Political links to interesting blog posts

In many cases, where dealing with right-wing hatemongers, the link is not direct. I don’t like giving them the clicks.

“This is exactly the reason why lynching used to exist.”

“In its most extreme form, this idea of ‘ignore them and let’s hope they just go away’ twists itself into a time-traveling logic that reverses cause and effect, blaming critics of hateful demagogues for those demagogues’ very existence.”

“If women dress the way Powell wants them to, will they attract men like him? Because that argument isn’t as effective as he seems to think it is.”

“So if Trump intended to commit a crime but was thwarted, it wasn’t a crime. And if committed what could be regarded as a crime but didn’t intend it as a crime, it wasn’t a crime.”

“It made clear that won’t include vendors that work with candidates challenging incumbent Democrats.”

“It’s really quite remarkable to see an entire country crumble under such a comic confidence game, perpetrated by a world-class clown

“Demand not only the production of renewable energy, but the ethical production of that energy.”

“I understand and to some extent endorse the point that Trump’s policy is just Republican policy on steroids, but those steroids are really making it worse,”

“The N.R.A. has been looted to the point of near financial collapse by the very people who are, in theory, supposed to be making it a successful enterprise.”

“In the white evangelical subculture in 2019, the fringe is larger, louder, and more influential than the former ‘mainstream.'”

“Sure, no one’s mass-murdering [conservatives] — over here, that seems to only happen to schoolkids and black people and victims of gun fetishists — but liberals are insufficiently respectful of them, and try to make them bake wedding cakes for homosexuals, which is just as bad.”

“Mike Huckabee blamed the existence of transgender people on the Christian church not doing enough to teach a ‘biblical standard of maleness and femaleness.'”

“To truly stop these treasonous acts, it’s going to take executing some of these people,” i.e., people who question Donald Trump, America’s god-appointed savior.

“Arendt’s warning that an expansionist Israel would never realise the dream of Herzl and the founders, and become a ‘normal’ state, has lost its charge because its abnormality is the new normal.”

“Fox wants advertisers to believe that it isn’t what it actually is — a channel that feeds paranoia and rage to bubble-dwelling liberal-haters all day and night.”

“I mean that conspiracy theorizing today dispenses with the burden of explanation. In fact, sometimes, as in Pizzagate, there’s absolutely nothing that needs to be explained, and there’s no real demand for truth or facts. There are no actual dots that need to be connected to form a pattern.”

“Brown says that opponents of marriage equality ‘are not out campaigning against gays and lesbians for ‘who they are’’ and that his cause is ‘not condemning homosexuals, it’s upholding marriage.'”

“I think a lot of Republicans are making a mistake picking on her. I think we need to be very prepared when we debate her on issues that we’re having a hard time with.”

“While advocating realistic and Christian migration policies, the Church must not forget that the most important migration is that of souls into heaven. ”

“Wait, what? The hippies forced Catholic priests to rape children?”

“While Gov. Edwards said he didn’t know what Matthews’ alleged motive was, ‘it cannot be justified or rationalized. It was an evil act.'”

“President Trump’s older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.”

“Four hundred dead in multiple bombings, the wrong phrase used in a tweet — yup, pretty much the same level of evil.”

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Wonder Woman, a Psycho and a Cat: More Golden Age WW

So last week I finished WONDER WOMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus, Volume 1, which runs through Wonder Woman #7 and Comics Cavalcade #5, which came out in the winter of 1943. The first two-thirds gave us a formidable foe in Baroness Paula von Gunther, then redeemed her. The rest of the book (I finished my partial review of the omnibus with Wonder Woman #4) introduces two more great adversaries, Dr. Psycho and the Cheetah.

Dr. Psycho, whom I’ve blogged about before (I don’t have time to search for the link, alas) is a big-headed brilliant dwarf. His fiancee Marva admires his mind, but she’s not happy with his looks; a rival for her love frames Psycho for a theft, which leads to her testifying against Psycho in court and sending him to prison. Psycho becomes convinced she was part of the frame so she could get rid of him and marry his rival. From this it’s a short step to believing all women are evil and giving them rights is an attack on men. This being the 1940s Psycho can’t spread his philosophy on YouTube. Instead he uses a blend of science and occultism to channel ectoplasm through his wife, whom he’s hypnotically reduced to a slave medium. He summons up George Washington’s supposed ghost (an ectoplasmic construct) to warn that giving women jobs in factories will lead to disaster, then sets out to make his prediction come true.

