Monday, 28 February 2011

Maple of the Whitewoods

Nyssa sylvatica, the black tupelo in autumn - by Jean-Pol Grandmont - released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Kateverse folk song. This one is from further afield than usual, hailing from the Freegarths of Starkady across the western ocean. Something like Vinland, something like the Russias, and something like the old Euro-American colonies, the Freegarths are the source of dragon-weed, dyes, spices, and tall tales told to credulous Easterners. I have one half-finished fairy-story set there, and it appears to be told by a credulous Easterner.

Starkady is Large. This is a wanderer's song from one of the colonies that don't do serfdom, and it's a little bit country. It came to me as I was taking a much-needed Sunday constitutional. I passed by a tousled cedar that was young and natty in my childhood, and Elizabeth Moon's fictional marching-song Cedars of the Valley began to play in my head. This very different ditty was the eventual upshot. It's sung quite fast, to some kind of plucky stringed instrument.

Maple of the Whitewoods

Maple of the Whitewoods, with honey in your sap,
Your camps are mighty cosy, but I miss my true love's lap!
Leshy of the maples, don't lead my feet to roam -
Your blizzards I can bear 'em, but my love is cold at home -
Ayoh, ayah!

Redwood of the Skyfalls, you rise to heaven's shore.
You tempt me to rise with you, but she tempts me all the more!
Leshy of the redwoods, don't lose me in the sky -
Your angels I can hear 'em, but I hear my true love sigh -
Ayoh, ayah!

Nyssa of the Gaygroves, with colours out of mind,
All wonders wind around you, but my love and I are twined!
Leshy of the nyssas, don't bind me with your charms -
Your planets I can hold 'em, but they ain't my lover's arms -
Ayoh, ayah!

Stonewood of the Badlands, the tree that stands a tomb,
Your shades are mighty scary, but I've dared a deeper gloom!
Leshy of the stonewoods, if you should drink my soul,
My love will come with all her kin, and smash you all to coal!
Ayoh, ayah!

Birch beneath my homeyard, the birch I love the best,
My flight has been a long one, but I'm coming back to nest!
Lady of the birches, as silver-sweet as they,
I'll bring our marriage-portion, and I'll never more away -
Ayoh, ayah!

Where are the equivalent of the American First Nations, or for that matter the Central Asian nomadic cultures, in Starkady? Loosely speaking, they exist and it's complicated. Most of what I think I know about them is probably wrong.

Nyssa is the black tupelo, or something very like it. I made that the vernacular name because it scans, and because it makes sense in a world once conquered by a guy with a Greek name, and in no way because I am any kind of raving fanboy. Planets is here a purely Starkadian concept which I nearly translated, less happily, as dreamworlds or visions. It would sound exactly as weird to any of the characters in my existing stories as it does to us.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

What Is WICAWIWI and What Is Wrong With It?

Via Making Light, I've just happened upon Philip E Agre's fascinating 2004 essay, What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

I disagree strongly with more than half of what it says, starting with its definition of conservatism as the goal of aristocratic domination rather than the method of political humility, and going on from there. This foundational mistake would in most cases be a sinker, since it tends to dismiss the natural possibility of driving a wedge between those who defend unwarranted privilege on the one hand, and those who merely object to grabbing a fresh bunch with the other. Nonetheless, Agre partially recoups this ground later with provoking takes on the connection between real democracy and real entrepreneurship; the radical, statist, and partial agenda of the US 'conservative' political mainstream; and the self-destructive tendency for his fellow-liberals to fall into aristocratic habits of authoritarianism and complacency even where they are not, in fact, possessed either of actual authority, or of anything else to be complacent about.

