SF Snippet #3: In Which Hostilities Escalate

Conflicts, once begun, often snowball. In this installment of our story, we see that there is no easy resolution, and war becomes inevitable. Of course, some definitions may vary…

Part One here.


Outland historians proclaim that Atheseans have never fought a war among themselves. By their definition, this is correct: no sentient Athesean species has ever formed an army for the express purpose of causing the submission of their worldmates by killing. However, Athesean definitions differ. By their reckoning, there have been eighty-seven major wars fought since the rise of sentience, twelve of them catastrophic. There are, they say, worse things that you can take away from a people than their lives.

The historians who scoff at Athesean definitions forget the power of words. They should not. After all, wars as they define them have often begun with words, been fueled by and often concluded with them. Continue reading “SF Snippet #3: In Which Hostilities Escalate”

SF Snippet #3: In Which Hostilities Escalate

American Police Still Allowed to Murder Black Children Without Consequences

“He was a beautiful child playing our fucked-up national game. Now, he’ll never be anything else, and we’re supposed to think that’s right.”

Stephanie Zvan

Tamir Rice was murdered.

Image shows a young grinning black child.
Tamir Rice.

You may not have thought much about it, because a child with a realistic-looking gun being shot by police in America may not have tripped your alarm circuits. You saw the uniform on his killer, and didn’t think thug or criminal. You didn’t think of all the times you played with toy guns as a child, and when you did, you weren’t worried that a cop would roll up and shoot you for it. Your games of cops and robbers were never interrupted by cops arriving, stepping out of their car, and shooting your friends dead. So you figure there must have been some reason for it. After all, the killer wore blue. Continue reading “American Police Still Allowed to Murder Black Children Without Consequences”

American Police Still Allowed to Murder Black Children Without Consequences

SF Snippet #2: In Which a Poetry War Begins

All right, my loves. Many of you on Facebook were looking for something happy with Unicorns, rocks, and aliens. So here you are: Unicorns who are aliens (their proper name is Drusav – please don’t call them unicorn to their face, it’s an insult), and rocks will come in after this first scene. I haven’t yet finished this short story, but I think you may like the bits I have got so far. I’ll be posting them throughout this week. Let us begin at the beginning, then…

Continue reading “SF Snippet #2: In Which a Poetry War Begins”

SF Snippet #2: In Which a Poetry War Begins

How Did We Ever Write Before the Internet?

I’ve been mapping a scene all night. So far, I have:

  • Found the exact bench at Founder’s Park in Alexandria, VA that my story people meet at.
  • Selected my main character’s backpack.
  • Read over several different versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • Purchased a copy thereof that includes the cuneiform characters, plus several Greek and Roman epics and texts, delivered instantly, for a dollar.
  • Received a ton of papers on code switching and the effects of bilingualism on the brain from a person who did research on it for a university class.
  • Confirmed pigeons won’t come out to eat at night even if you shake a bread bag really loudly (and yes, I do actually know bread is bad for birds, thank you so much for helpfully pointing that out).
  • Found a video that not only would have been highly entertaining to my main character and her best friend/fellow profiler, but has a few seconds in which the singer looks almost exactly like her.
  • Been tipped to free genealogy software that will help me map characters’ families (although it doesn’t look like the designers ever imagined non-binary people).
  • Found a bunch of new music to write to.
  • And done probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten completely about, but would have taken me hours of research in the past, if they’d got done at all.

Continue reading “How Did We Ever Write Before the Internet?”

How Did We Ever Write Before the Internet?

How Social Justice Has Improved My Series

It’s been rather quiet around here lately because I’ve been reading back through my own canon, and doing some deep thinking, and then I spent thirteen goddamned hours writing a chapter. That was a Merry Christmas, indeed!

One thing that stood out like a tumorous thumb was the fact that I’ve got a sausage fest going on. Oh, yes, I’ve got strong women characters. But aside from one, they’ve mostly been supporting cast. And they were thin on the ground compared to the dudes. Dudes, everywhere, man.