For me Psycho’s an alarmingly contemporary character who could fit into the world of right-wing misogyny without missing a beat.

The original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, was a frustrated young socialite who wants to be the center of attention, but never is. When she organizes a fundraiser in Wonder Woman #6 for the war effort, all the attention goes to Wonder Woman’s appearance, so Priscilla tries to sabotage her performance and kill her. When that fails, her frustrations burst out as a second personality, the predatory Cheetah. Dominating Priscilla’s good side, the Cheetah begins a campaign against Wonder Woman, culminating in stealing Hippolyta’s girdle and conquering Paradise Island.

Just as Marston reformed Paula (who makes several appearances in these issues), he doesn’t see a need to keep these new villains around. After two appearances in the Omnibus, Psycho made one more, then vanished. The Cheetah got four stories, at the end of which Priscilla finds a good outlet for her ego: she’s an amazing dancer, so Wonder Woman realizes channeling her energies that way will eventually banish the Cheetah. She does crop up in one later story, presumably before the cure is finished and in one story unpublished until 1969.

Both the Cheetah and Dr. Psycho would return in Robert Kanigher’s brief Golden Age reboot era, neither one used well. Roy Thomas’ brief run did a better job with Dr. Psycho, but Priscilla Rich went unused except for the Bronze Age WW II run. Gerry Conway later replaced Priscilla with her niece, brainwashed into an eco-terrorist. Then George Perez introduced the post-Crisis Cheetah who gets used a lot by other writers, but not effectively.

Wonder Woman #7 shows life in the year 3000, with Diana’s supporting cast around thanks to Etta developing a miracle “life vitamin” (it’s one of the few issues to show Etta’s got some brains). The female-dominated government of the future infuriates traditional wardheelers and political bosses — my god, politicians are expected to think of the country and not line their own pockets! Another story has an explicitly masculine political movement try to reclaim power from the women. It’s a reminder the issues we deal with today didn’t pop out of nowhere.

There’s also, of course, the standard elements of bondage, some minor villains (Dr. Poison returns) and Wonder Woman contributing to the war effort. All in all, pretty good. And the Omnibus makes H.G. Peters’ art look better than any of the other reprints I’ve seen.

#SFWApro. Covers by H.G. Peters (top) and JL Garcia-Lopez. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Sherlock Holmes: “Any truth is better than indefinite doubt”

Like some of the other Holmes quotes I’ve blogged about this one’s getting two interpretations. One for writing, one for the real world.

If you’re curious, the quote comes from the short story The Yellow Face (art at left by Sidney Paget). Holmes’ client is convinced his wife has some terrible secret, possibly an affair; it turns out she’s caring for a mixed-race daughter, having married a black man back in the U.S. Holmes reassures his client at one point that getting a definite answer will make him feel better than worrying endlessly about what’s going on.

I think it’s true in life in a lot of ways, such as getting a name put to your health problems. Or knowing for sure whether your job will survive the next round of firings; one of the things I learned writing Leaf business articles is that when management doesn’t say anything, rumors fly and people expect the worst.

In writing, it’s simple: sooner or later we have to make a decision. Working on Only the Lonely Can Slay I realized I needed more tension and pressure on my protagonist, Heather. So I decided a couple of drafts ago to have someone accuse my protagonist of murder. That didn’t work. But now I know it didn’t work and I’m trying something else. Sitting and debating which way to go just isn’t workable — we’ve got to put something down or there’s no story. Unlike real life, we can always take it back.

Of course this is a lot tougher with novels where my “that doesn’t work” sometimes comes 40,000 words in and forces me to change everything that came before. But again, it’s better than leaving the story unformed in my head forever.

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Sexism and Fighting Back, Around the World

First, international:

Over in Italy, two men were cleared of rape charges on the grounds the victim looked too masculine to be the target of rape.

Someone’s keeping a database in China that apparently tracks “breed ready” women and identifies them by name and address.

In Nigeria, women are pushing back against marketplace harassment. Women are also in the forefront of Sudanese protests against government oppression.

In Saudi Arabia, even women covered up except for their eyes can offend decency with tempting eyes.

Now, the US:

Actor Lupita N’Yongo on her first-person experience of how Harvey Weinstein harasses women.

“Women have more adverse reactions to drugs than men, and while the number one adverse reaction in women is nausea, the second most common is that the drug just doesn’t work.”