I see one grave omission - a complete failure to address the existence of that half-governmental half-corporate official class, which ranges from harried clerks to powerful ministers and jet-setting executives, and whose membership and interests are quite distinct from those of the 'common people', 'merchants', and 'aristocrats' who dominate Agre's analysis. This is unfortunate, since this class of ruling stewards and regulators pretty much dominates modern Western society. To see them as workers, entrepreneurs, and leaders at best, or lackeys, plutocrats, and aristocrats at worst is not exactly false. It is, however, to miss their fundamental unity. The official class has a collective interest in more ascribed representation (by them) and less autonomous democracy (by those on whose 'behalf' they act), a tension in which Agre otherwise takes a lively and sceptical interest. I think his conclusions might have been stronger and better - i.e. more like my own - had he examined this cause of the tension more closely.

On another and related point, Agre does outstandingly well - for a pro-government liberal - in highlighting and debunking all sides' attempts to confound any form of external government with 'society', 'the people', or even 'democracy'.

And there is much more - much more, indeed, than I can begin to seriously convey in a hit-and-run blog post. It is that rarity, an unabashedly partisan liberal/Democratic think-piece which is well worth reading for liberals, conservatives, and anarchists alike. I heartily recommend it, and shall continue to meditate on its lessons over the coming week.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

"Played!"


Finished the Chapter of Snares in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. My heroes have wound up on the wrong side of too many of the traps and counter-traps that snapped shut there. Now begins the fierce rush to the climax. Every hope seems either lost or clinging on by its fingernails. Worse, the clearest remaining one looks remarkably like a deep-down betrayal, if you forget to squint hard and take the better view of it.

Most of my characters don't feel much in the mood to do so - and squinting to view things in the Correct Light is not something I like to be asked to do as a reader, let alone to demand of my audience. True, I don't much care for a story where the author chases their characters into a stinking moral quagmire and then ambushes all the margins to stop them getting out. I prefer the arrangement of wild grace or inspiration or chance, whether pitiably missed (as in classic tragedy) or most gloriously seized (as in the high comedy or tragicomedy I love best). But even in heroic comedy, the characters ought at least to get the chance to show what path their feet were set on otherwise.

Grant them that. Then the author's defining the less-evil-seeming road they began down as, by Word of God, the good one, is for me a corruption of taste if not graver things. Giving characters a 'hard choice' and then having the good or wise ones take the author's road, whilst the bad or foolish ones take the low one, is an easy authorial choice which is almost always to be resisted. If it's a morally hard choice, then good and wise characters who are genuinely different from each other will probably divide around it like a river around a rock - quite irrespective of whether one of the channels be also more attractive to bottom-feeders or not. Characters in their capacities as heroes and as bottom-feeders are judging by wholly independent criteria!

So now I have some Good Guys sticking to faith and hope and heart, and one major Good Guy going with reason and romance and a heart in certain ways yet wider. They leaning on principle, she on likely consequences. I have my own opinions that way, but I'll fail on my terms if I demand the reader share them. The fact is, either way could work famously or fail infamously, but the odds aren't looking good whatever happens.

Which is where, choices being cast now, the glimmer of grace comes in.

Since the Gods of the Kateverse are those lovely laddies and lassies who smirk down from Olympus, we know it isn't coming from them. No, my battered and broke-hearted old terror Kate is going to have to roll her own, beyond hope or reason or heroism itself. This is the day, even before I knew it would come, that she of all people was made for.

To get that right - is my modest work for the next chapter.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

EU're Right and We're Wrong

I'm no lover of the European Union, but I will say this when I see it.

The UK Parliament has voted overwhelmingly against compliance with a European Court of Justice European Court of Human Rights ruling, demanding we cease to disenfranchise all imprisoned convicts. This has been hailed in the more nationalist sections of the Press as a famous victory for Parliamentary sovereignty, which I suppose it kind of is. But what a dud cause to waste a costly victory on!

There is a democratic argument for this. Parliament is, for once, actually in tune with the people, and there is no popular appetite for extending the franchise to a bunch of villains. The villainous constituency in our democracy is generally considered to be quite amply represented already*. Given the will of a clear majority of the public, who are local grandees or foreign lawyers to overrule it?

