Saturday Storytime: Cold Wind

It is a glorious time right now to enjoy F&SF short fiction. It is also a slightly overwhelming time, with so much out there to choose from. So it’s nice when short lists come along and help you make sure you haven’t missed stories you would enjoy, like this one from Nicola Griffith.

She came toward me, stepping around the spilt beer and dropped fries, lifting her feet high, placing them carefully, as though she wore tall heels.

I watched, unable—unwilling—to move.

And then she stood before me. I could smell her—woodland, fern, musk—and I wanted to reach, fold her down, stretch her out on the bracken, and feel the pulse flutter at her neck.

“You were watching me,” she said, and her voice sounded hoarse, as though used to a bigger throat.

“I’m . . . an anthropologist. It’s what we do.” I’ve been looking for you for a long time. I didn’t think you existed.

“What’s your name?”

I thought about that. “Onca.”

She nodded; it meant nothing to her. Her eyes were so dark. She turned up her collar. “I’ll see you, Onca. Soon, I hope.” A cold stream purled through her voice and snow blew across her eyes. Come outside, under the sky with me, they said.

I nodded. We both knew I would: she called, others followed. It’s who she was.

And then she was gone. I didn’t look out of the window. If the stories were true in this way too, I wouldn’t be able to see her, not yet.


I found her victim in the bathroom, the blind spot with no cameras. She wasn’t dead. She sat propped on the seat in a stall, jeans around her knees, head against the wall. She grinned at me foolishly. “Can’t move,” she said.

I locked the stall behind me. “Does it hurt?”


It would. I smelled blood, just a little. I bent, looked at her shirt darkening between her breasts. “Can you draw a deep breath?”

She tried. In reality it was more of a sigh. But she didn’t flinch or cough. No broken ribs.

I squatted in front of her, elbows on knees, hands dangling comfortably. She just kept smiling, head at that odd angle against the wall. In that position she couldn’t see me. I stood, straightened her head, then, because it was distracting, I leaned her on my shoulder, lifted, and pulled up her jeans. She could fasten them herself later, or not.

I squatted again, regarded her. She was still smiling, but it was a faint echo of what it had been. No longer solid. After this not much would be. “There’s a legend,” I said. “More than a dozen legends, from all over the world.” La Llorona. Or Flura. Xana, Iara, Naag Kanya . . . “She lures people with sex. Some say she takes your heart.” Sometimes literally. “But she always takes something.” I considered her. “She’s taken your spirit.”

“My . . .”

I waited, but she didn’t say any more. “Your soul.” As good a word as any. “You’re tired, I should think.”

Her smile faded, like a guttering flame. She might survive. She would never feel alive again.

I wasn’t sure she could hear me anymore. I leaned forward, unbuttoned her shirt. The bruise was swelling too quickly to be sure, but the shape cut into the broken skin—lovely skin, over firm muscle—could have been from a blow by a hoof.

“What’s your name?”

“Maria José Flores.”

“Maria, you make me hungry.” And she would have, with her spirit intact. “But not like this.” I fastened her back up and stood. Time to go.

Keep reading.

Can Inclusive Language Exclude Women?

Well, it’s come to this. A pro-choice feminist has hounded an abortion doctor and advocate on Twitter for using the phrase “pregnant person” instead of “woman” when arguing with people who are against abortion–and with people who thanked Dr. Torres for being inclusive in her language.

There were a couple of reasons given for this hounding. The first being that inclusive language erases women as being the primary recipients of abortions a la “All lives matter”. As Jason points out, that argument has problems.

The second argument given is that using inclusive language when talking about abortion obscures the sexism and misogyny that have pushed the political fight against abortion rights. This is also wrong, but I’ve seen it cropping up more frequently lately. That makes it time to deal with it. [Read more…]

Copyright and Keeping a Tune

Do you know how to sing, “Happy Birthday to You”? Are you sure? I’m a bit uncertain myself, and I’ve had a few years of choral training.

