New Worlds For Old


I’ve been working on a short story I’d promised the Grifty Shades of Fey anthology, which is somewhat associated with Fyrecon, and has had a fundraiser which funded.  If you think I sound confused, I do, since this was all coming at me during the Spring-and-Summer of travel and weddings.

I finished it last night, and though I have another short story due, I think I’m going to concentrate on finishing a short novel, so I can finish the long one, so I can have stuff out and earning in the next month, as it’s already very, very late.

I’ll work on the short story this evening, because most of these shorts are just “it sounds fun to do” but most aren’t going to make me a ton of money.

This one might prove to be an exception, maybe, judging from first reception of them:


The concept of it is interesting, as first told to us, at least — the description is not “quite” the same.  It was supposed to be based on what our ideal concept of a hero is.  Possibly to show the various differences.

Faced with this, I had a problem, since this is my concept of a hero, as I sent in to them (though for whatever reason, the little notes they asked us to write won’t be included in the anthology. No, I’m not being snerky. I don’t know why. I’m sure the reason is perfectly valid, though.)

So, below is the snippet I originally sent them:

This was a difficult story to write, because my favorite hero is the one that Heinlein describes in Stranger in a Strange land when talking about the Fallen Caryatid, by Rodin:

“But she’s more than good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage, […] and victory.” …… “Victory in defeat; there is none higher. She didn’t give up[…]; she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s a father working while cancer eats away his insides, to bring home one more pay check. She’s a twelve-year old trying to mother her brothers and sisters because Mama had to go to Heaven. She’s a switchboard operator sticking to her post while smoke chokes her and fire cuts off her escape. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

Not only is this the type of people I try to write my characters to be, it is also the type of person I try to be. Someone who keeps towards the goal, even though he/she knows it’s impossible to do it and survive.

It’s very difficult, of course, to write a short story specifically about this kind of hero, (instead of letting it shine through over the course of many stories and novels) since most of it is “uncomplaining fortitude” which is not something that translates well to fiction.

And then I remembered “Stella D’Or” and “Nick Rhodes which have been haunting my mind for some time and I realized she (and he, but in a different way) fit the bill.

As it turns out, this will probably also become many stories and novels whether the anthology does well or not.

And here we hit upon the problem I currently have with doing short stories — besides the fact most of them nowadays are not pay-upfront (not exactly a complaint. I could get that by submitting to magazines, but I haven’t bothered in years. Also, to be fair, all my on-spec, because I like the people who ask, stories have paid. Some more, some less, some amazingly well. It’s just… not upfront.)

These days short stories tend to infect me with whole words, which happened again with the Grifty Shades of Fey short story.

Not their fault, of course.  I think it’s an effect of how my brain is working.

So what is the problem? You’ll ask.  Well… The problem is that because I’ve been ill for a long time, and stories arrived ALL THROUGH that time, I have a massive accumulation of novels and series that demand to be written.  I don’t know how many of these it takes to drive a person mad, though I’m fairly sure it’s easier to drive a writer mad than a normal person.

So I need to concentrate on whittling down the noise behind the eyes before I come up with new ones.

The plan right now is to do a long novel (normal size, around 100 to 120k words) and a light novel (30 to 60k words, the size pulp novels used to be) interspersed, to start getting stuff up there and earning (yes, we still have a 10k hole from Norwegian Airlines and the fiasco it turned into, so there will also be writing workshops, but being sick for most of July delayed my getting those up to buy-into.)

Anyway, I need to go work, but I leave you with the opening of the story for Grifty Shades of Fey, which, as you can see, is obviously yet another world:

Purr, My Lovely

Sarah A. Hoyt

When the dame came into my office, she was all legs.

No, really, from my vantage point, low to the ground in front of my desk, all I could see was her legs, going up to a colored triangle under her tent-like skirt.

I twitched my whiskers. Most humans were all legs to us cats. We saw them in other ways. In this case, to my senses, she smelled young and scared and tired: very, very tired.

“What’s up, Toots?” I told her.

Only I didn’t really tell her. Look, I don’t know what the chances are of a crazy 30s experiment trying to create tamable cats who could act as scouts for the army ending up, instead, with … in early twenty first century terms, uplifted cats, with human intelligence. But I know the chances of changing a cat’s mouth so it can pronounce human words are even lower than that.

So, even if the first happened and produced my ancestors, the second was unlikely.

In a pinch, when our other form of communication failed utterly, we, the Protectors, could talk. Sort of. For a limited form of speech. Sometimes our efforts ended up in the humans social media, and our nonsense words were made much fun of.

Only they were never nonsense. It’s just that humans are sadly limited creatures. They don’t know what’s out there. They don’t even know what’s all around them, on Earth. They’re deaf, dumb, blind and think themselves masters of the universe.

If they weren’t so cute, it would be kinder to put them out of their misery. It’s just that we Protectors owe them a debt of sorts. Without them, we’d never have been what we are, never able to do the things we do. Oh, and yeah, they are cute.

So, we do what we can.

To me, what I could was be a PI, with an office in downtown Goldport, Colorado. Into which this young human female had come.

And I was speaking to her the way we speak to most humans. In their minds. Telepathy? I don’t know. I’m not even sure how they define that these days. I do know that cats were always able to reach into human minds and play with their feelings, their emotions, and perhaps their thoughts. We, Protectors, did the same only more so.

So what I’d thought in the girl’s general direction was a “greeting suitable for a young female and circumstances.” What she heard was “What’s up, Toots.” Probably because we were in my second floor office, in a 1930s building, with a pizza parlor on the bottom. And I was a PI.

Okay, that explanation above is almost complete nonsense. It’s not that there weren’t words in what I thought at her. It’s more that our concept of words—

Never mind. There are things I can’t tell across species. From here on out, I’ll pretend I just talked to her, in words, as humans do. I am assured by my human pets that this is how they experience it. I’m assured, also, that I have a deep and masculine voice, with a slightly flippant, irreverent tone.

Which explains why she took a step backward, startled, and looked around wildly.

“Down here,” I said, and as her eyes came to focus on me, I twitched my moustaches and did my best “imitation of human smile” look. Then I jumped on the desk, and said, “I believe this will be more comfortable for you. Mithra Tamuras de Shangrila, at your service.”

She stayed quiet for a while, opening and closing her mouth like a newly landed fish. “Oh,” she said at last, and it seemed like it took her entire concentration to say that. “You are a cat.”

I am, to be exact, a very handsome orange tabby – my pets tell me – with an apple head and clear golden eyes. Not that it matters to other cats, or even other Protectors. We evaluate each other in different ways. But it was good to know that the humans considered me beautiful. It helped.

Yes, it also helped – and many of the other Protectors, in other towns and even in this one, working in other capacities, did it – to have a human act as a front for you, so that you spoke through him and such. There are many such partnerships. A lot of scientists, composers and writers are really just fronts for their cats. Reading Shakespeare, I’ve often wondered– But of course, it’s nonsense, unless our descendants invent time travel.

I’d considered it, but dispensed with it. Sure, one of my pets could stand in for me, but what I did was already so unbelievable and unlikely, it was easier to deal with the clients if they accepted me as I was.

“Well, yes. Mostly,” I said. “Or perhaps ancestrally would be more accurate.”



264 thoughts on “New Worlds For Old

  1. Let us know when the book comes out (the collection the short is in and/or a full novel with this character). 😀

    1. Specifying: that would be “book” – b-o-o-ook, a collection of the macerated corpses of trees, adorned with the ichor* of crushed berries, bound with the melted sinews of animals.

      Digital “books” lack sufficient death in their construction to satisfy me. Especially now that Kindle won’t let me convert it into format acceptable to my re-reader.

      *Really WP? You don’t recognize “ichor” and think I’ve merely mis-typed “choir”?

      1. RES, There are still ways to unlock the DRM on Kindle ebooks.

        1. Perhaps – but I’ve not found* them. So far as I’ve seen, Kindle KFX is pronounced to rhyme with Sucks.

          And even then, I want to hold dead trees in my hands when I read. It satisfies my atavistic nature. Wallabies Want Wood, not electrons!

          *Okay, not exactly true: I’ve not found any that seem sufficiently convenient to overcome my loathing of eBooks. This link ( seems straighforward enough, even if experience informs me that the process is invariably prone to hiccoughs and kerfuffle.

          1. If you have Calibre there are plug ins available to add that when you import books the drm lock is removed. I know the Nook plug in works. Don’t get Amazon eBooks, *yet*, so don’t have that plug in installed.

            The plug in download locations provide information on how to add the plug in to Calibre. Whole process is easy, and free.

            Yes, I know B&N, and thus Nook, is dying a slow death. That is WHY I break drm on my property. I bought it. I’m not renting it. I’m saving it so when Nook does disappear. My property is protected. If it is split off, or someone else saves Nook, and incorporates into their own, fine. Will deal then.

            1. I’ve gotten a Nook, although the battery is showing signs of despair, and have long used Calibre (and plug-ins) to convert to ePUB format. But it balked at the last attempt to import and convert one of Amazon’s offerings, and complained it knew no plug-in available capable of the process.

              Admittedly, this was some time back and Calbre may well be up to the task. Sadly, I think there is no solution to my retro preferences and aversion to live electrons in lieu of dead trees.

              1. I have an older (2nd gen) Nook but my mom has it. I use Samsung 8″ with the Nook App, and recently downloaded the app on to my phone. Those are worthless as far as getting content and using Calibre on them. Android allows content to be “hidden”. Yes, sure, I could just get around that, but, nope, lazy. Using the Win10 Nook App, which although downloads with numeric names, works to import into Calibre, currently.

                Have gone through when Calibre worked, then didn’t work, then worked again. Currently it is working. I always check the books after I’ve imported so I know it works. I import everything I’ve purchased, whether I plan on reading in a different medium or not.

                1. Nook uses the ePub file format which is compatible with all Apple devices using the iBooks app that comes with their OS.
                  So I will take ebooks in either Nook or Kindle formats and use Calibre to switch back and forth depending on whether I want to read on a Kindle Paperwhite, a Mac desktop, a MacBook, or an iPad.

