Cleanup Crew

When I was a kid, and the family had a big party, I tended to end up in the kitchen, doing the cleanup.

Before you’re seeing some sort of Cinderella situation, don’t. The biggest problem I had is that at the time I had absolutely no idea that I was an introvert, see. I can fake extrovert — you’ve seen it at cons — but very large parties in crowded rooms drain me so fast you wouldn’t believe. I would run away to the kitchen.

My parents parties were usually a three ring circus which started with 50 invited people and somehow exploded to 150 or 200, by the bring-a-friend system. And the “they said we could drop by system.”

And I cannot — cannot — overemphasize how much my mom, who is a born extrovert finds excuses to have parties. It seemed that every other weekend there was a party for something: birthdays, anniversaries, sports club wins or a party because they hadn’t had a party in a while.

Thing is, culturally and for my family it was unacceptable for the teen daughter to go “AHHHHHH, People. I’ll be in my bunker.” If I tried to do that I’d be rude and anti social.

But if I put on an apron and went into the kitchen to start cleaning I was also alone save for the occasional person dropping by to look for something, but I was “such a nice girl” and “such a useful young lady” and “I wonder why she hasn’t bee snapped up.”

Between the whirling, LOUD gathering, and the “everything exploded over every surface” kitchen I’d take the kitchen every day and twice on Sunday, when the parties were bigger and louder.

Thing is, when I say “everything exploded over every surface” there are things you have to understand. I recently suggested to someone — coff — considering wedding expenses that if I’m given full run of a kitchen for a week or two (on the assumption I’m keeping up writing schedule at same time, btw) and a fridge or freezer to use at will, and $500 I can cater an hors d’oeuvres (things on sticks) reception for 50 to 100 people. (And we can probably get volunteer servers. COFF. Not that you know…. well, it’s just me.)

I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before. (Used to be $100, but you know.) And because I apprenticed at the knee of the best. Only mom, who is an excellent cook, didn’t go in for the hors d’oeuvres thing. That was the opening salvo. Also, I hate to tell you guys this, but when it comes to eating, we Americans are amateurs. At older son’s civil wedding, I looked at the very nice, perfectly wonderful arrangements and thought the equivalent crowd of Portuguese would tear through the available food in the first five minutes and then wander off to eat the countryside. (To be clear not a criticism of arrangements. I think they had leftovers. Because Americans.) I’d say Portuguese eat like writers, but that’s not even true. They eat like locusts. And mom’s parties usually had enough leftovers to feed us for a week (until the next party.)

And because she had a job, she usually only cooked for the party for like two or three days. And uh…. “Used every pot in the kitchen” and “She can’t be throwing bones and bits of vegetables in the sink in expectation of a disposal, because she never had any.”

In other words, mom cooks as I write. Throw things everywhere, trust the clean up after. (The sad thing being usually I am the one cleaning up the writing. Sniffle. Okay, except Sarah C. and Amy B. who are going to kill me for saying I clean it.)

I’m trying to paint a picture. I’d come into the kitchen, apron around my middle, and the first order of business was “Clear the sink so the dish washing can start.” And there the problem started. There were PILED UP, unstable, tottering towers of dishes, spoons, stirring implements, trays, pots, etc on every available surface, including the chairs. And in the middle of each of these piles would be the discards: Bones, fat, dough imperfectly scraped from bowls, bits of vegetables, eggshells, etc.

Which meant I usually started the festivities by making the mess worse. FAR FAR WORSE. Like “First, find a bucket to fill with stuff for the compost heap, and a bag for non-bio-degradable trash. Put them on the floor.” Now start removing the first layer of dishes and making other piles, on the floor. (Though if it was warm-ish or at least not freezing, I often moved them to the patio, just so I wouldn’t trip on things.)

I tried to get on with this phase as fast as humanly possible, lest a guest (or a brother!) came into the kitchen and screamed “you’re making it worse.” Or, you know, tripped on one of the jenga piles rising waist-high on the floor. If I could get through it quickly enough, by the time people came into the kitchen, the piles were orderly, mostly on the kitchen table, on towels, to dry. And if they came later, I was just putting things away in batches, and taking in new incoming piles from the dining room (Soup bowls, appetizer plates, two main course plates, etc.) onto already designated surfaces. This is when older ladies tried to get their sons (or grandsons) to propose to me. (“Such a nice girl. So orderly. So useful.” — not seeing me the rest of the time when I slouched around the house in my brother’s old pullover and my dad’s slippers with my nose in a book and my hair in a mess.)

But if they came in early enough they were usually shocked and horrified and went to ask my mom “Carmen, do you know what your daughter is up to?” Mom who was fluent in my cleaning methods, and by then quite used to them, might poke nose in and go “Not the vintage dishes on the floor. Put them on a chair. Move the pans to the floor” but that was about it. Most of the time, she’d come in, leave, close the door behind herself, and make jokes about leaving the cleaning crew to her work.

Now, why is this relevant?

Our culture, finance, government, entertainment, news reporting, etc. now are various aspects of the messiest kitchen you can possibly imagine.

Periodically, out of the blue, for who knows what reason — notice I wasn’t doing what I did out of a pure heart — someone who really could be doing other things volunteers and takes a giant hit to go and attempt to clean up a portion of it.

Trump, sure. Also Elon, also at a smaller level, a lot of other people here and there.

I was reading at what is going on at twitter in mild horror. (I really need to sign up to pay for a check mark, just–)

And it came to me that Trump faced this plus a million. AS WILL ANYONE ELSE STEPPING UP TO CLEAN UP.

The mess is so unbelievably large and organic, that to clean it up passes through “first make things even more messy.”

On top of which the left are like the worst kind of party goers. They congregate in the kitchen, screaming at anything you do, and trying — at the same time — to make the mess even worse, under the assumption that somehow, if they break everything, then automagically everything will be clean. Also, frankly, because they are unbelievably, bizarrely stupid and don’t realize what a mess it is, nor that there is a problem with it. For instance the celebrutards screaming for the end of fossil fuels really have no clue of the first order effects of such a thing, let alone second or third. They have the kind of finely trained stupidity that takes years and thousands of dollars to make people believe in, so that they could walk into mom’s kitchen as a party started and praise the “organic order” and talk about how as things decayed they would clean themselves.

So…. what do I mean?

1- Don’t look for the guy who comes in and clean everything. I could sort of do that in mom’s place, because it was one kitchen, and though the mess was ongoing, the party had an end. (Okay, often at one in the morning the next day.) This is several messes, and have been going on for 100 years, meaning that you can’t clean them in a day. Or a week. Or a month, or probably a few decades.

2- It’s often going to look worse once they start. Because first you have to get the the bottom of the piles and figure out what is making the jengaed (totally a verb) pile of 100 year old teacups shake if you breathe on them. (And what you find at the bottom is probably unbelievably gross and stupid.) Which means moving everything around. When the left screams about “chaotic staffing” or whatever, remember that first you have to move things around to figure out what’s causing the problem.

3 – Even after you start cleaning, messes will continue growing, because life doesn’t stop, and frankly the left likes the mess and to an extent thinks it’s normal operating procedure. You have to trust the crazy volunteers (even those getting paid) who jump into this, to just do the best they can, incrementally.

4- Don’t discard people because they don’t get it all under control immediately. It’s not going to happen. Just praise them, help them, and keep going.

5- We will do it. Eventually even the greatest mess, you turn the corner, and start cleaning faster than it can propagate. It just takes time and not falling into despair.

6- Despair will be a big temptation, because you’ll be tired, cranky and your hands wrinkled from dish soap, but it looks like you did nothing, and in fact the mess seems to keep growing. Or at least it’s more visible.
Keep your head down, keep DOING. It will get better, I promise. I don’t promise in my life time, because I’m early-old. But it will get better.

Be not afraid. Put on your apron and start scrubbing. Even if everything seems terrible, even if everything seems to be falling apart, choose your area and go to work. You can’t work on everything at once. No one can.

But just go to work, and trust others will join in, some (like Elon) much bigger than we are.

Keep cleaning. We’ll turn this corner.

The Planning Morons A Blast From the Past from March 20 2013

The Planning Morons A Blast From the Past from March 20 2013

Sometimes I think that reading the news is what I do instead of exercise.  I mean, the whole purpose is to increase your heart rate, right?

Yesterday, Instapundit had a link to the Chinese creating super-genius-babies.  I thought “Okay.  This sounds like everything is going according to my predictions.*)

Of course, I found it a bit disquieting, because this is China, which ruthlessly puts to death toddler girls, rather than allowing their parents to raise them.  When someone who values human life so little starts messing with the genome, it’s disquieting.  Besides… besides, I didn’t think the science was quite there yet.

