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Not my kind of feminism

Gloria Steinem claimed that women who support Bernie Sanders do so to meet men. She has apologized for it since--and far be it from me to deny any actual apologies made for an asshole statement--but isn't this the kind of statement that we would have thought was never in her vocabulary as a feminist--as one of our primary feminists? And the statement that preceded it, "When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” is an incredible slap to young women, Ms. Steinem's way of saying they aren't serious; they aren't idealists; they don't have causes. This from someone who was one of feminism's brightest lights as a young woman.

Madeleine Albright told women that there was a special spot in hell for women who did not support other women. Really? We are all supposed to fall in line and support any woman, however poorly we feel about that woman's attitude, record, plans, and associates? By these lights, we should be voting for Carly Fiorina, except she's running for the same office. Whatever happened to a woman's right to vote her conscience, Madeleine?

Is this how it's going to be? No wonder younger women are so disillusioned with the feminist movement, when its elders savage those who don't toe the "party line" and vote for those these selfsame elders alone feel are right for the office. No one wants to be told she is voting her ovaries, or his/zir friend is doing so. Having battled for the right to have it accepted that we have brains, very few of us want to be told we are to put ours aside and only choose candidates with the proper reproductive glands. Isn't the whole (ideal) point of an election that voters carefully consider the qualifications and (firm) political positions of the candidates, regardless of gender, and vote for the least equivocal choice, human nature being what it is?

I have waited 50 long years to vote for a woman for president--but this will not be that year. I have come a long way from the little girl who cheered for Margaret Chase Smith at the Republican Convention, and cried when she failed the ballot, not then understanding the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I have come a very long way indeed, because I cannot vote for a candidate I do not trust to retain her stated beliefs from year to year, who only remembered to court the feminist vote when her numbers didn't live up to her expectation. This candidate signed the Patriot Act twice. She pushed for our Afghanistan troop surge as Secretary of State, supports the deadly "drone war", and brags about increasing sanctions on Iran when Iran's people were the ones who suffered for it, not those who supported its nuclear program. I can't begin to put words to my disgust for her pals on Wall Street, who pay her campaign bills as they enrich themselves, make the poor poorer, and slowly suck the middle class into poverty. (I know a lot about poverty. Ask me about it sometime.) She has promoted hydrofracking (a process I've spent the last five years arguing against in my state) on a worldwide basis. (Who knows? Maybe, with this record, she should have run as a Republican, but I guess Bill would be a problem then.)

Being a feminist means making up your own mind. It means not slamming other women, whether they are making cookies, banging your feckless husband, or being slammed by your friends. It means considering all of the options, and then voting what YOU feel is right. And that goes for Independents (like me) and Republican women, too.

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Chessiecon

Chessiecon, in Timonium MD (right outside Baltimore), was great. Julie (my assistant) and I (my poor Spouse-Creature Tim had to stay at home and eat leftover Thanksgiving dinner because we had no cat sitter for 3 houses of kitties) motored up to the hotel around one a.m. on Friday and mumbled something about permitting the games to begin before we collapsed into our beds.

We registered and had lunch with my sister and her husband, which was an extra added benefit. Then we plunged into great discussions about the merits of some of the bigger names in genres such as horror, the need for more variety in YA and adult fantasy/science fiction/horror in terms of sexual orientation, race, and nationality (a subject you know I can't keep quiet about), complex main characters (good and bad), and frogs, toads, and reptiles. I'm not kidding. You haven't lived until you've heard Ursula Vernon (Ursula Vernon's webpage) on toads, frogs, turtles, and birds, weaving wildly in around Seanan McGuire's (Seanan's webpage--there's a separate one for her Mira Grant pen name) description of animal rehabilitation (emu, anyone?) and adventures with very large snakes, toads, and lizards. I laughed myself silly.

