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A Heartfelt Plea

I generally don’t get political here.  I talk about movies and games and books, writing, riding, etc.  But as this long (too long) campaign season winds toward its conclusion I have to speak up, and plead with Democrats and Independents and progressives to think very hard about wounded feelings.

I have repeated stated that I am team blue.  I will vote for which ever candidate wins the nomination.  For the record I will vote for Secretary Clinton in the New Mexico primary, but if Senator Sanders takes the nomination I will happily vote for him for president.

There have, however, been many calls — from both sides, though my personal experience has been more calls from Senator Sander’s side — that if their preferred candidate doesn’t take the nomination they are going to take their marbles and go home ie not vote, or vote third party, or vote for Trump or Senator Cruz because that will show them!

First, it’s a great tragedy to not exercise that right.  Countless numbers of Americans fought and died so we would have that right and even now we are seeing that precious right being rolled back by Republican state legislatures and we have a Congress that won’t re-authorize the voting rights act.  So please vote, but think about the power of that vote and use it wisely.

Which brings me to the plea.  Please, please do not allow your personal feelings to have potentially dire consequences for real living, breathing Americans.  If we don’t unify and come out in strong numbers to vote in November we make it far more likely that a conservative will win the White House, and in the worst case scenario have control of both the House and the Senate.  Please consider what that would mean for —

The poor woman in south Texas who can not afford to make the drive to San Antonio and wait days to have an abortion.  There are already woman who have endangered their health by trying to self abort.  Consider this exchange —

Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health… tells the story of a woman who called her clinic in McAllen to schedule an abortion. It was the day after HB2 had taken effect, and the clinic was unable to provide abortions under the new law.

A clinic worker told the woman that she would need to travel 250 miles to a clinic in San Antonio, get initial counseling, and wait 24 hours for the procedure.

Ms. Miller said the woman responded: “I’m a working mother, I have a job, I have two children at home, and I absolutely can’t travel to San Antonio.” The woman added, “But I need this abortion, I can’t afford to have another child.”

Miller recalled the woman’s next words. “She said, ‘If I tell you what is in my medicine cabinet and what is under my sink, can you tell me how to do my own abortion?’ ”  Effect of Texas Abortion Rules

Think about that for a minute.  This is a real person.  Maybe a neighbor who is willing to risk her health and possibly her life.  How much worse will it get if a Republican fills that vacant seat on the Supreme Court?  I’m old enough to remember when women went into back alleys for illegal abortions and they died.

Or the minimum wage.  There are millions of Americans working two and three jobs to try and support their families and keep a roof over their heads.  Do you think they’re going to get that minimum wage increase if we stay home and don’t vote?

There are children whose only meal is the lunch the receive at school.  The Congress would like to cut funding for those programs.

There are elderly people who are no longer allowed to vote because they can’t gather the proper documents or can’t afford them even if they can locate them.  Students whose college Id’s aren’t considered valid identification, but by god you can vote if you have a concealed carry gun permit.  (Perhaps we ought to start a fund so every minority voter, elderly voter, or college kid can apply for the concealed carry.)  Consider this situation in North Carolina — North Carolina’s Voter ID Law.

And how about health care?  The Republicans have sworn to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  If they do that and roll back the medicaid expansions millions of people are going to lose access to doctors and hospitals and many of them will die.

Immigrant families that are going to be torn apart, separated by borders, and if Trump has his way, walls.  Or our Muslim citizens who are going to becomes The Other in their own country and subjected to more and more suspicion and harassment.

The LGBT community that will find their right to marry rolled back and disallowed.  Or find themselves unable to adopt.  I can’t imagine how that must feel for a family.  And then there are the so called religious liberty laws that are merely an excuse to discriminate.

What I’m saying is taking a “principled” stand and staying home because your guy or gal didn’t get the nod from the voters and the delegates might make us feel good or happily bitter (I’ll show them), or noble, but it might very well have dire consequences for our fellow citizens.  Real world consequence as in hunger or death.

I also don’t buy the argument that by allowing a man like Donald Trump into the White House will “bring the revolution sooner.”  First it’s not going to happen and second revolutions usually don’t turn out well.  We have a constitutional system in place that has allowed us to work toward a more perfect union.  Do we wish certain things could have happened more quickly?  Of course.  Were there missteps?  Naturally.  But overall it’s a system that has allowed for progressive change without violent upheaval.

