Free Novel, Rogue magic, Chapter 44


The prequel to this — Witchfinder — is now up on Amazon.

This novel will get posted here a chapter every Friday or Saturday, or occasionally Sunday.  If you contribute $6 you shall be subscribed for the earc and first clean version in electronic format.  I think it will probably take another three months to finish.  Less, if I can have a weekend to run through and get ahead of the game.  It hasn’t happened yet.

NOTICE: For those unsure about copyright law and because there was a particularly weird case, just because I’m making the pre-first draft of my novel available to blog readers, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t copyrighted to me.  Rogue Magic as all the contents of this blog is © Sarah A. Hoyt 2013.  Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission.  Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog. Credit for the cover image is © Ateliersommerland |


Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, Prince Consort of Britannia, the King’s Witchfinder:


It would be all too easy in my position, I suppose, for me to become convinced that I have a great deal of power. No. Correction on that. It would be all too possible for someone looking at me from the outside to become convinced that I have a great deal of power.

After all, they would say, the king has only one daughter, and I’m married to her. And I’m accounted one of the richest men in Britannia in large part because my half brother, the king of fairyland has gifted me with long buried and forgotten treasure.

And besides, I’m the king’s Witchfinder, whose command over a force of volunteers who travel to other worlds to rescue those in need gives him a small private army at his command.

Ah, if only I could live in the reality of these people’s fantasies about me.

On the other hand, maybe not. After all, they view me as married to a sort of well dressed puppet, the Princess Royale who, to judge from our newspapers and ladies journals, is mostly concerned with beatifically waiting the arrival of her first child, picking out suitable lace for the nursery and dreaming of sunshine and butterflies.

I’m not going to say my wife, the Princess Helena, who would much rather be called Nell, isn’t concerned with laces, patterns and nursery furniture. Sometimes I think I’ll suffocate in lace, and it wouldn’t be the first time, after dinner, in the royal palace, in the family suite, that my father in law the king and I trade a long-suffering look over two women who are comparing lace patterns different only to their eyes, and asking our opinion when we have no idea what we’re supposed to say.

No, what I’m saying is that my wife, Nell, is as different from that puppet in royal robes as it is possible to be, a difficult, stubborn, complex, wholly fascinating creature, raised in a world full of egalitarian notions and strange ideas about the condition of men, a world in many ways richer than our own even when you’re a princess. She disapproves of servants, for instance, and has had a small cottage built on the grounds of the royal palace – and still within its magical shields, since it’s not advisable for her to go outside them while bearing the next heir of Britannia – where she cooks and cleans and gets to be alone with me.

I’ve read a little about the history of the world in which she grew up, and know of a queen Antoinette who played at being a farmer in a similar mannter.

Nell is so happy with her pretend life, being a housewife as she would be in her world, that no one has the courage to tell her that she can only manage it because servants turn out the house, black the range, and clean the rugs while she’s out at her official duties. Or even that they split the wood for cooking and warming fires because I lack the time.

If she thinks about it, she will know, but then her beautiful illusion will be shattered. Sooner or later, she will come to realize it, and to realize that dispensing with servants in Avalon is only possible if you either live in someone else’s house, as a servant yourself, or if you live in a hovel, where there is nothing to clean and nothing to cook. Some day she’ll realize the reason for the beautiful privacy and near-equality-of-circumstances on Earth, where servants are rare at least where she was brought up are the ubiquitous machines that do the boring, tiresome work that is done by servants and serfs on Avalon.

Which is why my brother Michael, who is a genius, and who does understand this, works day and night to replicate the same machines on Avalon, in our land moving on magic, so we don’t have to recreate the infrastructure of Earth, which might or might not work here, and besides would interfere with magic in many ways.

He has a workshop in the back of Ainsling house in town, and of our estates in the country, and though there have been notable failures, such as when the magical barber chased him out of the workshop, pursued him through the garden, and was only stopped by our butler with a magical gun, there have been notable successes too, like his solo flying ship, ever so much more practical than flying carpet ships and twice as fast – even if his first experiment with them almost got him married to a spirit of the air, and might eventually get him married to an evil magician’s daughter.

The point is that I was born to the peculiar position of being the least important of my brothers, even if the heir. And I’d married into a position that looked full of peculiar power but was indeed a prison, hemmed in on all sides.

I’m not complaining. I love my wife, real and complex as she is. And I love my in laws, gentle people with a sense of humor. I don’t love being prince consort and the endless interviews about what kind of blacking I prefer for my boots or what I think should be done about the welsh dragons. (Apparently the answer isn’t kill them all, even though welsh dragons are not human shifters and are quite devoid of self-awareness. It took the king’s spokesman weeks to undo that damage, after which I was politely requested not to pronounce on matters I know nothing about, such as magical balance.)

And I love my brother. Both of them. Even though Gabriel, in his persona as king of fairyland is more force of nature than human being. But even at his grandest, coldest, most magical there is still in there, somewhere, the friend hwo helped me raid the forcing houses when we were both boys.

None of which explained why he’d planted a magical bomb on Jonathan Blythe which would have killed me and those close to me when it went off, including Jonathan himself.

And I loved Michael, too, but there were times when I’d gladly have traded him for a litter of puppies and a gallon of milk. This was one of those times.

He was deep in mathematical conversation, discussing magical vectors with the– Oh, there is no delicate way to say this, so if any ladies from Avalon read this account I apologize for offended sensibilities, with the Earl of Sydell, the lover of my half-brother, Gabriel, King of Fairyland.

The Earl of Sydell, who much preferred to be called Marlon, and who had at one time gone by the name Elfborne, was probably the only person in the world who could understand the magical theory that was meat and drink to Michael. That was well enough.

What wasn’t well enough was my realization they were planning to go into fairyland to rescue Gabriel from some terrible doom that might mean his death.

“Here,” I said. “What are you about? Sydell is three quarters elf, and might not be allowed out again. And Michael was a changeling and will be in like danger.”

Which is when Sydell told me all he wanted was for me to assume custody of his presumptive son should he disappear. I thought there was demmed “should” about it, but I also saw I wouldn’t persuade him. So I sent for the clerks to draw up the papers, and make the arrangements he wished.

I intended of course not to let Michael go with him, and I believe I’d have succeeded, too.

Only as the papers were signed, I looked up and realized Caroline and Akakios were gone. Since the damnfools were quite likely to go to fairyland too, I walked to the door, hoping to see them.

But not only were they nowhere in sight, but no one in the plaza remembered seeing them, which considering Akakios was in centaur form was peculiar enough.

I wanted to scream, but instead politely thanked the men who were cleaning up what remained of the Lionheart Fountain, the loss of which would be mourned by tourists forever.

Then I turned back to my office. Which was … quite empty, and had that peculiar smell of a place where transport magic has recently been done.

The clerk was looking, bewildered and big eyed. “His Grace, they—”

I groaned. For a moment, for a wild moment, I had the idea of doing the transport spell myself and going into fairyland and shaking them all, including however many pieces Gabriel had split into, until all their teeth fell out.

But part of being the Witchfinder, part of my promise, was to coordinate but not travel to those lands. Nell had made me promise, because she couldn’t bear for me to disappear and for her to never know what had become of me, she said.

Other people would say she had no right to lay such an injunction on me, but considering she’d given up everything, including every hope of seeing the world she’d grown up in in order to fulfill her duty, she knew something of sacrifice.

I stared in despair at the empty office, and thought of those I loved heading into mortal danger. And nothing I could do to save them. Nothing I could do to influence the fight.

Except perhaps—

Little by little an idea formed. It could cost me the world – quite literally – if it failed. But if it succeeded, it might be the answer to the whole thing.

Nell would kill me for running the risk. On the other hand, if I failed there was a good chance my world and my wife were lost already.

