Interesting Times -CACS

Sarah remarked that right now a number the people who write alternate columns for her are having interesting lives.

As my life has progressed I have pondered the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” I have concluded that what is considered as interesting times changes with perspective.

When I was in school I thought of the curse as quite a threat, generally encompassing great disasters and upheavals. I thought of interesting times as The Revolution (American and French), The Late Great Unpleasantness, The Great Depression and World War II. You know, those big things you learned about in the history books.

I guess that The Cold War would likely have counted as interesting as well. The Bomb and the threat of nuclear war have always been a part of my life. My earliest political memory is a speech given by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (I admit I probably only remember it because it interrupted the movie King Kong.) To my parents and grandparents the Cold War was a real and active threat, but to me it was situation normal, an ongoing background noise that was always there.

As was racial unrest. I was raised with the stories of the Freedom Rides and Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. I recall being quite put out with my parents for not going down to join the protests in the southeast. The pastor and a few congregants from the Unitarian Church in center city Philadelphia had joined with others to take a bus load of people to participate. In my child’s brain I did not consider the real world responsibilities that my parents carried. At that time my father was working and going to law school, and my mother was taking care of me.

I watched on the TV as Watts was torn apart, as rioters and looters went on a rampage. There were major riots in the city in which I lived, although not in the immediate neighborhood. That seemed more urgent than the Cold War, but having been raised conscious of the situation, it had always been a part of my life. At one point I had organized all five year olds in my household for a protest march through my neighborhood. My mother kept the sign I made to her dying day.

Having always known the Cold War and racial unrest I did not think of them as qualifying as interesting times. They were simply what was going on, my reality. I now know better. I also sadly note, in spite of hopeful reports of their passing, that recent events have proved that they really are not gone from the world stage.

I am, obviously, older now. With experience, a broader study of history, and the wide availability 24/7 news I have long since realized that it is a truth that somewhere the world is going though some kind of interesting times. The political and social upheaval may not be on our immediate door step, but it is out there. While in the past distance might isolate us from the effects, with the global markets, it is more likely that some region’s instability will be felt.

I have also steadily expanded the definition of what constitutes interesting times. Living through a five year drought, reading about the effects of the great grasshopper plagues in the western planes, the 1927 Mississippi River flood and events such as Krakatoa have added natural disasters to the mix.

Yet the biggest change came with the realization that simply being alive meant that you were going to live through interesting times. Interesting times do not just involve disasters of cataclysmic proportions. They can be personal or familial, created by the upheavals that occur just because you are alive.

Just this year I have watched as people who I know (and their families) have had their lives change in a moment, when they receive a diagnosis from a doctor. A lovely young woman, a careful eater with an active lifestyle, had an unusual and entirely unexpected rare bi-lateral stroke. (She is slowly recovering, thank you.) A friend in her mid-forties with a loving husband and two young children had been feeling just a little under the weather throughout the summer. She finally decided to go to the doctor. Sunday morning she succumbed to leukemia after a grueling six month battle.

Moreover the circumstances do not have to be what we would necessarily call bad. A friend who has struggled to get pregnant and carry to term for years received the news that she is expecting twins. At first she struggled with fears of loosing them. Now, at twenty-three weeks along, everything looks good and she is thrilled. Still it is proving to be an exhausting challenge physically. (Those of us who have only ever had to deal with one small child underfoot at a time are doing our best to be encouraging and not to tell her of the exhaustion that comes with that.)

So now, my definition of the interesting times of the curse can be anything from the global to the personal situations that threaten to overwhelm. Even those who make the best of plans and prepared for their lives are going to experience them. We cannot anticipate or control for everything. So we best develop a sense of humor, and pray for some boring times. While you are at it make a conscious effort to treasure and enjoy those good things come your way even in the midst of your interesting times.

Inclusive of Psychopaths – Frank J. Fleming

*Once upon a time Frank’s blog was one of the things that kept me from bursting from the (glass fronted) political closet brandishing an AK-47.  Now that I’m out in the open and everything, imagine my surprise when I found Frank was writing novels.  In science fiction and everything.  Give him a warm Hunnish welcome, and go buy his book. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate. – SAH*

Inclusive of Psychopaths – Frank J. Fleming

What makes good science fiction? Is it a fast-paced story? Interesting characters? Unpredictable twists and turns?

Unfortunately, I had those outdated ideas in mind when I wrote my first novel, Superego. But as we all know, the true purpose of science fiction now is inclusiveness. Entertainment is okay, I guess, but what we really need to focus on is making sure everyone feels cared for and included and that no one feels weird, no matter how weird they are.

This is difficult for me as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male. I’m basically committing a hate crime just by existing. I’m not even sure that in this day and age I should be allowed to write science fiction. Still, I decided to examine my novel to determine how inclusive it is.

I first used the Bechdel Test, as that’s a nice objective measure. I ran into a problem right away, though, because Superego is written in the first-person perspective of a male character. It’s like I didn’t even try. Still, there are a number of named female characters in the story, and a few times they do speak to each other. Most of the time, they’re talking about the main (male) character, but I did locate a short conversation between two women about one getting the other a chair.

Boom! Passed the Bechdel Test. It’s a very feminist novel.

But does anyone care about women anymore? It’s kind of passé to combat gender bias. Plus, are genders even real? Aren’t they just a social construct or something? Then again, if that’s true, I’m not sure where babies come from… but we’re not talking about science; we’re talking about tolerance.

Anyway, instead of being inclusive of a group everyone already knows to include, it’s best to find a brand new identity no one even thought of tolerating yet. I mean, there are things people wouldn’t even think to care about now that you’ll be worse than Hitler not to care deeply about next year. And these days if you’re the first one who recognizes a new need for tolerance and inclusiveness, you’re treated just like a scientist who’s made a world-changing discovery… back when people cared about that sort of thing.

Well, that is where Superego wins out, because it highlights a group no one has even thought to tolerate yet: psychopaths. In most fiction, the psychopathic hitman is stereotyped as the bad guy, but my progressive novel makes him the protagonist. That’s because I want all the psychopaths out there to know that I understand and sympathize with them and am against all the psychopath hate they see in other novels.

