All posts by Richard S. Crawford

About Those Rings

Gollum
Actual image of me reacting

I like The Lord of the Rings. I really do. Granted, I haven’t actually read the trilogy since the early 2000s, and I only re-read The Hobbit back in 2017, but I do own the DVDs, which I recently ripped to our Plex media server so I can watch them whenever I want, and I listen to the soundtracks frequently. I own the books written by Tolkien and many other books besides, as well as books like The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, and Defending Middle Earth. Every now and then I pick up The Atlas of Middle Earth and browse through it delightedly.

So when I learned that Amazon will be airing a new series based on the history of Middle Earth, I was… sort of excited? I mean, it’s a great setting, great epic fantasy, and there’s so much about Middle Earth’s history — the Second Age, the coming of Man, and so on — to explore. And while J. R. R. Tolkien may not have written much of his lore for popular reading, his son Christopher certainly did. I watched the teaser trailer for Amazon’s series, and enjoyed the look of the show. I’ve included the teaser below for you to watch.

But today I learned that while Amazon owns the production rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, they don’t actually own any of the rights to anything beyond that. They do not own the rights to The Silmarillion or The Histories of Middle Earth and so on. So their vision of the Second Age of Middle Earth,  the time period where The Rings of Power takes place, is based purely on their own imagination and wee gleanings from the books the Tolkien did write. So, it’s all up to whoever writes the series, and I’m so skeptical of anything that comes out of massive media empires these days that I’m just not sure I’m going to enjoy this.

But what really bothers me, actually, has little to do with The Lord of the Rings and the One Ring and Middle Earth. It has to do with the fact that there is so much good material out there to work with to make sprawling epic fantasies. Yes, N. K. Jemisin is writing the screenplays for her genre-defying Broken Earth series, which is a good thing, but other fantasy and science fiction worlds exist that can be made into movies. There’s racial diversity in The Rings of Power, it looks like, which I’m happy to see (there was precious little in Peter Jackson’s films), but still… Let’s see some diversity in storytelling, in settings, in characters.

And yes, I’m well aware that there are some good non-Tolkien-inspired films and TV shows out there.

Maybe, though, I’m just Old. I don’t get that excited about superhero films (the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so vast that I’m tired just thinking about where to start, and DC’s Batman films are getting progressively darker and darker, and frankly I haven’t really enjoyed a superhero film since 1980’s Superman II). I don’t go on and on about how movies were “better back in the day” because many of them weren’t, and I know this objectively.

Still, though.

The world’s a big place, and the actuality of what we have in the way of storytelling is much vaster than anything Tolkien conceived of. Let’s see some more of it.

 

Vroom! Vroom! Bang!

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

We made a thing!

We subscribe to Hungry Root, which is a weekly mail delivery service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, and each week we get a fresh new cardboard box full of good, tasty, easy to prepare food. We also end up with a lot of cardboard boxes.

And, of course, we also get Chewy shipments for the cats on a fairly regular basis. Which means MORE cardboard boxes! Hooray! Usually this means that we just have a full recycle bin each garbage day, but today we decided that we needed to do something a bit different. Behold!

Cardboard Tank
A tank! Made of Cardboard!

It’s a tank! A Sherman tank! With a cat named Sherman (purely coincidental).

Want proof?

Cat in tank
It’s a Sherman tank!

 

Here’s a real Sherman M4 tank for comparison:

M4 Sherman Tank
An M4 Sherman tank for comparison

 

See? The resemblance is remarkable, isn’t it?

That’s all.


Probably my only contribution to Thingadailies this year

2022 so far…

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

It’s February 1st. It’s the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Tiger, and it’s the first day of Black History Month. And so far, aside from Rupert dying, it’s been a decent year so far.

A writing update follows.

I’ve written 3.5 short stories (.5 because “Meep” will be a two-parter) so far, and I’ve managed to write 500 words per day for 29 days on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, which means I’m on track to finish this draft before I have to turn it in to my writing group on March 10. Go me! I also had a wee anxiety attack about my writing career, but I won’t go into that here.

My next writing project, after Devil, is to revise one of my oldest projects, The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster (formerly Fred Again). I’ve set myself a goal of June 9 for that one.

But I also want to work on my pirate novel, which is demanding to be a trilogy. It’s tentatively called The X of Doom, for various reasons, and I have titles for the second and third books in the trilogy, as well as paragraph-long outlines for them. I’ve done a lot of research about the so-called Golden Age of Piracy. Wikipedia has been  a good resource (all hail Wikipedia, as long as you don’t cite them as a source in your academic papers!), but I’ve also read some actual books. Here’s a pile of the ones I’ve gotten, that I’ve either read or will read:

Pile of Pirate Books

(Click to embiggen.)

