Category Archives: o for a muse of fire

Hugo’s Diner

I’m sad today, folks.

There’s a local restaurant I’ve been happy to patronize for many years now. My dad took me in there when I was a boy, and the habit’s never left me. Many of my friends also grew up hanging out there, and and we’ll stop in together from time to time, for company as much as for the wonderful fare. My own boy’s just a toddler, but they have a kid’s menu that will do just fine for him when the time comes. And best of all, they helped inspire me to cook my own meals around the house when I wasn’t in there sopping up every crumb they had.

That means that I don’t go in quite as often as I used to. Well, you know how it is. But it’s still a popular place. They cater to a lot of tastes and do it very well, through changes in ownership, through new cooks and staff, through competition from other places.

You can imagine how happy I was to hear that a very popular food writer, a chef himself, had been eating there for years, and spoke up about his regular hangout in print, encouraging new patrons to come in.

You can also imagine how shocked I was that many of my fellow regulars reacted to this by being ugly to the newcomers. It’s not that they didn’t tip well, it’s not that they didn’t like the food, it’s not that they were taking the regular patron’s tables. “All they eat is the chicken and steak,” they sniffed. It didn’t change the quality of the food that I saw, and of course they stuck to the vegan and gluten-free stuff – the only place in the whole town you could get it, and it was all right, even if it wasn’t my personal taste.

These things sometimes blow over, but this went from bad to worse. I heard people bad-mouthing the writer, as if it was a bad thing for a guy to have a favorite restaurant and do his part to continue its success. A lot of folks said he wasn’t a real chef and his opinion wasn’t knowledgable like theirs was – even though all he said was that fresher ingredients would improve the quality of the food, which he always enjoyed. Some people confused him with a guy from another city who had a poor experience with a few of the waiters. Other people accused the critic of not really liking the food at all just because he mentioned that the decor could be updated. A few people even ludicrously accused him of being one of the sportswriters who criticized the local team’s players and lobbied to have them all traded; when the team responded by winning the league and parading in triumph through the center of the big city, they watched it on a TV in the corner of the restaurant and booed, even though none of them at all had shown the least prior interest in the team or the game.

Well, I won’t bore you with my personal troubles. The long and the short of it is, the restaurant decided that they were going to have a grand reopening, expanding the seating, bringing back chefs who had gotten their start here and gone on to great things. The press and the local TV came – celebrity in our town! – and bookings were through the roof. It should have been the greatest day ever.

It never happened. The owners came up to the ribbon and cut it, we all went in, sat down, placed our orders – and then the lights went out. “We reserve the right to refuse service to everyone,” the chefs announced, and then left. The maitre’d even bawled out one patron in the middle of the lobby and went off in a huff.

We found out later that the hardcore regulars had threatened to have the whole place shut down for all sorts of bogus health violations. That didn’t stop them from looking well-fed – it also turns out the cooks had made a full variety of the gluten-free items just for them, while all the people ordering fish and steak and such went begging because “not enough people ordered it.”

So what happens now? Well, the diner’s just sitting there empty, and the regulars are actually gloating that nobody gets to eat there anymore. The only joint in town with decent gluten-free and vegan fare is belly-up. A few of the cooks who didn’t want to go along with it are afraid they won’t find work if they complain. And that chef/writer is seriously considering going back to cooking full-time and opening up his own place so folks have a place to eat and hang out and enjoy themselves again.

It’s all so pointless. There was a complete menu for the pickiest tastes and plenty of tables for everyone.

I guess I’ll have to go try out Noah Ward’s place across town. He’s gotten a lot of buzz recently.


Who gets to choose, anyway?

I play on a hockey team called the Killer Rabbits. No swooning, please – we’re old people so we play on foot with a ball (dek hockey), and we’re not all that great even on this humble level. But we have fun, and that’s why we do it.

