And just think, these guys get paid for writing about politics and I don’t.

That’s not the worst thing about the string of stupid right-wing responses to Harvey Weinstein’s history of predatory sexual behavior and alleged rape, but yes, it annoys me a little that these hacks get paid well for spewing bullshit.

The revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory sex history has drawn much more attention from right-wing pundits than Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly or Trump, because Weinstein’a Hollywood liberal, and he donates money to Democrats, so they’re free to condemn him without hurting their side. And they can use Weinstein to take shots at feminism, premarital sex and Democrats, which excites them more than taking shots at rapists or condemning the ability of the rich and powerful to silence women. And in fairness, it’s up to the usual quality of right-wing thinking on rape and harassment.

•Ross Douthat, for example, gets space on the NYT’s editorial page to agree with Weinstein the real issue is 1970s permissiveness: “Never so many divorces, never so many abortions, a much higher rate of rape, an S.T.D. crisis that culminated in the AIDS epidemic.” Um, no. We had higher reporting of rape. We had a high rate of divorce (assuming Douthat’s accurate, which can be a mistake) not because of culture but because n0-fault divorce had become legal and a lot of people were ready to fly. And abortion had just become legal and hadn’t yet suffered the thousand restrictions the right-wing has wielded since (the religious right thought abortion was moral at the time).

Saying society’s to blame is a conservative standby, like assertions women get raped because of hook-up culture or not being virgins. And sorry, Douthat, Roman Polanski slipping a 13-year-old girl booze and drugs, then raping her, is not some natural outcome of Hollywood free love and premarital sex. Saying so makes you no different from any other Polanski rape apologist.

•Next up Dennis Prager who confuses “objectifying women” with “finding women attractive.” Plus the bizarre claim that women would sooner look at a woman stripping for other men than look at a man getting naked (no, it didn’t make sense in the original).

•David French resorts to the classic right-wing argument that fussing about consent is baaaad. We liberals believe consent is the only important thing so we’re fine with crap like bosses banging subordinates (as noted at the link, French assumes or chooses to think if consent is important nothing else is — and he even equates pressuring a subordinate for sex as “consensual” if she says yes) And it’s bad for women because men feel free to proposition women for one-night stands because Evil Liberal Morality says those are okay, and so women are not protected from men having sex with them without offering marriage, which supposedly never happened back in the good old days.

(Bad sexist, rape/harassment apologist arguments make me SCREAM! Painting by Edvard Much, of course)

•SF novelist John Ringo saves me the trouble of ever reading his books by explaining that women who get angry at Trump for no good reason (“Donald Trump said some needlessly crass things and alleged to have groped women”) do so because they’re angry at Weinstein and other liberals, but they’re afraid “they might be thrown out of the in-crowd” if the speak up (rather than, say, blacklisted by a Hollywood powerhouse). So Democrats are ultra-evil and conservatives are off the hook. And liberals are at fault for not stopping Weinstein

It’s true the NYT spiked a 2004 story about Weinstein, and it has those rape-apologist columnists. But it also broke the more recent story; where were those vigilant right-wing media outlets Breitbart and Fox News? And as for self-policing, how much did the right-wing media do about Ailes or O’Reilly? Or Trump, beyond tut-tutting a lot.

Ringo, at least, isn’t primarily a political columnist. Neither is accused abuser Woody Allen, who thinks the big issue is a witch hunt for predators and men getting sued for perfectly harmless flirting. Which is an old argument. And an old argument.

•Sebastian Gorka argues this proves Mike Pence is right — if Weinstein never met women alone, they’d be fine. Overlooking that he did meet women in the company of others, who were then sent out of the room. And that not meeting with a major Hollywood player could be a real problem for women’s careers. I guarantee you, if Hilary Clinton had become president and would only meet alone with women, the right’s stance would be that a)she’s a man-hater and b)probably a lesbian. It’s only okay as long as women are the ones who suffer, since their careers don’t matter anyway.

And more generally, blaming the women — for being alone with Weinstein, for dressing too sexy, whatever — is crap. It’s always crap.


