Let’s not have two years of wall-to-wall Trump coverage

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Trump has announced he’s running again. Okay, apparently some people were surprised, turning out breathless articles about how Republican leaders wanted Trump to wait so as not to distract from the Georgia runoff. What about the big picture? What about the good of the party?

Yeah, right. The past six years have made it flamingly obvious that Trump cares nothing for the good of anyone but Donald J. Trump. If the price of not announcing, of not grabbing the spotlight, was a nuclear strike, his only concern would be to ensure he could make it to a fallout shelter.

Even before that, I was seeing one Trump story a day about how he said Governor Youngkin of Virginia had a “Chinese” name or insulted Mitch McConnell’s wife or had yet another freakout about how the election was stolen and the candidates he endorsed did awesome (they didn’t).

Enough. Sure, I realize we have to cover Trump if he does something significant like threatening reporters who cross him with anal rape (not at his hands, of course. He outsources his bullying). And cover his campaign. But we don’t need to cover every freakout, every lie, every accusation about fake media or how everyone who dares criticize him is engaged in a witch hunt, waaaah, why is the world so mean to widdle baby Donny? This stuff falls into a different category than Trump making a legal claim all those classified documents at Mar-a-Lago were his by right.

Simply making lying, racist claims shouldn’t be news. That Trump squeals every time he’s criticized isn’t news. It won’t become news now that he’s running again. Not covering all his campaign-launch speech is a good start. Save the coverage for when he does something or he’s charged with something, not just when he mouths off. Or do a weekly fact-check correcting whatever lies he’s said — that might be a good idea now that Facebook has declared Trump off-limits for fact-checking.

It’s even worse with Newt Gingrich. He hasn’t held elected office in two decades. He has no more power than any other pundit. He’s never had an intelligent opinion on anything and 90 percent of his opinions are lies, like his old claims atheists are imposing sharia on America. Yet just a couple of months ago Newsweek gave him space for a column (no, I’m not linking to it). Just let him go down to the dust from which he sprung, unwept, unhonored and unsung.

Trump will be the nominee. Despite some Republicans saying he’ll do more harm than good — hopefully they’re right — Ron DeSantis will not beat him even if DeSantis runs. The base still adores Trump and Republicans will fall in line for their own self interest. Plenty of Republicans denounced him as the wrong candidate in 2016 … until he became their candidate. Few of them stuck the course; it will be the same this time. That still doesn’t make his idiotic babble newsworthy. Certainly not two years before the election. It’s easy coverage to fill column inches in a print newspaper and time on a news broadcast — but still.

Not giving full coverage on his campaign speech is a good start. And  if your coverage is along the lines of “With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement Tuesday night that he was running for president,” I’m all in.

 

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The Black Widow, other spiders and more! Books read

BLACK WIDOW: Sting of the Widow (by multiple creators) starts with Natasha’s 1964 debut in Tales of Suspensethen leaps forward to 1970 when a Spider-Man crossover served to introduce readers into her new series ——which as you can see debuted the leather jumpsuit that’s defined her look ever since. Credit goes to Spidey artist John Romita, who modeled the new look not on Emma Peel (a popular assumption) but the Golden Age hero Miss Fury.

The new take on Natasha is that having broken up with Hawkeye she’s trying to bury her past by living as a glamorous jet-setter (no explanation on the source of her considerable wealth) only to decide she needs action and danger more. While she’s relied on her weapons and her allies (Hawkeye, Crimson Guardian and others) in the past, this establishes her as a deadly martial artist. Which is, again, very Emma Peel though it also reminds me of Wonder Woman’s depowered years.

After a fairly stupid Hero vs. Hero fight with Spider-Man, she launches into her new series with Gary Friedrich scripting and Gene Colan as the primary artist. An activist group, the Young Warriors is taking over an inner city building owned by a corrupt NYC politician and Natasha winds up helping them, though pushing them to handle things through the system as much as possible (like a lot of “relevant” stories back then, it wants to be radical, but not too radical). It also has seriously dimwitted villains, as in they tie up the Black Widow but still leave her with her “widow’s sting” ray-blasting bracelets.

