Tornado, and Historical Murder

There was an actual tornado in the area last night–“weak”, they say, but even a tiny one is no joke. The dogs didn’t even hear any thunder; I know this because if they had, Boxnoggin would have been pressed as close as possible to me, shaking so hard the entire bed quivered. The poor fellow does not like skybooms.

He’ll adjust to falling water, but noise is a different story. It doesn’t help that he has fennec-style ears, poor thing. The loudest event we had chez nous was a dead branch falling from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir early in the day, which hit a table and broke one of the planters on it.

I was going to harvest the epazote soon anyway.1

Summer has officially been broken, and not a moment too soon. I was about to desiccate into dust. I did get about a hundred pages of copyedits eyeballed yesterday, while listening to Anonymous 4, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballé. It was quiet and lovely, but I had to knock off early to make dinner.

I also finished Emma Southon’s A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and now I need to get everything else she’s written. People who say history is boring haven’t read enough of the good stuff, and there seems a positive conspiracy, both in the school system and out of it, to make ‘what happened before now’ as dry and droning as possible. I think it’s because people who know their history are forewarned about the bullshit kleptocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and authoritarians pull, so said ‘crats and dictators seek to control it–and make it boring–as a matter of course.

In any case, that particular book was a joy to read2, and is full of crunchy historical events and analysis. I am tempted to take another running leap at Homo Necans now that I’ve got Southon’s book under my belt, to compare, contrast, and do some pleasant deep thinking about. An active reading life is somewhat like a spiral; engaging with a book may lead one to a deeper understanding of a previous text, which just happens to be one of my very favourite things.

Of course, I might not have the energy for more than a few pages before I pass out, either on the couch or in bed. Whatever this is–and the current diagnosis is indeed burnout, since I’ve not lost my sense of smell, there’s no fever, and the scratchy-throat is going down–it has robbed me of the will to attempt anything more complex than simply hanging onto the edge of my day with teeth and fingernails, getting the absolute minimum of work done so I don’t fall too far behind.

And I hate it. I positively loathe not being able to work at my accustomed speed. It puts me in quite a temper, or it would if I had the energy to be peeved instead of grimly determined.

In any case, I’ve a limited amount of pep today, and most of it needs to be spent knocking out more CE pages. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I can move to the proofs on the third (and final, I get a lot of emails asking about that) Hostage to Empire book.

I loved that series, but writing the third during lockdown and some of the associated problems (not anyone’s fault, not even the Romans3) robbed me of every inch of joy in an achievement. I will be relieved to have it finished, though I know what happens to the characters several years afterward…well, less said about that, the better.

In any case, the minimum for today is another hundred pages of CEs. In order to get there, breakfast must be attempted, the dogs must be walked, and maybe a few kilometers run to shake me into some kind of alertness have to be achieved. Yesterday’s run in the rain was lovely, but also a torment. Still, it did give me enough short-term energy to untangle quite a few commas, ellipses, and copyeditor queries.

Off we go into Tuesday. Hopefully no more tornadoes are lying about, but if they are, well, we’ve a basement. We’ll see how it goes.

Over and out.

Repair or Gasp

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I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.

Create, Innate… Cookie?

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Not the cookies in question, but still good.

Yesterday was… an experience. I was already exhausted, unable to sleep Tuesday night; I finally got up, let the dogs out and fed them, and grabbed my phone on the way back to bed, thinking I could at least have a bit of a lie-in.

Boy, was I wrong.

I found out white supremacist terrorists were rioting in federal and state capitols, egged on by their Dear Orange Leader. It was unsurprising–I did, after all, write a whole book about this back in 2015–but still terrifying.

I’ve read history. I know what could happen, what’s likely to happen. I don’t mind telling you I’m not sanguine about any of this. Most of all, I’m pretty sure none of the racist fuckwads attempting a coup for their Tangerine Twitler will suffer any real consequences.