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Sherlock Holmes: the missing years (#SFWApro)

As I’ve mentioned before, Holmes fans were obsessing over continuity, inconsistency and details years before it became common for Trek, comics and other fandoms. And few things have inspired as much speculation as Holmes’ return in The Adventure of the Empty House.

As Holmes explains it to Watson, he faked his own death so that he could work secretly to entrap Moriarty’s remaining lieutenants, most notably ex-army officer and celebrated big-game hunter Col. Sebastian Moran. He spent the two years traveling in Tibert (under the pseudonym Sigerson), Persia, Mecca and researching “coal tar derivatives.” When Holmes deduces the murder of Ronald Adair — apparently shot at close range in an empty room — is Moran’s work, he returns to London to take the villain down.

The trouble is, Moran ambushed Holmes at Reichenbach in the moments after Moriarty falls to his death. It’s understandable lying low made more sense after that than Holmes returning publicly to London (Moran’s a crack shot), but why lie to Watson? If Moran already knew Holmes was alive, there’s no need for Watson to give a convincing show of grief. So what’s the real story?

One school of thought is that despite inconsistencies in Holmes’ account (there are practical problems with his course of travel that I won’t get into here), we should accept the story at face value: Holmes was away, he did have those explorations, case closed.

Another view is that he spent the two years working in London to take Moran and the other survivors of the Moriarty ring down. Watson knew this but didn’t want to admit it so Final Problem and Empty House offer an alternative sequence of events where Watson had no idea he was giving his readers a false yarn.

A popular view with romantics is that Holmes was away but not on the trip he told Watson (or that Watson offered to the public). He was in the U.S. working on various cases. He was acting as a secret agent for British interests, as he does later in His Last Bow. He spent at least part of the time on a romantic idyll withIrene Adler; there’s a school of thought that their child (depicted in Sherlock Holmes in New York) grew up to be fictional detective Nero Wolfe (all rights to image remain with current holder).

Then there are the wilder theories. Seven Percent Solution is built around the idea that Moriarty was a fantasy from Holmes’ cocaine-addled brain and that his time away involved clearing his head and kicking the drug habit. An earlier variation on the idea is that Holmes simply made up Moriarty to explain away some of his failures.

Other theories suggest that Holmes did, in fact, die at Reichenbach. Watson knew he could generate some extra money writing more Holmes stories, so he mixed real cases with made up ones. Or it was Moriarty, not Holmes who survived The Final Problem, and took his old foe’s place (a twist on this in one Wild, Wild West episode has a Holmes analog posing as Moriarty to give himself entertaining crimes to solve).

I don’t have a strong opinion on this myself, other than yes, Holmes would have told Watson he lived a lot sooner. Beyond that, the truth is anyone’s guess.

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The Story Behind the Story: Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead (#SFWApro)

As I noted Sunday, Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead is now live at On the Premises. The “second place” is because they structure each issue as a contest, and I came in second (obviously). Which was good enough to get published (and paid!) so here’s the story on how it came to be.

Back in 2012, when I read the seminal urban fantasy War for the Oaks, I commented that all the stuff about the protagonist putting a band together became very boring as the book went on. I added I’d have been more interested, maybe, if they’d been working in theater, which is much closer to my heart than music.

Then I reflected that there’s very little theater in specfic. Lots of music — Mercedes’ Lackey’s Bedlam’s Bard, Charles deLint’s buskers and Irish fiddlers — but not much theater. And then I thought hmm, why grumble about it when you could be writing a specfic theater story. So I started work on The Stage is a World, a story that begins with one of the backstage crew discovering a ghost and reacting very loudly — audible to the audience loudly. This did not go over well, particularly with Janice, the stage manager, who came close to kicking him off the show. But didn’t. And then, of course, the ghost returns …

After several drafts, I discovered two apparently intractable problems. I had Janice and Tony, my protagonist, becoming a couple, and that didn’t seem to work. And no explanation I came up with for the ghost seemed to work at all. And while I liked the structure — the ghost appears during different shows in the course of a community theater’s year — I worried it was too inside baseball (the setting is modeled on the group I worked with for years). I read Fritz Leiber’s Four Ghosts in Hamlet for inspiration but that didn’t help.

