Monday, February 27, 2023


They're censoring James Bond now. Is nothing sacred?

Seriously, as I noted a few days ago, this sort of thing is standard in the publishing business. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Ugh, Cars

I'm reading a SF book by Jo Walton, set in the late 1970s, and there's a character who can travel all over England and Wales by train and bus. Meanwhile, here in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 2023, when our car (the one we can barely afford) breaks down, we are fucked. 

The mechanic can't even look at the car* until March 1, so we have had to rent a car. As I said in the previous post, at least we have the money. And the car we have rented, a Toyota compact, is new and very cool. 

The back-up camera, of course, that's apparently standard now, but also a large touch screen which tells me all sorts of things as I drive. (As it loads, it gives me a warning screen, telling me I shouldn't look at it while I'm driving, which is practically impossible, since a screen, especially one filled with data, is an irresistible pull on our attention.) It flashes a little passive-aggressive Alert if I go over the speed limit, telling me what the speed limit is on the road where I am driving; and it tells me the outside temperature, and how many miles I can travel on the current tank of gas, and how efficiently or inefficiently I am using the available fuel. Apparently it will also alert me if I'm about to run into someone, but I haven't set off that alarm yet.

Rental companies will now come to your house to pick you up and drive you to the rental agency, so that's nice.

The car we rented

*This is apparently due to the labor shortage we don't have, since no one is dying of COVID-19 and no one is being disabled by long COVID. It is all a plot and a lie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Boy, the bigots and TERFs are really getting mad at the Onion over these posts.

A hit dog hollers, as they say. 

Curried Vegetables

This is a sort of stew, which you can eat as an entire meal. I only use a little curry these days, because too much gives me indigestion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Ugh, Car Trouble

Our car has -- I think -- a coolant leak. Very impressive gouts of steam came out from under the hood as we were driving home. The engine didn't overheat, though, and the check engine light also did not come in. Still, we're taking it to the shop.

At least we have, knock wood, the money to get it fixed. I won't have to put it on the credit card. (I don't know if I mentioned, but I have all my credit cards paid off at the moment. So, you know, I could put it on the credit card. But I hope I won't have to.)

Monday, February 20, 2023


The GOP is fine with the actual government actually banning books in classrooms and libraries, but let the publisher decide to update kid's books* and they begin throwing very showy tantrums. How dare you take that word out of that book? Do you think this is 1984?

Or, I know, tell them Dahl's books have LGBTQ kids in them. That'll do the trick.

*something that has been a common practice since kid's books were invented, by the way. I remember when I found an old copy of, I think it was, the Railway Children, which still used the adjective n***r-brown. Should the publisher be forced to continuing issuing books to kids with that language in it? Or should they have to choose -- as, I recall, the publishers of Dr. Seuss did -- not to republish the books at all? Conservatives didn't like that, either. It's almost as though they want to keep using certain words, ones associated specifically with bigotry.

That said, if it is true that the only change is that August Goop is no longer called fat, I think the publishers are getting a little too prissy. But I don't know what the facts are, and neither do most conservatives, I believe. That doesn't stop them from filling Twitter with their wails.


Friday, February 17, 2023

Just Saying

As the actual parent of an actual trans kid, the lunacy of conservatives with their faux moral panic about trans people is, what's the word I'm looking for, exhausting. Though not surprising. For the past 40 years, faux moral panic has been how conservatives get votes. Black people are scary! Feminists are scary! Gay men are scary! Muslims are scary! Immigrants are scary!

They don't have issues to run on -- most Americans don't support the actual goals of the current conservative party, which is to abandon infrastructure and the public good while destroying the planet in order to increase the wealth of corporations. So they have to whip up their base by pretending black people, or gay people, or immigrants, will destroy America (tm). Hence Trump's success in being elected by pretending "those people" had made American not-Great. 

Conservatives know nothing about actual trans people and -- here's the hilarious part -- don't actually care about trans people or their existence. Remember a couple years ago when the moral panic was that trans women would destroy women's sports? Like conservatives care about women's sports. Please.

Or when they were pretending they care about the safety of women in bathrooms and gyms. As if conservatives care about women's safety. The pro-rape party cares about women's safety. The party that wants to force raped ten-year-olds to carry their fetuses to term cares about women's safety. Please.

Or when they pretended to care that trans men were "erasing" women. How can you say pregnant person! That ERASES women, since as we know women aren't people. Like conservatives care about women or their rights.

The problem, obviously, is they have to keep ramping up the fake panic in order to keep the base engaged. So we go from "feminists exist" to "feminists are Satanists who want to drink teh blood of babies!" 

