Promo is! – by Jason Dyck

Promo is! – by Jason Dyck

J.M. Ney-Grimm

Winter Glory

In the cold, forested North-lands – redolent with the aroma of pine,shrouded in snow, and prowled by ice tigers and trolls – Ivvar seeks only to meet his newborn great granddaughter.

Someone else has the same plan.

Traversing the wilderness toward the infant’s home camp, Ivvar must face the woman he once cherished and an ancient scourge of the chilly woodlands in a complicated dance of love and death.

Ivvar’s second chance at happiness – and his life – hang in the balance.

Laura Montgomery

No Longer A Mystery

Seventeen-year old Molly’s parents have a secret, and it’s about her. They’ve had Molly geneered beautiful and healthy. But, like all parents, hers have gotten one thing wrong, and it isn’t what she thinks it is.

A short story of the twenty-second century.

Henry Vogel

The Fugitive Heir

M+M Book 1

“My parents are not dead!”

Everyone thinks I’m in denial, and have been ever since my parents vanished seven years ago. Everyone thinks I should just shut up, and accept the vast inheritance coming my way. Everyone thinks I should let it go, and get on with my life.

Everyone is wrong.

I know my parents are still alive—but if I reveal how I know, it I’ll be drafted into Psi Corps. But my inheritance can fund my search for them.

I didn’t count on deadly opposition from the board of the very company I’m about to inherit. There are powerful people involved who will go to extreme lengths to protect their dark secrets and silence me forever. But those people don’t know about my three wildcards—my rebuilt spaceship, my best friend who doubles as my bodyguard, and the psychic powers I’ve kept secret my entire life.

My parents are alive, and I’m going to find them and save them—whatever it takes.

Go Forth and Have No Fear -By Christopher M. Chupik

Go Forth and Have No Fear -By Christopher M. Chupik


Last last year was a rough one in the SF field, there’s no denying it. Angry words have been exchanged, friendships have been broken and bridges burned. It’s been one for the history books, filed under “annus horribilis”.

On a more personal level, it’s been a year of good and bad for me. And an interesting one for someone who has stood on both sides of the political divide. Over the last decade and a half, my politics underwent a seismic shift. You see, I used to be a liberal. Not a Marxist, though looking back I can see that I unknowingly bought into certain Marxist tropes. And I have always been a little uneasy towards the extreme Left. Being a Ukrainian-Canadian, I was all too aware of the evils of communism. But I used to believe that firearms needed to be restricted, that capitalisms excesses needed to be curbed, and that Americans, while generally good, were also a bit nuts and probably needed to be taken down a notch.

9/11 happened and the world slipped off its axis. Pretty soon I was watching fellow liberals trying to make excuses for Bin Laden and the Taliban. How could they be so morally blind? How could people who claimed to stand for gay and women’s rights bend over backwards to make excuses for religious fundamentalists who kill gays and oppress women? Pretty soon, I couldn’t call myself a liberal anymore, but I still harbored suspicions about the Right. After all, I still bought into the media narratives about how racist/sexist/fascist/homophobic they were.

However, I was paying more attention to the Right. I knew I had been wrong about a lot of important things, so I was willing to listen to those opinions I had formerly dismissed. Slowly I began to see I was wrong about conservatives and libertarians. They weren’t fascists, they weren’t racist and they weren’t sexist. A few homophobes, yes, but that’s declined sharply over the past decade. Slowly but quietly, I began to identify as a libertarian.

This being the Bush years, anyone who wasn’t towing the left-wing anti-war, anti-American line was subject to ridicule and scorn. So I kept my mouth shut. I ducked out of discussions that turned political. When con panels suddenly took a turn to the partisan I kept quiet, sometimes leaving. But never speaking up. I suppose it worked, so far as it kept me out of political arguments. It was the safe and easy way. Hey, I’m Canadian, after all. It’s in our cultural DNA.

There were problems, of course.

Fandom is very tolerant . . . of some things. But like the entertainment industry, it has long since been colonized by the political Left. I also live in a country which is sometimes characterized as “Soviet Canuckistan”. Even after ten years of a Conservative government, we’re a pretty left-wing country. Heck, even my own province of Alberta, which would be a red state in American terms, just elected a socialist NDP government. So being a libertarian hasn’t been easy. There have been flashpoints.

A person who was a friend of mine made a snide comment on Facebook about how conservatives couldn’t possibly be geeks. That would be news to about half my friends. This was the final straw. I still have quite a few friends who are to the Left of me politically. There’s a lot I can take. What I can’t take is that kind of casual, unthinking bigotry. And believe me, there are no bigger bigots than those who think they can’t possibly be bigoted. So I lost a decade-old friendship rather than get into a big public fight. And it sucks. I don’t like to have enemies, and I don’t consider my former friend to be one. Maybe I should have rebuked him and pointed out how foolish his remark was. I certainly would now.

I got to reading Sarah’s blog from links from Instapundit. It was her Human Wave posts, in which she was able to put a name to the problem I had with far too much modern SF. Other people saw the same things I did. I wasn’t alone. I started commenting at my favorite blogs, using my own name. It only occurred to me later that I could have used a screen name for fear of being associated with the “wrong crowd”, but I didn’t. Maybe subconsciously I was finally tired of hiding who I was.

Then came Sad Puppies. I saw Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen weather a firestorm of falsehoods and hysterical claims that would have sent most people down to their knees, begging forgiveness. You know the litany: racist/sexist/fascist/homophobic . . . There was a time, of course, when I would have believed such claims without question. But I’ve looked at life from both sides now.

So I became more active during the Hugo Wars. And while it’s created some awkwardness, it was worth it. Now I’m writing guest posts at Sarah’s and the Mad Genius Club. The other side has noticed me (Everyone turn and wave at File 770!). And during it all, I got published in my first anthology and received my first royalty check. I’m writing more than I ever have and I’m finally getting paid for it.

They say that fear is contagious, but so is courage. When someone makes a stand, it inspires others to do the same. If you’re a conservative or libertarian in fandom, don’t stay in the closet. I’m not saying to get in people’s faces and start needless fights over politics. That’s what SJWs do. But don’t stay silent. Silence isn’t safer, just easier. Be that dissenting voice in that panel on politics on SF that’s run by two liberals and a communist. Object when someone decides to use a forum as their personal bully pulpit. Don’t let them marginalize you.

The other side has created the illusion that they are the dominant voice of fandom. And we help them maintain that illusion every time we hold back and bite our tongues. The idiotic idea that we are somehow “infiltrators” or “not real fans” can’t survive when people realize that they’ve been friends with “the enemy” all along.

How will my gay and trans friends respond when they learn that the guy who has been their friend was actually an “evil right-winger” the entire time they’ve known me? I don’t know. Perhaps some of them will abandon me. I hope not, but I’m prepared for that possibility. One thing’s for certain: I’m not backing down. There’s no way I can be quiet anymore.

