Monthly Archives: December 2015

Speed and Direction: A Guide to Where to Find Us (Jan – Mar, 2016)

By definition, Novelocitists are always in motion. Fortunately, knowing our speed and direction, our upcoming appearances can be predicted. Thus:

* Jan 15th – 18th – appearing on programming at Arisia in Boston, MA,.
* Jan 20th (7:00 PM Wednesday) – book release party for Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard at Barnes & Noble’s Rittenhouse Square store in Philadelphia, PA.
* Jan 21st (7:00 PM Thursday) – having a signing event for Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard at Schuler Books in Lansing, MI.
* Jan 22nd, (7:00 PM Friday) – part of the group Tor Authors signing event at Barnes & Noble in Northville, MI.
* Jan 22nd – 24th – appearing on programming at Life, the Universe, and ConFusion in Novi, MI.

* Jan 15th – 18th – appearing on programming at Arisia in Boston, MA.

* Jan 22nd – 24th – appearing on programming at Life, the Universe, and ConFusion in Novi, MI.

* Jan 9 (2:00 PM Saturday) – “Writing Dialogue with Sparkle & Snap” – free workshop for kids at the Cedar Hills Powells in Beaverton, OR.

* Feb 3rd (7:00 PM Wednesday) – signing for Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC.
* Feb 4th (7:00 PM Thursday) – also signing at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.
* Feb 5th (7:00 PM Friday) – and a third Research Triangle area signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC.
* Feb 12th – 14th – will be appearing on programming at ConDFW XV in Dallas, TX.
* Feb 26th – 28th – and also speaking on programming at MystiCon in Roanoke, VA.

* Feb 12th – 14th – appearing on programming at ConDFW XV in Dallas, TX.

* Feb 19th – 21st – appearing on programming at Boskone in Boston, MA,.

MARCH 2016
* Mar 24th (7:00 PM Thursday) – having a signing event for Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard at the University Bookstore in Seattle, WA.
* Mar 25th – 27,th – appearing on programming at NorWescon 39 in SeaTac, WA.
* Mar 28th (7:00 PM Monday) – also signing at Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing store in Beaverton, OR.

* Mar 12 – appearing on programming at Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson, AZ.

* Mar 25th – 27th – appearing on programming at Norwescon 39 in SeaTac, WA.

New Release: Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard

After 20+ years writing and publishing short and long fiction, and nominations for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, today marks Lawrence M. Schoen’s “big press” debut with the release of Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard from Tor Books.

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

Prophecy. Friendship. Intolerance. Conspiracy. Loyalty.
A Drug for Speaking to the Dead.
Also Elephants, in Space.

Barsk is an anthropomorphic SF novel set in the far future. As an elevator pitch, think Dune meets The Sixth Sense, with elephants.

It’s the story of a young man (okay, a young elephant), a historian who discovers he may be part of a prophecy made eight hundred years ago. It’s the story of the historian’s friend, a scientist who sacrificed his life to hide a terrible discovery. It’s the story of the scientist’s friend, a bizarre child who by all accounts should have died in infancy, who has visions and receives guidance from the planet of Barsk itself, as well as its moons. It’s the story of a culture’s way of doing things, and an outside power thwarting tradition. It’s the story of a new branch of physics that explains memory and transcends death and promises to change everything you believe about both.

Here’s what people are saying about Barsk:

“This a hopeful and very human tale in a posthuman world.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Weird, wise, and worldly, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard is a triumph.”
―Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

“The second you encounter the arboreal uplifted elephants who speak with the dead, you know you’re reading a work of singular imaginative power. It’s a delight from beginning to end.”
―Walter Jon Williams, Nebula Award-winning author of the Metropolitan series

“A captivating, heartwarming story in a unique and fantastic world… as rich and mysterious as Dune.”
―James L. Cambias, author of A Darkling Sea

“A heartfelt and wonderfully weird book: a space opera about kindness and memory.”
―Max Gladstone, author of the Craft Sequence

“A masterful, onion-layered tale of pariahdom, treachery, and genocide that ultimately reveals the true deathlessness of hope and love.”
―Charles E. Gannon, author of Fire With Fire

