Quick Note

This stuff is subject to last minute cancellations/reductions, but as of right now this is scheduled to be my busiest week re: jury duty so far. It’s also the second to last one. Just want to let everyone know that I’m still around and doing things.

Not having a good day…

…and not sure how or why I’m not having a good day, or how to articulate it, but feeling the need to, anyway. Not looking for advice or sympathy; just letting people who are interested in the question of “How am I doing?” know, and leaving myself a record for later in case there’s a pattern.

Causally, there’s a lot of stress right now relating to jury duty. It’s also springtime in Maryland, also known as vespiform hell. Our state bird is an oriole that was stung to death by wasps. I’m pretty chill about things with stingers. I know how to co-exist with them. If it was just me, I would open a window and wait for it to take a hint.

But my office is also the main cat room, and our cats… they are not mighty hunters before the Lord, but they have instincts, and these instincts might lead them to do something that might end regrettably if there’s something with a venomous stinger set on repeat trapped with them. And I’m also a bit leery about opening windows enough to encourage a bug to fly out them when the cats are around. But there’s an upper limit on how long I can shut the cats out of here, which means a wasp in the office has to be dealt with. A spray bottle of soapy water and a fly swatter to follow-up with works wonders, but it still makes things a little tense leading up to it.

Notes for those who need to deal with individual wasps or hornets indoors in a pet-safe way: get spray bottle. Put dish soap in. Fill with hot water. Shake up a bit. Test the spray bottle a few times to make sure that it’s capable of repeat squirting. Wait until the target insect is in a docile phase, sitting on a window pane or something. Spray it. If it’s clinging to a surface, it will fall. Spray it a few more times. Keep spraying it. Spray it until it looks dead. Swat it. Swat it again. Keep swatting it until it looks dead. Swat it some more. Dispose of it.

In theory, the first treatment of soapy water will kill it… eventually. But a little extra soapy water is pretty cheap to make sure.

Anyway… I’m realizing as I type this that dealing with the office wasp situation disrupted my routine enough that I didn’t take my vitamins or mood pills this morning, which is probably why I’ve been having such a waste of a day. Rectifying that now.

What’s Up, John?

So, immediately before I posted this, I wrote a blog post and then put up a brand-new Sad Puppies Review Books installment by our old friend Mr. John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired). Both of these things happened because the first thing I saw this morning when I got on Twitter was an excerpt from a blog post by one of the Sad Puppy standard-bearers, Ms. Sarah Hoyt. I found I had things to say about it, hence the blog post. When I was finished, I found I had more to say, hence the book review.

The paragraph about Nazi and Soviet collaborators in the review is taken verbatim from Hoyt’s post, minus the bit that’s about the turtle. I say this because my experience last year was that the parts of the reviews that were taken directly from the mouths of pups, as it were, were the parts most often singled out for being unfair and too over the top to be believed.

I don’t at this time have any intention of resuming the SPRB column as a regular thing. At the time I first did it, it arose quite organically from the ideas bouncing around in my head and the things I was seeing. At the point where I found myself seeking out material and chasing down ideas, I retired it. There will be more reviews if and only if I keep seeing things that spark them. It’s not enough for a Puppy to say something wrong or terrible. It’s also got to make it into my orbit, and it has to spark an association with one of the many children’s book shelved in the library of my mind. If I have to start casting around for a book to make the comparison, it’s just not a very good comparison, nor a very good joke.

So the plan regarding SPRB is there is no plan.

Other plans are… evolving and in flux. There was some bad news on the international front today and tremendously good news on the family front. I’ll probably blog more about what I’m doing later. Right now, my head’s a jumble.


Sad Puppies Review Books: Yertle the Turtle


Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

This book is the all-too-plausible story of one evil turtle and his tyrannical desire to enslave all other turtles to his bidding.

If when you read this book it seems to echo eerily close to something you have heard before, that is probably not a coincidence. This is no mere children’s story like the ones you’d find in Aesop’s fables. This is a story with an important moral lesson to teach us and it relates to real life.

The villain of the piece is a turtle named Mack who is so dissatisfied with his place in the world that rather than climbing the ladder and making something of himself, he instead blames society for such petty things as the pain in his back and his lack of food. Not content to merely complain, he uses his extraordinary power and privilege to impose his will upon all other turtles. Lacking the gumption and will to raise himself up, he instead only tears down, and will not be satisfied until all other turtles have been brought down to his level.