And sometimes a man has to fight for what he loves.

The Subtle Self Promoting Writer Self Promotes — Sort Of.

ANNOUNCEMENT: At the main Baen Home Page, page down for a free Michael Z. Williamson short story “Soft Casualty.” Remember to say “thank you” to Baen books — even if mentally.

From the Oyster: We’ve got a nice bunch of books this week from some of our most prestigious members of the commentariat. I’m too braindead this week for witty banter, so I’m just going to drop this here for you all and go get some sleep before I face another greuling day of taking money hand over fist in exchange ofr other people’s books at the local Comic Con. My apologies. Spirit, flesh, some settling may occur. As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!
Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Schlock Hawker, Mercenary Wordsmith, and Menacer of Recalictrant Computers

Sabrina Chase

The Last Mage Guardian

The Last Mage Guardian
Miss Ardhuin Andrews has a secret.

Several secrets, in fact. She is not, as her traveling family believes, safely ensconced in the Metan Seminary for Young Ladies. She is also not properly chaperoned in her late great-uncle Oron’s chateau in the Bretagne countryside, but alone – and having a lovely time unencumbered by strict propriety and the dreaded dancing lessons.

Oh yes, and Miss Andrews is a magician, the most dangerous secret of all. In the world of Aerope women are believed to be incapable of magic, and all magicians must be certified and licensed by law.

Then her quiet idyll is shattered by a sudden massive magical attack – and a mysterious stranger arrives who is impervious to all her spells of illusion and misdirection. Is this the danger Oron warned her of, in his cryptic final words? Is this Dominic Kermarec a mere penniless, out-of-work tutor as he claims, or a spy?

Then she learns Oron bequeathed her more than his chateau–and she must travel to the ends of Aerope to stop a magical plot amid political intrigue, betrayal, and echoes of an old war that has not truly ended…

The Last Mage Guardian is set in a world where magic and science coexist, with a steampunk flavor.

Cedar Sanderson

Voyageur’s Cap

Voyageur's Cap
Duty brought Lia to the backwater planet. Honor bound her to fulfill the promise she made to Daz before his death to see his daughter, Serene, safely away and enrolled at the Academy. Neither expected their trip to be interrupted by distress signals, abandoned ships and space pirates.

Cyn Bagley

In the Shadow of Death: Reflections on a Chronic Illness

In the Shadow of Death
In January 2003 I spent two weeks in a German hospital before I was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. This collection contains my journey through a chronic illness. This ebook was written as remembrance for Vasculitis month (May) and to all of those people who have lived with and died from a chronic illness.

Alma Boykin

Revolution from Above: A Cat Among Dragons Novella

Revolution from Above
It takes a mammal to save a planet.

Caught away from her soldiers when mercenaries invade Drakon IV, Rada Ni Drako must find a way to reconquer the planet. Help comes from a strange quarter, but even that might not be enough when treason slithers into view. Lord Ni Drako needs all her wiles, luck, and dirty tricks just to survive.

When a mammal fights a mammal, even dragons duck for cover.

Sam Schall

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Also available from Barnes and Noble.

Juliet Chase

Amy’s Amazing Adventures (Across Time and Space)

Amy's Amazing Adventures (Across Time and Space)
For millennia the rabbits reigned supreme… but no more. Now the forces of darkness threaten the very existence of time and space.

Meanwhile, Amy is a young Regency miss in need of some excitement and an escape from a forced marriage to a pig farmer. She finds both when she discovers a hidden portal to another dimension while fleeing from a highwayman. Traveling the space-time continuum and fending off attackers and assassins, she gathers the motley crew required of any proper fantasy quest. Only hers consists of the aforementioned highwayman, the Sheik of Araby, a stoic ex-Navy SEAL, and a feng shui wizard. Join Amy on her hilarious and irreverent journey to restore balance to the cosmos and claim her birthright, or find her way back home, whichever comes first.

From Sarah:

D’Artagnan is called home on his father’s death, and, of course, Athos, Porthos and Aramis go with him.  The attacks along the way make them doubt that the elder Monsieur D’Artagnan’s death was really the result of a duel.  Once they’re in Gascony, it becomes plain that D’Artagnan’s father was murdered by someone who intends to do the same to the son, should he get a chance.


And in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know I have an indie novel out, here it is.  No, I have no intention of stopping working for Baen, but this was my free novel on Fridays for a year and a half, and it seemed odd to offer my publisher something that had been posted here for free.  Also, it’s a Regency Fantasy with dragons and unlikely lover pairings (though I’m told it has lots of action.  Not that type of action.  Bad Huns.  Go to your corner.  No biscuit.) and it didn’t seem to me to be Baen’s style, even if it DOES have an explosion.

There will be a chapter in its sequel here in a few hours after I have breakfast and a shower.  And then I’ll work on Through Fire.  (No, there’s nothing wrong with what’s going on with writing the book — but real life has thrown us half a dozen wobblers which means I’ve had only hours with the computer this week.  So I must work through the weekend.  Well, okay, not tomorrow.  I’m told it’s a holiday or something.)

Progressing To The Past

So, yesterday there was a comment I didn’t approve. I didn’t approve it because it was posted on my er… competition with Larry Correia for worst person in the world. Or something. And since most of ya’ll had moved on, I figured you didn’t need a chew toy.

It started by telling me – because, you know, I’m stupid, and I hadn’t covered it in the blog post or anything – that “that gender is a social construct has been established since like the eighties.” To begin with, yeah, “gender as a social construct” as people here pointed out is a sociological “percept” but gender in sociology doesn’t refer to your biological sex or to whom you happen to be attracted to, or to any, you know, immutable characteristics of men and women.

In fact, it refers to how gender is expressed in a PARTICULAR SOCIETY. Being a woman in Saudi-Arabia, say, and being a woman in the USA are two completely different sociological personas, and the layered bits about “who you are” clearly are part of that society.

Now, this doesn’t alter certain characteristics of those born with a vagina, because, well… uh… uh… uh… when you’re in the womb, you develop differently if you don’t have a Y chromosome. You just do.

This is not, as I pointed out in the earlier post, to say there isn’t a WIDE variation among individuals of the same gender on how those characteristics display or the level to which they display. Or to put it simply, some women are more feminine than others. That’s because of being individuals, see?

However, on a statistical sample basis, if you take a random woman and a random man, he’s going to be stronger (even if less muscular) and capable of overpowering her by brute force. He’s also going to be more interested in risky and/or dirty jobs. She’s going to be (on average) more interested in things relating to language, and – sigh, I hate to admit this, because I hate it when people ask me “so you write children’s books?” based on nothing but my sex – more interested in jobs involving children.

Now, if you take Minnie, the Olympic weight lifter and Mickey the slacker kid down the block who only gets off his sofa to get a soda, yeah, she can do push ups with him. But that doesn’t invalidate the argument. If you take a random 100 men and a random 100 women, the men in aggregate will wipe the floor with women on strength and interest in doing unpleasant physical jobs.

That means that “gender” in anything outside the social sciences – biology, real life behavior, etc – is not a construct. The way it’s expressed is – at least to an extent. For instance, one of the expressions of gender, in Portugal, for women, was being really good at handywork. All my classmates had trousseaus full of embroidered sheets. Because of hand-eye issues, I wasn’t able to do anything but cross stitch till my middle twenties (and astigmatism correction!) The fact that I couldn’t do it didn’t invalidate the fact I was female. It just made people entertain doubts about me, because in that society it was so strongly associated that even my colleagues who were in medical school spent all their free time madly embroidering and crocheting. In the states saying “I don’t embroider” didn’t make people doubt my femininity but in Portugal it did, because the EXPRESSION of gender is a social construct. In the States what makes people doubt my femininity (or at least my orientation) is my habit of shopping by the male method: “Run into store. Grab first thing that looks vaguely like what I need. Pay. Run out again, because stores are boring and annoying.” (Exceptions made for good bookstores, back when they existed.)

