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…]

The Reading List, 9/13/2015

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.

  • “The Red Wolf announcement is a real life version of the comics trope of a villain making a hero choose which victim to save– basically, anyone who speaks out about Edmondson being part of Red Wolf must also be aware that they are doing harm to representation in comics. Do you want Native Americans to be better represented in comics? Then you must also accept this alleged serial predator being involved in the title. Do you want this alleged serial predator to get outed and stop getting jobs in comics? Then you must accept potentially dooming a book that opens up diversity in comics.” Read more.
  • “In DBT there’s something called Wise Mind. It’s the balance between emotions and reason. When you’re in Wise Mind, you’re aware of your values and goals, and also capable of paying close attention to the facts at hand. TWs give me the space to try to be in Wise Mind. It’s that moment of mindfulness that makes me pull away from the strong emotional reactions I would have otherwise.” Read more.
  • “Knoxville news station WBIR reported that Jackie Sims, the mother of a 15-year-old boy at Knox County Schools’ L&N Stem Academy, had objected to Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks when he brought it home as part of his summer reading. Her son has now been assigned a different text, but Sims is attempting to get Skloot’s biography of the African-American whose cancer cells – taken from her without her knowledge and which subsequently changed modern medicine – pulled from all Knox County schools.” Read more.
  • “Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said in a statement his group welcomed the interim banning of Into the River and the move could set a benchmark for restricting offensive content to younger readers in New Zealand. Media law expert Professor Ursula Cheer told the New Zealand Herald it was legal to possess a copy of the book for your personal use but not to supply it to anyone else.” Read more.
  • “I thought that having more realistic people and pet characters would hopefully excite her more about building with Legos. I was wrong, every time I showed them to her she was wholly uninterested. Her first Lego set was actually Sponge Bob which she loved a great deal. My son however did express an interest in Lego Friends (he still doesn’t have any, only because other sets he liked a little bit better). This was the first time my son had really been highly interested in a toy marketed to girls.” Read more.
  • “Yes, I found the all-black, female college group on my predominantly white campus of Iowa State University . . . but I was still an outcast for spending my nights chatting online, writing fanfiction, watching copious amounts of Yu Yu Hakusho, and destroying my fingers trying to beat Guilty Gear X2 on its hardest difficulty setting. So my defenses were way, way up when I went to my first anime convention, but when I walked through those doors I found so many people who got it, because no matter what size they were or the color of their skin, they knew what it was like to be picked on for being yourself.” Read more.
  • “It could be a show starring an unapologetically girly, silly, fun, and witty host doing science demonstrations and interviewing brilliant scientists and engineers. I would love that! It could be like Felicia Day’s Flog for science, or a cousin of Emily Graslie’s The Brain Scoop. But it’s not. It’s a show starring a hapless character who takes pride in not being able to do anything.” Read more.
  • “We need to start calling things by their real names. This is gender terrorism.” Read more.
  • “However, this isn’t an example of any kind of genetic freeloading. If anything, it means that a few of those previous male’s cells might get enslaved to contribute to the somatic tissues of your child: the germ line, the cells that produce the gonads of the child and are going to produce your grandchildren, are set aside very early in development and are not going to incorporate the microchimeras, especially since the microchimeras consist of primarily previously differentiated cells that are not in the totipotent state of a germ cell. There is no genetic cuckolding going on. I just have to roll my eyes at this paranoia of MRAs.” Read more.
  • “It requires so much information – good luck if you haven’t had consistent health care. It requires so much waiting and waiting and waiting and fucking waiting.  Lots of people give up after that first rejection. Even more after the rejected appeal. Your life is picked apart as complete strangers examine every part of it.  If you can’t lift 30 pounds with your chronic illness, can you lift 10?  You can’t speak on the phone without a panic attack, but how about customers face to face?” Read more.
  • “However, even in the best conversations with officers, just as I have with theists, there is usually a missing piece of history that they gloss over or blatantly dismiss. For theists, it might be the whole killing babies thing, inability to reconcile creation thing, or the Flood that never happened thing. For many police supporters, its the the historicity of policing and its influence on the way they approach minority communities they over police.” Read more.
  • “Murdoch is a notorious climate change denier, and his family’s Fox media empire is the world’s primary source of global warming misinformation. Which would be no big deal here, I guess, were it not for the fact that the National Geographic Society’s mission includes giving grants to scientists. Or had you forgotten?” Read more.

Saturday Storytime: Loving Grace

Oh, do we have messed-up ideas about work. Erica Satifka shows us exactly how messed up some of them are.

“The bird wasn’t unhappy to be owned. She knew that her shining eggs, though worthless to her, brought great joy to the prince of the kingdom. The bird’s power made her unusual, she knew, and she was quite willing to forego the garden outside the barred window of her cage to bring delight to the prince and his kingdom. All was well for many years.”

The storyteller takes a swig of water from the mason jar at his side. He smacks his lips.

