Apparently I have “arrived”, to some small degree, since over the weekend I was the recipient of quite a few bot-written emails telling me I’m “too political” and have “lost readers” because of it. Well, either those emails were bot-written or more than one subliterate fascist mouthbreather with exactly the same knee-jerk misspellings and right-wing buzzword addictions decided to hit my contact form at exactly the same time from masked IPs.
Hilarious, isn’t it.
Assuming for one moment these were written by a real human being instead of a bot, I decided to make a public statement. Here it is again, just for clarity:
So if you’re emailing me with “you’ve lost me as a reader, you’re too political,” let me just answer you publicly: I don’t write for fascist white supremacist asshats. Go with your tiny god, I am singularly untroubled by your absence. Besides, I suspect you pirate content instead of buying honestly anyways, because cowardly thieves are all of a piece.
I’m repeating it here because my tweets are deleted after a certain amount of time (Jack Dorsey doesn’t get to mine my content for more than a short while, dammit) and so there is absolutely no grey area or confusion about where I stand.
No story is “apolitical”, and if you think it is, it’s only because you share prejudices with the writer. Human beings are political beings; artists transmute their daily lives into art and make no mistake, politics are a part of daily life. Politics affect schooling, the availability of food, whether or not a particular person will be targeted by violent law enforcement or COINTELPRO, the availability of healthcare, and a host of other inescapable facets of modern life.
If you side with violent repression, if you side with white supremacy, if you side with hatred and bigotry, you’re not going to like me or my books. Consider this fair and explicit warning. Also, attempting to threaten or “shame” me will only get you roundly mocked. Go sit in your dirty racist diaper and howl elsewhere, you’re doing this to yourself and I have no sympathy.
Everything is on fire right now, and I have to work. I have the luxury of still having work, and of being able to shut off the wi-fi and concentrate–if I can, I suspect it will be difficult for a long while. Of course I’d love to be a superhero, or impersonate one out on the streets, but that’s not my lane. My lane is my books, to tell stories, to tell the truth with fiction and not to look away, and to use whatever privilege and platform I personally have to boost those voices which might not have either.
If this angers you, if this makes you want to avoid my books or my blog or my social media streams, that’s fine. I’m not forcing you to read me. There’s a vast mass of content out there, I’m very sure you’ll find something that suits you.
I will not stop doing–and saying–what I know is right. I’m also not going to stop writing romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or any other genre I damn well please. If that’s a problem for you, there’s the door. If it isn’t, great! Come on in, grab a digital drink, and I’ll keep telling stories.
And that, as they say, is that. Onwards to Monday, my friends.
So, I recently read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I’m fascinated by the transition between paganism and Christianity for many reasons, personal and scholarly; I tend to follow Gibbons in thinking the faith both profited from and contributed enormously to the fall of the Roman Empire1. The older I get, the weirder Christianity and its assumptions seem to me.
Of course, the older I get, the weirder any religion other than a sort of salad-bar paganism seems. There’s a great deal of “live and let live” when your gods welcome foreigners into the pantheon as a matter of course. If one must be religious at all, a diverse group of gods who are required to show ID if they want you to do anything at all for them and are understood sometimes as representations of deep psychological processes one is harnessing for one’s own therapy and use in becoming a decent person is hardly the worst way to go.
But I digress. (As usual.)
History is full of “holy what the fuck” moments, and I had one about three-quarters of the way through the Ecclesiastical History, in Chapter XVI. Bede was talking about Caedwalla’s2 military takeover of the Isle of Wight.
Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys, brothers to Arwald, king of the island,were crowned with the special grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the Jutes.Coming to the place called At the Stone,they thought to be concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest, whose name was Cynibert, who had a monastery not far from there, at a place called Hreutford, that is, the Ford of Reeds, he came to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.
I quote the entire (short) chapter because I had to set the book down and stare into the distance, just working this around in my head. I think I even mouthed “what the fuck” at Miss B, who was snoring heavily next to me, blissfully unaware.
Dogs, man. Anyway.
The murder of royal children is nothing new in history; the very concept of monarchy makes it somewhat inevitable. Dictators pursue the families of those who oppose them on kind of the same principle, with extra terrorization thrown in.
But what brought me up cold was imagining those kids. Just think about it–you’re a child, your family is murdered, you’re hidden and betrayed, then you’re going to be executed and you know it, and along comes this guy to browbeat you into swearing allegiance to his particular sky fairy and he won’t leave you alone until you do.