However, in both countries, I’m weaker than the average male, and have to be aware of this when I go out at night unaccompanied because, well, mugging being an outdoor and risky occupation, most muggers are male and therefore stronger than I. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other 90 lbs females who can beat big hulking guys are fantasies. Fun, sure, but fantasies.

Forgetting which part of gender is a construction and which reality can end up with very dead (but empowered!) young women.

We’ll leave for later this “has been established” thing – since that I know in the social sciences things can be accepted or believed but not “established.” I.e., the science is never settled. (Or if it is, we wouldn’t have a regime that has killed 100 million in the ascendant, while we’re told this time they’ll do it right.)

This person – and I’d guess age at high school senior if that old – then went on to tell me the only people who denied that were conservatives, because they wanted to keep things “as they’ve always been.” And also that from my using “vileprog” I must be one of those conservatives, and perhaps I should broaden my mind and consider new ideas.

You know, someone like that has only met conservatives inside their own head. And that’s accepting that everything not a vileprog, and everyone who knows progs are vile is a “conservative.”

First, let me count the fails. This person clearly believes “progressive” is a new idea. Oh, honey, Marx wrote his load of crap WELL OVER 100 years ago. The Soviet Union tried to implement it for 70 years and has now been in failure mode for twenty some years. Beyond all that, his great idea that the world would be perfect if we took from those who had and gave it to those who didn’t have it, was old when he came along. Hell, Cataline had tried something very like in the Roman Republic. (There were differences because the Roman Republic was not, in any sense, a capitalist society.) This neat idea of hurting people whom you envy and taking their stuff is not futuristic or new. It’s old as sin.

Which is why I don’t call progressives progressives. I call them vileprogs, because captures the depths of the depravity they have perpetrated on the human race.

As for my being a conservative who wants to keep things as “they’ve always been” – uh uh. First, when you’re talking of genders… HOW have they always been? No, seriously. Other than those basic immutable things you can’t change: men have penises (unless there’s deformity) and women have vaginas (unless there’s deformity) and on average men are stronger, take more risks and are more likely to engage in outdoor, dirty occupations… WHAT has been immutable throughout history?

Certainly gender role expression hasn’t been, except in general. Most men nowadays aren’t hunters, for instance – certainly not with lance or bow and arrow. (Okay, my husband would be, given time, but…) And most women certainly don’t spin thread, even though it was so prevalent a female activity as to originate the word “Spinster.”

As for my wishing to keep things as they’ve always been, or even as they are – ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah – that alone was reason enough for me not to approve that post, since the poster didn’t even try to read about the person they were trying to put in her place. If they had they’d known that, though most of you disagree with me – I am in fact a supporter of such shocking things as equality under the law (which means an end to progressive taxation, among other things,) a supporter of small government (which means I stand in opposition to the ever increasing power of the state, in place since Henry VIII, and then consolidated into its present bureaucratic boondogle by Richelieu and Louis XIV.)

I believe in mind-bogglingly things that existed far too briefly upon this earth, uncurtailed: freedom of speech, association, right to bear arms, freedom to pick and practice your religion and other concepts that never existed in the ancient world and rarely exist now.

As for gender and its expression, people such as I believe people should be who they want to be and if they’re not hurting anyone, other people should leave them alone.

There’s a book called “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.”  And that is a revolutionary philosophy indeed.

I was born in a country that had strongly differentiated, rigid gender behaviors as part of its codes. Being allergic to metal (and having parents who disliked the idea of piercing a baby’s ears) meant that I violated those before I was two. And being sickly and wearing my brother’s cast offs meant that I violated the other major one. I.e. the “all little girls wear earrings” and “All little girls wear skirts.” This caused me to be like the boy named Sue and learn to fight before I learned to walk. (Not hard, as I learned to walk exceptionally late.)

This pretty much predisposed me to not give much of a hang about what is the accepted CONVENTION for your gender wherever I live. I do carpentry – and write novels, but that’s an acceptable profession for a woman almost anywhere – and I do crochet.

However, my gender is not socially determined – alas – and I still can’t arm wrestle even my out-of-shape 19 year old, who laughs at me when I can’t lift 100 pounds in a dead lift.

Does the fact I know the difference between those two applications of the word “gender” makes me a conservative? I don’t know. I thought it made me sane, but then again, perhaps Heinlein was right and in the Crazy Years a man (or woman) with all his gaskets tight is the true madman.

Or perhaps my poor would-be troll is just really confused and has a case of believing the label and drinking his own ink.

You see, in modern day, we vile “conservatives” are people who want to upend the social theories that have been in place (and largely driving people nuts) for at least fifty years: such as the idea that nothing is any individual’s fault or credit; the idea that laws SHOULDN’T be equally applied but equal OUTCOMES to any endeavor should be enforced; the idea that your taking my stuff is theft, but the government taking my stuff and giving it to you isn’t theft; the idea that if you just have enough self confidence you will never commit a crime; the idea– I could go on, but this is already too long. Suffice it to say that of the various isms of the twenty century, the only one that was proven real was Zionism, which was based on the idea that people would like to kill Jews, and so Jews needed a place where they could be safe. All others have proven poisonous fruit in various degrees.

And they’re not new. Or scientific. Or even “progressive.”

I was going to make a joke about how if the poster objected to vile progs we should call them “preservatives” instead. But those preservatives, judged by their results, have been pin-holed, and the offspring is monstrous.

Meanwhile, I recommend anyone who thinks those of us who oppose communitarian ideas are “for things as they’ve always been” should be aware that we claim intellectual descent from the Founding Fathers. Keeping things the way “they’d always been” was the least of their interests. Which is why they created the most revolutionary society in the world.

One we’re not going to allow you to destroy just to take us back to ideas that were old and disproven a 100 years ago.

You have been warned.

You can call us names, and you can do your best to lecture us.  But I suggest you start to read what we say and to actually pay attention.  These straw men of yours are very pretty, but they bear no resemblance to us.

And we are infinitely more dangerous.



There Is No Glass Slipper – A Blast From The Past post from February 2012

*You are not to get alarmed.  I’m not actually sick as such, just very tired and with a heck of a headache.  I thing it was the sudden weather shift (it’s snowing again.)  Anyway, I don’t want to face the blank blog in the morning, so I’m leaving you with a post from February two years ago.  Most of it still applies.  I think.*

Your life is not a story.

I mean, oh, of course, in a sense it is a story – of course it is – in the sense that things happen in chronological order, it has a beginning and one day it will have an ending.  You could also say it is divided in chapters.  In fact we often talk about “entering a new chapter” of life.

But there are differences.

I’ve told you – haven’t I? – that my final exam in Theory Of Literature, consisted of two questions.  The first was specific and required analysis of the use of commas by a Portuguese poet who wrote in blank verse.  The second was “Explain the difference between literature and life.  Give examples.”

Since I have a fraught relationship with punctuation I knew I’d get at best half the points on the technical question, so I had to get full points for the second.  So I spun from memory of my Philosophy classes a deal about Plato and the cave and how only through literature could we see life outside the cave.  I knew that would appeal to literature professors and, as most of you know, my morals are weak.  (If they weren’t would I lie for a living?  No?  What do you think fiction is?)  So… I passed.

However, my rather mendacious answer notwithstanding, or my wished-for answer which was “if I kill you in a book you’ll continue breathing.  If I kill you in real life not so much” the true answer is more complex than that, and more simple.

Life is not like literature because life doesn’t have to make sense.  (We’re reminded of this daily as we see what some of my colleagues post on facebook.)  More rarely we’re reminded of this as an impossible coincidence surfaces that makes us go “What?  That wasn’t laid out in the plot.”