The Princess was home from work, too, and had glanced at the news early in the morning–then remained fixed to it, horrified. Every time some-damn-thing else happened, one of us would call down the hallway. The Prince, busy with distance-learning, spent the entire day holed up in his room with schoolwork, and consequently had only faint intimations of trouble until we all convened for dinner. I was glad both of my children were safe and home where I could see them. Probably irrational, but powerfully comforting nonetheless.

What I really want to talk about, though, is chocolate chip cookies.

The day ended, for me, with hugging my children–though both of them are much taller than I am now, they still find comfort in Mum’s closeness–and reassuring them. Reminding each other to breathe, reminding them that we have plans in case things go haywire, reminding ourselves that we’re in fact extremely privileged and lucky. I retreated to bed hoping against hope for some sleep.

Helped by exhaustion (and, let’s face it, a dose of Tylenol PM) I did manage to pass out. My dreams were feverish, ending with some guy in a flying lawn chair swooping through neighborhood backyards. (I don’t know, don’t ask me.) And when I resurrected in the clear light of dawn to take the dogs out once more, there were chocolate chip cookies on the dining-room table.

“Yeah,” the Princess muttered, when she shuffled out of her bedroom for breakfast. “World’s on fire. Figured I’d bake.”

“The cookies,” I said, through a thick fog of pre-caffeination, “didn’t exist before, now they do. We’ll eat them and they’ll be part of us forever. You made something out of other things. That’s just so cool, and it doesn’t have to be monetized although we’re trapped in late-stage capitalism.”

My daughter grinned, in the particular way that means she understands but can’t resist poking me. “Get some coffee, Mum.” She paused. “I love you.”

Kids, man.

Really, they weren’t just cookies. They were a cry in the face of destruction, a hope for something better, a way to say I love you not just to me but to her brother as well, a soothing reminder that we can build and make and do things that weren’t there before.

Creativity–making things–is powerful and healing at the same time. Making something that wasn’t there before is an old, old human magic, and so innate we overlook it. Magic is changing consciousness at will (thank you, Aleister, you were a jerk but you did have a way with words sometimes) but it’s also willing something into existence. The human capacity to create is natural as breathing; we take it for granted. And it’s also therapeutic when some assholes seem determined to be as hateful and murderous as possible.

Creating doesn’t have to be monetized, it doesn’t have to be a side gig. It’s a natural human function performed in a hundred little ways each day. It’s also a powerful way to say fuck you to those murderous, treasonous assnuts who like to poison themselves, not to mention the rest of us, with racism and violence.

I have a whole rant about how choosing that poison means throwing away their humanity, but now’s not the time.

If you’re utterly exhausted by all this, if you can’t look away, if you can’t seem to focus on much else, well, welcome to the club. Don’t beat yourself up over it! It is an utterly reasonable response to this fuckery. And this is not a call for you to drag yourself forth and have to deal with one more thing. You don’t have to make something right now. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy.

I’m just saying there are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, because the Princess made them. People are making things, people are sticking together, lots of people are staying home to protect others during a pandemic and lots of people are trying like hell to do something, anything, whatever they can to make the world a little better.

We outnumber the racist, destructive, poisonous assnuts. We always have. The news is dire and the situation is bad, and (not but, AND) the human capacity to care and to create is so innate, so reflexive, that we’re still making and doing and caring for each other despite that. It’s natural and sane to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s also natural and sane to make something if you’ve the urge and the energy. Both are okay.

That’s what I’m clinging to, this first Thursday of 2021. There are more cookies in the world than there were yesterday, and once consumed they’ll be part of us forever. It doesn’t feel like a lot when I stare at the news, I’ll admit.

It’s still important, and still a comfort.

Over and out.

Yelling About Isildur, Part II

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So yesterday I began the morning yelling about Isildur, went for a run with Boxnoggin, and came back bleeding from knees, hand, forehead and chin because said Boxnoggin startled when a bus drove past and took my legs out from under me.

Don’t worry, Boxnoggin’s fine. I was face-down on pavement, somewhat dazed, and he had the grace to nose at me like why are you on the ground, Mum? Is this where we live now? Is this the new game?