Imagine being Bede and thinking this story is not horrifying but actually laudatory and exculpatory of murder, and worthy of being held up as a moral victory for your “pacifist” faith.3
Christianity is wild, yo. And people say history is boring.
Other things–like Bede’s constant harping on the “correct” way of calculating Easter, and the reasons why–were interesting and in some cases eye-rolling, but this one particular nugget filled me with cold sleepless horror. I had to take some Violette Leduc right after, to get the taste out of my mouth.
Of course, I also had to read Carlo Jansiti’s afterword about how Leduc’s publisher bowdlerized Ravages and wouldn’t bring out Therese and Isabelle until Leduc stood to make money from it from another (less shitty) publisher, at which point the shitty publisher said “Oh, no, we never said we wouldn’t publish it!”4 Which filled me with incandescent rage. I suppose as an anodyne to Bede it was healthy enough, but hardly less wearing on the nerves.
I was going to head right into The Book of Margery Kempe, but I think I need to pace myself and am instead diving into Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania, which I scored in the recent Palgrave sale. There’s only so much unfiltered medieval Christianity I can take at one go. Besides, the latter book is a collection of scholarly articles, so I can go hunting through the footnotes at leisure in a way the Kempe-dictated and priest-filtered book5 won’t allow.
I just… I’ve been thinking about that short chapter in Bede a lot lately. It hit me right in the feels, and I’ve never been so glad for modernity, imperfect as it is. Bede’s world was horrifying in several ways. Of course, life is still horrifying around the globe; I’m in an immensely privileged position (for many reasons) and grateful for it.
I want everyone in the world to be just as privileged as I am. More, even.
We can’t hope to understand or mitigate the horror without a knowledge of, and critical reckoning with, history. I think a lot about hearing Harry Turtledove talk about how on balance things are much better than they ever were, and he was absolutely right, but still, it’s awful enough and we can always do better.
I meant to spend the weekend finishing HOOD‘s Season Two zero draft, and possibly knocking off a chunk of Finder’s Watcher as well, but unfortunately Fate (in the form of a couple salad rolls, I suppose) intervened, and I spent Saturday night with a rather violent bout of food poisoning.
To be absolutely fair, it might not have been the salad rolls, but they were the only thing consumed in the right timeframe. Well, there was some cake a bit later, but… anyway, the point is, Saturday night was the kind of party nobody ever wants to have.
Except maybe the dogs, who were extremely excited at the break in routine, and wanted very much to get their noses into whatever I was producing from the top end (Mum is a magical food-making machine!) while not quite so enchanted with anything produced from the, erm, the other end. (Mum, that… doesn’t seem right…) Additionally, when I collapsed halfway between loo and bed–mostly because why bother trudging all the way back to pillows and sheets when I was just going to be back in the loo posthaste–they took turns nosing and snuggling me, either to encourage me to get up so the predators didn’t think I was weakened or to see if maybe I had produced more magical food.
In other words, it was an experience, and I spent most of Sunday staring blankly at whatever task was in front of me. There’s never an opportune time to get food poisoning, but I suppose it was lucky that I’ve been working ahead on just about everything. I would have prepped Soundtrack Monday and the final post for my NaNo series yesterday, but I was having trouble stringing words into coherent clauses, let alone sentences. I did get the red sauce and focaccia for the week done, since I’d spent most of Saturday (before the cyclone hit) doing prep work, so everything was to hand and easily done.
Consequently I’m feeling rather low this morning. Physical misery puts a pall over everything, and I’m tender in every direction from my midsection. There’s two scenes left to write in Season Two, but I can’t decide just what Robin Hood should be caught doing. Murder (utterly justified)? Theft (for a good cause, of course)? Something else? He isn’t talking, which doesn’t surprise Maid Marian one bit, so I suppose I might have to send Guy of Gisbourne in to irritate Robb into making a move. Sub rosa, of course, since Giz is already occupied in escaping an exploding spaceship.
I should note that characters have a funny dual existence inside my head. On the one hand, there’s the story; on the other, they’re all at a round table inside my head, jostling and discussing and telling different lies to each other. Sometimes one has to set a character against themselves or dangle something they want very badly before they’ll start talking. It’s not enough to know what happens next, I need to know why, and sometimes with a cagey character, I’m forced to play dirty.
Anyway. I should make a list, otherwise nothing will get done today; yet I don’t want to because I’m pretty sure only half of what I’d put on the list will get done at all, for no other reason than I’m still not feeling quite myself. Better than nothing, I suppose.
Off I go, chickadees. I hope your weekend was less… interesting… than mine.
