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Covers for Thanksgiving week

But not Thanksgiving themed.

One by EmshUncredited art for a great short story collection.One by Powers for Amis’ much criticized book on SF.An uncredited cover for a book that became a 1950s SF film.  A truly weird title on this uncredited cover. “Blood in their veins (so it doesn’t whistle)” — WTF dude?A mystery cover by Mort KuntslerAnd a mystery cover by Griffith Foxley that looks almost like a strange sf/fantasy cover.And I’ll wrap up with this one by George Ziel.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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The religious right is always wrong about homosexuality.

They’ve been proven wrong, time and again.

Quite possibly they’re not wrong to think the Barrett nomination to the Supreme Court will enable them to overturn the Obergefell gay marriage decision. But everything else? They’re full of it.

They used to claim they opposed homosexuality because gay people were promiscuous sluts and have you seen the disgusting things they do at gay pride parades? Now we know they’re just as disgusted by the sight of a same-sex couple in formal wear pledging eternal love to each other.

They predicted gay marriage would somehow destroy straight marriage. Gay marriage has been legal in some states since 2003, and straight marriage still exists.

They predicted their churches would be forced to perform gay marriages and that preachers who called gay sex a sin would be jailed. Hasn’t happened in the past 17 years.

Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Conference has complained that when the right-wing loses it’s because the moral side of the debate has been ignored. He’s wrong: gay rights is the moral side.

The right routinely claims they have a first amendment right to call gays disgusting perverts and pedophiles. They don’t think anyone has a first amendment right to criticize them for it. Any more than they respect the religious freedom of those whose faith says gay rights are good.

As the link in the first paragraph notes, the religious right has always claimed the real issue was that gay marriage shouldn’t be imposed by judges. But they complain just as much when legislatures pass gay marriage. And I guarantee that if the Roberts Court ever ruled that no state had the right to allow gay marriage, the religious right would celebrate without one peep about states’ rights.

Their homophobia is a minority, but that’s part of what makes them so angry. They really do believe they’re holier than us and not getting respected for it, seeing the world ignore their wishes, is making them more vicious than ever.

I look forward to the day their hate is largely toothless but we’re not there yet.

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For anyone who’s curious

The WaPo has a piece on how to track your mail-in ballot. You can find state-specific voting and ballot-tracking information here.

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Women and their men: books read

Tim Hanley acknowledges that the title of his BETTY AND VERONICA: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale isn’t always accurate: for a lot of their history the girls have been supporting characters in Archie’s life, either prizes for him to win or plot obstacles (can he take them both to the same dance without either girl catching on?); progress away from that was often two steps forward, three steps backward (as might be expected from books created by men in their fifties, the women’s liberation era was particularly painful). At the same time, the need to create lots of stories within a limited fromula led to increasing emphasis on them being capable, and to their friendship becoming more important than their rivalry over Archie.

Hanley looks at how the girls’ stories has adapted to the many trends of Archie’s long history: the spy and superhero era (Betty became Superteen), writer/artist Al Hartley putting lots of Christian themes in the books (the point at which Good Christian Girl Betty began stealing some of the spotlight from Veronica), the rise of specialty comics stores (surprisingly good for them as the effects on the comics market led to their books outselling Archie’s), 21st century variations such as Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie and the various attempts to bring them to other media (including a radio show, lots of TV cartoons and most recently the hit Riverdale). I’ve never been an Archie fan, but I still found this one fascinating.

Listening to the soundtrack of Six: The Musical (What If Henry VIII’s Wives Were a Spice Girls-Like Pop Group?) and realizing how little I really know about the women prompted me to check out THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII by Antonia Fraser from the library. Fraser does a good job showing there’s more to the women than their stereotypes (Betrayed Wife, Sexy Temptress, Good Woman, etc.). Anne Boleyn, for example, was just as interested in religion as Catherine of Aragon, though less devout and considerably more Protestant (a view that often put her at odds with her husband); Catherine Parr wrote a couple of religious texts herself. Fraser does well detailing the tangled scheming and political maneuvering around not only Henry’s marriages but the proposed marriages for children Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as on some of the mundane details (no sooner did the royal decorator replace Catherine of Aragon’s symbols with Anne’s than he had to start over replacing Anne’s logo with Jane Seymour’s). She also makes clear that Henry was seen even at the time as an outlier, one monarch quipping he’d marry off his sister to Henry if only she had a second neck. Very good.

