Hello, WisCon!

So, today we leave for Madison, one day earlier than planned. We won’t necessarily be at the Concourse before tomorrow… that depends on how we feel after a day of traveling, following closely on the heels of a day of panicky, last minute packing and preparations.

If you’re going to be at the Con and you want to say hi and/or hang out, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Because I have a high degree of face blindness myself, I have a habit of making myself recognizable, especially at the con. My trademark rainbow fringe is actually a style I adopted specifically for WisCon two years ago. Depending on when you see me, I might have black hair with rainbow bangs or full-on rainbow hair. I won’t necessarily be the only person with rainbow hair, but the combination of rainbow hair, a floppy black hat, and a floor-length skirt are pretty distinctive.
  2. A thing I hear from people quite often is “I wanted to say hi, but you looked tired/sad/lost in thought.” I assure you, that is just my face. I mean, I might be tired. I have a chronic fatigue condition so I’m often tired. But if I let that stop me from having a good time, I would never have one. I am not the most social person in the world, but once a year I fly hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to meet people and be social. Help me get my money’s worth!
  3. The face blindness thing is real. If you do come up to say hi, please introduce yourself and please tell me if we’ve met before. I mean whether or not we have. Like, “Hi, my name is Connie Wisconsinconson. We’ve never met, but I wanted to say hi.” The reason I ask this is because if someone comes up and says hi to me, in most contexts this means we know each other and ordinary social norms require me to pretend I recognize them while I silently try to figure out who the heck they are. At con, I’m more likely to say fudge it and explain that I don’t recognize faces, because people are more likely to understand it.
  4. Name tags make things easier, but understand that even if I see you multiple times during a day, I will probably be scoping your tag each and every time. So far WisCon is the one place where I’ve had to do this that no one has been noticeably offended by it, but just letting you know.
  5. I am jumpy when touched unexpectedly. I do enjoy hugs, with sufficient warning.

And that’s about it. I am on a boatload of panels and my boyfriend Jack is also on panels for the first time and I’d like to support him when I am able to do so, so my schedule is not going to be terribly flexible, but seriously, if you want to say hi, say hi.

UPDATE: WisCon and more.

Okay, big whoops, caught at what was almost the last possible moment where it could still be fixed, but still caught: when I booked our flights for WisCon, I put in the wrong date. We were planning on getting there Thursday the 21st, but I selected Wednesday the 20th. As in, tomorrow.

I guess that explains why the cost was unexpectedly reasonable for ~1 month in advance… it was that much farther away from the weekend.

At this point, it was impossible to change the tickets at anything like a reasonable cost, so the “fix” means just going with it and getting into Madison a day early. Sadly, the con hotel is fully booked for Wednesday, so they could only put us on a waiting list with no promises. Plan A was to stay on the waiting list while seeing if any of the people we know who are local to Madison could give us crash space.

After reflection, though, I decided that trying to find trans-friendly accommodations (preferably with someone we know) on 24 hours notice as a hedge against the wait list not coming through wasn’t a great idea, especially as everybody we know in the Madison area is going to be busy and/or already hosting guests for the con. The real kicker is the short notice thing… travel is already stressful, and we’re going to be doing it with 24 hours less lead time than we had been counting on.

So I bit the bullet and reserved us a room for one night at the hotel around the corner, the Inn on the Park. I know where it is, I’ve seen the inside, I know the logistics of getting luggage from there to the Concourse on foot, it’s in the one part of town that we know.

An extra night in a hotel plus another day of eating out will put a bit of a dent in our budget, but I think it’ll be worth it to not have to worry about logistics and uncertainty when we land. We can just shuttle from the airport more or less like normal, probably have a quiet night in, and be at WisCon central brighter, earlier, and more fresh-faced than we’d planned.

This change is going to have a pretty huge impact on my work week, though… as you might have imagined, I’ve spent the whole afternoon since I learned of my error running around trying to get trip preparations done. Between that and the fact that we’re leaving tomorrow… I don’t know what’s going to happen with Tales of MU this week. Part of it depends on how much quality writing I’m able to do with the rest of this afternoon, after having run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I will do my best to keep you all posted.

FICTION: The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant

Author’s Note: Inspired by a conversation in the comments on File 770, I’ve decided to re-post my story “The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant”. This and six other short stories are available in my collection The Lands of Passing Through, for Kindle, Nook, or as a mult-format bundle (Kindle, Epub, HTML, and PDF) direct from me. All versions are are DRM free. Enjoy!

The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant

By Alexandra Erin


“According to a CNN news network story, the selling of the MTV music television station could result in…”

In his office in the Department of Redundant Acronyms, Steven Stevenson II groaned and turned off the television. Every day… all day… the hits just kept coming. He looked back at his computer monitor, at the message he’d been typing to the third largest bank in the country. The first and second largest had already served him with cease-and-desist orders for “pestering” them with his “prank messages”.

It all seemed so pointless, sometimes… especially when he glanced at the letterhead at the top of the screen and saw the words “DORA Department”. That hadn’t been his idea, to be sure… and now he was getting memos from the BSA suggesting it be shortened to “DORAD”.

He needed to get out.

“Hold my calls, Dora,” he said to his secretary on the way out the door. “I’m going to lunch.”

“Don’t forget the man from the central CAO office is coming by this afternoon!” Dora reminded him.

Steven Stevenson II sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.

The part about lunch had been a damnable and odious lie, of course. He had, in fact, gone to a bar. It wasn’t the sort of bar that served food, beyond the pickled and salted variety. It wasn’t a dive, either… it was simply a dedicated outlet for serious drinking. Stevenson wasn’t always a serious drinker, but he refused to confront the CAO man on an empty liver.

“You look like a man who’s coming to realize the crushing weight of futility that is your life,” the obnoxious stranger intoned pompously as he grabbed the stretch of bar adjacent to Stevenson.

“What makes you say that?” Stevenson asked without much interest.

The man had the look of a man who was losing his hair. He wasn’t, though. He just had that look. Probably he was, Stevenson decided, but could afford to have it all regrown. The man had a face like a putrescent walrus, but he’d paid good money to have his hair loss reversed.

