. It’s more than just a badass line. It shows a fundamental understanding of what makes Superman so compelling.
In most fiction, the threat of death — “They’ll kill him” — is the ultimate raising of the stakes. I’ve read that every good story ends with a death, and while that may not be true, it’s definitely true that death is the engine that drives the drama. Characters seek to escape it, avoid it, or deal it out to their enemies. But they cannot ignore it.
Except, as Jor-El points out, Superman can. By virtue of his powers, he is beyond the usual punishments and sanctions that mortals must endure. He is outside the old rules of the game, and that makes his story a new and compelling set of problems. How do you create drama where the protagonist is invulnerable — literally — to what usually drives the story?
Many writers have a problem with that, which is one reason why Superman stories are not easy. It’s hard to find conflicts that a perfect man cannot end simply by spinning the world in another direction.
But the second moment in the trailer is what makes me confident they can do it.
When Clark first reveals his abilities by saving a school bus that’s gone into a river, his foster father Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner, because, come on, who doesn’t want the guy from Field of Dreams to be his dad?) tells him that he’s not from Earth.
Clark responds by asking, “Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?”
And Jonathan Kent pulls him in close, and, voice cracking, says, “You are my son.”
If you didn’t choke up a little at that, well, you’re far less sentimental than I am.
Moses and Christ allegories aside, this is where we see how Clark chooses to deal with the legacy of great and unearned power from Jor-El and Lara. He still wants to be human. And his father embraces him for everything he is — not out of fear, but out of love.
Superman is not about what he can do. As Chris Sims recently said, if Superman wanted, he could rule us all and force us to be good, because after all, the dude’s got laser eyes. It’s about what he chooses to do. And he chooses to be good. He chooses to do the right thing. He chooses to care about humanity.
His enemies will say that this makes him weaker. But because of what he’s learned from the Kents, it’s actually what makes him a hero.
That’s the movie I want to see.
With super-punching, of course. Because you’ve got to have the super-punching.
Hey kids. It’s March, and in remembrance of the day when Julius Caesar got perforated on the way to work, I’m joining 16 great authors to give you a chance to win copies of all our books.
It’s called The Ides of March Book Giveaway. It runs from March 1-15th, and we’ll give away one copy of each of the following to the lucky winner:
THE FIREBIRD (ARC) by Susanna Kearsley
A twin-stranded story that blends modern romance with 18th-century Jacobite intrigue, traveling from Scotland to Russia, from the NY Times bestselling author of The Winter Sea
THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT by David Liss
In Regency England, at the dawn of the industrial era, magic and technology clash and the fate of the nation rests in the hands of a penniless young woman
An epic adventure fantasy with a decidedly steampunk edge where magic – and the power of the Cold Mages – hold sway
THE MAPMAKER’S WAR by Ronlyn Domingue
A mesmerizing, utterly original adventure about love and loss and the redemptive power of the human spirit–releases March 5th!
DRACULA IN LOVE by Karen Essex
“If you read only one more vampire novel, let it be this one!” -C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen & The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“A novel within a novel honoring what we love most about Austen: her engaging stories, rapier wit, and swoon worthy romance. Pitch perfect, brilliantly crafted.” —Austenprose. From the bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
THIEFTAKER by DB Jackson
Combining elements of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, Thieftaker will appeal to readers who enjoy intelligent fantasy and history with an attitude
Glamour in Glass follows the lives of the main characters from Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence
DEVIL’S GATE by FJ Lennon
Devil’s Gate is exhilarating urban fantasy, with first class writing and characters that are unforgettable beyond the last page
THE CROOKED BRANCH by Jeanine Cummins
“Wonderfully written, with strong, compelling characters, it is a deeply satisfying combination of sweeping historical saga and modern family drama, a gentle reminder of the ever-reaching influence of family”–Booklist
A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan
The story of Isabella, Lady Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist, and her thrilling expedition to Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever
THE RECKONING by Alma Katsu
(Yes, I know. It’s a much classier crowd than you’d expect to have me.)
One set of books will be given away per 500 entries. Winners will be notified within 48 hours of the contest’s end. You can enter here. And this is all due to the hard work of Alma Katsu, who got us all together. Many thanks, Alma.