Praise for Beyond the Mist and Nobility Among Us!

Dragon-award-nominee Marina Fontaine, up high in the echelons of the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance, had some very kind words to say about both of my novels, highly recommending both and mentioning them in the same breath as the works of the great masters C.S. Lewis and John C. Wright.

To say I am flattered to be mentioned in this way would be a great understatement, it was Lewis who first fired my literary imagination, whose works I have read more of than any other author, and it was his type of literature that I was consciously trying to hark back to when I wrote Nobility Among Us. John C. Wright is of course a major influence in Beyond the Mist, the plot being based on some of his philosophical essays, among other things.

You can read for yourself what she had to say over here:

The 99 cent deal on both books (and on Selected Verse: Heroes and Wonders) is still running for another day and a half, so take the opportunity to take a look for yourself for less.


Beyond the Mistall cover_f1_v13_frontsmallSelected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Selected Verse - Faith and Family

CASTALIA: Why Joanna Russ Feared Heroic Fantasy

Jeffro Johnson, Castalia House’s blog editor, has been moved to write some posts on the subject of superversion. If you enjoy this post, please feel free to visit him at his main site!

Female ManJoanna Russ was perhaps the most influential critic of the seventies fantasy and science fiction scene. Here she is unceremoniously hurting a lot of feelings in her column in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Ficiton:

I know it’s painful to be told that something in which one has invested intense emotion is not only bad art but bad for you, not only bad for you but ridiculous. I didn’t do it to be mean, honest. Nor did I do it because the promise held out by heroic fantasy, the promise of escape into a wonderful Other world, is one I find temperamentally unappealing. On the contrary, it’s because I understand the intensity of the demand so well (having spent my twenties reading Eddison and Tolkien; I even adapted The Hobbit for the stage) that I also understand the absolute impossibility of ever fulfilling that demand. The current popularity of heroic fantasy scares me; I believe it to be a symptom of political and cultural reaction due to economic depression. […] That our literary heritage began with feudal epics and marchen is no reason to keep on writing them forever. […] Reality is everything. Reality is what there is. Only the hopelessly insensitive find reality so pleasant as to never want to get away from it, but painkillers can be bad for the health, and even if they were not, I am damned if anyone will make me say that the newest fad in analgesics is equivalent to the illumination which is the other thing (besides pleasure) art ought to provide.

You have to wonder why a magazine that had published some of Jack Vance’s best work would make the sort of person that would write this one of their featured critics. It’s baffling.

The lack of imagination it would take to write this astounds me, though. Yes, the sort of heroic fantasy that, say, Poul Anderson liked really was set to wither away from the popular consciousness. Russ may have been glad for that. But it’s worth noting that it was really in the process of morphing into the fantasy gaming industry. From tabletop fantasy role-playing games to today’s massively multiplayer online rpgs, people spend far more of their time and money on the direct descendents of heroic fantasy than anything that Joanna Russ would think was “good” for us.

I have to wonder, though: what precisely is good in a world where “reality” is all that there is?

But she is not the first to make these sorts of claims. There were loads of people like her even in Tolkien’s day, and they were sufficiently loud, snide, and condescending that he naturally took the time to answer Russ’s very objections:

Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot.

Decades down the road, it’s Russ that has lapsed into obscurity. And every scrap and fragment from Tolkien’s notebooks has been compiled by his son and are for sale in the last of the brick and mortar book stores. The case can be made that Tolkien was, as T. A. Shippey puts it, the author of the century.

But as respected as Tolkien is another, there is another that could lay claim to that title– one that would be even more objectionable to Russ and her ilk. Ray Bradbury explains:

Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world…. I’ve talked to more biochemists and more astronomers and technologists in various fields, who, when they were ten years old, fell in love with John Carter and Tarzan and decided to become something romantic. Burroughs put us on the moon. All the technologists read Burroughs. I was once at Caltech with a whole bunch of scientists and they all admitted it. Two leading astronomers—one from Cornell, the other from Caltech—came out and said, Yeah, that’s why we became astronomers. We wanted to see Mars more closely. I find this in most fields. The need for romance is constant, and again, it’s pooh-poohed by intellectuals. As a result they’re going to stunt their kids. You can’t kill a dream. Social obligation has to come from living with some sense of style, high adventure, and romance.

Joanna Russ championed hard science fiction over its pulpier predecessors. She wrote, “daydreams about being tall, handsome (or beautiful), nobel, admired, and involved in thrilling deeds are not the same as as-if speculation which produces medical and technological advances.” And while she quite admired the fruits of the technological advances that she enjoyed, she held in contempt the sort of dreams and virtues and even romance that makes them possible.

The reality is that you can’t have one without the other.

Peter Gould on Writing

We try to think a lot about our characters and their choices and who they are and what they want to do. We also try to create contrast between these folks. Everything I say sounds like Writing 101 but there’s no Writing 102. At least that I know of. There’s only the basics and you have to go back to them.

Peter Gould, writer for “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”.

Are they superversive shows? Certainly not Lamplighter superversive. I’d argue Simon superversive, though. Both shows are tragedies, but there are good guys and bad guys, right and wrong. And after all, the story of King Arthur is a tragedy too. Not all tragedies are nihilistic.

But now I’m off-topic. I just really loved that quote. It cuts right to the heart of a fundamental truth about writing: There’s no Writing 102. There’s only the basics and you have to go back to them.

Cat Pictures? No Thank You.

cat-please-go-onAnother year, another Hugo War. I largely sat it out this year; life is a harsh master and I had better things to spend the money and time on.  But one of the nice things about the internet is that it’s much easier to look into short stories that people are talking about; a quick google search for “Cat Pictures Please,” this years’ Hugo winner for the Short Story took me straight to it. I read the opening paragraph and rolled my eyes so far that I got my optic nerves knotted up.  It was one of those stories. Continue reading

Our SF world catching up with us.

I usually don’t post writing pieces. However, this impacts all of us. And it is related to our Machine Masters.

