Category Archives: Uncategorized

We Are The Superior Civilization

You know, sometimes I am a wee bit daft.  (Taking two hours this morning to rip out carpet in the powder room and coat the floor in two layers of kilz is part of how I’m daft.  Yes, I’ll be putting floor in again, but not carpet.  Carpet in the bathroom is icky and when Terry Pratchett said Gaspode smelled like a privy rug, he wasn’t doing him any favors.)

Anyway, how I got daft is that when I floated that there might have been “civilizations” between the emergence of anatomically modern humans, and ya’ll objected because no signs of dentistry, no extensive mining operations and even the crab bucket, I thought “Well, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  It wasn’t till yesterday morning that I stopped and went “waitaminut, Czar Nicholas’ skeleton showed signs of prolonged and horrific abscesses. We only found out how extensive the Roman mining operation in the village was when it rained for a month and roads collapsed under cars.  And even with the crab bucket and no Judeo-Christian ethic, ancient Asia had a lot of very advanced, flourishing civilizations.”

Which is when the dime dropped and I realized you guys immediately translated civilization to “as good as we have or better.”  Which, of course, made me giggle.  Because I’d have liked you to tell a Roman, with their world-bestriding empire that they weren’t civilized.  Or, before that a classical Greek.

Understand I am not imagining others before us had the internal combustion engine, or steam, or trains, or…  Sure, they might have, but that’s a heck of a coincidence, since those things usually come about by an individual stroke of genius, and even when they do they often aren’t used the way we did (Romans and their mechanical toys.)

To imagine other civilizations of which we’ve forgotten every trace followed exactly the same route we did to the same place we’re at requires believing that inventing steam and the internal combustion engine and harnessing electricity is as natural to humans as dams to beavers.

Now, maybe that’s true.  It would certainly make for a very good science fiction story.  (Short story, I think.  Too much of a punchline thing for a novel.)  BUT the odds defy rationality.

I was imagining, you know “builds houses of wood or stone.  Domesticated SOME animals.  Has villages and cities. Might have trade over long routes. MIGHT have had wheeled vehicles.”  (The last, as we know, one can have quite sophisticated civilizations without.)

Look, it’s not your fault.  Since the seventies, we’ve been bombarded by crazy bs about superior aliens or superior lost civilizations.  (And before that, there was a trickle of it, too, going back I think to the eighteenth century, just couched in different terms.)  You’ll get stuff about how the pyramids were built of stones that floated at the sound of a certain note.  (A C note, or the equivalent, I bet.  “Listen, Mac, you take this stone to the top of the pyramid, I give you a C Note.  A  hundred Amontheps in your pocket, bucko. Buys a lot of fish and falafel.”)

Part of this, and part of the reason it intensified since the seventies were the “unilateral disarmament people.”  You know, those jokers who wanted us to get rid of our own nukes and stand disarmed in front of the USSR, who would then realize we were peaceful, and not attack, and everyone would live in peace and harmony with rainbows and farting unicorns.  Yes, it was a stupid and crazy idea since the continued survival of the USSR depended on plunder and conquest.  But I’ll remind you our last president still believes that bag of moonshine.  All of it, including the unicorn farts.

As I was saying, because this was a tough sell, and because a lot of science fiction writers were very scared of the nukes (even Heinlein, though at least he never advocated unilateral disarmament.  Instead, he put his hopes on the UN.  Head>desk.  We’re all human.) and susceptible to USSR propaganda, there were a ton of stories of superior civilizations JUST LIKE OURS that had killed themselves in nuclear holocaust.  They weren’t all billed as fiction. Sodom and Gomorrah and pillars of salt were often brought up as “proof” of a previous nuclear holocaust.

For these stories to be effective, both fiction and the ones that didn’t admit to being fiction, you HAD to have lots of similarities to us.  Previous civilizations had to have developed exactly to the same way and the point we have, or no one would buy the urgency.

Hence, when anyone says “there was a civilization before us” your head (our head) jumps to airplanes, trains, steel mills, refrigerators, dentistry.

I’m telling you the chances of that are negligible, though I won’t scruple using a more advanced than us past civilization to give my characters a nasty shock when they get to space.  I won’t because that’s just cool.

However of things like Ancient Greece or Rome?  I almost think the chances against it are worse.  And of course civilizations that live and die by coastal sailing would be mostly engulfed in the great melt of the last ice age.

And no, Europe hasn’t been extensively studied.  As I said before, Europe is mostly built on Europe.  And you can’t dig in a field without finding SOMETHING.  If you think everyone runs to the academics or the authorities when something is found, you don’t understand people’s interest in building a house, or sowing a field, as opposed to you know, giving up ownership of their land in all but fact.  Frankly I’m amazed so many people do report discoveries.

But the thought of “superior civilizations” got me to thinking of what say the Romans or the Greeks, or those other ancient civilizations if they ever existed, would make of us in the West.  We cross the globe by flying through the air.  Not just heads of state or priests, no, common people.  He*ll, our pets fly.  Most places have clean, fresh water that someone doesn’t have to carry a mile or so (which has been most of the work of humanity I think, forever.) Forget aqueducts.  We have water that comes from our faucets whenever we want it.  Cold AND hot.  We have temperature control inside our houses, allowing us ignore the weather and keep warm in winter and cold in summer.  We can magically cure diseases that killed millions of people by injecting this magical elixir into the sick person’s veins.  Our old live a long time in relative comfort.  We  get our teeth fixed and replaced, so most people can chew to the end of their lives.  Most of us can read, and most of us have access to untold wisdom of the sort their hermetic orders would kill for.

We are the superior civilization.  We are the enlightened ones, the shining and resplendent inhabitants of the wonderful future.

And we worry about what gender we feel like being that day, who is allowed to pee where, whether someone used the wrong word to refer to someone else who might be offended, whether our use of fossil fuels offends Gaia, whether slapping a kid on the behind is a criminal offense, whether we are doing all we could do with our lives.

In other words, we’re neurotic, unsatisfied, and a bit crazy like most of people who were born and raised rich throughout most of human history.

Which is why if we really were doomed to repeating a cycle, and if the civilizations before us were the same but more advanced, the message of the pyramids would be “Don’t use so much toilet paper.  Just wash one square and reuse it.”

Perhaps we should be grateful they are truly profoundly unlikely to ever have existed or tried to send us any message.



Here, have some books – by Free Range Oyster & Vignettes by ‘nother Mike, Mary Catelli and Luke

First of all, happy mothers day to all the mothers around here.  Where good mothering happens, THERE’S civilization.


Here, have some books – by Free Range Oyster

Alma Boykin

Clawing Back from Chaos

A Cat Among Dragons Book 9

Love. War. Insanity. Just another year in Rada Ni Drako’s worlds.

Rada survived the Battle of the Tunnels in the Harz Mountain campaign, but at what cost? Even love may not be enough to save her soul. And if it is, will she ever heal enough to face the danger slowly building around her?

A patient enemy has been working far behind the scenes, stalking the halls of power, nudging England’s future toward chaos. An enemy that has Rada and her god-children in its cross-hairs.

The Dragon has retired. Can the Cat fight alone? Or will the chaos outside overwhelm even Rada as she Claws Back from Chaos?