“There are only three reasons for a man to be in a place like this around lunch time,” the man said. “Either he’s celebrating, he’s coming to realize the crushing weight of futility that is his life, or he’s having a meeting. You’re not having a meeting, and you don’t look like you’re celebrating… ergo, you’re coming to realize, et cetera, and so forth.”

“Congratulations, you’ve figured me out,” Stevenson said, raising his glass in a mock toast. “Is that what you’re celebrating? The defeat and misery of others?”

The man chuckled.

“Oh, in a roundabout way, I suppose, in a roundabout way,” he said. “But, I didn’t mean to inflict my personal joviality upon you, no… I just wanted to give you my card.”

“Are you some kind of psychiatrist?” Stevenson said, looking at the edge of the cream colored bit of parchment disdainfully.

“No, nothing like that, nothing like that at all. I deal in more permanent solutions,” the man said. He held out the card more forcefully. “Go ahead and take it… it won’t bite,” he said, chuckling again.

Stevenson did, and actually looked at it. The gold-embossed logo declared that the man worked for the TastyFlesh Human Resources Company, and that his name was Orville Smith.

“Thank you, but I have a job,” Stevenson said.

“Good job?” Smith asked. “Satisfying work?”

“It’s a job I believe in,” Stevenson said testily, because it hadn’t been all that satisfying as of late.

“What do you do?” Smith asked.

“I head up the Department of Redundant Acronyms,” Stevenson said.

“Oh, the DORA department,” Smith said, nodding sagely. Stevenson winced. “Not exactly the, uh. largest or most prestigious branch of the federal bureaucracy, is it?”

“I didn’t pick it for the prestige,” Stevenson said, and Smith snorted.

“No, I’d guess not,” he said. “Anyway, I’m not offering a job, per se… more of an opportunity.”

Great, Stevenson thought, here comes the pitch.

“The earth is overcrowded,” Smith began. “You know that. Everybody knows that. The price of everything is going up, especially food. Well, no… especially fuel, but food’s got to come from somewhere, right? You can’t really grow it in the cities…”

“Actually, I read an interesting article about the new hydroponics pilot program in Chicago, and then there’s rooftop gardens,” Stevenson interjected. “And the new synthetic meat cultures can be grown anywhere there’s proper facilities. They’re doing interesting work in Nairobi with…”

“Will you quit interrupting me, man?” Smith said. “You can’t grow food in the cities and the bottom line is it’s getting harder and harder to find any arable land that isn’t covered by a city. Past generations supposed we could solve this problem with space travel, colonizing the moon and Mars, but we now know the whole idea of space exploration is a bust. So, what’s left?”

“Tell me,” Stevenson said.

“In a word, sir: cannibalism.”

“Cannibalism?” Stevenson echoed.

“That’s right, cannibalism,” Smith said. “We predict it’s going to be the biggest growth industry of the coming decade, and TastyFlesh is going to be at the forefront of it.”

“That’s… illegal,” Stevenson said. It was also immoral, amoral, unethical, and several other things, but he had a feeling that none of those would really bother Orville Smith.

“For the time being, yes,” Smith said. “But, we’re in this for the long haul. See, we draw up contracts… life-long, ironclad contracts… and our employees get a nice competitive wage paid out every other week, full insurance, vacation, all the usual benefits… ”

“Wages for what?” Stevenson asked.

“Just for being available,” Smith said. “Our employees come into our facility every day—barring those vacation days—and just sort of lounge around. They can bring books, magazines, portables… we don’t expect them to actually do anything. Actually, we discourage it. Just enough exercise to stay healthy, not enough for them to get all stringy.”

“But, how do you make any money?” Stevenson asked.

“We’ve got some of the best lobbyists in Washington working 24/7 on this whole ‘cannibalism’ thing, and when it’s inevitably legalized… that’s when it’ll all pay off,” Smith said.

“You really think it’s inevitable?” Stevenson asked.

“Absolutely inevitable,” Smith said. “Say, man, don’t you read? Malthus. Swift. It’s all there in black and white, ready to be discovered.”

“I think you’ll find that Swift’s A Modest Proposal was, in fact, a work of satire,” Stevenson said.

“His what?”

“The work you’re referring to,” Stevenson said. “A Modest Proposal. He wasn’t actually advocating cannibalism as a means of alleviating the burdens of the poor, he was using that idea as a satirical vehicle. As for Thomas Malthus, he failed to take into account technological advances that would increase the rate of food production until it exceeded that of population growth.”

“Ah, well, whatever you say,” the man said. “Haven’t read any of that myself. It’s just some names that crop up in the corporate literature. Anyway, look at it this way: supply and demand. If there’s a shortage of food, then anything which increases the food supply while decreasing the demand has got to be good.”

“But, the actual problem of overpopulation derives from a scarcity of resources,” Stevenson said.

“Right,” Smith agreed. “And legalizing cannibalism would add resources to the pool.”

“It actually wouldn’t, though,” Stevenson said. “Not in the long term. All those people you ’employ’ have to be fed the same as any other person…”

“Well, that’s why we pay them a good wage, obviously,” Smith interjected.

“Yes, but don’t you see, they’re still consuming their share of resources,” Stevenson argued. “For eighteen years… I assume you’re only signing up adults?”

“Of course, man, what do you take us for?” Smith said.

“So, for a minimum of eighteen years, they’ve been consuming just like any person. And because human being are not in fact cattle, a good portion of the food they’ve taken in will never be recouped,” Stevenson said. “The human brain is a marvel of evolution, but it’s a woefully inefficient source of sustenance.”

“Well, who wants to eat a brain?” Smith retorted.

“Yes, but, you see, a great deal of the nutrition that we consume goes to support our brain,” Stevenson said. “This is just one reason why big, dumb animals are preferable as a food source over smart, shrimpy ones.”

“That may all be true,” Smith said, in a tone of voice which suggested he suspected otherwise. “But… we aren’t feeding them for eighteen years. Just from the time they sign up with us until we get the legislation pushed through.”

“It doesn’t matter who’s feeding them,” Stevenson said. “The point is that they’re still taking the same share of resources for those years.”

“So, what’s your point?” Smith asked.

“That if the idea is to reduce demand for scarce resources, then raising human beings for slaughter is a woefully inadequate way of going about it,” Stevenson said.

“Well, that’s the larger idea, yes,” Smith said. “But we’re a private company. All we really need to do is turn a profit.”

