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I am the very model of a Russian Major General

I saw this prompt on Twitter, and thought I’d take a stab. I hate the Russian invasion and love Gilbert and Sullivan, so it seemed worth a shot.

Despite my orders to advance my forces are unraveling.
They have no food or bandages and… Oops! Incoming Javelin.
Our army’s prowess constantly the Kremlin now intones.
But all my supply vehicles fell prey to Turkish drones.

Our plan to take the country in four days is all now cheesed.
My rubles are now worthless and our oligarchs’ yachts seized.
The condemnation coming in is nothing short of global,
And all we’ve really conquered is the ruins of Chernobyl.

The Kremlin leaders vanish and our stock market remains a sham.
We thought we had good hackers but they now have banned our Instagram.
Zelenskyy asks us to desert and soldiers are amenable.
My convoy’s stuck – a sitting duck – and that is quite untenable!

Our military strength’s a myth as you must have surmised.
We’re hated and the Russian name is constantly despised.
Though Putin’s arrogance has left us bleeding from the femoral,
I am the very model of a Russian Major General.

The Woeling Lass arrives!

I’m so pleased to announce the release of The Woeling Lass, my fourth book in the Inquisitors’ Guild series. The ebook is up now on Amazon, and the paperback should be coming as soon as they approve it. Click the button here to go there:

Here’s the blurb to whet your interest:

A Death Denied

An assassin hunts Inspector Gueran Declais through the streets of Frosthelm, and she is not acting alone. Just as he learns that his family may have been attacked and slain, Gueran is struck down as well. Despite the odds, he lives. Barely. Whisked away from the city for his safety, he struggles to recover from his injuries, learn his family’s fate, and uncover the identity of those who want him dead. Far from Frosthelm, he becomes caught up in investigating another bloody attack, one that may or may not have been perpetrated by vengeful spirit of a woman wronged long ago, and one that threatens to expose him to his enemies. The locals are certain, though: the killer had to be the Woeling Lass, her hands cold as the grave and her feet aflame.

Back in Frosthelm, Urret Milton is an apprentice in some difficulty at the Guild. She receives a mysterious note for Gueran, a man everyone thinks is dead. Rapidly embroiled in the effort to unravel the reason for the killings and bring the assassins to justice, Urret struggles to shed her troubles and show that she has what it takes to be an inspector. But all this leads her into far more peril than she bargained for, for which she can’t possibly be ready. Her position at the Guild, the security of the city, and her life itself are all at stake.

This tale from the Inquisitors’ Guild of Frosthelm is a fresh mystery full of swordplay, deceit, ancient magic, scheming nobles, and a healthy dose of humor. Combining the clues and hidden mysteries of detective stories with all the grand adventure of epic fantasy, The Woeling Lass is a wondrous journey through betrayal, murder, ancient legend, loss, courage, and redemption. And, it has really silly chapter titles.

Each book from the Inquisitors’ Guild series is a stand-alone mystery and a complete story. You can read them in any order. Dive into the treacherous streets of Frosthelm today, and make sure to bring your sword.

Wheel of Time Episode 7 analysis

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 7 and previous episodes follow]

Sorry for the gap in my series of cutting edge critiques here. Had holiday plans cancelled, then got COVID, then had some family events, then watched better TV than this. But we’re back, with two episodes to go.

D&D Theme for this episode: I can’t even. No D&D game I’ve ever played has been this bad, not even when I was ten and didn’t understand how to play. Nor have any players wanted to be like these people, ever.

In this episode, one thing happened of consequence, and it was barely of any consequence. This was:

— The party came out of a hole.

Most of the rest of it was taken up with emo whining about petty shit.

Like past episodes, we started in a completely different biome with people we’ve never met. If there were a WOT drinking game, this would have to be a sip of beer, not a shot, because otherwise players would be in the emergency room in no time. I fully expect episode eight to begin in the Sahara with a couple of accountants named Ed and Merle.