So please, let’s all of us swallow our resentments and set aside our personal feelings and think about people outside our own circles who are hoping we’ll all remember them and their needs.   I think the motto of our nation sums it up pretty well.

E pluribus unum — Out of many, one.

Adaptations — The Magicians

I’ve done a lot of adaptations.  It’s a tricky skill, but fun.  You have to take from the underlying material the essential themes, the emotional sense of the work, keep the characters relatively intact, but be willing to make changes because film and print are two different mediums and they tell stories in different ways.  The emotional impact is ultimately the same, but how you get there is different.  You have to know what to cut and what to expand.

Right now I’m watching a master class in adaptation.  It’s a show called The Magicians, and it’s on SyFy.  Yeah, I know, crazy, right?  I started watching the show which has great production values, excellent writing and overall a very fine cast.  I was so impressed that I bought the first book and started reading.

This is a case where the filmed version is better than the book.

Okay, I’m going to talk specifics from the book and the show which means there are going to be SPOILERS!!!!!!! so stop reading now if you hate SPOILERS!!!!!!

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I’ve only read the first book and I have to be honest.  While I found the world and the characters interesting the book read more like an outline then a well plotted narrative.  It felt like the author was exploring his world, but didn’t totally have a handle on the story he wanted to tell.

Enter the writing team who adapted the book series for television.  Right away they made a number of changes.  The characters are all older — heading to graduate school rather then high school kids heading to college.  That has worked well.  They have also slowed down the action.  In the book Quentin rushes through Brakebills.  In the show he’s still in his first year.  It’s working far better.

Apparently the entire story line about Julia, the girl who didn’t get into Hogwarts… er Brakebills, and so becomes a hedge witch begins in book two, but the screenwriters rightly decided to weave her story in with Quentin’s adventures at the school.  They find ways to have the two former friends cross paths, and there is an interesting echo in that both of them take casual actions that start to have dreadful consequences.

The show is much darker in tone then the book and the villain far more horrifying.  In the book his face is obscured by a tree branch.  In the show they use a cloud of moths.  Now whenever I see a moth I find myself shuddering.  Again as a visual cue it’s brilliant.

A recent episode of the show is the one that really made me hope I have the opportunity to meet with the creative team behind The Magicians and shake their hand.  First a bit of context.  In The Magicians there is a beloved fantasy book series about a magical place called Fillory and the three children who got to travel there.  Yes, very much a call back to C.S. Lewis, but that’s the set up.  At the end of book one our heroes defeat The Beast, and have a conversation with the sister who tells why her brother turned into this monstrous figure.  In the book she casually tosses out the information that the author of the Fillory books molested her brother when he was a boy.  It is literally almost a throw away line.

The show found a far more powerful and interesting way to give us this information.  Out of a sentence or two in the book the television writers crafted an entire episode and it was a damn good one.  Our heroes have gone to tour the author’s home in search of a magical object.  They break in after-hours, and since they are all magicians they begin to see ghostly scenes from the past.  They see the author coercing the brother into undressing while the older man takes photos, and then it’s very clear they go off to have sex.  Quentin who has adored and revered this writer is sickened, horrified and we see him start to lose some of his geeky innocence and self-doubt and become a man.

As for this magical object.  In the book one of the characters just buys it from a magical junk salesman and it happens off stage.  He then just turns up and says, “Hey, I have this magic thingee and it takes you to a different world.”  Again the adaptors allowed the protagonists to “protag”.  They go in search of this object after they’ve discovered that it exists instead of it all being by happenstance.

Bottom line if you’ve toyed with adapting take a look at this show.  In its own right it’s a terrific hour of television, and for writers it’s an inspiration and, like I said, a master class in adaptation.

Into The Dark Places

There are going to be spoilers in this post so if you haven’t watched the winter finales of either Gotham or Agents of SHIELD stop reading.

