Category Archives: Uncategorized

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

*Haven’t got a post from the Oyster.  He’s probably playing with his forks. Seriously, not a reproach, I know what his life gets like, and he does this for free.
As for me, I’m dressing to go to the airport and will be back home in some hours.  I feel dead, but that is more that the antibiotic level I’m taking is ALMOST anti-Sarah, because of the levels and compensating for the prednisone.  I hate antibiotics that make you feel like your internals were liquified and hurt all over. Anyway, back home, with not as much written as I wanted to, but hey, that’s life. -SAH*

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: Hair

Bright Shiny Buttons

Okay, ladies, gentlemen and small fuzzy animals.  Vignettes are postponed till tomorrow, when there might also if Oyster has time, be a promo post.

This is the time in the blog where (Giovanni Guareschi readers will get this) I turn the picture of Heinlein to the wall, put my hands on my hips and speak in my own way.

Before we start, I want to point out this is my one and only post on this sh*t and that it is done ONLY to be my one and only post on this thing, because a) I have a job.  (Three, actually, if you count insty and pjmedia, but who’s counting?) b) I don’t have time to get into playground fights. c) Did I mention I have a job?  And a family? And friends?  All whom come before playground fights.

You know “why does it always have to be snakes?”  In my case it’s “why does it always have to be the attacking stupid?”  And more importantly why does the attacking stupid have to strike while I’m really busy, away from home and trying to finish work before a convention?

It never fails.  It’s like I send “I’m out of home and busy” beacons throughout the world and the stupid go “Oh, great time to have fight with my mirror and pretend it’s Sarah.”  It looks something like this:


The last time this happened it was because the VolksDeutsche Expatriate decided it was a great time to fight with me on the meaning of being American while I had cued up posts and was a space convention minding my own business.  He was all:


While I was all:


And he got so mad that he faked a tweet from me saying I’d punch him. Which is quite insane because a) I don’t tweet. b) If I ever threatened anyone in public, I’d threaten to have them have something silly happen to them, like being eaten by a komodo dragon.


Or maybe danced to death by a secretary bird:


But mostly I don’t threaten people, certainly not with anything physical, because my life is like this:


And if it weren’t, I’d rather it be like this:

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a physical fight. I never want to be in another again. And frankly I don’t have much use for online fights again, because my life is mostly like this:


This time the sequence is, if anything, even more bizarre. On Tuesday Amanda Green asked me to swap days with her at MGC. It has occurred to me I should give people reassurance I didn’t forget I promised, long ago, to put up a Sad Puppies Permanent page to become a review and recommend site which might give indies (in all fields, not just SF a chance to shine.) Back then (I’m sure you can find the post if you look at MGC) I said we were bringing the movement in for a landing, decoupling it from apparent pursuit of awards (apparent? Yeah. More on that) and retiring the name with dignity to become a place to find books you want to read.

Now, when I put up that post, many months ago, I was very surprised at getting this reaction from a bunch of blogs supposedly on our side:

They were all like “why does she think we need a review/recommend site, when we already have this one.” So in the post at MGC I tipped my hat to the right, pointed out that yes, I read their reviews but we had different sensibilities. (Some of them, at least, draw the review line on the philosophy of the author. Eh, to each his own, right.)

My horribly offensive post is here: About those lost puppies.

Understand I posted this because I felt mildly guilty, the same way I feel mildly guilty about being late sending out books and shirts and stuff promised to fans, because this year has entailed a month of auto-immune attack for every two months well, and since I have more deliveries than UPS, when I’m finally well, I have to catch up on that month of lost work.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom, because they’re all like this:


And I’m all like this:


THE POINT of the fight for the Sad Puppies was never to get the Hugos, to conquer the Hugos or to hold the Hugos in perpetuity. It was simply to show that the fight was rigged and in the possession of a small clique.

THIS was amply proven by Larry and Brad, and if more was needed, Kate did a double reverse maneuver and actually proved that even if you did EVERYTHING they wanted you to do from open nomination, to more than the slots per category, to actually attending conventions and being very very nice, they would still attack you if you weren’t one of the club.

To continue participating in the Hugos at all after that would be stupid. Like this:

We’ve proven the dot isn’t there to catch, you’re never going to catch it, if you caught it it wouldn’t be worth anything, and frankly those of us in possession of more than a back brain understood both that the fight was never really over the Hugos and that we were never going to catch it. And at some point, it was going to stop and come in for a landing, while we went back to something more productive, like this:

Because this is how we actually make a living, and this is what matters to us. (More about awards in a moment.)

We figured the Chorfs would be celebrating their making of the Hugo more selective with this maneuver:


Vile 666 would be throwing a party like this:

The VolksDeutsche Expatriate would be commanding his armies like this (Only with a photo of himself behind him):


And we’d be:


So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?