But we forget that too.  We forget it very often, particularly those of us who are dedicated writers – or readers.  We forget it as we think as though life WERE a plot, as though it HAD to make sense.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago while talking to a friend who is a beginning writer.  We were trying, somewhat ineffectively, to convince this person it’s best to go indie now, while this writer has no track record.  This writer was yelling back about wanting what I had.  (Apparently people HANKER after ten years of kicks in the teeth.) About how I was famous (Am too.  Right now I’m the most famous person at this desk.  Well, the cats have left in search of food.)  About how I was a real writer, and therefore I could now go indie with a clear conscience (I’m trying, okay?  I’m trying.  I need time, since I’m also still writing for traditional publishers.)

And then this writer explained that since childhood, the writer had dreamed of having books out “on shelves” and being able to tell friends to go and buy them at any bookstore.

Useless to tell this person that there was that year I had FIVE books come out with traditional publishers and you couldn’t find a single one on a single shelf in the whole state of Colorado.  In this person’s mind, that story from childhood, HAD to have a happy ending.

It’s conditioning.  As writers and readers, we are trained to pick up “promises” in the plot early on.  Some of you who have been following Witchfnder are unreally good at picking up on those promises.  I’ve had emails guessing at Nell’s origins, at the ultimate end of the book, etc, which are, at this point, GUESSES.  Have to be, since my cluing has been as hidden as possible.  And in one case the clue is not yet connected to anything.  And yet, people GOT it.

Unfortunately, we tend to reason about life that way, too.

This might be a case of chicken and egg.  I know that stories are what happens when we turn our mind lose on life and allow it to impose order on reality, whether that order is real or imaginary.  We tell ourselves stories.  And we tend to make stories out of our lives.  Perhaps that’s how we make sense of life.  Perhaps that’s how we remain what passes for sane.  Or perhaps not.

Perhaps life used to be more predictable, too.  I’m not betting on it.  I grew up in a small village, where people by and large, with minor innovations like electrical light and running water, lived the way they had for centuries, observed the same feast days, cultivated the same plot of land, kept the same farm animals as their ancestors world without end – in a place where Romeo and Juliet might have happened in the next village.  (I thought it had, the first time I heard someone talk about it.)  Looking back, life looked a lot more… well… ordered.  You knew the pool from which you’d choose your mate, more or less, you knew the places you’d see in your life, you knew where you’d be buried when you died.  You knew the kids who worked hard in childhood would probably make good, and you knew the class clown would probably have a checkered career, and the kid caught breaking into a neighbor’s house at ten would probably eventually come to a bad end.

But that’s from a distance.  If you increase the granularity and go life by life, person by person, you find it’s not like that.  That kid who worked hard in childhood, walking out his parents’ door one evening, gets run over by a car and spends the rest of his life as a paraplegic, having to be looked after.  The kid who was a bad lot?  Well, he gets drafted, goes overseas, becomes a hero, comes back and picks up a steady job, never has a hobble again… until he’s fifty when he embezzles his boss’s money, runs away and dies a millionaire in Brazil.

Even in the village, with its ordered cycle of life, people could surprise you, events could surprise you, things you counted on – like inheriting the family business – would turn out quite differently – when you found out the company was bankrupt, for instance.

After all, that small village produced me and – good or bad (and often bad) – you can’t say my trajectory was predictable.  When I was born to a rather traditional family in a traditional village and as a female (which in that culture means far less mobile) I can safely say that if some time traveler had told family, friends or extended acquaintances that not only would I survive (an iffy thing, since I was extremely premature, born at home, and not allowed access to an incubator) but I’d leave home and go live in the states on my own (no relatives, other than my husband) AND become a novelist in a language no one in the family spoke at the time (correction, my grandfather spoke it.  He didn’t write it.  But he had no one to speak it to) NO ONE would have believed it.

But even those of you who aren’t little vortexes of unstable fate can probably point out to events in your lives that were in no way “foreshadowed.”

However, it goes further than that.  MUCH further.  Right now, we are in a time of catastrophic change.  By that I don’t mean the intentional, phony and often strange change brought on by political moves.  I mean bone-deep technological change of the kind that leaves a mark.

Part of the reason that change is so difficult is that we are essentially two cultures.  One of them is  “the people who talk.”  (I’d call it “the people who think” but that is unwarranted flattery for most of them – for most humans, actually.)  These are the media, the academia, the people who tell stories whether fictional or fictionalized.  These people in general know nothing – or very little – about what the other culture is up to.  The other culture is “the people who fix”.  These are the people who know how things work, the people who can build and create.

For years now the people who talk have been ascendant.  We’ve been building a little reality of words, telling ourselves stories.  “This is the way things work” and “This is the way things will go.”  Actually, we haven’t been ascendant so much as we were the only ones saying these things, and the other people didn’t or couldn’t contradict us, so we thought we had it all.  Our story was undisputed.  Like the garrulous wife of a silent husband, we sat there for years making plans.  “And when we retire, we’re going to live in Miami.”  And because the poor sob across the table said nothing, we thought we could do as we pleased.

The silent people who fix and create things were, all along, quietly, often in an inarticulate way, pulling the rug out from under our feet.  While we were talking about our condo in Miami they were building an entire retirement community from discarded beer bottles, in the backyard of our house in Michigan.

So while we were creating our just so plots, the people who fix and create things changed the world on us (the bastages.)  While we were climbing the ordered ladder of publishing (such as it was) they were building ebooks, and even – gasp – places like Amazon to sell them.  They were creating the computer revolution which allows us to attend lectures from home (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, education is next in line for that change.)

So, now there’s a choice of courses for us.  The world is changing.  It’s called catastrophic because it resembles Atlantis subsiding beneath the waves.  We can’t change it back.  We can make phony political changes that will make things go a different route, and possibly a worse route, or we can shout into the wind, but it’s not going to stop the change.

The metaphoric oceans are coming in.  You can choose to stand there going “I’m despondent.  My life is over.  I want my beach back.  When I was little I dreamed of a condo in Miami.”  Heaven knows I’ve done a bit of that myself and still have instances of it.  HOWEVER that is not a survival-enhancing behavior.  Those who will survive – and many who will thrive – are already running for the hills, scouting out the now-barren peaks that will be fertile islands when the change is done.

I know it hurts.  It hurts like heck.  We want our stories to make sense, and we want our life to be a story.

But you have to be aware that at some level it was always a lie.

To the extent that you need stories to survive, make this one be about the plucky author/educator/artist who survived catastrophic change – who got out ahead of the mess and the turmoil and came out much more successful than traditional routes allowed.  Make your prototype that of the mythological (but then so was Atlantis) sage who got in a boat ahead of the continent sinking and went to other lands to teach what he knew.  And who was treated as a god in the new land.

You’re not Cinderella.  There is no glass slipper.  BUT if you’re good and pro-active and if you stop lamenting and start looking to the future, there MIGHT be a fortune in canned pumpkin or trained mice.

First let go of the glass slipper dreams.  It was never very comfortable and it came off when you ran downstairs.  Then shake yourself, look around, and find new dreams.  You can do it.  Remember, the best stories change direction halfway through.  Why should your life be any different?

Check Your Victimhood

One of my friends posted a result of a Facebook quiz about “your privilege.” He did it with acerbic comments – even though he’s a much nicer person than I – because he’s not stupid or a pudding head and the quiz made him almost as foamy at the mouth as I got. BUT—

I couldn’t resist taking it. First of all, it will surprise you that I got a 24 which makes me extremely under privileged and definitely in victimhood territory. I answered the questions honestly, btw. I just don’t think I answered them as the writer of the quiz intended.

