Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pius Tales is Being Rereleased

You heard it here first.

My collection of shorts for The Pius Trilogy is coming back. 

Originally when I wrote these shorts, they were basically meant to promote the series. Usually when I design characters, shorts like these gave me background material to work with.

The characters evolved enough during the short stories that I actually had to rewrite parts of the novels in the Trilogy itself. Scott Murphy's origins shifted around a little. I was able to show off Matthew Kovach a bit more without needing to write the novels I've had outlined for him since 2000. Background characters ended up in the Trilogy, even though I had never planned for them to be there when I finished the first few drafts.

There is even a good chunk of the novel that used to be in A Pius Man. One bit on the first months of Pope Pius XIII, because it was ten pages of background material. I also cut out an example of Father Frank Williams' operating in the field. I really wanted to use them, and they worked. Who knew?

The stories?

Tinker, Tailor, Goyim, Spy -- what's a good Catholic boy like Scott doing in the Mossad? Answer? Beware the wrath of a patient accountant.

One Way to Stay out of Jail -- if you've read It Was Only on Stun! you've read this story. It's the origin of Sean AP Ryan's security team.

Mile High Murder -- There's a murderer on board a transcontinental flight. No one and nothing will stop him. And no one will want to.

We Have a Pope! -- deleted from A Pius Man. I parodied the media quite a bit here, largely stealing from their flip-flopping coverage of Pope Benedict when he was first elected. I then go into how the Pope tried to drive the media insane during his first months in the papacy, from canonizing Thomas Dooley as "Patron Saint of Spies" to installing a North Korean priest with a grudge as the Papal Press Secretary.

Swiss Family Mafia -- this was actually a story I first wrote in high school, starring Jonathan Koneig. Yes, the character is that old.

The Boys of the Old Brigade: A Twitter Tale -- This is largely the events leading up to It Was Only On Stun! If you remember Stun!, I had several IRA rejects go after Sean. This is why.

Erin Go Boom -- terrorists on St. Patrick's Day. The only thing standing between them and their goal ... one Catholic Priest.

See Something... -- Two guys are planning a terrorist attack while in the observation deck of the new World Trade Center. Then the cops show up. Then the fun begins.

Let Freedom Ring -- Scott "Mossad" Murphy went home to Boston for vacation. It becomes a busman's Holiday.

God Hates … Superman? -- Cult protesters come for Comic Con. Comic Con wins.

Deck the Maul -- Sean AP Ryan ... at a mall ... on Black Friday.

O Little Town of Bethmayhem -- Terrorists are going to attack Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and nobody is going to stop them. Thankfully, there's a nobody on hand.

Coyote Christmas -- the bully of a small California neighborhood tries to hire Sean Ryan for protection. He doesn't like bullies.

Other contents include memos by the Pope, Sean AP Ryan's resume, an an essay on how this insanity came together. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amazon War II

Here's the good news.

It seems that all of the reviews that I've written have come back.

No warning, and barely a notice from Amazon.

.... Okay. Thanks. That's nice. I guess.

Would any of you f**kers like to tell me WHY IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

In other news, I've been looking into the rest of the situation, with the reviews posted to my books. Using Honor at Stake as a baseline, I've gotten four back. Looking at the rest of my reviews overall, of the 77 that went up in a puff of smoke, I've had nine restored overall.

.... That's nice, but can I have the rest back?

Right now, the best guess I've seen has been from CF yesterday (in the comments) that suggested Amazon might think I was a paid reviewer. If you applied that to everyone else I run into, that would be interesting ... also, highly suspicious.

I don't think the remaining missing reviews are all from acquaintances, or even Facebook people -- in fact, I'm certain they're not. Either way,

Dear Amazon, just explain. If it's a screw up, explain it. Finn's law states one should never attribute to malice what can be adequately attributed to stupidity ... but in this case, malice is a serious concern. And since we haven't seen this happen in a wide circle OUTSIDE of CLFA, stupidity seems unlikely.

I would ask once more if anyone could report here about any reviews of theirs that have been purged. I would like to know the extent of this problem. If this is a glitch, Amazon should be aware of it. If it's malice, and they'll only put reviews back when their hands have been caught in the cookie jar, when Amazon should be made aware that people are paying attention.

The Final Stand

It's occurred to me that I haven't written a lot about the writing of A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller, even though it came out for rerelease this month. Looking back over my blog, I never really discussed the construction of the novel the first time through, either. As I tend to write more about writing than anything else (after all, I will only discuss politics if I'm pissed off) I'm a little surprised.

As Stand is book three of a trilogy, there are, of course, some spoilers.

When I first started on The Pius Trilogy, my thought process was fairly linear. The solution was cui bono: who benefits? In the case of A Pius Man, who benefits from destroying the Catholic church? I can come up with a list of nation states, a few dozen dictators, and every Left-wing organization in America, and that's before I even start writing the fiction. In choosing the villains for book one, Russian mercenaries with old Soviet ties felt right -- jihadis aren't organized enough for what I had in mind, and Russians have just the right level of Byzantine thinking. And after 80 years of old Nazis being the only acceptable villains, I think it's time that someone looks at the Soviets as actual bad guys for a change.