#SFWApro. Covers by Bill Vigoda (top) and Brittney Williams, all rights remain with current holders.

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Feeling a little crazy this week

I now have two friends posting QAnon memes on FB. I got curt enough to tell one of them her LARPing and posting memes wasn’t saving any children.

I also had to deal with a woman who responded to one of my posts about paranoia about Obama’s presidency (remember the FEMA concentration camps?) by claiming she’d been put in a “financial concentration camp” when the IRS targeted her for being a right-winger and billed her an outrageous amount of back taxes. She kept linking to evidence that proved absolutely nothing (yes, the IRS did subject a lot of tax-exempt right and left-wing groups to excess scrutiny but that’s not the same as “the IRS hit me with a big bous tax bill!”). So I blocked her.

And as sometimes happened, the realization how totally insane things have gotten left me completely freaked out for a bit.

On the plus side, I recommended my friend Sherry Harris’s new book, From Beer to Eternity, on Facebook, and people actually bought it! Signal successfully boosted (review to come this weekend).

Even so, this chaotic Powers cover expresses my mood this week well. #SFWApro, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Pet photography

So last weekend I walked Trixie and Wisp followed us the entire way. She always sounds upset when we go, but this time it sounded a little different — given how fast she tucked into her dinner I think she was hungry. But as we were going up one nearby street, she and Trixie saw a rabbit on someone’s lawn and both immediately stopped and dropped into Hunting stance.You can just make out the rabbit in this shot.Then TYG set down one of our treat containers in front of Plushie. He smelled ’em, but he couldn’t get to them so he looked up at Mommy for help.And while our dogs rarely snuggle together, they somehow wound up doing it on the couch after I got up.Hopefully all that will brighten your day and tide you over to the weekend.

#SFWApro.

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Characters whom you may never meet

As I mentioned last week, part of rewriting a story is knowing what’s essential to keep and what isn’t. Replotting Impossible Takes a Little Longer I’m thinking that some of my characters may, in fact, have become disposable. I like them, but they just don’t fit the story any more.

In the previous draft, KC’s aunt and uncle provide her with shelter when she’s framed for murder — only it turns out they’re being mind-controlled by the novel’s villain and call the cops on her. Now, although she’s still framed, she gets out of jail on a legal technicality. She doesn’t need to run and hide so she has no need to visit them. And even if she did, there’s no reason to report her to the cops. So I’ll probably establish they died some time prior to the story’s beginning.

KC’s friend Rachel played an even larger role but now she’ll be in one or two scenes at most. Her role included revealing a conspiracy; expressing a religious viewpoint opposite KC’s agnosticism (they’re both activists with similar politics but Rachel’s fueled by her faith, KC by her lack of faith); and providing some exposition near the end. The conspiracy is completely different and Rachel no longer knows anything about it; KC’s best friend Sarah has taken over the religious arguments; and another supporting character, Alyssa, is handling the exposition. And the bad guy changing KC’s personal history midway through the book will prevent Rachel from showing up (the person whose wedding they were getting together for now died years ago).

I like Rachel and I hope she’ll play a small role, but unless I see some new potential — the book’s short enough I could easily add her in if I hit on a fresh angle — that’s as far as it goes.

#SFWApro.

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A bit of the world ends

A friend of mine I’ve known since the 1970s passed this week. Heart attack, in case you were wondering.

