A Vast Wasteland of Prosperity

Yesterday my husband threatened to drown himself in the shower, if I didn’t stop ranting about the stupid things people believe about history. It’s not that he disagreed, mind you, but that he thought it was too much to endure a graduate-level lecture with side-excursions into various examples he’d never heard about before even getting his pants on in the morning.

I sympathize.  It’s been a long time since I became aware that when that darn, mobile soap box finds me and gets under my feet, I get really really fast-talking and sometimes drop details.

Weirdly, this fit wasn’t prompted by the commenter who came back to an old post yesterday to lecture us about how stupid it is to expect dem poo’ peoplez to be able to retool and find new jobs, once technology dispossesses them of the old ones.  Weirdly, it started because he was telling me about a TV show and something said in the TV show.  (Beginning of digression. I watch second hand TV.  Whenever you guys see a reference or a quote to popular culture, I acquired it by listening to Dan talk about it.  At least most of the time.  No, I don’t know why I don’t watch TV.  What’s worse, I find most of the people who say “Oh, I don’t watch TV” are the sort of prigs who are bragging of their moral superiority.  I’m not morally superior, and my inability to sit still in front of a television, unless I am ill or engaged in some complex project that involves most of my head and hands, is almost as my dad thought a “handicap”.  It isolates me from the culture.  But it is also true.  I think it’s because I never “got used” to watching TV, like some people don’t get used to reading for pleasure.  Most of the time I was growing up, Portugal had two channels, and one only operated on the weekends and evenings. End of digression.) Dan, as he puts it, watches TV so I don’t have to.

Anyway, he was telling me about how terrible conditions were after WWI, and I started pointing out they weren’t.  Not really.  Sure, some people (a lot of domestic servants) were displaced.  Sure, immediately after, a lot of men came back and found their jobs were gone.  Veterans went around the country side, selling booklets and stuff.  You see this in Agatha Christie.

Unspoken is the fact that a lot of these Veterans were actually not quite right in the head, not that you can blame them after the trench war.  BUT even in Britain, which did itself no favors by prolonging the same kind of rationing, etc, it had had during the war, the economy recovered.

Again, if you read Christie, who was unaware of writing history, since she wrote these books contemporary to the events, you see a lot of new houses being built, of factories being started.  Sure, the old families and the old houses never quite recovered.  But that wasn’t because of the economy.  It was because of punitive taxation.  If you had a death in the family, the estate would be lost.

“But Sarah,” you’ll say.  “That’s why the economy recovered and they were able to live better.”

Really?  You’re going to go with that?

I know that was the theory back then, and we really can’t hold it against them, I think, but no, the state doesn’t “invest” in the economy.  Or “ease transition.”

Mostly what the state does is create more and more bureaucracy.  Of course to the extent that that pays a salary to some people it does SOMETHING (I found out, and was shocked at the racism of it, that this is part of the reason democrats support the endless growth of the state.  They think there are a number of people — specifically black people — who cannot adapt to new tech, and therefore must be employed by the state, ad infinitum, in a sort of work fare program.)  I suspect though, having seen the make-work and endless nonsense of bureaucracy in three countries, what it does do is retard the growth of the economy by removing capital from useful purposes.  Oh, and retarding the prosperity of the employees, not to mention their mental health, by keeping them chained to ultimately meaningless work they know it’s meaningless.  A lot of those people are in the position of soviet citizens.  They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them.

Without the galumphing bureaucracy, these people would have shifted and adapted.

How do I know that?  Because they’re human and I’m human.  Yeah, okay, there are differences in IQ range, but you know what they are not that pronounced amid the whole species.  Oh, sure, our dumber friends annoy us, but they’re still smarter than any other thing this planet has ever seen.

And our species thrives on change and strife.  Our species are cunning apes, who keep finding new ways of doing things.  Which drive progress, which shatters the status quo, which in turn causes people who were forced to change to look for more cunning ways of doing things, which…

Yeah, I saw the arguments of our visiting Luddite.  I have also read people who say we were much better before the invention of agriculture.  But what I know is that before the invention of agriculture we lived as individuals maybe 30 years, and as a species occupied certain zones of the globe, and lived in family groups of maybe 15.  There was a total number of us of maybe a million.  Maybe.  Now we cover the face of the earth and as individuals we’re healthier and more longer lived than we’ve ever been.

And while I sympathize with my fellow libertarians who think agriculture brought in a tiered society, I’d like to say poppycock.  With raspberries on top.  It’s not that you don’t get history (archeology is uncertain, and confused at that level.  Agriculture brought greater prosperity, and that made some tombs much less equal than others.  Also, the tombs we tend to find form the nomadic period are all chieftains or their equivalent) what you don’t get is human nature.  You’re engaging in the same form of fallacy the leftists engage in “Humans were perfect, and then an event–”  Bullshit.  I’m human, they were human. I know exactly their degree of perfection.  And as for thinking some kind of egalitarianism prevailed pre agriculture, those of you who think family-bands are egalitarian have never lived in a family with a tyrannical matriarch (or patriarch.)  It can be (not my family, we were never that organized) like a miniature totalitarian regime but even closer and more in your face.

Yeah, yeah, paleolithic diet and people were so much healthier and stuffs.  (Rolls eyes.)  While some of our metabolisms don’t seem to have caught up with agriculture (almost everyone I know who has issues with carbs has a relatively near ancestor from a nomad/hunting culture. Say no more than six generations off.) and while I myself eat very low carb for health reasons, the whole idea that people became LESS healthy with agriculture is a little mad.

Sure, and if you looked at graves from the village, from the time mom was a kid and my time, you’d find modern medicine, vaccinations and antibiotics had wreaked devastation on a healthy population.  This is because people died younger/less battered in her time.  Also infants tend to sort of vanish into the soil, so you wouldn’t get the great culling that happened before 3 years of age.  Only the strong survived.  In my generation, OTOH almost everyone survived, including the halting, the lame and those with chronic conditions.

Yeah, okay, so no progress comes without a cost.  Sure, some things will get worse, if only for a little while.  Yes, I read Christie (as I said.  One of the amazing things about mysteries, because grounded in the quotidian, is that they are a good record of how life really was, not how historians interpret it) and I read a lot about “pre war” (first) quality.  And it’s true there was a quality never again encountered except now, at high end craftsman created threads and clothes and furniture.

But the industry of the time would never have supplied the masses of humanity that progress allowed to live and thrive.

So, technological progress causes some losses, sometimes for a while.

What it causes, mostly, is disruption.  And the older you get the more you feel all disruption is for the worst, and the world is coming apart.  And if the progress happens too fast (say the first 50 years) people have trouble adjusting their MENTAL PICTURE of the world and some depart reality altogether and when this happens, (the last time I can think of is the industrial revolution, which more or less opened with the blood of the French revolution and closed with WWI.  If it has closed) it ends in blood.

Yeah, it’s scary out there, and things are shaking loose.  But a lot of the things that are shaking loose are undoing the mass-industrial-entertainment-news complex, and the idea that one size fits all.  Some of what is shaking lose is the inability for any of us to reach a mass audience without intermediary “gate keepers” who have long been taken over by the long march of Marxists (speaking of people who have left reality far behind.)

Technological progress — or even change — hurts.  But so does iodine.  It still allows us to live better and longer than our ancestors.

And the one thing you can count on is that we, cunning apes that we are, will continue engaging in it, and adapting to it, and fighting over it.

Those people who are all concerned about you losing your way in this heartless society?  Those who try to cushion you and put you in a safe space?

They’re not your friends.  They’re afraid of what you do if you and your creativity were fully unleashed.  They have achieved a certain domination over their society but are afraid if anything more happens they’ll lose it.

It’s not you, but them, they seek to help.

Ignore them and build.  Build under, build over, build around.  Anticipate technology.  Build technology.  And ignore them.  It’s the only way to deal with them.



Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

*I’m trying to do this thing, to increase visibility for the promos.  You should look at the post just below this for the promo.*

Welcome to the Sunday Vignettes! – by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘nother Mike

We hope you will enjoy these, and join in. Luke, Mary Catelli, and ‘nother Mike had this idea that it would be fun for everyone if we ran a regular scheduled vignette session. We asked the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess and she agreed to let us try it.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it!  For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is alchemy.

Hot Promo Coming Through – Free Range Oyster

Hot Promo Coming Through – Free Range Oyster

Happy Saturday, y’all! Autumn has arrived at last, and we have two weeks in a row with a bumper crop of books. Two of our recent guest posters have new releases out, and we’ve several other new books for you to peruse. I’m off to battle bagunça trolls, so have a great weekend and don’t forget to rate and review books! As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Wordsmith, Code Monkey, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Alma Boykin

Forcing the Spring

Colplatschki Chronicles Book 9

In NovRodi, danger lurks without the walls. And within.

