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Just the Sunday Vignettes, Ma’am- by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli

Just the Sunday Vignettes, Ma’am- 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:
kindly

Golden Moments

As most of you know I’m buried under a book deadline, and having  asthma attacks that pretty much knock me flat.

I know why and they’re tied to anxiety about family members, some of them health related.  But that doesn’t diminish the stress.

And yet there are golden moments.

What are golden moments?  When you get older, and have lived enough, you find most of your memories slide into this kind of haze “this type of day” is much like another type of day.  Unless you’re ten (and even then) if I ask you what you did on Thursday last week, you’re likely to get a blank.

Golden moments are the times you remember, the ones that stand out.  They’re not always what you’d expect, and they’re often not something that would work for anyone else.

My most obvious one, that comes to mind before even receiving the Prometheus, is the day we discovered Lakeside amusement park.  For those not in the area, it’s a seedy amusement park.  Some days, if they dropped a bomb in that killed all those who spoke Spanish as a primary language, only my family would be left alive.

But it’s perfect for us, because I hate most rides.  (Inner ear is wonky.  Being spun or shaken makes me deeply uncomfortable.  I don’t pay to be uncomfortable.)  We often had a coupon to get in free, the kids and Dan would get all day passes to the rides (the last time we went some years ago it was $15, but when we started going I think it was $7) And I got $2 worth of tickets to the merry go round and the train, which we did at the end of the day.

That first time we discovered the park — because I watched a documentary on the wooden roller coaster — it was all magical.  it was a perfect day, just warm enough.  The boys were five and two.  They’d never been to an amusement park.  We stayed there till ten pm and then had late dinner. I’ll always remember that day, and the way the kids laughed (they still had baby-laugh.)

Another is when I was very depressed and Dan told me to get my coat, and we drove (then an hour and a half) for a walk in City Park.  It was unexpected, it was fun, it was very romantic.

The other was this week, when Dan said “Are you making a great deal of headway?”

I said, no.  He said “Come on.”  So we went out in his convertible (older than the boys, I think.)  And we went out for a walk by the lake and a light dinner (appetizers and salad. ) The sun was up, the day was warm, and I was with my love.  That too is a golden moment.

Today is a rather difficult day, as I had an asthma attack this morning, and I’m trying to clean and work at the same time, which is like juggling chainsaws.  But we had a nice leisurely brunch together, and well… it might still turn out to be a golden moment.

This last week made me all too aware that not only time passes, but that we never know how much we have.  I don’t know if there’s eternity, but I have a gut feeling there is.  Surely the golden moments go with us.

Go make your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Careful What You Ask For – E. Marshall Hoyt

Be Careful What You Ask For – E. Marshall Hoyt

SWITZERLAND
That’s the counter to use against liberals on healthcare!
Liberals hold the firm belief that healthcare is a right, and that every citizen should have healthcare, regardless of circumstance.
If they support the government telling everyone they need healthcare, surely they approve of Switzerland, which basically requires all males own a gun?
Surely if they are so keen to adopt European policy, we should enforce gun ownership as much as they want to enforce healthcare.
They believe that healthcare is a right, and I believe- Nay, I KNOW because unlike healthcare the constitution agrees with me- that gun ownership is a right.
Surely we must enforce ALL things that are “Moral, and an obvious right”
It is your right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure- surely to enforce this we must keep citizen’s surrounding in check. To watch over their lives and assure that no one goes against that right.
I have heard many think that having a roof, food, and decent wages is the bare minimum that anyone deserves. Perhaps the government should buy you your house, your food, and give you a job itself, so it can pay you a wage.
But of course liberals already believe in that- Shelters, welfare, and New Deal jobs- meant to keep people busy, but not productive.
Surely the government should dictate more- how many children you have, how many luxuries you purchase, and of course in order to enforce free speech, the government would have to outline what you can’t say, else you infringe on other’s “free” speech.
Of course we’ve seen societies much like this before. We’ve seen them rise and fall. We’ve seen them build on the apparent displeasure and will of the people. The leaders of these movements, always harangue people until they believe they’ve been conned out the basic necessities of living. Necessities that should be theirs simply for existing.
But these societies, full of people who think they are bending the government to their will to give them what they want, only extended the power and reach of their governments.
Soon their lives were not their own, no more choices, no more freedoms, under the clever guise of “The people”, because they did indeed at one time ask for all of this.
They just didn’t understand what they were asking for.

Green

This is a post about grass and fences.

Yes.  I live in Denver.  I’ll let you get it out of your system now.  Yes, yes, grass, ahahahahaha.  We’ve sure never heard that one before.  (Has anyone seen my eyes?  I think they rolled under the sofa.  Someone find them before Havey-cat does.)  All I will say on that part of “grass” is that driving for two years after legalization was h*ll on Earth, with idiots not realizing that counted as impaired.  Seems to be smoothing out to normal Denver rate of casual vehicular homicide now, so I think that dime has dropped.

Now to be serious a while, let’s talk of envy.  It is almost St. Patrick’s day, and that particular form of green DOES pinch.  It pinches mostly those who sport it.  It can kill friendships (or in extreme cases prevent their ever forming.)  And it can destroy those who hold onto it.

Years ago, in one of our most uncertain (financially, emotionally, etc) times, we dropped by to talk to a friend, whom, we thought, should know something of strategies to move us past the issues we had at the time.  Or at least, we thought, he’d have some idea where to  look for jobs, some clue where to look for loans or contract work so as to make mortgage payments.  He is, after all, older than we are, and has always been more affluent.

What we found was something quite different.  We couldn’t get this gentleman, who really does have our best interests at heart to UNDERSTAND we were in real trouble.  What we got was chuckles at our “pretend” distress and reassurances that “you’ll come out all right. You always do.  You’re the luckiest people I know.”

Now from the inside, having lived our lives together for the last 32 years or so, I don’t … see it.  Lucky is not the way I describe it.  Yes, by and large we are all right on the other side, but sometimes I think I should have “nothing is ever easy or simple” engraved in my forehead, mirror image, so I can read it every morning.