The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

What I do understand however is that the idea of bringing the movement for a landing was absolutely right, because in the middle of their bilge, these derp canoes made it a point of saying we should save our fight until we “push the SJWs out of publishing.”

This was so crazy I kind of glossed over it, until an alert reader answered that point and then I was like:


And then I was like:


1- This is EXACTLY what we were accused of by the left and the media. Do you mean you guys on the right believed it? Wow.

2 – This was never part of our intention, because we’re not crazy. Most of us are Americans who believe in freedom of speech. You’re allowed to write whatever you want to. And we’re allowed to point and laugh or simply ignore it.

3- How in actual heck do you propose to “push someone out of publishing”? Newsflash for those who live in backward European countries — there’s indie. Anyone can publish. Sure, you can destroy anyone’s readership, maybe (only you can’t if they’re on the left, unless you’re more left than they are) but how do you plan to make sure they don’t change names and publish again?

4- It is possible to block people from awards, which is what the left has been doing. But awards are THEIR game, because they’re a way to get tenure and better teaching salaries. What do they mean to us? Not a heck of a lot. So pushing them out of the awards would be a lot of work that gains us nothing, particularly since they’ve changed the rules so they can’t be pushed out.

5- If you somehow DID manage to push them out of TRADITIONAL publishing (which was never a Sad Puppies objective and which we DO NOT approve of), you’d not push them out of sales, distribution, or any of the other places now owned by the left, so you’re kind of like:


That’s what you want to do? Fine. We’ll:


You rock on. But we will be like this:


Because awards are a game of the left. And a game of authors with a great big following. My books sell okay, but I’m not yet where I could win a Dragon, or where it would do any good for my career, because you know what? Amazon rankings don’t lie. Someday, maybe.

Until then I’ll be doing this:


And you should too.

And Sad Puppies will be a review and recommend side, everything working out this next week.

You want to have a fight with establishment SF? We might even hold your coat. Depending on how sane you are.

BUT you can’t call it Sad Puppies, a name associated with OUR names and therefore of importance to us.

I understand you don’t approve of what I’m doing. I just fail to see why I should care.


This is my last statement on all of this. You guys carry on fighting Mirror-Sarah because I’m busy.


I’m Away, Doing Writing

We’re at an undisclosed location for a writing weekend.  I’m sorry.  I meant to post, but I have a ton of things to catch up, since I am FINALLY over the auto-immune and medicated for the ear infection.


I’ll TRY to do Grant today, but no promises.



Yeah, I’m back on the future history and the Usaian faith.  I know it starts somewhere in the 21st century.  Way too meta, but my name ain’t Hubbard, so ignore that.

I took yesterday off to write, and because I’m actually cursed (right?) I immediately came down with a severe ear infection.  This is not unusual when tapering on prednisone. It’s just… normally not ears.  Anyway, I did the thing I usually do and tried to ignore it, but when I was sweating and crying with pain, I got dragged to the doctor, and am now on antibiotic and better.  Not fully well (duh) but not crying in pain, which I count as a win.  I might even get some work done today.

And speaking of the Usaian faith.  One of you is cute when I mention it, and says she’s not a Usaian but an American, but the two are distinctly different.  I called it Usaian for a reason, partly because I heard it used as a pejorative in international boards (yeah, I know) and we have an history of taking those and using them with pride.  See Yankee.

But I used the term, because I needed a different term from “American.”

I went to school with two American twins.  You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, because they were as Portuguese as they can be. But they bragged of their status, because — get this — they got money from the US every month.

Now back then I saw nothing unusual about this.  In Portugal, you do get paid per-child.  It’s called “family allowance” and it wasn’t a heck of a lot, but you got some money every month (not money back on taxes, just money.)  Now I suspect that these chicks were on some form of assistance for poor families (still most, but at the time all of Portugal would qualify, by income.)  Because they went to the embassy every month to collect a check.  And their entire family lived off it, an upper-middle class lifestyle.

You see, their mother was on a bonafide tourist visa, and went into premature labor as they landed.  They saved the twins who, born on American soil, were American.  In the legal sense, that is.  There was no sign they were American in any other way.

“But Sarah, you say, that’s because nationality of birth on the soil is stupid.  But people who have lived here for centuries, whose ancestors came over if not on the Mayflower, on a decently later ship, are SURELY American.”

You’d think so, wouldn’t you?  I think the founders thought it was impossible for anyone who knew the country not to love it.  Hence, the citizenship rules we have.

However, go through the old families in New England. 90% of them are exquisitely well educated in the best schools, and ideological international socialists.  A lot of them, in fact, amount to a fifth column on our soil, the boot of the occupier on our neck.  The fact that they were turned by a would be occupier who then collapsed from within doesn’t change the fact they are in all but name enemy agents.

