TNH's Particles
* The animated Burgess Shale.
* Skottie Young on "exposure".
* "Good Dogs" by Reapersun. (See also.)
* Gepetto by Cedric Peyravernay.
* The ten states most dependent on federal money.
* But I'm a Nice Guy.
* Bob's Big List of Disclaimers.
* A new memoir about what happens when you get rid of all your stuff.
* An antidote to the Santa Barbara MRA/PUA story.
* Killed 99 bears.
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PNH's Sidelights
* Saving the records of early New England churches
* A Lynching on Staten Island
* Jack Kirby draws Jack Ruby
* The Wikipedia Entry for Guam, Retold as a YA Novel
* The comment section of every article about campus sexual violence
* Forthcoming from Richard Thompson: Acoustic Classics
* Joan Acocella on Tolkien's Beowulf
* People of Color in European Art History
* Jay Lake, 1964-2014
* Andy Duncan on "politics in SF"
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Abi's Parhelia
* The Gunfighter
* The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats
* Patriarch's Day
* An open letter to Dave Truesdale
* Book-related cookie cutters
* A day in the life of Everyday Astronaut
* Adding syntax highlighting to knitting patterns
* Watercolor mixing from the Dutch Golden Age
* Spurious Correlations
* The Arms of Individuals in Same-Sex Marriages
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Jim's Diffraction
* Angelus ad virginem 14th century Irish carol
* Christmas on the Theremin
* Kinect eye patch for Xbox One will protect what's left of your privacy
* Real-Time Wind Map
* IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do
* Smithsonian museum artifacts can now be 3D printed at home
* PunditFact
* A Display You Can Reach Through And Touch
* The Craigslist killers: the full story
* Proposed Museum of Science Fiction
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Avram's Phosphenes
Here is How Google Works
Snark vs smarm
Dirtbag John Milton
Hobby Lobby, Student Loans, and Sincere Belief
Regard the notebooks of Paul Klee!
German Rocket Cats: A Meditation
The Internet With a Human Face
Knitting is Turing Complete?
Chilean artist destroys student debt
Massimo Vignelli, 1931–2014
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Commonplaces
“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

August 01, 2014
An Update on Velma
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:52 AM * 27 comments

From the thread on Velma, an update:

This is Kristen, Scraps’ sister. Sorry that I don’t know how to make this an entry of its own; if someone who knows how to could do so, I would be grateful.

Velma (sister-in-law) update - This is what I know: (Apologies if it’s too long. I’m trying to keep a balance between too much information and not enough.)

1st surgery = Wednesday of last week. (July 23; details about that in one of my previous posts)
Velma went into that surgery in a less-than-ideal physical state - very weak, hadn’t gained back weight she had lost in the previous month. (Hospital decided to do surgery even though Velma wasn’t where they wanted her physically because Velma had been losing ground in terms of getting to a stronger place, and because one of the tumors was growing rapidly.) Although weak, Velma seemed to be recovering appropriately. (I had a good conversation with her that Friday before I went back to Portland.) At some point she was moved out of ICU.

Yesterday I received three emails from Scraps.

First: A bad news and good news kind of email.
The bad; This is from Scraps’ email. “Last night was very hard. Velma was in excruciating pain. Her time for the epidural was ended, so that came out, but her heart and lungs were still weak, so the doctors were concerned with giving her too much pain medication and having her heart stop. Unfortunately, they stopped short last night, and while they adjusted, Velma suffered.” Her pain medication was increased; doctor explained that they wanted Velma to be pain free, but they needed to be careful.
The good, again quoting Scraps: “Today she walked almost twice as far, two times. She was glowing; that was good. And the pain is definitely down. She’s been drowsy, but they’ve been watching.”

Second: A short email titled “bad update.”
In intense pain. Moved back to ICU. Temporarily put out and tubes (breathing, etc.) reinserted. (my summary)

Third: She had fluid in her belly.

