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The Architecture of Fear — A blast from the past from 4/12/15

*I normally don’t do blasts from the past this recent, but somehow this one called to me this morning, and I can’t even tell you why.  I hope one of you knows!  *1  And Sorry, not awake this morning, so did the date European style.  Sigh.- SAH*

The Architecture of Fear — A blast from the past from

4/12/15*1

Years ago on this blog I talked about Technique of The Coup D’Etat by Giovanni Guareschi and I typed  the beginning in here.  I shall copy that. (Assume typos are mine.)

At ten o’clock on Tuesday evening, the village square was swept with wind and rain, but a crowd had been gathered there for three or four hours to listen to the election news coming out of a radio loudspeaker. Suddenly the lights went out and everything was plunged into darkness. Someone went to the control box but came back saying there was nothing to be done. The trouble must be up the line or at the power plant, miles away. People hung around for half an hour or so, and then, as the rain began to come down even harder than before, they scattered to their homes, leaving the village silent and deserted. Peppone shut himself up in the People’s Palace, along with Lungo, Brusco, Straziami, and Gigio, the same leader of the “Red Wing” squad from Molinetto. They sat around uneasily by the light of a candle stump and cursed the power and light monopoly as an enemy of the people, until Smilzo burst in. He had gone to Rocca Verde on his motorcycle to see if anyone had news and now his eyes were popping out of his head and he was waving a sheet of paper.

“The Front has won!” he panted. “Fifty-two seats out of a hundred in the senate and fifty-one in the chamber. The other side is done for. We must get hold of our people and have a celebration. If there’s no light, we can set fire to a couple of haystacks nearby.

 “Hurrah!” shouted Peppone. But Gigio grabbed hold of Smilzo’s jacket.

“Keep quiet and stay where you are!” he said grimly. It’s too early for anyone to be told. Let’s take care of our little list.”

“List? What list?” asked Peppone in astonishment.

“The list of reactionaries who are to be executed first thing. Let’s see now…”

Peppone stammered that he had made no such list, but the other only laughed.

“That doesn’t matter. I’ve a very complete one here all ready. Let’s look at it together, and once we’ve decided we can get to work.”

Gigio pulled a sheet of paper with some twenty names on it out of his pocket and laid it on the table.

“Looks to me as if al the reactionary pigs were here,” he said. “I put down the worst of them, and we can attend to the rest later.”

Peppone scanned the names and scratched his head.

“Well, what do you say?” Gigio asked him.

“Generally speaking, we agree,” said Peppone. “But what’s the hurry? We have plenty of time to do things in the proper style.”

Gigio brought his fist down on the table.

“We haven’t a minute to lose, that’s what I say,” he shouted harshly. “This is the time to put our hands on them, before they suspect us. If we wait until tomorrow, they may get wind of something and disappear.”

At this point Brusco came into the discussion.

“You must be crazy,” he said. “You can’t start out to kill people before you think it over.”

“I’m not crazy and you’re a very poor Communist, that’s what you are! These are all reactionary pigs; no one can dispute that, and if you don’t take advantage of this golden opportunity then you’re a traitor to the party!”

Brusco shook his head.

“Don’t you believe it! It’s jackasses that are traitors to the Party! And you’ll be a jackass if you make mistakes and slaughter innocent people.”

Gigio raised a threatening finger.

“It’s better to eliminate ten innocents than to spare one individual who may be dangerous to the cause. Dead men can do the party no harm. You’re a very poor Communist, as I’ve said before. In fact, you never were a good one. You’re as weak as a snowball in hell, I say. You’re just a bourgeois in disguise!”

Brusco grew pale, and Peppone intervened.

“That’s enough,” he said. “Comrade Gigio has the right idea and nobody can deny it. It’s part of the groundwork of Communist philosophy. Communism gives us the goal at which to aim and democratic discussion must be confined to the quickest and surest ways to attain it.”

Giggio nodded his head in satisfaction, while Peppone continued: “Once it’s been decided that these people are or may be dangerous to the cause and therefore we must eliminate them, the next thing is to work out the best method of elimination. Because if by our carelessness, we were to allow a a single reactionary to escape, then we should indeed be traitors to the Party. Is that clear?”

“Absolutely,” the others said in chorus. “You’re dead right.”