A lifetime of consuming media that featured mostly male protagonists and antagonists, overwhelmingly white male ones, has an effect, even when we’re fighting it. I wanted diversity, but I kept reverting to the default. Walk-on character? Probably going to be a dude. Tech guy? Well, dude, obvs. Lead detective? Dude. You’re a dude, and you’re a dude, and you’re a dude… Here a dude, there a dude, everywhere dude, dude. Okay, some of them were gay dudes. Some of them were black dudes. But they were still so many dudes.

Image shows Woody and Buzz from Toy Story. Buzz is gesturing out of the frame with a googly-eyed grin. Woody looks perplexed and vaguely horrified. Caption says, "Dudes. Dudes everywhere."

Continue reading “How Social Justice Has Improved My Series”

How Social Justice Has Improved My Series

A Nutcracker Guaranteed to Crack You – Up

Happy Christmas Eve, my darlings! For those of you celebrating some form of midwinter shenanigans or just grateful you’ve got some time off work, I wish you merry festivities. For those of you bah humbugging your way through the next few days, or having to deal with things that make this season less than joyful, you have my sympathies.

I’m deep in re-plotting The Novel, so I won’t be around much unless my characters decide we need a very silly midwinter story. But I did get you something! Of course I did. I love you and wouldn’t leave you with nothing. Here is absolutely the best ever version of the Nutcracker, via my friend Merideth, who always finds the neatest things. It’s okay if you don’t like ballet or classical music. That isn’t really the point. The point is, we can create something new and funny and fabulous when we mix up sophisticated old stuff with delightfully talented modern people. I present to you the most excellent results when you combine dancers Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer, JR Tight Eyex, and James Derrick with the California Philharmonic Orchestra and some Tchaikovsky. Continue reading “A Nutcracker Guaranteed to Crack You – Up”

A Nutcracker Guaranteed to Crack You – Up

I Shall Stop Worrying About My Character Being a Mary Sue, Then

You know, I’ve been worrying that my quite talented main character is a Mary Sue. I mean, Mary Sue bad, right? We don’t want our characters to be Mary Sues. Or Gary Stus, for that matter. But then I read this article, and it occurs to me that I’m going to end up with my main character being called a Mary Sue no matter what I do. It is because she is

  1. Competent
  2. Doing most of the rescuing
  3. Female

I mean, she’s the Big Hero. She has to succeed at some stuff. She has to be good at what she does. And it seems that will be all it takes to get her dismissed as a Mary Sue by many people, because heaven forfend we have a ladyperson doing the outrageously cool things menfolk usually do. Continue reading “I Shall Stop Worrying About My Character Being a Mary Sue, Then”

I Shall Stop Worrying About My Character Being a Mary Sue, Then

Will We Be The Heroes or the Villains? History, Ideals, and Anti-Muslim Violence in America

We want to believe we’re good people. Most of us do. Most of us try. We fail, quite often, but we try. And we read our history books, and we think of ourselves as being on the side of the angels. Of course we would have been abolitionists and given anti-slavery speeches and helped people on the Underground Railroad. Of course we would have stood against Hitler and protected Jews and helped them escape the Nazis. Of course we would have marched for civil rights and dismantled segregation and condemned MLK’s assassin. Of course. Of course we would have been the Good Guys.

Would we? Are we? Are we really?

I’m seeing an awful lot of people in my country who would have been agreeing with slaveowners that of course they could keep humans as property, and anyone thinking differently should be shouted down, and any government trying to end the institution should be rebelled against. I’m seeing a horrifying number of people who would have agreed with Hitler that there was something evil about those Jews, and helped round them up on cattle cars, and considered themselves patriotic as they fought for Nazi Germany. Of course, we already knew a disturbing number of our citizens pretend to love MLK while they fight to uphold the white supremacy he and other activists struggled to dismantle.

