I’m delighted to have another short story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this week, and honored that Scott Andrews chose mine to be the 500th story published in the magazine. Go forth and read “The Şiret Mask,” aka Ten Pounds of Caper in a Five-Pound Sack! Or listen instead, if that’s your preference. And I hope you enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it!
The past: Ars Historica is on sale now!
The past is prologue . . .
Kit Marlowe. Guy Fawkes. Ada Lovelace. Kings and sailors and sainted nuns populate these seven stories of historical fantasy by award-winning author Marie Brennan. They span the ages from the second century B.C.E. to the nineteenth century C.E., from ancient Persia to the London of the Onyx Court. Discover the secret histories, hear the stories that have never been told — until now.
The future: if you are able to vote today, please do.
If you’re NaNoWriMoing this year, check out the archives for fodder to feed your muse! And share it with any friends who might be interested. If you like what you see, consider becoming a patron: you a choice of rewards ranging from weekly photos to bonus essays to a chance to request posts, get feedback on your own work, and more.
Since a number of people seemed to like my previous post about TV shows I’ve been watching, I thought I might as well do a second one. This isn’t all stuff I’ve watched in the interim; quite a lot of it is stuff I watched before, and didn’t remember when I made that first post.
Powerless — another exhibit for the display case of “things I like get canceled,” this was a short-lived show about ordinary people in the DC world, set at a division of Wayne Enterprises responsible for making products to protect people against the fallout of the superheroic battles all around them. I’m a sucker for that kind of premise, and the characters were reasonably engaging; I enjoyed this even though the half-hour comedy format is one I often bounce off. But they didn’t even get to air all of their filmed episodes before the network pulled the plug.
Emerald City — speaking of things that got cancelled . . . man, this one was weird. I’m not even sure what I think of it. Is it good? Is it bad? All I know is, it had me intrigued. I initially dismissed it as “let’s grimdark up Oz,” but that sells the show short. There’s some fascinating worldbuilding around how witches fit into the setting, with the Wizard trying to suppress and control magic in favor of science, and I think I’d have to watch the show again to say for sure whether I think it did an interesting job delving into the complexity of a conflict where both sides have their points, or was just so muddled it couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say. Lots of great visuals, though, and I really liked the actress playing Mistress West.
The OA — speaking of weird-ass things . . . I really liked this one until very near to the end. Then it fell into one of my least favorite pits, which is the trick of going “is this stuff real or is the character just crazy?” And then it tried to waffle back from that edge, and bah, it kind of fell apart. But they’re apparently doing a second season? So I may give it a try. The premise is that a blind girl reappeared after going missing for years, and now she has her sight; she will barely talk to her family about what happened, but she gathers a group of random people together and tells them her story over a period of many nights, saying that she needs their help to rescue someone. I found all the flashback stuff about her absence surprisingly compelling, which is part of why I was annoyed when the show tried to pull that rug out from under me. It also didn’t help that the climactic bit of the final episode wound up looking a bit too much like a flash mob performance — I just couldn’t take it seriously, even though I’d liked that element before.
Travelers — like The OA, this is a Netflix show. People are sent back in time to try and prevent the calamity that created their future; it’s a common premise, but this one has several twists. To begin with, only their spirits are sent back, and they can only occupy the bodies of people who are about to die. Also, there are quite a lot of them, being inserted into the timeline in different positions where they might be able to influence events, receiving orders sent from the future . . . which sometimes conflict or change without warning, because the future has its own politics going on, complicating the lives of the “travelers.” I liked the dynamics that created, and I liked that the historical records used to decide where to send the travelers are not always accurate; one of the main characters finds himself in the body of a heroin addict, with all the associated complications, and another discovers that the entire known persona of her host body was pure invention, made up as part of a social therapy exercise. This also will have a second season.
People of Earth — haven’t seen the second season of this one yet. Another half-hour comedy show, this one about a support group for people who believe they’ve been kidnapped by aliens. It’s frequently surreal, but does a great job with the social dynamics of the group — and with the social dynamics of the aliens, who are in fact 100% real, and have their own workplace woes. It got surprisingly dramatic in a few places, which is part of why I liked it.