However, the start of this episode was totally badass, with well-choreographed fights, really cool action and camera angles, and emotional stakes as a pregnant woman fights off many attackers during labor. If they can make a scene this good, why does the rest of the show suck? This is a tantalizing glimpse of what the show could have been.

Then things go downhill.

There is whining about Mat being gone.
There is whining about Moiraine’s leadership.
There is whining about who cares about Mat more.
There is whining about the other people’s whining.

This accomplishes nothing other than the relentless crushing of my will to live. The group is admonished not to use magic for fear of summoning the Machin Shin, which would be REALLY BAD. Of course, they don’t say what the Machin Shin is, because telling vitally important potential Dragons valuable information about the risks you just described would be, you know, strategic.

Loial talks about how the Ways (or is it Waze?) used to be covered with grass and rather pleasant. I had several problems with this:
(1) they’re underground, where grass isn’t, and it’s dark, which grass can’t hack
(2) the Ways are composed of fresh columnar basalt conveniently and improbably arranged into walking paths, and grass doesn’t grow on that
(3) even if somehow the underground volcanic hellscape did have grass, it would still have the bottomless pits, which would tend to ruin any bucolic charm and make picnicking and frisbee hard, although it might make for an interesting golf course

They’re attacked by a Waze Trolloc, which somebody should have flagged on the app for them, and despite being warned not to use magic, they do, and as promised, the Machin Shin, which is not, in fact, a mechanical tibia, arrives. The way this was played up, I expected some disemboweling or plague of boils or fireballs descending from the sky, but instead the Machin Shin seems only to be a combination of a mild affliction of Mean Girls mixed with Impostor Syndrome. Given that the Dragon candidates are all, themselves, petulant teenagers trapped in 20-something bodies, maybe this is the worst opponent they could face, but it’s a bit anticlimactic.

Despite being told not to use magic so as not to empower the Machin Shin, they use magic to defeat the Machin Shin. Despite being lost in the Ways and needing at least a day to figure out where they are due to Trolloc vandalism, they emerge very close to where they wanted to be and completely unscathed. Someone is seriously overselling the perils of the Ways. I think it might be Loial, given that he’s also hawking his invaluable guide services that apparently nobody actually needs.

They emerge to a weird walled town on a desert ridge with no apparent industry or agriculture. Unlike other cities in this series, though, this place seems to have actual people living there and a variety of places to explore, although it’s a little hallway-heavy, and the throne room has the standard Monarch Brooding Balcony (Basic Model) installed. The people here also have their own custom salute which looks like they are giving themselves the Heimlich maneuver. Culture!

Nothing happens in this town. Nothing that advances the plot even one tiny little bit. The only thing of any interest that might matter later is that somebody comes out of the Ways behind them complete with ominous boot tracking shot, but that is just dropped completely, and we never learn who he was or what he was doing.

Otherwise, we just have a ton of brooding.

There is whining about Mat.
There is whining about the whining about Mat.
There is whining about who loves Mat, and who just like doesn’t get Mat and never gave him a chance, man.
There is whining about Egwene dumping Rand (who is eminently dumpable), even though she’s now actively hooking up with him again.
There is whining about the quest.
There is whining about some heretofore completely unhinted romance between Egwene and Perrin, which is put forward by Nynaeve, who didn’t even live in @&$#&$& Two Rivers at the start of the show and would not have any basis to know, and which there’s been no sign of up to now.
There is whining about not apologizing.
There is whining about the manner of apologizing.
There is whine-apologizing.
There is whining about the Amyrlin Barcalounger and the Aes Sedai.
There is whining about how harrrrd saving the world is.
There is whining about the gift of foresight.

Ugh. So bad. Watching Rand try not to cry while firing emo arrows in the torchlight was about the most pukeworthy this series has ever gotten, and that’s a high bar.

There’s a surprise clumsy and lifeless romance between Nynaeve and Lan, because what this show obviously needs is another passion-free lackluster love storyline. The only thing I kept wondering is if Lan keeps his headband on while getting it on, but the jury is still out on that, because we did a fade to black before anything even happened other than gratuitous Lan pectorals. (Dude is ripped – you go, Lan).