There’s room in fandom for all of us. Yes, even the people you disagree with. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. To hide who you are is to kill a part of one’s self.

Like the song says, go forth and have no fear.

Oh, THAT Theocracy

One of the most ridiculous myths of the American left is that any American president or candidate who is a Christian and doesn’t shy from mentioning his faith is going to institute a theocracy over America.

I’ve never fully understood how that theocracy thing was supposed to work.  Who exactly was going to establish that theocracy, and who in heck was going to impose it and who was going to support it?  I mean, sorry, even Heinlein who believed the American people had an impulse towards theocracy didn’t think this was possible without a second revelation, someone who claimed himself a prophet and instituted a new religion.

Yes, I know Atwood had a fundamentalist theocracy ruling America.  Look, the woman is British [It has been pointed out to me she’s Canadian.  May I say she’s a very British Canadian?  I get British from her writing.  And Canada IS so near and yet so far away in sensibilities.  However I have no other excuse for her thoughts, other than she lives in a progressive bubble.]  I doubt she understands American religion, mostly because even Americans have trouble understanding American religion, and everyone else abroad just reads what our press prints.  Our press likes to fancy themselves special and everyone else in fly over country uniform fundamentalists who all believe the same things and think the same things.

Good heavens, people, I have friends who are both Baptist and not only interpret their religion in completely different ways, but have severe disagreements on what could be considered “theological” laws like blue laws.  And that’s without touching the multitude of evangelical sects, the Catholics, the Presbyterians, the Methodists…  Even I don’t fully understand the difference between a hundred flavors of protestant, more or less.  Hell and damnation, people, these are Christian sects, and they completely disagree on practically everything of importance.  And that’s not counting the less mainstream Mormons, and then the non Christians: Jews, Wicca, Asatru, Muslims even.

The truth is that we’re the world’s oldest multi-religion society.  Yes, there are others, but they are different.  Probably part of the reason that Atwood thought a theocracy was likely, let alone possible, is that she thinks we have some sort of evangelical state religion and the others are tolerated.  Because that’s how it works in all the other “multi-religious” or religious tolerance societies.  Great Britain has anglicanism as a state religion, even if they allow other religions.  The Scandinavian countries have state religions. Portugal does.  I suspect every country in Europe has one “state” religion, no matter what they tolerate.

That as you must understand makes it far more likely to have a theocracy.  Not LIKELY since even in Europe there are many other religions.  But it’s a matter of 80% of people, at least nominally (in Europe very nominally) believing in the same religion.

I don’t remember what the largest denomination in the US is, but the largest mainstream churches are a sort of European Christianity and more “nominal” than not.  And last I heard, the most any denomination commanded was around 30% and even that I bet has rifts within the the religion that would make a theocracy impossible.

The result of freedom of religion for a long time is an amazing panoply of religious belief that makes it impossible to have any religion become law.

Yes, the country is mostly Christian in many denominations and ranging in fervor from nominal to very devout.  But none of these has enough of a primacy and enough of a unified belief to become law.

Now because the country is mostly religious, and mostly Christian, it means that a lot of the possible presidents will be religious and Christian.  If you believe, it is only sane that you’ll talk about your faith.  If you are religious it is very important to you.  And if it’s important to you, the electors are entitled to know about it.  Same way we should have learned about Obama’s status as a fourth generation red diaper baby.

Deeply held beliefs influence how you act.  Granted.  So a fourth generation red diaper baby raised on internationalism will act like all the international problems are the fault of the Us and like you can bring about world peace by making the US less relevant.  It’s not true, but it’s a deeply held belief that can affect our national security.

So a Christian should disclose being Christian, and shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to speak about it to/solicit the vote of other Christians.

And the left is totally justified in fearing a Christian president, because we know that Christianity teaches you to hate those not like you and punish them and make them bheave the way you approve of.

Oh, wait, no, Christianity doesn’t teach ANY of that.  Not one thing of that, even though this is how TV represents Christians and it’s probably the closest the leftists have ever come to a person with a religious faith that is NOT Marxism (which is a religious faith at this point.)  And they reveal it every time they open their mouths, or more likely like words spill from their fingers in places like facebook.

After Iowa, Facebook was full of leftists throwing tantrums.  They were going on about Cruz instituting the Land of Gilead (does anyone know what in holy fuck they’re talking about?  Forgive the swearing, but if he mentioned Gilead at any time, it was clearly a metaphorical reference, like to the Body of Christ, not a literal one.)  They were promising to leave (for some of the most godawful spots in the world) because if he won he was clearly going to institute a theocracy.

I gave their craziness the consideration it deserved.  None.  For one because they’ve been saying this since Reagan, and not one of them has left the country.  Which is a pity since the people most hysterical about that are some of the most screwed up creatures on this green Earth.

But you know, thirty five years in, with Reagan and Bush and the other Bush all failing to establish a theocracy, put all atheists in camps, forcing all Jews to convert, etc etc etc, including those infamous gay concentration camps W was going to establish, they’re still convinced that if a presidential candidate says the word “G-d” or Jesus, they’re going to establish a theocracy RIGHT NOW.

And to them that’s the greatest danger, not electing people who think they can create a managed economy or who preemptively leave us defenseless in a dangerous world.  In fact, the only system of beliefs they don’t think is dangerous is the one that is destroying the west.

THAT is the only system they can tolerate because since it’s a religion without a god, they believe it is no danger and can’t possibly create a theocracy.

Instead of trusting in the rich diversity of belief of their fellow countrymen, and allowing their countrymen to believe in G-d or not, and worship in any way they wish to, the Marxists and their duped followers want everyone to believe and worship as they do: a lot of little secular obeisances in political correctness and self-denunciation, a lot of expecting “the best people” to bring about an Earhty paradise in which humans themselves are transformed into either angels or ants (it’s difficult to tell with these guys.)

In other words, they expect anyone who mentions Christianity to institute a theocracy, because they know if they were the majority of the population, they would institute one, and make it impossible for anyone to behave or believe in ways other than they do.

In other words, it’s their old projection yet again.

You know, among the people who were very relieved with Cruz’s victory, whom I talked to after Iowa were an observant Jewish friend, and a gay friend.  Neither of them was terribly worried that Cruz is going to institute a theocracy, but then neither of them is a Marxist fellow-traveler, and both of them are willing to let other people believe and worship in their own way. Because they don’t feel a need to control others.

Yes, Cruz references his faith.  I find that polite.  Both because we have the right to know, and because he’s appealing to the vast majority of voters who believe somewhat like him.  what he’s telling them is that he hews to a system of belief that orders him not to murder, and not to steal, and not to covet other people’s possessions.  Some of us find that … reassuring.