We have all read about the manner in which the SF of the past has become the present. This is most true and most evident in robotics and communication.

We have business machines that can do anything. Only cost is preventing their ubiquitous usage. This refers to warehousing, retail sales, accounting, banking, vehicle operation, and similar obvious usages.

Most people carry around a communications device capable of connecting, via voice and/or video, to anywhere in the world, instantaneously and usually for free, or at least no additional cost.

This same device can deliver virtually all the knowledge available on this planet. Also instantaneously and free.

We have translation devices that can translate most known languages, instantaneously, and be transmitted to the wearer’s ear and utilize a speaker for the wearer’s portion of the unknown language communication.

We have three-D printing for drugs, artificial prostheses, Human body part replacements, even food. There is a new Chicago restaurant that three-D prints the menu, utensils, plates and all food. There is little we can imagine that cannot be printed or will be available for printing in the near future. Size is a restriction now, however, size has never kept tech down before.

There is little we can imagine that cannot be produced, and nearly nothing that is not reasonable expected.

We are free to write our imagination and it is most likely, a future reality.

Superversive on

Well. Maybe not the site yet, although I’m sure that will be coming soon. But for those of you who are signing up for, a service promising Twitter-like functionality without Twitter-like censoring and shadowbanning, you can find me (Josh Young) on Gab as BadgerSensei. is still in beta, so you have to sign up and then wait a little bit for your invite, but that only took a week or so for me. Come join me!

All My Books for $0.99 Each (again!)

Another multi-parallel kindle countdown deal means that all of my books are now available at amazon for only 99 cents each until the end of the month. Grab them while you can!

Beyond the Mistall cover_f1_v13_frontsmallSelected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Selected Verse - Faith and Family






Go out into the webiverse and spread the word! I do not send you out on this great task unarmed, however. Here are a selection of mighty memetic weapons with quotes from my two novels to aid you in your quest. Behold their majesty and choose your rhetorical blades!
BTM_fallig_flying_meme BTM_Who_am_I_meme BTM_importance_meme
NAU Commoner to King MemeNAU-janitor-general-memeNAU soldiers in hills meme

Fly, my pretties, spread widely and infect as many minds as possible with these noble thoughts, Muahahaha!


Why yes, I was sleep-deprived while writing this, why do you ask?

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

2013-MAR-Language-Anathem-coverI came to Neal Stephenson somewhat late when compared to a lot of other people. Mostly, I think, because I picked up 1999’s Cryptonomicon when it came out, and, even though I enjoyed it, was disgruntled that I’d read a cryptography textbook masquerading as a novel, and an adventure novel masquerading as a science fiction novel. (Possibly through no fault of its own; I suppose Mr. Stephenson didn’t shelve it in the scifi section himself.)

Regardless, I didn’t pick Stephenson up again until a few years ago, when a reread of Neuromancer put me on a cyberpunk kick, and found myself pleasantly surprised with both Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. But as the reality has moved from being a Cold War spy drama in nature to a cyberpunk world in nature, authors who got noticed for cyberpunk stopped writing cyberpunk. And since that’s what I was looking for, I didn’t come back to Stephenson until an Audible subscription and a job that consists mostly of driving had me looking for the most bang for my Audible buck. At 31 hours long, Anathem seemed like a good idea. Continue reading

My Favorite Poem

This is prompted by nothing and I have no interesting story to go with this poem; I only thought of it because I passed a copy of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” as I was walking through the store. It corresponds to no special time in my life, has no other particular significance with me, and is generally nothing more than a poem that I loved so much that I memorized it years ago even though I generally (though not always) have trouble getting through poetry.

It is also undoubtedly superversive.

The poem is by Shel Silverstein, and is titled “Invitation”.

(Also randomly, a fun fact for all of you – because most of Emily Dickinson’s poems are written in ballad meter, you can sing them to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island”. Try it! It’s fun!)

Pokemon, Go!

poka - pokemon_go_logo

At Boy Scout camp, we had no reception. To use the Internet, we had to go to a narrow span of space inside the staff lounge and stand on one foot while leaning to the north, which was the only place the WIFI worked. I did this once a day to check my email, and, occasionally, I looked at a newsfeed to see if the outer world was still there. It was here, while balanced precariously in a northerly direction, that I saw the headline:

Pokemon Go More Popular Than Porn.

This was my introduction to Pokemon Go.

At first, I confused this with Pokemon Sun and Moon, the new DS game my kids have been waiting for. It took a little while before I realized that this was, actually, something new. Very new.

This was like nothing that had ever been done before.


Ash Ketchum gets off to a rocky start

but almost two decades later, he’s still going strong!

A bit of history:

My first encounter with Pokemon was, well, probably before you heard of  it.

Back in the late 90s, I wrote for a briefly-existent magazine called Animefantastique. It was put out by the folks that publish Cimemafantastique magazine. They wanted to cover anime for the American audience, but maybe they started too soon, as it was not yet as big as it would be a few years later. So the magazine did not last long. My last article for them did not even get published.

My last article was on this new-fangled thing called Pokemon.

Poka - pika

A scene from the very episode my sister-in-law translated for me

So early in the Pokemon phenomena was this that, in order to review the TV show, I had to get my Japanese sister-in-law to translate an episode. It had not yet been released in English. This was before the release of the first movie, which came out in 1999, I believe.

Poka - Pokemon_the_First_Movie

This movie introduced Mewtwo.

Mew is cuter.

As part of my article, I interviewed the head of 4Kids Entertainment, the company that was bringing Pokemon to American. In the conversation, I asked him if he thought that Pokemon might make a big splash and be popular for a year or two. He told me that a year or two was nothing. Shows like Power Rangers and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles had maintained their popularity for four or five years. 4Kids had high hopes.

Turns out, they were right! More right than any of us could have foreseen!

(Including them. Apparently, in 2005, 4Kids did not renew their contract to be the American distributor of Pokemon. Maybe they thought the fad was over. Poor guys.)

