You may have seen it before; maybe not. Just in case:
(—Forgive me a moment of pride?)
“I’d like the bacon-and-tomato panini—”
“And would you like that with the tomato?”
But that was on the way out. On the way in, I didn’t buy a thing; sat stewed in indignation at the gate, over all the little indignities I’d had to suffer: belt stripped, and shoes, wallet and phone and boarding pass in my hands up over my hand, don’t shoot, I’m coming out, as my junk was strobed with millimeter waves. The nigh-constant announcements over the loudspeakers that my safety was their top priority weren’t helping: I didn’t feel safe. I felt rather distinctly threatened. By them. —Foolish, perhaps; even rather indulgent. But. —In the paranoiac frenzy of packing (leave the toothpaste, of course, can’t take that in a carry-on, tube’s too big, and the razor, God no, and the deodorant? Is it a solid, or a gel? The hell is the difference? One’s apparently more likely to be explosive, or at least more likely to be considered as an explosive. There’s no definition anywhere I can find, but I can call the airport I’ll be traveling from if I have any and you know what? Just leave it. Leave it, leave it, leave it—) I’d suddenly been struck—what about the badges? The buttons I’d made the week before, a nice big set for each faction and fifth, that I wanted to hand out to any and sundry as ice-breakers and attention-snaggers. Made of metal, with pins, sharp pins—little, yes. But sharp. Would they be allowed through? Would they cause a problem? —Sure, laugh away, it seems utterly illogical to worry about it now, but logic plays no part in this at all. It wouldn’t even matter if some DHS working group had sat down and soberly assessed any possible threats posed by pin-secured flair of all sorts: its potential as a threatening weapon; its utility in jimmying a locked cockpit door; et cetera, et cetera—and then rubber-stamping appropriate forms in triplicate to propagate the appropriate data updates and normalizations throughout the various linked databases humming to themselves on servers across the country, allowed, or disallowed, or the one-inch buttons are fine but the line’s being drawn at two-inches, and God knows the little pinch-back pins? That they use for lapel flags and such? Those are right out, God damn, you could stab yourself with one if you aren’t careful, okay? Put it down. Put it down, sir. —It wouldn’t even matter if I’d called ahead to the airport I’d be travelling from, got their blessing and imprimatur, because what it all comes down to in the end is essentially that one singular transaction between you on the one side and the person with the badge on the other and if they take it in their head to take exception to some little thing or other you’re basically fucked, you know? Game over. Best case scenario, all those little pins come out of the bag and go into the trash. Worst case? I’m not going to lose my temper, no, but I don’t have money, I don’t have time, not to get another ticket, not to deal with any sort of delay, my only chance, my only choice—
(A couple-some years before, in Newark, I’m on the security line, I’m wearing a loose light green vest over a T-shirt, it’s more like a sleeveless shirt, really, I’ve taken off my shoes, I’m not wearing a belt, I’ve dumped the contents of my pockets in the bins, I’m ready to step through the metal detector, but the guard on the other side of the table says sharply “Hey. You want to take off your vest?” and it takes me a minute, like I say, it’s more of a shirt almost, so “I’m sorry?” I say, quizzically, which is enough for me to realize what it was he’d said, figure out what he wanted, my hands coming up even then, automatically, Pavlovianly, reaching to open it up, but he’s leaning, lunging even, over the conveyor belt, “Hey,” he’s bellowing, “you looking to start something?” —This man, with a badge, and hard eyes, and a finger, stabbing at my nose.)
—so I’d brought only a handful, of each type of button. In plastic bags, in my carryon. They went through the scanner without a hitch. I never got a second look from anyone.
“Your safety is our top priority,” says the announcement over the loudspeaker, as I sit at the gate, glowering at no one in particular at all.
I used to like flying. I even once liked airports. You know?
- Marfisa, once the Axe, had finally broken with her brother, the Axehandle;
- Luys, the Mason, had been sent by his occasional lover the Duke to find Jo;
- now, the two of them have met under the tree in Pioneer Square (where they’d fought a duel just weeks before).
- (Luys had been wearing a mysterious mask at the time, the mask worn by the swordsman Vincent Erne, when he’d been Huntsman to the Court.)
- —The Duke then went on to challenge the Axehandle and the Guisarme, Banker to the Court;
- That done, he went in a snit to sit the Throne, and only his (mostly) ex Jessie to witness his apotheosis.
- His other ex, Orlando, the Mooncalfe, had won the keeping of the Bride by defeating Jo in a duel;
- the Mooncalfe then went on to murther the Shootist and the Gammer, all to take away the Bride he’d already won;
- but Ysabel, terrified she might be broken, appalled she might not be, fled from the Mooncalfe…
- …only to meet a lugubrious, grey-faced man, who hailed her as the Queen.
- (Jo, meanwhile, who’d found the Huntsman’s mask, went on to trade a briefcase full of porn for a gun,
- (and Messrs. Keightlinger and Charlock went somewhere—else?—and brought back something—else?)
- Then, it started to snow.