“There are six of us,” Peppone went on, “And twenty names on that list, among them the Filotti, who has a whole regiment in his house and a cache of arms in the cellar. If we were to attack these people one by one, at the first shot the rest would run away. We must call our forces together and divide them up into twenty squads, each one equipped to deal with a particular objective.”

“Very good,” said Gigio.

“Good, my foot!” shouted Peppone. “That’s not the half of it! We need a twenty first squad, equipped even better than the rest to hold off the police. And mobile squads to cover the roads and the river. If a fellow rushes into action in the way you proposed, without proper precautions, running the risk of botching it completely, then he’s not a good communist, he’s just a damn fool.”

It was Gigio’s turn to pale now, and he bit his lip in anger, while Peppone proceeded to give orders. Smilzo was to transmit word to the cell leaders in the outlying settlements and these were to call their men together. A green rocket would give the signal to meet in appointed places, where Falchetto, Brusco and Straziami would form the squads and assign the targets. A red rocket would bid them go into action. Smilzo went off on his motorcycle while Lungo, Brusco, Straziami and Gigio discussed the composition of the squads.

“You must do a faultless job,” Peppone told them. “I shall hold you personally responsible for its success. Meanwhile, I’ll see if the police are suspicious and find some way to put them off.

Don Camillo, later waiting in vain for the lights to go on and the radio to resume its mumble, decided to get ready for bed. Suddenly he heard a knock at the door and when he drew it open cautiously, he found Peppone before him.

“Get out of here in a hurry!” Peppone panted. “Pack a bag and go! Put on an ordinary suit of clothes, take your boat and row down the river.”

Don Camillo stared at him with curiosity.

“Comrade Mayor, have you been drinking?”

“Hurry,” said Peppone. “The people’s Front has won and the squads are getting ready. There’s a list of people to be executed and your name is the first one!”

Spoiler alert, though this is not one of the stories that you read for the denouement: by the end of the story, the entire cell except Gigio is crammed in Don Camillo’s closet, as each successive comrade shows up to try to save him and is shoved into the closet as the next one comes along.

Then it is revealed that they didn’t in fact win the election, but more importantly, the entire cell, which had lived in fear of the Stalinist *sshole who pulled book and fervor on them every time and made everyone of them live in terror of being denounced as insufficiently fervent, now knows who the enemy really is.  That is, each individual now knows he is not an isolated individual surrounded by good party members who will turn on him, but one in a collection of decent individuals kinda sorta following an ideology but not so far it blunts their humanity and ONE isolated *sshole turning them against each other for the power.

At the end of the story, Peppone finds Gigio proudly waiting to send up the red rocket and kicks him all the way to main street.

Gigio’s power is gone, because he’s revealed to be ONE individual working for himself and only that, and a hateful, little one at that.

It is worth noting that Gigio in Italian means mouse.  This was the mouse that roared, until they realized he was amplifying his squeaks through their fears to sound like roars.

This is not about the Hugo.  Or rather, this is not exclusively about the Hugo.

But it is about the Hugo as well.

My first encounter with what I’ll call the Gigio effect, was in a mailing list for writers, where I dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.

There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet.  So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.

The list went silent.  I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)

So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk.  When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…”  ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES.

The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face.  Only me.

So how did the private messages make me feel?  They made me roll my eyes.

I swear 2/3 of the list pmed me to say they stood with me, but in public, not a peep.  They were all so scared, you see, of the imagined disapproval of “all the rest of them.”

I didn’t say anything and I didn’t push them.  It wasn’t any of my business, and at any rate, I’d grown disillusioned with the list and the comradery (Meh) of my peers. I had gotten to see some people I’d respected prior to that in full silly mode.  (We all have one.  I try only to show it to the cats, and sometimes to my husband.)  I was tired.  I don’t know if I answered any of those messages, not now 12 years later.

And now, there’s the controversy over … more people voting in the Hugos and voting for a different slate than the entrenched group approves of.  There are many accusations flung at us, including that we’re pushing an all white slate (which would surprise some of those people) an all male slate (which transformed my friends Amanda and Cedar into guys and made Cedar’s fiance gay.  He’s still in shock) and that we’re pushing inferior taste (It bears reading this post apropos that) and that we’re buying votes for total strangers to vote our slate.  (No, we’re not.  Mary Robinette Kowal, OTOH IS, but yeah, I know, it’s different, after all leftists are good people)

I’m very tired.  VERY very tired.  Not of opposition.  I’m never a happy warrior, but I have had huge arguments (rational, non-attacking arguments) with some of my very best friends, Dave Freer and Kate Paulk included, and emerged from them energized, because we mobilized ideas and facts and our disagreement forged a stronger bond, rather than breaking us apart or making each of us feel small and isolated.