Set against Mack is the tragic hero of the piece, a Randian super-turtle named Yertle who, though born to lowly circumstances on top of a rock only a little bit higher than the station of any other turtle in the pond, raises himself up to be the self-made king of everything up to forty miles away. Because a rising tide lifts all boats, in the process he raises every other turtle in the pond up with him.

Even Mack—the greedy, grasping, ungrateful, Mack—is elevated to the very same position Yertle was when the story began, sitting atop the very same rock. If he really wanted to be where Yertle is, there was absolutely nothing stopping him from doing as Yertle did. He was given the exact same opportunity Yertle had. Yertle’s very success proves the existence of upward mobility in the pond. Every single one of the turtles under Yertle only has to look up to find something to aspire to.

But when Mack’s  incessant complaints and whiny demands do not give Mack any greater reward than he has earned, he brings the whole thing crashing down in the most vulgar way imaginable: he burps.

In this one burp, he becomes worse than the Soviets who condemned the Kulaks during holodomor, worse than the people on the street who mouthed the Nazi lies about Jews during WWII.  Why worse?  Because those people lived in fear of their lives.  They had to say what they did because they feared being next on the kill list.

But Mack? Mack drags everyone down into the mud and dashes every turtle’s dream of attaining a higher place in society of his own free will. Does he care about the wishes of the turtles above him? No, he does not. Mack imposes his will upon all. In his pond, all turtles are slaves shackled to the ground, doomed to swim about the pond without the benefit of direction or purpose.

And in the end, the turtle who had the vision to build a society where any turtle could climb so high as to see forty miles in every direction, where any turtle could through nothing save their own hard work and determination could become king of a house and a cow and a mule, he is down with the rest, only able to see mud.

The burping vulgarians of the world cannot tolerate men or turtles of Yertle’s grand vision, and so cannot rest until they are destroyed. Saul Alinsky would be proud.

Two stars.

Get more Sad Puppy book reviews (including ones never seen before elsewhere) here!

Support the author on Patreon!

Nineteen Puppy Four

Well, so much for the notion that this year’s litter of Sad Puppies were kinder, gentler, or even more moderate than last year’s. Over the past weekend, when the initial reactions to their new list were still more initial, Sarah Hoyt posted a response that was… well, we’ll say “typically hyperbolic”, but also quite telling.

A lot of it follows the “BUT MOM, I’m NOT Touching Him!” school of legalism that sprouts up whenever reactionaries try to argue with or by what they think is progressive logic, but as she goes on, she eventually compares Puppy critics to such nuanced things as German citizens whipped into a frenzy of anti-Semitism by the Nazi party, only “worse” because those who disagree with the Pups are doing it of our own free will. In the same piece, she refers to those who dissent from her party line as being slaves bound in chains.

If you ask the Sad Puppies what their goals are, you’ll get any of a dozen different answers, depending not just upon whom you ask but when you ask them it. The answer changes as needed to suit the needs of an evolving narrative… but you don’t dare acknowledge that it changed. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

If you want to know what their goal actually is, though, you need only look at how they comport themselves when they’re not trying to earnestly convince you of their goals. Here we see Sarah Hoyt telling us that disagreement with the Puppy platform is the worst crime she can imagine, and equating the freedom to dissent with slavery.

Of course, that part of the Puppies’ egos that will not allow them to think of themselves as bad people also will not allow them to admit that they want to quash dissent, that their dream is a world that is marching, if not in perfect lockstep, then almost entirely in the same direction. Sarah Hoyt does not equate freedom with slavery because of some conscious Orwellian master plan to redefine the world, but because it’s the only way she can make sense of things, the only way she can square up the facts on the ground in a way that leaves her on the side of angels fighting the good fight.

The Puppies have a certain vision for how the world should look, a certain order to things that they think is natural and inherent and default and  good. When the world fails to conform to this vision, there are two basic possibilities, and one of them is too horrible to be contemplated: either the vision is wrong, or the world is.

If the vision is wrong, then that’s the end. Game over, time to get a new vision.

If the world is wrong, though, then the game not only keeps going, it gets more exciting.

Because now there’s an enemy to be fought. Now there’s a problem to be fixed. Now there’s a desperate struggle where they get to be the plucky underdogs doing the Lord’s work against a rising tide of darkness.

