Saturday Storytime: The Telling

Gregory Norman Bossert is relatively new to writing fiction, but he’s sold several short stories nonetheless. This story is a finalist for this year’s World Fantasy Award.

“Lord Dellus has passed,” Pearse said; the staff gasped and sighed, as if they had not known already from the cries that had haunted the house since evening last and had stopped so suddenly this morning. “Stopped without an echo,” Cook had said with heavy significance, and added, “That’s that, then,” as she did when a loaf went flat or a bird slipped from the spit to the ashes.

There had been no sighs then; the staff had exchanged weary nods and worried glances in the silence of a House without a head. And there had been a few curious glances toward Mel’s spot on the corner stool that had left Mel wondering what one was meant to feel, and if that dizzy burst of relief and fear was evident, was evil.

“In these difficult moments, we take guidance from the wisdom of tradition,” Pearse continued now. “The upstairs staff will see to the shades, and to the curtains in the conservatory. Ralph, the shutters, closed and latched, and then the front walk swept with the yew brush. The shrouds for the portraits may be found in the cabinet of the still room. The clocks must all be muffled, and a poppy placed on each mantle.”

The downstairs maid curtsied.

“Cook, a hare’s head for the dogs, a fresh one, if you please.”

Cook snorted—’as if I didn’t know,’ that meant—but quietly; Mel felt it more than heard it, a quaking of that vast thigh.

Pearse scowled thoughtfully at the wall; the panelling there was lighter, where a painting had been taken down and not replaced. “I believe those are the most immediate duties that custom and propriety demand of us. We shall convene at noon in the kitchen to discuss the period of mourning.”

Ralph the gardener cleared his throat. “The bees,” he prompted.

“Ah, yes, the bees,” Pearse said. “Where is the child?”

Ralph shuffled uncomfortably, and looked sideways at Neff. “It’s meant to be the youngest, ah, male in the household.”

Pearse acted, as usual, as if Neff was beneath his notice. “The child will do. Where is it?”

Cook rumbled with discontent, but placed her knuckles between Mel’s shoulder blades and pushed.

“Here, sir,” Mel said and stood straight, suddenly eager for the brightness of the gardens.

“You will come with me, boy.” Pearse glared from Ralph to Cook as if courting disagreement, and Mel’s expectation slumped to unease at that accustomed tension between the senior staff. “The Lord is dead. The bees will need telling.”

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I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic

Commenter EEB wrote this in the comments on one of Jason’s posts. With her permission, I am reprinting it here as a guest post because more people need to know that this can and does happen.

OK. In all of these discussions the past few days, on various blogs and various inter-related topics, I’ve been thinking about saying this. I never felt it was quite the right place, or time. But I think now is the right time. This might be egotistical, and I’m sorry, but I feel it needs to be said.

[Putting a big TRIGGER WARNING for graphic description of rape & aftermath, victim blaming.] [Read more...]

Showoff

Have a little video from the Mr. Paul Aints game a couple of weeks ago. The first minute or so is interview/discussion. Then we see some of our speakers for the next day’s conference. Then…

Anybody else catch themselves thinking that miffing it after that was going to be extra embarassing?

Now I wonder whether anyone took video of Dave Silverman the previous year. Hey, Amanda…?

In Which I Falsely Report a Rape

…according to the slime pit. Expect to be hearing the story passed around, since people are working very hard to distract from Shermer right now. They’re doing their best to turn the spotlight around and put us on the defensive.

I’ve written four times, I think, about various aspects of having been sexually assaulted at age 15 by the father of the young man I intended to “lose my virginity” to.

The short version: [Read more...]

Two Quick Tests

Have a couple of quick heuristics to make your life easier.

Test One: Are you blaming victims?

Sure, sometimes you do have to explain how to do some basic things. I have friends who didn’t grow up in the U.S. I have friends who were very sheltered for religious or other reasons. Sometimes you say things that some across as condescendingly obvious for a good reason.

When these things are about not, say, getting drugged by someone who may want to rape you, you may be told that giving that kind of advice is victim-blaming. You may be tempted to shrug off that idea. Before you do that, ask yourself one question: [Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: The Castle That Jack Built

Emily Gilman writes mostly short stories and not a huge number of those. That seems to work for her, though, as this story is one of the finalists for this year’s World Fantasy Award.

He thought the bears had smiled, though that might just have been wishful thinking; certainly they had looked at each other for a moment, and then they turned back to him. Yes, they said, that much we can do, and it is little enough payment for your services.

And they had turned him into a scarecrow.

Sure, it had gotten boring after a while, but it was also peaceful, and never needing to sleep gave one a lot of time to learn to read the sky; and then, rain and heat and wind and cold didn’t really bother him anymore. All in all, the birds and the wind in the trees weren’t bad company, and whenever he caught himself wishing he could go back to being a man, he remembered the bears, and the masterpiece he had built them, and the secret at its heart that he must never, ever reveal.

