Smoothie Time!

Athena ScalziLike the sheep I am, it is easy to persuade me to try something, especially if it has to do with food. So when I suddenly started getting (and still am getting) nonstop ads for a smoothie brand called Kencko, I decided to try it out.

Kencko is a company that takes farm-fresh fruits and vegetables and turns them into a powder through flash freezing and slow drying them. Then, they send you the powder in a box, and you mix the powder with milk (or water) to turn it into a smoothie.

The brand states that each smoothie packet is 2.5 servings of fruits and vegetables, which makes up half of your daily recommended amount. They’re also each only 80 calories! Kencko also boasts the only ingredients in their smoothie packets is organic plants, no colors, preservatives, added sugars or artificial sweeteners, etc.

With all that good stuff in mind, let’s dive in to my review of some of the smoothies! Here’s the box they came in:

Not only does Kencko have all organic produce, but their packaging is on the sustainability side, with compostable packaging and no single-use plastics. Their standard shipping is also carbon neutral.

Here are the smoothie packets:

To give them a fair shot, I ordered a box of 20 packets. There were five flavors in the box, so four packets of each flavor I chose. The flavors I went with (seen above) are Yellows, Ambers, Golds, Purples, and Aquamarines. It looks like just a lot of yellow and brown shades, I know, but they have tons of colorful ones, like reds and greens! In fact, you can see a list of all fifteen of their flavors and what all is in each one here.

The first one I tried was Purples, and I mixed it with whole milk. I used Kencko’s blender bottle they sent me for free with my order, which is really just a normal bottle with a lid on it so you can shake the shit out of it to mix it up. Honestly, I thought it tasted really good! I tried this one first because it seemed the least adventurous. It has blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, bananas, strawberries, and dates in it, so I figured it was a safe bet. And it was so yummy!

Next, I tried Golds, because it says it has cacao in it (as well as banana, dates, strawberries, and some proteins like pea and hemp protein) and I wanted something vaguely chocolatey. Here’s what it looks like once it’s all shook up! (Plus my grandma’s dog.)

This one was also really good! So far, Kencko was 2 for 2! Again, I just used whole milk because it’s my favorite, but really you can use any milk alternative (or even water for some of them, like Greens or Corals).

Next, I tried Yellows, and I mixed this one with vanilla almond milk.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like this one because it has carrots in it, but it also has pineapple, banana, and mango, so I thought it had to be at least kind of good, right? It was totally another great flavor! Definitely healthier tasting than the other two, like you can tell it’s good for you, but still a good taste.

Ambers was up next, and it was also good, though Yellows and Ambers are definitely second to Purples and Golds. Ambers has passion fruit and tumeric in it, and I don’t really love either of those, so maybe that has something to do with it, but it also has bananas and dates in it, so it’s a perfectly fine flavor.

So far, Kencko was going strong, every flavor was decent enough that I didn’t think this purchase was a bust. Then I tried Aquamarines. OH MY LORD. It was horrible. I had to dump it out, and the other packets are just sitting in my pantry collecting dust because I can’t bring myself to drink them. Aquamarines is terrible. I should’ve expected as much since there’s parsnips and zucchini in it, but damn. That is one flavor I would recommend staying clear of.

Other than that one flavor, I had a positive experience with Kencko, except for one more thing. The powder is so frustratingly hard to mix. It says to shake it for roughly thirty seconds to mix it, but there’s always powder left over that didn’t incorporate. No matter how hard I shake, no matter if I use their bottle or a different one, it never mixes all the way unless I use an immersion blender or something. Definitely not achievable with just a spoon, either.

However, if you do blend it, whether it’s with a real blender or an immersion blender, then it mixes perfectly. And when I say shaking it doesn’t do the job, I really mean it does like 85% of the job. So it’s not atrociously bad or anything, just kind of a pain to have chunks of powder on the sides of the bottle or just kind of floating around.

Anyways, Kencko is a monthly subscription box, and you can choose to get a box of 7, 20, 30, or 60 smoothie packets. The box of 7 costs $37, 20 smoothies is $60, 30 is $80, and 60 is $150. So technically the more you buy, the cheaper each smoothie is, but we’ll just use 20 in the following example since that’s what I bought.

I used to go to Tropical Smoothie like, twice a week. I almost always got the Chia Banana Boost with peanut butter, which is $5.49. And the cost of one Kencko smoothie (if you buy the box of 20 like I said) is $3. To be fair, the Tropical Smoothie smoothie is 24 ounces, whereas the Kencko smoothie if you make it according to instructions is only 12 ounces. So if you doubled that to get 24 oz, it’d be $6, which is basically the cost of the Tropical Smoothie smoothie, plus you had to use your own milk and bottle for the Kencko smoothie.

So, is Kencko better cost-wise? Not really. But it is convenient, you don’t have to go into a smoothie place and wait in line or anything. It’s also way healthier than Tropical Smoothie, but who cares about health, amiright?

Anyways, Kencko was fun to try out, I’m glad I did. I’m pretty satisfied with it overall, it definitely seems like a pretty good and easy way to get in a couple servings of fruits and veggies, at least!

If you want to try it out, they have a quiz you can take and based on your health goals they’ll recommend you certain flavors, or you can just choose your own. Also, if you’re thinking of trying it out, you can use my referral link to get $10 off your first order! (But don’t forget it’s a recurring charge, so opt out of it if you don’t like it.) Here’s my link! Or if you want to sign up without it, no worries!

Let me know if you’ve tried Kencko before, and which flavors you like. I want to switch up my next box, so tell me what’s a good one to try! And have a great day.


Two Tweet Threads About Copyright

John Scalzi

Presented here for archival purposes, and also because I know not all of you go to the Twitters.

Background: Writer Matthew Yglesias, who should have known better but I guess needed the clicks, offered up the opinion that the term of copyright should be shortened to 30 years (currently in the US it’s Life+70 years). This naturally outraged other writers, because copyrights let them make money. This caused a writer by the name of Tim Lee to wonder why people were annoyed by Yglesias’ thought exercise, since he thought 30 years was more than enough time for people to benefit from their books (NB: Lee has not written a book himself), and anyway, as he said in a follow up tweet: “Nobody writes a book so that the royalties will support them in retirement decades later. They’re mostly thinking about the money they’ll make in the next few years.”

This is where I come in.

First Twitter Thread about Copyright, from yesterday:

The fuck we don't, pal

I write books as a fucking business, thank you very much, and part of my business is the long tail — creating a body of work that is saleable for many years. It's one reason I have that long contract with Tor: All my novels at one house, motivated to keep it *all* in print.

MOREOVER, a backlist I control means the ability to sell older novels as new in foreign markets and into other media formats years after the were originally published. Those additional publications/adaptations feed into backlist sales of the original work, and thus, royalties.

It is true that no one knows how well a book will sell in the long run — but then no one knows how well they will sell in the short run, either. Authors should have the opportunity to benefit from their work whenever (and if ever) it generates income, certainly in their life.

If you were to ask me the ideal copyright length for individuals: Life+25 (or 75 years, whichever is longer). This way I can profit from my work, and so can my spouse if I die before her. My grandkids can work for a living. Corporations: 75 years.