Then, when my eldest son was three, his godfather lent him 72 episodes of Pokemon. Almost the first two seasons, I think.

It was love at first view!

poka friends

Love at first sight–unlike Ash and Pikachu,

who did not get along at first.

I remember the day I heard pitiful wailing coming from downstairs. I ran down. My three-year-old was in tears. Rushing to his side, I could find no injury. Eventually, the mainly-pre-lingual boy (he learned to talk quite late) was able to communicate to me:

Butterfree had gone away.

Poka caterpie


Ash’s first catch.

In the TV show Pokemon, ten-year-old Ash Ketchum’s first Pokemon catch, after he and Pikachu set out on their Poka-journey, was a Caterpie. Caterpie evolved into Metapod, who has the ultimate technique of harden, as in hardening its cocoon-like outer shell.


“Harden, Metapod! Harden!”

Metapod then evolved into Butterfree, a cool butterfly pokamon who could do actually effective attacks, like put people to sleep. Eventually, however, the day came when Butterfree was mature enough that it was its time to go off with a flock of other Butterfrees, to do whatever Butterfrees do that lead to little Caterpies.

So Ash had to let his very first catch go.

poka - butterfree

And my three-year-old son cried.

It was the first time he had ever been upset by something that was not a concrete problem. I was impressed that he was able to comprehend the sadness of the scene enough to be upset by it. It showed he was growing up.

What followed was a childhood steeped in Pokemon.

poka riolu

According to some…this is the best Pokemon of all

My sons watched the show. They hummed the song. They played the card game.   (I won’t even tell you how much I spent on cards one summer. Or about the time that the neighbor’s kid tricked my four year old out of the most expensive card we owned. I stormed right over there and got it back.) They played with toys (many of which they inherited from their cousins, so they were straight from Japan.)

Poka toys

Not our house…but it could be.

Eventually, they even played the video game.

orvillesbirthday 313

Iced poka ice cream cake.

We even had Pokemon birthday parties. In the Pokemon TV world, kids leave on their poka-journeys at ten. So both of the talking boys got a Pokemon party for their tenth birthday. I planned Orville’s for a whole year, buying cute plushy pokamon dolls, so that every kid got to unwrap one from pokaball colored paper and take it home. I even made a pokaball ice cream cake.

orvillesbirthday 135

Holding a pokaball — maybe not my best picture.

By Juss’s tenth birthday, I had even found plastic clear and red spheres, that looked like pokaballs to put the plushies into. We went out hiking through the local forests, pretending to spot pokemon, and running off to catch them.

You could say that we played Pokemon Go before it was cool

orvillesbirthday 209

Catching Pokemon before it was cool.

Note the riolu in hand.

They lived and breathed Pokemon.

It changed our life.

Orville even invented his own world (Eddaria) with his own version of Pokemon (W-Beasts, short for War Beasts), which he still works on, even today.

Orville 9th birthday

Young magician and his assistant, Turtwig

So, when I read that they had come up with a way to make it so that kids could go outside and catch Pokemon on their own, by combining a video game with GPS geocaching, I thought:

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Then, the stories started pouring in.

First the horror stories: Two people walked off a cliff and were badly injured trying to catch a Pokemon. Someone got pulled over by the cops for speeding—trying to catch the Pokemon you could only catch at 88 miles per hour. People walking into traffic without paying attention.

But then came the good stories.

People getting out of the house. People going to seminaries and churches. One seminary had a Pokemon Go event and reported six conversions.

Bestselling author John Ringo wrote a very touching piece about the way that getting out and hunting Pokemon changed his health and his life.

There are even dog shelters that that will let your walk their dogs while you play (so you don’t look too stupid out there on your own. Helps the dogs, too.)

But the people who are the happiest are young men, a bit like my sons, who grew up with Pokemon, watching it, playing the card game or the video game—watching someone else journeying around to capture pokamon.

And now, they can do it themselves.

The joy on the faces of young men in their twenties who I have spoken to about this game…I’ve almost never seen anything like it.

And to hear modern young geeks talking about the hours spent hiking or the distant they have biked.

poka exercise

Exercising geeks. Almost a miracle, in and of itself.

The first thing my kids discussed when they heard about the game was how long you could keep it interesting. Pokemon Go has about 150 pokamon, but currently there are something like 721 pokemon in the game/TV background.

That promises a lot of later releases.

“And then they could introduce breeding,” said my younger son, who has spent serious amounts of time trying to breed Pokemon on his DS to get just the one he wanted.

Being able to both walk out and catch pokamon…and get new varieties by breeding the ones you catch with people you meet on the street…that has potential.

And then, there is Team Rocket. Who would not want virtual spies stealign their hard-won Pokemon. Not to mention that Giovanni could easily use Pokemon Go to carry out his plan of world domination!

poka - israeli

Pokamon are everywhere. The president of Isreal had to call for security when this member of Team Rocket showed up in his office.

Giovanni even cries out “Go! Go!” in his theme song. Clearly he forsaw Pokemon Go over a decade ago!


Giovanni of Team Rocket.  

His theme song is one of my favorite songs. Cool lyrics:

“I was born to rule the world.

“There’ll be world domination, complete obliteration

“of all who now defy me!

“It will all be mine, power so divine

I will tell the sun to shine

On only me!”

Oddly, my kids are not interested in Pokemon Go. Probably because they don’t have smart phones. But I suspect it is just a matter of time. Sooner or later, someone in the house will get a hold of the game, and a new chapter of Pokmeon adventures will enter our lives.


Gotta Catch Them All!


Suicide Squad: A Review

The gang’s all here. Well, except El Diablo, apparently

Let’s jump right to it: Will Smith was great as Deadshot, Margot Robbie was even better as Harley Quinn. Harley was a very, very poorly written character, but Margot Robbie made her her work – or at least came close – based pretty much solely on the strength of her acting.