This morning, I tweeted this:

This has led to some interesting discussion on Facebook that’s worth repeating for a broader crowd, because the reasons behind this particular bit of bad singing are interesting. [Read more…]

The Reading List, 9/22/2015

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

  • “All in all, this growing community of atheists and secularists in the Caribbean that we have seen has led to the emergence of more activists, not only in atheism but in related areas such as LGBT rights.” Read more.
  • “That’s something for therapy, perhaps, not for you, or anyone else who isn’t getting paid by the session.” Read more.
  • “But you’ve lost. And you’re going to have to face up to the fact you’ve lost. There are no do-overs. There are no more games.” Read more.
  • “Leaving aside the substance of these points, which are deeply disingenuous and perhaps even offensive to nonbelievers, look at the words being used: Virus. Infect. Course of treatment. Spiritual health.Read more.
  • “A study of the 2005 General Election in the UK found that in the Conservative party, men were selected to contest seats that were easier to win, while women were selected to contest seats that were unwinnable.” Read more.
  • “That already-low number drops off precipitously when it comes to black children: Only 21 percent were given opioids, versus 43 percent of white patients. Overall, the researchers found that black kids with acute appendicitis only have a 12.2-percent chance of receiving proper pain management. ” Read more.
  • “The stigma of public morality, fueled by white supremacy and patriarchy, has always come down more heavily on black women. Religious right policies gutting reproductive health care disproportionately affect poor and working class black women.” Read more.
  • “If you take nothing else from this post, take this: if you have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to legal issues like this, don’t offer ‘friendly’ advice. You’re just going to make the aforementioned psychological cost that much worse.” Read more.
  • “‘There was a rule in place, for whatever reason, that girls couldn’t wear leggings,’ Brockett recalls. ‘We found ourselves fighting the leggings without any of us knowing why.'” Read more.
  • “It was disorienting to spend our class discussing the ethics of mourning and the application of Holocaust, postcolonial and trauma theories to 9/11, only to return to my office to find dozens of emails accusing me of sympathizing with terrorists, calling for the deportation or extermination of all Muslims or telling me to’“go back where I came from.'” Read more.
  • “Indeed, whether in sports, politics or business, the best leaders are usually humble — and whether through nature or nurture, humility is a much more common feature in women than men.” Read more.
  • “When I was a little younger than Ahmed Mohamed is now, I invented the distance formula for Cartesian coordinates.” Read more.

Border Crossing: A Conversation

Scene: U.S. border checkpoint at Pembina, ND. Both vehicle and passengers are a bit low on fuel after the weekend.

Customs and Border Patrol Agent: “Where are you coming from?”

Ben: “Manitoba.”

All: [laughter]

Ben: “Sorry. Winnipeg. I’ve been doing that all weekend.”

Agent: “Why were you in Canada?”

Me: You don’t want to know. “We were at a conference.” [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The World in Evening

Strange Horizons is now running its annual fund drive. And if you want to know why they’re worth supporting, you could do worse than this delicious little creeper from Jei D. Marcade.

For a while there was only the sawing of steel through bone, the rasp of Rook’s own breath echoing in his mask. Then he heard a low growl behind him. He dropped the hunk of meat he was working on and pivoted machete-first, unfolding his lanky frame from the pool of deeper shadow at the base of the auto shop wall.

“Farrago, hush,” Mouse said softly, a warning. Beside her, its head reaching well above her waist, crouched a hulking, chimeric thing with mismatched eyes, the only feature that remained of the daylit stray.

Its nostrils flared, and Rook wondered idly if it recognized what remained of Harley’s scent—if it recalled his comment about stuffing household pets.

“Friend of yours?” Rook said.

“Sometimes.” Mouse curled her fingers in the creature’s thick ruff when it released a rattling, staccato bark. “Hush, it’s okay.” Her hood was down, and Rook saw her hair for the first time, chopped short and ragged as though with a pair of safety scissors. A cord led from her backpack to the headset hanging around her neck, a muffled voice hissing urgently from the speakers. Rook thought he heard his name. Mouse adjusted a dial on the cord to silence the noise.

Rook swayed and smiled when Mouse tracked the movement, her eyes clear and sharp and trained on the lens of his mask, her hand plunged into the pocket of her sweatshirt. Gone was the heaviness from her limbs, the gloss of disinterest scrubbed from her face, as though the night had carved a new Mouse from her daylit torpor with the razor of the moon.