But I’m tired of answering the same senseless accusations over and over and over again.  It’s like fighting people under an enchantment that prevents them from thinking.

And all through this, there are pms on FB and emails to my old email registered with SFWA and not used much now.  “I am with you, but I don’t dare say anything.”  “I don’t agree with everything you say, but you have some damn good points.  But if I say anything, my career is done.”  “Your opponents are scary and are eating each other, but I can’t say how evil they are in public, because they’ll eat me.”

…”Get out of here in a hurry!” Peppone panted. “Pack a bag and go! Put on an ordinary suit of clothes, take your boat and row down the river.”

Don Camillo stared at him with curiosity.

“Comrade Mayor, have you been drinking?”

“Hurry,” said Peppone. “The people’s Front has won and the squads are getting ready. There’s a list of people to be executed and your name is the first one!”…

I’m not going to push ANYONE out of the political, or even the SF-political closet.  I lived in it too long and too fearfully to do that to anyone.  Your secret is safe with me.

But because it matters, I must beseech you, consider, please that you are not alone.  Consider that the sound and fury, the threats, the people pushing you to do things against your will and conscience because you’re so scared of them might be less than the full crowd.  It might be just a small mouse, full of him/herself, roaring up a storm.  Consider that the decent people who disagree with all this bs might actually be in the vast majority but not know it because none of you dares speak.

Yes, it is entirely possible that the publishing establishment will turn its back on you for a while at least, even if you are a loyal leftist, because you dissented from the lynch mob.  OTOH considering — eyes emails — maybe they too are in that closet with you, trembling for fear of the mouse.

But even if you were “blacklisted” — you do realize I know indie writers making six figures a year, right?  And that I myself made as much from Witchfinder as from my Baen books, right?  DO consider that being blacklisted by the establishment might mean less fear and fewer ulcers.  And being yourself.

Do consider how it would feel to come out of the closet and kick the mouse up and down main street, making him eat his Stalinist “guilt by association” cries.

I’m not going to force you.  I’m not going to out you.

But this Stalinist “I know everything you do and it’s all analyzed for deviationism” always leads to purges.  In SF/F those purges might mean not publishing traditional.  Or they might mean not winning awards.  Or getting kicked out of an organization.

But this type of mind-set is a cancer in the culture and sooner or later leads to gulags and graves.

I can’t push you and I won’t.  If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job.  I am not the keeper of your soul.

However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.

And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more.  I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own.  You have no power over me.  Not now, and not ever again.”

That’s all.  I just want you to think.

The Good, The Bad and the Evil

Yesterday night I was talking to a friend about a book everyone and their parents has been recommending to him, and which he is now, finally, reading.  I asked how it was and he said “execution wise, it is quite good, and the reasons it was recommended are all true, but he feels like it’s a big, dark oil slick attaching to his mind, and he has to read it in small doses and shower afterwards.

Now, one of the things recommending this book is the story, and the outlook, as described, should mesh pretty well with my friend’s, so the only thing I can figure out is “something in the book.”

I’d think my friend had gone nuts, I would, except that I’ve experienced this myself.  It’s one of the reasons I don’t read horror: because you find the feeling more often there.  Though honestly I’ve found it in Urban Fantasy and even in straight Fantasy, too, and no, I’m not giving you any names.

The first time I encountered it incontrovertibly, and I mean at a point I couldn’t imagine it, is when a friend gave me two books by Robert Aickman.  Maybe it was because I read the books back to back.  Look, there is no particularly evil outlook about the books — they’re… books.  Yes, they’re horror, so there’s a dark twist in every story, but there is something more, something almost independent that seems to come off the books and attach to you.  The phrase “I want to scrub with steel wool” comes to mind.

Anne Rice didn’t have that effect on me till Queen of the Damned.  It was a comulative thing.  Maybe I was insulated from it because I was reading her to study description, my mind was on that and perhaps immune from the emotion.

And it’s the emotion that brings it in.  And I can’t describe how it gets in.

All I know is that years ago, when I was applying to the American consulate to establish pen pals, I got a sheet of recommendations and they said “Never write when you’re upset, even if you don’t think you’re showing it, it will communicate itself in your word choice.”

