November Update

Cover Flight

Hello, everyone! I hope that all of you are looking forward to this holiday season—I certainly am! And that’s despite being too busy for words. Needless to say, I have news.

First up, Ronin Games has done amazingly well. It is the highest-rated of all my titles on (last I checked, 4.7 Stars). I am grateful for all your positive reviews received and reviews to come; reviewing readers are in large part the source of my title’s visibility on Amazon, which means that showing your appreciation there—even a single line and a rating—puts my books in front of more readers and spreads the love. Thank you.

Second, some fans have expressed worry since I have not yet committed to a 2016 WtC novel. I have every intention of releasing Wearing the Cape, Book 6 in 2016; however, at this time I have only a general idea of what a couple of the subplots will be, and a good idea of the source of the main conflict. Serious plot development has taken a back seat to Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game.

However! In between rules editing in preparation for the renewed playtesting of the game, I have been keeping my writing muscles strong by working on an anthology of WtC short stories! It is tentatively titled Wearing the Cape: Crossovers. WtC:C will be a somewhat shared anthology, since while I am writing most of the stories I have talked one fellow superhero-fiction writer into co-writing one of the stories with me, and another as-yet-unpublished writer into submitting her own for the anthology. I have also received approval from a well-known sci-fi/fantasy author, Seanan McGuire, to do an Astra/Velveteen crossover (with the caveat that it may not be canon in the Velveteen universe).

Since the Velveteen Vs. stories are some of my favorite superhero fiction, this ranks as the Best Christmas Present Ever. Well, maybe not that high, but it’s close.

I may yet get one or two more authors interested in crossover. Meanwhile, when I set up the newsletter I promised the occasional piece of short-story fiction; this seems the perfect place to introduce what will be the first story in WtC:C, Dating Games! I had a lot of fun with it, and if you would like to read it you can get it through the newsletter (sign up, then check out the latest one).

A final note for those wondering about progress on Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game.

The first 6 chapters of rules are about to go into playtesting.

Work on the art proceeds apace—that’s the new gamebook cover up top.

We are still looking at a January Kickstart to pay the production costs and print the nifty hardcover editions!

So a lot is happening, and more is going to happen. Meanwhile, everybody be well and be safe this holiday season.


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The Radical Moderate 1

Moderation cartoon

It is possible to eat moderately. It is possible to express yourself moderately. It is not possible to believe moderately.

Yes I just quoted myself, but sometimes I’m worth quoting. This post is a bit of a departure for me (I’ve only previously discussed anything remotely political in relation to the Great Mortgage Bubble of ’07 and my natural skepticism of doomsdayers). But there are a few subjects that have been bugging me lately—or more specifically the public rhetoric about them has bugged me—and if I can’t talk about it in my personal blog where can I talk about it?

Before I begin, let me talk about moderates.

When people say they’re moderates, what they usually mean is 1.) they’re willing to compromise with those of other political tribes, or, 2.) they hold some views, possibly many, that are not held by their own identified political tribe.

Political moderates are often accused of being wish-washy and uncommitted, and take abuse from both sides; neither progressives nor conservatives have any use for them. But being a moderate also means that you often see reason and absurdity on both sides. Temperamentally, it also means qualifying your opinions, being humble in your convictions, and slinking rather than rushing to judgement.

Temperamentally, I am a moderate. Although I hold some beliefs quite strongly, I try and keep in mind Cromwell’s Appeal: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken. And I am increasingly a political moderate as I watch the political Left and Right drift further and further apart from each other and the Center, a drift mirrored in our American culture.

The drift itself doesn’t worry me so much as the increasing animosity displayed by both tribes for each other. I am convinced it is created by a growing and  fundamental empathy-gap between Conservatives and Progressives that rests on the following syllogism:

  1. I am a rational/good human being.
  2. Because I am a rational/good human being, I believe X.
  3. If you do not believe X, you must be either misinformed, irrational, or a bad person.

This is a natural way to think, in fact it takes an act of will and imagination and to think differently, but the truth is that other people think differently. The way you think about any subject is shaped to a huge degree by your environment and your world-view. Do you trust people? Do you distrust people? Do you think freedom is the cardinal social value, or do you believe that virtue is the cardinal social value? Is liberty more important than equality, or is equality more important than liberty?