We learn shit that I don’t care about that has no bearing on the plot, and what we learn isn’t even spelled out very well. Lan is some kind of king of a dead land (grumble stolen from Aragorn grumble). There’s a seer here in this weird town who’s in some kind of witness protection program as a bartender. (Note: this is the second bartender-with-a-secret-identity, if you’re working on the drinking game.) We learn that Rand will be holding a baby someday, which is terrifying, because I was really hoping he never reproduces or tries to parent anyone.

We also learn that Rand was the baby born at the beginning of this episode, which is disheartening, because his rancid petulance is so far removed from his mom’s utter badassery. I would so much rather watch his mom do stuff for eight hours. This is the strongest presentation of nurture over nature I think modern media has produced.

Then, despite the seer not telling Rand he’s the dragon, he goes and tells Moiraine he is, and she believes him, and they leave without telling anybody, to the consternation of everybody else, who is now stuck in BFE with the self-Heimlich posse. In their final scene, we see Rand and Moiraine heading into an abandoned lot next to Fal Dora, where the HOA should get the landowner to cut back the weeds already. A little RoundUp would work wonders.

My working hypothesis is that Moiraine knows Rand’s not the dragon, and she’s taking him to the Eye of the World where he will be squeezed to a powder by the forces of nature and magic (that’s close to literally what they said would happen, and it is no small comfort to imagine Rand being popped like an Earth-zit). Then she’ll come back and get the others, and nobody will have to deal with his incel bullshit anymore.

Or, maybe, we can just have more flashbacks of his mom killing people. Please.

To wrap up, rating the would-be Dragons (in order of how much I want them to die):

RAND: Another week as the worst of the worst. I really hate this guy.
EGWENE: Pledged never to dump Rand again, which almost makes her worse than Rand. Except Rand is like the absolute zero of suck, and you can’t suck any more than he does.
PERRIN: He had barely anything to do, other than see stuff in the dark that nobody else could and deny scurrilous accusations that he didn’t love his wife.
MAT: Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, yet gains some points for not accompanying this sorry set of saviors on this trip. Wise move, my evil-dagger-loving friend.
NYNAEVE: Still my favorite, but this was a weird stalkery episode for her, and PlayDoh has more chemistry going on than her love scene.

The audiobook of Daros is here!

Audiobook cover for Daros

I am so pleased to announce the release of the audiobook of Daros, performed by the talented and funny Jennifer Pratt. I so enjoyed hearing her bring the book and the characters to life. I hope you enjoy this new, enhanced version of my book (now a SPSFC semi-finalist, and still in the running for more).

Available on Audible:
https://www.audible.com/pd/B09S291WSP
and Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09S282444

Apple Books/iTunes coming soon, as soon as they process the release.

Wheel of Time Episode 6 analysis:

[pretty big spoilers for Episode 6 and previous episodes follow]

D&D Theme for this episode: This feels like the first ten minutes of campaign backstory where you assemble all the characters to go on the quest, except we’ve already somehow blown six hours on that.