I get annoyed when people who clearly don't know my business opine about my fucking business, why I do it, and how I do it. I'm an "artist" but I tend to my career and I have built a business for a long haul. Which, yes, includes royalties as a potential long-term income stream.

Done with this nonsense now.

After this was was the usual back and forth by people who don’t seem to know much about copyright and/or have a pet idea they think is actually useful (but usually isn’t) and/or wanted to go a-trollin’. Dealing with all of these prompted a second thread about copyright, which I posted today:

1. So, as a follow-up to yesterday’s thread and comments about copyrights and lengths thereof, some additional thoughts about the practical and theoretical issues revolving copyrights, their length and copyrightable intellectual property in general. Ready? Here we go:

2. To begin, the pipe dream of a 30-year-term of copyright really is just that, a pipe dream. 179 countries including the US are signatories to the Berne Convention, a treaty tightly wound into the World Trade Organization. Here’s the actual text:

3. Basically, the Berne Convention and its terms are the “floor” for copyrights; you can’t offer less protection than it offers and be a signatory. A copyright term of 30 years-and-out is, uhh, *less.* It is not seriously going to be considered any time soon. So, it’s Life+50, folks.

4. Now, and of course, you may rail, if your heart desires, about the injustice of this particular term of copyright; I myself would trim it back a bit to life+25. But unless you convince 179 national signatories to amend a highly standardized and *functional enough* treaty, meh.

5. Beyond that very practical issue, there’s the matter that you need to make a compelling moral, ethical AND economic argument to copyright holders that they should accede to your revised-but-certainly-less-than-current copyright term. Spoiler: Good luck with that!

6. The moral/ethical case is ironically the easiest to make: think of the public good! And indeed the public domain is a vital good, which should be celebrated and protected — no copyright should run forever. It should be tied to the benefit of the creator, then to the public.

7. Where you run into trouble is arguing to a creator that *their* copyright should be *less* than the term of their life (plus a little bit for family). It’s difficult enough to make money as a creator; arguing that tap should be stoppered in old age, is, well. *Unconvincing.*

8. Likewise, limiting that term limits a creator’s ability to earn from their work in less effable ways. If there’s a 30-year term of copyright and my work is at year 25, selling a movie/tv option is likely harder, not only because production takes a long time (trust me)…

9. …but also because after a certain point, it would make sense to just wait out the copyright and exclude the originator entirely. A too-short copyright term has an even *shorter* economic shelf-life than the term, basically. Why on earth would creators agree to that?

10. (Not to mention that if creators *do* want to offer their creations in a substantively freer fashion to the public before their copyright term expires, they already have options via Creative Commons and estate planning; for those folks, it’s a somewhat solved problem.)

11. But wait, you say, copyright terms used to be shorter! Yes! They were! And at one time they didn’t exist at all! But that’s not *now.* And *now* is what you have to work with. And *now,* it would be you who has to make a compelling argument to lower those term lengths.

12. Let me come at it from another direction: You want things in the public domain quicker. Okay! But what do I get for agreeing to this, that *replaces* my ability to control and benefit from my creations? Are you offering UBI? Universal health care? A robust safety net?

13. If the answer to the above questions is “no,” then fuck you, pal, I got no reason to play your silly game. I live in the US of fucking A, where we have shitty wages, shitty health care and a truly shitty safety net. My creations are how I eat, pay bills, and care for family.

14. “But you can just write other things!” Sure. OR, I can write other things AND still control the things I’ve written before. “But society benefits from public domain!” Sure! AND they’ll benefit even more if I can live comfortably to create more things to go into PD later.

15. Want to make a robustly moral AND economic argument for shorter copyright terms? You MUST start with building a society that does not punish creators for having those shorter terms. Until and unless you do, your words won’t convince creators whose lives depend on copyrights.

16. In sum: Practically, copyright terms are settled (and slightly too long), but even if they weren’t, we have not (in the US at least) created a society where shorter copyright terms make sense for many creators. Let’s create that society! I’d be happy to revisit this then.

17. Thanks for your attention. And now, as usual, a cat picture to close out the thread. Here’s Zeus, all casual.

Zeus, being louche.

Always close out on a cat.

— JS

An Early March 2021 Status Check on Scalzi

Me, sort of making a shrug at the camera.
John Scalzi

As I’m deep in the throes of novel writing at the moment, I’ve been pretty scarce here and on other social media, so I thought I’d give you a quick update on me, you know, just in case you were worried or anything. So:

I’m fine! After a long long period in which novel writing was indistinguishable from pulling teeth, I am pretty much zooming along happily now, and (knocks on wood) expect to be done with the current novel by the end of the month. Hooray!

Also hooray: Aside from (or actually, in no small part due to) the novel writing going along congenially, I am generally in a pretty decent state of mind these days. Things that help with this: New president, vaccine distribution and application going well, spring revving up. Being immersed in novel writing and all the worldbuilding it requires also means I have less time to keep up with the outside world, and honestly less interest in doing so. Bluntly, the world I’m creating in my head for this book is so much cooler than this one. I suspect this also contributes to my generally happier demeanor.

(That said, when I do check in with the world, it’s somewhere more congenial to me now than it was even a couple of months ago. Not perfect, and of course people on social media are still very mad at and with each other. This does motivate me not to spend all that much time there at the moment. I’m feeling good about feeling better, and don’t really want to be brought down, especially as it might have an impact on my writing speed right now.)

Anything I’m less than happy about? Well, I’m sad that I’m not currently in Florida, waiting to set sail on the 2021 edition of the JoCo Cruise, which would have left port tomorrow, were it not for this whole pandemic thing. I miss the friends I get to see there, and just generally being away from the whole world for a week whilst on the seas. On one hand, as I’m waaaaaay behind on my novel, it would not have been great to basically take a week off from it to be in the Caribbean. But on the other hand I have a more than vague suspicion that had there not been a pandemic, I would not have been this late on the novel. We will never know. I just know that there’s no cruise this year, and I’m bummed at that.

Other than that, I’m feeling a little impatient. Impatient to finish this novel (in a good way — I’m enjoying writing it but I want to be done so that, among other things, you all can read it too), but mostly impatient to get a vaccine shot, and for everyone else to get theirs too, so we can again do things like, you know, see people and go places. All that’s coming, and that’s great! But it’s not here yet, and that’s unnnnnnnngh whhhhyyyyyyyy. Again, this is much better than some possible alternatives we might have had, if certain things in the recent past had gone differently. But when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you want to get to the end of the tunnel, you know?

Anyway. I’m going to be sticking to mostly working on the novel until it’s done, so that means for three or four more weeks, I’ll be mostly not here, and mostly posting cat/sunset/family pics when I am. Fortunately Athena has done a pretty great job in stepping up with posts, and it’s been fun watching how those are making their way out in the world. We make a pretty good team and I’m glad she’s here, and will be happy to have her stay as long as she wants to keep at it.

So that’s the current state of Scalzi. How are you?

— JS

I Was Going To Title This “Mlem Monday” But Then I Remembered It’s Friday

Sugar wants you to know she is offering up the highest quality of mlem’s, just for you! So you should feel special. And give her catnip.

In other non-mlem related news, I was going to write about Fruits Basket today and talk about how incredible and amazing it is, but then it pissed me off right before the season two finale, so now I’m too miffed to talk about how great it is. I hope Sugar makes up for the lack of me gushing over an anime like a weeb.