I eventually decided I’d set Tony and Janice to being friends, instead. And I’d leave the nature of the ghost, who it was, why it was, completely ambiguous. When I read it to the writer’s group, however, the consensus seemed to be that I had no conclusion — everything was too ambiguous. My best friend and fellow writer Cindy Holbrook said it needed more of a personal arc too.

So back to work. I decided the personal arc was the key to having a satisfying ending, so I de-aged Tony, made him a relative rookie with the theater group, and watched him slowly meld into the community over the course of the year. And I had the ghost do something definite at the climax, it’s just that nobody’s sure what or why. I thought that set the balance just right.

Then came submission. Then came rejection. One magazine said it simply wandered in the middle sections, which was a fair criticism, but I decided to keep it the way it was. Then I saw On the Premises was holding a contest for an upcoming issue in which the theme was community, and becoming part of a community. That fit so perfectly, I submitted. And sold it!

Go, read. Enjoy. And as proof of my theater bonafides, here’s a shot of my with one of my two awards from when I was with Act4Murder dinner theater.

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Filed under Short Stories, Story behind the story

Nostalgia for W

Back during the election, the ghost writer on Trump’s The Art of the Deal wrote that Trump was insecure and easily provoked. And those traits were on display this week. Trump can’t stand having less nukes than other presidents. He insists his IQ is really, really high, just like he had that huuuuge electoral college win. He wants you to know those paper towels he threw in Puerto Rico were top quality towels. And plenty of people think his drive to destroy Obamacare (with tricks like this) is partly resentment at the popular, intelligent, articulate black guy who preceded him (ditto terminating Obama’s Iran deal, because he can’t be a better negotiator than Trump).

But then again, it’s hard to imagine another Republican president (or congressional leader) who wouldn’t try to overturn Obamacare. They hate that people who aren’t rich are getting stuff from the government. Their donors hate government doing anything that doesn’t benefit them. They think people use too much healthcare and shouldn’t go to the doctor so much (Rep. Bill Huizinga is proud he didn’t take his kid to the E/R until he was sure his arm was broken). And eliminating Obamacare will allow them and their backers to get bigger tax cuts. Republicans say they’re concerned, but they won’t oppose Trump. And they ain’t models of good government either. Which is why getting nostalgic for George W. Bush is a big mistake.

I’ve heard people do it and I understand the impulse. W was coherent. W didn’t say the quiet parts out loud like Trump does (no matter how badly his administration treated Muslims, W repeatedly insisted we weren’t at war with them). But he was a dreadful president in every way (apologies, I don’t have time to include links):

He ignored warnings about the possibility of a 9/11-style attack. His response to 9/11 was to round up hundreds of Muslims based on nothing but ethnicity. Then to launch a war on Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. A war justified with talk of weapons of mass destruction despite multiple reports and defector intel that Saddam didn’t have any. And according to Assistant SecDef Paul Wolfowitz, the real agenda was that with Saddam down we could take troops out of Saudi Arabia, where American presence was stirring up trouble.

Bush proclaimed Mission Accomplished in 2003. Following which we lost thousands of soldiers fighting the insurgency. Iraqi civilian deaths numbered in the tens of thousands.

Bush sanctioned torture. He locked up hundreds of people without any trial, due process or review, based solely on his own authority. White House attorney John Yoo asserted the president had a unilateral right to ignore any laws or constitutional principles if he decided it was necessary. The FBI spied on law-abiding Muslims and nonviolent leftwing groups without any probable cause.

Bush appointed the incompetent, inexperienced Michael Brown to FEMA. He assumed office with a budget surplus and openly stated this was a bad thing (because it proved taxes were too high)! He successfully ran us into red ink.

Bush wanted very much to privatize Social Security. He said before his election that if he ever became a war president, he’d use that clout to make big changes in Social Security and other domestic programs.

