The Big Idea: Scott James Taylor & Sarah Thérèse Pelletier

Some of the best stories are retellings of old ones. If something has been done before, that doesn’t mean you can’t also do it, you just have to put your own spin on it. This is exactly what authors Sarah Thérèse Pelletier and Scott James Taylor set out to do when writing Ladyhoppers. Explore their Big Idea with them as they tell you of their fresh take on multiverses in their new collaborative novel.


Multiverses are pretty hot right now, huh?

We swear, that’s not why Ladyhoppers is a multiverse story. It was, maybe, inevitable, given that the initial idea for Ladyhoppers, in a series of emails some seven years ago, sprang out of a shared love for the comic book style multiverse: the fun of getting to build our characters and then meet different versions of them, our own personal What If? Now that the movies based on those comic books have started making “multiverse” a household word, it maybe looks like trend-following.

Which can feel a little concerning.

But it also plays right into the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers

So forget concerning. It’s kismet. 

Multiverses, after all, are about variation. They’re self-reflexive stories that change and compare and contrast within themselves, and that’s explicitly what we set out to do with the book. 

Or that’s where it ended up, at least. In all fairness it started out with that idea: “let’s riff on the genres we like.” A multiverse story lets you put a bunch of genres all in one book, along with a built-in framework of an outside observer to comment on said genres, which is great if you’re not doing the lazy version of metacommentary, where a character just says, “This is how your world works? Weird, lol.” 

Like a parody—Ladyhoppers isn’t a parody, but it’s not not a parody—you have to come from a place of love. But you also have to do more than press the recognition switch in people’s brains. Every genre the protagonists visit is one we’re into; the trick is shining a light onto it. What can that specific genre do for the story? How can it explore or deepen the theme? Which then begs that old English class staple: what is the theme?

Initially, the theme of Ladyhoppers was that the people who aren’t written into history (or, in our case, story) are as important as those who are.

(There’s that old, misinterpreted saying: “well behaved women seldom make history.” People bring it up to say, “misbehave,” when it was originally about the fact that even though well-behaved women make plenty of extremely valuable and vital contributions, people don’t put them in the history books because there’s less story there.)

(Please note that we are not saying do not misbehave. Ladyhoppers is about both, and probably mostly the latter, honestly.)

That initial theme is still in the DNA of our protagonist Charlie’s story, but as we wrote and rewrote, something broader developed. Telling new versions of old stories is how stories live. There are no new ideas under the sun, but personal context, how an idea lives in your head, can make even the oldest, most worn ideas worth re-exploring. 

But how to decide which contexts to explore first? Putting a bunch of ideas down is easy. Working out structure is harder, particularly when creating a multiverse that’s not adapting preexisting billion-dollar IP and was conceived in a pre-Everything Everywhere All At Once world. No one’s heard of Charlie Chase or Vera Baum yet, and the problem becomes how to make a reader care about variations of characters and worlds they don’t know. Which is why the story starts in a world that’s not unlike our own, albeit in an eighties throwback kind of way, before we toss the characters into an apocalyptic wasteland to establish the stakes. Next comes a fantasy universe to drive home how strange and outside of the characters’ understanding of what the world is and how it works they are. And then… well, the rest would be telling. The genres we ended up with pull double-duty, working as vehicles for both theme and plot.

Speaking of plot, an unexpected issue of writing a 300-plus-page genre-hopping multiverse novel is that it doesn’t have the benefit of being episodic television. In early drafts, there was a swathe of the book where they just moved from universe to universe because that was the thing that was happening. The villain shows up fairly late. Figuring out how to keep the pressure up while still having time to play with and investigate the genres was challenging. Sometimes solving one problem introduced another: to establish one of the foes as a persistent threat, it needed to follow them into another universe, so a whole chapter and a Fast and the Furious pastiche got added in which to do that. As a result, that chapter has less room to investigate itself. It’s a fun chapter! It works for the story! But you can’t help but think about how to edit yourself, even as you’re writing a blog post about the book set to go live around its publication day.

(Maybe the fact that the Fast and the Furious inspired universe is the one that does not reflect on itself is itself a reflection on the Fast and the Furious? Let’s say that.)

But what we didn’t remove is as important as what we added. In the fantasy universe, there’s what could have been a classic Kill Your Darlings moment: we meet a girl who has magically turned her friend into a horse. The scene doesn’t actually connect to the broader plot. It could come out, and the characters would still learn everything they need to learn and grow in the ways they need to grow. But it’s there to establish that these stories and worlds exist beyond our heroes. It’s great that it never ended up on the chopping block despite being flagged for it as early as the first draft.

Because that’s the Big Idea of Ladyhoppers. Every version of a story should get its chance to be told; telling new versions of stories is how stories not only survive but grow, adapt. You don’t kill the old ones, but you don’t kill the new ones, either, the ones with new protagonists or modern takes, or that take new protagonists and put them in older contexts, or vice versa. 

Multiverses are hot right now because everyone loves a new version of an old thing. Sometimes that’s bad, especially when the new version is mandated to be exactly like the old thing, in which case… why do it at all? But hopefully this one’s good. We like it.

Ladyhoppers: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Sarah’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

Scott’s socials: Twitter|Instagram

Various and Sundry 8/7/23

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend; here’s what’s on my mind today:

William Friedkin, RIP: He was the director of a number of significant films, The French Connection among them, which won Best Picture and nabbed Friedkin a Best Director Oscar in the bargain, but the film of his that has proven to have the longest staying power is The Exorcist, the horror film that rewrote the rulebook on cinematic horror so completely that it’s still spawning sequels 50 years later (The Exorcist: Believer is coming out later this year, with Ellen Burstyn, the original’s lead, in a supporting role), admittedly to much lesser effect, but even so. The Exorcist is on my own personal list of “Greatest Films of All Time” and certainly one of the great films of the 70s. If you’re going to have one film as your calling card, you could do much worse than the single most iconic horror film of all time.

When I was a film critic I got a chance to interview Friedkin for the film Rampage, which was shot in 1987, but for various reasons didn’t come out until several years later. I remember him being a really interesting interview, and even this most minor of his films had some genuinely excellent moments. He had a bit of a resurgence in the 2000s with some smaller-scale films, Bug and Killer Joe most notably, and as a cinema person I was glad about that; it’s good to see artists still making relevant work decades into their professional lives. Hollywood is notoriously difficult about second acts, and he managed to get one.

Ron DeSantis Finally Says Something I Agree With: Specifically, that “of course” Trump lost the 2020 election. Now, let’s be clear that the only reason DeSantis is saying this out loud at all is because Trump is crushing him in the 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate polling, and DeSantis needs something, anything, to poke at the Great Orange One. Also, DeSantis is a real piece of bigoted shit. But for all that, stopped clock, etc. And perhaps the second-best-polling presidential candidate clear saying out loud what everyone else actually knows is true, in defiance of the GOP Reality Distortion field, might actually do some good. I mean, probably not, who are we kidding here, but let us live in hope, if only for a stolen moment.