This is one of those times when you discover what you’re made of. This is a time when the ideals of your country are tested. Right now is when we find out what kind of people we would have been. And it turns out that many Americans are exactly the people our history books tell us we should abhor. Continue reading “Will We Be The Heroes or the Villains? History, Ideals, and Anti-Muslim Violence in America”

Will We Be The Heroes or the Villains? History, Ideals, and Anti-Muslim Violence in America

SF Snippet #1: In Which Jiiren is Pestered

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from some of my short stories, novellas, and novels in progress. In this one, we’re going prequel. This is a short story that’s threatening to turn itself into a novella, exploring how one of my most important main characters met the teacher who had the greatest influence on him. That teacher also happened to have written a little book that has shaped a civilization for 16,000 years. What I discovered when I started writing about it was that the book very nearly never got written at all.


Image is a drawing of a fragment of paper with indistinct writing on it.

They pestered him, Jiiren Naaltoba’s current and former students, so relentless about it that after months of coordinated remarks, he decided there must be a conspiracy. He never determined who began it. Others over the decades had, occasionally, mentioned to him the desirability or wisdom of putting his teachings into a manuscript, but never more than a few in a given year.

Then, in the course of a single week, he heard from his past student Yriit Samoven, now responsible for the training of kaataani at the Academy at Haalaat, saying how nice it would be to have a manual students could refer to; and Iisren Aalanvo, who manufactured a chance meeting in the dining hall to thank him for the training that had produced his exquisitely-skilled kaataan, and incidentally, would Jiiren please glance over the text he had just finished on certain tactical aspects for kaataan-soraan pairs, and add whatever might be missing? He would. He did, and came to the conclusion that parts had been deliberately designed to provoke him.

Over the following months, former students accosted him at odd moments to reminisce about their years training with him and lament the fact they had failed to note some things down. Current students took to haranguing him. “Write it down, old man!” they shouted, and variations thereof, when he said something they considered particularly pithy. When he declined, they made a great show of doing so themselves, until he changed their training to such an extent that their hands were never empty of swords when he spoke to them. They laughed at him for it.

All through winter and into spring, he endured subtle and less-so suggestions that he should write. Sometimes, he tried to explain that the warrior’s art was not one that could be taught in pages. And no, he never would write his memoirs. That would just leave ground for curious laymen and historians to plough.

On his last day with that cohort, with the lasaa trees dropping their petals in pale purple blizzards all over the senonsai, his students interrupted their own advancement ceremony to present him, with mock seriousness, a sheaf of mismatched papers tied together with a string. As he did not want to write his own book, they had spared him the trouble. They must have collected those scraps all year. He saw his own words stare back at him, on bits of all colors and inks, written in a dozen hands, in an order so out of order that they must have shuffled the pages thoroughly before stabbing a blade through one corner and tying it all up with an ancient length of frayed string.

“I thought I had taught you better tactics than this,” he said. “I may have to request another year with you.”

They laughed at him again. So, this time, did the friends, family and instructors watching from the balconies and the colonnade. He would later swear that the gale of laughter shook the last of the petals from the trees, where they were later crushed into the training ground’s matting during an impromptu sparring session and left it smelling as if several bottles of scent had been spilled.

Later, after food, drink and celebration, they scattered to their new lives with their war-trained soraani. Some of those pairs would find themselves on battlefields almost immediately. Some would not return. Some would, and that justified everything he had put them through. Perhaps it would forgive what they had just put him through.

He took the sheaf to Ishaarda Telsuun’s office, and dropped it on her desk. It made a sloppy sound. “See what they have done.”

She put aside her own work and turned random pages. “They listened. How appalling.”

A tiny bird landed on the ledge of her open window and began laughing at him. On the other side of him, one of the atrocious Outland relics she salted her shelves with as a means to test her students’ distractibility seemed to do the same. And while her face remained expressionless, her ice-blue eyes joined their chorus. Naaltoba took the sheaf back from her. “They failed to listen when I told them I would never write a book.”