But this is the one issue on which there is really no excuse for a democracy to care about the will of the majority at all! If the right to vote itself is up for majority decision, that is not democracy: it is a membership vote amongst an arbitrarily self-selecting club. For instance, the Good and Democratic Conservative/LibDem Coalition represents, by the conventional democratic fiction, a 59% majority of the British population, whereas the Evil Outgoing ZanuLiebour Regime won only 29% of the vote. If the Good Coalition were to decide democratically, speaking for Society, that proven Evil voters had forfeited their franchise by their dastardly collaboration with subversive would-be dictators, I think we might all be asking some very hard questions of them round about now.

That it would be politically bad and also unjust goes (for me) without saying; but that it would be also undemocratic, and that even with the full consent of 71% 'Society' has no logical business to disrepresent the naughty 29% whilst still claiming to be anything but a power-bloc, is I think quite as important. Nor could the 99% of 'moderate' party voters get to do the same to the voters of 'extremist subversive' ones. Democracy that is a withdrawable club privilege is no democracy at all: or if democracy at all, it is a Saturnist democracy, whose civic fathers reserve the right to gobble up any inconvenient births in their cradles.

So we dispense with the easy argument: that the majority of people-who-count, even if it is also the majority of people-at-large, has the arbitrary democratic right to define who gets to count towards the democratic majority at all.

The second, and seemingly much harder, argument, is that the majority still has the right to define impartial qualifications for the franchise - such as that anybody who claims their right to decide the laws, must also agree to be bound by them. This derives from the very popular notion of the Social Contract, about which I admit to the gravest reservations. But one needn't be an anti-social nutcase like me to appreciate the hidden harm in this stricture on democracy.

The simple problem is this. If people can be made political non-persons for breaking a rule, that provides a very strong incentive for politicians to pass frivolous laws targeting groups unlikely to vote for them, or to enforce general laws capriciously against the same targets.

Is it really a co-incidence that the USA, where control of the franchise has so long been such a core issue of partisan contention, has now achieved a mass imprisonment rate exceeding that of your bog-standard Communist dictatorship? Or that so many of the heinous crimes justifying such disenfranchisement, turn out to be victimless crimes against nobody but the State's offended Lifestyle Censor?

I suggest that, in countries where imprisonment leads to disenfranchisement, there will be a built-in demand amongst the authorities to create crimes which exist for the sole purpose of securing convictions - and an increased reluctance to enforce any laws against their own client groups. When both the manufacture of arbitary crimes and the vitiation of useful laws are made more politically profitable, then by so much will the whole rule of law be systematically and needlessly corrupted.

If we were to move towards the American States' nakedly vicious practices of massive sentences for trivial infractions and post-imprisonment disenfranchisement of felons, can we doubt that they would bring American levels of malicious legalism and selective enforcement in their train?

And if that's the case, what's wrong with removing an existing incentive to oppression and corruption? Isn't it more likely to weaken a powerful and concentrated interest for evil, at the trivial expense of enhancing a weak and dispersed one?

- No, in the end it will not make very much difference for whom Jack Clubs in Wormwood Scrubs votes, or whether he's allowed to, or whether once allowed he can be bothered. But it might just make some useful difference to how his brother Jack Suit votes in Westminster!

Correction 20/02/11: Just pointed out to me in comments that it was the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights, not the EU's European Court of Justice, that made the ruling. We can quite confidently expect the ECJ to follow the ECHR if the case ends up there too, but this has not happened yet - which means that I, and my crap pun, have jumped the gun entirely.

We apologize for the earlier shortage of reading comprehension upon our part, which was due to circumstances within our control. Mea culpa.


*Not all of the people in any of these categories are, by any means, villainous. And nor are all prisoners.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cassilda's Song

One of the strangest and most haunting tales of cosmic horror ever, I think, written, lies in and between the short stories of Robert W Chambers' 1895 collection, The King in Yellow. Inspired by Ambrose Bierce and itself one of the great inspirations for H P Lovecraft's unhallowed, polymorphously blasphemous Cthulhu Mythos - ahem! - its central pieces tell of a play which must not be read and cannot, we must hope, be performed. We know very little about the play itself, except that the first act is supposed to be treacherously innocent and banal, and the sugared bait for the unimaginable second.