Of course, many don’t share my sympathies. For instance, look at all the Social Justice Warriors out there with their ostentatious displays of how much they care for people — how do they think that makes a psychopath, someone who is incapable of caring, feel? It’s really insensitive, but those scumbags with their empathy privilege never give a second thought to psychopaths.

But not me. I care about psychopaths and their feelings (or lack there of). Does that make me a superior person? Yes. Do I look down on everyone who doesn’t share these enlightened views of inclusiveness? Absolutely. Does this make me feel good about myself? Well, let’s just say I’m typing this with one hand while using the other to pat myself on the back.

Man, it’s really enjoyable being more considerate and tolerant than everyone else. Writing science fiction is fun!

Plus Ca Change – David Pascoe

Plus Ca Change – David Pascoe

When I was a wee, young lad, my farthest horizons Down The Block To The Corner, and more distantly, The Annual 25-Hour Drive to Southern KCalifornia, I was confronted with the reality of, not only my personal mortality, but of the possibility – nay, the certainty of the extinction of humanity. No, not something as pedestrian as nuclear warfare. That, that actor who had the sheer, unmitigated gall to occupy the White House had seemed to put paid to the Gorby and the big, bad (but misunderstood, really, Officer Krupke) USSR.

No, we were all going to freeze to death as the planet chilled to a really, really, really cold temperature. Or starve. Or both, I expect. Now, I was four or five, but I’ve come to find out since that the drum of Teh Coming Ice-Age(TM) was being beaten for much longer than I knew about then. This was hard to understand – the whole freezing thing – as I started my life in sunny Pasadena. It became at least accessible once we’d moved to Spokane, and had this strange period called Winter, where the rain became this solid, oppressive, colorless thing that drifted on tiny wings of extinction. Or something.

Once I became aware of our awesome and horrifying fate, I seemed to see it everywhere. (It helped that I could read by then.) I read about it at the doctor’s office, waiting for the MMR shot (traumatizing, that. Far more than a nebulous, chilly future). I read about it when Mom took me along grocery shopping, and wouldn’t buy me the Super Frosted Sugar Bombs, or whatever toxic (but Fortified Mit Vitamins!) breakfast cereal I’d seen commercials for the previous Saturday during The Time of Kar-Tuuns. (Speaking of traumatizing, she’d never buy me the umpteen various Lego sets that I DESPERATELY NEEDED to survive, either. Moms, man.) I even heard people talking about it at church, when I could be bothered to pay attention to what the grown-ups were saying. I mean, seriously, how did they even get enough oxygen at that height? Beggars the imagination, or at least the imagination of a four-year-old.

But, yeah: we were dying, as a species. Weeeelllllll, not dying, per se, but headed toward a Bad End, and nothing we could possibly do would stop it. Except for, probably – and I’m just guessing, here, as I don’t actually remember all the recommended “solutions” from the myriad of doom-saying glossy magazine covers – spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money on untried and unproven programs that *might* undo the damage we nefarious humans had done to Mother Earth. With malice aforethought, of course.

Three decades on, we’re hearing the same tune again. Unless we cut the legs out from under our economy, unless we reject cold turkey what keeps our civilization running day-to-day (don’t believe me? Look into how much freight moves just by semi each day), unless we pour money into untried and unproven technologies built by companies with surprising amounts of governmentadministra- no, I take that back: with incestuous, cronyistic (a word, and you knows it) interpenetration that defies belief, we are all going to DIE. The earth will heat, the seas will rise, and it’s our fault because we’re horrible, horrible sinners the ones pursuing our small, avaricious, capitalistic ends while Blessed Gaia burns.

Speaking of ‘orrible, ‘orrible sinners, I recall any number of references to various types through the centuries calling the general populace to repent and … do … stuff, because the End of the World was coming. Now, at least in Western countries, a lot of people making such predictions predicated (hehe) them upon the return of the Christ. Not all, though; not by a long stretch. For some light reading, check out this list. Now, I’m not waiting around for it, regardless of how it comes.

Which is the point, really. People have been predicting the end for a long, long time now. Probably since Ogg saw a peculiar light at night, woke up Mogg and told him the sun wasn’t going to come up in the morning. (Mogg very wisely went back to sleep, since why would one want to meet the End of the World tired and cranky?) In the same way – are you ready for this lateral leap? – we now have people predicting the end of the Republic. Look, I’m not exactly looking to piss anybody off, so I’ll just lay out this quote.

It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 302)

Now, whether or not America slides further and further down the toilet into bureaucratic totalitarianism (and reading up on FDR’s Amerika, I’m not convinced we’re actually that far gone), we have things to be doing. Things that give us hope. (Not change, despite the title. Look, I’m good with change. More or less. Change is a constant, and it’s one to which we adapt, or we don’t. And often die, being historically minded.) Some keep their eyes on eternity, in one form or another. For those of us cursed to be writers, we keep one eye on eternity, at best. I trust the Author understands that. If He doesn’t, we shall have words, I expect. As for others, hope comes from the bizarre, Brownian action of existence, where billionaires enable freedom for writers everywhere. From what I read in the newspaper on the Utility Formerly Known as the Internet (another article, another kettle of fish) that’s not really supposed to happen. The Rich(TM) are out to oppress and lord their wealth over us mere mortals. Still and all, I have a hope of making a living from my writing, instead of it being reduced to a glorified hobby.

Even five years ago, that wasn’t clear. And, truthfully, in another five years, it may not be part of our reality. I hope in ten years or so, I’ll be writing posts from orbital habitat. Maybe something at one of the Lagrangian points. Which is the point, really. We take potshots at the future from the uncomfortable flux of the present using minds rooted in the past. We can’t know whether the Republic will fall tomorrow, in 2017, or centuries down the road (though I hope we’ll still be arguing about it come then). Everything changes, and we can’t know what form things will take, even in the near future. Take comfort in that, for only the mad or Marxists (but I repeat myself) claim otherwise. And if we who are familiar with bending our minds around the shapes the future may bring can’t see it, even darkly, how much more terrifying must it be to be one who clings to a failed philosophy, always expecting paradise around the next election, and never reaching it?