Today, received three texts from my Mom. Velma had emergency surgery this afternoon, because of an infection. (Don’t have any more details than that.) Quoting Mom here: “Dr says hour by hour to pull through on this part … very low blood pressure … Reason touch and go right now is she so weak after last surgery… Crucial next few hours.”

That’s what I know. Haven’t heard anything from Mom for over three hours.

Prayers and strong healing thoughts for her please. And for my brother.

Being as I’m the praying type, my prayers are with them both, and with their families. I’m sure the affection and goodwill of the community is, too.

Update from Kristen: Velma came through the surgery fine.

July 30, 2014
Open thread 199
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:10 PM * 162 comments

One of my long-running disgruntlements with survivalists and Galters is their collective ignorance of one key aspect of self-sufficiency: cloth. I can’t count how many people I’ve watched loading their own ammunition and slaughtering their own deer. But all the while, they’re wearing flannel shirts and jeans made of fabric that was woven on an industrial scale, from mechanically-spun fibers, before being shipped across the world either made up or on bolts. Even when they sew the garments themselves, their participation in our shared culture lies across their shoulders and hangs from their belts.

I suspect that a substantial element in this inconsistency is the relative priority of men’s work over women’s, which determines what actions are more valuable for Making A Statement. But I think a good deal of it is also simple blindness: fabric and clothing is so ubiquitous in our civilization that all we focus on is its variations (AKA fashion, style, or what those damn kids are wearing).

Spinning and weaving are crafts or hobbies (knitting and crochet less so). As a culture, we’ve forgotten how much of the lives of all classes of women, from the Middle Ages to well past Jane Austen’s time, was spent on thread, fabric, and clothing†. Our closets overflow*, and only the mindful consider how much of our history was made by people with at most two outfits, Sunday best and workaday garb. Even wealthy Bingley had but two new coats a year.

(I read somewhere that one of the reasons that the National Socialists did so well in Germany is that they gave people a chance to join organizations with uniforms, which is to say, provided them with clothing during the Depression.)

I often wonder what things we carry now the way that medieval women carried their distaffs: continuously, unconsciously, and (in the sweep of history) temporarily. What will our descendants look back on and say, “they spent so much time doing that. Thank goodness we don’t have to”?

† eg Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park: “That is a very foolish trick, Fanny, to be idling away all the evening upon a sofa. Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as we do? If you have no work of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket. There is all the new calico, that was bought last week, not touched yet. I am sure I almost broke my back by cutting it out.”
* with clothing that lasts less and less well, because cheaper fabrics keep the price down

Continued from Open thread 198

July 28, 2014
Making Light at Loncon 3
Posted by Patrick at 02:25 PM * 71 comments

Both Nielsen Haydens and Abi Sutherland! Opinions! Moderation! Speech acts!

All of our events will be in the ExCel Centre. I have taken the liberty of condensing the official panel descriptions. The full program guide is here.

Thursday, 14 August

1:30 - 3:00 PM, London Suite 2
Diggy Diggy Hole!: Minecraft and Gaming Communities
(What it says on the tin. The game is one thing, but the intense communities it’s spawned are another.)
Esther MacCallum-Stewart [m], Abi Sutherland, Mark Slater, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 9
Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction
(And how most SF hasn’t got a clue how either of them work.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden [m], Martin McGrath, Laurie Penny, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Courtenay Greenwood

Friday, 15 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 1
Don’t Tell Me What To Think: Ambiguity in SF and Fantasy
(Ambiguity: it’s a thing.)
David Hebblethwaite [m], Nina Allan, Scott Edelman, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Ellen Klages

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 9
The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree
(Pre-genre authors whose work featured little or no fantastic content, but who SF&F people read and obsess about anyway. Dumas, Doyle, Austen, etc.)
Abi Sutherland [m], Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Keri Sperring, Delia Sherman

12:00 - 1:30 PM, Capital Suite S
Settling the Alien World
(Worldbuilding in real time.)
Marek Kukala [m], Robert Reed, Tobias Buckell, Amy Thompson, Abi Sutherland, Laurence Suhner