Cassilda, Camilla, and the occulted and tattered King have been fictional acquaintances of mine since my early teens. One of the few scraps of the first act we possess is Cassilda's Song, of the - her? - lost city, Carcosa the sad and wonderful and damned. It has never entirely gone out of my head. This morning I had occasion to look up the words.

Then I discovered that YouTube is crawling with settings of her song to music - several available commercially, or performed in public concert. Most of these, alas, are shouty rocky metally things, appropriate to the elegiac and courtly tones of Cassilda in much the same way that Meat Loaf is an appropriate actor to play the part of Christina Rossetti. The Heaven If version, especially, seems so completely disconnected from the sense of the words, that the lyrics might easily be replaced by those of Sosban Fach or Abide with Me or You Sexy Thing without loss of effect. But I digress.

One of these interpretations is not like the others. This is the Stormclouds' version, from their concept album The King in Yellow. It is published by Rainfall Records and Books, a very eldritch-cosmic-abomination-friendly organization altogether. And I can imagine Cassilda singing this!


Cassilda's Song

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

- Robert W Chambers, The King in Yellow

Saturday, 12 February 2011

I Love the Sound of Freedom in the Morning!

Mubarak's fallen away into the textbooks, and the new day dawns at last. What will it bring? We don't know. But come joy come sorrow by evening - and there is always some evening sorrow at last - for now, here comes the Sun!

Translation from Afro-Europe International Blog:

I went down and I said I am not coming back, and I wrote on every street wall that I am not coming back.

All barriers have been broken down, our weapon was our dream, and the future is crystal clear to us, we have been waiting for a long time, we are still searching for our place, we keep searching for a place we belong too, in every corner in our country.

The sound of freedom is calling, in every street corner in our country, the sound of freedom is calling..

We will re-write history, if you are one of us, join us and don't stop us from fulfilling our dream.

- Sout Al Horeya, that is The Sound of Freedom, by Amir Eid.

Performance: Vocals by Hany Adel and Amir Eid. Guitar: Hawary. Keyboard: Sherif Mostafa. Video: Moustafa Fahmy, Mohamed Khalifa, and Mohamed Shaker.

Some large-minded and clear-eyed thoughts on people power and the Egyptian/Tunisian revolutions from Roderick T Long, here.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Learning to Read

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - via Alex Plank at Wikipedia - public domain Via commenter CnNaevius at Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic magazine blog, here's a poem by the African-American abolitionist, suffragist, poet, and novelist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), to whom I am just now introduced.

For lovers of books and liberty everywhere.

Learning to Read

Very soon the Yankee teachers
Came down and set up school;
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it, —
It was agin’ their rule.

Our masters always tried to hide
Book learning from our eyes;
Knowledge did’nt agree with slavery —
’Twould make us all too wise.

But some of us would try to steal
A little from the book.
And put the words together,
And learn by hook or crook.

I remember Uncle Caldwell,
Who took pot liquor fat
And greased the pages of his book,
And hid it in his hat.

And had his master ever seen
The leaves upon his head,
He’d have thought them greasy papers,
But nothing to be read.

And there was Mr. Turner’s Ben,
Who heard the children spell,
And picked the words right up by heart,
And learned to read ’em well.

Well, the Northern folks kept sending
The Yankee teachers down;
And they stood right up and helped us,
Though Rebs did sneer and frown.

And I longed to read my Bible,
For precious words it said;
But when I begun to learn it,
Folks just shook their heads,

And said there is no use trying,
Oh! Chloe, you’re too late;
But as I was rising sixty,
I had no time to wait.

So I got a pair of glasses,
And straight to work I went,
And never stopped till I could read
The hymns and Testament.

Then I got a little cabin
A place to call my own—
And I felt independent
As the queen upon her throne.