I missed many of the smaller concerts and pagan ceremonies, but I did get to chat for a while with my writer friend C. S. Friedman (her webpage), whose DREAMSEEKER, sequel to DREAMWALKER (which I blurbed) just came out. I also had lunch with Colleen and Ian, the parents of two of my fairy godchildren, as well as the godchildren myself. I would like to lodge a complaint with whichever deity is in charge of children. In the scant years since I saw these two godchildren last, they grew to be taller than I am, and they aren't in high school yet. There oughta be a law.

The highlight of Saturday evening was Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps, playing Heather's signature Arthurian, lady warrior, and wicked fantasy (filk) music, as well as a few Muppet hits. I adore Heather's music and Ben was terrific. Afterwards, I was too exhausted to remain for the con's Saturday night special, the singing of the "Hallelujah Chorus" in the vast hotel atrium. I simply could not remain upright.

One more panel and breakfast with a fan on Sunday, and then my longer "talk with fans" that is a fixture of my Sunday at Chessiecon, formerly Darkovercon. Then Julie and I joined Ursula Vernon and her husband Kevin for dinner. It was great, talking with two fellow cat-and-critter people who also loved books and knew how to deal with everyone collapsing in heaps over the table.

We met other writers and many fans both from earlier years and new ones as well. Next year, please, any of you in the area, please come. You'll have a splendid time--we always do!

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More books of interest!

Two more interesting reads while I listen to Adele's "Hello" album:

Catherynne Valente's SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE is short, but every sentence is packed with delightful idiom and phrasing, splendid images, and stories of fairytale characters turned on their ears. Cat is always a lyrical writer, but this book is a surprise, couched as it is in authentic Wild-American-West slang and rhythms, so brilliantly so that I am collapsed with envy and love. Snow White tells most of her own story as the badly neglected half-Crow daughter of a robber baron with a gift for striking it rich. The stepmother is no queen, but she is an abused and abusing practitioner of dark magics, in possession of a mirror, able to hire a huntsman, and willing to do anything to get a son. Snow finally runs, and it is her journey through the American West--or a version of it--that pulls the reader irresistibly along, eager to see who she will meet next. This book is a treat you should give yourself, right away!

And now, for something completely different. Django Wexler's first book, THE THOUSAND NAMES, reminded me of very gritty tales of British campaigns in India and Africa, when small numbers of troops faced off with armies of thousands under the Mahdi or a caliph, if both sides had access to magic. Wexler chose three people at different levels of the invading army, the new commander Janus bet Vahlnich, captain Marcus d'Ivoire, and (at various grades of rank) Winter Ihrenglass. These three and their friends deal with varying degrees of secret and the struggles of command, doing their best (and not always succeeding) to keep their troops alive.

In the second book, the three allies have gone home, to find the king on the verge of death, the princess in danger, rebellion brewing in the street, and foreign enemies plotting to control the realm's money and thus its people. Weller admits he was inspired by the French Revolution, and readers expecting more of a magical wars-in-the-time-of-the-Raj may find the plotting, counter-plotting, manipulating, and tracking-down-of-mysteries a bit daunting. Stick with it. Winter is plunged among the city's poor to spy on student radicals; Marcus is put in charge of the city's police, to restrain rebellion and (secretly) to foil the minister who plans to put a puppet princess on the throne, and Janus is made a minister, trying to unravel secret and not-so-secret threads of financial and military treason. I don't think you need to have read the first book to enjoy the second, and you may have an easier time to get into it than I did, since I expected the Raj when I should have been enjoying the building Revolution. Once I started to hear the people sing, though, I got with the program and thoroughly enjoyed this book as much as I did the first one!

And in case you're worried about the female presence in either of Wexler's books, fear not! He has quite a few strong female characters in both!

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More good books

Well, it's been considerably longer since my earlier post promising more good book recommendations in the same week, but still I come bearing gifts. I've been having a great time of late when it comes to books!

