Pride Picnic 2021

We arrive early to help set up the picnic. Volunteers are already organizing by the time we arrive, led by a black person with rainbow hair named Star (they/them). I am introduced to Star by Caelan, and learn that Star also works at the Damien Center, which is exactly the sort of thing I’ve come for, to meet my husband’s coworkers.

At least mostly.

In many ways I dread events like this, I’ve always felt like an intruder in these spaces, surrounded by genderqueer humans and people of color.

“Here I come with my white, cisgender, het-passing meatsack to bring the overall authenticity of this queer celebration down.”

For some reason, today does not feel that way. I feel like an observer, but not an intruder.

As the tables are set, and people begin to arrive, I have a few moments to appreciate the shear diversity of the human condition on display.

Trans folks, queer folks, non-binary folks, and a few straights here with queer family. It truly is a rainbow of sex, sexuality, and race that surrounds me.

I start to think of myself not as an observer at all.

I am observing obviously, but so are many others. A photographer is taking pictures of everything from the setup of the tables, to the people unpacking food, even pictures of Caelan as he directs the parking traffic. Many others have phones out for pictures with friends or just of the panorama around them.

Everyone seems to know eachother, even when they have obviously never met before.

I even find myself very easily speaking to Star about setup, despite my normal anxieties.

Everyone here, myself included, seems to be united by our existence outside the “natural,” and so we are obviously allies.

No. Not allies.


Capital F “Family” has long been a turn of phrase used by the queer community to describe itself.

You family might not accept you, but the Family always will.

Yet, here and now, it seems almost literal.

Meeting the people around the spot I pick for Cael’s and my picnic blanket, I really do get the same sensation of meeting a distant relative for the first time with each introduction.

I can’t tell if it is the nature of a Pride event, or the fact that we’re just coming out of pandemic isolation, but the air of the event is light with a sense of freedom.

Or at the very least, a relaxation of painful restraints.

I can feel it too.

Like relaxing a muscle I didn’t know was tense.

What tasks there are left to do are quickly taken up by folks eager to volunteer. Some not even those who signed up for the job like Cael did.

I find myself throwing a full effort into the task as well.

And yet, strangely, though I eventually leave the volunteers a bit early to set up our picnic blanket, my common anxiety over appearing lazy or uncommitted is absent.

It is a strange vibe to the work.

An eagerness to make the day better, but very little pressure to do anything at all.

I help, and it is earnestly appreciated.

I relax, and I am not chastised.

It feels unlike any other volunteer work I’ve done.

As the setup is done, and festivities of the day get properly underway, I continue to be surprised by myself.

I am normally very conscious of my body, but I find that I am quite relaxed already, not concerned if I appear fat or odd looking. I even find that I am, without meaning to, swaying to the music that plays.

Definitely not an observer.

I think I’m going to put my notebook away for now.

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Cthulhu is a Corporation

Think about it for a minute.

Really think about it.

Imagine Amazon. Not the rain-forest, the company, the corporate entity owned by Jeff Bezos. Can you imagine the size of it? The ‘size’ of Amazon’s online storefront? How many things are bought and sold through Amazon every day? Do you know?

What about Amazon’s streaming services? How many hours of video can you find on Amazon? How many hours of music and audiobooks?

What about their Alexa and “Smart-home” devices? How many homes are they in?

What about Whole-foods? How many people buy food there?

How many content creators make their living on Twitch?

How many people get their news from the Washington Post?

Websites like IMDB, game developers, professional software and hardware, the list keeps going. All parts of the great entity that Jeff Bezos has birthed, by design or assimilation.

Can you imagine it? Can you hold all the pieces of Amazon and the Jeff Bezos empire in your mind simultaneously?

I doubt it.

It is vast beyond the threshold of the human mind.

Will Amazon die?

Unless killed by the collapse of our entire society and infrastructure, or devoured and striped to the bones by another, equally vast, corporate entity, it is possible for Amazon to live on forever, to outlive even its master Jeff Bezos.

That is not dead, which can eternal lie,” as the Lovecraft quote goes.

Is Amazon evil?

Not exactly.

Amazon has no soul or moral compass, as it is merely an engine designed to generate wealth. It does great evil, there can be no doubt. But there is good done as well, incidentally if nothing else. Amazon is neither good nor evil.

It is too large to not be both.

It is above small, human concepts like good and evil.

Amazon is.

Every corporation is like this.

You can say I’m being hyperbolic, and you would obviously be right, but I would say I’m also not wrong.

Lovecraft, hyper-racist that he was, may have gotten something about the future right. The enemies of the newest century are not human, small, fleshy, and easy to kill, but vast and inhuman things, terrible and awe-inspiring in their power.