This is when I made my mistake.  I went to the site.

It wasn’t even the article.  That is stupid enough. It’s also the comments which raise the stupidity to the Nth degree plus one.  But let’s leave the comments for now and concentrate on the stupid  what China reports to be doing.  (Children, when totalitarians with full control of the press say anything, don’t trust AND verify.  Apply that wherever suitable.)

So… This article says that China is trying to improve the IQ of its population.  This was the first thing that made me go “oy” because, well, why is it that communists, supposed to be government by the people, always end up – one way or another – trying to create a new people?

Then we get to the definition of “intelligence.”  If I got the gist of the article right, they’re not looking for raw IQ as such, but for what I would call credentials “Where have you published?”  and “What college did you graduate from?”

At this point my head was hovering towards the desk, and I had to exert effort not to hit head on desk repeatedly because… Who in H*LL confuses credentials with IQ?  I mean, other than our media and the Chinese?  Take my children (please.  I give you a good price.)  The younger one has some testing issues, but the older on has always taken his tests with flying colors, had great grades and graduated from IB which most colleges respect.  So… why did he end up in a state school and not an ivy?  Mostly?  Because we didn’t have the contacts, we weren’t willing to hire a coach to see us through the application process, and we didn’t know where to go and what to do – in other words, the boys were handicapped by having parents who are out of the loop for these things.  I know for a fact some of the kids in their class who went to the ivy league schools are not only not as smart but not as proficient (and no, this is not a mother talking.  It’s damning my kids with faint praise.)

So… anyway, they’re picking these highly credentialed people from Europe and Asia (where of course, connections family, privilege have nothing to do with credentials.  Excuse me, I have some sarcasm stuck in my throat.)  And they’re examining the DNA to determine which sequence is common to all these people.  (Here, the older boy informs me that we have yet to be able to sequence the DNA of ova or sperm WITHOUT destroying them.  So, while they can determine that some sequence is present, by that time the reproductive material will be gone.  Never mind.)

Then, they plan to inseminate ova with this sequence with sperm with this sequence, sit back and wait for their geniuses to appear.

[Hits head against desk, to distract from greater pain of enduring the stupidity of central planners.]

Smart kids – smart people in general – are something I have a great deal of experience with.  And I find that nothing – nothing, except maybe the creation of great art – is imbued with more symbolic meaning by every day people.  And few myths of humanity, including the entire pantheon of Greece and Rome are more out of touch with reality than the myths that surround genius.

Someone in the comments brought up the existence of multiple forms of intelligence and got promptly pounded down.  To an extent that’s right, because “multiple forms of intelligence” has become code for “everyone is special.”  Which is bull hockey.  On the other hand, particularly when you approach triple niners, they will be very high across the board, but usually only one form will manifest.  They will SURELY not manifest all at once, anyway.  In fact, extremely smart kids often develop slower than other kids, at least for  a while. This is something that alarmed us with both of our kids, and  which led us to learn the phrase “Saltational development.”  This means that gifted (really gifted, not the schools idea of this) kids tend to develop in jumps.  Instead of say developing their drawing skill slowly and along a slope, they’ll be doing stick figures while the other kids in sixth grade are doing perspective drawings.  And then one day – you never see it coming – they pick up pencil and draw like DaVinci.  (This is not common, because there’s such thing as finger memory, but younger son pulled this on us.  I think it was a matter of not showing us the attempts, but the psychologist says I’m wrong and it was a matter of things clicking.)  And it’s that way with everything.  And because – particularly the very smart – will ONLY learn what they’re really interested in, this means none of them will be a genius across the board, and often can approach slow in some things.

There is something we in this house call “inverse genius” most often seen in older son, but often exhibited by all three males.  It is something so stupid only a genius could think of it to do it.  (Yeah, I put my finger in the blender while forgetting to unplug it.  But it can’t be inverse genius.  I’m not a genius.)

What I’m trying to get across is that even for people who have experience of dealing with people smarter than them genius, like pornography, is often a “I know it when I see it.”

There are also cultural variations. The reason China is looking for geniuses by credential is that this is the way genius is established in their culture.  Another component, as I understand it, is that Chinese education (and thus what’s considered “very smart”) is mostly based on memorization.  (It’s the same in Portugal, actually.  I was so so at it, so I made do with wild improvisation.  It served.  But my brother, who had an eidetic memory did much better than I)

This means that though the myth is that “genius” is genius, what China is looking for under that name would not be a genius in America.

Then comes the OTHER myth (in the comments, too) where the idea is that the Chinese are doing this to further their position in international commerce.

Children, we count several geniuses and a number of Mensa members among our acquaintance.  I don’t think a single one of them is a millionaire.  (Maybe one.)  And most of them aren’t even middle management.  Hell, if you’re looking for the Mensans in a business building, you’re more likely to find them in the janitorial service than in the boardroom.  (Dilbert got that absolutely right.)

There are several reasons for this (which make raising geniuses such a challenge) including the fact that they’re likely to try to do five or six things at once (older son: art, comics, writing, graphic design for family and friends, pre-med, fencing club.  And the least said about younger son the better when it comes to how he can find a thousand different things to do) which means less concentrated effort than the mildly intelligent person who pursues only one thing.  But also, and more importantly, geniuses tend to be Odds, which means they range from not fitting into any given human group to making other people run screaming.  Reading other people is NOT usually an ability of the highly gifted, either, which means in anything involving others they’re likely to be kept out in the cold.

However, even if we grant China the idea that they’re selecting for the right “genius” – i.e. that the article is not very faithful to their idea – there are other technical difficulties.  While they might be solved mid-century, they certainly aren’t now.  To put it bluntly, and risking offending people in the commenter pool: High IQ correlates, almost always with highly undesirable characteristics of an intellectual and physical nature (which, supposing it gives geniuses any advantage over other people – debatable – still explains why genius IQ hasn’t propagated through the population like wild fire.)  Autism, in some degree, seems to be almost inescapable above a certain IQ – and when it’s not there, you get the sensory stuff younger son has.  Or you get severe auto-immune disorders.  There might also be epigenetics involved, and I’m told that the gene sequence for genius is PROBABLY the same as for utter moron.  It depends on which geniuses get flipped in gestation or after birth.

So… If they’re really trying to do this, it’s one of those crazy totalitarian eugenics things that should make all sane people shudder.

Only it doesn’t.  The educated morons in the comments were going on about how this just means China is going to dominate everything and is leave us in the dust.

Of course, these same educated morons also believe that Chinese economy is doing great… based on reports coming from within a totalitarian regime with a controlled press.

Which proves that perhaps we DO need IQ improvement.  But NOT the way the Chinese are doing it. For one I should hope we have more respect for the infinite variety of human beings than to create them to order.

*[From Hoyt’s Future History – the background to Darkship Thieves and The Earth Revolution — middle of the twenty first century, it’s discovered that Russia has been creating the first form of “mules” – babies gestated by large animals and created from sperm/ova left over from infertility treatments.  This is a way of increasing young population, in order to have enough laborers to care for the increasingly older natural population.  The children are often mentally handicapped, due to a mistiming of enzimes.]

Jokes and Conspiracies

It is of great benefit to my understanding of the world that I live with someone who isn’t plugged in to the internet as I am. Or perhaps I should say, not to the same portions of it that I am.

I mean, Dan is a mathematician, and he works hard and working from home while we appreciate it (We don’t like to be apart) has not helped with the working hours, because now the would-be commute is also work time. And, oh, look, he an go and solve that little niggling problem before bed. And… how come it’s four AM.

I’m not saying I don’t do that too, it’s that, being a writer and working for myself, I also go through times of doing deep dives on this and that, and then coming back to politics, because I’m a politics-interested critter. (It’s not that I have an interest in politics, so much as my early life showed me they have an interest in me. I don’t turn my back on it. Can’t.)

His time is more limited, and his time off — he does the taxes for all the family businesses and I’m not the only one with three — usually ends up being spent researching HIS obsessions, like music or some obscure movie thing that fascinated him for no reason I can figure out, or something about early 20th century history.

But he definitely never hung out on political blogs. Which means when I’m trying to explain why something is immediately obvious — like, DIL in training doesn’t like to eat sandwiches, so I immediately said “But you’ll still make them for my son, right? Otherwise, it’s just unnatural” three of us laughed and my husband looked confused. Because “women as sandwich makers” was not part of his mental archive. And then I had to explain how it started in the blog fights of the early oughts — I end up, more often than not having to get galoshes and a spade and go digging, until he gets how we got here.

And then I suddenly feel a weird sympathy for the left and their absolute belief we use “dog whistles” and are in the middle of some form of conspiracy.