More times than I can say, Dan and I have found that our sure bets turned to dust in our hands.  (In fact, if we make the prudent decision, it always seems to turn out very badly.)  More times than I can even remember, our *sses were only saved from absolute ruin and losing everything we have managed to get by a wild throw, a last save, a chance in a million, and one that required us, incidentally, to work like mad people, or to sacrifice things we really loved or wanted.

At least once we went massively into debt and sold a house at cost, and moved across the country with nothing, because the culmination of something we had worked towards for 6 years — #1 son’s birth — went disastrously wrong, at the worst possible time, (we were on COBRA) and put us in debt for 1/3 of our mortgage at that time. (It also, incidentally, looking at the post-surgery images from 2015, rendered me unable to have more children.  So we’re not sure where younger son came from, or how he managed to be carried to term.  Count that as one genuine miracle, and a stunning stroke of luck.)

Even now, when we’re secure-ish, we’re gambling on at least four wild routes for my career (which require an amazing amount of work, yes) and my husband’s job as been fleeting in and out of some kind of limbo.  (Though it should resolve soon, and positively.  we hope.)

To look at our wild, careening race, with marginal help only (my parents.  We couldn’t have survived without it, but we also can never count on it.  Mostly it has been good to get the kids things we could never afford, like cars to drive themselves to college.  It would have been interesting to share one car) to know every time we hung suspended by our bleeding fingernails above the precipice, and to hear it described as “you will come out all right.  You’re the luckiest people I know” was a stunning shock.  But, not for the first time, but the clearest time, it showed me something: no one knows how hard someone has it.  NO ONE, except that person.

Apparently, from the outside, we’re the golden couple, moving in an eternal summer, effortlessly plucking up golden plums as we go.

I’m not even sure how we give that impression.  It must be that not seeing all the scrabbling and the endless hours of work behind the scenes, people think things fall into our lap?  Because we’re achieving more than they expect or anyone, it must be luck?

And then I looked at my acquaintance with new eyes: did I really know how well or badly those people who seemed incredibly fortunate were doing? Did I understand how hard they worked?  Had I a clue?

The answer is most certainly “no.”  The view we have of each other, from the outside, particularly if we aren’t close to that person, is a sort of “Christmas newsletter” view.  “oh, look, achievement, achievement, fortunate event.”  But you don’t see the stumbles, the falls, the years spent not sleeping as you worry how a chance might come out, the years of work till all hours, to make the chance come.

A study done a few years back identified the ONLY thing that men who got a lot of dates had in common: they asked out a lot of women.  How many is a lot?  A lot.  Like ten times more than the ones that said yes.  While men who didn’t date, or barely dated, might ask once a decade and get a yes every two times, the guys who asked constantly got hundreds upon hundreds of rejections… and a steady stream of acceptances.

I know back in pre-history, when the only form of publication was traditional, and when I and my writers’ group had decided that we must first break in to short stories markets, I probably sold more short stories than anyone in the group.  I did it by writing more and sending out more and getting FAR MORE rejections than anyone else I knew.  My first sold short story had garnered EIGHTY rejections in four years, by the time I sold it.  I had gathered another 100 or so for other work.  For years after that, I got 100 rejections by the end of March like clockwork.  And kept going.  My worst day was when all sixty some pieces of work I had out came back rejected THE SAME DAY.  It would still have been survivable, if I hadn’t managed to have a bad cold and another infection at the same time.  As it was, it took me to the doctor.  On my birthday.  BUT I survived, and I’m here.  I now sell, not counting indie, about 90% of everything I write.  Which seems very fortunate, but believe me, for a while there, I was the writer of NO future.  And yep, as the acceptances (back then I averaged around 10 a year) started coming in, people said how “lucky” I was.

Now, I’m not bragging about how tough I have it. My acquaintance is now wide enough and deep enough, that I look at about 1/3 of my friends, and know what they’re going through, what they’ve gone through for years, and think “Wow.  I don’t know how I’d even survive that, without coming unglued.”

We ARE lucky.  Sure, we struggle, pretty much ALL the time.  I worry for the boys every waking minute.  Sometimes in my sleep too.

But we’re very happy too.  I was lucky in one of the most important things one can be lucky in: I picked the right partner.  No, it was not careful reasoning.  No one can know each other well enough to know how the years will change them.  We were lucky.  We grew together.  It could easily have gone the other way.

But other than that wild stroke of luck, and having two sons whose company we enjoy — and those strokes of luck are probably the biggest anyone can get — no, nothing is ever easy or simple.  Often, particularly with my career, my saying goes that I have no more heart, and so I must forge my guts into a new heart.  I must make my will power stand for the enthusiasm and love that has gotten worn away.  And I do.  Somehow.

The important thing here is that we appear as a golden couple FROM THE OUTSIDE.  From the inside, it’s an endless slog, and other people appear TO US as golden, as having an easy path through life.  But I bet they don’t.

Leftists intuit this, only they intuit it in their own grubby way which forever mistrusts individuals not supervised by government.  Their fiction reflects this.  It turns “no one is that lucky” into “no one is clean.”  Unable to understand that there might be difficulties in every life, but that the people enduring them and struggling through them might very well still be capable and pure of heart and hard working, they instead turn everything behind the facade into dross and horror.  Every minister is a child abuser or a womanizer.  Every successful businessman is crooked.  Every woman is unfaithful.  Every child is a drug user and promiscuous.

It’s like they looked over the fence at the green grass and, unable to bear their own envy, decided to pretend/believe it was all poison ivy, as far as the eye can see.

Sigh.  It’s a way to cope with envy.  It’s not a good way.

You see, the danger of imagining everyone else has it easy and a wonderful life, and a charmed ride to the top, is that it blights YOU.  You then, instead of trying, sit there and scream at the gods, at fate, at everything, because where IS your charmed ride? Where is your magic carpet?  Why do you have to crawl along the rock-strewn road, while others glide effortlessly over it?