The danger in this syllogism is this; it can very easily lead to Statement 4.

Since you are misinformed, irrational, or a bad person, you must be re-educated, cured, or punished.

Because progress cannot be achieved any other way.

By definition, the opposite of moderation is extremism. Today the Left is the tribe most often accused of extremism, but conservative extremism is quite possible as well; it can even be praised.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” (Barry Goldwater)

Sounds good doesn’t it? Until you remember some of the indefensible things we’ve done in the defense of liberty and the pursuit of justice.

So there it is, and I could meander on a good bit more about my moderate philosophy. Instead, depending on the reception this post receives, I intend to display that philosophy with commentary (sometimes less-than-serious) on some of today’s issues.

Today’s topic: hair and cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon. Generally, an assumption that the culture being borrowed from is also being oppressed by the culture doing the borrowing is prerequisite to the concept. (Wikipedia)

The heat and sometimes rage over cultural appropriation is a relatively new thing; once upon a time, civil rights focused on individual social equality—a social good famously and succinctly described by Doctor Martin Luther King:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But King was actually a moderate in his own movement, and the heirs of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s are not so moderate in their philosophy; the civil rights movement has largely given way to the social justice movement, and the social justice movement is very, very concerned with authenticity.  Authenticity, as used now, was originally a psychological term:

Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existential philosophy and aesthetics (in regards to various arts and musical genres). In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures, and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith. (again Wikipedia)

Not being allowed to be one’s “authentic self” is oppression, not being one’s authentic self is self-betrayal, and today there is very much a self-conscious “authentic blackness” or “authentic feminism” or authentic group-ness of almost every kind. And this group-authenticity is not defined and policed by the “white patriarchal cis-gendered ruling class” either; it is defined by each group. To be deemed inauthentic is to be deemed a quisling traitor of the group.

There is a positive side to group-authenticity; by willingly adopting or retaining concrete tokens and manners and a related history as “of the group” and taking pride in them, you help create group pride. Scots-Americans (I’m one) take pride in being able to “authentically” wear a particular clan tartan. Recovering cultural artifacts of your family past can strengthen your sense of self (I learned to play the bagpipes). Hearing Flower of Scotland done at all well gives me a thrill. And this can be very important when your group has historically been marginalized and oppressed. (Not even British conquest oppressed the Scots much, and their self-image is a bunch of hard headed tough bastards.)

But I think there can also be a deeply negative side, and one problem with stressing group-authenticity is finding offense in cultural appropriation.

On one level this is understandable; dressing up in a way that invokes mocked or distorting stereotypes can be offensive. The improper use of cultural tokens important to the group can be offensive. (Personally, I take offense at seeing people dressing up as Catholic priests or nuns— especially Slutty Nuns—and I’m not even Catholic.)

But I have seen things condemned as cultural appropriation that were never appropriated in mockery or denigration. Should belly dancing only be performed by dancers from the originating Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures? Should hip-hop artists only be black? Should only Japanese wear kimonos? Should only Native Americans engage in Native-American spiritualism? Should only Easterners practice yoga?

All of these are cultural appropriations which have offended some very vocal people.

And then there’s this:

I came across this in a recent article: go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

My first thought was to laugh, but then I tried to understand just what the objectors found so objectionable in this. I sort of got it, although I think they are wrong. They feel that adoption from other cultures or groups, especially historically oppressed groups, is disrespectful.

But here’s the thing; I cannot think of one instance of appropriation in which the adopters didn’t respect the group they were appropriating from, or at least an aspect of that group. If you hate a group, or look down on it, you will not adopt anything identified with it.

In other words, white people adopting Afros, cornrows, and dreadlocks, is a sign that white American culture (yes there is such a thing) has become much less racist. It’s a sign of progress.

And it was seen that way, once. Nobody raised an eyebrow over Bo Derek’s cornrows in the 80s:

bo derek

And then there was:


I should know: I had an Afro in high school. Seriously, it was 100% natural, no product, I just toweled my hair dry and brushed it out. And nobody thought anything of it (well my dad didn’t like it, but he was ex-military).