Keep in mind, A Pius Man was written in 2004, before Trump, and before everyone decided that Vladimir Putin was a James Bond villain. It was also after Afghanistan fell apart in a few months, and Saddam's regime crumbled in must a matter of weeks. Jihadis definitely felt like wimps.

A Pius Man is basically a nice little self contained story. And it probably would have been the end of it if the damn bad guy would have just stayed dead. But no, he didn't, so there was a backup plan.

Enter: A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller

When the first plan of the villains fell apart, the next reliable ally for them was easy: The United Nations. After all, (again at the time) I'd listened to 5 years of anti-Catholic BS with nut cases around the world declaring that RICO charges should be up against the Vatican! Genocide! Abuse against women! And that's only for being against abortion. You can only imagine what happens if they attempted to do anything about it.

So it wasn't difficult to create a UN "resolution" that makes every "charge" leveled at the Catholic church an actionable offense, with the end goal of confiscating every bit of church property and liquidating it... It worked for Henry VIII.

Since even the USSR gave lip service to due process during their show trials, there was only one thing for my fictional UN psychos to do -- put on a show trial for the Pope himself. And it's not really dramatic enough if it the man just hands himself over when asked....

Let's kidnap the Pope!

Obviously, Legacy was largely political. A lot of time had to be dedicated just to make the UN a believable villain .... Okay, given everything we've heard about UN forces as rape gangs or slave traders or sex peddlers, it's easy to make them villains. But I needed them to try doing vile things in plain sight, and justify them under real world rules. It was even more disturbing when I had the UN lodging complaints against the Vatican the week I first published it.

And then there's A Pius Stand.

Yeah, that was fun. Largely because, well, how does one address a full scale assault on the Vatican, during peace time? When I wrote the first draft in 2004, I was hard pressed to juggle it so that America would deliberately stay out of it. In fact, the US became a deus ex machina at the end. I wasn't impressed with it, but I couldn't imagine the US staying neutral against such a blatant display of grand theft Vatican. At the time, I couldn't imagine a single President between 1970 and 2004 saying or doing nothing about it.

Then we met Barack Obama and my imagination improved. Between encouraging the "Arab Spring" (IE: the Muslim Brotherhood), arming ISIS, letting Libya turn into a terrorist state while ignoring the 2009 Iranian protests, I could see an American President sitting on his ass while the entire world burned.

Which left .... everyone else.

Let's face it, even the most virulent anti-Catholic Protestant or Evangelical would be unnerved by nations of the world banding together to all but reduce a religion to rubble. Jews would go "This feels disturbingly familiar." Every Catholic cop would just say "No, this ain't happening."

After a while, adding up all of the people who would object and become volunteers, I was worried that this would look too much like a fair fight. The NYPD alone has over 35,000 members.

But on the other hand, there were all those idiots who joined Occupy Wall Street (which, when it went international, broke up Catholic churches and statues), anarchists, and every Leftist group that smashed up a church in the past 40 years, Socialists from "feminists" to Anti-Fa variants.

Adding up those psychos, even without nation states deciding to say "The UN said I can confiscate churches, let's go," there would still be a fair number of street-level nuts wanting to tear up property and beat on priests.

Once I redistribute all of those in law enforcement to protect churches world WIDE, the number of the Vatican defenders become far less optimistic.

Leaving two heavily-armed private Catholic organizations.... the Mafia, and what's left of the IRA.

.... Yup. They're in trouble.

Anyway, the trilogy is out and it's complete. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Amazon's War on Users

Has Amazon declared war on authors?

It would seem so at first pass. Last week, I had 315 reviews spread out over my various and sundry projects. Honor at Stake, for example, had 63, 68 reviews.

Today, I only have 238 reviews over all of them. Honor at Stake in particular having only 45 now. When I ask Amazon via email, they know nothing. Could I be more specific? It's literally EVERY BOOK. They need a road map?

The mystery depends when I looked at reviews that I myself have written. They're all gone. Poof. Vanished.

What the Hell?

And I'm not the only one. In fact, one writer's group I'm a part of has had a lot of the same problem.

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance.

Funny that. And the one person outside of CLFA who had also had problems is friends with three of us.

However, I'm not about to declare enemy action just yet. For that, I need your help, that of the average reader. Because there is a problem. We can't ask people outside the group, that we don't know, if they have the same problem. Why?  Because if we don't know them, it's hard to ask. And if we know them, it can be construed as guilt by association.

So, is this a political attack by Amazon on POCs? (People of Conservatism). Just a glitch?  Or had yet another "woke" Amazon employee gone rogue, like when someone messed with Castalia House's Scalzi parody?

Honestly, I have no idea. But I do know one thing. Amazon prefers that authors have 50 reviews before pushing a book. Honor at Stake had over that,  and I expected it to have over 60 by the rerelease in May. Removing JUST enough reviews to eliminate that edge might constitute restraint of trade, as well

I'm going to talk with Amazon today (Monday) possibly with a tire iron. But if anyone else had seen this, please let me know.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Video Games: The Latest Scapegoat

There they go again.

Every time there is a shooting under the age of 25 (sometimes even older), there is a cycle to the pattern of blame.

Blame the NRA: They don't even sell guns, and have been adding suggestions to "gun safety" for as long as I've been alive.

Blame Republicans: Because "They haven't done anything about guns." Ignore that all of the shootings happen in gun free zones, and more laws won't stop anybody who is already committed to a spree killing.