Trump Having Another Bad Day in Court: His countersuit against E. Jean Carroll has been tossed, you know, the one where he claimed she defamed him by saying he raped her. This led to, among other things, the judge clarifying that, irrespective of the details of New York state law, what Trump did to Carroll would generally be considered rape “in common parlance, [and is] its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes, and elsewhere.” Basically the Judge wasn’t going to let Trump use the courts to harass Carroll on a technicality, and good for him.

Meanwhile, Trump has been busy on social media trying to get a venue change for his DC trial, or at least get the judge to recuse herself, because of reasons that I’m sure don’t have to with racism or sexism or the fact that Trump is shitting himself over the fact that at least one judge he’s going to be in front of in his various trials isn’t grovelingly deferential to his nonsense to the point of needing to be slapped down by the circuit court above her for terrible legal reasoning. Also, he appears not to have conferred with his latest lawyer about this tactic, which, come on, is not terribly surprising, now, is it.

Billionaire Barbie: Much to the pain and confusion of professional incel Ben Shapiro, who predicted the movie would flop miserably after its first weekend, mostly because he wanted it to flop sooooooo much, y’alll, stomp stomp stompy stomp stomp, the Barbie move has now grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it the #2 movie of 2023, both globally and domestically, behind only The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Given that Mario has pretty much ended its theatrical run, it’s possible Barbie could close the (admittedly pretty hefty) $320 million gap between the two films and overtake Mario before her run is over. Regardless, $1B+ globally is nothing to shake your head at, unless you are, in fact, Shapiro or one of his whiny contingent. Let ’em stew!

US Women’s Soccer Out At the World Cup: Much is being made of the usually-dominant US team washing out in the Round of Sixteen stage of the World Cup, especially as they were previously the back-to-back champions, but my own (admittedly less than fully-versed) take about it is: Eh, it happens. My understanding is this year’s edition of the team has a number of new players on it getting their legs, as it were, and in general the state of the competition from other countries is higher, and ultimately, you can’t win them all, even if you are clearly expected to. Disappointment? Possibly, given the team’s previous successes. But, life is like that, sometimes. I suspect they will be back. 2027 is not that far away.

— JS

The Big Idea: Michael A. Burstein

For writer and editor Michael A. Burstein, an encounter with an anthology in his youth changed with way he looked at science fiction and its possibilities. Now, with his own anthology Jewish Futures, Burstein looks to that personal past to inform this collection of stories about what comes next.


For me, it all started with a book called Wandering Stars, edited by Jack Dann.  

When Jack published that book in 1974 it was, as far as I know, the first collection ever of Jewish science fiction and fantasy stories. I was a kid, but I was already a big reader of science fiction and fantasy. I was also (and still am) Jewish, but at the time the book came out, I still wasn’t aware that my religion and cultural background made me a minority in the world.  

There had been Jewish-themed science fiction stories before, of course, but until Wandering Stars came out, it wasn’t necessarily seen as a “thing.” Today, it’s acknowledged as more of a thing, as evidenced by Valerie Estelle Frankel’s webpage and series on Jewish science fiction and Steven H Silver’s list of Jewish science fiction and fantasy. But back in 1974, it was still seen as a new idea and not yet something that had tradition behind it.  

Wandering Stars and its 1981 follow-up, More Wandering Stars, were collections of both original and reprint stories, but to me, all the stories were pretty much original, as I had not come across any of them before. I was enthralled by the books, but particularly taken by the stories from WIlliam Tenn, Isaac Asimov, George Alec Effinger, and Harlan Ellison. Two of those were humorous and two were serious, and all four showed me a different way to look at Judaism.  

They also showed me that it was possible to write a story that could be considered both Jewish fiction and science fiction.  

Over the many years I’ve been writing and publishing stories, I’ve written the occasional Jewish science fiction story. Probably my most well-known one is “Kaddish for the Last Survivor” (Analog, November 2000), a story about the last Holocaust survivor passing away, and what happens to his family. I’ve also written stories such as “The Great Miracle” (Analog, December 2001), a retelling of the Hanukkah story with spaceships, and “Reality Check” (Analog, November 1999), a story with a deliberately Modern Orthodox Jewish protagonist.  

But I wanted to see more than scattered Jewish stories in the world of science fiction. I decided that the time had come for a new anthology of Jewish science fiction stories. And yes, there have been other Jewish science fiction anthologies over the years, including titles such as People of the Book, Jews vs. Aliens, Jews vs. Zombies, Zion’s Fiction, and More Zion’s Fiction. As recently as last year, Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum published Other Covenants, a collection of Jewish alternate history. But it seemed to me that I could craft something different.  

I wanted to edit a book that was more open-ended, a collection of original Jewish science fiction stories that would allow the writers to speculate from today’s world on what the future of the Jewish people might be like.  

I managed to convince a few authors I knew to contribute stories to help us promote the book as we funded it over Kickstarter. We then opened up the book to submissions, and I found two very different stories on a similar theme to add to the book: the last Jewish person on Earth. The book opens with “Shema” by Samantha Katz and closes with “The Last Chosen” by Jordan King-Lacroix, and I was gobsmacked to discover that Katz is a high school student and that this story is her first professional sale.  

Jewish science fiction tends to range from serious looks at what might happen to the Jewish people to humorous stories that are often “inside baseball” in their telling. But two themes that seem prevalent in much of Jewish science fiction, and much of what is in the book Jewish Futures, are defiance and hope. Defiance against those who would try to create a future without Jews, and the hope that we will always be around.  

I am delighted that Jewish Futures is coming out today, and I am even more delighted that Jack Dann, the writer and editor who gave me the idea 49 years ago, has written an introduction. Jewish Futures is very much the spiritual descendent of Wandering Stars and More Wandering Stars, the books Jack edited when I was still an aspiring writer and editor. I hope the readers who remember those books as fondly as I do, and those who are new to the idea of Jewish science fiction, will enjoy Jewish Futures.    

Jewish Futures: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s|Brookline Booksmith  

Editor Socials: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Instagram|Bluesky|Threads

Win An ARC Of Starter Villain, Part II: The Winnening!

Oh no! Spice the cat is being menaced by an advance reading copy of Starter Villain! Who will come to her rescue? Why, you, of course — by entering this contest to win this ARC, and thus sending it away from Spice, and off to your home. What mischief will it get up to in your house? Not my problem! The point is, it’ll be away.

How can you win this copy? Simple: I have had Krissy think of a number between 1 and 1000 (inclusive). Guess the correct number in the comment thread here, and the ARC is yours.

Now, as ever: The rules!

1. Only one guess per person. Additional guesses, whether in the same comment or in subsequent comments, will be disqualified. Also, comments for this thread are only for numerical guesses; every other sort of comment will be removed. Only guesses in the comment thread for this post will be considered.