Harper was also an ardent prohibitionist, but nobody in this cockeyed world is perfect. And it is all too easy and horrible to conjecture why she might have judged prohibition a really, really good idea - walking those roads she was walking.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket...

Kitty Fisher and parrot - by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1764) - public domain, via Xn4 at Wikimedia Commons ...Kitty Fisher found it.

Probably because Kitty Fisher had lots of friends in the circles that get to pick folks' pocketses, whereas Lucy Locket is only some poor working girl about whom nobody important knows or cares.

These thoughts are inspired by a killer Goat Quote from Guido Fawkes today (hat tip: Samizdata.net), concerning the current UK hoo-hah about large numbers of perfectly genuine charities being in danger of closing, due to... a withdrawal of their Government funding? Say what? Sez Guido:
A charity that relies in the main part on taxes is no more a charity than a prostitute is your girlfriend.
Well, quite. "Give me money or go to prison!" can be called many things, and may be defended in many ways. "This is charity!" belongs under neither heading.

Guido is, I think, quite at sea with his Tory-friendly interpretation of Big Dave's Big Society buzzword. I remember his beloved Thatcherism rather well, and whilst many of Mrs T's criticisms of state socialism still ring true today, so do no few of Cheerful Charlie Marx's criticisms of free-y industrial capitalism; and he can whistle for my sympathies, too. The Thatcher regime in its day had no objection at all to a Big State where it came to the Big People's interests, and was often almost commendably open about the matter. I have considered including such a commendation herein, but unfortunately this pixel is too large to write it on with any pretence of good housekeeping.

If the Tory Party really wanted to promote charity, it would be getting the hell out of the way of it, and knocking down some of the costs and prohibitions and privileges the State currently puts there. Stupid Planning Tricks; long waits for permission for public action, combined with onerous fees for asking it; and taxing everyone for community facilities so as to hire them out at 'market rates' to those who can either afford them or blag yet another big grant from everyone's taxes for the purpose, all come to mind as candidates for the Big Society's Big Chopper.

But sweet charity is not what a ruling elite wants. There is small gain in being Lady Bountiful when every rag-tag-and-bobtail is overflowing with bounty too. They want Edmund Burke's little platoons indeed - so long as they deploy themselves according to the commands of the Great General! Little bands of bolshy merry men, roistering maenads, and holy fools sharing bread with the hungry without first cutting their lords' spawn a generous slice, are and will remain wholly surplus to requirements.

The good hope for the Little Platoons is not that they will rally behind the Great General to help him win the War on Everything - but that they might be emboldened to mutiny, for love of Lucy Locket!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

People, Not Those People!

An agora in ruins. - East stoa of the ancient agora in Thessaloniki, seen from the South. 2nd c. AD., by Marsyas at Wikimedia Commons - released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License When anybody suggests introducing the market into anything, a common outraged cry is,
"People, not profits!"
And given the sort of markets masters generally like to introduce into things, those angry voices will often have a point. Nor is it, on the face of it, unreasonable to feel that there are some matters far too humanly important to leave to the whims of rich, conceited, bean-counting money-grubbers, shoddily representing the interests of ten thousand faceless pension funds, and somewhat more accountably representing the interests of their own fellows in boardroom and golf-club.

But if that's true, it makes little sense to me how that outcry always seems to translate as, "State, not private!" "The collective, not individuals!" "The Just People, not just people!"

Sweet Lady Liberty, why?

For all these things so human and important, why is it then such a good idea to leave them to the whims of rich, conceited, news-spinning power-grabbers, shoddily representing the interests of ten thousand faceless voting blocks, and somewhat more accountably representing the interests of their own fellows in boardroom and bunker?

Or perhaps I have that wrong. Perhaps the real idea is that all truly precious things should be subject only to the ultimate whims of rich, conceited, target-gaming mandarins, shoddily representing the interests of ten million helpless clients, and somewhat more accountably representing the interests of their own fellows in boardroom and bureaucracy?