For instance, I’m fairly sure when she (okay, might be an he, but if I had to bet. And I hate “they” as a singular pronoun. Yes, I know Elizabethans used it, but NOT for politically correct reasons) wrote the test and asked “Have you ever been derided and called names for your religion” what she was thinking of was some poor huddled Muslim female being called names by stereotypical white menTM, not an European high school student in the magnet school and the selective “advanced” form being called things because she refused to say she didn’t believe in G-d. Or, when she said “Did you ever have to hide your orientation” she probably didn’t mean at the Broad Universe tea at a convention. Or when she said “did you ever get called names because of your sexual orientation” she probably wasn’t thinking of “Breeder!” hurled from passing car as I pushed a baby carriage down the road. Nor… and this I’m absolutely sure of, did this precious flower ever think that “Did you ever have to hide who you are” could refer to my ten years of hiding my political beliefs, so I could earn a living in a liberal-dominated field.

In fact, what this very bizarre “quiz” revealed more than anything else was the quiz writers assumptions. I have no idea how someone could come by such an odd set of them, except that I think it’s a group thing – I think where she lives everyone repeats this, so, “if everyone believes it must be right.” And also, I think this person has never looked outside her position of extreme privilege, and therefore thinks that everyone’s lives must be BETTER than hers, because, surely, she can’t be privileged. I mean, she’s female. (And possibly gay or of color.)

I wanted to give her the wisdom I acquired circa ten “other people look carefree because they’re not me. Everyone has burdens.” I acquired this wisdom by finding that someone I thought was a precious snow flake was actually deathly ill – she just didn’t show it.

How do I intuit this from the quiz? Well, it’s the questions she didn’t know she was asking. Like… I don’t know ANYONE – not even atheists – who have never been derided for their religious opinions. The only way not to get that, is never to leave the echo chamber. BUT she thought that she was aiming it at a specific religious group, and that no one else EVER gets bullied for their fate or lack thereof. Thereby revealing that she DOES live in an echo chamber, and a protected one at that.

What makes me think she was aiming it at a religious group in particularly? Well, two lines down was “Have you ever been called a terrorist because of your beliefs?” This of course made me hit my head on the desk since the DHS thinks constitutionalists ARE terrorists. But this poor woman never heard of it.

And the line about “are you something other than white and male” was again jaw-droppingly solipsistic. At a guess, from terms used like cismale, the creature who wrote this was very well educated, and from some of the assumptions, well off. BUT she (if she’s a she) thinks someone growing up hungry somewhere in the Midwest, with parents barely scraping by has “privilege” because he tans with more difficulty and has a penis. Oh, please. This is like the old P.J. O’Rourke joke “will trade Moscow State Apartment for sleeping bag on the streets of NYC” – I bet most of us would rather be a person of vaginitude born with a silver spoon in her mouth and the connections to get decent jobs, than the son of a drug-addled couple somewhere in a remote area of West Virginia. No? I would. You know, in terms of going through life on an easy setting. Never mind that even the kid in the middle of West Virginia, with the meth cooking parents has a better shot at the big time than if he were born anywhere else in the world. AND that shot is much, much – infinitely – better if the child is black. Yes, we’re a better place to be black than most places in Africa.

In fact, what that entire quiz told me, from the beginning, was that this person lives in a rarified world, where she’s never met with the slightest set back, and yet she imagines other people must have it easier. She imagines this because by reasons of gender, orientation or race, she has been told her whole life that other people have privilege. And considering how good she has it, then those bastages out there must be living gold plated lives. How dare they?

And this is how we end up with people who have never had to sleep rough, have never had to patch their clothes so as not to go to school half naked, have never had to eat whatever there was, because it was all there was and the meat was starting to turn green, lecturing others about “checking their privilege” and imagining that they are downtrodden.

This is how we get the nonsense about “micro-aggressions” because someone looked at them – or they imagined they looked at them. Let’s not forget how the statue of the sleep walker threatened them – cross eyed.

They have been told all their lives they’re victims. Therefore they must be victims. And if nothing ever happens that can make them justifiably “bullied” or “victimized” they just turn up the gain on the receptor, so they can imagine themselves as heroic victims of terrible oppression.

And if they can’t even find that, then they lecture us on behalf of all of the oppressed.

Sometimes I think that everyone whining about “privilege” is in fact declaring their privilege. And the answer to it should be my mom’s answer when I cried for no reason “I’ll give you something to cry for.” Not that I’m threatening to hit them, of course, but I think they’d all be better for some real problems and, particularly, some real empathy, some understanding that in the world, in living, there are very few easy settings. Theirs is probably the easiest, and look what they do to it, creating all sorts of interesting guilt, neurosis and projection. (Can I revise my choice and be the boy with no opportunities somewhere in West Virginia? He has a better chance of being sane.)

Look, half the times when I was answering it was in circumstances this person couldn’t imagine.

And how does it feel to be “underpriviledged”? Darned if I know. Yes, I’ve been mocked for my accent. Yes, I’ve been denied a job for my gender (long ago; far away. Translator job. They were convinced I’d quit when I got pregnant. Weirdly, unknown to me, they were right. Eh.) I’ve been afraid of being out at night alone because of my gender But to be fair, I’d have been afraid because of my size if I were a small male. Look, it’s not prejudice that makes women more defenseless. It’s body mass and strength. Someone who doesn’t know that, has watched too many “kick ass girls” and is not aware it’s a fantasy. BTW the cure for that is concealed carry. (And sheesh, yes, will work towards a permit as soon as immediate situation lets up a little.) The point is that even assuming what makes a woman afraid to be out at night alone is PREJUDICE opens a whole can of crazy. I mean, does she think muggers only attack women? Does she think this is the organized “keeping women in their place” shock troop of the male conspiracy TM? There is no telling.

Again, it’s like the person who wrote this is Bubble Girl (or boy) and has never lived anywhere in the real world.

Which is probably true. This person has probably grown up in a world built by our media, our entertainment and our politicians’ cynical assumption of divide-and-conquer tactics.

Pray really hard that she/he/it/precious unicorn never has to face reality and find out how he/she/it has been privileged all along.

Meanwhile, when told to “check your privilege” tell them to “check your victimhood.” Contrary to advertisement, the only superpower it confers is the super-whine. And they don’t even give you crackers with that.

UPDATE:  New cover and free on Amazon.  Note, it’s a Kit Marlowe mystery, not musketeers.  You’ve been warned.

John Lennon’s Tooth and The Machineries of Fate.

It is a given fact that you guys like to disturb me. I don’t know why that is. I’d take it for granted that, in fact, life disturbs me enough. Take taxes, for instance — oh, wait. Los Federales already did. They have great need of money to eat it or something. Never mind.

Perhaps in an effort to distract me from running around the house repeating RAH’s dictum that you should be wary of strong drink: it might make you shoot at tax collectors and MISS, one of you told me about this dentist in … Alberta? Who bought one of John Lennon’s teeth (who even sells that?) and who plans to “clone John Lennon.”

Okay, as publicity it might be okay, though – I don’t know about you – I’d be hesitant to go to a dentist – any doctor really – who is into macabre souvenirs.

But the idea…

My answer to the reprobate who told me about it was to point out that we already have plenty of broken misfits around. I think he was a little taken aback, so I had to explain.

This is not the case with every one, of course, but speaking for me and a lot of other writers I know – and Lord help us, plastic artists are WORSE – art is what happens when you break somebody, then put them under unbearable pressure. Imagine if you will living, animated, sentient coal, and you’re trying to make diamonds. You apply enormous pressure…

And sometimes you’re going to get the diamond. The misfit will reorganize, re-integrate, find an outlet, and the result is something rarer and far better than mere human coal. But this being humans, most of the time you’re just going to get coal dust or perhaps diamond chips.