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There has been a lot of good boys going bad on television during these winter finales.  I had pretty much given up on GOTHAM after the bone stupid legal errors that were being made — “No Bruce, you whiny little shit, you can’t fire me.  I’m your guardian.  And “No Bruce, you can’t sell the company because you’re like 14 years old and I’m your guardian!”  Grrrrr.  Anyway, George R.R. convinced me to give it another try and I do love Ben McKenzie who plays Gordon so I started watching again.  Only to watch Gordon throw away his faith in our justice system, his belief in the rule of law and gun down a man begging for mercy.  Made me a little queasy. Especially since I have just come off watching two films that point out the dangers when we lose faith in our institutions.  Both Bridge of Spies and Trumbo explore the carnage that results when we ignore the law.  They are both a testament to the rule of law.  I’ll write more about them later.  

Now we come to SHIELD.  I have loved Coulson from the first moment he walked on stage in Thor.  He was the human heart of the first Avengers movie.  I like the character and the actor.  But I was fascinated by Grant Ward.  Brett Dalton’s performance as the chameleon-like killer was masterful.  He could be charming, dangerous and brooding, or give you the look of a heartbroken eight year old that makes you want to give him a cookie and a hug.  There has been a concerted effort by the entire SHIELD team to take down — with prejudice — Ward.  Hunter was going to kill him until Bobbi pulled him back from that dark precipice.  Jenna tried and failed.  Fitz hated the man who had seemed like a such a friend but never resorted to murder.  May would have killed Ward the way you put down a rabid animal, but instead the kill went to Coulson.

And I felt like it completely undercut the basic decency of the man.  I don’t mind that, but they better deal with the fallout from a good man basically losing his moral compass.  Yes, Coulson has killed people before, but they were agents trying to kill him, or an Asgardian god who was about to escape and rain down terror on the Earth.  The killing of Ward was particularly brutal and personal and literally hands on.  It was an act of vengeance which made Coulson no better then Ward.  Ward had killed Coulson’s lady, Roslyn, as payback for the death of Ward’s “love”.  I put that in quotes because the relationship between Ward and Agent 33 was a sick folie à deux and of course it was Ward himself who killed his reputed love.

I worked on a serial killer show called Profiler and I know a lot about murderers the methods they employ.  The use of your hands to kill someone says a lot psychologically about a person.  The way Coulson killed Ward was particularly horrific — using his artificial hand to crush Ward’s ribcage and heart.  It was an incredibly powerful moment, a fascinating choice and they better pay it off.  Fitz who has now become the “decent man” seemed horrified at Coulson’s actions which is as it should be.

With Gordon we have him using a gun.  I again worry that the writers/creators of Gotham are losing sight of what made us care about the man who will become Commissioner Gordon.  I don’t have confidence that they know that they’re playing with the heart of darkness and how to deal with that.

With the team on AoS I have confidence that they will explore the darkness that Phil Coulson has entered.

Collecting

Tuesday night I was at dinner with Connie Willis, Daniel Abraham and a number of folks from the science fiction community in New Mexico.  Connie had been given a sack of wrapping paper because she collects wrapping paper.  She gave us the fascinating background on why it existed.  Prior to 1920 packages were just wrapped in brown paper or tissue with a ribbon.  It was the crash and resultant depression that led to the creation of wrapping paper.  People didn’t have money for expensive gifts so they wrapped the inexpensive gift in pretty paper to make up for it.  Connie said she could identify the decade by just glancing at the paper.  During the 1960’s it was all psychedelics, then mylar came in and foil, etc. etc.

I collect antique sterling silver flatware.  My pattern is Violet by Wallace.  It’s a lovely art Nouveau pattern, and while I collect because it’s beautiful I collect it because of what it says about the era in which it was made — roughly 1880 to 1910.  It was a culture where you had “staff” to keep it all polished.  Where you had a luncheon place setting and a dinner setting.  Serving pieces for every conceivable kind of food.  I have a lettuce fork, a pickle fork, chocolate spoon, strawberry fork, fish fork, jelly spoon, baked potato server, fish server, etc. etc.  I also have this lovely filagreed piece which was a bonbon server.  It is meant to keep the powdered sugar off your fingers or clothing.

I decided I wanted to use it for Thanksgiving so I made dates stuffed with cream cheese and pecans and dusted with powdered sugar and I will serve them with the bonbon server.

 

If the Shoe Fits…..

I try very hard to obey the Godwin rule.  You don’t bring up Nazis unless you are talking about actual Nazis, but the current Republican field and in particular Donald Trump is making that incredibly difficult.

