My woolly mammoth ivory

I own a few bits of woolly mammoth ivory. Although the sale of ivory from elephants is restricted and highly controversial, woolly mammoth ivory is unrestricted and provokes few worries.

That’s because elephants are listed as threatened with extinction by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and despite conservation efforts, illegal trade continues. Woolly mammoths, however, went extinct about 10,000 years ago. No mammoths are killed to obtain ivory because they’re already dead, so woolly mammoth ivory remains relatively easy to buy and somewhat affordable.

My ivory came from Alaska, and I bought it from a jeweler. He had bought a piece of tusk that came with a bark-like crust, the result of thousands of years of aging, which he’d stripped off and was selling for 25 cents per gram, since he had no use for it.

I’m still deciding what to do with it. It looks a lot like tree bark but feels and weighs more like stone, since it’s basically a mineral that our bodies can produce: a tooth. I’m thinking of using it to make jewelry that puts its rough aesthetics to artistic advantage.

I bought the ivory because a woolly mammoth plays a role in my novel Immunity Index — specifically, a mammoth recreated by genetic engineering. While the novel largely deals with other issues, it mentions a few of the problems with mammoth de-extinction. For example, mammoths, like elephants, led highly social lives. If we want to bring them back humanely, we need to bring back many large herds of them. In the book, that wasn’t done.


A trade paperback edition of novel Immunity Index, goes on sale May 17. Read an excerpt here. Read a different excerpt here.

Reader review: “Already a fan after the fascinating Semiosis books but this one was even tighter. Set in the middle of the confusion of a pandemic, misinformation, helplessness, and a civil uprising, and yet manages to be wholesome and uplifting. 5 star”

Come to Chicon 8!

Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention, will be held in Chicago from September 1 to 5, 2022.

I’ll be there. In fact, I’m already doing a little volunteer work for the convention, helping edit the Progress Reports. Progress Report 3 is just out (PDF here), and I have an article in it about Chicon 8’s logo, the rocket that will “take it to the stars.” The logo is based on the Chicago city flag.

Progress Report 3 also includes a report about the first Worldcon in 1939, an article about fandom, a report from the convention chair, and news about the Art Show, Dealers’ Room, Exhibits, Hospitality, Member Services, and Programming. If you’re not sure if you want to attend, this might tempt you. Exciting things are in the works!

As Convention Chair Helen Montgomery puts it: “We really cannot wait to bring you all to Chicago, to show off our city and our fandoms, and to share our love of science fiction and fantasy together. Help us make our dreams, and yours, reality.”

I also have an article in Progress Report 2 (PDF here) about the Chicago city flag. Each of the four stars on the flag represents an important event in the city’s history.

As I said, I’ll be at Chicon 8. I plan to hop on a bus in front of my house, hop off the bus twenty minutes later, and be ready for five days of fun and inspiration with thousands of fellow writers and fans.

Goodreads review: “The First Five Pages”

The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want to write a novel, The First Five Pages should be helpful, although with a couple of minor caveats.

The book starts at the sentence level and carefully considers individual word choices, offering both basic and sophisticated advice. For example, comparisons slow down a text — which can be good or bad, depending on the pacing the author needs.

The second half of the book looks at “big picture” concerns like pacing, setting, and characterization. These can raise a novel from good to great. Some of Lukeman’s lessons might be familiar but reminders won’t hurt, and other lessons might be new and necessary.

Two caveats: First, the opening chapter, Presentation, is laughably out of date. Submissions are electronic these days, via email or website, and would-be authors need advice for how to handle those formats, not warnings about dot-matrix printers. Second, the examples of what not to do are so over-the-top bad that they rarely teach the would-be writer very much.

Beyond that, which are small problems, I think the book is worth the investment of money and time. Noah Lukeman knows that writing is hard, and he offers not just good advice but consistent encouragement.

View all my reviews