It’s hard to be angry at a canine who literally doesn’t remember what happened five seconds ago. Anyway, I didn’t feel the rest of that run, what with all the adrenaline going on. The scabs are great and I’m telling everyone I got into a fight.1

But what you’re really here for is Part II of Why Elrond Should Cut Isildur Some Ding-Dang Slack, right? (Part I is here.) If you don’t like my nerding about Tolkien, you might want to skip this blog post too.

Ready? Here we go…


So Ar-Pharazon2 is getting ready to sail West, there’s portents galore3, Sauron is sacrificing Elf-friends to Morgoth in the middle of Numenor, and Elendil has looked at this shit and decided “oh HELL naw.” He tells his sons4 to load up their ships, and there’s some deciding which harbor to sneak into. So Isildur (recovered from his TOTALLY BADASS raid to rescue a fruit from the White Tree, don’t forget) and Anarion–his younger brother, who Elendil probably liked better since he was named after the sun instead of the moon like Isildur, although it could just be because the White Tree of Valinor was older than the Golden one, sure, whatever–load up their ships and await developments.

Not a moment too soon, as it turns out, because Ar-Pharazon weighed anchor and went sashaying westwards, and that pissed the Valar off but mightily.

AR-PHARAZON: “Look, about that Death thing, it really doesn’t seem such a gift from Iluvatar, and there’s this guy Sauron making some really good points–“
THE VALAR: “Look, we gave you ONE RULE, don’t sail west towards our island, and what do you go and do?”
AR-PHARAZON: “But I’m the Golden King of Numenor, and I made this Sauron guy my servant and… oh, what the fuck, I’m coming over, we’ll talk.”

Every time I read about Ar-Pharazon setting sail and the Valar’s response I can’t help but think of the John Mulaney bit about a teenager at an illicit party throwing a bottle to the ground and yelling “Scatter!” when the cops arrive.5

In other words, the Valar decided oh hell naw too, and called their big brother to handle this bullshit. Well, Eru Iluvatar, God Himself, or the creative principle, or whatnot. And what does Eru do?

Well, Eru’s conflict-resolution skills aren’t great. He could have intervened against Morgoth’s bullshit at any moment of the First Age, or against Sauron’s bullshit at any goddamn moment in the Second and Third, but instead he… throws a tantrum when Ar-Pharazon sails West? To be fair, this was probably not the only ant farm Eru was tending, and Manwë, like most eldest kids left in charge of fractious younger siblings, probably didn’t let him know things had gotten Out Of Hand until someone had to go to the E.R. So you really can’t blame Eru for saying “EVERYONE GO TO YOUR ROOMS RIGHT-FUCKING-NOW, DAMMIT!”

Except when Iluvatar in his infinite wisdom6 does that, there’s a giant cataclysm, Valinor is removed from the world (though the Elves can still get there), Ar-Pharazon’s fleet is swallowed by the seas, and for good measure Eru sinks the entire frickin’ island of Numenor–dogs, cats, babies, assholes, and elbows alike–except for maybe the one place where Tar-Miriel7 fled to high ground.

It’s all very… Yahweh.

Anyway, I take all this time to explain because there’s Isildur, chilling on the ships with his dad and his little brother, maybe hoping the Valar will sink Ar-Pharazon and then everyone can get on with their lives, and BOOM. Here comes the sinking of Numenor/Atlantis, and since Elendil & Co. were super shady and snuck into a bay they weren’t supposed to be in, their ships aren’t immediately smashed to flinders but tossed towards the continent.

They make landfall, and since the Numenoreans have been spreading along the coasts and exacting tribute from a lot of people they’re not exactly penniless refugees, but the trauma of their entire damn island being smashed because one jackass just had to make a point probably didn’t help anyone at all.