Pjtor Adamson Svendborg, co-heir to the Empire of NovRodi, survives his best friend’s murder to grow up in the shadow of his ambitious half-sister. But more danger rides outside the walls of the cities, danger that threatens to undo all that the Svendborgs and their followers clawed back from the Great Fires.

To free his people and reclaim that which is his, Pjtor must look outside NovRodi for help, to the men of the Sea Republics. But not all those in the court and Church agree. And Pjtor’s impetuous nature leads him into grave danger indeed.

Stephanie Osborn

Fear in the French Quarter

Displaced Detective

Fear in the French Quarter revolves around a jaunt by no less than Sherlock Holmes himself – brought to the modern day from an alternate universe’s Victorian era by his continuum parallel, who is now his wife, Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes – to famed New Orleans for both business and pleasure. There, the detective couple investigates ghostly apparitions, strange disappearances, mystic phenomena, and challenge threats to the very universe they call home.

It was supposed to be a working holiday for Skye and Sherlock, along with their friend, the modern day version of Doctor Watson – some federal training that also gave them the chance to explore New Orleans, as the ghosts of the French Quarter become exponentially more active. When the couple uncovers an imminently catastrophic cause, whose epicenter lies squarely in the middle of Le Vieux Carré, they must race against time to stop it before the whole thing breaks wide open – and more than one universe is destroyed.

David L. Burkhead

The Hordes of Chanakra

Knights of Aerioch

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!


Science Fiction by Scientists

This anthology contains fourteen intriguing stories by active research scientists and other writers trained in science.

Science is at the heart of real science fiction, which is more than just westerns with ray guns or fantasy with spaceships. The people who do science and love science best are scientists. Scientists like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Fred Hoyle wrote some of the legendary tales of golden age science fiction. Today there is a new generation of scientists writing science fiction informed with the expertise of their fields, from astrophysics to computer science, biochemistry to rocket science, quantum physics to genetics, speculating about what is possible in our universe. Here lies the sense of wonder only science can deliver. All the stories in this volume are supplemented by afterwords commenting on the science underlying each story.

Includes stories by Stephanie Osborn, Tedd Roberts, and Les Johnson

Now available for preorder

Enigma Front: Burnt

CAUTION: Don’t burn your fingers turning the pages of this action-packed volume!

From elemental wizardry gone wickedly wrong to devilish deeds and futures up in flames, these twenty one stories set the pages ablaze exploring the myriad ways of getting singed, fried and outright incinerated. Read stories by established, award-winning authors, as well as newly ignited lights in the creative universe.

Flames, acid, radiation, steam, broken hearts and broken deals…


Includes the story Ember by Christopher Chupik

Kal Spriggs

The Sacred Stars

The Shadow Space Chronicles Book 4

You can never go home.

Alannis Giovanni has followed in her family’s footsteps and joined the United Colonies Fleet. As a bare Ensign, she’s been assigned to the Fleet’s newest, most powerful cruiser, the Constellation, on it’s maiden voyage: a simple show-the-flag mission that should be good for her to learn what it is to be an officer.

But things are never simple. At their most distant port, they come across allies in need. The Ghornath species are in search of their origins and an array of enemies are trying to stop them. The crew of the Constellation will have to face pirates, aliens, and uncover a ten thousand-year-old secret in order not just to save their allies, but to thwart a threat that might well catch the rest of the Fleet off-guard.

These battles will test Alannis, force her to grow and become the officer that her position and blood demand of her… yet the greatest threat may be one she is the least prepared to face.

J.M. Ney-Grimm


Prince Kellor, cursed by the troll-witch Mandine to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of his beast form. Pain wracks his body. Unpredictable rages blur his mind. And straight thinking proves elusive, confusing his search for the loopholes that every curse possesses.

His curse turns on the choices of his childhood friend Elle. She once shared Kellor’s idyllic rambles through the wilderlands. She now loves all things musical. Might Kellor persuade her to neglect her own dreams to confront his lethal nightmare? Should he?

But no troll-witch permits her prey to escape with ease. The illusory loopholes in Mandine’s curse all twist back to its entombing heart.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a lyrical Beauty and the Beast tale, rife with moments of shining glory, dark magnificence, and unexpected significance. The fate of an empire, a people, and a world unfurls from Kellor’s deeds and Elle’s choices.

Also available from these fine booksellers:

Edward Willett

Flames of Nevyana

Blue Fire is both blessing and curse.

A gift from the gods, its mystical light and energy powers and protects the land of Nevyana, but it also divides her people into three distinct groups. In the wrong hands, it becomes a formidable weapon. When sacred objects for channelling Blue Fire are stolen, sworn enemies Petra, Amlinn, and Jin set out to find them, and their paths converge on a collision course with the truth. Can they bridge the centuries old division between their communities? Or will their search for the truth and the explosive power of Blue Fire signal the end of Nevyana?

Dark Fate 6 – an almost harmless diversion.

*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON.  THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely.  Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off and beating me to death with it) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this?  Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on.  However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there.  If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.)  And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the world building.  (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse.  The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone.  (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families.  Ask my husband.)  So I’m torturing him.  Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ve sent the first chapter to Larry, and after I clear a bunch of minor cr*p in my way, I’ll be sending him probably the first ten chapters by the end of the week.  [Yay, Mr. Trashbags.  Oops, did I say that?])
Will this ever be a book?  Don’t know.  First Guardian will get delivered.  Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry.  And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.)  It’s his world and his character.  I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*

First chapter is here.

Second Chapter is here

Third Chapter is here

Fourth Chapter is here

Chapter 5 is here.


I might someday be able to overcome my distaste of elevators, but that isn’t going to happen for the elevator I had to take at the back of that Portuguese deli.

Okay, imagine an iron cage, of the sort that was put in as an elevator in the nineteenth century of so; the kind that used to have a uniformed buy just to operate the controls.  Then imagine that the uniformed man was done away with, and instead we had a bunch of obvious gears and stuff in a corner, all of it operated by a push button panel that I swear looked a hundred years old, though it certainly couldn’t be.

It was square.  It had three black buttons on it.  The buttons might at some time have had numbers on them, but they had long since been rubbed away.

Franks had said first floor, so I licked my lips, looked at the instructions, looked at the panel and pressed the middle button.  The panel sparked.

For a while nothing happened, and I was reaching for the metal door to open it, when the whole structure gave a looooooong groan and hobbled.

By which I mean it shook side to side.

I looked up and could see what looked like a much too flimsy chain holding it up, threaded into a really large gear.

Right.  There had to be stairs in this place.  And for that matter, why wasn’t the elevator resting on the floor, here, on the ground floor.  And also–

I reached for the door.

The groan deafened me and then, like an arthritic man, groaning and moaning, the elevator started lurching upstairs.

The sequence went something like this: groan; shudder from side to side; groan; shudder.  Each groan took up about fifteen inches up, which means the first lurch made it impossible for me to get out of there easily.

In an iron cage, being pulled up, I realized I was the perfect target for shooters from the bottom floor, or the floor I was going to for that matter.

I resisted the impulse to lay flat on the floor of the elevator.  For one, because I really do try not to look crazier than I am.  For another, because the floor of the elevator was also metal, the kind of metal grates they put over manholes in Manhattan, you know, the kind smoke streams out of?  And through the openings between metal slats, I could see another level, where it seemed to me like people — or perhaps things — were moving around in the darkness.

So instead of lying flat on the elevator floor, I tried to restrain my footprint to… well… my footprint.

I squeezed near the far wall of the elevator, against the bars there, because those at least backed to a solid — okay, plaster and crumbling — but without holes.  And I put my hand in my pocket, where I kept the glock I’d rescued from my luggage.  No, I’m not saying ow I got it into my luggage and through customs with no questions, even though I wasn’t using my official passport to travel.  It’s none of your business.  And besides, I might need to use it again.

But nothing blasting-worth made it into my field of vision.  In fact, nothing happened beyond the creak and lurch, and it seemed like forever between floors, until suddenly it gave a creak-shudder, like a great beat dying and I realized we were level with the time-corroded floorboards of the first floor.

As I reached for the door, the elevator gave a great groan and lurched upward again.  Oh, no way in hell was I going to go up at the mercy of some crazy, ancient contraption.

I grabbed the door — a sort of sliding gate really — shoved it to the side, and jumped out, which was scarier than it should be, because the elevator was too small for the hole, and there was this space I might have fallen down, into the endless darkness beyond.

I managed to land on my feet on floorboards that creaked and groaned as much as the elevator.  But I was very glad I managed to land on my feet, because as I looked up, I was being coolly appraised by a young woman in a black-skirt-suit.

She was much shorter than I.  Must have been all of five foot nothing.  And it looked like she was wearing at least a one-inch heel too, on her impeccable black pumps.

Her hair was dark and curly, her face was olive and pointed, and her dark eyes were profoundly amused.

She looked me up and down, and said “Grant Jefferson?”