This is very early days yet, and Cruz might or might not win the nomination, let alone the presidency.

However, the one thing I can tell you for sure is that if he wins it is far less likely that he’ll interfere with your way of believing and worshiping or not believing and not worshiping than would Bernie.

The fact the left is incapable of seeing that is our country’s tragedy.

So You Want To Be Equal- Amanda Green

So you want to be equal? – Amanda Green

Not that long ago, Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense, made the decision that all jobs in the military should be open to both sexes. There would be no exceptions. In order to make job titles more inclusive, they would no longer be sexist in their names. In other words, you would no longer be a rifleman, for example. We were going to enter an age of a more something military – I’m not sure what really, but by golly, we were going there.

Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe there are roles in the military that have been exclusively male that should be open to both sexes. However, I am also sure there are some that should not, at least not if it means the qualifications for that job have to be lowered just to let women take part. Let’s face it, there are differences – mentally and physically – between men and women and that has to be taken into account.

When you start changing the names of jobs and job descriptions simply because said name isn’t “inclusive”, that’s when you are bending over too far. If someone applying for the job of carrying a rifle into battle is upset because they will be called a rifleman instead of a riflewoman or rifleperson, well, they need to toughen up. This is the military you’re in, not some posh social club. There are edges to it that shouldn’t be softened, edges that will help keep you on your toes and will toughen you up for battle.

Yes, battle. As a military mother, my daily prayer is that my son never has to go into battle but I also accept that it is a very real possibility. More that than, I am proud that he made the decision to step up and take up arms to protect this country I love so much. I am even more proud of the fact he is considering making the military his career.

However, I also remember the discussion we had when it came time for him to register for a draft we don’t have but that might one day be resumed. Like so many of his generation, he had never seen anyone be drafted. He knew it had existed but he had never had to sit through the fear and excitement of waiting to find out if his number would be called. I remember the brothers of friends, as well as my male cousins, had made that wait years ago. I remember so many young men leaving the country, a country they supposedly loved, in order to avoid the draft. Some did so by fleeing to Canada. Others “went to school” overseas. But that isn’t the real point of this post, although it is a good place to start.

The feminists won a battle when SecDef ordered all jobs in the military to be open to everyone, no matter what their sex. Again, my biggest issue with this is that I don’t think we should lower the qualifications for any of the job simply to make sure women are included. If history has proven that a solider needs to be able to haul so many pounds of gear, than he – or she – should be able to do so, no matter who they are, what they are or what they believe. That requirement will help keep not only that particular soldier or Marine alive but also their squad mates. Unless and until technology changes so that the historic requirements are no longer valid, we need to stick to them. We might not be “at war” now but we are still putting boots on the ground in hostile territory. I guran-damn-tee you the day will come when it will be more than a few thousand boots. We will “go to war” down the road and shouldn’t we put the most qualified person in each position?

However, that is down the road. The here and now is what we need to look at. If SecDef is going to open all jobs to both sexes, that’s his decision. However, if you want to be completely fair, there is another step that needs to be taken. One I have yet to hear any avowed feminist demanding.

Women need to be required to register for the draft just as men are.

Let me say that again, if women want to be considered the equal to men in the military, they need to be required to register for the draft just as men are.

As I said, I haven’t heard the hue and cry for this to happen. Certainly not like I’ve heard the calls for the requirements to be a SEAL or Ranger to be dropped so women could graduate from those training classes. I haven’t heard it with any of the fervor I’ve heard the feminists applaud Carter’s decision to start renaming jobs to take the “man” out of the title or descriptions.

And that is part of my problem with those who keep telling us they want only equality between the sexes. They want to be able to get the same job as a male counter-part without having to actually meet the same requirements (not all the time but for the purposes of the military, in many situations). They want to be treated as equals but not. How many of those who have applauded Carter’s actions would do so if he signed off on our teen girls having to register like our teen boys do?

Or would this be a situation of being equal only on the feminists’ terms – we’ll be equal if we made the independent decision to enlist but we don’t want to be forced to join the military should a draft ever be reinstituted.

They want to talk the talk but not walk the walk, not completely. And that, my friends, pisses me off.

Yes, I am female and proud of it. Yes, I believe I should get the same pay for doing the same job a man with similar education and qualifications gets. But note the qualifiers there. We should have similar education and work backgrounds and be doing basically the same job to get the same pay. I should not expect to make as much as someone, male or female, who has more education that is applicable to the job and who has worked in that job or one similar for longer than I have. I especially should not expect it if he is doing a better job than I am.

I believe I should have the same opportunity to try for a job I’m qualified for as any man with the same or similar – or better – qualifications. I should be judged on my ability to do that job and not be given an extra point simply because of my gender. Why should an employer be forced to hire a less qualified employee simply because of that person’s gender?

I am more than glad that women have been making inroads in the military. But it bothers me to no end that our elite units are lowering their standards simply to make sure women can join them. Again, if tech has increased to off-set those lower standards without putting the other members of the unit in danger while out on a mission, that’s fine. But I haven’t seen anything that shows that.

Were I young enough to be considered for military service today, I would be out there asking why I wasn’t being allowed to register for the draft like my male counterparts. No, I’m not a Feminist but I am a feminist. If the boys I went to school with have to register for the draft, so should I. I love my country as much, and more in some instances, than they do. I am willing to do whatever is necessary to protect this country for its enemies. That means I should also be willing to step up and watch as my number is pulled in the draft as they would should the draft be reintituted.

Again, where are the calls for the registration to be extended to women? Oh, I know where it is, it is here, with those who know what the military is like. It isn’t with those who are patting themselves on the back for all the rest of it.

So here’s my response to you. Put your life and the lives of your daughters and sisters and nieces where your mouth is. Put it where the lives of your sons and brothers and nephews are. Stand up and demand of the SecDef, demand of their Representatives and Senators, demand of the presidential candidates that draft registration become “equal” and require males and females to step up and sign up and do their duty to this country of ours.

There MIGHT Be A Real Post Today

But I’m still wading through finishing Darkship Revenge (now with more Fuse!)  And I have “fiction brain.”

Also, we’re snow bound — we got about 20 inches and it’s still falling off and on — which means I’m restless and weird(er than usual.)

Which means…

You guys know I do art, right?  Only all my art materials are packed.  Which means when I need to clear my head, I end up going hunting for public domain images and playing with them to create something different.

Mostly it’s a matter of touch ups, composition and filters (sometimes two or three.)  It’s something that I can assemble late at night, then let run through filters while writing during day.  Or more often while waiting for a repairman, or talking on the phone to someone.

However, some of them are cute (I steal shapes from everything, including elements of buildings.) So… In case I don’t get around to making another post, here they are with commentary.

theuniversethrough a porthole1I want to call this one something like “netting the stars.”