“I know you,” she said. It was almost a challenge. “You live across the street from us. You’re Harley.”

“Sometimes.” Rook stepped onto the sidewalk, a fat dark drop rolling off the serrated edge of his blade and splashing onto the pavement; it sounded loudly in the empty street as though in a tunnel. “Just not at night.” He hadn’t meant to take that step, but he did not try to reclaim it.

The beast planted itself between the girl and Rook, a snarl trickling through bared teeth as it flashed incisors the length of Rook’s thumb. Mouse seized two of its curling horns and tugged.

“Farrago,” she said again, louder. “Leave it. Come on.”

Head a-tilt, Rook lowered his machete, holding it partially out of sight behind his leg. “Little Mouse, little Mouse,” he sing-songed, “won’t you come out and play?”

“I will not,” she said firmly, staring hard into his lens. “Not with you. Not tonight.”

Keep reading.

The Reading List, 9/18/2015

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.


  • “I did not feel I could sink any lower. I did not believe I had anything left to lose.  I walked into a Directors Guild of America Women’s Steering Committee meeting asking questions and demanding answers.” Read more.
  • “That’s important because Universal had argued that fair use has to be considered an ‘affirmative defense’ of otherwise unlawful conduct. The panel of judges dismantled that idea.” Read more.
  • “But Ben and Kepner didn’t just save their activist writing for Vice Versa and ONE. Their science fiction writing was full of their desires for a more equal world.” Read more.
  • “Don’t be like Bill.” Read more.
  • “This video is a telling bit of MRA ephemera. I almost admire the efficiency of it. Why go through the process of hitting on women, getting rejected, and doing the pathetic ‘I didn’t want you anyway, you smelly bitch!’ rationalization dance, when you can skip directly to the last step?” Read more.
  • Cillizza and Berman are right about the perceptions. It seems worth pointing out, however, that no woman has the option of this kind of candor.” Read more.
  • “That all would be traumatizing enough, but these campaigns are structured so the damage is permanent — all of that information is compiled on sites, wikis, defamatory tabloid style blogs, and Youtube videos. The message is clear: this is forever. It’s never going away.” Read more.
  • “Oatmeal is generally considered a no-no on the modern paleo diet, but the original paleo eaters were definitely grinding oats and other grains for dinner, according to new research.” Read more.
  • “It follows a letter from education minister Hakuban Shimomura sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take ‘active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs’.” Read more.
  • “But it appears that the solution is a simple one: diverse creators and producers lead to diverse crews.” Read more.
  • “A 28-year-old programmer I spoke to mentioned that she too had ‘aged out’ of the recruiter tables. Every discussion I attended that involved older women (and there weren’t many) emphasized that we were there to mentor, preferably from managerial roles that we had achieved by ‘leaning in.'” Read more.
  • “Now, the Superman office allegedly employs no women, and a cursory glance over the mastheads of several Superman titles and Wonder Woman seems to confirm that allegation. The reason, I’ve been told by several people who work or used to work at DC, is because one of the most senior editors is a sexual harasser with multiple incidents on his HR file.” Read more.