Eventually, those who can adapt will win. That’s us, by the way. The battlers (hi, Kate!), the early adopters, the malleable of mind, but never of conscience.

Good Little Girls


It won’t surprise anyone in this blog that I was a tomboy. There is a picture of me at seven or eight I posted in the diner, holding hands with my 10 year older, dark, bearded brother. I was wearing shorts and a scruffy t-shirt. (It was scruffy on account of my having a mania for it, all through that summer. Mom washed it at night – sometimes sending me into the washtank afterwards so I wouldn’t track mud through the house – and it was dry in the morning. It was orange and had a green anchor. I don’t remember WHY I loved it.) I was either barefoot, wearing flip flops or wearing my shoes from the previous winter cunningly cut into “sandals” as my feet pressed front and back.

I had long hair, but mom kept it braided, which is to say out of my way.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to be called by boys names (my best friend’s nickname was Bill, which is a novel approach to Isabel. But she was the Louis L’Amour fanatic and enamoured of the American west. I miss her terribly.) because I never had any illusions or wanted to pretend to be what I wasn’t.

And what I was was trouble with a capital t rolled into a scruffy, skinny (hard to believe) body where the scars from various exploits were hidden under dirt and mud until an adult took a hand.

I read Tom Sawyer and identified with… Tom Sawyer, and not the rather insipid love interest.

At recess at school (we had lovely long recesses, because our teacher was in her seventies and got tired easy. Okay, maybe fifties or sixties, but to me she was ancient.) I invented LARPs. I didn’t know that’s what they were until I heard LARPs described. To me they were just a new way of playing because the way people played – chase? Hide and seek? The elastic jumping game? – either bored me to death or I couldn’t do, not being the most coordinated person around.

The LARP under progress was usually dependent on what I’d just read. The most enduringly popular was Robin Hood, because it had a role for everyone, even the girls who wanted to be pretty (more on that later) and well behaved. It even had a role for the other class (our school, one room, operated different classes morning and afternoon, first to fourth grade. First and fourth shared a class. Then fourth graduated, and we were second and acquired a first.) i.e., the babies, who could be given no account roles such as “other men of Robin Hood” (if we liked them. Rare.) “Townsfolk” “Poor Town’s folk” and more commonly “Men of the Sheriff.”) Because sheriff was an important role, my best friend – a slip of a thing with huge grey eyes and honey brown hair who weighed nothing – was the Sheriff. She routinely complained about the quality of men she got stuck with.

Oh – I should point out it was an all girl’s school. The boys’ school was next door, but we weren’t allowed to mingle at recess.

Most of the girls were only too eager to play something more fun. Because between Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers (second most popular LARP. Third was WWII) we used a lot of swords, we used to jump the wall into the bamboo field to acquire “swords.” And because of that and all the fights, we had more scrapes, bruises and skinned knees than most boys.

The teacher – she says proudly – said we were the rowdiest, smelliest, most ill-behaved girls she’d taught in a decades-spanning career.

I don’t know how much of me is me, and how much the fact that I was taught not to be weak and not to wait for anyone to solve my problems. One doesn’t. I know that though my mom deplored I could only be put in dresses for special occasions and then wore them without grace (At sixteen when the distant echoes of trying to attract boys arrived, I was afraid people would laugh at me for wearing skirts, and I spent any amount of time learning to walk) and had to be watched like a hawk, lest I tear all the embroidery and frills due to a sudden need to build mud pies or climb a wall.

On the other hand, when we visited people and their daughters were insipid sugar and water little girls, my parents would trade looks and on the way home say the equivalent of “Thank G-d our daughter isn’t useless.”

We had our share of sugar and water little girls in the school. In the LARPs they wanted to play the girl parts. They were forever wanting kissing scenes (okay, we were all under ten. Yeah, we were all girls, but I think in their minds they were kissing the men the girls played) and declarations of love. If they got captured you had to be careful not to tear their dresses or muss their hair. You had to be careful when you rescued them too. And no stray swords their way, or the teacher would hear about our transgressions.

It seemed all they did was sit around in between being captured, drawing or doing their embroidery, being “pretty” and picking on other girls.

It seemed horribly boring to me, but we didn’t care. Unless one of them didn’t get what she wanted, be it a kissing scene or an important role, and then – oh, then – she would take revenge by getting us in trouble with the teacher or even with our parents.

They quickly learned not to do this to me or my best friend, because we’d wait in an out of the way place and rain destruction to hair style and dress as well as a few bruises.

But mostly that was their function. Reign by scolding and back biting. Reign by spite and malice. It seemed like a weird way to live. Even their friends weren’t really friends. We – okay, possibly influenced by Dumas and such and their ideas of friendship – viewed “friend” as a sacred bond and obligation. They seemed to view it as “this week I like you better than her. Next week, who knows.”

These “good little girls” grew up to, in middle school and high school, be the sort who would take notes with four different kinds of pen and take more care of the illustrations and penmanship than content.

That they often had better grades than I was not something to be endured, as I endured people who actually knew or did better than I. It was an offense because they had better grades by sucking up to teach and repeating teach’s opinions back at him/her.

I understood how to do it. I even knew the wisdom of it. It just seemed to me a low and spiteful type of trick, offensive to all my notions of honor.

I argued with the teachers, had notebooks even I couldn’t read (thank heavens for eidetic memory) and spent half the classes reading sf under the table, or writing my own novels (Bill, who by 12 started to go by Isa, has them somewhere. Don’t ask me. I lost contact with her years ago.) BUT I knew the subjects cold and I EXPECTED the best grade (Got it astonishingly often, too. A witness to the fairness of teachers.)

And I despised the whining and the manipulation of the “good little girls.”

By then I was old enough to know they weren’t “good” at all, or at least they weren’t what the adults expected.

Also, as politics in the country changed, they added both victimhood and social consciousness to their tricks. These girls who would ostracize you for wearing “last year’s fashion” would talk about otherizing and compassion for the other, and talk about how much they loved the poor (who wouldn’t be allowed near their frilly dresses for all the tea in China.)