2. When you leave your comment, put an email in the comment form that I will be able to contact you at (in the part of the form that says “email,” not in the body of the comment itself, unless you want everyone to see your email address). If you don’t leave a viable email, I won’t be able to contact you to get a shipping address.

3. If more than one person correctly guesses the number, I will ask Alexa or Google Assistant to randomly pick a number in the field of how many people correctly guessed, and then go chronologically among the guessers until I hit that number. That person will win the ARC.

4. If no one correctly guesses the number, then I will pick the next closest number up from the correct number as the winner. If there are multiple people who have guessed that number, I’ll proceed per point three above.

5. This is open to anyone worldwide; yes, I’ll pay shipping for whatever country you’re in (note: If you’re in Russia at the moment I can’t guarantee arrival; I’m guessing shipping to there is weird and may not even be possible).

6. If you like I will sign and/or personalize the ARC.

7. Contest is open for the 48 hours after I publish this post, after which time the comment thread will automatically close. If you miss that window, sorry!

8. I’ll announce the winner after I’ve contacted them via email about their shipping address. So, probably early next week.

There it is! Now, save Spice! Hurry!

— JS

A Review Of “Oppenheimer”

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

As someone who doesn’t know much about science, had never heard the name Oppenheimer before, and has nightmares about nukes frequently, Oppenheimer might not really seem like a movie I would watch. Honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve watched it if it wasn’t for the whole “Barbenheimer” event, and the fact that it’s a Christopher Nolan movie helped a little, as well.

I have developed a new habit recently of trying to avoid seeing or hearing anything about movies before I go see them, trailers included. So I went into Oppenheimer not knowing anything about it except it was roughly about nukes. Sounded interesting enough, I suppose.

Now is the time for the SPOILER WARNING! Alright, let’s get into it.

Oppenheimer ended up being pretty different than I thought it would be. I expected a war movie, a decent amount of action, and the nuclear bombs being dropped as sort of the climax. What I got instead was a political film that showcased the life of the man behind the bomb. In fact, the bombs being utilized wasn’t even shown, but the effect of them on the political climate of the world and on Oppenheimer’s conscience most certainly was.

It was hard to follow at times, especially the first forty-five minutes or so. The beginning was artsy in a way that I found hard to grasp, but became more straightforward as the movie progressed. I’m not the best at following political jargon, and I don’t know anything about physics, so I felt a little lost at times. Another big problem for me understanding what exactly was going on was the fact that the movie switches between being in color and being in black and white. I had a hard time understanding why they chose to do it this way.

The movie did a decent job of making the average person understand more or less what the problems with the science were, and when they made progress on the science. You could understand their sense of achievement or their frustrations, even if you didn’t exactly understand the words that came along with it. Things went right, or things went wrong, that much was clear, at least. And when they did attempt to explain things like fission or fusion, it didn’t feel completely overwhelming, the information felt digestible.

The non-linear storytelling was kind of hard to follow, as they jumped around Oppenheimer’s life frequently, cutting from past to present and then to other parts of the past. It was a big jumble. I’m also not the biggest fan of non-linear storytelling in general, because I get lost pretty easily. They also replayed certain scenes, I guess to put emphasis on them, but still kind of confusing.

For the majority of the movie, I flipped between “I don’t really get what’s happening” to “oh, okay I think I get it now”. Rinse and repeat. I was lost, I felt like I figured it out, and then I was lost again. Not like, painfully lost, but at least a little annoyingly so.

One interesting thing about this movie is that they don’t necessarily paint Oppenheimer in a positive or negative light. He is a man with flaws and issues in his personal life. He feels very human. The movie does nothing to showcase him as a hero or as a villain, just as a person that did something that made him extremely famous. Whether that fame is good or bad is to be decided.

Much is the same with the discussion of the bomb regarding the war. As it is in real life, the big question of “should the power to destroy the world be in our hands” is prevalent throughout. At what point does a scientific venture become something that could doom us all?

Aside from the content of the film, it’s a star-studded cast, with great performances from Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Rami Malik, Jack Quaid, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, and Robert Downey Jr. With a cast like that, you can be rest assured this movie does not pass the Bechdel test! Jokes aside, everyone played their characters quite well.

It’s a very interesting movie, but it definitely wasn’t my typical pick for films. I don’t regret spending the money nor the three hours on it, but I also don’t have a huge interest in re-watching it any time soon. There are some movies that don’t really feel as long as they are (such as The Revenant), but I think I really felt all 180 minutes of this one (I also felt all four hours of the Justice League Snyder Cut).

This movie was less about the bombs themselves, and more about the people that built them, the government and military’s hand in it all, and the repercussions of unleashing such a power into the world. It’s about the ability we have to annihilate others, and how we feel when that power could be in someone else’s hands.

Overall, I thought it was good. It’s definitely worth a watch, if you’ve got three hours.

Have you seen Oppenheimer? Did you do a double feature with Barbie? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


The Big Idea: Howard Andrew Jones

History is often an inspiration for fantasy, but as Howard Andrew Jones explains in this Big Idea for Lord of a Shattered Land, how that inspiration hits can be a surprise, even for the author himself.


It seemed like such an obvious what-if question I couldn’t believe no one had written about it yet. And for a long time I thought my answer to that question was my big idea. It turned out simply to be the gateway to the real one. Let me explain.

Famous generals are sometimes associated with the defense of territory, but their renown is usually about conquest. The summary of Hannibal of Carthage’s activities in intro level history class makes him seem like all the other commanders out for land. After all, he invaded Italy with an army, famously via an alpine pass with a contingent of elephants.

The truth is a little more complicated. Hannibal meant to defeat the Romans but had no illusions about transforming Italy into a Carthaginian colony. He expected other regions of the peninsula to rise against their oppressors and join him in a confederation that would break Roman power. He foresaw that if he did not act, Rome would one day bring an end to his people.

He came close, but not close enough, to stopping Rome, and his fears were realized some fifty years after his death, for Rome famously razed his city and sold its few survivors into slavery. The Third Punic War wasn’t so much a war as an extermination, and Cato the Elder’s exhortation at the end of every one of his senate speeches, regardless of subject, that “furthermore, Carthage must be destroyed” is one of the earliest calls for genocide in recorded history.

I got to wondering what might have happened if Rome had come for Carthage during Hannibal’s lifetime. What might he have done? He was absurdly brilliant, not just one of the greatest generals of all time but the master of at least a dozen languages, a scholar, even a statesman, who, once elected into power after the war, reformed his government so that its senators no longer had lifetime rule but had to be elected annually. He possessed a Sherlock Holmes level intellect without the crotchety personal attributes, for he seems to have been beloved by his followers.

To free myself up a bit I decided against working on this idea via the alternate history genre. Writing in a secondary fantasy world would allow me to play fast and loose with the geography and events and add in gladiators and emperors and praetorians, as I knew people would want. And then, of course, in a secondary world I could have sorcery that actually worked, and monsters, and make some other changes besides. But the character of Hanuvar remains pretty much as I’ve grown to picture Hannibal over the years, bolstered by my study of brave figures who gave their all for their people.