“Combines excellent characters and a fascinating world. What really makes it work is how he deftly weaves together startling SFnal ideas with character-based intrigue. You’ll really care for these characters, even as you find them believably alien. I found it a compulsive page-turner and immensely enjoyable.”
―Karl Schroeder, author of Lockstep

“Powerful. Grand in scope, yet deeply intimate. Schoen gives anthropomorphism some serious spirituality. It got inside my head in the way that only an exciting new idea can.”
―Howard Tayler, Hugo Award-winning creator of Schlock Mercenary

“Barsk will challenge every reader’s ideas of what should be possible in SF and leave them delighted to be proven wrong… This book is an astonishing achievement.”
―Kirsten Beyer, author of Children of the Storm

“Readers who like their sf to extensively delve into philosophical subjects will love this book.”
—Library Journal

“Spectacular world building, emotionally poignant narrative, compelling action, and fantastic character development.”

Cybermorality: Do you really think genocide is always wrong?

Steve Bein continues his fascinating series on the intersection of philosophy and SFF. Last month’s first installment ponders when your car should kill you.


Steve BeinDo you really think genocide is always wrong?

For the second installment of this series we’re going to take on a biggie: genocide.

Let me put all of my cards on the table right from the get-go. I think it was morally despicable every single time in history that one group of people ever tried to eradicate another group of people for no reason other than the fact that the second group exists. I think it was wrong to attempt it, wrong to carry it out, wrong to cover it up, and wrong to deny it ever happened. I am so totally judgmental about this.

But one of the really cool things about science fiction and fantasy is that they can challenge our moral assumptions in some really interesting ways. Some of those assumptions might be hiding in your current beliefs about genocide, so let’s see what we dig up.

Unless you have some uncommon moral beliefs, you’re willing to take an antibiotic to get rid of your strep throat. It’s worth nothing, though, that antibiotics are essentially biological weapons. Their purpose is to eradicate some unwelcome species infecting your body. A microscopic case of genocide, then.

Or maybe not. After all, it’s not as if your taking antibiotics kills all the streptococcus in the world. It only gets rid of your strep throat. Not at all like genocide, then. Closer to kicking a bunch of ne’er-do-wells out of your apartment.

Fair enough, but most people would happily embrace the complete eradication of HIV in all its forms. Not just one species of the virus, and not just in one person: all of it, every strain, everywhere. That’s genocide for sure.

To this maybe you want to say okay, fine, so maybe what I’m opposed to isn’t genocide but ethnocide. That is, what you find morally objectionable isn’t the elimination of a genotype, but rather of a people—that is, a group of creatures with language, culture, history, the capacity to remember and celebrate their history, all that good stuff. HIV and streptococcus don’t count because they’re not people.

Incidentally, it’s not enough to say that those species don’t count as people because they don’t have human DNA. Science fiction and fantasy throw that assumption for a loop, because Chewbacca and Gimli look a lot like people. They have language, culture, history, personality, conscience, you name it. Confronted with the Chewbacca example, pretty much everyone in my ethics classes concedes that “nonhuman people” is a legitimate category, one that contains wookiees, dwarves, and maybe even some terrestrial species too. (Chimpanzees are people-like enough that US courts granted them limited human rights protections, and dolphins and whales are sufficiently people-ish that there’s a growing cetacean rights movement.)

Year of the DemonNow suppose there’s a virus capable of language—or proto-language, anyway, maybe to a similar degree that whales have. We can observe the transfer of information in a way that’s not reducible to infection or reproduction. This isn’t just a communicable disease; it’s a disease that communicates.

Let’s also say that this virus can live in human beings, and when it does it makes them sick—let’s say like having a cold. You feel lousy, but usually not so terrible that you miss work. Symptoms are treatable with over-the-counter meds. This can get expensive, depending on your household finances, but it’s not a huge burden on the average middle-class family. For people who can’t afford the cough syrup or whatever, the symptoms are only annoying, not life-threatening.

This particular virus isn’t airborne like a cold, so you don’t have to worry too much about infecting the people around you. But it doesn’t go away of its own accord, so the only way to rid yourself of these yucky symptoms is to take an antibiotic.