The resemblance between artists and madmen has been noted through history, but it’s slightly sideways from the truth. The truth is not that artists are mad, but rather like they achieved a state supra-madness where they function fine because they have that artistic outlet.

Now, I’m not quite that way, but then as you know I’m more craftswoman than artist.

Anyway, what shocked me about that story is that artist or not, Lennon’s success; his fame; his contribution to the world of music and the performing arts, is even more dependent on chance, on just how high that pressure was turned, when.

Regardless of what you think of his solo career it came after the Beatles, and might never have been what it was without the Beatles, and besides the Beatles is arguably his greatest contribution. What I mean is, absent the Beatles, he’d never have been the John Lennon he was, for good or ill. (This is something I tried to capture in Superlamb Banana. And yes, oh my, that does need another cover. Sigh.)

And that surely isn’t expressed in his genes. Unless you think of genes as sort of a magic destiny, the sort that the fairygodmothers used to give people over their cradle.

You might, of course. It’s a new and popular theory. Everything we are and everything we achieve is supposed to be there, in our genes, ready to happen. This Calvinistic (but not religious) view of humanity of course presupposes that the future is pre-written. We are, if you will, lines of code in a program we can’t help follow.

This is very similar to the Portuguese idea of fate which, Portugal being heavily influenced by Islam, is still central to the culture. You hear even educated people say things like “We all follow our fate.”

And it annoys me. It is, if you will, part of the Widgetization of humanity.

The left is going for this in a big way, without ever admitting it’s what their doing, just their their assumption of culture being genetic is never admitted to be full on racism. (It is. What else would it be? White people are endlessly protean, but if you are an interesting sub-race/culture, then you have to follow a script and know your place? Straight up racism!)

They’re going for this fate and pre-ordained thing in a big way because it’s a logical follow on their idea that nothing is your fault. If everything is scripted, its’ wrong to hold crimes against criminals. It also fits right in with the number of extreme left people who are radical losers. You might have an IQ of 180 and be living in a trashy apartment and raiding trash cans for garbage, but it was all planned, and it’s not your fault. Oh, yeah, and you can’t escape, so making the effort to actually integrate into society? Not possible. It will only fail.

Of course this destroys human freedom.

I’ve said of this before, that even if it were true (and if it were, we couldn’t prove it, barring proving the entire universe is a computer program) it would be evil to believe it. It would rob all existence of meaning and all humans of individuality. However, what we know seems to show it’s not true. I mean, maybe someone scripted me to have my particular life so far, in which case you have to wonder if they were sane (sorry) but I, like all of us, can see the errors, the failures, the slips – and what might have been. And it was not forbidden to me.

Of course, the jokers who believe this bilge then say that you don’t really think: you just follow a script, and then rationalize your actions.

While a lot of people do this, and a lot of us do it at times in minor stuff — like we forget we were going to make a cake and when we’re halfway through making a soufflé, we do the cat thing “I meant to do that” — I beg to differ. Major decisions are usually weighed by everyone but the very infantile, and the ones who believe that they can’t help themselves.

Again this is the widgetization of people. It’s making people things who would all act the same way given certain genes. Yeah, some twin studies purport to show that, to an extent, but I always wonder about the ones that don’t make cute lifeline stories. Oh, sure, the tendencies are in your genes. But what you make of them is your choice.

You’re not the sum of your ancestry. You’re not a widget. You’re not the slave to the culture you were born in. The future is yours to mold.

And as for John Lennon, poor man, who the heck needs another kid with funny glasses, a lot of uncontrolled aggression and some musical talent? He left children, in the normal way of mankind. Let that be enough for his contribution, and let him rest in peace.


Post Tomorrow Morning

Meanwhile could I get those of you who’ve bought The Musketeer’s Mysteries, now that they’ve been re-released to leave some reviews, because, ick, the house, well… (That and I was burned out, so I didn’t notice things in page proof.  And I made what I thought were jokes.  Don’t even ask.  They were worse than the puns around here).  And oh, yeah, The Musketeer’s Inheritance is out.  This is the cover:

the musketeer's inheritanceAnd if you guys come back with the old “why don’t the musketeers have any muskets, be aware it’s like asking Wyoming Knot “Why Not?”  It was never funny — they did have muskets, in combat, not in dueling because the d*mn things had no accuracy — and everyone who thinks they’re going to be funny says it.

Actually, because these days I just tend to get rude when people say it, does any of you have a better one liner I can answer with?

And of course — I’ll be sending out the clean copy of Witchfinder soon (sorry, was battling Create Space.

witchfindercoverfinalI’ll post tomorrow, but probably around eight my time.  Those of you on the East Coast I hope will forgive me.



Memes for Good or Evil – A Guest Post By Kate Paulk

Memes for Good or Evil – A Guest Post By Kate Paulk


The Husband and I often have the kinds of conversations that scare normal people. You know, the kind of thing that’s standard discussion fodder at Hoyt’s Huns. It worries the folks at the next table of the restaurant, though. We hit ethics, politics, religion, and enough hot buttons to make a grill, all without going anywhere near any of the standard pre-digested platforms we’re supposed to be following (if you asked the media).


Today it was about memes, specifically the ones that proliferate on Facebook and similar places, where there’s a picture, a snappy or snarky caption, and usually a subtext that you, the reader, is not supposed to question this thing. This conclusion the image demands you draw.


He’s right, of course. The things are being used as buckshot in the war for people’s minds. Scatter a crapload of them around, expecting that enough of the people who identify with the ’cause’ in question will forward without thinking about it, perpetuating the notion that if someone supports X they must also automatically support Y (And Z and the rest of the alphabet’s worth of whichever platform is involved). In short, a conformity enforcement tool.


A few words on the term ‘conformity enforcement’. This is one I picked up from Howard Bloom’s magnificent books, The Lucifer Principle (, and Global Brain ( Both are very dense reading, but well worth the effort for a cross-discipline examination of the scientific underpinnings of evil, community, and group dynamics.


Bloom identifies five core elements of any groups, and sees them in everything from bacterial colonies to nations:

  1. Conformity enforcers – the members of the group that protect the group identity by ensuring that every member of it keeps common traits. This is probably the single most common element in any group
  2. Diversity generators – the members who innovate, who explore and differ from the norms. They’re generally an unwelcome minority until there’s a need for their difference to ensure the group’s survival. These are the members who allow the group to adapt to change.
  3. Inner-judges – the individuals and/or dynamics that decide the worth of something to the group, as an aspect of a group or as an individual within a group choosing not to do something that will have limited value to the group as a whole.
  4. Resource shifters – the members of the group (or the group dynamic) that rewards success and penalizes failure.
  5. Intergroup tournaments – the competitive mechanisms that provide each group with an external rival as well as forcing each group to continually adapt and adjust to circumstances. At the human social level they can be formal or informal, range from games to wars and include elections and – inevitably with the Internets – meme wars.


And that’s where the political meme thing comes into play. Each one of the damn things encapsulates some aspect of one of the competing political viewpoints. Just take a semi-random stroll through and see how much of a “this is so obvious. If you don’t agree you must be stupid/evil/crazy” subtext you can see (rather a lot). This is, in short, using memes for evil: to enforce conformity without any thought to the validity or benefits of differing views.


It’s using memes to suppress dissent and create the illusion that all proper group members believe this thing as a matter of course no matter what “this thing” might be, or how valid or otherwise the sentiment is.


Blaming the left for the memeification of dialog is a lie. The right (especially the establishment right who mostly want to be part of the power) does the same thing. Just – usually – not as effectively. It’s on the same general line as how one of the few things communists ever did well was the propaganda. They were – and still are – bloody good at finding a catchy phrase that shuts down thought and implies that their way is all there is. The other thing the bastards do well is shut down public discourse, forcing it underground so the only way people who aren’t in the middle of things know there’s a problem is when the leadership and party line changes overnight and they’re suddenly supposed to believe the opposite of whatever yesterday’s beliefs might have been.