Or perhaps - just perhaps - those of us whom even these humane proposals still leave malcontent, should come up with a new cry of our own:
"People, not power!"
And whoever will join me in that one - why, for sure they may count me their brother!

Monday, 7 February 2011

"She Will Walk the Milky Way and Old Time."

Bodies of stars wrestling beyond the fields we know. - The Antennae Galaxies, by NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team - public domain. The strangest chapter of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland yet: viewpoints from Golden Kate and Luke as usual, but also Elegant Elder Sister, Fiery Younger Sister, Bonecold Refugee, Hero-Father... All that came of the great stroke in the last chapter, seen through every kind of eye. And the merely human enemies, in Allingdale too, have been busily making up for lost time.

Time. Time and things timeless...

It is a most grievous and ruinous thing (who hasn't known it, believe me!) to lose a beloved parent to mortality. But what if the fear were a worse one than that? What if one might lose them so utterly, that between one moment and the next, all fond memories of them might have slipped away into childish make-believe, and the truth have always been that they were a god, or a devil, or a vain and babbling drunken braggart? Or what if, living and dying down elvish roads, in their death at one iron's point they might cease ever to have lived at all, and become only a romantic tale told of twenty fleshly folk?

Easy and perilous, in dancing its daggered glades and hawking with its haggard lightnings, to forget what Faerie, in all the worlds, was always - and why time there carves out no refuge.

In the country where stories turn truths, what must truths be?

Katy. Katy. Come home.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Mayn't We Indeed, My Masters?


David Cameron's Tory-LibDem coalition makes a great deal of bigger society and smaller government. Compared to New Labour's vision of a nation as one big-tent panopticon reformatory, with themselves and their hangers-on as a sort of screwy oligarchy, the Cameroons are not even talking the total toot on that one.

On the other hand, my poems have better scansion and smaller bathos than those of William McGonagall, and it will be a sad day when I expect to be carried shoulder-high through the streets because of it!

So what is their latest wizard wheeze to mend our State-spoiled society, as only its traditional owners have the nous and the right to do?

I know! Let's replace the traditional British May Day celebrations of spring, with a made-up festival of State-worship to cheer us through the blustering storms of October!

Kick the commons and lift the lords! Stop the dances and start the press-gangs! Down with cocks and up with cannons! Leave your lover and fuck the French! Kill unruly Spring, and bring the bloody Fall!

Oh, my country may bring you a Fall to sing about yet, cully.

Friday, 4 February 2011

In the Hollow of the Night

This I wrote some time ago, and have now forgotten who originally inspired it. In certain moods I am a bit like a male version of this myself. Sapphire the Sorceress, one of my favourite ongoing characters, is a lot like this, all the time, and people tend to misunderstand her to the marrow. One of these days, I'll finish some tale of her for which there is some imaginable market.

In the Hollow of the Night

In the silence and the dark
Hearts of flint may strike a spark,
And the wind from off the whinny moor may blow a smacking kiss.
Will you try to draw them in -
Knives of stone and knives of whin?
Will you call the frost around your fire, and think she’ll call it bliss?
Though she loves the whirling world
As she lies about it curled,
Cuddled silvery in starlight - she'll not love you by the barlight
But she'll sing
Of the salt and wasted years she's been warmed to mud and tears
By the friendships that she's chilled
And the parties that she's killed.
Will you walk her glinting ways awhile, and share a cup of quiet?
If a whisper in your ear
Bade you leave your barmy beer,
Would you get your coat, and learn how air and stone will hold their riot?
Minds of steel may love aright
In the hollow of the night.

...Alternatively, I will best-seller me such stupendous best-sellers that anyone will publish anything I subsequently offer that is in a plausible human language - even Sapphire's seventeen-canto Epic Doggerel, A Piece of the Sky. This may however take some small time, and sundry unforeseeable events may delay it even further.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The World on Maltby Edge

Return of the Kateverse folksongs!