You laugh, but wait until you see how useful it is when you’re stuck in a rainforest or something, I don’t know

We have a new winner for “worst superpower ever”, though, ousting everyone’s favorite archer (shut up, “Arrow” fans), Hawkeye, from the top spot (really like the character, but I always imagine him stopping at the arrow store before battles). Let’s all give a hand to…Slipknot! He can climb anything! And that’s it. Seriously. That’s it. That’s his superpower.

The plot of the movie is ridiculous swiss cheese. It’s not really clear why we need something like the Suicide Squad as opposed to, say, the Justice League: If Amanda Waller is that skilled at manipulation, wouldn’t it be in her best interests to gather all of the heroes together? In fact, somebody once did just that. His name was Nick Fury. It worked out really, really well.

The idea that we can pin any mistakes or atrocities on the Squad is absent here, since there really isn’t any opportunity for them to commit atrocities and their original mission is something that could easily be done by a swat team task force; they actually decide to go for the “Save the world” stuff of their own accord, which is really stupid and the sort of thing they should have been saved for anyway.

The methods used to control the characters was dumb: Try to run and you get blown up. This is stupid because there are plenty of things you can do that don’t justify blowing you up but are still harmful to the overall cause. For example, at one point in the movie Deadshot intentionally misses a shot; he’s not blown up because, hey, they could still use him after all. The obvious thing to do would be to ALSO attach some sort of device that causes pain; this way if you try to disobey you can be tased or something to stop you in your tracks, force you to comply, or punish you. But apparently this never occurred to anyone.

And yet…Harsh as I sound “Suicide Squad” was actually a whole lot of fun. As said before, Deadshot and Harley Quinn were both entertaining; even Killer Croc had some great one-liners (Captain Boomerang remains a half step above Deadshot and roughly on par with Hawkeye on the “Stupidest powers” scale. He throws boomerangs!). El Diablo’s actor put on a good performance and had one of the more interesting arcs in the movie, even if it ended up being something of a cliche in the end; he also ended up with the coolest powers, showing off a nice little surprise at the end of the film.

Yes, if you were wondering, he really is pretty much a pimp

Leto’s Joker was a disappointment. He wasn’t in it a ton and actually didn’t even seem overly menacing. He seemed to have a real connection with Harley Quinn (something I had a real problem with, which I’ll get to later), and we didn’t see him kill anybody but criminals and prison guards, who we’ve established earlier in the movie as sadistic.

And there was one moment that was absolutely perfect, which I’ll get to later. I actually recommend the film if you’re looking to see something stupid but fun. It’s the poor man’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, continuing the DC trend of making inferior versions of Marvel movies – but inferior or not, it was definitely entertaining, if nothing else. It’s probably a 6 of 10 or so on the star scale.

Was the film superversive? Well…kind of? It depends on how you define superversive – whether it’s about the final result or the effort. Certainly the movie clearly TRIED for that superversive feel – a band of misfits and villains coming together and deciding of their own accord and without coercion that they were going to try to save the world, redeeming themselves, at least partially, in the process. But the execution was meh. Still, it really did go for it, and that, at least, is to be commended.

There was one moment in the movie that was absolutely perfect – and here be a minor spoiler. During the climax, the villain shows the heroes visions of their fantasy of a perfect life. Most were pretty standard fare – Deadshot wants a life with his daughter, El Diablo wants his family back (in a very nice moment in and of itself El Diablo is the only one to reject the fantasy world, being the only member of the Squad up to that point who really accepted the fact that he didn’t deserve anything more than what he got).

Harley Quinn’s vision is of her and the Joker with no deformities, dressed normally, with three kids, living a perfectly normal life. It’s poignant, it’s sad, it’s moving, and it’s a pitch-perfect insight into what makes Harley’s character tick. In a weird way this little thirty second scene was the highlight of the movie.

It also highlights the movie’s biggest problem. Early on we learn that Harley Quinn is the “Queen of Crime”, with Joker as the king. He goes on crime sprees with her, brings her with him everywhere, and seems to have genuine romantic feelings for her. At one point he “offers” her sexually to another villain but it quickly becomes clear that he was playing mind games and never really intended for her to do anything with him. He even saves her life at one point and organizes a major rescue mission for her.

This is all, all wrong. At her core, Harley is a tragic character. In that one scene the movie comes SO CLOSE to hitting upon this but never really backs it up. Harley is never Joker’s Queen: She’s his minion. He’s her abusive boyfriend. He does just enough to flatter her so she does what he wants her to but throws her aside and treats her like garbage as soon as she serves her purpose.

Will the real Harley Quinn please stand up?

Harley Quinn was introduced in “Batman: The Animated Series”. The Joker/Harley dynamic is best demonstrated in the episode “Mad Love”, widely regarded as a classic and originally an award winning comic. In it, Harley decides that to impress the Joker, she’s going to kill Batman herself. She actually manages to get Batman into an impossible to escape death trap, but is kept from killing him when Batman tells her that the stories the Joker told her in order to get her to fall in love with him (and spring him from Arkham Asylum, where she was his psychiatrist) were lies that Batman himself had already heard. He convinces her to call the Joker over to witness the trap for himself.

Harley’s near-success enrages the Joker. Despite her protests that she was trying to help, he pushes her out a window into a dumpster, and finds the whole thing so insignificant that it’s not even worth a laugh. This is some dark, dark stuff. This is abuse on a really dangerous scale.

In her hospital bed (!!!), Harley renounces the Joker forever…right up until his flower and card. All of a sudden, back to true love.

Harley Quinn’s relationship should be completely one-sided. The Joker shouldn’t rescue her. When she gets out, he might try to find her to use her somehow, but he’d abandon her – even kill her – in a heartbeat if she interfered at all with his plans. Harley’s dream life with the Joker is tragic, and it’s tragic in the movie as well – but it should also be tragic because it’s clear that not only is the dream impossible, it’s completely delusional: The Joker simply doesn’t care about her. She’s a minion, a disposable tool, worth only the most perfunctory efforts to keep her as a sometimes useful ally. That normal life isn’t just impossible because they’re both bad. It’s impossible because the relationship doesn’t even really exist at all.