As a result, we have certain teams we enjoy playing who are in it for the fun as well. Sure we like to win, but if not, we still shake hands with those guys and part as friends who share a common love. If we’re not playing against each other we’re usually talking shop about the game. But there are others that take it way too seriously. Hockey isn’t the point anymore, it’s winning at something, or (for a few whose games it is my unpleasant duty to referee*) the freedom to clobber people with sticks without legal consequence. And frequently, it’s those who have lost the good who are the most obsessed with the rulebook – not because they want to actually follow anything therein, but merely as a tool to start pointless debates with us referees, trying to justify their mayhem or blame us for errors, real and imagined.

* I ref the games of teams in the other divisions. Again, let me stress that this is a really low-level rec league, and the normal considerations of conflict of interest don’t apply. Someone’s gotta do it or there’s no league, and besides, in 20 years I’ve played on nearly every long-established team at one time or another, even if just filling in as a goalie. (Nobody carries a backup so if your guy’s hurt, it’s quite common to grab someone coming off the rink or waiting to go on.) The bottom line is: if you’re carrying a grudge against a dek hockey team based on your own games, and can’t ref them fairly as a result, then your temperament is not really suited for the job.

Which gets me to the would-be gatekeepers of true sci-fi fandom. I observe that when these stooges say that others aren’t real fans and therefore are disqualified, they’re lying on two levels: first, about the actual facts (who is a fan, what makes a fan); second, about their motives. They don’t care about who’s really a fan because they don’t care about the genre. They care only about being a gatekeeper, about the power to confer some coveted status that they’ve invented for the occasion. Love of the thing has been lost entirely; a true love would rejoice to find more people to truly share it, but they want to restrict and hoard. They can’t possibly compete with a true love, so they disqualify the lovers on some spurious grounds: not socially-conscious, too cis-whateverist, not really a fan.

And they do it because it so often works. Those who love a real thing dislike having to waste all their time justifying it, or protecting it (and themselves) from such Busybody Bossypants. It’s not worth the trouble to constantly argue about nonsense to get to the fun. The BBs don’t care because the argument is the big thing for them – especially winning it. That’ll show them!

Like the miscreants I send to the box, they lie; like them, they have no point; and like them, the gatekeepers dream that they are in fact referees and not fellow players. They don’t even care enough about the game to learn to play it, much less win, so they try to change the rules – that’s the skillset they’ve mastered and they use it. But soon they inevitably reach the point where nobody will play their game with them any more and they will be alone with the thing they truly love – their superiority – while we are rewarded with what we truly love. For where our treasure lies, there our heart is as well. All get what they desire; not all will enjoy the bargain.

What they never realize until too late is that such groups always tear themselves apart. It’s simple to see why: if all one loves superiority, then one will always wish to be the supreme superior boffin of whatever fiefdom one has invaded: all else are rivals. Excuses will be found to restrict the rewards to an ever-narrower inner circle, and to turn the punishments on an ever-wider general public. The innocent jokes told to friends today will be People’s Glorious Exhibit A in your show trial tomorrow.

The machine must run.

Do not go to the elves for writing advice

(UPDATED with TWO pertinent quotes and a couple of fixed typos.)

For when you ask about fanfic, they will say both No and Yes:

On the one hand, this bothers me as being somehow analogous to a sort of intellectual piracy flying a flag of hommage, but on the other, I’ve never had much difficulty with Sherlockiana, or post-Lovecraftian contributions to the Cthulhu mythos. And I certainly think there’s a difference between giving away a song written in the manner or style of a band and uploading that band’s original work to a free torrent site (a frequent problem for musicians these days). But in that case, where does a cover band, or even more nebulously, a tribute band, fit into such a discussion?

So what does this naughty and neglectful¹ elf say? As you may guess, it’s No and Yes, but there’s an explanation. But first, we need a little background.

A lot of fan fiction, like a lot of everything else, is prone to its own tropes and lazy little shortcuts. The best-known is the dreaded Mary Sue, where the fictional framework really only exists to flatter a thinly-disguised avatar for the author. What would you say if you were forced to read a Star Trek story in which dashing young Leiutenant Flightny saved the whole Federation, with the principals of the show reduced to marveling one to each other how awesome that new guy is, and shouldn’t he be promoted to command that new invincible prototype ship, the USS Millenium TARDIS?

