The Portugal Hoax

Completely made up

I feel today is a good day to at long last come clean.

I know I’ve told you guys — told everyone, really — that I was born and raised in Portugal. It’s time to reveal that this is in fact impossible because there is no such country.

If you think about it for maybe ten seconds it should be obvious, of course. Look, the country is supposed to be an afterthought on the edge of Spain and — to tip you the wink — the profile where it’s supposed to meet the sea looks exactly like the face of a grumpy old man. In fact, precisely the kind of grumpy old man who would make up the existence of a whole country and keep it going to pull your leg and make you believe that it really exists.

We all met men like this. Unfortunately in my case, it’s my dad, who has the world’s worst sense of humor, and who, of course, wasn’t even an old man — or grumpy — when he pulled the strangest pranks on me, such as the time he convinced me that all the extra snot you get when you are sick was because snot is brain lubrication (I swear I’m not making this up. He did) and when you’re sick you make extra lubricant to cool the brain. I was thirty when I casually mentioned this to my husband, and he cracked up. Later, I asked dad how he could have told me that ridiculous story and he looked puzzled and said “I never thought you’d believe it.”

Ladies and gentlemen: I was six. Of course I believed it.

Well, I suspect Portugal started like that. Probably the kings of Spain, France and England were having a rousing argument or something, and getting drunk, and suddenly one of them started chuckling and said, “Hey, Felipe!” (All kings of Spain are named Felipe, by law. No one knows whose law, but there it is) “What if we made people believe there was an extra country at the edge of your country, between you and the sea. Not the whole length, you know, just at the bottom?”

“Are you nuts Henry?” (Almost all kings of England are named Henry, of course. Or were till one of them decided to make a sport of chopping off his wives heads.) “Hey, Henri,” (A lot of the kings of France were named Henri. when they got tired of people confusing them with Henry, because people could never remember to pronounce it “Han-ree” (Like Han Solo, but they never host first) the switched it over to Louis, which they pronounced Loo-eee (Look, the French are very weird people, and I say this as someone who has at least some French ancestry) and ran up quite a number before they chopped the last one’s head. Monarchies and chopping people’s heads go together like…. like axes and a lot of screaming.) “Get that wine away from Henry. He obviously has had enough.”

“No, no, guys, listen,” Henry said. “We can pretend that all the discoveries were done by this tiny little country, who then does nothing of import ever again. And we can have fake wars and stuff, you know? ‘Oh, we’d totally do that, but Portugal won’t let us. And you know, Portugal has a fearsome navy!'”

Henri and Felipeb– who often confused themselves for the other, because they forgot the pronunciation raised the usual objections — “But won’t people notice there’s nothing there?”

“Of course not, Felipe. You just hire some actors and have them talk Spanish with a funny accent, like Russian or something, and tell people they’re Portuguese. No one will never know. Think about it. We can all get together and laugh at them.”

As we know they decided to go ahead with it. And people bought it, improbable history and all. I mean what are the chances that a country the size of your bathmat would discover most of the now known world? And if they had that kind of genius, what are the chances they would never invent anything else ever ever again, and their primary exports would be wine and cork?

Though of course, in later years, the governments that replace the monarchies, made a good thing of it. Portugal became sort of an attraction, an amusement park of a country, displaying whatever ideas were fashionable at the time, from national socialism to international socialism, and being, you know, very colorful and obvious, and theatrical.

It is only now, that Covid-19 has closed tourism, that Spain has realized this was a losing enterprise and it is time to come clean before the world.

Their prime minister wired the French Premier (or the other way around. Their republics have confusing position names) who wired the prime minister of England who said in a grumpy ton, “I guess. Do whatever.”

And so today the world’s newspaper are filled with the exploding of the Portugal hoax.

As one of the actors, raised from birth to play my part, as we said “Para Ingles ver” (For the Englishman to see) I want to apologize to the world for my fractional part in the deceit.

There is no Portugal. Portugal is and was an improbable hoax, piled with an even more improbable history and with a ridiculous explanation for that history and for why they never did anything else worthwhile on the world stage.

Now you know.

Me? I’m just waiting till they come clean about the EU.

Keep Your Feet

I doubt it will surprise any of my readers that I was a fairly…. unusual — let’s go with unusual — child. Not only was one of my favorite pastimes during recess from middle-school on balancing on the edge of a flower bed, but when I started going to middle school, which was out of the village, I had to take a combination of buses that looked like the one above and legacy “trolley cars” that looked like this (without the advertisement. They were a chaste yellow):

Now often both of them were filled to the gills (usually if it was raining) and it will tell you something that mom saw it fit to tell me that I should not under any circumstances grab on and hold to the back, like the street boys did, because it was dangerous.

When the bus was full, the biggest danger was pervs performing frottage, which is why grandma gave me the world’s largest hat pin and told me where to stick it if some guy was rubbing against me. It wasn’t an if, but a when and (once I went to high school downtown where the buses, and sometimes the trains were packed at the hours I used them) about once a month I made some perv scream like a little girl. (And in the bus the conductor would stop the bus, come out back and punch him out of the bus. Note far from being traumatized by this, I’m still very cheered at the conductors’ decisive actions.)

But not that particular route and on the morning schedule (Portuguese schools have morning and afternoon schedules, no lunch period and no homeroom/study hall.) Mostly they were completely empty.

And yet, most of the time, instead of sitting, I stood in the isle and balanced. I tried to do it without holding on to the seats on either side. And it was harder than it sounds, since Portuguese traffic is slightly less (yes, I know what I typed!) sane than Italian traffic, so sudden stops and take offs at speed were completely normal.

Why did I pride myself on being able to keep my feet? I don’t know. Maybe because I was just starting to grow out of a prolonged period of clumsiness.

Or maybe because I couldn’t read — or I’d go past my stop. No, trust me on this — and I got very bored.

Anyway, I got pretty good at it. One of the drivers was our neighbor and a family friend, and sometimes I’d catch him looking at me in the rear view mirror and grinning. (Since I babysat/half raised his kid, who was the same type of kid I was (so much so it’s hard to believe he’s not a blood relation) I assume there was a pretty good chance the neighbor had been that kind of kid as well, and knew what I was doing.)

This image came to mind when I was thinking of what to write.

It’s something like this: we were, before this branch covidian nonsense came about already in a period of crazy rate of change. I know that publishing was not only upside down, sideways and tilt-a-whirl, but changed every two or three years, so that some of the things that made you insanely high earning, suddenly, over night became a liability.

I want to write, not to follow statistics and charts, so you know, mostly I try to keep an eye out on what other people say is working, and if my indie income falls through the floor, I go investigate by asking my more connected friends.

BUT the point is that things were already changing at a crazy clip.

The problem with that is that when things change very fast humans get froggy. Don’t believe me? Go look at time lines of technological change actually affecting the daily life of most people and track it with periods of great disruption: wars, revolutions, etc. (The etc normally being “stupid sh*t governments do.”)

Look, I’m a fan of innovation and change. It’s highly doubtful I’d have survived my first year if we were still hunter-gatherers. But our back brain is at odds with our curious-ape ability to transform the environment around us.

Our back brain mostly wants tomorrow to be exactly like today, only slightly better, but not enough better that we can’t keep our footing and don’t know where tomorrow’s meals are going to come from: even if they’re better and delivered right to the door.

Humans, being great apes are incredibly status conscious too. So, you know, we really need to know that this thing we trained really hard for is still going to give us status. We need to know what we learned in our 20 years in x field will have some value.

Unfortunately in the early twenty first century we were already all at risk of the fate of the lamp lighters, the buggy whip makers, etc.

Because, see? when I went through school, learning to touch type was guaranteed money forever. I don’t think this is true any longer.

I know, in the fields I work in or have friends in that things were completely different. And also that people take really long to catch on — hence people still longing for traditional publication. Trust me, not worth it — so that they don’t fully realize what’s going on, certainly not what’s going on in other fields.

I know translation has gone a long way towards being automated. I know that my friend who manages retail says that she expects what she does will go away, anyway, in 10 years.

And I have in the past predicted that …. well, most of the fields taken over by the left were on the way out. This was only partly because of innovation, mind.

I mean, look, humans also resist change, with both feet and possibly by tying themselves to the masts of their ships and stuffing their ears with wax.

So, would books have gone to ebook format if it weren’t for the fact that paper books had fallen victim to a double blow of the publishing houses being taken over by glitterati preaching Marx and bookstores falling victim to “efficiency schemes” (“the computer says we should order to the net”)?

I don’t know.

Sure ebooks are a much more efficient and cost effective way to distribute story. But I expect it would have taken decades to get even halfway accepted, because people are creatures of habit. Only because the offerings were so thoroughly unpalatable in paper, it pushed the move to ebooks.

So, I was predicting a lot of problems with the industries that, like mine, had forgotten they were supposed to cater to their customers.