So here’s the question: how many days in a row are you willing to be headachy to keep this tiny, annoying, somewhat intelligent species alive in your body?

Does it matter that the virus that’s in you is one of a kind? Viruses reproduce very quickly, and since this one is talkative, it only takes a few generations—a matter of days—before the viruses in my body and the ones in yours don’t really speak the same language anymore. They’re now genetically and linguistically unique.

Would it matter if researchers predicted an end to your symptoms? Does it matter if the end is a long way off? Let’s say a year from now, either A) virologists will have figured out how to talk this disease into not making people feel lousy, or B) they’ll have created some suitable habitat for it to live in so it doesn’t have to live in a human host, or C) if we still haven’t accomplished A or B, you can just give in and take an antibiotic.

Let’s posit a few more things, which we’ll take as given:

1. Having a cold really does suck.

2. It doesn’t suck nearly as much as genocide. Not a millionth of a millionth of a percent as much.

3. Some people would say taking the antibiotic—eradicating a genetically and linguistically unique population—counts as genocide at best, ethnocide at worst.

4. Some people would acknowledge 3 and still take the antibiotic without a second thought.

There’s a fifth claim we can’t take as given, because it’s subject to some debate:

5. It’s morally wrong to take the antibiotic.

So what do you think about 5? Do you buy it or not? Head over to Novelocity’s Facebook page and make your opinion known!

Steve Bein

4 New Nonfiction Books that Wowed Me in 2015

It’s that time of year to give lots of books to people! Yay! If you have someone on your list who isn’t big on fiction, that’s okay. I’m happy to recommend four awesome and very different nonfiction books that came out in 2015.

WeDontNeedRoadsWe Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy*
by Caseen Gaines
If you love the Back to the Future movies, it’s your density to read this book. It presents trivia galore about the fight to make the movies, the effort to cast Michael J. Fox as Marty, and the accident in the second movie that seriously injured a stuntwoman (and you can see her devastating fall in the background of the movie). If you grew up on these movies like I did, you’ll be riveted at all the behind-the-scenes info and cast anecdotes. This is heavy stuff. The subject matter is engaging so it’s a fast read, too.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated AutobiographyPioneerGirl
by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill
I’m still in the thick of reading this one, but wow, is it amazing. This was a surprise hit for South Dakota State Historical Society’s press earlier this year. This large hardcover book analyzes the full history of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books as it shifted from a straightforward autobiography for adults to a full “juvenile” fiction series. Wilder’s original text is heavily annotated with historical comments and references to multiple drafts of the manuscript. Maps, photographs, and original book illustrations complement the text. This is a Little House fan’s dream come true. I would have read this to memorization at age ten; at thirty-five, I am still geeking out.

AisforArsenicA is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
by Kathryn Harkup
Are you morbidly curious about the use of poison? Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Are you a writer who uses poison in your stories? I raised my hand to all three questions, so it’s no surprise that I delighted in this book. It doesn’t cover the full alphabet, but it doesn’t need to; it’s packed with info on how Agatha Christie used poison in her novels (to a high degree of accuracy), how the poison was used historically, and how it is handled now. It mixes in info on some Christie plots, too, but takes care to avoid giving away the full whodunit. I’m keeping this on my reference shelf alongside Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity*NeuroTribes
by Steve Silberman
My son has autism, so the history of autism and its treatment are very personal. Silberman has created a masterful work that demonstrates there isn’t really an ‘autism epidemic.’ Autism has always been part of humanity, and to its benefit; yet until recent decades, it was regarded as madness or categorized as schizophrenia or other illnesses that led to commitment and erasure from society. Some segments on Nazi eugenics and ‘treatments’ espoused in the 1950s were difficult to read (don’t get me started on the whole ‘refrigerator mother’ thing), but overall it’s a positive book and one that, I hope, enlightens many people.

* I received early reviewer copies of these books.

Clockwork Dagger

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN from Harper Voyager.

Follow her at and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Who Are You Calling Artificial?

We have a dream–in many circles, an expectation, even–that someday our computers will be more intelligent than we are.  Countless science fiction stories about artificial intelligence have taught us to believe these computers will be ultra-rational, but emotionless, infinitely knowledgeable, but without the ability to understand nuance or ambiguity.  These stories explore the distinction between intellect and sympathy, programming and free will, but none of them are ultimately about computers.  They’re about us.