Blame Video Games. "Because Video games are violent."

Oh please. These are the people who will usually never blame the shooter. They will never blame the pharmaceuticals that the shooter is on or should have been on. They will never blame the permissive environment created by public schools that allow bullies to torture the freaks / nerds / geeks / outsiders without any recourse. They'll blame guns, they'll blame Republicans, then they'll eventually blame video games.

This is getting to the point where I should put together a "shooting press pack," starting with all of the arguments against all of the usual stupidity, and just repost it on the blog every time someone mouths off.

Even without a shooting, every few years (or every few months, depending), there is someone out there who spends a lot of time and energy trying the place the blame of the world’s ills on video games.  Right now it's President Trump and Matt Walsh, two people who I usually haven't disagreed with.

But now it's back. “Oh no! Video games are violent and will warp the brains of poor little children! We must ban / control / destroy them!”  Didn’t you hear? “Studies show” that video games turn your kids into werewolves, or some such nonsense. I suspect these are the same people who declared that “90% of Catholic women use contraceptives!”

If you believe either, I’ve got a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you if you like.

In Halo 4, a human in a battle suit fights "aliens" who don't even have blood spatter. They disintegrate. If one were to believe this incredibly stupid theory, I should be a mass murderer. I have been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight-years-old and the game was Super Mario Brothers. The amount of aliens I’ve slaughtered in Halo easily number in the hundreds, if not the thousands. Mysteriously, I manage to go to Mass every Sunday and eight holy days a year, and other strange and abhorrent things in this society – like believe most, if not all, of your standard Baltimore Catechism (I put in “most“ because I skimmed it a little).

Half of Hitman is going from point A to point B without being seen.Now there are modern games that deal with much more mature themes.  The premise of the Hitman series is obvious by the title, but they are mostly a matter of, well, murder puzzles. Think of it as playing through an episode of Columbo from the murderer’s perspective.  I’ve played it, using it mostly as a thought exercise before I go back to writing.

The Mass Effect series is one that combines an epic storyline (violence) with the option for a love story (sex), but with surprising amount of character thrown in for fun. For the most part, that last bit is the real fun for players.

mass effect

Mass Effect — an epic science fiction choose-your-own adventure where your morals are your character’s morals.
My body count? 300,000. I’m still sane. Ish.
It is, at its core, amoral when it comes to the romantic aspects – in this case, it’s a moral as you allow it to be. That actually caused a bit of a stir a while ago, with religious groups condemning the game for allowing same-sex relationships.  The response from the game designers was simple: If you don’t like that option, don’t play that option, have a nice day. The entire premise behind the series is that the whole universe is dictated by the player’s actions, where you can show apathy, interest, or utter disdain.

Are there video games that are too violent? Sure. Look at a recent Mortal Kombat game, if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind people being decapitated or cut in half. But I’m not that big into horror movies either. Are there games that focus too much on sex? I’ve heard that they exist, but I think they’re only available in Japanese.

They’re just video games. They are what you make of them – and if you don’t like the content, don’t buy them. They're, as a whole morally neutral, they are what you make of them, and the violent, profanity-ridden video games are clearly labeled for your protection. Now please shut up and let me violently murder these alien hordes, okay? Thanks.

But there are always, ALWAYS two objections from the knee-jerk cliché department. “Well, I played video games and there are no positives. It makes you anti-social.”

And where we are now: “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” argument.

You're Stupid

Both arguments are so full of inaccuracies, it is obvious that neurons have died just reading those words – some of those neurons are mine, by the way.


I love this argument. I truly do. I've been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight and the game was Super Mario Brothers. I have yet to find time to plot out my murder spree between going to Catholic school from K-PhD, and going to church every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.

First, a constant issue in discussing video games is that people seem to think that video games are still for children. I was the first generation to play the first Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, I still have it. Guess what – my generation grew up, and we're still playing.

As of 2011, the average gamer is between 32 and 37 years old.

Now, 82% of gamers are adults, and 72% of American households play video games.

42% of gamers are women – in fact, 30% of all gamers are women over 18 years old.

Hmm, 72% of American households. So that's 72% of 300,000,000 people means that … over two hundred million people in America play video games (Yes, I rounded down).

“Yes,” says the critic who may have a clue, “but how many of those are family games, like Wii games?” Well, the top ten best-selling video games for 2012 were violent, rated M(ature) games for gamers 17+ only.

So, to say that “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” is roughly the equivalent of saying that “having the ability to speak English is a prevalent factor in American mass shootings.” When nearly three quarters of the country plays video games, it is almost certain that you're going to get a crazy or two in there.

If video games make you into a psychotic mass murderer, we should be hip deep in blood and the planet should have looked like the book of Revelations sometime after the first Mortal Kombat games were released.

The usual counter is to say that it will bring out the inner crazy in people … so might a commercial for Mountain Dew, does that mean we unplug all the signs in Times Square? Or shut down Las Vegas? Either of those might be a good idea, but I can make better arguments than inspiring one or two people with sociopathic tendencies.