Mary Catelli

Winter’s Curse

Who but a fool would linger after Zavrien laid his curse? Ill luck can kill – and all the more in Zavrien’s enchanted, endless winter, haunted with ice giants and frost fairies. When the soldier Gareth is cursed, the young wizard Perriel learns how dangerous lingering can be. But she can hold out a sliver of hope for breaking the curse – if it doesn’t break them first.

The Witch-Child and the Scarlet Fleet

Trapped in a pirate port… Caught between pirates who would force him to use wizardry in their aid, and a king who would force him to spy, Alik will need every scrap of wits and wizardry to forge his own path.

Treachery And Spells

Two novellas of magic and adventure… Caught between pirates who would force him to use wizardry in their aid, and a king who would force him to spy, Alik will need every scrap of wits and wizardry to forge his own path. A curse of ill luck leaves Perriel and Gareth trapped in an endless winter, with only the faintest hope of breaking free.

Journeys And Wizardry

Drunken mermaids – a clan cursed to become crows – a magic book that even the Nameless Necromancer fears – and more in this reprint collection of thirteen stories and a poem.

David Burkhead

Oruk Means Hard Work

Life among the orcs is hard. So difficult and ubiquitous is brutal labor among them that “Veth oruk”/”Work is” is their most common greeting. When Elara, princess of the elves is captured and enslaved by them that is the life she must learn to live, a life of hard, unremitting labor with no hope of rescue.

Work is.

Vignettes by ‘nother Mike, Mary Catelli and Luke

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:

Quisling’s Heirs and Quisling’s Foes by 60 Guilders

Quisling’s Heirs and Quisling’s Foes by 60 Guilders

At our most gracious hostess’ request, I have updated Dorothy Thompson’s “Who Goes Nazi?” for the present. I confess myself inadequate to the task, but she told me she’d have to do it if I didn’t, and she’s got enough on her plate.

There are times when one wonders who would collaborate with an invading regime and who would not, or who would gleefully take up the whip hand themselves. In a world where there are reds to the left, browns to the right, terrorists and dictators in front, and bureaucrats behind, simplifying it down to one ideology just won’t cut it. So we’ll be discussing two more basic philosophical schools: those who wish to have slaves and masters, and those who wish for there to be neither.

Imagine yourself, at a reception held by a Mister John Boddy, the only person these days who could attract such a disparate group as we will be observing tonight. Let’s start with that fellow over there, the one holding the wine glass somewhat uncertainly, like he’d rather be holding a bottle of beer. Mr. A is an oil engineer, who Boddy met and became fast friends with when he decided to invest in the Bakken shale boom. He doesn’t know much history or philosophy, but I can tell you that if it came down to it, he would die free. He doesn’t have much truck with people telling him how to do his job or live his life, and he extends to everyone else the same courtesy. Such a fellow would have to be forced into the role of master at gunpoint, and the role of slave would require his family taken hostage as well.

Contrast him with the fellow he’s talking to, Mr. B, similar in type but not in character. Both men, truthfully, think themselves underpaid for their work. They both grouse about their bosses, and both, deep down, think the world would be better off if more people lived according to their lights. Mr. B, however, is an inveterate meddler who was raised by inveterate meddlers—and be assured, should a group come to power who shared his opinions, he would cheerfully truckle to them in order to lord it over others.

Mr. C is of a similar type to Mr. B, but with the added complication of having managed to get a Ph.d.—despite, frankly, having little inclination or aptitude for inquiry. What he does have, however, is a deep and abiding need for respect and a knack for telling people what they want to hear, combined with a crippling fear of failure. What is often referred to as “impostor syndrome” is in his case a reality, and he knows it. He will enthusiastically sign on to any cause that might allow him to quash anyone who could and would reveal him for what he is.

Ms. D, the gender studies professor who he is currently engaged in conversation with, is a truly sad case. Unlike many of her peers, she actually was hard done by in an overly traditionalist environment, and in a fashion that, once the authorities learned of it, resulted in several felony convictions with lengthy sentences and without parole. This resulted in her becoming something of a minor celebrity within certain circles, and a leading role in fighting against the sort of mentality that led to her abuse. Unfortunately, she has radicalized to the point where she assumes that everything that has results unfavorable to a woman is the result of “the patriarchy,” and, if pressed, would admit that she thinks accusation is proof enough regarding certain crimes. Given the chance, she would eviscerate even Mr. C if he put a foot wrong.

Now consider, for a moment, Mr. E, arguably her male counterpart, currently glowering in the corner. His story involves a shrew of a wife, terrible friends, and a violently biased family court judge whose verdict resulted in him never seeing his beloved children save but once a year—children who, by now, hate him because of the lies their mother tells them and hate their mother for the same reason—and being forced to pay alimony to the point where, despite being a white-collar professional, he has no car and lives in a dingy one-bedroom apartment. Initially only raging against those specific persons who had wronged him, he has extended his wrath both to all womankind and any man who does not see females as the enemy, and would take any chance he could to wreak his vicarious revenge.

Mrs. F, over by the fireplace, is different from both of these. Mr. A is her husband, with whom she has had five children—a fact that, when Ms. D realized it, caused her to instantly dismiss her and drift over to C. This was D’s loss, frankly. Mrs. F is not much more intellectual than her husband, it is true, but raising three boys and two girls will tell you much about how society actually deals with men and women, and about how to live life well. Were she to learn of Ms. D’s story—or Mr. E’s, for that matter—she would extend to them her sympathy, but would never let either of them near her children, whom she has raised to treat people like they’re people, not means by which to work out one’s own neuroses. She would not want to fight to keep or make a world where they could live in such a manner, but that would only make her the more ruthless, that she might never have to again.

Mr. G, who Mrs. F is talking with, is an odd sort, and possibly one of the most interesting people here. Born over the ocean, he will cheerfully admit to being a drifter, a dabbler and a dilettante, one of the many reasons that he has never married. Arguably technically homeless, he’s worked on every continent, and has seen the best and worst humanity has to offer because of it. Some might call him something of a hitchhiker, and so he is—but he’ll leave you a twenty for the gas, and offer to pay for your meal and his. He doesn’t think anyone owes him anything, and he knows when he’s discharged a debt. He’s a wanderer who thinks others should have the same right as he, and woe betide any who would abrogate that right.

Mr. H, who has just joined in on their conversation, is as anachronistic in his way as Mr. G is in his. He has never left the United States—indeed, he barely ever leaves his home state, the virtues of which he will expound upon for hours if he is permitted to do so and does not believe that he is boring his listener. However, he will also listen for hours to people talking about where they have been. His is a profound intellectual curiosity tempered by a desire to never leave the place of his birth, but he detests the idea of being bound to one place by any will other than his own, or being prevented from learning about whatever he wants to.

Then there’s Mrs. I, presently talking listlessly with Mr. J, her husband. There is not much to say about them, really, save for the fact that if one wishes to know what the cultural zeitgeist is, one need only find them and inquire about their opinions, as said opinions will match the average opinion of the society around them to a T.

Then there’s Miss K, who’s here because she’s the daughter of one of Boddy’s old friends. She’s been drifting from conversation to conversation, and has lingered on the outside of all the conversations in the room—she considered talking to E, as she’s a good-hearted soul, but the look he shot her when he approached was very unwelcoming. Her parents worry about her, as she’s a sophomore at a public university—however, they need not fret. While she agrees with a few of the things Ms. D says about modern society, she finds her monomania to be off-putting, and much prefers the company of persons like Mr. A and Mrs. F, and would not aid any regime that had no place for the latter.