My friends, of course, were the others. The people who actually studied, who actually cared for the subject, and who often didn’t scruple to show the teacher they found their behavior reprehensible. (Among these, throwing my shoes – repeatedly – at the head of the representative of the association Portugal-Russia must rank up there in bad behavior. But the teacher knew that bringing a commie in was something I’d make her pay for, party member or not. Which I suspect kept her in check. Certainly after that there were no more commie-speakers. [Repeatedly: I’d throw a shoe then the other, when he said something that annoyed me particularly. Then I’d go collect them, put them on, and go back to sitting. When he held a shoe – commie or not, poor man, being hit by a 12 year old girl – and asked what I’d do if he didn’t give it back, I pointed out I had dictionaries. Heavy ones. And that by rules he wasn’t supposed to be in the school. I got my shoe back.])

Some of them were terribly neurotic. Some were just Odd. But none of them spent their lives copying the notes in four colors in their best handwriting. And none of them would tell on you to teacher or your parents if, say, you cut art class to go watch the pro soccer club practice. (What, men in skimpy shorts. You got a problem with that?)

And we were united in rolling our eyes when a good little girl started saying stuff the teacher would approve of, and posing and pitching her voice just right.

I thought – I was naïve – that when I was an adult I wouldn’t have to deal with good little girls. They’d marry their trophy husbands, get out of my face, and let me pursue my interests in peace. The guys I liked had no use for their way of going limp and asking for help, and whining when dissatisfied, or their tricks of playing “poor helpless little me.” So, I thought—

Heaven help me. Had I been born earlier, this might have been true.

But by the time I was an adult, the “good little girls” had switched to being “feminists” because this allowed them to cry and scream about being victims, and have someone help them and given them things.

In my field of endeavor they were, once more the favorites. More infuriatingly, they weren’t even all girls. There were any number of men associating themselves with them, whining and screaming about how women were mistreated and how they, white males, had it easy, as a way of claiming victimhood by proxy and also of acquiring power to decide who are the victims and who the heretics.

I was aware – I’m strange, not stupid – from the moment I entered the field that the way of making your way to was speaking mealy-mouth to power and to repeat back at the editors what they wanted to hear: mostly neo Marxist clap trap.

But of course, that would be “cheating”. I’d make it on merit despite their hating me every inch of the way.

Well, that didn’t work at all. Or it is working, but slowly. Depends on how you look at it.

But I knew too by then that speaking mealy to power just gave us very boring stories. And I entered this field because I loved stories, so that wasn’t going to happen.

I watched the good little girls (even those with penises) preen and pose and try to outdo each other in how “other-friendly” and special they were while keeping (with the gatekeepers’ help) everyone away who had an original thought. And of course, everyone who was better than them. Good little girls are the original crab bucket. They know they’re mediocre and fear real talent. (Not talking about myself, here, but I have friends.)

And I watched circulation tank, and wished there was a place where I could wait for them, and rip their frills and muss up their hair and say “you leave me and my friends alone, or else.”

And then there was indie. (And Baen, of course, but Baen is only sf/f and only one house.) And then we were free. We could jump the wall to the next house, get bamboo for swords and play in our way. Even if it exasperated teacher/the gatekeepers.

No wonder the good little girls scream so much. They want what they always wanted. Someone to do all the dirty work for them, while they preen and pose and hold the “I’ll tell” (you hold non-approved opinions) over our heads. Instead they find themselves in an increasingly tinier ghetto, telling each other how pretty they are (with Nebulas) while the real action moves on.

I say it’s a wonderful thing. I don’t care if they’re pretty or admire themselves a lot. I care that we don’t give them power over us.

Good little girls and the people who love them are fine. In their place. Far away from the real fun and the real work. Where nothing challenging ever happens. And they can play their crab bucket games in peace.

And I’m okay with that.

As for me, and my friends… we’re going to have us some fun.



What White Privilege?- By Rhiain

*I don’t know Rhiain personally except she’s one of my fans.  But reading this I realized we were sisters under the skin.  Now, because I have spent the last five years, give or take, mainly indoors — I’m looking forward to better health allowing me to hike more again — I have only a vague soupcon of gold, (Spun Gold, according to paint chips) but my kids are… much darker and also blessed with more ethnic features.  Being treated as victims embarrasses them, even if they grew up — writer’s sons — at the edge of falling off the middle class any minute.  Because we get in trouble and we cope — though once at least I had to ask you guys for help, but that was different.  I do provide this blog almost every day for free — we don’t ask the charity of strangers?  And what is all this but charity based on the premise we’re not as good? I get where I want.  Sometimes slowly and on bleeding fingertips, but I do.  I don’t need do-gooders to reach me a condescending hand.  Apparently Rhiain doesn’t either.  Beware those who would court us, I suspect there’s more of us than you think.-SAH*

What White Privilege?
By Rhiain

I’m past the point of being tired of this white privilege narrative.

I’m not white, but the color of my skin has never affected my outlook
or my standing in society. I’m where I am now because of my own
efforts and endeavors. I do believe there is a divine purpose and
influence involved, as well, but that’s not what this post is about.

I recognize that there is a strategy at work here, since we are
constantly inundated with repetitious attempts to start conversations
about privilege and race. I don’t know about anyone else, but attempts
to shape this white privilege narrative have been ongoing for the past
year or two (or five). The claim, to put it succinctly: people who
happen to look Caucasian have sins and misdeeds to answer for on a
national scale, since your ancestors perpetrated crimes against
colored people during the 239-year history of the United States, and
those crimes continue with a subtler touch. No matter how much you
white people deny it, you are still guilty.

Gimme a break already.

This colored person is tired of being reminded that she’s not white,
that she’s owed something because of that, even though her genealogy
goes back thousands of years in the Western Hemisphere and her
ancestors were happily oblivious to all the racial crimes committed on
American soil at the time. All they did then was drink coconut milk,
eat taro, go hog-hunting and dutifully follow their own cultural
traditions, and who gives a crap about what happens on the mainland,

“Oh, Uh-meh-ree-cah? Where dat? Can we reach it by canoe?”