Let’s just say that a white man or woman with an Afro raises eyebrows. And voices, tempers, and blood pressure. It’s appropriation.

That’s not progress, that’s going backwards.


Update: I threw yoga out there as an example because one writer somewhere mentioned it as “appropriating spiritual practices,” but I never thought someone would take him seriously. Well, one Canadian university has shut down a yoga class.

“Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that “while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students … there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” according to an email from the centre.”

“The centre official argues since many of those cultures “have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy … we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga.”

This is why we can’t have nice things.



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Knowledge is Power. And Power is Power.

HaloThe power of genre-savviness.

It occurred to me just the other day that I have been enjoying this online comic tremendously for over a year now, and never spread the wealth around. So here it is; Grrl Power is a fantastic online comic that Dave Barrack started in late 2010.

Sydney, the comic’s main character, has both interesting things in common with, and is absolutely not at all like Hope Corrigan, aka Astra and the titular heroine of my books. Sydney is a huge geek, and sort of crazy. She’s the co-owner of a comic store and is tremendously genre-savvy—something that comes in handy when she gains superpowers (sort of)—and finds herself joining ArcSWAT, the government superteam of Dave’s setting.

Grrl Power is a deconstructive superhero story, by which I mean that it consciously plays with and subverts most of the tropes of the superhero genre. But the series is neither farce nor satire (although physical and verbal humor abounds); rather Mr. Barrack takes his world as seriously as I do the Post-Event world of Astra’s adventures. While Dave’s main goal is always and obviously to have fun with it, the actual situations that Sydney, aka Halo, finds herself in get fairly serious.

Anyone who can make me laugh hard enough to cry deserves my respect. Should you read it?

I’ll pass along Dave’s own printed warning:

Grrl Power is a comic about a crazy nerdette that becomes a superheroine. Humor, action, cheesecake, beefcake, ‘splosions, and maybe some drama. Possibly ninjas.

Rated PG-13 for violence and gratuitous cheesecake (and beefcake)
Rated R for language. Seriously, Sydney has a filthy mouth.

If you’re still interested, don’t start reading it until you have an empty weekend; although Dave doesn’t update every day, he did start his rampage of superheroic insanity a few years ago and you’ve got a lot of reading and laughing to do.

Do it in a safe place.


PS: Grrl Power has its own very good TV Tropes page. Go. Waste more hours of your life.

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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Armaggedon…


Think of this as “The Future’s So Bright, Part II.” Part I was occasioned by my watching and reviewing Tomorrowland, so you might want to reread that first. Part II is occasioned by my turning 50. Yup, I crossed the big half-century marker.

And I’ve got to say, the view from here is awesome.

The reasons I am not only hopeful but gleeful? among other things:

“At the end of September, the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyetlitis Eradication convened in Bali and, after reviewing the reports of its member nations, declared Poliovirus Type 2 [polio] eradicated in the world.”

The percentage of the world living in Extreme Poverty has fallen to less than 10%. In the 80s that number was 50% (and expected to climb by the doomsayers), and even as recently as 2000 was above 30%.

While the debate over anthropogenic (man-caused) global warming rages on (despite many politicians and scientists’ attempts to claim “the science is settled”), the actual data appears to suggest that AGW, if a problem at all, is likely to be a minor and manageable one rather than the Green Hell that Gorist alarmists have been (unscientifically) spouting off on for the last couple of decades.

Indeed, due to rising CO2’s effect on atmospheric humidity and plant-growth (it’s a fertilizer), evil evil carbon is actually making the world a greener place. At the same time, new technologies are making the world a cleaner place (just because coal isn’t bringing about the End Of The World As We Know It doesn’t mean it’s not a pollutant).

We are also that much closer to the sci-fi future I always dreamed. The latest milestone is the development of vat-meat. That’s right; animal protean (beef for now) is being cultured in dishes, and within a decade–if not the end of this decade–may be cheap enough to start competing with industrial animal husbandry for giving you that juicy burger. Eventually it will likely out-compete the traditional meat industry (and be much better for the environment).

And before you dismiss the idea of lab-grown beef, pork, and chicken protein with an “ew,” consider that the same technology will grow you a new heart, too. The humanitarian factor is not to be sneezed at either.