Finally, there is Mr. L, who just arrived and is gravitating towards Mr. C and Ms. D. He is the sort of person one might expect to see at a party like this—that is to say, he was born with a trust fund, as were his parents before him. He is acutely conscious of two things: that neither he nor his parents did anything to earn the wealth that they were born to, and that they have done nothing with that wealth that justifies their holding it. A better man might have given the lion’s share of it to charity and settled down to live off the interest of the rest in a modest house in the suburbs. Mr. L, however, has decided to tear everyone else down in order to assuage his own feelings of inadequacy, and is very popular in certain political circles because of it.

Now, upon observing the people at this party, one might be inclined to express concern for the future. But hold a moment—do you see what’s happening? The engineer, his wife, the wanderer, the homebody, and the neophyte are gravitating towards each other, leaving the others to stew in their self-created miseries.

This expresses the truth of the matter: in the end, there are many types that may or may not side with a tyrant, depending on what sort of tyrant he is. The more answerable question is who will never side with a tyrant, and you see them there now—the people who understand, even if they cannot express their understanding, that there is enough in being human to lift the head of a beggar and bow the head of a king, and that in this no one is any better than another.

See them talk and laugh as though they have always known each other despite only having met tonight, and know that none shall break them.

The Lies

I have the best job in the world.  I can make up fantastic constructions: frothy lies, that amuse me and respond to the rule of cool.  And the best part is that I don’t have to REALLY lie.  I mean people know I’m making this up.

Believe it or not, novels used to get frowned on because of that.  They were an affront to the Almighty, since they described things that never happened.

Years ago, in my conference in the Baen bar, I found someone who had even more strict ideas of how evil my work is.  You see, he only read science fiction.  He refused to read fantasy (at the time all I had with Baen was the Shifter’s series) because it talked about things that couldn’t exist in the world as created, and so was eeeeeeevil.  Even though those who’ve read the shifter series know there isn’t even any magic or witchcraft in that series.  Heck, it doesn’t even have vampires.

OTOH it DOES say “fantasy” on the spine.

I’ll confess I’m a peeve — in other words, still myself — because I giggled at that.  Oh, sure, FTL?  Cool.  Antigrav?  Groovie. Gateways to teleport you to another planet?  Very good.  Aliens? Fine.  Shape shifters?  Die, you evil witch.

Me, I have — obviously — a different view of fiction: all fiction, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, historical, even those occasional “literary” pieces that aren’t deadly dull.  (There are a few.)

I believe fantasy stretches the mind.  They have recently found out that people who have imagined getting say in a plane crash and escaping are more likely to survive if their plane actually crashes.

Right, we don’t write only about plane crashes, but we write about all kinds of situations, some of them supremely weird.  What it does, I think, is create what I call “flexible minds” so that even if the world goes completely bizarre on you (these days it often does) you can roll with the punches.  In a society that is changing very fast in unanticipated ways, it makes it easier to function.

I remember years ago when all of Dan’s workgroup read SF/F and their boss remarked how adaptable they were, and capable of “thinking outside the box.”  That is because it was where they lived.

Yesterday I shared my pet peeves when I’m researching possibilities on worldbuilding for a new series.  Some of you went all literal on me, which annoys the crap out of me, particularly since what I was sharing was stuff that makes even me run away (like pyramids) and it’s not even because it’s wrong (most of what I was looking at was at best unconventional) but because it’s trite.  It’s become a cliche.  It no longer fits the rule of cool.  (Also the moment pyramids or Templar knights come in, you know things are going into astral bodies and enlightened aliens, which is even more annoying, since that’s not what I want.)

When you go all literal and go “No, this is absolutely impossible” though there is really no evidence it is (highly unlikely?  SURE.) you’re doing the opposite of “flexible minds” which means when something falls out of place, you’ll hold on to the old ideas and refuse to move on or worse, starting trying to find “begs” as to why the new find is flawed, the new way of doing things is wrong, shaking your cane and screaming “get off my lawn.”  Which is bad for you and bad for society.

All you have to do to see the result of encouraging your mind to be the opposite of flexible is to look at the left side of the isle right now.

They knew Hillary was going to win the election; they knew their “progressive” (forward to the nineteen thirties!) future was inevitable; they knew their ideas are all on the right side of history.  And then it turned out… it wasn’t PRECISELY so.

Younger son tells me that their teachers assured them (multiple times) no Republican would win ever again, because the left was CORRECT. (Which explains why people his age have so much trouble listening to other opinions.  It’s like questioning their faith.)

Turned out all those polls that showed no support for Trump could be summed up by “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

And they can’t cope.  If I hear one more call for impeachment I’m going to blow a gasket.  You might hate what Trump is doing (meh.  By and large better than I expected) but if anything he did was liable to impeachment, Obama would have been impeached a dozen times or more.  Worse, they don’t seem to understand “impeachment” doesn’t mean removal.  (If it did Billy Jeff would have been out’a’there too.)  WORSE they don’t seem to understand that even if they managed to remove Trump, they’d just get Pence.  And if they removed HIM they’d get (I THINK) Ryan.

Instead, because this is not rational, because this is their minds trying to retreat to the reality they KNEW was true, to the theories and beliefs that comfort them, they have this movie running in their heads that goes: impeach Trump. Automagically, Hillary is president.  Or maybe Obama comes back.

It makes absolutely no sense, and even someone with a rudimentary knowledge of the constitution or our form of government KNOWS that’s not just impossible.  That’s “Thetans gave us the pyramids to sharpen our razors” crazy.

And yet otherwise sane colleagues of mine post this sh*t all the time, and expect it to happen “any minute now.”

This is cult-level faith.  It’s the sign of inflexible minds.  They convinced themselves that paradise was just around the corner, and now they’re locked in a long scream, unable to cope, unable to function, unable to see what they want is impossible.

They’re the toddler standing in the middle of the grocery isle, screaming at the top of his lungs “but I wanna.”

Because they can’t budge, this might very well come to blows.  Worse, it makes our enemies think we’re on the verge of civil war (I don’t think we are) and therefore makes us look vulnerable, in a very violent and scary world (the result of Obama’s “diplomacy.”  That man thought apologies and shows of weakness would bring peace.  Because he doesn’t get the difference between the real world and kindergarten is that there is no benevolent teacher to keep the wimps safe.)

What’s even worse, if they had won, because they KNEW how things were supposed to go, they’d never have seen what a disaster Hillary was.  (You know this, because they’re still lockjawed in “Obama had a scandal free administration.”  Sure thing.  Fast and Furious. Benghazi.  The pay for play Hillary conducted as secretary of state, etc, etc, but sure.  No scandals here.) And if she turned out to be really, really bad, they’d still be trying to interpret it all as hunky-dory and going to the wall saying “If only Hillary knew.”

Inflexible minds are enablers of tyranny.

No one asks you to believe in lies, of course.  (Before the more literal of you go crazy.  Hey, I said pyramids come in I run out.) But we do ask you to be able to put your mind in the “What if” of a story.  Yeah, sure, you could pick the imaginary world to pieces.  EVEN IN CONTEMPORARY non-fantastic literature, it’s really easy to find holes, if you go in to find them.  It’s much harder than you think creating a wholly coherent lie.  Particularly one of 100k words or more.