When Obama won his first presidential election in 2008, a lot of
people on my Facebook friends list, Democrats and liberals all, were
literally crying tears of joy that a black man had won the office. I
didn’t know at the time that Obama’s skin color mattered that much,
until these same people accused his critics of racism for voicing
disapproval of his policies. Look: if you want to mark a milestone
here, that someone other than a white guy inhabits the Oval Office,
fine. But he is “the most powerful man in the world,” and on those
merits he will be judged. In my opinion, he hasn’t done a great job,
and I will laugh at the first Obama supporter who accuses me of racism
for publicly criticizing his tone-deafness every time he opines on gun

Like I said, gimme a break already.

If anything, Obama’s win was an indicator that race doesn’t matter
that much anymore. It’s a convenient foil for those who claim to want
to see poor, non-white people advance to financial and social security
the easy way – without those same people struggling to reach success
by their own strength and efforts. Failure is a wonderful way to learn
what works to reach success and what doesn’t. Trying to dodge failure
just makes it more difficult for a person to learn the lesson the
first time. You would think this principle would be easy to
understand; apparently it isn’t.

If people want this country to reach a point where we are truly
post-racial, conversations about white privilege don’t help at all. If
anything, they’re a distraction. I don’t care if the same quarters who
started the “Let’s Talk About White Privilege” movement want to wallow
in their own victimization and self-pity – let them. They don’t speak
for me. They only speak for themselves. That they claim to represent
me is the main reason why this straw has broken the proverbial camel’s

For this reason, I ignored the idiots who complained that no
currently-serving Republican Congresscritters attended the Selma march
anniversary last week. Who cares? Apparently they do. But only a few
people who attended the anniversary could actually remember what it
was like to live under Jim Crow laws, and to be treated differently
because of their skin color. Only they remember the police beatings,
the force of the firehose jets, and the dogs set upon them. Do you
think these people really cared about whether members of one political
party didn’t show up? Do the people who complain about white privilege
have an inkling of what that means to someone who experienced real
racial discrimination 50 years ago?

No, to be truly post-racial, people have to stop caring about skin
color. How often do individuals and groups of people interact with
each other on such a superficial basis anymore? This act of ignoring
one’s melanin levels, to some, is apparently “racial apathy.” To be
apathetic to the struggles, the social and economy inequality that
people of color still face is an issue in and of itself, some lament.

Post-digestion baby pap, it is.

My skin color has no bearing on how I conduct myself; it has no
bearing on who I am beyond the fact that I was born with this skin. My
accomplishments and, yes, my failures, are what make me successful.
Yes, I have weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes I try to hide my
weaknesses; at other times, I’m forced to confront them. Then, my
strengths override the areas where I fail. On those merits I will be
judged. And those who persist on claiming I’m disadvantaged and
underprivileged because I’m a woman of color can kiss my olive-skinned

[Amen, Rhiain.  Me and mine stand with you.-SAH]

Books For The Buying – Free Range Oyster

Hail, Huns! Welcome to the weekend, and welcome to another installment of the According to Hoyt Promo Post! And look, it’s only been a week since the last one; do try to contain your astonishment. [Actually, it’s been less than a week, since you were late last time… -Ed.] *thwacks editor* … *smiles sweetly* So, go enjoy some good reading material, leave reviews of what you’ve read, soak in the lovely weather as you’re able, and above all, enjoy your blessings. Also, please remember to offer prayers, well-wishes, and general good thoughts for Our Beloved Hostess, the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess, as she ploughs through another of those lovely plot twists of which the Author seems so fond.

As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Happy husband, bemused father, and proud Hun of Hoyt’s Horde

Lilania Begley


Bluehills Book 1

Wounded veteran Dev Macquire needs some farm help until he recovers. When his father, Gray, brings home a new hand, he’s dismayed to meet Irina. How can a woman do the rough, heavy work they need? As she works her way into their life, and into his heart, he’s faced with a new dilemma. Can he persuade her to stay, and to accept a new role in his life?

Irina took the job on a whim. She just wanted to work hard enough to forget why her life was on hold and her future uncertain. Daily reminded of a brighter past, a childhood spent on horseback… but her new feelings for Dev were definitely not sisterly. At the end of the summer she’d leave, it was too dangerous to risk staying near him.

As a wildfire threatens the countryside, racing toward the Macquire place, Dev and Irina discover what true partnership can feel like, working together to find the arsonist who is responsible. When the fires die out, are there embers left smoldering in hearts?

James Schardt

How the Mighty have Fallen

A lawyer witnesses a triple murder while stranded in a rural town. Events quickly escalate. Was it actually murder – or vigilante justice? The local Provost is a former hero turned drunkard in need of redemption. Will they be able to uphold the rule of law and still ensure justice is served?

Jeb Kinnison

Nemo’s World

The Substrate Wars 2

In this thrilling sequel to 2014’s Red Queen, the student rebels have escaped Earth, but the US and Chinese governments continue to try to copy their discovery of quantum gateways to find them and destroy the threat they represent to security interests. The rebels hold off Earth government attacks and continue to develop the new technology, which will change life for everyone and open a million habitable planets for colonization.

Samantha and Justin are the romantic couple at the center of the rebellion, and their fellow rebels include anarchist cyber-geeks from the Grey Tribe and some of their former professors. The rebels recruit a PR specialist from London, Daniella Pink, and begin a campaign to fight the propaganda governments have used to paint them as dangerous terrorists. When the US effort to copy their technology, led by Samantha’s former boyfriend Dylan, gets too close to success, the rebels destroy his multibillion dollar secret lab carved into a Colorado mountain. The Homeland Security surveillance the rebels suffered under in Red Queen is reversed, and the US President and security agencies discover they must go to great lengths to avoid the rebels’ listening ears.

Nemo’s World continues the cat-and-mouse game with the governments of the world as young rebels learn to use the weapon that will change the world, and unlock the universe for mankind. If they live long enough to use it!

Cedar Sanderson

Pixie Noir

Pixie for Hire Book 1

Currently on sale

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

Julia Blaine

Shot through the Heart

Since Galatea Fuller’s birth, she has been betrothed to Lord Harte Whatley. Without fail, he dutifully visits her every Tuesday and Friday. But only on Tuesday and Friday. Surely her up-coming, magical London Season will kindle love between them, overcoming obligation. Then Harte replaces his fickle younger brother, Pierce, in a duel – with fatal results. A third shooter is hidden in the shrubbery. Who was the intended victim? Believing both shooters are dead, Galatea and Pierce are thrown together. Despite meddling aunts and a mischievous monkey, they attempt to solve the mystery. How can Galatea – or any woman – know who she really loves.