              2. Never got the Nook. I wanted a larger screen and more than just an eReader so I got the Kindle Fire instead. Only problem with it is it doesn’t fit in my back pocket; but then paperbacks more than 200 pages long don’t fit in my back pocket either. (Do you hear that Mr. Tom Clancy? And why am I yelling at a dead guy anyway?)

              3. Hie thee to a search engine and ask Apprentice Alph for some help. The key trick to be aware of is a simple hack that “breaks” one advanced feature of the Mac or PC Kindle program, thus convincing it that KFX isn’t supported on the device. This causes the Kindle program to fetch a non-KFX version of the content, and Bob’s your Uncle.

                [Information above is deliberately vague to more-or-less skirt around assorted wrong-headed legislation. I am in possession of Advice of Counsel telling me that removing DRM from legitimately-acquired
                material for personal use only falls squarely within Fair Use. But telling YOU how to do the same may be a felony. Hence the roundabout description that lacks actionable advice. Also, if you want to depend on legal advice, pay for your own lawyer…]

          2. 1) Won’t argue about your preference for dead-tree over ebooks. (You’re as stubborn as me.)

            2) I’ve found it easy to unlock the DRM from ebooks.

            3) For some unknown reason, even some smart people find it hard to do things that I find easy. 😉

            1. I prefer ebooks because:
              I had run out of bookcases.
              It’s easier on my eyes.
              I can read in the wee hours when I wake up and Dan is sleeping.
              That’s all.

              1. Remember that feeling of panic we used to get when we realized we were on the last chapter of our current book? The sense of loss?
                I do not load up my Kindle to capacity as I find it tedious to go through dozens of pages of titles. I keep eight or ten in my next read pile along with a dozen or so old friends that I know I want to revisit sooner or later.
                A charge is good for about a week, uses the same charger as my phone, and a car charger lives in my truck. Even after the low battery prompt the Kindle is good for another hour or so.
                And mine is a paperwhite so no bedside lamp required.

              2. And I find that I read a lot of ebook on the app on the phone. Decidedly non-deal screen and reading size, but not bad hand-size and the availability is quite high.

            2. I don’t mind ebooks, but prefer dead-tree because I can open several of them if I want to and have them in an array of Things Needed at the moment, I can remember and find easier and faster by paging through a book, (and find the thing I look for again later on), and in the face of growing political correctification of things, I can see the changes wrought. Sure, the knowledge in a print book doesn’t get updated without you buying a copy again, but some things shouldn’t get updated, like the definition of the Second Amendment, for one.

              And oddly, I find print books easier on my eyes – they’re my active signal for ‘break from screen time’, even though I don’t have the blue-light issues any more (thanks to really good blue light filters on my screens) and I can, and do fall asleep right after putting whatever digital thing I’m reading down.

              But that’s me.

          1. Your bringing it up brought to mind one of my favorite zydeco songs …

            My grandma and your grandma were
            Sit-tin’ by the fire. – My grandma told
            Your grandma “I’m gonna set your flag on fire.

            “Talk-in’ ’bout, Hey now ! Hey now ! I-CHOR, I-CHOR, un-day
            Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-nay?. – Jock-a-mo fee na-nay?

            Look at my king all dressed in red
            I-CHOR I-CHOR un-day. I betcha five dollars he’ll kill you dead
            Jock-a-mo fee na-nay?

            Talk-in’ ’bout, Hey now ! Hey now ! I-CHOR, I-CHOR un-day
            Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-nay?. – Jock-a-mo fee na-nay?

  2. Uplifted felines?!? Who thought that was a good idea ? They’re well nigh sapient as it is in our worldline. And an orange tabby Sam Spade? Seems like he ought to be black or the blue grey of a Russian blue. No? Ok maybe an elegant slinky black foreign as secretary? Although you’re the author (though perhaps Greebo is horning in telepathically). In any case that sounds VERY interesting looking forward to being able to get the rest some day.

          1. Parallel evolution. Many differences, E.G. vertical and horizontal rib structure (C.F. The Soft Weapon), rat like tails, Ears like flesh covered parasols, Non-Sapient females (NOTE/Spoiler: there is suggestion in later Ringworld novels that this was not always so). Not as alien as some of Niven’s other creations (Kdatlyno, Slavers, and the Moties with Dr Pournelle), but not scaled up uplifted kitty cats (And I hope there are NO Kzin anywhere nearby as with that comment I might as well directly insult the Patriarch of Kzin)

    1. Uplifted felines?!? Who thought that was a good idea ?

      Seriously, how long have you been around humans that you think they actually stop when they go “hm, is this a good idea?”


      1. I swear, 99% of parenting is trying to get the young’uns to stop and ask “Is this a good idea?” The fact that we still have humans alive is proof that, in fact, it’s possible to succeed in this task. Or that we’ve self-selected for luckiness as a trait. Which is kind of the basis for the Liaden tales, now that I think about it, but with sentient trees doing the genetic engineering.

        1. When I think about the processes involved in making some foods edible (or eating some foods that by all sane reason are not) I marvel at our race’s persistence beyond all good sense.

          Look at what goes into making a chocolate bar, for example, or how we go from coffee bean to cappuccino. Or oysters, raw — something so vile it can only be swallowed by accompanying it with something even less edible: horseradish.

          We don’t even want to go into what goes on in the manufacture of, say, single malt scotch, except to ask: What were these people thinking? As for banana daiquiris … just no.

            1. Manioc/cassava. ‘Well, it killed him slower this time. Let’s soak it for another day and see what happens.” (Has arsenic, enough to be lethal in some cases.)

              1. Didn’t know it contained arsenic. Probably a minor issue in comparison to the prussic acid (HCN, hydrogen cyanide) that’s in bitter manioc.

          1. The food that always astounds me is coffee. Hey Look at this neat cherry on this low bush, Lets pick it, remove the fleshy part (either directly or via fermentation), take the pit(s) of the fruit, roast them over a fire until slightly burnt, grind it up and toss it in hot water. Oh and it’s kind of bitter so add sugar and milk products to taste. How in the name of heaven did that happen? It’s existence is practically proof that the Author loves us and takes care of us :-).

              1. Hadn’t heard that about coffee but I had heard the story of goats/sheep eating the leaves of tea plants. 😉

              2. I’ve heard that coffee origin story but we’re still ONLY at step one of like 5. And you can’t convince me the goats were using fire :-).

          2. Even beans… soak, or else. So many foods that are… “how was THAT figured out?!” The jokes about milk and eggs are easy to see how they happened – just watch nature.

            I do like the one (pseudo?) theory that European explorers were so much so as time they went to a new (to them, yes…) area, they returned with a new stimulant! Tea. Coffee.Tobacco. Cocoa. Coca. Hey, is THAT why we haven’t back to the moon? Nothing growing there to get an extra bit of pep?

              1. Most beans have to be boiled to reduce the toxins.

                Kidneys have to be boiled extensively, which is how I found this out— WITHOUT poisoning anybody, FWIW– but they’re just at the high end of the “soak and boil” level, and almost all “soaked” beans are boiled at some point.

                Just… Kidney beans need more.

                  1. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I found out that proper beans HAD to be boiled, or they’d make you quite ill.

                    And that was…like, five years ago? Well after I had kids?

                    Basically, before that I just did stuff on the Voodoo method. You soak beans, and then you boil cook boil cool boil cool beans all day, because that makes them taste good.

                    (and it actually does. If you are making beans at home in a crockpot/rice cooker– start the day before, tell the machine that it’s white rice the first day, and then just ‘white rice’ it the second day, they just taste better. If you’re home, turn the crockpot off or high every time you walk into the kitchen)

        2. >> “The fact that we still have humans alive is proof that, in fact, it’s possible to succeed in this task. Or that we’ve self-selected for luckiness as a trait.”

          That’s just the Puppeteers meddling.

        3. Or that we’ve self-selected for luckiness as a trait.
          Teela Brown? The Known Space sequence peters out as humans become so lucky that nothing interesting* happens.

          * As in the old ‘Chinese’ proverb, that none of my Chinese friends recognize as Chinese. “Interesting Times” are much more fun to read (and write) about than the less interesting.

          1. Nod, there’s no evidence for “May you live in interesting times” being a Chinese curse.

            There is a Chinese proverb that roughly goes “It is better to live as a dog in peaceful times than to be a human in times of war”.

          1. >> “I love those, and the related “humans make friends with everything” and “humans are the Mad Science race.””

            I recall seeing the first (Master of Orion, anyone?), but for some reason I’m drawing a blank on the second. Care to refresh my memory?

                  1. 🙂 🙂 🙂

                    Howled with Laughter.

                    Loved “Grape Juice” … I mean, the most “innocent” of life forms.

                    “Your answer was to send more people?!?!”

                    “You rebuilt?!?! Where?!?!”

                    1. And having read more, including the bits about the alien “Human Manual” I suspect there is another book, or series of articles or such, published BY the humans, for visitors to earth, “Earth Guide: How To Avoid Dying.” And while the ‘space Australia’ stuff sensibly goes on about carnivorous predators, it should be noted that herbivores are NOT harmless. Even the normally skittish (deer) can be dangerous (buck in rut, or any cornered). And then there are moose, bison, Cape Buffalo… and even not every bos taurus is easygoing all the time.

                    2. There’s a series of short stories on the Earth is Australia thread where the invading aliens have issues with the wild life, including an alien with a moose induced case of PTSD.

                    3. Years ago, there was a story about invaders having problems with Earth weather.

                      IE “It’s just moving air” before being hit by a tornado. 😈

                      And no, I don’t remember author or title. 😦

                    4. I think Kratman did the same thing with Posleen in Panama. Yellow Eyes, IIRC.

                      Could likely have fun with aliens visit the bayou …

                    5. Here’s a thought for you, you’re a grunt alien infantry-being and you get orders saying you’re headed for the desert. You see photos of the Sahara, or Gobi, or Atacama, and think “Great, you can see the enemy coming for miles away! No guerilla campaign here!”