HOWEVER if you let yourself go and try to play in the story (this is why our worldbuilding comes up with lots of stuff to support it.  “Sure, magic has always existed, why do you think all the books talk about it.  It’s just that this Magical legion has been playing keep away with it, and covering it up.”  Yeah, you can see the holes, but just go along with it) you’ll get two benefits: it’s like a gym for your mind, playing out “what ifs” and making it easier to go with the flow when things change; and it helps you identify the signs of lies being constructed.  If you read a lot, you know what gets said and what gets left out to build an entire world that couldn’t exist in ours, but that can kind of function for the space of an enjoyable story.

Flexible minds.  For the times, they are achanging.





The Warning Bells

Many years ago, Dan and I were not exactly New Age — we’ve always both had a horror of what you could call whoo whoo stuff, and even if we flirt with it, we usually spring back to reality fairly quickly — but we could be mistaken for that by people who didn’t look too closely.

Part of it was that we did most things from scratch, like, you know, cooking and clothes making and stuff like that, including rebuilding the “distressed” houses we bought.  Now, this was economic sense, not “We believe our clothes should be woven entirely out of organically grown wheat” but if people didn’t know all the tips and tricks of “how to live on one salary and make it look like two” they assumed we were doing it to save mother Earth, or whatever.  So we rang a lot of people’s “crazy hippie bells.”

When Dan got his job in CO it was through a contractor the company he’d actually be working for. The contractor had a relocation specialist who got in touch with with us.  Weirdly, she wanted us to — back then — buy in Denver, and commute to the Springs (given the hours programmers worked in the early 90s, that was a non-starter.) Mind you, the area she wanted us to buy in was considerably more central and now more expensive than where we are.  Maybe we could have afforded it in the 90s, when it was still considerably blighted, and maybe we should have, even if we only went there on weekends.

Anyway, part of the way she determined where you should be living was with an interview where she asked us the weirdest questions.  And at some point she went “Wow, you’re eccentric, but no bells.”  And we went “bells?” and she said she’d be talking to some people, they sounded perfectly sensible, and suddenly her “crazy warning bells” would start to ring.  You know, something like “We’d like a house near our [type of church] and the park, so we can walk the dog, and a good school for the boys.  Oh, yeah, and it must be near a good New Age Store so we can buy pyramids for defense, when the UFOs land.”

With us it had gone the other way around, mostly because what she’d mistaken for “really weird” was “science fiction geek” (remember, we weren’t always as dominant as we’re becoming.)

This is apropos of the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of weird and speculative stuff about human evolution, pre-history and ancient civilizations.  Yes, it’s for world building.  Yes, you’ll get the benefit of it, through Baen if they accept the series.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this.  Part of the background for the Shifter series, and the reason it’s more sf than fantasy was a Hindu-financed book on “forbidden archeology” I read many decades ago.  For this I need a millennia old organization that has seen a couple of civilizations about our level — but magic based — rise and fall. So it’s important to have an idea what to refer to, etc, although the books would take place in the present.  It’s closer to the background of Repairman Jack than Star Gate.  More plausible than Star Gate, too.

Anyway, the problem is that I find myself watching these videos or reading these books, and suddenly the bells go off.

I’ll start by saying that a lot of these “archeologists of the damned” have a point.  Not in everything, mind, but because archeology is  submerged into such a sea of unknown unknowns and also besieged by crazy people talking about the Power of Pyramids, there is a tendency for academy-sponsored archeologists to come up with the most stodgy, conservative theory ever and hold onto it buckle and tongue, even when contrary evidence surfaces.

These “priests of science” screaming “the science is settled” piss me off so much I ALMOST become a pyramid power person myself.  At least I feel like denting their shiny theories all over, just because I can.

However when reading or listening to unconventional archeologists, there is ALWAYS that point where I feel like I’m talking to the old civil engineer in Porto who had gone insane and who spent his days drawing a bridge to cross the Atlantic.  He was sensible and rational, talking about forces and waves, and stuff to do so storms didn’t break the bridge.  And then, after you listened to him for hours, he’d say “And it will float, because it’s made entirely out of soap.  And it won’t dissolve because soap doesn’t dissolve in salt water.”  (This has become a short hand in our family.  When one of us is making some plan completely out of reality, one of the others will go “and it’s made entirely out of soap.”)

I’ve come to understand WHY the relocation agent said “and then the bells go off” when talking about some of her former clients.  Also, I’ve learned to identify the “and it’s made out of soap” moment.  Here are some of the “my bells are ringing” moments.

1- Again with the fracking pyramids.

Seriously, I get it.  They’re very impressive, and we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built, or why only for a relative brief period, with before and after being completely unable to reproduce the tech.  I GET IT.

What I seriously doubt is that every new discovery that doesn’t quite fit the pattern is tied to the pyramids.

The same goes for the Templars.  In fact mention of the Knights Templar is usually a bell so loud I can’t think through it.

2- It’s ALL about the stars.

The minute someone explained Gobekli Tepe with “It’s all about the constellations” my eyes started rolling so hard I looked like a slot machine.  Oh, sure, sometimes buildings align with this or that constellation, or might have if they were built at a particular time.  I’ll even buy that SOMETIMES this was intentional (if you’re building in a way that aligned with the stars ten thousand years before or after you built, probably not.)  BUT SERIOUSLY every single time?
More than likely when the buildings aligned with the stars it was because of some kind of astrology, like say Chinese homes and graves are aligned in certain ways, and not to “send a message” to us.  (More about that later.)  No, seriously.  I can’t imagine anything more unlikely than spending decades of man-years building a thing so we could send a message to our descendants ten thousand years hence.  I seriously doubt that most of us can really muster much care for our descendants that far off, okay?

I also have real trouble believing that there are no other messages to send to the future than “when the sun is in the seventh house, and mercury aligns with Mars….”

I’m fairly sure for whatever reason Gobekli Tepe or the pyramids were built it was to be USED in their time, and not as a sort of telegraph through the ages.  Which brings us to…

3- It’s all about US.  Not the people who built the thing.  Not the aliens who are supposed to have arrived.  No, it’s all about us.  And if you read the books or watch the videos, you can’t help thinking of Good Omens, where aliens start popping out all over to give the most trite messages ever.

This is the same thing.  It turns out that what the ancients who built the pyramids want to tell us is whatever the New Age cause du jour is.  So that, you know, they built huge structures of stone to tell us the age of Aquarius is coming and we should all be enlightened and smoke weed, and stuff. OR the Maya calendar was right.  Or we should not have cars and pollute.  Or– whatever.  The cause du jour that confirms the “researchers” biases.  You got it.  That’s exactly what the ancients went through horrible time and effort to tell us.  Because it’s all about us.  We know we’re the most important people in history, so why wouldn’t they?

You know in Independence Day when they say “they didn’t come millions of miles to start a fight with us.”  Well, as an alien species that’s one of the few reasons to come hundreds of light years, or whatever.  Because you need the planet to survive.

And as an ancient people, supposing there was some kind of civilization before, whatever they built they built for THEM.  If it’s all about us, it’s probably all moonshine.

4- It’s all mystical… and it’s all true.

Sure, I’m sure the ancients had their own religions, just like we do.  And it could be immensely important for them to go through endless expense to gratify their beliefs or worship their gods.  But–

But just because they’re older and they believe it, it doesn’t make it true.  It doesn’t mean their civilization really was run by Zeus or more likely for these things Osiris.  It doesn’t mean that their theory of what happens after death is true.