I later found out this was true, even if I wasn’t upset at my pen pal, and thought I’d said nothing that could give them a hint.  I’d get the “are you upset at me?”

Which brings us to messages in fiction.  (Fiction in messages is a completely different topic.)

I don’t look for messages, and I don’t look to put messages in my fiction. Usually, when asked what a book I’m writing is “saying” I say “I have no idea.”  Towards the end, I might have a pretty clear idea, but I’m always surprised when readers find things that while entirely consonant with my outlook, I didn’t put in consciously.

Are there messages there?  Yeah, pretty sure.  Are they consonant with how I see the world?  I’d hope so.  Otherwise someone else wrote the book.

Have I read books that pretty clearly  came from a completely different outlook?  Of course I have.  For most of my life, if I didn’t I wouldn’t read ANYTHING.  The gatekeepers had a different outlook from my own, and that came through in the books they chose.  A story can be good while I utterly reject the premises and outlook of the writer, in the same way I can be friends with someone who has completely different views from me, provided we connect on other things.  I love Pratchett’s “humanity” which comes through richly in his characters, even if we have/had some philosophical disagreements.

Do I stop reading because the outlook is different from mine?  I’ll be honest, a book has to be pretty bad to make me stop reading, and most of those are non-fiction books where I spot where the writer lost track, but he just goes on.  Fiction… I only put down if I get that “feeling” like I need to scrub with steel wool.  (And I often find myself in the shower midday when reading one of these books.)  I’ve thrown three fiction books away over that, I couldn’t see passing them on.

The thing I don’t do either in writing or reading is counting heads or coloring by the numbers.  I don’t go into writing a book with some sort of agenda and have to put in five marbles of each color or something.

You see, fiction isn’t “so many of these, so many of that, and message wrapped in a thin veil of story.”  Fiction are chunks of raw emotion, torn bleeding from the author’s mind, (or soul, if you believe in those) and flung onto the page still squirming, with everything that made it happen and come into being, some of that subconscious.  This is how it can come with a freight of “evil” or “depressed” or even “happy.”  (Look, a story in which several people get killed with a hat pin shouldn’t leave me feeling happy and bouncy, but it did.)

Because in the things not fully under our control, in every word choice, in every little thing we highlight or ignore, we’re conveying a bit of that which is the author.

This is both for good and ill, but it is what it is, and it is what makes books different from tv or movies.  Someone once said when you read a book, because of the breath necessary for speaking, you’re breathing the same way the author was when he/she wrote it.  I’m not sure that’s necessarily true, but it echoes of something.

Most of us go through life prisoners of the space behind our eyes.  It’s part of being human.  Reading is the closest you get to being in someone else’s head, because other stuff comes with it.

And that means writing isn’t done by “give me two brown ones, two purple ones, and a polkadot one.”  People who read (let alone write) like that are denying themselves one of the most glorious experiences of being human, and the closest we can come to telepathy in this life.

And btw, there’s people who do that on both sides of the political divide.  “I don’t read x because it has gay characters.” (Ask me where I heard that.  Or rather don’t, I’m not even getting into it.)

Unless you know the book has a never ending stretch of stuff that treats you like an idiot or exposes you to stuff you don’t want to see (gay characters in question never even kiss on stage) or unless it gives you that feeling of something black and oily crawling out of the book and all over you (and weirdly this is not as personal as you’d think.  I find the books that do this to me usually do it to a significant portion of the population.  Maybe to all of it and a large number like it) let it go and get in the story.  At the end you can say “oh, that premise was crazy cakes.”  BUT refusing to read a book at all, sight unseen because it has the wrong markers?  Not only could you be missing out on a great experience, but it is part of the great divide that seems to be cracking the country in two (or more) groups that can’t even talk to each other.

Like the Kaleidoscopes in Clifford D. Simak’s City, which change minds out of habits that otherwise can’t be broken, books, if written by someone who feels them (and is not painting by the numbers) and read for the story and the emotion can change minds that couldn’t be changed otherwise.  Because they let you experience being someone else a little while.  They can at least allow you to UNDERSTAND the other side.

Writing by the numbers and reading by counting heads?  Well, I suppose it’s a good exercise in letter recognition.

But in the end it diminishes your humanity.  And although those books don’t rise to the level of “evil miasma” they often DO put me to sleep.