Like Audie Murphy. In just one of the true but impossible-to-believe incidents from Murphy’s life, he ordered his troops to fall back when their position was overrun by German soldiers, then held off the attack from a machine gun mounted on a burning tank destroyer. When even more German soldiers swarmed forward he called in an air strike on his own position. He somehow survived, and was asked by a reporter why he’d taken such extraordinary risks. With touching sincerity Murphy replied that he had to because they were coming to kill his friends.

In a previous Big Idea column I wrote about my fascination with heroes, and how I wished we heard more about them. Heroism can supersede our cultural wars because it isn’t about defending a narrow set of beliefs dictated by a few who want to stay in power. It isn’t defined by ideology, but by the selflessness of those who protect others. 

Once I started writing this book, I understood that while my what-if question had seemed like the core concept, the real big idea behind it is selflessness. Hanuvar, its central character, isn’t motivated by revenge or greed or lust. He’s not a young man thrust reluctantly into adventure, struggling to understand his powers and shielding himself with snark. He’s seasoned and experienced and doesn’t need to find himself. For him, the only thing that matters are his people. 

When the Dervan Empire came for them, the people of Volanus fought block by block, house by house, until most fell with their swords in hand. Only a thousand or so survived to be led away in chains.

The city’s treasuries were looted, its temples defiled, and then, to sate their emperor’s thirst for vengeance, the empire’s mages cursed Volanus and sowed its fields with salt. In their lust for destruction they overlooked only one detail: Hanuvar, the greatest Volani general, had escaped alive. Against the might of a vast empire he has only an aging sword arm, a lifetime of wisdom… and the greatest military mind in the world, set upon a single goal. No matter where they’ve been sent, from the festering capital to the furthest outpost of the empire, Hanuvar will find his people. Every last one of them. And he will set them free.

Lord of a Shattered Land: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Author’s socials: Website|Twitter|Facebook

Various and Sundry, 8/2/23

Welcome to Wednesday. Here are some things I’m thinking about today.

The Absolutely Unsurprising Freak-Out Of The Right at the New Trump Indictments: Jack Smith, knowing what was coming, clearly delineated between Donald Trump lying out of his ass about having won the last election, which was his right as an American under the First Amendment, and actively trying to change the result of the election after he lost, which, to put it charitably and patiently, was not his right, under any part of the US Constitution, or any other part of it laws of governance. This, however, has not stopped (most) of the right in the US from desperately trying to pretend there is no difference, and otherwise trying to obfuscate the issues under consideration here.

Ken White, aka Popehat, a lawyer with a not inconsiderable knowledge of the issues at hand, takes the National Review to task for just such obfuscation, in an article entitled People Are Lying To You About The Trump Indictment, which, naturally, I encourage you to read. On one hand, it is not at all surprising the right is lying out its ass about the indictments; when you’ve yoked yourself to a conman, your options are to help perpetrate the con, or to admit you’ve been conned all this time, and no one likes to publicly admit they’ve been conned. On the other hand, fuck these guys, they all know it’s a lie, and we all deserve better.

But also, they don’t want the con to stop. The right wing machine has spent a whole lot of time cultivating a class of mostly old, mostly white, mostly scared people, and there’s still cash to be bilked out of them; Trump hardly waited for the indictments to come out before sending out solicitations. Scaring old white people is where the money is; if that means lying to them, well, eggs and omelets.

X Now Letting Suckers Subscribers Hide Their Checks: It’s hardly an endorsement of your business model when the icon that you previously touted as an exclusive sign of membership has become so generally derided that you have to give people the option to remove it from their profiles. But here we are! Bear in mind that prior to the Musk takeover of the former Twitter I had both a blue check and a Twitter Blue subscription, but one was not associated with the other. I opined a while back that I might have kept the Blue subscription if the blue checks had been kept independent of the subscription (being able to edit tweets was nice). So one might think this new development could be seen as a step in the right direction. But there’s a difference between having the check and the subscription be two different things, and simply having the option of hiding the check to avoid mockery. And anyway, if you hide your check but still have a 10,000 character rant as a post, you’ve given yourself away.

AMPTP and WGA Going Back To Bargaining Table This Friday: Well, good. I think it would be precipitate to get too excited about this development, but inasmuch as the previous stated plan by the AMPTP was to try to starve the writers to the point of homelessness, any possible forward movement is good news. I’m mildly surprised the studios are talking to the writers before the actors, who are also on strike, as the actors are the bigger union and have the potential to cause more pain overall. But, again: better than nothing, let’s see where it goes.

Scamperbeasts on Instagram: You may recall that my cats have an account on the former Twitter, but now that I’m ramping down my participation there, I’ll likely cut back my updating on that account as well. Fortunately for those of you who can’t live without my cats, there’s a second option: The Scamperbeasts are now on Instagram as well, and for the short term at least I’m making the effort to update there daily in order to bump up the number of total posts. So go there for your cat-based social media posts. Also, don’t worry, the cats will still show up here on a regular basis. In fact, here’s Spice now:

She’s clearly thrilled to be photographed.

Speaking of photographs: You may have noticed that I’ve updated the author photos here for me and Athena. The previous ones were more than a year old and, in my case at least, a bit dour. The new ones are friendlier and also in color, for a change of pace. This month also marks Athena’s third(!) anniversary as an official contributor, so I thought switching out the pictures at the change of the month made sense. I’m not expecting to make any more major changes to the look and feel of the site at the moment, in part because those are a real pain in the butt to do, but you may see tweaks around the edges. We’ll see! In the meantime, enjoy these updated versions of us looking back at you.

— JS

The Really Big Indictments Have Arrived

With all due respect to the indictments from New York and Florida, which are serious enough in themselves, and particularly in the latter case could end up with Trump doing some time in the Stony Lonesome, today’s indictments get to the heart of the matter for Trump: He (allegedly) perpetrated, in the words of Special Prosecutor Jack Smith “an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy… fueled by lies.”

The full indictment (which, yes, I read), is pretty clear that Trump knew that he had lost the election, in no small part because he was informed about it, both on the state and federal level, by people who understood the processes, and was told over and over again. Then he lied about it anyway and plotted to have the election overturned, mostly (and this is my opinion here, and is not presented in the indictment), because Trump is a pathetic ambulatory tantrum who would rather destroy the Republic than admit that he’s a loser. That’s because he never actually cared about the Republic at all. This was only ever about him, and still is.