“But the cost of supplying a human being with the necessities of life even for, say, a year… including not just food, but housing, clothes, transportation, and modest entertainment all add up… putting together a wage and benefits package that’ll seem competitive to any other job… has got to be higher than that of bringing to market an animal that’s been raised in a box and doesn’t need anything but nutrition and medicine,” Stevenson said. “How can you possibly hope to break even if you have to invest that kind of money into a single one of your—I can’t believe I’m saying this—feed animals?”

“Well, I’m not an accountant, am I?” the man replied, sounding offended. “Damn it, man, I’d hate to see that kind of talk getting to our investors. We’ve got experts looking over all our numbers at all times, and they assure us it’s a sound principle.”

“Just assuming for a moment that you ever do manage to get this thing legalized, how exactly do you intend to stay in business?” Stevenson asked. “Don’t you think your pool of volunteers will dry up once people realize it’s not just a cushy job that pays them money to lounge around?”

“Of course,” Smith said. “But that’s the beauty part… once it’s legal, that frees up our paid lobbyists to start pushing for, shall we say… broader channels of acquisition.”

“Disgusting,” Stevenson said.

“Hey, just because your job’s a joke is no reason to go raining on my parade!” Smith said.

“Now to begin: you’re the Secretary of the DORA department, are you not?” Clark Whizenby, the CAO man, asked Stevenson at the outset of their meeting.

“It’s just DORA, actually,” Stevenson said.

“Do you mean to tell me that it’s not a department?” Whizenby asked.

“It is,” Stevenson said as patiently as he could, “but that’s what the ‘D’ stands for. When you say ‘the DORA department’, you’re actually saying ‘the Department of Redundant Acronyms department.'”

“Well, I think what I’m saying is, ‘the department that’s called DORA’,” Whizenby countered. “That ‘redundant’ word, as you call it, conveys meaningful information about the agency’s organization.”

“In that case, why not just say ‘Department ORA’, or ‘the ORA department’?”

“Well, because ‘ORA’ is not the BSA bureau’s standard acronym,” Whizenby said. “In fact, that brings me to why I’m here.”

“Of course,” Stevenson said. “The BSA chief has petitioned to have DORA moved underneath him again.”

“Not quite,” Whizenby said. “He’s proposed liquidating the entire department and absorbing its functions.”

“Is there a difference?” Stevenson asked.

“Only to people who are currently employed by this department,” Whizenby said. “Which, if I’m not mistaken, is not many people at all.”

“No, you’ve cut our budget several times,” Stevenson said. “It’s… actually just me, and my secretary, Dora.”

“Right,” Whizenby said. “Well, in situations like this, I like to begin by telling a little story. Twenty years ago, before the central CAO office really came into its own, there used to be a national administration called NASA.”

“I think I’ve heard of it,” Stevenson replied sardonically.

“National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Whizenby said. “Annual budget of tens of billions of dollars every year. Why, we could have paid for three months of war on the money NASA was getting every year. At the same time, we had another administration called the FAA… the Federal Aviation Administration. Their annual budget was only half of the NASA administration’s, but that’s still, as they say, quite a chunk of change. Then, some bright young egg at the fledgling central CAO office pulled out a dictionary and realized that ‘aeronautics’ and ‘aviation’ were practically the same damn thing!”

“And the rest, I suppose, was history,” Stevenson said.

“Damn straight it was,” Whizenby said. “We took a look at both administrations’ books and realized that the FAA was overseeing thousands of flights on the same budget which NASA used for a handful of flights. So, we folded NASA into the FAA… I don’t need to tell you, there was a lot of controversy at the time, but history has vindicated the decision: in the intervening two decades, there’s been no meaningful scientific exploration of space… no lunar colonies, no domes on Mars, nothing.”

“Maybe not in this country, but India and China have both established…”

“Third-world countries!” Whizenby said.

“Excuse me, but China is the world’s largest…”

“Are you going to let me finish a thought or not?” Whizenby said. “China and India are nothing. We’re the world leader in space exploration, and what do we have to show for it? It’s all commercial… space tourists and communications satellites. The American people should pay billions for a separate organization to oversee that?”

“By that ‘logic’,” Stevenson said, smiling pleasantly and keeping as much sarcasm out of his voice as he could, “wouldn’t it make sense to fold the BSA’s functions into DORA? After all, we make do with a shoestring budget.”

“It’s not just that the FAA had the smaller budget,” Whizenby said. “They produced more with that budget. They were efficient. You, on the other hand… well… we’ve never been quite sure what the point of the DORA department was in the first place. What exactly do you do here?”

“I help to maintain the integrity of the English language in an age of increasing abbreviation,” Stevenson said.

“That’s what the BSA does,” Whizenby said.

“Not quite,” Stevenson said. “Their only concern is that everybody uses the same set of acronyms.”

“How’s that different from what you do?” Whizenby asked.

“It’s completely different,” Stevenson said. “We… that is to say, I… work to insure that… well, let me give you an illustrative example. Let’s say you’re going to the ATMM to take out some money. You put in your card. What does it do?”

“The card?”

“The machine, Whizenby. What does the machine do when it has your card?”

“Well, I suppose it asks me for my PINNN number, doesn’t it?” Whizenby asked.

“Right,” Stevenson said. “Except, you don’t actually need to say ‘number’ because that’s what the ‘n’ stands for in PINNN.”

“Which one?”

“All of them,” Stevenson said. “See, when the system was devised, in the late 20th century, the code was simply referred to as a ‘PIN’, which stood for ‘Personal Identification Number.’ Almost immediately, though, people… as well as the institutions which utilized such things… began referring to it as a ‘PIN number.'”

“And that was bad because…?”

“Because it wasn’t long before some bright egg decided to shorten it to ‘PINN’ with an extra ‘N’, and the whole thing started again,” Stevenson said. “Look, Whizenby, I know what mainly concerns you is efficiency. Think about how often the word ‘PINNN’ or the phrase ‘PINNN number’ are written, printed out, or saved into a database somewhere. Imagine if we could save all the ink, toner, space, and other associated resources being used up by those extra trailing letters and the redundant word? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

“It would, but we have to consider usefulness, too,” Whizenby said. “For instance, if you’re dialing into one of those automated AMS menu systems, and the voice just asked you to key in your PINNN, you can’t see how it’s spelled or capitalized, so there’s no way of knowing it’s not asking for an ink ‘pen’ to write with, or a stick ‘pin’, or your numerical ‘PINNN’… though by tacking that one extra word onto it, the meaning is made clear. It may be redundant, but it’s not superfluous.”