3:00 - 4:00 PM, Art Show
Art show docent tour
(May require advance signup.)
Led by Teresa Nielsen Hayden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 3
The Role of Fandom in Contemporary Culture
(Or, how the entire world turned into fandom while you were distracted.)
Chris Gerwel [m], Jean Lorrah, Emily January, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Laurie Penny

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 2
Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Next Generation
(You may have heard that there’s a lot of good stuff happening here lately. You heard right.)
Amal El-Mohtar [m], Abigail Nussbaum, Abi Sutherland, Andrew Ferguson

Saturday, 16 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, London Suite 4
Kaffeeklatsch
(Will definitely require advance signup.)
Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Haytden

4:30 - 6:00 PM, Capital Suite 14
What Is I?
(Consciousness: it’s a thing.)
Ken MacLeod [m], Russell Blackford, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martin Poulter, Ashley Pollard

Monday, 18 August

10:00 - 11:00 AM, Capital Suite 8
All the Traps of Earth
(Culture, the “natural” world, and how their relationship’s been handled in SF&F.)
Sam Scheiner [m], Glenda Larke, Amy Thomson, Anne Charnock, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

1:30 - 3:00 PM, Capital Suite 16
Codes of Conduct
(At science fiction conventions. Sure to be a dull panel, because nobody has any opinions about the subject.)
Crystal Huff [m], Michael Lee, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, B. Diane Martin, Patrick McMurray

July 22, 2014
A fund for Velma and Soren
Posted by Patrick at 07:30 AM * 33 comments

A guest post by Debbie Notkin:

Many Making Light readers know Velma and Soren (Scraps) deSelby-Bowen. Those who read the open threads here may also know that Velma has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She hasn’t been very specific on the site, but I have her permission to tell you (to tell anyone, in fact) that the cancer is “smooth muscle cell neoplasm.” Velma was scheduled for surgery tomorrow (7/23), but they have just discovered at least one infection, and surgery may be postponed. Velma’s doctors tell her that surgery will likely be followed by chemotherapy. I will do my best to keep Making Light readers informed as I learn more.

Velma has been out of work for some time, and will not be able to work for some unpredictable amount of time going forward. Soren’s stroke of several years ago (followed closely on this site) makes it very difficult for him to earn any income, though he does have some disability income.

Their need is great, and is not likely to get any less great for many months. I’m asking this community for donations to help them survive this period. I have set up a unique gmail address (velmascraps@gmail.com) for nothing other than taking Paypal donations and communicating with me and a team of supporters about this issue.

If you can’t/don’t use Paypal, you can email me at the velmascraps address and we can discuss other means of getting money to them. Since we’re hoping to cover their needs for several months, some people may want to donate a lump sum to spread out over that time, and other people may want to send monthly small amounts. PLEASE, no one give anything that will affect your own ability to get along.

I have been unable to identify any online services that will track monthly donations and reminders (if anyone knows of one, please tell me!). If you would like to make a monthly donation, someone will send you an email reminder around the 25th of each month. If you need to halt your donations, just let me know.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think knows them or might otherwise help, but who doesn’t read Making Light.

And thank you in advance for your generosity, whether in the form of money or good wishes and good thoughts. They need those too.

July 21, 2014
I dreamed a Wikipedia entry
Posted by Patrick at 11:42 PM * 85 comments