But they are AMERICAN.  They were born here.  So were their ancestors.  (And we all know three generations of magic soil will do it.  After all experts assure us of this.  Just like the other experts assure us that being born here would do it.)

Their vote counts as much as mine and yours.

In most countries this would make perfect sense.  Nationality and tribe are roughly covalent in use, if not in fact.  What I mean is though there is a heck of a lot more miscegenation between countries in Europe than you’d think (no, really. Not just the normal people with wandering feet, but you know, invaders, war, economic exiles, religious exiles, you name it.  All of them leaving DNA behind) each nation thinks of itself as the US thinks of races.  (Which is a largely fictitious thing in the genetic sense in the US also.  Anthropologists have a technical term for American blacks: Caucasian.)  They think of themselves as tribes or clans, or sometimes related tribes or clans (the North and South of Portugal despise each other, but will admit they’re closer to each other than say to Spaniards.  And they admit they’re closer to Spaniards than to Frenchmen.  you get the point.) So being born there means you’re likely to intermarry with the tribe.  And if your family stays there for generations, you already have.

But America is something else: it is a country founded on loyalty to the constitution, on belief in self government and on what Heinlein called the immortal poetry of the declaration of independence.

We are sure, a nation of soil and culture, but we’re also a nation of belief.

My future history required that America fall.

I’ve found I have this little defect: I can’t write a book set on our Earth in which America doesn’t exist, even if only just as a dream and a hope.

So I figured after America fell, the dream and the hope remained.  “Humanity’s last best hope.”

Dreams and hopes are important.  It was to an extent the dream of a Rome that never was, the idealized republic that people in the Empire wrote about, which caused America to come into being.

I noticed, further, that we had something here that only one other historical people had.  You see, in most nations, when they lose a war, have a financial crisis, get righteously trounced, the fault is found anywhere but themselves.  It was the great betrayal of an internal minority.  It was our enemies being so dastardly.  It was unfair, and besides the sun was in our eyes.

Americans, by and large, don’t do that.  Instead they buckle down, swallow hard and go “it’s because we deviated from our own principles.  If we do penance and return to a more faithful observance of our beliefs, we’ll be great again.”

Whether that’s true or not — obviously I think it is.  There’s a lot of the USAian in me. — it is a weird religion.

Those of you who have read the old testament know exactly what other nation did this.

It is a belief highly likely to form into a religion when the people cease having any other form of identification.  You live and die and exist by your belief.

Now are these people in the future, who believe in the Usaian religion, are persecuted for it, and who hold onto it as their reason to live Americans?

Oh, h*ll no.  Most of them weren’t born on American soil, and at any rate, America has no legal existence in their world.

So, they’re not American.  But they believe in the founding principles.  And they carry the light of them, idealized, through the night of tyranny, with intent to reestablish the Republic and to be Americans again.

I have — of course — great sympathy with them.  It also amuses me to play with religious belief in the future, divorced from other beliefs that bring a knee jerk reaction (though many of my characters are the religions we have now, sometimes with a USAian overlay) because it allows me to bring forth the nobility of honor, devotion and belief.

But more than that, as the Earth revolution unrolls, we get to see where belief fails, where it can get contaminated, and where it’s impossible to recreate America as such (which America would be the question, given the three centuries of existence they sort of have records of)  because of new conditions, different tech, different people.  And it’s fascinating to see how close they go towards recreating it.

Because it’s my world and I’m a romantic, the closest it comes to existing eventually (oh, there’s many books to get there) is in the North American territories, which weirdly end up including a portion of what we call Canada, because it greens first in this timeline.

But will it ever be America?  Well, it will have or fight for the same principles.  But America the dream will remain as unreachable to them as it is to us: a shining city on a hill to which we must ascend forever, but which remains too perfect for mere mortals.

And yet the fact that it exists as an ideal is enough to keep the hopes of it alive.  Forever.




Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” – by Orvan Ox

*I’m okay, guys.  Actually better today than yesterday when I felt so tired I had to talk myself into taking a shower, and pretty much did nothing in work the rest of the day.  It might have been reaction to life-stuff or it might have been the side effect of prednisone (but hey, as of yesterday no open sores) who knows.  Whatever it is, it’s better now, but I have to catch up on work.  Thank you Orvan for filling in. – SAH*

Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” – by Orvan Ox

“I’m only human.” “You’re only human.” “(S)He’s only human.”

It sounds like an excuse for being of limited capability, “only” human. Alright, humans are not Gods. Not to themselves, anyway. They warn themselves not to “play God” and point to horrors of their history when someone has tried to do that very thing. A most sound warning. Mr. Marx might not have realized it, but he eventually killed millions in his perhaps unknowing attempt. Mr. Hitler made and attempt and contributed to the horrific cost. Mr. Stalin as well. And Mr. Zedong. And… well, it’s long, horrific list. The “Zombie Apocalypse” might be less deadly should it happen – at least Humanity will know it has an Enemy and be willing to fight it from near the beginning. Yes, humans “playing God” tends to end in disaster.