Nancy Holzner's DEADTOWN wasn't the kind of book I'd pick up out of idle fancy, or if I did, I'd've put it down the moment I read the word "zombie." I don't do zombies. And I would have missed a thumping good read thereby. Luckily for me, I met Nancy at Robercon in Binghamton NY in September, the same time that I met the magical Deborah Blake. After sitting on a couple of panels with Nancy and sharing a meal with her, I thought I should try DEADTOWN anyway. I am so glad that I did! Victory Vaughn is a shapeshifter who hunts the demons who infest people's dreams. Victory is the scion of a long and proud line of demonhunters whose father was cut down by a really nasty one. Now Deadtown MA is where she and most other Boston paranormals (particularly those who can't pass for human, like zombies) live. They are for the most part happy to have a home in Boston--other states are not so kind to their paranormals, and a company that does medicinal research is piling lots of money into Massachusetts and New Hampshire politics so they can have paranormals declared legally "nonpersons," with no rights--up for grabs to researchers who can catch them. And Victory has a beloved young niece who is just now coming into her powers, with a mother who smothered hers. The election is heating up. Victory has been hired by a mobster to protect his dreams, against the, um, dictates? of her hot DA sometimes boyfriend. And demons are assembling outside Boston, led by a monster who seems to have a particular hate for Victory--a very, very powerful demon that's hard to detect. It's a major roller coaster ride of a read, and now I need to lay hands on the other books in the series!

If you like your fantasy a little tamer and younger, I recommend Holly Webb's middle grade quartet: ROSE, ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, ROSE AND THE MAGICIAN'S MASK, and ROSE AND THE SILVER GHOST. Rose was found in a fish basket and has spent her first twelve years in an orphanage straight out of DAVID COPPERFIELD. She works hard, yearns for the day when she can be placed in a real job to earn money of her own, and has recently discovered she has the ability to project images of the stories she tells her friends onto walls and buckets. The moment Miss Bridge shows up to hire a maid for the Fountain household, she hides her strange new ability, gleeful at the chance to do the job she has always dreamed of. She finds jealousy from the maid placed above her, friendship from the boy-of-all-work, and a role model in Miss Bridge. She also discovers that she is in the house of the magician who is the king's advisor, his budding magician (and amazingly bratty) little daughter, and his magician apprentice, not to mention a very magical cat with one blue eye and one orange eye. The servants fear the magicians, and when they and Rose discover her own magical talents, things get very difficult. Mr. Fountain takes her up as a student, while magical events, and truly frightening villains, assail the household and the kingdom. The series is sweet, great fun, and just the thing for pre-teen kids and adults who love writers like Edward Eager and Diana Wynne Jones.

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good new reads

Lately I've had read some very agreeable books, and I just had to share. Two tonight, two more later in the week.

Deborah Blake
Don't get me wrong; I've been a fan of Deborah's for years, but of her nonfiction witch's guides, published by Llewellyn Books (my favorites being EVERYDAY WITCHCRAFT and WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING--you can see why they appeal!). I only discovered her fiction this year when she mentioned it on Facebook, and I thought I'd give it a try, once I got over my aversion to the whole Baba Yaga thing.

Yes, she draws on the old Russian story cycle of Baba Yaga. She began as a goddess, according to Deborah, but when I encountered her in my endless quest for new myths and legends in grade school, she was the terrible old witch who lived in a house on chicken legs that walked through the forest. (It was the idea of that house that gave me the horrors the worst. I can't explain it.) She flew in a giant mortar and steered it with her pestle. (I keep a sharp eye on mine, just in case.) She had iron teeth and ate children. (That didn't bother me nearly so much as the walking house on chicken legs.)

Deborah's Baba Yaga has evolved with the times. For one thing, there are many of them. The United States has three. I've read about two.

Barbara Yager of WICKEDLY DANGEROUS travels the country with an enchanted Airstream trailer, doing good works for those who still remember enough of the old country to call upon the Baba for help. She has a giant white pit bull named Chudo-Yudo, who is a disguised-for-our-mortal-world dragon. And when she's called upon to rescue a vanished child, she meets a hot sheriff and sparks are struck. Something is going very wrong in his town, and although he doesn't believe it, she's just the one to help. She doesn't believe he can possibly be useful, but she can also be wrong. It's great. The romance doesn't overwhelm the action; the horror is genuinely creepy, and the fantasy is great. Any book with a pit bull, a dragon, an Airstream, and boss motorcycles is fine by me! (And I didn't even mention the Three Riders!)