The only silver lining, I suppose, was that Sauron, hanging out on Numenor doing the ol’ human sacrifices bit and laughing into his sleeve at how stupid Ar-Pharazon was, got caught up in the hubbub and lost his physical body. But he was one of the Maiar–basically an angel, you could say–so he didn’t really… need it? Anyway, he fled and couldn’t take “a comely form” after that, and spent a lot of time just rage-coalescing into The Eye.8

This would be enough trauma for any one person, but life’s not done with Isildur yet. To give the Elves credit, they don’t say “I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO,”9 instead focusing on “Hey, you’ve always been solid bros and you planned ahead, good job, let’s get you some Band-Aids.” So Elendil figures lemons outta lemonade, amirite? and he and his sons found Gondor in the south and Arnor in the north, and everyone settles down to maybe chill a bit and get some therapy.

Except there weren’t any therapists on Middle-Earth, I guess.

Unfortunately, Sauron was still pissy, and he couldn’t really consider the fall of Numenor a total 100% success because the jerkwads he hated most had survived and were swanning around with the Elves and making kingdoms and stuff. Elendil even thought Sauron was dead, but Sauron was all “OH NO, NOT EVEN CLOSE” and Elendil was all “…shit.”

ELENDIL: Okay, so I’ll hang out in Arnor and you two hang out in Gondor, play nice with each other.
ISILDUR & ANARION: Sure, Dad!
ELENDIL: I’m so glad Sauron’s gone!
ISILDUR & ANARION: Us too, Dad!
WITCH-KING OF ANGMAR (just not yet):10 THINK AGAIN, MOFOS!
ELENDIL: Oh, for Eru’s sake…

Now we’re getting into more well-known Tolkien history. There’s the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, and after they lose patience with Sauron being a pissy asshat they march out to give him stern talking-to. The Elven high king Gil-galad11 had a bone to pick with Sauron too, but Anarion (remember him?) was killed in the siege of Barad-dur.

ELENDIL: We’re gonna go kick Sauron’s ass.
ISILDUR & ANARION: Sure thing, Dad!
GIL-GALAD: Look out, there’s a–
ANARION: *gets crushed by a falling rock*
ELENDIL: …that was my favorite son, dammit.
ISILDUR: Well, this sucks.

So here’s Isildur. He grew up under the shadow of a murderous authoritarian regime, never once betraying his dad or his dad’s friends, risked his life saving a scion of the White Tree, did what his father said and got the getaway ships ready, saw his entire home (along with dogs, cats, babies, and everything else) perish in the grand-daddy of tsunamis or volcanic events or BOTH, built a fresh new whole-ass city in the south with his little brother, then has to go march to Mordor because Sauron is still being that fucking guy, and then he sees his little brother–who his father probably loved more–die terribly12 during the siege.

I’m just sayin’, a therapist or two in Middle-Earth would have saved a whole lot of hassle.

Isildur’s on the battlefield, friends dying all around him, his little brother’s crushed to paste, and what happens? Isildur’s dad–the father he never betrayed growing up, the father he stole the fruit of the White Tree for, the father he loved–also dies terribly at Sauron’s hands right in front of him.

Isildur does what eldest children do13–he saves the day, going mad with grief and rage, and he fucking kills an angel.14 We’re not talking Michael Landon mouthing soporifics or a little Hallmark cherub, no sir, Sauron was a fucking Maia, an immortal ageless being with so much life experience it wasn’t even funny.15 Even Gil-galad, a Noldorian High King, couldn’t stand the heat of Sauron’s hand, though there’s some contention that Elendil and Gil-galad sacrificed themselves to get Raid Boss Sauron down to the point where a single fighter could coup de grâce.16

GIL-GALAD: I’m on cooldowns! Cast something! Shield, something, anything!
ELENDIL: I’m not a fuckin’ paladin!
ISILDUR: I hate everything right now.
SAURON: *casts Immolate*
GIL-GALAD: *burning to death* …shit, I’m out, where’s my battle res?
ELROND: I’m in combat, I can’t fuckin’ cast it!
ELENDIL: *berserks*
SAURON: *has the One Ring buff* HAHAHAHAHAHA!
ELENDIL: *burning to death AND beaten to a pulp* …well, that didn’t go as I expected.
ISILDUR: *all cooldowns have reset* LEEEEEEEEROY JENKINS!
SAURON:shit.

