Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book covers for Friday (#SFWApro)

The first one’s by Steele Savage — I’m guessing that’s a pseudonym.

Next we have Powers, as usual for these posts of mine.

Uncredited but fairly creepy cover art.

Switching to comics, we have one of Steranko’s pop-art pieces for Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.

And one by Jack Gaughan

And another uncredited cover.


All rights to all covers remain with current holders.


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On the Internet as a record of our work (#SFWApro)

A week ago, the Raleigh Public Record website shut down. It was there on Monday when I checked the date of a couple of my old stories; by Friday it was a You Can Own This Domain Name Site. I presume that means the paper’s folded, though there’s nothing about it on their FB page (but all the links are to the dead site).

I think that’s a shame. It was a good paper, and I did some good stories for it, though not in a few years. But my point is not to mourn its passing but to point out, if you don’t already know, that we can’t rely on the Internet to preserve our work.

The Internet is an amazing library of news and information and and astonishing amount of stuff has been recorded online. But there’s no guarantee that a specific thing we want to keep — i.e., our articles, our fiction — will continue to exist. With Raleigh Public Record gone, so are the eight or nine stories I wrote for them. Fortunately, I already have them downloaded. I’m really glad — my stories on problems at Butner federal prison and on moving a Colonial era house out of the way of new development were both outstanding, if I do say so.

The Destin Log is still around, but none of my old stories are online since they switched to a new owner (I’m not sure we kept everything online even before that). That one hurts more because while I have copies of some of my best stories, there’s a lot I didn’t keep. And I don’t have digital copies because Freedom Newspaper used a different program (for ease of editing) and translating everything would have been too much work. Plus I didn’t at the time see the need to.

That’s why I also archived all my And columns on my laptop. The site is still up even though I’m no longer writing for it (first they told me to rewrite one piece to make it less anti-Trump. Then my next two columns, which carefully avoided any Trump references, never appeared, nor did I get an explanation. But I take a certain pride in my old columns taking up a lot of space on their front page). But if it ever goes, I’ve got my stuff.

Several magazines that published my fiction have closed too. But I have all that work as well.

Of course a fire or a hurricane could wipe out everything I’ve preserved. But at least the Internet can’t.


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Oh, how I dislike Apple’s Pages program (#SFWApro)

One of the minor annoyances when I got my new computer earlier this year is that Apple no longer supports MS Word (I knew this going in). I didn’t particularly want to switch Apple’s Pages program, no matter how much they blather about its awesome graphics and design capabilities. I’m a writer. I use text. And I knew there’d be just enough differences from Word to be distracting.

Over time, annoyance has risen to serious dislike. Partly it’s the continued annoyances, but I do a lot of stuff in Scrivener, so that’s minimized.

A bigger issue is that there doesn’t seem to be any way to format a standard manuscript in Pages. When I open a formatted Word manuscript, the first page is blank. If I fix that, then the first page header becomes the same as all the other headers. As far as I can tell from using Help or the instructions, there’s no way to fix this, and no way to differentiate first page and subsequent headers in a new document.

That’s incredibly inconvenient. Fortunately as it can save to Word and I still have my old computer, I can just transfer the stories and get them in proper format there.

Still, it’s amazingly annoying I need to do that at all. It’s not like text-writing programs are cutting edge, I’m sure Apple could have managed to keep all of Word’s features if they wanted.

To end on an up note, here’s Powers’ cover for Robert Heinlein’s Double Star. All rights to image remain with current holder.


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Kids, don’t let this happen to you! (#SFWApro)

So last Sunday morning, I went out bicycling. And I got lost.

Rather than go up the American Tobacco Trail, I’d taken a ride through our neighborhood and beyond; the streets are broad, with lots of sidewalks, so it’s safe. Up Tall Oaks to Cook. Up Cook to Juliette. Then near the end of Juliette, a left turn onto some street whose name I don’t recall (this becomes important later). It looked like it would curve around back to Juliette, but instead it wound a loooong way, and eventually came out on South Roxboro. I started up the street, looking for a particular point on the street I’m familiar with, decided this was not the best option, headed back. Turned up the same street I’d come out of, or so I thought … but instead of coming out on Juliette, it dead-ended.