Anyways, I hope you all have a great start to your weekend (so does Sugar, she just can’t tell you)!


Jane Yolen on 400 Books

The Cover to Bear Outside

In my professional writing career, I’ve had over 30 books published. That seems a reasonably impressive number — until you compare it to Jane Yolen’s output. In a decades-long publishing career, Yolen has written literally hundreds of books, with her 400th — !!!! — arriving this very week: Bear Outside, written by her and illustrated by Jen Corace. I’ve cleared out a little space for Yolen to talk about what it takes to be so prolific, and why perhaps the most impressive thing about her having written 400 books is that it’s 400 books… so far.


So, It’s just a number. 400. Big in some ways, small in others.

If all I had in my bank account was $400, I would be out of food and housing. About ready to look for a real job, Probably at Walmart since I am 82.

But if I told you that was how many different books I would have out by this March, you would think it enormous and unlikely.

Enormous for you, maybe, but I have been writing steadily since college, so I have a lot of stuff out there, and not all of it in books. I write more than 365 poems a year, because I write a poem a day for over a thousand subscribers. And then I write books of poems. And poems for posters and poems for raising money for good causes. (Good liberal causes, I am quick to add.) I write essays and stories and some get into anthologies, but those are not in separate books. I write reviews and speeches. I am very wordy.

And on March 2, my 400th book came out: Bear Outside. A picture book for children with illustrations by Jen Corace. I found her while looking for an illustrator for a different project, saw this wonderful sample illustration of a child wearing a bear, looking out of its mouth. No explanation. My book grew from that picture, and the editor loved the picture, too, and asked her to illustrate the book. It’s a book for young children about conquering one’s fears and helping others in lyrical lines — NOT a poem but certainly poetic. And the last two lines do rhyme.

I write these kinds of picture books because I find ideas everywhere. In nature, in family outings, in books I read, newspapers, song lyrics, dreams. In fact, this year, both before and after the 400th book comes out, I will probably have eleven other books published. They include two books of adult poetry – a chapbook from Scotland with my science fiction poetry, with an introduction by Jo Walton, and one from the USA with my Holocaust and Jewish poetry. Plus a bunch of picture books. Two or maybe three Easy Readers. A middle grade fantasy novel that begins where Moby Dick ended. I told you I was wordy.

But the problem is not with how many books I write. It is a reflection of how slow editors are. I write every day. Editors get back to me months and months after they have received a manuscript. Then it takes months more with revision and (if a picture book) lining up an illustrator and the illustrator getting to my work. Jen Corace got right to my book and it is getting out in fairly record time. But one of my books out this year was sold over twelve years ago, and the illustrator with whom I conceived the project was first very booked up so I was, maybe, fifth in his queue. Then he got ill, and then his wife got ill (long before Covid), and the book got shoved back and back and back again. Another of the books took extra time because the editor was searching for just the right illustrator. And I had been writing the Jewish poems up until the book was taken for some twelve years, and then kept writing more. I am to blame for the length of time it took to publication.

So, writing and editing, and publishing (not to mention illustrating) a book are all on different timelines. This year, for me, seemed to be the stopping point, or the culmination for a lot of books.

So, is 400 large amount, or a mistake? Is it a culmination of a career? Or… you tell me. I have over 30 books under contract. I have many unsold manuscripts. I am still writing. My eye is on 500!

Bear Outside: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s Web site.

A Short Wolf For Your Delight

Roxy the Shih Tzu is running along happily.

My mother-in-law’s pups come over to the house on a regular basis to run around in our yard, and to poop on it, hopefully not exactly at the same time. Here, Roxy is running only. Just thought you might enjoy a pup-filled moment before going on with the rest of your day.

— JS

The Big Idea: Jillian Boehme

First drafts are made to be edited. Author Jillian Boehme talks about the process of rewriting in her Big Idea for The Stolen KingdomRead on to see how a fresh take on an old work could end up being your next big thing.


The first thing that needs to be perfectly clear is that The Stolen Kingdom, my second published novel, is a complete rewrite of my first-ever-written, very horrible novel, entitled The Seeds of Perin Faye. And the big idea behind that was, simply, that I could write a better novel than the one I was currently reading, a middle grade fantasy that will remain nameless. 

I didn’t believe that I could ever write a novel, you see. So the moment when I decided that, well, I actually could, if I tried, was the catalyst for my career. The Seeds of Perin Faye was everything a first novel usually is—overwritten, poorly structured, and trope-y. The story was told from two points of view—12-year-old Maralyth, who, along with her friend Alac, had all sorts of adventures with magic stones and a time-traveling great-grandmother and a rather Gandalf-y character named Soldan; and 16-year-old Nestar, Maralyth’s brother, whose storyline was far more exciting. He (lucky chap) discovered he was of the royal bloodline that used to rule Perin Faye, before the throne had been stolen by the current king’s ancestor. Nestar becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the king and his family and take the throne.

Fast forward at least fifteen years. Stormrise, my debut novel, was several months from hitting the shelves, and my editor at Tor Teen wanted three synopses to choose from for my next book. I had two solid ideas, but I had no idea what I could offer for a third choice. Then, while I was in the shower one evening, I had a sudden thought that maybe I could take The Seeds of Perin Faye and make it something brand new. I had always loved the setting (rolling vineyards in a sort of Renaissance-y magical world) and the characters, and I felt I finally had the writing chops to make something out of this poor first attempt at a novel.

I tried and tried to rework the story, but nothing came together. Finally, the big revelation came, and it changed everything. Nestar, as I’ve already said, had the more interesting storyline. What if, I thought, I gave his story to Maralyth? Instead of a young man learning that he could be king, how about a young woman learning that she could be queen?

This idea lined up nicely with my penchant for writing strong female protagonists (who aren’t whiny or embittered), and so the new tale was born. After weeks of frustration, I was suddenly excited about the new direction this story could take. And as luck would have it, this is the story my editor chose to publish next.

Maralyth grew from twelve to seventeen years old, and her brother Nestar became a secondary character. Alac, her best friend in the original story, became the other protagonist—second son to the king of Perin Faye. (Yes, I kept the kingdom name, too.) The next big idea, and one that proved challenging to write, was to pit Maralyth and Alac against each other, so that each would be the other’s antagonist. In theory, that sounds like a lot of fun, right? But placing two characters who had forged a relationship, albeit under a false premise, on opposite sides of a conflict was one of the hardest parts of writing The Stolen Kingdom. Taking an emotional arc from “I think I’m falling in love with her” to “I’m totally going to kill her” takes a deft hand, or it won’t be believable. To say that this stretched me is an understatement.

Now that The Stolen Kingdom has been birthed, I love sharing the story of its origin. Winking while saying, “Well, hey, this is actually the first novel I ever wrote!” is tremendously fun. You, of course, now know the rest of the story.

The Stolen Kingdom: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Facebook.

The Big Idea: Kali Wallace

Science fiction often holds up a mirror to the present day when it imagines what happens in the future. For Deep Space, author Kali Wallace has imagined a scenario that, while specifically impossible in the here in now, involves personal and social dynamics which might feel very familiar to us anyway.