However, then the covidiocy hit. And it nudged a lot of other changes for which the tech existed, but which, in fact, had still been making their buggy whips and might be making them in perpetuity… if not for the left’s attempt to drag us back to the 1930s.

For instance, the tech has been there for my husband to work from home since the mid 90s. In fact, he’s done so since the mid-nineties on occasion, like when he was sick, or there was too much snow on the ground.

But the expectation, up to last year was that he would still need to go in to the office at least three days a week. And sometimes every day. Because that’s what people did.

Until — they didn’t. Until most people with desk jobs realized they could in fact work from home. Oh, and they could teach their kids at home and do a better job than the schools (which arguably is damning with faint praise.)

As the post from Chef K showed yesterday, this has set a second order wave of disruption.

You see, the left doesn’t get second (or third) order effects at all. They’re playing a game they played at other times, with other measures. The homeless invasion of our great cities, the crazed lockdowns, all of this is to make what they believe is great real-estate available for their buddies.

I shouldn’t laugh. Because in publishing the disruption is well in motion, covidiocy is the coup the grace and yet publishers and distributors are dancing the pavane on the beach as the impending tsunami has drawn the waters way back.

So how could they possibly foresee what they’ve done to the cities by applying the butt-kick of covidiocy to society and causing us to actually use remote-work technology.

The funny thing is some of them must get it. Because I’ve started seeing articles here and there stompy foot stompy foot insisting that by gum the cities are too coming back and that only about 2% of workers can work remotely. If they said 20% it would have a little more credibility, certainly, but it’s the 2% and the hysterical tone of the articles that make me giggle, because they are so much like the stuff I was reading even 10 years ago, the whistling past the graveyard articles of traditional publishing screaming “just wait, they’ll come back crawling.”

As I said, 20% is probably closer to the mark for “can work anywhere” — though it might be higher as I’m hearing of people working remotely in professions I wouldn’t think would be ready for it — but there are the “support professions” that will follow those, all the faster since the left has taken 2020 and 2021 to destroy everything that made it worthwhile to live in a big city.

Sure, okay, retail workers can’t work in small cities the same as in large, but only yesterday I found a new company doing grocery delivery — just delivery — even to very small towns (where the nearest grocery store might be half an hour away.) And I’m sure there are other such things starting up.

Point is, except for manufacturing (and particularly with the crazy stuff this administration is imposing on all employers, from minimum wage to unionization to who knows what? that is increasingly more automated factories with very few workers. And can be located — as we discussed here the other day — anywhere train lines reach…. which is far outside big cities. (Where it’s often impossible to build these days)) the hands on professions were in the cities because that’s where people had to be to do all the jobs.

I think that’s coming to an end. And no, I don’t have any idea what things like restaurants will look like. I’m going to guess if they have to serve five or six small towns, instead of a concentrated population, we’re going to see a lot more of “prepared food delivery” probably refrigerated to re-heat at home. (And yes, I do know that all the chefs just screamed. And yet, these things tend to follow necessity.)

Universities I expect to be distributed, with perhaps concentrated teaching “workshops” for things that must be hands on.

The museums, the symphonies, all of those might very well remain in cities, or at least in cities that successfully transition to “touristic destinations” which won’t be all of them. The mayors killing their cities and betting they will return are engaged in a fool’s game.

When they say “normal” isn’t coming back, they are right. But the future that’s taking shape is not what they think it is. They think the future will be with them in control of our every breath, of everyone’s movements and what everyone is allowed to do.

The state they aspire to is that of Louis XIV, standing for his portrait and declaring “L’etat c’est moi.”

But that was the nascent state of the industrial age (not yet in full bloom, and its full hit would consume Louis’ descendant.) the machine, and the gear, and everything in its place.

This is not where we live now. We are entering a distributed age, where civilization is where we are and where you can work in a city thousands of miles away from your home.

Oh, and those who think that will be a global state are ignorant innocents who don’t understand the importance of culture and shared law. If the covidiocy didn’t teach them these lessons, nothing will.

But even in China, the clockwork state is in trouble. In fact, their latest exploits are a sign that they are in trouble and fighting to keep the mandate of heaven.

As for our own idiots… I’m interested in how their every spasm, their every attempt to stay mounted makes is more and more certain they will fall. And the longer they hold on, the harder the fall will be.

They don’t even understand the forces they’ve unleashed.

To be fair, I’m pretty good at divining the near future, and even I don’t see clearly what this future will look like, except for distributed, more individual, and in some ways smaller (but probably not poorer, once we’re past the socialist death spasms.)

But ah, the socialist death spasms lie ahead. We didn’t pay for the socialist folly in the nineties, and we should have. There should have been trials and executions, and there weren’t. And now–

I’m still praying the butcher’s bill passes us by. But I’m not expecting it.

Mind you, like everything else, the unrest and the violence will be localized, both in time and space, while around it life will go on.

But even past that turbulence, things will change very fast. Once that little trolley car is careening down a street with a 45 degree incline, it just gathers speed.

So, what can you do? How can you ensure you continue to survive, maybe even thrive in this insanity?

Ah, well, I can give you some lessons from my riding the buses, standing and without holding on to anything:

Stay alert. Look ahead. You don’t have to look very far ahead, just enough to see if the car ahead is braking. Or in this case, take a deep breath, and look month by month, sometimes week by week, to see what’s changing, and what might cause a drastic change in your life, your profession, your family. Month by month, week by week, even day by day.

Stay flexible: keep your knees loose, and be ready to keep your knees flexible for that sudden stop or start. Or, in this case: stay flexible in skills and how you use those skills. Think of other ways you could do your job, other ways you could sell your products, other things you can do to get by. Day by day.

And, because the government is a great big perv, in this case one that got onboard without paying his ticket, and at any minute is going to come up behind you and take liberties, keep that big hat pin handy. And make sure you know where to stick it. Hopefully you won’t need it, but better be prepared.

And just in case, make sure you have a few friendly drivers handy to remove the nuisance from your immediate vicinity, or at least stop it pleasuring itself at your expense. That is, make sure you have networks, and people who will come to your aid in a sticky situation. Or before the situation becomes sticky.

It’s only going to get crazier. But you can stand.

Be not afraid.

Keep your balance.

State of the Restaurant industry 2021 – by Chef K.

State of the Restaurant industry 2021 – by Chef K.

The world is undergoing a systematic restructuring. Not a Great Reset, or a Leap Forward. A re-prioritizing of life, all politics aside.

If we had started the glide into work from home 20 years ago when it really became possible to do so, people wouldn’t be going through this awkward phase where they find themselves crash landed into it. Everyone’s schedules are thrown off and they are trying to figure out how to run things outside the generally accepted principals of the past 100 years.

For a year, most of them have only known home/shopping/outside. They have cycled out of the normal patterns associated with commuting. With heavy schedule keeping. No after school activities, no faith-based activities, very few extracurricular activities. And it’s a real quandary for what to do when we filled our schedules to the max before the pandemic.

Now, Fridays and Saturdays, they are flooding downtown here. Monday mornings can be perky too. But T-Th, it’s the cold death of space out our door. Nothing and nobody.

Traditionally,  office workers would hit us on the way into the office and at lunch. Well, no one’s coming in to work, and they aren’t traveling downtown to get lunch. We run 2 people, myself included T-Th, and 4 people F-S. 3 on Mondays unless it’s raining, as there are still plenty of people traveling over the weekends.

 However, if you aren’t located next to or in a shopping center, you’re not seeing daily traffic. Which means your employees (current and prospective) aren’t traveling that way either.

It’s a very odd, unique time right now as people figure out priorities and standards. And also remember, retail & fast food(kroger/walmart/mcdonald’s/etc…) were able to pay bonuses during the pandemic due to increased sales. Restaurants were laying people off left and right. That left a mark on the industry. Suddenly the normally easy cash they relied on for a boost to the bottom line (holidays, birthdays, bills to pay off) was no longer reliable. Servers especially. With the move to take out only, they – even the most dynamic and requested – became expendable. And if they do come back, it’s a totally different feel during a shift. The 2 hour lunch rush now comes in a half hour, and the rest of the time is taken up by one or two tables. At best. Take out orders at worst.

The reliability of picking up extra shifts to pay for that vacation is gone. The kids that were in school while you picked up lunch shifts, that’s gone too. Now there is a 50/50 chance your kids – and everyone else’s – are actually in school. So call it childcare insecurities. Lots of insecurities extend from this situation, and the restaurant industry was in no position to acclimate to them. And is struggling to find its own feet in all this.

And if you consider how much of our lives are touched by people who work in and around the industry, you get the feeling that this situation is only the visible part of the iceberg. There are people who are having the same restructuring in all fields and professions. The local federal courts are going to continue Zoom trials after the pandemic is declared over. They are finding it to be an easier managed situation for both parties, as well as reducing court costs. Telemedicine is certainly going nowhere, so how much office staff does a doctor need?