In WICKEDLY WONDERFUL, we find Becka Yancy, a seaside diving and surfing Baba Yaga, who is still kinda green. The previous Baba, over 200 years old, was forcibly retired to the Underworld, after planting in her student the firm belief that she still wasn't quite good enough. (This Baba Yaga lives in a classic hippie-painted school bus, by the way, and her Chudo-Yudo is a huge black Newfoundland.) While she's surfing Becka has occasion to rescue a mermaid's child trapped in fishing net, only to incur the wrath of one of the fishermen, a war-toughened, 12-year veteran Marine. He thinks she's dippy; she thinks he's a pain. Still, she needs him--and his dad's fishing boat--when the mermaid's king and queen call upon her to find out why all of the plant and animal life in their very deep trench of the ocean has died off (which also has killed off the local fishing industry). Somehow they're going to have to work together--ideally, without him finding out what she really is. Or is that so ideal?

This is a bit more fantastical, as Becka must deal with the monarch of the Underworld, where so many of the magical people have fled to avoid, well, us. The Three Riders make a return appearance. Becka is very different from Barbara, younger and more unsure of herself, still trying to decide if she's going to remain a Baba Yaga. Blake keeps us wondering right up till the last minute on that one!

I hope you check these out! Deborah has a new, non-Baba Yaga book coming out in November, and a third Baba Yaga book in February. It's not that long for a devoted reader to wait!

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Bubonicon--fun in the sun!

I have just returned from a very good time in New Mexico. My assistant Julie Holderman and I went out for Bubonicon, but before we plunged into con madness, artist Ruth Sanderson, my friend Jane Lindskold, and her archaeologist husband Jim showed us around a bit. We visited Albuquerque's Old Town (native arts jewelry!) and the Rattlesnake Museum. The snakes are gorgeous--a nation-wide collection of rattlers and other snakes, with tortoises, a few spiders, and a scorpion thrown in. The animals looked to be very well cared for, and when they are milked for venom, the venom goes to the creation of antivenin and research. A wonderful place to see!

Afterwards we went to see petroglyphs. I saw some, but tanked out early due to heat sickness. 8-P Still, I also saw a squirrel (in the desert, the brave fellow), a ground chuck, and a small chipmunk. And a roadrunner! He even came by and posed for Julie and Jim to get photos! I was also able to talk to Jim about local geology, among other things.

After lunch, return to the hotel, shower, and brief collapse (it is hot there, though Jane and Jim told us they'd been getting lots of rain, which meant that everything that could flower around us was doing so immediately), it was on to the con. I'd like to say I disgraced myself at opening ceremonies, but Toastmistress Mary Robinette Kowal beat me hands down with a phone sex reading of the names of the others in attendance.

Julie and I had such a *wonderful* time! The hotel staff was delightful (not always the case). I sat on panels with Mary Robinette Kowal and Ruth Sanderson, as well as Catherine Catherynne Valente (the theme was Women of Valor, which was why the four of us where there). I said hello to George R.R. Martin (if he remembered that I'd once asked when the next book was due, was gentleman enough not to mention it!), was too shy to tell Daniel Abraham how much I love the way he writes heroic women in his current series, and greeted Doranna Durgin (present while training a rescue Beagle) and S.M. and Jan Stirling, all three of whom had contributed to the YOUNG WARRIORS anthology (which is still in print).