Scene 1:
In consistent WoT show fashion, we start off with:
— Two characters we’ve never seen before and have no idea who they are or what their importance is
— Doing this in yet another biome (this time riparian)
They are happy fisherpeople going about fisherperson business. One of them is minus a hand, which is never explained or commented upon, although that level of ambiguity and unremarkableness is actually pretty disability-friendly, and I’m cool with it. The girl has an extensive set of expertly-inked tattoos all over her body, something that my kids definitely would not have sat still for at that age.
We see that the young girl can do magic, which she uses to mend a net. It seems like it might be of more direct benefit to use magic to, you know, just catch a fish, or make food, or short-sell Tar Valonian stocks so that they could afford a better riverside shack.
We are led to believe that the girl would be persecuted for using magic. This is perhaps the shortest-duration foreshadowing ever, because when they get back to the dock, their house is totally burned, and a glowing red symbol is left in the wreckage. This signifies four truths about whoever is persecuting them. This person (or persons):
a) has the time to come and thoroughly burn a riverside shack and then burn a rune into the wreckage
b) has the motivation to come and thoroughly burn a riverside shack and then burn a rune into the wreckage
c) despite (a) and (b), does not stick around to actually kill the people they hate, who are a one-handed dude with a fishing knife and a girl whose magical power is net-mending, i.e., not very fearsome.
d) wildly overestimates the difficulty of rebuilding an open-air riverside shack post-burning
This leads me to believe that perhaps the Westlands bus system has both a limited operating schedule, requiring an early departure by the persecutors, but also a liberal policy on the transport of flammable materials by riders.
The father and daughter seem also to subscribe to (d) above, and he puts her on a boat with a seriously over-the-top number of tearful fishing references, only some of which relate to river fishing rather than coastal fishing (e.g. the tides), suggesting that this guy is not the sharpest fishing knife in the basket. It is not entirely clear whether the reference to “pike” is the fish or Rosamund.

Scene 2:
Next, we fast-forward to Tar Valon and the White Tower, where we see that, when the council is assembled, despite being powerful feminist icons, all of the Aes Sedai get makeovers, have their hair done in new ways, and put on fancy dresses to stand in a very tall CGI room sneering at each other. One of them gets a bronze staff to pound on the floor, which she only does when she thinks there are moments of dramatic tension going on. It would be funny if she blew it once or twice.
The surprise reveal here is that fishing girl is actually the Amyrlin Seat. This title, despite being furniture, is what they call the Chief Executive Officer of the Aes Sedai. This seems remarkably stupid until you realize that our president has a cabinet and oversees bureaucracy. Her Royal Seating is dressed to the nines, including a very cool filigree hair ornament (bonus points) and an unfortunate massive bowtie that looks like an overgrown butterfly (points off).
We also see that there are some other colors of Aes Sedai. We finally meet a Laa Laa Aes Sedai and learn that they are gifted in healing, even though nearly every other color of Aes Sedai has already healed people, and we’ve never seen a yellow one do that. In a problematic development, there are three colors of earth-tone Aes Sedai which don’t match Teletubbies, namely, gray, brown, and white. I submit to you that Teletubby Ajah theory still applies: the White Aes Sedai clearly represent the SunBaby, the Gray the elephantine vacuum Noo Noo, and the Brown the ubiquitous bunnies of the Teletubby ecosystem. There is no description of what liberal arts major is represented by these Earth Toners. I’m guessing accounting, literature, and community justice studies, but I could well be wrong.
We see False Dragon Tim Curry guy again. He starts off on a good rant, claiming that even though he lost, the Aes Sedai still suck, and he gloats about killing one. The penal system in Tar Valon obviously has no freaking idea what they’re doing, because they have the guy in really fancy clothing but also in chains. Can’t a guy get an orange jumpsuit there? They have all the other colors of clothing. The chains are silly, too, because he melts steel things. But then we find out he’s “gentled,” which apparently doesn’t include making him unable to mouth off but does cancel his magic, which means chaining him up doesn’t do anything but stop him from writing “False Dragonz Rool, Bench Lady Droolz” on the walls of the White Tower restrooms.
In further evidence of a penal system gone awry, this dude threatens the court and gleefully confesses to murdering one of its members. They condemn him to execution by being drawn and quartered and fed to dogs in a bloody example of feudal power in the central square of Tar Valon. Ha ha, just kidding. His sentence is to be fed and housed for the rest of his life in the most luxurious setting in all the land and occasionally studied by the Aes Sedai, even though they just took all his magic away, which makes him about as interesting as a roll of paper towels. Despite this non-punishment, False Dragon guy immediately loses his shit at the thought of being a pampered and well-fed research subject and screams KILL ME! repeatedly as he’s hauled away, suggesting that the Aes Sedai do not have a well-functioning Institutional Review Board governing their investigative programs.
A hard-to-follow legal and moral argument follows, the upshot of which is that the Amyrlin Garden Bench then chastizes Liandrin for getting somebody killed and not following protocol. Liandrin, who I am now sure is just biding her time before revealing to nobody’s surprise that she’s actually an evil person working for the Dark Lord, pulls a standard 3rd-grade-bully move and tries to get Moiraine in trouble too, pointing out that Nynaeve is the most powerful weaver in 1,000 years and Moiraine, like, didn’t tell anybody. Everybody accepts this assessment of Nynaeve at face value, which is weird, because Nynaeve basically cast nothing more badass than Cure Moderate Wounds, and everybody else was, like, making the ground explode, launching people into trees, and chemically castrating the False Dragon. Also, Liandrin is maybe 40, so her assessment of the Top 10 Greatest Weavers of the previous millenium is suspect. My kids don’t even know many TV shows from the 90’s, people.
At this point, something weird happens, and it becomes far weirder in retrospect later on. The weird thing is that the Amyrlin Barstool asks Moiraine what she was doing for two years, and Moiraine refuses to tell her. Even though everybody knows there’s a prophecy about the return of the dragon, and everybody’s been out hunting for returned dragons, including the 30+ Aes Sedai who found Tim Curry, and Moiraine has already told lots of people that that is what she was doing. Her refusal to say what she was doing is profoundly stupid, because even though the Aes Sedai “always speak truth,” she’s already pointed out that you can say true stuff without saying all the true stuff, and later on, she basically lies to the five potentially chosen ones about what happens to the four not chosen at the end of the show to get them to walk into a magical subway cave. The Amyrlin Adirondack gets all pissy about this, as you’d expect a monarch to do, but THEN WE FIND OUT THEY’RE SECRETLY LOVERS, which makes this public question-asking and fighting and obstinacy profoundly pointless and easily avoided.
The Amyrlin Davenport then goes on an I-Am-The-State despotic rant about how she cannot be disobeyed and will destroy anybody who challenges her, which is massively inconsistent here because (1) she’s threatening her bae, and (2) she literally just said that the people need to be protected from abuse of Aes Sedai power by laws. Apparently the Amyrlin Sofa did not major in political science or philosophy. Elevating assistant fisherpeople to the presidency has predictable drawbacks.