That's the road we're currently on with trans people. DeSantis, whose entire bid for the White House is based on his ability to keep his base outraged, has to keep outdoing himself. Trans kids shouldn't get surgery! Trans kids shouldn't have gender-affirming care! Trans kids don't exist -- Teachers are grooming kids to make them think they're trans! Trans adults aren't competent to make decisions about their own bodies! The government should ban gender-deviance!

DeSantis doesn't care about any of this. Conservatives do not care about any of this. They care about whipping up outrage among their ignorant, bigoted base, in order to keep their guys in power, so that they can continue destroying the planet, public good, and American infrastructure while making a few people just a tiny bit richer. That's it. That's the whole goal.

And what's ten or twenty or fifty dead trans people, or the misery of thousands of others, if they can accomplish that goal? So we abrogate the civil rights of some Americans? So we're hurting some of our fellow citizens? So some kids end up committing suicide? I mean, it's not like they're real Americans, right? Or even real people. Small price to pay!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

I am a Grading Bot

Cleverly, I made assignments due from both my Comp I students and my writing students, so I am reading 25 short stories and 25 source evaluations today. Today and tomorrow and the next day. 

Keep me in your thoughts and have some links.

No way to prevent this -- this article has been published more than 30 times, which is probably all you need to know about gun violence in the only country that has gun violence like this.

No, wait: you also need to know this. One in twenty! USA! USA!

Pharyngula also has something to say. This reminded me of what my school did. Be sure to fight the gunman, but be aware that if you do the police (and Good Men with Guns) might well kill you if you do.

On the earthquake in Turkey -- as with Ohio, it seems deregulation, that darling of Conservatives and Capitalist, may be behind the immense death toll.

Also from TYWKIWDBI, the cloud over Ohio:

Upcoming SFF books -- thanks to my reviewing activities, I've already read some of these. 

A short story from one of my former colleagues -- he and his wife were our buddies when I was teaching in Idaho, and the wife and I had babies together, her second and my only.

A perfect short story:

Hmm...I wonder what happened in 1980?


Monday, February 13, 2023

Capitalism Fail in Ohio

I assume you've all heard about the derailing of the train in Ohio and the massive spill of toxic chemicals which are -- apparently -- going to threaten the water supply of people in ten states. 

Among other things, this is a great example of why unregulated capitalism is a terrible idea.

If you don't want to wade through that thread, Erin makes the point that because the corporation that owns the trains will not be required to pay for the cleanup, or the medical costs, or the suffering, or the destruction of the ecosystem caused by the spill, they had no incentive to make sure the train did not derail. Ineffective regulations and ridiculously low fine do nothing to change this equation.

Even a superficial examination of how capitalism currently works in this world shows us that if we, in effect, penalize corporations for being careful stewards of the earth (as we do, when we allow other corporations to escape the costs of such environmental disasters), we in effect incentivize the destruction of the planet, and incidentally the humans who live on it. 

Marx pointed this out quite some time ago, though he was talking about labor costs. If you don't compel companies to pay a living wage and provide decent working conditions, you are -- in effect -- forcing  those companies to underpay and mistreat their employees, since if they don't, and their rivals do, then they end up going out of business. It's the central flaw of capitalism. 

See also BP and the Gulf, Exxon and the coast of Alaska, Bhopal, India....


Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Kid Gets Engaged

The kid proposed to the boyfriend, who accepted. I suppose I will have to start calling him the fiancé now.

He popped the question at Crystal Bridges, the art museum Alice Walton opened with the Walmart bucks. In the mirror room, he says. My nephew brought up some of my mother's rings, and they used one of those.

In celebration, my kid sent me a photograph of one of my favorite paintings:

That's Winter Scene in Brooklyn, by Francis Guy.

Friday, February 10, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Sarah Winman, Still Life

I saw this recommended on one of the book blogs I follow, I don't remember whose, but thank you, thank you. This is an amazing book. 

I recall the book blogger saying it was a story of love, found families, and E.M. Forster, which was enough to get me to hunt it down; the Forster is mostly influence, though he does make an actual appearance. 

The novel starts on the outskirts of Florence, Italy in the middle of WWII, with a young British soldier and a sixty-year old British art historian, who may or may not be a spy. Ulysses Temper is with the Eighth Army, the Allied forces fighting to take Italy back from the Axis; Evelyn Skinner is here to help salvage the art of Florence which has been hidden or lost during the various invasions. They have a brief encounter as their two missions intersect, a magical encounter, made magic -- Winman hints -- at least in part because of where they are, there in the hills above Florence, and because of what they are doing, locating and retrieving the art of Florence. One work specifically -- Pontormo's The Deposition from the Cross -- runs through the novel, wielding influence on all the characters.