Meanwhile the Total-Transparency Society continues to unfold as information technologies make privacy a thing of the past. Why is this good? Because we’re not turning into Big Brother so much as One Village where the police and the politicians are more closely watched than the average taxpayer.

And then there is the continued evolution of Virtual University (and Virtual K-12), which might well provide the ultimate technological fix to our staggering and increasingly dysfunctional dinosaur education systems.

Do we face problems? Yes we face problems; the biggest negative trend I can identify is the increasingly obvious and worsening social ills brought on by the disintegration of marriage in large groups in our society. And there’s always politics.

But the world (or at least our world) is always threatened by something; the truth is, the world isn’t ending. If fact it’s getting better. For anyone who tells you different, well they may be right about specific dangers, but there is an interesting term I recently ran into: the Fallacy of Mood Affiliation.

The Fallacy of Mood Affiliation: The reasoning error of first choosing a mood or attitude (optimism, pessimism, cynicism, etc.), then finding the disparate views which match that mood, and justifying those views by the mood.

What, exactly, does this mean? Essentially it means that if you are a pessimist then you will seek out views which match your pessimism, and justify them by your pessimism. You know the world is going to hell, so you listen to anyone who tells you that indeed it is and he knows why.

The reason this fallacy explains so much to me is I always wondered why the same groups of people chased the same failed doomsday scenarios (global cooling, the population bomb, resource depletion, Y2K, etc), moving from one the-sky-is-falling hysteria to the next. I used to think that they had hidden agendas, like using crisis as a means of social control. Now I think that they are victims of the Fallacy of Mood Affiliation.

Is there any reason for me to think that I’m not also prone to FMA? I don’t know, but having lived through many, many doomsdays, I feel confident in placing my bets on mankind. The things that were supposed to End Us, didn’t. Few problems are as catastrophic as alarmists claim, and whatever problems we create, we usually figure out how to fix. A funny thing always seems to happen on the way Armageddon. We’re clever that way.

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Astra Soars!

Flying Lessons A

Astra soars!

First off, the good news (there will be no bad news). Ronin Games has hit #2 in the Superhero Fiction category; it would have hit #1 but it was nudged out by a vampire-sex book. Amazon categories are…fuzzy. Ronin Games did hit #1 in the Superhero Graphic Novels category. Amazon categories are fuzzy. Sales are robust, and I’m on track to make at least as much as I did last year with Small Town Heroes (which means I will be able to continue to write and self-publish at least another year). The Amazon reviews that have been trickling in are also heartening; the fifth Wearing the Cape book may be the most highly rated book of the series.

In short, although it took longer than I wanted to finish (and longer than many impatient readers wished), Ronin Games‘ publication appears to have redeemed 2015 and may make it my best self-publishing year to date. Thank you, everyone who has enjoyed and boosted my work!

On a less serious note: someone over on TV Tropes has been keeping tabs on my body of work—my bibliography at the top of the page has been updated. So I wonder what new TV Tropes they will add to my page? I know it won’t be this.

And now I just blew half an hour following anime-trope links. Darn you, TV Tropes!

Where was I? Oh yes; thank you, everyone who has responded to the renewed call for lab rats—I mean playtesters—for Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game. I am getting more and more excited, now that I’m back into working on the game book and seeing all the possibilities the Fate Core game system offers (I spent much of this year studying the rules and following posts on the game over at Fate’s Google+ site when not slaving over Ronin Games). Writing out a more detailed history and background for the Post-Event World than what is found in the books has been a challenge, but a fun challenge.

That’s it for now; everyone have a good September.


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Ronin Games Is Published!

Ronin Games Web CoverWearing the Cape, Book 5: Ronin Games is now available for the Kindle on! The paperback edition will be available by the end of the month. Better late than never?


Astra has returned to Chicago and the everyday life of a cape: getting kittens out of trees, training, aiding the city’s emergency first-responders, training, doing public relations events, training, and the occasional superhero v. supervillain fight that threatens to level neighborhoods or at least set them on fire.

Then Astra takes a hard hit during a fight and very briefly finds herself somewhere else, somewhere she’s only been before in dreams and in the company of Kitsune, a shapeshifting trickster fox. Astra’s friends learn she is under the increasing influence of an otherworldy realm they know absolutely nothing about, and that she may even be drawn permanently into it. If they hope to stop it from happening, they must find Kitsune before it’s too late.