Hopefully you wouldn’t say anything, because no power on Earth could force me to write it for you. But if I did (and may you all hunt me for sport if it happens), it would be out there for you to read if you so desired. This is not always a good thing.

Come back with me, below the jump, to the dark days…

:::doodilly-doop, doodilly-doop, doodilly-doop:::

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Screen Evil

Good stuff here from Friend of the Hive, Sir Robbo.

I struggle with this myself.  On the one hand, I can’t watch stuff like Criminal Minds that focuses on the antagonist to such a degree as to seem to revel in the horrible things they do – especially inasmuch as the writers of such procedurals often are guilty of some obnoxious one-upmanship, coming up with ever-crueler ways to show the depravaty within reach of the human heart.  It was my biggest beef with the original season of The Following, for example: on some level it almost seemed like the writers themselves were under the sway of the psychopathic cult leader.

It’s hard on me.  It makes me want to swoop down like an rescuing superhero, or else like an avenging… hm.  Angel is not the correct term.  It’s more of a dervish.  I find myself possessed of a growing and useless rage, and sometimes have to leave the room.

On the other hand, as a writer myself I understand the power involved in a tale where the hero has to overcome terrible odds, or terrible enemies; and under the doctrine of Show, Don’t Tell, you have to depict some awful stuff to carry that terror home.

Now, perhaps seeing such things in a visual medium carries an impact that my own writing lacks, or else I am somewhat vaccinated against the effect because these are my words, and I well know the uppance that shall come upon my baddies.  But I suspect that I am rather uncomfortably good at the depicting.  I have come up with some gut-punching moments, a suspicion generally confirmed by friends whom I’ve spooked with the stuff.  So does that make me a hypocrite?  Worse, what in the world am I tapping into when I write it?

Part of a sadly continuing series

Via sci-fi author Larry Correia:

However, it comes as a shock to reasonable people on the left when so emboldened the SJWs [Social Justice Warriors – NF] begin to do the same thing to people on their own side. Stephen Colbert says something they don’t like. Outrage. Patton Oswalt simply agrees with someone on my side. Outrage. Jonathan Ross might say something in the future. Outrage. Patrick Rothfuss says maybe fandom shouldn’t be so quick to outrage. Outrage. Wil Wheaton simply retweets Rothfuss. Outrage. So on and so forth.It doesn’t even matter that all of these people are staunch allies of the outrage crowd, the mob has been programmed to attack, so they do.

Sounds about right.

Full disclosure – I’ve never read any of Mr. Correia’s work. I hardly need to, however, to have a considerable interest in the principle involved. On general terms, I want to live in a world where differences of ideas and opinions are given full and fair hearing, and that people can get along with all sorts of people. On specific terms, if I ever really do buckle down and finish the Mother of Unfinishable Stories (or any of the others), I want my own ideas to have as wide an audience as they can find.

As some have pointed out, simply having an opinion doesn’t oblige others to listen to it. That is certainly true. It is also true that refusing to even hear the idea is a lousy method of understanding it, or anyone who might agree with it.

Science fiction has long been a bulwark of using fantastic trappings to talk about the human condition, with a long tradition of speaking against discrimination and narrow-mindedness.  That people can be lifelong fans of the genre and yet seek to enforce their own orthodoxy within sci-fi – even to the point of trying to determine who is permitted to write or read the work – is a gruesome irony. Love of the thing itself has been surreptitiously hollowed out and replaced by love of being a fan of the thing, having power to confer True Fan Status on others, vetoing what they may or may not enjoy.


The pods, it is true, are not violating the First Amendment.  But as the xkcd cartoon’s alt-tag window states, if that’s the most that can recommend your position – that it’s not technically illegal – it’s a huge concession.  It is also not usually what free speech defenders are actually arguing.  They aren’t using free speech to defend a particular unpopular position, only their right to have a position that’s different.  Where Munroe glosses in his cartoon is precisely this distinction.  Correia isn’t appealing to free speech to win his argument, only to have the right to make it.