I wanted to say “if you’re Fado Negro, I don’t think much of your death elevator.”  Or perhaps “Woman, surely you have stairs somewhere.”

But she looked so amused, as though the elevator were an elaborate prank — and it might very well be — that all I could say was “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said.  She extended her hand, and I shook it.  A little, hard, cool hand.  “We’re all waiting for you.  I don’t mind saying we’re in a hell of a pickle, and it’s about time you Americans showed up.”

The Thrill of Discovery- Alma Boykin

The Thrill of Discovery- Alma Boykin


I had not thought about how long its been since I delved into something really new until a few weeks ago, when I started reading a monograph on a very new-to-me topic. My hands and my mind actually started to tingle, there’s no better way to describe it, as I dove into new information. Every sentence was learning, challenging what I had been taught, complicating things as the best histories tend to do. Anyone watching would probably think me a bit touched in the head as I underlined, side-lined, made arrows to especially important points or pieces of data, and grinned as I though about how much this will improve my teaching on this topic.

Reading outside my usual field is normal. Reading something totally new to me is not so normal, or I should so common. I read to learn more about what I already know. It is comfortable, entertaining, and to be absolutely honest, does not require as many brain cells or as close attention. And it goes faster, although page count isn’t as important as it was when I had to read two monographs and a handful of articles per week.

Why am I even reading this monograph? Because it fills a hole and complicates my knowledge. I hadn’t realized just how long its been since that happened, until I got that happy itchy excited “oh wow this is so neat!” feeling.

Archival research can generate a similar “thrill of the hunt.” You read, chase leads, slog through documents, force yourself to keep going through yet another round of zoning-permit change requests and turn the page once more to find . . . exactly that little nugget of data that locks everything else into place and proves or disproves that which you were trying to prove or challenge. Those nuggets, or the occasional surprise windfall or “What on earth?”* moment are the reward for digging, the proof that your effort has and will continue to pay off. You meet the challenge and master it.

Despite what some activists keep propounding, humans are not herbivores. We are not able to talk to plants. We did not live our entire existence as a species browsing on fruit and nuts with the occasional carrion chaser until some eeevil male/spirit/monotheistic impulse/capitalist introduced poor, weak victims to fire-charred mammoth tenderloin. We can be relatively content with browsing, especially if that browsing includes lots of really juicy blackberries or wild strawberries that were hiding in a large patch of clover on a mist-damp hillside that smelled of new-mown hay and clouds and— Ahem. Sorry. Memory dump. Where was I? Oh yes, humans are omnivores who hunted as well as scavenged. We have not always been the top of the food chain (still aren’t in some areas. Africa, India, parts of North America). And the pleasure of pursuit and capture remains with many of us, just sublimated.

Our minds have not changed that much, either. The excitement of tracking knowledge lures so many of us on, especially difficult knowledge. Do you think the serpent in the garden would have been as successful if he’d lured Eve to the Tree of the Presence of Good and Evil? Or the Tree of Three Foods Guaranteed to Keep Your Husband’s Cholesterol Low? Nope, she’d probably have called for Adam to come and bring a large snake-stick with him. The serpent offered her knowledge. The different groups lumped together as Gnostics all argued that people needed additional, restricted knowledge in order to escape this vale of tears. How many books and stories are premised on the lure of forbidden knowledge, of “Things No Man Should Know!!!”? Besides the entire Lovecraft canon, I mean. All the Faust stories, a fair amount of fantasy, including the Earthsea books and Tamora Pierce’s third and fourth Song of the Lioness novels, those are just the titles that come quickly to mind. We hunt knowledge.

Knowledge does not mean wisdom, but it often helps build wisdom. I suspect that is why I get the shivery excited feeling when I read things that counter the traditional historical narrative or apparent general knowledge. The human condition is an endlessly fascinating topic to study, trying to sort out how and why and just what did happen, in an effort to better understand then and today. The more I learn, the richer the world seems to be and the better I can assemble the pieces to give my students and readers that richness. It may be a tidbit about language, such as “this alien species has an inflected language, but it is also based on caste and sex, so that vocal pitch and upward or downward inflection informs the listener of the speaker’s sex and birth-rank.” So what do humans do when presented with an alien who looks one way but literally sounds like a very different person? What does an alien do when something causes her voice to change, illness or accident? The ambassador suddenly has the voice of an untouchable – how does this complicate the story?

Or in this case, certain African tribal groups in what is now Ghana not only actively encouraged the slave trade, but they controlled the Europeans who tried to manage it. And the first Europeans in the area discouraged the slave trade because they wanted gold and ivory, not people. The native Africans called the shots for a hundred fifty years or so. Boy oh boy does that upset a lot of conventional apple carts about “agency” and Europeans’ place in the long-practiced system of slavery in west Africa, at least in this region.

How about Spain’s colonies in the New World being much closer to the Medieval mind-set than the Early Modern approach of the people north of the Rio Grade and east of the Mississippi? Instead of being settled by people who assumed responsibility for their own actions and the events of the world (within limits), the dominant mental world remained that of a system where everything depended on those in power, up to and including the Almighty. And if that becomes entrenched and absorbed into the general bulk of culture, that ninety percent that lurks below the surface, what are the odds that a society of laws and of personal responsibility, of individual rights and freedoms, is going to grow and flourish? Probably a bit longer than in that strip north of the Rio Grande and east of the Mississippi River.

That is the kind of thing that makes my eyes light up, and makes me grin at my books and annotate margins with strange and obscure notes and cryptic abbreviations. And I fear it is the kind of thing we are choking out of the younger set, both by presenting everything as “set and settled,” and by discouraging curiosity and the thrill of the intellectual hunt. Hunting is hard. Learning what you don’t know so you can start filling in the spaces is tedious and requires a large dose of humility (or being hit firmly with the cluebat. BTDT got the skull lump.)

Most people are content with knowing what they know, and learning only what they need for survival. That’s fine. That’s normal. Society needs a lot of normal people doing normal things before it can support Odds like academics.

People read in their comfort zone. I do it too. Why do I have a gazillion books about the Habsburg Empire and central Europe? Because I know a lot already, so I don’t work as hard on the new stuff.

But when that little tease of the chance for new knowledge floats by, when the prints of that long-sought animal come into view, ah the thrill of the chase! The excitement of the hunt! Squirrell!!


*I really do need to go back and find that enormous city commission minute about the search for the sick cow and the owner’s attempts to hide it, and write an article based on it. The story is just too good to let slip into obscurity.

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VI: Solar-Earth DefCon Levels By Stephanie Osborn

*Sorry, I had this scheduled to go this morning and in a brilliant move scheduled it for 7 pm.  Sorry Stephanie.  And yes, I can totally hear you say “Bless your heart.”-SAH*

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VI: Solar-Earth DefCon Levels

By Stephanie Osborn


“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist

As I told you last time, NOAA has a scale of geomagnetic activity that ranges from G0 to G5, where G0 is quiescent, and G5 is the worst geomagnetic storm around. Now, we’ve already talked a little bit about what geomagnetic storms do…

“No, we didn’t,” you say?

Ah, but we did. Back when I told you about all the effects that Coronal Mass Ejections can have. (Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part 4.) Because those sorts of things are what cause the geomagnetic storms.

But probably the best way I can tell you about the effects is simply to quote from NOAA’s scale itself (which can be found here: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/#GeomagneticStorms).


As I mentioned last week, a G0 is the normal, quiescent geomagnetic field. This holds until the Kp index reaches 5, and then we begin minor geomagnetic storming, with the scale hitting G1. According to NOAA, “Power systems: weak power grid fluctuations can occur. Spacecraft operations: minor impact on satellite operations possible. Other systems: migratory animals are affected at this and higher levels; aurora is commonly visible at high latitudes (northern Michigan and Maine).” These are fairly frequent, with on average close to 2000 per 11-year solar cycle.

At Kp=6, G2 is considered a moderate storm. “Power systems: high-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms, long-duration storms may cause transformer damage. Spacecraft operations: corrective actions to orientation may be required by ground control; possible changes in drag affect orbit predictions. Other systems: HF radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes, and aurora has been seen as low as New York and Idaho (typically 55° geomagnetic lat.).” These are a little less frequent than G1, but still occur at a rate of about 600 every solar cycle.

When Kp=7, G3 is a strong geomagnetic storm. “Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices. Spacecraft operations: surface charging [static electricity buildup; this can lead to arcing] may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems. Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.).” These are less frequent still, with on average 200 per solar cycle. Also, as the geomagnetic storms increase in strength, their likelihood of occurrence tends to concentrate around solar maximum, though this is not a hard and fast rule.