After guest writer Mimi Gold wraps up the story, Roy Thomas takes over as new scripter (Don Heck unfortunately replaces Colan on the art). Thomas’ story arc involves youth but less controversy — it’s a group of street kids and runaways who’ve been manipulated by a seemingly benevolent father figure into turning criminal (that one goes back to Oliver Twist). Natasha also has to deal with her growing worry that everyone close to her dies, which comes off a little overwrought. The main significance is that her chauffeur Ivan is elevated to a much larger role. He’s the one who’s watched over her since he found her as a toddler in WW II; he has the brute strength to be a formidable fighter; and he spouts cliches out of 1930s films because that’s where he learned English. He’d remain Natasha’s trusty sidekick all the way through the Bronze Age.

The book wraps up with Natasha guest-starring in Daredevil after her series went belly-up. This proved more successful as they became lovers and crimefighting partners for the next four years, with Black Widow getting cover credit alongside DD for some of that time.

Overall the material is readable. Not classic, and better for art than story, but I enjoyed it.

THE BOOK OF SPIDERS AND SCORPIONS by Rod Preston-Mafham is a very good overview of spiders (if you’re a scorpion-phile they get much less attention) covering biology, anatomy, classification, predation, web-slinging, life cycle, mating rituals, and weaponry (everything from a spider that spits sticky gumto one that can spit poison eight inches). I thought this would be a lot more basic than it was, but I’m very pleased with it.

THE X-FACTOR by Andre Norton has an alien freak (too big, clumsy and slow-witted for his elegant race) steal a spaceship to get away, crash on an alien planet and confront telepathic cats, imperiled archeologists, space pirates and the half-buried city of Xcothan. This is pretty good — Xcothan comes off eerie enough I’d incorporate it into my D&D campaign if I still had one — but so little explanation of anything it feels like it should have been Part One instead of a standalone. The ending is similar to several short stories in which a lonely disabled protagonist gets to live in a magical fantasy world, but at novel length it didn’t work as a payoff (though it felt less full of disability cliches than some of the shorts).

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Jack Kirby, John Buscema and Gil Kane. All rights remain with current holders.

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Guess who went to a play?

My schedule was odd last weekend so I didn’t get around to watching any movies. Part of that is because TYG and I took a 40-minute drive to a nearby town to catch a friend of ours performing in the stage version of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

I’m not a fan of the 1967 film it’s based on. As I said in my review years ago, the story of an interracial relationship hamstrings itself by trying to make the radical-for-its-time idea (as the movie notes, at the time the relationship would be illegal in multiple states) acceptable to white audiences. Poitier is a model minority, a brilliant doctor who does international charity work, and the film emphasizes he’s a post-racial guy with no interest in activism or fighting for civil rights — the best way to achieve equality is wait for the angry older generation of whites and blacks to pass on and leave the world to people like him. As in Star Trek: Let This Be Your Last Battlefield, the oppressed and the oppressor both contribute to the problem.

I don’t know when they adapted the film into a stage play but it’s with a much better script. There’s a much sharper sense that no, the system will not miraculously improve if you stubbornly refuse to see color. At one point the black doctor’s father waits outside in the car, simmering with rage, then he comes back in, worried someone might shoot him as a suspicious individual. The movie doesn’t look at that side of things.

The black housekeeper in the movie says a lot of stuff some whites in the audience might be thinking, like how Poitier’s doctor is getting above his position dating a white woman; in the play she’s suspicious of him but it’s the suspicion of someone who’s moving to marriage after ten days of dating. Joanna (the female half of the marriage) still comes across too innocent to believe she can really handle the crap this relationship will generate.