Guess what? The ECA – the Entertainment Consumer Association -- released an open letter to the Vice President in 2010 entitled “Policy Considerations post-Newtown, CT School Shooting”. (You can see the full letter here.)
Studies show that media does not cause violence. Christopher J. Ferguson, Chair of Texas AM International University’s Department of Psychology &; Communication, has shown through his work that there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression ….
Media consumption has risen as the number of violent crimes has dropped. While video game sales have increased, violent crime has been steadily decreasing according to FBI statistics. In 2011, video game sales increased to over $27 billion dollars and violent crimes nationwide have decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, violent crime has decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.
Oops. Someone should check their numbers.

Luckily, I already checked it for them. So there.

Not Impressed Larry Correia

Now, of course, there is the argument that:


Oh, for the love of …

Usually when I have this discussion, I'm not sure which is more fun, being told that I was using only my personal experience, and my argument was therefore garbage, or if someone told me my argument was garbage because of their personal experience.

I'm going to limit this to a format that everyone can understand – the infographic on your right (click to enlarge, otherwise it will take up half the column length).

When eHarmony, the #1 dating site in the world, isn't as successful at bringing people together as World of Warcraft (WoW), telling me that video games make you anti-social and isolationist is the punchline to a bad joke.

The argument that “well, I played video games and it was a waste of time and kept me from talking to people” only tells me either 1) the person saying this is a liar who just wants to score points on the internet or 2) a statistical abnormality.

Another point I've heard, this time on a Catholic website,  was that "video games can't be used for evangelization."

Really? Playing WoW can people one player in touch with over twelve million fellow players. If someone really wants to spread the Word, I'm sure they can figure out something. Otherwise, they just suffer from a lack of imagination.

If you don't believe me, then I recommend you read Infinite Space, Infinite God II for some ideas – particularly “Otherworld,” by Karina Fabian.

This of course, assumes that everything one does must be to spread the Word.


At the end of the day, this entire argument comes down to your standard, boiler-plate thought control. Even the “discussion” on guns -- which consists of a gun owner being yelled at for a period of time before having his property taken away – is a joke in itself.

I mean, heck, the guns least likely to kill anyone … happen to be the ones everyone talks about banning.


Banning video games – that have nothing to do with violence – or banning rifles that have even less to do with mass murder, is just playing to the ignorance of people in general. It's one part Orwellian thought control, and one part finding a scapegoat – be it video games, media violence, rock music, bullying, etc. The Sandy Hook shooter was also Catholic, so I guess we all dodged a bullet on that one.

As C.S. Lewis once noted, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ironing out A Wrinkle in Time

The novel A Wrinkle in Time is a classic of children's literature. Perhaps the proper new term is "Young Adult," but, as with Narnia, they are books probably too good for children. In my estimation, while they are not Narnia or Middle Earth, author Madeleine L'Engle is right underneath, if not side-by-side with, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.

It is the story of Meg Murray and her little brother Charles Wallace, and the search for their father, a scientist who vanished. Joining them is the popular kid in school, Calvin O'Keefe as well as Weird Sisters (TM, Will Shakespeare) Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which. These three are older women -- one as very old, one as plump, and one as a ball of shimmering light / traditional Margaret Hamilton.

To find their father, Meg and Charles must travel to an alien world via folding space and time (hence a "Wrinkle"), fight an IT that makes Stephen King's alien clown look like .... a clown... and his henchman, a man with glowing red eyes who looks like Satan's understudy.  There's good versus evil, saving those you love, sometimes through the power of love, and while there are Christian themes, if they didn't bother you in Narnia and Tolkien, they won't bother you here -- assuming you even notice as you're reading.

Now, I read this book over twenty years ago, and I should probably reread it. I've given you much of what I recall off the top of my head. The concept of folding space and time stuck with me, especially as I tripped over several other SFF worlds that also used it. Little brother Charles is the one who I remember most fondly, since I identified with him the most. I recall him being nearly deus ex machina -level smart, and perfectly charming. Meg happened to have the same name as my sister.

All in all, a wonderful, enjoyable novel.

Then Disney came along.

Okay, to be honest, this is probably less the fault of Disney than Oprah and Director Ava DuVernay, but one thing at a time.

Now, I'm not a stickler for films adhering perfectly to novels. Some things you can do in books you can't do in films. Simple as that. But at the very least, I would like the filmmakers to at least have made a production that tells me that they at least READ the original novel, and understood what was enjoyable about it. At a bare MINIMUM, I would like it if I could look at the characters and say "Yes, I can tell just by looking at X that s/he is Y from the novel."

You've seen the description above of the Weird SistersTM.

So of course, they cast the old / fat women as Oprah, Reese Eithersppon, and Mrs. Who is now play by (checks IMDB page) what looks like a relatively slender Indian girl named Mindy Kaling....

Are we serious?

No, really, take a look at these images.

This is Reese Witherspoon as Mrs Whatsit ... because she looks old, and covered in layers of clothing.

Yup, she looks old, don't she?
And it gets even worse as time goes on. This is a still of her from the trailer.

..... Are we kidding? Is she playing Mrs. Whatsit, the old woman? Or Poison Ivy cosplaying as an elf?

Then there's "Mrs Which," who is either Margaret Hamilton, or a shiny ball of light.

Oprah as "Mrs Which"
No, seriously, what the Hell? Why are they dressed for the Halloween Day parade down in Greenwich Village? In fact, I'm relatively certain there are better dressed, perhaps even more tasteful, people down in the Village. Granted, they would be X-rated versions of the costumes, but you'd at least be able to figure out the costumes.

