New Worlds: Security Systems

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

Keeping a place or an object secure largely consists of three elements: first, you want to discourage or prevent people from getting in; second, you want to know when they have done so; and third, you want to bring the hammer down on any intruders — whether that last takes the form of summoning police to arrest them, or killing them with a lethal trap.

How we weight those various steps depends a great deal on the time period and technology available, and also on what it is you’re trying to keep secure.

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Doing Nothing

My sweetheart and I walked over to Oakland’s Morcom Rose Garden on Sunday. This gorgeous park, set into a hill, was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration and includes thousands of roses along with assorted trees, a reflecting pool, lots of stairs and pathways, and well-arranged rocks and walls.

Other people wandered through the park, ranging in age from the baby whose mother let it crawl in the grass to folks likely older than us. We also had company from crows, other birds, squirrels, and even a turkey.

turkey

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The Duchess Rants – Doesn’t the Past Matter Any More?

We learn history in the schoolroom by rote. We learn dead dates, what happened on exact days three and half centuries ago in worlds and societies which we cannot begin to imagine, let alone understand.

Because histories are written by winners of conflicts, the stories of the losers begin to vanish – to be buried, or burned, or effaced, or mocked and vilified, or simply brutally ignored. They lost and they don’t matter. Their descendants must continue to pay the debts of those who did the losing.

Things… disappear. Or get misunderstood. Or get deliberately mis-told, misrepresented, propaganda-ised out of all truth and knowledge. History as fiction. History as irrelevance. Useful bits of history are retained and trotted out as necessary – perhaps as justification for atrocities where needed. Not-so-useful bits, the bits that could hurt those in power, are quietly sidelined. There are fewer voices who tell those stories and they get more and more whispery, translucent, ghostlike, until they begin to quite fade away.

Should the modern USA turn back and take a good hard look at its own history? At the fact that the ‘discovery’ of a New World was unequivocally an invasion from the Old? At how that invasion treated the Native American tribes who got in the new nation’s way? At what happened to the black people brutally kidnapped, enslaved and taken halfway around the world in horrifying conditions to toil on the plantations of the fledgling nation state? At what is happening at our borders today, and where all that came from?

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Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat!

I watched a lot of cartoons as a young person. Like, a lot. In New York City, where I grew up, we rejoiced in the–at the time–enormous selection of 7 TV channels (including the educational channel), and by 5 o’clock every evening at least two of them were showing cartoons: Warner Bros., primarily, but Woody Woodpecker and the Hanna Barbera slate, and Tom and Jerry… and those frankly kind of awful limited-animation series like Jonny Quest and Clutch Cargo. I imbibed them with a growing critical sense (if you can say such a thing of an 8-year-old), coming to the conclusion that Warner Bros., and later, the work of Jay Ward, were the clear winners.

Both were deeply subversive, and both partook liberally of the attitudes of their time, while mocking those attitudes pretty mercilessly. Continue reading

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BVC Announces Crucible of Time by Jeffrey A. Carver

Crucible of Time by Jeffrey A. Carver
Crucible of Time
Part Two of the Out of Time Sequence

The Chaos Chronicles: Book 6
by Jeffrey A. Carver

A galaxy in peril.

The story begun in The Reefs of Time continues. The time-tides caused by Karellia’s defenses have brought the malicious Mindaru AI out of the deep past into the present, threatening Bandicut and Li-Jared, who have arrived at the backwater planet–Li-Jared’s homeworld–to find it on the brink of interplanetary war. Somehow they must forge a peace between Karellia and its neighboring world if the Mindaru threat is to be broken.

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Why Do Heroes Have to Die?

Myth and legend, going back to the beginning of mankind, is dominated by heroes, both male and female. Looking up to brave people, appreciating all they sacrifice to save everyday people is important. They inspire us to do braver things and make the world a better place.

If you want to turn my musing into a learned, literary discussion, please go in the other room. I’m here today to muse about random thoughts that came to me while binge watching “When Calls the Heart,” a Hallmark channel series.

Being a Hallmark production, the series is sloppily sentimental but safe for family viewing. Each episode highlights a community coming together to help each other through troubled times, and to close on a moment of hope.

Idealistic, of course. Life is messier than that.

But I want to look at the character of Jack Thornton, the hero of the story. Continue reading

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I’m in Stitches

The machine was old when I bought it, and I’ve had it for more years than I want to remember. It came to me in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time—a California girl who followed her boyfriend home. Duh.

That is another story, one of those memoirs stitched together by trauma and guilt and big time fights—physical ones. Oh, no. I’m not going to write it. Not today anyway.

But the Pfaff is out of its box and sitting on a portable table in the “library” of the house in which we are consigned to spend our golden years—and our cash. As I said, the sewing machine is old. I think I paid $300.00 for it. Every big item I bought in the 1970’s cost $300.00. A 0018 Martin guitar that I gave to the ex because I owed him money. (I told you I don’t want to tell that story). A Nikormat SLR camera that began to fail on my first ever trip to Great Britain and Italy. And the Pfaff. Still working.

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The Rambling Writer: Playing Pirates!

Ahoy! Join Captain Thor and me as we launch our new pirate boat, RV (Recreational Vessel) Nereid.

NOTE: I promise we will return to the sacred Greek island of Delos in next week’s blog post. “Life” just got a little topsy-turvy this week, when I was kidnapped by pirate Thor….

If you follow my Rambling Writer episodes, you know that this has not been a typical summer of hiking and biking for me. A new physical therapy regime (after many months of false starts and reinjury) that I fervently hope will finally help my torn hip tendon heal mandated that I limit almost all walking. My hero Thor has been creative in coming up with ways to get me outside, as he may have noticed me ready to chew my leg off like some desperate animal in a trap. So he turned pirate and ordered an inflatable raft so we could go pillaging (and swimming) on the waves of nearby Lake Whatcom. Of course, this involved tricking out the raft with a transom and electric trolling motor, as well as bags of gear, beer, and a small battery-powered pump to inflate the raft. We never go light…. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Locks . . . and How to Pick Them

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

Anybody who’s played a rogue in Dungeons & Dragons is familiar with “thieves’ tools” as an essential item of equipment, with which one can pick locks and disarm traps. But what are these tools? And in a pre-industrial society, what do the locks that are being picked look like? (Traps are outside the scope of this essay, and honestly outside the scope of my knowledge, though now I’m thinking maybe I should read up on them for a future piece.)

For just about as long as we’ve had stores of valuable items, we’ve wanted to keep them safe. As in, we’ve found the remains of a lock in an ancient Assyrian site. I don’t know how old the evidence for lockpicking is, but it’s safe to assume the practice goes back at least as far, because criminals are like cats: if you try to keep them out of something, they’ll immediately try to get in.

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Against Nostalgia

Science fiction as a genre is not compatible with nostalgia.

I’m not advocating ignoring the past as a writer, a reader, or a civic-minded human being. Knowing and understanding our history is not just important, it’s vital.

But we need to do that with clear eyes and deep understanding, not with a dreamy view of the “good old days.” Because those days weren’t all that damn good.

I’m thinking about this because of Jeannette Ng’s speech at the Hugos after being given the award for best new writer and also because I’ve been reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist.

Ng didn’t say anything the science fiction community didn’t already know when she called John W. Campbell as fascist. His blatant racism and misogyny was obvious in the editorials in his magazine and the way he made his authors write. I’m glad the name of the award is being changed.

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