And yet… it’s humans that called my kind into existence. Yes. Sure that one story is about a sacrificial gift not sacrificed, but used in a most unusual (and genetically impossible) breeding procedure. But the result, horrific as Asterion and Asterion’s story was and is (yes, “The Minotaur” had a name: Asterion) it did inspire the idea of the general form and give it – us! – a name.

Humanity has similarly created centaurs, unicorns, mer-folk, fauns, satyrs, dragons, and a good (or bad) many others. And when that wasn’t enough, why, they came up with Personifications. The process of dying and the state of death was a thing that was somehow more easily understood by inventing the character of Death (it was not “JUST TERRY PRATCHETT” though he [He?] did very well with the characterization). Yule? Solstice? Christmas? The Great Spirit of Giving is created in Santa Claus (and if once-common lumps of coal do not send the message of “you get a common, near worthless gift, you Problem Child” with sufficient force, there is Krampus – the anti-Claus as he were.)

“Only human.” Only. You have created… us. Your myths are our existence. In that way, humanity, you ARE our Gods – you have made us. Yes, we are imperfect – in the same ways you are. Only the traits are… amplified. The centaurs party and party hard. There is, as far as I know, no centaur version of William Tell. It is simply understood that, of course, the centaur’s arrow hits the apple and not the noggin – even if the centaur downed a barrel of wine. Us minotaurs.. well, let’s just say you do NOT wish to be the “Guest of Honor” at a minotaur event (I suggest you nominate a sheep – one that will NOT be missed – for that role. Mint jelly optional, but highly recommended). The unicorns are more faultless than Angels… or are at least as evil if not moreso than Demons, depending upon the tale and the teller.

Ponder that power. Humanity.. creates. Yes, rocketships to the Moon and wafers of silicon where they’ve taught the sand mathematics and lightning politely gives error messages instead of smitings. But also… entire species. Entire Universes! Mirrors. Oh, Yerkes and Palomar and those that came after are impressive, sure. But virtual mirrors of humanity itself. Not mere mirrors, but <i>amplifying</i> mirrors. One trait or another, good or bad, is dialed up to 11. Or 12. It’s not that we are human – we are not. Nor are we “better” than humans. Humans might claim such, but we didn’t summon ourselves into existence. That’s a Brilliant Human Trick. We did not do that. We are… stories.

Humanity, please keep telling the stories. And if you do not like them, then tell better ones. My kind… our kind… depends on you.  If you forget us, we cease to be. We are NOT Gods. You… you… just might be. Don’t play at it. Take it very seriously indeed. We’re depending on you. And so are you. Embrace it, but with great caution. What you create or summon can be Good or Evil.. dialed way up.  Choose wisely.

Super Human!

This is where I confess both in my science fiction and in other people’s writing I have a problem with “super humans!” tm.

Oh, most of the super-powers in comics and books and movies are just weird, and not really super powers that could develop. But once I settle in to “oh, fantasy,” I can watch most of them.  I just quickly get tired and mostly watch them because the guys (husband & sons) are watching, not because it’s something that naturally attracts me.  Given several different blurbs for movies, I’d rarely choose “super powers.”

And here, I should probably note that I grew up with what my parents didn’t call “a notion of superpowers” only because it wasn’t in their vocabulary.

You know that thing kids have, where they think they’ll try to do something and do it perfectly first time out?  Every kids seems to have this, at around two or three, and when they do try something, be it jumping or dancing or riding a bike and it doesn’t work, it takes a lot of patience from the adults to say “no, you have to practice, till you get it right.”

My parents, and this might have been cultural or maybe an early 20th century thing, had this idea of “genius.”  If you were a musical genius, you might never have seen an instrument, but the first time you see a piano, you’re going to play perfectly well.  You might never have written a story, but if you’re a writing genius, the first time you try, it will be Shakespeare.  You might never have ridden a bike, but if you’re physically gifted, the first time you try–  You get the point.

I grew up with them “testing” me against things I’d never seen or thought of doing, and then being disappointed I wasn’t instantly good at them.  And it must be part of the culture, because I grew up so immersed in this that I was in my thirties before I realized this was crazy-cakes.