But to find Kitsune they must go to Japan, and Japan since doesn’t allow unsanctioned entry to foreign capes everything depends on secrecy. With no allies, few assets, and surprises at every turn, winning requires rewriting the rules and playing their own game. A ronin game.


Truthfully, I had thought to be finished with Ronin Games in the spring; the lateness of the book is a combination of life and a vicious case of writer’s block. I hope everyone feels the result worth the wait. I won’t talk about the book here, for fear of spoilers, but I think I will make my next post a Q&A session on Ronin Games and where the series is going if I have enough questions (hint: if there’s something you’d like to ask, now is the time).

The other item worthy of mention is that, with Ronin Games finished, I am returning my attention to Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game. With Jamal Campbell (the artist responsible for the last two covers) doing the cover and interior art, and the rules mostly complete (and based on the award-winning Fate Core system), I hope to begin involving playtesters (guinea pigs, really) by October or close to it. For those who have previously offered to help, let me know if you are still available. For anyone new and unsuspecting, tell me about yourself!

It will be fun, really.


P.S.: as a self-published author without a marketing department, as always I depend on the generous boost provided by my readers. If you enjoy Ronin Games as much as my previous books, I would love to hear your opinions on (where reviews boost visibility). Harassing your friends also helps, so long as you keep them as friends.

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A Brave New World? Or a Brave New Mess?

The EndBreaking eggs for the new omelet.

I have enjoyed the last few months as the current Marvel Universe draws to a close; since it was all ending anyway, many Marvel writers have been taking chances and exploring interesting character-changes that would never have been allowed by the previous status-quo. My fave has been what’s been happening with Thor/Loki, but there’s lots of other good stuff. But now that we’re getting leaked glimpses of what is coming, I’m a little worried.

Why, exactly? There is a recent IO9 article, which I’ll quote here:

“Some of the confirmations were things fans had expected, such as the news that characters from the universes destroyed during the cataclysmic event that is currently annihilating many of Marvel’s former alternate realities will find a home in the new Marvel universe (many fans already gathered from the recent revelation that Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales will become a member of a new Avengers team).

“But Marvel also revealed that versions of the characters created for the event — like Maestro, a future evil version of the Hulk appearing in the companies reboot of the Future Imperfect storyline, or the all-female Avengers team A-Force — will cross over from the event, and with them, the Battleworld that Secret Wars takes place on. So essentially, a mashed-up version of the former alternate realities of Marvel Comics will somehow co-exist alongside whatever new reality is created for Marvel Comics to exist in after the event. Is your head hurting yet? Mine is.”

I had previously been under the impression (or hope) that Marvel was using the Secret War/Battleworld event to clear the decks and begin afresh, start with a blank slate and tell new stories.

In some ways I expected it to be much like the Ultimate Universe, only more organized.

Now I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. Will the survivors, both the ones on “Earth” and the ones on Battleworld, remember the old timelines? Or will there be a “reboot” for the Main Characters (the FF, the Avengers, the X-Men, etc) who will have lived the new history and not remember the Secret War, plus the “outsiders”, who are stranded survivors on Battleworld?

I hope that’s what it means. Why? Because one thing that the Marvel Ciniverse of the Marvel Studios movies has gotten absolutely right is its decision to abandon the kitchen-sink approach typical of the superhero genre and go for a Grand Unified Theory of Cool Stuff. In the Marvel Ciniverse it is superscience; everything is explained by science, whether it is human science (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk), alien and alien/human science (Wanda, Pietro, the Inhumans), and magic-science (Thor, Loki).

Clark’s Law reigns supreme, and the result is an astonishingly coherent and powerful vehicle for the stories of the Marvel Ciniverse. On top of this, add the reboot of all the stories which eliminated the legions of associated heroes, villains, events, and sheer mass-driven inertia of the comics, and a thing of beauty is born.

While the main impetus behind the Wearing the Cape books was the desire to tell a “socially realistic” superhero story, the desire for fresh heroes and a more “rational” origin/explanation for the wonders of the superhero world played a huge role as well.