But however they rationalize it, their “enemy” is dissent and their only victory condition—the thing that will signal they have won and can stop fighting—is a world free from it.

Consider: 100% of the evidence they have of a clique (aside from themselves) trying to control the science fiction and fantasy publishing and reading world consists of people making decisions they don’t approve of. People who write or read books and stories that vary from their tastes past a certain threshold are evidence of corruption, because why in a free society would people bother with such things? People who praise those books are further evidence, because how could anyone sincerely praise something of which they don’t see the appeal?

If any of those books or stories win awards or are even nominated… well, then, the fix was in, wasn’t it? How else do you explain it?

Last year, Brad Torgersen said that he’d be happy no matter what the outcome at WorldCon was, so long as the Puppy campaign succeeded in mobilizing more people to participate. Well, as I previously observed, that happened, and he didn’t seem happy about it. Even though the number of people who voted “No Award” in various category varied by a margin of nearly a thousand votes, the only explanation the Puppies have for the stinging rebuke that fandom issued their movement and their tactics is that it wasn’t the result of free people individually acting their consciences, but rather that the innumerable enemies of freedom had compelled these thousands of people to do so.

This subtext became text at several points during last year, particularly whenever one of their hand-picked nominees objected to being included in their slate. Every time one of their picks dissented from their party line, their response amounted to, “You see? You see how the enemies of freedom force these people to loudly denounce us? Don’t worry, my friend! We will liberate you!”

At one point, we were treated to the pathetic spectacle of Brad Torgersen trying to explain how a particular nominee had felt so frightened of the backlash while she was in the same comment thread telling him and everyone else otherwise.

So it’s not that the Sad Puppies have a conscious platform of opposing dissent. It is simply that they believe certain things are so inarguably, objectively true that dissent is literally unthinkable to them. If they see dissent, they will try their level best to “liberate” the dissenter from whatever chains are compelling the dissent… and those who will not be liberated, must be destroyed. All disagreement with the fundamental tenets of Puppydom must come from a puppet or a puppetmaster, after all, and if when they go to cut your strings they discover you have none… well, then you’re obviously a puppetmaster, aren’t you?

My recommendation that the best thing to do about their list this year is ignore it still stands. One commenter elseweb suggested that this recommendation amounts to doing nothing about the Puppies, but not so. As Hoyt’s response shows, the greatest threat to the Puppies is dissent, is free people acting individually as according to the dictates of their tastes and consciences.

To prevent the Puppies from running roughshod over the process and driving all dissent from the larger fandom, it’s not necessary—or desirable—for you to stoop to engaging with them. It’s only necessary that you continue to participate in the larger conversation and in the process of nominating for and voting on awards, in reading and writing and talking about science fiction and fantasy, in exercising critical thought about what you read and what you write, and basically just actively be your own inimitable self.

Monday, March 21st

So, this is going to be another weird week. I don’t have to report for jury duty again until Thursday, but it’s still coming up. I’m going to be boosting Angels of the Meanwhile throughout this week and the next. It’s a huge psychic load off my mind to have it put to bed; there are a lot of vicious cycles involved when you have commitments that you just can’t fulfill. I have a bad tendency to over-commit, which in practice works out to be almost indistinguishable from committing to nothing.

But, onwards and upwards.

In getting caught up on things, I’m working on simplifying them so that it’s harder to fall behind. I just made a Patrons-only post over on my Patreon talking about some of that.

Today is World Poetry Day. It’s also Monday, the day in which I have actually written most of my poems. I find poetry a great creative warm-up exercise. So in recognition of those facts, and the fact that I have been writing way more gaming content than straight fiction lately, I’m going to be spending my creative energy today working on poems.

NO FOOLING! Angels of the Meanwhile comes out April 1st!

angels of the meanwhile coverUPDATE: IT’S APRIL 1ST, AND IT’S OUT!

Check your email if you pre-ordered, check your spam folder if it’s not there, and if you did not get in on the fun, check out this link.








Well, folks, it’s been a long journey from there to here, but just over a year on, we are ready to send out the absolutely amazing e-anthology put together to help genre poet and lawyer Elizabeth R. McClellan in her time of need. Angels of the Meanwhile has an official release date, and it’s one of immense personal significance to her and her spiritual community down there in Tennessee: April 1st.