I’m smarter than the average bear.  How much smarter I don’t know, and these things are hard to test or quantify, one of the reasons I don’t throw IQ points around like confetti.  But when you always rise to the top of your class, even in an environment biased against you (most of my secondary education, because I was a girl.  Though there was also “from a backwater village” and later — here — the “she has an accent, can she even understand what we’re saying”) you sort of come to accept you’re above average.  But everything I do comes at the cost of a lot of work.  At one time I spoke seven languages fluently, but I did an insane amount of work on each, the first three years, memorizing grammar and verb forms, and then reading in the language in the next three years, even when it was very difficult in the beginning.  And while I don’t know anyone who can just walk into a place and speak the language, I know there is such a  thing as a talent for languages.  My brother routinely went somewhere for two weeks, and came back speaking the language like a native.  Leading to the joke that we could drop him naked in the middle of the amazonian rain forest and he’d emerge speaking whatever tribal language there was, within two weeks.

But I’m not stupid.  I know he could speak the language “like a native” in two weeks, but not actually.  He would be able to ask essential questions and get the gist of things said to him.  But if he’d stayed there, he’d spend years learning the language to be truly like a native.  I still envied him, because I can learn, but it takes me insane amounts of work.

In the same way my parents were kind of pleased because I won writing contests very early and had a chapbook of my poems published at 14 (Yes, I know.  I’m Sarah A. Hoyt, and I’m a poet.  It’s been fourteen years, five months, two weeks and three days since I last wrote a sonnet, but I’m still a poet, and I have to stay away from it, consciously, every day.  Even a couplet would be too much.)  So I had some talent.  But only some, since I didn’t write a world-famous novel at six.

In reality, I had some facility with language, and a compulsion to make up and tell stories, which probably has its roots in my very lonely childhood, where I had to make up the games AND the play friends.  But twenty years after selling my first novel (Nineteen minus a few weeks, but who’s counting) I’m still learning my metier.  I probably will be, still, twenty years from now.

Oh, and some novels turn out better than others.  And some are more successful than others which yet again has nothing to do with quality, really.

Then I had a son who is at least one and maybe two standard deviations above me. No, we don’t know.  It’s hard to know because he’s at that level where they have trouble putting a number to it.

He’s now starting to grow into himself, I think.  I mean, nine times out of ten, if you meet him, now, you’ll get that he’s very smart, and you don’t think he’s crazy or borderline mentally slow.

Because that’s what most of his teachers thought, in elementary through middle school, that he was “developmentally disabled” and they couldn’t figure out why we didn’t have accommodations (mostly because he didn’t want them.)  And an entire school (middle) once made war on him under the belief he was and I quote: Mentally Retarded.  (Which is a weird reason to make war on anyone, but there it is.)

Mostly we knew he was “off” somehow, but we weren’t sure how.  And once we figured out he was very, very smart, our problem was figuring out why this often presented like utter stupidity.

You’ve heard of overthinking things, right?  Now combine that with the ability to get very bored once you figure things out, an inability to understand other people AREN’T like you, and therefore to consider most people somewhere between stupid and crazy and several quirks/eccentricities, and what you have is a kid whose first presentation wasn’t “He’s so smart.”

My cousin, who was raised with me (14 years older) is a teacher specializing in the profoundly gifted.  I’d vent at her and she’d laugh and say, “that is completely normal.”  Like, his obsession, at four, with trying to create life.  The vials of things I found under beds and desks, and stuffed in weird places, with rotting household chemicals and bits of dead flies.  (When your four year old heard about the primeval soup but lacks some context and world experience.) Or the two weeks he spent in front of the computer, in his underwear, playing all the computer games he’d got for Christmas, until he mastered them all.  Interrupted only by us dragging him out of the room to hose off and feed.

And the way his obsessions often had nothing to do with the real world or real skills for life.  I mean, it might be your ambition to learn to glue two pieces of cardboard just so, but really? WHY?

Brings us to the future history and “making Supermen.” Most people who are normal or a little above normal (the sweet spot for being considered “very intelligent” is like the top 25% to the top 10%.  Above that people think you’re “crazy” (they’re not wrong in the sense of maladaptive) and anyone top 2% or above is at best considered odd by his/her peers.) and know that other “smarter” people have an easier time with this or that, dream of supermen.  People for whom, they think, the difficult tasks they struggle with are “easy.”

But human intelligence doesn’t work like that.  It’s not quantitative.  It’s qualitative.  The intelligence that allows you to solve a math problem at a glance will also seriously complicate your life when you’re trying to choose clothes in the morning, because you’ll run everything through the “and yet on the other hand” and might cause you to emerge from your room in too-tight pants and the luchador shirt you bought at the thrift store while you were in a weird mood, because according to some weird metric that exists in your mind only, they’re the least likely to get you noticed by the neighbor’s dog who hates your guts.  Hence “overthinking” and “So sharp he cuts himself.”  I swear to you the best way to make my kids flunk a test was to ask them questions the other kids could answer in their sleep.  You know “What shape is an egg?” or “What color is the sky.”  They’ll end up positing n-dimensional eggs and describing minute seasonal changes in the sky, because well, no one can ask questions that simple, right?