The right still airs its dirty linen in public and still has open dissent so they look a lot less effective – but the power hungry bastards are trying to shut this down and force everyone to stick to the same line no matter what. And there are memes in plenty that are nudging people along that path.


My facebook list covers the entire political spectrum, with everything in the left-right range as well as the “oh hell no, I don’t want to see politics” through “politics is my lifeblood” range and quite a few other oddities as well. I see bad memes from both sides. I see hilariously miscued memes (I share these and mock). I see a few good ones (particularly the ones that are thought-provoking and a bit on the unusual side). And of course, a whole lot of cute kitty ones because who doesn’t like cute kitties? (If you don’t, kindly don’t tell me. The three cute kitties that generously permit me to share their house might get upset).


With the political memes, I’ve started trying to use them for good. To share them with a snarky (usually) comment that I hope will prompt a few people to think. To look past the obvious and see the implications behind. It won’t sway the true believers (on either side) but those who agree with part of a party line may see that there’s more out there and it’s not necessary (or desirable, but that’s another story) to follow the whole thing because you agree with part of it.


Unlike the curate’s egg, it’s possible for a political platform to be genuinely good in parts. It’s even possible for a person to agree with some things and think others are the worst idea to ever go wandering around unsupervised. I certainly do… my personal position is somewhere in that no-man’s-land where “I believe” is not necessarily a precursor to “the Government should” and where there is room for debate on the best way to do things as long as it’s real debate not just endlessly restating the same things.


What I wouldn’t give for a talking head who’d listen to all the nonsense a politician spouts then say, “Thank you. Now would you please answer the question?” That would be a meme for good.

I Need a Secret Lair. And Minions. And Piranhas.

Sorry guys, but things just got serious. I’m going to need an underwater lair, piranhas and five trillion dollars in unmarked coins or I’ll destroy the entire world.

(Note that it’s very important to make sure that the lair is in an extinct volcano, not an extinct Vulcan. Because when you set the Vulcan on fire, he gets all upset, and when you try to douse him with water, someone is going to end up Vulcan nerve pinched and it ain’t gonna be him. Just saying. And I warn because I love. Also, because I also make that mistake. ALL the time. – Weirdly “The Vulcan is erupting!” just gets people looking at you funny. Probably the problem in Pompey.)

Here’s the thing, I love Larry Correia like a brother, but if he thinks I’m going to give him my world’s worst person trophy he’s got another thing coming. It’s bad enough I have to share it with Kate Paulk. I’ll spend my half of the week polishing it and shining it and getting it positioned just so on the mantelpiece and then I have to give it to Kate, and it comes back all encrusted and smelling fishy. I think she’s using it as a cat food dish. At least I hope that’s it.

So, if they think I’m going to share it three ways with Larry, they have another thing coming. He has small kids. Heaven knows what it would come back all encrusted with – Ovaltine, if I’m lucky.

But there goes some critter named Damien Walter, in this outmoded tabloid that Brits seem to think is a newspaper – something called Al The Guardian though heaven only knows what they’re guarding and if they think it’s the right to say who’s the world’s worst person, I want them to tell me they and whose army – calling Larry all sorts of things, accusing him of hate, and furthermore putting words in his mouth that Larry didn’t say.

Of course Larry doesn’t need me to defend him. Last I checked he was the Master of Fiskishness and High Lord of the Burn.

Even if he needed me to defend him he wouldn’t need me to defend him against someone so out of it as to proclaim that “The Future Is Queer.”

Even given that we have all sorts of reproductive assistance, most babies are born because they happen to be made. Make it absolutely volitional and not coming naturally from what people do for fun, and the future is mostly short. Beyond that, why in heck would the future be “Queer”? No, seriously. Why won’t the future be… Mediterranean?  Or purple?  I mean, if we’re just to randomly throw out “the future will be”.  I say the future will be pointillist, and I say to h*ll with it.

Okay, I understand from Damien’s sniveling about how people used to tell him to cut his hair and man up (like he’s the only one who was ever told to man up. I was. Still am at times. Then I shrug and do it. It’s an expression, not an actual literal order. Maybe all these people are in the autism spectrum?) that it’s likely a reflection of what he thinks is his orientation No, I’m not saying he might not be gay. He can be whatever he wants. And I never question people’s self definition even when they start looking at the other flavor after three glasses of beer. I’m saying his concept of “Queer” is weird. I have friends of various sexual definitions and some who haven’t decided yet and not a single one of them would take offense to the injunction to “Man up” much less think it was some sort of heterosexual oppression. As for their hair, if anyone told them to cut it or grow it or do anything to it they didn’t want to, they would just give the advising entity the middle finger. Because that’s what my gay, straight and totally confused friends are like. To assume someone is a sissy for being gay is stupid, so Damien, poor chap, is already on my bad side.

But the fact that he then goes to say gender is entirely a social construct, puts him… No, okay, it doesn’t put him anywhere except on the side of the painfully ignorant. It puts me in the position of fixing my desk after I dent it with my forehead. And that doesn’t make me happy, because it’s a nice oak rolltop desk, and sooner or later the putty will show.

Yes, I know Damien is European, and I know this ridiculousness is taught in Europe, but for heaven’s sake, he can’t be in the fourth form. He actually is paid for writing for the Guardian. (At least I hope he is. Left Wing Publications and web sites tend to get funny about that, and heck, no one should spew this much goofiness without getting paid.) Presumably he has internet access. Presumably he can check out how boys born with crypto orchicism and raised as girls are profoundly unhappy, or he’s figured out why we no longer give babies sex changes at birth.

THE EXPRESSION of gender might be a social construct. To an extent. BUT gender is chromosomally determined.

What does this mean, exactly?

Well, it means if you’re a male in a certain class in the Western world, you’ll like fast cars and sports, while in tribal Africa you’ll like hunting lions. And if you’re a woman in a certain class in the Western world, you’ll like the shopping network, while if you’re a woman in the Amazonian jungles, you’ll like berry picking and gathering.

Now, is this a hundred percent iron clad? Well, no. Humans are individuals, which means you can’t make them into widgets. Some women probably like going hunting with the guys, and some men would probably be much happier berry picking. (And they’re both, in general, out of luck, since, unlike the dreams of the vile progs, tribal societies are usually a lot more rigid than anyone in the west can even imagine – though in extreme cases they might make accommodations, which are usualy both humiliating and restrictive.)

Does this invalidate gender? Oh, my no. Gender is a statistical distribution, not a box. (I still think a lot of these people’s issues are caused by never having sucked on an unsterilized spoon and never having eaten anything that came without a label. They literally think of “gender” as a label, and if you’re a girl, you’re supposed to like pink and play with dolls and if there’s any variation, that invalidates the entire concept. This is a lovely idea, except it fits nothing human, ever. They are Pratchett’s auditors, trying to understand people.) What your gender is is a major, blinking clue to where you’ll fall on the spectrum.

Pretty much everywhere in the world, if you were born with an outie (and aren’t some genetic freak) you get to do the risky, strenuous, outdoor labor. And if Western civilization has robbed you of this then you get to be obsessed with risk, strenuous, outdoor sports, mostly vicariously.

And if you were born with an innie (and it’s not a birth defect) you get to like detailed, often monotonous but also often social activities, which explains all my friends who are good housekeepers.

Now some people fall so far on the opposite end of the spectrum to where they should naturally be that they decide to surgically rectify the situation. It’s an imperfect solution, and it will be until we get a way to make the change real and fertile, instead of cosmetic. That’s life. I’m fairly sure that the peasant dying of consumption in the middle ages because there was no treatment for TB and no antibiotics had a harder lot. But what do I know? I’m not either of those cases. I just get to feel sorry for both, and wish we had better options for them. (Okay, for the peasant it would involve a time machine.)