Vampire Music

Evil vampires cannot love – can they?

Vampire Gregory Weston loves the tinge of printer’s ink that flavors the blood of those who work with books; printers, publishers, editors and librarians are among his favorite sources of nourishment. Bored and lazy, seeking amusements to fill his endless existence, he has given up his unceasing quest to become human again – until accidentally, he employs Nia, a pregnant librarian. With child? Gregory has never experienced this situation. What a diversion for dispassionate scientific study! That she is beautiful has nothing to do with it.

Sabrina Chase


Young Jin, starving and cold, searches a burned-out building on a bitter winter’s night. Deep in the ashes he finds a glowing crystal sphere—and unwittingly opens a portal to another world.

Unable to return, forced to hide from the dangerous and mysterious masters of the world, Jin finds friends and adventures as he learns to survive…and fight back, with the magical powers he never knew he had.

I Thought I Was Wrong

As some of you know, this is my fourth go-around with Through Fire, the book from Hades.

I don’t think it’s the book or the theme (though writing first person a woman who is very different from me is writing on the highest difficulty setting, mind) but the fact I wrote the first version while very, very (very) ill.

When I’m ill I suffer a dryness of imagination, so that writing becomes “arid” — as in I can write what happens but that’s all.  there are no incidental fall-in characters (let’s all remember Jonathan Blythe in Witchfinder is one of those), no deviations, nothing.  It reads like a textbook on the story.  Cliff’s notes, only longer.

So, I went back.  Rewriting is harder than writing, and having botched the first time, I had trouble finding the voice.

It took a talk with number three son by adoption when he visited two weeks ago to figure out that I still didn’t have it, and a sleepless night to find the voice. (Weirdly this is why writers need other writers, more than anything.  That, and of course, like PTerry’s witches, to check each other for cackling.  Since we all start out fairly mad, it takes someone else at the same level of weirdness to know when you’ve gone dangerously loony.)

Since then the book has been flowing.  I was hoping to finish it and DSR before surgery, and of course it ain’t happening, mostly because I underestimated the amount of surgery-preparation AND the amount of cleaning/fixing the other house needed (12 years is a long time and little stuff accumulated.)  Also, I didn’t expect younger son to cripple himself falling on ice.

BUT I still have hopes this at least will get done if not before, then next week.

Anyway, you’ve seen beginnings, but now I want to show you the beginning, so you see how voice changes a book.

When Worlds Collide


A spaceship mechanic has no place in a fairytale, not even when she’s dressed in a flowing gown and being courted by one of Earth’s most powerful men.

I was designed to be able to repair spaceships and to navigate them home safely. I had calluses on my hands from working with heavy tools on delicate machinery. I was strong enough to kill a grown man with a casual blow. And I had burner strapped to my ankle under my ball-gown.

The man courting me was a scoundrel, a dictator, and likely a murderer. And we were dancing at a spun-sugar palace, atop a fairytale island. It was his ballroom, his palace and his island. He was my only protector on Earth and my host for the last six months. He wanted me. He had been gentle and caring and solicitous of me. I wanted to escape the happy-ever-after fairytale ending.

You should be careful what you wish for.

It was a relief when the palace exploded.

We’d been dancing, Simon and I and more than a hundred other couples, twirling on the black polished dimatough floor of his ballroom while the light of massive chandeliers shone from softly glistening white walls.

It used to be the palace of the Good Man of Liberte Seacity. Simon was a Good Man, one of fifty hereditary rulers who, between them, split the vastness and wealth of the Earth. Or at least he had been.

The people gathered in the ballroom sported outfits that seemed to be spun of butterfly wings, and those that defied the shape of the human body. Other clothing harked back to the fantastical age of empires almost seven hundred years before – long, sweeping dresses and molding outfits in materials that were better than velvet and silk. My own dress was made of a form of ceramic. It felt like satin to the touch, but its dull black heft shone with pinpoints of light, as if stars were caught in its depths.   Simon, had picked it for me and had it carried in by proud couturiers, its fine, slippery folds wrapped in silk and beribboned, like a fantastic gift, that very morning.

Liberte Seacity had been formed by a bankers’ consortium at the close of the twenty first century, and like the other seacities back then it was created as a refuge from high taxes and excessive government regulation and oversight.   Unlike other seacities, it had never been designed to have any industry, any useful output. Instead, it owned other seacities – Shangri-la, Xanadu and, later, after the fish war, several European territories – where the workday business took place. Liberte itself had been designed as a resort for those at the pinnacle of that long-vanished world. It climbed up in terraces, all carefully landscaped gardens and idyllic beaches, like a dream of an Arcadia that never was. Its inevitable utilitarian levels, where valets and maids, law enforcers and garbage collectors lived were hidden, out of sight, by ceilings that formed the ground of the next level.

Approaching Liberte from the air, as I’d first done, one saw it only as a sort of white and green confection, something like an idealized wedding cake.

The palace of the Good Man topped the cake: white and surrounded by columns and terraces, built with an airy grace that would have been impossible without poured dimatough and sculpted ceramite, it might have fit a previous age’s dream of a fairy palace, an immortal fantasy.

The ballroom sat at the very top of it all, and its walls alternated with vast panels of transparent dimatough, through which – as the night fell – you could watch the sea, glistening in every direction, all around us, blue and still like a perfect mirror.

As we twirled to a tune called Liberte and composed for this ball, I faltered, looking through the window at the troop transports moored in that smooth sea. I’d known they were there: a vast, dark menace that encircled us, the much larger forces massed against Simon and the other rebels against the regime of the Good Men that had held the Earth for three hundred years. Simon and the other rebels were, at least in theory, trying to free their particular portions of the world. Even if I had my doubts about Simon’s sincerity.

“Why are you looking out the window?” asked Simon St. Cyr, ci-devant Good Man of Liberty Seacity, who, by a stroke of the pen, had made himself “Protector of the People and Head of the Glorious Revolution.”