“Then came a day when the prince brought in the royal scientists to study the bird. They made copies of her DNA and inserted them into other birds. The bird that laid golden eggs was no larger than a wren, you see, and even ten of her eggs could make only one small crown, even when melted down. They started with a chicken, then an eagle, then finally worked their way up to an ostrich. For a while, the little bird was even happier! She was no longer alone, and though the aviary was now crowded with many different species of gold-laying birds, not all of whom got along, her life was much less dull than it was before. She was so grateful to the prince.”

Chase makes eye contact with a young woman illuminated by the soft moonlight. Her jacket is shredded on one side and her hair is lank and dirty, but she smiles at him warmly. He smiles back.

“For a few years,” the storyteller says, “things remained as they were. The little bird, and all the other gold-laying birds, got along as well as they could. The eagle still sometimes pestered the little bird, but even the eagle knew that they all had a job to do. Then, one day, the royal scientists unveiled their greatest creation ever! They handed a jewel-encrusted box to the prince.

“ ‘What is this contraption?’ said the prince.

“ ‘It’s a replicator, a grand replicator. With this box, you can produce all the gold you could ever want. You don’t need the birds anymore. You can set them free.’

“The prince paused. He looked at the aviary. The birds had never known life outside their cage. Could they be trusted to be free? Would they even want that? He thought for seven days and seven nights, as the grand replicator passed out brick after brick of solid gold, forged from nothing at all.”

Chase inches closer to the woman, drawn like a magnet to her, though he doesn’t know why. His breath catches in his throat. On a night like this he feels so lonely he can’t even think straight.

“At the end of a week of intense deliberation, the prince threw the key to the birdcage from the top of the tallest tower in the kingdom. There was no need to tell the birds about the grand replicator. They were only birds, after all.”

Keep reading.

“Skepticon 8″, Lauren Lane on Atheists Talk

Skepticon grew from a student event on campus to the largest atheist and skeptic conference in the U.S. in just a few short years. Co-founder Lauren Lane and her team of volunteers built Skepticon into an atheist Mecca, if you will. With talks, workshops, vendors, and even a Dino Prom, it has become an unprecedented annual gathering of heathens from all over the country and beyond. The free registration and central location don’t hurt either.

This Sunday, we’ll talk with Lauren about seeing her baby grow up and what it takes to keep an event this size functioning, fun, and free.

Related Links:

[Read more…]

Not Your Sacrifice for Redemption

Yes, I’m tired of the endless discussion around Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis too. Nonetheless, it turns out I still have something to say on the topic.

I’ve noted elsewhere that I disagree with the charges of hypocrisy over Davis’s prior marriages and adultery.

Here I meant misguided in the sense that I don’t believe that the forgiveness of a deity is worth much or that we can look outside the people we’ve wronged (including ourselves) for meaningful forgiveness, but this is also misguided in another very important way. [Read more…]

The Reading List, 9/10/2015

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.

  • “And yet…I still need community. Badly. I need community when my friends and family reject me based on what, to me, are clearly fairy tales. And I know that’s a vulnerable thing to say, but I also know I am not the only one.  Believe it or not, there are atheists of many different backgrounds who struggle a lot with their atheism, and it’s not because they secretly think God exists.” Read more.
  • “One RH-related project we’ve been working on and are launching soon is one that focuses on the issue of abortion, which is currently illegal in the Philippines. We want to start a discussion on this taboo topic to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding something that affects many: despite being illegal, there were over 500,000 abortions in 2008. We’re aiming for decriminalization first, but eventually, legalization in some cases (currently, there is no exception even to save the life of the mother).” Read more.
  • “These topics can include; leaving religion, atheism, skepticism, art, poetry readings, (your own) book readings, how-to workshops and DIY workshops, feminism, activism, crafting, science, community building and other such empowering subjects. If you have an idea, pitch it to me!” Read more.
  • “Whether you like it or not, whether you realise it or not, your life is tangibly better because of fat women who live unapologetically, who wedge the gates of acceptance open wider every day. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman who wants to be more than just a body. I fight for you in your capacity as a woman whose body is scrutinised and policed every moment of your life.” Read more.
  • “Legal historian Paul Finkelman (Albany Law) has made a compelling case against the label ‘compromise’ to describe the legislative packages that avoided disunion in the antebellum era.1 In particular, Finkelman has dissected and analyzed the deals struck in 1850. Instead of the ‘Compromise of 1850,’ which implies that both North and South gave and received equally in the bargains over slavery, the legislation should be called the ‘Appeasement of 1850.'” Read more.
  • “As a doctor who has an interest in physiology, this stuff sounds really cool. But it is just a tiny study, with no clinical significance of any kind. To be clinically significant, it would have to be a much larger study, it would need a control group of subjects who did not get exercise or vitamin C, and it would have to measure a clinically relevant outcome, something like blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes–something that would tell us if the findings can help real patients.” Read more.
  • “Debates about the condition aside, Boehringer Ingelheim, the company that originally developed flibanserin, and Sprout, which acquired the drug in 2012, tested the drug in clinical trials in which 1,227 women diagnosed with HSDD received the now-approved 100-milligram dose at bedtime. After 24 weeks of treatment, 43 to 60 percent of patients saw an improvement of about nine to 14 percent over placebo, which translated to an additional 0.5 to one satisfying sexual experience per month.” Read more.