- Marfisa, Luys, and Orlando have asked their questions of the witch, Miss Cheney;
- Ysabel, having run from the Mooncalfe, runs to Messrs. Charlock and Keightlinger, and their employer, Mr. Leir;
- Jo finally figures out what it was Miss Cheney had told her, and goes to see Becker, the right one, second;
- and she fires the gun she bought, even as Mr. Charlock—Mr. Leir?—looses what he’d found;
- and Ysabel, Bride of the King Come Back, Queen of the Court of Roses, is suddenly gone from a rather different world—
That’s, I guess, where we were.
Beginning Monday: City of Roses no. 21, “Gallowglas.”
I forgot to mention (here, anyway) when it went up: the folks at the Skiffy and Fanty show invited me to describe my superpower, which being: I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I don’t know a goddamn thing. (Previous visitors to the pier might recognize it as a less belligerent, more accessible version of this post.)
Have some books. “Wake up…” collects chapters 1 – 11; The Dazzle of Day collects chapters 12 – 22; the first season omnibus, Autumn into Winter, collects all 22 in one handy ebook—so you should get the two, or the one, but not all three, unless you’re feeling especially generous. —You can buy copies through Amazon, or Smashwords, or Payhip, or (of course) me; you can add them to your Goodreads or LibraryThing shelves; you might, if you need a little more convincing, read some reviews and interviews first.
No. 21, “Gallowglas,” will see its free online premiére on Monday, April 21st, with no. 22, “Maiestie,” to follow. Until then, you’ll need to secure a copy of The Dazzle of Day or the omnibus (or the paper chapbooks, of course) to read them. —And after that? Well. Whatever comes next is after that.
“I have some beef with your article about Frozen,” said occasional nemesis and friend of the pier, Ben Lehman. “Want to get into a twitter argument about it?” And I had a database cooking, so what the hell, right? —I can’t manage to get Twitter and Storify to agree which tweets were tweeted when, or even exist, but you can at least start here and follow some of the chains of replies and counter-replies that resulted between meetings and phone calls. —Suffice to say we didn’t manage to convince each other, but his reading is an important counter to mine, obsessed as it is with overturning the fantasy conventions that bind it; still, I think, in the end, he limns another story it would’ve been better and more powerful to see, than the straitened one that’s ended up onscreen. —Also, Becky Hawkins points out “Life’s Too Short” is essentially a Disney princess take on “Take Me or Leave Me,” which, yes. —And, finally:
“Did I say he called out these fading powers? Rather, he tosses them into the air like confetti and dances underneath.” —Sessily Watt, “Nothing New Under the Sun: Reading Urban Fantasy”
Let’s see. The graphic novel got dropped, but might get picked up again by somebody else, and at least I got paid; the first book of the serial’s almost done, though it’s taking longer than was expected; the twitter, the twitter’s been fun, I guess? And I sold a story I wrote almost ten years ago? —At least there’s the blog, right? Right?
So we’re at the New Year’s Eve party last night. So the five-year-old suddenly says she has to go to the bathroom. The downstairs bathroom is occupied, so we make our way to the upstairs bathroom, past the mound of coats on the bed, and you should understand the five-year-old’s wearing her classy black party frock and silver-and-grey cowboy boots.
So the five-year-old says, I need some space, when we get there. So I let her go into the bathroom by herself, and close the door. —I’ll be right outside, I tell her.
So I hear an alarming clatter in the bathroom. So I knock and I say Taran? and I throw open the door and she’s standing there, one of her boots in her hand, tipped over.
What? she says. I had ice in my boot.
(Confidential to our hosts: I got what I could into the sink.)
In fact it will be amazing (only to us imagining it now) how quiet a world it will be. A woman awakes in her house in Sitka, Alaska, to make tea, wake her family, and walk the beach (it runs differently from where it runs today). After meditation she enters into communication with the other syndics of a worldwide revolving presidium, awake early or up late in city communes or new desert oases. Nightlong the avatars have clustered, the informations have been threshed: the continuous town meeting of the global village. There is much to do.
—John Crowley, “The Next Future”
So many little countries, all mindful of death, each disinclined to long journeys. I want to go to there.
In 1964, Nikolai Kardashev, an astrophysicist involved with the Soviet SETI effort, devised the Kardashev scale: a method of measuring, on a cosmic scale, a civilization’s technological advancement based on the amount of usable energy that civilization has at its disposal.
A Kardashev Type I civilization has at its disposal all of the energy that impinges on its home planet. Using an equation suggested by Carl Sagan, humanity could be rated as a Type .7, as of the 1970s.
Not much has changed in forty years. On a cosmic scale.
A Type II civilization is any civilization capable of harnessing the total energy output of its home star. If we were to unravel the clouds of Jupiter, for instance, we could spin a globular shell one astronomical unit in radius that would be five meters thick, and trap every erg the sun beamed forth thereafter.
A rigid sphere that large would require materials far stronger than any currently known, of course. We might, instead, use swarms of orbiting solar panels to sop it up.
A Type III civilization is any civilization in possession of energy on the scale of its home galaxy. —Those civilizations which originate in dwarf galaxies or irregular clusters are at a significant advantage, here.