Isildur slices! He dices! He saves the entirety of Middle-Earth during this terrible fucking battle, and at the end of it, all he gets is this lousy ring.

Now, if you’ve watched the movies, it’s actually pretty close to the book. Elrond and plenty of the Elves were all, “THROW IT IN THE FIRE, DIPSHIT!”

Just think about Isildur, though. This guy, probably suffering several different flavors of holy-old-hell PTSD, just saw his father beaten to death to top everything off. Is it any wonder the One Ring was all “hey, buddy, don’t throw me away–what else, after all, do you have left?” and Isildur listened?17

Isildur saved Middle-Earth and lost everything in the process; of course he was determined to keep a loot item that might rebuild a little of it. Then, as a final fuck-you,18 the goddamn Ring betrays him, slips from his finger in the river, and he ends up with a bunch of orc arrows in his back.

And Elrond–who of all people should understand, being orphaned too and seeing all this shit go down on the battlefield–still gets snitty with Gandalf over it centuries after.

Now, my beloveds, you understand what I’m saying. Isildur, son of Elendil, got a raw goddamn deal.


There’s a lot in Tolkien to disparage–the misogyny, the racism, the turgid prose, I could go on and on. There is also a lot I find value in, not least because Lord of the Rings was one of the works that gave me hope as a kid suffering my own version of thralldom in Angbad. There are certain points where Tolkien as a writer was operating at one, conscious level while the meta versions of his characters were doing something quite entirely opposite. (See: Book Eowyn, and that paragraph where Tolkien realizes he had a girl kill the Witch-King of Angmar and frantically backpedals, making it so the knife of Westernesse in the hands of a hobbit who at least had twig-and-berries could get the XP from the fight.19)

As a writer, often balancing on that knife-edge between control over the universe of my creation and the work doing what it will because it’s an organic whole, I derive a great deal of comfort from the meta-versions of the characters. Sometimes the work knows better than the writer what’s needed, and to his credit (or maybe because he took so much refuge in the legendarium to stave off his own horror and survivor’s guilt) Tolkien often let the meta-characters do as they would.

Maybe he didn’t even notice.

Maybe I’m delving into Tolkien as an escape from 2020. Maybe there’s the added attraction of being able to make ManFan heads explode, and the amusement I get from jackasses in my inbox telling me I have ruined Tolkien 4EVA by getting my filthy girl cooties on it.20 Maybe I see something a bit noble in Tolkien père‘s21 dedication to his imaginary world and Tokien fils‘s dedication to his father ‘s work.22 Maybe it’s just the exhausted writer in me crawling back into the comfort of fanfic, where someone else has done the heavy lifting and I can just enjoy the ride. Maybe I just want to share something I find strength in, maybe I just love to yell about cool things. Maybe it’s all this, and more.

I’ve got to get some more ibuprofen. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour into nerdery; heaven knows I’ve enjoyed writing it. Sail on into the West, my friends, and don’t take any wooden Silmarils.


Here endeth the tale.

for now.

Yelling About Isildur, Part I

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I was going to do a whole Masto/Twitter thread yelling about Isildur last night, but there was the Incident with the Vindaloo-Coated Rice Grain at dinner and then I was quite naturally worn out, since the day had been unsatisfactory at best despite getting all my wordcount in.

The cognitive load of 2020 is something, ennit. I feel like the year itself, rushing past, is deforming me like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. Plus, I have a LOT to say about Isildur, and most of it requires some background. If you’re not interested in my Tolkien binge, you might want to skip this particular blog post–and probably tomorrow’s as well, since this is gonna be a two-parter.

Still here? All right. Strap on your helm and get ready for some massive OMG WTF. Let’s go.


I spooled up the Fellowship of the Ring movie earlier this week, figuring that the Tolkien binge deserved to be visual as well. (I still get chills at Cate Blanchett doing the voiceover.)