Even teachers aren’t assured anything at this point, as public schools are seeing record enrollment drops and saving a ton on building costs and maintenance.

Leases, contracts, corporate fleet buying, school nutrition contracts…

We really haven’t begun to deal with all aspects of this restructuring.

In all things, do what good you can where you can and when you can, but shore up your own base first so you’re in a position to help.


Insanity is a dramatic deviation from reality. Whether it’s a relatively minor one like believing your cat is trying to say human words (guilty) or an elaborate and more difficult one, like the proverbial belief that you are Corsica’s gift to the martial arts (is that ever a thing, or was it just something comic artists seized on?); whether it’s relatively harmless (no one cares if I scream at the cat “Speak clearly.” At least if I’m not in public) or very dangerous, like believing your at is whispering that you should kill the neighbors and put their pieces in a garbage bag (oh, please, Havey is too stupid to have a concept of neighbors.) insanity is a deviation from reality. (I almost typed consensus reality, and that way lies one of the dangers, which I’ll mention later.)

I don’t think there breathes a single human who is not at least a tiny bit insane by the strictest definition. As Heinlein pointed out, some illusions are even functional and parents’ belief that their kids are the most beautiful and smartest human beings on the planet keeps the kids alive to adulthood. Because sometimes the temptation to strangle the living daylights out of them will be almost unbearable, say when the four year old blows a crater in the backyard. (Actually it’s worse than that, because you don’t know whether to giggle or scream, so you can die of an apoplexy before you even think of yelling at the kid.)

I suppose my own, personal bit of undeniable insanity is that I believe stories show up fully formed in my head, as though I were a receiver for some master story teller elsewhere. And I talk about it that way too, by saying thing like “I just can’t get properly tuned to receive this story.”
By everything rational, this is an insane, nay, a possibly utterly bug nuts belief. But it is a functional one. It works for me, to cast what I do in that terms, and I certainly don’t demand that anyone think or believe the way I do. Even husband more or less pats me on the head and makes the expression that means “well, it works for you.”

But we all have some. People talk to plants; believe they can hear something that’s patently impossible to hear, etc. People also have strange ideas that don’t accord to the real world but which don’t hurt anyone — under normal circumstances.

It’s perfectly possible — or was until the late nineties — for me to be friends with people who believe that every country has the same priorities as America, or who thinks China elects their government, or that everyone lives at least at the same level we do.

Which brings us: why till the late nineties?

Because since then the media/overculture has been on a tear to sell us a “consensus reality” which has no contact whatsoever with real reality, but which locks in every part of it, in lockstep.

They’ve been building a great, overarching madness, in which women are the most oppressed people of all, unless it’s against transwomen who are even more super oppressed; America is systemically racist, but other countries (snort, giggle) are better; all other countries are more tolerant and people have more rights than we do; it is possible to pay everyone money so they can “pursue their art” and we’ll all be automagically rich and food will materialize from the air along with medical care, and possibly free unicorns; the only people standing in the way of this are “haters” who is anyone who doesn’t agree with the program as proclaimed that day; and all we have to do is put the right (left) people in charge, and it doesn’t matter if they take all our rights away, because they are so perfect and loving and want to take care of us.

There are branches to this madness, like the idea that if you get rid of the police/guns/self-defense violence will stop; that if there are no possessions there will be no crime; that there is no difference between men and women, but you should be able to change from male to female and female to male, even though these categories don’t actually exist.

The deeper you delve into this insanity, the deeper the waters of madness become, till they cover everything and everyone, into a grand unified theory of nonsense that doesn’t connect to anything real.

Look, yep, there are transsexual people — real ones (very, very few, percentage wise, but they exist) — ;and there are racist assholes (very few, but we’re a population of 300 mil. There will be assholes); and there are instances of discrimination against every possible category of humans, and some impossible ones too.

But the world — the real world — as it exists is imperfect. There’s always going to be something. The more you look for something — whether it’s ways to make money or instances of microaggressions — the more you’re going to find.

This doesn’t mean you can somehow find every instance of the bad things and turn it into good things, because that’s not the way the world works.

You can’t stop every instance of child abuse; racism; mass killing — well, pretty much anything. Because humans are humans, capable of both self will and dissimulation. You can’t control everyone. And the more you try, the more power you give to the people who control it all. And think about it, what type of people want to be in charge of deciding what everyone can’t and can do? They’re not usually the most selfless, other-oriented people in the world.

Part of the problem and the reason saying “Consensus reality” is wrong is that it doesn’t matter what the consensus is. We can all believe that food will rain from the sky every day at 12 pm and yet it won’t happen.

But you see,t he left believes it will. When they tell you “The consensus is” as though that meant “reality is” it’s because they believe this is true. They’ve gone around the postmodern bend so far that they think that believing makes it so. Which is why in 2008 in Denver we were treated to the bizarre spectacle of their trying to levitate the mint.

This is also why they get so made when you tell them their beliefs are wrong, and this is what makes our speech “violence” — because if we all believed, the world would be paradise. This is also why they want everyone to say the election was completely aboveboard. Because if you all believe it, it will have been so.

There are many forms of madness. A madness imposing itself from above results in the insanity that was 2020 (and 2021 isn’t getting any better. Worse, it results in insanity like the Cultural Revolution in China, which killed millions and destroyed knowledge and material wealth in untold amounts.

I know, being bombarded from all sides with the insane narrative makes it feel like it must be us who are crazy. But it is not so.

Consensus (which they don’t have, and we know they don’t have it, because they’re destroying every possible means of figuring out what the consensus is) is not the measure of reality.

Reality is the measure of reality. All of your wishing upon Das Kapital one make a single one of Marx’s insane assertions correct.

All it does is tilt you further and further away from reality.

And reality is a stone cold bitch. She always wins.

So insanity will cease, because it has to.

The only question is what remains after. Build over, build under, build around, and get ready to hold when the Earth Shattering Kaboom comes.

Be not afraid.

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

Book Promo

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FROM MACKEY CHANDLER: Another Word for Magic.

Fleeing the Solar System after an attack by North America, the three Home habitats now have to seek their own fortunes. Heather, Sovereign of Central on the Moon saved them but now has to make certain the USNA can never threaten them again.
What was a tentative research partnership with the Red Tree Clan of Derfhome becomes a full alliance of equals. Lee finds she has to grasp authority and act for the Red Tree Mothers and herself to repossess the planet Providence she and Gordon discovered. The Claims Commission on Earth has collapsed without the leadership of North America. Explorers like her are cut off from their payments and the colonists on Providence are left in the lurch too. To do that she needs these powerful new allies.

FROM NATHAN C. BRINDLE: The Lion and the Lizard

Thirty years ago, Dr. Ariela Rivers Wolff, M.D., Ph.D., AKA The Lion of God, had a pretty exhausting week.

Her world was invaded by time-traveling soldiers, she was nearly turned into human toothpaste by an experimental dimension jumper when she went to find her parallel “Dad,” who just happens to be able to borrow a Space Force fleet to come and take out her world’s invaders . . . and then she found out she was considered by those same invaders to be a saint in their odd religion, and one of the targets of their invasion. If that wasn’t enough, she nearly fell completely out of the universe into a time rift, being saved only by the skin of her teeth by her parallel “Dad”.

After all that, learning she was going to be the one to bring universal healing and long life to the human race in her particular timeline was just the icing on the proverbial cake.

Anybody else would go home, turn off their phone, pull all the blinds, lock all the doors, and take the rest of their life off. But Ari isn’t “anybody else”. And her cult of admirers across two timelines won’t take “nobody home” for an answer.

Fast-forward thirty years. Scientists have detected radio transmissions in an unknown language from several hundred light years away. And now she’s been asked to use her special “saintly” skills as demonstrated on her last “mission” to make first contact with whoever they are.

And that’s only the beginning.

Looks like Ambassador Dr. Ariela Rivers Wolff, M.D., Ph.D., is going to have another pretty exhausting week. Or six.

FROM BLAKE SMITH: Hartington Abroad.

Jeriah Hartington is far from home. Born into a wealthy family, he is now reduced to poverty. In desperation, he signs on to a ship headed for the planet XKF-36. Their mission? To search for colonists who’ve been lost nearly as long as Jeriah has been alive.

Jeriah fully anticipates an adventure as they travel into the unknown wilderness. He never expected to find living people, eager to tell the tale of their sufferings. But their hair-raising account could be the downfall of everyone on the planet, even their rescuers. For a villain lurks within the ship’s crew, and no one can say who he might be.

FROM ANDREW FOX: Hazardous Imaginings: The Mondo Book of Politically Incorrect Science Fiction.

Science fiction is NOT a safe space!