This isn’t the last of the possible indictments against Trump; there’s still Georgia to go, and given how Georgia is a salient component of this indictment, it seems unlikely to me that he won’t be indicted there as well. Trump will likely have two sets of state indictments and two sets of federal indictments to deal with, and likely four — count them! Four! — trials to defend himself at while he’s also running for president, because at this point he’s the prohibitive runner, the GOP primary voters having convinced themselves that (at this point) three separate indictments handed down by three separate grand juries in three separate jurisdictions are somehow just political theater. Bless their hearts. I will happily grant that in the case of the DC indictments today, they are political — when you try to fraudulently attempt to install yourself into the presidency for a second term, that’s very much a political act.

It’s also an act that should not be ignored, because that will set a bad precedent; the idea that you can try to fraudulently install yourself as president is not one we should tolerate from anyone, even a then-current sitting president, who, remember, absolutely lost the election, both in the popular and electoral vote. I look forward to Trump having his day in court and trying to talk his way out of this one (fun fact: He won’t talk his way out of it, and probably won’t talk at all, the chances of him pleading the Fifth are extraordinarily high). I also look forward to him having his day in court at least two and most probably three more times after that.

What will be especially interesting is how the GOP Reality Denial Shield will stand up to four trials. I have some thoughts about that, but I’m gonna hold them for now. Regardless, 2024 certainly will be an interesting presidential election, now even more than it would have been otherwise.

— JS

A Spoiler Free Review Of “Barbie”

Barbie was a movie that I saw a lot of marketing for, but despite all its marketing, I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about. I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see it opening night, but I figured it would at least be a light, fun, colorful, and decently entertaining time. What it ended up being was so much more than I expected, or could’ve even hoped for.

Barbie blew me away with its humor. Where I had been expecting cringey millennial type humor, there was actually really clever, genuinely funny jokes. There was a ton of adult humor, but it didn’t feel crass or raunchy at all. The humor was well-crafted and wasn’t afraid to be eccentric and bizarre, like having the Kens have a super sick synchronized dance number. A lot of the humor also had some pretty great messaging with it, and presented a satirical look at a lot of current issues that our society faces.

Aside from the humor, the writing in general was really solid. I expected a Barbie movie to be half-assed with its story because it doesn’t really need to try to make money, people will see Barbie just for the sake of it being Barbie, but it delivered with a pretty dang good plot and enjoyable story. I won’t get too into it because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say it exceeded my expectations in this department, undoubtedly.

I simply adore everything about the setting, as well as the costumes. The set designs, along with all the outfits, were a treat to look at. Everything was so vibrant and colorful and it looked like a truly amazing world to live in. Every outfit that everyone wore was totally banger and made me want to makeover my wardrobe to look like theirs. Even some of the more outlandish outfits were an absolute slay.

Each character was really enjoyable in their own ways, and the cast was pretty spectacular in their performances, especially Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken. They were so fun to watch and really brought their characters to life in the most charming way possible. Simu Liu was pretty dang great, too, and of course you have to love Michael Cera as Alan (he’s Ken’s buddy!). Even the side characters are really cool and fun! Everyone did so awesomely in this movie, it was a really great cast all around.

What was really wild, though, was how emotional this movie was. It had some truly heartfelt moments that were super impactful and made you get deep in your feels. There was a lot of emotions to be felt throughout, and it will certainly leave a lasting impression on you that you will stick with you after you leave the theater.

Honestly, Barbie was a fantastic movie, and I had a really great time watching it. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Have you seen Barbie? What did you think? Are you now obsessed with the color pink, like me? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


The Big Idea: Jacqueline Carey

Author Jacqueline Carey is no stranger to the sort of fandom that thrives on fringes, but in this Big idea for her latest novel, Cassiel’s Servant, Carey explains how that fame and fandom exists for reasons that many might not expect.


Kushiel’s Legacy is a cult fan favorite.

It must be true, because that’s what my new marketing materials say. No one asked me, but it’s not the sort of thing one can assert on one’s own. It’s like a nickname. No one gets to decide their own nickname. It just doesn’t work that way. Personal name, yes. Nickname, no. It is bestowed upon you by others, out of affection or spite. 

As cult status has been bestowed upon me. 

In some ways, it’s not a surprise. When I was young, my mother was afraid some charismatic band of sociopathic seekers would recruit me. Decades later, I asked her if she was still afraid I’d join a cult. She looked at me sidelong and said, “No, honey. I’m more afraid you’d start one now.”

I mean, it’s not like I bought a church

The truth is that it has very little to do with me, and everything to do with the world I created. One fan told me she bought Kushiel’s Dart  because she could tell from the cover that it was “the right kind of wrong.” Finding work by an artist that feels like it was made just for you is an exhilarating experience, and Kushiel’s Legacy hits a lot of beats. Kinky, but feminist! Epic fantasy, but alternate history! Tattoos! Slow burn romance! Cool fight choreography! Subversive theology! Big battle scenes! Lyrical prose for readers who love words like ‘ormulu’ and ‘incarnadine!’ It’s the right kind of wrong in all kinds of ways. A cult favorite is a secret handshake saying, “You are not alone.” It’s a doorway to a place that feels like home. 

In my formative years, midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was the cult jam for all the queer kids, the theater geeks and band nerds, the stoners, the New Wave fans trapped in the land of rock gods and hair bands. It was absurd and terrible, but it was ours. In its own way, it mainstreamed gay sex. We had never seen anything like it. It served us camp sensibility, and we ate it up.

Art critic Robert Hughes coined the phrase “the shock of the new” to describe modern art, and I think it’s an apt one for many works that develop a cult following. There’s a visceral thrill to encountering something totally new and unexpected. When that’s combined with a sense of homecoming, it’s some powerful magic. 

One might suppose the ‘shock of the new’ in this instance refers to the fact that my heroine Phèdre is a god-touched masochistic prostitute. That’s enough right there to explain the whole cult status thing. But to my mind the secret weapon in that premise is ‘god-touched.’ In Terre d’Ange, sex is a sacrament. It may be sensuous, violent, meditative, healing, but between consenting adults, it is holy.

That’s the radical part. 

I don’t know how many patrons or sexual encounters Phèdre has in Kushiel’s Dart. At least a dozen, with the implication of more. She’s betrayed into captivity and sexual slavery. Her collected experience reflects the richness and diversity of human sexuality—and it represents the disturbing underbelly, too. Her light shines in some very dark places.

In a very different way, Joscelin’s journey reflects hers.

And I know exactly how many sexual encounters Joscelin has in Cassiel’s Servant. Spoiler alert: Not many. He’s sworn to celibacy. He’s a true believer. What Phèdre endures nearly destroys him. If he’s going to break that vow, he will do it with all the reverence of a priest tearing out his own heart and laying it on the altar.  

I see two decades of love for this series in the array of fan tattoos that have crossed my path—the marque or a version of it; a reclamation of self, a declaration of emancipation. In the quotes, from the elemental simplicity of Blessed Elua’s precept of “Love As Thou Wilt” to the paean to resilience of “That which yields is not always weak.” 

I hear the stories behind the tattoos. Those I keep locked away in the safe place where artists keep special precious things. 