The plot could easily have made more sense, too. The Joker should have been the real villain. You start off with the Joker and Harley doing something heinous – say setting off a bomb – when Batman shows up. Despite nearly catching the Joker he is forced to rescue Harley, who the Joker has pushed into water or something like that. A bomb goes off in a building, and in the chaos Joker escapes. Batman simply gets lucky that the building, for whatever reason, was empty that day.

Cut to Amanda Waller, who explains to a group of stuffed shirts that Batman is clearly too much of a goody-goody to get the Joker: To catch a guy like him, you need people just as ruthless and just as crazy – she proposes the suicide squad.

Everyone balks until word gets out that the Joker is planning another, even larger terrorist attack – and all of a sudden the idea doesn’t sound so bad. And there’s your premise. It gets Harley in on things too – as his ex-“girlfriend” she would supposedly know various hiding places of the Joker, and Harley of course, despite publicly renouncing the Joker, secretly wants to impress him and get back into his good graces….

There’s a plot that makes sense! The concept of a Suicide Squad makes sense. Harley’s inclusion makes sense. The villain is interesting. The stakes certainly are high enough. This is exactly what we should have seen in this film.

But we didn’t.

What we saw was still fairly good (due mostly to the strength of the lead actors), and highly entertaining, but it could have been so much better. And that’s a real shame.

“Tales of the Once and Future King” Update

At this point, every author should have been contacted, save for the two I specifically solicited (don’t worry, you’ve been accepted ;-) ). This gives us a solid total of nineteen stories; I may add one of my own to make an even twenty. That way none of the authors need to worry about losing a potential cut of the royalties, as that will just be folded in with the fifty percent that goes to the editors.

This means if you haven’t been contacted yet, please send a query, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you HAVE been contacted, please send a confirmation e-mail confirming you accept the terms of publication.

Congratulations to everybody who got in. I think our lineup of stories is very strong and I look forward to seeing how the anthology ultimately turns out!

Apologies for the few late responses. I was literally up until five in the morning last night going through these stories, so know it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Star Trek Beyond: The Spoilerific Review.


I grew up in a Star Trek house. A lot of my early memories involved classic Star Trek reruns and watching The Wrath of Khan the way my niece watches Frozen. I can remember the excitement of seeing Star Trek‘s future when TNG was new, and being mildly horrified and fascinated when my Dad told me the new Enterprise had kids on board, and they put them on “the disc” during battle to keep them safe. (I was five; I assumed they beamed them up halfway and stored them on floppies. It was probably a better solution than sticking them all on a big target without warp drive.) It was one of those things that got into my blood, and it stayed there until the 90s anime/Babylon 5 combo showed me there was more to scifi than Star Trek. Relations have been strained since then; I tend to see Star Trek as being moments of brilliance interrupted by long stretches of meh, though catching reruns on TV lately has sort of reawakened my appreciation for it beyond that. More after the cut; and spoilers ho.

Seriously, guys. Spoilers. Continue reading

Important Note for Writers


I say this because I’m working my way through the submissions for “Tales of the Once and Future King”. My sister, the assistant editor, had been through some submissions without me and put a couple in the rejected folder. Before I send out e-mails I always give the stories I haven’t read a quick once over even if my sister has already given her opinion on  it. To clarify, every story is given detailed personal consideration by one of the two of us and at least skimmed by both, so you aren’t being stiffed.

It was very clear why she had rejected one story: ZERO effort had been made to follow submission guidelines. There was no title in the document, no name, no address, it was not double spaced, not indented, and the font was not an accepted one. So my sister rejected it, as well she should have. For one thing, it makes it harder on us to read. For another, it’s lazy: Why should we give you a cut of our money if you won’t even put in the little bit of effort needed to format the work correctly? It’s insulting.

But I duly gave it a onceover, and am happy I did, as it was an excellent story. So I’m going to accept it – but if I hadn’t read it at all, I would have had every right. The author broke the rules, after all.

So, if you submit a story: Follow the guidelines! If you don’t, you might lose a payday, and an editor might miss a great story. It’s bad for everyone.

Today’s Sermon

I was preaching in church today (and translating myself at the same time, since there were a lot of Americans at the service). I thought I’d share what I said here, since it touches on the Superversive Literary Movement.

Colossians 3: 22-24:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

In this passage the overall principle is clear, and we in the West are far better off than slaves, even though on a particularly bad day we might briefly forget it. We have even more reason to obey this commandment, and less reason to complain. This doesn’t make it any easier to obey, but it helps to keep things in perspective when we realise who this commandment was originally given to. If slaves are to obey their masters sincerely and in reverence for the Lord, how much more are we to do so, knowing the heavenly as well as often earthly rewards we will receive for our efforts?

It can often seem that we are toiling and toiling away at something with no positive results to show for it, or we see results, but fail to see how what we are producing is of any value, of any wider spiritual benefit. At those times it can be easy to lose hope and just go through the motions. I’d like to look at this issue from a slightly different angle, beginning with a quote from the ever-awesome C.S. Lewis:

While we are on the subject of science, let me digress or a moment. I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication.

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.   You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series, produced by Christians, which can beat the Penguin and the Thinkers Library on their own ground. Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly.

This is what I try to do as a writer, to create works that stand on their own merits alongside other books by people with very different worldviews (I leave it to the readers to decide how successful I am in that regard), while at the same time as a member of the Superversive Literary Movement to tell stories that encourage people to build rather than tear down, to persevere rather than give in to despair, to notice, value and be grateful for the beauty we see all around us in all its forms and provide glimpses of the great truths behind this universe.