Two short novels and three stories by the author of Fat White Vampire Blues push the boundaries of taboo in science fiction. An English archeologist who yearns for the love of a young Jewish refugee sets out to convince a majority of the world’s population that the Holocaust never happened — hoping to not only wipe it from the annals of history, but also from reality. The Martian colony Bradbury sends an investigator to pursue a gay Uyghur murderer in a future Australian city where members of each ethnic and grievance group are invisible to all those who don’t belong to their tribe. A far-future academic treatise describes a rediscovered Fusionist liturgical text that combines the writings of radical feminist Joanna Russ and female slavery fantasist John Norman. An aggressively therapeutic State of Florida lovingly wraps its bureaucratic tentacles around those it deems unenlightened. A born-again Christian cafeteria worker in a small Texas college town becomes the only friend of an insectoid alien come to evacuate humanity from a doomed Earth. These stories leave no sacred cows unprodded.
“Remarkable work in an incendiary time. The Truest Quill.” –Barry N. Malzberg, author of Beyond Apollo and Breakfast in the Ruins
“Andrew Fox writes like a combination of Kurt Vonnegut, Dave Barry and Molly Ivins…” –Lucius Shepard, author of The Golden and Life During Wartime

FROM C. V. WALTER: The Alien’s Accidental Bride.

Molly was no stranger to life’s little detours. After the last upheaval, she left her family’s law firm to become a maintenance technician on the Space Station Bradbury 12. When an accident knocks her off her feet, she’s going to have to draw on all her resilience to get back up. First, though, she’s going to have to figure out how to talk to the big, blue alien trying to help her.

There wasn’t supposed to be a space station where Mintonar’s ship emerged from the galactic bridge. As far as they knew, there wasn’t supposed to be intelligent life on the planet, either. Proof of how wrong they were is laying in his Medical Bay and it’s his job to save her. When he touches her, his life turns upside down and his mission suddenly includes figuring out why everything inside him insists she’s his mate. And convincing her of the same thing, especially when they don’t even speak the same language.

FROM ODESSA MOON: The White Elephant of Panschin (The Steppes of Mars Book 2).

Near the Martian north pole, six linked domes form the mining city of Panschin. For generations, they have burrowed into the Martian underworld, digging tunnels, mining ore, and uncovering its secrets.

          At Panschin’s mining conference, Airik, the daimyo of Shelleen, hopes to find allies to exploit his family’s newly discovered Red Mercury lode. But the prospect of fabulous wealth has drawn a target on Airik’s back: for con artists and their schemes, companies hoping to scam him, and women wanting to become his wife. Overwhelmed, Airik flees the attention with his aide, secretary and bodyguard, searching for a quiet place to work in peace.

          For Veronica Bradwell, her family’s disgrace after her father’s financial scandal and suicide forces her to open the doors of their last asset, the mansion nicknamed the White Elephant to boarders. And while Airik and his “cousins” look suspicious, they are well-mannered and, most important, paid in advance.

          But Veronica has more concerns. Younger sister Shelby wants to become an artist, and her education at Panschin University. requires opening the White Elephant to a gallery showing led by Professor Vitebskin, whose ideas of art clashes with Shelby’s instinct for beauty and color. As Shelby struggles, she forms an attachment with Malcolm Cobb, a young bank executive who masks his mining background with a serious ambition to rise in Panschin’s hierarchy.

          When a sinister thug approaches Veronica demanding to buy the White Elephant, she learns that old sins cast long shadows, that some people never forget, and that the mysterious guest Airik is hiding secrets of his own.

          “The White Elephant of Panschin” is the second book in Odessa Moon’s “Steppes of Mars” series. Set on a terraformed Mars hundreds of years from now, the peoples descended from Olde Earthe’s cultures struggle with the planet’s mysteries, the elite’s quest for power, and the longings of their human hearts.

FROM M.C.A. HOGARTH: Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers Book 1).

Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance’s finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he’s unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society… but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht’h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?


Storm clouds gather. An unknown danger nears, one that may spell the end of Mossy Creek, TX, and all those who live there.

Dr. Jax Powell and her best friends, her sisters from other misters, are determined to do whatever it takes to protect their town and loved ones. Each of them, once considered the town’s wayward children, have returned home. All but one: Magdalena “Maddy” Reyes. She’s not refused to return to Mossy Creek, but she appears to have dropped off the face of the Earth—or at least from the streets of Dublin.

Can they find Maddy and save their town or is it already too late?

A Magical Portent is novella-length story that follows Rogue’s Magic.

FROM DENTON SALLE: Oath to a Warlock

Peng planned to continue to serve the Master in the stables. After all, magicians lived forever. Qian thought that she would care for her niece and marry who the Master said to. Neither of them expected the Imperial Censor to come

Yaros wasn’t happy with the plan of impersonating the Censor and his retinue. All to keep an oath given to a warlock. How much blood would be shed for a traitor?

When magics and weapons clash, nothing goes as planned. And more than two lives are changed

A fantasy novella set in a China where Rus Vikings changed history.

FROM J. P. MAC: Death Honk: Nine Tales of the Macabre

Trespass forbidden boundaries, cross into eerie dimensions, mingle with the sinister and the lost in a treasury of nine peculiar tales ranging from the supernatural to the satirical.A naïve publisher blindly sets in motion the annihilation of Earth.

High school students risk their lives in a brutal quest for popularity.

An ambitious District Attorney struggles against the consequences of his inane policies.

Written over a decade, these stories span the worlds of magical realism, dark urban fantasy and classic horror. Greed, innocence and betrayal draw characters into settings laced with tension, black humor, and the creepy abominations of H.P. Lovecraft. So grab a copy, relax and set your imagination to cruise as an anthology of fantastic fables awaits.

And… under taking my own medicine, after months of yelling at my friends to send me at least one book a week, as long as it’s not same book…. And yeah, I’m working on Bowl of Red, slower because– well, there’s more stuff going on than I’m at liberty to disclose for the next two months. After which the books should come fast and er…. furious…. including the reissue of Darkship Thieves. Please be patient – SAH

FROM SARAH A. HOYT: Draw One In The Dark.

Something or someone is killing shape shifters in the small mountain town of Goldport, Colorado.
Kyrie Smith, a server at a local diner, is the last person to solve the mystery. Except of course for the fact that she changes into a panther and that her co-worker, Tom Ormson, who changes into a dragon, thinks he might have killed someone.
Add in a policeman who shape-shifts into a lion, a father who is suffering from remorse about how he raised his son, and a triad of dragon shape shifters on the trail of a magical object known as The Pearl of Heaven and the adventure is bound to get very exciting indeed.
Solving the crime is difficult enough, but so is — for our characters — trusting someone with secrets long-held.

Originally published by Baen Books.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

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

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

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: SUSPECT

Throne of Lies

We’re living in a very odd time. Not only is it almost impossible to collect/publish/track down objective data on anything, but the data we think we have is probably corrupted somewhere at some level. This at the same time that the ruling would be elites insist on “science” and “evidence” and “studies.”

Now, most of you know most scientific studies aren’t reproducible. In a sane era, this means that either it has to be proven by another study, or that the hypothesis is completely disproved.

We don’t live in a sane era. So, the minute that a study comes out “saying” or “proving” this or that, everyone must obey it, because “don’t you believe in science.”

And the people who don’t know how the sausage is made, look at it and go “well, it must be true, because–“

And if this were only in scientific studies and principles, it would be incredibly damaging, since it affects most of STEM. But…. Oh, no. It’s everything. Even the things that should be simplest, most obvious and most clearly traceable. Like…. sales figures.

Now part of this is this the weird mentality that started setting in around the 80s in all sorts of businesses and science that you can’t fail. If you fail you are a “loser.” Also at the same time a “only the experts can do this” set in, which I wonder if it’s protection against fudging.

The other part of it is that when the government funds something, like, say, studies, you have to show “results” — even if the results are all fudged and insane.

The other part …. is ideological. Someone here talked about how libraries do everything possible to make sure the “woke” books get good circulation, while handicapping, or outright kneecapping books that people actually want to read.

Those of you who have had kids in public school recently, have probably also noticed how more and more teaching is “indoctrination.” Kids are carefully trained to match slot A with tab B and fill in tests with given keywords, but they don’t actually learn anything. In fact, when they had younger son do homework with my supervision, because he wasn’t doing it/turning it in, I realized that 90% of it was not only stuff that made no sense whatsoever and didn’t teach anything, but also it was extremely boring. (Homework can, and maybe should be boring. But it should also be useful. Such as by making you practice skills until they’re instinctive, such as multiplication. But say, coloring all the fences on a picture in pink is not actually in that kind of category for a middle schooler.) The thing I remember for instance was the French homework that involved looking at a French magazine and counting the number of pictures of monkeys, then saying on what page they were. This made my jaw drop with its bizarre time-wasting idiocy. What were they hoping for? That people learned the language by casually flipping through the magazine looking for monkeys? I mean, I can see giving homework that’s like, look at this article and look up all the words you don’t know. But pictures? WHY?