At Kp=8, G4 is a severe geomagnetic storm. “Power systems: possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid. Spacecraft operations: may experience surface charging and tracking problems, corrections may be needed for orientation problems. Other systems: induced pipeline currents affect preventive measures, HF radio propagation sporadic, satellite navigation degraded for hours, low-frequency radio navigation disrupted, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California (typically 45° geomagnetic lat.). These are rarer still, with only about 100 seen per solar cycle.

And then there’s the big boys. Kp=9 means a G5 extreme geomagnetic storm. “Power systems:  widespread voltage control problems and protective system problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Transformers may experience damage. Spacecraft operations: may experience extensive surface charging, problems with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites. Other systems: pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida and southern Texas (typically 40° geomagnetic lat.).” These are the rarest of all, but still occur on average 4 per solar cycle. And yes, that honkin’ big one we had in 2003 was one of these.

By the way, this also affects our astronauts. Per Australia’s ABC News, “Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis were aloft during a solar storm in October 1989, and ‘reported burning in their eyes, a reaction of their retinas to the solar particles,’ according to the book Storms from the Sun: The Emerging Science of Space Weather, by Michael J. Carlowicz & Ramon E. Lopez. [https://books.google.com.au/books?id=RJO_IsMDiccC&q=1882&hl=en#v=onepage&q=1989&f=false]

“‘The crew was ordered to go to the “storm shelter” in the farthest interior of the shuttle, the most shielded position. But even when hunkered down inside the spacecraft, some astronauts reported seeing flashes of light even with their eyes closed,’ the book notes, adding that if the astronauts had been on a deep-space mission or working on the Moon, there was a 10 per cent chance they would have died.”

Somewhat related to the geomagnetic storm index is the radio blackout index. This tells us the specific effects of a flare on radio communications. However, these are caused, not from the impact of a CME, but from the x-rays produced by the originating flare! So instead of taking hours to days for the effects to reach us, we feel the effects only 8.3 minutes after the flare occurs — at the same time we SEE the flare. Consequently, the strength of the comm effects can provide us an early warning to later geomagnetic effects.


An R1 radio blackout is considered minor. “HF Radio: Weak or minor degradation of HF (high frequency) radio communication on sunlit side, occasional loss of radio contact. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for brief intervals.” They occur on average 2,000 times per solar cycle.

An R2 radio blackout is “moderate.”  “HF Radio: Limited blackout of HF radio communication on sunlit side, loss of radio contact for tens of minutes. Navigation: Degradation of low-frequency navigation signals for tens of minutes.” We get approximately 350 of these per solar cycle.

An R3 radio blackout is starting to get serious; it’s “strong.” “HF Radio: Wide area blackout of HF radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour on sunlit side of Earth. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for about an hour.” They happen 175 times per solar cycle.

Then we have an R4 Severe radio blackout. “HF Radio: HF radio communication blackout on most of the sunlit side of Earth for one to two hours. HF radio contact lost during this time. Navigation: Outages of low-frequency navigation signals cause increased error in positioning for one to two hours. Minor disruptions of satellite navigation possible on the sunlit side of Earth.” Fortunately, they only occur, on average, about 8 times in any given solar cycle.

And then there is the gut-buster. It’s an R5 Extreme radio blackout. This one can be bad, folks. “HF Radio: Complete HF radio blackout on the entire sunlit side of the Earth lasting for a number of hours. This results in no HF radio contact with mariners and en route aviators in this sector. Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals used by maritime and general aviation systems experience outages on the sunlit side of the Earth for many hours, causing loss in positioning. Increased satellite navigation errors in positioning for several hours on the sunlit side of Earth, which may spread into the night side.” Fortunately, we get one or less of these per solar cycle.

But stop and think for a few minutes about the potential ramifications of one of these. An ENTIRE HEMISPHERE is without radio communications for entire blocks of time. ALL SHIPS AT SEA are out of comm with land, and each other. ALL AIRCRAFT are unable to communicate with each other and all flight controllers. Worse, THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY ARE. Navigational systems have been hosed — yes, I’m talking GPS here — and they are now relying on eyeballs and dead reckoning to get from point A to point B.

Also realize that the largest ever in modern record-keeping was caused by a solar flare on Nov. 4, 2003, associated with the same solar activity that produced the Halloween Geomag Storm of 2003. This one was so strong, it actually pegged the measurement meters, and was originally believed to be “only” an X28…until further analysis revealed its true strength: X45. The last time we had one of these (that I’m aware of) was in 2006, but it was only an X9 and the blackouts lasted about 10 minutes.

But for the 2003 flares (it was really a series, and therein lies another danger — these things rarely pop off just once and then shut up), GPS was still a relative novelty in the civilian world, and this was before GPS was standardly included on everything from cars to cell phones. Given that our naval forces have stopped using, or even teaching, celestial navigation, and that we have, at any given time, thousands of commercial airline passengers IN THE AIR, this has the potential to be catastrophic beyond belief.

Now, while all of this stuff is going on in the geomagnetic field, what’s happening in space? Hard radiation, and lots of it, that’s what. After all, that’s basically what’s causing the disturbance in the geomagnetic field.

And of course NOAA has another scale that relates to that, called the solar storm scale, and represented by — you guessed it — the letter S.

There’s not a direct correlation that I’ve ever been able to find between the G scale and the S scale, because the S scale is determined by the number of protons of a given energy that passes through, say a square meter in a second. This number is called the proton flux. (In the case of the S scale, the energy of the protons must be greater than or equal to 10MeV, where MeV is mega-electron-volts. An electron volt is very tiny, only 1.6×10-19 joules. So an MeV is an energy of 1.6×10-12 joules. It’s not big, but when you’re talking about something as small as a proton, it’s plenty big enough.)


So at S1, our proton flux is 10 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. (This is not a very big area. The bigger the number of protons passing through, the bigger the radiation dose.) An S1 is a minor solar storm. According to NOAA, the effects are as follows, “Biological: none. Satellite operations: none. Other systems: minor impacts on HF radio in the polar regions.” This happens a lot, but not quite as often as a G1 — an S1 occurs about 50 times per solar cycle.

An S2 is a moderate solar storm. It requires a proton flux of 100, and occurs half as often as an S1. Effects: “Biological: passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk. Satellite operations: infrequent single-event upsets possible. [A single-event upset, or SEU, is when the bit of a computer is accidentally reset to its opposite condition by a proton or electron impact.] Other systems: small effects on HF propagation through the polar regions and navigation at polar cap locations possibly affected.”

S3 is a little stronger still; it’s a “strong” solar storm, with a proton flux of 1000. (Note that the solar storm scale is a logarithmic scale like the Richter scale, with each step of the scale having 10x greater proton flux than the previous.) Only 10 of these typically occur per solar cycle, but they aren’t pleasant. “Biological: radiation hazard avoidance recommended for astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: single-event upsets, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panel are likely. Other systems: degraded HF radio propagation through the polar regions and navigation position errors likely.”

Stepping up to an S4, a severe solar storm, we have a proton flux of 10,000. They are pretty rare, with only about 3 per solar cycle occurring. “Biological: unavoidable radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk.  Satellite operations: may experience memory device problems and noise on imaging systems; star-tracker problems may cause orientation problems, and solar panel efficiency can be degraded. Other systems: blackout of HF radio communications through the polar regions and increased navigation errors over several days are likely.”

And finally the granddaddy of solar storms, the S5, the extreme storm. It has a proton flux of 100,000 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. Simply put, a flood of 100,000 protons is striking every square centimeter (less than half an inch each way), every second. These are very rare, and may or may not occur in any given solar cycle. But they can be devastating. “Biological: unavoidable high radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity); passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: satellites may be rendered useless, memory impacts can cause loss of control, may cause serious noise in image data, star-trackers may be unable to locate sources; permanent damage to solar panels possible. Other systems: complete blackout of HF (high frequency) communications possible through the polar regions, and position errors make navigation operations extremely difficult.”

We’re fortunate those don’t occur very often at all. In fact, there have been only 6 in the last century and a half, most of which were in the latter half of the 20th Century: 1972, 1989, 2000, 2003, and 2009.

But even the typical description of a G5 or S5 doesn’t match the strongest geomagnetic storm in history. The Carrington Event tops the charts by all measures.

~Stephanie Osborn


Comet Tales blog/Osborn Cosmic Weather Report: http://stephanie-osborn.blogspot.com/

The Weather Out There Is Frightful: https://www.amazon.com/Weather-Out-There-Frightful-ebook/dp/B008JA00D0/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-16&keywords=stephanie+osborn#nav-subnav

Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Displaced-Detective-Arrival/dp/1606191896/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1473999553&sr=8-3&keywords=stephanie+osborn

And All The Devils Are Here

Yesterday I was hanging around at Richard Fernandez (Wretchard of Belmont club) facebook page.  (I hang out there a lot) and he was talking about the forever war.  No, not the book.  What we’re going through.  He was explaining that in Syria as well as all these other fronts we’re fighting on, there is this… holding back of force.  We could win, sure, but our elites no longer believe in victory.  Victory is so rude, so brash, so full of itself, so culturally “insensitive.”  Instead they believe in measured, endless war, that leads to negotiations, also seemingly endless.