Imagining that someone else really doesn’t have it, or that he only got it through horrible means helps soothe the envy.  But it’s still dysfunctional.  You give yourself permission to act out, to be as horrible as possible, because after all EVERYONE is horrible, they’re just hypocrites who project this beautiful image.  And then you write grey goo fiction and the only sin you’ll recognize is hypocrisy.  Which fortunately you’re immune from, since you surrendered all your principles because “no one has any.”  So you’re as nasty as you wanna be… and destroy yourself as surely as if you sit there raging at fate.  More surely, maybe.  There’s nothing left to love, dream of or hope for. You might as well have sold your soul, because you’re gonna lose it anyway.

We’re humans.  Sure, none of us is perfect.  The best people I know have flaws.  They’re aware of them, they compensate for them.  I do not know any — not even among people I despise — scoundrels as perfect as the “nobody is clean” people imagine.

I also do not know anyone who is flawlessly lucky and golden.  Sure, some people are luckier than others. And some have connections and nepotism can never be eliminated.  in any society.

But in the end — in the very end — most of us get what we work for, and persist through as much as we can endure.

It is important to remember that because envy is a disabling sin.  It disables YOU.  It colors all your relationships. It colors your view of the world.  It can get you to stop even trying to get anywhere, and when you get somewhere, it can turn everything you’ve achieved into dust and dross, because someone has more.

Does someone have more?  Guaranteed someone does. There are six billion of us.  Some have a lot. Do some people have an easier ride than others?  Assuredly.  Some people are very fortunate.  And yet, I bet if you were in their shoes, you’d find they pinch, too, and that they too have challenges and things they cannot reach.  What about people who REALLY achieve?  Are they all corrupt?  Do they all “sell out” to achieve?  No, they are not all corrupt.  Some people hold on to very high principles, even while succeeding.  As for “selling out” it depends on what you mean.  You buy success with time and effort, and those come at a price.  You might ruin your health, you might lose your kids early development, you might even ruin your marriage, to achieve something.

It all gets back to the price of magic.  Success, like magic, has a price.  What are you willing to pay?

And only you can answer that: what do you have? What do you bring? what are you willing to pay for what?

I discovered, for instance, that while I could make a lot of money flipping houses (seriously, it’s the only thing I have a talent for) I didn’t want to do it.  Nothing about the work made my heart sing.  And if I did it it would take ALL my time, at the expense of what I DID want which was to write books people read.  That was my decision.  So all those times we’re incredibly tight?  The price I pay for a career in writing.

You pays your money, you places you bet.

EVERYONE does.  Envy of someone who risked more to collect more is not only misplaced.  it will eat you alive.

So send the green eyed monster to the right about.  Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  It’s an illusion of refraction and distance.

In fact, everyone’s grass is as green as the owner is willing to pay for: in time, in money, in effort, in the sweat of his brow.

Wasting time with envy only makes your life needlessly hard and blights your existence.

You want it?  Great.  No one is going to hand it to you.  What are you willing to PAY?

Situational Ethics, a Guest Post by Caitlin I. Woods

Situational Ethics, a Guest Post by Caitlin I. Woods

Is it wrong to steal if it’s to feed your starving family?

No, no, wait—I mean, what if you *really really* needed the food, and you had no alternative way to get it, and you had a huge extended family that was going to die, *literally die* if you didn’t procure food for them *right now*. And you live in a hideous dystopic world where the powers that be are intentionally starving everyone, and the only people who have food are the ones that are actively starving

everyone else, and…

Stop. Just stop.

Yes, I’m sure it’s possible to posit a world where the only reasonable alternative to death is theft, and even a world where any moral person would cheer the decision. You win. I will completely and totally agree that it is theoretically possible to come up with the circumstance.

So. Freaking. What.

I think the best comparison is really something like… I don’t know, gravity. The effects of gravity vary wildly depending on where in the universe you’re observing it. In a black hole, it is an astoundingly inescapable force that even light is powerless against. On Deimos, a human could, unassisted, attain escape velocity.

For pretty much all practical purposes, though? Gravity is 32ft/s^2, and anyone who needs to deal with it being different than that will certainly know it well enough in advance to be able to make the proper allowances.

In the same vein, while it’s possible to come up with a circumstance in which it isn’t wrong to steal… it’s not here, it’s not now, and it’s a circumstance none of us are likely to come across. Ever. Let me put it this way: While we can have an argument about whether it is more moral to steal than to allow someone under your care to die of starvation, there are *so many millions of options to take* before that’s even remotely an issue that I’m astounded at the sheer fatuousness it requires to come up with the circumstance.

But it’s not fatuousness. Not really.

It’s an inherent, knowing attempt to destroy the entire idea of things being always right or wrong *at all*.

Think about it. Let’s just go and assume it’s all right to steal so long as you’re trying to feed your starving family, take it as a premise, as obvious as water being wet or fire burning.

Well, that means that stealing *isn’t wrong*, per se. Not for the fact that it involves taking something that isn’t yours. It’s just wrong if you do it for the wrong *reasons*. It takes the question of morality from the *act*—and, perhaps even more importantly, from the *victim*—and onto whether you had a really good reason to do it.

This itself is pretty horrifying. I mean, let’s say you and your family are escaping from some sort of murderous chainsaw clown. Is it okay to push a bystander in front of him in order to distract him long enough to get away? If we think about it in this way, there’s no question. You do what you have to in order to save your family. The

victim… well, is the victim really important, anyway?

But it gets even worse when you think just another step further.

Because if right and wrong is just a matter of circumstance, who is it that gets to decide the circumstances?

Circumstances are a slippery beast. You can’t codify them in advance; there’s just too many of them, and there’s a real impulse to make every different detail you can into a question. (This is one of the reasons that common law gets so confusing so quickly.) The only way to *really* gauge if something is a circumstantial right or a

circumstantial wrong… is to appoint a judge.

A judge, see, who can see past the bourgeois concepts of things being right or wrong in and of themselves, and able to see instead the entirety of the circumstance behind them. The petty puffery behind an act of charity, say, or the true helplessness behind an act of theft.

No more condemning people for something that isn’t *really* wrong, not given the circumstances.

Wouldn’t that be *great*?