Riverdale — ALL THE DRAMA. Initially this looked like they grimdarked the Archie comics, and they sort of did, but the better comparison might be Veronica Mars. It starts with a murder and revolves around the characters trying to figure out whodunnit, with several heaping shovelfuls of over-the-top family twistedness — seriously, the Blossoms read like something straight out of V.C. Andrews. Competition for the title of Worst Parent in Riverdale is fierce, yo. But kudos for the writers apparently deciding that they really aren’t interested in the Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, and especially aren’t interested in making Betty and Veronica catfight over Archie. In fact, the younger generation are overall much better people than their parents are.
The Gifted — just started this one. Dystopian end of the X-Men universe, with the actual X-Men gone and mutants subject to horrific laws. It feels more than just a wee bit topical these days, especially since a number of the leading mutants in the story are people of color, and then you’ve got the white family whose father used to be on the enforcement side of that divide until his own kids turned out to be mutants, so now they’re finding out how the other half lives, so to speak. Not a cheery show, but I like the characters so far (three eps in).
Stitchers — watched more than a season of this, but drifted away when I realized I wasn’t all that invested. Core premise is silly SFnal cheese: a secret government agency has figured out how to hack into the brains of recently-deceased people and read their memories (in fragments) to solve their murders. But other than that it’s basically a police procedural with a layer of metaplot on top. It was fine to put on in the background while I did other things, but eventually I decided that if I wasn’t going to pay attention to it, I might as well stop.
Continuum — ditto this one, though I didn’t get in as far (I think only four or five eps), and might give it another shot, especially if anybody here recommends it. More time travel, but the characters didn’t engage me as much as the ones on Travelers did.
Once Upon a Time — this was my background show for a good long while. It’s . . . not actually good? And continually frustrated me by its common failure to actually get full value out of even its good ideas? I was basically there just for Hook, and that mostly because Alyc used him as the casting for an NPC in the game she’s running. But even with him, there was so much narrative potential left on the table — in part because this is the show that made me realize I’m getting very tired of the “dual timeline” format, flashing back and forth between Then and Now. Not only does it produce weird constraints on account of the writers trying to cram more and more into the backstory, but it means that any given episode can only devote half of its attention to either Then or Now, with the result that they’re both underdeveloped.
Quantico — speaking of the current ubiquity of the dual-timeline format. This show can be summed up to L5R fans as “what if the Kitsuki Investigator school was actually run by the Scorpion?” Toward the end of season one it got too over the top for my taste, and of course I doubt this bears any resemblance to actual FBI training. On the other hand, I loved how many women of color were in it, so if that’s a selling point to you and you don’t mind recrackulously over-the-top drama, check it out.
My apologies to those of you who read this blog on Dreamwidth; I didn’t realize for some time that the plugin which crossposts from my site to DW had broken, so last month’s tikkun olam post didn’t appear there. But I haven’t given up on these: far from it, in fact.
Every month I invite you all to share news of what you’ve been doing to repair the world, to help other people and make yourself a better part of it. That’s true this month, too, but to the usual call I’ll add a specific recommendation:
If you live in the United States and you’re registered to vote, please do so. Don’t dismiss it as an “off year,” as if the presidential election is the only one that matters. There are local offices to fill, local measures to approve or reject. Maybe you live in a state that always goes blue or red, so you feel like your vote doesn’t matter — well, the more local you get, the more effect you can have. Take just a few minutes to research what’s going on in your state, your city, your school district. Download the EveryElection app. Make your voice heard. The presidency is important, but it’s the keystone of an arch built from many different stones, and right now we can go to work on the foundations.
Of course, also keep working at the things that aren’t overtly political. Volunteer your time, donate money or goods, be there for a friend in need. No effort too small to be worth mentioning here. Share what you’ve been doing and what you hope to do, so we can all take heart from one another.
And if you can: vote.
Since we’re just a few days away from Halloween, it seemed like the ideal time for the New Worlds Patreon to discuss the afterlife: ghosts, reincarnation, Heaven and Hell, all that good stuff. Comment over there! And consider supporting the Patreon — you get photos, access to bonus essays, and more!
I’ve been cooking a lot more since moving into a house with a kitchen big enough to be pleasant to work in, but I’m still not much of a chef. This is, in part, because I don’t yet have a good handle on whether things I like separately will combine well — especially when it comes to herbs and spices. Their flavor profiles, and how they meld with the different foods they might be used to flavor, are still terra fairly incognita for me.
But the other day I tried out a new recipe for a side dish of onions and bell peppers with marjoram, and had some left over. When I went to put it in the fridge, I saw I also had some leftover kielbasa. And I know that one of the recipes I’ve made several times, a kielbasa stew, includes marjoram.