So back to Roxboro, down a little further, ah, intersection with Juliette! Turn, then turn onto Cook … but it wasn’t the same section of Cook (I’ve made that mistake driving by car, too). Instead of a suburban street with sidewalks it was a country road with unkempt grass and no sidewalks. Turn around, keep going up Cook the other direction and presto, I’m out on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Fortunately I know from my car trip up Cook that a)Cook on the other side of the street will not get me home; b)turning left and going past the Zaxby’s will not get me home. So I headed right … then stopped, decided to play it safe and whipped out the iPhone. I was aimed in the right direction, but it was a hike. A hilly hike.

The hills were a big challenge. Normally the length I was riding wouldn’t be a big challenge, but combined with the hills it got extremely exhausting. Made me wish I’d brought water, especially as the morning heated up.

But I reached Fayetteville and crossed it to get the Tobacco Trail (so named, in case you’re wondering, because it’s a former railroad route used by the local tobacco farmers). Suddenly I was in cooling shade, with a straight, familiar path home.

Still it’s really startling how easy it was to get lost. It happened sometimes in FWB, but it’s a small town and it never took long before I found a road I knew. Here? Bigger and I know fewer roads. I will be careful next time. And I’m going to check the map and figure out what the layout of Cook is.

Now, on a lighter note here’s a shot of our bird feeder. Unlike its tragically doomed predecessor, this one has a steal cage the squirrels can’t gnaw through, and shuts off the food gates if anything squirrel weight lands on it. And it really works! Hanging near our window as it is, it’s easy for me to stop and watch the birds while I have tea or a snack.

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Delusions of Gender

DELUSIONS OF GENDER: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine (cover design by Kelly Blair, all rights remain with current holder) was one I had on the list of research of Undead Sexist Cliches: the book. I’m not sure it told me anything I had not heard at some point, but putting it all together makes it that much more compelling.

Fine’s point is that the belief gender is fixed and immutable (gender skills, gender roles, whatever) doesn’t hold up. Specifically the assorted tests and science “proving” women can’t X doesn’t pan out, and most of the evidence can be explain by the items in the subtitle:

Minds: Our minds swim in a sexist sea where gender rules and roles are everywhere. So it’s not surprising at some level they’re waiting to burst out when prodded. People who take tests measuring gender abilities in different skills are influenced by knowing that, say women aren’t supposed to be good at this (advanced math) or have a natural flair (empathic reading of other people’s feelings). The counter evidence is that if the tests are framed differently, performance changes. Matching and comparing 3D images, for instance, is something men usually do better at. Scores of both genders can be influenced by describing the skill as one used in “male” fields (architecture, engineering) or female (fashion, decorating). Men’s performance on empathy tests goes way up if they’re told things like “women find empathic men who can pick up on their feelings very attractive.” (go figure).

Society. One of the standard arguments for gender differences is that even kids raised gender neutral conform to them. Fine shows (much as I’ve always suspected) that it’s next to impossible to block out the gender messages society, and other children, send. By two, kids are aware of the differences men and women display; by four, they’re typically following the script. But again, the script can be shuffled: a My Little Pony tricked out to look dangerous becomes a boy toy, pretend guns with satiny coverings are for girls.

Neurosexism: Fine goes into detail how must neurological theories demonstrating men and women just don’t think the same way (men can’t express emotion, men are more logical, whatever) have gaping holes. And the typical magazine and newspaper reports on them are even weaker, battening onto whatever conforms our stereotypes (I’ve seen “men want to get laid, women want love” tossed off as a proven scientific truth a hundred times).

It’s a good book, and adds a couple more ideas to my own work.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Politics, Uncategorized, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Wonder Woman, space cadet (#SFWApro)

One of the things that make Wonder Woman’s Bronze Age run so messy is that not only did she suffer multiple soft reboots, but they came so damn fast.

Following the end of her powerless period, we got the start of the UN run with the non-white characters we never saw again. After just three issues, we got a year of Kanigher’s recycled stories, then the Twelve Trials, then WW II. Then new writer Jack Harris took two or three issues to wrap up Wonder Woman’s situation, killing off Steve Trevor again and having Diana quit her UN job. Instead, we got a whole new life for Diana Prince — as an astronaut in training to fly the space shuttle!