                      Then the powers that be dump you in the Sonoran desert. It’s not a vast open sandscape. There are plants everywhere, and they all have defense mechanisms which try and bleed you. There are troopers getting acute trauma disorder from encounters with teddy bear cholla. Most arthropods and several of the vertebrates are venomous. There are mos-ki-tos, which are usually associated with the damp parts of the planet. Then the gods went on a drunken binge and dumped a bunch of tall mountain ranges around, which have drastically different biomomes from the surrounding desert, perfect for basing guerilla warfare from, which one of group of native sentients actively practiced against the two principle geopolitical entities of the area in the not-so-distant past.

                      Welcome to Baja Arizona and Alta Sonora; North America’s Australia expy.

              1. That is hilarious! And so very true.
                (Not sure if it’s listed as a trope anywhere, but a classic is the really awful, crusty, obnoxious guy in the story who is a total huggy bear with his whatever-it-is-he-adopted.)

                1. I think that described the character Nolan in the Defiance TV series. Which I didn’t think was half bad for a show based off a computer game.

              1. Not sure why, but that one won’t give me the option to open in a new tab when I right-click. (It acts like I’m not clicking on a link or object at all, but on the page background.)

            1. I think you mean MacGyver. MacGuyver would be a cross between MacGyver and Guyver. 🙂

              IIRC, that typo is in the original Doc Brown and MacGyver thing.

          2. With the Heavy Metal subcategory of stories where humans have sex with anything.

            Funny how almost none of them explain how humans are fertile with everything from beings of pure energy, to robots, or to Klingons, or even plants.

      2. Admittedly humanity as a whole isn’t usually too sharp. But this is potentially race ending stuff uplifting the domestic house cat. But just in case I wish to state categorically that I for one welcome our potential tabby striped overlords.

          1. I don’t think there’s too much bobcat in the local feline gene pool, although looking at some Maine Coons show cats you might convince me otherwise.
            As for thumbs the little SOB’s are trying to evolve them (Look up poly-dactyl cat). I had a Manx with thumb like appendages on both front paws. He was referred to by one of my Marvel comic loving friend as X-Kitty…At least in his case the attempt to evolve was rendered ineffective as he marked several inappropriate places (including my Mom’s pillow 😦 ) and got neutered for his actions…

            1. We had a huge yellow cat that we swore had to have some sort of wild cat ancestor. Bigger than some pictures I’ve seen of Savannah and some of the other F1 modern feline wildcat mixtures. But not anywhere near as big as a coon main cat, nor as fluffy. He was a pale yellow, cream undercoat, tiger, not short hair, but not a super thick coat either. He’s been gone 20 years, lived almost 20 years. Pretty sure he was just garden variety cat, for all that he was a big boy. He just showed up on our door step in ’80 as a probably 4 month old kitten.

              1. I’ve had some immense cats, One in particular Macavitty Fezzik (Mac for short) was 19 lbs in fighting trim, 22lbs+ as he aged and hit the crunchies a little too often. Medium haired with black and white patches bearing more resemblance to a Holstein cow than a cat. But even he didn’t match some of the brutes I’ve seen at cat shows. There was one Main Coon of 24lbs plus, a big old orange tabby. The judge ( a diminutive middle aged woman) had trouble handling him, not because he was wild or mean but because he probably weighed a quarter what she did. Most big cats I’ve met are very sweet of disposition and that Maine Coon was no exception.

                1. Our boys are 25 pounds plus. (one of many reasons I suspect a lustful bobcat in their ancestry)

                  The fluffy one got the stink-eye from the vet, who then checked his ribs… and the guy’s eyes bugged out. “He’s not fat!

                  No, just freaking huge.

                  Thank God that dad insisted we get Tuxedo pattern kittens, chosen by HIM, because if the boys had the personality of our little pastel orange kitten-cat, someone would be dead.

                  1. Yeah the vets used to give us the dirty looks when Mac was 22 lb plus but they feel his chest and belly and realize it was a thin layer of fat and muscle over bone. 25 lbs sounds interesting. One really is glad the big ones are usually relatively mellow as 25 pounds of terrified fighting for its life feline could cause serious injuries to a human. Every once and a while something would freak Mac out and his tail would puff to like 4″ across. I’d admonish my then teen age daughters NOT to touch him in that state but to talk him down off the ledge first as cats are seriously hardwired.

                    1. Back in the mid-Sixties there were a series of novels about a time-traveling secret agent protecting the historical continuity (IIRC). I could look it up, but what really stuck in memory was that he was accompanied by a small metamorphic protoplastic entity, able to take any form it desired — typically a cat, because (as it explained) a 15 – 20 pound dog is ridiculous, but a cat that size is highly formidable.

                      I think there were about four, maybe five books in the series and have no idea who perpetrated them (probably an author pseudonym) but the books were entertaining light reading of a sort appealing to a 13-year-old avid reader.

                      Not that I was very picky back then — I remember the various Get Smart novels as uproariously amusing.

                    2. Thanks – I knew it was agent of something but it has been so long since I gave it any consideration that I couldn’t recall anything beyond the general structure … and, of course, the argument for being a cat

                      While I think that undervalues the ferocity and bite strength of dachshunds, the full level assault of a 20-lb cat is certainly daunting anything this side of the mustelidae family, and people were not generally keeping ferrets as pets back then.


        NEIL ARMSTRONG: So let me get this straight; you want me to strap a building-sized canister of explosives to my ass and set it off – on PURPOSE – in order to blow me all the way to the moon with no guarantee I’ll be able to get back alive?

        PRESIDENT JFK: Yes.

        NA: And exactly WHAT part of this struck you as a good idea, Mr. President?

        JFK: Never said it was a good idea.

        NA: Then why on God’s green Earth – or off of it, in this case – would I AGREE to this?!?

        JFK: Because it’s awesome, son.

        NA: …

        JFK: …

        NA: Where do I sign?

        1. That conversation was actually JFK and Alan Shepard regarding his flight. The rest of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo was just guys trying to one up each other.

    2. I was staff to a very uplifted feline named Ninja, so named because you never petted him absentmindedly. If you did it “wrong”, you found your wrist bleeding.

      Ninja spoke English. He got tired of trying to teach me cat, (for example: a very long phrase that meant “I am going to run down the hall to the living room couch, jump up. You will pet me Just The Right Way”).

      One afternoon, he stuck his head around the corner of my home office and said “hello”. It did sound a lot like “mello”, but was clearly a two syllable word. He then admitted he knew NOW, and NO. Three words that can communicate much. So we would have conversations, mostly about if it was NOW time for food. That was his concern. Human details not so important, except as it related to NOW. He was good at Now as both a question “Now?” Or NOW.

      He also knew how to open doors, we caught him many times standing on his hind legs, front paws wrapped around a door knob. He could not figure out how to get enough pressure to turn it.

      He also had OCD. Ninja was a very interesting companion.

      I miss that cat. We had him almost 20 years, he will be one of my greeters when I get to Heaven. When I experience the eternal now.

      1. he will be one of my greeters when I get to Heaven.

        Let’s hope. Most cats I’ve known would consider Heaven beneath their standards. Still, i am sure they’ll be allowed to bring their pets.

      2. Pixie, the much lamented could call all our names. It sounded like a toothless toddler saying it, but he could. He could — and die — say mine, food and water. He also knew how to make a sound that can only be translated as “damn skippy.” That’s not what he SAID but the feel of that sound.
        He’s been gone since Robert was 16. I still miss him EVERY DAY.
        Seeing him running down the stairs at the time Robert came from school, yelling “Robert, MINE!” was a thing of beauty.

        1. My current Greycie meets me at the door when I get home in the late afternoon with the exact same message followed by the cat expression for the words, “FEED ME”

          1. None of our current can talk. Well, maybe Havey who is almost Pixie come again. But if so, he’s hiding it.
            HOWEVER there’s something about the way he pronounces “Meow” that’s just wrong. Like he’s SAYING it.

            1. I’ve had a couple cats that said meow in a way that felt like the were accentuating the syllables of meow like an English only speaker increasing volume and enunciating the words for a non english speaker in the hopes that they can get their point through. I’ve wondered if the cats weren’t doing the same thing to us. I suspect many cats view of humans is that we are lovable but useless creatures who can’t be trusted to do anything to their satisfaction. They always seem to radiate disappointment at anything you do.

      3. Barnacle Bill the Admiral’s cat could open doors. We had to reset the outside door knobs to round. Barnie could open cabinet doors (and did) and would snag towels and drag them from one room (opening doors along the way) and leave them by the front door to express his displeasure. He would fetch out his wet food cans and roll them across the floor to his dish when we ran late. He never managed the fridge but you could tell he was working on it. He’d stalk around the house CLEARLY PLOTTING.

        You could read it on his face. He’d sit on chairs next to us at the dinner table, upright, paws lightly resting on the edge of the table, very polite. When new suckers guests would come, he’d tilt his head sideways and do this “Oh, I am so cute pose” that would almost always get a tidbit from the guest before we intervened.

        He had to be declawed (and no, we don’t think that’s a good idea in general) because he could (and would) climb curtains and tarzan off them and launch himself across to other high surfaces. When he smashed through a window and nearly decaptitated himself… well.

        He was an utter pain in the backside as a kitten and adolescent cat, but totally worth it. We miss him still.

    3. “Uplifted felines?!? Who thought that was a good idea ? ”

      That question always reminds me of G’kar’s First Rule: “we all do what we do for the same reason: it seemed like a good idea at the time.” What distinguishes good from bad ideas is whether it still sounds like a good idea after you’ve done it.

      Uplifted felines…. hmmm. Could go either way.

    4. And an orange tabby Sam Spade?
      Carole Nelson Douglas got there first with a black, feline Sam Spade.

  3. May want to stick to calling it a short novel.

    I have expectations for what a light novel means that I suspect you aren’t intending. Largely shaped by the Japanese Light Novel. One or more volumes, illustrated, each volume fairly short, and often self contained.

    I’ve been talking about these a fair amount here and elsewhere. I’m not sure how effectively, so examples.