This book didn’t start with a big idea. My books never do. I start with very small ideas, and only in the process of writing and rewriting and revising and editing do those ideas grow into something more. I have to write a novel to figure out what it is I want the novel to say, which is very inefficient writing process, but it’s the one that works for me. 

So when I first started Dead Space, back in the ancient times of 2018, my only idea was that I wanted to write a creepy, exciting book about a lesbian cyborg space detective. A space detective requires a space crime, and a space crime requires a space setting, so I stuck a murder on an asteroid mine and ran with it. 

The other thing I knew when I started Dead Space was that it took place in the not-so-distant future, when the world is a bit different, but not too different. We have spaceships, but we can barely travel beyond the asteroid belt. We have better technology and advanced medical treatments, but they aren’t available to everyone. We have clever AIs, but they’re still built and trained by flawed humans. We have the ability to give people better lives, but those opportunities are largely reserved for the rich and powerful.

Sci fi writers are always writing about the fucked-up present when we write about fucked-up futures, but sometimes we don’t know what flavor of fucked-up we’re digging into until we get into the heart of the story. And the heart of the story is, always, its characters.

When I was in college, twenty-some years ago, I took a class about Mars. The professor, planetary scientist Pete Schultz, asked on the very first day, “Who would go to Mars if you had the chance?” Most people raised their hands. Then he asked, “Who would go to Mars if you knew it would be a one-way trip?” Nearly everybody put their hands down. 

Professor Schultz smiled. He knew exactly what he was asking and how a bunch of college students would respond. He raised his own hand and said, “I would. I would go even if I knew I would never come back.”

That’s what I was thinking about when I created Hester Marley, the main character of Dead Space. Hester used to be a scientist, one who eagerly signed on to what could have been a one-way trip to Saturn’s moon Titan. But a terrorist group attacks the mission en route, kills most of its participants, and leaves the few survivors stranded far from home and indebted to the powerful asteroid mining company that rescued them. So now Hester is working a shitty security job for a shitty company, trying to pay down her vast medical debts and figure out a way to get her life back on track, not quite wanting to admit to herself that her dreams and her plans and her ambitions have all been completely crushed.

Most of us haven’t been victims of catastrophic spaceship attacks that leave us stuck in a grim cubicle job 300 million kilometers from home, but far too many of us do know what it feels like to be forced to reckon with the fact that the universe doesn’t care about our dreams and plans and ambitions. It was this commonality that slowly evolved in the big idea in Dead Space

Fairly early on in writing Dead Space, I realized I was writing about how much corporate capitalism sucks. I was writing about how we place our trust into systems–governments, companies, economies, religions–that are deeply flawed. The most interesting sci fi is often about exploring and stress-testing our systems in new and exciting ways; in Dead Space I approached this as a sort of nesting doll of flawed systems. It’s all about surveillance systems inside of artificial intelligence systems inside of mining systems inside of law enforcement systems inside of corporate systems inside of economic systems inside of political systems inside of, well, the solar system. Living in space is dangerous. Communicating and traveling across space is not trivial. AIs are often kinda stupid and terribly biased. No life support is foolproof. In a world where everything is expensive, human life can be very, very cheap. 

Depending on who you ask, Dead Space is a sci fi novel, a thriller, or a horror novel, but I kinda think of it as mostly a crime novel. (It just happens to be one in which the crimes are science fictionally thrilling and/or horrifying.) The main character really wants to be living in a sci fi novel; she wants to be exploring new worlds and discovering new things and going where no one has gone before. But her life doesn’t work out that way. She did everything right, played by all the rules and met all the goals, and the universe didn’t care. 

I probably could have written a novel about a cyborg detective at any point in my life, but I could only have written this novel between 2018 and 2020, when every single day was an object lesson in how very badly things go wrong when the trust we place in our systems is so terribly misplaced. That’s why at the book’s heart, down in the gritty, grimy, angry center beneath all the cybernetics and spaceships and spacesuits and action, it is about desperate, damaged people whose choices are limited by the circumstances in which they live. 

Dead Space: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s|Signed copies from Mysterious Galaxy

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site or newsletter. Follow her on Instagram.

Making It Up As I Go Along

Athena ScalziLike most twenty-somethings (if not all), I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life. And it’s hard as shit. I was supposed to do this when I was eighteen, but I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so I’m still trying to decide what it is that I want to spend my one and only existence on. It’s kind of overwhelming.

Not only am I trying to figure out what to do for the next (potentially) 60 or so years, but I’m also trying to figure out who I am as a person. Honestly, I don’t really know. I thought college would help me figure it out. It’s supposed to, isn’t it? But I think it made my identity crisis worse.

I think there was a time that I was so sure of who I was, but when I look back on it, I realize I was just a list of surface-level labels that I identified with to make myself feel special. I’m left-handed, an only child, a non-believer, far left, yada yada yada. When I was in high school, all these things made me different. After all, there were only two other only children and two other left-handed kids in my grade, and I was the only one that was both.

I was vegetarian from when I was 12 to 18, so basically all through junior high and high school. I remember one day one of my classmates said I was only doing it to be different, so I could feel unique. While that’s not exactly right, it’s at least partially true. Sure, like 90% of the reason I did it was for ethical/moral reasons, but I can’t deny the fact that I loved being different in that regard. I had another label to add to the list that made me stand out.

At the time, I thought all the things that made me different from everyone were what made me special. It’s who I was. I was the odd one out, and I liked it.

Now, I realize all these things aren’t who I am, they’re just things that I happen to be. And I don’t want to be defined by these attributes anymore.

At some point (I think in college, probably), I started defining myself by an entirely new set of attributes. My narcolepsy, my depression, my weight, my regrets, and my failures.

But I have seen time and time again that people are more than their disabilities. And I have been told over and over again that I am more than my mental illness. And that weight is just a number. And that I am not only made up of my mistakes. And I have been told repeatedly that I’m not a failure.

So then, what am I?

Who am I, if I am not these things?

What makes up me as a person?

If I could pick, I think I’d like to be made of the fun times I’ve had with my friends. I’d like to be made of the dinner party I had in high school, the weekly late night romcoms in my dorm’s basement, and the spontaneous iHop trips in my minivan.

I’d like to made of the places I’ve traveled. I want to be made of Puerto Rican sunshine and the crystal waters of Anguilla, Canadian castles and New York City skyscrapers, California palm trees and Grand Canyon rocks.

I want to be made of the things that make me happy. I want to be comprised of pins and stickers, old books and chai lattes, sweaters and cookies, rainbows and stars.

I want to be a writer, a photographer, a baker, an actress, a florist, a gardener, a painter.

I want to be kind, generous, friendly, helpful, nice, and most of all I want to be a good person.

I don’t really know who I am yet. Or what I’m doing with my life. But I hope that while I’m figuring it out, I manage to do some good things along the way.


The Big Idea: E. J. Beaton

The pen is mightier than the sword. At least it is in E. J. Beaton’s newest fantasy novel, The Councillor, where one clever girl is capable of changing society entirely. That is, if she even wants to change it.


When you hear the term “Machiavellian fantasy”, perhaps you think of a courtier steepling his fingers under his chin in the shadow-dappled corner of a throne room. You might imagine a masked assassin, eavesdropping on her rivals, the slim hilt of a rapier jutting from her belt. You might even envisage a group of conspirators stalking towards their queen and plunging their knives rib-deep into her back.

