Right outside the front door of our house–well, across a little stretch of lawn, fifteen or twenty feet maybe–we have a pond. It was one of the many things we fell in love with when we first saw the house. We still love it. It’s gorgeous, it’s soothing, it’s a marvelous place to sit in our weathered old Adirondack chairs and enjoy morning coffee or evening cocktails.
Occasionally, wild ducks come and visit our pond. Usually a pair of mallards, but sometimes more exotic fowl: hooded mergansers, wood ducks, and once even a bufflehead. They are very shy, these wild ducks. If we step outside, they QUACK QUACK QUACK in great distress and fly away, wings beating madly, water droplets scattering everywhere.
We had a fellow here the other day to talk about moving our propane tank from the faaaaaar reaches of the back of the house to a much more convenient spot at the front of the house (another story, which perhaps I will tell you someday, it’s not important now). Anyway Mark was out discussing the job with him, and the fellow admired our pond. Mark mentioned the very shy wild ducks that we enjoy so much, and the fellow said, “Why don’t you get some domestic ducks? They’ll stick around, and they’ll even eat some of that duckweed.”
Oh! What an idea! Ducks who would stay! Ducks we could name. Ducks who might produce eggs. Ducks who might produce…
Ahem. Suffice it to say, we got kind of excited about the thought. And when I say “we”, I am pretty much meaning “I”.
When my husband was still in charge of the remote control we fast forwarded through all the ads on the things that TiVo taped for us to watch. He was positively allergic to those things and there were many (annoying!) occasions where he fast forwarded too enthusiastically and bit into the show and then had to rewind and overshoot again but now we were in the ads so fast forward… honestly, sometimes this was more of an impediment to watching something than the ads themselves. I can tune them out, kind of – I just let them run on the periphery of my attention, paying JUST enough attention to know when my show starts again and no more. They’re also useful to have actual conversations during, or to get up and retrieve a cup of coffee, or whatever. so yeah. We lived ad-free for a long time in this house.
But then he went away, and I’m not a manic ad forwarder, so they just run until they annoy me SUFFICIENTLY for me to scroll past (which happens sometimes, but not nearly as often as before). But because there is no other person here to have those extracurricular conversations with, and there are just so many cups of coffee one can have of an evening, the ads have insidiously crept inside my attention sphere. And I have learned (or perhaps confirmed…) that healthcare in the United States of America is more weird than ever.
It’s the drug ads. (You know I mean medicins, stop that.)
THEY ARE CONSTANT. And incessant. And APPALLING. And this business of “ask your doctor if this drug is right for you” makes me spit tacks.
The True Prince of Vaurantania
The Thrilling Victorian Adventures of the Most Dangerous Woman in Europe
by Brenda Clough
Can it be that the fearsome master criminal Count Fosco yet lives? Marian Halcombe Camlet learns that Fosco escaped vengeance and has sold her husband Theo into captivity, winding his plots around everyone she loves once more! Her journey to rescue him and defeat Fosco, and incidentally to save Vaurantania from bloody revolution, takes her to the capitals of Europe and at last a grim castle high in the Alps.
(Picture from here.)
Spring in New England is a shambling walk to summer. Warm days stumble into light snow, fall over into rain reminiscent of November, stagger back upright into warm sun.
It doesn’t stop the flowers. Continue reading
We committed social gathering yesterday. 6 people, four fully vaccinated, 2 partially, all of a generation fully cognizant of the risks and generally sensible people, but with the frustration, grief and monotony of the past 14 months getting the better of us, we were like kids let loose in the inflatable bouncing house to play.
One of us had endured her quarantine last year in Chile. Visiting her granddaughter for her wedding, she and her daughter, mother of the bride, were stuck there for three months. The Chilean government initiated an extreme lockdown, arresting people who were found to be more than several miles from their known address. My friends’ daughter and grandaughter marched her up and down the driveway everyday for exercise. She and her daughter were not allowed to leave the property, while the rest of the family did the grocery shopping and visited the farmacia, the only errands anyone was allowed to perform. On one of these errands, my friend’s grandson-in law was detained by the police on the way back—his driving license had his Santiago address. He was lucky to be released, according to the rest of the family.
Join Thor and me as we learn about ancient Hawaiians at a fascinating reconstruction site.
NOTE: After way too many months without travel, Thor insisted on an R&R escape to Hawaii this April. He’d been keeping on eye on the very careful Covid-19 precautions in the islands, and the testing required before flying there. And now that we’re both fully vaccinated, we took the plunge – literally, for some snorkeling in the healing sea, as well as exploring the Big Island and Kauai. After this detour, I promise I’ll finish up my Virtual Italy Vacation series soon!
This was our first visit to the Big Island, and Thor and I continued to be impressed by the raw power of the “new” landscape, and a stronger sense of native history than we’d encountered on other islands. It really felt like we were visiting a foreign country, and it was wonderful to be able to travel again and explore the cultural roots. Polynesians arrived in the islands from 900-1100 AD, the first colonists, who brought plants, animals, and supplies, expanding the limited endemic species in this landscape of lava rock. Continue reading
(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)
Monarchies are everywhere in speculative fiction. In fantasy they’re by far the most common type of government — which makes sense; if you look at real history, you’ll see vastly more monarchies than any rival type, and fantasy often draws its inspiration from history. But they’re common in science fiction as well, where they can lend a sense of grandeur or exoticism to the civilizations of far-flung stars.
Some people argue this is because SF/F readers and writers are nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” of kings and queens. I’m not convinced that’s the reason. While there may be cases where that’s true, I think the bigger point is that we find monarchy narratively interesting.
I may love to talk about the 19th century and sometimes dream a little about stepping into a time machine and visiting it, but there are a few facets of life in which I am firmly 21st century…and one of those is taking a nice hot shower every morning. But how did our 19th century counterparts keep clean? Continue reading
The situation: Waldo appears in chapter three as a close personal friend of the protagonist. He has an epic encounter with the villain, saves the day and endears himself to a female protagonist. He then promptly disappears for the rest of the book, while the reader is left to wonder where he went.
This is such a familiar scenario in the manuscripts I see, that I begin to suspect the “Where’s Waldo?” fad was started by a college level creative writing instructor or a convention workshop coordinator.
What happens when we treat our characters as if they were widgets?
Maps to Nowhere
by Marie Brennan
Two cities joined by their reflections. A realm of feathered serpents and jaguar-men. A desert where a former goddess seeks the ultimate truth. In this collection, award-winning author Marie Brennan takes you to ten different fantastical lands, including the world of her famed scholar-heroine Lady Trent. Journey with her to places rich and strange: here there be more than just dragons.
Buy Maps to Nowhere at BVC Ebookstore