Down in the Coal Mine

Coal mines tend to be a long way from where the folks who use their products live, and the miners tend to be ethnic minorities or the underclass.

Famous coal miners include Nikita Khrushchev: compared to going down the mine what was the Czar going to do to him?

One of the things about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie that broke my suspension of disbelief (Hey, mag-lev trains? I’m good with that! Kids forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses? Sure, why not? The upper class’s hair styles? Seen worse….) was when the Evil Government sends armored vehicles along one-lane dirt roads, in mountainous forested terrain, without infantry support, against miners. Miners. These are guys who (a) know all about, and have access to, explosives, and (b) have nothing to lose. If I were telling that story….

More people die in coal mines every year than have died in nuclear power plants–ever.

Anyway. Jolly miners.

(The group is Bawn in the Mash, from Tennessee.)

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Say What?

So, there I am over looking at MSN (yeah, that’s how sunken in sin I am) when some of their click-bait, “15 Classic Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Know” fell under my eye.

Since I was engaged in Writing Avoidance Behavior (AKA “Waxing the Cat”), I clicked. And I spotted, at #7 on the list, the Moscow Mule.

I quote:

Moscow Mule

2 ounces vodka

½ ounce lime juice

6 ounces ginger beer

Lime wedge for garnish

Fill a lowball glass with ice. Add vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer; stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.

“Fill a lowball glass….” Fill a lowball glass???!!! What the frick! Everyone knows that you serve Moscow Mules in copper mugs. If you search on Moscow Mule Google auto-completes with copper mug. Search Amazon for “Moscow Mule” and you get twenty pages of copper mugs (and a few CDs by a group called the “Moscow Mules”). The copper mug adds a certain distinctive flavor to the concoction that some describe as, let me see, oh yes, “coppery.”

It caused me to instantly lose faith in MSN.

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Shameless Self-promotion

“The Devil in the Details,” the latest installment in the Peter Crossman series about a modern-day Knight Templar, is up at Free!

Completists will want to get our previous Crossman short stories in the form of a chapbook, The Confessions of Peter Crossman in various electronic and paper versions, and the Crossman novel, The Apocalypse Door, ditto.

Watch for the next Crossman novel, The Gates of Time, coming soon from Tor.

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The Great War

One hundred years ago today, 28 June,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo.   To one way of thinking, the war that started that afternoon still isn’t over.

The way it went down, the assassination happened more-or-less by accident. Six or seven different individuals were trying to assassinate the arch-duke that day. One of them threw a grenade, which missed. (The way that happened: grenades at that time were activated by striking them firmly on a solid object, which fired a cap, which lit a fuse, which detonated the explosive a few seconds later. When the would-be assassin struck the grenade and fired the cap, the report made the driver of the archduke’s car think he’d blown a tire, and braked suddenly. As a result, the archduke escaped injury.)

Gavrilo Princip, the eventual assassin, never did get a shot at the archduke. So, instead, he went to a bar for a sandwich and a beer. But remember that earlier grenade attack? A member of the archduke’s party had been injured and taken to a hospital. The archduke and duchess went to visit their friend in the hospital, but their driver got lost. So he decided to turn around, and was making a three-point turn in the street outside of the bar where Princip was having lunch. Princip, noticing the opportunity, went outside and shot them both.

In modern terms, neither the archduke nor duchess needed to have died. Fast and efficient EMS and a Level One trauma center would have saved them. But as it happened, fast and efficient EMS would be a result, sixty years later, of the events that took place that day.

Within months, thanks to a set of secret treaties, all Europe (and Europe’s various colonies) was at war. World War One turned into World War Two, which became the Cold War. Bosnia was still a mess during Clinton’s administration, and right now Iraq is falling apart along fault lines set up when the country was created (Lawrence of Arabia and all that) in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, for the convenience of British Petroleum.

How is this related to me personally? My great-uncle Joe Simmit fought in the Great War as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army. After the War, he moved to America where his sister was already living (central Europe as a wounded veteran of the losing side was a not-great place to be in the ‘Twenties). But when it came time to look for a wife, since in his opinion all Americans were spendthrifts, he went back to the old country to find one. He found Mitzi, a Croat, who became my great-aunt.

I never met Joe Simmit, but I did meet Mitzi when I was young.

Later, I fought in the Cold War. But that’s another story.

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Free Story

Way back when (in 1999, if you must know) we wrote a short story, “Remailer,” for Constance Ash’s anthology Not Of Woman Born, a book whose cover blurb read, “Tales of high-tech reproduction from the most inventive names in science fiction.” The book came out, and was reviewed. For example: “When it comes to strange, ‘Remailer’ by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald takes the bun, biscuit, and bakeshop.” (Tangent SF Reviews)

It’s a murder mystery, to start with. It’s a sex story (with three sexes, all necessary to reproduction). It’s a hard-SF story. And it plays games with language. (Doyle’s a linguist. We know this stuff.)

Here’s how it starts….

Scanner over the club door stirs in the cool breeze, swiveling a conical search back and up and forth and down—enzyme sniffing, searching the pheromones, checking to see who’s clean and who’s not. Crude first approximation, not a true sample, but good enough to keep out the riff. Inside the club is air hot enough to bring out the sweat with the good pheros. All the pretties, male and female and not-reporting, dance and drink and search for the perfect other.