BUT the extremes don’t invalidate the whole distribution. Sure, if all I know about you is that you’re a guy, I might be wrong in assuming you like fast cars. OTOH the way to bet is that you WILL like fast cars.

All of these are known facts. As I said, we used to think otherwise, which is why babies got sex change operations in the seventies. Now we know there is more to gender than social construct, that there are biological factors like the hormone baths in the uterus which depending on your gender change your brain, so that if you’re XX or XY determines how the thoughts behind the eyes go. (Even if there is a wide distribution and, again, you individually, might be closer to the other side.)

To pretend otherwise is vile, because parents who actively counter their kids natural inclinations or try to force them to be “gender neutral” are committing child abuse. They’re also going to reap interesting rewards, but that’s their lookout.

So, Larry doesn’t need to be defended from Damien Walter, even though Damien Walter put words in his mouth, like Larry saying if you write a book with a gay character, it will be less commercially viable.

I want to note right now that Larry helped me pimp both A Few Good Men and Witchfinder and never told me they’d be less commercial because one has gay main characters, and the other a strong secondary gay character. (I almost wrote that as a strong gay secondary character – but I don’t even know what “Strong gay” is – and no, I don’t want explanations. This comments section is enough of a mess, already.)

I read Larry’s post that set off this hissy fit, and here’s the thing, Larry said that science fiction books that are all about being gay are less commercially viable. DUH. People buy books because they want stories. If you let some part of your story become so overpowering that it consumes everything (say, because you were told to cut your hair and pull up your socks as a little boy – is this where I tell everyone that my brother (built like my kids. Picture that) in Portugal in the seventies, got told to cut his hair ALL the time. This didn’t make him feel queer or like people were gender intolerant. It made him feel superior and smug, because he matched the fashion abroad, and was therefore more enlightened. But that’s a conversation for another day, right? Also, he did it to get the foreign chicks.) and that part of the story isn’t an obsession of the majority of the population, your work will be less commercially viable.

I teach that in workshops all the time. Be aware of which of your obsessions are commercially viable. Take Larry’s. He likes guns. This means in the US (and much of the world) he has a built in market. Take me. I like Shakespeare. No, I REALLY like Shakespeare. If I let my obsession take over (cough, the Shakespeare trilogy, cough) I’m writing for the ten people in the world who are as crazy as I am. So I learned to control it, because I want to be a commercial writer. I don’t take to the pages of a newspaper to whine that the future is Shakespeare and that people should be forced to listen to my obscure jokes, like the page where Marlowe and Shakespeare talk exclusively in each other’s lines.

(Oh, sure, all ten of those people sent me gushing fan letters, but one can’t live on $5 a year.)

Allowing the mind to become clouded when one is defensive about one’s orientation is no excuse for saying that readers should be bored and like it.

Anyway, now that I’ve spent three pages not defending Larry, we get to the meat of the situation:

Why is it that when a vile prog disagrees with anyone they call the person a hater?

Note that Larry and I, or any of my friends when we dissect some piece of strangeness, don’t call the person a hater. We might call their thoughts silly or vile. We might call the person infantile (they so often are) but we cast no aspersions on their intentions and character. We don’t say “they’re evil” or “they are haters.” And we never say they should shut up. For one, how much fun would that be. No fisking fodder! For another, as strange as we find them, we don’t wish them to shut up because we know our ideas can trump theirs.

So, what is with the side that pins the “tolerant” medal on their own chest going around calling people “The worst person in the world.” I mean, seriously, I was awarded that for saying that wishing to kick someone out of the human race is a bad thing. Let’s suppose what I said is terrible (though I still don’t understand why, because well, common humanity is what keeps us from killing each other just because there’s nothing good on the telly. Well, keeps most of us.) Let’s suppose I’d said something really vile like “All witches should be burned, and that includes aunty Witchy Pooh who reads tarot and hangs her house with crystals.” How would SAYING it make me or anyone the worst person in the world. Or even a bad person? I have said all kinds of stupid things I didn’t mean in my time. Like yesterday, after I had a sneeze fit caused by cat hair up the nose, “I’m going to kill that cat.” Does this make me a cat hater?

Let’s suppose I meant what I said, or at least wish to burn Aunt Witchy Pooh for more than her really sucky taste in home decoration. Does that make me a bad person? Oh, h*ll no. Not unless I act on it, or form an association dedicated to burning people that hang crystals where they have no business being. And does it make me the world’s worst person? Kids… I think if you stack me up besides Maduro, my crimes are much smaller. And if you allow for all of history, I don’t even rate against Caligula, and he was a piker stacked up against Mao.

So why the desperate need to call us, not just wrong, but evil?

Well, we’re back to never having sucked on an unsterilized spoon. That’s part of it. These people are very up on the idea that if you say something they don’t like you’re a “bully” and therefore you’re in the wrong and you’re evil (possibly because the worst evil they ever faced was a playground bully. No unsterilized spoons, after all.)

But there is a world of difference between criticism and bullying. Bullying is running after you berating you with exaggerated claims about you (or outright made up ones.) Bullying is a tactic to make you fall in with the group.

Legitimate criticism is telling you that you’re being an infant, or an idiot, or a bully – if you really are being those things.

I don’t care how much Damien resented it. Maybe he really needed to pull up his socks and man up. Believe it or not some of us on being told that examine the claim and sometimes (about fifty percent of the time on this side of the screen) find that what we really need to do is pull up our socks and man up.

Telling a person that isn’t bullying.

On the other hand telling someone they’re the world’s worst person or a hater for an opinion that doesn’t involve setting fire to anyone, or beating anyone, or in fact hurting anyone or taking anyone’s stuff, just might be …. Bullying.

Because it’s a tactic designed to make the outlier fall in with what the speaker believes to be the group majority. And also, because it’s not designed to correct individual behavior but to enforce conformity with exaggerated or erroneous claims.

You don’t have to be a big hulking male to be a bully. Tiny girls can manage it with aplomb.

So if you’re screaming slurs on other people’s fundamental character (telling you to grow up is not a slur. It doesn’t mean your whole character is flawed. Calling someone a hater is a slur) and saying they should shut up or go away (or in the case of the SFWA kerfuffle, die) perhaps it’s time you looked in the mirror and realized you ARE the bully. And an ineffective one at that.

Now, pull up your socks and examine your assumptions.  We’re not going to shut up.  Learn to argue like an adult, or we’ll mock you again.*


*Well, I won’t.  I have a book to finish and also I tend to go all serious and barely refrain from quoting Shakespeare at you.  But Larry will.  And then you’ll declare him the world’s worst person again, and then I’ll have to share the trophy. And I’m not having chocolate milk in my shiny trophy, so you’ll just have to learn to argue like an adult.  Sorry.




Okay, Okay, There IS No Cake

Sorry, guys, still dealing with various things, starting with my having had to get up at six am to get some stuff done that had to be done by nine.  LONG story, and not for here.  Nothing bad, but some things just have to be done…

It also ended up taking most of the day, so even Through Fire was barely dealt with today.

I hate to do this, but I REALLY need to go back and fix Rogue Magic before I continue it.

Here’s a question for you: when I do — and it should be next week — should I change it to multiple third person?  I’m concerned the “voices” are not very different.  Also, multiple first person tends to be market death.

Anyway, I don’t want you to worry about me.  I’m fine, really.  It was just a very busy, kind of scattered day and I wasn’t even allowed to buy pants for #1 son.  (Yes, he needs them, but there’s only one thing he hates more than buying clothes, and that is spending my money.  Yes, he’d rather spend his, but he doesn’t want to do that right now.)

And, oh, yeah, Musketeer’s Inheritance is up.