All this said, I do use Amazon. I have an Echo Dot, a Kindle, and Fire TV widget. That’s kind of the last key to the puzzle though. These things may be above morality, but they want you to like them. They need you to desire what they offer you, so that you return to them again and gain. They feed on your devotion, because that devotion is fed to them via the only thing they want: your money.

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Why I Stopped Writing The Flying Squirrels

So I haven’t published anything here in awhile, and the reason for that is not that I gave up writing, but rather just that I started working on a project I’d like to keep private for now.

It took up the bulk of my writing time/energy for the last several months, but it’s finally at a point where I feel I can dial that commitment back and get some work done on other smaller projects that I post here. But there are a few things that will be different going forward.

First off, many of you have probably noticed that I haven’t posted anything new in The Flying Squirrels in over a year.

Steampunk as a genre is deeply connected to the Victorian Era and British colonialism. The aesthetic is one of refined English gentry, their vast empire, and the fantastical inventions made possible by those institutions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, but it usual is. This presents an obvious problem, in that the British Empire, and the English Nobility, are institutions that were fueled by the sweat and blood of oppressed people. Whether on the vast Indian subcontinent, or the small island of Ireland, the legacy of colonialism is one of exploitation and atrocity. That’s just a fact.

So what?

Well, it means when you write a work in the Steampunk genre, with group of British soldiers as your protagonists, and they’re doing espionage to provoke a war between other nations for the benefit of their Empire, you are conveying a particular brand of politics. There are nuances and particulars to the situation of course, and I was aware of this when I started writing. I tried to convey a very different world than the actual one of 1914. In some obvious way of course, but also I tried to convey a world where colonized peoples had been more successful in their resistance. I alluded to First Nations peoples having secured a modern state for themselves in the land West of the Mississippi, a resurgent Incan Empire, and a league of African nations that had successfully expelled European Colonists.

And yet, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable writing the some later chapters of The Flying Squirrels. These chapters didn’t have anything particularly troubling in them, but it was very much on my mind, and I couldn’t shake it. I had left India a part of the British Empire, as well as Argentina, and parts of the Caribbean. It wasn’t that what I had done was wrong from a storytelling perspective, but I definitely felt like I could be handling it better.

To be clear: this is not the end of The Flying Squirrels, but I am definitely reworking the thing from top to bottom.

As a result, I’m taking all the current chapters off the site for now. I’ll be rewriting the story from the beginning, and there will be some changes.

While I don’t think I’ll discard this alternate British Empire as the setting for our story, I definitely want to make sure I’m not glorifying the legacy of colonialism.

Other changes to the site will be coming shortly, and I hope you’ll join me moving forward.

Thanks for reading.

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Elder of the Conclave (cont.)

[I’m back! This is a continuation of this story. I doubt I’ll return to this little universe, at least for a long while, but I fell out of the habit of writing for awhile and wanted to get back into it with something relatively easy. It’s good to be back]

“How is this not a declaration of war?” Premier Asam growled, leaning over the table, staring incredulously at her Foreign Minister, Giermond.

“Comrade Premier, please understand,” Giermond said, rubbing his temple through his veil. None of them had slept much the previous night. Reports had been sporadic at first, but by morning local time, the only communication out of the Niyati system had been a civilian interlink clogged with terrified personal messages and cries for help. Asam and her Presidium had already been awake, waiting for news on the Gorgon Fleet, but that had been forgotten with the arrival of the Verid Citadel.

Giermond continued, “To say the Verid have a government at all is misleading. They have a legislature and an executive, but the posts are largely ceremonial at this point, filled only by tradition. Whatever power they have is nominal at the best of times. In all likelihood, the Basilica of Verimos has no idea this Citadel has entered our space.”

Asam leaned back in her chair and threw up her hands, “So you’re telling me; a Verid citadel, with all the armament needed to wipe a mid-sized star system clean of all life, can park itself in our territory, but don’t worry, it’s not a declaration of war because they’re not taking orders from anybody.”

“That might be the best case scenario,” Haga Druge, her Chief of Staff grumbled, “Our best projections suggest a mobilization of Verid forces against us is one of the scenarios that likely starts the dominos falling. The Marrikese will make their move in the immediate aftermath, and once that happens…”

“Alright,” Asam waved them down, “So what do we have to do to make sure this isn’t a prelude to full mobilization? Who do we talk to?”

“Normally,” Giermond blinked the tiredness out of his six eyes, “We would ask the Verid Ambassador to the Conclave, but they haven’t sent us one in almost two years.”

“Then who was at my inauguration?” Asam asked, blinking confusion, “Somebody from Verimos congratulated me.”

“Ah, yes. That’s Cassalius. He lives at the embassy,” Giermond opened his arms as if that explained everything.

“He ‘lives at the embassy?’ What does that even mean?” Asam was angry enough to let her voice rise.

“He was the ambassador about 70 years ago,” said Giermond.