We see Elrond in the prologue, driving home just how old Earandil’s son is; it reminded me of later in the movie when he tells Gandalf, “I was there the day the strength of Men failed.” Now, normally I’m Team Elrond all the way–he might be constipated, but he’s also a solid mensch most of the time–but I’d just finished reading the Akallabeth chapter and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe Elrond should lay off Isildur a little.

I’m about to get a little nerdy here in order to give you background. Just… trust me.

Now, Elrond and his twin brother Elros saw their mother Elwing1 throw herself into the sea rather than give up a Silmaril to the remaining Sons of Feanor2, and the boys were adopted by Maglor3 and never saw their dad again. They were essentially orphans even though their parents are celebrated in song, and you’d think that would give Elrond a little bit of fellow-feeling for Isildur.

Because my dear sweet gods, Isildur had it rough, and I didn’t realize quite how rough until my last read-through of the Silmarillion.

Isildur is descended from Earandil too (he’s the however-many-greats-grandson of Elros, who decided to be counted among mortal Men4), so he’s a kinsman of sorts. But Isildur grew up in Numenor while Sauron was in charge, which was… not ideal.

You see, Sauron was the henchman of Morgoth, the Big Bad of Arda. Morgoth’s essentially a Luciferian figure5 but his ass was whupped by the Valar and Earendil (big battle, lots of dragons) at the end of the First Age. Sauron decided he didn’t want to go back to the Valar and possibly get capital punishment or worse, so he fucked off to the hinterlands and started fooling around calling himself the Lord of Gifts and helping people out–for a price, and the price was rarely immediately apparent.

And he was GOOD at it! Sauron was Stalin to Morgoth’s Lenin, sort of?6 Before the whole Rings of Power thing, only Galadriel and Gil-galad refused to have any truck with this guy calling himself Annatar7 and the Valar were busy with getting all the Elves back home and repairing the damage the huge battle had done, plus they were all “Men? We don’t need no stinkin’ Men, Iluvatar can deal with that, we’ve got all we can handle.”

One suspects even Manwë8 was feeling kind of harassed at this point, what with Ulmo lifting an eyebrow every time their gazes met.9

Anyway. The Men who fought against Morgoth got long lifespans and their very own island homeland kind-of-within sight of the Deathless Isle, which was a pretty sweet deal. (Look, I know this is all very boring and nerdy, but I have a point, I PROMISE.)

That isle was Numenor. The first High King there was Elros; the kings of Numenor were descended from him and Elendil was too, on the distaff side.10

Fast forward a few *mumblemumblemaybethousand* years and past the whole “creation of the Rings of Power and war of Sauron vs. the remaining Elves” thing, and Numenor was a huge power in Middle Earth. But Sauron had noticed them, and he was always more likely to try to corrupt Men.11 Plus there was that whole “Gift of Iluvatar” thing.

In other words, death.

Plenty of Numenoreans started thinking “WTF is this death thing? Elves get to be immortal, and we can sail west to the Undying Lands. I mean, we’re not supposed to, but we could… you know, maybe the Valar weren’t being quite honest with us…”

No doubt Sauron thought, hey, that’s handy! And he settled down in Mordor to wait after he blew his cover with the whole Rings of Power thing.

Tolkien was, of course, intimately acquainted with the fear of mortality. You could say his entire legendarium is a protest against the senseless slaughter he saw in WWI’s trenches.12 It’s quite clear in the Akallabeth chapter that it’s fear of death that prepared the ground for Sauron, although Tolkien says earlier in the Silmarillion that Morgoth got to Men before the Valar could in the First Age and planted a fear of the Gift in them, sensing it would bear fruit later.

SO. The last and most powerful king of Numenor doesn’t want any of this death bullshit, thank you very much. He marries the true heir to the throne13 and then decides “You know what? I’m a super badass, I’m going to SAIL TO THE CONTINENT and CHALLENGE SAURON!”

The Numenoreans who were still tight with the Elves were all “this is a super bad idea” but Ar-Pharazon14 sailed off to the Continent and challenged Sauron to combat.