I andtimeitselfunwindAnd Time, Itself, Unwind — and no, I don’t know what it means.  It just sort of assembled itself.

hewasanuppittylizardHe Was An Uppity Lizard!

landingondesertplanet1Landing On A Desert Planet

oldefriendsfinalfinalOld Friends


Alone, In The Dark — I don’t like this one.  It’s a little scary.

IIdidn'tevenknowyoukneweachotherI Didn’t Even Know You Knew Each Other.

This is my favorite, partly because it has a sense of Clifford Simak novels to me — cat and bot at the end of the universe, in the ruins of mankind’s works.  Of course I also have a feeling, mostly from the cat’s expression, that they’re being unfaithful to humans.  Or they feel that way.

Shoot The Black Dog

It’s very easy to become depressed.

It is particularly easy for me to become depressed because I have battled the black dog as long as I can remember.

The way to fight the black dog is to realize that he lies.  It’s very difficult to do it because the black dog is perfectly logical.  He presents things to you in an inevitable way.  But reality is neither logic nor inevitable.

No, that is not true.  Reality is logic.  It’s just not the sort of logic that fits into human minds very easily.  There is always some factor we didn’t calculate, something we didn’t think of.  And not all surprises are bad.  And sometimes surprises will be good.

Part of this, guys, is this more than any other era in history, we are surrounded by narrative (played, watched, listened to, read) and that we’ve been trained to look for foreshadowing, we make the error of treating reality as a story.  This means we can read trends and we tend to extrapolate them way into the future and assume they’re inevitable.

For good or ill, history has the ability to surprise us even now.

Most of the surprises we remember are bad, of course, but that’s because that also is a trick of the black dog.

I remember the late seventies.  yes, I was very young, but the smart money was either on mutual, assured decision or on the Soviets winning and taking over the entire world.  Our leadership was feckless.  The figures and facts coming out of the USSR were wonderful.  Obviously they were going to take over the world.  Bomb shelters were huge.  People were talking about going back to the land to be safe.

Then there was Reagan, and we found the USSR was a Potemkin village.  All of it.  And then the wall collapsed…

And it’s not the first time.  I read enough about WWII to find that by the lights of even the people in the free nations, all of them believers in eugenics and superior races, we didn’t have a chance.  And we entered late.  And the Germans had a well honed war machine, and… And our leadership frankly sucked, and our president had for years been engaged in driving our economy into the ground to gratify his crazy vision of life and economy.

But there are other instances, in more recent history, some good and some back.  Hey, anyone remember when George W Bush was going to be the “education president?” And then the towers fell.

Look, I know looking at a field in which the unindicted felon is the safest candidate on one side and the  socialist con artist the best poling one on the other, it’s easy to give up.  It’s easy to write our obituary.

I have a friend who despairs of the breeding rate of the various productivities/iqs.  This has nothing to do with race, but characteristics that inform success in the modern world are inherited from parent to child.  Did you know you can predict how late someone will procreate based on their IQ?  The higher the IQ, the later they’ll reproduce and the fewer children they’ll have.  There are exceptions, sure, but not that much.

What my friend forgets is that it can change.  It’s hard to recognize the Germans of late middle age in 19th century Germans.

Nothing is static.  The future is not written in stone.

Presidents often don’t govern as they promise or threaten to, or even as we’re afraid they will.  The world is vast and other things influence how a president works out than the president himself.

Things look bad.  I’m not going to deny that.  But it is very important to remember there’s a wide world out there.  Even very bad man’s plans can be thwarted.

We might get lucky yet.  And we might have the sort of luck that doesn’t seem like luck at all, but is, in the end.  Sometimes ills come for better.

I’d like to tell you exactly the things that can happen that can save our *sses, but of course I can’t.  In 1979 if I’d told anyone that the Berlin Wall would fall in  10 years, [yes, I did have 20, yes I can actually add ten.  It was late and the fingers had their own way, though.] would they believe me?  And if in 99 I’d tell anyone we’d be dealing with Marxists all through our structure of power?  They also wouldn’t believe me.

The world is not just more complex than we imagine.  It’s more complex than we can imagine.  It’s fairly easy for us to figure out our own lives, the consequences of our own actions.

But when you start computing a whole world? A whole civilization?  Black swans are inevitable.

Remember “necessarily skyrocket energy costs Barry?” Who’d imagine oil prices would plummet on his watch.  Certainly not him.

The black dog tells you that there is no escape.  The black dog tells you that trends are inevitable, inescapable, and it seems so logical.

The black dog is not all knowing.  It lies.

The black dog’s hope is that you give it up.  that you stop fighting.  That you stop caring, that you give up hope, that you think your life is in vain.

There’s always hope, and there’s always the possibility for things going very very wrong.  Liberty is a balance between those who want to seize power at all costs and those who fight them.  There are no guarantees.  but that means there are no guarantees either way.  No one can promise us we’ll win, but we can’t be sure of defeat either.

The black dog knows no better than you do.  Shoot him and go on with your life.



New Books, Free Books, Lotsa Books – Freerange Oyster

*A note before the promo: Snowmageddon arrived early (it wasn’t supposed to be here till tonight) so I’m going to hunker down and try to finish this book.  I’m trying to stay offline.  If you need me you either have my cell # or know someone who does. – SAH*

New Books, Free Books, Lotsa Books – Freerange Oyster

Joe Vasicek


Star Wanderers Part I

When Jeremiah arrived at Megiddo Station, all he wanted was to make some trades and resupply his starship. He never thought he’d come away with a wife.

Before he knows it, he’s back on his ship, alone with his accidental bride. Since neither of them speak the same language, he has no way to tell her that there’s been a terrible mistake. And because of the deadly famine ravaging her home, there’s no going back. She’s entirely at his mercy, and that terrifies him more than anything.

Jeremiah isn’t ready to take responsibility for anyone. He’s a star wanderer, roaming the Outworld frontier in search of his fortune. Someday he’ll settle down, but for now, he just wants to drop the girl off at the next port and move on.

As he soon finds out, though, she has other plans.

Free on Kindle this weekend

Cedar Sanderson

Vulcan’s Kittens

Children of Myth Book 1

12-year-old Linnea Vulkane is looking forward to a long, lazy summer on Grandpa Heph’s farm, watching newborn kittens grow up and helping out with chores. That all goes out the window the night Mars, god of war, demands her grandfather abandon her and return to Olympus for the brewing war.