As far as we know, we’re alone in the universe.  That makes it difficult for us to talk about concepts like “self awareness” or “sapience” or “intelligence” because we don’t have any other examples to compare ourselves to.

When I talk about an “intelligent” computer, I mean a computer that’s like me.  But what does that mean?  We feel like we know, but when it comes down to it, it’s very difficult to define.

The Turing Test isn’t very helpful.  A computer that can fool me into thinking it’s a person might make an excellent telemarketing robot, but that doesn’t mean it has an internal experience or emotional life.  In fact, there are humans–particularly those who are very young, very old, or who have mental disabilities–who have trouble passing the Turing Test and most other tests of its kind.  Yet no one doubts their claim to self awareness and sapience.

So how do we explore this idea of who we are?  What makes us as humans different than the computers we build or the animals with whom we share the planet?  The answers are ultimately philosophical ones, not technical.  Our difficulty in defining just who and what we are means that if we ever do create something like strong AI, no one will be able to agree on whether it truly is or not.  In the meantime, science fiction gives us endless scope to keep asking the questions and debating the answers: Just what does it mean to be us?


Gifts for Writers, and for Those in Close Association with Writers

tiny-house-plansIt’s the holiday season and you need a special gift for that special writer – you know, the one who recently moved into your garden shed when your back was turned but insists on calling it a “tiny house” as if that will somehow magically make showers appear in it. But it’s quiet, they insist. And so cheap. And wouldn’t you mind storing the lawnmower somewhere else? It’s interfering with their carpal tunnel stretches.

For you, a short, curated list of hand-selected gifts:


gifts for writers

A day in a room all by themselves. Bonus points if the room is not inside their current living establishment. More bonus points if the room has no internet or windows or anything soft that could potentially be laid down upon.

gifts for partners of writers

Someone who can carry an actual conversation for a day, whose head isn’t filled with 15 ways that horses died before 1608, the price of throwing stars and whether someone could get them delivered via amazon prime, and a cataloged and itemized list of high school team colors, sorted by ROY G BIV.

gifts for children of writers

Something that’s not books, because writers only think that books are good presents – and, oh, who am I kidding. Books are the best present; get them books.

gifts for friends of writers

Conversation card-changers to move the topic away from A) submissions, B) writer’s block, C) the price of throwing stars or D) why that one author has more publications than you when you started at the same time and what does it all mean you should just quit now shouldn’t you SHOULDN’T YOU????

gifts for landlords of writers

The rent.

SF Linguistics: Let’s make up some verbs

As a Klingon speaker, one of the things I’m often pointing out to people is that languages like English tend to focus on things, or as we call them in the linguistics game, nouns.

Writers, though, would do themselves a favor if they took a page from Klingon, and focused more on actions and states-of-being (i.e., verbs) instead of things, because verbs are what drive a narrative and color the story.

(And please, don’t get me started on what seems to be a precept of too many MFA programs: if you see a noun, stick an adjective on it!)

Okay, back to verbs. If you’re writing Fantasy or Science Fiction, then it’s not a huge leap to imagine that you have characters who are doing things that normal folks like you and I don’t tend to do. This happens in every book I’ve read in the field. There’s a mage doing some magery thing with fire / wind / demons / small boys named Kevin / time / the endless pot of stew cooking in the firepit of the inn / a sword or whatever. Or the aliens and/or some scientists are manipulating time / space / the weak force / the stock market / gravity / genes (hey, how about the news on CRISPR!) / memories / light / or FTL drives. It’s all around us in everything we read and write.

So here’s the thing. The actions these characters are engaging in are not actions that occur in the mundane world, and yet the writers keep using mundane words to describe them. I understand that the first time Obi Wan waves his hand and says “These aren’t the Droids you’re looking for,” we would describe that as “using the Force” as opposed to making up a word like zreem or something, because no one knows what that means (I just made it up). But once the non-normal action has been identified, why not label it? So that later, whenever it’s time to employ a Jedi mind trick (a noun phrase) we can jump in with a shiny new verb instead. I want to hear Han bitch and moan about Jedi always zreeming people!