I’ve got a survey out to my serial subscribers, asking if they want to go to Season Three of HOOD when Season Two ends. Season Three is the payoff, but from what I can tell, plenty of people are getting bored with Season Two.
I don’t take it personally–serials, especially long-running ones, are difficult, and the long shoal in the middle of a trilogy’s Book 2 is an inescapable fact of life. But it does mean that I might be finishing Season Two and putting together a whole new serial.
It might even be The Highlands War, but don’t bet on it. I have several prospects, including Lightning Bound and the wangsty Dracula reboot I’ve been playing hooky with. I may just keep Wangsty Dracula for my own personal delectation, too. It’s nice to have some things just for oneself.
In other news, I spent the weekend getting a few things put together, like an upcoming test giveaway. I’ll be giving away two signed, personalized copies of the UK edition of Dante Valentine; I want to see if the giveaways will drive a couple other things and I don’t do signings anymore.1 Of course, it may be an idea I’ll quietly let die on the vine once the flu-fever recedes, because I’ve been running 99.9F or slightly above since last week.
I don’t mind fever so much–my body tends to cook itself at the slightest provocation–but the body aches have convinced me it’s flu, and I do mind those. I feel like I’ve been beaten with a truncheon. The only thing I’m missing is garish bruises, which I’m alternately grateful for the lack of and a little peeved that I’m not wearing a badge of honor for.
I know it doesn’t make sense. It’s still how I feel.
Anyway, I’ve a full list of things to get done today, including the finishing touches on the giveaway and some yoga, since I’m going mad at not being able to run. If it’s not plantar fasciitis it’s the damn fever; it’s always something. Getting older sucks, but there are good things too. Like being able to look at things, shrug, and set them aside when they’re not serving me.
In any case, it’s a Monday and I’d best be back at work. I hope your beginning-of-blessed-autumn is proceeding a little more smoothly than mine, dear Readers.
No turkeys were harmed in the course of this entire thing. Inconvenienced, maybe, but that’s it.
I know you guys are wondering what happened on my last turkey-wrangling day, but it’s entirely anticlimactic. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Princess, a little concerned for my safety (or maybe my sanity, since I was returning home almost prostrate with heat and muttering about turkeys), decided to go with me on the last day. “I could hold the shovel,” she suggested, with a glint in her eye.1
“No way,” I said, immediately. “If that fucking turkey comes at you I’m going to have to kill it, and I want to avoid killing *friend name*’s turkey if it’s at all possible. You can stand outside the coop. With Shirley.”
“You’re a good friend.” She hopped off to get ready for the expedition.
I suppose I should add that my children are well used to Shirley, since she sits in the dining room most days, keeping an eye on the dogs while they’re at their bowls.
Anyway, we got there–I did not have to wrangle goats that day, thank the heavens–a little earlier than usual, and after dealing with all the other livestock we headed down to the coop. It was a bright, very hot morning, promising a tar-softening scorcher of an afternoon.
The Princess had seen Heloise and the chickens before, but never a turkey. “That’s… a really big bird,” she said, clutching Shirley to her chest.
“Just keep his attention.” I cast a critical glance at the coop fencing, which appeared to be holding up. “Wave Shirley around or something.”
“Yes ma’am.” She set to with a will, performing what I can only describe as a very slow interpretative penguin dance.
I tossed in scratch, glanced nervously at Turkey Boy, who was strutting back and forth with his tail high and his wings down, and backed cautiously out of sight.
I got in and out of the egg room, blocking the opening with the shovel, and found a paltry three eggs for our trouble. I did not, however, heave a sigh of relief until I was out of the egg room, the door firmly shut, and further firmly out of the coop itself, with the antechamber door closed as well.
“He’s really quite stunning,” the Princess said when I rejoined her at the fence. She had ceased her dance and was staring in rapt amazement. “And he looks calm.”
“Uh, not really. See the way his wings are down? That’s part of the mating dance. He’s not stomping, but he’s close. Plus, see how his snood’s getting red, and his throat too? He–“
I might have continued to lecture, but Turkey Boy made a short dash for the fence. Both the Princess and I stepped back in a hurry, and I almost turned my ankle in a rathole. Shirley swayed, and Turkey Boy stopped dead.
He might have leapt for the fence, but I think he saw Shirley and the Princess as an unholy cryptid of some sort, a terrifying amalgamation of young woman and flightless bird. He stopped, staring at us, and his throat vibrated with loud gobbles. Goose Girl had already nipped into the egg room to get at the kibble before her midmorning bath.