But then one day, when most of the leaves had fallen and evening came early, the wind changed. It changed just before sunset and blew all night long, coming from every direction like it didn’t know who it was or where it was supposed to be going and was trying to make up for it in sheer exuberance.

And then, just as the sun was rising in the morning, it changed once more: all at once it blew hard from the south—but strangely cold for a south wind—and so sharply and suddenly that he thought at first he had finally been knocked over. It took him a few minutes (probably—his scarecrow sense of time was not one that lent itself to such measurements) to realize that he hadn’t been blown over at all: he’d been blown out.

Jack looked up at the faded, battered scarecrow, still tall and proud on its seemingly fragile prop, and then looked down at his own hands. They looked solid enough, but he felt thin, and he would have sworn that the wind kept blowing through him, even as it drew him north.

“Well,” he said, but he didn’t know what else to say after that, so he fell silent. Well. He longed to just stand there, as (he felt) he always had, but something about being so near the ground made him uneasy, and in the end he began tottering, and then eventually walking, in the direction the wind wanted him to go.

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“The Happy Atheist”, PZ Myers on Atheists Talk

PZ Myers needs no introduction to Minnesota Atheists listeners, but in the interest of form, he gets one anyway. With his solo blog, Pharyngula, and the group blog The Panda’s Thumb, Myers helped to pioneer the genre of science blogs. Through his commentary on the Discovery Institute and other creationists trying to shoehorn religion into science classrooms, he also helped to pioneer atheist blogging, eventually becoming the cofounder of the most-read atheist network, FreethoughtBlogs.

The Happy Atheist, Myers’ new book, collects some of his most-accessible writing on the topic. From the publisher’s description:

Through his popular science blog,Pharyngula, PZ Myers has entertained millions of readers with his infectious love of evolutionary science and his equally infectious disdain for creationism, biblical literalism, intelligent design theory, and other products of godly illogic. In this funny and fearless book, Myers takes on the religious fanaticism of our times with the gleeful disrespect it deserves, skewering the apocalyptic fantasies, magical thinking, hypocrisies, and pseudoscientific theories advanced by religious fundamentalists of all stripes.

With a healthy appreciation of the absurd, Myers not only pokes fun at the ridiculous tenets of popular religions but also highlights how the persistence of Stone Age superstitions can have dark consequences: interfering with our politics, slowing our scientific progress, and limiting freedom in our culture.

Tune in this Sunday, when we talk to PZ Myers about the book and what he’s accomplished as a blogger.

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Shermer Speaks

Note to self: Self, if you ever want to keep something quiet, and you see an email–hell, any kind of communication–from Ian Murphy, delete it unread. Unplug the phone. Smother the pigeon. Whatever.

I’m just going to point you to the interview and let you read for yourself how Murphy got Michael Shermer to comment on the current situation (and, oh, you should read it), but here’s the relevant quote:

I haven’t been charged with anything. An anonymous woman told another anonymous woman to tell PZ Myers that I raped her at some unspecified time in the past at some unspecified conference which was alleged reported to unspecified persons who allegedly covered up whatever it is I allegedly did. You print that and you are party to defamation along with Myers. My attorneys are keeping track of everything that could amount to damages to my reputation, and in the court of public opinion it doesn’t matter if the claim is completely made up, people will just believe it. That’s why we have laws against libel and defamation and why no good editor at Salon or anywhere else you would submit such a story would ever run it because they would then open themselves up to libel. In any case, any publication of any substance would have it vetted by an attorney first, who would remind them and you of the ethics of journalism and the law against defamation.

Well, no. A woman PZ has met and finds trustworthy asked Carrie Poppy for a reintroduction by email to PZ. Carrie did that and bowed out. Then this woman, whose identity is being shielded by PZ (from someone who, as we can see, doesn’t have the strongest dedication to getting the details right) told PZ her story of being raped by Michael Shermer. PZ published the story as is. You can read it in her own words.

So that’s Shermer’s take on things. I just have to wonder, does it really matter to Shermer that the conference isn’t specified? How many different places does he think stories like this could have come from?

Updated to add a second bit of musing: How hard is it, really, to say “I’ve never done any such thing and I resent the living hell out of the accusation”?

How Many Do We Lose?

Over the weekend, I talked to two professional activists in the secular movement. One had just left a job and didn’t intend to get another in the movement. The other is strongly considering getting out of the movement. Both are people whose work we are going to miss. Badly. Both are female.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s a symptom of a movement that has let inequalities, injustices, and unprofessionalism fester too long and hasn’t been proactive about the steps needed to clean it up. This has gotten septic. We’re losing good people because of it.

I was reminded of that today when I read Sarah Jones’ post about the threats she received on Facebook and the pile-on she received on Twitter. It’s titled, “Opting Out“. [Read more...]