    The wiki for one of my favorites can be found by searching ‘mahouka wiki’. Currently something like thirty volumes. Has a pretty good overarching plot, that is ongoing, but perhaps wrapping to a conclusion. Some of the volumes told a self contained story, some of the novel stories were split across two volumes. I think in the first six volumes, there were something like two two volume stories. It is more common for LN series to be more self contained than that. But not entirely self contained, many times the next volume’s hook is set up in the previous volume.

    Anyway, I have fond memories of the format, even if as a creator the illustrations make it a little capital intensive for Indy.

    1. Japanese light novels are about novella length. When they get animated, there is about one episode per two or three chapters.

      That said, they are so short because they are often mostly dialogue and action scenes. Translators have to shove a lot of extra verbiage into the book, in order to spin it out enough in English to be readable. And they have to leave room for illos. (The innkeeper books by Ilona Andrews include character illos, by the way. Cracked me up, but it made sense as well as being fannish.)

      1. “…leave room for illos.”

        Could you expand on that? I can’t figure out if you’re talking about leaving room for illustrations, or “illos” is a term taken up from somewhere, and with which I’m completely unfamiliar with. All that comes up is that it’s been used as planet name in various properties, and that there’s an island by that name near Greece…

          1. I’ve never run into that usage before… Hence the confusion.

            I lead a sheltered life, far, far from publishing.

            1. I think it is an old fanzine term…

              They have black and white (or black and colored paper) illustrations for every chapter, and maybe a few colored ones on shiny paper. Plus the back and front covers. Sometimes the illustrations include verbiage that is character information.

  4. ” I don’t know how many of these it takes to drive a person mad, though I’m fairly sure it’s easier to drive a writer mad than a normal person.”
    A writer going mad is more like a short putt than a drive. 🙂

  5. Interesting. And I’m not a cat person. (One of my few disagreements with Heinlein ).

      1. I meant to come back to this, but forgot.

        I have put some thought into what implications would be, for a society combining “uplifted dogs” and humans… It’d be seriously, ah… Interesting. Especially from a legal standpoint. The canine point of view, particularly.

        Consider the problems when a dog declares affiliation/ownership on a particular human, and what ensues if another dog wishes to establish a similar relationship with that same human… The dogs would have to go to court, because I can’t see some of them being at all amicable about their human “territorial claims”. I’m in the midst of a three-way battle at the moment, being the center of affection for a Border Collie, a Pyrenees/Maremma mix, and an unholy concatenation of a St. Bernard and English Setter (who the hell thought that was a good idea?!? An ostrich hunter?). Believe me, if the Border Collie could take the Pyr to court, she would; she certainly cannot win on another battlefield. The St. Bernard mix exists on the fuzzy remnants that the Pyr allows her, said Pyr having decided that she is my social secretary/arbiter for other canine contact.

        Whole thing is insane. If the three of them could talk, and had legal rights…? Lord, have mercy… My life would suck. You think a suspicious wife is a problem? Try coming home smelling of a strange dog.

        Then, there’d be competing claims for child-rearing; the dogs might well sue for custody of “their” human children, alleging mistreatment and abandonment. Likewise, for those dogs not yet quite sentient or speaking; can you imagine the results if there were even a small cadre of sophont dogs, with legal rights, and who chose to advocate for the not-yet-uplifted?

        If you weren’t a dog person, you’d be screwed. If you were a dog-eater…? Dear God, the implications of that one, alone; our senators-from-the-canine would be agitating for pogroms against the cultures that ate dog, and if any of them became SJW-indoctrinated in college? Yikes. I can just picture an Afghan Hound or a Basenji being your typical aloof and superior SJW-type, harping on and on about their “slave names” and collars.

        Not to mention, you’d actually have to live up to your dog’s standards, all the time. That’d be a little rough–Imagine the guilt trips you’d get to take, disappointing them.

        No, fully-sentient dogs integrated into our civilization would not be a trivial thing. I think it would be an enhancement, in some regards, but it would not, in any way, shape, or form, be something of a trivial nature.

        1. Even chimpanzees would cause huge upheaval. Just to toss two out there you have the handfeet issue as well as obvious tail. Plus their ‘monkeyverse’ even tighter than humans. For almost any other mammal just the sensory differences would be immense. Imagine a canine or feline at a convention. You think that those that ignore hygiene are bad for people…

    1. According to Patterson, RAH was a dog person. It was Virginia who was the cat person.

      1. An interesting thought. Perhaps Virginia converted him. I converted my wife (in actuality a little tan cat named Hurricane converted her). There is no one quite so zealous as a convert.

        1. Cats have a significant virtue as one ages: dogs require regular walkies, whatever the weather. While litter boxes are a (minor) chore, many cats prefer going out of doors and are otherwise to only engage you for food and pettings.

  6. most aren’t going to make me a ton of money.

    Meh. A pound here, a pound there and before long you’ve got tons. Sometimes, doing a thing because it is fun makes the chore elements lees tedious.

        1. Particularly pre 1964 dimes. They’re probably worth more than face value due to silver content.

          1. people keep saying that but tbh… after TEOTWAWKI, no one is goin to give a d**n about the silver or copper content of coins, seriously.

  7. I like your definition of hero. It kinda reminds me of the definition of bravery not being someone who isn’t afraid, instead being someone who is afraid, but does what needs to be done anyway.

    So maybe a real Hero isn’t someone who has all the advantages, and does heroic things without even breaking a sweat. It’s someone who does heroic things in spite of not having advantages.

    Think the average Joe running into a burning building to save a child as opposed to the super-hero who, because of a freak lab accident, is immune to fire. Which is more heroic?

    PS… It tickled me – after reading the first part of the post – I completely didn’t expect the cat in the second part.

    1. NYCFPD firemen, paid, trained, with procedures and proper protective gear: Not heroes.

      Bystanders jumping in and tearing into the rubble with their bare hands: heroes.

      1. First, In no way was I saying that firefighters aren’t/can’t be heroes. Sure, they are paid, trained, and have procedures and protective gear, and those things help; but it doesn’t make them invulnerable. Being a Fireman is a tough, dangerous job. Those guys are totally heroes in my book.

        I was talking about characters like Superman. Exactly what did Superman ever do that was all that heroic? He’s bullet proof. Stronger and faster than anybody. He can fly. I’m not sure, but he’s probably fire-proof. Sure, there is kryptonite… but how rare is that stuff? I’d be HAPPY if the only thing that could hurt me was that rare. How does Superman, with all those advantages, even hold a candle to our example every-day Joe, who at great risk to himself, runs into a burning building to save people?

        1. Exactly what did Superman ever do that was all that heroic?

          He used his powers for the benefit of others, never for himself.

          There are, as well, instances (e.g., Doomsday) when he did tackle the unbeatable foe, bear with unbearable sorrow, run where the brave dare not go.

          Of course, when the people acclaim that “He’s our hero!” it does not necessarily mean he is a hero. people’s standards tend to be appallingly low in such matters, praising as heroes those who merely gratify their desires and denouncing as villains the ones who say, “You need to walk on your own two* feet and not be so reliant on others!”

          *randomly selected number employed for illustrative purpose only. No preference is hereby expressed for two-feet over one, three, four, six, eight, one hundred or any other number of feet (nor feet over paws, talons or other pedimentary options.) This is a ped-positive site and we welcome all manner of locomotion, without discrimination, preference or judgment.

          We are especially lacking in judgment.

          1. Thank you, Edge, for again reminding me why I only have this on the
            laptop where I DO NOT WANT to actually communicate with people…..

        2. Superman also dedicates himself to humble service.

          “I can do this. I will do this. I won’t get praise, and I won’t accept awards for it in my REAL life, but it needs to be done.”

          He doesn’t try to make stuff the way he thinks is right, he works to support the laws that have been agreed on, as a whole, as right– AKA, the laws.

          He doesn’t HURT the villains, generally, even when they can hurt him (physically or otherwise)– he only uses physical force when there is ABSOLUTELY no other option to save others.


          His parents in Kansas did a damned good job.

          1. Just imagine if he had landed in ghetto and been raised by some of the worse examples there.

            1. Issue, his backstory selects for self-sacrifice.

              It wasn’t Rome who was picking up random foundlings, it was the Christians. Because they thought everyone mattered, even trash children.

        3. Tbh, the average flameeater (n.b. I am an active reserve/volley ff, completely certified and ttained)is no more a hero than anyone that takes a highly dangerous job. The normal ‘put wet stuff on hot stuff’s is expected. It is the over and above, which happens often enough that denotes the hero imo. The ffs that sifted thru the towers, who stayed in the second tower after the first collapsed, who put themselves at extensive risk for others, etc.

          It’s similar to something I’ve said before regarding military commendations. They judge against other military men. A hero for me will not be the same as for someone in camo which will not be the same as someone who has never been able to or chosen to take a job like that.

    2. Heinlein’s naval background would have inculcated that concept of a hero. Not just the captain who went down with his ship, but the engine room crew who labored past escaping to buy time for others to escape, the gunnery crew working past salvation to fight off enemy attackers so lifeboats can get clear, every last crew-member remaining on station, performing their duties as long as possible (or longer), buying time for others to escape or counterattack, taking their enemies down with them.

      Of course, in the Army we have Horatius on the bridge, Roland holding the pass, representing every soldier selling his life dearly to deny an enemy’s total victory. In SF we have Corwin and his comrades, climbing the cliff to gain Amber – each fighter knowing he may not see the top but fighting to gain his fellows another rung — or two, or five — up the ladder.

      It is the sacrificial bravery which builds civilizations and lets them endure.

      1. Add to the ranks of Heroes mothers who remain in their seats, watching their child suffer injury on the athletic field. However much her heart cries to go to them, they understand the developmental importance of granting their independence.

        Somewhere in my library is a collection of the Best Cartoons of Punch, and one in there depicts a schoolboy’s relating to a friend his nightmare of being hurt on the Rugby pitch and suffering the trauma of his Mum running out to comfort him. I was quite old before I realized how hilarious that cartoon actually was, for I had to see it through a parent’s eyes the truth it represented.

      2. Please note: Horatius failed to sell his life. He tried, but he was so cussed stubborn that he swam the river in full armor that he should have drowned in after acting as a sacrificial rear guard and survived to be feast that night.