“Let’s not push it.” I grabbed the Princess’s sleeve and all but hauled her away.
I’m glad of two things: that someone else saw the sheer size of the bird, and that Turkey Boy didn’t come through the fence. If he’d gone after my child, she might have had to fend him off with Shirley before I arrived with a shovel–or before I grabbed him with my bare hands. Those spurs are deadly and only God knows what the resultant wounds might have been infected by, but I’d wring that bastard’s neck if he came at my baby.
We locked everything up and got in the car, and I didn’t quite spin out of the gravel driveway.2
We drove in silence for a short while, and finally the Princess turned to me from the window, her eyes gleaming with mischief. “Are you feeling relieved?”
“No more turkey,” I muttered, with feeling. “Thank gods.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “They’ll go on vacation again next year. By then you’ll have forgotten all about this.”
“Oh, fuck,” I muttered, knowing she was right.
It took a good hour before she stopped giggling.
ANYWAY, that was the last day I had to wrangle a turkey, and it passed without incident. Except for the rats, of course.
So there I was, amid scurrying rats with an upside-down plastic penguin and a galloping heart, gasping for breath.
…maybe I should back up.
So, I was taking care of livestock for two separate out-of-town friends. This particular day I’d already whistled a bunch of goats into behaving and had a flock of geese very curious about me and whatever snacks I might be carrying. Then it was another half-hour in the car to get to my second livestock babysitting job, and I was about to face Turkey Boy once more.
It’s not that I dislike him. It’s just that I had a job to do, and he seemed very determined to interfere. And really, I was the source of fowl kibble, and it was in his best interests to leave me be while I filled the trough–but good luck explaining that to a puffed-up, very angry turkey just entering his first mating season.
Anyway, I carried Shirley down to the coop, braced myself, and went around the side to prop her on a yellow rain bucket. I was greeted by the chickens, who had figured out my arrival meant food of one type or another and were very excited, and Goose Girl, whose honking started pretty much the moment I opened my friend’s back door to go down the coop hill.
And, of course, Turkey Boy strutted into the covered yard, gobbling once or twice and eyeing me with beady impatience.
Now, the day before had brought an unwelcome development or two. First, Turkey Boy had figured out that I had to remove the shovel from the egg room entrance as I retreated; he was bound and determined to keep my rearguard engaged, hoping to force a battle upon familiar ground. It’s no secret that the hardest maneuver to pull off is a fighting retreat, but so far I’d managed. And if the gods were willing and the two-foot plastic penguin could distract Turkey Boy for long enough, I could be in and out in short order, and retire safely.
I’d been doing some thinking, and instead of putting Shirley on a concrete stepping stone, I decided some altitude was necessary. (She is, after all, a flightless bird.) Fortunately there was a yellow rain bucket at the far end of the covered yard, so I propped her there, careful to point her beak away so she would appear to be eyeing the yard sidelong.
It seemed to work–Goose Girl and Turkey Boy took turns yelling at the interloper, while the chickens, almost unconcerned, watched me for any sign of scratch grain. I tossed in their daily ration and tried not to scream when I saw a flicker of tail and beady eye well across the yard. The rats were keeping a low profile, since Schrodinger Roy had followed me down the hill.
Roy’s an interesting case. He’s actually two smoke-grey cats who could be twins, or, like Olsen Twins, one cat vibrating so quickly he appears to be in two places at once. If I hadn’t been possessed of absolute proof, both photographic and direct, that they were a pair, I’d’ve thought my friend had a teleporting cat outside as well as in. (Long story.) Anyway, Schrodinger Roy does a great deal of ratting down at the coop, and I am sure pickings are quite good.
Anyway, I gathered the kibble, got the trusty shovel, and managed to get in the egg room and block the door as usual. I think the chickens had pecked an importunate rat to death, since I had to also use the shovel to get a rag of fur and bones out of the egg room and one of the fresh-laid eggs had been destroyed, poor thing.
Turkey Boy was gobbling loudly, letting everyone know that there was an observer he didn’t care for. And then, as I dumped the kibble and began loading the can with unsmashed hen fruit, a deadly quiet descended.
Uh-oh, I thought, but had to finish my work. It was another feat of agility and flexibility to gather the eggs while keeping the door blocked, and suddenly the shovel was almost wrenched out of my hand again.
Turkey Boy had decided on a surprise attack.
Once more, I retreated with shovel in one hand and a coffee can of eggs in the other. Once more, Turkey Boy threw himself at the egg room door, and I heard his claws scrape wood suspiciously near where my head would be.