My older son tells me that “smart” people have more connections between brain cells, and are slower to prune them.  This means they can correlate knowledge much faster/better, but also… well, all those connections are a great way of describing “going fricking nuts.”

Will we ever create supermen?  I don’t know.  Supposing we ever know enough of genetics, we might be stupid enough to try it.

Hence in the future, after they’d created laborers, etc, and created superstates too, they get stupid enough to create “supermen,” partly because they think that they need them to administer their superstates (we already hear rumblings that say EU or the US are “too complex to be administered by normal humans” — it never occurs to them to let the places administer themselves — and it gets more so with both intrusiveness of state and complexity of society.

Now they create at least three levels of supermen, alphas and betas and tetas and then just slightly enhanced humans.

They’re supposed to be faster, smarter, stronger.  It is a thing of note that the editor for Through Fire couldn’t understand why this woman who was supposed to be all these things (and yes, she repeats them to herself like a mantra) could have ANY difficulties.

She has difficulties because I don’t believe in supermen.

Long ago I came on the concept “Have the virtues of your faults” or “have the faults of your virtues.”

Me?  I’m prouder than the devil.  This means I have trouble admitting to difficulties, even those caused by health issues.  It means I don’t do nearly-enough butt kissing to climb in my profession.  In fact the more I like someone who could help me up, the less I show it.  (Yeah, my relationship with my publishing house!) and that I DISDAIN pushing my work too much, because it should sell on its own or something. But that means I’ll break myself in two trying to live up to my good opinion of myself, for instance.  My younger son is a perfectionist.  This means when he delivers something it will be perfect.  But it also means he won’t deliver things he can’t be perfect at.  Which means, yes, sometimes work doesn’t even get turned in.  Also, he has two novellas ready to publish that no one but me might read.

So the smartish people of the future create very smart children to …. be their functionaries, do their bidding: to be their clerks, their planners, their spies, their assassins.

At some point — and I’m not absolutely sure why, but I think it’s the “Writ large” of bugs under the bed, and the fear of exposure of the whole project — these children, named for the scientists who created them, or after national heroes — are collected from all over the Earth and dropped into a “creche” in Germany.  Where, because their caretakers are scared of them, they get brutalized and terrorized into learning and behaving and knowing they’re subordinate to the “real humans.”

Instead these potentially very gifted children and young men emerge with the faults of their virtues and also convinced they’re not quite human and they HAVE to control “real humans” to feel safe.

It is a recipe for trouble.  And trouble will come.


But What Is Man

So, there are themes that run through people’s work, sometimes without the author realizing.

Now, I’m not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but I can read print when it’s six feet tall and printed in letters of fire.

I’ve long ago realized that “what is being human” and “how to be human” is one of the main themes of my work.

Not that I set out to do it, mind you.  It just sort of happens.

Perhaps it is part of being an Odd, an Outlier, not a joiner, but one who stands out.

One of my earliest memories of childhood is of the renter kids (all older than I) locking the gate from grandma’s backyard to their yard, as a way to make sure I wasn’t even allowed to be near them when they played.

I remember standing there, hands on the gate, plotting vengeance.  Because that’s who I am, and that’s what I do.  Apparently.  Although frankly, I’m not big on vengeance these days, first because I’m too lazy to be proactive about it, and second because people who are nasty for no particularly reason usually end up being their own worst punishment.  (All of those kids self-screwed, without my having to lift a finger.  It’s a thing of beauty.)

Anyway, perhaps I stood outside groups looking in long enough that I came to the conclusion that maybe I’m not one of them monkeys.  And then I had to think myself back into how I am in fact one of those monkeys, even though their fur is brown and mine seems to be dyed a bright, hot pink.  We still largely behave the same way.  My instinct to belong might be attenuated, but I’m still a social animal, and I still enjoy the company of my kind.

Or to put it another way, I might be different, but no matter how little the rest of the species likes it, I’m still wholly human.

Yet it’s no wonder that my future history revisits the question of “what is it to be human?”

You can see, as the genetic knowledge and ability to manipulate improves in the DST world, they start getting cutesy.  Because THEY have lost track of what the point of humanity is, and so treat humans as just any other animal.  So, yeah, you start seeing things like creating human-animal hybrids that look like things out of mythology (as in, the short story Ariadne’s Skein.) And intentionally handicap children, and–

The thing is, we will.  I mean it’s no use saying it’s bad or it’s unethical.  If the science is there, we will use it.  And if the utilitarian idea of humans being a cog in the societal machine, or people who exist to serve some purpose is there, then creating humans to be show pieces, or intentionally disabled or whatever will be done all over and with gusto.

And the utilitarian idea is already there.  We’ve lost the sense that humans are important because they’re human, and instead, humans are only granted humanity if they’re “wanted” (as though Craigslist weren’t full of pets who were once desperately wanted, but who live to be not wanted at all) or if they’re going to serve some purpose.