It just means that’s what they believed.  (And here the “priests of official science” can also just stop with calling everything they don’t understand a temple.  Sometimes “We don’t know what it was for” is PERFECTLY acceptable and the right answer.)

5- They were advanced/we don’t understand how they developed/where they came from, so it must be… Space Aliens!

Seriously?  In the time now estimated from when human beings first came into being to the first confirmed civilization signs (Gobekli Tepe) as of right now, there’s space for SEVERAL civilizations.  Hell, there’s space for civilizations at our level, much less say Roman level.

The “priests of science” idea of a long stagnation and TONS of nonsense about when “sentience began” (Are you sentient tovarish? How about a cat?) is just that, nonsense.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and the long stagnation might simply be a period when all the signs of civilization are buried under water/were destroyed by vulcanism/ are under ice in Antarctica.  The only reason that sounds crazy to you is how crazy archeologists of the damned who have posited this before being… well… crazy.  But ignore the pyramids and Easter Island, and think in terms of likelihood.  Assume our ancestors were a lot like us, tinkering apes.  And assume what is now 150k to 200k of anatomically modern humans.  The most ancient sign of “civilization” we have goes back 12k years.  Now do the math.  There could EASILY accounting for time in between to “forget’ except at the level of distant legends ten past “lost” civilizations.

These don’t need to be more advanced than ours — that’s also a sign of crazy cakes — or even advanced the same way.  Their material culture might well have been at the level of ancient Greece or Rome, though.  (Though how cool would it be if one of of those made it to the stars, and when we get there they’re like “b*tch, what took you so long?” because they took every “civilized human being” and only missed some aboriginals in the jungle, hence accounting for our genetic bottle neck.  BUT NOTE I’m a writer, and I like this because it sounds cool, not because it’s plausible.)

But that’s the other part of it and a rebuke to the priests of science too.  Yep, things like Gobekli Tepe and the pyramids can and sure as shooting did co-exist with the most primitive stone tools and cave drawings.  Because, you know, even now, with Western Civ having more penetration that even our ancestors 200 years ago could possibly imagine, there are still Amazonian tribes who don’t have a concept of counting above 3.  And if we all got into an interstellar ship to escape Nebiru (don’t get me started.  That’s a gong, right there) tomorrow, there would be a lot of people left behind who are at different civilization levels, never got the call and are REALLY GOOD at hiding.)

6- The old myths are ALL true.

That’s a massive bell, right there.  One of these guys was talking about oral traditions transmitted ten thousand years.

Sure there are some fragments, but mostly we retain one central event (both the deluge and dragons seem to be worldwide) but the story gets crazy different really fast, the moral is all different, etc.

Sure I’m willing to believe there might be some elements that are distant echoes of something.  MAYBE.  BUT they could also be distant echoes of how the human subconscious is wired.  (From the resemblance between modern soap operas and the stories of ancient gods, I’d go with the human subconscious likes certain things, like mysterious twins, ‘she didn’t really die’, everyone being in lust with everyone else no matter how unlikely.  Oh, yeah, and talking babies.  This seems to be a BIG thing.)

But coming from a culture in which things were transmitted through the ages I am aware both of the persistence and the distortion/limits of oral tradition.  Sure, sagas like the Odyssey an get passed on, but there is no indication they were done as anything but cultural artifacts.  When it comes to “things my grandmother said” and you think about it, it become more complicated very quickly.

For instance, there are things my grandmother told me her grandmother told her, which I assume had happened in her grandmother’s time but which must be a lot older.  And things I ASSUMED grandmother was telling me of experience which are impossible. Like, say, the Napoleonic wars.  Because the math just doesn’t work that way.

I realized how unreliable this is, when I realized my kids thought I came from a family of three.  You see, we have a cousin who was raised with us.  I always referred to her by her first name, so they assumed…

Now multiply that by ten thousand.  The great shocking event — like, say, the deluge — might remain, but it will move all over in time and space.  Which brings us to: was it universal?  Or did someone from that culture have a lot of kids with traveling feet who carried the legend EVERYWHERE over a couple of centuries.  I mean, it’s like the Victorians thought Amerindians were the lost tribe of Israel.  Turns out that genetics confirm a lot them have Jewish genes.  Score, right?  Well…. we’re close enough to have traced it and… no.  For whatever reason in the 17th century, an Iberian Jew went over most of the Americas impregnating Amerindian women, who bore his sons, who apparently were similarly successful with the opposite sex.  (I have a theory this was an ancestor.  On paternal grandmother’s side.  Her father had a …. reputation.)  I think, though I’m not going to put hands in fire, they actually got a probable name for this great inseminator.  But suppose a couple thousand years have passed.  Both the legend of Jewish origins and the genetics would be muddled, and we might think that the Victorians were right.

When dealing with deep antiquity assume not only garbled, but far less likely to match our expectation than you’d think.

This matters, and the crazy bells are annoying, because of course, it would be good for us to know where we come from.  Say ice ages or meteors, or even our scavenger-species tendency to stop reproducing when secure ended civilization several times before.  The ancients might not have MEANT to give us a warning, but we could still take it, and take steps to prevent it happening to US.

However, none of that matters, because the moment that you start investigating anomalous stuff, the crazy people come out of their holes tolling their little bells that say “unclean, unclean” (Or more likely “the purpose of the pyramids was to sharpen shaving blades!”) and then the Priests of Science take fright, pull up their skirts and entrench, screaming “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.”  Like, you know, given the nature of our species as tinkering monkeys, the idea of 190k years of pure stagnation ALSO isn’t an extraordinary claim.

There have been scientific studies on other fringe phenomena, like, say, telepathy, which ended up being blighted the same way.  In fact one of the books I have says that “there is undeniably something there, but the idea attracts so many charlatans it’s impossible to conduct a straight study.”

Same thing.  The more the “Knights Templar built the Pyramids to guide ALIENS” people make noise and toll the insanity bell, the less likely it is that sensible people will want to study and consider anomalous discoveries.  Which means it takes something really big like Gobekli Tepe to make us revise our chronologies or consider we might not know everything.

Now this is very fertile ground for fiction writers like me (of course I’m cackling guys.  What do you think?) but it doesn’t help understand what came before us, or who we are, or what we’re capable of, or even our persistent downfalls.

No, I’m not going to fight through the crazy bells anymore.  I got my world building.

Sooner or later we’ll know more, but I doubt we’ll know “the truth” in my or anyone living’s life.

And a great part of this is that the lies are so attractive, even if completely crazy.


IP Law and Internet Idiots by Amie Gibbons

IP Law and Internet Idiots by Amie Gibbons

(Usual disclaimer, nothing in here is meant to be taken as legal advice. These are all generalities and some flair because I’m feeling dramatic today. You have a specific question, go hire a lawyer.)

*Puts the lawyer hat and melodramatic, somehow coming out like a preacher’s tone on.*

Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, I present to you a pickle, nae, a quandary. I ask of you to stop, and think before you ink.

For we have a demon amongst us and that demon’s name is ignorance. He has a big mouth, no idea what he’s talking about and no clue just how stupid the rest of us think he is.

But oh, you say, this demon is no threat for truly the village knows the idiot.

This is the quandary, for the villagers know the idiot, but this thing we call the internet has allowed the idiot to travel far beyond the walls of his humble home and spread his message far and wide.