Seriously, it’s not that hard, and if you’re going to imagine new technologies and new processes and new behaviors and new systems, then for the love of all that’s holy and true, why stop short of imagining terms to describe these actions? Because, when we do invent new ways of doing things, we also come up with new words to describe what we’re doing!

So, your task this month is to pay closer attention to this sort of thing in whatever genre book you might be reading, and every time you come across a character doing something that people in the real world can’t/don’t do, make up a new verb for it. Is a character sacrificing part of her soul to gain temporary control of a water elemental? Cool, doubtless she learned how to do that from an magic tome that explained how to slorn. Does your action hero field strip his blaster and use the powercell to short out the security field at the enemy base? No doubt that was covered back at university in Lockpicking and Pengling 101. And so on. As you find each opportunity to produce a new verb that the actual author failed to introduce, write it down (either on a slip of paper you can carry in the book, or on the inside backcover if you’re not squeamish about such things, or in an annotation file if you’re using an e-reader). When you finish the book go back and see how many entries you have*. How does it make you feel to not only read a book with cool ideas in it, but to have been pulled in by the language unique to it?

My point in all of this is that as authors we have the responsibility not only to come up with engaging new ideas, but also new ways to talk about them. Just think about it, okay?


*Bonus points if you come back here and share some of them in the comments section.

6 Ways to Stay Motivated to Write

Whew–that was a great NANOWRIMO, wasn’t it?  And now you’re all done writing for a while–time to relax and get caught up on Game of Thrones. . .well, not if you plan to make writing more than a once-a-year binge.  As with diet and exercise, and pretty much all things you want to stick with and get better at, regular practice with writing will make you a better writer. It will give you more material to offer to a wider variety of readers (whether through traditional publishing, indie publishing, or your personal site).  I’ve found that, the more I stay in the zone, the more I want to be there, and the faster I can get back when I have to leave to say. . . go to the day job, feed the pets, or make another PB&J for my next session.

  1.  The easiest thing to do is to maintain a habit. If you’ve been doing NANO, even if you didn’t complete the full 50K, you have established a habit of writing on a regular basis.  Keep doing it!!
  2.  Pick a chunk of time that works for you.  If you’re not already in the habit, find a space to make it easy.  perhaps this is first thing in the morning, when you are fresh.  Get up early and give yourself that half hour to write.  Commit to it!
  3.  Or. . .pick a word count you know you can meet.  250 words a day. That’s only a page–you can do that, easy!  And if you do it every day, you’ll have a book by the end of the year.  But some days, you’ll write more.  Don’t let yourself slack off.
  4.   Find a partner and agree to keep each other focused. Report in on a regular basis via whatever means works best for you. Also check out the #1K1H challenges on Twitter, where writers around the world look for some online buddies to write a thousand words in an hour.  #1K1H at the top of the hour–go!
  5.  Focus on the fun parts.  Sometimes you get to a part of the book that frustrates or disappoints you. Instead of letting that be an excuse to go play video games, think about the next part that will excite you.  Let that cool scene or thrilling twist be the carrot you’re working toward as you write through the tough sections.
  6.  Stuff happens.  You get sick, you lose power, you miss a few days of writing for one reason or another.  Don’t let a day or two, or even a week or a month signal the end of your commitment.  Even if you feel bad about the time you were *not* writing, the only way to get back to it is to sit down with the empty page.  Avoidance doesn’t make it any better.  Take a deep breath and get moving.  Half an hour.  250 words.  You can do this. You know you want to.

5 Books that Surprised Me in 2015

Hi folks, Mike here – As we move solidly into December, I’m looking back at books I read in 2015, like so many other folks in the bookish internet. For this round-up, I wanted to focus on books that surprised me in some way – made me laugh when I didn’t expect it, caught me with a gut-punch, and so on.

Continue reading

Perilous Pauline: Plot Twists and Fairy Trysts

Perilous PaulineWelcome back, fiction-friends! You’re just in time: hard-pressed heroes have written in, and veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Perilous Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. Add your own advice in the comments below!