And meanwhile, in the endless war, with no goal in sight, no objective of “winning” real people (on our side and theirs) are dying, and even more people (in the Middle East and in Europe, and even here) are having their lives disrupted, turned upside down, their life work destroyed.

This kinder, gentler was is in fact an endless, grinding hell — granted felt more strongly abroad than here — which is imposed on the world in the name of compassion and sensitivity.

When I read that, my thought was “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.”

Because, think about it, in every one of the fronts in which we’re enjoined to be “sensitive” and “respectful” and “culturally diverse” what we get in the end is a blunting of what we know works, and instead of mitigating the awful consequences of whatever it is, it just prolongs it, and makes it horribly endless.

We know how to win wars.  We did so in WWII and installed occupation forces and puppet regimes afterwards, long enough that those countries wouldn’t be a threat to us.  And I see you cringing from those words, but think for a moment: is that more horrible than an endless grinding war; than whole populations always in strife; than children — those who don’t die — growing up in endless hopelessness because the war never ends and the healing never begins.

Oh, sure thing,t hey keep their pride and their culture.  In this case a culture that stones uppity women and throws gay men from roofs.  Those will continue dying too, while we dither and measure our response, and our fighting men die while our REMFers and our effete, castrati elite contemplate the beauties of “negotiation.”

And you’ll shrug and say “what do you expect of a president who thought it was terrible we forced the Emperor of Japan to surrender?”

Fine, that’s a point, but it’s not just him.  It’s the whole “elite” the “glitterati” of Western culture, those educated not only beyond rationality but beyond usefulness except as puppets of our enemies.  The poor darlings were taught that unless we have the perfect solution — to anything, really — we must compound with half measures, we must ignore what we know works, we must never declare that we know how to fix this, much less attempt to fix this.  Instead, we must whisper and apologize, and cringe and writhe, while making the problem observably worse.

Take the war on poverty.  We know how to defeat poverty.  95% of the people in poverty can be saved from their fate, and their children and grandchildren rescued from it by tough love.  Instill bourgeois virtues.  Marriage, abstinence, continence, chastity, hard work.  It fricking well worked before, bringing most of Europe out of peasantry and starvation into an educated and in historical terms wealthy beyond dreams citizenry.

But it would require us to say that some behaviors are better than others.  It would require us to arrogantly refuse to turn a blind eye to self-destruction.  And those bourgeois values are so outdated.  They leave so little room for artistic self-expression.

And then there are the poor who don’t respond to this: the addled, or otherwise willfully destructive.  Those on whom social pressure wouldn’t work.

It is as though those who disgrace the label of “liberal” believe that we shouldn’t leave those who can’t be saved alone in their misery and must therefore precipitate the greatest number of unfortunates down to keep them company.

And behind this is a grotesque sort of elitism that you hear when they think they’re safe and among their own: “As technology advances, most of these people aren’t smart enough to keep up. So we need social programs.”  Social programs which, as constituted wage war on those very bourgeois values that could save these people.  And it’s bullshit, besides.  There is no technology so advanced that there is no room for people who can do things with their hands.  Hell and damnation, other than the internet, when did we become so “advanced” and when are the jobs our “studies” graduates do above the mind of the common man.  These people are wanna-be elites so incompetent they must cast other people as subnormal to feel superior.

Again, we know how to pull people out of poverty, but because the solution isn’t perfect and is what they’ve been taught to consider uncouth, we allow them to live lives of utter hopelessness, for generations on end.

Everywhere you look: war, race, poverty, disease, you see the same thing.  “We know how to stop this” but in the name of “compassion” and “sensitivity”, in the name of caring and listening, we allow people to suffer and die, world without end.

In the end they call evil good and good evil, and allow intolerable situations to continue, all so they can feel good about themselves.

Which is far worse than it would be if they didn’t know how to fix this.

The doors of hell are locked on the inside, and there is a sixth column in front of them, preventing us from opening them and setting the captives free.

We’re going to have to go through them to rescue civilization.

Forget Your Place

Recently we were talking here about the culture war and I realized with shock that I’d never have engaged in the fight if Larry Correia hadn’t started.  And the reason why not surprised me.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of the strange phenomenon in our field, where those with power pretend to be the underdog and scream about the injustice, even as they dispense whatever justice or injustice they want with no reprisals.

It wasn’t that I was scared of what it might do to my career.  Since 2012 I have known indie can make me more money than even Baen, so if Baen should for some reason be unable to publish me, (say, because public opinion turned overwhelmingly against me) I could go on writing and publishing.  If I burned this name, I could adopt whatever pseudonym I decided to use.  No one even needed to know.

No, the reason I would never have stepped out of line, if Larry hadn’t started it up, is that I had internalized the condition in the field — the condition in the culture at large — as the way things are, the sort of unspoken law, against which no one can fight.  The very vehemence of the response to Larry told me, not that he was right — I and anyone with even a modicum of honesty knew that, however much we kept our mouths shut — but that the establishment was vulnerable.  No one uses that much overwhelming force to stop that which is no threat.  More importantly, there was a sheer joy to speaking what had been forbidden, to letting the truth pour out.  It reminded me of the probably apocryphal words attributed to Christopher Marlowe shortly before his death: “To speak the truth would be worth it even if it were just once and one had to die for it.”

Realizing that, realizing how far we’ve come since Larry dared stand up and speak, realizing how much things have changed (and no, not to increased strife.  The strife was there before, but only one side was discomfited) I realized how many times even I, who have an avowed problem with authority, even I who moved across the ocean to escape a culture that believed a lot more in one’s allotted place and one’s allotted destiny, have a tendency to accept “my place” and stay in it.  Not because I’m afraid, or because it is comfortable, but because it seems inevitable.

It is never inevitable.  If something is wrong, fix it.  If something is uncomfortable, change it.  If something is making you chafe, step out of it.

Oh, sure, there are obligations and promises given, and I’m NOT suggesting you be monstrously self-centered.  I’m not talking about the type of situation where someone is dependent on you and you have an obligation to them.  All of us go through those situations, and the reward comes in living up to your obligations.

I’m rather talking about those situations where things just aren’t right, where entire fields, or entire offices or entire families or social groups are being run by a small, easily offended clique or by tyrannical individuals who enjoy power, and you stay quiet, because staying quiet is easier and you’re used to it, and you don’t want to buck the trend.  It’s not, mind you, that you’re afraid to lose your job, but that people might look at you funny in the break room, and things will change.

In these cases, it is your duty not to know your place.  It is your right to speak your mind.  It is your time to challenge the status quo. And it is important that you do.

Because politics is downstream from culture, and if you don’t change culture, any change you make to politics will be fleeting. And we’ve let it go far too long.

Know your place.  And then forget it.  Your place, in a free society, is wherever you want it to be.

Go forth and make it so.


Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

*I’ve never been to Dragon con, but the Lady Correia says she and I are going next year.  Not sure DC will survive.😉 Meanwhile I read this with envy. – SAH*

Dragoncon AAR – Kacey Ezell

Pre DragonCon Prep

So the time had finally come.  I was returning to DragonCon after a year’s absence.  It seemed like a fitting reward for surviving this past summer.  What with moving across the country, getting settled into a new house, job, school, etc…

DragonCon was just what the doctor ordered.

But here was the thing: unlike in previous years, I was well behind the power curve when it came to preparations and packing.  When the last week in August rolled around, I still hadn’t ordered the badge ribbons I needed, or the t-shirts, or the really kickass printed leggings I decided I required in my life.  It was like I was putting off my packing and prep.

I suspect it had something to do with the creative slump I’d worked myself into having.  See, I’ve been working on this collaboration project with John Ringo and Chris Smith, while simultaneously trying to finish my novel with Nico Murray in time for DragonCon.  By the end of August, the novel was drafted, and being edited by Chris.  I was pushing for 500 words a night on the collab, but I was bogging down.  I felt creatively drained.  So much so that for 3 or 4 days immediately before Con, I didn’t write a word.  I just curled up with one of my favorite comfort reads (The Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn), and let my brain rest.

That helped stave off the immediate burnout, but what I really need to recharge was just on the horizon.


Where you and 70,000 of your closest friends get together to party for four days in five hotels in Atlanta. Where you realize that you’ve left Earth and landed on your long lost home planet of Geekdom.  Where you meet random people on smoke breaks and they turn out to be lifelong friends who change the course of your personal history.

If you’ve never been… yeah.  It’s like that.

In general, attending a Con has the effect of recharging my creative batteries.  I knew that DragonCon would do more than that.  I just needed to get there.  So late on Wednesday night, I packed up my clothes, costumes and express-shipped internet goodies.  It was game time.