The idiot will tell you, you can post anything from the internet to the internet and it will be righteous. I tell you, dear peoples of the internet, it is not.  For the higher law of the copyright prevails over the wisdom of the masses. He will tell you fair use will protect you, but nae, it will not, for fair use is merely a defense, and you will have to spend your precious gold proving that defense in court because it is what we call an affirmative defense, meaning once your accuser proves you did indeed violate copyright, then you must prove your defense.

And what is this defense? The idiot will say it is available to all who innocently post on the internet. And here, he leads you down a false path, for it is not. Fair use has metrics to weigh your guilt, the greatest of which is whether your use may bring you in gold. Even if it does not, it may cost the rights holder, and there, my good folk, lies their argument.

He will tell you a picture on the internet will never be traced, and this is not true.  The world of blogs is littered with horror stories of bloggers sued for using a picture that was not theirs to use.  He will tell you that you must file officially to obtain a copyright.  Oh, poor innocent of the internet, he leads you astray, for a work has the copyright as soon as it is made.

The idiot will tell you he can take a forum, a website, a domain name and it would be looked upon favorably for these things do not exist in the world of flesh and wood, and he would be wrong.  The power in the idea can not be so contained and it too is protected by the great power of IP.

The internet idiot will tell you that you can use anyone’s creation, so long as it is on the internet and not protected by this law of copy.  And he would be wrong.  For the law of trademark sits with her brother copyright, and she is a far less tangible creature.  The power she presides over lies in the name, and what is in a name, but power over the creation?

The name is not the end of this, oh no, copyright’s and trademark’s strange cousin, brother to the patent, is the trade secret, and he also wants his say.  If the power is not in the name, nor in the design, but in the utility, it is in the realm of patent and trade secret. If the power comes from the secrecy, it is under trade secret’s domain.

And he wields strange powers. He can turn a simple list of clients into gold, a recipe into an empire, and he can come down with the power of his brethren, though he is far less known.

So beware, good people of the internet, the village idiot has traveled amongst us for far too long, and his lies have spun a web in which many an innocent poster has languished.

And it has cost them much time and gold.

(Okay, got a little silly with that one, couldn’t help it. And don’t forget to check out my latest novel about silly psychic Ariana Ryder, Psycho (and Psychic) Games.)


This Is Not An Analogy by B. Durbin

This Is Not An Analogy by B. Durbin
Just north of Bodega Bay is a series of cliffside cabins along a vertiginous stretch of Highway 1. These cabins are more cliffside as the years go along, and maintenance on this stretch of road includes occasional replacement or movement as the ocean claims its own.
About a quarter-mile from one of those cabins is a little spur of land called Duncan’s Head. My friend Neva, whose extended family owned that cabin, told me that it’s also called Death Rock, because just off the end of it is a very deep undercut, and anyone who gets swept off the point gets pulled under.
They have dynamited a trench across that point and put up barbed wire, and people still occasionally climb out there, get swept off, and drowned, because that’s humanity for you.
Duncan’s Head is angled south-southwest, and protects a little cove and beach that has a public access trail with steps and a handrail leading down to it. Beaches in Northern California aren’t the sand expanses you think of as “beaches”; they are, if they’re even sand instead of rocks, often very cold, windy, and with dangerous water. In my senior year of high school, I was out there one day with my friend Neva, taking a break from doing maintenance on the cabin. It was a sunny and fairly warm day, but we quickly got bored with playing at the water’s edge.
We started taunting the ocean.
I mean that quite literally; Neva and I were standing just out of reach of the waves, occasionally running backwards as one got higher, but pretty much staying dry and only letting the occasional rush of icy water wash over our feet. And all the time we were shouting at the ocean, saying variants of “Is that the best you can do?”
Apparently it wasn’t.
Duncan’s Head was off to our right, clearly in our field of view. I saw the water go down. In that small eternity as I saw the water rise up again, I could tell just how big the coming wave was. I managed to get one word out: “Run.”
We turned and ran, knowing that the backwards dodging that we had been doing was not nearly enough. Now, the cove was not quite semicircular. If you think of the point and cove as a capital J, there was another little jog of cove off the short end. In that little mini cove was a picnicking family, complete with blanket and all. We ran near them, shouting that they were about to be soaked, and they likewise got out of the way.
The wave didn’t completely inundate the beach but covered a good third to a half of what had been dry before. The picnickers didn’t lose anything other than a few empty food containers, because they had been finishing up, and their pet rabbit had been exploring up the cliff hill several feet above the wave line. (Pet… rabbit. Who brings their pet rabbit to the beach?) Neva and I were fine, though on a bit of an adrenaline high.
But that image has stayed with me for over twenty years. Water goes down; water comes up. Time enough to turn and run; time enough to go through dozens of scenarios in your mind.
Barely time enough to escape if the catastrophe is minor.
Not all memories are life lessons, and not all life lessons are learned at the time. I didn’t learn from that experience so much as have previous lessons proven true. I leave you with three comments:
1. Never turn your back on the ocean.
2. Know the correct action to take ahead of time if you can; it improves reaction time.
3. If you taunt the vast uncaring deep, don’t be surprised at the consequences.
(Sarah Speaking: It can be a metaphor, too. – SAH)
Shameless author promo: Hey, I wrote a book!

So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery



So You Want to Launch a Rocket?  The FAA is Here for You


Laura Montgomery

I was a space lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration.  I worked in the Chief Counsel’s office and supported the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  Now I’ve got my own firm, still practice space law, and blog about space law at

A number of years ago a whole passel of school kids showed up for A Day At The FAA.  One lucky little girl, maybe a fifth grader, got assigned to me.  We chatted in my office for a while.  I explained how the FAA licenses and regulates commercial space launch and reentry, and the operation of launch and reentry sites (aka “spaceports”).  I explained how any U.S. citizen launching anywhere in the world needs a launch license from the FAA (which explains why Michael Flynn’s Firestar has to be alternate future history, although I didn’t get into that since I figured she hadn’t read it yet).  I may even have mentioned how a person who launches without a license can get heavily fined, with the fines being adjusted for inflation every four years at that time.  I talked about launch safety, and how cool it is that in the United States you achieve safety by exploding the rocket. This kid asked a few questions, so I knew we were communicating.  She seemed to be taking it in, but you never know.

Then we went downstairs.   I had a meeting in AST and she sat in on that.  Then I took her to meet some of the engineers I worked with, where they were toiling away at their desks.  AST’s space is pretty fun for a kid.  It’s full of posters of launch vehicles, air-launched rockets, carrier aircraft that look like science fiction, boring carrier aircraft that don’t, sea-launched rockets, more rockets, and a line drawing of a Celtic spaceport  (yes, it did look like crop circles, why do you ask?).  One of the engineers pointed my young guest to a poster of two kids bending over a toy Estes model rocket.  The two kids looked happy.  “What,” asked the engineer of my visitor, “are these two doing wrong?”  (The kids were leaning over the rocket.  That’s bad.)

Wide-eyed, she looked up at him and swallowed nervously, but said very clearly, “They don’t have a license.”

Four grown men just about fell out of their chairs laughing.  I was filled with pride, of course, and they quickly explained the safety issue, that she’d been hanging out with me too long, that launching rockets was lots more fun than the boring, paper-work obsessed lawyer had made it sound, and that they were totally impressed with her.  The kid was happy.