Of course, making things even dumber is what has been done to Mrs. Who. She in particular, tended to talk in quotes -- great philosophers, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, even the Bible. How? She now quotes the great philosopher ... Jay-Z.

And oh, by the way, remember when I mentioned the henchman that looked like Satan's understudy? If I look at the cast list correctly (assuming that "The Man with Red Eyes" has been shortened to simply "Red"), our dastardly villain is played by ... Michael Pena. That's right. The comic relief sidekick from Ant-Man. Because sure, he was intimidating.

And looking at the trailers (I will not even link to that drivel) is so bright and shiny and bouncy I want to vomit. Sure, Wrinkle never really goes as grimdark as some YA, but it's nowhere near the bright shiny happy people crap we've seen in the trailers.

Oh, and another problem with the trailers .... no Charles. At all. He's only, oh, THE SECOND CENTRAL CHARACTER. But details! Details! This is f**king Hollywood.

Three of the producers worked on the new Pete's Dragon ... because that worked out so well, no one saw it.  For another, it's her first gig. The director, Ava DuVernay's major successes include Selma, some hip-hop shorts, and a Jay-Z project.... At least we know what happened to Mrs. Who.

I have to ask, considering how old, and how well loved A Wrinkle in Time is ... who did these people have to sleep with in order for all of these relative amateurs to be allowed within spitting distance of a project like this?

The only real answer I can come up with is with Ava DuVernay, and that is ... she was probably the flavor of the month at the time. Given how long it takes to make a movie, she was probably first offered the film fresh off of Selma (2014). She was confirmed to direct in 2016, so 2015 was probably the negotiating period.

And looking through Ava DuVernay's directorial experience, I'm certain there was a fair amount of politics in this decision. Everything she's done is either a documentary, or tied in with racial identity politics, or both.

Now, one thing that people familiar with the book and the ads for the new film will note one thing that I've left out. The new film makes the Wallace family black instead of Caucasian. Frankly, that looks like the least of the film's sins. Hell, their Meg at least has glasses, something I thought Hollywood didn't allow on women unless they were also wearing lab coats at the time.

No, the race swapping is less offensive to me as it is confusing... especially when they've made everyone in the family black, except for the missing father, played bizarrely enough by Chris Pine. Because, you know, Chris Pine as a scientist is just so convincing.

Not to mention that if this were any other director, I would probably just say someone in casting saw Chris Pine and said "Sure, why not?" Given the politics of the director, it wouldn't surprise me if she wanted to slip in an absentee white dude as the father because having an absentee black father would be too on the nose for what I'm sure DuVernay considers "her" audience.

Actually, the more I look at the project, and I hear what they've done to certain aspects and characters, the more offended I am by DuVernay's racism. Yes, racism. Her casting choices are obviously directed towards making the roles racially diverse. Under any other director, I would think that it was their shot at making it more identifiable to a wider range of people. But with DuVernay's directing history, I'm certain she wants "her" audience to be one specific group.

Also, having Mrs. Who speak in quotes of Jay-Z just feels like talking down to said audience. I'm sorry, but if DuVernay's casting is obviously trying to get a good percentage of Afromericans to the theaters for this schlock, then why is she dumbing down the material? Is it because she thinks that blacks are too stupid to understand Shakespeare or the Bible? It's right up there with the Black Panther trailers featuring majority hip hop, yet none of it appearing in the principle soundtrack.

In short, it's pandering. Bad director. No cookie.


Of course, it gets even better. You'll notice I've given no credit to the writers. Because in film, writers are nothing and nobody. The screenplays they write are usually mere suggestions to whatever megalomaniac is put behind the camera. The writers of the screenplay are responsible for, on the one hand Bridge to Terabithia (ugh) and on the other ... Frozen and Zootopia. Yay. So you can imagine what the starting screenplay looked like.

So, like with The Chronicles of Narnia, Disney has taken yet another beloved childhood novel, and proceeded to wreck it. I won't even see it in theaters. You know it's bad when even the cinematography is making me wary of the project. The casting of the Weird SistersTM is atrocious, character dialogue (if not the casting) is geared towards pandering towards (or just looking down on) a specific section of the general public, and the vibe of every trailer is perfectly tone deaf or atonal to the original novel.

Pardon me while I go out and watch Death Wish or Red Sparrow.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A New Yorker on Gun Control

New York City is not home to the most stringent gun laws on the planet Earth, though you would be forgiven for thinking that, given that our last mayor has become one of the biggest anti-gun nuts in the country. We are, however, close to having gun laws as insane as Chicago.

And I want a gun.

All of my local friends want guns.

We want handguns for "out on the town" defense. We want rifles and shotguns for at-home defense. Who am I kidding? After my two gun shop visits out of state, I want guns just for the fun of target shooting. Because target shooting is fun. Also, I'm told I'm good at it.

Yes, yes, I'm know. NYC is one of the safest big cities on the planet Earth, but that also requires a police force that is literally bigger than the ENTIRE FBI. It's probably also bigger than Interpol, but I haven't looked up those numbers yet, so I can't say for certain.

Yet, everywhere I turn, there's yet another idiot online talking about how "we need gun control."