Scene 3:
We then return to the one street in Tar Valon. I do not know how big the city is supposed to be, but it has only one street where anybody hangs out. In the matte paintings, it looks bigger, but we’ve only ever seen maybe 20 people here, and the White Tower only has maybe four rooms, all of which look like CGI-decorated soundstages. I suspect Tar Valon may be just a glorified strip mall or truck stop.
Moirane demonstrates some very unorthodox tea pouring and then goes to deal with Mat. At this point, Rand is comically idiotic, asserting that Mat has had the death curse for over a month, maybe more, but it’s not serious, and then he gets all whiny and tries to stand in front of the Aes Sedai trying to heal Mat, waving his sword, at which point he gets his ass handed to him by Lan, which was remarkably satisfying.
Moiraine sucks the evil magic out of Mat and puts it back into the dagger. The unexpected and unexplained part is the middle of this process, when the Shattered City Curse Mold swims over to her face and makes a silly beard-looking thing, like those old magnetic toys with the iron filings, and then retreats back to the dagger. Then, in a fit of brilliance, Moiraine drops the dagger on the floor. Note: this dagger is cursed and would twist anyone who touches it to unspeakable evil, but she doesn’t even pick it up, even though she says Mat would succumb if he touched it again, which you know he would do. If he doesn’t, apparently the maid service for the Tar Valon Red Roof Inn is in for a major surprise when they make up the room, not to mention a good deal of hissing and sweating and growling.