As you may have heard, a man threw a child off a balcony in the Mall of America because he’d had no luck picking up women at the mall.

Is “brilliant” in politics a descriptor reserved for men?

The new movie Unplanned is supposedly the based-on-truth story of a Planned Parenthood staffer who became a right-to-lifer. Amanda Marcotte suggests it’s more “based” than “truth.”

Katie Bouman got some media attention as a woman working on the project that photographed the first black hole. For some people, the attention was too much. Particularly online misogynists.

Some guys in an Alaska high school staged a protest against trans-bathroom access by barging into the girls’ bathroom. Reportedly they blocked one girl from leaving the bathroom so she kicked one in the groin — and got suspended for it. Twitter discussion here.

In Texas the legislature recently debated a bill that could impose the death penalty on women who get abortions. Self-proclaimed Christian prophet Mark Taylor, however, claims that it’s the left wing that wants to execute pregnant women.

Joshua Harris was a major player in the evangelical push to replace dating with a more formal, parent-controlled courtship. Women who experienced guilt and shame trying to live up to this standard aren’t thrilled Harris now takes it all back.

Like so many people, feminists on Twitter can get vicious with each other.

A federal ban on female genital mutilation has been ruled unconstitutional.

 

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Filed under Undead sexist cliches

Four Kids, Four Paper Girls and more: Books read

FOUR KIDS WALK INTO A BANK by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss has a quartet of nerdy twelve year olds encounter a bunch of vicious adult punks, then discover Paige’s (the one girl of the foursome) father hanging out with them. It turns out Dad owes them a big favor, so he’s going to help them rob a bank. Horrified, Paige convinces her friends the only way to save him is rob the bank themselves first … This is an odd mix of whimsy and realism, but it works, right up until the end — I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but a couple of twists just didn’t make sense to me. Still worth reading, though.

PAPER GIRLS has been a consistently fun series and Volume 5 of the TPBs is no exception. At the end of Vol. 4 (I can’t find my review to link to), Tiffany, Mac, KJ and Kristie found themselves in the distant future from which all the time travelers have been visiting 1988. Now they have to navigate around the alien setting, looking fora  way home, looking for answers and looking for a cure for Mac’s leukemia. Great fun as always, tying up a couple of questions from earlier books an ending on a heck of a cliffhanger.

SAGA Vol. 9 by Vaughn and Fiona Staples didn’t work as well for me as the earliest volumes. All the individuals scenes of Hazel, Marco, Alanna and the rest of their oddball cast are good and engagingly quirky, but taken as a whole, it feels like the creators are just randomly shuffling pieces across a game board. I find it hard to remember much that happened, and even the ending cliffhanger didn’t shock me as much as it should have. Staples and Vaughn have announced a year’s break to recharge, so I hope things pick up when they return.

THE FORBIDDEN GAME trilogy by LJ Smith started with The Hunter and continued with The Chase and The Kill. In The Chase, which I thought I’d reviewed already, Jenny and her friends discover her supernatural stalker, Julian, has escaped the prison they left him in. Now his monstrous creations are stalking and capturing them, and if Jenny can’t figure out where Julian’s stashing them, she’ll end up as his bride for eternity. Complicating things are the kids desperate attempts to explain everything that happened in the first book to unbelieving authority figures.

The Kill wraps up the series (though a couple of elements make me wonder if Smith was hoping for a sequel) as Jenny and the survivors of the previous book take the fight to Julian in the Shadow World. This turns out to be the creepy setting of an abandoned amusement park where souls get trapped forever and the hokey games have a deadly component. This is creepy but the character arcs for Julian and Jenny are particularly good; I also like that just as Smith pulled off a good Face Your Fears storyline in The Hunter, here she succeeds with an excellent Face Your Darkest Secrets scene. Someone should really make a miniseries of this some time.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Boss, don’t know the second artist; all rights to both images remain with current holders.