The point is, you do need federal permission to launch a rocket from the United States.  And, if you are a U.S. citizen or other entity you need FAA approval to launch anywhere in the world.  The Commercial Space Launch Act says so. You also need permission to reenter a reentry vehicle or operate a spaceport.  The one thing my protégé had wrong, however, is that you don’t need a license—or even an experimental permit—to launch a toy rocket or even a somewhat large-ish amateur rocket.

So, if you want to launch a rocket, first, go do all your rocket science.  That’s the easy part.  Now, open the Code of Federal Regulations.  Congress passed the first version of the Commercial Space Launch Act in 1984, but the FAA’s regulation’s implementing that very broadly worded law may be found in Title 14, chapter III of the CFR.  (I share these acronyms not to be annoying, but so you will recognize them as you pursue your research, because lots of other people use them.)  The regulations get very detailed, and are full of design and test requirements for the flight termination system you will need to destroy your rocket in case it goes off course.  You need a flight termination system if you are launching a large expendable launch vehicle (ELV), the kind that jettisons its component stages in the ocean on its way to orbit, but if you are flying people on board the FAA may try to be more flexible.  (The Shuttle used to have a flight termination system).  You will also have to launch far enough away from other people that you meet the FAA’s risk criteria.  If you have a really big rocket this likely means you should launch over the ocean.  We took the risk criteria from the Air Force, which called them the “expected casualty” numbers.  I meekly suggested calling it something else but got overruled.

Anyway, back to your license application.  Make sure you have filled it out completely enough for the FAA to get started working on it.  If you do, the clock starts ticking on the FAA, which has 180 days to complete a review where it makes sure you are capable of satisfying the regulations.  If you provide only a semi-finished application, the FAA can stop the clock.  You will be annoyed but will get to complain how the government is slowing you down.

Then there’s the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental impact statements and environmental assessments for major federal actions, which includes licensing. If you launch from an existing spaceport you won’t have to do too much work for an environmental review.  If you go from a new place of your own, you might be out there counting desert tortoises before you can launch to establish an environmental baseline.  You have been warned.

You need a payload review.  If your payload isn’t licensed by the FCC or NOAA, the FAA gets to look at it for whether there are any national security or foreign policy concerns.   (The latter is something I’ve been writing and testifying about a lot, but you’re the launch operator with plenty of other things to worry about, so I won’t go into that today.)

Do you want to put people on your rocket?  There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt:  space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call.  Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew.  That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence.   However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches.  You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing.  You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.

Once you get your license, you have to buy insurance or show the FAA that you have enough money to cover the damage you may cause to third parties or U.S. government property.  Also, you have to sign waivers of claims with the government, all your customers (each person who has put an object on your vehicle as a payload), crew, space flight participants, and your contractors and subcontractors.  Everyone, to put it in largely accurate terms, has to agree not to sue everyone else.

At this point, your eyes may be glazing over.  You might think to yourself that you will incorporate as a foreign entity and go launch somewhere else like they did in Firestar, and get away from all of this.  Not so fast.  Firestar was alternate future history, and the people who administer the dread ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, will want to take a look at you if you try to provide your launch technology to a foreign entity, which is what you have become if you incorporate in another country.

When you decide that’s too hard, the FAA will be there for you.  Welcome back.

Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli & Hurray for Promo Sunday by Freerange Oyster

Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli

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:

Hurray for Promo Sunday by Freerange Oyster

Cedar Sanderson

Tanager’s Fledglings

The Tanager Book 1

When the starship’s captain died midway through a run with a cargo of exotic animals, the owner gave first mate Jem one chance, and one choice. The chance: if he successfully runs the trade route solo, he’ll become the new captain. If he fails, he’ll lose the only home he’s ever known.

And the choice? He’s now raising an old earth animal called a basset hound. Between station officials, housebreaking, pirates, and drool, Jem’s got his hands full!

J. M. Anjewierden

The Long Black

The Black Chronicles Book 1

Morgan always assumed that if she could survive growing up in the mines of Planet Hillman – feared for its brutal conditions and gravity twice that of Earth – she could survive anything.

That was before she became a starship mechanic. Now she has to contend with hostile bosses, faulty equipment, and even taking care of her friend’s little girl. Once pirates show up, it’s a wonder she can get any work done at all.

Hans G. Schantz

The Hidden Truth

They subverted science, rewrote history, and corrupted society. Now he knows. And he’ll prove it, if they don’t kill him first.

Read the amazing new science fiction techno-thriller about the conspiracy corrupting the world and the young man who rallies his friends and family to fight back.

J.L. Curtis

Into the Green


After a chance encounter with Dragoons and Traders turns a routine planet exploration into a rout that kills his team and his career, Lieutenant Ethan Fargo, medically retired, wants nothing more than to hole up in the backwater Rimworld he’d explored and enjoy a quiet retirement far from people or problems.

Unfortunately, he’s about to find out that he’s not as retired as he wants to be, and that his new home system comes with dangers, politics, and Dragoon sightings of its own. What promised to be a boring retirement will turn out to be anything but.

Henry Vogel

The Fugitive Snare

Matt & Michelle Book 3

Psi Corps wants Matt, the most powerful psychic in generations. He slipped through their fingers twice and escaped beyond the borders of the Terran Federation. But mere laws won’t stop Psi Corps from coming after Matt.

Psi Corps wants Michelle, Matt’s wife and the key to controlling him. Trained as a bodyguard since birth, Michelle is the only reason Matt is still free. But no bodyguard can stop the full might of the most powerful government in known space.

When a surprise attack almost catches them, Matt and Michelle realize they have nowhere to hide. They must take the fight to Psi Corps. To live free they must find Psi Corps’ weakness and exploit it. They must be David to Psi Corps’ Goliath. They must slay the giant or serve it.

Slayer or slavery—there are no other options.

Karen Myers

Monsters, And More

There’s a Sword for That

MONSTERS – Xenoarchaeologist Vartan has promised his young daughter Liza one of the many enigmatic lamedh objects that litter the site of a vanished alien civilization.

No one can figure out what they’re good for, but Liza finds a use for one.

ADAPTABILITY – The Webster Marble Deluxe Woodsman, Model 820-E, has been offline for quite some time. Quite some time indeed.

Good thing Webster has a manual to consult, and a great many special functions.

The Visitor, And More

There’s a Sword for That

THE VISITOR – Felockati is anchored to his permanent location underwater and misses the days of roaming his ocean world freely.

But something new drops out of the sky and widens his horizons – all the way to the stars.

YOUR EVERY WISH – Stealing the alien ambassador’s dagger is a sure thing for Pete – just what he needs to pay off his debts.

Until he starts talking to it. There has to be a way to get something for himself out of the deal. Has to be.

J.M. Ney-Grimm

The Tally Master

A Lodestone Tale

Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place.

The citadel of a troll warlord – haunt of the desperate and violent – proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage. But Gael wields power enough to create an oasis of order amidst the chaos.

Now master of the metals that flow to the citadel’s weapon forges, Gael rules his tally room unchallenged, until he discovers a theft within its vaults.

Gael loves the quiet certainty of black ink tally marks on smooth parchment, but his search for the thief leads to a maze of unexpected answers, putting his hard-won sanctuary – and his life – at risk.

Set in the Bronze Age of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.