“Well, that as may be, yes,” Stevenson said. “But wouldn’t the meaning be made clear by context? Of the things you mentioned, only one of them can possibly be keyed in or otherwise offered over a phone, and certainly only one makes sense in any situation where an AMS attendant is asking for something.”

“A well-worded communication doesn’t require the listener to figure out what they are being told, because it tells them that outright.”

“Well, even if there is some slight advantage to making the numerical nature of the PINNN explicit over the phone,” Stevenson said, “then there’s still no reason to include the redundant appendage it in written matters, is there?”

“Separate standards for written and verbal communications? That’s too complicated… it’d never fly,” Whizenby said. “Plus, whatever tiny gains we’d realize from not printing the extra letters would probably be eaten up by all the clarifications and memoranda and such that would need to be issued to explain the discrepancy. Anyway, it hardly seems like it’s the end of the world if an ATMM machine asks me for my PINNN number.”

“Look, I don’t ask for much,” Stevenson implored. “Cut my budget again, if you have to. I don’t need a secretary. Just let me keep doing this, if for no other reason, then so that twenty years from now you’re not leaving the CCAOOO office and putting your P-I-N-N-N-N-N number in a damned ATMMMM machine.”

“Do you really think it’s likely to go that far?” Whizenby asked.

“There are three Ns in ‘PINNN’ already,” Stevenson countered.

“Right, and I think most people would agree that’s plenty,” Whizenby said.

“More than plenty,” Stevenson said.

“Then we’re agreed,” Whizenby said. “Look, normally, we either eliminate or merge… one or the other, never both… but… the odds are there’s at least one opening in the BSA at your pay level. Actually, I take that back; they don’t have any positions that pay so little. The point is, if your work is so important to you, then it wouldn’t take much shuffling to get you a job over there.”

“But what they do is antithetical to my work,” Stevenson said.

“That being the case, one might very well ask why the citizens of this country are paying two arms of the government to work towards opposite goals in the first place,” Whizenby said. “I think a reasonable person would agree that the ultimate goal of all is to make sure the language is easy to use and easy to understand… and that being the case, the real redundancy is having two separate agencies going about it in differing ways.”


“I think I have everything I need from you, Mr. Stevenson,” Whizenby said. “You will receive an official notice of the central CAO office’s decision within three days… followed swiftly by an order to vacate the premises.”


“Bad news, sir?” Dora asked Stevenson.

“The worst,” he said. “They’re shutting us down in three days.”

“Well, it’s not much, but at least I’ll have a chance to use the new letterhead before we go,” Dora said.

“What new letterhead?” Stevenson asked.

“This,” Dora said, holding up a sheet of paper with the word “TEST printed on it. “It just arrived from the BSA bureau.”

Stevenson gritted his teeth. The logo at the top of the paper read now read “DORAD”.

“I suppose I can take some small comfort in the fact that I won’t have to see that become ‘DORAD Department’,” Stevenson said.

“What?” Dora asked.

“Nothing,” Stevenson said. “Well, I suppose we’d better start looking for new jobs, anyway.”

“Oh, I’ve got that covered,” Dora said. She rummaged in the papers on her desk and found a pamphlet. “This new company’s hiring loads of people… no qualifications needed, just a medical exam, and you don’t even have to do any work. It’s called TastyFlesh HR. Have you ever heard of them?”

STATUS: Monday, May 18th

The Daily Report

Well, I am sufficiently not sick to merit putting my personal status update under the professional part.

After giving the matter some thought, I’ve decided to give the satirical book reviews a rest this week. My initial burst of inspiration carried me most of the way through two weeks with very little effort, but I feel like keeping it going for a third week in a row would be a bit more of a slog, and I have a lot of things to get done before Thursday (WISKHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)

When and whether I resume them will depend on multiple factors. I do have two or three more really strong ideas for specific reviews, and several more books I would like to tackle if I can just hit the right angle for them. But it has to be fun, or it won’t be worth writing, and it must not be forced, or it won’t be worth reading.

Today is the second day I’ve started by working on Tales of MU. It was a bit more of an uphill struggle than last Friday’s efforts, but still fruitful. I predict that by the end of the day I’ll be done with Wednesday’s story, which will be the longest lead time I’ve had in a while.

The State of the Me

My throat is scratchy as all get out but I’m feeling pretty good.

Plans For Today

My main goal for today is to build up momentum on Tales of MU. If I can manage to get multiple updates this week despite being at the con for half of it, I will be justifiably proud of myself, and well positioned to start a great summer.

The Banality of Despite

Warning: This post contains mentions of child sexual abuse. Though I go into very little detail on the subject, there may be more explicit mentions at linked sites.


Recently a Wall Street Journal article appeared online, covering the noisy nonsense known as the Sad/Rabid Puppies—also sometimes referred to without a trace of irony or awareness by its proponents as “Puppygate”, under the mistaken notion that appending “-gate” to the end of something makes it appear like a serious scandal and not a trumped-up controversy.

Vox Day—an internet demagogue, unrepentant liar, demonstrated racist, unabashed misogynist,  and ineffective editor whom none would allege to be an author of any sort or a publisher worth mentioning (h/t TangoMan for keeping me honest there)—was delighted to have the SP/RP’s nonsensical, self-serving platforms correctly labeled as an attempt to drag SF/F into a culture war, but took exception to the description of himself as “probably now the most despised man in science fiction”, raising the question on his blog: if not him, then who?

Over in the comments on File 770, Glenn Hauman answered that question with two suggestions of persons more despised than he is:

Living? Ed Kramer. Deceased? Walter Breen.

The Wikipedia links in the quote are my insertions. I add them because I have every reason to believe that the vast majority of the people reading this blog post will not recognize those names or know what they have in common, which is the sexual abuse of children.

The thing is, while I agree that Ed Kramer and Walter Breen are more despicable than Vox Day, I disagree that they are more despised. You have to know someone to despise them, and Ed Kramer and Walter Breen are very obscure figures in SF/F.