And I stand by this Big Idea: It wasn’t the sex that cemented Kushiel’s Legacy cult status. It was the sanctity. 

Cassiel’s Servant: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Author’s socials: Website|Instagram|Twitter|Facebook

Various and Sundry, 7/31/23

John Scalzi

Some thoughts on things on this last day of July, 2023:

RIP, Paul Reubens: Better known to at least a couple of generations of Americans as Pee-wee Herman, Reubens had apparently been contending with cancer over the last several years. In his final statement on his Facebook page, Reuben apologized for not going public with his cancer diagnosis and treatment, which was kind of him but I think also unnecessary. We all deal with our lives as we will, and his choice to keep his cancer private was what he needed to do for himself. Personally, when I think of Reubens, I think not only of his own talents but the fact that he was a springboard for other talents as well: Pee-wee’s Playhouse was the first place most people heard or saw of people like Phil Hartman and Laurence Fishburne, and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was the directorial debut of Tim Burton and the film score debut of Danny Elfman. That’s a pretty nifty peer group to share a spotlight with.

X Threatens to Sue Non-Profit For Noting X Is Hate-Filled as Fuck: Because apparently it’s cheaper to threaten to sue people reporting on your trash-filled site than it is to take out said trash. This is not an entirely surprising move by Elon Musk, who likes to threaten people with legal suits on the regular, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not a crappy act by a lousy person. Speaking of lousy people, X is also letting Kayne West back onto the site; apparently West has promised not to post anymore antisemitic bullshit. This is where we all start a betting pool to see how long that lasts. Speaking of trash:

Trump Thwarted in Georgia: Seems that you can’t have a criminal investigation of your attempt to interfere with the election tossed just because it hurts your precious fee-fees, even if you are a former president. Which likely means that there will be indictments coming from that state in relatively short order. Which, well: Good. Mind you, the vast majority of Republican primary voters don’t care and Trump is still the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination for president in 2024. Bless their hearts. Apparently a majority of Republican primary voters also think Trump is “fun,” which is a hell of thing. He’s about as much fun as a rash.

Issue 1 in Ohio Has Polling Parity: Issue 1 being the transparent attempt by the Ohio GOP to keep Ohio voters from amending the state constitution to keep abortion safe and legal in the state, as it is entirely likely they will do if Issue 1 does not pass. More formally it changes how citizen initiatives are done in the state. As an Ohioan I will note that the people who are for Issue 1, who thought they would pass it in a walk because they scheduled it for a time when people never bother to vote, are now panicking about it; the signs I see for Yes also have things like “Protect the 2nd Amendment,” which Issue 1 will absolutely do nothing for or against (The 2nd Amendment is in the US Constitution, not the Ohio one), or “Preserve our Constitution,” which is an outright lie, since Issue 1 specifically make changes to a constitutional process unchanged for more than a century.

I don’t mind them panicking, but I also want to remind Ohioans to remember to vote on Issue 1 on or before August 8, which is coming up a lot sooner than you might think.

— JS

The Big Idea: J.D. Blackrose

There are things in the world we wish we had the power to change, but as J.D. Blackrose explains in this Big Idea for Wish Magic, wishing for that power, and having it, are two different things entirely.


What’s it like to be powerless when you’re used to being in control? And how far would you go to get that power back?

This is central question that faces Gregory Adamos, a sorta, maybe reforming mobster, in Wish Magic, the fifth installment in The Summoner’s Mark series, published by Bell Bridge Books. Gregory is a plain old vanilla mortal in a magical world. Not only that, but he’s one of the few mortals who not only knows about magic but has travelled to Hades and to Hell—and lived to tell the tale. He even has a troll enforcer who’s not above knocking a few heads together if Gregory gives him the nod, which means he’s hiring and working with the fae.

Being in control is a central personality trait for Gregory. His childhood wasn’t the best. He suffered abuse at the hands of his mother and neglect from his father. He grew up believing he had to be the toughest hombre in town to avoid being hurt.

So imagine what it is like for him in this book. In the novella that precedes it, Samhain’s Bargain, Gregory is targeted by none other than Lucifer himself. He almost falls prey to the Devil’s shenanigans, and it is only through the help of our intrepid main character, Becs, and other magical community members, that he survives. And he resents the bejeezus out of it.

In Wish Magic, he’s decided to get magic of his own by securing a djinn to serve him. He soon finds out that he’s gotten more than he bargained for and that his search for power could kill him, the city, the state, the eastern seaboard, and possible destroy Earth’s connection to Faerie. He’s not sure he cares, because he’s about as morally gray a character as you can get, but he’s got a soft spot for Becs and she cares a whole big, bad bunch.

As someone who is watching my mother deal with cancer, as well as bearing witness to the general indignities that come with aging, both for me personally and my elders, this yearning for control of one’s destiny rings true. How many times have I wished I could make my mother’s suffering go away? How many prayers have been offered that sound like negotiating, or that smack of begging and bargaining? How many phone calls have I endured, hoping I could absorb the pain from her and give her even a single day off from her illness?

But I cannot. We are not in control of our health beyond the general “eat right, exercise, and take medications as prescribed” kind of way. If cancer or heart disease want to take us to a dance, dance we must.

Have you ever stood by a child dealing with bullying? Or kept silent while your kids made big, adult-sized decisions for the first time? Every time you hold their hand, grit your teeth, and know you can do nothing other than support them, hoping you’ve given them the tools they need to solve the problems for themselves. All we wish is that we could fix it. Kiss the boo-boo and make it better with a band-aid and a popsicle.

But we cannot. We are not in control of others or their behavior.

What about when we make a mistake and we wish we could go back in time and change the outcome, avoid the verbal stumble, or make a better, less injurious decision? Say something. Keep quiet. Turn left instead of right, or take a breath and wait a beat before hurrying along? Eat dinner with loved ones slowly, savoring their presence? Take a walk. Go fishing. Find the person who hurt you and confront them?

But we cannot. We are not in control of time, and it only runs one way. Gregory’s completely thoughtless actions put him squarely in the wrong, but if we’re looking deep within ourselves with the glaring light of honesty and introspection, we may find ourselves understanding him. Empathizing even. Perhaps we’ll curl the pointing, accusing fingers back at us and ask, “Are we are really so different?”

As I wrote this book, I was surprised by how much I identified with Gregory’s choices, and it made me realize that all of us can be morally gray when pushed into a corner. Of course, we can’t go on an international hunt for a magical genie, but would we if we could?

Wish Magic: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Google Play|Kobo

Read an excerpt.

Author socials: Web site|Facebook

Various & Sundry, 7/28/23

John Scalzi

I woke up at 10am today, and no matter what time I went to sleep, waking up at 10 means my brain is loopy for the rest of the day. Fair warning! That said:

Oh Look, More Trump Indictments: Not the ones about January 6, which could be coming real soon now, but new ones about Mar-a-Lago and Trump actively and personally trying to obstruct the removal of documents there. Presumption of innocence is a thing, but I’m not a lawyer or a judge or a member of the jury, so I can say it’s pretty clear our former president is guilty AF regarding these specific indictments, and that these indictments eliminate a lot of legal wiggle room Trump might have thought he had with the other indictments relating to Mar-a-Lago. Which, well: Good.