Pulse-beat rhythms make the floor quake underfoot—noise, above all, to fool and foil the eavesdroppers, meat and metal both. In a booth near the back, two drinkers lean heads together, speaking low.

“I know he’s out there,” Enid says. She’s blonde and girly, with money to throw away. What she doesn’t have is a butch named Fremont, gone missing from her life with no warning. She’s supporting him still, hoping he’ll return. Sending non-traceable money every month. “Found him once, find him again.”

“Got an address?” asks Dol. Dol’s not-reporting, dark-haired and pretty enough to pass as a she if neh tries, which neh usually doesn’t. No point to it, in nis line of work

“Only remailer.”

“Give it to me.” Dol takes the address, written on a napkin. “What’s mine when the job’s over?”

“Fifteen thousand, non-t.” Enid pauses, looks at Dol. “Maybe more, if you want. We were planning, make offspring—had started looking for a third. Could be you.”

Which brings us to today (and the next month).

‘Til July 24th, “Remailer” is yours, for free, in electronic form. Go to Smashwords and use coupon code FB22D (not case sensitive).

If you don’t like it, you can tell me. If you do like it, tell all your friends.

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Yog’s Law

I see that my good friend (and sometime fellow Viable Paradise instructor) John Scalzi has posted a bit about Yog’s Law.

Self-publishing is its own thing (and I’ve been self-publishing since 1978 or so). Yog’s Law (“Money Flows Toward the Author”) is entirely valid there, too, despite the continual attempts by scammers and flim-flammers to obfuscate the obvious. Self-publication is a subset of commercial publishing. If you, as publisher, can’t afford to pay yourself, as author, 10-15% of the cover price of each copy sold, you can’t afford to self-publish.

Note that true self-publication is different from throwing money at one of the vanity presses which, without changing their business models (or fee schedules) in the slightest, have re-branded themselves as “self-publishing services.” They’re still vanity presses and fall in the vast grey area between A Very Bad Idea and An Out-and-out Scam.

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Great Expectations

To the tune of The Ballad of Jed Clampett

Come and listen to the story of a boy named Pip
Poor little orphan who was something of a drip
Then one night he was staying up late
When a convict told him, “Your ‘specations are great.”
Cash, that is. Moolah. Big inheritance.

Next thing you know Pip is hanging with Estell’
Nasty little bytche who made his life a hell
He never gets a shot at Stella’s bearded clam
‘Cause she’s trained as a c0cktease by ol’ Miz Havisham
Real nutter. Looney-tunes. Full bubble off plumb.

Six hundred pages later Pip discovers there’s no dough
He has to get a job which just completes his woe
Biddy gets married to someone who’s not Pip
But that’s okay because he is still a drip.
Lachrymose. Lugubrious. The End.

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Zombies on my Shoulder

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a gun that I could give you
I’d give to you a gun that’s just like mine
If I had a torch that I could light for you
I’d light that torch so you could see it shine.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a car that I could drive for you
I’d weld on armor and a big plow blade
And if I saw you bitten by a zombie
I’d cut your f*ckin’ head off with a spade.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.

Zombies almost always make me fearful, mmmmmmm….
Zombies always want to make me die….

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It’s Spring!

Four to six inches expected and it’s snowing like a hamster right now.

Happy Vernal Equinox, y’all!

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A Special Hell

So there I was, listening to The Dinner Party on NHPR, specifically Episode 243: Pharrell, Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen, and Much MØ , where we learn of musical ice cream, a Broadway show called “The Moose Murders” (that closed after one performance) expressed in the form of a cocktail, and Stonehenge.

But that isn’t what I’m going to talk about. Later on in the program we got an Etiquette Advice segment. And right around minute 34 we meet Jordan, from Greensboro, North Carolina, who has a problem. When he’s watching movies at home with his wife, she “multitasks.” She spends the time talking on her cell phone.

“…you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.”
— Shepherd Book (Firefly)

The advice-to-the-etiquettely-challenged folks said that it was no big deal, that different people enjoy movies in different ways, and he should just get over it. After all, “You’re spending time together.”

My instant reaction was: Divorce her. There is no future in this marriage.

Supposing that he can’t divorce her (it’s against his religion; her father owns the company where he’s pulling down an executive-vice-president salary just for showing up), he has two choices: either watch movies alone, or get a mistress who knows that talking during a movie is just Not Done.

Which gets us around to today’s Grammar Trivia: when do you capitalize the first word following a colon?

The rule is this: Colons separate sentences. The second-and-subsequent sentences explain or illustrate something in the first sentence. If only one sentence follows the colon, its first letter is not capitalized. If two or more sentences follow the colon, the first letter of each sentence is capitalized.

Examples (taken from our own works; the permissions weren’t terribly hard to get):

Harlin turned the switch patching the EDS to Records, and closed out the comm log on the transmission: time, date, duration, frequency, signal strength.


Here’s the thing: It’s written in no known language, in no known alphabet. It’s illustrated with pictures of no known plants, and with star charts showing no known constellations.

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