…now, because I know that my satirical activities have attracted A Certain Audience to this blog, I can already hear the sharp intakes of breath as people rush to correct me. Obscure? The co-founder of DragonCon obscure? Am I really so ignorant to not know what a big deal DragonCon is? Obscure? The ex-husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley obscure? He was so active in fandom community circles! How can I call that obscure?

Yes, they’re obscure.

More obscure than Vox Day is, and let me tell you: Vox Day is pretty obscure.

Oh, there’s that sharp intake of breath again…

Let me back up.

This is the “ungraspable scale” problem all over again. We, none of us, really know how big a place the world of SF/F is. We, none of us, can begin to grasp what it means for a place to be even as big as we think it is.

I would bet money that if you had pollsters standing at the doors of DragonCon and ask everyone as they come in if they know who Ed Kramer is, a sizable majority of the attendants would not be able to explain who he is. I mean, a substantial majority. I don’t want to guess at the exact number, but I think closer to 90% than 50%.

To people embroiled in this imbroglio, the idea that people who are active readers and appreciators of SF/F wouldn’t know the name Vox Day might seem unfathomable. His deeds are infamous! The only man thrown out of the SFWA! (…or was he? Dun Dun Dun!) He is the most despised man in science fiction!

Let me tell you: since I’ve been writing about the Puppy incident, more people have learned the name Vox Day for the first time from me than participated in the Hugo nominations this year. I guarantee it.

You want to know who the most despised man in science fiction is?

If we’re limiting it to men, I can think of two strong contenders.

George Lucas and George R.R. Martin.

I’m going to pause to let Vox Day and his followers (the Dreadful Elks, I think they style themselves as?) have a moment where they consider whether or not to triumphantly crow that a rainbow-headed SJW just declared that George R.R. Martin is worse than a child molester. If dealing with anyone else, I’d say that me mentioning this possibility would head it off… but one never knows with the Elks.

For everybody who’s able to keep up, though, please note I didn’t say that Lucas and Martin are top contenders for the worst man in science fiction. I said they’re in the running for the title of most despised.

I mean, who despises Ed Kramer and Walter Breen? The vast majority by a wide margin of everyone who knows the history of their crimes, but how many people is that? Who despises Vox Day? I think at least a simple majority of people who run across him, but how many people is that, really?

Now think about how many people saw Star Wars Episodes I-III, was disappointed or even disgusted by them, and blamed it solely on one man: George Lucas.

Even that’s probably a smaller number than we in the various SF/F communities think. We move in spaces where those movies are despised, and everyone who despises them knows exactly what was wrong with them, and that’s Lucas. Right? But we forget how big a place the world is. We forget that there are millions of people saw those movies and enjoyed them. We forget how many people there are who, whether they liked everything in a movie or not, don’t really connect it to a person standing behind the camera. We in SF/F fandom communities forget how many people just go to the movies to watch the movies.

But even leaving out the vast multitudes of people who genuinely enjoyed those movies and/or have no inclination to despise George Lucas for them, I’d wager that more people do despise George Lucas than despise Vox Day, Walter Breen, or Ed Kramer.

I’d wager the same is true of George R.R. Martin.

I feel awkward pointing this out because I’ve enjoyed his blog and exchanged comments with him, and I am—despite some snark about his word choices—what can only be termed a fan. Mr. Martin, in the very unlikely chance that you find yourself reading this, please believe me when I stress again I’m not calling you a worse person than anyone.

But yes, I will say it: George R. R. Martin is more widely despised than Vox Day.

For what reason? I don’t know. Probably not one reason but many, from many directions.

He’s the better known figure. His work is at this weird intersection of being both strikingly different from most of what’s out there but also widely popular, which means it’s polarizing, which means people have opinions, and wherever there are opinions of sufficient strength and diversity, there will be despite.

Who else is more despised a man in science fiction than Vox Day?

Joss Whedon, probably.

Rob Liefeld, though being a comic book creator he’s more obscure than the other contenders I’ve mentioned. Still, I’d wager anyone who is a household name in comic book households is better known than Vox Day, and thus if they have even a slightly contentious reputation, they are likely to be more despised than he is.

Joel Schumacher? Maybe. The case could be made.

I’ll say again: I’m not saying these men deserve more acrimony than Vox Day, and certainly they have committed no transgressions to my knowledge that are the equal of sexual assault against children. This is not about who owns the crown of “Most Despicable Human Being Involved In The Production of Science Fiction And/Or Fantasy”, but who is despised the most.

And while there’s not a steady correlation between “how many people know about this person?” and “how many people despise this person?”… you do have to know of a person, and think about them, in order to despise them.

So whoever the most despised man in science fiction is, it’s going to be someone that people know about and think about more often than they know and think about Vox Day. The answer is thus likely to be surprisingly petty and banal, rather than salacious and sensational. It will be someone who ruined a franchise rather than lives.

To put it shortly: more people care about what they think Michael Bay did to their childhoods than even know about what Walter Breen did to children.


Getting a hold of me and such

Okay, I have now had two variations of people leaving messages in comments with instructions not to unscreen them. The first one left me scratching my head. By the second one, I put it together: there’s a lot of new folks coming across me for the first time on this blog, and I don’t have contact info anywhere.

If you want to talk to me off blog, my email address is contactme -at- alexandraerin -dot- com. I’ll stick that in the sidebar or something in a bit.

Just to give some background on things I’ve been asked:

  • As most of my work is self-published, I don’t really have any industry entanglements or connections. There are people in the industry I am friendly with, and people in the industry with whom I deeply disagree about one or more fundamental things.
  • The Venn diagram of those two groups of people has a lot of overlap.
  • Because we’re grown-ups.
  • I have never been to (or been a member of) WorldCon.
  • The only con I attend with any regularity is WisCon, in Madison.
  • Despite some hilarious rumors that circulated last year, nobody actually pays me to go there.
  • I will be there this year.
  • Barring extravagant and totally unforeseeable changes in circumstances, it will be the only con I attend this year, and likely next.
  • You aren’t missing out on much. As public speakers go, I make a heck of a decent writer.
  • I will do interviews, but I have a distinct preference for text-based communication as opposed to phone, because see above.