While obviously the cast lacks the star power of Poitier, Hepburn and Tracy, the cast (including our friend Gerald Rubin, as the dad) do well; the show starts slow but picks up steam fast.  We thoroughly enjoyed it. “I never trust a man in a nice suit outside of church.”

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

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The third axe man almost did me in

Not for the first time, I find this cover by Billy Graham embodies the way I can think I have everything handled, then discover otherwise. This week everything was going great, then Thursday and Friday rose up to bushwhack me.

Normally when Plushie has his eye checkup, TYG takes him. Wednesday she said that as she’d have to take a business call in the middle of his Friday afternoon appointment, I’d need to come along and deal with the eye-vet. As it’s some distance, that guaranteed the loss of Friday afternoon for any productive work.

That may have contributed to the stress that made me wake up a little before midnight Wednesday, I had a cup of tea, then headed back to bed, only to have Trixie wake up and insist on leaving the bedroom to join me. That, plus Wisp coming in later, killed my sleep and left me a little glazed over Thursday. I had a couple of errands, including visiting an opthalmologist to check out their eyeglass selection, but I was in no shape to drive. Friday, the schedule didn’t work out either; I can get some of the work done tomorrow but the spectacles-shopping will have to wait until next week.

Despite all that, I managed to put in a full week’s worth of work and it was good work. Impossible Takes a Little Longer is progressing slowly but the latest revisions really add a lot of oomph. Likewise Bleeding Blue looks better after another draft; Don’t Pay the Ferryman does too but the changes once again have me wondering what the right ending is. But it’s there, I just have to write and rewrite until I find it.

I also started work on a new/old story of sorts. A while back I was playing around in my head and came up with a couple of characters I liked. As an experiment I’m plugging them into an old novel I’ve been meaning to rewrite for years, Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s an odd choice as a)I really love the original leads in that book and b)the storyline started changing in other ways. Not because of the new leads, but it’s inching towards an urban fantasy/Neverwhere feel where all the magical action is going on below the surface of the seemingly placid city of Blue Ivy in 1976. I’m not sure if that’s the way I want to go, but I’ll play with it when I have more spare time and see what develops.

And, of course, Questionable Minds is now out! Not only that, but three or four people promptly bought a copy, plus a few other friends who’ve said they intend to soon. I am, of course, delighted. Thanks to all y’all, including MA Kropp.

I signed up for a blog tour through Otherworld Ink. While I have no way to measure yet whether that turns into more sales, I got extra promotion on FB and some blog tour posts done:

It feels very good. And on that note, have a great weekend.

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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The high note of the week

I know I covered this Monday but it’s still cool I’m now a published novelist. And I have copies of my books to prove it.You can get Questionable Minds as an ebook on Amazon or other retailers. Or there’s the paperback. Either way, I think it’s excellent, though I concede I may not be objective.

#SFWApro. Cover of Questionable Minds by Sam Collins.

 

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Undead Sexist Cliches: no man can understand “no means no” so consent is irrelevant

One of the standard rationalizations use when claiming sexual consent is unimportant is that it’s impossible to figure out. According to this cliche, you can’t expect men to interpret a woman’s words or gestures correctly, or to comprehend that a woman who slept with them last weekend is telling them no tonight.  Figuring out consent is too confusing! Waiting until marriage, by contrast, is a simple, clear rule that protects women much better than consent standards. Decent guys know their girlfriend’s bodies are off-limits, so they don’t even try to make a pass.

Matt Walsh complains even trying to negotiate consent is ridiculous because sex “happens organically and in the moment” and almost never involves one partner giving a spoken yes. Rush Limbaugh claimed  horny guys can’t wait for a yes: “in sex men don’t think with their brains. Not the ones in their heads, anyway. It’s just so silly.”

Walsh also argues that consent is unworkable because “nobody can define consent or figure out when it has been properly obtained.” Conservative pundit George Will agrees it’s impossible to figure out consent in “the ambiguities of hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence.” In her book Sex Matters Mona Charen claims that “yes means yes” is unworkable.