This principle not only applies to books, but to every kind of useful work, every productive industry. What if whenever someone wanted to find a good handyman, a good lawyer, a good engineer, a good doctor, a good researcher, the best options available to him, the most capable, the most trustworthy, were always Christians? What effect would that have on that someone, on the society as a whole? Wouldn’t it open up tremendous new opportunities for the Good News to spread? This is the context of Peter’s instruction to the believers in his first epistle:

1 Peter 3:13-16

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

In the culture in which this was written, pure altruism was unheard of. If you helped someone in some way, they were then literally in your debt, since honour and shame was a much more powerful motivating force than it is today. This sometimes made people reluctant to accept help, since they didn’t know what sort of return favour would be asked of them. So when a Christian helped a stranger and didn’t want anything in return, as Jesus commanded, the recipient of that help would be suspicious. They’d think, ‘Oh, they must be holding out for something really big from me’, and this would be the opportunity for the Christian to explain that they were expecting a heavenly rather than earthly reward for their efforts. It opened up a door to share that hope.

The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, strength and love our neighbour as ourselves. With all of our strength and our mind includes the work that we do, so it would be appropriate to say that we should love the Lord with all of our work. So let’s work on ourselves, educate ourselves, improve, become the best we can be at what we do. Let’s honour God, make his world a better place and bless others through our work.

God likes to work through us, to use us to achieve his purposes. Jesus said that he came that we may have life, and have it abundantly. Let’s be part of that abundance that God has planned for others, and through our work give them a little glimpse of the abundance that only he can give. Sometimes this will open up an opportunity to share some of His good news, other times it will be enough to simply be that blessing for others, and give them a tangible foretaste of His kingdom.

This is a great challenge, one not to be taken lightly. I’d like to close with the closing instruction Paul gave to the Phillippian church:

Phillippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Why is it important to think about such things? Because what we feed our mind on forms our character, transforming us and our behaviour from the inside, so people can watch us and see the Gospel at work. If we can provide true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy things for other people to think about (as the Superversive Literary Movement tries to do), all the better.

If you want to sample some of my efforts in this regard, click on the images below:

all cover_f1_v13_frontsmall

Selected Verse - Heroes and WondersSelected Verse - Faith and Family Beyond the Mist





* After the sermon, someone came up to me to ask where I got the C.S. Lewis quote from. I had to explain that I went looking for a Czech translation of God in the Dock, in the end finding one, only to discover that it was a translation of a selection from that essay collection and the passage in question was not included. I ended up translating the passage myself together with my wife in preparation, and handed him the copy I had printed out for the sermon. For my tens of Czech readers, I provide it below:

Když už mluvíme o vědě, udělám malou odbočku. Věřím, že jakýkoliv křesťan, který je kvalifikován napsat dobrou popularni knihu z jakékoli oblasti vědy, tím dosahne daleko více než skrze čistě apologetické dílo.  Problem je v tom, že lidé budou často naslouchat křesťasnskému pohledu na věc třeba půl hodiny – ale jakmile odejdou z naší přednášky nebo odloží náš článek, jsou ponoření zpět do světa, kde se opačný postoj považuje za samozřejmost. Dokud tato situace trvá, nějaký dalekosáhlý úspech je prostě nemožný. Musime napadnout nepřítelovy komunikační kanály.

To, co chceme, není více knížek o křestanství, ale vice knížek křesťanských autorů o jiných předmetech, v nichž je křesťanství skryté, v pozadi. To lze nejlépe pochopit, když na to podivame z druhé strany. Naší vírou těžko otřese nejaká kniha o Hinduismu. Pokud bychom ale četli nějakou základní knihu o geologii, botanice, politice či astronomie, a jeji závěry by poukazovaly k hinduismu, to by námi otřáslo. Moderního člověka nedělají materialistou knihy napsané na obhajobu materialismu, ale základní materialistické předpoklady ve všech ostatnich knihách. Stejně tak nebude nijak zvlášť znepokojen knihami o křesťanství, ale bude zneklidněn, když kdykoliv bude chtít koupit levnou populárně naučnou knihu v nějakém vědním oboru, zjistí, že nejlepší dílo na trhu napsal nějaký křesťan. Prvním krokem k znovuobrácení tohoto národa je série knih napsaných křesťany, které mohou porazit sekularni alternativy na jejich vlastním hřišti. Křesťanstvi těchto knih by muselo být v pozadi, nevyslovené, a věda samozřejmě naprosto poctivá. Překrucovat vědu v zájmu apologetiky by byl hřích a pošetilost.

“Tales From the Once and Future King” Update

For those who sent in submissions, we will get back to you with a decision by Monday, August 8.

If you sent something in and have received nothing from us by that time, please feel free to e-mail and check with us. But before that point, you can still assume we have it.

We actually haven’t had any inquiries yet, but I want you all to know that we have NOT forgotten about you and WILL get back to you with a response.

Thanks for being patient,

– Anthony Marchetta, Editor in Chief


“A Little Touch of Harry In The Night”

Spoiler free musings on the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Juss wizard 16b

The Elf King contemplates his life of wizardly crime.

Saturday night, standing between the trolley witch’s cart and the wand maker, surrounded on all sides by charm and wonder that was the world of Harry Potter, I couldn’t help recall how I had come to be there.

Harry potter

The first time I ever heard of Harry Potter was nearly two decades ago. John had been reading an article that mentioned complaints about some “overly-masculine” book from England, where children characters still punched each other.

Some months later, I walked into Barnes and Nobles, and they had a display showing a rather charming book cover. The title of the book had the boy’s name in it. It reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown, Tom Swift, and other books John had loved as a boy. I called him over and showed it to him. His face lit up. “That’s the book I told you about!”

The title was: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry potter 2

Doesn’t the cover even look like one of those old boys adventure books?

The title made me smile, because it reminded me of the Philosopher’s Stone (Little did I guess that it actually was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, only they’d dumbed it down for Americans.)

“Let’s get it.”

We read it to each other on our Christmas trip to John’s mom’s. We LOVED it.