I still hope that is what Marvel is doing here; I’m just no longer so optimistic.

We shall see.

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“The Future’s So Bright, I’ve Got To Wear Shades.”

TomorrowlandWhen you think about it, this image is every Green’s nightmare…

I mean come on: endless wheat fields, no sign of untouched nature? A techno-utopia city obviously powered by something other than wind and sun? Sorry. I just finished watching Tomorrowland, and the movie has left me a bit snarky.

Not that it wasn’t good–it was. But it reminded me of something that has bugged me for years, specifically the question of who stole The Future. The Future, capital “T,” capital “F.” Hint: it wasn’t the inventors and engineers. They were busy making it.

What I’m getting at, and what the movie points out, is that the Sixties were the golden age of The Future; back then The Future meant flying cars, interplanetary travel, domestic robots. You know, the good stuff. By the time I was old enough to  start paying attention to both science and science-fiction, however, The Future was: Global Cooling (we were “dirtying” the atmosphere, cooling the globe, and all going to starve) and the Population Bomb (we were breeding too fast, exhausting our resources, and all going to starve). If we didn’t blow our selves up in an orgy of thermonuclear warfare first (and then most of the survivors would starve because of the nuclear winter).

We also had a good shot at killing all the birds with DDT or destroying the ozone layer and baking (and starving again).

This was depressing, but only for awhile. Why? It turned out we weren’t cooling the Earth, industrialization was slowing the birth-rate and we weren’t going to exhaust any of the resources doomsayers said we would any time soon (plus we showed a genius for using or creating new materials). We also didn’t blow ourselves up, and we discovered that both the DDT and ozone scares were false alarms.

But are we safe? Of course not; now it appears we are warming the Earth (and are going to starve, we are always going to starve). Some environmentalists believe the good news is that some new plague is likely to take us down before we can take the planet down with us.

Hmmm. Paint me skeptical.

Which brings us back to Tomorrowland (spoilers: if you intend to see it, don’t read any further). The movie asks the same question: who stole that bright, optimistic future? The answer? A GIANT, THOUGHT-PROJECTING MACHINE BROADCASTING IMAGES OF THE PROBABLE END OF THE WORLD INTO EVERYONE’S SUBCONSCIOUS MINDS. I kid you not. Everyone subconsciously believed the world was coming to an end, and it was a bit of a downer.

The movie tried to skate over precisely what that ending was to be, but was somewhat contradictory: one image showed mega-scale volcanism, another a nuclear cloud, another drowned coastlines from melted icecaps (mega-scale volcanism and nuclear war would both cool the Earth (see above), and sea levels would drop if they did anything). Whatever it was, it wasn’t Global Warming–it happened too fast.

Actually the logic at the end of the show is a total bomb, but that’s okay.

So here’s what gets me: the doomsayers have been consistently wrong on every major prediction. Even the global-warming crowd has found its decadel projections foiled by natural climate variability, yet their predictions drive governments to take measures that would in no way slow global warming if the projections are close to accurate. Seriously. Look at their models.

“Ah,” you say. “But this time the doomsayers are right, and if we don’t do a lot more than we’re doing now then this time we really are all going to starve.”

Maybe…but the environmentalist solution? Slash our modern high-energy economy to the bone, and prevent developing countries from building their own high-energy economies. That way, only some of us will starve (mostly them, but there are still too many of them anyway). Really; all hard-core environmentalists pretty much think like Agent Smith from The Matrix.

Tomorrowland reified this dynamic nicely. If you want to see a scholarly (and entertaining) discussion of it, check out The Merchants of Despair.


My solution? Which, BTW, is also the suggestion of one of the founders of Greenpeace. A massive program of nuclear-power development. Replace all oil and coal-burning plants in the US with nuclear power, hydro power, and geothermal power plants within a decade. Research the hell out of solar, clean-fission, fusion, and beamed power, and let the markets bring them online as they become economically competitive. Export the technology to the rest of the world (you can even make nuclear plants that use the thorium fuel cycle and so don’t make the stuff of nuclear bombs).

Then, even if carbon-driven global warming isn’t happening, we’ll have a cleaner and more energy-rich world. Meanwhile a little sulfur injected into the upper atmosphere every few years (it comes down quick) will do a little more of what volcanoes do today and keep temperatures from climbing too high.

