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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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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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Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

edited to add: If anyone has word of vigils or community gatherings, feel free to post them here.

As I type this, they've caught the young man who shot and killed nine people who had gathered in this church for a prayer meeting. He sat there with them for an hour, and heard them speak, and then he got up and began to shoot.

The gun rights dance has already begun, as has the gun control outcry. Fox is already casting this as a war against Christianity, not yet another chapter in the long and ugly history of race in this country. They even have a pastor who urges his fellow pastors and their male parishioners to arm themselves to protect women and children against future assassins.

Things to come: the mental health of the suspect, a 21-year-old white man. The arraignment, the trial. The late-night-tv standup routines making light of something as unspeakable as the death of four Black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL in 1963.

Our country has grown monstrous in my lifetime. The military-industrial complex the students on college campuses protested has become our biggest import-export, with the gun being its shining badge and camouflage its hipster wear. Our filmmakers spend billions pouring more and more action, more explosions, more violence, more death onto the movie and tv screens every year.

We have become the Great Satan, so busy making money off of killing throughout the world or supplying those who want to do their own killing that we can ignore the slaughters worked upon us internally. No group matters enough to make the killing machine take responsibility for its weapons: not women killed in a gym, not children in a school, not parishioners in a church.

Am I cynical? Am I jumping the gun, thinking the outrage spawned by this latest mass murder will die down to a collection of grumbles, apart from the meetings of the true believers? Maybe I am. I was a liberal for a long, long time, a liberal and early on, a protester. I have seen so many ventures for change, big and little, sink to the ground because beyond a certain point, our infrastructure only cares about money, not blood. Not life. Not people. Not change. From where I stand, they ought to have the Koch brothers on the twenty-dollar bill. They're the symbol of the level at which things really matter.

Oh, and Fox? This was a RACE murder. Don't call it anything else. How many churches do you think that kid passed, in Charleston SC, to get to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church? How many Christian churches did he pass, and pass up, to get to a historic Black church?

I add this excerpt from an article by Jelani Cobb, Church Shooting in Charleston, in The New Yorker Online, because I think it explains which this shooting at this church is so vile, and Fox's attempt to hijack it out-and-out obscene:

"The African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1793, is the oldest denomination established by black people in the United States. It owes its origins to white discrimination against black Christians in the eighteenth century, and an incident in which black churchgoers were interrupted while worshipping and directed to the segregated section of an Episcopal church in Philadelphia. For black Christians, the word “sanctuary” had a second set of implications. The spiritual aims of worship were paired with the distinctly secular necessity of a place in which not just common faith but common humanity could be taken for granted."


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The passing of the great Christopher Lee

When I told my husband, he said, "He can't die, he's Dracula."

I've known his work all my life. Long before others discovered him as Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" I knew him as Dracula, and Scaramanda in the James Bond movies, and Sherlock Holmes. He had one of those voices that made me swoon, and I could recognize it anywhere.

Here is his obituary. I would love to see the movie on Pakistan in which he played Jinna.

He was 93, which is a good age, but I will still miss him. May you thrive and see old friends and make new movies in the Summerlands, Sir Christopher Lee.

The man with his knighthood.

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My beloved Spouse-Creature, Tim Liebe, had been an elections inspector for about ten years. For 7 or so of them he did duty as a Republican, because there weren't enough Republican volunteers to do the job--he's a Democrat, but he registered as a Republican so somebody would show up from that party--inspectors are supposed to be 50/50 from the two parties, and the Board of Elections won't accept independents, which is what I am. I finally threw a major tantrum, told him the Republicans could carry their own damn water, and he switched back to the party he actually votes for. Somehow they've rustled up enough Republicans to meet the requirements since then.

The point is that in all of the years he's done this, he's rarely seen anyone younger than 60 working at the polls. This is a REAL problem, folks. He recently published a plea to Facebook, and I thought I would re-post it here, in the hopes that the drive to do this public service for a few bucks and the future might take root. Please feel free to re-post!

Here's Tim in his own words:
"I just went to Election Inspector training this evening - which had been delayed two weeks because not enough people had shown up to fill the earlier class! The class, and the work, isn't difficult (I aced the test with only one wrong answer!) - it's tiring because you have to get up in the middle of the night and work until about 10 PM or so, but I find actively participating in the Democratic Process to be very satisfying. You even get paid a little for your time, if you want that.

What I'm trying to say is - why not check with your local Board of Elections, and see if THEY could use Election Inspectors and are still offering classes...?"

The old folks can't keep holding down the fort, people! Help with the process, please!

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Do you hear the people sing?

Only this isn't the song of angry men--it's the song of some really angry women! Hats off to the filmmaker, too, who gives us an education into the law concerning these matters and some things to ask/take down in the event we see someone's civil rights being pawed!

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In the wake of Sansa's wedding night

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape

Even though rape is what I expected of Sansa's wedding to Ramsey Bolton, reading about it online today tells me that I'm done with the HBO "Game of Thrones," where naked women are draped around like so many shawls, where women are traded like so many baseball cards, and there are scenes like, well, Sansa's wedding night. Danaerys' wedding night. Joffrey's parents. (Still not totes sure about that one, but it's here for those who are.)

And no, those who say "It was really like this," it wasn't like that in the real world. Women were a family's assets--you don't batter or rape an asset unless you're an ill-mannered slug, like the ones we have in the modern world. History is full of women who planned and worked and schemed and were their family's top generals in the battle to survive and climb upward. Men fought for money, but women kept the purse.

Anyway, as I started out to say, io9, as part of the discussion of this episode of "Game of Thrones," posted the eminent John Scalzi's intelligent and sane take on including rape in a story line just to stir things up. Scalzi is not only a fine writer of science fiction with a unique angle (OLD MAN'S WAR was his first novel), but he is one of the most rational (and funny) voices on the interwebs. I share what he has to say here, because I regard his thought processes quite highly, and think you'll like this one.

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