His race baiting has been with us from the beginning, but when he remained silent in the face of suggestions that all Muslims in the United State should register and carry ID identifying them as Muslim, and continued to stay silent when it was pointed out that this was perilously close to what was done in Germany in the 1930’s.  Then he said in Alabama “I want surveillance on these people.”  Threatening and imprecise.  Does he mean all Muslim Americans are going to be surveilled?

At this same event in Alabama a Black Lives Matter activist was attacked, kicked, choked, called the N word and thrown out.  I understand that protestors are going to be escorted out of events, but demonstrating and protesting is a fine old American tradition.  This kind of thugish behavior was chillingly reminiscent of the gangs who supported Adolf Hitler and roamed the streets of Germany while dressed in brown shirts.

So Trump is making it very hard to avoid stumbling into Godwin territory.

Then last night Trump put up a Tweet with completely bogus crime statistics that is racist in the extreme.  Charles Johnson, a recovering conservative who pens the Little Green Footballs blog did some sleuthing and found the source of the erroneous statistics.  It’s a Neo-Nazi site.  You can read about it here.  Tweet Source.

To date Mr. Trump has not yet removed this Tweet straight from the swamp and bile of white supremacy.  Will he?  Probably not.  The man seems incapable of admitting to any mistake or error.

Supergirl

I had recorded the premier episode of this show and I had high hopes.  It’s produced by Berlanti who is doing ARROW and THE FLASH, but this one didn’t work so well for me.  The young actress playing Kara is appealing though for those of us devoted Arrow watchers she seemed like a version of Felicity.  Perky, talkative, a bit insecure. I liked the changes to Jimmy… James Olsen.  I was glad they’re not spending a lot of energy on trying to keep her identity secret.  There’s a real Devil Wear’s Prada feel to Kara’s relationship with her boss played by Calista Flockhart, but in someways that nod to an existing movie summed up my overall problems with the show.  It felt like they were grabbing for familiar tropes like they were life vests.

I could see all the seams, all the tricks and tools of the writing game in the script, and they were all telegraphed.  Here is the foster sister with whom Kara was raised when she arrived on Earth.  Of course she’s jealous and we have to have that scene.  Here’s the scene of Kara’s self-doubt about her ability to be a hero even though she knows she was groomed to be a hero.  Here’s the crabby government agency dude who “doesn’t trust aliens”.  Here’s the scene where Kara and her sister have to work together to defeat the bad guy.

Bottom line this script felt like it had been written with a copies of Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting and Save the Cat at their elbow.

I’m going to give it a few more episodes to find its footing.  The other two shows are so good that I can’t believe this one will continue to fall short.

I Wish I Could be Catholic Again — And Why I Can’t

The Pope’s visit has raised a lot of long buried ghosts.  Memories of attending mass with my father.  Kneeling with my shoulder pressed against him, the hardness of the wood of the kneelers barely disguised beneath the velvet, the smell of incense and dad’s aftershave, prismatic light pouring through the stained glass window, the music of the latin, and the music.  When I was a child the congregation didn’t sing.  Just the choir and what music they performed — Mozart and Bach, Pergolasi and Handel.  When hymns sung by the congregation were added after Vatican 2 my dad always laughed and said Catholics weren’t good at singing.  He was right and apparently it’s still the same.  Bottom line — nobody does pageantry and ritual as well as the Catholics.

I never did go through the full confirmation.  My mother had been raised in a fundamentalist church, The Church of Christ, and dragged me back there to try and offset the “Popery”.  It was an “every word in the bible is literal truth”, full emersion baptism, kind of place, segregated Sunday school classes where the girls were told to be silent, get married and have babies.  I kept bringing up idiocies in the bible and getting banished into the hall.  The fundie church would send home pamphlets with my mom about the evil of Catholics how the host was made out of dead babies and other crazy stuff.  All of which hurt my father a great deal.  Not that there wasn’t idiocy on the Catholic side too.  I never did get limbo and my dad who had been educated by Jesuits told me to just ignore it.  And the whole transubstantiation thing baffled me too.

Upshot was that my parents basically fought the 30 years war over my small person.  When I started college I drifted to the Anglican/Episcopalian church.  It had the beauty, ritual and music of the Catholics without the guilt or at least not as much.  From there I went to Eastern traditions and finally I woke up one day and realized that none of it made any sense to me, anymore then Zeus or Zoroaster or the Egyptian gods made any sense.  For me religion had become quaint myths and fairy tales.