Thursday 1 Sept 16

En Media Res

For over a decade of attending DragonCon, I’ve been a “Thursday to Tuesday” kind of girl.  However, during the past several years, “Wednesday is the new Thursday” has become more and more of a truism.  I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see DragonCon becoming a week-long event in the next 50 years or so.  Certainly this year, it was impossible to dismiss: there was programming on Thursday, thus Wednesday had become the new start of the Con.

EZ and I flew in from Baltimore at 11:30am.  On the flight, my intrepid husband and “designated drinker” (I don’t imbibe alcohol) had four airline drink tickets which he redeemed.  However, for one reason or another, the flight attendants weren’t able to actually bring him his drinks until we were about 20 min out from Atlanta.  Undaunted, my love soldiered on, to include downing an entire mini bottle of Jim Beam and chasing it with Coca-Cola as the flight attendant looked on, waiting to clean up.

Grown up vacation had arrived. 🙂

We got our bags and hopped the MARTA down to the Peachtree Center Station.  When we emerged onto Peachtree Street enroute to the Westin, we could already see costumed congoers lining both sidewalks.  The annual geek invasion of downtown Atlanta was well underway.  We managed to roll our luggage uphill to the Westin and into the lobby without incident.  At this point, the love of my life had to find the restroom (I blame the Jim Beam), and so I moved on to check in.

The check in line for the Westin stretched across the entire lobby floor back nearly to the restaurant.  I’d never seen it that bad, not in any of the years I’d stayed there.  Fortunately for me, I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, so I got to cut to the head of the line.  I’ll be honest, I felt a little guilty…

No.  No I didn’t.  I might have felt smug, though.  It’s a character flaw of mine.  I’m working on that.  Slowly. 🙂

In any case, I checked in to my room, my friend Marisa’s room, and my friend Seth’s room.  We were hoping to get all of the rooms on the same floor.  We succeeded with mine and Marisa’s, but Seth’s was on a lower floor due to the type of reservation he’d made.

We dumped our bags, and almost immediately got a message that Marisa was inbound to the Westin.  So we went downstairs to meet up with her, give her her room keys, and do the traditional squealing and jumping up and down that comes with meeting up at DragonCon.

Once the squealing and jumping was handled, lunch was the next order of business.  Meehan’s Pub is located right next door to the Westin, and has the best truffled macaroni and cheese on the planet.  Although I will say that this year’s wasn’t as good as I remembered.  I don’t know whether that’s due to me building it up in my head, or to a change in staff or recipe, but whatever,  I still ate all of it with a smile.  We discussed the plan for the rest of the day and decided to delay getting badges until about 7pm or so, since that was when EZ’s best friend, Seth (Seth whose room I checked in) would arrive.

Shortly after lunch, my friends, Bravo and Alpha texted me that they were arriving.  Bravo and Alpha are the internet codenames that they use.  They were travelling with their daughter, Whiskey, and their roommate Charlie.  They’d arranged to share Seth’s room, so it worked out well that I was able to give them keys.  We got them set up, then they headed off to get badges and give blood.  In the meantime, Marisa, EZ, and I walked over to the Hyatt to drop off some items in Barfly Central (BFC).

If you’re not familiar with BFC, it’s become an institution at several cons that are well attended by fans of Baen Books.  “Barfly” refers to the denizens of “Baen’s Bar”, which is an internet bulletin board.  Though much of the discussion has migrated from the Bar to Facebook and other social media, the term has stuck, and Barfly Central is where you can find many of those fans at cons such as DragonCon, RavenCon, Chattacon, etc.

Dragon’s BFC is held in the suite “owned” by Tedd Roberts, aka Speaker to Lab Animals.  Speaker is a very good friend and bit of a mentor for me.  (I have a lot of those).  He was sharing the suite with his two sons, Stephen and Brian (whom I continue to mix up), The Evil Penguin (aka EP), and Doc Wohlrab.  During the evenings, they open the living room part of the suite to those who have a “Baen Barfly” ribbon to come, hang out, drink, smoke (on the balcony), chill, and whatever.  They also allow me to hold my Corsets&Kilts party there.  I was very excited to see them, especially Doc, Speaker, and Chris, my wonder twin and writing buddy.

Afterwards, we went to the Marriott to pick up my badge.  Now, since I was listed as an “Attending Professional” this year, I had to pick up my badge at the VIP Badge Pick Up location.  On the way there, we ran into Jerry and his lovely wife Dora.  Jerry and EZ proceeded to tease me about my lofty new status until I thought I would burst.  It was, however, all in good fun.  They desisted soon enough.  I just had to make a few threats. 😉

Next, we went to the Sheraton to pick up badges for everyone else.  While we were there, Seth texted that he was on his way.  We had him tell his Lyft driver to drop him at the Sheraton entrance while Marisa and Stephen (Speaker’s son) went to go get their badges.  Afterwards, they were kind enough to bag drag Seth’s ridiculously heavy luggage up the hill from the Sheraton to the Westin while EZ and Seth and I stood in the badge line.

Once that was complete, we made the obligatory stop at the liquor store, where Seth purchased wine for Marisa in thanks (not sure what, if anything, he bought for Stephen! If nothing, I’m sure he’ll make it up next year!).  As it turns out, those thanks were highly necessary, because Seth’s bag held not 1, not 12, but 40 12oz. Cans of AMP energy drink.  He and my husband like to mix it with vodka.  Grown up vacation indeed!

At that point, I think we might have gone back to Meehan’s for dinner, where we were joined by the inimitable Cathe.  One of the jokes of the weekend was set when she was describing her accommodations at the W hotel nearby.  It seems that the bathroom lighting at the W resulted in a perfect stripper-silhouette whenever someone took a shower. Now, keep in mind that Cathe has an extremely dry and twisted sense of humor.  She’d just finished joking about performing experiments on people.  So when she summed up her dissatisfaction by saying mildly “it’s a modesty thing,” with a perfectly deadpan face, EZ, Seth, and Marisa didn’t know whether to laugh or run.

Which is pretty much par for the course with Cathe.  She’s fantastic. 🙂

After dinner, I think we headed up to make it a relatively early night.  I think.  I honestly can’t remember much.  I do remember thinking that I was exhausted, and it was only Thursday.

Friday 2 Sept 2016

Corsets, Kilts, Pies, and Blood

Friday morning, I woke up wanting two things.  One, I wanted some of the drinking chocolate that Chris had brought for me from the  Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga, TN.  Two, I wanted to hang out with Marisa and Alpha.  I sent out a few text messages to coordinate these things and soon met up with everyone downstairs by the Starbucks in the Westin lobby.  I ordered some steamed milk, and proceeded to use all of the chocolate that Chris had brought (sorry, buddy.  But as EZ says, you only YOLO once, right?) to make drinks for myself, Whiskey, and Bravo.  So delicious.  After that, we headed out to get lunch at the food court in the Peachtree Center Mall.

A new addition had joined the ranks of delicious eateries there:  Panbury.  Panbury is a hand-pie shop specializing in savory pies.  Though their sweet peach mini was to die for as well.  My hands down favorite, however, was the “Steak and Stout” pie.  Oh my goodness.  I think I ate 6 of them over the course of the weekend.  So delicious.

On this occasion, however, I wasn’t overly hungry (see massive amounts of drinking chocolate, above) and so elected to try one of the smaller pies for my first time.  The Jamaican Chicken Patty was also delicious… but I would later discover that the Steak and Stout was better.

At around this time, it was close enough to 1pm for us to decide to mosey over to the AmericasMart to see the newly opened vendors halls.  Halls.  3 of them, for those of you keeping track.  DragonCon is not your average little Con with a Huckster’s Room.  Just something to keep in mind.

As was the crowd wrapped all the way around the building waiting to get in.  So we decided to try to get in another way.  The Westin has a skybridge to the AmericasMart Building 1.  This year, Gaming resided there.  However, we were successful in finding another skybridge route that led to Building 2 and the vendors.  I managed to locate Glennis and Thomas at The Missing Volume before getting a text from Marisa.  She had broken off to meet up with her friend and roommate Kristin, and was looking to find us.  Alpha and Charlie, too, had broken off to go up to their room to get something, and wanted to know how to get to the vendors as well.  The route was somewhat convoluted, so I told both groups to meet me on the 6th floor of the Westin and I would walk them over.

Big Mistake.

When we got back to the skybridges, we were told the vendor area was at capacity and were funneled out through Building 3.  Which we were apparently never allowed to set foot into.  So someone at the AmericasMart made a mistake, and we were the recipient of a good few sharp words as a result.

But no huge problem, at the end of the day.  Since we couldn’t go shopping, I decided to break off from the group and go give blood.  I like to do this at DragonCon every year, since it’s one of the few times that I can give blood without impacting my flying schedule.  So I headed over to the Hilton and went to do that.  The process was remarkably simple and quick, and I collected my t-shirt and a sandwich and some juice and was on my way.