I dreamed a Wikipedia entry. It was about William Rowse Sitcup, a deservedly obscure figure in the history of colonial Virginia. Born to a family long established in James County, young William grew up living a life of the mind. For reasons imperfectly understood, by adolescence he became obsessed with the geographical details of Virginia itself—its tidewater region, its Piedmont, its rugged western mountains, its long Shenandoah valley, and all the individual counties. He became convinced that the Dominion had been, in its physical shape and political subdivisions, ordained by God as a perfect miniature of the greater world outside. (The fact that Virginia contains no deserts, no year-round snowcaps, no rainforest, and no permafrost seems never to have impinged on young Rowse’s—he went by his middle name—frenzy of hermetic insight.) On reaching his majority, he came into an inheritance that gave him a modest level of financial independence, and allowed him to pursue his dream of visiting all of Virginia’s counties—this is when “Virginia” included what are now the states of West Virginia and Kentucky—in order to deliver a series of lectures to be offered to the public in each of them, elucidating to no-doubt-thunderstruck audiences his vision of the Dominion as a divinely-wrought miniature of the great world, hammered out on God’s anvil as a benign but distinctly pedagogical message to erring humanity. It goes without saying that, in Rowse’s worldview, the institution of slavery was assumed to be part of the divine plan. It is peculiar, then, that on his visit to Ohio County, in that portion of then-Virginia which stuck like a northern-pointing spear between Pennsylvania and Ohio, Rowse was on several occasions heard to express sympathy and support for slaves who had managed to cross the Ohio and light out for freedom. Whether he actually met any is lost to history. Little is known of him following this sojourn beyond the mountains; he died under mysterious circumstances in Palmyra on his way back to his familiar Tidewater home. After much pressure from his family’s solicitor, the inkeeper returned Rowse’s portfolio of manuscripts, but when it was opened in the parlor of the family’s old manor, all that remained was a fall of ash and the smell of rosemary. Citation needed.

July 18, 2014
Penny Dreadful: The Mysterious Affair of the SPOILERS
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:26 AM * 15 comments

Once again, I am writing a spoiler thread for a show I haven’t watched. It does protect me from inadvertently spoiling it in the OP, at least.

Reading up on it on the internet, it sounds like a good argument for public domain: the opportunity to recast and reconsider classic figures from literature and popular culture. In a funny kind of way, I’m grateful that Sherlock Holmes’ status is still up in the air in some jurisdictions, since otherwise, I’d worry that his all but inevitable presence would distort the show.

But I digress. Here’s a chance to discuss the show, the characters, the plots, and the possibilities without needing to ROT-13 anything.

July 10, 2014
Singularities in the rearview mirror
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:58 AM * 108 comments

Writing at io9 recently, Charlie Jane Anders mentioned Jo Walton’s 2009 essay on tor.com, which discussed George Eliot as a pre-SF writer who dealt with SF themes and topics. From the tor.com essay:

She saw how technology changes society—she understood that thoroughly. In a way, she was someone who had lived through a singularity—she had seen the railroad coming and had seen how it had entirely transformed the world she grew up in, with second order effects nobody could have predicted. Her books constantly come back to technology and the changes it brings.

I was emailing back and forth with Serge, and he mentioned a series he’s been enjoying lately: Halt and Catch Fire. It’s not SF, in the sense that it’s not postulating an unknown technology. Rather, like Middlemarch, it’s an examination of the impact of a real technological change on a pre-existing society. It is, if you will, looking at that particular view out the side-windows or the rearview mirror rather than the windscreen.

I think this particular sub-category of liminal, not-quite-SF storytelling is interesting, for the same reasons that I’m interested in the SFnal flavor of the real-world terraforming efforts that I see around me in the Netherlands. I think they can inform our thinking, both about change and about the ways our genre deals with change. Also, it’s neat.

What other stories are there in this area? And where else, on the borderlands of our genre, are there similar caches?

(Thanks, Serge, for suggesting that this would make a good blog post.)

June 26, 2014
Open thread 198
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:29 PM * 948 comments

There are many ways that the Dutch are unusual about bicyles. The one that struck me most recently, though, is nomenclature.

Most terms that I know of for this device fall into four rough categories:

  1. Borrowings and derivatives of the French vélocipede, or “fast foot thingie”
  2. Borrowings and derivatives of the German Fahrrad, or “travel wheel” (including the less-common Dutch term, rijwiel)
  3. Borrowings and derivatives of the English bicycle*
  4. Terms that belong to the Emperor Comprehensible exceptions, such as the Polish Rower, which comes from the proper name of a bicycle manufacturer

The Dutch term, fiets (pronounced as an English speaker would say “feats”), doesn’t appear to fit into any of those categories. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest etymological mysteries of the language, which results in an Etymologie section of the Dutch Wikipedia page stretching over nearly 600 words. The seven paragraphs lovingly detail the dialect terms in various regions of the Netherlands, several French words that could have been corrupted into the word, and the identities of manufacturers whose names sound similar, before giving up and admitting that nobody knows†.