Now Old Vulcan is racing around the world and across higher planes with Sehkmet to gather allies, leaving Linn and an old immortal friend to protect the farm and the very special litter. But even the best wards won’t last forever, and when the farm goes up in flames, she is on the run with a daypack, a strange horse, a sword, and an armful of kittens. Linn needs to grow up fast and master her powers, before the war finds the unlikely refugees…

Free on Kindle this weekend


Tales from the Otherverse

Other times, other places, other stories than the ones we know…These are the Tales From the Otherverse, where anything is possible and things never work out quite the way you’d expect. Some of today’s top talents in popular fiction turn their hands to tales of alternate history. Featuring new stories by bestselling, award-winning authors Bill Crider, Lou Antonelli, Scott A. Cupp, Robert E. Vardeman, James Reasoner, and more. Explore the Otherverse and see what might have been!

Weird Menace Volume 1

The Weird Menace pulps flourished for less than a decade, from the mid-1930s to the early ’40s, but while they were popular, they delivered adventure, excitement, and spine-tingling thrills in quantities rarely seen before or since. Mad scientists, deranged henchmen, damsels in distress, and stalwart heroes raced through their pages in breathless, over-the-top, never-ending action. A good Weird Menace yarn really is just one damned thing after another. Rough Edges Press asked some of today’s best authors of popular fiction to write Weird Menace stories, and they delivered. Settle back and let us spin a few yarns for you… But keep an eye out behind you. You never know when something might be sneaking up on you. Stories in this volume include: “Bodies for the Brain Butcher” by John C. Hocking “A Night on Madhouse Mountain” by Bill Crider “The Curse of the Monster Makers!” by Scott Dennis Parker “Farmhouse of the Dead” by Keith West “The Hideous Blood Ray” by Robert E. Vardeman “Blood Treasure for Satan’s Buccaneers” by James Reasoner

Weird Menace Volume 2

The Shudder Pulps are back! In fact, it’s like they never left in this second great collection of new stories inspired by the classic Weird Menace magazines such as DIME MYSTERY and TERROR TALES. Those pulps may have ended in the early 1940s, but some of today’s top authors give us the same sort of pulse-pounding, spine-chilling tales they might have published if they had stayed around.

World War II casts its looming shadow in Mel Odom’s “The Spider-God of Nauru!”

Hell comes to a tropical paradise in Keith Chapman’s “Lust of the Cave Spirit”.

American GIs encounter a horror unlike any they ever expected in Michael Bracken’s “Attack of the Nazi Snow Warriors”.

Weird Menace mixes with hardboiled detective thrills in Paul Dellinger’s “Ghost Writer”.

The protagonist of John McCallum Swain’s “The Hades Mechanism” confronts a legendary, undying evil.

And Ray Lovato’s popular character Doc Atlas returns to face a new challenge in “Howl of the Werewolf”!

These action-packed stories are sure to entertain. Editor James Reasoner and Rough Edges Press are proud to present WEIRD MENACE VOLUME 2!

Leigh Kimmel

The Moon Mirror

Chelsea Ayles dreamed of going to the Moon since she was a child. Now her dream job at NASA has turned into a nightmare, thanks to those many blood-sucking arachnids. Yeah, politics, as in a Senator accusing her of destroying America’s priceless heritage because she chose the moonrocks that were used to make a proof-of-concept mirror segment for a lunar telescope project. Now the mirror sits in her office like a bitter mockery of what might have been — until the day her reflection turns into a handsome stranger who calls himself the Man in the Moon and offers her visions of a world that might have been. Visions that ignite a longing of an intensity she hasn’t known since she was in grade school and watched videos of the Apollo lunar missions in science class.

Matthew Maynard

The Hand of Justice

The Dragonslayers, Volume 2

Scott Philipson fought the law, and the law fought back. Now he’s on the run – but with the police closing in, will those he left behind be able to find a cure for Colonel Reynolds before time runs out? Or will fear and government win out over freedom and individuals?

But Does It Look Good On The Wall

Some days ago some of you reprobates were bored.  I’m sorry I haven’t been amusing you regularly (or more regularly) but this is the year I catch up on overdue books and finish stuff that’s been lying around sometimes more than half finished and sometimes for years.  I need to do that to reestablish the habit of writing every day, ten hours a day.  Not just because (duh) in the day of indie this type of discipline translates into money, and I’m about to have a house to pay off, but because when you write that much you improve.

Don’t argue with me.  I was first told this by Kris Rusch and Dean Smith at their workshop, back when I was such a young writer [less than 35 in human years, too] that I’d only sold one short story and no one had paid me for it.  I mean, they were supposed to, but they didn’t.  They said that 90% of writing is practice and after you study and know what you’re aiming for, the best thing you can do to get there is write.  Write faster than you thought possible.  Write in a disciplined, regular fashion.  You’ll improve more than you can imagine.

I’m a stubborn cuss and also, as those who read me might know, don’t really believe in miracles.  This is how come my urban fantasy has ALMOST no magic.  Okay, they change into animals, and now Tom can command people with his mind, and I’m still not sure what the pearl of heaven will turn out to be (I’m sure all will be revealed, but I don’t know yet) but there are no spells, no wishing, no magic.

I believe in hard work, but I LIKE working with my hands (it is a sign that the Author has a sense of humor that my job — maybe my calling — only involves manual work as far as I wiggle my fingers on the keyboard) and seeing what I’m doing.

This whole “just write a lot of words and they’ll automagically get better seems like a miracle.  So “Trust the process” might as well go “hocus pocus” and I don’t buy it.  I didn’t believe it, but for various reasons, mostly to keep the writers’ group, which was my claim to sanity and a social life, together, I ended up writing a short story a week, as well as a few chapters on current novel.

I didn’t believe it made any difference until I had occasion a couple of years ago to go and read my back log, and I realized the stories before that year were SORT of stories, and after that they were immeasurably better.

So, don’t argue with me on the effect of hard work.  What you can argue with me on is: What does better mean?  What do you mean by aim to get better?

This brings us back to the beginning.  As I said, a lot of you got bored and took off on Twitter (really, it’s like a drug to you fractious types, isn’t it?  Particularly a certain raccoon) after one of the Puppy Kicker brigade who was pronouncing (heaven help us) on how she was shocked Baen readers could stand to read about someone over fifty having sex.  (This is rather puzzling as about half of us are over fifty and we have sex whenever we can.  In fact, one thing I’d say for the Baen readership in general, having met ya’ll at cons, and dinners and stuff, is that we’re ah… not just sex-positive, but positively sex-enthusaiastic.  Of course, we don’t often like it in books, because if you have sex in books you have all those paper cuts, and the pages get glued toget–  er… I mean, because written sex is not the real thing, and we know the real thing.)

Anyway, the discussion — “discussion” — which involved a certain were racoon devolved as such things do, and became mostly an exchange of insults.  (The Racoon wants me to point out that he didn’t start the insults!)

This would be vaguely amusing (look, I’m the mistress of huns, okay — not that type of mistress.  ew.  You guys are fine, but I’m monogamous — so insults and big spats obviously amuse me.)