The new indictments did lead to the following conversation between me and Krissy:

Me: There were more Trump indictments today.

Krissy: Is this about Georgia?

Me: No, it’s about Florida.

Krissy: What about DC?

Me: There are no DC indictments yet. The indictments that are in are the Florida and New York ones. The ones yet to arrive are Georgia and DC.

Krissy: That’s so confusing.

Me: That’s Trump!

Mitch McConnell Has a Senior Moment: Which is to say it looks like he had something of a mini-stroke while at a podium. He’s apparently better now, and also he’s 81, and this is a reminder that age catches up with us all. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, 90-year-old Dianne Feinstein had to be reminded how to vote by a fellow Democratic senator, which is not… great. Gerontocracy is not the best, y’all!

I’m not inclined to put an upper age limit on political participation, and our two likely presidential candidates will be 78 and 81 come the next election day in any event, and whatever else they may be, neither seems mentally incapable; criminal, in the case of Trump, sure, but that’s not the same thing. With that said, when it becomes clear someone is not actually capable of doing the job, it’s time for them to go. Feinstein should be out the door already; I wouldn’t mind if McConnell walked out with her.

X Marks No Spot: I noticed in my phone app updates that my Twitter app was going to be switched over to the “X” app, and the thought of Musk’s Mark on my phone made me feel grimy and unhappy, so before the update could happen, I went ahead and deleted the app off the phone entirely. If and when I need to access the former Twitter, I can do it from my phone’s browser, which will show the X branding, but it’s less intrusive and annoying that way.

A couple of takeaways from that moment of visceral unhappiness about the “X” app branding: First, I’m clearly still working through my unhappiness about the expungement of the Twitter iconography. Second, discussions about it on social media have indicated to me that I’m not the only one to be all “Oh, hell, no” about the presence of the “X” app on their phone, which is not a fantastic sign for Elon Musk on the success of his new branding attempt.

Also, if you’re wondering how I’m doing with my “Use the former Twitter only for news and updates” plan: So far so good. Short of when I’m on vacation, I’ve used the site less than any other week probably in the last decade, and the less I use it, I suspect the less I will want to use it. I notice my follower numbers dropping a bit, but I don’t know if that’s because I said “I’m mostly not here,” or if people are using the “X” rebranding as an excuse to leave. I had large drops when Musk was announced as buyer, and when he formally took over, so this (somewhat less dramatic) drop may be an echo of that. I can’t be upset either way because, remember, I’m using the place less, so that’s fine.

I Have a Malleable Face: Finally, this series of photos I took of myself yesterday, mostly for my own amusement but which accentuates that I have both a rubbery face and no worries at all about capturing myself in less than flattering moments. Enjoy.

— JS

(Still) Probably Not Aliens, Folks

John Scalzi

I know people are excited about yesterday’s Congressional testimony about UFOs (these days called UAP, for “unidentified aerial phenomena”), but simply as a matter of prudence I would warn against taking the sensational testimony about “non-human biologics” as evidence of actual alien beings. “Non-human biologics” is a term that covers a lot of ground. My dog is a non-human biologic. So is a fish. And so is a fruit fly. And more relevantly, all of those non-human biologics have been part of space exploration, and while we’re at it, pigeons were used as pilots for missiles, and bats were used for bombs. We did a lot of weird stuff with non-human biologics, is what I’m saying.

Mind you, I would be delighted to have good, concrete evidence of alien intelligence, alien spacecraft, or an actual alien body under wraps somewhere in Nevada. But the rather simpler explanation is that historically, the UAPs are coming from us, either from the US, the former Soviet Union and the current China. I’m certainly willing to believe that over the years each of our respective militaries and space organizations have been testing various technologies that may not be common knowledge, and that may not have trickled into known defense systems because they’re too expensive or hard to manage or whatever. I also believe that every now and again they show up where they’re not expected.

But aliens are a much harder row to hoe. Among other things, and as more than one person out there has noted, if the US Military had actual evidence of aliens, then the US President, as Commander-in-Chief, would know. Given our immediate former president’s ill-advised delight in sharing secrets to anyone within earshot or eyeball range, the idea that he wouldn’t have bragged about knowing of alien visitations is next to impossible. Obama? You know that dude could keep a secret. Trump, not so much.

So, sorry. There’s something going on with UAPs/UFOs, sure. But the smart money is that they’re from here, and that any non-human biologic is a dog or a pigeon or a chimp. I could be wrong! I suspect I’m not.

— JS

I Bought Ten Flavors Of Pretzels, Now I’m Gonna Rank Them

You read that right, folks, I’ve got ten different flavors of pretzels and I’m here to put these bad boys in order.

Eleven canisters containing pretzels lined up on a table. The canisters are red, orange, and brown cylinders with red tops that say

Athena ScalziFirst things first, let’s talk about the brand of these pretzels. I got them from Yep, just good ol’

I started getting ads on Instagram for several months ago, but I didn’t click on them because I can’t say I was hugely in the market for pretzels, and also it sounded kind of fake. It seemed sketchy, so I never gave it much attention, and yet I consistently got ads for them for months on end. Finally, I got one last week that promoted their “salted honey butter” flavor, and I immediately thought of my favorite chips in the world which are honey butter flavored, and I decided to check it out.

I was surprised to see how nice looking and easy to navigate their website was, and I checked out the “all flavors” tab. They have thirty one different flavors of pretzels. THIRTY ONE! I figured I would grab a couple, because if you’re going to try out a pretzel brand you have to try a variety, right? Well, a few turned into ten, and in buying ten I got free shipping and a 25 dollar gift card to use on my next purchase. Not too shabby!

Three days later, the pretzels arrived, and I tried all the flavors in one sitting because I’m a maniac.

In last place, we have the Apple Strudel. I had high hopes for this one, but it was just too plain. It mostly just tasted like pretzel. Was the pretzel still buttery and crunchy? For sure, but it was just lacking in the flavor department. There was only a whisper of apple strudel to be found. Underwhelming, especially when compared to how flavorful all the other flavors are.

In ninth, we’ve got the Bacon Bourbon Jam. This sounded like an amazing pretzel flavor, but it was honestly pretty mid. It was too much, almost overwhelmingly smoky and spicy. It didn’t seem very balanced. Needed some water with these ones.

In eighth, Cheddar. I know, I know, it’s a classic, iconic flavor. Which is why it’s a little disappointing this flavor didn’t perform better. It wasn’t bad at all, but it certainly didn’t knock my socks off. It was very standard, a little too much on the artificial side of the cheese flavoring line. Overall fine, not the best of the cheesy gang, though.