It’s not just that they can’t meme, or are humorless (though dear Lord, that’s part of it) but the inherent structure of politics in this country — and parts of the world, though they’re behind us by a few decades — makes the two sides very different in how they communicate.

The left STILL commands all the traditional communication channels. And because they are and assume they are the “accepted” mode of being in the culture — because they have the cultural megaphones from media to education, from government mechanisms (even when nominally not) to entertainment — they communicate in the open. They just slap their “I support thing” as virtue signaling over everything, plus some. They — and this is partly personality attracted to the side — seem to change their programming over night and all talk about “new thing” in unison.

This means their mode of communication is detached from reality (often) and rests on shaky ideological/economic foundations but it’s out in the open and blared from a megaphone.

They make jokes that aren’t jokes, merely pointing out they support the thing. And they say things they think will shock the right, but they have no clue what the right is or what would shock us.

They are in a way the young girl just released from a convent school trying to shock the kids in public school. They get weird looks. We understand them, but they don’t get us at all.

Meanwhile the right comes from years of silence. Years of being silenced, and not even being able to explain it to anyone. If I had a dime for every time I told someone in the nineties or oughts ‘yeah, most bestsellers are left because the right ones who are known to be so are stopped early” and got back “Nah, the left is more creative, because they’re anti-establishment and blah blah blah.” (HOW the left, in control of everything, is supposed to be anti-establishment is a good question. I mean, sure, they do a lot of things they think are shocking, but wouldn’t shock anyone who wasn’t born in my grandparent’s generation. Look, people, naked Shakespeare was OLD HAT when I was a kid in the late sixties. Now extrapolate from that.)

At least now most people know — it took twitter, I think — that the right was being hard-silenced.

Which means most people my age who are the oldsters of the “we talk back” generation came to our own conclusions and thought we were crazy to dissent from what “everyone knew” for the longest time. No, really. We were out there, thinking we were along, but we could see no other way to make sense of things, so we stood. Alone, we thought.

A lot of my generation discovered they weren’t UTTERLY alone due to Rush Limbaugh. (I was never a big listener. I just am not. I don’t listen to podcasts, except maybe once a week. Even the audio books I listen to are usually things I already read. I don’t hear very well, and need to be sure I can “catch” what’s said, even if I miss some words.)

And most of us hit the nascent right blogosphere with two feet in the early oughts. Which is where a lot of the early memes like the “girls make sandwiches” meme comes from.

But the blogs, and particularly the blog comments, being a wild west type of atmosphere, where people who developed their opinions in isolation came together and figured out how it all fit for the first time, is a completely different form of communication from the top down, revealed truth talk on the left.

On the right, the clash between right feminist and right not particularly enthralled with feminism gave rise to “Make me a sandwich and get me a beer” as response to screeds on how you’re disrespecting some feminist shibboleth. (Particularly when women on the right hadn’t fully realized how much of the feminist “current thing” was really Marxism in a cute scarf and high heels.) And from that it got meme-fied into short hand, so you could drop a picture of an early 20th century mesmerist levitating a girl and label it “And like that this sandwich maker becomes an ironing board” and it was immediately funny, both poking fun at feminist outrage and the troglodytes or pseudo troglodytes (I’ve been known to be one of those) on our side who think women are inherently house-keepers. (And a lot of this is self-conscious mocking of the person by him/herself.)

We had to develop a sense of humor about our internal battles, including our own opinions, and we had to be able to communicate we weren’t ossified in our opinions really quickly, to prevent minor disagreements becoming blog or alliance shattering wars.

A lot of memes come from that. Because they can communicate “Yeah, this is what I think, kind of, but I’m aware it’s also funny.” Or “This is how I see your opinion. Care to clarify” in — usually — a non-offensive, quick-hit manner. A manner that allows the other person to come back with “Yabut–” Or “Funny, but in fact–“

The left doesn’t do that, because no scrapping allowed in the ranks. They value unity and directives come from above.

Beyond giving them a tragic inability to meme (Seriously, we should start a fund to send them to meme school) it also leaves them with the conviction that the right is always speaking in “dog whistles” or “code” and that we’re plotting horrible and scarifying violence against them, in these bizarre coded words.

Part of it is that we kind of due speak in a code. As I find out every time I have to translate something for not-plugged-in husband. There’s layers upon layers.

What they don’t get is that it’s not a secret code on purpose. It’s more like …. family speak. Which makes sense. I have lost my linguistics shingle in the moves, and at any rate, haven’t exerted my profession in too long to now tell you the proper terms for all of this stuff, but–

There are different types of communication for different environments. In church a sermon communicates better than whispers between the pews, say, in effectiveness. On the radio, you listen to the opinions of the performers/broadcasters. On the blog, at home, around the water cooler, around the kitchen table communication is different. And communication of equals — which is mostly what the right comes from right now — often embeds the history of how this came to mean a thing or more often how this makes us laugh.

Look at your family and chances are there is at least a joke that started in something a now-dead great grandparent said or did, and which got elaborated on or turned into shorthand for something.

Like my grandfather, once notoriously mouth-fumbled (he was one of those incredibly smart men who trips on his own words) “Veal soup” which was apparently a thing in his childhood, and he was lamenting no one made anymore into “Hand soup of cow veal” (homemade soup of veal, but ….) which in my family of birth has become the phrase that signals “You’re being tautological and fumbled the speech.”

Or my mom, in her youth, saw a woman with a one year old daughter, who had lost her her shoe. (Babies seem to drop shoes like rain.) Instead of being a sane human being who realizes a not-yet-walking kid didn’t lose the shoe on her own and can’t answer, the mother was yelling at the kid “Where’s the shoe, Aurora? You’re going to bankrupt me. First you lost a necklace, now a shoe.” My mom imitated this in crazy cakes splendor, including the accent. So, I grew up with it. Usually when mom was trying to find something that had disappeared. (And usually the spiel was aimed at herself. If at me it was as a joke. Like, she knew whatever I’d lost I’d lost because she hadn’t told me she’d need it, or didn’t tell me where to put it.) And it has transmitted to my family, particularly as younger son was known for losing his shoe. Always only one shoe. (This is why in the alternate timeline in which Dan wasn’t called to work, and we didn’t cancel our reservations for vacation in the WTC on 9/11/2001 I know exactly where we would be when the plane hit: In the room, trying to find Marshall’s missing shoe, so we could have breakfast and go out.) This means not only would we say “Where’s the shoe Aurora” to him, but when Dan came back from the car to figure out why the almost-ready shoe and wife haven’t rushed out, so we can go to church, he was likely to be met with said kid crying and said wife snarling the one word “Aurora.”

I have this head image of my great grand kids frantically looking for something, while my grand kids shout “Aurora.” And when questioned they’ll say “I don’t know. I think it’s Portuguese for “I lost something I shouldn’t have.””

Because that’s family communication. Layered and fossilized, and often leavened with humor in the cracks. Which is at this point in the twenty first century the communication to the right of Lenin. Because our origin, out of silence, was in scrappy email lists, boards and blog comments, where we didn’t want to alienate permanent allies, but some things had to be countered.

Which means some of our fossilized jokes and short hand are utterly bewildering.

Sure, the left thinks “boog” or “boogaloo” and never mind “Luau” is some super secret white supremacist short hand. (And I’m still convinced it was the reason for the tiki torches in the cos playing Nazis’ hands. Because they thought tiki and luau meant something TO US. Which they do, but not that way. And it doesn’t symbolize someone is on our side, either. For one Nazis aren’t on our side, and no, we’re not just saying that. We really hate all socialism, and all its false glamour and all its empty promises, and we don’t care if it’s international or national. You see, we understand economics. Sorry.) But then again when the left came out with the mini panic about Hawaiian shirts and thought it was signaling for a conspiracy to overthrow the government, I had to recover from a near fatal laughing fit (well, I have asthma) and explain it to my husband, going way back to the beginning.

It went something like: It started with ACWII, and because it rhymes and is funny, and also to signal this really isn’t something we want, but it still has to be talked about, softened with “Electric boogaloo.”

From there, it of course became by the end of the month just bogaloo or boog. And again, because it’s organic and language of equals, and because it allows us to make funny jokes and memes, it followed the sort-of-rhymes route to Big Igloo and Big Luau.

From there to a picture of a bunch of guys in Hawaiian shirts grilling something and explanations of how they were revolutionaries, or they’d share their recipe or something.

Now for us this makes sense, and is funny.

However if you’re the left, whose directives come from above, it’s impossible to penetrate language at that level. All they see is that suddenly, inexplicably, the references to Luaus and Hawaiian shirts are EVERYWHERE. And then they realize there are a lot of guys wearing Hawaiian shirts (Judging form science fiction cons, it’s the favored attire of late middle aged guys who have gained some weight, nothing political.)