Now, Sauron was sitting in Mordor, and he looked at this dude, and I can only imagine he smiled like a fox watching chickens march right into its den.

Ar-Pharazon, because he was totally That Dude, sent his heralds out to say, “Yo, Sauron! Let’s fight! Or, you know, you could just be my vassal, because look at my army, right? IT’S SO HUGE!”15

And Sauron said, “…Okay.”

So Sauron was taken to Numenor in chains, which was of course right where he wanted to be. And Elendil and the Elf-friends were all “guys, this is a really super bad idea” but Ar-Pharazon and his buddies were like “SHUT UP,” and started rounding up Elf-friends and putting them in prison.

As he’d planned to, Sauron talked his way out of chains and into Ar-Pharazon’s cabinet, and they were best buds for a while. It got to the point where Sauron even had a temple to Morgoth set up in the middle of Numenor’s capital city, and was offering human sacrifices to his “master.”16 The sacrifices were–you guessed it–most often Elf-friends.

One gets the idea Orwell and Tolkien, while not exactly getting along, might at least have agreed on a few things about human nature.

This is the world Isildur grew up in. To top it all off, he wasn’t even the favorite son, that was Anarion. Anarion was named after the sun, Isildur after the moon. You get the feeling that Elendil, even though he was sort of a standup guy, couldn’t help but play favorites, but Isildur was like “yo, this is cool, I love my brother AND my dad.” But at the same time, there’s human sacrifices going on, and living under a despotic regime isn’t good for anyone.

Sauron takes it into his head to cut down the White Tree of Numenor, and it’s not Elendil or Anarion who sneak in past all the guards and take a fruit from it, basically ensuring the survival of a scion of one of the Two Trees of freakin’ Valinor. No, that’s Isildur, basically lifting a giant middle finger to Sauron, because he kills some of Sauron’s lieutenants and cronies in the process of sneaking in and not-so-sneaking out. And Isildur got totally trashed during it17 and only recovered when the sapling bore its first leaf.

Then Ar-Pharazon, egged on by Sauron–who is basically the head minister now, Walsie to Ar-Pharazon’s Queenie18–decides “You know what? Screw this death thing, Imma sail West to the Undying Lands, and if the Valar don’t like it, I’ll make them my servants just like I did with this Sauron dude the Elves were saying is all big and bad.”

Elendil and his sons look at this, and Elendil says, “All right, boys. Get the ships ready, because this is not gonna end well.” So Isildur and Anarion prep getaway conveyances like the good sons they are.

And then… it all goes even more pear-shaped than Elendil could ever imagine.

To be continued…

Some Victories, Not All

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The dogs are quite upset that I won’t go anywhere without finishing my coffee. I try to tell them it’s for the best, that dragging me anywhere uncaffeinated is a Very Bad Idea, but since they’ve never known1 the glory of tea or a latte they are unwilling to be convinced.

Yesterday was… not very productive. I should have known that two days of normal work would require a day of threadbare wandering the house, muttering to myself and being utterly unable to settle or produce anything like real text. I did roll around in a couple trunk novels and change a hair color in the portal fantasy–what on earth did we ever do without Ctrl-F, I ask you–and savaged myself internally for being so apparently lazy I can’t produce at my usual rate during a pandemic and attempted fascist coup.

I’ll take “Things you say to yourself that you would never dream of saying to a friend” for $400, Alex.2

I do know what we did without Ctrl-F; I wrote two novellas on a manual typewriter when I was a very young sprout. Both are resting safely in a landfill somewhere; I couldn’t go back to retrieve them like a gecko running back to eat a tail they left in a predator’s claws, even if I wanted to. Still, both burn in me, and sometimes I think of them and my old diaries, safe amid tons of rubbish.

When you have to throw away things that matter to you to survive, their ghosts can still comfort you. The important thing was that my adult caregivers–I don’t really want to call them parents–couldn’t grab and befoul them. Some victories, even though Pyrrhic, are still worth celebrating.

Not all. Just some.