If you do, you’re not alone. The term “Machiavellian” is associated with ruthlessness, cunning, and amoral pragmatism. It takes its meaning from the politics of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, a treatise which lays out instructions on how to lead effectively. In his practical book about feudal rule, Machiavelli claims that some things that seem like virtue will “lead you to ruin”, while some things that seem like vices will “result in your safety.” 

But the popular use of “Machiavellian” – for back-stabbers and double-crossers – tends to simplify The Prince. Machiavelli was living in a fractured country during a turbulent time. He sought stability rather than chaos. At the end of The Prince, he pleads for a leader to end the “devastation” and sacking, imploring them to unite Italy. In another book, he suggests that governments based upon the will of the people are better than autocracies. It’s arguable that Machiavelli was both a realist and someone who hoped for a better society.

My debut novel has been described as a “Machiavellian fantasy.” Titled The Councillor, it strikes up a dialogue with Machiavellian thought. The main character, Lysande, is a palace scholar who becomes elevated to the position of Councillor and tasked with choosing the next ruler of the realm. She grapples with the responsibility of power – what it means to make a choice that might keep the people safe or, in the case of a mistake, destroy the realm. 

As Lysande works to appoint the right ruler, she also investigates the death of the last monarch, her friend and confidante Queen Sarelin Brey. Along the way, she learns that some of Sarelin’s laws hurt the most vulnerable people: the poor, the working class, and the persecuted magical citizens. Lysande faces a dilemma. Should she buck the existing order and push for reform? Or should she enjoy her new power to the full? And can these competing desires for justice and power ever be reconciled?

For the first time, a ladder was hers to climb, its rungs not woven of fibers but fashioned of smooth and unbending metal. Who knew where she might scale it to?

I’m interested in characters who don’t quite fit in, protagonists who don’t come from the establishment, people whose identities encompass more than one thing. The Councillor explores how just a little bit of support for a less-privileged person can build confidence. Lysande wants to improve the conditions of people like herself who work for a living, yet she also loves her newfound popularity for its own sake. Gradually, she realises that a scholar with no aristocratic blood can draw a line straight through the existing rules. If she dares, she can even move the people in the margins to the centre of the page.

Machiavelli liked to sit in his study and “talk” to past rulers, immersing himself in their lives and deeds. Similarly, Lysande reads about history, thinks deeply, and imagines the past. There’s a reason that a quill and writing adorn the book’s cover – The Councillor is a battle of wits, as my early readers have noted, and it dwells in the world of strategists and thinkers. Lysande wields her deduction as she tries to unravel the mystery of Sarelin’s death and defend the realm. As a fan of complicated characters with an intellectual streak – from Patrick O’Brian’s Stephen Maturin to Hilary Mantel’s version of Thomas Cromwell – I’ve always yearned to read about female intellectuals navigating the halls of power Lysande’s story is my first venture into that field.

Staging the novel’s Machiavellian drama in a gender-equal, multicultural, queernorm world meant that I could create a range of characters with different backgrounds and desires. Lysande frequently butts heads with Luca Fontaine, a clever prince of illegitimate birth, who has no qualms about being provocative when he wants something. Dante and Jale, two princes who might share more than a passing affection, try to navigate their cities’ enmity. Lysande also befriends Cassia, a leader who does nothing by halves, whether she’s charging into battle or putting on a feast. Aside from these city-rulers, there’s Charice, Lysande’s ex-lover and a guarded black-market merchant; Litany, Lysande’s personal attendant, who nurtures affection for a captain of the guard; and other advisors and staff in the royal orbit.

These characters have their own ambitions, secrets, and desires. They all understand that idealism is difficult in Elira, but some of them strive to achieve their own version of justice nonetheless. And when they are forced to weigh their means against their ends, the waters of logic become muddier – and the fighting gathers pace.

So, must a Machiavellian story necessarily be “grimdark”? I’d argue no. The term “Machiavellian fantasy” can encompass both the ruthlessness of political intrigue and the tragic underbelly of conflict. It can expand the idea, rather than flattening it – a Machiavellian fantasy can question social structures, and remind us who pays the price for leaders’ choices.

And with a thinking woman at the centre of the story, it can explore what one quiet, calculating, determined person can do, when they apply their mind to the dangerously enticing tasks of reform and ascent.

The Councillor: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s 

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

The Big Idea: Emily R. King

Many of us grew up with the stories and myths of ancient Greece, but as Emily R. King muses in this Big Idea, there are the stories and myths we’ve been told… and the ones that have been left untold. Her new novel Wings of Fury considers the latter.


“In the Golden Age, when Cronus was Lord of the Titans, men lived happily and in peace with the gods and each other.”

While researching Wings of Fury, I read a line like this in a book that caused me to pause. Sure, the Golden Age was a happy time for men. But what was it like for women?

In Ancient Greece, women were viewed as possessions. They had very little autonomy, and even less control over their fate. They could not own property. They could not act in plays, or wrestle in stadiums, or attend school. Most of a woman’s life was spent within the walls of her home, in servitude to her family. They could do little without a man’s permission, but that didn’t stop them from telling stories.

At night, the women taught their children about the Titan king, Cronus, who ate his own children so they couldn’t overthrow him like he had done to his father, Uranus. Cronus’s consort, Rhea, grew tired of her husband devouring her babies, so by the time she gave birth to their sixth child, Zeus, she hid him away and fooled Cronus into swallowing a stone instead of their newborn. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to consider that given how monstrous a father Cronus was, that he was also a terrible ruler. After he was tricked into throwing up his children, the six of them united against him in a ten-year war that resulted in the end of “the Golden Age.”

The Titanomachy war was a revolution among the gods. Their big, messy family took sides, either Cronus’s or Zeus’s. The role of the goddesses and Titanesses during that revolt is vague. We know Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus fought with specialized weapons forged just for them. We know those same brothers divided up the world after Cronus was dethroned, each of them reigning over their own realm. Their three sisters—Hera, Demeter, and Hestia—were given no such spoils of war.

A story is missing here.

What we know about these sister goddesses is from the mythology after Zeus becomes King of the Gods. The tales about them indicate that these Titanesses would not have sat idly by while their brothers fought Cronus. Hera, the only goddess that Zeus truly feared, would have been front and center in battle. Demeter, who plagued the world with famine to retrieve her daughter, Persephone, from the underworld, would not have backed down from her father. And Hestia, the goddess of hearth and home, would have stood alongside her siblings to protect their family. These Titanesses must have been pivotal in the fall of Cronus, as they earned the honor of becoming Olympians. They stood beside their brothers, tall and proud with weapons of their own, motives of their own, and fates of their own.

How would the Titanomachy have been told differently from the viewpoint of these goddesses?

That’s the big idea for Wings of Fury.

This duology shows how Zeus was lifted into power, on the backs of women, goddesses, and Titanesses. These female warriors gained no prize or praise, yet they championed Zeus as his equals, and I believe, his superiors in victory and sacrifice.

Wings of Fury: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s  

Visit the author’s website. Follow her on twitter.