Well, we have gun control. It's called Chicago, where there's a shootout every weekend, and over a dozen fresh bodies in the morgue. It's called London, where guns are banned, but the assaults with a deadly weapon are so high, kitchen knives must be banned, and restricted -- and no, I'm not kidding. We have Australia, who confiscated guns, and all of their violent crime SHOT UP.

Then there are places where gun control means that you hit what you aim for. I call it Switzerland, the country where every home has a NATO-issue rifle. Their crime rate is insanely low.

What's what you say? Switzerland has a different culture? Funny, every time someone holds up European and Australian gun laws as an example of what we do, "it's not our culture" somehow never applies.

But okay, fine. How about we compare and contrast America.

Have you ever noticed that we don't get a lot of shootings in the South? I'll address Virginia tech and the recent Florida shooting in a minute. But one of the bigger incidents with guns in the South happened in Texas. Two Jihadi types came in with 200 rounds of ammo and AK47s -- fully automatic weapons. They were dropped by an off-duty guy with a side arm in a matter of seconds, because welcome to Texas, muthaf**ka.

But yeah, overall, places with high rates of gun ownership have a sharp decrease in gun crime. Why? Because you are either polite, or the locals will shoot you. A lot.

But then, welcome to Virginia Tech and Parkland. I always understood that the people of Virginia and Florida were always very enlightened about guns, because everyone had one and knew what the Hell they were talking about. So, when I first heard about them, I wondered what was going on.

Then I heard they were a "gun free zone" and everything suddenly made sense. Seriously, who thought that this was a good idea? Who honestly thought that disarming the law abiding was going to disarm the criminal?

And, seriously, enough about the AR(malite) 15. It's a gun so common, children use it. Nine year old girls have pink Hello Kitty AR-15s. It's not some "military" weapon. It's semi-automatic. Anyone who ever saw Under Siege should realize that semi-automatic means that you pull down the trigger, and a bullet comes out. A single bullet. The Virginia tech shooter killed more people with handguns than this "ultimate death weapon" all the anti gun nuts are so hyped up about.

But now we're told that citizens don't need guns. That's what cops are for.... then we learn that the cop at the Parkland shooting sat outside while children were slaughtered.

Seriously, what's so hard about this math?

Chicago banned guns, their crime went up.

Australia and the UK banned guns, THEIR crimes went up.

98% of shootings are in gun free zones, which mean they PROMOTE crime.

Switzerland has guns all over the place, they're cool.

The American South has guns all over the place, they're cool ... except for gun free zones.

So taking guns is not about safety. It's about control.

Did no one learn anything from prohibition? Ban something, you get more of it. There were people who drank more during prohibition than before or after it. I await the day when we have speakeasy gun clubs that are three levels under the street so no one can hear the gun fire.

You want "common sense gun control"? Get rid of the gun free zones, and let everyone carry guns wherever and whenever they want. Because an armed society is a polite society.

I am a New Yorker, and I want my guns.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WorldCon to Make Jon del Arroz a Cake

The title is one part politics, one part insanity, so let's backtrack.

I assume I don't have to link to the whole "Christian baker / gay wedding" thing, right? Good. (Though, more recently, a California court has ruled that having a Christian baker supply a cake to a homosexual wedding WITH THE WRITING ON IT, is a violation of free speech (MAKING the baker "say" something they don't approve of), but since the baker will happily sell said person a cake, there's no violation of anyone's rights...

Wow, that drifted off topic.)

Anyway, everyone probably remembers that my friend Jon del Arroz was banned from WorldCon San Jose for ... reasons. "Violating terms of service" or some such. When pressed on it, there's some BS about Jon stating he was going to wear a body camera to document any problems he might encounter ... like verbal or physical assault... and that is, thus, an infringement of the rules. Because "people shouldn't be filmed without their consent".... during a public event. Huh.

The unofficial reason -- and the reason most often cited on social media by WorldCon's defenders -- is that "Jon's a schmuck, so he deserves it. He has it coming."

Or what Harvey Weinstein's defense team will say about all of his victims. Because they "had it coming" is such a great rationale, right?

As I'm friends with Jon, and follow some of his platforms (not all of them, that would be a full time job), I know that this has been a thing for weeks.

So, after he's talked about it for a while ... and yikes, it feels like forever ... Jon is finally going to sue these bastards.

About bloody time, too.

Now, I don't know why Jon cares about WorldCon. It's a small convention by any standard. I think it's even smaller than RavenCon, but larger than LibertyCon -- only because LC has a cap in the hundreds range.

But he wants to go, and WorldCon has no good reason for keeping him out. Seriously, among his crimes, he's threatened ... to take people to lunch....

Honestly, WorldCon, I know you have guys who are thin-skinned, but come on.

And even if I were to believe that World Con was honest about the "threat" of Jon's body camera ... then the first step is to tell Jon "please don't do that." That's easy. Jon generally plays well with others when it's reciprocated. But no, they don't want to play nice. They want to be the villain about it.

But they're even stupid about THAT. What they should have done to screw him over is to let him drag himself all the way down, THEN kick him out after he's "caught" with his body camera. It's like they're inept at being evil. They overreacted, and pre-banned him...