Anyway, I’m vertical, if not technically awake, and sucking on some lovely espresso-ground caffeine sent by a dear friend. The dogs are patrolling up and down the hall, ready to nudge me for where the leashes hang near the sliding glass door to the deck upon the very instant I seem ready to take them for walkies. Yesterday held no thunderstorms–for which said dogs are grateful, even if I am slightly disappointed–despite the unsettled rain-sun-rain bands moving through. That’s probably the cause of the throbbing headache I barely even noticed all day, being occupied with kicking myself for being unable to work.

I even went so far as to think “it’s raining, I don’t deserve to be in this house because I’m not working, I should go out and stand in the rain and be miserable.” I know it doesn’t make sense, but apparently control over making myself feel bad is the only control I feel like I have left with the world spinning so violently.

Fortunately I did not go stand in the rain. For one thing, the dogs would insist on accompanying me, and I didn’t want them cold or wet. For another, I realized it was a ridiculous thought, though it recurred at jet-takeoff volume inside my head all throughout the day. Instead, I made myself hot chocolate, texted friends, snuggled the dogs, attempted to read, touched shelves of books, and tried to watch Richard Armitage smoldering in a cravat.

Finally, I settled in bed last night with old war documentaries. I don’t know why they’re so soothing–probably the fact that the situations in them are long done with, nothing I can affect either way, and the narrator’s voice stays at a steady droning pitch throughout, maybe. It does mean my dreams are mostly in sepia with weird flashes of hypersaturated color instead of all-color, which gave me a bit of startlement when I surfaced this morning. I thought holy shit, have I lost dreaming in color too?

I have absorbed a bare minimum of caffeine now, so am probably safe to leave the house for dog-walking and the running of the Boxnoggin. Said Boxnoggin is prancing up and down the hall, attempting to drag me forth by sheer force of will; Miss B has settled on my feet as I type, on the principle that the instant I move she will be alerted and ready to supervise and heeeeerd me.

Suppose I’d best get going, then. This is the downside of priding oneself on sheer endurance; one can’t even mope in the rain like a silly romantic poet.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. I know it’s rough, but it’s survival, and that is a victory. A non-Pyrrhic one, even.

Over and out.

Celebratory Tiramisu

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So last weekend, when the news came that the election was no longer in doubt, I double-masked, grabbed hand sanitizer, staggered out, and brought home a celebratory tiramisu.

The tiny local bakery (always my first choice) was jammed with (masked) customers so I didn’t even get out of the car; there was nothing in one supermarket bakery, so back into the car it was. I lucked out in the third, and carried my prize home.

We put a tea light on it, and the Little Prince–as our newest registered voter–got to make a wish for democracy and blew the candle out.

It’s been a week, hasn’t it. The nightmare is not over, but the chances of a coup are slowly–sloooooowly!–receding. We’re not out of the woods yet, but as Churchill intoned sententiously, it may very well be the end of the beginning.

I’m tired, and still a little ill. I know you’re tired too, my beloveds. I have grown to dislike hope over the last five-six years, since it hurts so much when that hope is ripped away by fascism. Still, like a cockroach, hope survives in hidden cracks, and I have been feeling it these past few days.

At that third supermarket bakery, the lady behind the case nodded when I asked if everyone else was celebrating Pennsylvania declaring for the forces of good, too. “Oh yeah,” she said, quietly, the corners of her eyes crinkling with a broad smile behind her mask. “Everyone’s tired, but so happy about it. Want ten percent off?”

Bless you, Bakery Case Lady. Bless you, bless you deeply.

So. Last Saturday the kids and I gorged on tiramisu and hope at once. After a long time in dark hopelessness, we are hungry for the good.

Here’s to hoping, then. (Even I can’t eradicate that cockroach.) Here’s to hoping, and to kindness, and to working together; here’s to a ringing defeat of fascism and its fellow travelers. Here’s to the end of the beginning.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, I know. And it’s a Friday the 13th in 2020. May Freyja grant us light and strength for the road ahead.

Oh, and cake, too.