Type IV civilizations arbitrage speculative crises in what are to them immaterial commodities, selling short whole Local Groups. They can be detected by sudden changes in the redshift values of various economic indices.
Type V civilizations subsist entirely on the notional energy of Type I civilizations, scheming to become Type IIs. (Civilizations of Type II or better have mastered the art of radiating notional energies at frequencies too low to be heard.)
Type VI civilizations are indistinguishable from nature, and spend their time dreaming of butterflies, or are themselves butterfly-dreams—or the nearest local equivalent, of course.
(Nothing is known of Type VII civilizations. It is best not to consider them.)
When you finally come to understand dark matter, you will have the merest glimpse of the capabilities of a Type VIII civilization.
A Type IX civilization is any civilization that can successfully conceive of a Type X.
So Taran is, of course, named for a certain Assistant Pig-Keeper, from the Lloyd Alexander books that were important to both me and Jenn growing up. —It’s not the only reason she’s named Taran, but it’s the first and foremost.
You should also realize that she’s a huge fan of Batman, mostly because of the Brave and the Bold cartoons she’s seen. —She knows from Spider-Man and Wonder Woman and the Tiny Titans are a perennial fave (“Aw, yeah,” she says feistily, and one’s heart swells), and she’s already mastered certain arcana of these proprietary, persistent large-scale popular fictions that I never knew, but it’s Batman that’s captured her heart more than anyone else; go figure. (Her two imaginary friends currently—entirely imaginary, as opposed to the complex society of ponies and fairies and stuffed animals she oversees from the throne of her bed—the two imaginary friends most likely to show up these days are Batman and Moomintroll, which makes sometimes for interesting arguments in the car.) —Being such a fan of Batman, and dealing as she is with certain intimidating big-person tasks as potty-training and such, she’s come up with an alternate persona: Batmangirl (as distinctly opposed, you must understand, to Batgirl)—whenever she feels called upon to dig deep and do the right thing, she’ll puff up and proclaim: I’m not a little girl! I’m not Taran Jack! I’m Batmangirl!
It is solemnly agreed amongst all of us that Batmangirl would never pee her pants. As a for instance.
Now, Taran is aware of the books from which she got her name; once or twice I’ve read the first chapter to her, but that was back before she was tracking much of anything that didn’t have many or any pictures. But ever since the Moomin books went over as well as they did, she’s been more adventuresome about longish chapter books as read-aloud material at bedtime. (The Very Persistent Gappers of Fripp is another of her favorites.)
So the other night she pulls the Book of Three off the shelf and looks at the cover—
—and says, this is about me.
And I (solemnly) agreed: yes, it is. This is the book about Taran.
That’s not Taran, she said, suddenly, pointing at Taran in the ragged tunic, the Prince Valiant bob, brandishing a dagger so bravely against the Horned King. —That’s Batmangirl, she said. She thrust the book at me. —Read it, she said. Read to me about Batmangirl.
So I did.
Batmangirl wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of her education, decided on horseshoes. And so it had been horseshoes all morning long. Batmangirl’s arms ached, soot blackened her face. At last she dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching her critically…
(I’ve genderflopped books before, like Yolen’s and Teague’s dinosaur picturebooks, where the fact the dinosaur’s always a boy gets slightly in the way of reader-identification for those not so much; this still felt—different. Further bulletins etc.)
But I can tell you anyhow
I used to drive back and forth to Seattle a lot more than I do now. And every now and then, I’d see one: a white, late-model sedan, riding low in the back like something’s heavy in the trunk, driven by an elderly couple, both of them wearing those bulky black protective sunglasses that wrap around half your face. Sometimes there’d be another elderly couple in the back seat. The men were always wearing Kangol caps.
One trip, I saw three. Different cars, I remember that. And anyway they’re always driving under the speed limit. I was always passing them.
This was all some time ago. I don’t drive up to Seattle and back nearly so often anymore.
Thinking about it, they were always headed south.
I saw another one today, is the point, between Portland and Salem: white, late-model, riding low in the back. Headed south. I was passing on the right, a couple lanes over, headed for an exit; a semi drifted between us before whoever was in the passenger seat could look over in my direction. So I don’t know if they were wearing the glasses, or the hat.
I’d rather see than be one
It is easier to clean the kitchen if you keep the kitchen clean. —There is something deeply unfair about this fact.
Muzzy-headed, bleary-thunked, pre-coffee. Awoken by the yowling feed-me cats from a half-dream, half-Gedankenexperiment: an unknown dignitary (perhaps a FIRE executive) was tweeting snapshots of their 12-course dinner from a trendy SoHo hotspot (Toronto was rather obviously standing in for New York). A free-speech zone had been barricaded off for protests six blocks or so uptown, in the nearest available public open space; anyone caught on the streets around the restaurant by the dignitary’s security cordon was being pre-emptively detained. —Unless, of course, you’d submitted yourself already to background and credit checks (the results keyed to your genome through Xe Monsanto’s patented Trust But Verify® process) and were paying the yearly subscription fee, and so could show the cops your Presumed Innocent® citizen’s ID card—