And that lasted all of seven issues, #250-6 (cover by Jose Delbo, all rights to current holder). I suspect this may be due to staff musical chairs. Ross Andru takes over from Larry Hama as editor and what looked like a long-running plotline suddenly wraps up. Paul Levitz replaces Harris and WW immediately starts dreaming of going back to the Big Apple.

The new setting, like the use of the shuttle in Moonraker reflects that the shuttle was insanely cool back when it was announced. Imagine, a rocket that can go back and forth into space, just like in movies, instead of launching a one-time-only missile with a capsule on it!  Diana is on a training crew along with Stacy Macklin (The Female Friend), Mike Bailey (The Somewhat Macho Love Interest) and their gruff CO (The Gruff CO). And that’s about all there was to it, or to them, though that may reflect that Harris had little time to develop them. Mike puts moves on Diana, who despite just losing Steve, soon melts (after Stacy complains that Diana turned Mike down too fast). He’s written as much more forward than Steve so presumably Harris thought that would make a better romance for Di. But it felt awfully canned, in the tradition that the lead and the attractive member of the opposite sex must automatically get together.

In the opening arc, the grumpy male Olympians demand that Diana prove herself by competing again to prove she’s worthy of the Wonder Woman role. Diana wins, but gets denied on a technicality; another Amazon takes her place, Orana. Despite which, Diana flies back to Man’s World, not to be a superhero but to live her own private life.

It looked like this was going to be a running plot, like the Amazon Artemis replacing WW many years later, but we got that editorial change and zap, it was done (though that may have been the plan all along—I don’t actually know): Orana keeps screwing up, Diana intervenes to help out, Orana nonetheless dies and Diana reclaims the Wonder Woman mantle (Ares, declaring she’s acting purely from vanity, subsequently tries to punish her, working through her old foe Angle Man). There’s another two parter involving a long-lost sister of Hippolyta, then Paul Levitz takes over with #255. Diana visits the UN for a space conference, comes up against an assassin called Bushmaster, runs into Morgan Tracy again (she’s still PO’d at him for not looking out for Steve better) and triggers some sort of red flag which has the UN contacting NASA about her security clearance. She also spends a lot of time enjoying being back in New York.

The following issue, Diana runs into the second-banana crime team the Royal Flush Gang and discovers Mike is the current Ten of Spades. Frustrated, she quits the astronaut program (in a later story she wonders why a woman who’s traveled to the stars even thought space-shuttle pilot would be a fun gig) and in the very next issue is back at the UN. The security issues appear to have been dropped (we’ll see). It all had the feel of Levitz deciding “Well this reboot sucks, let’s go back to the UN!” (again, don’t know that for a fact).

On the plus side, Levitz is a better writer than Harris. I’ll be back to review his run as soon as we get to the next reboot. Sigh.

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Goals for May (#SFWApro)

I’m pleased to see I did much better than April, hitting 63 percent. That’s about where it’s been every month except April and January (79 percent).

In addition to my Screen Rant articles, I delivered a finance story to the Go Banking website, pitched column ideas to some big markets (no go), kept up my exercise and meditated. It’s only one or two minute chunks, and so far ineffective (I have serious monkey-mind issues) but if I keep practicing, hopefully I’ll improve.

I did not get most of my fiction goals done, but my #1 goal for the month was to reach 55,000 words on Southern Discomfort and I did that and then some. This month I intend to actually finish this draft.

Outside of writing, my top goal was to get back to bicycling regularly with TYG on the weekend. It’s erratic (her job is crazy) but we succeeded a couple of times in May. Too bad it looks like a really hot summer — I’m not sure I’ll achieve my goal of once again making it to the trail head in Raleigh (28 mile round trip) this year. As we have to walk the dogs before we go bicycling, and that’s the only chance to give them a long walk when the weather is hot, we can’t leave as early as we used to.

That was pretty much it. So here’s a photo of Trixie encountering a strange alien life form.


Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Uncategorized