But now I’m watching the Pope officiate at mass and the memories come flooding back.  I remember being an altar girl at Saint Marks on the Mesa at the early communion service, and missing that sense of wonder.  Is it endorphins released by prayer that give people that ecstatic feeling?

I was discussing this with friends who are semi-lapsed Catholics and Mike made a good point.  We’re Catholics by culture and tradition not by belief any longer.  For although I found myself fascinated by the Pope’s visit, moved by the memories, and this man’s evident kindness and humbleness I can’t forget that the teachings of the church are anathema particularly for a woman.  I can’t be equal if I can’t control my reproduction.  No woman should have to risk death from a pregnancy.  The decision not to have children should not be something worthy of castigation.  Gay people should be entitled to equal rights and equal protection.  Condoms can save lives in countries ravaged by HIV.  This particular messenger is kinder and more appealing, but he’s still singing the same old song with only the addition of issues of climate change which makes him seem far more liberal then he actually is.

So I’ll remember my father, and be glad that Bach and Mozart wrote music for church services and that cathedrals rose to the skies — monuments of beauty, and the Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel but I won’t go back.  I can’t.

 

There Is and Was No Conspiracy

I wasn’t going to go to Spokane for the World Science Fiction Convention.  I have a lot of work on my plate, a number of other trips so adding in Sasquan seemed like just too much.  Then Puppies happened and I knew I had to go.  My friend David Gerrold (the man responsible for Tribbles and defeating the Klingons with said aforementioned tribbles) was the guest of honor, and it seemed like there was a very good chance his moment in the sun was going to be spoiled by a food fight in fandom. 

For those of you not be seeped in the lore of fandom — it’s a great honor to be selected as a worldcon GoH.  And the modern practice is that you only get one.  In the old days Robert Heinlein was GoH four times, but that’s not how it’s done today.  You have one bite at this apple.  The unpleasantness that exploded when the slate of nominees was revealed meant that there was a good chance David’s moment was going to be scarred by “tension, apprehension and dissension” to quote Robert Silverberg quoting remarks from the 1968 Worldcon.  That meant I was going to go attend Worldcon come hell or high water and try to be there for my friend.

I also have a number of friends among the hard working fans who put on Worldcons (no easy task).  These are people who love our field and donate their time and energy to throw a party every year for all of us (normally) joyful nerds who love rocket ships and unicorns, fighting robots and spell flinging mages, dystopias and utopias.  They also didn’t deserve to cope with all this tribulation without folks showing up who wanted to celebrate the field.

I was also privy to George’s plan to present Alfie’s to those folks who had been pushed off the ballot by the slate.  You can find George’s remarks on how he did it and why he did it here — What’s It All About, Alfie?   I wanted to show support for his laudable effort to honor folks who had been damaged by the “tension, apprehension and dissension”  And it wasn’t all about the Hugos, it was also George reclaiming the Hugo Losers Party which has become a rather stuffy affair.  Years ago I got to be a co-conspirator with George at one Losers party where I let George in an adjoining door so he could cover Gardner Dozois with silly string as he reclined on the bed in a hotel room.  Gardner then rampaged through the party like the Creature of the Black Lagoon.  Ah memories.

Anyway, I went to the Worldcon, and I had a great time.  I got to meet Jim Wright who writes the amazing  Stonekettle Station Blog.  I got to interact with a lot of great people at my Kaffee Klatch and my reading.  I hung out with the amazing Willis clan — Connie, Courtney and Cordelia.  Michael Cassutt kept me laughing at his wit and cynicism.  I had breakfast with the elegant and brilliant Kate Elliot.  I was also there because my friends Emma and Peter Newman were up for a Hugo for best fancast with their charming, witty, interesting and all around delightful Tea & Jeopardy.  Since they sadly couldn’t attend worldcon I had been tasked to accept the Hugo should they win and read the moving speech they had prepared.