Return of the River

A river running through my yard.
John Scalzi

A week ago we had several inches of snow on the ground, the product of a winter storm, and now, thanks to higher temperatures and rain, it’s all gone. But it has to go somewhere. Fortunately for us it didn’t go into our basement; our land is such that in times of heavy rain and/or snowmelt, a stream forms in our yard that channels the excess toward a nearby creek. I jokingly call it the Scalzi River, and today marks its first appearance of 2021, as it channels away all the excess water.

The current 10-day forecast suggests we’re unlikely to see the yard covered up again anytime soon, although March is mercurial around here, so I’ve learned never to say never. With that said, if this is mostly the end of the snow for the year, I won’t mind. One heavy snowfall a year is enough; enough to enjoy what winter can do, but not sure much winter has to be truly endured. Seems like the right amount to me.

— JS

Krissy, Femme Fatale

A picture of Krissy looking quite noirish.

Of course she’s going to ask you to do crimes! And you’re going to. Because you just can’t help yourself. She promises to write when you’re doing time in the stony lonesome, but you know better. And the hell of it is, you’d do it again in a heartbeat. You’re a sucker for a femme fatale.

(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Krissy is neither explicitly nor by implication going to ask you to do crimes. Please do no crimes, but be aware that any crimes you decide to do, will be under your initiative. All members of the Scalzi family hereby renounces all form of crimes in any way, now and in the future, until the heat death of the universe. Kids, stay in school. And etc.)

— JS

Watching Despite Myself

A scene from "Bridgerton"

Athena ScalziI am not someone who has ever thought of anything as “too mainstream.” I am not someone who has ascribed to the stereotype of a hipster by refusing the things in life that other people enjoy. Or, at least, I thought I wasn’t that person, until I realized the other day that maybe I am that person, subconsciously.

Maybe I am that person that thinks there’s too much hype over a show that doesn’t even look that good, or maybe I do think that something is overrated, even if I haven’t seen it or even given it a shot.

This was certainly the case with Bridgerton. The moment I saw posts about it on social media, I thought, “well that looks totally silly.” I thought it seemed overhyped. It couldn’t possibly be as good as everyone was saying. I don’t know why I was so adamant in my thinking, considering I didn’t even know what it was about. All I knew was that it was a period drama, and I don’t like period dramas. They’re too… dramatic.

So I thought everyone was way too into their silly little historical fiction show, and I called it a day. I wasn’t even going to bother trying to prove myself right or wrong by giving the show a watch.

That was, until, I walked into the living room while my mom had the first episode on. It was already like halfway through, but I sat with her and started half-paying attention as I was on my phone. I didn’t really want to watch it, but I didn’t hate that it was on. It seemed okay enough, but like I said I really wasn’t focusing on it.

Until one of my favorite tropes of all time came into play. Then, I was hooked.

And now, five episodes in, I am so happy I started watching it. I can’t believe I had almost missed such a wonderful show. I really almost completely and utterly bypassed this show, because I thought, without any basis, that it wasn’t actually good and was just being overhyped.

Another show I did that with in the past was The Office. I didn’t understand why everyone liked it so much. It didn’t seem good to me. I didn’t understand what it was about, and I hated seeing so many posts and merch of it all the time.

It was actually a ten-minute blooper video I saw on Facebook that persuaded me to watch it. The bloopers were so comical and the cast seemed so fun that I gave it a shot, and now I love The Office, like any other stereotypical, white, young millennial (I say young millennial because I’m either the absolute youngest of their generation or the oldest of the Gen Z’s).

Anyways, I feel like there’s a lot of things that are popular that I don’t give a second glance because I assume they’re not good and everyone else is just making too big a deal out of it. But I should realize that they’re popular for a reason! There has to be something to these things if everyone likes it, right? Or at least I should give it a chance and check it out myself before jumping to the conclusion that it’s automatically terrible.

One thing I actively do this with is Hamilton. It’s just been so popular for so long, I figure if I haven’t seen it by now, why bother? It’s also another period piece, and I’ve always thought I didn’t like those, but maybe I’ve been wrong all along.

I felt the same way about The Queen’s Gambit, and while I didn’t watch that in its entirety, the parts I did see were enjoyable enough, and it seemed like it was in fact a pretty good show.

Back to Bridgerton, this is the show that made me realize that maybe I do have a tendency to shun things that are popular for no reason. I don’t know why I do this. I don’t think my taste in anything is better than anyone else’s. Like I know my taste in music isn’t exactly amazing, and my taste in movies can be even worse (cough, Gods of Egypt, cough), but I guess I’m just skeptical of what the masses seem to enjoy.

In conclusion, this was just a short examination of why I deny myself things that could potentially bring me joy. Like Bridgerton. I’m happy I’ve been watching it, and I’m excited to finish it. So please don’t spoil anything in the comments! When I’m done with it I might do a piece over it because I just wanna gush! So many feelings! So much drama! (Turns out I do kinda like drama.)

What’s something you didn’t really think you’d like but then you actually loved it? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


Super Smash Bros Ultimate: Choose Your Character!

(NOTICE: This post assumes that you have played Super Smash Bros Ultimate or are at least up on the gameplay and characters.)

Athena ScalziI used to hate Super Smash Bros Ultimate. In fact, I used to hate all Smash games. This was due to me only playing them one time, losing super badly because no one told me the controls, and then me rage quitting and vowing to never play again.

Fast forward a few years to 2019, when I discovered I loved Smash Ultimate after someone actually took time to teach me how to play instead of just beating the shit out of me while I button mashed and prayed.

Now, I’m totally addicted to Smash. Do I still rage quit? Yes. All the time, actually. But that’s usually only when I try to play online and the lag totally nerfs me. Or maybe I’m just not as good as I think I am.

Today I’m here to talk about my favorite and least favorite characters to play as in Ultimate, and basically just talk about who I main and whatnot. Though I will say my main has changed a lot over the course of the past year or so, and is never really constant, there’s definitely some characters that I can’t seem to stop playing.

First up, my very favorite character, Captain Falcon! He is by far the character I play the most, and also the character I consider myself the most skilled with. I love his character design, and his voice lines are so hilarious. Personally, I’m a big fan of his move set because I’m not really into projectiles, I like to run up and punch people instead, and he’s perfect for that! And what’s more satisfying than landing a Falcon Punch and killing someone? He is also a great character for spiking, which I love to do (though rarely succeed at).

Going along with the in-your-face kind of combat characters, I also like Donkey Kong, Bowser, really any heavy that can just beat the shit out of you. Heavy characters are easiest to learn how to play if you’re just starting out, in my opinion. When I first started playing, I stuck with Bowser as a main for a while. I think they’re especially good to play if, like me, you’re not very good at the game, because they can take a ton of hits before they die.

One more great character that has that same punchy punchy play style is Terry! He’s one of the DLC characters and I’m so happy I bought him because he is so much fun! I play him all the time, especially online.

Moving away from that type of character, let’s look at some characters that are more projectile based. I know I said I’m not the biggest fan of projectiles, but I think that there are some really great characters that have a healthy balance of projectile moves and regular moves.

For example, the Wii Fit Trainer has a move set that is a perfect blend of projectiles, regular attacks, and other special moves (like the healing move). The Wii Fit Trainer was actually the first character I ever played, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was a rough time, and I decided it was a stupid game and that I never wanted to play again. Now, I thoroughly enjoy playing as the Wii Fit Trainer! And I actually feel like I’m pretty good with her.

