other things Writing Life

Time to level up, folks

If you’re one of the people who’s felt my scorn about your take on The American Plague Situation, please know I am not sorry. (If you are not one of those people, be warned this rant is long and…um…exceedingly ranty.) So. Onward.

When you sigh about overwhelming information, muse about lockdowns maybe being too extreme, express concern that the doom predictions aren’t coming true but your friends & family are going bankrupt/ being evicted/ losing their savings, if you wonder if the prevention is worth the effort and cost, or maybe it’s exaggerated and it’s definitely confusing and we can’t go on like this forever..this is what’s going on in my brain:


I am happy to have rational discussions about issues, and I think I have achieved that standard in most cases despite my above feels…

BUT. When you hear that edge in my voice, when you sense I am less patient than usual, less inclined to accept the validity of your ideas, and not treating your positions as reasonable, there is a reason, and it is this:

You are not reasonable. You are fucked up, AND you are identifying yourself as a direct, immediate threat to my life and the lives of people I love. I will not be chill about that.

Bad ideas come in gangs, and they beat up on rationality. “It’s all so confusing” runs with “They’re all equally bad,” “I can’t keep up,” and “I don’t know what to believe,” and they are all shitty excuses that play right into swearing allegiance to the ringleader of rational assassins, Denial.

When you hang out with the “it’s so confusing” mindset, you become the “It’s fine” meme dog. People deny their way into death by smoke inhalation every year. True story. No joke.

I’m actually in favor of letting people endanger themselves on their own time. But in the case of this pandemic, you are endangering others. Me.

So, fuck your willful ignorance. “Looking at both sides” and “I can see their point” acceptance of all ideas as equal spreads hot takes like “we can’t stay locked down, people are going bankrupt,” “But the children ARE FALLING BEHIND and having their childhoods ruined” and “cloth face masks don’t prevent disease, so are they worth the hassle?”

All those chunks of bullshit can be disputed and debunked point by point, but I have neither the patience or interest for it. No one who accepts them is doing so rationally. No one who even ponders them is thinking straight.

Look. I know news comes at us from all sides like fire hoses of fact & fiction, pouring data into the burning building of The Year 2020. But complaining that you don’t know how to interpret it all? That it’s too haaaaarrd?


Wading through a neck-high flood of information isn’t fun. But it isn’t HARD. It’s just time consuming. Engage in source-checking, recognize and filter out data that’s tied up in bias phrasing and hidden agenda red flags, and translate hyperbole based on the facts you learn from the first two activities, and there you will find consistent, reliable information.

Please understand, my passionate horror of your attitude has deep roots. I have pushed back against the American devaluation of expertise and lived experience for decades now. The whole, “doctors disagree, so I’ll believe the conclusion that feels right,” makes my blood boil. The eager embrace of anecdote-as-proof, the trust in uninformed intuition, the erosion of respect for intellectual rigor and basic math…I have been howling and growling (and calmly educating people) about these problems for years.

But now the worship of snake oil over science is LITERALLY killing people by the dozens each day. COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic, and it didn’t have to be this way. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t hammer at the fracture points in our society until they shatter and send us careening into open civil warfare. (as opposed to the undeclared war already being waged by federal & local military forces against American citizens right now. BUT I DIGRESS. Sorrynotsorry. Recognizing the seeds of dystopia is kinda my thing.)

And okay, fine. I can’t resist. I will bring the hammer of reason down on a few points.

There are social safety nets that could catch EVERYONE facing personal or business losses due to the collision of a pandemic with a private sector Gone Wall Street Wild for 30 years. Mostly in the USA we’ve gone the “full-on blatant corruption & skimming” route instead, but that isn’t the POINT.

The point is, helping people through financial and educational loss is possible. Bringing people back from the dead isn’t. And don’t get me started on the “that which does not kill us leaves us damaged” aspect of COVID-19 which is becoming clear as cases pile up.

Pitting lives against economics is a rigged game, and if you’ve been tricked into playing it, you’re a fool. Period. There will also be economic devastation if factories shut down, ports shut down, stores close, utilities fail BECAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE WHO RUN THEM ARE SICK OR DEAD.

Is that possible? Oh, hell, yes. Likely? Maybe? We are NOT under control. We squandered the initial shutdown time without developing resources for identifying & containing outbreaks. And now the spread is skyrocketing because too many people are tired of taking simple precautions. (The dangerous magical thinking goes something like this: we did the shutdown, we flattened the curve, it’s all over and now everything is fine!)

Uh. No. We barely flattened out the curve, and never came close to stamping it out anywhere. I expect we will face breakouts for years the way we used to see with measles & polio and still see with flu…and oh, yeah, we could have TWO pandemics at once this winter if it’s a bad flu season. Viruses don’t care if they’re inconvenient.

While I’m ranting, forget the phrase “herd immunity” forever unless you are saying you are a-okay with hundreds of thousands of people dying from COVID-19 and far more facing lifelong medical complications for your hypothetical, temporary protection. At least 20-40% of the whole damned herd has to get infected to matter at all, and its benefit assumes the immunity lasts. WHICH IT USUALLY DOESN’T FOR CORONAVIRUSES. If you are okay with that, GTFO of my life, you are a monster.