(And again, pretty much anyone in any of the countries with commenters on this blog have about a zillion options to turn to before they’d really be reduced to theft or starvation. Seriously, we are in an era of plenty *undreamed of* in any past age, where  he only real way to starve people *at all* is to actively prevent them from getting any of the food that charitable souls are trying to send their way. We might as well talk about whether it’s right to sacrifice a virgin in order to prevent the

village from being torched by a dragon.)

So sure. I can see a world and a circumstance and a time and a family where it wouldn’t be wrong to steal.

But it’s sure as hell a lot harder to come up with than the situation where puffed up jackasses try to eliminate the idea of right and wrong in order to consolidate power into their own greedy little hands.

Go live in that world if you care to. If you can find it. But leave *my* world alone, before you destroy everything good about it.

Because believe me—the concept of objective wrong is not the only thing you’ll be losing.

Bare Branches

branchesIt seems to me that this is my week for apologies.  I apologize.  I have guest posts working, but I was so tired, yesterday, that I couldn’t find it in me to schedule (or read even) them.  And this morning, when the place opened, I had an MRI.

Complicating things, I slept very badly.  Partly the two deaths, partly other people’s issues which I, like an idiot, tend to take on my shoulders, partly the book which I’m still fighting (mostly because I keep having headache-clusters and I’ve been in the middle of the auto-immune attack of the year, I think, with asthma and arthritis particularly bad.)   To make matters worse, Havey-cat decided it was a great time to demand pets every ten minutes, and when he failed to get them, run around the room batting things to the floor.  Since half the room is my “art studio” this woke me up, but unfortunately never enough to kick him out and close the door.

So today I’m at least two of the seven dwarfs, plus an alternate one: Sleepy, Dopey and Wheezy.

Which is probably why I’m attempting to do a post I had in mind for a long time, except perhaps with a different slant.

I first thought of the concept of “bare branches” when reading about Chinese families where the son couldn’t afford to marry.  The family line ends.  The branch is bare.

Most of us, on this blog, are bare branches.  Okay, I might just feel like it, but it would not shock me overmuch if neither of the boys marry/have kids.  It seems to be a thing for Odds.  It’s also a thing of our times.  I’m not sure EXACTLY what other long range goals modern feminism will have accomplished, but crashing human population in the lands it infects seems to be very effective.

My grandmother, younger than my mom is now, had something like 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  My mom has four grandsons and no great grandchildren.  In fact in the whole extended family, including in it my cousin Natalia, who was raised with us, there is ONE child in the generation after my boys: a two year old born to a father who turns forty this year.  So, there is a very good chance that if I have grand kids I’ll never see them.  And it’s equally likely I’ll never have them, too.

So — bare branches.

Part of the reason for so many bare branches, particularly among the highly educated is the postponing of marriage and children till after education.  Part of the reason of bare branches among the Odds is that even in the age of the internet, there are so few of us we have trouble meeting/mating.  (Particularly those of us who are not on the left.  I swear we should start Almacks at Liberty Con.) Also, we have, as Kate put it in one of her con books “bodies as strange as our minds” and I suspect, though I have no proof, that infertility is higher in our ranks.  Though, frankly, just marrying late will do it.  And then there are any number of us who — most of us being cuckoo eggs and hurt by our upbringing, not because our parents were bad, but because we were odd — simply don’t think we’re fit to be parents.  And hell, we might even be right, though it could be argued nobody is fit.  But we are perhaps more conscious of it.

It’s entirely possible that the odd branches have been bare throughout history, that the people who communicated and lived for the mind were mostly childless, and left no descendants.  Certainly most of the great names of the past were either childless or (Shakespeare, for ex) grandchildless.

It’s possible the Odd world passes every generation, and every generation new Odds step up.  Leo Frankowski in one of his books thought that the church led to a massive decrease in IQ from the middle ages, by siphoning off the smarter boys into celibacy.  But I’m not sure that’s how that works.  I suspect a lot of the people went into monasteries or convents because they were Odd and having trouble mating (imagine pre-internet.)  And I’m fairly sure that’s not how intelligence works, or whatever you want to call the way our brains work sideways and upside down.  I imagine a number of us are thrown off every generation.  And the operative might be “thrown off.”  Evolution has a way of cutting off extremes.  And older son tells me the type of “extremely connected” brain we seem to have comes with issues like sensory and emotional issues.  Also other issues run in the same pack, like extreme auto-immune.

Some days I look around at my friends and colleagues and feel as though I’m living in a lost world, one that will leave no genetic trace in the future.

I kept meaning to write about it, and getting too depressed and not doing it.

Which brings me to yesterday.  Yesterday a first cousin once removed (I think.  My mom’s first cousin, and raised with her) died.

She wasn’t around much, when I was little, because she and her husband lived and worked MOSTLY abroad.  I think it was something like: South Africa, Rhodesia, France, Belgium.  They retired and moved to Portugal about the time I was born.

But without being around much, they were still two of my favorite people.  She, because she REALLY liked children, and he because he was… well… Odd.  There were other reasons, too.  They never had children.  She wanted them.  He didn’t (his upbringing having mangled him.)  But they tried.  It just never happened.

In a way they were a strange marriage, for the time and place I grew up in.  Most people were married FOR the children, or at least acted like it, in the village.  It was strange to see a middle aged childless couple, much less one that obviously enjoyed each other’s company.  And he WAS Odd.  Quick-witted and with killer snark.  I remember being three or four and trying to imitate him as he did yoga. He stopped and rather solemnly taught me how to do it.  Which is part of why I liked him.  He never treated kids like kids, but like serious little adults.  And his wife was just … a mother thing, always trying to console and help.

It will tell you how much I liked them that I don’t remember a single gift they brought me.  Because their visits were their own reward.  (I’m sure they brought me gifts.  you bring gifts for the children in the family.  It’s a Portuguese thing.  I just don’t remember any.)

He died somewhere between ten and fifteen years ago.  No, I don’t remember, for two reasons: the first is that he had a stroke, and stopped functioning at grown up level somewhere around 20 years ago.  The other is that I only go to Portugal once every few years, and the visits run together in my mind.