Scene 4:
The Blue Tinky Winky Aes Sedai are apparently related to the Russian mob, because they hold their meetings in saunas. Moiraine is castigated for sinking a ferry in the river. Thank you. Finally some accountability. However, Moiraine’s boss says they sent money to compensate. That money must be sitting on the ferry dock, because Moiraine drowned the ferryman, and his son got eaten by Trollocs. Moiraine’s boss says Moirane is now in time out in the White Tower.

Scene 5:
Moiraine puts her clothes back on and goes to see our other two Chosen Ones. Perrin seems to be in need of lots of healing for the seriously half-assed flaying inflicted on him by White Robe dude. Egwene says that this guy is no threat now, even though she stabbed him in the shoulder of his muscle tunic and didn’t at all check to see if he was dead. I would bet a lot of money that White Robe Arsenio Guy is not in the least dead. We find out that apparently werewolves are not popular, which is, like, duh, because they eat people.

Scene 6:
Lan complains that Moiraine has “masked their bond,” which seems like the Aes Sedai version of not responding to my texts. Moiraine has this discussion while wearing what looks like an actual lab coat, which is a super weird costume choice. Then, with a wink and a nod, Moirane goes through the Sex Mirror to visit the Amyrlin La-Z-Boy for some snu snu. They share one of the more awkward kisses I’ve seen in film and then fade to black.
When they return, we learn an unexpected Westlands custom: You go into snu snu wearing white, but you come out of it wearing red. That must make wearing red clothing out and about remarkably awkward, and it puts a whole different spin on the Po Aes Sedai branch. We hear yet another piscine reference from the Chair, when she calls her main squeeze a pufferfish. Note to the potentially romantically oriented: I would recommend extreme caution in using this as a term of endearment.
They reveal their master plan of the Aes Sedai to defeat the Dark Lord, which is basically to throw all the Chosen Ones they have at it until one sticks. Moiraine asks for exile as her punishiment for not answering the question everybody knew the answer to which her girlfriend-slash-royal-recliner should never have asked.

Scene 7:
Liandrin acts out a scene from Mean Girls, and Moiraine threatens her with slut-shaming. The female Chosen Ones have an audience with the Amyrlin Pew which is meant to be cordial but ends up sort of dysfunctional, and then Nynaeve cusses with an awkward late 20th-century idiom derived from smoke enemas. However, we do see developing a significant badassness differential between the male and female chosen ones:
Female (badass):
— Egwene: Defeats White Robe guy, returns rings of the fallen Aes Sedai
— Nynaeve: More powerful than you can imagine (I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit)
Male (weaselly):
— Perrin: Gets tied to furniture and flayed, lets wolves lick his wounds.
— Mat: Picks up cursed daggers even when everyone tells him the city is cursed and not to touch anything. Predictably contracts evil tongue herpes.
— Rand: Embarassingly forced to suck blanket by Lan after petulant misguided sword move. Will chop wood for food.

Scene 8:
Moiraine gets exiled for no earthly reason. This scene had three standout moments for me:
— Moment 1: Everything in this world has a stupid made-up name. Everything. Yet instead of being the Mighty Token of Zar’eth’al’al’al, the glowstick that Moiraine has to swear on is called… The Sacred Oath Rod. My gratitude for one tiny discordant moment of utilitarian nomenclature.
— Moment 2: Moiraine and the Amyrlin Beanbag have tears rolling down their cheeks. To me, this suggests that everybody knows they go through the Sex Mirror and wear red with each other. Like, everybody. All y’all Aes Sedai are just pretending it’s a secret to be polite, and so as not to be vaporized or exiled or gentled.
— Moment 3: When Moiraine turns around and everybody turns their back on her, she blows a major opportunity to flip off the entire rest of the Aes Sedai sit-in-circles-in-threes Council. I mean, nobody’s watching. She could have hopped from foot to foot displaying the bird to everybody.
Also, the exile lasts until you’re not exiled, which, if the exiler is your red-robe Sex Mirror partner, could reasonably be next Wednesday’s booty call, Glowstick of Truth or no.