“And what, he just never left?” Asam asked, incredulous.

“That’s fairly accurate, Comrade Premier,” Giermond said nodding.

Continue reading

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New Job Hype!


I started a new job this week.

I had hoped that while making preparations for my change in employment I’d find the time to write this weeks story still, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen before next week.

So nothing new this week, but come back next week and we’ll be back to business as usual.


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Jane’s War (part 5)

Jane ( woke and stretched.

She spent some time trying to work a kink out of her arm before remembering that particular arm wasn’t there anymore.

She looked about for her arm. It was on the nightstand, and she had to reach over Bineshii to grab it.

As she did, she took some time to examine Bineshii without her armor.

Long black hair had come loose from her tight braid as they’d slept, falling like ink over dusky skin. She stirred, the feathers of her wings ruffling a bit.

Jane couldn’t get over the wings.

She had assumed the bulky, rucksack like protrusion on her armor had been accommodating a hump or a growth, but Bineshii had said the Julians had taken an interest and committed to “refining” her mutation.

And so Bineshii had two feathered wings, as black as her hair.

Jane thought of the angels that made up the mandatory religion of Homeland. By law they were always portrayed with white feathers and skin, but Bineshii seemed infinitely more beautiful to Jane.

Continue reading

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Long ago

Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the roads, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments destroying us. It had nearly happened, she knew that, but that was ages ago. A memory of her parent’s time, when angry men had shouted from a million television screens “Better Dead than Red.” It was not a part of her world. She lived in a world where there was no such danger, she thought.

Surely people knew better, she would tell herself, surely we’re smarter than that. And besides, there are smart people at the helm, they know better than to steer us back towards the edge.

She thought war was the only way it could happen. She thought the statesmen would have to be stupid or evil to kill us all. But to do great evil, you need not be evil, or stupid. Only lazy.

Things got worse, and killings started. But they were far away and done by remote, and the people she trusted to fix things told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing happened all the time, but that it was better this way and only temporary. She didn’t think it was normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

Killings became a frequent thing, a normal thing, and why should you fear the normal?

Things got worse, and the tides came. But they were predictable and started out manageable, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing happened all the time, over the years it was bound to happen here eventually. She didn’t think it was normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

The tides grew larger and receded back a little less every day, but it became normal, and why should you fear the normal.

Things got worse, and the draft came. But not everyone was called, the fighting was far away, and they very rarely died, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing had happened many times, and that it would all be over soon. She was sure this wasn’t normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

The war dragged on, and more were drafted every month, but it became normal, and why should you fear the normal?

When the fish were gone, people were worried. But with the new tides, fishing was a dying art anyway, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her species died out all the time, and that it was all part of a cycle. She knew this wasn’t normal, but how could she be afraid? She trusted them. If they were lying it must be a good reason for it.

In the end, the world without fish became normal.

Then came the time when, once the sun was up, and people couldn’t go outside anymore, but this had been predicted, expected, and the people in charge had told her “This is normal.” They told her the planet did this on its own, and it would surely fix itself in time. She knew this wasn’t normal, and she was afraid.

It was too late.

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On the Scientist Salarian

Much like my thoughts on the USPS in The Walking Dead pilot, here’s a random thought about another piece of pop culture well past the point where it was probably relevant:

So in Mass Effect 2 (the science fiction shooting-of-mans game), the team scientist, Mordin Solus, explains to the player in a dialog scene that he was part of a cultural exchange program between the Salarian (the alien species to which Mording belongs) and Human governments. Specifically, he explains that he performed in some Salarian adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan. The player has the option to press the issue, incredulous that this terse scientist (and lest we forget, former spy) performed in British comedic opera. Mordin proceeds to perform the Salarian version of “Modern Major General,” which seems to have been re-titled “Scientist Salarian.”

“I am the very model of a scientist salarian, I’ve studied species turian, asari, and batarian;

I’m quite good at genetics (as a subset of biology) because I am an expert (which I know is a tautology);

My xenoscience studies range from urban to agrarian, I am the very model of a scientist salarian.”

Now, if you’re familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Major General’s song, you know that the Major General is actually terrible at this job.

The Major General, according to his song, is wonderfully skilled and knowledgeable, in all matters not related to warfare. He’s wonderful at math, biology, and history but he lacks a firm grasp on the very basics of strategy. He even claims to not be able to tell a rifle from a javelin on sight, which seems pretty bad.

Why then, in Mordin’s song, is the Scientist Salarian an actual expert, skilled in relevant areas to his field?

This is where it gets terribly interesting.

We know from the in-game encyclopedia, and a few characters we met in the first game, that the Salarians have a very different view of war than most. They don’t care for large fleets or armies and prefer the focus to on espionage and subtle, surgical strikes. They will often take preemptive action to turn the political tides away from war, or focus on attacking an enemies logistical capabilities, making a war untenable. Their Special Task Groups are made of not only spies and commandos, but also doctors, scientists, and other varied experts. They follow this sort of broad, outside the box problem solving as their standard MO.