I met Martin back when our families were hanging out together, due to being in the same theater group (as our mums eventually wound up becoming life partners, I imagine that was another reason). We continued in Stage Crafters together for years; we both worked in various capacities on Johnny Belinda, Fiddler on the Roof and many others. He was also in my D&D game, which I ran for about a decade. Plus we both read many of the same comics.

We haven’t spoken much in recent years — distance, plus some long-running health problems on his part means the last time we really spoke was at Mum’s funeral — I miss him. And I miss the sense of shared experience with someone else: jokes, pop-culture references, shared history, familiar quirks, all of that. Martin was only a few years younger than me so a lot of our pop-culture experience overlaps; the number of people I can say that about who I’m also still in regular touch with is smaller than it used to be (we scatter hither and yon over time). Even though we didn’t sit and discuss comics much any more, or reminisce about theater experiences, the fact that I can’t do that is … unsettling. It’s much like one of my friends who passed a few years ago; it surprised me how often I’d be thinking “I’ll have to tell him about that when I see him again … oh, crap.”

Martin was a funny guy, a smart guy and a talented actor. He’s far from the first of my friends to die, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’d add a photo but I couldn’t find any handy.

#SFWApro.

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It’s the end of the American century — and of America too?

The 20th century was the “American century” for a variety of reasons. We played a major role in ending WW I and in WW II (though the USSR’s fighting on the Eastern Front was probably more important). As a nation that hadn’t been bombed (besides Pearl Harbor) or invaded, we emerged from the Second World War in great economic shape. While we did many horrible things during the Cold War (overthrowing multiple democratically elected governments and putting in despots), we also helped relieve ravaged Europe with the Marshall Plan, and organized an airlift to keep Berlin going after East Germany cut off access. We gave the world TV, popular movies, rock-and-roll and put a man on the moon. An immigrant arriving in the country with no money or a kid who’d dropped out of high school could still land a job and become a success, at least to the point of putting a roof over their head and their family’s (if the kid was black, of course, it was a damn sight tougher).

Not so much any more. Eonomic mobility is dying: the poor can’t move up, the rich are protected from falling by the glass floor. Our economy increasingly rewards the people in finance who push papers and move money around than the people actually doing the work (including the supposedly essential grocery workers and such). Our infrastructure is crumbling, our medical system is overpriced with poorer outcomes than many nations and our maternal death rate is the highest in the developed world). We’re turning into a rich failed estate.

Internationally, Trump’s been vigorously shredding our alliances, agreements and treaties and our handling of the Trump Virus is wrecking them further.  I wouldn’t mind us backing off being the world’s policeman — we’ve done horrible things as well as good — but I’d rather do it without alienating the rest of the world. And I suspect it’s less about withdrawing than that 21st century Republicans much prefer using brute force to negotiating or working out alliances. Former Veep Dick Cheney, for instance, had his macho posturing moment where he declared (quite untruthfully) that “we don’t negotiate with evil — we destroy it!” As Iraq and Afghanistan proved, that’s a clumsy, ineffective approach.

George MacDonald Fraser has written what a seismic shock the loss of the British Empire was to his generation; I wonder if we’ll see that here. When Japan outperformed us economically 30 years ago, it led to a major freakout portraying good business as an act of war, Pearl Harbor II (Michael Crichton’s racist Rising Sun, for instance). Then again, people who believe in American exceptionalism accept America is “the greatest country in world” regardless of what we actually do. So perhaps they won’t care.

As for the survival of America itself … well we have open calls from Canadian white supremacist Faith Goldy for white America to secede and form its own nation. Goldy is, of course, a chickenhawk — I guarantee she has no intention of putting herself on the front lines to make it happen — and it’s not like most of Trump’s aging base of support are ready to take up arms either. Despite all the tough talk that Virginia passing new gun legislation would trigger civil war, it didn’t happen (instead, look at the results).