Really, banning Jon for the whole con before he shows up, when they wouldn't even do that to pedophiles. Yes, really. More on that below.

Now, not only is Jon suing them, he's got a kickstarter going so he can sue the bastards.

As he states on his page
Worldcon took to their website and social media and falsely labeled Del Arroz a racist bully, defaming him in addition to holding him to unstated, different standards than others for attendance at their convention. Just how unprecedented is this? Del Arroz is the first person pre-banned from WorldCon since 1964, where they banned Walter Breen -- not for the whole convention -- but for only one day. He was a convicted pedophile. Del Arroz has committed no crime, and he finds it more than insulting to be compared with such a lowlife. It's torpedoed Del Arroz’s career as a writer, and sent the industry into a spiral to call him names, defame him, and blacklist him. Worldcon has caused irreparable harm to his career with their defamatory actions.

Del Arroz is a civil rights activist in addition to a popular science fiction writer and journalist, fighting for equality in viewpoint diversity, and for libertarian-conservatives to be able to freely attend conventions without fear for their safety or being harassed. His attendance at Worldcon is very important for discourse, providing opportunity for conservative discussion, and the furthering of science fiction as a progressive genre.

Del Arroz attempted to reasonably resolve this by sending a letter requesting very little: a retraction of their defamatory comments, an apology, allowing his attendance, and having their officers attend sensitivity training over California laws against political discrimination. 
Which has got to be entertaining for someone other than me. Sensitivity training. Snicker.

You're probably seeing my attitude and going "Wow, Declan wants to string them up."

... Eh. No. You'd have to pay me to go to WorldCon. I'm content to let them languish in obscurity. Jon wants to go a few rounds with them, and, yes, he's right. What they're doing is pure BS. And, frankly ... I think Jon isn't going far enough. Were I in his position, I'd pile on punitive damages and all court costs.

I'm additionally happy because I'm kinda tired of Jon kibbitzing WorldCon without visibly DOING anything about it. I think one of my comments was literally "Could you just sue them already and get it over with?"

So, someone takes my advice seriously.

As for WorldCon .... You know, there used to be some honest people on the Left, who would say "I disagree with what you say, but I will fight for the death for your right to say it." Harlan Ellison is one of those. Peter David ... occasionally, depending on the day.

Pity the current generation doesn't have any people like that. We might have civil discussions again.

But no. WorldCon wants to play games. And now they have to bake Jon a cake.

The Planetary Awards are in

So, the Planetary Awards are in for the best SFF stories of 2017.  Anyone who has a blog, podcast, or YouTube account can vote. 

Which is most of the people I know, come to think of it.

Short Stories / Novellas
  • “Acadie” by Dave Hutchinson
  • “The Bitten Body” by AC Spahn
  • “Death on the Moon” by Spencer Hart, found in Cirsova issue #6
  • “The First American” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova issue #5
  • “The Pilot” by Andrew Mayne, found in Predator: If It Bleeds
  • “Trouble in an Hourglass” by Jody Lynn Nye, found in Straight Outta Tombstone

Kneejerk reaction?  Jody, hands down.

If other people, who read this blog want another suggestion? .... it's a tie between the two Cirsovas.

  • “Age of Assassins” by RJ Barker
  • “Good to the Last Drop” by Declan Finn
  • “The Guns Above” by Robyn Bennis
  • “Kings of the Wyld” by Nicholas Eames
  • “Legionnaire” by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole
  • “Out of the Soylent Planet” by Robert Kroese
  • “The Rogue Prince” by Lindsay Buroker

Do I have to actually say that I'd like to vote for myself and Good to the Last Drop? I think "Planetary Award Winner" looks just as nice as "Dragon Award Nominated series."

Not that I think I have a hope in heck. Between Cole and Anspach on one end, and Kroese on the other, I'm relatively cooked. In fact, if I'm actually not allowed to vote for myself, Robert Kroese is my bet. Out of the Soylent Planet is the third book in the Rex Nihilo series, so yeah, I'll be happy if it wins.

Of course, I hear about the nomination the day after the novel is pulled from shelves to prep for the Silver Empire rerelease. That's just timing. But hey, it's something to put on the new cover.

If you've already nominated something, you don’t need to cast a vote. It's fairly obvious who you're voting for. You can change your vote in the comments section on their webpage.

However, if you haven't nominated anything, just vote on your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. Then, leave a comment on their page so they know about the vote. You get one vote for best short story and one for best novel, but you don’t have to use both votes if you’re only interested in one category.

The voting deadline is April 30th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Love at First Bite will be DOA on Monday

Dang, this has been a busy week. Venus came out this week. A Pius Stand came backthis week. I almost forgot to mention what was going away next week.

Just a friendly reminder, but my Dragon Award nominated series Love at First Bite will be temporarily off the shelves as of this Monday, February 19th. Please remember, my friend and publisher Russell Newquist will be rereleasing them over the summer.

There are several good reasons to buy these books. First and foremost being that Silver Empire may not release them in paperback. I'm sure you're thinking "Duh, why would they? No one buys hard copies anymore."  Well, I do, and so do some of my readers. So if you care about such things, you should probably grab them why you can.

Not to mention that Silver Empire will be redoing the covers. So, as of Monday, these will all be collector's editions.