There is one projectile-based character that comes to mind when I think of characters I DESPISE. And that would be Mega Man. Literally all of his moves except like two are projectiles. He doesn’t even have a normal jab! I hate it. The only thing I hate more than playing as Mega Man is playing against him.

Fighting against characters with projectiles is super annoying. I hate when people just stand all the way across the stage and throw shit at you. There’s no pizzazz in that! Where’s the dramatic Warlock Punch type of flourish?! This is especially true when I play online and all I see is people playing Toon Link/Young Link (I would include regular Link but I have a soft spot for him so I don’t mind playing against him).

Another awful projectile-based character I especially hate fighting against is Snake. I hate playing him, too, but at least that’s better than fighting him. He has the slowest forward smash in the game! Can you believe that?

There are a bunch of characters I don’t particularly like simply because I think they’re boring, like Ice Climbers, Duck Hunt, or Olimar. Ice Climbers are literally children and Olimar is very unfun to play as. At least with Ice Climbers one of them can take the hit without taking damage. Same with Rosalina and Luma (another terrible one), if you hit the Luma, Rosalina doesn’t take damage.

There’s are also a lot of characters I’m indifferent about, like Robin, Inkling, Bayonetta, Ken/Ryu, Simon/Richter, Sheik, Shulk, R.O.B., these are all characters that could just not be in the game and I wouldn’t even notice. They’re fine to play as, I have no qualms with them, they’re just not memorable in any way to me. Especially since half of them are echo characters anyways (which just means they have pretty much the exact same move set as a different character).

I really want to talk about the DLC characters! I know I mentioned earlier that Terry is a great one, but honestly there isn’t a single DLC character I don’t like! Except Steve. But we’ll get to that.

One of my favorites of the DLC characters is Hero, despite my usual hatred of projectile-based characters. Hero is just so unique, and has sooo many different spells you can fuck people up with! I think the whole using mana thing is so cool, even if sometimes I get killed by not having enough mana to recover with. It’s interesting to me that they found a way to put a cap on Hero’s insane powers. Hero is a character that takes a lot of thought to use (or at least, use correctly).

Another of my favorites is Joker! I just love his character design; plus when he gets his persona, Arsène, his attacks are stronger, which I think is a really neat addition to his character. He’s fast, light, and tons of fun to play as. I’ve never played Persona 5, but I’ve seen gameplay of it and it seems interesting.

I know everyone hated the fact that Byleth got announced as a DLC character, but I kind of like Byleth! Definitely not my favorite DLC character, and certainly not my favorite Fire Emblem character in the game, but I like him. Out of all the Fire Emblem characters in the game (there’s a lot), I probably like Marth the best (even though Lucina is basically a better Marth). Byleth is cool, though, because he has the strongest down air in the game (even if it is incredibly fucking slow).

Banjo and Kazooie is another one of those rare characters that has two characters as one, like Ice Climbers or Rosalina and Luma, but unlike those two, Banjo and Kazooie cannot be separated, and you can’t hit one without both taking damage. I don’t play them often enough to have too much of an opinion on them, and same goes for Min Min, but they both seem fine. I think Min Min has a cool design, at least.

Now we get to one of the greatest DLC characters ever, Sephiroth. I am totally in love with Sephiroth, so my opinion of him in Smash is completely biased. I think he is so cool and has an awesome move set and I love his sword and his hair and ugh, I adore him. Bias aside, I really do think his moves are cool, and he is definitely fun to play as, plus his stage, music, and win screen are amazing! If you haven’t seen his announcement trailer before, you should totally check it out:

He’s just… so pretty.

Up next is the real MVP, Piranha Plant. This is the most underrated DLC character of all! You literally play as a potted plant! That’s so fucking cool. Not to mention Piranha Plant has an amazing recovery, and is just a ton of fun all around. You’ve got poison breath and fire breath! What more do you need?

Okay, so, let’s talk about Steve. I cannot figure out for the life of me how to play him, and at this point, I just don’t even want to bother. You have to mine the stage for materials to make better weapons to fight with! That’s so ridiculous to me. don’t like Steve and I think he’s a poor addition to Smash. There, I said it.

You know who we really need in Smash, though? Doom Guy. That’s right, the most ruthless, brutal, demon-slaying bitch out there. He would absolutely rock the Smash world. Yes, I did get the idea put in my head from memes, but the memes were right! He does belong in it. And maybe Dr. Samuel Hayden, too, while we’re at it.

Anyways, yeah. I have a lot of characters I like, and a lot I don’t like. Some I love, and some I hate. But isn’t that how it goes with all video games ever?

If you play Smash Ultimate, tell me who your favorites are! Do you agree with my picks? Is there a Smash game you like more than Ultimate? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


The (LGBT) Numbers Are In

John Scalzi

Polling company Gallup reports that the number of Americans identifying as LGBT is up to an all-time high, at 5.6%, and that this identification is especially high amongst the younger generations. Most surprisingly to a lot of people, I think, has been the rise in the number of (declared) bisexuals, which you can see from the numbers above has shot up considerably in recent generations. Likewise the number of (declared) trans folk is way up in younger generations than it is in previous generations. But in every case, the number of folks who are out in each generation is growing.

This will no doubt freak out some extremely conservative “family values” folks — the recruiting is working! — but I think the reason for the rise is pretty obvious: The number of LGBT people across all generations is almost certainly constant, what’s changed is the level of open social acceptance that comes with being LGBT. There’s a huge inflection point in identifying as LGBT that starts with Millennials, who are the demographic group who came of age when same-sex marriage started becoming legal in the US; Gen Z is the first group becoming adults in an era where it is completely legal.

Millennials and Gen Z are also the demographic groups who regularly see positive and varied LGBT representation in common culture, with, I think, trans representation being especially changed in recent years. As a Gen X person, nearly all my pop culture trans people were people with something to hide, played for comedy or disgust. Millennials and Gen Z get to see trans people in a far wider range of roles and situations, and sympathetically. And that matters. When you see yourself, you can be yourself.

Not that we live now live in a perfect world for LGBT folks, of course, particularly for trans folks. Transphobia is the new conservative hotness these days; having lost all the other culture wars, this is where they’ve decided to plant their flag. As someone who knows and cares for trans folk, it’s exasperating (to use the mildest possible term for it) to see the conservative outrage machine revving up on them. But that’s American conservatism for you, isn’t it. The American conservative prayer is Jesus Christ, let me have someone punch down on. Trans people are who they’re punching down on today.

Also, seeing the increase in the number of people identifying as bisexual, the thought I immediately had was I bet that’s driven by women. Anecdotally, the number of women I personally know who identify as bisexual is far higher than the number of men who do so. The Gallup poll seems to bear out that anecdotal observation of mine: “Women are more likely to identify as bisexual — 4.3% do, with 1.3% identifying as lesbian and 1.3% as something else. Among men, 2.5% identify as gay, 1.8% as bisexual and 0.6% as something else.” I personally don’t suspect women are actually more bisexual than men; I think men think they lose “man points” for coming out as bisexual. Patriarchy! It’s a hell of a drug.

(Also, not appearing in this poll: Non-binary, genderfluid and ace folks, who, again anecdotally, I see far more openly represented in Millennials and Gen Z than I do in older generations. I’d be curious to see the numbers there and how they interact with the other components of the queer spectrum, in terms of identity.)