And next thing you know the Times is reporting breathlessly on the “Boogaloo boys” who wear Hawaiian shirts and plan to overthrow the republic (From the way that disappeared, I’m assuming the Facebook group they showcased was 39 FBI agents and one young man with Aspergers who was just glad to be accepted somewhere for the first time in his life.)

It makes perfect sense from their point of view because if they were slinging “code” no one else understands around that much, it absolutely would be to coordinate an operation in which they plan to kill us all.

It never occurs to them these are just viral-propagated jokes, and at most — at most — we plan to get on their nerves and laugh. To the extent we plan anything, which ain’t much.

It also never occurs to them that we not only don’t actually want to kill them all, but we’re still praying very hard that this cup passes us by without tipping on the barbecue in the big luau. Because we know what’s actually at stake, and don’t get our idea of revolution from movies where everything is done in a couple hours and everyone goes home after disposing of the popcorn container.

Or that if/when they push us out that far, the result won’t be coded words and a carefully coordinated attack, but hell on Earth that sets fire to the very water.

And you know what? I hope they never have to find out.

As for their occasional freakouts at our “coded speech” point and laugh. It’s all we can do. But be aware the poor saps have some reason for their confusion.

They’re the establishment. Their ideas are delivered top down. They never had to communicate in funny short hand.

Which is why the more they tighten their hand the more we slip between their fingers.

Be water, my friends. And stay frosty.

Heaven And Hell

There is a theological explanation of heaven and hell that I’d like to borrow for non theological purposes.

So, in hell, everyone has a six foot long spoon, and free soup. No one can eat, because of course you can’t feed yourself with a six foot spoon. BUT in heaven, everyone has a six foot long spoon, and free soup, and everyone is well fed, because they all feed each other.

It’s cute. It’s simple. It sort of makes sense (but not. I mean, look, some of us would be cutting the spoon against some rocks. Using the scraps to make new spoons and selling them for…. something. Others would simply grumph and grab the spoon near the bowl, wildly waving the rest of the handle behind, as a protective shield. (That’s me.)) Except where it doesn’t, because if you’re required to constantly feed others…. well. If it’s heaven you’re all past a redemptive event where everything works. But in the world, with normal humans, you know it just turns to hell, because there’s always that guy, and then it ripples through the whole fabric of society, till no one will feed anyone because “f*ck that guy.”

Note that I’m not Ayn Rand. (Nor even her child by Robert A. Heinlein, whatever that chick who picked a fight with the blog said a few years ago.) I don’t try to fight altruism. Some forms of altruism are not only good, but civilization maintaining or enhancing or even necessary. Like your altruism in marriage guarantees a happy marriage. Each of the spouses should want to make the other happy. (Not unlimited, though, because if you don’t rein each other in, the other becomes a monster.) And the same with children, particularly very young children. If you’re not altruistic in looking after them, you won’t raise them. Then again, if you always do things for them, sacrificing yourself forever, you also raise monsters.

In all things you must strike a happy medium, though she’ll rarely stay happy after you strike her, to be honest.

But what we saw during the covidiocy was the result of extolling that model of heaven. “Well do all this for others, look how wonderful we are.” And that’s great, except for when the entire premise is false and there is no sparing the neighbor by your sacrifice, so you’re just depriving/destroying your life for no reason.

Mind you, I think humans have a built-in need to be self-sacrificing/do things for someone else. Maybe an evolutionary need, because if you weren’t useful to the band, you might end up in the cooking pot when things went wrong.

Which brings us to the whole heaven and hell thing again.

I realized recently that the left is inherently very unhappy. No seriously. We can be unhappy ABOUT this and that. And humans are humans, and sometimes we get very unhappy for a while. BUT the left are unhappy all the time.

I have found myself talking to people I considered sane and nice, and suddenly they start talking about how everyone needs to die/there needs to be an extinction level event for…. reasons, and only then will we have paradise.

The reasons range from of course, overpopulation/gaia/etc. to things like “because that’s the only thing that will cure us of capitalism” or “so the smart people are the only ones that survive” or whatever.

The reason is actually unimportant, what comes through in rage-flecked spite is that what they are in it for is the destruction. That’s what makes their soul sing.

How angry do you have to be to be that hateful at all of humanity, sometimes all of existence?

It took me a while to figure out how it was even possible. And then I realized…. They live in a very frustrating world. First of all, they thing that the metaphor for heaven really is, and really works, every time and perfectly, and they should feed and be fed, or even not feed, and just be fed, because why not. And everything will be perfect.

And the world is never perfect. And they’re frustrated. And they imagine that it’s perfect for other people: whiter people. People who are richer. People who aren’t them.

Because no one ever told them “Life is pain, princess. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.”

Now, this isn’t an absolute, anymore than life is perfect is an absolute. It is just that life is mixed. There is no perfection. Ups and downs.

And if you think you’re having a really hard time, maybe you are, but probably there are people out there having more challenges and doing better. Same as there are a lot doing a lot worse.

Imagining that everyone has it easier just messes society — and you.

Until you hate everyone who is not you, or you think that everyone has it better.

And then you want to kill them for whatever reason, including because you think the landscape would be prettier without them.

And that’s a good way to go to hell while looking for heaven.


If you need it, ask!

So, now you’re looking at me like I have three heads and all of them are made of Spanish Crystal. And somewhere one of you is looking at the ceiling, which we all know is where G-d resides, and asking “She’s saying that? SHE? When her family went through times from heck because for years she refused to put up a donation button? The woman who refused to have a blog fundraiser for twelve years, despite Jerry Pournelle himself telling her to do it? Is this a joke?”

Chill, this isn’t about money. Money comes into it sideways, kind of, but money is weird, because if you get used to asking then you’ll start treating money differently and might not realize there are other ways of getting it. Which is why I’ll run a fundraiser annually, yes, but I’m not coming to you for every little burp or issue. (There aren’t any, just making a statement of fact. I mean, I’m doing the fundraiser because I do the work, not for need. And GETTING the stuff to you guys is giving me white hairs on my white hairs. How is it Chinese spammers can fill my mailbox, but we get shut down trying to send two pictures and a wav file? Seriously. Never mind, all else fails I’ll post links here and put it on an honor system, but seriously. Just frustrating. End of digression.)

We all have weird relationships with money, and those of us who went through really tight times as kids have worse ones. And because I know myself and my bad habits (my relationship with money is like my relationship with food more than it should be) I never presume to give other people advice on that.

But life is more than money, even if it feeds into money.

And some of us, those of us who feel like we’re here by accident or happenstance (or disaster for the people responsible) or like we’re some gigantic cosmic joke; those of us who were “born owing money” and feel like we need to justify our existence every day are always afraid to ask.

I’ve known for a long time that one of the pathways to success in my field was to be enormously personable and interesting and then to approach people and ask for help. “Hey, my book is coming out, give me a blurb.” “Hey, I heard that you have an anthology coming out, an you help me?” Or at the very beginning “You’re a regular at Analog. Would you read my short and maybe recommend it to Stan so I get out of the slush pile?”

I saw people do it around me all the time. People with fewer contacts. People who were, let’s face it, though I didn’t think of me that way all the time, less attractive than I was. I mean, when I was trying to break in, I was twenty something, slim and exotic looking and my shyness manifested as smiling a lot.

I didn’t use it. I never asked. Yes, some of it was pride “I’ll do it by myself or dye trying.” But let’s face it, it wasn’t all of it. And I’m not stupid. I saw people way less talented than myself (You know. Particularly at the beginning, before the brow beating, you know. You see it) and who worked less hard climb ahead and get called so creative and amazing and extraordinary because they asked. They took that first step.

Most of it was “What if they say no?” “What will they think of me?” “They’ll laugh in my face” “I’ll sound like an idiot.” And on and on and on.

And so I never asked. And I paid the price. 13 years to break in and a career of fits and starts.

And there were asks in there I didn’t even know you COULD do. I kept hearing my colleagues talking about discussing plots and brainstorming with their editors and agents. People who were at my level (and then went higher.) I don’t even know where the opportunity for that came in. No seriously. But then when I had to — rarely — contact my agent or editor it was always conscious of “I make them so little money. I don’t have a right to take their time.”

Was it true? Or did they feel like I was shutting them out?

I don’t know. And now it’s much too late to ask or care isn’t it?

The point though is the problem is not just there, not just at the professional level, not just with me as supplicant.

I have trouble asking people I hire to do their jobs. Which is why I do my own covers, unless I know exactly what I want and a friend does them. Because it feels like I’m imposing. And yes, this includes house cleaners, which is why I don’t have house cleaners unless I’m sick and recovering. Even when we could afford them or even like now, when it would be an investment to allow me to finish healing and get a head start on writing. Because even though I’m paying, I get trapped in my own head “Did they mean to do it that sloppily?” “No, they just forgot.” “Don’t be demanding. You’ll come across like a rich bitch.”