Scene 9:
Everybody rides to a well-mown grassland, which is odd, unless the Brown Aes Sedai are the mystical school of landscaping. Rand and Egwene are reunited, at which point my gorge rises and Rand utters the cringeworthy line “It feels good to see you.” Like, what does that mean? Who says that? Ugh. Everybody hugs. They even hug the horses.
Loial the Ogier, who seemed like a minor throw-away character in Tar Valon (albeit one of the very few residents of the strip mall), is now revealed to be incredibly important, because he’s apparently the Uber driver to the Eye of the World, which place name does not make any anatomical sense whatsoever.
They arrive at a set of stairs leading up to a platform with walls, which seems like a misguided 1960’s garden sculpture meant to exemplify the futility of the Cold War. They spend a lot of time explaining what this is, but everybody who’s played a video game knows the players have discovered their first fast-travel point on the map. Why they didn’t use one of these to skip the 30+ days of eastwalking before, I don’t know. Maybe the Uber Ogiers were on peak pricing or something.
Moiraine describes the fate of the world if the Dark Lord wins, which is apparently:
(a) Trollocs and Fade eat everybody, and then
(b) Everything burns.
It seems to me that (b) pretty much makes (a) moot, and that the Dark Lord must be playing up (a) and not be telling the Trollocs and Fade about (b). Messaging is very important when you are Dark Lording.
They then send eight perfectly good horses away to wander the wilderness in full saddle. Apparently, the 20 people in Tar Valon do not include stablehands or ostlers. This seems tremendously wasteful and not that cool to the horses.
Mat asks what happens to the Chosen Ones who get voted off the island. Moirane gives him a weaselly half-answer, even though she knows they die. He sees through her bullshit. The party departs into the Ways, which look basically like the Ogier’s basement. However, Mat stays behind. Without any knowledge or precedent, Rand tells him the portal is closing, before it closes, which he’d have no reason to know, but whatever. Moiraine just watches Mat sit there. Maybe she asked him to deal with the horses after all.

Rating the Chosen Ones:
— Nynaeve gets points for cussing out the Amyrlin Wingback. You go.
— Egwene gets points for not being totally annoying, but loses a couple for being still into Rand. Girl, please. You can do better. Find yourself a mirror and a red robe and leave this dude behind.
— Mat is giving off bad-guy vibes, although not going into a dark hole in the air with random cryptic strangers who don’t answer your questions and are abducting your friends is understandable. Commendable, even.
— Perrin just takes up space in this episode. I don’t think he even had a line.
— Rand, OMG. Everything about this guy is annoying, from his stupid hair, his petulance, his bonehead attempt to stop his friend from getting healed, his terrible high-school romance lines. I so hope he gets washed down the Tearduct of the Upper Mantle when they get to the Eye of the World.

One night on west Battleground

A modern day Sisyphean tale

I arrive at Wendy’s. The drive thru line is long. Christina agrees to wait, mostly because her seat is heated, even though she will order nothing. I appreciate my wife’s forbearance.


In my cup holder, I spot a coupon for a free drink, any size, that I pulled off my last Wendy’s cup a few weeks ago.

When I finally make it up to the menu, I see that the coupon will only save me 20 cents off the combo meal. I honor my Depression-era grandmother and decide to save the 20 cents even though it will complicate my order.


I order a spicy chicken sandwich and fries and mention the coupon for a large Diet Coke. The man is dismayed by this. They have no large lids, he says, so the coupon won’t work. He only has medium lids.


The size doesn’t matter, I say. The coupon is good for any size. I’ll take a medium. He says OK. My order is accepted.


On the screen, my drink says “Medium Coke minus cherry.” I do not know what that means. Its epistemology is beyond me. I say I want a Diet Coke, not cherry. He says he’s got it, Diet Coke.


I slowly make my way to the pay window. The man is there. I pass him my credit card and the coupon.


He studies his screen. He is dismayed by my coupon. He says he can’t take it, because they have no medium lids. This discrepancy confuses me. Have they no lids at all? I say, I don’t need to use the coupon, I’ll just pay for whatever there is, it’s fine.