And I know publishing is…. oh, dear. Not only can houses make sure you sell or don’t (at least on paper) but also completely riddled with insanity, incompetence and lack of tracking of actual sales. At every level.

And everyone I talk to in depth, who works for other fields, comes up with the same thing. “Oh, yeah, this is corrupted all along the line, and we have no way of tracking the real numbers.”

And you know, it’s always the same: either people protecting fiefdoms, or people lying because they work for the government and certain results have to be obtained, or people are trying to make sure the “proper” books end up ahead. Or–

Now, in the middle of this there is some real data, of course. There are honest researchers. I know one or two. There are decent sales people who keep track of sales scrupulously. There are factories that turn out good product (likely none in China, but…

But the problem is you can’t tell the good from the bad.

And that even the people jiggering the numbers in one corner, one franchise, one branch, believe the numbers from the other corners, franchises and branches.

Take for instance the librarians, who get numbers from other branches, showing that the woke books are lending out like crazy and of course reviewers love them, etc.

What are they going to do? They’re going to look at their own branch where these things don’t go out at all, and go “Uh. I guess my patrons are exceptionally unenlightened.” And because leftism is a positional good and no one wants to fail to display the appropriate enthusiasm for wokism, from themselves or the population they serve, they then — quietly — jigger the numbers. And the next branch over goes, “Well, it must be only my branch.”

And this goes on with everything, non stop. From the much ballyhooed advances for woke writers and leftist celebrities, which are nothing less than bribes, but which the man on the street goes “I guess there’s a lot of call for this” to the big deals with Obama/Clinton, to the people chosen to come to various programs as “experts” which are unfailingly left.

All of these things create a facade that not only are the leftist ideas triumphant, but that “everyone” believes in them/is for them. Because even if people know what’s fudged in their little corner, they can’t imagine that everyone else is fudging. Or that a little fudging goes a looooong way.

Add to that the “the king’s new clothes” effect, reinforced by a cancel culture (which is not a new thing, it’s just more visible) in which if you come out as not being a leftist, at this point in MOST fields, including stem, you’re at best handicapping your career advance and at worst you’re going to make yourself an untouchable. Regardless of your competence of abilities, disagree publicly with ONE leftist shibboleth, and suddenly no one in your field will hire you. (Trust me, I know whence I speak. Though Yeah, I’ve been running for years in “might as well get hanged for a whole herd as for a lamb” principle.) Recall for instance the shirt storm.

So most people, from science to the humanities to sales will not say, aloud, under their own names, in public, that the king goes naked. Instead they at best stay quiet, and since even that is dangerous, they endorse the bullshit.

The problem is that a society can’t function like that. Societies in general can function on “one big lie” particularly if the lie is beneficial. When I was in my teens, Portugal still believed it was one of the most important countries in the world, for instance. It damaged nothing, and made people feel good.

People can run on other such lies that are big enough not to impact their daily life. Or even if they do. Hey, remember when we were going to freeze to death in the seventies? Or when we were running out of oil? The lie was a problem, and it damaged economies and people. But it was one lie.

Now the lies are thick and everywhere. Honestly, if I see a figure touted as “figures reveal that” my basic assumption is that it’s not ony wrong but laughably wrong. Particularly if it reinforces some beloved leftist bs.

For instance, in the midst of the covidiocy, it’s actually impossible to figure out how many people died, because between financial incentives and ideological freight everyone is invested in the number of deaths. We all know of people who supposedly died of Covid, while actually having face and/or chest shot out, but there are less obvious and therefore more insidious lies we don’t even know about which are probably more damaging because of that, such as the number of cases diagnoses after a number of cycles that would kick up any corona virus fragment as “being infected with C-19”, or those that were diagnosed over the phone on symptoms only because tests were scarce, or even those that are diagnosed despite negative tests, because there’s something respiratory going on which is not flu.

Now we can all laugh at that, but given the insane idiocy perpetrated upon us to combat this supposedly deadly bug, the real numbers would seem to be important, to either confirm that the panic was needed or to resolve — as a society — never to do this thing again.

Or you know, in other things. Like if they’re going to impose the “Green New Deal” on us to curb global warming, I’d like to know there really IS global warming, generalized, not localized with shifting patterns, and that humans have something to do with it, beyond the very faint and outlying margins. Because if we’re going to destroy civilization, it shouldn’t be for a lie.

But the big picture, the small picture, all the information we have, at this point, is a bizarre sketch of corruption and lies. For everything.

It’s gotten so insane the left actually believes human beliefs shape reality, which is where you get things like Modern Monetary Theory, which thinks that money is make believe, with no real world referent, and that you don’t need to have most of the population work, you can just indefinitely keep printing money and keep 80% of the people on welfare. This is what I call “Well, if money were edible, maybe” or “Not actually knowing where food comes from.”

The problem with this, of course, is that what can’t go on won’t go on.

I was recently amused by finding that our current occupying Junta considers any references to Romania or the flag of Romania to be signs of extremism.

My younger and more naive friends were confused. “What is with Romania.”

So when I stopped laughing I told them the story of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife: in the morning to all appearances, and supported by a facade of lies and fear, beloved leaders of the country of Romania. And in the afternoon cooling meat in courtyard, after being executed.

You see, they were resting on a throne of lies. So many lies that they, themselves, probably believed they were the beloved leaders, and therefore failed to skeedadle when they should have.

Though a lot of the downfall of communist regimes was sudden and startling from the outside (because the facade of lies is easier to maintain at a distance) that one was the most dramatic one, and surprised even insiders.

Books have been written about it, using equations designed to track the movement of a sand pile (the phenomenon by which we get walking dunes.) As in, the pile seats at a slight incline, and if it’s a really small pile it might be stable for the foreseeable future. But as it grows in size, it becomes more perilous/less likely to hold. And as it starts to move, no one will see it, because it happens at the level of grains underneath the other grains. Until some inner desiquilibrium is reached and suddenly the whole pile of sand moves over.

Resistance to totalitarianism, particularly leftist totalitarianism which always rests on a bed of lies starting with “we care” and “we’re for the people” is like that. First really small and invisible, then suddenly everywhere. Mostly because they think that preventing talk in opposition prevents opposition. So the “turning against” is not only silent, but very often your biggest enemies are the people you think are your most vigorous defenders.

Until the pile of sand moves.

I find it interesting the Junta is afraid of anything relating to Romania. Perhaps afraid of the story becoming known.

It must be that despite the very strange gelman amnesia that infects lower ranks, where each person thinks they’re the only ones fudging the figures, those at the top know that they rest on a throne of lies.

And lies, you know, are notoriously unstable. Reality is a bitch. In the end, if you pick a fight with her, she always wins.

And the pile of sand moves.

On the Other Tentacle

How had her life become this crazy? Zandra asked herself as she ran from the kitchen in pursuit of the octopus. He was sliding and skittering towards the living room, trailing water behind him on the polished hardwood floor.

Her company was supposed to meet at her house for dinner. It had started as a plan to meet at a restaurant. But then with the random lockdowns, it was impossible to plan something in advance and make sure that they could carry through. Heck, since the team had eight members, some restaurants might not be set up for the to eat together.

So in a moment of insanity, Zandra offered her house. She owned the tiny working man Victorian in Washington Park free and clear, having inherited it from her grandmother. The location was central to everyone, being close to where the offices used to be. She even had a ton of parking in the back, since grandma had paved a vast portion of the back yard when she had grown too old to look after the lawn.

And the inside of the house was charming, since most of it was still grandma’s. And since Zandra lived alone and had no pets, and she spent most of her time at the computer, working or playing games, all she had to do was a quick dust and vacuuming.

But dear Lord. Why the octopus?

It had started with the idea she’d make spaghetti and meatballs, and then Nick had offered to give her his grandma’s recipe for sauce.

Nick was new to the group. They’d never actually met in person. He’d joined the group during lockdown. But she’d seen a lot of him at the zoom meetings. He was dark, and handsome, with an aquiline nose and curly dark hair, and a way of curling his lips up, just on one side, when something amused him.

Zandra wasn’t stupid. She knew herself for what she was. No ugly, no. She was okay for looks even now at almost thirty, if a little on the wan side, with her pale hair and oval face. But her blue eyes were darker than one would expect, and her mom used to say she had quite pretty lips, and why didn’t she use some lip gloss?

But what Zandra had realized, just about the time she’d realized males were fascinating creatures, was that she was that most awkward and strangest of creatures: Homus Geekus, female variety.

Any number of young men who had asked her out in either high school or college had scrambled away, almost backwards and cartoon fashion, when she started talking about things that interested her: programming, art, animation.

Eventually she’d learned to keep her mouth shut, but then the dates were just boring. And so she’d slid through life avoiding dates.