And I end up paying more and more for less and less, and getting resentful, then going back to doing it myself.

I have trouble telling my husband “Hey, we haven’t had any time together. How about today we take a break and go for a walk.” I have trouble asking “Can you do the dishes? I need to finish this short story.”

(So when you guys talk about my being overwhelmed, it’s often a result of this. It’s everything.)

Thing is, I’ve been on the other end of this “just ask” — more so, as somehow, despite myself people have got the bizarre idea I have some sort of pull — when new writers ask for help. “Hey, will you read my book and push it?” “Hey, will you help me figure out what I did wrong with my short story?”

Now 90% of that I say no, or “Send it and I’ll try” which means “No” because I’m so CONSTANTLY overwhelmed. And ADD. And the last ten years, two moves, launching the boys, etc, have been like a breathless race, even without counting my politics writing and you know clown world.

If you send me things, even if I say I’ll do it and MEAN TO — my best friends have run into this — I tend to forget. So, if you’re inner circle (you’ll know if you are) and I told you I’d do it then never answer, I didn’t hate it. There’s a 99.9% chance I never opened it. Because it fell off my head. It will come to me again, in the middle of the night, and I can’t remember the title or find it on my computer.

So, I’m rather lousy at this stuff (And yes, I owe one of you a novel beginning review, and you’ve sent it, but I’ve been sick. And no, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t poke me, say once a month, because now that I’m better I’m catching up on everything, and stuff gets lost.) And I don’t in general help just anyone who asks out of the blue, because I’d never do anything else. (Same reason, having done the fundraiser, I have established a maximum monthly out of pocket to help friends and acquaintances in need. Otherwise it would all be gone in a month.) And also because I hate reading unpublished books. Understand, everything I read goes into the hopper at the back of my head, and all I need is someone who doesn’t understand what plagiarism is trying to sue me because I used a character of the same name, or who had the same color eyes or–)

BUT and this is the very important thing: I DON’T RESENT PEOPLE WHO ASK.

In fact, I tend to remember them better, because they’re trying so hard. Which means later on, when someone asks “Hey, do you know someone who has a book on blah” and I vaguely remember, I’m more likely to poke them back and go “Hey, is your book the one set in 19th century NYC, or do I have the wrong person? Oh, it’s you? Cool. I just heard of this start up that’s looking. Here. Let me put you in touch.” (These days it’s mostly short stories and anthologies, but you know –)

And yet I’m still reluctant to do it, which is stupid and irrational.

-What if they say no?

Well, by not asking you’re 100% guaranteeing the answer is no. How could it get any worse?

What will they think of me?

Most of the time they won’t think of you at all. No SERIOUSLY. The number of people who ask me to read their books is such that if I remember 1 in 19 it’s a ton. Now, if they keep asking after I explicitly say no I’ll remember and not in a good way, but that’s rudeness, not asking. Most of the time they won’t even remember you. If they do, it’s because something impressed them positively. (Unless you’re being a loon or a nag.) And that’s to the good, because most people are decent and will try to help, somehow. So, you know, if their network spits out something, they might give you a leg up.

They’ll laugh in my face

Very few people are actually demons. No, seriously. And if someone laughs at you and treats you with derision for asking, it diminishes them, not you. It just means you probably wouldn’t want them to “help” you. Walk away the better person.

I’ll sound like an idiot.

I doubt it. And if you do? We all do at times. The thing is you’ll remember those embarrassing moments FAR long than anyone else involved. If you think about it, you’ve been there for a bunch of other people’s embarrassing moments. Do you give it much thought? Well, no. It just happens, right?

The thing is, the few times I’ve managed to break my own barriers and ASK it turns out well with amazing regularity. Like, when we absolutely needed money, so I sent an unasked for resume to a college, with my credentials and the list of things I could teach (back in the eighties) I ended up with a great job that I leveraged into a better job. When I asked a friend for an introduction to a publishing house, I got to extend my traditional career 20 years beyond where it would have died.

And so on. But I still have trouble asking. And I’m still trying to fight to ask.

Literally, if you don’t ask, you never know. And you’ve been given a life, you should use all its opportunities.

(And sure, if you’re religious you should be asking there too. But most importantly you should be telling Him “This is what I’d like. I don’t even know if it’s what I need. So I’m handing it off to You. I want this. What do You think? How do I get to where I get it? Or I get to want something that’s actually better? You drive.” It makes a difference. Trust me.)

BUT on this side of things? ASK. Ask for everything. Ask even if it seems crazy.

Sure, I’m not going to write to the one billionaire fan and ask him for a million dollars. Sure, maybe he’d laugh and give it, but I doubt it, because gift taxes. OTOH I also don’t need it, and let’s face it it would create a whole other level of problems, because we’d have to set up to manage it so it would eat my life and my writing. So, you know, that would be a crazy ask.

I might however ask my husband for a walk in the park. Ask my friend to help me figure out why the paperback cover for Darkship Renegades isn’t loading. Ask my copy-editor when the next book will be ready so I can schedule the week… In fact, I am going to.

And you? Ask. Ask your spouse if he/she will cook/do dishes tonight? Ask your kids to pick up their rooms. Ask that pretty girl/handsome guy out. Ask your boss for a raise. Ask that impossible dream-job if perhaps they could use you. Ask that house seller if he can go 20k lower (A year ago that would be laugh worthy, but the times they are achanging.) Ask for extra napkins. Ask your cat to stop climbing on you (okay, that part IS crazy.)

JUST ask. You’d be amazed how many times that’s all it takes.

Remember I did the posts on everything being broken? The mechanisms for getting jobs are broken. The mechanisms for getting into relationships are broken. The mechanisms for establishing networks are broken.

This is true. It’s not an exaggeration, either. The entire structure of society, the unspoken rules, have been smashed with a hammer the last fifty years.

But it’s amazing how much you can slice through the fog by just asking.

And sometimes the people on the other end of the request are just as desperate. “Why is no one applying?” “Am I that ugly? How come no one asks me out?” “I’ve been working here for a year. How come I don’t know anyone. Don’t the guys ever go out for a beer or something?”

ASK. Asking might not be scripted or traditional, but done with politeness, at worst you’ll be forgiven for your enthusiasm.

Go. Ask.

Book Promo and Vignettes by by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Book promo

If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH



I don’t make a ton from these, something like between $20 and $25 per book. That’s not why I do them. But they eat my Saturday night or Sunday morning (mostly Sunday morning) and malfunction so often that well…. I feel better getting the price of a pizza or two movie tickets from them. (Not that we can eat pizza, and I think we went to the theater once in five years, but you know what I mean. Also, yes, I know I need donation buttons on the side, not to paypal. Now that I’ve stopped coughing out my brains, I’ll try soon?)

FIRST, under “The Author is a you know what” — the new and glorious covers for Darkships. All of them have new hardcovers now but Darkship Renegade doesn’t have a PAPERBACK because Amazon is not taking new cover, even though I can’t figure out why. (Actually it takes it, it just acts like it’s 10X larger than it is, so the entire cover that shows is a little corner of it.) It’ll resolve. I have a vague idea it’s THEIR bug.

The new one comes out next week. (Well, reissued.) Hacking the Storm, Fuse’s book is almost done and probably…. May? Around there.


Darkship Thieves

Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space.

Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. She never had  any interest in finding out the truth about the Darkships.
You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help.
But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime and perhaps a whole new world—if she managed to survive….

Darkship Renegades

When you save the world, you expect a hero’s welcome.

Maybe a ticker tape parade.

Instead, Athena Hera Sinistra and her husband Kit find themselves arrested,

threatened, accused of crimes they don’t even understand.

Tyranny has seized the free world of Eden.

With Kit wounded, his life in peril, they must go to Earth and risk all to save him.

And perhaps, perhaps, to save Eden once more.

If it can be saved.

Join Thena and Kit in their desperate quest to save the world. Again.

A Few Good Men

Lucius Dante Maximillian Keeva was born a prince…

or so close to it as makes no difference. He is the son of one of the fifty Good Men who — between them — partition and rule all of the Earth.
But for the last fourteen years, he’s been imprisoned in a small cell, in what amounts to solitary confinement.
You can’t stay sane in solitary confinement that long, not even if someone supplies you with reading material.
When Luce escapes, he finds that his family is dead and people are trying to kill him. He doesn’t respond as a sane man would.
It is just as well.
Restoring a constitutional republic to a world gone mad, five hundred years after the fabled USA vanished from the face of the Earth is not a job for a sane man.
And Luce Keeva is just the madman for the job.