She died yesterday.  It was a great sadness, because she had become my parents’ main companion to go out to dinner, or have a picnic, or even just hang out and talk to my parents.

I first knew she had died, because my nephew, Jorge Ferreira de Almeida, (a poet of some renown himself) posted a poem on Facebook, which weirdly brought about that idea of “bare branches.” I thought the poem was his, until now, in fact, when I realize it’s a quote.  Cynthia Bagley very kindly has translated it.  I’ll reproduce it below.

“Cedo ou tarde

Devias saber

que é sempre tarde

que se nasce, que é

sempre cedo

que se morre. E devias

saber também

que a nenhuma árvore

é lícito escolher

o ramo onde as aves

fazem ninho e as flores

procriam.”

Albano Martins, 1930

You should know
it is always too late
when one is born,
it is always too early
when one dies.

And you should
know

that no single tree
chooses
the branch– where birds
nest, and flowers
bloom – Trans by Cynthia Bagley (a poet you should read, if you read any.)

My cousin had no children, but her kindness and — let’s face it — her husband’s Odness left a wide imprint on a little Odd girl who felt otherwise completely out of place.

We who are or might be (in my case) bare branches might not have had a choice not to bloom.  But we have a choice in how we act in the future.  You never know how far the ripples go, when you drop a pebble in a lake.  I spent very little time with them, and yet they presented to me an encouraging and unconventional example, one that made me feel loved and less isolated than I’d otherwise be.  Their loving, if childless marriage, gave me a model that might be very needed, since we probably will have a good thirty years after the boys leave which will be… well… any minute now.

You don’t choose not to fruit.  But it doesn’t mean you have to be barren.  Writing and art and science are all legacies of a kind, so are freedom and reason, and even “just” living a good, happy life.  The tree might not bloom, but the roots, under the ground, might fruit long after the tree is gone.

Go forth and be fruitful.

Doing the Impossible

Sorry this is so late.  Had news of the death of a relative.  No one close in blood, but someone who was very much a positive presence in my childhood.  So I took a little while to be … cogent.

I was talking to one of you on AIM and I said my family is half crazy and half stubborn and that all the best people are crazy.

And it occurred to me you need a good bit of crazy to get anything done.

When I was very little — oh, four to ten or so — I loved Enid Blyton’s books of adventures. In them kids went camping on their own, solved mysteries (usually, this being WWII era) espionage or smuggling or the like and had adventures.  For a while, I had “clubs” like her “Seven club” and such, but though the other members wanted to plan expeditions and camping trips, I was held back by knowing it was impossible.

You see, English culture between the wars might have allowed boys and the girls with them to go camp somewhere relatively safe, but Portugal in the sixties wouldn’t allow any kids to go camping on their own, without vigilant adults.  Different culture.  (I suspect it still wouldn’t, not unless one of the kids were legally an adult.  And even then…)  Particularly not girls.  So while my friends indulged in those dreams, I knew it was impossible.

It is somewhat of a mystery whether I thought it was also impossible that I’d grow up to live in Denver and be a writer.  I suspect I did, but it was a nice dream, and one I often resorted to.  From the window of my 9th grade classroom, (it was an attic of a five story building on a hill) I could see the road that (then) led to the airport, and I spent many a dull class day dreaming about going to the airport, taking a plane to Denver.  I suspect that dream was cherished BECAUSE it was “impossible.”  I didn’t have to worry about “with what money” or where to live when I got there, and I never even though I’d be leaving all my friends behind.  In the daydreams one or two of my childhood friends came with me, and we set up house and met nice men.

But these were dreams and it was impossible.

I can honestly say the day I went crazy was NOT because of that daydream.  For one, I had no clue what the poster was actually about (I often wonder if that ineffective advertisement was the MOST effective.)

It was a weird concatenation of circumstances, in that after 9th grade we no longer had gym classes, and I missed playing badminton.  So a few friends and I, after finals, arranged to have the gym, and to get together for a friendly game of badminton doubles, after which we were to go to a coffee shop for tea.  (So many days have dropped into the soup of the indistinct past, but that one is clear as a bell.)  It was a good game, we showered and changed in the gym showers, and then, as we were headed out the door, my friends decided they needed to use the bathroom.

This was an exit of the school we NEVER used and we only used it because it was the day after end of classes and only the front door and that exit were open — and that one was closest to the gym.

So they went to the bathroom and I was left loitering in the hallway.  I suspect the bathroom was a makeup emergency, because they took forever.  (At sixteen I only wore makeup on weekends, so it didn’t matter to me.)

The hallway had an enclosed-in-glass bulletin board, and I read all the stuff on it, because it was printed.  In those barbaric days, before a kindle was always at hand, I didn’t have anything with me that I could read (this itself was strange, as I usually had a science fiction paperback in pocket or purse.)  I no longer remember the other announcements.  Probably lost and found and the gym schedule for the summer (If you were a student, you could reserve it and come back to do stuff in the gym)  But a full quarter of it was taken up by a poster, with a picture of a girl emerging from a suitcase.  It said “Come out of your shell” and had a number to call.

I called because I didn’t know it was impossible.  Had it said “Call this number to become an exchange student” I’d have known it was impossible.  My parents would never let me.  We didn’t have the money. It would mess up my normal education flow.  I had no business doing it.  It was impossible.

But I didn’t know what it was for, and curiosity took me to a phone booth where I called the number and asked what it was.  They told me, I thanked them and was about to hang up.  They said “Can we send you an application?” and it seemed impolite to refuse.  So I gave a friend’s address, so my parents wouldn’t freak.

And then because the paper said only one in ten people were selected, and I knew the chance was remote, I applied.  I finally told my parents before the final family-interview, before they sent my paperwork abroad, to find a host family.

Even though it was “impossible” for various reasons, I ended up being placed with a family in the US.  My future husband lived down the road.  (Though it took us four years to get it through both our hard heads that we liked each other.  We were young and stupid.)