Following the Cheddar, we’ve got Garlic Parm. It’s garlicky, it’s parmy, and it packs a punch. It’s very strong, but pretty good! Still not the best of the cheesy gang, but a good contender, especially if you like a stronger garlic flavor.

Ending the cheesy gang, we’ve got Smoked Gouda. I might be biased because I am a certified gouda-lover, especially when smoked, but these are some pretty good pretzels. To me, the gouda flavor tastes much closer to the actual thing than the Cheddar ones do. You get just a hint of the smokiness, not overwhelming like the Bacon Bourbon ones.

Finally, we reach the top five. This is where it got difficult, as all the flavors I’m about to list are busting. These are all homeruns in my book, so figuring out which one is ever so slightly better than the previous one was really tough. But I did it, for you, my lovely readers.

The number five spot belongs to the Cinnamon Sugar Twist. It was hard to put this one in the last spot of the top five, but the next four are somehow even better than the deliciousness that is Cinnamon Sugar. It tastes like if you turned a freshly baked cinnamon roll into a pretzel. It’s magnificent in its sugary, warm cinnamon-y spicy amazingness.

Coming in fourth, we’ve got Sea Salted Caramel. Perfectly sweet, a touch of salty, wonderfully balanced, amazing through and through. Though I still prefer caramel popcorn.

Top three starting out with Homestyle Honey Mustard. Listen, when I go to the store and buy pretzels, I am always buying the honey mustard ones. Honey mustard pretzels are a top tier snack, arguably the best flavor of pretzels across the board. These are no exception, as they absolutely slap. They are tangy, pack a punch, and are sure to be a crowd pleaser. If I had to pick any of these pretzels to serve at a party, it’d be these ones.

In second place, we’ve got the flavor that started it all, Salted Honey Butter. Just read those words: salted, honey, butter. You know it’s about to be delicious. I could literally just lick the flavoring off these and be happy, that’s how good they are.

Finally, the best of the best, the show-stopping, most delicious pretzel you’ll ever have probably in your whole life, the Honey Maple. So sweet, so amazing, you simply gotta try them. I shan’t speak any more of how good they are, just know they got number one for a reason.

Now that I know that is legit and actually pretty awesome, I’m definitely going to use the 25 dollar gift card they gave me to get even more flavors. I think I’d like to try the Grilled Cheese N’ Tomato Soup, the Beer Cheese, and the Sour Cream & Onion.

Which flavor sounded the best to you? Have you ever heard of before? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!



RIP, Sinead O’Connor

Well, this hurts a lot. She was troubled and erratic and brilliant and one of the indelible voices of my generation, and she was fucking right about the Catholic Church, for all the good it did her in this life. Genius doesn’t make for an easy life, but genius she was, and I’m glad that for a time she got to express her particular strain of genius in this world. May she rest well.

— JS

Various and Sundry, 7/25/23

John Scalzi

Inasmuch as I’ve committed to cutting waaaay back on my participation at the Site Formerly Known as Twitter, I find that there are things I might have otherwise tweeted (i.e., too short for a full post here) that I still want to talk about somewhere. Then I remembered, hey, you can just shove several of them together into a single post, done and done. So, here’s me doing that, following up on some things I’ve discussed here before, and also linking off to other things I find interesting.

Unlike the “Five Things” experiment I did a couple of years ago, I’m not going to put a strict number of bits in these sorts of posts, and I’m not necessarily going to write one up every day. But I suspect I’ll do them at least occasionally. I want to be posting more here anyway. So, here we go:

Following Up On My X-it: Lots of comments here and elsewhere on my post about me (mostly) leaving the former Twitter, most of them positive but some of them thinking that reducing my participation there to career updates and some links doesn’t go far enough, I should just leave it cold turkey. Perhaps not surprisingly, these latter complaints are mostly over at Mastodon, where antagonism against Twitter is significant and doctrinal. I’ve already explained my reasoning for going down to “updates only,” but I can certainly understand the view that any congress with Elon Musk is unholy and slightly icky. I hope none of those people have Teslas.

Be that as it may, I think my way of things is the correct way to go. I’ll also note that, given that my muscle memory for going on Twitter is as strong as it is, I went and took it out of my browser’s bookmarks bar and off the front screen of my phone. Now I have to hunt to use it, whereas Bluesky and Mastodon and other social media services are still where I can just click on them. Every little bit helps. Baby steps, y’all.

A Quick Thought On Kaiju and the Ohioana Award: I announced earlier today that The Kaiju Preservation Society won an Ohioana Award, which I think is pretty cool. What I didn’t note, because I didn’t realize it until after I wrote the post, was that with the Ohioana win, Kaiju is actually my second most awarded novel: It has an Alex, Locus and Ohioana award, was a finalist for the Dragon Award and is currently a finalist for the Hugo Award. That’s not bad for a “pop song” novel. The novel in front of it, award-wise, is Redshirts, with a Hugo, Locus and an RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award, with a Geffen Award (from Israel) thrown in as a tie-breaker. If Kaiju wins the Hugo, it’ll move up to a tie. Apparently people like it when I write silly books. That’s good to know.

Gov. DeSantis Cuts Campaign Staff: Which delights me because he’s a horrible man who shouldn’t be dogcatcher, much less governor, and certainly not president. But I can’t help suspect that DeSantis himself doesn’t understand why he isn’t currently the front runner for the GOP slot for president. Isn’t he leaning hard into right-wing horribleness and bigotry? Isn’t that what the voters really want? DeSantis doesn’t seem to understand that however horrible he is, Trump is just as horrible and also cannier (I don’t want to say smarter), and already has a posse. Why have the awkward wannabe when you can have the real thing instead?

Today’s Surprise: Young People Are Progressive: Greg Sargent of the Washington Post seems to imply this is something of a surprise to Republicans. It’s not, which is why they are investing so heavily in hobbling actual participatory democracy in the United States. The GOP not realizing that this means they’re fucked when the demographic curve takes away the advantages they currently have is classified as “Tomorrow’s GOP’s problem,” i.e., the same way the GOP deals with climate change or any other looming disaster. If nothing else, they are consistent.

(Yes, I know the shibboleth that people get more conservative as they get older. Thing is, if you don’t give people the things that they historically want to conserve, like, you know, good jobs and houses and actual money, they won’t get more conservative. Especially when you also take their rights away.)

Conservative Dudes Still Very Angry About Barbie: Bless their hearts. It’s already too late for that; the film has grossed $350 million worldwide in the first weekend and will gross at least double that before its run is done, especially since the 2023 summer release calendar from here on out is, as the kids say, mid as hell: Haunted Mansion? Grand Turismo? Blue Beetle? Meg 2: The Megening? Barbie (or Oppenheimer, for that matter) shouldn’t have a problem sucking up money for weeks with this level of competition. Which I know will just make them angrier, because their whiny stompy rage needs to be validated, but again: bless their hearts.

— JS

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