Blake Smith

A Kingdom of Glass

Garia Cycle, Book 1


Zara hasn’t seen her family in eleven years, but she doesn’t mind. They sent her to live in a neighboring kingdom when she was small, and she’s adopted her foster parents in their place. She lives the life of an aristocratic Garian girl- riding her horse, shooting her bow, exploring the castle with her friends- and she has nothing to wish for.
Until she’s summoned home, to a prospective marriage she doesn’t want, family she doesn’t remember, and a poisonous royal court that threatens everything she’s ever known. The East Morlans are nothing like Garia, and Zara struggles to find her place among the scheming Morlander aristocrats. Along the way, she makes new friends, meets enemies, and falls in love. But secrets abound in the glittering palace, and Zara must discover who she can trust as she fights for her life and freedom in a fragile, beautiful, kingdom of glass.

Sarah A. Hoyt

Darkship Revenge


The popular Darkship series returns!

After winning the civil war in Eden, Athena returns to her calling, collecting powerpods with her husband Kit. Now weeks away from Earth, she goes into labor. To make matters worse, a strange ship attacks Athena and Kit’s Cathouse and kidnaps Athena’s husband. That ship is called Je Reviens. It’s a named steeped in history—and not the good kind of history.

Hot on Kit’s trail, Athena discovers that you shouldn’t name a ship Je Reviens unless you intend it to return. The genetically modified Mules are back, and they have a plan to prevent themselves from being exiled ever again. And if the Mules win, the best thing humanity can hope for is slavery.

The worst is death.

While a bio-engineered plague wreaks havoc on the forces of liberty, Athena must risk herself, her husband, and her child for the survival of humanity.

The Mules may be about to find out what revenge truly is: one angry mother.

Elise Hyatt

A Fatal Stain

Daring Finds Book 3


When Dyce Dare buys a table to refinish, the last thing she expects is to find a human blood stain under the amateurish finish. Whose blood is it? What happened to the person who bled on the table?
Helped and hindered by her fiance, Cas Wolfe, her friend Ben, her son E and an imaginary llama named Ccelly, Dyce must find the killer and the victim, before the killer finds her.

What You Need To Know About Search And Seizure but Were Afraid to Ask by Amie Gibbons

What You Need To Know About Search And Seizure but Were Afraid to Ask by Amie Gibbons

*There are some things every American should know.  Your rights when it comes to search and seizure definitely make the list, especially considering cases that have been making lawyers flinch all over the country, like the FBI Apple debacle.  Knowing your rights may not protect you from the government violating them, but it could, and at the very least, you’ll know when to take it to court.*

(As always, this isn’t to be taken as any kind of legal advice, just some very simplified basics for the lay person, and a little bit of ranting lawyer.)

We’ve all seen Law and Order, right?  Well, they don’t always get stuff right but they are usually pretty on about cops having to dance around the system to get to look through your shit.  And it’s this big pain and always seems like the 4th amendment and the getting a warrant thing is there to get in the cops’ way, right?

If there is one of my legal posts I want you to remember, it’s this one.  Because the 4th amendment isn’t there to get in the cops’ way or to be a stupid bureaucratic hoop to jump through.

The 4th amendment and the warrant are there to protect your rights.

We’ll start from the top, the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I can not even begin to describe the massive amounts of legal scholarship there is on this issue, the many thousands of cases picking at every little point possible to argue, and the millions of hours lawyers and law students have debated issues around this amendment.  So this will be a bare bones outline of the topic, and there are many others on my blog that delve deeper.

When analyzing the 4th amendment, we have 4 basic steps we go through (4 for 4, the OCD in me loves that symmetry).

  1. To invoke the 4th amendment, what do you need first?

That’s right, government conduct.  The Constitution only protects you from the government violating your rights.  Your boyfriend breaking in and reading your diary is not a Constitutional issue. And someone shooting and killing you to keep you from raping them doesn’t violate your sixth amendment right to a fair and speedy trial (Do not get me started on that retard in the Puffington Post who said this!)

And here’s the first point we debate in every criminal procedure class, what counts as government conduct?  Then we get into issue of somebody stealing stuff from someone’s house and giving it to the cops.  Does that count as government involvement?  Well, (every lawyer’s favorite answer) it depends.  Basically it comes down to specific case law in your jurisdiction and whether the judge believes in the end that the person acted alone or under a request from the police.

  1. Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy on your part?  If the following suggests yes, move to step 3.

This first asks, was it your place that was violated?  Your house, car, apartment, private jet, body.  Was it yours?  If not, if it was something like a friend’s place, were you crashing there?  This gets messy but in TN at least, if you were an overnight guest at somebody’s place, you have some reasonable expectation of privacy.  As in, the cops come knocking on the door and ask to search, you can say no.

And the next question is, did you hold whatever it was out to the public?  Was it in the garbage, an open field out back, or sitting on the porch?  Or was it something like a smell or the color of the car?  If it’s held out to the public, as in anyone not a cop could see without trespassing (basically, but again, this gets a hell of a lot more complicated), then the cops didn’t violate the 4th amendment by observing it.

  1. Did the police have a valid search warrant?

They can search through your stuff with a search warrant.  That’s what the warrant is there for.  But, to be valid, it must i) be based upon probable cause (reasonable grounds to believe a legitimate item for seizure is located in a particular place) and ii) describe with particularity the person and places to be searched.  Again, it’s a lot more involved (especially in debating what counts for probably cause) but this is the basic idea.  So if they didn’t have a valid warrant, you go onto step 4.

  1. And this is the big kahuna step, it’s the one you see pop up in court and on TV most often.  There wasn’t a warrant, there was a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy by the government, and the government is trying to keep the evidence in by arguing an exception.

And there are exceptions to the search and seizure requires a warrant rule?  Yep.  And you know why?  Because the 4th amendment does not actually require a warrant!  Nope, go and read it again.  It has two parts.  Search and seizure can’t be unreasonable.  There’s a Supreme Court case that says it’s unreasonable without a warrant unless there’s one of the exceptions.

As for what the exceptions are?  Those are different posts because it’s waaaaaay too involved and this one’s already pretty long.  Let’s just say, there’s a lot of them and a lot of ways to argue you are or are not in one.  This is where Prosecutors and Criminal Defense Attorneys earn their paychecks.

The 4th amendment, it’s the big one.

And why is that?  Why is it such a big deal?  Because if the court finds that the evidence was found in violation of the 4th amendment, the evidence gets tossed out.  Again, there’s exceptions, like if they can show they would’ve inevitably discovered the same evidence, but usually, violating rights loses cops the evidence.  It’s called the exclusionary rule.

And I HATE this rule!

There’s a long rant that goes with it, but the short version is: Since the rule only takes out the evidence in a trial, it punishes the system (and not the cops who did the violating in the first place) by letting the criminal go free, but provides NO remedy whenever it’s an innocent citizen whose rights were violated because that citizen is not on trial.  There was no evidence to find and to therefore keep out of a trial.

The idea is that cops will be afraid if they find something that it will then be tossed out, and therefore they don’t violate anybody’s rights.  We wouldn’t have so many freaking cases on this if it were true, but hey.

Moral of the story?  The law isn’t perfect, neither are cops, and if you want your rights protected you’ve got to know what they are.  You have the right to tell a cop asking you if he can search you or your place no.  If he then searches anyway, well, you might have something to hide that you can later try to get tossed out or you might have a cause to sue.  But that’s another post too.

(If you like a little law in your fiction, check out my latest novel about silly psychic Ariana Ryder, Psycho (and Psychic) Games.)