But Republicans are doing everything they can to restrict the vote including exploiting the Trump Virus to do it (though in Wisconsin they lost); one bullshit artist proposes (not seriously I think) that the U.S. force all liberals to live in California, then strip them of voting rights. And prioritizing supplies in the crisis based on how thoroughly Trump’s ass is kissed. This is civil war by other means: it doesn’t divide the country into separate states, but divides us between the minority with the right to vote (Trump’s own agenda) and a minority that will impose its white/male/Christian supremacist views on everyone else.

Speaking of which we have California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom declaring that as federal government isn’t providing equipment to deal with the Trump Virus, California, as “a nation state,” will take care of its own and possibly export to other states. As California isn’t a nation, that’s generated a lot of questions about what he meant. The article at the link speculates (I’ve heard similar thoughts before) that some Dems may be ready to pay back Republicans in their own coin: if they’re going to ignore the rules, the rules they make aren’t binding either. If California goes ahead and ignores Trump and the Supreme Republican Court, what will the feds do? Marijuana legalization might be a forerunner: the feds still count it as a dangerous drug but lots of states don’t care.

Either way, I suspect the concept of the United States by mid-century will be very different from what we see today.

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Simon Templar, Jesus and Batman! Books read

THE SAINT: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television 1928-1992 by Burl Barer looks at the career of Simon “The Saint” Templar, gentleman adventurer, troubleshooter and “Robin Hood of modern crime,” a man who took down criminals the law couldn’t catch while also using their loot to cushion his bank account. Barer tracks the Saint’s growth from the early 1930s novels to international popularity and an expansion into movies, radio, comic strips, hardback reprints, TV and mystery magazines. He parallels this with a look at creator Leslie Charteris’ career, which came to focus entirely around the Saint after The Saint In New York became a best-seller. Unlike many authors, Charteris was quite protective of Simon Templar in other media, aggressively complaining if he thought their treatment hurt the brand. He also worried surprisingly about whether Simon’s age as the series progressed made his adventures ridiculous; I just accept that kind of agelessness as a gift of the fictional gods.

The book ends right as work on the 1997 Val Kilmer Saint film was beginning which left Barer optimistic it would launch a whole new franchise. Instead it tanked, and I suspect Simon Templar is very much now a “dad hero” in the sense that while he was huge for my generation (particularly when Roger Moore played him on TV), I doubt he means anything for Gen X, Y, etc., any more than the characters referenced in Clubland Heroes mean to me. Damn, I’m old.

ZEALOT: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan acknowledges in the introduction that trying to capture a historical image of Jesus isn’t really possible, then blithely asserts that he’s done it anyway. Aslan’s version is that Jesus was one of the countless Jewish Messiahs out to free Palestine from the yoke of Rome with the help of Jehovah: he came to bring not peace but a sword (Aslan concludes Jesus gentler admonitions were all meant for Jews on how to deal with each other, not outsiders). This is no worse than most other biographies of this sort I’ve read, but no better; Aslan suffers the usual dilemma of having to separate the parts of the Gospels imposed on Jesus’ life by later Christians with the ones that capture authentic history, and his unsurprising conclusion is that whatever fits his thesis is historical.

THE GOLDEN-AGE BATMAN Vol. 6 pretty much continues the style and spirit of the previous volume which despite the increasing number of time-travel stories is, I think a good thing. We have more Joker and Penguin, the introduction of the Riddler and less well remembered villains such as the Gong and the Pied Piper (not the Flash foe, a criminal who uses pipes as an MO). There’s also the debut of Vicki Vale: having only known her as a rather annoying Lois Lane-clone who was either trying to marry Batman or unmask him (Lois at her best was much better than that) it was quite a surprise to see her in her first story as a determined photojournalist with no qualms about taking a risk to get the right photo. Among the standout stories are “The Case of the 48 Jokers” for how Batman and Robin wrap it up by playing practical jokes on the Joker, and “The Man With the Fatal Hands,” a clever riff on the old Hands of Orlac horror plot. I’ve already started volume #7.

#SFWApro. Batman cover by Dick Sprang; all rights to both cover images remain with current holders.

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