The Reading List, 9/16/2015

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

  • “All Paul Elam and company are doing is making seeking treatment even harder by portraying mental health professionals as man-haters who must ‘[accept] that men have problems vs. the default assumption that men are the problem.’ I’ve never had any professional, ever, tell me that what happened to me or that my mental conditions were my fault. I have, however, had MRAs repeatedly attack me and mock me.” Read more.
  • “We need police to value the lives of everyone in the community – yes, even the criminal ones. We need to imbue our police with a social service mentality rather than a siege one.” Read more.
  • “I’d thought this would be obvious, but perhaps it’s not: When I say ‘leader,’ I don’t mean ‘person you never oppose.’ I don’t mean ‘person who tells you what to believe.’ I don’t mean ‘enforcer of a dictated belief system.’ I don’t mean ‘dictator'; I don’t mean ‘demagogue'; I don’t mean ‘pope.'” Read more.
  • “Fans may be concerned about the lack of details whenever allegations about creators emerge– frequently through the inherently untrustworthy platform of social media– but if you’re a journalist, that frustration is amplified to a huge extent because you can’t speak for fear of endangering sources, who won’t speak themselves for fear of ruining their careers, while publishers are well aware of the bad behavior of their employees and choose to either do nothing about it or in some cases even encourage it.” Read more.
  • “And after a year and a half, while I absolutely believe Edmondson’s an asshole and did what he’s accused of, as a journalist who believes in checking sources and facts, I have not had enough to run a story I felt I could defend in court. Because, I’ve been warned numerous times, if I ran it I should expect to be sued.” Read more.
  • “‘Kevin far exceeded institutional requirements in reporting potential conflicts of interest,’ wrote Dr. Payne. ‘His disclosures were not merely filled out and summarily buried in an electronic filing cabinet, Dr. Folta broadcast Monsanto’s support for his outreach efforts by thanking the company publicly and disclosing its contributions at the beginning of his outreach talks.'” Read more.
  • “The very fact that genderbending is a thing draws attention to standards of dress and the depiction of gender in fiction. However, its done as a celebration of a character rather so it doesn’t end up being grumpy. Its fun and often funny, and comedy is often the best form of commentary.” Read more.
  • “I would have walked away without a second thought, as this kind of harassment is usually written off as a joke by men who have spent too much time offshore away from their wives. I wouldn’t have bothered to even report the problem once I had plugged the hole myself — why create drama and give the men another reason to complain about allowing women on the ship?” Read more.
  • “Ok, but what happens if someone registers to vote and none of your friends knows that person personally? Do you just reject them out of hand? Does that mean that they’re not actually a science fiction and/or fantasy fan? Yeah, I’m being facetious.” Read more.
  • “Where is Adam Lambert’s line for Gap Kids, promoted with an upbeat commercial of young boys playing with dolls and doing ballet while wearing shiny sparkly glam clothes and lipgloss while Diamond Rings serenades us all?” Read more.
  • “The voters (well, some) find the choosing amusing;
    It’s theatre, played on the world’s grandest stage!
    It’s comedy, tragedy, mystery, history,
    Farce, at a level defining an age!” Read more.
  • “The people raising religious objections to same-sex marriage take pains to try and distance themselves from earlier generations of people who objected to mixed-race marriages on religious grounds but the parallels are just too close to make that effort successful. North Carolina has a particularly ugly history with this kind of marriage bigotry and one case demonstrates that this is just a new version of an old story.” Read more.

But How Will You Unite Us?

David Koepsell has a post up on his blog at Center for Inquiry that looks familiar.

It is natural for us to dissent from one another. We are freethinkers. We have our own ideas, our own visions, and at our best we encourage open debate. At our worst, we attack our allies, demonize those who disagree with us, and splinter our forces and efforts needlessly. It seems that every minor ideological or procedural disagreement we have with one another becomes an opportunity to attack, to lambast, to shun, or worse – purge our ranks. This is a tremendous strategic mistake. The culture wars are not over, and the bastion we have begun to build is always capable of being undermined.

If it rings bells for you too, that is probably because it hearkens back to Ron Lindsay’s post from nearly three years ago.

Shunning and boycotting may be gaining acceptance in the atheist and skeptic communities.   In particular, it appears they are being adopted as tactics against fellow atheists and skeptics.  This is regrettable.

Unfortunately, I think Koepsell’s post has as much chance of changing the situation as Lindsay’s did. [Read more…]

Bishop Knows Best

It’s been quite a while since I talked about Catholic hospitals and their Ethical and Religious Directives and how those make people less safe. I wish that meant they’d stopped putting people in danger, but that’s not even close to the case. Here is another case from Michigan.

It was painful to hear but ultimately seemed the best course to Jessica Mann and her family. Because of a dangerous tumor in her brain, her doctor gently suggested that she take steps to make sure that she could not get pregnant again.

So Mann, 33, who is due to have her third baby next month, decided that while she was under anesthesia during the birth, she would undergo a tubal ligation — a procedure that would prevent further pregnancies.

But her hospital said no. Genesys Regional Medical Center, which is Catholic, denied the request on religious grounds: Catholic mandates forbid procedures that cause sterilization, including vasectomies, and officials said she did not qualify for an exception.

In some ways, Mann is lucky. [Read more…]