Ulysses and Evelyn don't meet again until the 1970s, but the novel follows their lives and the lives of the characters who are their friends and family, through the decades until they meet up again. Ulysses returns to England, where he lives with all his friends and neighbors as well as his wife and his wife's child (conceived with an American soldier who then abandons her) in a fairly grim bit of London; but when the kid, as he calls his wife's child, is five, Ulysses inherits an apartment in Florence, and moves with the kid and one of his friends, Cress, to live in Italy thereafter. 

The writing here is amazing, fully immersive, with immense narrative pull. The contrast between the grim, damp, fetid slum in England and the impoverished but beautiful square in Florence is wonderful, and Winman's ability to make us see and believe in the transformative power of art is just as wonderful. Plus the characters are great. This is my new favorite writer, though sadly my library only has two of her books, this one and one another (already requested!). I will have to hunt the other down in used bookstore.

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks 

I liked this the best of any of Mitchell's books I've read. Each section of the book is set in a different time and follows the same group of characters, starting in the 1980s and continuing into the future, after climate change has wrecked the world (though Iceland is doing pretty well). We follow secondary characters as well as main characters as they age through the decades, and as the world changes around them. 

There's some science fantasy elements involving a cabal of immortals having a war throughout time, which I enjoyed; but the characters and the use of place and time are the best part of this. There's a semi-happy ending. I liked this one a lot, and it taught me a new word: pandiculate.

Claire Keegan, Foster

I read Keegan's earlier short-story-published-as-a-book, and liked it well enough, so I picked this one up when I saw it at the library. The earlier one, Small Things Like these, worked well as a novella/long short story. This one is even shorter and really would have been improved with some more length. It's the story of an Irish girl, maybe eight years old? Maybe a little younger. It's never made clear, except she's school age, and her mother seems to be having a child a year, with the result that this child, the oldest child, is suffering from neglect. The girl is sent off to live with her aunt and uncle, whose only child has died, and blooms there, under their care. Then she's sent home again, just after her mother's new baby is born.

The language and descriptions of mundane life on this little farm in the Irish countryside are great, as is the characters development. If this book had been four times as long as it currently is, I would have loved it. As it is, it feels truncated and rushed -- just as we settle in to enjoy the story, it's over. Disappointing. Keegan is clearly a gifted writer. Someone should tell her to slow down.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Cold, Cold Rain

It's been raining here since yesterday afternoon, a steady heavy downpour of cold, cold rain. Dr. Skull is baking bread for me and I'm trying to write something. Later I have a faculty meeting, but luckily I can zoom to it. 

The cat staring gloomily out at the rain:

Video of the cold, cold rain:

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

List of SF written by cis women, non-binary writers, and trans people

Over at Pharyngula, he links to a database of science fiction written by cisgendered women, non-binary authors, and trans authors. Fans will be pleased to see I appear in this database, as do many of my favorite writers. (I'm in Post-2010 Space Operas.)

The Discourse Circle

I made my students sit in a circle in class today and suddenly everyone has something to say after all! 

I'm sure there's some psychological reason for this, but it made me think of the Pirians in my novels, who love to make people sit in circles.

(Sorry if you thought this was going to be about wokeness.)

Monday, February 06, 2023

Faux News

Everybody was at the gym today, which meant I got stuck with the bike with the television that is stuck on Fox News. Luckily, I have gotten earphones for my phone, so that I can listen to audiobooks while I bike, so I didn't have to listen to the endless screech of nonsense, but I also couldn't turn the TV off, not on this bike. Even glancing at it now and then was painful. For well over half an hour, excluding lengthy commercials, they discussed the extremely important story of the Chinese balloon that drifted into American airspace and how Biden didn't immediately make it, I don't know, vanish, and how that put Americans in danger, and how the Chinese are laughing at us, and and and. It was endless, and every segment looked like it was repeated at least three or four times -- same graphics, same "reporters," same clips of Biden being interviewed about the balloon and China.

The commercials were selling silver coins by the pound, plus survivalist kits, plus telling you how to sue your local water company, plus how to sign up for some kind of prescription medication card that will let you get your blood pressure medicine even cheaper than Medicare, plus plus plus. 

I suppose the good news is that people avoid this bicycle, even choosing the one on the end on which the television doesn't work at all, rather than get stuck with Fox News, despite ninety percent of the members being conservative. 

Still, it was relentless and depressing. American propaganda. Ugh.

My Phone Made a Little Movie for Me

Seriously, what the hell? I didn't ask it to do this, it just did.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Back to the Gym

It was freezing fog this morning, 28 degrees and damp, but as the day went on, the fog cleared and the sun came out. I finally got back to the gym, for the first time since Monday, and did weights and biked seven miles. Now I feel stretched out and excellent.

I also got to the store, where I bought ingredients for vegetable soup. Some popovers with it would have been nice, but I used crackers instead. Now I'm going to grade some papers and finish reading a book which I'm reviewing for Interzone.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

No Snow No Ice

Can you believe these people made me go to work today?