Through Fire

Zen Sienna is a woman from another world and does not want to become the wife of a ruler of Earth. But she also doesn’t know how to escape the man’s courtship.

Which is just as well, because when a revolution happens, she turns out to have the skills to stay just one step ahead of the corrupt revolutionaries and the insane government to keep herself and those she comes to love alive and lead them to triumph.

Follow Zen in a harrowing adventure where a stranger in a strange land proves herself the most qualified to survive.

(And yes, there are paperback and hardcover editions, Amazon is just not linking them. I’ll figure out why. It’s also not integrated with the Baen edition. SIGH.)


Now onto the other ones. The actual interesting people!


John Wolff has been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Again. He’s already saved the love of his life from an early death – thirty years after she died. Now, a beautiful young woman, who is clearly his daughter, has appeared from the timeline branch where that same love of his life survived and married his counterpart. She says they need his help fighting off invaders from the far future. Who, by the way, are looking for him. Why? Because they want the starship drive he and a friend invented, the precursor to their time machine. Problem is, in her timeline, it hasn’t been invented yet. What man can resist a cry for help from his own daughter? Particularly when the invaders think she’s a saint. Or possibly, a devil wearing saint’s clothing. And they’re looking for her, too. Thus begins the Timelines Saga, and the story of the Lion of God.

FROM KAREN MYERS: On a Crooked Track: A Lost Wizard’s Tale


A clue has sent Penrys back to Ellech, the country where she first appeared four short years ago with her mind wiped, her body stripped, and her neck chained. It’s time to enlist the help of the Collegium of Wizards which sheltered her then.

Things don’t work out that way, and she finds herself retracing a dead scholar’s crooked track and setting herself up as a target to confirm her growing suspicions. But what happens to bait when the prey shows its teeth?

In this conclusion to the series, tracking old crimes brings new dangers, and a chance for redemption.


In a brutal cross-dimensional Empire where everything is about ownership and control, and the strongest mentalists rule . . .
Karl Traeger has a problem.

His elderly father has died, and sixteen-year-old Karl is going to be at the mercy of very unsavory relatives.
And since he’s the oldest of his generation—ahead of his cousins in the line of inheritance—he knows his uncle will never Present him: never allow him to demonstrate his fitness for the title of Lord. No, he’ll be one more brain-chipped servant.
But maybe if he moves quickly, before anyone knows his father is dead . . . he can save himself, then get to work saving the people he cares about—maybe even save his budding antiques business.

A stand alone novella in the Fall of the Alliance Series.

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Like a Continental Soldier (Waking Late Book 3)

The starship Valerie Hall failed to reach the terraformed world of its original destination. Instead, it found a habitable substitute where the settlers split into two factions. First Landing devolved into a rude replica of medieval despotism. Seccon might promise more.

Or so hope Gilead Tan and his companions.

Gilead spent three centuries in cold sleep, held there by a First Landing custom that decreed only one sleeper could be awakened every fifty years. Once awake, Gilead freed two dozen of his fellows—all soldiers like himself—and led them into the wilderness.

Close to two hundred civilians still lie trapped in the decaying cryo-cells of First Landing. Their captive slumber haunts him.

But despite its vaunted freedom, Seccon has one rule. No one goes back to First Landing.

LEIGH KIMMEL: A Hymn for Those Who Fall Forever.

Endings always hurt, but Vitali Grigorenko never expected a nightmare in orbit.

Assigned to command the last flight of the orbiter Baikal, Vitali had started the mission in a nostalgic mood. That went out the airlock when he saw the body tumbling through space just beyond the flight deck windows. A body in NASA blue, not Russian tan.

Now he’s trying to get to the bottom of a murder in space, and his own country’s space program as much a hindrance as a help. It’s becoming clear that politics is involved, on both sides of what used to be the Iron Curtain, and he’s going to need to go clear to the top.

A short story of the Grissom timeline.

DAVID COLLINS: The 2,000 Year War (Wars Without End Book 1)

The war between different alien groups had been going on for over 2,300 years. But Keith Robinson didn’t know anything about that. He assumed that the job he had applied to was to work on an arctic research ship. He thought that he would be assembling parts for upgraded sonar buoys. He thought wrong.

The AI on the derelict spaceship wasn’t opposed to lying if that could finally get the ship repaired. Hiring a repair technician from the primitive planet Earth was a crazy plan. And even crazier, it worked.

After salvaging an alien ship Keith finds himself owner of his own ship. But something is deadly wrong in the depths of space. With the help of a temperamental AI, Keith then manages to rescue several alien refugees from stasis pods on damaged ships.

They head off to one more promising location, a supposedly minor mining station, so insignificant, they had hoped the war had missed it.


This is a collection of the last few months of pamphlets and booklets. I wanted to get it done this year so it’s a bit shorter than my other books. I’ve also organized it differently. I’ve grouped the material together by subject matter, trying to move in a general direction of different aspects of the world we’re in now. Side B is a more overarching analysis of what is going on overall. I don’t know if I come to any great conclusions but hopefully it will be a better reading experience.

As always, I did run an ongoing stream of news headlines in-between each article, just to keep the flow. I’ve never figured out why I decided to do these books that way but I’ve always liked it so I need to find some reason to justify it.

This is a very dark time and it’s not going to get better for any of us for a long time. Hopefully I’ve done something to help you start a resistance, or even going on strike. We can’t let these tyrants win, whatever it takes. May God have mercy on us because nobody in this world will.

BY HAL ANNAS VIA D. JASON FLEMING: The Sundering Cosmos (Annotated): The epic pulp space opera classic.

Surrounded by violence and intrigue, a frightened girl vowed to do everything in her power to bring peace to the planets.

Why, then, was her every act destined to bring more bloodshed and betrayal to those she loved best?

  • This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving historical context to this novel.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

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

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

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: RAIN


Sorry guys, I feel like I’ve been really bad this week, and like I’m a complete slacker.

It’s just been hard to concentrate, partly because the autoimmune is really bad, partly because there’s a lot of family/home stuff going on. All good, but distracting, you know?

So the writing is coming back, but always comes back “fun stuff first.”

I did send Barbarella out, but I haven’t finished the short story. Probably tomorrow, but by the time I gave up because

It was too late to write a blog post. As in, I don’t remember what I was going to write, though I remember the title was home truths. (Only heaven knows why.)

My brain will eventually grow back after I coughed it out these last two months, and next week should be better.

In the meantime remember that we live in clown world.

If it gets in your face, steal the nose.

Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.


So it occurs to me I should let you know I’m alive.

It’s just Cheese! Penguins! Wife!

Which in our house is the way to say “I’m going nuts.”

I’m really late on all deadlines. The pred prescription is held up, and benadryl messes me up. (Is held up. We changed insurance. Things are being weird, yo.) So I can take benadryl and not work because I feel drunk, or not take benadryl and itch all night and not sleep.

BUT I’m finishing the refargain Barbarella script before my editor trusses me like a goose or something, because I’m holding the team up.

And then Father Murphy needs to finish fighting demons.

Posts…. later. Sorry.

Yes, there are tells of mid-journey art. BUT the robot looks like I’m feeling. Like it’s spinning in place AND falling apart.

I Wanna Be Loved By You

This is not going to be a long post. Look, we had to go to the doctor because my back is blowing up with eczema, and I’m picking up a prescription for prednisone later.

I’m not as bad as most people on prednisone. Or perhaps I’m just naturally nicer or something. I don’t get “raging *sshole syndrome.” It just removes my governor, so if you get on my nerves I will be what Heinlein called a fool or a sadist. (Only a fool or a racist tells the unvarnished truth in social settings – RAH.) But I don’t go out of my way to be mean. I just…. in brain, out of mouth. Most of my fans think I’m incredibly amusing when I’m on pred. Can’t say it’s a shared amusement, but apparently it’s fun from the outside.

And that brings me to the point of this post: People, but particularly women want to be liked by the community. Why do I say particularly women? Because it seems to track across cultures, and I think it’s evolutionary. Teenage to middle age women seem to lose all their self-confidence and just want to fit in to the group. Our idiots try to create self confidence in them, but it does not work.

I think it was designed to integrate women marrying into another band/different family as seems to be the standard in 99% of places, and allowed them to acculturate and be adopted as members.

Anyway, most women are like that but around our mid thirties to early forties, we get psychlogical prednisone, at which point we start being ourselves as hard as we can, and telling the truth and not caring.

I was reminded of all this yesterday when I had to explain to some fans/friends that I actually used to be very quiet and afraid to offend people.

Mind you, I still don’t like offending people.