It was entirely enthralling. It had the cheer and the wonder of a fairy tale, but the concreteness of the modern—or at least semi-modern day. There was a lonely orphan boy and a talking snake. A friendly giant who told the lonely boy that he was a wizard. (Even today, that scene brings tears to my eyes, every time I reread it.) There was a magical boarding school with moving staircases, cruel professors–though no more cruel that the real professors at the boarding school C. S. Lewis attended, and a Forbidden Forest.

What more could the child-like heart of a fantasy fan desire?

harry potter 3

Even today, the first Harry Potter book remains one of my favorites of all time (though I think the third book is my favorite of all Harry Potters.)

John and I were so enchanted, that, upon finishing it, we immediately went out and bought the newest one…in hardback.

A huge investment for us, young parents that we were.

We decided to keep to our tradition of reading the book together. The second was just as good as the first one—with ghosts and taking diaries and a basilisk.

After Christmas, we discovered that a good friend had also discovered the wonder that was Harry Potter, after receiving the books for Christmas from his sister. And so our experience of sharing Harry Potter fandom began.

Then came more books…and movies.

And the video games.

Soon, not only were most of our friends fans of Harry Potter, the whole world knew who Harry was!

This charming story we had fallen in love with that Christmas had conquered the world.

So, when it was announced, in 2008, that the last Harry Potter book was coming out, Book Seven, I decided to do something daring. I would take my eight year old to the midnight release party.

Midnight was very late for him. But, I thought it was a once in a lifetime event. The kind of thing he might remember years later.

He didn’t make it until mid-night, if I recall. But he enjoyed the wonder and bustle. But I waited and I bought the book.

And then I took it home and John and I sat and read it aloud to each other until 5:00 the next day (whether we read until 5pm or the following 5am, I cannot recall.)

Why did we read non-stop, going nowhere, and pausing only to feed the children.

Let us jump back to the release of Book Six.

In some ways, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the book I recall the best. There are two reasons for this:

1) Normally, we read the books together rather quickly. When this book came out, however, John was very busy at work, so we read something like a single chapter a day.

So I had a looooonnnnggg time to ponder every clue and every turn of the story.

I still remember being on my hands and knees in the hallway, scrubbing the tile of the floor (housecleaning project), thinking over each turn and twist of the story, wondering about it and trying to put the clues together.


Who can explain why the oily Snape became so popular with moms? 

2) Book Six. It was the one with all the secrets. All the real twists and turns. The day after it had come out, when we had hardly read any of it. John was getting his hair cut.

You know what barbers are like. You sit in a chair. They cover you with a cloth to keep the hair off your clothes. With the cloth in place you can’t raise your hands quickly to do things like…you know…

Stick your fingers in your ears.

John was sitting there, waiting for the trimming of his beard, (Yes, he does occasionally trim back the great, old-forest growth!) when the chipper DJs on MTV decided to announce the three great secrets of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Who the Half-Blood Prince was, What beloved character died, and who killed him.

John desperately tried to cover his ears, but—trapped by the barber as he was—he never had a chance.

MTV…how could you?

Kindly, John did not share the secrets he had learned with me, but it cast a gloom over our reading experience. It is not nearly as much fun to spend hours wondering about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince when the person you are supposed to be in cahoots with already knows the answer.

So, when Book Seven came out, we decided that we would not leave the house or listen to the TV until we had read it. We ploughed through at such a dramatic pace that, to this day, I sometimes wonder if I might have missed part of it. (Actually, not to this day. The two part movie reminded me of the parts I might have forgotten…but there was a while there…)

Orville-and-Elise-harry-potter 2

My eldest attending a friends Harry Potter birthday party. 

He is wearing my grandmother’s graduation robe from Cambridge,

which she attended in the 1920s. 

New Harry Potter play coming out. New movie in the background. Rowling has write several other books, two of which I loved and one of which I found very painful to read, but very moving when I finally reached the end and understood it.

And, oh, of course…I suppose I should mention the three years of living hell playing a roleplaying game set some 20 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, which—despite the tremendous pain suffered by all four of the people involved with this game—I fell so in love with, as a story, that I threw aside everything else I had been doing and devoted the next five years of my life to transforming this painful, painful game into the best (non-Harry Potter) YA fantasy series I could make it.

! Rachel Griffin Cover\

Note that Rachel is wearing the same robe as the picture above.

So, when it was announced that the new play would open 19 years after the official end of the previous series, I guess I could not help being mildly curious as to how it might turn out.

But it was a play. In London.

And they were only releasing a script.

I wasn’t really interested.

cursed child

Outside the theater in London where Cursed Child is playing.

J. K. Rowling asked those who saw the play before it formally opened to “keep the secret.” One online site told, though. They wrote out a description of the entire play. (Having now read the actual play, I must say that this sight offered the most spoilerific version of a spoiler ever known to man. They recorded EVERYTHING.)

I wasn’t that interested. Didn’t plan to read the new script, but…I clicked on the link.

The story was kind of dull and simplistic. Just little bits about Harry’s youngest son at school…

…until it wasn’t.

scorp and alb

My favorite of the currently available shots from the London play.

Mainly, because the others look posed.

What started as a slow beginning suddenly was rolling down hill at Hogwart Express rates. There were twists and turns and unexpected reversals. Using portraits and dreams and other canon-established methods, the author had found astonishingly clever ways of bring onstage not only charming new characters, such as the Potter and Granger-Weasley children, but the dearly-departed ones as well.

At the end of the write-up, I sat blinking with wonder at the complexity and cleverness of the thing, how charming it was, and how well it rewarded Harry Potter fans, showing them things they wanted to see or had wondered about.

But…I still wasn’t really interested.

I mean…read a script?

Especially since everyone who had seen it agreed that the most amazing part was how fantastically high tech the production was in their special effects and scene changes. (There’s a montage scene. I have never seen a montage scene in a stage play before.)