        1. If you want other examples, there are always the Spartans at Thermopylae or the Texicans at the Alamo.

    3. In downtown Fort Worth there is, or was, an small monument about a block from the railroad tracks. Around a century ago there was a hotel or rooming house on that site. The building caught fire one night. One of the tenants made it out … and went back in to help the others. He kept going back in until one time he did not come back out.

      1. I know folks like that.

        I think that’s why the hero who doesn’t really have many advantages, and just keeps GOING for it, and them by some oh-God miracle survives anyways, is so appealing.

        I seem to remember there was one guy whose office was told to shelter in place on 9/11, and about half an hour before the building he was in collapsed he started leading them downstairs instead, and they were trapped like a day or two but THEY SURVIVED.

        Or the fire fighter Chief who was “lost in action” and then found a week later, alive, and recovered…..

  8. it’s easier to drive a writer mad than a normal person
    Perhaps. But it’s less noticeable.

  9. And, yes, intriguing story beginning. 🙂
    (I have *such* a long list of reading to do. Aarrgh.)

  10. Fallen Caryatid-type stories:
    – The Alamo
    – 300
    – every posthumous Medal of Honor story

    These are all victory in defeat stories; which are close, but not exactly what I think Heinlein was getting at in that passage. I almost want to say it is an example of someone being true to themselves in the face of adversity, even if they personally fail, and even if they fail utterly in their cause, they never stopped trying.

    The problem I have with it is that it can apply to someone even when their cause is 100% wrong. e.g. someone who totally believes in the concept of socialism riding it down into obscurity and death, constantly trying to make it work. You admire their tenacity, their faith in their belief, even while you shake your head and say what an idiot they were.

    1. Heinlein himself wrote “Fallen Carytid” stories. Two quickly come to mind “The Long Watch” and “The Green Hills of Earth”.

    2. And so?

      The test of a man’s virtue is rarely his ideology; it is whether he uses it as a means to try and make things better for people, or as an excuse to stomp all over others.

    3. As Heinlein talked about a hero. A man and a woman crossing the tracks, her foot is caught in the tracks. The man tries to help her but fails but he keeps trying. A stranger is walking past nd starts helping. A train is coming. They continue trying to free the woman’s foot but all three re killed by the train.
      The stranger is the hero.

  11. I think the entire concept of “hero” is deficient, to be quite honest. I get a queasy feeling every time someone uses that term in connection with my military service, and I really do not like it being applied to me in any way, shape, or form.

    Maybe it’s because I’m connecting the term “hero” and “heroic” with “warrior”, which I also find off-putting. We don’t have a term that covers the things I consider worthy and virtuous, which is the concept I think that Heinlein was trying to cover with that bit on the Fallen Caryatid. The word/term/concept of hero has been irretrievably polluted by its use in relation to trivial things like sports and entertainment.

    Duty, obligation, honor… These are the important things. You do your duty, you fulfill your obligations, you maintain a sense of honor, and whether you succeed or fail, live or die, you’ve attained worth and virtue. That’s all that matters.

    Heroism, when you are emulating and living out the Homeric archetype, is often absent both of these qualities. Look what that archetypical “hero” Achilles gets up to during the Trojan War; is that someone you want your son emulating? Is he a worthy man, a virtuous one?

    We badly need a better term than “hero”, one that expresses the idea of the Yiddish “Mensch”. That’s more to my sensibilities, and if someone were to say that I was a mensch for having served in the military and gone off to war, I’d be a hell of a lot more comfortable with that.

    You say “hero”, and I’m like “What, is my ego that big and my d**k that small…?”. It’s actually sort of insulting, when you consider the usual run of people we consider “heroic” in most standard settings.

    There’s a passage in something by Elizabeth Moon, I think, that addresses this, where people are discussing heroes they knew, and someone brings up their uncle, a man who lived an unremarkable life until the day he came upon a house fire, and then lost his life going in after the people that lived there. He got most of them out, but went back in to make sure that he’d gotten everyone he could, when the roof caved in.

    That’s a man worthy of the name “hero”, not an Achilles.

    That’s also the sort of human being we ought to talk about as being “heroic”. Actors? Sports stars? “Great warriors”? Nope. They’re just celebrities with good PR.

    1. There’s the story Heinlein tells in, I think, his Naval Academy address; about the homeless man who dies trying to help a woman whose leg got stuck in a railroad frog. He didn’t know the people involved, and could have jumped clear of the oncoming train but stayed until the very end trying to free the woman.

      Heinlein held him up as a true hero, to midshipmen.

      1. That’s another one.

        I think there’s got to be a better way of expressing this concept, but I’m not glib enough to come up with it.

    2. Achilles? He was no hero. The man believed himself invulnerable! Where is the heroism he embodies? No, Achilles is an example of a false hero, offered so that we might see the true heroes around him: his chariot driver, his friends who follow him into danger, those who fight him knowing themselves outmatched.

      Achilles is Goliath; it is the Davids facing him who are heroes.

      Hero, like Liberal, is a title of such magnitude that envious others claim it unearned, tarnishing its lustre with their pollution of its meaning.

      I gather that one mark of the Hero is he (she, for those grammar nazis who misrepresent the rules of language) is the unwillingness to don the Hero’s laurels.

      1. I think there’s also an element there of self-awareness that the acclaimed “hero” has, which his admirers lack.

        I met a guy who was very nearly a Medal of Honor winner; if the officers who had been pushing his packet through had had a bit better way with words, and had he really wanted to push it, he’d have become one of the few living MoH recipients from Vietnam. He did not want the recognition, however, and the only reason it had gone forward at all was because of one specific commander higher than his boss who wanted a MoH “winner” in his brigade.

        His take on the whole thing was that there was nothing at all heroic to what he’d done; circumstance had simply pushed him past the boundaries of common sense and any semblance of a survival instinct. When he’d done what he did, he’d literally been trying to kill himself and take as many of the enemy with him as he could. All he wanted was to kill them, and what he’d done was entirely in service of that. Or, so he remembered it.

        Other people said he’d acted selflessly to provide cover for other men to reach cover, but he didn’t even remember seeing them. All he remembered from the incident was watching his buddies get cut down in front of him, after frustrating weeks in the bush, being pinned down by fire, and then just losing it. When he’d stood up with his M-60, he’d been meaning to end his pain, die. Anything past that? He hadn’t thought of anything except to kill as many of the bastards who had killed his friends, taking them with him.

        After it was all over, he said that he was standing there nearly untouched by it all, with about 15-20 dead NVA, some of which he’d beaten into red ruin with the pieces of his broken M-60 machine gun, and could not remember how he’d gotten into the middle of the NVA position or what he’d done to get there. He could remember hearing the sounds of many other men running away from that position, that he thought he’d driven off. There were abandoned weapons enough to account for at least a company of NVA regulars.

        The evidence was around him when the rest of his unit caught up, and it was quite clear that the only American soldier that had made it into that position was him. Nearly all the NVA bodies in the positions around him had clearly been hit at very close range, and nobody in his unit ever looked at him the same way again. He pretty much drank alone, when in the base camps, until he rotated home, friendless.

        He looked back at it not as heroism, but as a regrettable lapse of sanity.

        As did nearly all of his peers, BTW.

        I think that’s a large part of the reason that the men we acclaim as “heroes”, and who don’t like the appellation, feel that way about it. They know they’re not at all heroic, but are actually embarrassed to have lost their minds temporarily. Most of the real “heroes” I’ve seen documented were men who did what they did because they had no other choices in the face of final exigency, not because they were selflessly seeking glory. Quite a few of them were madmen, to be quite honest, driven out of their minds by either grief, fear, or combat stress. Survivors who returned to themselves afterwards could no more understand the things they’d done than anyone else, having done them in a fit of transcendent madness.

        1. He hadn’t thought of anything except to kill as many of the bastards who had killed his friends, taking them with him.

          There is a reason that “then I’m taking an honor guard of y’all with me!” is a trope.


          Glad he lived.

          No, not as noble as he could’ve been…but probably more noble than I would’ve been.

          1. Yeah, see… I’m not getting across what he felt about it, which was mostly shame.

            Nearly all of those NVA troops had basically looked like kids, probably raw recruits fresh down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. When he’d regained himself, he’d been in the middle of what was left of about six or so of them, and he’d basically been pounding them to pieces, flinging body parts everywhere. When the rest of his company came up on him, he’d been down in this depression where these NVA guys had been, and he looked about like your worst nightmare of a ghoul you’ve ever had–Blood everywhere, body parts spread out, and he was already someone who looked like John Coffey from The Green Mile. As he put it, “I probably looked like King Kong, tearing people apart…”.

            When I met him, it was the late 1980s, and he had come to terms with it, but I think you’d have heard a really nasty laugh from him, if anyone had ever called what he did “noble”. He felt like he needed to do penance for it, and that “those poor boys” didn’t deserve what he’d done to them, which was what he saw as an outright murderous atrocity. “I shoulda just killed them, and left it at that…” was about the gist of it.

            I honestly don’t know how I’d feel, in his shoes. Never been there, never will be… I hope.

            And, if that’s “heroism”, I’m not so sure I want any of it, at all.

            1. Meh. it is inherent in war that ignoble acts become noble in context of people trying to kill you (and your friends.)

              Circumstances matter; there’s a difference whether you shove a little old lady into or out of the path of a truck, even though in both cases you may have simply been shoving a little old lady.

              1. That’s an entirely extraneous point. We were discussing why acclaimed “heroes” don’t necessarily feel heroic.

                Guy I’m talking about basically felt that there were certain… Boundaries, which he had crossed. And, which nearly everybody else in the unit thought he had, as well.

                If he’d just restricted himself to cleanly killing them, that’d have been one thing, but the bit where he’s ghoulishly beating the bodies into a bloody mess, dancing in their blood, basically? That was the bit where he thought he’d gone past things. So did everyone else that was there, including men whose lives he’d saved.