These are not new concerns. A 1966 paper on the resistance standard argued there was no way to judge whether no meant no unless the woman tried to fight the man off. And it’s certainly true that cops, juries and judges do find consent a fuzzy standard. There’s a long history of rapists threatening or using violence but getting off because someone in the legal system couldn’t figure out if the woman really didn’t want sex.

Charen, Will, Limbaugh and Walsh, however, aren’t indicting the system’s failures but endorsing them. They’re arguing there’s no way to tell if the woman consents so she shouldn’t have premarital sex at all. Will, in describing one woman’s report — she told her boyfriend no, he kept undressing her, she gave up and stopped protesting — doesn’t find it fuzzy at all: he thinks she consented.

In reality, many men do ask for consent. Some men, though, don’t bother. They’ve bought into the myth no means yes or they simply don’t care. After all, if they paid attention they might not get laid.

Nor is a verbal no the only way to gauge consent. People convey consent or refusal with body language too: moving the mouth into a kissing position, yanking her hand back when he puts it on her dick, moving hands or mouths into desired positions, backing away. I was madly in love with one woman many years ago. As we were walking home from a movie I slid my arm around her. When I felt her tense up I removed it. Quite obviously she wasn’t into it.

Heck, I can read our dogs’ body language and they’re not even the same species. If I encourage Trixie to jump on the couch with me and she doesn’t, it means she wants me sitting in a different position or that her leg isn’t quite up to the jump (that’s when I move the ramp so she can run up). I have no trouble figuring out that when Wisp gives me a threat display she’s ready for me to stop petting her. That said, reading other humans isn’t always easy, particularly when we’re emotionally or sexually invested in their answer. Asking up front for consent can be agonizing and awkward but it isn’t impossible.

Contrary to Will, “she said no, he didn’t stop” is quite unambiguous. It’s clearer and less subjective than older standards about how hard she fought and whether she was chaste. Nor does chastity stop rapists: the Southern Baptist Conference is big on purity culture but that didn’t stop the church’s massive sex abuse problem. Ignoring consent standards does however, make it easier for rapists as many people focus on the woman having had sex rather than being assaulted. Republican politician Tom Smith, for example, claimed a decade ago that rape and an out of wedlock pregnancy were the same thing — because what’s important is that the woman had sex, not whether she consented.

The problem with consent isn’t that it’s hard to understand, it’s that rapists don’t care whether the woman consents or not. It’s not that they didn’t understand a no, it’s that they refused to listen. Consent standards can be truck to work with but the solution isn’t to give up on consent or forge ahead without it, but to keep promoting its importance and work harder to secure it.

I write more about harassment, consent and assault in Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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Copyright, book-banning, cancellation and lots of other culture-related links

I always roll my eyes at suggestions we should end copyright and let writers make a living from personal appearances. Turns out even for musicians, live performance is a money-loser.

Ye, AKA Kanye West deserved to lose his endorsements and contracts, Karen Attiah says (though not everyone agrees) — but when will we do the same to antisemitic white guys?

Should Ye’s music be banned? If so, how?

I’ve often rolled my eyes at people who claim writers would do fine without copyright — just make money charging for personal appearances! Turns out even musicians can’t make a profit that way.

Speaking of copyright, Peter David recounts his discovery one author ripped off a Gardner Fox SF novel — as in copied the whole thing except for changing names — not once but twice!

Missouri AG proposes libraries either ban books or lose funding. Florida’s down with it, recruiting a member of Moms for Liberty — better called Moms for Homophobia — for a book-banning committee. In Michigan, loser candidate Tudor Dixon thinks kids shouldn’t have access to books about divorced characters unless their parents are divorcing.

Brian Cronin discusses the line in fiction between lovable loser and selfish jerk.

Performing in drag is a long tradition in the US (Some Like It Hot, for example) but Idaho Republicans want to ban drag shows anywhere a child might see them.