So now it was Saturday night.  Hundreds of thousands of words had been written and a thousand insults exchanged about the controversy of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the battle they imagined they were having with the SJW (Social Justice Warriors).  The moment of truth was at hand.  Thousands of supporting memberships that had been purchased.  By whom?  Puppies?  Gamergate fellows?  Old line fans?  New Fen?  None of us knew and some of us were pessimistic.  Me among them.  But not David.  He sensed that fandom would come galloping to the defense of the community and the award to say — “Look, we don’t object to you, your religious beliefs, your political philosophies, your love of military S.F. or Sword Swinging Barbarians, Mighty Thewed Heroes and Women in Chain Mail Bikinis Clinging to Said Heroes, in short Big Dumb Fun but we want you to not game the system.  Nominate what you love like we’ve all done for decades, but don’t create a slate.

I slipped into my slinky blue cocktail dress complete with a rhinestone shoulder strap and went off to sit in the very front row and watch the Hugos.  David Gerrold and his co-host Tananarive Due were brilliant.  Tananarive was dressed in a red Star Trek uniform and channeled the the spirit, beauty and courage of Uhura.  David was dressed as an homage to Dr. Who, but with the addition of a rainbow bow tie and rainbow suspenders to honor the historic extension of civil rights that had happened this summer.  There were Daleks and Grim Reapers, Jim Wright, Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis.  There were winners and there were No Awards.  There were cheers for No Award which I regretted though from my vantage point it seemed more like the cheer was for rejecting the tactics of the slate rather than the nominees.  It was probably not in the best of manners, but truthfully our tribe is a bit socially dyslexic.  The one time people started to boo David immediately went off script and said that kind of behavior was out of bounds.  It didn’t happen again.  I was sorry that No Award took both editor categories.  I had ranked the editors, and placed a certain Rabid Puppy below No Award, but that wasn’t how the majority voted.  Hopefully this slate nonsense will stop and these talented editors will once again be on the ballot.

After the ceremony I stopped briefly by the Hugo Nominee Post Reception and then it was off to the Fun Party.  George’s Hugo Losers Party at the Glover Mansion.  There was a terrific band playing great music, and I danced until my legs were shaking.  (David Hartwell can really cut a rug).  There were delicious hors d’oeuvres, champagne and an amazing cake.  The highlight of the evening was George and others presenting the Alfie’s named in honor of Alfred Bester winner of the first Hugo for novel.  Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos were given Alfies for making the very hard choice to take themselves off the Hugo ballot because they had been placed there by the slate.  When Kloos withdrew it allowed the Three Body Problem to be placed on the ballot and it eventually win “The Big One” as George would say.  George also gave awards to Eric Flint who’s calm and rational writings on the controversy had been an oasis of civility in a sea of vitriol.  The entire event was  very moving, but I share George’s hope that he never has to do it again.

So now I have to address the boatload of idiotic conspiracy theories that have sprung up from the fervid brains of the Puppies both Sad and Rabid.

No, George did not know in advance who had won and who had lost.  He had to wait for the pink sheet that detailed the Hugo nominations before he could figure out who was going to receive an Alfie.  I know because I had to check in with him when thing were running late for presenting the awards, and he told me in harried tones that he had had to wait for the breakdown to come out and everything was running late.

No, George did not buy 3000 memberships and tell them how to vote.  Has anyone looked at fandom?  Herding cats wold be easier.  And seriously — George is the guy who loves this award.  He would never, ever game his beloved Hugos.

No, the Puppy votes were not “discounted”.  It’s the Australian ballot.  It’s confusing.  Here’s a link where Ranked Voting is explained.  Try to understand.  So you don’t get your money back.

No, you can’t sue.  You have to show harm before you can get into court, and you have to have standing to bring a lawsuit. If someone calls you a banana that might hurt you deeply, but the court will not provide a remedy for your pain.   You voted/you lost.  If your argument had merit I’d be suing over the 2000 election.  Let it be noted that I didn’t.

Here is my final plea to the readers who might stop by.  Please read and enjoy our genre.  Buy a supporting membership to MidAmericon2 2016, nominate the books and stories and movies you love.  Or buy an attending membership and I’ll see you all in Kansas City next August.

The Wonder (Irony) that is Century Link

So here is my saga.

On Monday morning the bank that issued my credit card realizes I have been hacked and they contact me.  They cancel the card for my business and send me a new card Federal Express.  Once I have the new card I call Direct TV and AT&T where I have auto pay because of my travel schedule.  They put in the new card number.  Done. I go on XBox Live and Amazon and the app store and do the same.