Four years later, when I moved here, and we tried to decide what I should do for a living, I tried all the sane things first.  I wasn’t markedly successful at any of them.  Translating (particularly multilingual scientific translation) IS well paid, but I hated it.  It is also a job that takes time to build a clientele in.  I was halfway through doing that when we moved to Colorado (that itself the result of my husband saying “you wanted to live in Denver, right? We haven’t done too well here; I shall apply in Denver” and us moving across the country, to a place we’d never been and where we knew no one.) I lost my few clients.  In those days translating was often intensely local.

When we got here, Dan said I could rebuild my clientele, or I could try pursuing my dream of becoming a novelist.  By then I’d written a few books, sent out a few submissions, and I KNEW it was impossible.  I mean, it was pretty difficult when you were native born and writing in one of the more popular genres.  I think the ration of first-novelist to accepted/published was something like one in a hundred thousand.  But for SF/F it was closer to a million.  And to “author who makes a living” it was even more difficult.  And then add in that English was my second language.  It was crazy.  Insane.

But I was home with a little kid, anyway, and I REALLY hated translation.  And, hey, I could always go back to translating in a few years.  It’s not like I could get less successful than I was at that moment.

So I tried.  took me five years of concerted effort to start publishing short stories, seven to novels.  And then my career crashed after nine eleven (Ill Met by Moonlight, my first-published (though Darkship Thieves was written three years earlier) book came out the month after 9/11.  It crashed so badly)) it was impossible to get back in.  But I’m really bad at giving up. Once I knew it was POSSIBLE I was going to keep beating at that door.  (That’s the second half of the family character; the stubborn.)  And things picked up.  And most years I even make a living at it.  Of course it’s impossible I’ll ever become a bestseller…  but it doesn’t mean I ain’t trying.

I’m using my history because other people’s I know is not mine to tell, but almost all my closest friends have something like this.  They’ve done the statistically impossible.  Heck, even my kids, once or twice.

I’m afraid I’ve got in the habit of disregarding “that’s impossible” which, yes, I know is crazy, but if I weren’t a little bit crazy, I’d never get anything done.  And I’m afraid I’m very stubborn, so any setbacks just make me try harder.

Is it worth it?

Who knows?  In the long scheme of things my books are probably forgettable and to be forgotten but I AM living in Denver, and I am a writer.

Whatever your crazy dream, you can do it.  The only thing that can stop you is an unwonted bout of sanity.  Don’t let it. I have the greatest faith in all of you.

Illegitimi non carborandum.

 

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli Someone Ought to Open Up A Promo – Free Range Oyster

Sunday 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:

attract

Someone Ought to Open Up A Promo – Free Range Oyster

Elise Hyatt

A French Polished Murder

Daring Finds Book 2

When Dyce Dare decides to refinish a piano as a gift for her boyfriend, Cas Wolfe, the last thing she expects is to stumble on an old letter that provides a clue to an older murder. She thinks her greatest problems in life are that her friend gave her son a toy motorcycle, and that her son has become unaccountably attached to a neurotic black cat named Pythagoras. She is not prepared for forgotten murder to reach out and threaten her and everything she loves, including her parents’ mystery bookstore.

John Van Stry

Present Tense

Days of Future Past, Part 2

Coyote has a new task for Paul, one that involves him traveling north hundreds of miles over the post-apocalyptic landscape of California, the place that Paul once called home.

Thankfully, Sarah and Heather have both decided to go with him and between Heather’s shooting skills and Sarah’s magical ones; Paul thinks he might just live through whatever scheme Coyote has enlisted him in. If he can live through telling the girls just what Coyote’s got him carrying in his pack now of course.

At least he’s done with Riggs and hopefully won’t have to deal with him ever again, nothing could be worse than that after all!

Pam Uphoff

No Confidence

Wine of the Gods Book 31

A vote of No Confidence has sidelined President Orde until the Special Election either confirms him or elects another candidate. In the mean time, The Interim Ruling Committee seems determined to get them into a war. And Dancer Rael receives the orders she’s always dreaded. Can she do it? Will she do it?

Blake Smith

A Kingdom of Glass

The Garia Cycle

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

Ill Met By Moonlight

gical Shakespeare Book 1

Young Will Shakespeare is a humble school master who arrives home to find his wife and infant daughter, Susannah are missing, kidnapped by the fairies of Arden Woods, the children of Titania and Oberon. His attempts at rescue are interrupted and complicated by a feud over throne of fairyland, between Sylvanus, king regnant, and his younger brother Quicksilver who is both more and less than he seems. Amid treachery, murder, duel and seduction, Shakespeare discovers the enchantment of fairyland, which will always remain with him, for good and ill.

Say Goodbye To The State of Fear

I published this here, I think (though it might have been at PJM) 2 years ago.  I keep saying “For the times they are achanging” but it’s hard, even for me, sometimes, to remember how AFRAID I was.  Afraid of being associated with people I actually admired.  Afraid any words I said revealed I read an unapproved magazine (in the nineties, mostly Reason.) I was afraid of stepping out of line.  I monitored my emotions, my look, my friends on FB to ensure I had no spec of taint.  The first time instapundit mentioned me as in quoted something from a book, I lived in fear, afraid someone would tell a publisher I had non-accepted fans.

I keep telling you that the big difference now is that we’re talking back, but until I stumbled on this (I was actually looking for a cute Heinlein reader meme) but even I had forgotten how much we DIDN’t talk back before.

Is it any wonder they look stunned?  Is it any wonder they are in shock?  Or that the escalation of their tantrums is getting crazy?  They had all this power and — through technology, through different means of information, through sheer enough-is-enough– it all ran away between their fingers.

Let us not forget the fear, but let us NEVER allow ourselves to fall into it again.  As the song says “We’re talking real loud and walking real proud again.”  Do that thing.  Stand on two.

Here starts older post.  I’ve removed the non-relevant to this part, because I don’t want ot rub the lamp:

When I sold my first novel in the late 90s.  Most Americans might not be that sensitive to the “climate” but I was.  I had after all grown up in a socialist (at best, during the better times) country where to graduate you had to present the proper progressive front.  I knew the signs and the hints and social positioning of “further left than thou.”  For instance, my first SF cons, as an author, in the green room, I became aware that “a conservative” was a suitable, laughter inducing punchline for any joke; that all of them believed the Reagan years had set us on course to total dystopia; that the US was less enlightened/capable/free than anywhere else; that your average Republican or even non-Democrat voter was the equivalent of the Taliban.