Did I mention turkeys fly for short distances, since they like to roost above the forest floor? Yeah, I found that out.
I braced the egg room door and had to outright tell my fingers to turn loose of the shovel. Then there was tidying the small antechamber with the galvanized bins of kibble and scratch, as well as transferring the eggs to a plastic bag for carrying up the hill. When I was done, I closed the coop door with a sigh of relief, and almost jumped out of my skin as Schrodinger (or Roy, who can tell, although Roy is usually the more vocal of the two) mewed slightly to let me know backup had arrived.
“You missed the party,” I told him, sotto voce, and his tail flicked. Then I realized something that made my heart plummet into my guts with an almost audible splash.
It was, again, quiet. Too quiet.
I rounded the corner and hurried along the coop wall, reached the fence, and stopped, somewhat confused. At first I thought the damn turkey had exploded out of sheer spite, and then I thought he had melted like hot wax.
Apparently, Turkey Boy had figured out I wasn’t in the egg room to punish, so he chose the next best thing, the tuxedo-clad interloper. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but…
Apparently Goose Girl had been attempting to snake her neck through the fencing and get to Shirley. She might have succeeded, being a creature with no little cunning and quite a bit of persistence, if not for Turkey Boy catching sight of this and deciding, in truly male fashion, that he could do it better.
Especially if he stood on a goose.
“Oh shit,” I said, and Roy mewed again, taking off at an angle along the coop fence. Now, the cat was supremely unconcerned about Shirley or me. What he was really interested in was a rat, and I suppose he’d seen one.
Feathers flew. Goose Girl honked like a bagpipe in the squeezing arms of a murderous clown, and Turkey Boy attempted to climb her in order to reach Shirley, who floated serenely above the fray.
Or, she appeared to, because she was teetering on the rain barrel. Motion communicated through the fencing couldn’t tip over the small barrel, but Shirley, though large, is also hollow.
I am almost certain I teleported across the intervening space, because if I had moved in the usual manner I’m sure I would have punted a cat. I had the hazy idea that Shirley might be injured if she fell from that height, but also, the fencing was beginning to look a little like it might not hold up under Turkey Boy’s assault, and poor Goose Girl, stunned but not yet down for the count, still had her neck through it.
Things happened very quickly.
I got there just as Shirley toppled, grabbed her head–look, it was the only handle I could be sure of–and raised her aloft. Turkey Boy beat his wings, gobbling and making a noise I can only describe as a rattle, and Goose Girl began to curse him with the fervor of a Roman matron warning an entire temple about the approach of the Gauls. Chickens scattered, Roy leapt on a hole–just missing a long naked tail–and, true to form, I was swearing.
At the top of my lungs.
I finished by holding Shirley aloft like a war club and screaming, “GODDAMN YOU, [turkey name], THAT IS E-NOUGH!”
It was the same tone I’d take with a bus full of misbehaving third-graders, and while it didn’t dent Turkey Boy’s enthusiasm, it startled Goose Girl into retracting her head through the fence, clearly grasping this was a higher priority than getting the dumbass Meleagris off her back. Which was, frankly, all to the good. But if the damn fence came down, I was going to have to fight a pitched battle with the fucking turkey.
So that was how I came to be swearing at top volume, waving a plastic penguin at a turkey while rats fled a teleporting cat.
At least I was wearing shoes. (Small mercies.)
Goose Girl reared, spreading her snow-white wings, and I would have been lost in artistic appreciation if the situation hadn’t been so dire. Turkey Boy sailed backwards, since he had not–thank the gods–been clutching with his spurs, and he landed with a feathery oof that would have been funny if I hadn’t been so, well, out of sorts is the only way I can describe it.
I checked the fence, left Roy stalking around and waiting for some quiet to entice his prey back out, and hoped Goose Girl hadn’t been injured. (She’s fine, don’t worry.) I carried Shirley up the hill, cradling her somewhat tenderly, and I realized halfway that not only was I apologizing (aloud and repeatedly) to a plastic penguin…
…but I had dropped the eggs. Fortunately, I was able to scurry back downhill and grab the plastic bag without incident, since Turkey Boy had decided to nurse his grudges and look for scratch in the wider, fenced, but uncovered yard on the other side of the coop.
That was my second-to-last day of turkey wrangling. And you know what? I hadn’t cracked a single egg.
Goddamn turkey. But at least Shirley–and Goose Girl–were uninjured.
And I still had one more day of turkey wrangling to go.