But I was so quiet and scared of giving offense and “what if they don’t like me?” that I can almost understand the left’s “Politics by fitting in” “I support the current thing.”

And then it shed. First slowly, then all at once.

Do I want to offend people? Well, no. But am I willing to lie not to offend people?

Heck no. Best I can do most of the time, if the confrontation isn’t needed is to zip my lip. (Unless I’m on prednisone.)

If an answer is needed I tell the truth.

I’d like to say I was probably more agreeable before, but now? Now I am more me. And far less neurotic.

Because some people are going to be offended and hate you no matter what you do.

Don’t give them power over you.

Je suis comme je suis, je plais a qui je plais.

Blurbs, Covers, expectations and Rumors

Yesterday, while I was in the middle of an overdue short story (no, not that one, another one. Look, when you’re sick for a solid two months, you end up being late on a lot of things) one of the regulars (Janglionpress) left a comment on my blog which was jaw droppingly stupid.

Part of the reason it was jaw-droppingly stupid is that it amounted to “tell me you never read the book you’re complaining about without telling me you never read the book you’re complaining about.” The other part was because it amounted to calling the author an idiot or deceitful, at length in her own blog.

The THIRD reason it was jaw droppingly stupid was because it made it absolutely clear that there were rumors going on about this book in Baen’s bar (for those who weren’t habitues, it was a pretty big forum till about 2010 when an update killed it. I haven’t been able to access it since But the comment made it pretty clear that there was a rumor circulating about the book, and that a lot of people bought it, hook line, sinker and little tinkle bell.)

Now, there’s only one way to deal with concentrated stupidity of this calibre, combined with the fact that the author of the comment seems to be completely confused over what offends her about the book: whether it’s the fact that it has gay characters or that “it changes halfway”. It doesn’t change halfway. It is like all of my books a action/pause/action/pause/action/pause book. the pause always ends in an explosion of some sort.

I went to bed — two hours ago — and kept turning the insanity in my mind. There were two things I could do: respond to it, as I did on the comment section, and then ignore it. Or answer it on the blog post, in detail.

Now the second is more satisfying, of course, but is it wise? After all, this is a regular.

The thing is, you see, that what I finally hit was the realization I HAD to answer it on a blog post. For one because I would like to sleep tonight. But also because the comment whether it’s on the crest of a long-ago whisper campaign or not will give people a completely wrong idea of what that book is and what it contains.

That is, any of you who haven’t read that book will think I stop halfway through a mil-sf (I don’t write mil-sf) and start writing gay erotica (I don’t write erotica, gay or otherwise. In fact, when I’ve tried to kind of do write anything sexy, I’m told not to even try, because I can’t do it. It’s not how my brain works. I can write romance, but contrary to rumors my space operas are not romances. They don’t have romance beats or sex. at best they’re space operas with romantic subplots.) So this idea will get people to pick up the book who will be very disappointed in it and hate me, or get people who would have enjoyed the book to not pick it up.

So… here is the comment, in all its bizarre, contradictory, but very assured and angry glory, in italics, with my answers in normal text.

And you know, Janglionpress, you should definitely feel in good company. The last person who caused me to do this was a writer for the Esquire. This is the level of intelligence you’ve achieved. I hope it’s not permanent. I never had the impression you were mainlining dumbassamine before.

Going to say something that might get me in trouble. Feel free to moderate it if you want.

Here’s a thing, you know, those instincts exist for a reason. When we told people on my conference in the bar not to comment with “I don’t know if this is right, but you can delete if you want” it was because when you start something that way, you know you’re attacking and generally being a raging ass, but you are trying to get away with it by saying “you can delete if you want.”

When you’ve had an approved comment on my blog, if I then “moderate” what you get is the impression you were SO right I had to erase you.

You aren’t right, and you’re not going to be erased. It’s much worse than that. You’re going to be answered.

My beef with the Baen edition of A Few Good Men was that neither the cover nor the blurbs I saw gave any hint of the gay romance angle, and I was left to discover a subplot which didn’t interest me, which kicked up around the time the pacing slowed down, and the initial plot developments that interested me had been been at least temporarily resolved.

Okay. First, neither the cover nor the blurbs gave a hint of this, because it’s not what the book is about. The book is an American revolution in the future. Yes, the characters happen to be gay and yes, they become emotionally involved, but it’s not in any way shape or form a romance. For those who haven’t read it, a friend yesterday pointed out you can choose to believe they’re just close friends and the book still makes perfect sense.

As for “it wasn’t on the cover or the blurbs” — you do realize I didn’t have anything to do with those, right? Because in trad pub, you don’t.

BUT more importantly — tell me you didn’t read the book without telling me you didn’t read the book — you KNOW Luce — the voice character — is gay in the first chapter. Nothing gross (this book doesn’t even have impure thoughts, for crying out loud. There is no “look how he fills that jumpsuit”) but he is haunted by the ghost of his dead lover. Who is male. So, if you crack the book, you know from the first chapter that he’s male and interested in males.

ALSO because this is the THIRD book of the series, you know there’s a relationship subplot. Because there is in the other two.

I actually don’t have any idea when you think the action “slowed way down and issues had been resolved”. At NO time are issues resolved. Not even — completely — in the end, though there is indeed a marked slow down and wrap up in the last half chapter. It’s called a conclusion.

I suspect the rumor you heard is because the character doesn’t go to the front, and isn’t a military commander. The people who expected it had “Kirk problems.” You don’t put your most symbolic asset, the one that can rally people around him by virtue of his position on the front lines. He still does a lot of stupid sh*t after the war starts, tries to get involved in putting down an insurrection, is involved in rescuing the island from an invasion and takes out a space station.

That takes us to the wrap up, pretty much.

So, what the heck are you talking about actually? Yes, some people who — unlike you — actually read it (Let this be a lesson to you, child, not to believe rumors) whined that they wished I had followed the other character to the front lines.

This was because of the cover Baen chose, which — AT THE TIME — I told them denoted mil sf. But if you had read me by then, you probably would have known I don’t do mil sf. I can’t. It’s not that I can’t do action, it’s that I can’t keep ranks and procedure straight. I think you have to have had a lot more experience with it than I did to be able to do it. Or you have to at least RPG it. I never did. I’ve read a lot of military biography and fiction, but I can’t internalize it enough to write it.

This could be considered a “bad fit for Baen” but only by the time I came in. Baen used to have more range.

At any rate those people didn’t dislike the book, or complain of the relationship. They just wanted a few Mil SF characters. I’d have had to jump heads 2/3 through the book, and it would be weird in a first person book even if I could do it.

A lot of Baen readers would yowl just as hard about a hetero romance introduced in similar fashion, and I daresay they would get a somewhat respectful hearing when yowling.

Again, with tell me you never read the book. OR the other books in the series. None of them are romances, but all have a relationship component. Mostly because my characters need someone to kick them in the butt into action sometimes. (I’m not alone in this, btw. Most of Heinlein had a relationship component. So does Prince Roger, to pull one mil sf series out of my hat, for instance.)

AFGM has less of a relationship component than Darkship Renegades. No one yowled about Darkship Renegades. Though the action slows a lot more and becomes internal there. (Well, pardon me, one editor howled. I suspect the same personality that put about rumors this book was “gay romance.”)

The personality and inclination of the characters is known from chapter one, even if you never read the other two books.

And no, they wouldn’t get a respectful hearing, because with due respect, thinking or saying I ‘write romance’ ALSO proves you’ve never read romance.

The new cover at least nods to that aspect of AFGM, although I don’t know how obvious it is to people who aren’t already familiar with the story. New amazon blurb does not. At least some of the hostility you’re seeing is probably people who feel that, because this aspect of the story isn’t signaled that clearly, you are trojan-horsing content they don’t find appealing into a book that otherwise sounded interesting to them. (Yes, they probably should pay more attention to the book categories. I’d be prepared to bet that a lot of people don’t though.)

Um… The character shows he’s gay in the first chapter. Hell of a trojan horse. It has a big sign in front saying “I am full of soldiers.”
I’m not actually seeing hostility. Well, now I’ve seen yours, I guess. And I kind of wonder why you think it’s okay to come to a professional writer’s blog and tell her that on a book that continues to sell pretty well she’s so incompetent she can’t foreshadow. I don’t know why you thought this was a good comment to make, but hey, to each his own.

WHAT I DID SEE was not hostility, it was people who saw “gay” and decided I had an agenda. And therefore said things like “every good character is gay” and “every hetero character is evil” which is bullshit, since one of the genuine heroes of the book is Abigail who is very straight. Oh, Nat’s dad is also straight and not a villain. Just for an example. And frankly MOST PEOPLE IN THE BOOK ARE STRAIGHT AND NOT VILLAINS. But that comment was stupid, not hostile. I didn’t meet hostility till your comment. And boy, is it a load of hostility.