The remarkable history of the legendary hymn “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” better known as “Amazing Grace.” As Fred Clark notes, one its creator wrote long before he repented of being a slave trader.

Hulu’s new show Reboot and the fantasy of sitcom families.

What does it signify that so much music being streamed is old music? See this post of mine on the same topic.

Brian Cronin points out that Big Bang Theory‘s “Indiana Jones doesn’t affect the plot of Raiders” doesn’t make it a bad movie, even if you buy into it.

#SFWApro.

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Democracy didn’t die last Tuesday. I’ll count that as a win.

In a just world the Republican pro-fascist, anti-woman Party would have been crushed under a blue wave. But given gerrymandering, voter suppression efforts and the norman trend of midterm elections to work against the party in the White House, holding Republicans to such modest gains is remarkable.

I’m particularly please by Cortez Masto’s win. Not only does her win give us control of the Senate (counting Vice President Harris’s tie-breaker vote), but I wrote GOTV postcards via Activate Blue on her behalf. It’s good to feel I contributed. It’s great to know that things like that help make a difference, that it really was a better choice than sitting on my butt. Not that success is guaranteed — I GOTVed for Cheri Beasley in NC and she lost — but it’s worth trying.

The clear message is don’t treat women like crap but I doubt Republicans will accept it. As witness Gab CEO Andrew Torba declaring women are a threat to civilization (heard that one before, asshat). Jesse Waters suggests we get single women married to make them turn Republican (spoiler: won’t work). Then again, Republicans lost every demographic but older white voters. Which explains why Florida went so red, I guess.

I am getting plenty of schadenfreude watching them go from “red wave!” to sputtering indignantly. It’s the fault of celebrity candidates with no political savvy. Marjorie Taylor Greene is shocked and appalled that anyone would blame Trump (guess she really does hope to be his VP pick). Tucker Carlson, talking head on America’s most-watched news network, blames the media. Kayleigh McEnany worries if Trump announces before the Georgia runoff, it’ll hurt Walker. From your lying lips to God’s ears, my dear. Paul Campos has a fantasy of 2024 that’s more implausible but it would be fun.

More likely the mistake was their choice of battleground.  Culture war stuff didn’t trigger a red wave. White supremacism and fascism turned voters off. No wonder white supremacist Nick Fuentes

That Walker still has a shot tempers my delight. So does JD Vance winning in Ohio. But we have multiple gubernatorial wins, multiple election deniers — not all of them — going down to defeat. More gays and women in high office. Abortion rights measures won in multiple states. It looks like Sarah Palin’s political comeback ain’t happening. While Cheri Beasley lost as NC senator to a Republican, NC forced-birther Bo Hines went down in flames.

Newt Gingrich, a man who built his brief political career on smearing Democrats now pretends outrage that Biden has demonized Republicans. Of course the stuff Biden says about their misogyny, theocracy and opposition to democracy is absolutely true, which is not something anyone can say about any view Gingrich ever expressed.

While I’ve only seen Gingrich mouthing off on Fox News it’s depressing that he does occasionally do op-eds or interviews for reasonably sane media outlets. He’s been outside the halls of power for years, he never had any deep insights when he was in them, who cares what he thinks? The same with Trump. Yes, it was amusing to know he was freaking out but there’s no need to report every furious accusation he flings on Truth Social or track who he’s mad at for failing him. He’s an ex-president and he won’t say anything we haven’t heard before so why not just ignore him?

In the last analysis Superman was right: fighting for truth and justice is a never ending battle. I’m looking around for ways to keep contributing to the fight, whether it’s donations, writing Please Vote postcards (I’ve signed up to write postcards for potential Warnock voters) or whatever. Victory is not assured, but Tuesday showed us that neither is defeat. And contrary to some pre-election takes, victory without compromising our principles.