That’s right. On April 1st, we’re going to be sending out a zip file with this collection of prose and poems, many brand-new or otherwise unavailable, to everyone who has pitched in to help her out since we first sent out the distress call last spring.

And if you want to get in on this outpouring of love or you just want some shiny pretty words tied up in a neat package, you can do that by clicking this link and making your contribution. (Recommended amount: $10).

Since the car accident that started all this, Elizabeth has dealt with a considerable amount of pain and uncertainty. She has medical debt to pay off, she’s exhausted her sick leave, she’s had to deal with a broken ankle, and she’s not done recovering from her current shoulder surgery. Things are stretched so thin, she has an immediate need for $250 to keep her car insurance that she needs to keep her car that she needs to keep her job, and she needs that in a week, before March 26th.




The table of contents for the book has some changes, due to evolving rights issues, but all of the contributors are still there:


Table of Contents

Bits of Prose (Flash Fiction, Prose Poems)

  • This Is The Place Where Lost Things Go – Kythrynne Aisling
  • The Merry Knives of Interspecies Communication – Bogi Takács
  • Upon The Land, On The Sea – Sonya Taaffe
  • Foam – Dusti Morton
  • The Sweat of their Brows – Alexandra Erin
  • The Dirty Fairy – Deborah Walker
  • Beauty Sleeping – Ellen Kushner


  • Beastwoman’s Snarled Rune – Rose Lemberg
  • Pain Shared Is Catching (For April Grant) – Erik Amundsen
  • Gorgon Girls – Saira Ali
  • This Is What It’s All About – Lupa
  • Blodeuwedd – Amal El-Mohtar
  • Burning Wings (For C.S.E. Cooney) – Jennifer Crow
  • The Changeling Always Wins – Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • The Witch’s Girl – Alexandra Erin
  • The First Wife – Lev Mirov
  • The Secret of Being a Cowboy – Catherynne M. Valente
  • Firstborn – Christina Sng
  • Children of the Faun and Fae – Merideth Allyn
  • Ivan Icarus – by C.S.E. Cooney
  • The Freeman’s Dance – Jack Ralls
  • We Named Our Grief Irene – Virginia M. Mohlere
  • Fucking Doughnuts – Legoule
  • Allison Gross Speaks of the Worm – Gwynne Garfinkle
  • Sand Bags – Dominik Parisien
  • Hot Wet Mess – S.J. Tucker
  • Getting Winterized: A Guide to Rural Living – Elizabeth R. McClellan
  • Uncommon Law – Lisa Bradley
  • These Are Days – Roni Neal
  • lis pendens – Mike Allen
  • Thread Between Stone – Bryan Thao Worra

Prose Stories

  • The View of My Brother’s Profile In The Rear-View Mirror – Randee Dawn
  • Inside, Looking Out – Alexandra Erin
  • Changed – Nicolette Barischoff
  • Fire Flight – A.M. Burns
  • The Legacy Box – Satyros Phil Brucato
  • Illusions of Safety – Angelia Sparrow


(Yep, I’m in there three times. Well, I couldn’t ask anyone to do something for Pope Lizbet I wouldn’t do myself, could I?)

Some quick updates.

I am writing Tales of MU. It’s going well enough that if not for the x-factor relating to jury duty (I am effectively “on call” until mid-April), I’d probably be posting already, or announcing a date.

I’m also working on other long-delayed things; though with the same caveats. Once my term of service as a juror is up, I’ll probably make an extensive blog about my experiences. I do have to say that my local court system does what it can to keep things as convenient as possible under the circumstances, though, there are practical limits to how convenient it can be.

My decision to hold off on publishing more of my D&D material for a month to see what happens has yielded the following results:

  • First, assuming the trends hold for the next two weeks, I’m on track to make only a little less money this month than I did last month.
  • Second, it’s a lot easier for me to keep to my “release a thing a week” plan when I’m not arbitrarily restricting which arenas in which I’m doing it. This is the third week of the month and the third week in a row in which I’m not putting something out for sale at the end of it. Again, jury duty and its caprices is a factor here.

I enjoy discussing D&D rules, answering questions, and giving advice, but I get fed up with the brocentric and mansplainy attitudes that permeate most spaces where people are talking about this subject. Accordingly, I have started a side blog at http://dungeons-demystified.tumblr.com where anyone playing 5E or looking to play 5E can ask questions or advice, and where I’ll share some general tips/basic definitions.