Given that, how easy is it for governments to create creatures from human genes who are deliberately made different from normal humans and who are more or less slaves.

And once that is done what is it to prevent us from creating “supermen” to rule us?

Which is how the “Good Men” come into being, though originally they’re not supposed to rule anything, but only to “serve” the state.  It’s just that once you endow them with intelligence, manipulative ability and, well… everything… what is to prevent them taking over?

Absolutely nothing.

And why should people who haven’t been raised as humans, cherished because they’re humans and no more, love or respect humanity?

They won’t/don’t.

Since we’re already raising and indoctrinating kids to be “good for something” instead of “the best human being you can be.” we’re already on that road.

Treating any human as a thing is diminishing humanity as a whole.  And each of us in particular.


Future Histories

I’m supposed to be doing a future history for my publisher at Baen, to go into the new edition of Darkship Thieves (I HOPE as an afterword, otherwise there will be spoilers.)

No, correction, I’m supposed to be writing down the future history in a  coherent form.

It has existed as a chart on my office wall, and scribbles in a notebook for twenty one years.  I’m just now trying to collate and correlate it and make it coherent with all the hints that sort of fell out in Darkships.

The problem, of course, is giving too much — getting lost in the weeds.  The plan btw when I’m done is to collate this into an ebook with the DST Bible (I wonder if I could get soemone to make it into game book?) and some drawings, and give it out to subscribers and newsletter subscribers.  Besides sending the future history in 20 page or so to Baen.

I hope you guys don’t mind if I talk future history at you for a few days, to bring it into focus for myself.

First of all there is the massive question of “Why a future history?”  Aren’t future histories a stupid game?

Well, yeah.  Look, making predictions is hard, particularly about the future.  If you absolutely must make predictions, either date them much earlier, or — for a choice — make it so much mumbo jumbo that you can point at anything and say it fulfills your prophecy.  See Nostradamus.

I not only wasn’t that smart, I was really dumb, as originally I had my timeline start in the 2020s.  I’ve been fudging it as hard as I can ever since.

What was I thinking?

Good question.

First, on the future history, I thought any self-respecting science fiction author would have one.  if you showed up in the field without one you’d be pointed at and laughed.  Yes, of course, I’d read a lot of authors, but all the authors that had stuck have at least the outline of one.

Heinlein had an explicit one, with chart and dates, which he hung on the wall of his office.  Simak had, I suspect two, because in one all the fairies and goblins come out of the woodwork, in another not so much.  Well, then there was Why Call Them Back From Heaven, whatever the name was in English, which was a creepy dead end.  Connie Willis has one, with time travel and the death of all pets.

I thought I had to have one.

But I’m still me, so nothing much happened on the future history front, until my writers’ group circa 96 decided we had to get our behinds (or at least our typing fingers) in gear and we should all write a short story a week (HIGHLY recommended as a learning thing.  Sure most of my initial ones were total duds, but the thing was to break me off the idea writing very slowly was best.  And it worked.  it also proved that writing is a skill, like any other skill.  The more you do it, the better you get at it [provided you’re trying for improving.]  Years later, when I started sorting things for indie publication, that year marks the watershed between my writing sort of publishable, and my being in full command of the short story structure.  I need to do the equivalent for novels and do one a month, to command that.  Um… as soon as I get more physically stable.  We’re getting there.)

The problem with a short story a week is the ideas.  I’m not one of those people who ever — much — has issues with ideas, but most of the ideas that attack me out of a clear blue sky are for novels, or, these days, for whole series.  Which means that having to come up with short story ideas was a problem.  Particularly when each short story started spawning a whole world and demanding to be a novel.

I was then (but) thirty five years old, had a five year old and a two year old, and didn’t have time for baby universes coming out of the woodwork and demanding time and attention.

So I wrote the future history, because somewhere in the world there’s always something interesting going on.  Throw a dart at the chart, write a story there.

It was useful.

What it isn’t is in any way claiming to be an accurate prediction.  Though, of course, some of it will happen, at least if my understanding of history holds any water, and a lot of it will happen out of order and backward and sideways.

Note that my future history starts, now, in the late twenty first century.  I have an excuse for confused times, and characters thinking things happened earlier or later, too.  You see, in between our time and Darkships, records were accidentally AND deliberately lost and modified, to obscure the powergrab that led to the world Athena was born into.  This means late twenty first century might end up being early twenty second.  And thank heavens.  Just to spite me someone will come up with life extension, and I don’t want my life time to overtake the time line.

Note also I never say how the war with Islamic terrorists/the attempted Islamic takeover came out.  This is because, of course, I had no idea it was going to happen.  Crystal ball all broken.  I was 35 and green as grass.