Then the puppy kicker went and wrote a blog post about it, and something interesting emerged.  She thought we were accusing them of PRETENDING to like what they like.  Which is almost mind-bogglingly bizarre.  Of course, they do the vice versa (we’re all about the vice!) and think we only like what we do because we’re “stupid”.  We’re not.  We’re in fact smart enough to know you like the crap you say you like, and why.  And we don’t have to resort to “you’re stupid.”  At least I don’t.  In fact most of you are middling to high IQ.  It takes a certain amount of brains to train a perverse taste.  And no, golly, the “perverse” has nothing to do with sex, just with non-natural.

And now they’ll think “non natural” means I think they’re bad.  (Will someone please find my eyes?  They rolled off and onto the floor again.)  Tons of things aren’t natural and are over all good, like, oh, wearing clothes, sleeping in beds and living past of the age of thirty.  I’m a fan of those.

BUT training a non natural taste sort of requires us to examine it and see “is it a net positive?”

Look, in terms the left can understand, let’s say I’ve trained myself to like all highly processed foods (this is true to an extent.  When stressed I like sweet and otherwise tasteless food, like marshmallows, creme brule, and, in a hurry, just milk.  This is a recipe for diabetes.) that’s a taste.  It’s even a highly sophisticated, very civilized taste, since in primitive societies you don’t get these “tastless lumps of sugar, yum” things, or at least not amid the peasantry.  However any of my friends who saw me eating only that SHOULD intervene because such a diet is not a net positive and I’d end up with scurvy or something.

My first exposure to “people like different things” was over food and dad brought out that old chestnut “tastes can’t be disputed.”  Which is of course nonsense because most of what we humans do is argue taste.  Taste in the non-culinary sense, mostly.

And while arguing taste is an unproductive endeavor, I have studied literature as an endeavor (seven years.  Good Lord, the stupid things we do when we’re young.  OTOH it was the only way to also study languages.  Portugal pairs the two.) and I can tell you that normally, in a healthy civilization, there is a “theory of what is good” that imposes itself and which usually agrees with the tenor of the civilization.  This is why the middle ages is wall to wall Christianity even when the writer/artist lived a fairly pagan life. Because that was their theory of good.  In the Renaissance it became “good stuff most closely apes Rome and Greece.”

And btw these “tastes” for this “type of high quality” aren’t natural.  And some of it objectively from a ludic (referring to games and enjoyment of play, not lewd) perspective, a lot of the “good literature” of that period sucked.  And in the long run tends not to be remembered.  The “high Theater” of Shakespeare’s day was mannered in the French way, and to make sure refined tastes weren’t offended no deaths happened on stage, but were announced by messenger.  After a battle, messengers would cross on stage…  Anyway that theater was certainly enjoyed by the “high brow” or at least “virtue and status signaling” people of the day.  For one because it marked them out as better and smarter than those apprentices and low brows who went to Shakespeare’s plays.  But we don’t enjoy it now.  We tend to prefer Shakespeare because we — at least those of us for whom archaic language isn’t a barrier — engage with it on the same universally-human, ludic fahsion the apprentices and whores engaged with it when first presented.

This is normal, btw.  The “high brow” of every advanced civilization enjoy things that they’ve been trained to enjoy and that are so “mannered” they tend to not be accessible much less enjoyable to the general public.  Which is, btw, as far as devotees are concerned, a feature, not a bug.

The problem is that our left is a-historical, so they don’t recognize this cycle, nor the fact that the people who come after and break those rules, engage with the public and make a big splash, the revolutionaries, like say the impressionists after the French academic style, are usually reviled by the establishment as low brow, but pervail nonetheless because they are engaging the public.  And then, of course, eventually they too become “mannered” and are superseded.

Because the narrative of our day, as prevalent as Christianity in the middle ages is “Social critique” (a Marxist concept, for those — and apparently most on the other side — who do it/bought into it without knowing it.  It’s part of the whole Hegelian dialectic thing) “to bring about change” and that has become encoded into show “x number of minorities and victims.  Show oppression.  Show flaws in OUR society.  No, not those flaws, bu the ones the elite is obsessed with right now,” that’s what anyone who studied literature has learned to consider “good.”  It distinguishes them from the hoi polloi and they enjoy THAT immensely.  They enjoy tracking down all the markers that mean the literature has been done properly.  And they call the rest of us who don’t look for those markers “stupid.”  Because if we’d bothered to take a literature course and “really think” of things, we’d like what they like.

It never occurs to them that their “art” has become so mannered that it’s virtually indigestible to ANYONE not so concerned with status, or not so pliable as to have swallowed our post grad classes whole (not even with enough garlic.).

Look a refined taste is all very fine.  Oh, heck, “Social critique” is even fine, particularly if you’re writing one of those “slice of life” things.  But most people when they reach for a book (or movie, or art, or music or computer game) aren’t looking for social critique.  It’s not all about consciousness raising.  Anyone with half a brain knows the world isn’t perfect and what the flaws in society are.  And anyone with a full brain knows your proposed top-down solution is caca, and just whining about inequality, oppression and victims without a solution is EVEN MORE caca.  Enough to fill the Augean stables, in fact.   Which is sort of what you’re doing.

Your “social critique” aesthetics are old enough most of us had them force fed in school.  This is why you guys are now trying to be more extreme (post binary, yeah) to distinguish yourselves from all the crap you learned in high school.  But the distinction is ever more extreme and towards “Sophisticated palate.”  Which I always thought was a way to eat shit and like it.  But oh, okay, we’ll go Roman.  You guys are so into the stuffed humming birds in bear-spit marinade that you’ve forgotten objectively, common human taste, tends more to a decent sandwich, well made.  And that someone non-initiated will think bear spit is gross.

Or if you — by which I mean the “progressive” left — notice this, you just view it as “our taste is more sophisticated and those other people are stupid.”

I invite you to consider you’re the French court with the six feet high hair dos covered in lice.  I invite you to consider you’re the French academes drawing the same statues… with great sophistication.  I invite you to consider you’re pious middle ages intellectuals tearing up at the 100th description of the passion of the Christ… properly done and in an elevated way.

When art loses its way to that point, a challenge emerges, and it’s almost always vibrant and immediate enough to appeal to the popular taste, until it loses it way.  Each reset always goes back “but what do I ENJOY” or in art terms “does it look good on the wall.”

And that’s what the Sad Puppies movement is.  The funny part here is that a self-styled “progressive” movement fails to realize they’ve grown stuffy, stale, and that no matter how many victim classes they add and how much their trained palate enjoys it, normal human beings read it and go “it’s bear spit, and I say to hell with it.”

Their image of themselves as revolutionaries is so ingrained that they don’t realize they’ve become the aristos, in their walled palaces, with their jaded, over-educated palates, calling anyone who doesn’t like what they like stupid and uneducated.