Why a side blog when I already talk about D&D here? Because semi-weekly Spherical Goblins posts are one things, but basically leavening my main blog with a D&D FAQ would either make the blog unusable as a general blog or the FAQ unusable as a FAQ.

I’m devoting today to getting one particular thing done, with an eye towards making an announcement about it at day’s end. That’s all I’ll say on the subject unless and until I’m ready to make that announcement.

The Pups of Wrath Yield Bitter Whine

So the Sad Puppies apparently shared their short list recently. I hear they include some surprising picks. I hear this mostly from the people who have been dismayed to find themselves on it.

There are three possibilities here, and human beings being complex, self-contradictory people, I suspect that all three of them are true, and that the people behind this list would claim (and probably have claimed) all three reasons at varying times, and meant them, depending on how they feel and who’s asking.

The possible reasons are:

  1. There is some sincerity behind their claims to be apolitical and non-partisan.
  2. They hope the presence of people they deem “SJWs” whose success they put down to “affirmative action” on the list will serve as a poison pill for those books/authors, resulting in those people withdrawing from consideration and/or “SJWs” refusing to vote for them and allowing them a clearer field.
  3. Failing that, they hope that if the authors don’t withdraw and those books aren’t affected by a backlash, then they can prevent the appearance of the same shut-out at the ballot box that so bruised their little clique last year.

2 and 3 in particular, taken together, form what we might call a “Beale Gambit”, i.e., a situation in which one forms a diabolical, cunning, and intricate plan to announce one’s own victory no matter what actually happens in reality. (For bonus points, you can announce you’re going to do this in advance.)

So, if the Sad Puppies have a plan to claim victory no matter what happens, the question is, how do we beat them?

And the answer is: we don’t. We shouldn’t. No one’s goal should ever be to “beat” these truly sad individuals at anything, no more than our goal should be to shut them up or shut them out of the process.

The Sad Puppies are at war with both the future and past of science fiction and fantasy, but no one is (or no one should be) at war with the Sad Puppies. Our goal should be to make speculative fiction welcoming and inclusive in spite of them, not to shut them out of it in the hopes that this will make things welcoming and inclusive. Our goal should be to get more people involved and keep them engaged so as to dilute the ability of small cliques of bigots motivated to become the tastemakers and kingmakers to game the system.

The correct course of action to take on the Puppy list is to ignore it. If they’re going to claim victory no matter what happens (and the fact that they claimed victory in 2015 should be enough to convince anyone that they will), then there’s really nothing more for anyone to do except get out and nominate now, and get out and vote later. Don’t let the existence of their list or its contents sway you one way or another.

And if you found yourself on their list? Well, they’re just a pack of dogs howling at the moon. This is not a situation that requires the moon to answer.

Ignoring the Puppies’ list is the correct thing to do.

First, to the extent that they are sincere in their claims and their efforts, this rewards their sincerity. If they nominated some people who actually do win on merit, let them win on merit.

Second, 2015 gave us a realistic idea of the Sad Puppies’ strength: not much, not enough to actually stuff the ballot box when fandom is on guard against them.

Third, it’s just taking what the Puppies want us to do to its logical conclusion.

They want us to ignore the history of their movement. They want us to ignore that it all started as a petulant trophy-grab by their esteemed founder. They want us to ignore the hand Vox Day had in shaping and supporting the movement. They want us to ignore the fact that Brad Torgersen explicitly laid out in his blog how his goal was to stop the “wrong people” from winning and to return science fiction to a more homogeneous idealized yesteryear where you could literally judge a book by its cover. They want us to ignore the racism and sexism and homophobia. They want us to ignore the goal-post shifting by their principals, the spin that permeates their blog posts, the lies and slander they heap upon their critics, the threats they level against their opposition. They want us to ignore the stated reasons they gave before for their crusade, each time they try to reshape the narrative to their benefit.

Well, let’s make things easy on them and easy on us, and just not ignore everything.

Just ignore the whole lot of them… not to the point of pretending they don’t exist, of course. Remember them only as a reminder as to what can happen to an institution when apathy creeps in. Remember them as a reason to participate in the Hugo process and to encourage others to participate.

Don’t give them your time, don’t give them your attention, don’t give them your energy.

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits.
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry, thirsty roots?