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A Danish prince, a princess of power and learning to drive: media views

HAMLET (1996) is the Kenneth Branagh version that adapts the entire play, so it includes scenes I’ve never seen before, such as Polonius’ instruction to Reynaldo (Gerard Depardieu) about snooping around to find out what Laertes is really doing in Paris. This boasts an impressive cast, including Julie Christie as Gertrude, Derek Jacobi as a half-tormented Claudius (he feels guilty, but not so much he won’t kill Hamlet to keep the throne), Robin Williams as the doomed Osric (I don’t think using him adds much though), Billy Crystal as the First Gravedigger, Timothy Small as Rosencrantz, Charlton Heston as the Player King (Judi Densch and John Gielgud play Hecuba and Priam) and Kate Winslett as Ophelia (this is the first film that makes it explicit she and Hamlet have been getting horizontal). Branagh himself plays what’s almost a stereotype of Hamlet, brooding and angsty and philosophical (I prefer both Kevin Kline and Mel Gibson). I don’t know if it was Branagh’s performance or Christie’s but I really got fed up with him whining — yes, it’s hair-curling that mom remarried so fast, but it’s not all about you, dude. Overall, though, this was not only interesting but enjoyable, though not the best adaptation I’ve seen.  “Would I have met my dearest foe in Heaven before I see that day.”

I never cared for the 1980s He-Man or She-Ra but knowing Noelle Stephenson of Nimona was working on Netflix’s SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER got me interested. And the interest paid off.

As the story starts, Adora and her BFF Katra are warriors in the Horde, dedicated to freeing the world  of Etheria from the magic of the evil princesses who rule it. When Adora acquires a magic sword, she transforms into She-Ra, a princess in her own right, and soon discovers the Good and Evil in this battle are not where she thought they were. Can she and her new friends Bow and Glimmer unite the various princesses and fight off the Horde?

The characters are the show’s strength although not the only strength. Adora has a lot of trouble adjusting to a life away from the tightly regimented horde and keeps hoping Katra will join her on the light side. Katra is initially furious that Adora abandoned her, but before long all her resentment at being second best boils to the surface; Adora’s defection is Katra’s chance to claw her way to the top of the Horde and she won’t pass it up. And if her duties require killing her former friend well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, right? I look forward to S2 (starting later this month). “I’m surprised — isn’t punching the one thing you’re supposed to be good at?”

Our last show in Playmaker’s 2018-19 season (there’s one more but we have a schedule conflict) is HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, in which a woman recovering some property from a storage warehouse starts flashing back to how  her uncle taught her to drive … and felt her up … and got her drunk and made out with her … and offered to photograph her for Playboy … Given this came out in 1997 and the subject matter is much more familiar now, I’m impressed how much of a punch it packed. “Ever since then, I have not lived in my body below my neck.”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Old ventures and new

Another good week, huzzah!

Part of the credit goes to TYG. When possible, she’s been doing her morning work upstairs in the bedroom, with the dogs. They’re much quieter up there so she gets to snuggle with them without Plushie demanding attention by climbing on her laptop. That leaves me free to work without distractions too, which is a great start to the morning.

My Leaf articles have started back up, so I didn’t get to put in as much time as I’d expected on personal projects. On the plus side, it’s income! And I’m writing them faster than the last load I was doing, so that’s good.

I’ve worked on Impossible Things Before Breakfast to the point where it’s good to go for the writer’s group. I don’t think it’s close to being done, but I need feedback to figure what it still needs. I hope to revise it again next week for a possible reading at the end of the month (I’m far enough down the list it’s a probable no, but I want to be ready). I also worked on Only the Lonely Can Slay but I’m still running into the same problem: great first third, but after that there’s no tension. I may have found a way to fix that this week, but maybe not.

I also redrafted several chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Switching to first person is definitely improving the book, but there’s a lot at the start (a secondary villain’s initial attack on my protagonist, for instance) that no longer makes much sense. I have some thoughts for fixing that stuff but I’ll wait until the book is done. I don’t want to end up stuck on revising the first chapter over and over.

I got another rejection on Schloss and the Switchblade, but I also sent out one of my other stories to a different market.

I submitted my old steampunk novel Questionable Minds to a small publisher. While I’m anticipating publishing it myself, it did sell once (the publisher folded) so I won’t give up if there’s an opportunity.

And I finally submitted a Space Invaders query to McFarland. They said to send them a proposal so I may be starting film book #6 before long.

And the weather has been beautiful. Warm enough for shorts, but not really hot, though I did start carrying my water bottle when I go cycling. As you can see, the clover is responding to spring.

Other blossoms, though, have had their day.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, please credit me if you use them.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals

Wisp returns!