Even working for a small animation company, when it should have been a given all the other people “shared” what mom used to call her “obsessions” she’d learned not to talk about it outside work, and not to bring out her fantasy paintings or her weird ideas for how things should look. Her part in the company was programming the movement, not art. Now…. Nick did art.

Okay, that was ridiculous, and she was going to to with the fact that she was nearing thirty making her so fascinated with Nick. It was probably her biological clock or something, and it was crazy because what would she do with a kid? Probably teach him to draw and talk to him about her idea for how characters should look, and then she’d bring up all the golden age artists she loved.

Well, if she were to have any kids, which was unlikely, at least they’d sleep well, right?

She had the meatballs cooked, and ready, keeping warm in the crockpot. And she’d exactly followed the recipe of Nick’s grandmother’s spaghetti sauce.

But the cause of this insanity was the thing Nick had said in the email with the recipe. “Man, grandma was a great cook. I wish I could try her fried octopus again.”

And thinking of nothing but making Nick happy for a few minutes, Zandra had gone to the local oriental grocery, and bought an octopus. She’d thought he was frozen, inside the cloth bag, and she’d though he — she was absolutely sure now it was a he — was dead. Of course. He was cold and very still, and she’d left him on the counter while she worked in the morning. She’d just come down, recipe in hand — apparently you had to boil the tentacles before frying them — and the counter was empty, with only a puddle of water where he’d been.

She’d have been more baffled if she hadn’t caught a glimpse of an eye — unearthly attentive and cognizant – looking at her from behind the spice rack.

She’d grabbed her cleaver — which was of course insane, since she’d never in her life killed anything — and the octopus had taken off in a flurry of tentacles towards the living room.

With her — and the cleaver in hot pursuit.

She was almost sure she had no intention of using the cleaver. But she couldn’t let the octopus free in the house. What was she going to do? Put a collar and bell on him and introduce him as Fluffly?

She almost ran into the big comfy blue chair in the living room, when the octopus changed directions and went running into her home office, at the back of the living room.

By the time she caught up with him, he’d gone to the computer, and was …. typing.

“Name is Samirqoq,” he typed. “And is agent of great Star empire of Torwir.” He paused a moment, and Zandra caught up with him. At which point, the wrapped a tentacle around the wrist of her hand holding the cleaver, and said “NotfoodnotfoodotfoodSamiqoqnowantbeeaten.”

Zandra threw the cleaver in the trash can. “I’m not going to eat you,” she said. Which of course was when the doorbell rang.

“Stay where you are,” she said, and went to the door. It was Nick. And holy hell, he looked way better in person than on zoom. He was wearing a white shirt opened at the neck, dark pants, and he had a bag of the sort one puts a bottle of wine in. He smiled at her and said, “Five o’clock, right?”

She was about to tell him the dinner was for six, when she caught a movement on the floor, and reached down just in time, to grab a moist, writhing tentacle. Samirqoq looked back at her, his eye indignant and betrayed.

“You can’t go out,” she told Samirqoq. “It’s cold out there. You’ll die or go dormant, or something.” He stopped struggling.

“Er…” Nick said, stepping back. “Is this your pet?”

“No,” she said. “He says he’s a member of an intergalactic empire.”

“What?” Nick said.

And she looked up thinking that he was about to bolt, but his eyes were full of curiosity. “That’s fascinating,” he said. “How did he talk?”

“He types. On my computer. I swear I’m not making this up.” She got a firmer hold on him, near the body, and carried him with all his other tentacles dangling, exactly like a toddler who doesn’t want to be carried, she thought.

She sat him in front of the computer. “Tell the nice gentleman who you are,” she said.

The tentacles went up and moved at speed. “I is Samirqoq,” the octopus said. “And is agent of great Star empire of Torwir.” Stop with tentacles hovering on keyboard. “Many many times great great grandfather was agent. And my parent told me to stay ready and report to Torwir if they contact. Torwir stopped contact many many many lives of agents ago.” Pause. “I is not food.”

“No,” Nick said. “We wouldn’t dream of it.” And as Samirqoq’s eyes turned to him. “How about we put you in some water — not HOT water — and you stay very quiet while other people come and eat other things, and then we’ll talk again.”

Samirqoq typed “Kaythanx”

They’d put him in the bathtub in the guest bathroom, and the dinner meeting had gone very well, made even better by the fact that now and then she and Nick caught each other’s eye and smiled just a little. She kept her eye out in the hallways for sign of tentacle and movement. None came.

Of course, she would learn in time this didn’t mean that Sammy, as she’d started thinking about him, was doing as told.

As everyone but Nick left, and Nick turned to her and said, “May I stay to solve the intergalactic mystery?” she heard a sound from the kitchen.

They found Sammy on the counter, eating peanut butter straight from the jar.

After washing and somewhat drying his tentacles, they sat him back at the computer. Other than the fact that he typed in lolcat language, he seemed perfectly rational. Smart even. He seemed to have learned to type from watching the daughter of the Asian seafood market owner use her computer. Since he immediately asked about cats, by name and description, Zandra assumed that’s where he’d picked up the unbearably adorable grammar.

The intergalactic conspiracy if it existed, had happened many…. probably hundreds of thousands of years ago, since Sammy insisted there were no “hoomans” then.

And his ideas of empire, much less galactic were those of someone who’d watched cartoons.

They ended up adopting him, of course. “I feel guilty for having liked octopus so much,” Nik said.

And because they had a pet in common — and what a pet he was, given his tendency to get anywhere, eat anything, and generally behave like a toddler with attention deficit — they had ended up seeing each other almost every day.

Perhaps it was inevitable it should lead to marriage. And to their finding out that Sammy, Intergalactic Spy, was in fact a great babysitter for infants, always ready to go and call one of them should it be needed. But he was terrible babysitter for toddlers, because he’d escape his tank and both he and the toddler would end up covered in peanut butter.

And yet, even with all the trouble her very unusual pet caused, on the other tentacle, Zandra wasn’t sorry she’d brought home an all too lively octopus who would never be fried if she had any say in it.

This Is No Time To Ride Into The Sunset

I have an awful confession to make. And probably the least American thing about me: I don’t like Westerns.

To be fair, this was also the least Portuguese thing about me, since the westerward expansion and everything it implies is now an ur-myth of the Western civilization that includes Europe, and most Europeans are mad for a good Western. The only Europeans who don’t love a good Western are the pseudo sophisticates.

There used to be an area, just out of the village that looked (for some reason) like the old west, and Italian movie companies used to film scenes there (there was even a rickety train bridge, and of course, until I was about 10 all the trains in Portugal were coal and really old.) We used to walk out, my brother, his friends and I, and sit and watch them film.

Why did I never take to them? I don’t know. It’s not pseudo-sophistication, not given the other stuff I read. And yes, I tried Louis L’Amour. I slid right off. Now, maybe it would be different now — don’t know. Sometimes it’s a “language feel” and my “language slide off” changes every few years — but when I tried him 20 years ago, I slid off.

I like the ideas and the concepts, but can’t for the life of me read the book till the end.

I’d like to blame the myriad spaghetti westerns I read (it’s a thing. Portugal had a minor industry of writing/publishing pulp westerns every week or so, for some houses) when I was under six. You see, my brother and cousin (who lived with us) collected them, spending pretty much their entire money on them, and one of my first memories of reading was of reading their collections before anyone knew I was reading. They were very bad, of course. But I read a sh*t ton of bad mysteries and bad science fiction, published by the same knock-off factories (maybe not as many, but close) and I still read the genre. And sure, cousin’s bullfighter romances did put me off romances for a good long time, but I came back in my thirties, even if just to Georgette Heyer.

So– Why don’t I like Westerns? I don’t know.

But yesterday I was sitting on my chair in the family room, minding my own business and trying to work through a script rewrite when suddenly a bad dude my husband, who was waiting for me to be ready to go to bed decided to put Rango on. He says he watched it a decade or so ago with the guys, and maybe he did. I have trouble sitting down and watching movies, but we used to have a Friday pizza and movie night, where I normally watched with the guys as it was a big family thing. However if I was sick or on deadline (and there was a lot of both) I might have missed that one.

Anyway, at some point some sound or movement called my attention and I looked up. It’s Walter Mitty meets the classical western (which I do understand is a normal western trope, yes, with the tenderfoot finding out he has to live up to his dreams. I told you I read a sh*tton of them before I entered elementary.) But it’s animated, and weirdly the visuals are stunning.

I got interested when the chameleon who is the protag survived in the desert simply by refusing to give up. He’s not the least suited to survive. He should have died in five seconds flat. But he refuses to. And he makes it.

And then I stayed for the rest of it (which means I need to get some caffeine in me and get my ass upstairs to finish the script rewrite.)