It’s the alleged free-thinking and open-minded Tolerators who are indulging in “The Debate is Over” Syndrome.  And they’re fooling themselves by saying, as in the fourth comment on that thread, that “While we might be wary of a panic leading to persecution of people holding a minority viewpoint, this hardly seems to be the case.”

You can scroll down from here to see why you’d want to be wary – it never stops with the first person silenced, ever. That’s what Correia observed in the quote above, what he demonstrated happens when people first learn to be shut-uppity and start to enjoy the rush of power they get when they first succeed in controlling what opinions are acceptable. They become quite jealous of that sort of power and seek to confine it as closely as they can.

Worst, that mindset finds a natural outlet in a place like a DMV or Homeowner’s Association or some other small, insular group of people who may have a legitimate need to wield authority, but who have let it get to their head. Instead of the actual function being the goal and the authority being the tool, the authority takes over and is no longer tethered to a larger purpose. When that happens, no law or guideline or principle designed to restrict that power will have any hold on them. And when that goes on long enough, well… then you get things like the BLM trying to enforce “First Amendment Zones” at the point of a gun, or the IRS systemically hindering and punishing ordinary citizens for their opinions, or agencies as diverse as the CBO, Department of Labor, and the Census Office gaming the books and massaging data to pursue a partisan goal.

Is it the right of the entertainment industry to seek a monolithic point of view? It must be their right if they so choose, in order for the country to function and its citizens to be free. That doesn’t make it healthy. Eventually you stultify if you only hear one kind of thing all the time – as they never cease to remind “right wingers” or “god botherers” or “cisgendernormatives” or whatever buzzword is yet to be crafted to justify willful ignorance. As if we on the right aren’t exposed daily to a culture and mindset that is alien to our own!

Besides this, the Tolerators aren’t being honest with themselves. Having long ago confined their own minds to that airless little box, they want everyone else’s heads crammed in as well, and are busily burning down free speech and free thought in order to save it. It’s impossible for so many people to be so blind and dumb as to miss the illogic, so something else must be happening, and I think that it’s this subtle replacement of the Love of Something with the Love of Things About Something. The temptation is to care less and less about telling a great story than it is to be an Approved Official Storyteller, to gain the imprimatur of the correct class of people and belong with them, and to be recognized by lesser sorts for one’s expertise; eventually, to be the Inner Circle of that class and determine who else is admitted or rejected. As CS Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, a group that gathered around an idea is always tempted in this fashion, and their proper rejection of ignorant people’s ideas about their field or profession soon grows to a rejection of the idea that they should pay their debts and act civilly in public. The ego that attaches from being really elite at something soon attaches to things that have nothing at all to do with it. That’s precisely when the good is lost.

In this case, of course, it’s made even sillier because this ego is now attaching not to the actual creators but merely to those who enjoy reading the work; it’s as if a mirror was proud of how brightly it shone in the sunlight and sought to keep other mirrors forever indoors in dusty rooms.

Linking, blinking, and nod

So I made a few alterations in Ye Olde Blogrolle.

(I also picked up a bunch of E’s on sale at a discount typographer, if you couldn’t tell.)

Two of the newly-linked are sci-fi authors: Sarah Hoyt and John C Wright.  Ms. Hoyt currently has a Heinlein quote in her blog’s banner – part of a quote with which Mr. Wright takes issue in a post.  It’s fun to note that this doesn’t deter Mr. Wright, in his very next post, from then linking and discussing something written by Ms. Hoyt.

The third is, you guessed it, an author as well.  Unlike my other two blogrollees, Robert Godwin has actually made a sale at Chez Nightfly, though I regret that I have yet to finish One Cosmos Under God.  I do hope to correct the gap in my bookshelf as regards the other writers in question, whose blog posts argue well for their abilities.  Also, my apologies to Mr. Godwin, who has written a fine book – the failure to finish lies squarely on my shoulders.  I do note that it took me a few tries to get through GK Chesteron’s Everlasting Man, and that turned out all right in the end, so I’m certain I’ll make it at some point.

Thanks for the views!