Since last week, Wisp has resumed her regular schedule, showing up for morning and evening feedings. The similar-looking cat that was swiping her meals has only showed up a couple of times since then. Last night she and Wisp had a snarl-off audible inside the house; when I checked on the deck, Wisp was sitting calmly near our door and the other cat was squatting back on the railing before disappearing into the night. It doesn’t look like the stranger can scare her off, so did Wisp stop showing up because the other cat ate her food? Was someone else feeding her for a while?

Either way, it’s nice to have “our” cat back. We’ve adjusted our schedule slightly, waiting until we actually see Wisp to put out the food, rather than risk her rival getting to it.

Here’s Wisp staring in at us from the table over her little heated enclosure (it’s not waterproof, the table keeps the rain off)>

She’s still very keen to meet our dogs. We haven’t let that happen yet.

For a bonus, here’s a shot of Trixie, because who doesn’t need to see things like this on a Friday?

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, please credit if you use.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

Cover Girls

It’s cover art time! The first one is surprisingly restrained for a 1950s paperback about adultery.

Here we have a cover that’s just a head shot but it works for me. It’s a Gothic romance so I’m guessing the handsome Baron isn’t a vampire, but I don’t know for sure.

One I first posted last year. The cover makes it look like a Gothic romance when it’s actually contemporary horror.

Bob Pepper does this eerie cover for a terrific book.

This one always fascinates me for the “you know what you’re getting, folks” cover copy.

Finally this cover for Jirel of Joiry perfectly captures a scene from the story Black God’s Kiss. I don’t know the artist.

#SFWApro. Art is uncredited except where noted otherwise.

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Taking it to the limit: Unleash by Lauren Harris

I’m always nervous about reading books by people I know in case they suck. Fortunately I really enjoyed UNLEASH: Spellhounds Book One by Lauren Harris, which I picked up back at Illogicon in January. Harris works with a lot of familiar urban fantasy tropes but she pushes them beyond most of the stories I see.

The book opens with protagonist Helena slitting throats in a sacrifice. Not her choice: the magical tat on her shoulder lets the book’s villain, Gwydian, control her and he gets off on making her kill (plus, he draws power from the blood). The symbol also enables Helena and Gwydian’s other slaves to turn into dog form (which gives them some immunity to magic), or astrally project as dog-spirits. Hence the “spellhound” moniker.

Fortunately Helena and her mother have contacted the mages’ guild for help. The mages bust in and try to take Gwydian down, but when he uses Mom as a human shield, one of the mages shoots right through her. Helena, horrified, goes on the run. She ends up staying over a canine rescue operation outside Chicago with Jaesun and Krista, who run it. Helena’s PTSDed and she’s never had anything that qualifies as a normal life; Jaesun and Krista’s openness and friendliness makes her suspicious. Nevertheless, she likes it, and finds her petrified heart slowly thawing out. But of course neither the mages nor Gwydian are quite done with her.

What I think I liked about Unleash is that it pushes a lot of urban fantasy tropes into grimmer territory (note that as I don’t read a lot in the genre, I may be missing lots of counter-examples. Sorry). Lots of protagonists are burned out and traumatized; Helena’s in an even worse state when we meet her. Compared to her, Anita Blake’s positively sunny. And while she’s improving, it’s slow enough not to be improbable (in contrast to the “OK I’ve dealt with my rape let’s have sex!” character in The Warded Man).

It’s pretty much a staple in the urban fantasies I’ve seen that whatever council the good mages (or were creatures or whatever) belongs to is not so much good as not-evil. Flawed. Morally compromised. At a minimum, it has lousy judgment. But often the group still poses as the wise Gandalf types they’re supposed to be. In Unleash, they’re just plain nasty. They have no qualms about playing hardball and they’re way more interested in the spellhound slave spells than decent people ought to be.

I also liked the magic here. Wizards cast spells by drawing elaborate mandala-patterns; the designs are simple, but drawing them out in the proper order makes the difference between casting a spell and frying yourself. It’s visually appealing, and easy to understand (though the spellhound glyph’s power seems far more complicated than the effects of most of the spells), and not overly complicated. As I’ve mentioned before, I rarely enjoy elaborate magic systems and this one wasn’t overly elaborate.

My only real complaint is that the proofreading or typesetting was a mess. Most of the errors were minor, but there’s a key scene between Helena and a guild sorcerer where chunks of conversation got dropped.

I still enjoyed the book. I look forward to picking up the sequel eventually (though knowing me, it’ll be a while).

#SFWApro. Cover by Starla Hughton, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

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Filed under Is Our Writers Learning?