                I think the way he saw it was that if he’d not lost it all, he’d have been fine with being called a hero. As it was, he never forgot the picture someone handed him later on, that the war correspondent they’d had along had taken, just after the rest of the unit caught up with him. I kind of wish I could have seen that, but he destroyed it and convinced the photographer to destroy the negatives. Mostly, as he put it, from fear of what he might to the photographer. Who he’d leaned on, rather hard.

                Ever have one of those conversations with someone, where you really, really wish you weren’t someone that people feel the need to tell this kind of crap to? Yeah. Whole thing started kinda innocently, with me asking him a few questions after he said he’d carried an M-60 in Vietnam. End of the evening, I’m like “Whoa. Did not want to hear all that…”. I guess he hadn’t talked about it for years, and the interesting thing was, the congregation he was a deacon for had no clue he’d ever gone to war.

                1. Kirk, perhaps you “were discussing why acclaimed ‘heroes’ don’t necessarily feel heroic” but I was addressing something a different aspect. Having problems with reading comprehension? A conversation involves a thing called a “dialogue” and the other participant(s) might not be trying to discuss the same point you’re focusing on.

                  1. Circumstances matter; there’s a difference whether you shove a little old lady into or out of the path of a truck, even though in both cases you may have simply been shoving a little old lady.

                    That’s what I’m responding to; you’re actually saying two things here: That the circumstances matter, and then, simultaneously, that they don’t. It’s like the deal with Clinton’s email: Intent doesn’t matter, when the act itself is immoral or illegal. Shoving that old lady can be either, depending on circumstance. Cutting corners on classification rules, however? No matter what, that’s still a transgression. Two different orders of act, entirely–One can be ambiguous, one is not ever going to be.

                    Which puts what you wrote entirely apart from what I’m talking about, which is that the so-called “hero” may not view what he did as either admirable or heroic; instead, he may see it as something done in the heat of bloodlust, which he is ashamed of. That’s the point; what you’re talking about isn’t even in the same realm of consideration. You can have ambiguity when you push an old lady out of the crosswalk; you are hard-pressed to have that when you’re reducing another human being to a red, pulpy ruin with a blunt instrument, and laughing like a maniac while you do it.

                    Is there ever a context in which beating men’s bodies into pieces and spraying their life’s blood all over a small clearing and yourself might be somehow morally acceptable, and not inherently monstrous? Do you get that this is qualitatively different from shoving someone out of or into the path of a truck? Yes; he saved lives, but in so doing, became monstrous in his own eyes and the eyes of others. That was why he saw it as shameful. The act itself, merely killing them, would have been one thing–Going past it to where he found himself, animal-like, desecrating the bodies of the men he killed, because he couldn’t pursue the rest?

                    There is no morally correct act that I can think of that leaves you bathed in blood and desecrating the corpses of your enemy–It’s always going to be a supremely transgressive act, one that’s not every going to leave you.

                    Assuming, of course, that you manage to regain and retain sanity. More than a few of these guys don’t, and wind up having to be put down like rabid dogs. Sometimes even on the day they step through the mirror from normal life into whatever hell others foolishly claim heroic.

                    That’s maybe one of the bigger secrets the “heroes” will never tell you, and why so many of them seem humble, talking about what they did. Many of them are–That medic on Okinawa? Probably one of the few really heroic types I can think of whose PR met reality, but a lot of guys who were acclaimed more for the men they killed? Not so much, I think.

                    1. Shoving that old lady can be either, depending on circumstance.

                      What if you were simply shoving her because you’re a jerk? If you shove her into the truck’s path you’re an attempted murderer; if you shove her out of that path you’re a “hero” — but in neither case was the result related to your intention.

                      Circumstances matter.

                      Is there ever a context in which beating men’s bodies into pieces and spraying their life’s blood all over a small clearing and yourself might be somehow morally acceptable

                      Not that I would expect you to acknowledge, given your entrenched position.

                      But what if the very ferocity of his attack, causing many to flee, actually saved lives? Part of the irony of combat is that reprehensible acts can prove beneficial. Similarly, the belief of a prisoner that you will torture him can mean he’s quicker to give up information, obviating the impetus for torture.

                    2. Once more, into the breach…

                      RES, what we’re talking about here isn’t the objective question of the thing, in some Platonic ideal; we are, instead, talking about how the man, the “hero”, sees things. You look at the event I’m describing in purely objective terms, you can say that it was a good thing, he saved lives. It was like a comic book; simplistic, clear, no ambiguity.

                      Now, be that guy: You’ve quite literally lost your damn mind. You watched a bunch of your buddies die, while you fumbled with a misfired weapon that you think you should have done a better job of cleaning, the night before. You’re listening to your friends die, all around you, yelling for someone to fire back and provide cover. You finally fumble your weapon back together and start returning fire with it, when the new guy you’ve been training as an assistant gunner is killed right next to you, brains splattered all over your face. Rage takes over, and that’s the last thing you remember: Standing up in a hail of fire from across the clearing.

                      The next thing you remember, coming back to yourself, is standing in a small bowl-like depression where the enemy had had a light machinegun team, and you’re laughing maniacally while you pulverize their skulls and upper bodies, blood spraying all around you as you scream out obscenities. Then, you look up, and see the horrified faces of the rest of the men in your unit, as they move up and past you, while you slowly run down like a wind-up toy whose spring has run out, and the looks on their faces, even on hardened veterans, tell you that you’ll never be seen the same way again. You look around, and you see all the bodies of these cruel children who took your friends away, in a game grown all too serious, all too suddenly, and you realize that you’re the one who did all that, and that things will never, ever be the same for you. And, they weren’t.

                      Someone later tells you what a hero you were, that day, as they pin a silver-colored gewgaw on your chest, and you can only remember what those NVA soldiers, who looked like children, looked like as you desecrated their humanity with the butt of your broken machinegun, ignoring the burns the barrel made in the palms of your hands–Which are still not fully healed, as they hand you that award citation.

                      Does that begin to get across what I’m getting at, with all this? Am I connecting with you, to get the point across, that the “hero” doesn’t see what everyone else does, when he looks into the mirror of his soul? He sees what was, what he felt, why he did the things he did. And, if he doesn’t feel that they are rightfully heroic, well… Small wonder that he cavils at being called one.

                    3. Kirk, keep your breeches on. The “hero’s perception of self” is what you are talking about; it is not about what I am talking. I am talking about the perception of the observers, not the actor.

                      Thus all of your arguments and descriptions remain irrelevant, entirely beside the point. As we’ve run up against the right-hand wall and you seem unable to recognise that we’re discussing two different concepts and that your presumption of being be able to dictate what others may talk about is unduly constraining — I suggest we let this rest here.

                    4. Does that begin to get across what I’m getting at, with all this? Am I connecting with you, to get the point across, that the “hero” doesn’t see what everyone else does, when he looks into the mirror of his soul?

                      Okay, in consideration of your apparent need for closure, I strongly suggest you scroll down to my comment (posted at 7:15 PM EDT) about John Ringo’s “Wanker” series. Generally marketed as Paladin of Shadows the MC is a severely flawed individual who never-the-less acts heroically when forced to by circumstances — even though he never felt himself the hero. He simply got into a fix and got himself out of it, that’s all. The series, in typical Ringo style, then goes on to explore how he learns to live with himself.

                      So you see, Kirk, you’ve been screaming at the choir. I grasped your point as soon as you made it and moved on to things I found more interesting.

                    5. I have had a few exposures to my berserker side, and it’s not very nice, and it’s more like a rampaging lizard than anything else. But that doesn’t have anything much to do with a person’s conscious mind, conscience, etc. It’s not crazy, either. It’s an altered state of consciousness where things are more primitive.

                      And it’s not this guy’s fault. It’s the enemy’s fault, if it’s anybody’s. If you hold a war, warfare stuff will occur. If you make a guy’s brain give up, bad stuff will happen.

                      His monkey body and his lizard brain did what they thought best, which wasn’t very well-thought out because they’re just the monkey body and lizard brain.

                      I could understand making sure the guy always got plenty of blood sugar and chocolate and vitamins, to keep the lizard brain from coming out. But his unit letting the guy drink alone? When you have reason to believe he’s got a mean lizard brain? Pretty counter-productive.

                2. Point is, if he hadn’t “lost it”, he wouldn’t have had the strength, the speed, and the ability to terrify the enemy. Sure, he killed 15 to 20 of the enemy, but it sounds like far more fled in terror from him, a single man, seemingly possessed by the god of War himself. If he hadn’t, odds are they would have gunned him down.

                3. I kind of wish I could have seen that, but he destroyed it and convinced the photographer to destroy the negatives. Mostly, as he put it, from fear of what he might to the photographer. Who he’d leaned on, rather hard.


                  That sounds like the whole “spreading negative stuff to folks who don’t need to know it” thing in Catholic theology.

                  Basically, a subset of gossip.

                  1. I think there was a component to the whole thing, too, of racism. See, the unit had sort-of-kind-of consolidated all their black guys into the platoon he was in, and it was their turn to be on point that day. It wasn’t one of those deals where they were deliberately doing that, but it effectively left him as the only black guy left with that time-in-country-cohort. All his peer black guys were either dead or wounded, and then he’s the guy the rest of the company came up on, laughing and screaming maniacally while he was pounding several NVA bodies into a single bloody pulp with what was left of his weapon. The way he put it, the photographer was afraid to submit the film to his higher, the unit commander didn’t want the optics of the thing to look like he’d set all the black guys in his outfit up for slaughter, and… Yeah. Whole thing was very highly charged with potential for PR problems, which may have played a bigger role, now that I think of it, in his MoH getting downgraded to a Silver Star.

                    Some of the context for this I got from a white friend of his, who’d rotated out of Vietnam before this incident. Now that I think about it, it sounds like a bad war movie where race played a huge role, but the deal was more like that the black guys in the unit were more comfortable all together, and the commander was tolerant of the consolidation because he wanted good teamwork and less friction. After that day, though, they went back to having everyone spread out, no sticking guys together because of skin color or where they came from.

                    Salient point is, though, that the “hero” looks at what he did through a different lens, and knows more about the whys and wherefores of what made him do it–And, often, that makes him feel as though he really isn’t deserving of acclaim.