And that’s even sadder than having to give up on a book because there isn’t enough steel wool and no one has invented a soul-scrubber.

Ultra Bowl 4 – Robert A. Hoyt – A blast from another blog’s past

*Among the many crimes we committed in raising boys is that we never got them interested in WATCHING sports.  I was the sport fan of the two of us, but my fandom was distinctly European.  I loved soccer, handball (European model) and in a pinch basketball.  BUT the caveat are I liked all these because of regional loyalties.  When our boys played against their boys (village five or even two miles away) our boys should win.  Of course. And I would go and cheer.
Moving here broke that habit and I’ll confess American Football makes NO sense to me.  However, every year we got to the Superbowl party at the home of a friend we’ve known for… 22 years, and we meet up with “the old group.”  Even I watch it, though mostly for the commercials (and usually while trying to finish a novel.)

From this our son developed a sort of fandom.  Kind of.  You see, he’s a fan of superbowl games that take place in his head between magical teams.  He used to write these every year before life/studies went nuts.  I’m posting one below, from years ago.  The rest are at his more or less shuttered blog, here.*

Ultra Bowl 4 – Robert A. Hoyt — A blast from another blog’s past

This has been an odd year for the Colorado C’thulus. Since opening their new stadium last year, their road to the Ultrabowl has been among the rockiest ever run by a team. Their victories, though consistent, have been by knife’s-edge margins. Part of this, some argue, is that the restructuring of the playoff schedule to accommodate four new teams has pushed back the beginning of the football season a small but significant amount. But here at ESBN, We’re inclined to think that this topsy-turvy season has been due to the new teams themselves. And as exhibit A, we submit the C’thulu’s opponents: the Atlantis Ancients. Among other things, they just became the first team in history to reach the Ultra Bowl in their first season as members.

This is exactly the kind of story that draws a crowd. Deep beneath the waves, in the C’thulu’s home-stadium-away-from-home, R’yleh, some 90,000 fans crowded into some 16 dimensions of exquisite gothic architecture to witness the historic showdown… and that’s just the humans. Even a veteran C’thulu fan and commentator like myself can feel the excitement in the air. The archetypical battle between the seasoned veterans and the hotshot upstarts is about to be fought.

Which makes it a bit of a shame that not everyone has access to this universe to watch the game. So without further ado, here are this year’s Ultrabowl highlights.