If you’ve discovered me through my satirical writing on the puppygator nonsense and you want to see more of what I’m about, I would suggest starting with any of these three places:

It is not precisely my work, of course, but earlier this year I was also allowed to re-post a poem that had a lot of early Rhysling buzz but had fallen into obscurity: the seminal work “Title” by Author. My ongoing correspondence with this elusive poet has yielded dividends in the form of two another repost, “The Epistle of Thistles“, and the never-before-published “Apply For And Receive A Low, Low APR“. The great poet has promised me another poem for every one of mine that appears in an external venue. I currently have two upcoming poems, so we can count on at least two more treasures from Author’s hoard before the year is out.


Sad Puppies Review Books: MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS

make way for ducklingsMake Way For Ducklings

Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

If you want evidence of the deep rot that has infested the once-great Caldecott Medal, look no further than this book, which is a putrid example of ham-handed message fiction given an award by Feminazi SJWs basically as a participation prize for having a “strong female protagonist who doesn’t need a man”.

This story is set in the liberal heaven of Boston, Taxachusetts and the action—what action there is—centers around what I am sure is a taxpayer-funded boondoggle called the Public Garden Lagoon. Where in the enumerated powers of the Constitution does it say that the government has the power to fund a garden, I ask you? If the people of Boston want a park so badly they should come together and pay for one, but taxation is armed robbery at gunpoint.

The characters in this book are a family of immigratory birds who come to America and immediately have eight babies. The woman duck is no lady and has no respect for her husband’s position as head of the duck household. She finds fault with everything he does, when he tries to make a home for her nothing will do but the finest castle apparently.

Even when they are given a handout of free peanuts (they aren’t free, though, because somebody paid for them. TANSTAAFL!) at the taxpayer-supported park, they have to leave because Mrs. Mallard thinks the world revolves around her and doesn’t think she should have to watch where she’s going when there are bicycles around. Pay attention because this is going to be a running theme. If Mr. Mallard has put her in his place the first time this foolishness arose, the worst excess of this book would have been avoided. But then if he knew how to be a proper alpha duck this book would have been a lot shorter.

So the ducks leave the city and they have their eight babies on an island in the river, but Mr. Mallard has had enough of his wife’s bullshit and decides to go his own way, swimming up the river. The shrew of a duck extorts a promise from him to meet her at the park (remember, the one she decided was bullshit?) in a week. If Mr. Mallard was me, he would have said, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” and never looked back. Take the red pill wake up, Mr. Mallard. A better title for this book would be “Make Way For Cucklings” because Mr. Mallard is clearly a beta male cuck of the lowest degree.

The book makes a big deal out of the fact that Mrs. Mallard teaches the ducklings how to swim and stuff by herself, like this isn’t her job. Well, if single motherhood is so great, why did she need a policeMAN to stop her kids from being ran over by cars when she tried to lead them across the highway? Or was it misogyny to notice that?

This book goes from bad to worse as this deadbeat duck wants to go back to the public park to suckle peanuts at the hand of the public teat, but she decided to molt and have babies so oh no she can’t fly anymore, a police officer—that’s a public servant whose salary is paid by taxes—actually STOPS TRAFFIC on a busy highway.

He even calls for backup! Apparently, it’s not enough that one jackass is being paid to stop people with jobs from getting to and from work! Mrs. Mallard is such a special snowflake that they have to send out a cruiser to escort her! Are we supposed to believe that there’s no crime in Boston? Or maybe the police just aren’t allowed to bother with that anymore. We must interfere with anyone’s ~*civil rights*~ after all.

Who pays Mr. Police Man’s salary, I ask you? Is it ducks? Do ducks pay his salary? No! We do! So why is he doing their bidding? In any rational society he would have stood back and let natural selection do its work but we are far past the point of rationality here. Mrs. Unfit Mother and her brood have a goddamn pride parade up and down the streets of Boston where all the slack-jawed liberal idiots can admire what a special snowflake she is and congratulate her on having so many children she needs a police escort to control them!

Why doesn’t she just open a Patreon account while she’s at it? She could tell the sob story about how she was almost hit by a bicycle and the victim bucks would come pouring in, let me tell you. They all have Patreons for some reason even though they produce nothing of value to anyone. It’s nothing but welfare for hipsters. It should be illegal.

And when she gets to the park, Mr. Mallard is waiting for her. Of course he is. She has him so whipped. I threw the book across the room when I got to that part. The story was clearly set up to lead in one direction, where the precious little snowflake figures out that in the real world no one has to put up with her bullshit and the price she pays for whining and crying victim all the time is winding up alone, but the author caved to the SJW bullies and totally undid everything he had been building up to in order to shoehorn in their approved message. It broke the immersion completely. I knew it was coming, but until I saw it on the page I didn’t want to believe it.

But blue pill beta cuck or not, notice that Mr. Mallard didn’t need any police escort to find his way there. He didn’t need any recognition from the town. He just did what he said he would do, quietly and without demanding any special treatment or a parade. And yet we’re supposed to think the mother is the hero of the story? This is some SJW bullshit of the first degree.

This book is the biggest piece of crap I have ever read, and the Caldecott Medal on the cover of it shows that this once prestigious award has been degraded to little more than a shiny piece of toilet paper.

It should come as no surprise that the people of Boston love this book so much they literally built a statue to it. It’s like something out of the Bible story with the golden calf. Do you think the Boston SJWs would have cared about this book if it had been set in some place like Salt Lake City or Wasilla? Hell no! But it’s like I always say: they only care about demographics. The Caldecott Medal is supposed to be an award for children’s picture books, not illustrated love-letters to liberal bastions, which is what this is.

The fact that this book was lavished with so much praise just because it kissed Boston’s ass seriously calls into question the legitimacy of any award it was given. If we can’t know for sure it wasn’t affirmative action and favoritism, we have no reason to believe it wasn’t, and that’s the same thing as proof.

Did you know that only fifteen people in all the world choose the winner of the Caldecott every year? How are the opinions of fifteen people supposed to determine “most distinguished American picture book for children”, I ask you? The fifteen people are appointed by the so-called Association for Library Services for Children, or ALSC. What do you want to bet that some or all of those appointees come from Boston or similarly liberal cities? The ALSC is a division of the notoriously pro-liberal American Library Association, or ALA. If you want to know who they answer to, just spot the pattern: ALSC, ALA, Alinsky.

Follow the money. I guarantee it.