Don’t believe me? Look up the tweets by the governor of Mississippi, who lays out the gruesome toll.

Oh–and all your friends who are a) swearing they had Covid last year, or b) insisting lots more people had it already and never got sick and that means the fatality numbers are inflated and c) besides, it’s mainly old people? A) No. Just. Ugh. NO. B) Check your arithmetic, even if Covid only had the fatality rate of a mild flu, that’d be 325,000 dead people or more if left unchecked, so C) GTFO, monster. And some of those healthy folks walking around are breathing death, and we cannot know who they are.

Also not all the dead will be olds. Hospitals some areas are so full of COVID cases right now that Our Federal Government is hiding the numbers from the public. Young people. Old people. Sick people. Previously-healthy people. Virus doesn’t give a damn. The cold numbers are such that even tiny percentages add up to a lotta dead. Math is unforgiving that way.

And that’s why masks fucking matter. My fitted mask cuts the risk me exposing someone virus by more than half. I can’t know if I’m a healthy spreader. The antibody tests are trash.

But everyone who won’t bother to properly cover their damned noses is doubling MY risk. The sheer, flagrant selfishness of it enrages me. FYI, you will not choke on your own toxic exhalations or suffocate because you cover your face with thin cloth or paper. *FACEPALM*

ANYWAY. Wrapping up now, I promise.

All your musing and pondering comes down to the equivalent of this: “I heard the fire alarm, but I don’t smell smoke, the fire exits are hard to find, and leaving seems like a waste of time and money, plus so many people say we can ignore the alarms because sometimes the alarms are wrong anyway so I don’t know what to believe.”

To which I say, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?

If you get to wrap yourself in a comfy blanket of information fatigue and refuse to educate yourself properly or keep a fucking mask over your damned nose, I get to call you a fucking accessory to mass murder.

Yes, I am judging people and finding them wanting. I hate losing faith in so many, MANY people I once respected, especially since they could do better and won’t. But alas, I am disappoint. SO DISAPPOINT.

Stay strong, learn the difference between snake oil and science, remember you are mortal. This ain’t over. Keep a mask on your face, keep your distance from others, and keep your pantry stocked.

And if you’re one of the people who feels the way I do, hail and well met. We shall stand in solidarity. Separately. Safely.

And next post I’ll write about my exciting book revisions, or my upcoming Gen Con events or happy garden projects…or something.

Until later!

1. Storysculpting 2. Worldbuilding hIstorical notes

Not with a bang

Playing with world-building snippets for my Restoration stories again…

The end of world was a global event, but it wasn’t an end. It wasn’t an event. It was a process, a slow collapse that only looks inevitable in retrospect. It was never seen as apocalypse even when cities burned and missiles flew. Perspective is tricky, and denial is a powerful force. If globalism was the theme of the twentieth century, the lesson of the twenty-first was that connections can transmit chaos as easily as commerce .

During the span of decades comprising the Revision Years, governments toppled and economies disintegrated, businesses failed and took governments with them, social and political institutions crumbled and billions perished. Bastions of political stability were eroded by surrounding conflicts, and alliances proved as deadly as enmity.  No place on the planet went untouched by the upheaval.

Some sciences progress by leaps and bounds in times of conflict, but others cannot be maintained in chaotic environments. Most modern technologies rely on complex supply chains and  require engineering support that cannot be maintained in war zones. Many of the 21st century’s advances in materials sciences,  nanotechnology, genetics, biologic pharmaceuticals and other sciences  got lost during Revision. Projects were abandoned, data was destroyed by electromagnetic pulses,  and critical private records were erased or locked into forms no longer accessible by surviving equipment.

The handful of years encompassed by the name “The Revision Period,” will have an impact on human understanding of the universe for centuries to come.



1. Storysculpting 2. Worldbuilding nuts & bolts

Dystopian? I’m not sure.

I write about a broken future. I am of the generation after the one promised flying cars. We saw miracle technology in our cartoons, but we watched death live on the news, and many of our heroes stumbled and fell before their time. So when I envisioned a world for my first heroes to stride through, it was a shattered thing of tangled public and private loyalties, a place of poisoned resources and rotting infrastructure, with much of the population scattered into small, isolated communities and its new gritty, dirty new urban centers built on crumbled patchwork ruins.

But, you know, being a dreamer I also made it a world of boundless optimism and ferocious idealism. A place and a time when cynicism gives way to creativity and energy, where people refuse to bow under the weight of the past. They step up to the nigh-insurmountable challenges of making bad better, and they succeed by making the most of what is left.

That doesn’t fit the traditional dystopian mold. ( Dystopia: an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one) In proper dystopian fiction everything is awful and either the System swallows up the protagonists  (1984, Brazil, 12 Monkeys….)  or the system must be destroyed, and rebellion is the main  (Hunger Games, also 12 Monkeys and about a gazillion others)

So does  the world of The Restoration Stories count as dystopian? Some readers seem to think so, others disagree. Me, I don’t care as long as readers keep liking it.