They have lost sigh of the fact their aesthetic rules are not only arbitrary but totally unrealistic.  And that we’re the mob at the gates, the ones with fresh tastes, challenging ideas and the appeal to the basic human, ludic taste in entertainment.  Oh, yeah, they forgot literature (and particularly genre literature) is SUPPOSED to be entertaining too.

So… hey, huns, grab a pitchfork, read a novel.  Laugh in the face of their irrelevant over sophistication. Work on being more accessible and allowing people to get into your work more easily and enjoy it more.  Your message (if any.  And most of us have messages, even if it’s just “don’t be an idiot” because it’s part of who we are, an integrated part of our character and our art) will come through more effectively wrapped in “fun” and without counting “by the numbers” victims.

Write well, read well, enjoy it.  And laugh at the idiots who still think “good” is what their professors told them to enjoy.

Ca Ira!



It is a trope in magic fiction of all types (and times) that you should be careful what you conjure, because if you pronounce the wrong name, you could invoke the wrong being.

It’s funny because I always thought the left was particularly fond of fantasy literature, but I guess they didn’t pay attention to the cautionary parts of it.

For decades now, in shows, in books, and in ultimate resort by painting this image in the news no matter how unrealistic (like the creation of straw Brad, straw Larry and occasionally straw Sarah) in the media, the left has been making up a picture of those who oppose them.

The right was, in general, according to these media racist, sexist, homophobic white supremacists and nationalists.

That this picture had generally bloody nothing — or perhaps less than 2% , the two percent being that a lot of us were patriotic which is not the same as nationalistic in the sense the left sees it, but that’s something for another discussion.  Close enough for government service — to do with real people on the other side of the political divide did not disturb them.  To begin with few of the people who identify as left knew how flawed the picture was, because the picture was everywhere and so prevalent.  And those who knew, like reporters, or educators, or even some writers and script writers, thought they were acting for the greater good.  Oh, sure the people they knew — if they knew any — who were on the right did not fit that profile, but then they assumed their acquaintances were either misguided or fooling them.  (Which is where the whole crazy silliness of “code words” came up, as though if you wanted to insult someone you couldn’t just do it in plain language.)

Mind you to teach this in schools it required an extreme twisting of history, since eugenics and racism was the left’s pigeon (and no the left and right didn’t switch sides in a generation.  That is quite literally the most idiotic theory I ever heard — with apologies to any idiots out there — and requires not having read a whole body of political theory from then until now.)  Prohibition was the left’s pigeon.  The extreme drive for morality, purity and sticking your nose in people’s lives was a leftist project.  Getting us in foreign wars was a leftist project (Wilson, FDR, JFK) and in general everything attributed to the right the left did in its 200 years of history and did with gusto and verve and repeatedly, until they decided to white wash their image, rewrite history and create straw-enemies to attack.

They could do all of those things because, you know, they had finally achieved control of the media, the schools and, yes, entertainment and the arts.

All of which is interesting.  They could have made their case with that bull horn without resorting to straw men.  (Actually one wonders to what extent it was their Europhilia, since their distorted picture doesn’t match but has some resemblance to the right… in Europe, if not here.)

They could simply have said that they thought government control was more efficient, that it was the duty of government to look after everyone, that your freedom was something you had to surrender for being taken care of.

They could.

Did they fear the American spirit would rebel?  Or was it confusing us with Europe?  Or are the recent leftists really so ignorant they drink their own ink?

For whatever reason, they chose not to say “these people oppose us because they value freedom over government looking after them. ”  They chose not to say “these people are dangerously independent” or any of the other things they might legitimately have said.

No, they brought out the racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist, nationalist specters.

And for a while it went really well for them.  Why no one dared raise a voice in opposition lest the be tarred with heinous name calling.

And then… things changed.

One of the things that changed was that they lost their monopoly on news.  And part of what that meant is that how spectacularly badly they performed became widely known.  And most socialist economic systems perform atrociously.

The young people, those attuned to news on the web are looking at the mess people in control have made of things.  It doesn’t occur to them to blame socialism, quasi-socialism (mostly what we have) and social democracy because they have never studied any real economics and never read The Road to Serfdom.  All they know is that the people in power are failing and failing really badly.

And because they know people in power — who claim to be multiculturalist, equalitarian and internationalist — are failing, they don’t want to be like them.

Unfortunately, unless they’ve done independent reading or come from unusual families, the only models they know that oppose the failing one is the fake, straw model of the right: racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist and nationalist.

I’ve run across more people — most of them very young — who arrived at their politics by clinging to everything their teachers said the right was than I care to mention in the last six months or so.  FAR more than I ran across the entire rest of my life.

The left created this straw-image of their enemies because they thought it would be easily defeated.  They, in their arrogance, thought that history came with an arrow and that the arrow always pointed out in the direction of multi-culti, egalitarian internationalism.  (This is partly because they muddled history so much they don’t realize the internationalism of the left was always “Russian Nationalism disguised, to allow easier subversion.”  Or that their roots are not at all multi-culti, or that the result of their policies is never egalitarian.)  They couldn’t figure out how anyone could think they were objectively bad.

Until the left’s policies changed.  And a generation that knows no real history decided the fault was not with the socialism, but with these other characteristics.

And they’re embracing the characteristics of the left’s imaginary enemies and thereby becoming what had never existed before then.

The problems are three fold if this catches on: we’re still left with the failures of socialism.  the new prejudices are just as bad as the old ones.  And it leaves the rest of us who are for freedom homeless and bereft.

On the other hand there is a certain amount of schadenfreude in seeing the left’s magical words break, and in seeing them unable to face the fact that history doesn’t come with an arrow.

In some blog, long ago, in the comments section, someone said that if the left got what it wanted, it would backfire so badly we’d be hunting them with dogs and beating them to death with their “no blood for oil” signs.  I think it’s going to be worse than that.  I think it’s going to be so bad that the rest of us are not even going to enjoy it.  Even if they brought this on themselves, by creating an enemy they thought they’re prefer to confront, an enemy that didn’t exist outside their lies.





Nerves – A Blast From The Past Post, 9/12

Nerves – A Blast From The Past Post, 9/12

Like many people I hate insecurity.  Actually I suspect I hate insecurity more than most of you, and there’s a reason for that.  During the worst times in my life, things were… insecure.  I’ve said before that even in a revolution, even in turmoil, there is a lot of normality behind the chaos.

Possibly what I didn’t say is that there is a lot of chaos behind the normalcy, too.  For three or four years, while governments changed – I could tell that they’d changed because I’d come home and they’d be playing Green Acres.  See, the TV station in Porto was a relay station, one that dealt with mostly re-transmitting programs from Lisbon.  However, when tanks took to the streets of Lisbon, the program always required they hit first the TV station, then the radio stations, and then the government.