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The Story Behind The Story: Questionable Minds

As today is the launch date of my first published novel, Questionable Minds (available as an ebook or paperback), my usual Monday political post will go up tomorrow. For now, it’s the story of how I came to write it.IIRC, the original idea for what became Questionable Minds was born sometime in the early 1980s. I’d seen Sean Connery in The Great Train Robbery my junior or senior year at Oberlin and much enjoyed his role as the roguish thief organizing the first robbery from a moving train. In his trial, after a judge demands to know what could have led him to violate every principle of law and decency, Connery simply shrugs and says “I wanted the money.”

My initial idea was to take the Connery character (based on a real character in the Michael Crichton nonfiction account of the theft) and have him work for the government — go where the police can’t go, do things the police can’t, that sort of stuff. The initial adventure, prompted by some nonfiction I’d read, would have involved the Hindu Thuggee cult setting up shot in London. In hindsight I’m very glad I never sat down and wrote it as I can’t think of any way it wouldn’t have been racist as shit.

Instead the idea lay fallow in the back of my brain. When it finally resurfaced it had two key differences. First, my poacher-turned-gamekeeper protagonist had become Sir Simon Taggart, baronet, old-money and impeccable pillar of the establishment. Second, the concept that Simon lived in an England where psychic powers — mentalism — worked. My original concept had been intrusion fantasy — supernatural elements intruding into the mundane Victorian world — but my revised idea meant the world was no longer mundane.

What led to the change? I’m not sure, but most likely reading some of my reference books about the Victorian age jump-started my original idea.  The book’s villain became Jack the Ripper, then I threw in Jekyll and Hyde, Helena Blavatsky, and multiple other elements. Plus lots of borrowing from Arthur Conan Doyle, being the Holmes fan that I am.

At the time I finished the original draft — late 1990s, I believe — steampunk was still a new concept. I hoped building my book around psi powers rather than tech would make it stand out. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hadn’t come out so me incorporating assorted fictional characters into the book would, I thought, be a plus too. Of course, as some of them were Sherlock Holmes characters (though not Holmes or Watson himself) and they were still under copyright, perhaps it’s good I didn’t sell it, though I imagine the publisher would have red-flagged that.

In any case it didn’t sell. I was particularly frustrated by one publisher who asked for like three chapters at a time, asked for more whenever I prodded them, then finally said no. That stretched the process out waaaay beyond what was reasonable.

Ditto a company who held the book for a long time, then told me, when I checked back, that they’d reserved it for the publisher’s personal review — expect an answer in four months. When six months passed I checked … and checked again … and again … and finally said that having had no answer, I chose to withdraw it from consideration. Late can happen for legit reasons; not responding when prodded is, in my experience, a huge red flag. The publisher’s curious response was that she was sorry we couldn’t reach an agreement — meaning what? They’d sent me an offer and I hadn’t heard back? Or that she and her people couldn’t reach an agreement whether to buy? I’m guessing the latter.

Finally, success! I submitted to an e-book publisher, got accepted and they told me they’d be back in touch by the following summer to discuss edits and possible changes. Summer passed, no contact. I checked back, they were going out of business. They apologized for not notifying me sooner but did return all rights.

I tried a couple more publishers after that without success, but I still believed the book was good (after all, at least one publisher liked it!). So finally, rather than chase after small publishers who probably didn’t have that much to offer me (not a slap at small publishers, honestly. But when the submission package calls for me to submit a marketing plan — well, if I could draw up marketing plans, I can’t see what I’d need them for) I opted to self-publish. I rewrote the book, rewrote again, edited the book and sent the manuscript through Draft2Digital for the ebooks (they’ll be available on Amazon eventually) and Amazon’s Kindle publishing for the paperback. Plus using One World Ink for promotional services. Plus, of course, my friend Samantha Collins who designed the awesome cover.

And now it’s done. Let’s see what happens …

#SFWApro. Copyright on cover is mine, rights remain with me.