My point is, whatever happens we already have a lot of the answers. And as more things happen we’ll deal with them too; it’s the history of the human race. We didn’t get the flying cars but we got personal computers and the internet, which have changed the world and are still changing the world far more than flying cars ever would have. We are using our resources better and finding more all the time. We have largely beat world hunger (in the places it still exists it is a political problem rather than a resource problem). Without government-run Big Solutions we are building Tomorrowland a piece at a time.

Is that city in the wheat field our inevitable destiny? No. But as long as modern society survives, vibrant, future-looking, and never satisfied, if we don’t get it we’ll get something else as good or better. Or we could get pessimistic and throw away the tools that will save and transform us, hunker down, and settle for much, much less. In the resulting future dystopia, at least the doomsayers will be happy.

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Holy Cow, It’s May: Updates and a Movie Review.

Cover Beta 6 croppedProgressing on the art, at least

Artemis dropped out of mist and onto the table, and that would have pretty much ended the poker game even if my bursting through the warehouse’s high windows in a shower of glass above them hadn’t finished ruining the players’ night. Lit by the crackling halo of her electrostatic field, Lei Zi floated through the shattered windows behind me and fired off a carefully calibrated electromagnetic pulse. The sticky charge of free electrons washed past me as I fell to send an electronics-killing surge through any unshielded devices inside the zone. “Go, go, go!” she chanted in my earbug on the open channel.

I let myself fall with the glass. No sense rushing anywhere while I was still picking targets.


First the good news: Ronin Games is on track (the two paragraphs above are the opening lines). I hope to have a first draft finished by the end of the month, and may be in edits and formatting by the end of June. This is a good thing. The bad news; it looks like Wearing the Cape: the Roleplaying Game will be finished later this year than hoped. The Kickstarter should still launch in 2015, but likely in the third quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, my most recent distraction has been Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster-006-800x1185A2 was a treat; with few missteps, Whedon again handled the huge ensemble cast of heroes with grace and style, even bringing on new characters and making them shine with only a few lines (especially Pietro and Wanda).

Warning: Incredible Spoilers, do not scroll down if you haven’t seen the movie!












Okay then. Whedon continues his theme of how, as humans, we are Our Own Worst Enemy: in A1 toying with the Cosmic Cube draws the attention of Thanos, who sends Loki and his space-orcs to retrieve it. In A2, Tony Stark’s attempt to create an AI capable of bringing about World Peace…goes a little awry. Furthering that theme, it turns out that Pietro and Wanda’s motive for volunteering for Hydra’s augmentation experiments was seeking revenge for the death of their parents in a missile attack using, wait for it…Stark Industries weapons.

So, we create our enemies? But not so fast; Hydra predates Stark Industries, and the next Big Bad is definitely Thanos (again). So maybe all the tinkering with Cosmic Cubes and AIs was with good reason.

Onward, I really enjoyed how Whedon highlighted Hawkeye and Natasha in A2. First, he gave Hawkeye a secret family (shades of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe). He also re-emphasized the deep and platonic camaraderie between Hawkeye and Natasha; and I do mean platonic—Natasha is practically part of the family (an aunt to their kids, and they’re naming their next child after her). Whedon could have easily arranged a silly love-triange there but he thankfully passed on the temptation; instead they are true BFs.


I really wish the Black Widow would get her own movie.

Equally interesting, I thought that Natasha’s attraction to Dr. Banner was very well done. I may be in the minority on this opinion (you can certainly find arguments to the contrary, see here and here), but the budding—and apparently doomed—relationship feels both awkward and superfluous to the plot; in other words, it feels real. To psychoanalyze it in two sentences: Natasha sees Hawkeye’s happy family and regrets not having one of her own (the Red Room monstrously deprived her of both past and future family ties). Banner responds to Natasha’s attraction with more than a little bewilderment and regret (he obviously doesn’t see himself as an object of romantic interest, and his curse similarly cuts him off from prospects of family).