If you haven’t watched it, you should, and yes, this is me recommending a movie. And if you need to learn plot structure, just cribbing it off that is not a bad idea. It works, not just for Westerns. Also you have to see the posse riding chickens. This might have hit me particularly hard, since I’m one of those people who find chickens inherently hilarious just by existing. (I once had a screen saver of chickens and cows flying with balloons attached to their mid-sections.)

Anyway, this morning I was talking to my husband while we stumbled through the morning routine, both of us still technically asleep and literally walking into walls and I told him I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the movie, and thank you for actually having it on, because I needed that, even though I didn’t know it.

He said, “I needed the ending, when he realizes he has to go back and fight, because “the hero can’t walk off on his own story.””

I think a lot of us need to hear that right now.

You can’t walk off on your own story.

You might feel impotent — I know I do — and you might feel like you’re not the hero, and you’re waiting for the hero.

But each of us is the hero of his own story. And we can’t walk out. We can quit, and turn our story into one of those Frenchmen love, with despair and nihilism as the message. Or our form of heroism might be the little caryatid where we know the cause is doomed, but we go out fighting (and if that’s it, try for the defiant song to the end, please.) Or we might think the end is foretold and we’re already doomed, but still fight. And fight the best we can and as big as we can. And sometimes, sometimes, a miracle occurs and we win anyway. Now that’s rare enough that it becomes the stuff of legends… and westerns. But you know, the chance is worth it.

Anyway, we might be impotent, or frankly ridiculous int he hero role. Or we might be temperamentally suited to play the villain, and bit and curse, but….

Each of us is the hero in our story, and a lot of us are puzzled at being on the side of light.

The battle is much bigger than us, and has been going on a long time. But each of us has a role to play. Even if we are a misguided pet chameleon lost in the middle of the desert and having to face up to a conspiracy much bigger than any of us.

Yes, we’ll surely die. But not today. Today, we fight.

Ah, To Be Extreme Now That Spring Is Here

Things have been drifting my way that make me raise eyebrows and say with Inigo Montoya: I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

Apparently believing abortion is wrong is out of the mainstream; believing gay marriage is wrong is out of the mainstream; believing transexuality isn’t the load of hogswallow that our society is being fed is out of the mainstream; being a Christian is out of the mainstream; and being convinced that you have rights as an individual which were granted to you by G-d and the government can’t take away is out of the mainstream.

What they aren’t actually telling us is: Out of the mainstream WHERE?

I mean, of course all of those are out of the mainstream in our better universities, where no one would go so far as to espouse one of those opinions, where they might be overheard and mocked — mocked! — as being gauche by their fellow socialist pudding heads.

And some of them are out of the mainstream in various places around the world. I wouldn’t advise you to go to a non-European Catholic country where faith is taken seriously and start babbling about how men can be women, women can be men, and it’s all about just saying so.

For that matter, I wouldn’t advise you to go and be flamboyantly gay or trans in an European country, out of the hangouts of the bien pensant, and where the authorities can’t hear you. Take it from someone who has crossed Europe, inconspicuously speaking the local language, and too poor to stay in even medium-expensive places: the urbane European is a myth. The woke European is a myth. There might be a few, again, in the academic hangouts, but if you get them to let their hair down and speak frankly, after hours, you’re going to find yourself blinking and being rather puzzled. Because the imaginary “hatey” rednecks of leftism’s fevered imagination have absolutely nothing on a “Sophisticated” European when it comes to hating anyone who sticks out and is not “normal for local populations. A lot of naive Americans have found that to their shock.

As for most of Africa and the Middle East? Well, you know, local tribal customs might vary on what is homosexuality and transexuality throughout Africa (and trust me, okay? EVEN what looks like transexuality to western eyes often isn’t and is in fact a rather horrible situation that works — maybe — as well as anything works where you live close to the bone and life is a constant struggle. It ain’t because they’re “enlightened” or “more tolerant.”)

In the middle East…. I have absolutely no idea what Islam’s view on abortion is, though judging from some of its other dictates, I presume it’s a child if the father wants it, and not if the father doesn’t. But pretty much all the other things, other than individual rights — and individual rights aren’t believed in anywhere out of the West, and even there…. mostly in the US — are not just “disapproved of” in Islam. They’re crimes. Punishable by death.

So, yeah, I do realize the US is out of the mainstream with most of the world. At least in believing in individual rights.

Because we believe in individual rights, we’re also way more tolerant of individual quirks. Mostly gay marriage didn’t raise a lot of eyebrows. I mean, a lot of us would get pissed off at forcing churches to officiate at gay weddings, and don’t get me started on the idiotic lawfare against Christian Bakers (Look, it’s idiotic on both sides, okay? You’re allowed to think a “gay marriage” isn’t a real marriage, but realize it’s real to the people celebrating and do the cake on that principle. Like, I have a friend who is Hindu, but he’s okay with buying fake leather sofas, okay? I have no idea if he’d design one for them, but I imagine if his avocation ran to couture he’d be quite happy to make a fake leather jacket. Now, when it comes to stupid cakes with the devil and dildos? The chick engaging in that lawfare should be taken out and beaten in the public square for having the worst taste since Hillary Clinton wore a yellow pant suit. And OF COURSE if someone doesn’t want to bake a cake for sale — for any reason or none — the client should go elsewhere. THAT frankly is the biggest stupidity ever. The courts should throw all those cases out for the plaintiffs being too stupid to not drown when it rains. “Waitaminute…. you know this person disapproves of your choice, but what will make your day complete is having him bake your cake. You’re either dumber than your common garden rock or you are trying to get someone to engage in bondage and domination play with you without their consent. I do suggest you withdraw the suit, before I throw you in jail for rape.” ….. yeah, I know, I have beautiful dreams.)

Sure. A lot of people think is a sin, but they also know they, themselves are sinners. Among my inner circle are gay couples and committed Christians, and believe it or not no bonfires have been lit when we all get together; no one has dragged anyone to the roof, or dropped walls on them. Actually, I don’t remember any harsh words. Mind you, the subjects under discussion are usually science fiction, fantasy, politics (and our POLITICS) tend to be in tune or house decorating, not what anyone does in bed. Because seriously, who discusses that at a barbecue? The essence of it being that most Christians would think their engaging in it is wrong (though some still do, because they’re human and broken) but they’re not going to judge, lest they should be judged. And we’re wealthy and well mannered enough to live and let live.

In the same way if you come into our group, claiming to be a sex you obviously aren’t, most people will shrug and go along, because why not? I mean this was true in the eighties when a six foot seven Marine who looked like his face was ripped with an ax off a mountain crag lived under the charming delusion that when he dressed in a dress or skirt, with a wig EVERYONE thought he was a beautiful woman. Even though he wore size 14 wide seven inch heels.

Our group of rather introverted geeks would shrug and go “sure, why not. At least he doesn’t think he’s Napoleon. Addressing him as Emperor with a French accent would get old.” I objected to his hitting on me in the kitchen, but not because at the moment he was wearing a dress and thought he was female. I objected to it because he was coming on to a married woman and being obtuse about getting it through his head I really meant “no.” (No touching, otherwise I’d have done something interesting with a knife — even though he was a marine — but really stupidly persistent.)

Was he really trans? Don’t know. Don’t care. I’m not paid to evaluate the minds of others.

I do sternly object to having children on puberty blockers, because I know someone whose children have to be on these due to a rare genetic condition. When they were first prescribed he acquainted us with all the side effects. And you know what? NO ONE SHOULD SUBJECT A MINOR TO THAT UNLESS IT REALLY IS NEEDED FOR A PHYSICAL, NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITION. Adults? Well…. if one of my kids were considering it, I’d argue like hell against it, not just because they’d make the world’s ugliest women, bar none, but because — seriously — even in cases of “real” gender dysphoria, in the present state of science it’s a very high price to pay to be a pretend version of what your mind tells you that you are.

ONLY if you absolutely have no other choice, should you consider it. And if you really want kids, have kids before. I’m not going to say there aren’t cases in which transitioning isn’t actually warranted. I’m not other people. I don’t know. But I’m going to say the process is horrific, and most people end up stuck somewhere neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat. That means for a lot of the rest of their lives, they’re going to be given very weird looks. And feel out of place. Still, as someone who immigrated and also inhabits a limbo region, at least as soon as she opens her mouth, I’m not going to say some people won’t prefer that to the natural self. I’m not them.

And I think most Americans are kind of in the same place.

Abortion? I am out of the mainstream here, for various reasons. And have changed my mind on it over my life time. I don’t think anyone should have an abortion, unless it’s medically required. There’s a ton of reasons, including the fact that I knew within five minutes I’d conceived older son and that he was a boy. Never wavered. And never had that before, despite trying for six years. Younger son, OTOH? Well, I still can’t “sense” him. Possibly because he’s too much like me. Who knows? Anyway, between that, the fact that I’ve seen women in abusive relationships get bullied into abortions, and the fact that there is quite safe contraception generally available, I think the bar for “I want an abortion” should be much higher.

