Rant: Heraldry in Fantasy – Get it Right, Dang it!

Something that bugs the heck out of me is when fantasy writers make up their own heraldry and it sucks.  I confess, I was a herald in the SCA years ago, and it made me obsessive about the quality of heraldry in fiction.

I don’t demand that the rules of heraldry be followed absolutely (there are multiple systems, for one thing), nor that fictional heraldry maintain enough difference so as not to conflict with existing heraldry.  That would be absurd.

All I want, and it isn’t much, is for the founding purpose of heraldry, specifically in a battlefield context, to be remembered.  Heraldry is a means of identification.  When warriors are armored head to toe, the pictures on their shields are the only way to tell friend from foe.

heraldry2heraldry1It makes me nuts to read descriptions of beautiful banners that couldn’t be made out from a distance of more than five yards.  Take a look at these two shields.  Which one would you be able to read from half a mile away, in motion, through a forest of spears?

I rest my case.


BATMAN #684: A Very Short Review

At this moment I suppose it is fair to say that Batman is the biggest DC hero going.  batman684A blockbuster movie will do that.  This means that it is to DC’s advantage to suck this brief phenomenom dry by reissuing old classics, plastering Batman everywhere,  repackaging popular runs, and in general beating the drum as hard as they can.  (This will get even worse if the late Heath Ledger wins a posthumous Oscar for his role as the Joker; look for DC to go briefly All Joker All The Time.)  Certainly there are masses of Batman titles and collections out there — I confess I am looking forward to see the Batman Annual collection, predicted to contain nuttier Bat stories like his various adventures on alien planets.

This latest issue of Batman is therefore a bizarre rarity — a stand-alone issue in which Batman does not actually appear at all.   To recap briefly, in the previous far-too-long arc Batman fought and defeated a villain but took sufficient hit points that he has either died* or is laying low to recover.  None of his usual intimates — Alfred, Robin, etc. — know his whereabouts.  This leaves his first lieutenant Nightwing (aka the original Robin aka Dick Grayson; his evolution is more complex than that of Eohippus and cannot be gone into now) to pick up the ball and run.

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Rise of the Lichens

I’m really looking forward to the release of the new movie Rise of the Lichens. We have far too few movies about lichens, algae, archeobacteria, fungus, mold, or pond scum, though yeast gets some play in the sponge of Hollywood.

Sponges themselves, on the other hand, get very little live-action screen time, which is quite a shame. Rumor has it, however, that the producer of the cult movie Sponge Diver is planning a sequel, Revenge of the Sponges, in which sponges and giant clams unite to immobilize their ancient enemies and scrub them to death.

I haven’t been able to put my hands on a screenplay for Rise of the Lichens, as it’s being very closely guarded by the studio, but the buzz on the movie is amazing.

Don’t read past the jump if you don’t want to see spoilers.

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Crossing Borders — Both National and Linguistic

Otras Miradas

My story, “Three O’Clock in the Morning” (“Las tres en punto de la mañana”), appears in Spanish in a new anthology, Otras Miradas, edited by Sergio Gaut vel Hartman.

Sergio is a science fiction writer and editor in Argentina. Among his many projects are two flash fiction blogs: Quimicamente Impuro, which consists of stories between 40 and 149 words, and Breves no tan Breves, stories between 150 and 750 words.

My story, “Statuary,” which is still available here on Book View Cafe, is now on Breves no tan Breves as “Estatuaria.”

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EVERGREEN: On Being a Professional Amateur #8: Barney as Narrator

More often than I’d like to tell I see manuscripts that read as if they were written for children, regardless of who the target audience is. Partly this is the result of what the writer chooses to tell the reader, partly it’s how the writer tells it.

Sample paragraph: Queen Amelia looked at the new ambassador. He looks familiar, she thought. What she didn’t realize was that the new ambassador was a disguised Lord Roberto.

“I am your new ambassador, Majesty,” announced Lord Roberto in his disguise.


What’s wrong with this perfectly grammatical set of sentences?

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Exotic Animals as Pets

As the New Year starts, a lot of families are probably getting used to caring for the new pets that came to their homes over the holidays. Holiday times are the top time for families bringing pets home. Puppies, kittens, baby bunnies and baby chicks are all common holiday adoptions. Unfortunately, as breeders and real animal lovers know, in January and February, too many of these pets end up dumped at shelters, and very few of them are re-adopted. These animals are often euthanized, with short, unhappy lives – all things that could be avoided with time, care and planning. Even more serious than the problem of unwanted common domestic pets at the holidays is the growing trend toward adoption of exotic animals, from exotic hybrid cats to chimpanzees to sugar gliders, a small Australian marsupial that is rapidly growing in popularity.


I had a fairly large number of animals to take care of when I was growing up. I had a Shetland pony named Dapple, an English Setter named Freckles, a Siamese cat named D.C. and at one time, up to 25 ring-necked doves. When I was a baby and toddler, I learned to walk by hanging onto the head and ears of a very patient – one might say “saintly” – basset hound named Rebel. FYI, my pornstar name is Rebel Roberts. Not bad, huh? (To get your pornstar name, take the name of your first pet and use your mother’s maiden name). Continue reading


Organizing for the New Year: How do you do it, if you do it at all?

One of the most frequent questions we hear – after ‘where do you get your ideas’ – is ‘how do you manage to do all that? My response has always been to ask the questioner if they only work on one project or class or report at a time. 95% of the time the answer is ‘no.’ And there’s the answer right there – we multi-task the same way you do. But everyone does it a different way, proving once again that the proper way to write is What Works For You.

So, on this first Monday of the new year, for those of you who are trying to juggle work and life and writing, and starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, here’s a glimpse into how three members of BookView Cafe handle it. Continue reading