He was slightly shorter than I, had brown hair, brown eyes and looked unremarkable. Which I’d come to believe was protective coloration to stop people wondering what he might be plotting. He had been created as the clone of a man once designed as a superspy, and for the last ten years he’d lived a life where his only safety came from acting foolish and shallow. Sometimes I wondered if he knew where the act started. And where it stopped.

His hand rested on my waist, long fingers transmitting an impression of controlled strength through the pliable fabric.

“I’m looking at those troop carriers,” I said concentrating on the music and the movement of my feet. It didn’t take that much effort, because I too had been created, not born in the normal way, and I’d been designed for speed and agility and grace.

Simon looked over my shoulder at the transports, and made a face half dismissal and half amusement. “Oh, that,” he said and shrugged a little, contriving to give the impression the glistening transports, each of them able to carry more than a thousand armed men, were a negligible detail like a spec of dust on the floor of his polished ballroom. “Don’t worry, ma petite.”

I’d not yet decided if Simon’s habit of larding his speech with archaic French words annoyed me or amused me, but calling me “little” pushed it, since I was at least two inches taller than him. Impatience colored my tone, as I said, “But shouldn’t you be worried? These people depend on you for their safety.” And this was true. As far as there was an authority in the seacity, it was Simon, whose predecessors had commanded it form time immemorial, and who had the loyalty of all troops and functionaries. At least in theory. Whether he called himself Good Man or Protector, he reigned here.

He made a sound, not quite a chuckle at the back of his throat. “And they’re perfectly safe,” he said. “Listen, those troop carriers aren’t going to do anything, pour cause.”

“And the cause is?”

“Oh, ma petite. The cause is I have it on good authority they’re mostly empty. The Usaian revolution over in Olympus and Seayork and their territories, is keeping the Good Men fully busy, and costing them more men than they can recruit, unless they start creating people in vats, as they did at the end of the twenty first century. Until they do that, though, the Usaians are giving them more trouble than they can handle. And since people created in vats still have to grow up, I’d say we have a good fifteen years respite.” He looked at me, and his brown eyes danced with unmitigated amusement, like an adult laughing at the preoccupations of a toddler. His body moved seamlessly with the music, even as he smiled at me. “Listen, Zen. I wouldn’t have declared the revolution if I hadn’t thought there were next to no chances of reprisal by the ancien regime, the global might of what used to be the Good Men consortium. I’m a revolutionary, yes, m’amie, but I’m not stupid.”

I gave him a dubious look, but something I’d decided shortly after arriving on Earth was that Simon was not in fact stupid. Truth be told, he might be too smart for his own good. He was certainly very good at keeping Simon safe and sound and at knowing the best means of doing so. And he was completely amoral about it too.

The pressure of his hand on my waist increased fractionally. I let him lead me, as I cast one last glance at the transports on the bronze-gilded sea, bobbing slightly in the current. They’d been there for twenty four hours, and they’d done nothing. Simon had to be right. He had to. Those transports were air-and-surface. Had they been filled with troops enough to overwhelm the Seacity defenses, they’d have flown in, landed and taken over, long ago. They were for show. For intimidation. They weren’t real. I could, at least, trust Simon to see what was a threat to him and what wasn’t.

We danced.

Though I came from a very different culture, born and raised as I’d been in a small and secret lost colony of Earth, as a guest of the Good Man – oh, pardon me, the Protector – I’d been taught to dance anything that might be played at the ball. This was a waltz, an ancient dance that had once been scandalous. We segued from it to the glide, a modern dance that was considered very difficult. Our bodies moved in unison as though we’d practiced together. Which we hadn’t. We’d simply been created to be good at most things physical. Both of us were made, not conceived, assembled protein by proteins in a lab, and both faster and more coordinated than normal people.

The dance floor filled to repletion with twirling people, as the sun sank completely into the sea. In the darkness that followed, the troop transports became mere black dots on the inky water.

We took a break for drinks and food, then returned to the dance floor. It was in the middle of this dance when Simon said, “Zen, listen, I need to ask you a very important question.”

My whole body tensed, and I stopped, trying to think of a gentle way of refusing his hand in marriage. I owed him so much, and though I wouldn’t marry for such a reason, I also didn’t know what form his displeasure might take if I said no. He was the sole ruler of a vast territory. If he got angry, he might exact terrible vengeance. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, not sure how to refuse him without hurting him, and, more importantly, without inviting his wrath. I couldn’t accept him. I’d been married once. I didn’t love Simon unreservedly, as one should love one’s husband.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.

And then an explosion rocked us.

At first, I wasn’t sure it hadn’t been part of the music, then the concussion hit, making the floor shake, and the entire airy palace tremble and resonate, like a platter that’s been struck a blow with a hard object. From somewhere below came an orange reflection, a bloom of light, immediately extinguished.

Simon stopped completely, his hands on my waist, his brow wrinkling and said, “Merde!”

I cast a look at the sea, but it remained unlit and the darker points of the transports still bobbed on the water.

Another explosion, this one more deafening. Above us, a glistening crystal chandelier swayed. Bits of crystal rained down on couples who lurched to a stop. The orchestra struck another tune but it petered out as only half the members even started playing. People screamed.

A third explosion hit. The palace rocked and Simon wrapped an arm around me and leapt, carrying me with him to the edge of the ballroom, up against the wall. I could smell him. Sweat from our exertions on the dance floor had been joined by something sharper that spoke of fear.

He lay on top of me but not crushing me, his body forming a defensive cover over mine, blocking my view, blocking my movement.

“Simon,” I said, half-protest, half entreaty. I twisted to get the burner from my ankle, but he had already grabbed it. He pointed it over my head at the ballroom’s main door. “It’s not the armies of the Good Men,” he said.

“No,” I said. I didn’t say damn it, give me my burner because he was firing it at someone, and I couldn’t really fire with his bulk atop of me. I had no idea why he was protecting me this way. I’d never needed protection. I tried to look around his shoulder, but he put his arm across to hold me in place.