BUT note, please, that I’m out of the American (and possibly the west) mainstream here. Most of America believes an abortion is okay up to ten weeks, and after that it should be restricted/forbidden. Or at least that’s what polls keep coming up with. That is in fact the law in most countries that allow abortion.

The crazy “abortion at any point for any reason” is not majority opinion here or anywhere in the world. So Governor Northam and his post birth abortion can go right to extremist hell.

As for being a Christian, it is, if not a majority belief certainly a widespread one worldwide. It is still a majority in America. How can something most people believe make you an extremist? I don’t know. Ask them.

Then there’s believing in individual rights. And they’ve got us dead to rights, there, boys: in a world filled with absolute monarchs, satraps, petty despots, totalitarian horrors (and Methodists! — reference joke) we are indeed unique and “Extreme.”

Should we suppress our extremist beliefs that we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness unhindered by an abusive and intrusive government?


The first question, of course, is who benefits. Certainly not individual Americans. So, why should we do it? In which way is it good for us?

Looking around at other countries where the belief doesn’t exist, what is in it for us?

I say often that the future comes from America. You might not get what I mean by that, but trust me. Almost all the innovations that make our life fat and comfortable started out in America. Sometimes Israel pitches in and more rarely another anglophone country.

However, most of what the rest of the world does is take what we invent and develop, or write, or put on screen, and try to give it some kind of a personal spin. But without us? none of it would exist.

Now, because America is a multi-racial nation, picking up the best from all over the world (and keeping it) this can’t be due to our vaunted blood lines.

So what is it due to?

Unless you’ve visited Europe, and, say, been sealed into a rapidly heating train in summer, despite the railway company knowing that the air conditioning is out in that carriage, you don’t appreciate how much that belief that individuals get to make their own choices matters in America.

The rest of the world, and those who are no longer our countrymen rail against central heating and air conditioning. Now, part of it is that none of these winnies know the climates most of us deal with. Sure, Portugal can go without central heating. Comeovertomytown and try it, in the dead of winter. Go to North Carolina in the heat of a very humid Summer without air conditioning. Then come and talk to us.

But the other part is “because we can.” And because individuals can choose to be comfortable. And most do.

Could we survive without those creature comforts? Sure. The pioneers did. And I once lived through a summer in Columbia South Carolina without air conditioning. You don’t want to know. Weirdly, too, I did no work all that summer.

And I remember being in Portugal — which is temperate if anything is — without air conditioning and/or heat, and let’s say most of my year was a lot less productive than it could be, because you’re not functioning very well when you’re dealing with extremes in weather.

So the American “extremism” of believing in individual rights is both more comfortable and more productive.

Therefore why call it “extreme” or try to suppress it. Unless you want to take those rights away so you can have absolute power, of course.

In which case you need to be aware you’re not G-d. Either real or imaginary. Your wants are not the law to me (no, not even if you’re a fat bastard who said that you believe in the rule of law and what you say is law. It ain’t. And I’m forever surprised you are smart enough to remember to exhale after each breath.) Nor should they be.

I’m not extreme. You are. You are an extreme, out of control loon who thinks that if everyone did what he/she said the world would be perfect.

I recommend you amend your extremism. Because in the path you’re taking us careening down, tolerance vanishes, and things get very very bad.

Places where there’s no bread, everyone argues, no one is right. Or if you prefer, societies that live close to the bone don’t believe in individual freedom. They also don’t believe in much of individual anything.

And the table is always set at the cannibal banquet.

Before you declare the US is “extreme” consider, in your heart of hearts what might happen to you if we weren’t.

And then, unless you’re as stupid as paste-eating Polis, you might consider giving thanks on your knees and fasting, that the rest of us are not in fact “extremist.”

Running Out The Clock A Blast from the past from September 24 2012

Running Out The Clock A Blast from the past from September 24 2012

*Reading this now is interesting. And I thought they were insane THEN. The amazing thing though is how decisions, like betting on paper for trad pub were crazier than we thought when crazy governments decided to shut down all retail. – SAH – 2021*

Lately, in politics, in publishing, even in industry, I keep wondering what rabbit hole opened up and swallowed me whole.

No, I’m serious.  Listen to me.

We have publishers who choose to try to kill ebooks to “advantage” hardcovers, something that should be self-obviously out of the realm of sanity, because… well… for one we’re in a recession and hardcovers always do badly in those, second because people who’ve decided to go mostly e-book aren’t going to buy the hardcover.  They’re going to wait then let it drop.  By the time the ebook comes out, they won’t remember they wanted to read that book.  So, it’s a huge fail.  But the publishing houses are committed to this strategy.

And you wonder – are they insane?

We have journalists who don’t seem interested in investigating anything at all and who – please don’t argue with me.  I’ve seen the emails from journolist and it’s disgusting – think their job is (just as the publishers think their job is) to control the outcome of things that should be beyond their power.  To “push the right view” as it were, instead of the truth.  They have to realize (round ’bout the second summer of recovery malaise they should have realized it, but even the WSJ was buying into the hype and singing from the hymnal) that even if people wanted to believe them, they’re going to believe their lying eyes FIRST.

And you wonder – are they insane?

Don’t get me started on our government, which seems to have crossed entirely into the realm of fantasy, thinking that wars can be stopped by apologizing to people who want to kill you (listen, dork, this is not your freshman seminar.  In reality people who want to kill have other issues with you than that you might have been a little too forceful with them, mkay?  In the case of America the problem they have with us is that their kraptastic leaders have convinced the people of some countries that WE are responsible for their misery.  This keeps the leaders in power and the masses howling against the Great Satan.  I think the leaders of those countries might run some publishing houses too.  See behavior to Amazon.)  Or thinking that we can conjure money out of thin air and this means we’re CREATING value.  Or thinking that taxing “the rich” means more money, instead of “the rich” leaving for other countries or stopping money-making activity.  (Hint, taxing doesn’t happen in a vaccum.  It changes behaviors.  That’s the whole point.)  Or thinking that they can support a fast-aging group with a shrinking youth when the youth has neither jobs nor enough numbers.)  Or…

And you wonder – are they insane?

Then there’s Hollywood.  Even accounting for the fact that they get a lot of money from overseas, surely it wouldn’t be that hard for them to make movies that appeal to both?  And even overseas, frankly, certain types of flicks sell better.  Instead we see the politically correct take over and over again, and – as in books – it’s boring and it no longer sells, and yet they keep doing it.

And you wonder – are they insane?

And I’m sure ALL OF YOU – all of you – with expertise in fields that I don’t know are observing the same effect.

And wondering – are they insane?

They can’t be, right?  Even accounting for third-generation stupidity —  meaning that in many fields for three generations the “search” has been for people with certain political opinions, not the best at whatever the field is – even with the fantasy land most of our education has become, people can’t be THAT stupid.  They have to realize what they’re doing isn’t working or is having the opposite effect of the desired, right?

And then it hit me: they’re not trying to adapt or adjust to the future – they’re running out the clock.

You know what I mean.  There’s a football game where one team is barely ahead and the time is running out and instead of pushing for scoring, the team is just blocking and running out the clock.

Seen from this perspective the picture suddenly makes sense.

No, this is not a boomer-bashing post, but it is undeniable they are the largest age-cohort to come through in a long month of Sundays.  And here statistics don’t lie and the trying to co-opt my age range doesn’t work.  The boom stopped around 53/54.  And they are… shall we say clannish?  For a long time it was a more or less open secret they preferred to hire their own cohort.  Now, I’m not sure because I don’t care anymore.

What this means is that when I started getting published most of the publishers/editors were ten to twenty years older than I.  Their interchangeable assistants (Baen always excepted in these things) were ten to fifteen years younger than I.  Most of those are gone, and there are other bright, doomed and clueless faces there.  BUT the main editors/publishers are still the same.  Still making the decisions.  Still… running out the clock.

I’ve heard comments to this extent once of twice.  Most of them are now either at or past ages when they could retire.  Their stocks aren’t doing too well, but if they keep the houses going to a point they can retire, then they’ll have their pension or whatever.  And what happens to the industry/government/art when they’re gone is of remarkable little concern to them.

This is not an effect of the boomers being evil.  It’s an effect of a massive bump in the population that was then followed by a contraction in birth rates.  It means that the people who are now in control are in their early/mid sixties, with a few older ones.

It means both they have trouble adapting to new situations and catastrophic change – which we’re surrounded by on all sides – and conceptualizing or caring about things in the future in ten, twenty, thirty years.  This is compounded by the fact that in my field at least most of them are childless.  (And in other fields a remarkable number of them are childless.  Both the demands of a career and economic pressure did that and account for the baby bust following the boom.)

So, in enlightened self-interest, people who have no investment in the future are running out the clock.

What I think they’re failing to take into account is: what happens when the last tick echoes?