This one was clearly composed about the time of the final climax of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, from which I remain my usual four or five chapters away. Not everybody who has issues with the aristocrats is thrilled to find the Dales on the edge of a popular and distinctly elf-touched revolution. To judge by his language and sentiments, the author is an educated and conservative townsman, who could really do without having the reasonable world overturned in torch-flame and star-fire.

The World on Maltby Edge

Three red suns awake the East.
Loafer's most and lord is least.
Shepherds, flock behind your Beast -
Katy's banners flying!
Knights will beg and beggars ride.
Woman wanders, man must bide.
Saturn reaps the Fenny Side -
The world's turned upside down now!

Foes do good and friends do hurt.
Healer waves the bloody shirt.
Oaf eat beef and earl eat dirt -
The world’s turned upside down now!
Tales are truth and sooth is lies.
Tailor strikes and soldier flies.
Witches walk the stormy skies -
Katy's banners flying!

Grey wolf howls in crimson gloam.
Elf-horns cry, and gods keep mum.
Quick fall cold, and dead march home -
Katy's banners flying!
Lift the earth and sink the sun.
Whore and holy speak as one.
Duke and drab crack hearts on stone -
The world's turned upside down now!

Old days die on Maltby Edge.
Dream is doom, and play is pledge.
Honest tongues may well allege
The world's turned upside down now!
Will it totter ere it turn?
Will we marry, will we burn?
Must we hail, or durst we spurn
Katy's banners flying?

Why can't we have piecemeal, moderate, sensible advances? Don't these people realize they are playing into the hands of Dead Saturn and the Great Levellers?!?

I know where the guy's coming from, though.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Slightly Foxed

Despite all my best resolutions, another of my Katherines has escaped into the wild. Today and for no particular reason I wrote a complete solo Kit Fox story, The Wave That Broke on the Ingerfell, treating of an apocryphal but entirely characteristic adventure of that evil wicked exceptionally dodgy witch in the little northern lordship of Haggersdale.

It is loosely based on The Cock and Hen That Went to the Dovrefell - a trivial Norse beast-fable I recently bumped into in Dasent, and which is familiar to English-speaking nurseries as Chicken Little. The nature of this story is that substantial portions of it almost literally wrote themselves.

But since this is a tale of Kit Fox, my version is longer, ruder, and turns on an incredibly petty scam that gets more than slightly out of hand. And since her rôle in my current novel Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland is... somewhat harrowing to contemplate... this light-hearted tale from her younger days was an absolute delight to get my paws on.

I shall be releasing the final draft on April 23rd, as my annual contribution to International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. I was wondering what I was going to do for that!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Last and First Americans

Books I Will Very Probably Neither Read Nor Write...

Last and First Americans

Before there was George Washington, there was... Brewski Lee!

Brewster 'Brewski' Lee was just an easy-going all-American DA who worked 24/7 stopping libertine liberals destroying American liberty. He had nothing against China - he drank more Tsingtao beer than the rest of Oklahoma put together. His ancestors had fled two thousand years of communist tyranny to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the land of the free. America had been the land of the free - once. But now folks just did what they liked. That was no way to stop the unstoppable long stumble of ten billion bred-in-the-bone collectivists towards world domination. And when the USA meekly joined the Celestial People’s Republic as ‘New Xinjiang’ without a fight or a murmur, BREWSKI LEE SAW RED!

So when his sizzling, sozzled, schoolgirl-snogging scientist sister accidentally invented a time machine during their boozed-up wake for Uncle Sam, Brewski knew what he had to do. Oriental despotism had gotten an unbeatable head start over Western liberty - this time around. But what if liberty had struck root first?

Armed only with the headful of ancient Chinese lore he learned at his grandfather’s knee, and a heartful of values from the vanished Real America, Brewski embarks on a perilous one-way trip to become one of the founding sages of a redeemed future Empire.

History won’t know what’s hit it, when it meets... SHANG YANG, MAN OF LAW!!!!

This mostly frivolous post is brought to you by the month of February, and by the nagging suspicion that this may have already happened.