Big Mistake #2.

I got dizzy.  Not falling down dizzy, thankfully, but head-hurting, I-should-have-eaten-more-cookies-and-had-more-juice-before-standing-up dizzy.  Fortunately for me, the hero of my story and his stalwart sidekick (EZ and Seth, in case you weren’t paying attention) were close by, and they headed to the Hilton to pick me up.  We hung out for a little while, they drank more drinks, we got some food (Noodle Cafe this time… also delicious!) and then I met up with Doc to go down to the Armory for a private tour.

If you’ve not checked out the Armory at DragonCon, I highly recommend it.  They have some seriously cool weapons on display, both firearms and bladed weapons.   Thanks to Toni Weisskopf, we were able to get a private tour and have our questions about both blades and guns answered by the experts.  It was truly enjoyable, and I made several new friends.  After a lot of talking and storytelling I headed back to the Westin to get ready for Corsets&Kilts

If you’re not familliar, Corsets&Kilts is a party that takes place at DragonCon, as long as one of the founders is there to throw it.  The original founding pair are me, the Ringmistress, and Boy Casey, the Godfather.  We’ve had others stand in from time to time when one of us is unable.  This year, once again, Doc Wohlrab stepped in as the Docfather and did an awesome job.  As before, BFC hosted the part, the lovely Ginger acted as our mixologist, and we had a blast.  Corsets were stuffed, Kilts were dangled, and there was plenty of “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” almost-but-not-quite-over-the-line naughtiness.  An old friend, Tasha, was there, and it was so delightful to see her and catch up.  Thank you once again to everyone who participated and made the evening such a success.

Afterwards, I was all too aware of the early show time for the parade in the morning, so EZ and I went back to the Westin for sleep.

Saturday 3 Sept 2016

Medical Mercenaries and Zombies

Saturday morning dawned bright and early.  Which is kind of a stupid phrase, I suppose.  If it was dawn, it was, by definition, early.  And at DragonCon, 6am is sacrilegious early… unless it’s late.  Then it’s fine.  But I got up then anyway.  Or thereabouts.

Okay, it was 7.

Which was a problem, because I had to be in BFC at 8am in order to meet the rest of our DocWagon group that was walking together in the parade.  The night before, Speaker had informed me that he was going to pass, due to a pulled muscle, so we had one extra wristband.  This worked out well, because we had a last minute addition in the form of an actual Flight Doc named Kim.  He’s a barfly and an old friend of Chris’s, and I was happy to give him Speaker’s extra wristband.  However, Chris had an eye injury that morning, and so he wasn’t able to walk with us either.  Which sucked, because now our DocWagon group lacked a decker.  But we soldiered on, and Alpha ended up wearing his wristband, as her own had gone MIA.

We marched in the “Everything DragonCon” section up front, which meant that we were walking with Michael Jackson and “Weird” Al Yankovic cosplayers.  It was a lot of fun, and the weather was perfect, as opposed to the blazing torture of years past.  We waved to thousands of kids, walked our 1.1 mile route, and ended up in the Marriott.  At which point, I kicked it into overdrive and took my privately scouted egress route back to the Westin.

See, the parade started at 10am.  The Black Tide Rising mass signing was at the Missing Volume at 11:30am.  I had to be at both.  So I’d figured out that I could take the habitrails from the Marriott to the Peachtree Center Mall, stop to get more pies, then duck down into the MARTA station to get under Peachtree Street while the parade was in full swing.  Then I came up the escalator, had to fight through a small portion of crowds in order to get to the intersection, when I could turn away from the crowd and walk back a block to the street entrance to the AmericasMart.

It worked better than I could have imagined, and I was actually early for the signing!  Once the other contributors and our editors showed up, we had a blast, signing a ton of books and just generally cutting up with one another.

The Baen Roadshow was next, and I had the honor of talking about Black Tide Rising and how I found out that my story had been accepted.  Toni also had Chris Smith come up and talk about his story, which was fun for both of us.

Following the Roadshow, I headed back to the Westin in order to pick up Whiskey, who was going to accompany me to my first few panels of the con.

The first panel was “Apocalyptic Throwdown: Aliens vs. Zombies”, by the Apocalypse Rising track.  The panel was organized like a debate or a game show in which both teams had to support the position that their style of apocalypse was the “best”.  I was team Zombie, which was, in my opinion, the more difficult position to take.  I’d MUCH rather fight zombies than aliens.  We don’t know anything at all about aliens!

Team zombie was, alas, the loser by split decision, despite my shameless usage of the cuteness factor of Whiskey sitting in the front row.   I pointed out that the crucial pathos of zombies is that they’re the remnants of people you know and love, like her.  :)  It won us points, but not, in the end, enough.

But the panel was super fun!  All the more so because Speaker was on it as well.  Congrats Speaker, on your throwdown win!

The next panel was right next door, and it was entitled “Zombies, Rot On.”  The moderator didn’t show, so I ended up pinch hitting.  Once again, I have Speaker to thank.  About a month or so ago, he published an article on Sarah A Hoyt’s blog about moderating.  I took his advice to heart and did my best.  Both of the other panelists were both grateful and complimentary, and the congoers seemed to have a good time as we discussed the enduring popularity of zombie fiction.

After that, I returned Whiskey to her room and found some food.  Pie again, I think? Maybe?  Then we headed back to the AmericasMart and the 4th floor for what was probably my favorite panel of the Con: Alt History’s “Steamy Steampunk Reading Hour”.

I had written a short story especially for this panel.  I haven’t written erotica or anything like it since I was in college, but when Nico asked me to do this reading with her, I decided to come up with this.  It’s a spin-off short story about a side character in our novel titled Over The Night Horizon.  The story is called “Beautiful Boy”, and you can find it here if you like: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XVW_hEHc_0hEN5gKgNBYrGnQBGK-MMoVfwlR2b-oM4U/edit?usp=sharing

(Please note, there is a brief mention of suicidal ideation and behavior consistent with an eating disorder.  Also some serious sex.  Please don’t read it if it’s not your thing.  Thank you.)

Nico read a selection from our novel, another panelist whose name I didn’t get read from hers, then I read from my story.  Then the moderator had a fourth panelist Skype in to read from the Victorian equivalent of Penthouse Letters.  Wine was passed around, giggles were legion.  The text messages my husband sent me during my reading are priceless (and private!  Sorry!).  A rollicking time was had by all.  I devoutly hope that I contributed in some small way to lots of people getting some that night. 🙂

After Steamy Steampunk, we made our way back to the Hyatt and the Marriott to walk around and party.  Seth made a friend named Matt.  It was Matt’s first con, and he brought along a bottle of rum to share.  This, it turns out, is a surprisingly effective technique for meeting people at a con.  Matt seemed to have a LOT of friends. 🙂

I ended up back in bed sometime around 3ish.

Sunday 4 Sept 2016

Crossing Cultures and Elevator Friends

In a cruel twist of fate, I had another panel at 10am on Sunday.  I managed to get up early enough to make myself presentable… though I did have to wear a mask.  :)  In seriousness, I dressed up in a renaissance-inspired tailed bodice and a beautiful mask from Maxx Empire back in the day.  I brought two more masks with me as visual aids.  Visual aids for what?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

As I’ve mentioned, my friend Nico and I have written a novel.  It will be available on Amazon soonish.  I’d give more concrete details, but I don’t have them.  In any case, it’s a steampunk setting… but not your standard Victorian steampunk.  It’s more like, late Renaissance, early Age of Discovery steampunk.  With vampires.  And cursed jewels.  It turns out that Nico is rather bored of Victorian steampunk, and if I’m honest, so am I. This conversation turned into a suggestion to the Alt History track about a panel, and the “Beyond Victorian: Alt History in Other Cultures and Eras” panel was born.  Nico and I were both featured as panelists alongside two other gentleman and the moderator.  It was really fun to talk about all of the exciting historical cultures out there to play with, and who had pretty fashion to emulate, etc.

After that, Marisa, Kristin, and I went shopping.  I purchased this ah-mazing leather pirate captain’s coat thing that looks really, really good over jeans and will be my standard con wear for the forseeable future.  :)  Thanks to Kristin for facilitating my purchase when I realized I’d left my credit card in the room.  Electronic money transfer for the win!  And thanks to Rory at Crimson Chain Leatherworks for hooking me up.  Literally. 🙂

Lunch was then in order.  I headed back to the Westin to change, then over to the Hyatt.  Along the way, I met an Elevator Friend.  An Elevator Friend is someone whose acquaintance you make in an elevator at DragonCon, and then you see them later and you both remember each other.  In my case, my Elevator Friend was named Dante, and I convinced him to come to my next panel: “First Contact Improv!” by the SciFi Lit track.