I appreciate all y’all sticking with me and stopping in, even when I haven’t had anything new to say in a bit. Your patience will be rewarded with some new content shortly. I have a post in the hopper about being “unpersoned” on Twitter, another one about one of the many awesome somethings I’ve seen elsewhere on the Webs, and a third about the iPod shuffle.

Lastly (but happily), I’m just now conceiving a longish series of posts in the vein of NaNoWriMo, the first-draft generating Internet phenomenon. It’s this last that I’m looking forward to myself. I want to get back into the fiction game.

On a practical note, I’d like to ask you, the reader – how would you like the creative writing set apart so it’s known as fiction rather than typical blog blather?  At the old Hive, I set such things in a different font color.  Here I have the option of actually formatting the post differently, not just dousing the pixels in a little hue and calling it a day.  My issue is that none of the options offered to me seem to suit my purpose.  These posts are certainly not galleries, quotes, images, chats, audio, or video.  They’re not merely links.  I’m not even sure what “Status” is in this context, except a possible attempt to horn in on Facebook’s turf.

That leaves me with two options: “Standard,” which is what all of these posts are, and “Aside.”  I just don’t know about that.


If you asked me on different days why I was a Christian, you would get different answers.

I’ve never had a problem with that.  People are complicated.  They have different reasons for doing things, some of which are paradoxical.  The demand for a uniform rationality is not usually a sign of health, any more than a pure emotional reaction without any consideration.  In fact, on some days when you ask why I’m a believer, this complexity will be the answer – I find that the faith accounts for the paradoxes of life and of humanity far more comprehensively than any alternative.

Today, though, if you ask – and I’m going to proceed as if you did – the answer is not about complexity, but imagination.

Sometimes I think that the everyday world is just a little too mundane to be the only thing we’re meant for.  Whatever man touches, he adorns; where he finds beauty in nature or motion, he is quick to praise and admire.  I grow convinced that this impulse of imagination and wonder is a key that opens a small window to greater things, and that someday a secret door, long suspected but rarely recognized, will be opened to us.

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The Folsom Elementary Blues

The good Professor is “overthinking” song lyrics, which is always fun. A lot of really good songs actually don’t make a lick of sense if you parse the words.

His musing on Johnny Cash (The Man, Emeritus) has made me think of an old song parody I rattled off years ago, upon learning that there is a town of Folsom here in New Jersey.

The Folsom Elementary Blues

I hear that school bell ringing
Class is out again
I ain’t seen the playground
Since I don’t know when
‘Cause I’m stuck here in detention
And time keeps draggin’ on
Gotta write a hundred times
I’m sorry I did wrong

Way back in September
Teacher told me, “Son,
Always be a good boy
Play nice with everyone.”
But I shot a girl with spitballs
Just to watch her cry
When they tell my parents
I know I’m gonna die

I know they’re eating tacos
Over in the dining hall
Then they’ll go to recess
And play dodgeball
But I’m stuck in detention
I know I can’t be free
Ol’ Folsom Elementary
Has got it over me

I know what I’ll be doing
When the weekend rolls around
My friends will be out having fun
But chores will weigh me down
I’m grounded for the weekend
Although I long to play
But the end of my detention
Will chase my blues away


What is pendantric?

It’s next-level boring… it’s when ponderous and dry rises to a Zen-like state of condensed faux-learnéd over-writing.  The result is dullness so concentrated and inpenetrable that no actual life or wit can escape.

Even if a lot of people read it, and perhaps understand it, and maybe even agree with it – it’s a failure.  In no case will anyone interact.  There’s no way into the thing, and thus no way to make oneself at home with the concept.  Writing like that is a glittering failure, a pretty corpse sitting in a tasteful casket.

I thought a lot about that while reading this post from Andrea Harris.  I began to finally put a framework around the dissatisfaction I get in blogging… why I am often a daily commenter elsewhere, but an indifferent author… why I’ve abandoned my old blog and neglect my current one.   The truth is, I even bore myself.  That’s bad.  I sometimes (please forgive me) admire some phrase of mine that strikes me as apt and pithy, but I don’t much like it.

When did this happen?  AGAIN?  It’s one thing to have “certitude” but it’s another step beyond to write such dreadful dull crap.