So, by the transitive property of marjoram: I can combine these things, right?
And lo, I have Invented a Dish. Fried the kielbasa for a couple of minutes, tossed the onions and bell peppers in to warm them up, dumped the result over rice, hey presto, it worked. In the future I can make this on purpose, as its own thing, rather than just as a way to use up leftovers (though it can be that, too). I’m still not knowledgeable enough to go tossing marjoram into things without precedent to guide me . . . but I can pay attention to which recipes use which flavorings, and start absorbing the underlying principles there.
Baby steps, yo.
The “nuclear football” is the nickname for a briefcase of codes the President of the United States can use to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike at any time, for any reason, with about five minutes elapsing from the moment he gives the order until the moment the missiles launch.
I don’t care what you think of the current president, or the past one, or any that might come in the future. I care about the fact that no one should have that kind of unfettered power. No one should be able to start World War III on a whim.
And the good news is, we can take that power away.
Courtesy of Rachel Manija Brown, who started the “Pull the Football” social media campaign, here’s what you need to know.
Both House and Senate have bills to prevent the President from launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike without a congressional declaration of war. They’re both called the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 – Senate, HR 669 – House.) Passing those bills may literally save the world.
How to save the world:
1. Contact your representatives in Congress. Ask them to co-sponsor the bill NOW, before it’s too late.
2. Contact EVERYONE in Congress who might want to prevent a nuclear war. Usually people only speak to their own representatives. But with the fate of the entire world is at stake, it’s worth contacting everyone who might listen.
3. Promote the Pull The Football campaign on social media. Trump isn’t the only one who can use Twitter. Get on it and start tweeting #PullTheFootball.
Share this post on Facebook or Dreamwidth. Put up your own post on whatever social media you use. Ask your friends in person. If you know anyone in the media, contact them to get the word out. If you’re not American, you can help by publicizing the campaign on social media that Americans follow.
How do I contact my representatives?
1. Resistbot is a free service that will fax, call, or write your representatives for you. Just text the word “resist” to 50409 to begin.
2. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the representative of your choice.
I’ve contacted everyone. What now?
Contact them again. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. One water drop can be brushed away. Many water drops make a flood. Call, fax, or write as often as possible. Set aside 15 minutes every day to make as many calls or faxes as you can in that time. Relentlessness works – it’s why the NRA is so successful. If they can do it, we can do it.
What do I say?
Page down for a sample script. Or speak or write in your own words.
Democrats to contact:
Every Democrat not currently sponsoring one of the bills. Thank them for their courage and service to the nation, and ask them to act now to save the world.
Thank the Democrats currently sponsoring the bills. There are 57 in the House and 9 in the Senate. Especially, thank Congressman Ted Lieu (sponsor of the House bill) and Sen. Edward Markey (sponsor of the Senate bill). Encourage them to step up their efforts to make it pass.
Republicans to contact:
The Republicans listed below are the most prominent who have voiced concerns about Trump. This is not an exhaustive list. There are more Republicans who might be receptive. For instance, all the House Republicans who just voted for more aid for Puerto Rico, and all Republicans who are retiring from their seats and so not worried about getting re-elected.
Sen. Bob Corker (202) 224-3344) warned us that Trump is setting the nation on a path to World War III. If you only contact one Republican representative, contact him. Thank him for his courage and urge him to follow through on his convictions.
Rep. Walter Jones (202) 225-3415 is the only Republican to support the bill. Thank him for his courage and urge him to get his colleagues onboard.
Other Republican senators to prioritize contacting: Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Marco Rubio, and Ben Sasse.
Hello, my name is [your name.] I’m calling to ask Representative/Senator [their name] to co-sponsor the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 – Senate, HR 669 – House.)
I believe Republican Senator Bob Corker when he says we’re on the brink of World War Three. No one benefits from a nuclear war. But we can stop it if we choose to. This may be the most important action Representative/Senator [their name] will take in their entire life. It may literally save the world. I urge them to co-sponsor the bill restricting first use of nuclear weapons. Thank you.
Don’t tell yourself “it could never happen.” Don’t rest in the assumption that nobody would really launch the nukes — it’s all just posturing, right? We need precautions in place to make sure we don’t wake up tomorrow morning to annihilation.
Or don’t wake up at all.