  • Trouble got started immediately. The sprightliness of the Ancients on the field is as much of an oddity as their habit of playing in long flowing robes, and disconcerting enough that it drew significant attention away from the C’thulu pregame sacrifice. Not to be outdone, the C’thulus hastily modified their sacrifice so that instead of being directed at C’thulu, it was directed at one of the abominations living in a nearby dimension. The wall of enraged tentacles that emerged from the ceiling certainly got the audience’s attention back, but it took the stadium operators ten minutes and two additional dead lambs to get the idea of “wrong number” across.
  • In an unconfirmed act of retaliation, the ancients proceeded to douse the C’thulus with a tidal wave of water that they “accidentally” sent downfield while doing water-cast warm-ups. Since the C’thulu players are all possessed by squid-demons, however, the consensus was that this action was “mildly refreshing”. Nevertheless, referees insisted that further warm-ups be restricted to actually preparing to play.
  • The pregame flip was taken by the Ancients, which some said was a bad sign for the C’thulus. This view was soon silenced, however, when the C’thulus kicked the ball off into a wall. The ball entered a portal which appeared there, reemerged from the opposite wall, and got spiked down into the ground 60 yards from the kickoff zone by a huge tentacle that emerged from the ceiling. This ensured a reasonably good starting position for the C’thulus, but shovels had to be retrieved to dig the ball out of the dirt.
  • The Ancients seemed unshaken, and quickly began picking up on the uncertain temper of the portals used by the C’thulus. Of particular interest was the play in which it became apparent that the ball was not actually required to appear at either the same point in space, or time. In it, a hike was interrupted because the ball hit the Ancients quarterback, Venerable Master Quizudo, squarely in the back of the head. The C’thulus then rushed the line and threw the ball into the portal, where it became the ball that hit the quarterback. Unfortunately for the C’thulus, the ancients ran the other ball around them as they did. After using a pencil and paper to work it out, the referees decided that the ball used in the resulting touchdown was the later ball and awarded a point to the Ancients.
  • In another incident, one-time star rookie, and perennial fan favorite, Bernard Evisceraue, made textbook use of tendrils of darkness to heft Ancients lineman Lightkeeper Gistakep into a dungeon dimension. In the past two years, the spell has become one of his signature maneuvers, and his degree of control, despite its difficulty, has been lauded among leading necromancers. But in a shock maneuver, Gistakep caught himself by conjuring a Tidal wave, which proceeded to sweep both himself and Evisceraue into a portal being used by the C’thulus to assist in a long throw, instead. Gistakep returned two plays later riding a hideous space centipede. Evisceraue was substituted for.
  • The second quarter showed increased confidence from the Ancients, and a continued deterioration of the C’thulu line. Although the ancients showed a marked weakness in making conversions, their scoring capabilities seemed on-target. But it was the  C’thulu player Johnson Xeneder, who arrived from a time portal in the future to warn his team that they would lose when the Ancients raised the Guardian of the Light, which caused some fans to despair. This lead to unforeseen deaths, since despairing in R’yleh can cause manifestations of hideous dark horrors. Paramedics on standby with upbeat techno music and smiley-face-shaped stickers managed to calm some of the panic. “After you’ve seen someone apply a smiley face to your nose while forcing you to listen to a dance remix, dark horrors don’t really seem so bad,” said one audience member.
  •  In a move characteristic of the first half, Guardian Vazhitep levitated off the ground using the mysterious glowing Atlantian technology in his shoulderpads, and dodged a cleverly placed hole in the turf. C’thulu center Arnold Bludfahl, however, aggressively pressed the attack, surrounding Vazhitep in a tiny box of portals. The portals seem to have experienced a malfunction due to their unusual proximity, however, such that when Vazhitep cast an explosive sphere of water, it rebounded through the portals and hit Bludfahl from all directions, while Vazhitep stood carefully in the corner of the box. Technically, squids cannot drown in water, but Bludfahl made a brave attempt.
  • The halftime show was provided by Pazrrmm and the Sqrggs, a zombie heavy metal band fresh off of a tour of Louisiana, where the Bonedolls owners personally hosted them. Due to their condition, they have enormous difficulty making themselves understood, but thanks to a clever choice of genre, that hasn’t stopped them from reaching the top of the metal charts in the US, and third in the UK and the territory of Luna.
    Things started rough, nonetheless. Their song “Zqqflkdmna grdd? (Wwreg vlllbn)” got only a tepid response from the audience, which failed to be impressed by the acrobatic displays put on by glowing nether-demons during the song. But “Hvnl mjkptrz dlvytr” was an all-out hit. Critics called the moment when Pazrrmm offered his heart to a gigantic holographic goddess “strangely moving, with an emphasis on strange”. Doctors were on hand to help him put it back in, afterwards.
  • Some felt that the finale of the song was ruined by the arrival of C’thulu player Johnson Xeneder, who came from the future to warn the team that the Ancients had a secret weapon called the Fountain of Rebirth, which they intended to use if cornered.
  • The second half seemed to be starting out much as the first had ended. The Ancients and the C’thulus were largely stalemated in the field, with the C’thulus more consistently losing ground than the Ancients. By now, the Ancients had learned that dimensional portals could easily be tracked by shooting water through them to learn where they lead. The C’thulus began using the tactic of rearranging their portals frequently, which set back the Ancients but did not stop them. By contrast, the Ancients had great success in stopping most of the physical onslaughts by the C’thulus using water shields, which meant the defensive line was largely stagnant in the third quarter.
  • C’thulu player Johnson Xeneder arrived by time portal from the future to warn the C’thulus that they would lose, but the reason was unclear because the other two versions of himself began arguing with him. The coaches called a timeout and took them aside for a quick discussion.