This morning I call Century Link. I sit on hold for ten or fifteen minutes.  A person finally picks up.  I explain the situation, give them the new number. The girl informs me it will take 2 billing cycles for that change to be effective. That’s 60 days. My response is “You’re kidding, right?” Nope. So I say, “I guess you won’t be getting paid then.” She gets huffy and tells me I should pay in advance. I ask how their incompetence is my problem? I finally agree to pay in advance so they don’t stop my internet of phone. She says she is transferring me to the auto pay department so I can do this, and while I wait she’d like to talk to me about their other services, wireless, bundling my Direct TV _and_ their virus protection for my PC for which I would pay for monthly and they will send a technician to clean my computer, etc. I say I have a Mac. She says, “Oh it’s all in one.” I respond. “Given the competence of Century Link I wouldn’t let you within 10 feet of my computer.” She is huffy again, and stops trying to sell me stuff.

I am on hold for about 15 minutes. Eventually a young man comes on the line and gives me a barrage of Spanish. I politely tell him that I don’t speak Spanish. He says this is where they handle Spanish speakers, but he can help me anyway. I think he’s the auto pay people. I go through it all again. He takes all the information. He tells me it will 30 days before the change is effective. I’m beginning to get a bad feeling so I ask, “aren’t you auto pay so I can pay in advance?” No, he just another division. He says he’ll route me to auto pay, and he’ll make sure I don’t have to pay extra because I’ll be using a person rather then the website. I growl that I better not get charged.

I’m on hold for ten minutes or so, and I find my self back at the opening robot prompt which begins a conversation with Century Link. I keep hitting zero and demanding, agent! representative! agent! representative! I finally get a person. I tell them. “Don’t talk to me. Give me a manager.” They do.

Turns out the young man is from Stanley NM some fifty miles south of me. We have a bonding moment. I tell him the story and that I’m not happy. He says he will fix it. He puts in the new card number (which takes another 15 minutes) and says, “Normally when I update a card it goes through in 3 days.  Let’s hope it works.”  I say, “And if it doesn’t?  Am I going to get a late charge or be disconnected?”  He assures me he has copious notes in the file to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Do I believe him?  Yes.  Do I have any confidence that Century Link will notice the notes much less read the notes?  No.

 

 

Book Recommendation

Last night I was wired after the event at the Cocteau Theater where we launched Victor Milan’s new novel, The Dinosaur Lords so I stayed up way to late reading.  What kept me up until 2:00 a.m.?  Another great book by my friend Max Gladstone.  Last First Snow is the fourth book in his amazing Craft series.

They are fantasy, but fantasy with an urban setting and ethnic and cultural diversity that is refreshing.  For me their real strength is Max’s ability to take law and business, contracts and court hearings and turn them into magic.

One of my biggest objections to most fantasy novels, actually to most science fiction novels as well, is that they don’t explain to me how a given society works.  And how societies work revolves around money and commerce and the legal system that makes those things possible.

The magic in this world is truly bizarre and the practice of the craft takes a toll on human bodies.  In fact one of the major characters (and one of my favorites) is The King in Red who used to be a normal human, but he’s now he’s a skeleton who walks and talks and jokes and wheels and deals and rules the city of Dresediel Lex.

One of the other interesting choices that Max makes is that gods are real.  They are powered by the belief of the faithful, but ritual, by contracts.  Gods can die and in fact the world was riven by a god war several decades before these stories began but it was a war won by humans.

One of the things that started the war was the fact that Dresediel Lex practiced human sacrifice to their gods, but the spark wasn’t outrage in a general sense, but one man’s fury over the loss of his love.  I think that kind of application of the small and personal to the grand and mythic makes for great story telling.

The King in Red had a particular speech in Last First Snow that I loved so much that I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing part of it here.  I have a feeling Richard from my Edge books and the King in Red would have some interesting conversations though the King is far more prone to the use of violence as a means of conflict resolution than Richard.  Anyway, here is part of the speech.

“I dislike the faithful’s smug superiority.  Their assumption that gods will protect them.  They strangled human progress for three millennia, sent millions to their deaths in dumb wars back by dumb theology.  They killed the only man I’ve every loved….”

