The Way of the Warrior: Zapped by the Bolt of Enlightenment

I experienced enlightenment at ApolloCon.

I was moderating a panel called “Get Your War On: Militarism Vs Pacifism in Genre Fiction” when it happened. I had introduced myself as a martial artist and had kicked the panel off by reading three of the aphorisms from my story “Thirty-One Rules for Fulfilling Your Destiny”:

  • There are times when killing is necessary. These times are more infrequent than has been commonly assumed.
  • There are times when saving the life of your enemy is required. These times are more numerous than anyone has ever suspected.
  • Killing is not the only method for defeating your enemies. The most successful way to defeat enemies is to make them your friends.

By reading those lines, I was trying to interject a third way into the discussion — neither militarism nor pacifism, but a path of enlightened warriorship. And I was equipped not only with ideas gleaned from many years in Aikido, but also with examples of excellent fiction, particularly Laurie Marks’s Elemental Logic Series. Continue reading


Clues About Lying – in The Words Themselves

Jeff Hancock at Cornell This is Cornell University professor Jeff Hancock in 2006.  Prof. Hancock has studied online behavior; in particular – the tendency to lie on social networking sites, online dating sites, and, I think, the tendency to lie a little less on online peer-network sites such as LinkedIn, where one’s peers, coworkers and business associates will quickly determine if someone is exaggerating or misrepresenting work experience.

In a 2008 NPR interview, Prof. Hancock discussed some research-identified clues to online deception.  Some of the research was sponsored via a $680,000 National Science Foundation grant for research in the social sciences.  Unlike some research projects, in which the results may be of mysterious, or arcane benefit, it sounds like the research of Dr. Hancock and his students may illuminate important aspects of human, social behavior.

In terms of identifying online lies, Dr. Hancock said things about language that I found fascinating, and which immediately rang true to me.  First, he said, one language construction that statistically correlates to lies written on the internet, is, as he described it, “dropping the first person”.  Or from a grammarian’s perspective, the liar, in typing the lie, literally leaves out “who” did whatever the action is.

In other words:

TRUTH:   We (or I) flew into town last night.

LIE:  Got into town last night.

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History: Get to Know Your Vices

 One of the things I tell people who ask about the glamor of  writing* is that the best part is getting to do research without  anyone else asking you why you want to know about  something.  Poisons?  Writing a murder mystery.  Sanitation?  Researching the lifestyles of the past and  famous.  Bio-ethics?  Dude, I write science fiction.  And since I’ve set my current WIP in the  European middle ages, I’ve been trying to get a handle on  religion as a force seeping into every part of life.  I wasn’t  raised that way (my brother and I were raised, I like to say, with no visible means of religious support) and it requires a good deal of research, not just factual but emotional, to feel like I have a handle on it.

One of the best resources I’ve found lately is The Good Wife’s Guide, a series of instructions written by a middle-aged burgher in Paris for his fifteen year old wife, to help her fulfill her duties to God and himself.  If this sounds sort of insufferably patriarchal–well, consider the time and place.  In fact, the tone of the Guide is rather sweet–he clearly cares for the girl and considers it is his job to steward her from inexperience to competence in all the important ways.  Further, he’s well aware that she is likely to outlive him, and he’s teaching her how to be a good wife to the next guy as well.  So he outlines a program, a XX-step approach to being a good wife, circa 1370. Continue reading


In Defense of Adverbs

Adverbs are terrible!  Awful!  Wimpy bits of junk!  Every writer workshop or class or lecture I’ve attended has said these words–or a paraphrased version, anyway.  It gets worse, if you hang around long enough.

Avoid adverbs!  They weaken your sentences!  Destroy your paragraphs!  Ruin your garden!  Wipe out your chances for a date!  Don’t use more than two per novel!

Oh, calm down.

First of all, did you notice I used seven adverbs in the above three paragraphs?  Continue reading


A Horse Walked Into a Bar

(c) Lynne Glazer

(c) Lynne Glazer

Whenever horse people get together, they inevitably and naturally talk horses. Almost always, after the veterinary disasters and the training tips, conversation turns to Funny Things My Horse Did.

Horses have a sense of humor. “Horselaugh” isn’t just a metaphor. The photo here? He does that All. The. Time. He also surgically removes his shoes using fence wire and just the right degree of twist, unties your shoes, and picks your pocket while you’re distracted.

And yes, he’s aware of the effect he’s creating. See the big black 100-gallon tub he tipped over before he experimented with weaving himself through the fence bars? Continue reading


Up: A Very Short Review

Surely we are living in the second Golden Age of animation!  Pixar makes consistently excellent movies, technically grand and solidly put together.  Up is a worthy successor to Wall-E and The Incredibles, with a number of surprising themes and clever ideas.


It is actively anti-Disney (the firm that gave us “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”) to begin an animated film with ageing, frustration, infertility and death.  The importance of moving on, of finding new arenas and fresh fields to conquer, is more often associated with Stephen Sondheim (as in his Sunday In The Park With George).    But here we are, watching a movie cartoon about second acts and elder care.

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Watching the Singularity

Previously posted by invitation at Transalchemy.

When it comes to the Singularity, I’m a tourist. Neither a believer nor atheist, proponent nor naysayer, I find the phenomenon too good to pass by without commenting. Like nuclear power, it’s fascinating in a science fictiony kind of way. You can’t help but stand back and admire its audacity. You wonder how we figured all that out. You get the feeling that back in the early days, the developers must have scratched their heads and said, “nice idea, but I don’t know.”

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Pitfalls of Writing SF & Fantasy #3: Subjunctive Tension

Vonda's Favorite Mug

Read This First!

McIntyre’s First Law:

Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you could be wrong.

Pitfall #3: Subjunctive Tension,
“Don’t Mince Words, Bones,
Tell Me What You Really Mean!”

Samuel R. Delany coined the term subjunctive tension, which is the difference between what you mean and what you actually say. In “realistic” fiction you can get away with a lot of metaphorical (not to say sloppy) phrasings that, in science fiction, can bring the reader up short.

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From InConJunction, Late

inconjunctionI knew this one was going to be late, but I have to apologize.  This is ridiculously late.

However, here I am at InConJunction, the Indianapolis science fiction convention, and I’ve been having a fine time.


The folks are friendly, the dealer’s room is dangerous, the toastmaster is witty, the hall costumes are fun and there are giant inflatable things everywhere.  I do not know why there are giant inflatable things everywhere, but there are and they do liven up a hotel.incon-042 Continue reading