A Kind of MagicDear Pauline,

My sister isn’t afraid of anything other than feelings, but I think she may need a prod or two to get her to make a move on a guy I’m pretty sure is into her. I know she’s into him, but she seems to think it would be weird because she’s kind of the reason his wife got abducted by the fairies and ended up stuck in the fairy world. Do you have any advice for helping these two get their act together? Also, is there any hope for a human who wants to stay in this world and a fairy guy who can’t live for long outside his world? I’m asking for a friend.


Impatient Sister

Fairies? Is that what the kids are calling them nowadays? Or are you telling me you’re actually contemplating a tryst with Tinkerbell? You know, back in the day, we didn’t go around dropping our knickers for every mer-pixie and were-wight in Christendom. What’s wrong with good old-fashioned human men, I’d like to know?

Wait – don’t answer that. Let’s move on.

1. Is the wife evil? Or maybe dying of fairy-cancer? Because that would make this a whole lot easier. Regardless, make sure the magic ink is dry on the enchanted divorce papers before your sister makes a move: nobody likes a homewrecker, even if they live in a toadstool.

2. Are we sure Twinkletoes is actually allergic to the real world, and not just to the prospect of a committed relationship? He might be trying to let you down gently. Hot tip: if he catches you looking at real estate listings and suddenly has to rush back to the Magic Kingdom, you’ve got a problem with your interest rate that no amount of fairydust is going to solve.

In any case, good luck, IS. If that Littlest Mermaid can make it work, so can you.


Vicious CircleHey Pauline,

Asking for advice or help isn’t really my style. I mean, if an assassin can’t solve her own problems, she’s not really much of a badass, now is she? That said, when emotions come into play, I’m kind of a disaster, so I’m turning to you. I’ve got this client. She’s hired me to eliminate her abusive and politically powerful brother. No problem there. Except, whenever I’m around her, I have a hard time concentrating on the job. She’s got this red-gold hair, a smile that lights up a whole room, and . . . well, not only have I never had a thing for other women before (not that I’m opposed to it, mind you), but she’s also the first person I’ve ever encountered who makes me question who and what I am. I’m an assassin. I’m good at it. I’ve never known anything else. But lately, I’ve wondered what my life would have been like if I’d chosen another course, and if it’s too late to change my direction now and take a different path . . . with her. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Deadly but Disheartened

Ah, that’s a tough one, DD. If you were a man, this would be a cake-walk. Unfortunately, the mortality rate for mono-sexual romances is atrocious, even in this so-called progressive age.

Still, old Pauline’s walked her share of cakes, and I tell you what: if you and your lady-friend want to get to happily-ever-after, there are three secrets to success:

1. Do not consummate the relationship before you plug the Big Bad. This is the kiss of death.

2. Do not fantasize about picket fences and babies, at least not together. Better yet, don’t plan anything with her at all – no “see you at seven”, no “wait here and I’ll be right back”, no nothing. If she thinks you’re an uncommitted cad, congratulations: she’s still alive.

3. If one of you has some unresolved trauma holding you back, that would be great – and I’m guessing that’ll be you, since nice well-adjusted young ladies don’t tend to make a career out of icing people.

Basically, you know that saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, if you want to get fixed – romantically, emotionally, vocationally – get out there and make yourself a whole sultry scratch-and-dent sale. You can do it!


Ranger of MayatDear Pauline,

I’m having a really rough go of it and could use a kick in the kilt. A small indiscretion left me exiled to the northern frontier. All my friends and allies are on the southern front, having a great time without me. I pray to the gods daily, but the b******* are either not listening or just not responding. And now I’m not even sure my horse likes me any more. I’m hearing gunshots on the wind and sensing darkness closing in. How can this weary soldier of order and justice catch a break?

A Ranger in Danger

Well, ARiD – how do I put this delicately? The bad news is, everyone you know and love is dead. The good news is, so’s your time as a gormless rube who buys his horse flowers. C’est la vie.

Still, it sounds like you’ve got some R&R before you embark on your career in sole survivorship. So if you’re looking to make your time in exile constructive, it wouldn’t hurt to rehearse the moment when you return to find your hometown burned to the ground and then swear revenge. Preparation, ARiD – that’s the difference between a soul-searing moment of pathos and a cheese-smeared hamtastrophe.


Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at!