However, I assume it’s like my brother saying “if they speak English in Star Trek, I guess America won the cold war” which I found a great relief.

There might be Muslims in Darkships.  There PROBABLY are.  However, none of the religions are particularly prominent, and a lot of the land masses are depopulated, and I haven’t come across ANY Muslims yet, in my stories so far. Some Arab names, but no Mohammed.  You do the math, dearies.  I wasn’t deliberately excluding them, but as I tell fledgelings, reviewers and people who read MGC about my writing “the thing isn’t entirely under my control.”  And while not the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, I’ve been known to see into the future. Glimpses.  Mostly in dreams.  I blame my subconscious.

And yep, that’s what I’m afraid of, in a way.  If the Darkships future history had a subtitle, it would be “Humanity is negotiable.”  Because what humans are, and what humans become is by design negotiable: created, changed and abolished; designed, destroyed, enhanced, trained, oppressed.

Being human alone will get you no special treatment, because humans can be made on command and gestated in animals or surrogate mothers.  Humans are used for societal purposes.  They exist to serve society and their rulers.

Perhaps that started with a long orgy of genocide, which, yes, is where this is headed if we don’t find some other way to handle it.  I think.  But again, remember my crystal ball is broken.

In my world there was SOMETHING.  In this time period, the US either fell or was reduced to half a dozen states.  There were nuclear bombs exchanged.  Who knows what else there was.

I don’t know because I will never write the fall of the US.  Like Heinlein writing the story of the rise of the first prophet, this would hurt too much for me to be able to write it.  I know America is a thing of humanity and likely will have an end, but I truly don’t want to visit it.

My world starts with Europe mostly an old age home (honestly, it’s getting there) and mostly depopulated having the bright idea they can make people.  But this is Europe, they don’t want to make people and have them count as real people.   So the first mules are made in batch lots and all male.  Because they’re gestated in animals — or at least that’s the story — most of them are retarded.

I will confess I’m not sure this is true, because Angel in flight seems to indicate some of them AREN’T and can pass as normal humans.

Anyway, these shambling brutes are made and raised to do the work natural humans won’t do.

And hence it starts.

Next up, why and how we get supermen.



Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & Da Promo by Freerange Oyster

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: Chicken


Da Promo by Freerange Oyster

Allene R. Lowrey

Advent of Ruin

The Qaehl Cycle Volume 1

An age ends in blood and darkness…

For untold generations, the peoples of the Qaehl have prospered—trading and warring as they expanded across the great desert. Mighty city-states rise unassailable above the sands, centers of commerce in a great web of humanity. Messengers and nomads, tradesmen and bandits, cross the burning wastes with each rising of the sun.

A change is coming. Strange creatures have been sighted in the deep desert. Rumors whisper of horrors begotten out of legend. But there is yet hope: a brave courier, an innocent young dancer, a compassionate warrior – each holding a fragment of the truth, each seeking the future. Each adrift in the desert, trying to survive the advent of ruin.

Free today

Amanda S. Green

Nocturnal Origins

Nocturnal Lives Book 1

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Dagger of Elanna

Sword of the Gods Book 2

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Amie Gibbons

Psychic for Sale (Rent to Own)

SDF Book 3

Don’t make deals you can’t live through…

Psychic Ariana Ryder owes Carvi, vampire king of Miami, five favors, and he’s called in his first marker, so her and her boss Grant fly down to Miami to play security for the first vampire summit on bringing magic and vampires out of the closet.

Ariana isn’t looking forward to this weekend. She can hardly keep Carvi off her with her boyfriend Quil around, and Quil has been banned from the summit, meaning she’s going to spend the entire time fending off the not so unwanted advances, on top of her actual job of watching out for sabotage and attacks on the summit.

After zombie and passion spells wreak havoc on the opening party of the summit, Ariana realizes she’s in way over her head, and that’s before Carvi introduces her to the astral plane and the expansive world of magic she can have access to.

Someone’s gunning for the summit, Carvi, or both, and Ariana has to figure out who and how to stop them, before the plan is set in motion and a spell with deadly reach far beyond the summit takes hold.

Holding Pattern

I have not yet got the promo post.  And I lost the vignette one.

I haven’t written Grant yet (I need an assistant.  Administrivia is eating my life.)

Until that time, and in honor of father’s day, some pictures of me (and the last one of younger son, aka the clone) with my dad who is still and always the most awesome man in the world after my husband.  (My kids will get there.  They have to grow into the sheer awesome.  They show good signs of it.)  Oh, yeah, the mug with me and dad on the third picture is my very dear brother.  Yes, that’s our age difference.  And he was the youngest of the grandchildren in Portugal, before I was born.

And now I’ll take said husband out to breakfast and maybe something fun, before we both buckle under to a very busy day.





maio2011 032