“First Contact Improv!” is a game-show style panel moderated by my friend Speaker.  In it, the panelists have to tell a first contact story using prompts from the audience and their own packets.  Hilarity often ensues.  Especially because when Chuck Gannon had to leave the panel to see if his novel had won the Dragon Award (It didn’t, but he was stoked to be nominated), I volunteered my new friend Dante to participate!

Yes, being friends with me is hazardous.  Why do you ask? 🙂

Dante, however, did great.  He rolled with the punches and even did some can-cans on stage with me and Michael Z. Williamson.  The panel was complicated by the fact that the sound was wonky, and none of us panelists could hear the others.  But we got a few laughs anyway.

Once the panel was finished, Dante, Marisa, Kristin, and I went down to the bowels of the Hyatt to finish eating (me and Dante) and see some panels (Marisa and Kristin).  Marisa and Kristin’s panel didn’t work out, so the four of us went back to meet up with EZ and Seth at the Westin.

I had another panel at 7pm in the Hyatt, so we said goodbye to Dante and went to hang out in the Hyatt bar.  The five of us managed to get a booth (magic!) and we sat and laughed and laughed and cut up about everything that had happened for the last three days.  Seth told a story about a drunken fun house mirror encounter in the men’s room somewhere (he never again found that men’s room).  Kristin, Marisa, and I examined the irony of telling someone to go F— themselves as an insult.  We enjoyed some gorgeous costumes as they wandered by, and we joined in singing Happy Birthday to some guy whose only wish was to have everyone in the bar join in and sing to him.  Happy Birthday, dude.  :)  I hope you had a great one.

My 7pm panel was titled “The Best of Military Science Fiction” by the SciFi Lit track.  I found myself seated between two of my biggest mentors:  John Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson.  I find that I’m often seated between those two whenever the three of us are on a panel together.  I’m wondering if this is a theme.

This was a fantastic panel.  We had such a good time discussing what makes good MilSF, what doesn’t, how we write MilSF and what we look for in our stories.  John talked a lot, because that’s what John does, but the other panelists all got their say as well.  It worked out really well.  Also, I got to take a selfie with S.M. Stirling, which I sent to my mother.  She’s a fangirl of his. 🙂

Immediately following the panel, we decided to grab dinner (Noodle Cafe again!) and then headed up to BFC for John Ringo’s Sushi and Sake release party for MHI: Grunge.  We hung out there for quite a while.  I was privileged to have a long conversation with Chuck Gannon about my in-progress solo novel, and he asked some questions that were really helpful.  Thank you, Chuck!

I also made a date with my Wonder Twin and writing partner, Chris,  to help me provide emergency childcare for some friends the next morning.  Their other plans had fallen through and both mom and dad had to be in separate places at the same time.  Chris and I agreed to be at their hotel room at 9:30 the next morning to help them out.  Because that’s what family does for one another.

BFC closed at 1am so that the hosts could attend the Cruxshadows concert in the Hyatt Ballroom.  I went with EZ and Seth, and we ended up meeting up with Doc, Jack Clemons, and a few others, including Jenny Ringo.  Jenny had never been on stage for the finale of “Marilyn, My Bitterness”, but we fixed that.  I told her to stick close to Jack and hang on.  He’d handle the rest.

And he did.  I’ve realized that while I love several of their songs, my favorite part of the Cruxshadows concert every year is not necessarily the being on stage at the end, it’s the coordinated, militarily executed effort to get on to the stage at the end. 🙂

That and belting out the words to Rogue’s a capella cover of White Rabbit.  That was cool, too.





Monday 5 Sept 2016

The Mass Exodus and Time to Chill

Monday morning was not the time to try and use an elevator to get anywhere in the Westin.  The majority of the congoers were leaving, it seamed, and the elevators were completely packed.  Unfortunately for me, I had a babysitting appointment to keep.  However, I did luck out and manage to get one of the elevators that hits every floor, instead of the usual express elevators, and so I made it to my babysitting appointment on time.  Chris arrived shortly after I did.

There was Kung Fu Panda and Star Wars Episode 7, and lots of toddler cuddles.  Her mom came back to relieve me in plenty of time for my 1pm panel, so it all worked out great.  EZ and Marisa even got food for me (more pie!).

My last panel was “Secret History: Bet You Didn’t Know It Happened That Way!”, from the Alt History track.  It was a really enjoyable panel, but I’m pretty sure we never really touched the topic.  But no one seemed too disappointed, and I got to meet Eric Flint for the first time.  He asked me if I would be his source for helicopter questions.  :)  I’m always happy to say yes to that one.  His lovely wife was in attendance, and I had the opportunity to meet her, too.  Very nice people, the both of them.  I feel privileged to have made their acquaintance.

After that, we headed up to BFC to help with teardown, and so that I could meet with Chris Smith and John Ringo about our collaboration.  We had a very productive conversation, and I’m even more excited about the project now.  At some point, when John says it’s ok, I’ll see about posting some snippets to my Facebook page.  So stay tuned for that!

By the time dinner rolled around, EZ, Chris, Marisa, Seth, and I had decided that we wanted some bison, so we walked over to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Once again, the Marisa, Seth, and EZ show had me laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.  And when you add in Chris’s humor… it’s a wonder I ate anything at all.

The Con was winding down by this point.  The streets were increasingly empty of costumes and nerd t-shirts.  The knowledge that it was almost over had crept in.  But we had one more mission:  secure rooms for next year.






Tuesday 6 Sept 2016

Phone Party: May The Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

Tuesday morning at 9am, the Westin opened up reservations for DragonCon 2017.  Now, up until this year, I’d been reserving rooms outside of the DragonCon block using my Starwood Preferred Guest points.  However, when I tried to do so for DC17, I was told that the rooms were all showing sold out.  The only way that’s possible is if DragonCon bought the ENTIRE HOTEL as its room block.  So.  You see what we’re dealing with here.

The night before, I’d coordinated with Marisa, Chris, and Jeremy to have a Phone Party where we all call in to try and get through to reservations and reserve some rooms.  EZ was supposed to join us, but he was rather epically hungover and sleeping.  So I gave him a pass.  Because love. 🙂

The four of us stalwart warriors (five if you count Penny, Jeremy’s service dog) gathered in Marisa’s room and readied our phones.  At the crack of 9, we hit “send”.  Jeremy was the first to get through.  I waved for him to hand me the phone and spoke with a lovely and helpful young lady who laughed helplessly when I told her what I wanted.

“Have you been getting a lot of these calls?” I asked, my voice amused.

“It just went crazy in here at 9,” she said.

“Yeah, everyone wants to make sure they have their rooms,” I said.

“Maybe I should go,” she said.  “If it’s that good.”

“It’s great!” I said.  “You should go!  But make sure you have a room… On that note…?”

“Of course!” she laughed.  “What can I get you?”

We were able to reserve four rooms via two reservations.  So all of our people were covered.  I later found out that the Westin rooms sold out in an hour and a half.  I don’t know how long the Sheraton took.  The Hilton and the Hyatt both allowed this year’s guests to reserve for next year at checkout, so I’m not sure how many rooms they’ll have available.

That leaves the Marriott for host hotels.  Reservations open up usually sometime in October.  Watch the DragonCon webpage at www.dragoncon.org for details.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.

EZ and I shared an Uber XL to the airport with Marisa.  The flight home was uneventful, as was the drive from Baltimore to my house.  My girls and my cats were super excited to see us.  And we were excited to see them.

Mama had missed her babies.





Final Thoughts

DragonCon 2016 was one of the best Cons I’ve had.  It was my first year as an attending pro, which meant that it was a slightly different experience than before.  While it’s really fun to sit on panels and be involved in programming, I will say that a tiny part of my brain missed being able to sleep in as I like and skip whatever programming I wanted to skip.  As a professional, however, that’s not so much of an option.


So.  Lessons learned for next time:

  1. Coordinate my panel schedule with EZ earlier, so that we can maximize our time together re: meals, etc.
  2. Start building packing lists earlier. I didn’t forget anything crucial, but it was a near thing.
  3. Wednesday really is the new Thursday. Next year, I think we’re going to try Wed-Mon, but leaving late on Monday.  We’ll see how we like that.


Things that worked and shall be maintained:

  1. Don’t stress about spending time with everyone/seeing everyone a lot. It’s Dragon.  It’s not necessarily going to happen. Let people go with the flow.
  2. Learn panel locations and routes ahead of time as much as possible.
  3. Try to be early to panels. And be ready to step in and moderate if necessary.
  4. Dressing up as a panelist is a lot of fun. People appreciate it.


To all of you who spent even a little bit of time with me this year, thank you.  You all made my DragonCon.  I can’t wait to see you next year!

So, I was going to do a post

And then as is becoming normal on Sunday, I got caught up in other stuff.

There will be Dark Fate 6, but it might be Tuesday.  I have a guest post tomorrow.  Sorry, I’m wrestling with a chapter.