And I met and talked with fans, two of whom gave me works of art, one of whom had made a box of DELICIOUS Tortall doughnuts with darkings, Stormwings, Kitten, and shield devices in icing. I also met a group of fans who had dressed up as different characters (Nawat offered me a gummy word, which I ate, of course!). I was so thrilled and overwhelmed! They were in the costume show later, and I stood up and clapped wildly for them all. They were wonderful--all the fans, and all of my fellow pros, were absolutely wonderful. So was Julie, who snarked at me at vital moments, made certain I was fed and watered, sent in the most recent installment on her master's thesis, and had a good time of her own.

This is a great small (but growing) con, folks. If you're ever around New Mexico at the end of August, check out Bubonicon. It's a blast!

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Open Road and David Bradley Jr.

If you're interested in an infamous episode of Pennsylvania history in fiction, Amazon's Open Media (e-book) section has been e-mail advertising/low price my mentor, David Bradley Jr.'s, PEN Faulkner award-winning Chaneysville incident. The story of a Black historian's return to his Pennsylvania hometown, it's vivid and heartbreaking.

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The things about America that scare me

This article, by Henry A. Giroux of Truthout, sums up what is going wrong in America far better than I can: police violence against Black people, the militarization of our police, the escape of financiers and the wealthy from a tax burden carried by the rest of us, the passiveness of the white American to police brutality, the devaluing of Black lives in general. It's a disturbing article, but well worth reading.

Why is there no mass outcry against police murder of Black citizens? Is white America ashamed of our people of color, or just lazy? This isn't the country of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Law has become corrupt, and we are plunging into a future of constant warfare. When will people wake up?

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Sudanese young women to get 40 lashes

Police in Sudan have arrested ten young female college students for indecency--they were wearing pants or skirts. Their sentence is 40 lashes each. The link is to an Amnesty International petition--will you sign and/or boost the signal? People have died from this kind of whipping, and these women will be scarred for life if they survive.

Let Sudan know they don't operate in the shadows--the world is paying attention!

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Update

I know, I know, I haven't been around much. Mostly I've been working on GIFT OF POWER, now into 21 chapters (I hope my editor gives me places I can cut!). I'm also reeling a bit from two weeks of interrupted sleep. Our cat Scooter had a hematoma in his ear which had to be patched (with staples!), which means he's been in one of those ghastly plastic collars for two weeks. He was so miserable hanging out in my office (where he yowled and dug at the door all night, waking me repeatedly) that we installed him in our bedroom, to the dismay of the other cats, who use it as a quiet, shady place to sleep during the day. The problem? Scooter talks to me whenever I wake up, and when he isn't talking, he's trying to scratch--except he scratches the collar. This wakes me up, when he can talk to me again. So I'm a bit slap happy.

The 4th was quiet at our house. Sunday we went to watch Bollywood movies with the Covilles, this week's movie being "Jal (Water)." It wasn't a Bollywood song and dance fest, but a powerful movie about desert people in Gujurat, India trying to survive with wells, and a water finder who tries to find water. There are some white naturalists who come to try to save flamingos that nest near their lands, prompting the question, "What about the people?" It poses questions about water not only in India, but worldwide, and the water finder's story is beautiful. The desert people are amazing, and their women have a fair amount of power in their daily lives.

Oh, and I plowed through Robin Hobb's Soldier's Son trilogy that starts with SHAMAN'S CROSSING. Nevare is raised to be a soldier from the day he was born, but an encounter in his teens with the magic of the Speck people, who are resisting his nation's eastward expansion, tangles him and all around him in Speck magic, deployed by the ancestor he encountered against the nation of his birth. The magic ruins his career, his relationship with his family, and even his exile as he lives with half of his spirit in the Speck world, where the people are trying to drive his people out of their lands forever.

Hobb is never kind to her characters, and she doesn't make her heroes inherently likable, but Nevare's journey through the class upheaval in his world, the business of arranged marriages, attitudes toward weight in both peoples, and relationships with women, are all fascinating. Hobb shows human beings at their absolute worst without putting me off, and she is deft at moral quandaries. I recommend this trilogy for anyone who likes complex world and character building, class struggles, and a somewhat more even form of battle between Euro-type invaders and native people who want to keep their homes.

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