                    1. No matter their motivation, thank God he was saved from being another version of that poor bastard who was caught on camera shooting the brains out of the worthless, psychotic bastard who had targeted and slaughtered the shooter’s god-daughter on their version of Christmas Eve.

                    2. Salient point is, though, that the “hero” looks at what he did through a different lens, and knows more about the whys and wherefores of what made him do it–And, often, that makes him feel as though he really isn’t deserving of acclaim.

                      Not trying to make light of it, but…

                      Watch the 90s Batman shows.

                      Or Justice League, also from the 90s.

                      This is not a new theme– although it may be a little rusty, given how many folks in media ain’t got a cousin of a clue.

                      The problem really isn’t “oh gosh he’s not an unvarnished hero who shines beyond all that is gold,” it’s that there is anybody on God’s green earth who thinks that’s something to CONSIDER.

                      Seriously, how can someone toddle outside of the nest and not realize that to smite evil, there is smiting, and that evil NEVER sends itself naked to battle?

                    3. Pfui on Nineties animated DC — try reading some of the Norse eddas, or some of Poul Anderson’s works, such as The Broken Sword or Moorcock’s Elric tales. Or read Howard’s Conan and Solomon Kane stories.

                      For that matter, look at the Old Testament tale of David, sending Uriah to his near-certain death. Or, if you want to go truly into the depths, try Gilgamesh & Enkidu. For that matter, none of the mythical Greeks had character to spare: Heracles, Odysseus, Perseus, Jason – a lot of right bastards, each and every one of them.

                    4. Seen it. Also the JLA series. Doesn’t affect my point: flawed heroes are among the oldest tales men tell.

                    5. One further note: The Federalist has been publishing episode reviews of the Animated Batman most Fridays for some time now.

                      See, for example:
                      Revisiting ‘Batman The Animated Series’: ‘The Last Laugh’

                      Mark Hamill’s Joker gets his first memorable line: ‘You killed Captain Clown!’

                      “The Last Laugh” returns to the Joker after only two episodes, but this is an artifact of the production process. In real time, this episode originally aired almost two months before the earlier-produced “Christmas With the Joker.”

                      The teleplay is still establishing the series’ approach to Batman’s arch-enemy. “The Last Laugh” relies on the Joker’s signature type of attack – a gas or toxin which induces laughter and ultimately worse. This choice, like featuring the gas-wielding Scarecrow in the prior episode, may also reflect network censors’ preference for non-lethal weapons.

                      Our story opens on April Fool’s Day in Gotham City. A garbage scow on the river is piloted by a figure dressed as a clown. The boat’s refuse emits a sickly green cloud. An armored car crossing a bridge drives through the cloud. The driver is overcome with laughter recklessly plunges into the river.

                      At Wayne Manor, Bruce cuts himself shaving before Alfred (Efrem Zimbalist Jr., replacing Clive Revill) announces he has drawn Bruce’s bath. Walking into the next room, Bruce finds the tub empty. Alfred holds up a drawing of a bathtub as an April Fool’s gag; Bruce shrugs.

                      Electing to shower, Bruce hears a radio report of near-fatalities on the bridge and immediately suspects the Joker …

                      … Like the Christmas episode, “The Last Laugh” emphasizes Batman’s fighting styles more than his detective skills. Yet the direction from Kevin Altieri provides a superior visual experience. The set pieces, particularly Batman’s destruction of Captain Clown and the chase through the waste facility, are deftly framed. There are also striking details, like the slats of light which play on the Joker’s face as he rides the trash cube on the conveyor. The shot of Batman cradling a stricken Alfred is similarly memorable.

                      While action is the focus of “The Last Laugh,” the script also exploits Bruce’s reputation as a grim avenger. In the final confrontation, what unnerves the Joker is Batman cracking a joke, however small. Alfred is similarly surprised in the episode’s denouement.

                      Finally, “The Last Laugh” is again elevated by Mark Hamill’s voice work as the Joker (and one wonders whether the garbage chute cliffhanger was not influenced by The Empire Strikes Back). Hamill has the timing necessary for the line delivery of a killer comedian while avoiding camp. It is also difficult to avoid giggling when he despairs over the “death” of Captain Clown.

                    6. Watching it as an adult, with at least a dozen years as such….
                      Oh my gosh, SO MUCH for Hollywood, which also managed to be for J Random Adult!

                      Glad Elf doesn’t read here. Dang, is he scary close to TAS Batman psych profile, for all that he plays at being the Joker– and totally swoonworthy.

                      I can totally see Elf doing the Catwoman two-part episode closing. It would be very uncomfortable to be Batman’s friend.

                    7. ????

                      I was making a point that the heroes didn’t feel heroic; I’m familiar with a lot of the ancient heroes factually not BEING heroic.

                    8. Of course Batman doesn’t feel heroic – he couldn’t save his parents, could he?

                      As for the others, that’s just good writing, en’it? Who wants to watch a bunch of spandex-clad jerks sitting around talking ’bout who was more heroic today? (Okay, who other than fans of Amazon’s new series, The Boys.) That’s even less interesting than thinking about Superman doing ED commercials.

            2. Yeah, see… I’m not getting across what he felt about it, which was mostly shame.

              FWIW, I was not talking about how he felt, but how I viewed what he did.

          2. Berzerker: (Old Norse: berserkir) were warriors who purportedly fought in a trance-like fury.

            Certainly sounds like the experience of that Vietnam vet.

            Interesting passage at the very end of the Wikipedia article.
            “Jonathan Shay makes an explicit connection between the berserker rage of soldiers and the hyperarousal of post-traumatic stress disorder.[36] In Achilles in Vietnam, he writes:
            If a soldier survives the berserk state, it imparts emotional deadness and vulnerability to explosive rage to his psychology and permanent hyperarousal to his physiology — hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans. My clinical experience with Vietnam combat veterans prompts me to place the berserk state at the heart of their most severe psychological and psychophysiological injuries.[37] “

            1. That rings true. I think that once you’ve stepped through that looking glass, coming back from the other side becomes very difficult, and if you make the transition often enough, the line between “there” and “here” becomes very hard to make out.

              The Spaniards who fought in the Netherlands during the years when Spain was trying to retain what became the Dutch Republic used to have a line, when talking to one of their fellows who was behaving out of order, when in Spain: “Are we here, or in the Netherlands…?”.

              To a degree, that question is one you have to ask yourself every second, once you’ve “gone to Holland”. Quite a few good men don’t ever really come home, and we do a poor job of helping them come back. Physically, sure… Mentally? Nope. Look at the mess quite a few of these guys make of their lives, after: One moment of sublime sacrifice, a lifetime of never fitting in, never being at home with yourself again.

              It’s a reason I dislike the idea of heroes and heroism; what you’re actually talking about is human sacrifice. Self-performed, I’ll grant, but just as much a sacrifice as if those men were strung up on altars and had their hearts torn out. Sacrifice like that should be respected, honored, but never, ever treated cavalierly the way so many of us do. You look at someone like Bruce Jenner, acclaimed by one and all for his “bravery” in transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner, and then contrast that with the struggles that men like Dakota Meyer go through, and the term “hero” suddenly rings very, very hollow. Men like Meyer deserve better than to be termed in a class with confused creatures like Jenner.

              1. Sorry, but I have to agree with you, there’s nothing brave or heroic about Jenner.
                Meyer, hell yes. And considering his marital problems, he came back with permanent damage to his psyche.

        2. If you haven’t yet read John Ringo’s Ghost* series (or if you have and didn’t notice), it is essentially a series of meditations on that aspect of “heroism” and a reminder that even “bad” people can be heroic.

          *Originally known as The Wanker Story

    3. You might be interested in the Catholic idea of “Heroic Virtue.”

      Basically? Know that Captain America quote about “no, you move”?

      That. Assuming it’s something actually virtuous, up to and including “No, I won’t sleep with you.”

    4. The Greek hero is someone with immortal ancestry and nigh-godlike powers, but is mortal. He is born into unlucky circumstances, or attracts the hatred and curses of both men and gods. But he does great deeds anyway, and becomes a suitable patron and/or ancestor for his city or tribe. Most of them were not raised to Olympus, but their people sacrificed to them anyway.

      The amusing thing is that most great heroes have no problem defeating monsters, but are easy prey for their human families and acquaintances. Greek society was a little bit paranoid.

      And if there were any dinosaur bones found that could be interpreted as human body parts of enormous size, it was obviously the hero’s bones. Same thing for rock formations or megalithic or Mycenaean monuments – obviously the hero’s work.

    5. Well, the original meaning of “hero” was “demigod.” Which is why you had literal cults for them. 0:)

  12. My guess is that the notes for everyone combined would have added another 32-64 pages to the book (depending on if it’s a TPB/HB or MMPB size), and they needed to save money – especially with the project being associated with a con.

    It would be interesting to see, though, if they would consider a note in the book (or the page for the book) linking to the authors’ comments.

  13. I’m fairly sure it’s easier to drive a writer mad than a normal person.

    Drive? Drive a writer mad? Pfui – more of a short putt, a tap-in in a friendly game.

    The more interesting challenge is how to drive a writer sane.

  14. Sarah, you know the cover for this needs to be black and white with shadows cast toward the camera, right?

    (note: shadows cast toward the camera is a characteristic of film noir lighting)

        1. Rhodes series.
          Cyborg detective in a future where cyborgs are outlawed. And the woman who protects him. That’s the story in Parallel Universes, and I already have a novella almost finished.
          Think Rex Stout in Space with a sweet noir romance woven through.

            1. I’ll let you read it as soon as the first novelish (it’s going to top out around 30k, I THINK, but G-d knows it could go longer.) is ready. Plan for this weekend is to prepare a chat for my first readers in the Sarah’s street team site.

    1. Hmm.. The light source is behind the character so the image behind (if you have any) will be washed out along the margins away from the source.

      The character will be darker, desaturated but still comprehensible, not just an outline.

      The front will be very dark, the surface almost invisible, wall of very dark color (not black but whatever the surface color would have been).

      I’ve been watching anime recently, seeing how the artists “signal” night time but still have visible characters. If you live someplace with little or no light pollution, even with a full moon and stars, and eyes adjusted it’s astonishing how dark everything appears.