As for Libertarians, I will to my dying day cherish the dinner I had with my then editor to whom I was describing a funny incident at MileHi where for reasons known only to Bob, I found myself in an argument with someone who wanted to ban the internal combustion engine.  My editor perked up and (I swear I’m not making this up) said “Oh, a Libertarian.”  At which point my husband squeezed my thigh hard enough to stop me answering.  But yeah.  That was a not uncommon idea of a libertarian.  If it was completely insane and involved banning something, then it was a libertarian.

I once overheard the same editor talking to a colleague and saying that if she got submissions across her desk and they were – dropped and horrified voice – somewhat conservative she recommended they try Baen.

Which the other editor (from a different house) agreed with, because after all, they weren’t in the business of publishing conservative works.

This immediately put me on notice that in the field if you were a conservative (I presume libertarians were worse, or at least they seemed to induce more mouth foaming.  And though I was solidly libertarian and – at the time – might have qualified as a Libertarian, I suspect if faced with my real positions they would have classed me as conservative, because my positions were self-obviously not left and that’s all it took.) there was only one house that would take you, and if what you wrote/wanted to write wasn’t accepted by then, then you were out of luck.

After that I lived in a state of fear

I imagine it was similar to living in one of the more unsavory periods of the Soviet Union.  You saw these purges happen.  Whisper-purges.  You got the word that someone was “not quite the thing” or that they associated with so and so who associated with so and so who was a – dropped voice – conservative.  Suddenly that person’s books weren’t being bought and somehow people would clear a circle around them, because, well, you know, if you’re seen with a – dropped voice – conservative they might think you’re one too.  And then it’s off to Never-Never with you.

I found a few other conservatives/libertarians (frankly, mostly libertarians) in the field, all living in the same state of gut clenching fear.

We did such a dance to test both the reliability and discretion of the other before revealing ourselves that we might as well have developed a hanky code. [Blue for true blue Conservative, white for pure Libertarian, red for the blood of our heroes, brown for OWL (older, wiser libertarian), purple for squishy conservative, powder blue for Brad Torgersen. (The powder blue care bare, with the bleeding heart… and the flame thrower.)]

Conventions were nerve wracking because I watched myself ALL the TIME.  And you never knew how much you had to watch yourself.  Suddenly, out of the blue, at a World Fantasy the speaker, a well known SF/F writer went on about Dean Howard, our next president. The room erupted in applause, some people stood to clap, and I sat there, frozen, unable to actually fake it to that point but too shocked to even put a complaisant expression on my face.

This is one of the instances where I think if I didn’t give myself away I gave them the impression I was not very bright and therefore untrustworthy.  Another would be the letter exchange with a gentleman who went after my first Analog story.  Another instance would be that I actually could not help myself and defended Heinlein at all possible occasions.

They were never sure enough that I was a – dropped voice – conservative, but they were sure enough that my books had the strangest issues with distribution and marketing. I. e. like the year I had six books out and not one on the shelves anywhere.  [Yes, I have considered the possibility that maybe my books sucked, but a) if that was the case then why did they keep buying?  b) why are the same books making me a paycheck every month indie?]  And I was never one of the “darlings” who got promo or even really nice treatment (by editors) at cons (until I worked for Baen.)

Btw, speaking of Baen, when I was picked up by them after my first series tanked and no one else would touch me, I was overjoyed.  The agent who had been trying in vain for years to get SOMEONE to buy me, promptly told me that I couldn’t work for Baen because of the Baen taint.  (yeah, that – dropped voice – conservative taint – this while Baen publishes anyone from any political color provided they like the story.)

One time I came into the room at a con and found one of my editors talking to another of my editors.  I could tell from the expression, the startled look at me, that news that I might be a – dropped voice — conservative had been conveyed.  I hoped I was being paranoid, but I wasn’t. My treatment by that other house immediately changed, overnight.

So I lived in fear, unable to associate normally or make friends with anyone.  It was like being spied on all the time and knowing the worst construction would be put on my actions and words, even if the actions and words were not political, even if I just forgot what the week’s hate and the week’s cause was.

I got tired.  I got really tired.  I know authors who walked away after one or two books because they simply couldn’t take it anymore.  I know others – gentle souls – who didn’t realize they’d been blacklisted on suspicion of being – dropped voice – conservative. This was particularly true of Libertarians (and libertarians) who never thought of themselves (I still don’t) as “conservatives” and couldn’t understand it when I tried to explain it.

All this was justified, you see, because in the minds of the establishment and establishment hangers on, conservatives are creatures shown as “right wing” on movies and tv (none of whose writers would know a true conservative, much less a libertarian if one bit them in the fleshy part of the *ss [and libertarians might.]  They give conservatives (which again is everyone to the right of Lenin) informed attributes never found in the real creature: conservatives, in their crazy little heads, are people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, ultra-religious in a medieval fashion or a crazy-evangelical (there are some, but not many) one.

Informed attributes for those who don’t know, are a characteristic of lazy, sloppy writing, particularly common in fanfic AND beginner writers (though we all do it, but hopefully not in contradiction to our real writing.)  This is when you tell the reader that the character is kind or socially conscious or whatever even though the rest of your writing shows exactly the opposite.  (One of my ex-fledgelings had a penchant for this.  Would inform you the character was so nice and universally loved, and then show he was the ass everyone rode in on and most people hated him.  Eh.)

The informed attributes of “conservatives” in gatekeeper circles for SF/F are just that.  Someone informed these people that “conservatives” are sexist, racist, homophobic religious fanatics and they believe it without checking it against every day reality.

Here I am tempted to insert snark about their preferred modes of writing, but I won’t.  I’ll just say that once in a group populated mostly by them I found that if a person was good but didn’t proclaim it, then they were horrible.  No, I don’t get it either.  But somehow it works for them.  They HEARTILY believe this stuff, because someone told them.