Again, as anyone who has read the book, even though there’s no sex, and no “um, um, um, he sure looks good in that jumpsuit” EVERYONE who can read knows Luce is gay in the first chapter. Go ahead. Read it. It’s in the free sample on Amazon, I am sure. I’ll wait.

Now about the blurb: Lady, are you out of your ever loving mind, or did you lose your marbles on the way to the blog? No, it wasn’t in any kind of gay category for Baen. I don’t know if it’s now, but Amazon is weird. I know they put it in the LGBTQ category, but frankly it’s one of those cringe moments, because anyone picking it up because of that is going to be horribly disappointed. It’s not the theme or the point of the book.

WHAT precisely do you want me to put on the blurb? “Oh, yeah, while leading a USAian revolution, he also falls in love with a guy?

What would be the point of that? OR do you want me to put in “There is a gay romance?” That would be pretty dumb, since then people would pick it up expecting the book to have let’s say a lot more kissing and physical action (as in, more than none) OR at the very least some salacious thoughts. And they’d be disappointed and tell everyone not to read me.

It is actually and for real the 21st century, and we all know some people are gay. The book doesn’t endorse or promote being gay. It doesn’t campaign for gay marriage or push the “everyone has to accept gays” even. It just has characters who happen to be gay.

If you choose to believe they just become very close friends and battle companions (not implausible as traumatized as both are) it will not in any way affect your enjoyment or understanding of the story.

So…. what are you asking for, PRECISELY? A trigger warning? “Warning, this book contains people who have a mean, evil nasty orientation and might hurt your lilac scented feelings.”

You know what, if you’re going to get triggered that easily, you’re on the wrong side of the isle.

Am I saying you should love the book? Oh, sweetie. I don’t think you have the reading comprehension to UNDERSTAND it. So, don’t bother, okay? Go read something with smaller words.

On the serious side — I don’t expect anyone to love my books. I don’t even expect anyone in particular to love every one of my books. Some people love one series and hate the other. A lot of people love shifters and hate Darkships and vice-versa.

I write a lot of very varied stuff. Almost by definition if you love some you’ll hate others. But that’s why Amazon has samples. And I think Baen did too, actually. Not that it matters, since you could have read the sample on Amazon. And since you’re offended by the possibility of a character being gay, even if it just is and determines his actions, but not the direction of the …. theme of the book, you’d have plenty of warning in that first chapter.

As far as the hermaphrodite species book is concerned: not my thing, but won’t waste my energy or yours commenting about it,

Aw. Aren’t you? Why? Dumbassamide wearing down? Again, listen up, kid: you don’t get to tell me what I write or not, but FOR THE RECORD: how do you know it’s not your thing? Go ahead, splutter. I’ll wait.

Oh, I know, it’s because someone told you AFGM is all chock full of gay romance. So, you know this book is going to be full on hermaphrodite action, right?

Sweetie, if I could write that stuff, I’d be cranking it out by the bucket full. I’d be rolling in money. I’d be sleeping in a house full of money, on a mattress made of money.

Unfortunately it’s not how my head works.

I only mentioned the hermaphrodite book to explain that some idiots — are you on some kind of medication? — might think it was a trans thing. It’s not. It is very much against the idea that gender “is a construct.”

Or are you offended by the very idea that someone in SF/F could write hermaphrodites?

If that’s the case, I owe some serious apologies to some puppy kickers who kept claiming we’d never heard of The Left Hand of darkness.

unless a truth in advertising issue crops up. When you get it done and published, please don’t be coy about it in the blurb.

Oh, truth in advertising is it? Again I’m supposed to guess what offends you and give you full warning on the blurb?

Look, I don’t have the time at four in the morning to go check the blurb for The Left Hand of Darkness, but the one I read long ago had NOTHING about the planet being hermaphrodites on the blurb. It was a surprise when I read that “the king was pregnant” but you know, I was fourteen and I’d read SF/F before, so I rolled with the punches. What offended me about it was sloppy worldbuilding designed to validate the author’s beliefs. This, c’est domage, was also not on the blurb. Which is probably a good thing, because if it were I’d never have read the book, and might never have tried to write science fiction.

No. I’m not going to put on the blurb “the hero finds himself in a planet of hermaphrodites.” You know why not? Because of what I wrote above. “IF I could write that stuff I’d be so rich.” But I can’t. And sucker punching people looking for that stuff is wrong. So it might say they were “tragically genetically modified” and, of course, the second chapter is in that world, so you know…. people can figure it out. And if they don’t like it, they can not buy it or return it to KU.

I can’t possibly be the only person who sometimes stops reading books because something kicks me out, like their worldbuilding involving magicians who don’t actually do anything magical, to mention a recent reject whose title I can’t even remember.

No. I’m not going to distort my whole blurb and my marketing to stop you from reading a sample and figuring out you don’t like it. For the love of light fandango, it’s not like ten minutes after it’s up someone won’t be making jokes on the blog comments.

You’re — presumably — a big girl. Put on your big girl pants and stop wha wha whaing that you found something in a book you didn’t like. (Or more likely, because I give you the courtesy of assuming you’re at least semi-literate, because you heard rumors I sneakily put a gay romance in a mil sf book. The rumors were bullshit. The book is not mil sf, and there is no gay romance. And any semi-literate person would know the character is gay from chapter one.)

Go in peace and don’t leave stupid and insulting comments on my blog; particularly not comments that will mislead people about what I write.


Now, for the rest of you who haven’t lost your minds, two notes: the cover above is the new cover for A Few Good Men. I’ll be uploading it probably Wednesday unless it’s Thursday. There’s also new covers for Darkship Thieves and Darkship Renegades. I’ll put them on the bottom.

Second note: “But Sarah, why write gay characters at all?”
Well…. as most of you know who hang out here, I write what I write, because it’s what is there to be written. This thing isn’t entirely under my control.
“BUT people will think you’re pushing gayness!” Only if they don’t know me. Now, granted most readers don’t know me, till they stumble onto the book on Amazon.
Will it turn off a good number of readers. Sure. Look, I myself didn’t pick up a space opera because the BLURB goes on and on about how this space captain is gay. The story sounded interesting, but the prominent of “she so gay” on the blurb gave me the impression it was a central thing to the book. And I’m so tired of that crap.
OTOH I have no problems reading gay characters where the main point isn’t their orientation. (I liked Island In The Sea of Time.)
So, will it lose me readers? Yeah. Likely. But maybe not more than the fact I have a female name. Because in our troubled times, that’s already a bad sign.
Then why do I do it?
Because you don’t win a culture war by staying away from the confrontation. Yeah, I could put these stories in the drawer. (Though that’s kind of a violation of my principles.) BUT the point is, if every book that has a gay character out there is pushing a crazy agenda, people start thinking that anyone who simply is gay is pushing an agenda.

Now you can think it’s a sin (my religion believes it is a sin, but there are a lot of sins, and I’m out of stones) but I know gay people who are decent, moral human beings. I know a lot of them who are on our side. (Some trans too, of those for whom even “fake looking like the other gender” is a relief.) It’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember that individuals are individuals. Because where we’re going, whether you approve of them or not (you don’t have to approve of anyone. I sometimes don’t approve of me) we need the aid of all men of good will, so we don’t flip from the hellish landscape of the left to a mirror image that’s equally hellish and which again prioritizes the group over the individual.

I have a vested interest into not flipping over into that. You see, I’m female, and I tan. And I have no intention of being punished for the sins of the woke.

IF the only gay characters (or Latin, or black, or purple with polka dots) you read are leftist caricatures, you’ll letting the left claim those portions of the population and convince them you hate them for existing. And all their friends. And all their relatives. And all the acquaintances who know they’re decent human beings.

And that’s how you end up with locked-in electoral blocks that are willing to vote for crazy socialists.

More importantly, when you don’t engage in the culture wars by having off beat characters that the left claims as theirs, you are turning yourself into a caricature of what the left thinks you are

Now, again, you’re not required to like — YOU’RE not required to READ — any of my books. But if you, knowing me, think I’m writing a book to push some kind of crazed leftist agenda, let me tell you, there’s only one answer to that. Excuse me a moment.

Okay, I asked the minotaur and he says I should say “moo”.

And if you think I’m writing romance and putting it up as space opera, you really must think I’m allergic to money or something. Because, let me tell you, I could be making money hand over fist, IF I could actually write romance.

Below, the new covers for DST and DSRenegades. (There is also one for Revenge and one for the one yet-to-be finished, Fuse’s book, Hacking the Storm. Oh, what the heck. I’ll post those too. Darkship Defiance isn’t started, and I haven’t thought of the cover yet.)