We have more work to do before everyone feels free to be who they are. But it’s still nice to see more people feeling they can be so. If you feel more able to be who you are today, then I’m happy for you. And if you don’t well, I hope I can be part of making the world be a place where you feel you can.

— JS

Adventures In Banoffee Making!

Athena ScalziI was thumbing through the pages of the newest Bon Appetit magazine, when I saw the most intriguing recipe. I stared in awe at the Chocolate-Biscoff Banoffee Pie and knew immediately I had to make it.

So, off to the store I went. I was shocked by how much of the recipe’s ingredients I already had at home. It’s a surprisingly easy ingredient list, though it looks long because it’s split into three sections: the crust, the ganache, and the pudding filling. But really the only thing I had to get from the store was the Biscoff cookies, heavy whipping cream, and a bar of semisweet chocolate. So nothing too unusual!

It was about one in the morning when I made this, so instead of using a food processor to grind up the Biscoff cookies, I just put them in a Ziploc bag and smushed the hell out of them. Then I poured the sugar and butter into the bag and just shook it all up and tossed it around until it was well combined!

Once I poured it out into the pie pan, I realized I maybe could’ve been a little more thorough in my cookie mashing, because I still had a lot of big pieces. Not a huge deal, though! Basically, I’d use a food processor if you can, but if you don’t have one or don’t feel like it, my method works just fine, too.

After I made the ganache and baked the crust, I poured the ganache on top and it came out looking like this:

A little rough around the edges, but tasty-looking enough!

So, that part of the recipe was super easy. Then came the pudding. I had never attempted to make homemade pudding before. I’ve never even made the Jell-O kind that you have to cook, I’ve always opted for the instant kind you just pour milk into and stir!

But, I thought I could do it. I believed in my culinary capability!

Turning the sugar into liquid caramel was easy enough. I took it off the heat and poured in the milk and cream, per the instructions, only for the liquid sugar to immediately harden into a rock. All that liquid just turned into a ball of rock sugar.

I figured that was not what was supposed to happen, and tried to think of how to fix it. I ended up just putting the pan immediately back onto the burner to re-melt the sugar, and that ended up working. After the sugar dissolved into the milk and cream, I just added the rest of the stuff and was happy I fixed my fuck up.

However, another fuck up shortly arose. After the cream mixture cooked and whatnot, I mixed the eggs and cornstarch and then attempted to temper the eggs by very slowly adding in the butterscotch. For a moment there, I thought I had done it correctly, but as you can see from this picture, there were tiny curds in the egg and butterscotch mixture:

I was worried, but continued to persevere! I followed the instructions and put it back on the heat to finish cooking. It said it would thicken up after five minutes, but it didn’t seem to change much at all in my opinion, but I chalked it up to, “eh, that’s probably good enough”, and then strained it. My lordy did that strainer catch a bunch of what was basically sweet scrambled eggs. I tried to smush everything down through the strainer with my rubber spatula but I kind of just ended up making a paste at the bottom of the strainer.

Okay, so maybe the pudding was a little bit… chunky. I was keeping my hopes high as I let it cool and poured it into the ganache layered crust. I told myself it would be all better after the six hour setting period.

Alas, after six hours, it was totally runny. I let it chill a couple more hours. Still completely liquid. Not only was it totally runny and didn’t set at all, but it was full of curds. YUCK.

So, I dumped the homemade pudding out of the crust and wiped everything off my beautiful ganache layer. I proceeded to fill the pie crust with Jell-O butterscotch instant pudding.

Now THAT’S some good pudding.

Honestly, thank the lord for Jell-O instant pudding. It’s so unbelievably easy and requires two ingredients, one of them being the fackin’ pudding packet. If you make this recipe, I encourage you to try the homemade version, but honestly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting for the Jell-O version.

After decorating with bananas and chocolate, per the recipe, it ending up looking a little something like this:

Maybe it doesn’t look quite as neat and pretty as the Bon Appetit version, but honestly, not bad, I think!

My dad and I promptly tried a piece, and both agreed it was super good! Also, extremely decadent and should be eaten in moderation. All in all, not a total fail! Well, maybe it was kind of a fail, but it was salvaged, at least.

When I fail at cooking, it cuts deep. It honestly hurts me on a level it probably shouldn’t. I want to be good at it. I want to make everything perfectly. To fail at something that they make look so easy is just… awful. When I fail at cooking, my immediate reaction is to just throw everything away, get rid of any evidence I even attempted to make something that turned out poorly.

I’m so glad I didn’t do that this time. There was still something good in the mess I created. This was fixable. I knew I couldn’t just throw away a crust made entirely out of Biscoff cookies!

So, yeah, I’m glad I made this, and I’m glad it’s good. It’s okay if my first attempt at pudding didn’t exactly pan out. At least Jell-O will always be there to catch me if I fall.

Before I go, I’m going to mention one quick thing. The recipe says the chocolate you use should be at least 64% cacao. So I got a bar of 70%. That shit was BITTER. If you like darker chocolate, like really dark, that’s fine, sure. But if you’re like me and want your chocolate sweet, do not use that high of a percent. The ganache part was okay, but the chocolate pieces on top were just wayyy too bitter. So maybe you could opt for dark chocolate for the ganache and milk chocolate for the garnish.

Are you a fellow lover of Biscoff cookies? Have you ever made homemade pudding? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


The Canonical Sequel FAQ

John Scalzi

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.


I have to write these sequels, they’ve already paid me money for them!

The Old Man’s War Series (Currently includes: Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Human Division, The End of All Things, plus short works The Sagan Diary and Questions For a Soldier): There will be at least one more book in this series. No current timeframe for its release.

The Lock In Series (Currently includes Lock In and Head On, with the novella Unlocked): There will be at least one more book in this series. No current timeframe for its release.

The Dispatcher Series (Currently includes the novellas The Dispatcher and Murder By Other Means): There will be at least one more novella in this series. No current timeframe for its release.


This doesn’t mean I will never write a sequel in these universes, because I am often persuadable by very large sums of money. It means that currently I am not under contract to write sequels in these universes and have no current plans to do so:

Agent to the Stars

The Android’s Dream (there is a short story in this universe called “Judge Sn Goes Golfing”)

The God Engines

Fuzzy Nation


The Interdependency Series (The Collapsing Empire, The Consuming Fire, The Last Emperox)

Literally anything else I’ve ever written, including short stories, anthologies, collections, non-fiction work, scripts, blog posts, reviews, essays, songs, tweets, etc.


I understand but I have other projects in development and/or no one has offered me very large sums of money for the title you want, including you and/or you’re not the boss of me, sorry.


No. Never ever tell it to me. For legal reasons, and also because I find that shit annoying. You can go write that idea as fan fiction if you like. Never ever show that fan fiction to me, either.


Sadly I do not have the literally millions upon millions of dollars required to make a movie/TV series/video game about my works. Some of my work is currently under option for film/TV/etc, others not. It’s not up to me to have my work optioned, outside of saying “yes” or “no” to the people who ask for those options. Additionally, short of (again) someone giving me very large sums of money, I am not likely at this point to give up my job as a novelist to do any other line of work.

There, we’re all caught up now!

— JS

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