Until their people were in full control of the government, the two TV channels from Lisbon (years later they changed it so the second channel was from Porto, but not then) would be off the air, and the station from Porto would bring out Green Acres which in their minds kept the populace calm until they heard what came next.

Of course, we weren’t stupid and after a while, everyone knew.  If Green Acres was on the air, the kids who had morning classes (In Portugal you have morning OR afternoon.  I always had morning because my mom was convinced otherwise I’d just sleep the morning away.  I probably would have.  Until I had kids of my own and the only quiet time to write was early morning, I was a night person, and I can see myself shifting that way again as the kids get older/get out) and the men coming home for lunch (still mostly in Portugal.  They have two hours or so for lunch) would mill around the tv waiting to see who the new people in charge were, and whether we’d swerved to the crazy left (the rich-boy Maoist group) or relative sanity had prevailed and we now had whatever passed for a viable party in power.  (At one time, the socialists were the furthest right party allowed.)

To this day I  hear “Green Acres” and I cringe and every muscle in my body tenses.

Some scars go deeper than the skin.  Some scars go all the way down.

I think I was sixteen, though it’s hard to tell because after a while all your memories of a certain time run together and you group things together by “feel.”  (Like if it’s a happy memory of a sunny summer I think I was eight, even if I know from other things I was ten or six.)

Anyway, we had one of the crazy-crazy left groups in power.  Things were … weird.  The press was completely unreliable.  A rumor went out that they were about to suppress the socialists (the only non communist or ultra communist party still in existence) and their leader was about to be arrested.

I don’t know how the rumor got out, but someone heard something and called his friends.  And the friends called…

We got the call.

My mom and I were the political animals in the house (still are.  Like me and younger-boy in my family now.)

The call came.

Our group couldn’t get permission for a demonstration.  It wouldn’t be granted.  BUT a demonstration was people assembling and making speeches and yelling.  So word went out.  Absolute silence.  And a route to walk, from the center of town to the military installation on the other side of the city.

It was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.   I’d never have believed it till I saw it.  At twenty two I tried to describe it to my husband and I failed.

It was raining.  It rains a lot in the North of Portugal.  You find it a lot in memoirs of the peninsular war by British officers.  It’s a peculiar rain, less than a downpour, more than a drizzle.  Umbrellas are ineffective against it and it gets everywhere.

I was wearing a blue windbreaker, with the hood up, tied around my face.  (Yes, a holy anorhank, symbol of involuntary sexual abstinence!)

Mom and I got downtown, and most of the people on our train started forward, in silence, towards the main plaza.  Where we met – thousands and thousands of people, in their overcoats and raincoats.  In utter silence.

Some more organized people had gotten things together and had signs and banners which they were distributing.

Organized is not experienced.  Being sixteen, I was recruited with another young person – a young man I didn’t know – to hold each end of a HUGE banner that said “The youth of Portugal demands liberty.”  Or something to that effect — it’s hard to remember these many years later.

They hadn’t punched holes in the fabric.  The drizzle was wind-driven.  As we started marching towards the military quarters, the wind pulled on the banner and about broke our arms.  But we held it up.  And we walked.  Thousands of people.  In silence.

And then we got to the quarters.  And we found they were on alert.  And the young troops were up front, with weapons trained on the crowd.

I won’t say anyone ran… exactly.  Perhaps they thought that being young, myself and this guy would – through the power of the cute? – be spared.

There was a … movement.  And there I was in the front.  The silent crowd behind us.  The men with scary machine guns in front of us.  Pointed at us.

If we’d run, what would have happened?

I’m no braver than the next person.  I wanted to run.  But I had a vivid idea we’d be shot in the back.  I still think that might have been right.

It’s very hard to ask soldiers to fire on civilians and I think the barrier holds, unless civilians are either running away (and then I’m sure they’ve fire in the air, or try to, but things happen, right?) or charging.

We were neither.  We stood.  Holding the stupid sign.  Water dripping down the banner pole and straight into my sleeve, under the elastic and all the way to my armpit and down the side of my body.

Because we held the adults couldn’t run away.  The crowd held.

I don’t remember how it broke from there, but the newspapers had to cover THAT.  People had seen us.  We were the people who had seen us.  Everyone knew someone who had been there.

Someday, if I become famous, someone will unearth the picture from the front page of a defunct newspaper of me at sixteen, in that very stupid windbreaker, my face unnaturally pale, holding the stupid banner.  Standing.  Breathing.  Waiting for death or reprieve.

I know things changed from there.  That was the last of the ultra crazy left governments, though frankly all the governments in Portugal are left/left/lefter until recently and recently might be a forlorn hope.  But they weren’t CRAZY left, trying to outlaw anyone who disagreed with them.  The route to normalcy started.

You can tell I’m all to pieces when I start thinking of that one march, of that one moment, of the stupid banner and the wind hurting my arm, and the rain dripping down.

You see, when everything goes bad; when it all goes wrong; when instability crashes over you like a flooding tide, people tend to assume all the normal conventions of life will be suspended.  Everything will be wild and woolly, and we’ll all be Mad Max with less cool rides.

It’s not like that.  Most of the time the pattern of normal life holds – even for dangerous subversives and troublemakers.  Getting rid of you is more trouble than not.

Most of the time routines just go.  A little more difficult.  Extended families cluster together because there are fewer jobs, and everyone is trying to survive.  You learn to cobble a living from what was once your hobbies.  The more hobbies, the better off you are.   You make clothes and jewelry to sell to other people who are broke.  You sell at a great discount, but make a profit, because you’re buying scrap fabric from someone who scavenges from the textile factory’s scrap heap.

No one can afford anything and, objectively, you’re all poorer than church mice.  But the shadow economy keeps people more or less okay.

It’s just sometimes the store shelves are empty.  And sometimes, you turn the corner of the street and find yourself in the middle of a full-fledged street battle and might be shot at.  And sometimes people disappear.  And you can’t trust anything you read in the papers.

And sometimes things go too far and sixteen year olds have to stare down machine guns.

Chaos over normalcy.  Normalcy over chaos.  You walk the fine line and you don’t realize you’re holding your breath.

And you don’t know there are scars there.  You’re walking wounded.  You don’t know you’ve been cut.  The instability and the fear have become normal.

You don’t realize as you’re decompressing through the years.  And you rarely think how bad it was.

Until you find yourself, years later, thinking of yourself at sixteen, holding the banner in the wind and the rain, and you realize you’re holding your breath; you’re pacing the floor.

Metaphorically speaking, you’re in your mom’s living room again.  You just came home and Green Acres was playing on the little dinky black and white TV.  And now you’re standing in front of it, your fists clenched, your breath held.