So what does this have to do with the Modern Major General?

Well, the Major General, rather than seeming the buffoon that Gilbert and Sullivan intended to write, may have seemed an ideal candidate for military service to the Salarians. A Salarian general wouldn’t need to know anything about conventional warfare after all, because the Salarians don’t fight conventional wars.

The Scientist Salarian is good at his job, because as far as they were concerned, the Major General is supposed to be good at his.

So why does this matter?

Well, it doesn’t.

But I think it’s interesting. It serves as a fascinating in universe example of how different cultures in the real world can reach wildly different conclusions from the exact same data, simply due to their own cultural context. The Modern Major General, intended as a satire of the British Army officer class in the late 19th century, becomes the Scientist Salarian, an ur example of the expert.

I just thought that was super interesting, and it’s something to keep in mind when looking at pop culture around the globe.

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Local Politics

Local politics can be weird.

Correction: local politics are like national politics in microcosm.

Including all the weirdness.

At the end of February, I attended a Public Safety meeting at City Hall in my town about the police buying a BearCat (an armored vehicle) for the department’s Critical Incident Response Team (their equivalent of SWAT). I’m generally against the militarization of police forces in America, so I was more than a little concerned.

The meeting started simply enough.

The main concern of the committee was that they felt the police department had failed to properly inform the public about the purchase and their reasons for it. They hadn’t gone out of their way to keep a secret, but nobody likes to find out about this sort of thing at the last minute, especially if you’re part of a group historically targeted unjustly by police departments in America. The local chapter of Black Lives Matter was not happy about the purchase, but they were even less thrilled with what they saw as a lack of transparency.

The committee gave the police chief the floor first to explain himself.

To his credit, he made a compelling case.

He tried to say that his department had dropped the ball as far as communicating with the community, and that the concerns of groups like BLM were entirely fair, but he was firm that the department still needed some kind of armored vehicle for the CIRT.

When he was done, even I was just about convinced that the purchase would probably be fine.

But something came up when the committee asked questions that seemed like a major red flag. When asked what the guidelines were for how/when this vehicle would be used, as a major concern of BLM and the community at large was that this vehicle might be used to break up protests in town, the police chief’s response was…less than ideal.

He at first assured the community that his department had a long history of respecting protests (which, to be fair, they do) but when pressed on specific guidelines that would govern the vehicle’s use, he simply said that no specific guidelines exist as “We don’t have the vehicle yet.”

Now, call me paranoid, but that is an answer that raises more questions than it answers.

If the community is concerned about how you intend to use something, and you know this is the case, why would you not come up with guidelines for how you intend to use it before you get it?

Continue reading

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“You have to forgive people,” a friend of mine told me not long ago.

I took issue.

You don’t have to forgive anyone.

At no point, no matter what happens, are you required to forgive someone for what they’ve done.

I had literally just wrote that sentiment in a bit of trivial fiction, and I had meant it.

We got into it, and what they meant of course was that redemption has to be possible, and that is perhaps true.

If redemption isn’t possible, offered another friend, then people may as well commit suicide after their offense or faux pas: there is no incentive to change.

This isn’t wrong.

It has to be possible to forgive someone, but there is the key word: “possible.”

You can forgive people for any offense, but nobody is entitled to that forgiveness.

The Christian pastor Billy Graham died this past week, and while many American Christians remember him fondly, many in the LGBT+ community aren’t willing to forget his despicable claims that HIV/AIDS was divine punishment brought down on the gay community.

A claim that is utterly wretched.

Believing that people deserve to die because they’re LGBT+ is simply evil, and this is only the tip of a horrible homophobic iceberg when it comes to Billy Graham.

Someone told me he recanted the HIV/AIDS claim later, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that.

More to the point, I do not care if he did.

It doesn’t change the fact that for years Billy Graham used his pulpit, his fame, and national attention to advocate that gay people deserve to die.

We are still living in the fallout of this rhetoric, and likely will be for generations still.

Nobody has to forgive that.


Maybe (just maybe) if we could wind back the clocks and redo the last half of Billy Graham’s life, and say he spontaneously realized what exactly he was saying and spent just as much time championing LGBT rights as he had previously advocating death, maybe I could see my way to forgive him.

But even if that could happen, it would never completely erase the harm he did.

Even if I could forgive him in this miraculous 45 year do-over, I could never demand that others do the same.

Because (and say this with me now), “THAT IS NOT HOW FORGIVENESS WORKS.”

Forgiveness can’t be mandatory.

It’s not magical points you earn.

People chose to give it, or they don’t, and you have to live with that.

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