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Around the world from Gaul to New Mexico to Nowhere: books

The first volume of the French comic strip ASTERIX THE GAUL by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo collects three story arcs that are fun, but not as goofball as the book became later. Asterix is a Gaul in the days of the Roman Empire, able to defy them because of a magic druidic potion that makes the tribe super-strong; Obelix, Asterix’ BFF, fell into the potion cauldron as a kid and is now super-super-strong, delivering menhirs for a day job. In various stories Asterix outwits a Roman plan to learn the secret of his strength, breaks up a market monopoly on druidic golden sickles and battles the Goths. By the third story arc the strips definitely resemble the silliness I remember so I look forward to reading V2.

THE GIRL IN BLUE is similarly nowhere near as funny as P.G. Wodehouse’s best though for the opposite reason: this came out in 1970, in the twilight of his career, and it shows (one book I read said that at this point editing involved adding funny stuff in rather than trimming excess out). The plot concerns a stately manor that now takes paying guests, a valuable Gainsborough miniature, a Yank shoplifter and (as usual for Wodehouse), assorted people falling in love. Pleasant and occasionally inspired (“Love struck with the suddenness of one of those explosions in a London street killing six.”) but P.G. has done much better.

I only picked up DATIL: A Hidden History of an Historic New Mexico Town: Datil N.M. History Book One because author Jim Wagner was my first editor at the Destin Log. In his RVing around the Southwest he stumbled across Datil, now close to a ghost town, and took an interest in its history. The results include some entertaining stories and a lot of deep-dive detail in property ownership and local landmarks; it didn’t grab me as I have no particular interest in New Mexico history, but that’s not Jim’s fault — it’s true of most local histories. If the state’s history is in your wheelhouse, I imagine it would be worth reading.

SISTERS GRIMM by Menna Van Praag follows the lives of four women unaware they’re Grimms, warriors from a parallel world stripped of their true memories. Soon they will return to their home realm and battle their father but until then they have no explanation for the strange, baffling phenomena happening around them, nor any awareness one of their father’s soldiers is out to kill them. I gave up on this one midway through, as it came off mostly as a mundane accounting of the four women’s lives, and not as well done as Bloomsbury Girls.

THE ALL-STAR COMPANION Volume 3 by Roy Thomas and others didn’t work for me as well as V2 did. Writing about the Justice Society in the Silver Age — the teamups with the Justice League, the attempted solo Earth-Two series, finally getting their own book again in 1976 — means V3 covers lots of stuff I already know. That’s not a fault in the book but it does make it less interesting.

Still there’s plenty of stuff that did interest me such as the origin of the name All-Star Squadron, why Len Wein killed off Plastic Man instead of including him in the Freedom Fighters and other incidental details I found fascinating. It also goes into detail on All-Star Western which is what All-Star Comics turned into in the 1950s; that’s an era and a set of characters I don’t know at all. I’m glad I bought it but it’s very much a YMMV choice.

POWERLESS: The Hero Agenda #1 by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs has the non-super daughter of the world’s mightiest superhero and a super-scientist mom discover that the Avengers/SHIELD analog is torturing and killing villains outside the law, leading to her joining forces with the Most Obnoxious, Most Irritating Villain She’s Ever Met. This is enjoyable but feels a bit too much like a big-budget popcorn thriller at times, such as how easily the good guys can get through supposedly world-class security. The worldbuilding doesn’t make much sense either: apparently metas are born either as heroes or villains, but it doesn’t have anything to do with actually being good or evil — so what’s the point? Enjoyable, but should have been better.

Writing Oh the Places You’ll Go! prompted me to pick up NOWHERELANDS: An Atlas of Vanished Countries, 1810-1975 by Bjorn Berge. Like Vanished Kingdoms, this looks at various nations that didn’t last, but did develop to the point they issued stamps (which he argues is one of the trademarks of stable nations). The list includes secessionist states, puppet governments, colonies given limited independence and vanity projects with little hope of success. This was dry, but interesting enough.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Mike Grell, bottom by Gil Kane.

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