I wasn’t sure if I could knock Simon out. Probably, by sheer force alone. That I knew he wasn’t plate-armored. But he was as fast as I was, and he might stop my attack midway through. Worse, attacking him would distract him from defending himself and I suppose me too. And knocking him out would leave him vulnerable to attackers. We were obviously under attack.

“Damn it,” I said. “Why weren’t you armed?”

He didn’t answer. He was breathing very fast, and he now stank of fear.

“Simon,” I said, “Let me go. I can fight.”

“No,” he said. His voice hoarse. “It’s a mob. They’ll kill you, or worse. It’s my fight.”

A fourth explosion and from outside the ballroom, echoing like it had started somewhere beneath us, came a song. Loud, and inharmonious, it seemed full of threats I only half understood, because it was in the local patois, formed when the city itself had been founded: a mix of archaic French, archaic English, some Spanish words, and a lot of Glaish overlay. Something about setting fire to the world and enjoying the flames. Something about the blood of tyrants.

I felt Simon shake. I won’t say he trembled with fear. It was more like shock, or surprise. “Merde,” he said again. Then in a louder voice, “Alexis. Alexis! Alexis, for the love of God, get her out of here.”

I’d just managed to wriggle upward, to look over Simon’s shoulder. I had no idea who Alexis was, and I’d be damned if I was going to be got out of anywhere. The ballroom as a mess, and I got the impression of violence and blood. The air smelled of burner and flame.

Someone bulky and dark, a stranger, crawled up close to us. He loomed close to us in the darkness, his body a suggestion of the white satin and golden braid constituting the uniform of Simon’s personal guard, and said, “I called my men.”

“Too late. Get her the hell out of here,” Simon said and rolled off me. The stranger reached for me.

“No,” I said sitting up. “Simon, give me my burner back.”   I had never needed, would never need some person – much less two persons – who were wholly unrelated to me, to take control. I was the one who should take control and save other people. My foster parents had taught me early on that my gifts should be used for the good of others. There were people in danger. I should protect them.

“Go. I can’t fight while you’re in danger. Go,” Simon said. “Alexis, take her.”

He pushed me upward, and before I could resist, Alexis grabbed me around the waist. He was a large man, muscular. There was no hesitation, no pause. He nodded to Simon and loped along, dragging me with him, even as I scrabbled to free myself and protested, “No, you don’t understand. I’d rather fight. I can fight. I’m stronger than—”

“Can’t do anything,” he said. “Can’t fight a mob.” He looked around. “Even my men can’t.”

I wanted to say he was wrong but then I realized I didn’t even know where the threat was coming from or against whom to retaliate and the damn man was pulling me along too fast to let me get my footing, much less get my bearings.

I ground my teeth, tried ineffectually to stop. “Give me a burner.”

But he just pulled me along amid crowds of fighting people. Burners shot this way and that. Alexis seemed to have the supernatural ability to be where no one was, cutting through the crowd, very fast, avoiding the turmoil, ducking before a burner ray flashed where we’d been. Someone bumped me. Friend or foe I didn’t know and regretted only not having the time to steal their burner.

I could no longer see Simon in the crowd. I smelled blood and fire. I stopped resisting Alexis’ pull. Impossible to fight when I didn’t know whom to fight. I might be able to shoot better than most people, but not when friend and foe rolled over, screaming and fighting. And as for hitting someone, I didn’t have time to identify the people I bumped into, much less to fight all of them. So many people. Fighting all around.

The situation was out of control and I hated being out of control.

Another two explosions, below, getting closer. The nearest dimatough pane cracked, top to bottom. They weren’t supposed to crack. The crystal chandelier fell, bits of crystal flying in all directions.

Alexis said, “Run,” and grabbed my hand and took off. I ran. Nothing else I could do in this. There was nothing to be gained in dying alongside those being killed.

Dead women can’t fight, I thought. First, stay alive, then fight.

Alexis ran into the melee, fast, his arm an iron band around my waist. People careened into me and shot at us. No shot landed. No blow either, beyond the feeling of being bruised and scraped.

He dragged me through what seemed like a concealed door, down a couple of staircases, onto a dark terrace by the seaside, in the middle of Simon’s gardens.

“Come on,” Alexis said, sounding desperate. He pulled at me. “Trust the Good—Trust the protector. He says I should keep you safe. He knows what he’s doing, if we leave his hand free.” As he spoke, explosions sounded, coming ever closer. I could hear the barbarous song from the ballroom, faint, like a haunting echo, but drawing near. It seemed to me the sounds of fighting were more muted which in the circumstances was not a good thing.

“But can Simon defend himself in this? And what about everyone else?” He as a dictator. He might be a murderer. But he had been kind to me. He might have loved me.

“We were taken by surprise,” he said. He panted, and it was good to know our race had rendered him out of breath. “I don’t know who our attackers are. We have to escape and reconnoiter. If I could fight effectively, I’d fight. The protector will take care of himself.” He pulled me down a dark path on the palace grounds and clattered down a set of staircases. His hand was too warm, rough, holding me as though it were the most important thing in the world that he take me along. “We’ll leave the Good Man a free hand. He knows what he’s doing. We’ll live to fight another day.”

We ran across an expanse of lawn and down a brick path and up to a terrace where a row of fliers were parked. Simon’s official fleet for his servants, I thought, since the vehicles all looked alike.

Alexis threw me into the passenger seat, got into the driver’s, closed the doors from the control panel. We took off almost vertically.

At once an explosion rocked us, then another.

Alexis said, “Merde.” It was a popular word.

“There’s more than the mob in the palace. Whoever these people are, they’re organized enough to control the skies. We can’t fly away.” He brought the flier down, almost straight down, but into a massif of trees, well away from the palace. I was impressed. It took training to fly like that. “We won’t be allowed to escape by air. At least… not this easily. And whatever is going on is much bigger than the palace.”

I leaned back on the seat, exhausted, feeling like I should go back and fight, but knowing it was quixotic and not very sane. There was only one of me, even if I felt I should be an army. I couldn’t believe how fast the ball had degenerated into a scene of death and mayhem. And I was starting to think even Simon’s proposal and even accepting it would have been better than this. “Those people who came in. The intruders. Were they carrying heads on poles?” I asked.

“Yes,” Brisbois said.