So, what benefit would come from reading it?

Flash forward to Saturday night. It was around 8pm. I had gone to bed early for reasons after a difficult week, and I suddenly woke up and realized that:

Tonight was the night.

The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was coming out.

Barnes and Nobles was having a midnight party.

We could go.

I mean, we didn’t have to buy the book to enjoy the festivities, right?

It took until about 10:30pm for me to lever myself out of bed, find the appropriate Hogwarts robes for those who wanted them, and drive over to Barnes and Nobles.

On the way, I wondered if this gamble of a mid-night release party nine years later would pay off for B&B, Would anyone be there?

The first thing I noticed upon arriving was that the parking lot was packed.

Inside, costumed figures were everywhere. The line for the café went all the way to the front door…and it stayed nearly that long for the whole hour we were there. And inside, delights galore.

Nine years before, there had been a few kind of dull activities at the midnight release party. Now, nearly a decade and the rest of the movies later, all was wonder.

There was a sorting hat. a trolley witch selling treats, a wandmaking station, a ‘add-to-the-story” activity, potions games, as well as other stations we never investigated. Nearby stood a life-sized dementor with a sign that said FREE KISSES. There were Harry Potter books, and Harry Potter toys, and a 3-D puzzle of Hogwarts on display. And at the café, after the long, long wait, there was a poster on the wall—as official as all the others—for a Passion Potion drink, made just for this evening.

And everywhere, everywhere, were Harry Potter fans. Little boys with the round glasses and a scar on their forehead. Older boys in their Slytherin Quidditch robes. Girls dressed like Hermione or Cho Chang. Adults in witch hats or clever tee-shirts.

In line, in front of us, as we waited for our Passion Potion, was a young man in his twenties, clearly of the Wizarding world, who had carefully attempted to dress as a Muggle in order to join the festivities. Only he had sadly failed…his plaid pants not quite matching the patterns of his shirt, suit, and tie. Beside him was another young man (they both turned out to be software engineers) wearing a Pokemon TV. He enjoyed our conversation, but his face really lit up when he described his last month…living his childhood dream of actually catching Pokemon himself.

And somehow, the magic was all the more wonderful because Scholastic had finally, at long last, gotten it right—and released a new Rowlings book on July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday!

Harry and Hedwig

The first movie is still one of my all time favorite films.

As I stood amidst the enchantment and wonder, sipping my grande Passion Potion, I slowly realized:

A) My little eight year old was 17. My youngest was 13. He was taller, significantly in some cases, than many of the other children here.

That meant: many of the children who had come had been born after that fateful midnight in 2008 when Orville and I had last waited for a Harry Potter release.

Rune, Odysseus

The Elf King, back before his wanted picture days.

This is the same Hogwarts robe he’s wearing in the wanted picture.

B) While this was, by chance, the bookstore where I had first discovered Harry Potter, it was not the bookstore where Orville and I had waited 9 years before.

That store had been a Borders. It was gone now.

C) What an extraordinary impact J. K. Rowling’s orphan wizard boy had had upon the lives of, not only millions of readers all across the worlds – she has sold over 450 million books. That is one and a half books for every single man, woman, and child in America—but upon my own life, as an author, spending my days writing a series that—even if it was quite different from Harry Potter in mood and direction, had started life as a Hogwarts roleplaying game.

And I felt so happy.

…and so grateful.

And, suddenly, I did want to buy the book.

D) This was not 2008. I didn’t have to wait until midnight.

We left after about an hour, went home, got a good night’s sleep…and I bought the book on Kindle, for half the hardcover price…the next morning.

cursed child 2

I have read the play now. It was an experience both bittersweet and joyous.

The strangest part was when there would be some hint of Christianity, such as the mention of a church, and I would remember suddenly that this was not Mark Whipple’s game version of future Hogwarts, where all monotheistic religions had been removed by magic from everyone’s memory.

The most amusing moment was chortling with joy when a character used flipendo. A favorite spell from the video game that never appeared in the books (and therefore Mark had not allowed us to use it in the game.)


Flipen-do! Flip-endo! 

Either way, it’s so much fun to say!

Was the experience of reading a script worthwhile?

It was. Partially because it was Harry Potter.

Most fantasy worlds need lengthy description to make them come to life. But this was Hogwarts! We all know what everything looks like. We’ve read the books. We’ve seen the movies.

One funny thing was that without thinking about it, when reading, I pictured an older version of the movie Hermione in my mind, but for her daughter, Rose, I pictured the smart young woman playing Rose in the play. I didn’t notice this mental discrepency until I came to a passage in the script that dealt with how much Hermione looked like her daughter.

Hermione and Rose

Hermione and Rose

My mental Hermione had longer, frizzier hair.

Of course, my two mental images didn’t look anything like each other. But it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the play.

Did Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have any flaws?

A few. The writing was a bit simplified, too emotionally obvious—which might be signs of where Rowling’s original short story ended, and the scriptwriter’s dialogue began. But I bet that might be the script’s fault as well, Many of the slightly awkward lines, if said with humor or with deep emotion, would be hilarious or moving in the way that no short stage directions could make them.

Obviously, seeing the play—or even a filming of it—would be a much better option.

But, in the end, it was very enjoyable to read—even though I already knew the entire story.

And so, that was my weekend.

Didn’t end world hunger.

Didn’t save the universe.

But it did lift the spirits and bring joy.

Harry Potter 4

Ron and Hermione: Lifting spirits–and feathers–for nearly two decades.

God bless J. K. Rowling.

Long live The Boy Who Lived!



Enter the Apocalypse — Aftermath & Rebirth

A new three-part apocalyptic series anthology has begun. The first, Enter the Apocalypse, is filling up now and work has begun on Enter the Aftermath and Enter the Rebirth. A fantastic concept that I am very excited to see in fruition. I will keep us all well advised on the progress and availability of this fascinating concept.

It is the brainchild of Thomas Gandolfi.

Here is a link for more information —