  • With one minute left in the third quarter and the C’thulus down by seven touchdowns, media figures began polling the C’thulu coaches on the seemingly hopeless situation of the team. The coaches responded, in one unearthly chorus: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die,”. Then the ceiling exploded.
  • It turned out that the exploding ceiling was, in fact, returning player Bernard Evisceraue, wearing blood-red rags and trailing an army of abominations from between the stars. Unlike the misfired sacrifice near the beginning of the game, both the walls and the ceiling collapsed permanently into otherworldly gates which demonic hordes began to emerge from. The referees immediately threw a flag and pointed out that the demon army was, in fact, off sides. The coaches, however, successfully argued that  they were not actually on the team roster and could be counted under the rulebook as an environmental hazard. Next week’s rulebook is expected to close this loophole.
  • The fourth quarter started with a seemingly refreshed team of C’thulus. Now in their element, the C’thulus began quickly recouping touchdowns by taking advantage of the apparently random motions of the pincers, eyeless heads, headless eyes, and obligatory tentacles that filled the stadium. The water casts of the Ancients faced a logistical problem because of this obstacle course. On an unrelated note, Japanese studios catering to a more adult audience are paying high prices for available footage of this quarter.
  • In retaliation, Ancients linebacker Priest Shatiliya began surreptitiously raising automatons made from glowing green light, who helped guard against the worst of the flailing appendages and could carry the ball from player to player without any apparent form of propulsion. Evisceraue responded by using some kind of acquired link between his squid demon and the otherworldly abominations to smash the automata out of the air. Said tentacles also proved remarkably useful in one point conversions, which gave the C’thulus an edge over the ancients on making up the score difference. On the other hand, they accidentally smashed Xeneder, who had just manifested out of a portal from the future when a tentacle hit him. Xeneder, Xeneder, and Xeneder assisted in dragging him off the field.
  • The C’thulus rapidly scored touchdown after touchdown on the Ancients, bringing the scores back into parity. The Ancients took a timeout to confer with each other, with just a couple of minutes remaining on the clock, and the C’thulus one touchdown and a two-point conversion from a tie. On the next play, the Ancients line erected an extra-strong water shield in order to enable linebacker Watcher Holdasteran the extra time for an especially complex change to the fabric of reality. Holdasteran rose up in the air, glowing oddly, and then the stadium seemed to split into several overlapping timestreams, all at once. The mesh of light left behind in the air was identified by Ancients Coaches as an experimental play called the Citadel of Many Paths.
  • At this point, the action became a little hard to follow. Depending on what angle you watched the game from, either the Ancients raised a giant made of illuminated water and ice, flooded the field with an endless wellspring of sanctified water to drive back the abominations summoned by the C’thulus, or crafted their hydro shields into outsized cleavers to push back the offensive onslaught of the C’thulus. Xeneder was observed to have been thrown into the origination point of the citadel of light in multiple universes. When the dust settled, however, and the referees from the nine identifiable universes conferred, it was found that the C’thulus had gained a net of exactly one touchdown and a two point conversion in the mess. With the teams officially tied, the game entered sudden death.
  • The Ancients and the C’thulus ended up squaring off exactly at the fifty-yard line following  the kick. The ancients, in a final moment of last-minute desperation, clad themselves in a matrix of light as they prepared to go on the offensive for the final time. The C’thulu players responded by extending their tentacles into a body-encompassing ghastly grey-green mass and squirming into position on the line.
  • As the fans predicted, the C’thulus used their favored endgame tactic of twisting the stadium through the bowels of time and space, but since the entire stadium was already encompassed by gigantic otherworldly portals, this also twisted the alternate universes as well. The hydro-shielding of the Ancients was no match for resulting arcane feedback, which caused the field to collapse into chaos. The center of the field could only be tenuously said to exist at this point. But the C’thulus, being naturally adapted to chaos, managed to outmaneuver their opponents in the unforeseen circumstances, and push for the touchdown. Master Quizudo barely escaped the scrum and was beginning to prepare a tidal wave that would, had it been cast, likely have pushed C’thulu Safety Wagner Greybone away from the endzone. His plans were preempted, however, when Johnson Xeneder appeared out of thin air and fell on his head.

Thus it is that after one of the hardest-fought games in the history of the Ultrabowl, the C’thulus have narrowly escaped with their fourth Ultrabowl win. The win is not without a price, however. Commentators widely agree that this year has seen the birth of what will surely be one of the most bitter rivalries in all of football. And, as is becoming standard in the modern era of the Ultrabowl, the new stadium in R’yleh will have to be closed until someone can figure out how to stop otherworldly abominations from leaking in. There have even been reports of kidnapped players, including Johnson Xeneder, although the C’thulus told his family “not to worry, they have spares”. On a related note, this year’s MVP slot was narrowly taken by Evisceraue, though some argued that Xeneder’s cumulative mediocrity added up to a somewhat higher value.

How will future games between these two opponents play out? Tune in next year, and find out. Thank you, and good night.

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, i.ee. 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

aloneinthedarkmod

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

Outworlder

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

Anthologies

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?