“Students develop excellent selective listening skills.” Ishaarda crossed her hands on the bare expanse of polished black wood that had just held his students’ goad. She looked up at him, and now her eyes stopped laughing. They bored into him like paired blades. She always had used her eyes like weapons. Sometimes, she stabbed with them, sometimes merely threatened; this time, she leaned into them and drove them slowly home. “Will you listen?”

“What is there to listen to?” He shook the sheaf. The bird stopped chuckling and fled. “These are skills that can be shown, they can be practiced, they can be learned by repetition. They can be lived. But they can hardly be pinned to a page. What use would a book be?”

“Judging from what your students did, you used words as you taught them.” She inserted a pause, calibrated for emphasis, just long enough for him to open his mouth and not long enough for him to protest. “Why did you speak if words are so useless?”

He closed his mouth. She waited. Finally, he said, “Words and actions together are different than words alone.”

“So draw diagrams.” She rose as he snorted, planted her hands on her desk with her palms flat, and leaned toward him. “What is that winter white in your hair, Jiiren? What are those lines in your face? What do those mean?”

He could have said something cruel: that I am older than you can ever hope to be. He did not say it. It would not have hurt her, but she could have used it to hurt him.

“You are in your sunset years,” she said. “What do you have left? A decade, two? Perhaps three, if everything goes just right. Then you will be dead. Your students will eventually die, and then there will be nothing left of Naaltoba. They will not even have your words.”

He would have liked to deny most of that, but she left him no time for seeking flaws. She pointed to the swords he wore. “Others can teach skill with the blade, and some will think up clever tricks you never considered. Such techniques can only be transmitted by demonstration, not in a book. But there will always be those who can teach the techniques of war. I asked you to teach them its mind.”

She gave the sheaf in his hands the briefest of significant looks. He wished he had a defense against the truth. “Mind and technique are one,” he considered saying, but she would mention diagrams again. “Mind is more than words,” he said instead.

“That is why words stand for things other than themselves.” She very nearly smiled at him then, but she never had been arrogant in victory. She sat down instead and pulled her work back in front of her, as if nothing much of consequence had happened. “What are your plans for the summer?”

“Someone recently pointed out that I am in my sunset years,” he said. “There are many places I have never seen and things I have never done. The time has come for me to enjoy them before I have no time left.”

He turned and stalked out. He would have liked for his heels to pound on her stone floors, but her long, narrow reed rug meant they merely rattled. Everything laughed at him today.

Copyright 2015 by Dana Hunter. All rights reserved.

SF Snippet #1: In Which Jiiren is Pestered

Your Mount St. Helens Honeysuckle. Plus: Bodacious Botany

See, my darlings, you always come through! Kilian Hekhuis and Lithified Detritus were able to identify our orange clarinets as Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). Can you believe that for once we have a beautiful flower that is a native? Awesomesauce!

I found some down by the shores of Silver Lake this summer. B and I had just arrived as the sun was lowering in the sky, and it shone upon this lovely flowering plant, which was just short of bursting into full bloom.

Image shows an Orange Honeysuckle cluster. The orange blooms are still closed, but on the verge of opening. Sad to say, they look a bit like a bunch of dildoes. Behind them is an oblong leaf or bract that's pointed at the ends. The sun is shining through it, making it semi-transparent and highlighting the veins.
Orange Honeysuckle at Silver Lake.

This is one of my favorite photos of a flower I have ever taken. The sun was absolutely perfect.

The honeysuckle was climbing a bank with some rose bushes, and everything was budding, and it probably would have been spectacular if B and I had just come a few days later. Oh, well. It’s still quite pretty, as you can see here: Continue reading “Your Mount St. Helens Honeysuckle. Plus: Bodacious Botany”

Your Mount St. Helens Honeysuckle. Plus: Bodacious Botany