He says, no, I’ll get the manager, she can help. I realize I am become Coupon Guy, and the other ten cars in line will slowly grow to hate me. The manager appears. They talk. Buttons are pressed. My credit card is handed to me, then requested back. The manager leaves. Eventually he tells me it’s OK, but then his face falls.

He says wait, I’ll get the other manager. More time passes. All cars in front of me have departed. I dangle my arm out the window, hoping to indicate that even though I am Coupon Guy, there is nothing I can do, and maybe people will not hate me. I am sure this hope is in vain.

The other manager comes. They press buttons. She is reassuring to the man. She leaves. He looks at the screen for longer. Finally, he runs my credit card. A twelve-inch-long heat-printed receipt is produced for three items. Coupon Guy is at last free to go ahead to the food window.

My food is ready right as I come up, because of course it was ready probably eight minutes prior and waited in limbo while eleven cars idled in line.

The woman hands me my bag and cup. I don’t have time or interest to ask her to take back the plastic straw in favor of my reusable metal one, because I don’t want to be Straw Dork and Coupon Guy in the same transaction. My Depression-era grandmother is likely displeased.

I put my metal straw in the cup and take a drink. As I take the first sip, I know that I have been given a Cherry Coke, non-diet, and that I will not drink this insipid red-brown beverage. My face falls, and my Coupon Guy shame burns hotter.


I peel the new coupon off the Medium Coke plus cherry which I will not drink.

It offers a free drink, any size, with future purchase.

Racism in a sci fi universe

I’m getting close to finished with the first draft of my sci fi novel (tentative title is Daros), and I’m starting to think about cover design. I’ll get actual artists to handle that for me, but one fun part of that is deciding whether to represent the characters on the cover or not. On the one hand, you can create an appealing cover with some kind of action or character represented. On the other, once you provide a picture of a character, you inhibit people’s ability to imagine them how they want to. That includes complex issues like race.

In a book set on Earth, physical appearance comes with a whole bunch of social baggage (and often prejudice and discrimination) that comes from our current society. In a future space-faring setting that still has humans, a few things seem likely:

  • racial categories that are present on Earth won’t mean the same things that they do now
  • the physical characteristics that people present will be more homogenized than on Earth now (we’re already seeing that in the 21st century as migration happens and as love overcomes barriers against cross-boundary partners that were stronger in the past)
  • people who’ve adapted to life on different worlds will potentially be more different from each other (both physically and culturally) than the historical racial and ethnic categories in Earth’s current population (unless there’s tremendous connectivity, uniformity of media, and easy travel)

If all of that is true, then probably bias and prejudice would still exist, and some of it may be appearance based, but it would be addressed toward people from different planets rather than people from regions or nations.

I’m not sure of any of this, and I would hope that a technologically advanced society would leave a lot of this behind, but it’s interesting to think about.

Revisions!

I’m in the middle of my first revision pass for my second novel, which I finished last weekend. Here’s my revision command central. The list of chapter numbers, working titles, and revised titles is the left three columns. The next three are elapsed time and start and end dates, so I’m consistent with timing as the story progresses and know how much time is passing for the characters.

The yellow boxes to the right are issues in some chapters that I want to check or correct or do better. Some of them are really minor, while others are things I blew it on the first time through that will take some work to fix.

The gray box on the far right is a screencap of my writing software showing the original descriptive chapter names so I can keep them straight as I rename them to stupid puns.

The colored column in the middle is whether I think the chapter is funny or not – red and yellow less funny, blue and green more. At least to me. I don’t know if there’s anything to be learned there, but I figured I’d note it for pacing and revisions. The dark blue line shall remain mysterious for now. I’ve done 31 of 63 chapters so far, and I’m shooting to have this first pass through it done before classes start on Monday.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t help but use spreadsheets for stuff. Not sure if this is interesting to anybody, but I thought it might be. Blurred to hide spoilers.

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