And many Republicans declared that to so much as question our Glorious Supreme Leader was treasonous.

It didn’t start with Trump. It won’t end with Trump. He might look better than whoever the Republicans inflict on us next — but that won’t make him good.


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Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead is live (#SFWApro)

You can read it at On the Premises. “Story Behind the Story” blog post about how I came to write it will come Tuesday.

To draw eyeballs to this post, here’s a photo of Trixie getting humped by her best friend Trixie.

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Filed under Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Time got away from me (#SFWApro)

Yesterday we got a new king-size bed that will hopefully be better suited for TYG, me and the dogs to share than our queen-size.

Then we did some shopping.

Then we went to a party.

So no time to write a book review post.

So instead here’s a look at my new display shelves for things I’ve written/been published in. Originally everything was squeezed onto the top shelves, but I moved all our medical nonfiction from the second shelf elsewhere (over with the science stuff) to give my ego — er, my genius — more space to strut its stuff.


Filed under Personal, Writing

TV seasons wrapping up or just starting (#SFWApro)

THE DEFENDERS on Netflix wrapped up after eight episodes, which I didn’t realize (so as E8 wrapped up, I was wondering what they’d do for the rest of the season). This has zero cast in common with the comic-book version (cover by Sal Buscema, all rights remain with current holder), instead putting the stars of Netflix’ Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together when the Hand’s immortal leaders (Sigourney Weaver most notably) and Elektra launch a scheme that will destroy New York. Seeing all four characters and their supporting casts join forces was a blast, just as much fun as back when I was a kid and superheroes occasionally crossed into each others’ comics. Whatever flaws their might have been faded in that light. “We had a moment — but we didn’t have it long enough.”

The fourth season of STAR WARS: The Clone Wars had a weak opening arc involving a battle on Admiral Ackbar’s watery homeworld but picked up in subsequent arcs: Captain Rex’s platoon falls under the command of a general who sees them as cannon fodder, Obiwan goes undercover with a team of mercenaries, Ventress contemplates a career change and Darth Maul returns. A lot of stock elements (the Rex plotline has a lot of WW II combat-film tropes) but used well. “We’re pirates you fool — looting is what we do.”


Moving on to the 2017 season, ONCE UPON A TIME‘s new reboot season has one big asset, Lana Parrilla in a new, non-evil role, and clearly enjoying herself. Unfortunately Gabrielle Anwar’s role as the new Wicked Queen recycle’s Parrilla’s S1 Regina. Of course the whole plot is recycled: a grown-up Henry meets a girl who claims to be his daughter and tells him his family have lost their memories through being trapped in a curse, the same set-up that Emma dealt with in S1. And if they’d done this a couple of seasons ago, I might have bought it, but now it just feels tired. “A glass slipper? Do you know how many girls have my shoe size?”

THE INHUMANS on NBC gives us the original Inhumans, the royal family of the lunar-based city of Attillan, rather than the terrigen mutated characters on Agents of SHIELD. As in a lot of comics, ruler Black Bolt’s scheming brother Maximus (so far coming off more sympathetic than in the books) usurps the throne forcing the royal family — Medusa, Black Bolt, Crystal, Lockjaw, Gorgon, Karnak — to go on the run in Hawaii. I’m watching it, which is more than I can say for Once Upon a Time, but it’s not gripping, just sort of … there. “You have dependency issues, and you chew with your mouth open.”

The new mutant series, THE GIFTED, is a better superhuman show: in a world where the X-Men and the Brotherhood have vanished, a mutant underground tries to stay off the government’s radar, but it’s getting complicated … Back when Chris Claremont started writing X-Men this would have been an unbelievable TV series, but the themes of persecution are so common now it feels derivative — Tomorrow People covered the same territory as well or better, and Heroes Reborn had some of the same elements. To say nothing of hundreds of X-Men/New Mutants/X-Force comics books. I’m still watching, but strictly as a talking lamp. “I have no idea if the blast that killed my girl came from a good mutant or a bad mutant.”


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