The only analagous etymological mystery of national importance I can think of is America.


* Of course it’s made up of Latin and Greek terms. What could be more English than a bastard assembly of morphemes from several foreign languages whose original speakers would never have considered using them in conjunction with one another?
† It does not, alas, include the theory that Martin advanced, which is that it’s onomatopoeic, possibly from the sound of trouser legs brusing against one another. My response was that an onomatopoeic term for a bicycle in Amsterdam would be thunkRATTLEscrapeSQUEAK.

Continued from Open thread 197. Continued in Open thread 199. Unsurprisingly. One day we’re gonna do something weird and you all will be totally flummoxed.

June 14, 2014
My Real Children Spoiler and Speculation Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 09:31 AM * 107 comments

By popular request, a thread where you do not have to ROT-13 your speculations about why the book ended the way it did…and what happened next.

I will copy and rotate the thread of the discussion as best I can into comments here. Don’t be too surprised to see comments added to your (view all by) as part of the process; they’ll be linked, labeled, and backed up, but since they’re you’re words, you get to own ‘em.

Needless to say, this thread is full of spoilers.

June 10, 2014
Published today: California Bones, Greg Van Eekhout’s wild heist caper set in a literally eat-or-be-eaten LA
Posted by Patrick at 05:58 PM * 36 comments

CaliforniaBones.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Opening three chapters here! Special dedicated website here! Tour schedule here! “Big Idea” post on John Scalzi’s Whatever here!

My flap copy:

“Our bodies are cauldrons,” he said, “and we become the magic we consume.”

When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian.

When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.

Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.

For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There’s Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.



Extravagant and yet moving, California Bones is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality—different from the world we know, yet familiar and true.

Some advance reviews and quotes:

“Great story, great characters, and a truly cool/creepy alternate Los Angeles built on magic, blood, and bone. This took me to places I didn’t expect. I like books that do that. You’ll like this, too.”
—Steven Brust

“I both love and am terrified by Greg Van Eekhout’s vision of Los Angeles. I already want to go back.”
—John Scalzi

“L.A. noir as dark as La Brea tar meets magic drawn from ancient bones.”
—Steven Gould

“It’s got subterranean halls with pillars of bones, a magic sword, magical duels and some of the coolest bone magic ever, but that’s all interwoven with the taste of an LA burrito, the concrete waterways of Los Angeles, and the neon glow of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. Van Eekhout has written a 21st century alchemy.”
—Maureen F. McHugh

“Wonderfully imaginative…The story is structured like a caper novel, and fans of stories about heists will enjoy it, but its fantastical elements make it an absolute must for urban fantasy readers, too.”
Booklist (starred review)

“In Van Eekhout’s first hardcover for adult readers, a combination of caper novel and urban fantasy packs a wallop. Daniel and his team banter even while up to their necks in danger, and the magic system in which eating the bones and flesh of creatures can grant you their power is unique and fascinating (if a little icky). Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Set in an alternate Los Angeles ruled by authoritarian sorcerers and corporate moguls, California Bones is an engrossing story about political malevolence. But it’s also a caper about the ultimate magical heist. You won’t be able to put it down….This is a book about what happens when magic is just another weapon in the arsenal of a dictator—and in the pockets of his rivals. It’s action-packed and intense to the last, bringing in weird twists that add psychological complexity to the fireballs and earthquake fights. California Bones reaches a satisfying conclusion, though you can tell there’s more to come—and indeed, Tor will soon be releasing the sequel, Pacific Fire.”
—Annalee Newitz, io9.com

(PNH: I said that I was going to more regularly post about my and Teresa’s editorial projects on their dates of publication. But I want to add that I really love this one, for its crazily reimagined Los Angeles and for its lovably snarky ensemble cast. And honest to God, having also read books two and three, I can honestly say they get even better and even better. Greg is great.)