And frankly if someone were racist, sexist, homophobic (religious fanatics I don’t care either way, unless they chase me down and make me believe as they do) I wouldn’t want to work with them either.

So, if you are revealed, through… what are the words of the old act of contrition?  “Your thoughts, your words, what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do” or indeed, whomever you associate with at a third remove, or whom you failed to denounce on denouncing day, to be a – dropped voice – conservative they don’t want to work with you.  And if they have to work with you, they’re going to do it at as arm’s length as possible.

When I realized I couldn’t watch everything and didn’t have the energy to keep up with the hate or the enthusiasm of the week (there is a reason most of the darlings are single or at least childless) I told my husband I was dropping out.  But by then there was indie, and I was working for Baen, and he convinced me to stay on.

Still, such was the reflex of that fear that the first time I was mentioned on Instapundit I reached up to wipe the scarlet L from my forehead.

Now?  I’ve come a long way in seven years.  By baby steps.  But now I don’t hide I’m a libertarian.  (Technically an OWL – waves brown feathery scarf.)

And still when I’m mentioned somewhere I shouldn’t be catch my breath and remember the fear.

The people who preach to you of inclusiveness and love (SF is “love” apparently); the people who are hunting for writers of various colors of the rainbow to give awards to demand (and receive) perfect lockstep abasing compliance with their beliefs.

Fortunately there is indie.  They haven’t realized it yet, but what they hold in their hands is nothing.  And the more they show their colors, the more they pursue their little purges (now in public) the less they’ll be taken seriously.

We haven’t yet reached the point when “banned by the New York Publishing establishment” is a badge of honor, but unless I mistake my gut we’re not very far off.

And it’s a beautiful thing.  A scarlet l on my forehead, and an American flag in my heart, I stride into the future unafraid and what is it to you, and who made you keeper of other’s thoughts, other’s ideas, other’s art, other’s opinions?

Are you so empty, so vacant, so devoid of creativity and joy that all you can do is tear down the designated targets?

Well, then, you have my sympathy.  But you no longer have my fear.

And you never had my allegiance.

Depart from us in peace and go find someone else who might still fear you.  It won’t happen here.

Mean Girls Versus Western Civilization Versus Savages – by Kate Paulk

Mean Girls Versus Western Civilization Versus Savages – by Kate Paulk

I’m quite sure I’m not the only person who finds the whole spectacle of waving bits that ought to be kept between oneself and one’s significant other(s) rather off-putting, just as I’m sure that one’s genitalia is not where one stores one’s moral compass. Whether said genitalia are damp and somewhat salty or rise to the occasion to point the way to the nearest boobiesahem… moral decision point is irrelevant.

Quite simply the American media is currently owned (or, more accurately, pwned) by Mean Girls, not all of whom are, strictly speaking, female.

These are the ones whose latest tantrum has been going non-stop for four months now, and every time you think they’ve finally exhausted themselves, they spit the dummy again and raise a fresh set of howls over something else that makes no sense.

The thing is, it’s all depressingly familiar if you remember that clique in high school: the “in” set of girls (parodied so accurately and so damn faithfully in movies like Heathers) who would do anything to get what they desired, whether it was damaging to them in the long run or not, as long as they kept their status and their desirability.

This is what untrammeled female power seeking looks like. It’s the smile to your face and stabbing you in the back. Calling you friend while bad-mouthing you when you’re not there to hear it. Encouraging others to damaging anything you value, but doing it in a way that’s never quite enough to justify taking action against them. The power behind the throne, as it were: they damn near always have high status boyfriends who they lead around by the dick. The leaders are less vicious: they have the status. The hangers on, especially the ones who are just outside the charmed inner circle, are the real backstabbers.

They’re the ones who will cheerfully poison their inner circle mentor if they think they can get away with it.

And – even though they’ll deny it until the cows come home – they are at least metaphorically in bed with the savages, because the one thing they hate more than the unrestrained macho of the savages is the restrained and carefully managed power of the civilized man and woman. With the lack of foresight typical of the Mean Girl, the idiots with moral compasses in their genitalia are pairing up with savages to try to destroy our civilization, oblivious to the fact that if they succeed, the Mean Girls will be reduced to chattel defined by how effectively said genitalia produces babies.

Because that’s the only value women have to the current infestation of savages. They exist to have their husband’s (owners) dick shoved into their pussies in order to make new, preferably male, babies. I don’t care what trappings get put on their toxic excuse for a culture. It wouldn’t matter what religion they followed because they would use any religion as a justification. Following one founded by a savage just makes it easier.

So what does civilized power involve? At its best it’s the gentleman who could kill you fifty times over in the time it takes to make polite conversation about the weather – and doesn’t. The woman who raises her children to understand that good is not necessarily easy, and doing what is right can feel like shit, but that you do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. The people who see something that needs to be done and do it instead of whining that “someone” should do “something” (yes, the Mean Girls) or rioting (savages). Or both. Then quietly accept the complaints from those who do nothing but complain because they don’t have the right to spank these overgrown children.

Because, yes, both savages and Mean Girls are overgrown children. Savages glorify masculine strengths at the expense of everything else. Everything is about appearing strong with them. Mean girls glorify feminine strengths at the expense of everything else (yes, there are female savages and male mean girls. Just not as many as the other way around). Neither has ever been taught to restrain their instincts, or that there is more to existence than satisfying their own petty wants. By the time they’re rioting in the streets, whether pussy-hatted or not, it’s probably too late to teach them anything short of “If you do that again, I will hurt you.”

Sooner or later, the civilized are going to do one of two things. Either they will surrender and go savage or mean girl as their inclinations lead them. Or they will take the hard path of cleaning up the mess. Neither path will be pleasant. I fear that parts of Europe have been so brainwashed into hating the manners and restraint that go with leashing the inner savage or inner mean girl that they will surrender.

Here in the United States I believe – and hope – that civilization will emerge more or less intact. Bloodied, and saddened by what will have to be done. But alive, and preserving most of the gains that have been so painstakingly carved from life over thousands of years. It won’t be easy. We’re going to be screamed at by savages and mean girls the whole time.

It can be done. It must be done. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.