Not familiar with my stories? You can read a description of the first one here : Controlled Descent: A Story of the Restoration


Teddy Said It.

Today I am sharing my favorite quote regarding the argument, “but he’s the President now, so we need to stop with the dissent and unite behind him.” I see it quoted in part here & there on Facebook and Twitter, usually with a pretty image, often paraphrased. Me, I like my historical data as intact as I can find it. Here ya go:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.”
“Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.”
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”   Theodore Roosevelt 

The masses can be wrong. But so can elected leaders. Declaring the power in charge right by virtue of it being in charge make zero sense. None. It’s a circular argument. Logic breaks. If crimes against persons & property occur in the course of a protest, those acts are illegal regardless of motive. Their occurrence in no way invalidates dissent as a concept.

I keep seeing the argument that vocal–violent–public protest against duly elected officials is not “a right guaranteed in the Constitution.” No, it is protected by the First Amendment covering free assembly and free speech. It is protected there for a reason. Breaking up dissenting mobs and declaring them criminals was an act of tyranny the Founding Fathers knew firsthand. They recognized the necessity of public protest, and considered its occurrence a failure of the government.

Sure, dissent isn’t cooperative, helpful, courteous, or peaceful. It isn’t comfortable. It is what happens when working within the system fails. It’s what happens when too many people are treated discourteously, unhelpfully, or violated by the system. More importantly: the system is people. When enough people are mistreated badly enough by other people, that’s when the system breaks.

No one who engages in dissent does so lightly.  Acting on principle means becoming a target for those who have the power to do the greatest harm. No one who has something left to lose does that on a lark or for entertainment value.

Don’t rock the boat? The rocking starts when the boat is already sinking and people’s feet are getting wet. Yes, it would be nice if we all pulled together to get the boat to shore where it can be repaired, but telling all the people screaming “we’re about to drown!” to shut up and sit down doesn’t help. They’re the ones wielding buckets and trying to save the day.

You know what would help? Pick up a bucket and start scooping. Or at least stand between those doing the work  and the people who want the damned boat to sink so they can collect the insurance.

OK. Rant over.

quotation pulled from

Postscript 1: I don’t get into politics much online because a) others do it better, and  b) the internet isn’t a forum for discussion, it’s a gladiatorial pit and c) I must guard against burning out my physical engine with constant revving.

So I do little and say less. But I do not sit idle or look away. And that requires occasionally standing up in my own space and declaring my position.

Note I said my position, not my opinion.  I have zero tolerance for the dismissal of thoughtful statements with “I suppose you’re entitled to your opinion. I don’t agree, but I don’t want to argue.”  It’s surpassed only by “your facts are not my facts” as a way to hit every Big Red Emotional Dissonance Button on my board. Which is where (c) up there comes in.

Postscript 2: comments off because of everything in Postcript 1.(But  I left likes turned on in case anyone feels like leaving an affirming little star. Because I am a sucker for affirmation, yes I am.)


Book reviews

Review of Aqua by Tracy Korn

Aqua: Book One by Tracy Korn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thumbnail: a solid, engagingly written entry into the YA dystopian arena, well worth a look.

Aqua has the feel of the best Heinlein juveniles, where personal courage, teamwork, and science win the day. It has interesting scientific and societal underpinnings, and action-driven plot, and a cast of liable and hate-able characters. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh new SF voice or a series that promotes a positive outlook towards science and problem-solving the way to a better future.

The descriptions are sharp, the world is intriguing, the protagonist is brave and bold but not perfect, and the supporting cast fall into easily recognized archetypes without hitting any big red stereotype buttons. Formatting concerns and some discomfort with the premise prevent me giving it four stars. I enjoyed the character interplay enough for 3.5 stars, which would round up to 4, but presentation affects my enjoyment. The layout had serious issues, and as the plot advanced, the science got murky and puzzling.

I read Aqua soon after the ebook was released on Amazon, so there’s hope the formatting has  already been addressed, but I can only review what I saw. And the scientific development issues aren’t going to bug most people as much as they did me. In books I prefer either full hard explanation or hand-wavy acceptance, and this one fell in the gap between.

There are lots of explanations, and certain technologies are critical to plot, but..well. To avoid throwing spoilers in the mix, I’ll say only that some advances were so far ahead of others that it felt like the implications either not considered, or not explained away enough to help me dismiss them. That might seem minor, but it jars me out of the narrative when I can immediately see applications for something that would totally change the society that came up with it.

Entertainment mileage will likely vary based on reader tolerance for (1) formatting oddities like random changes in line spacing and paragraph structure and (2) cinematic presentation of science in their science fiction. Last but not least: cliffhanger alert.

In summation: I liked Aqua, I can recommend it to certain audiences (and I will grab the next one because I’m hooked) but it didn’t fully satisfy me as much as I think future books by the writer will.

View all my reviews