      Which is really a problem when you’re trying to show facial expression, costume, landscape, and all the other stuff you want to signal.

      If you have a good suggestion for that Mr. Draven, would you share it?

  15. first we had Planet of the apes, now we will have planet of the cats.
    at least they will keep some of us around, somebody will have to open tuna cans for our overlords.

    1. When the game City of Heroes first came out and was getting a lot of net.chatter, I kept misreading it as City of Horses and then being disappointed.

        1. Ah, the Centaur Paradox. As the number of horse’s rear ends greatly exceeds the number of horse’s front ends, there logically should be more readily seen centaurs. And there are not.

      1. I really fear Planet of the cows, you guys have a LOT of reasons to be pissed at humans. (unless you are like Far Side)

        1. It’s tough. I’ve tried sketching a world history and modern America where bovines became the dominant intelligent life form, while still retaining bovine characteristics and behavior and it doesn’t work well unless you completely toss out rationality and suspend ALL disbelief. You literally have to go Far Side and ignore the contradictions and incongruities.

          1. Planet of the Dogs. Not a lot would get done but they’d be happy. Sort of like Hold my beer types but to a higher power. Maybe I misunderstand dogs. I do love them-even when they drive me crazy. There have been stories written about societies of dogs.

            1. Planet of the Dogs would resemble any human society very strongly, especially if they become bipedal. We’re both pack animals.

              I don’t think any Felis are actually social animals; and the only Leo I know of that are are lions.

              1. I don’t think any Felis are actually social animals

                I believe I’ve heard tell of feral urban cats forming social groups, and possibly also of farm/barn cats. I suspect it requires ample prey population.

              2. There’s a world for the building.

                Dogs resemble us because we made them that way. I’ve seen it claimed that the process of doing that changed us. Call it “convergent evolution” (even though TENS is a Just So story). Certainly, adapting rescue dogs to our household also changed our family. It’s plausible. Especially, as you point out, if there’s just enough in the base animal nature of and Canis to make us complementary.

                It’s really worked out well for the dogs as a species.

                So we discover a race beings to whom we are like dogs. We hit it off and then… plot happens.

        2. There are a few ways to aid species (NOT individual) survival. One them is, unfortunately for the individuals of some species, “be tasty.”

  16. A thought on the concept of connected short stories in a fictional universe: put enough of them together and it’s called “a book.” Examples include The Past Through Tomorrow (Heinlein), Tales of Known Space (Niven), Majipoor Chronicles (Silverbob), Lord Darcy Investigates (Garrett), Tales from Earthsea (Le Guin*) and numerous others.

    Sure, all of those had been published in magazines before being collected, but that is not a requirement.

    *N.B. – for those interested, the PBS series American Masters will, on August 02 (on most locales – as always check local listings) put on the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Strong stomachs might be required, as the program promises/threatens:

    Watch to learn why Neil Gaiman thinks Harry Potter wouldn’t have existed without Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, a fantasy novel she published in 1968 featuring a wizard school.

    American Masters presents the first documentary film exploring the remarkable life and legacy of the prolific and versatile author: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.

    This program credits Le Guinn for inspiring woman authors such as Atwood and for bringing “literary credibility” to the SF genre.

    The life and legacy of science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guinn, whose work transformed American literature by bringing science fiction into the literary mainstream.

    So, one hour of hagiography, over-praising an significant SF author. Apparently Vonnegut whose work was widely read in the Sixties was mere chopped liver, and the popularity of Stranger in a Strange Land, The Lord of the Rings and Clarke’s 2001 were simply ephemeral.

    See also:

    1. That looks like must-miss TV. AFAIK, my Le Guin books have been read once. OTOH, I still have them…

      1. MomRed wants to watch it. I’ll see how far I get before I get penalty-box time for correcting the show too loudly.

    2. LeGuin did good whenever she did good. She had an interesting life, and she did some interesting things.

      But the PBS commentators these days… and the celebrities who try to answer questions… ughhhh. They don’t even try to be accurate.

      1. On a scale of SF Writers 1 – 10 I would put her about a six-point-five, with her best work rising up to maybe an eight. But it is certain these clowns will rate her an eleven, and claime she enriched SF.

        Sorry, in the SF Pantheon she isn’t fit to polish Heinlein’s shoes, nor serve Sturgeon’s liquor. She wasn’t as significant as Asimov or Clarke, nor as much of a literary” benchmark as Bradbury. She stands behind Serling but maybe, just maybe, in front of Roddenberry. She was a good hamburger, but she wasn’t a cheeseburger, much less a cheeseburger with bacon.

          1. Eschewing the refluxive “pig-in-blanket” jest I assure you, Night’awk, that in my household you will always be a k’nackwurst.

    3. Might make me odd around here, but I really liked the trilogy A Wizard Of Earthsea. It had an influence on my love of fantasy.

      (There were parts that were tough to get through, but I liked the story overall.)

      I didn’t like everything she wrote.

      1. I think a lot of us here liked the Earthsea Trilogy — but if we were to do a poll of most influential/favorite works it wouldn’t make anybody’s top ten, possibly not even top hundred. Maybe if we did a top ten women SF authors — but I bet she’d finish behind Bujold, L’Engle, McCaffrey, Brackett. Tiptree, and Norton.

        She might even finish behind MZB.

    4. Stealing “Must-miss” from Mr. RCPete.

      But a plug for John C. Wright’s City Beyond Time.

      Base on the way the stories are ordered (I don’t know if it was John, Vox Day, or someone else on the Castalia Team, but kudos to whoever made those choices) it’s just about the perfect time travel novel.

      Starts at the middle, ranges back and forth to the beginning and the end, and ends at the beginning. And it all makes sense. Love that book so much.

  17. After more than 40 years, I was able to buy a “Fallen Caryatid” reproduction. I believe, they were made in the mid 60s. A few years ago I missed one on eBay, just didn’t bid enough. I didn’t make that mistake this time. Wonderful.

  18. Totally Off Topic, during my late night glance at the morning papers it occurs to me that President Trump has earned a nickname;

    President Climate Change – no matter what bad thing happened, it’s his fault!

    1. I still have too much blood in my caffeine stream, but I’m getting an inkling of a parody of Kipling’s “Tommy”.


      “For it’s Donny this, and Donny that and
      Throw him out, the brute.
      And it’s #$%^ You Mr. Pres’dent
      When Iran begins to shoot.”

      I swear, I haven’t had any opoids since Sunday! 🙂

      Side note: Germany refuses to participate in the tanker defense in the Strait of Hormuz.

      1. Well, to be fair, The Kreigsmarine did not earn it’s reputation by protecting merchant shipping…

        1. ‘Bout to say. If I were a tanker captain and knew that Germans were escorting me, I’d be worried that somebody would come under the delusion that they were commanding the Graf Spee.

          1. Does Germany even have a navy, other than as decoration?

            Since they’re happy to suck their oil through Putin’s penis pipeline, what moot they about Hormuz?

    2. From:

      POLICE OFFICER: Oh, I’m sorry, but this is a sealed area. We’re waiting for the coroner.

      WENDY: Coroner? Oh.

      THE MIDDLEMAN: I’m Dr. Kind, this is Dr. Raban from the Ecological Task Force. We think global warming is to blame.

      POLICE OFFICER: Al Gore just ain’t whistlin’ Dixie.

      [ … entering the crime scene in which Mr. Su is buried under a giant mound of clay … ]

      BUSBOY: I heard an awful sound so I ran out from the kitchen and a huge wall of mud just came out of nowhere, overrunning everything in the place.

      WENDY: And that’s your boss?

      BUSBOY: Mr. Su.

      THE MIDDLEMAN: What can you tell us about him?

      BUSBOY: He was your typical small business owner. Driven, hard-working, freakish obsession with that warrior statue.

      WENDY: Can you expand on that?

      BUSBOY: Long hours, impeccable work ethic – you know, I think it’s a cultural thing.

      WENDY: I meant the freakish obsession.

      BUSBOY: Oh. Well, he mortgaged the place to bring that Terracotta Warrior over from China. And he spent all hours of the night burning candles in front of it and chanting in Mandarin.

      THE MIDDLEMAN: What did he say?

      BUSBOY: Dude, I’m like third-generation twice-removed. I don’t speak a lick of Chinese. But it sounded like sahn sheelie, shezahn deer.

      THE MIDDLEMAN: Rise, be flesh, and walk the earth.

      BUSBOY: Could global warming make that happen?


  19. Sarah – EWTN’s World News Now has a great interview with Clare Asquith, who just wrote a book about Catholic recusants, called Shakespeare and the Resistance. She focuses on two lesser-known poems. Anyway, a good interview focusing on the historical background. Did not know the thing about Shakespeare’s Somerville and Arden cousins. Has some footage of Stratford.

    1. Ooh. Nice explanation of Venus and Adonis, as well as The Rape of Lucrece. I will have to read them, which I never had. This explains why people would be impressed by the poetry….

    2. They found a spiritual will in Shakespeare’s parent’s house. There are hints and allegations he might have been (or his parents at least) secret Catholics. BUT it’s…. not the same.

      1. His daughter was definitely fined for failure to receive Communion at Anglican services.

  20. “Not only is this the type of people I try to write my characters to be, it is also the type of person I try to be. Someone who keeps towards the goal, even though he/she knows it’s impossible to do it and survive.

    “It’s very difficult, of course, to write a short story specifically about this kind of hero, (instead of letting it shine through over the course of many stories and novels) since most of it is “uncomplaining fortitude” which is not something that translates well to fiction.”

    I am working on a novel now — have been for years — that addresses this sort of heroism. The protagonist’s struggle is not against any physical enemy, but against time and distance; his only weapon is the persistence with which he inspires his companions. I see no need to drop my characters into something the size of a war when an urgent, life-saving errand is enough to spur them to action.

    I think of Milton’s quote about war being “hitherto the only argument / Heroic deem’d, chief mastery to dissect / With long and tedious havoc fabl’d knights / In battles feign’d; the better fortitude / Of patience and heroic martyrdom / Unsung…

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