Two stars.

STATUS: Friday, May 15th

The State of the Me

Okay. I am still improving, but I’m not about to make the mistake of declaring I’m recovered… I think this is going to be one of those illnesses that just tapers off so slowly that I stop thinking about it and then at some point look back and realize that it’s not there any more.

The Daily Report

Well, today I put the previously mentioned plan into motion: woke up, and the very first substantial thing I did was spend a two hour block of time writing Tales of MU. It was not as cleanly productive a two hours as my typical late afternoon writing session would have been, but… well, I’m now in much better shape for that. And I have to imagine that as I build this into a habit, I’ll get better about doing a cold start in the morning.

I’m not saying this will work every morning, but on the mornings where it does work, I’ll do it, and that will leave me in better shape for the days where it doesn’t.

I’ve had a lot of people express interest in particular books for Mr. Upjohn and/or his patron Mr. Pratt to review. Actually, both Madeline and Corduroy came about specifically as reader requests. But here’s the thing, and this is also part of why I’m not sure how long I’ll continue it: I don’t actually have a pile of children’s books lying around the house. While there are Wikipedia summaries and in many cases performances/adaptations of the books on YouTube, all the books I’ve done so far are ones that I’m familiar enough with to essentially sit down and block out the major points from memory, and then just check the available sources for corrections.

The years I spent reading these books to children coupled with a brain that’s wired for stories has probably left me better situated for this than the typical childless adult, but the store’s not inexhaustible. Even if the flow of comedic inspiration doesn’t run out on the puppygators’ side of the fence, my own personal well of reference material is bound to be exhausted sooner or later.

It’s been suggested to me that I just put a bunch of children’s books on my Amazon wishlist, but here’s the thing: if people are going to be spending money on my humble artistic endeavors, I’d rather it be on something I can use for myself, like… money.

None of this is to say that I’m done with the things. I have one coming up for today still… the actual publication time on each one is pretty much just whatever time of day I finished writing it at assigned it a date, so sometime this morning. I have nothing in particular in mind for next week yet, but I started last week with nothing in mind and it turned into nine consecutive weekdays of a thing happening, so…

Plans For Today

Shaky as it was, my writing block this morning was solid enough that I am confident I can post a good chapter to Tales of MU this afternoon. Beyond that, I’m making no plans/claims, because convalescing.

My WisCon Schedule

Getting caught up on stuff now that I have a bit more energy. I am on five panels at WisCon this year. This is the first time I’ve done that since… the first time I was on five panels and immediately vowed never again. But that was also the year I mixed up my pills and took my sleeping pills on Sunday morning. I’m told I killed on my Sunday panels, but I don’t remember much about them.

I kick things off right off the bat on Friday at 4:00 with How Much Do I Worry About My Own Canon? My short take on this is: the past is pilot. I can’t think of a single great work of serial fiction in any media that didn’t benefit from ignoring/re-imagining/re-working something that was established early on rather than allowing themselves to be painted into a corner.

Saturday I have back to back panels at 1:00 and 2:30, on Feminism, Ethics, and BDSM and Dysphoria Is Not Magic… someone had the bright idea to make me the moderator of the second one.

Sunday at 10:00 a.m. I’m on a panel about Call-Out Culture that is a follow-up to a panel at last year’s WisCon that I don’t believe I was on, but someone suggested I join this one.

And then at 11:30 at night, I’m on a panel called What Kind of a World Do We Trans People Want? I know this is going to be a late one and people might be crashing and/or partying, but my boyfriend Jack is also on this panel, so if you want to see us together, there’s that.

The Barker and the Big Tent

The Barker and the Big Tent
By Alexandra Erin

With gratitude to my muse in this matter, Mr. Brad R. Torgersen.

“Welcome to the Big Tent,” the barker said, showing his teeth in a friendly smile. “Everyone’s welcome in the Big Tent!”

“Hey, mister,” Jake said. “Is this a circus, or something?”

“Oh, it’s a circus, yeah,” the barker said. “It’s a circus and more. It’s whatever you want it to be! The Big Tent has room for everyone! You go in and you can watch a show, or you put on one of your own. Any kind of act you can imagine can be found in the Big Tent. You keep your stage as long as you keep an audience, so anything goes as long as it’s entertaining.”


“Well, of course we mustn’t break any laws,” the barker said. “The point of the Big Tent isn’t to do anything bad, but only good things, things that are fun for everyone. Everyone’s welcome in the Big Tent.”

“Yeah? What’s going on there?” Jake asked, jerking his head towards the turnstiles at the entrance.

A pair of burly roustabouts flanked each of the gates. As Jake watched, a couple of people were roughly turned away from one. The bouncers’ faces were murderous, while the people they sent packing just looked scared. All the lines got shorter as people saw this and left in apparent disgust or, in some cases, fear.

“Well, lad, that’s where we let everyone in,” the barker said, then repeated, “Everyone is welcome in the Big Tent.” He cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted, “Come one, come all, to the Big Tent! If you believe that any show is a good show as long as it’s entertaining, this is the place for you!”

“So, who were those people, then?” Jake asked.

“Gatekeepers,” the barker said.

“No, I mean the people your gatekeepers turned away.”

Our gatekeepers?” the barker said. He let out a loud, raucous laugh, slapping his knee. “We don’t have gatekeepers, son! This is the Big Tent you’re talking about, and everyone’s welcome in the Big Tent! No, those nice gentlemen are there to keep the gatekeepers out.

“But you said everyone is welcome,” Jake said.

“Right,” the barker said. “You’re a clever lad and you catch on quick. We want to keep the Big Tent big, don’t we? We want to make sure it welcomes everybody, don’t we? Well, we can’t very well do that if we let in a bunch of gatekeepers.”

“How are they gatekeepers?”

“Well, I told you our set-up: anyone can try their hand at filling a stage, and as long as they can keep an audience entertained they can keep doing their thing, right?”


“So the good acts keep going and the bad ones get weeded out. It’s the free market in action, understand?”


“Well… some people, they like to pretend that good acts are bad and bad acts are good,” the barker said. “No one knows why they do it, just that it happens that they do. They try to sneak in, act like they belong, and one of them gets up on a stage and the rest stand around pretending to be entertained. All the way they’re taking up a stage that could be used by people who would put on a show that a real audience wants to see.”