Bottom line.  These books are unique and well worth reading.  You’re going to learn a lot about the dangers of off shore banking, and the California water wars, and how an underfunded contract can rock an entire economy, and you won’t be a bit bored with these dry economic issues.

Here are the titles of all four books in the series.  Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow.

Podcast

I did a fun podcast yesterday with the folks in Minneapolis who are part of that great Convergence community.  Anyway, here’s the link.  Ka1iban and Mikanhana asked great questions and we had a lot of fun.

Just Enough Trope

It’s Starting To Happen — Wheeee

I got an email from Audible who publish my Edge books as audio books.  Book three THE EDGE OF DAWN —

Is now available to order.  You can find it here:B00Z7DJTPW?source_code=AUDORWS0612159DWY&

Check These Out

In case you come straight here and don’t go through the home page — Here are the new covers for my reissued Edge Series, along with the cover for the new book 3, THE EDGE OF DAWN.  So pretty and they really give folks a sense of the books.

 

 

Under the Heading — Small World

I moved from the L.A. condo into a townhouse out in Westlake Village today.  Chris Valada had recommended ABC movers, and they were terrific.  I knew when I called to book that it was Russian owned and the crew of guys who turned up were fascinating.  I bought them lunch and while we sat out on the patio and ate our cheese burgers I quizzed them.  Vlad was from Ukraine, Robert was from Russia but had been living in Georgia (not the American one), and Baha or Baja (not sure how he spells it) was from Talas in Kazakhstan.  I suspected as much because despite speaking fluent Russian he had epicanthic folds.

This is where a large section of the Wild Card book Lowball takes place, and where much of High Stakes the upcoming Wild Card book is set.  He was delighted that I had not only heard of his country, but that I knew quite a bit about it.  I showed him a section in LOWBALL where one of our villains is talking about Talas.  He was grinning from ear to ear, and when he saw mine and George’s name on the cover he was even more delighted.

When the time comes to return home to NM for good I will be using ABC.  They were not only wonderfully efficient they were very reasonable.  And with what other company would you get to discuss the Silk Road, and the politics surrounding Ukraine?

Pensive

I’m in a pensive mood today.  I’m depressed over what has happened to the Hugo awards and to Worldcon.  I haven’t really addressed the Sad/Rabid Puppy mess because when two of the most respected figures in our field — George R.R. Martin and Connie Wills — have weighed in there really isn’t much for me to say except — boys, you’re whining and it shows.

I’m also very homesick for New Mexico.  My return to L.A. was uneventful, but now I’m into a frenzy of unloading stuff at the new place, lugging really large boxes out of the storage unit, preparing for movers on Monday which means I have to pack like crazy over the weekend.  Fortunately I don’t have a lot of things in California.  Still it feel daunting.

At the new townhouse I discovered that the deadbolt catches when I try to unlock the door, and I lacked the strength to force it.  I had to call my realtor to come and get the door opened.  The sellers were so kind and left me an orchid plant and a bottle of champagne.  I’ll open it with friends once I get moved in.  Still the place seems like a set and not a home.  This was only the second time I’m seen the place.  I offered on it after seeing it once.  Have I made a mistake?  I don’t know yet.

After off loading some things I headed to the barn.  Everyone has gone to the World Cup in Las Vegas.  I was ambivalent about going, but now it feels like I’m missing the party.  I was going to ride Vento, but I couldn’t fine my saddle and by the time I had located my tack it was getting late.  It was funny when Vento heard my voice he gave a stallion “bugle”.  I’ve never heard him to that before.  All the grooms starting laughing, and said he was giving me what for and indeed he was.

After the barn I headed to the market and the storage unit, and now I’m trying to figure out where and what to eat for dinner.  The other strange thing is having no television and only my personal hotspot for internet.  I turned it off while I was away for so long, but now I’m regretting that.  I can’t even fire up the XBox because without wireless throughout the condo I can’t get to the cloud saved games.  Sometimes I think I rely on the television to fill the silence, as a surrogate for companionship.

Which bring me to the final most pensive thing.  Someone who was very dear to me has pulled away.  Even though I didn’t see him often there was this sense that he was near and available.  The ground seems shaky now that he’s gone.  I wish I could do anger better.  All I feel is sad.

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