So what about the super-heroics? Well this is a Joss Whedon movie; of course the action was epic and brutal. I especially appreciated how in the final fight, the Avengers’ first concern was to prevent civilian casualties; they begin by trying to evacuate as many people as they can, and in the end refuse the easy—at one point the only—solution. It would have been unthinkable. This is something that is often missed even in the comics.

And both Ultron and Vision are amazing.

Final Note: In the next few days I should be putting the first five chapters of Ronin Games up on The Cape (my series newsletter). Go here to sign up if you have not already.

I hope everyone has a wonderful May!


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Smart TV (I was going to say brains on TV.)

I Zombie

Question: What is the difference between a monster and a person with an unusual dietary requirement? Answer: Timing.

Disclaimer: I don’t like zombies. Really. They’ve been done to death. And yes, this may just be that kind of “punish”ing review. Because I like this show. So far a lot, although only two episodes in it’s kind of hard to judge what kind of lurching legs it has. It may be unkillable.

The story: uptight and over-achieving young and hot surgeon, Liv Moore (who’s very name has to be a pun), gets talked into loosening up and joining a fellow doctor for a boat party. Where free samples of a new designer drug turn partakers into brain-eating zombies. Liv is scratched by one–the truly smarmy dealer himself, coincidentally–before escaping over the side of the boat. She wakes up on the beach in a body bag. Yup, you guessed it, she’s now a zombie. Apparently the rest of the new zombies were killed by fire when the party-boat burned to the water line, and all the other partiers either burned or drowned.

Of course nobody believes in zombies, so Liv isn’t promptly quarantined by the CDC. But she does quit her amazing surgeon’s position for a job at the local medical examiner’s office. Because, yes, she needs to eat brains to survive–or at least to keep from switching into full on mindless hungry Zombie Mode. Everything else she eats is now completely tasteless unless she adds a six-alarm fire side of chilli peppers, which is a pity because apparently brains don’t taste at all good; dress them up how she might, she complains endlessly about their squishy texture and metallic aftertaste.

Anyway, Liv is very depressed, practically a… okay, a zombie. She’s had to give up her career, which apparently she’s been preparing for since she was potty-trained, and her Absolutely Perfect Boyfriend fiance (she very rightly fears that zombie-ism is a communicable social disease and she isn’t about to risk doing that to him). Her family, roommate, and ex-fiance don’t understand her, she is “living” with no purpose, and death just sucks.

Then her medical examiner boss (who got tossed out of the CDC because of his obsession with man-made viruses) figures out what she is. Instead of outing her, he starts treating her as his personal science project (in a friendly way). He wants to both understand her and cure her.

And Liv finds a purpose in death: because you see, when she eats bits of someone’s brain she gets stimuli-triggered visions from their memories. She also temporarily picks up their skills and personality quirks… A series of events leads to her working with a rookie detective to solve murders (he thinks she’s a psychic, which is just so much more believable than zombies).

Liv is a zombie superhero!

To be honest, writing all this down I find the premise clever but not deep. So, why do I like it? Because the writer has gone beyond the zombie-joke aspects of the story. Liv is believable and sympathetic as Everywoman (if Everywoman was a brilliant overachiever turned into a zombie); she is a very relateable young woman who Had It All or at least a close approximation, then lost it. The human resonances are everywhere; she has a condition that makes her unemployable in her chosen field, she has a disease that makes intimate relationships risky, all carefully laid plans for the future wrecked, she is drifting and trying to find purpose. She’s practically a Woobie (see TV Trope here).

Pleasingly, the writers are avoiding stereotypes when not winking at or outright mocking them, and everything is a least one degree from normal. Did I mention the first Regular Bad Guy to appear? He’s the dealer who scratched Liv, yes he’s a zombie, and he’s making the most of his condition by infecting victims and becoming their supplier of brains. Clever.

The viewer can even count on the occasional moral lesson; in Episode 2, Liv eats part of the brain of a talented artist; she discovers her artistic and passionate side (to the point where her vocabulary changes and she’s both painting compulsively and lusting after beautiful men and women). She loves her new-found sense of passion, but also realizes that our passionate natures are inherently selfish as desire drowns reason and consideration. Plus it was fun to watch her detective partner wonder just what was happening to his morose emo psychic.

So I’m going to give this show a shot. It might have quite a long TV-live, or unlife anyway.


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