“How do you know they’re pretending?” Jake asked.

“Well, first, I know what’s a good act and what’s not. Don’t you? I mean, rollicking good fun. You know it, right? So when someone gets up and starts reciting poetry that doesn’t even rhyme, or putting on a one-woman show, or whatever, you know people are faking it when they say they like it.”

“Don’t you think maybe some people like that kind of stuff? I mean, people like different things.”

“Right! And the Big Tent caters to all tastes, but that doesn’t mean we have to stand for people lying about what’s good.”

“But how do you know they’re lying?” Jake asked.

“Because they talk about it,” the barker said. “You listen to them, you’ll hear it. Hey, one will say, you’ve got to come see this act. No mention of it being good, just ‘you’ve got to see it’. Like they’re commanding their little minions! Or they’ll say, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Like nothing you’ve ever seen! Well, if it was any good, they would have seen it before, wouldn’t they have? Or they’ll even be more blatant and say, you know that thing you’ve been looking for? Someone’s doing it over here!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Jake asked.

“The only thing people should be looking for in the Big Tent is a rollicking good show!” the barker said. “It’s not fair for people to come in looking for a specific thing! All acts should be judged purely on their own merit. Anyone who can’t do that is cheating.”

“So, you never… you never go in looking for music, or whatever?”

“Well, sure, but that’s different,” the barker said. “That’s something normal. You expect to find music under the Big Tent.”

“Wasn’t the point of the Big Tent that you can find anything under it?”

“Of course! All people welcome! All tastes welcome! All ideas welcome!” the barker said. “We especially love ideas! Some people think that ideas are dangerous, but not us! Bring us your ideas, the more dangerous the better!” He pointed to a woman being ejected from the front of the queue. “You see that woman who just got turned back?”

“Yeah?” Jake said.

He’d noticed by now that a lot of people were turned away, and that every time it happened, more people left the line. In fact, the more the barker spoke to him, the more people drifted out of the queues and towards them to listen in disturbed fascination.

“Well, she’s a known feminist,” the barker said. “That’s why we can’t give her a stage. If feminism gets a toehold, we’re through.”

“But you said no ideas were too dangerous,” Jake said.

“Right! That’s why we can’t allow any feminism,” the barker said. “As soon as we allow feminism, free speech is over.”

“What about her free speech?”

“What about it?” the barker said. He cupped his hands around his mouth again and yelled, “Come one, come all! Come to the Big Tent, where you can enjoy any show you want without having to put up with any feminist bull!”

A good twenty, thirty people stomped out of the line at this pronouncement, while maybe a half dozen people, mostly men, drifted over with interest.

“See?” the barker said. “We get more and more people all the time. So, what do you say, lad? You want to see the Big Tent?”

“Yeah… I’m not sure it’s for me.”

“The Big Tent is for everyone!”

“If feminism isn’t allowed, what else isn’t allowed?”

“I told you, everything is allowed, as long as it’s legal,” the barker said. “And as long as you’re not lying. We can’t allow people to lie about what they like, or what’s a good show. We can’t allow people to pander to PC nonsense, either. That’s just not fair to anyone.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, no one likes to be called racist, right?” the barker said. “So if you go in and put on a show that makes a big point of being not racist, that gives you an unfair advantage over any show that doesn’t. Because people will have to pretend to like your show in order to not appear racist.”

“Are there a lot of racist shows in the Big Tent?”

“We believe in freedom of expression.”

“Could I ask which shows are racist?”

“Oh, no, see, that would infringe on their freedom of expression,” the barker said. “Because then you’d avoid them, see? Instead of giving them a fair chance.”

“So because you believe in freedom of expression, no one can say that anything is racist?”

“Obviously,” the barker said. “Look, no one is saying that every show has to be racist. You just can’t… pander.”

“Well, what’s pandering?”

“Making a big deal out of not being racist, so it’s obvious you’re only doing it for political correctness points,” the barker said. Most of the crowd that had surrounded the two had drifted away, leaving the fairgrounds entirely. The barker cupped his mouth and shouted, “Come to the Big Tent, where you don’t have to deal with a lot of pandering politically correct bull!”

Most of the people left in the line whooped and hollered at this exclamation. Of those in earshot and not already in line, about half of them gave a sign of approval while the rest shook their heads in disgust.

“You see?” the barker said, gesturing towards the people remaining in line. “We just… we know what the people want, and we give it to them. Is that so bad?”

“So, the people you turn away, do they not count?” Jake asked.

“You’re saying it’s bad to give the people what they want,” the barker said.

“No, no, man,” Jake said. “Look, it’s obvious you’re catering to a specific set of tastes here, okay? That’s cool. It’s your tent.”

“Young man, it’s everybody’s tent.”

“It’s your tent, and you can do what you want with it,” Jake said. “I just wish you were more honest about it, you know? It’s rude to say that everyone’s invited and then turn people away. It’s weird to say that all ideas are welcome when you’re going to be screening certain ideas out. It’s just… the whole thing is kind of dishonest, you know?”

For the first time, the barker’s smile faltered.

“What did you call me?” he asked.

“I just… not you, but the, you know, the enterprise,” Jake said. “It seems a bit dishonest, you know? Disingenuous.”

“So you think that just because we don’t allow people to lie, somehow we’re the dishonest ones?” the barker asked. “Everybody, listen! This guy here thinks it’s dishonest to not allow people to lie! Can you believe that?”

“Dude,” Jake said, throwing up his hands as several heads swiveled to glare daggers at him. “That’s not what I…”

He wants to ruin your good time!” the barker said. “He wants to pack the stages with boring acts featuring feminists and people who will call you racist and scold you for having fun!”

“Dude, I was just asking…”

“You know what? I think you were right, buddy,” the barker said. “Maybe the Big Tent isn’t for you.”

“Okay, man, I’ll shove off, then!” Jake said. “Later!”

He turned and walked away.

“Heh, his loss,” the barker said to a stunned-looking woman who had caught the end of the exchange. “He wouldn’t be so high-and-mighty if he knew what he was missing out on. Our tent is the biggest of the kind.”

“Is it really that big?” the woman asked him.

“Oh, I know, it doesn’t look all that big from here, does it?” the barker said. “But you’ve got to see the inside. There’s so much empty space!”