Finally ... well, the Dragon awards for 2018 are open for voting. If you've voted for the previous editions to make it to the Dragon awards, and want to read Good to the Last Drop before it becomes unavailable, this is your last shot.

This is the first one, the Dragon Award nominated work. It also took second place in Sad Puppies 4, for whatever that is worth. I figured I would do ... a lot of smartass routines around vampires, playing games with the lore, while staying as true to it as I could.

I suppose you could say I weaponized my degree in Catholic philosophy. Who knew that it could come in handy?

One is a blood thirsty monster. The other is a vampire.

College freshman Amanda Colt knows few people and wants to know fewer still. She enjoys fencing and prefers facing a challenge every once in a while. She is beautiful, smart, and possibly the most interesting person on campus...and most people stop after the first adjective.

Then she finds Marco Catalano in her fencing class. He is tall, attractive, and very intense. With a mind like a computer and manners of a medieval knight, he scares most people. Except Amanda. They both have secrets, for they are both monsters.

As they draw closer, they must find the line between how much they can trust each other, and how much they can care for each other. Each carries a secret that can destroy the other. They must come to grips with their personal drama soon, because a darkness is rising. Bodies are turning up all over New York, and an army of vampires is closing in on all sides.

They have only one hope ... each other.

It was amusing when I saw that one of the biggest criticisms of book one was that the vampires were too easy to dispatch in the final battle. I thought that given the artillery I brought down on them was fairly sufficient.

But I also laughed my ass off for one very good reason: Mister Day.

I won't say I'm particularly proud of this villain. Finding a way to kill him was the biggest problem, especially considering his various and sundry powers and abilities.

.... But I managed.
After saving Brooklyn from a nest of vampires, Amanda Colt and Marco Catalano are a little banged up. He's been given a job offer to deal with vampires in San Francisco, and it's a tempting offer – it would get him away from Amanda, his feelings for her, and get her away from the darkness inside him. When a death in the family compels Marco to move to the West Coast, they're both left to fend for themselves.

But when a creature known only as “Mister Day” leaves their world in tatters, they must once more join forces against the darkness. Only "Day" is no vampire, but a creature beyond their experience. It will take the combined might of Marco, Amanda, and all of their allies just to slow it down. They have no weapons that can kill him. They have no ways to imprison him. To even fight him is death.

But they have to try, or face the end of everything they love.
Only slightly melodramatic. Largely, I think this underplayed the threat.


I had to use the title. I really did. I didn't have much choice in the matter. I love me some puns ... if you didn't realize that from the Pius trilogy.

This is the other book in the series nominated for best horror. I'll say again, I'm not entirely certain that I see how these are "horror" novels, though there are several reviews that make me thing I scare the bejeezus out of more than a few.

Then again, I did show much concept of minions...

I also had an off page, vaguely implied lesbian rape sequence...

Okay, maybe there were one or two vaguely scary things here and there.
Merlin "Merle" Kraft has been fighting the darkness for months. He left San Francisco in the capable hands of Marco Catalano and his anti-vampire team to defend them against vampires. With special operators at his command, Kraft has been killing every vampire he can find in the Middle East. After clearing out a nest in Tora Bora, he is finally brought back to New York, and the investigation that led him to vampires in the first place.

Marco is starting to spiral. He knows it. His team knows it. Everyone around him can see that he's just a bomb waiting to explode. The only woman who can bring him back from the brink is also the woman who lit his fuse.

Ever since "Mister Day" tried to murder Marco, Amanda Colt has been hunting down every lead to find the ones ultimately behind the attempt. After months of investigation, she learns that something in the dark is colder than the dark. It is a vampire assassin that Amanda has faced once before .... and last time, Amanda lost. This assassin is stronger than anything they've face before, and it isn't alone.

With Marco ready to self-destruct, and the armies of Hell ready to descend, the three of them must come together and stop a thousand-year-old assassin that has never been stopped, and has never failed to kill her target.

In all honesty, I suppose I could just ask every reader on this page to go forth and vote for this book in best horror, or even fantasy, but ... eh. Not really. I'd much rather people read it, like it, and vote for it.

I'm figuring that this year or next year is going to be my last shot at even getting nominated for the Dragons. There were over 8,000 people who voted in last year's Dragon Awards. If all of them vote to nominate this year? I may have all the nominations I'm going to get

But I'm going to keep trying. This works for horror this year, and I have a horror novel coming up that was supposed to be Urban Fantasy ... I kinda wrote a horror novel by accident. Oops.

Anyway, this is your last shot to get it before the Dragon Award nominations. The good news is that if I do get a nomination, the book will be back on the shelves just in time.
The final war is about to begin, in this conclusion to the Dragon Award Nominated series

Merle Kraft, Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt have battled against the mythical Council, a supernatural conspiracy that monsters fear. This war has brought them up against vampires, minions, and demons from Hell.. Along the way, they have accumulated allies among the police, the military, the mafia, college students, lowly street gangs, and even other vampires.

Marco and Amanda have overcome their biggest terror -- their passion for each other.

But now, they face the final threat, one that is the culmination of every threat before them. This creature from Hell has powers beyond anything they've ever seen before, and has allies of his own: including SpecOps minions, an army of vampires, and packs of werewolves.

And that was before Marco got bit.

And, while I think of it, enjoy the Dragon Award nominations.