With Valentine’s Day having rolled around again, I’ve been thinking about love. Specifically about the boundaries of love.

We all know that love can be the glue that holds people together through rough times. It can also rip people apart with just as much firepower as a terrorist bomb, only instead of bodies left mangled and bleeding, it’s emotions. Love can even dwindle to indifference–or become distorted, even turn to hate.

How to define where love’s responsibility begins and ends? For a culture in transition such as ours, it seems especially difficult, though maybe it’s always been that way, we’ve only seen the personal records people wanted progeny to see. (How many of our favorite writers and historical personages required a trusted survivor to burn the more personal parts of their letters and diaries?)

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New Worlds: Games

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Shortly after we invented intelligence, we invented boredom. And shortly after that, we invented games.

I said in the discussion of toys that they’re intended for play, and associated primarily with children because adults aren’t expected (or sometimes allowed) to play in the same way. But that isn’t the same thing as saying we don’t do it at all. Rather, instead of engaging in the imitative or unstructured play characteristic of children, we’re more likely to entertain ourselves with things that involve rules: in other words, games.

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I Want Better Movies!

Birds of PreyI went to see Birds of Prey last weekend, drawn by some good recommendations and the argument that it was really a feminist movie. And while I enjoyed bits and pieces of it — the fight scenes really were well-choreographed — I didn’t come away inspired.

Instead, I came away thinking that some of us are so desperate for movies about women who have agency and do great things that we latch onto anything that even looks like it might be doing that.

There were some good points made by those who know a lot more about movie-making than I do. One thing several reviewers have mentioned is that Birds of Prey didn’t frame the women in the same way most movies made by men (and even ones made by women who employ the same techniques) do. That is, it didn’t look at women through the male gaze, as others, as objects to be admired for their sexy bits as defined by men.

That was probably true. I haven’t seen The Joker or other movies made from this corner of DC Comics, so I don’t have a means of direct comparison, but the women in the movie did feel like whole people, at least as much as the story allowed them to be.

And it was a movie about women. The villain and his henchmen were male, but the movie wasn’t about them. Plus a key element of the plot was women breaking away from evil and outrageously misogynistic men.

I particularly liked the way that played out with Rosie Perez’s character, Detective Renee Montoya. The male cops she was working for or with were either stupid, scared, or on the take. In the end, if I understand the story right, she gives up on the system so she can really go after evil.

And they were all kick ass. Continue reading


Dear Speculative Fiction: A love letter

Trodayne Northern

My inestimable agent

My inestimable agent, Trodayne Northern, decided that what he really would like to have on the new Prentis Agency website he’s building is a series of love letters from his writers to their beloved genres. Here is my “how do I love thee” letter.

Dear Speculative Fiction…

As a child, I discovered first-hand that reality was a difficult beast to tame. I was shy, too tall, too chubby, and wore braces, glasses, and orthopedic Oxfords. I was the kid that nobody wanted on their baseball team because I couldn’t run and had abysmal eye-hand coordination.

219p4ycI met you, if you’ll recall, when I was six and my father let me stay up to watch ”The Day the Earth Stood Still”. You terrified me and exhilarated me and gave me a fascination with the unexplained and alien.

Phillip K. Dick spoke of being ”content with the mysterious.” I was more than content; I was in love. I read ghost stories and fairy tales and sagas about the exploration of the unknown. I discovered that something I could do better and faster than any of my peers was read and imagine things.

When I reached my teen years, I admit, you put me off a bit with your warnings about impending doom and post-apocalyptic horrors. You seemed to be about endings and I wanted to read about beginnings. I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that it was stories of first contact that drew me back to you. Andre Norton opened the door and welcomed me in, and Ray Bradbury closed the door firmly but gently behind me. I was in. And when I began to write seriously, I began to write science fiction and fantasy. Continue reading



I’ve written before about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers–a musical with decent lyrics and fabulous dancing, and a sensibility straight out of the Pleistocene. I happened upon the source material this week in a collection of Stephen Vincent Benet short stories (I had acquired it to read “By the Waters of Babylon,” an early after-the-fall SF classic) in the form of a short story called “The Sobbin’ Women.”

This post is not about feminism–well, only a bit about feminism. It’s about adaptations and how they change with time. So first I have to tell you about the movie. Continue reading


Small Towns and the Oscars

Both are on my mind as I walk through the neighborhood on a weirdly warm, sunny day in February. Albany, Oregon is a great walking town and generally quite chilly and damp at this time of year. Icy, too. But today I followed one of my frequent routes, spied 3 scrub jays, 1 redtailed hawk, and a group of wild turkey moms with their chicks. These girls started early.

I passed through a neighborhood of ranch-style manors, built in the ’70’s on 1/4 acre lots barbered by paid gardeners. I imagined the interiors, (much larger than the 1400 square foot home our family of five had in Livermore, California). Sunken living rooms, large kitchens later remodeled into open living with islands, multiple small bedrooms, but best of all, 2 to 3 bathrooms! The garage was double or triple. Owners kept the garage doors closed over whatever stuff was stashed inside, and late model SUVs filled the driveways.

In one of the yards a turkey flock huddled under an incense cedar. The neighborhood seems to respect trees. To the south, the tiny river Calapooia curls its arm around the houses on its way to the Willamette. Cottonwoods, oaks, Doug fir and birches mark its path. I don’t see any political signs on the lawns, as if the dwellers made a pact not to talk politics. It’s hard to gauge this purple town; people living in the historical old quarter houses are planting organic community gardens and watching the impeachment trial-that-wasn’t, shaking their fists at Mitch McConnell. Folks from the valley, folks growing grass seed, hemp and blueberries park their pickups in the Costco parking lot and polish their MAGA stickers.

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The Rambling Writer on Crete Retreat

Think of me immersed in a writing project, as I swim once more in my dreams through those magical blue Aegean seas!

I’m on a retreat, so we’ll catch up with our Crete rambles on February 15 with a blog tour of the Iraklion Museum, the world’s biggest collection of Minoan artifacts. See you then!


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from another research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at


New Worlds: Toys

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

In studying the archaeological record, it can be a bit difficult to tell when you’re looking at a toy. After all, toys are mostly defined by their use: they’re intended for play, not serious activity. But play leaves few concrete signs behind, and archaeologists are admittedly prone to labeling something as “ceremonial” or “ritual” when they’re not sure what the intended purpose was for a given artifact. And when it comes to toy versions of practical objects — which is quite a lot of this category — we’re left looking at characteristics like size and materials to guess whether an object was a real tool, a ritual item, or something intended for play.

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