A word about a couple of them. The Republic of Pirates, by Colin Woodard, is a brief history of piracy, focusing primarily on the so-called “pirate republic” in Nassau in the 1700s. This topic is fascinating, so I am glad to have found this book.

Fast Ships, Black Sails, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, is a collection of modern pirate stories. That is to say, a story about pirates that have all been written recently, and not stories about modern pirates.

The bottom two books — The Pirate Ship 1660-1730 and The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing — are just schematics of various ships and boats the pirates and others used throughout history.

School has also started! I had to record an actual introductory video of myself for the class I’m taking, and that was pretty stressful. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of that happening in this class, which is about teaching information literacy in a library setting. Information literacy is something of a passion for me, so I’m looking forward to this class, despite my stage fright.

One last thing: If you know my writing at all through stories and novels I’ve written, how would you describe my writing style? What are the things I shine in? I’m curious, and would love to get some feedback. Feel free to send me an email or to comment on this post. Thanks!

Excelsior!

RIP Rupert (2009-2022)

“Gray ones are trouble,” we would say to ourselves, watching Rupert climb the Christmas tree or jump up on top of the refrigerator from the counter.

And he certainly was trouble. He was a feisty gray tabby from the minute we first saw him and his sibling Ingrid at the foster home in 2009, where we’d gone to adopt a pair of kittens. He (and another gray tabby) were careening about the room, literally running sideways on the wall, bouncing off furniture and each other. He was super cute, so we adopted him and Ingrid together.

Tiny kitten Rupert
Rupert as a kitten, six weeks old, 2009

 

We knew that Rupert would never fill the void in our heart left behind by Tangerine and Sebastian, who had died within weeks of each other not long before, but having him in the house certainly brought us joy and laughter. When we put up our Christmas tree in 2009, he zoomed up like nobody’s business. We would look at each other and comment that he’d slow down in a few years.

And eventually he did, though he was always a lovebug. When he wasn’t tearing around the house, he was likely sitting on our laps and purring. Every day at suppertime, he would yell at us about how he was starving and the other cats were starving, couldn’t we see how starving he was, how he hadn’t eaten in eight years since the day before. He wasn’t a big fan of being held, unless it was in a very specific way, and would squirm and let us know that he had things he had to do! Like run up and down the stairs.

He was a good friend to the other kitties when he was at his prime, and would put up with a lot from the foster kittens. (When we got Sherman a few years later, we joked that Rupert had taught Sherman all about being a troublesome gray cat.)

He started vomiting regularly a year or so ago, and wasn’t feeling too well. The vet would give him shots of cortisone every month or so, and that seemed to do the trick for awhile. Then we put him on a daily steroid medicine, and that helped as well. But he continued to lose weight, he started peeing outside the litter box (a good sign that a cat is not happy), and he had horrible diarrhea. He stopped eating some days, would eat more others, but he wasn’t yelling at me at supper time anymore. The vet had initially diagnosed him with inflammatory bowel disease, which can lead to GI lymphoma, which is likely was Rupert had at the end. It’s difficult to detect, but he was clearly not happy, so we knew it was time.

The vet was compassionate and kind. Rupert did not like the first shot, but he went to sleep quickly and calmed down for the last time.

Now, his legacy lives on in Guffaw, who was a foster kitty that we wound up adopting a couple of months ago. Guffaw is a gray cat and therefore trouble, and he learned a lot from his mentor.

Thank you for the laughter, the love, and the memories, Rupert. You were a really good guy, and I will always love and miss you.

Rupert and Guffaw together
Rupert (on the right) with his latest protege Guffaw

Personal Choice and Societal Ethics

LRRR!
LRRR, ruler of Omicron Persei 8

TL;DR: If you are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine and do not do so, then you are responsible for the consequences.

Now, before I get into this, may I remind you I have a degree in Philosophy and I’m not afraid to use it? Because I do, and my sense of ethics, particularly in relation to societal terms, was heavily influenced by some pretty heavy-duty thinkers, including Immanuel Kant and John Rawls, and, to a lesser extent, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Practically, I’m a utilitarian by nature, but I find the hedonistic aspects of the Good as defined by Mill and Bentham a bit tricky. I like Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and while I find Rawls a little too optimistic about human nature, I still like his notions of justice as fairness.

So, having said all that to establish (to some extent) my philosophical bona-fides, let’s go.

I’ve been concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning, when I first heard about a new SARS-related disease spreading rapidly through the Wuhan district in China. Given the international connectiveness of the world, it was only a matter of time before it reached the States, starting with New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles, the big port cities. The first community contracted case was, I believe, seen in UC Davis Medical Center here in Sacramento. To be perfectly honest, I was less concerned about it until then-President Donald Trump announced that he had it under control; at which point, I knew we were screwed.

Politics aside, I figured we’d see the pandemic and vanquish it fairly quickly; within a couple of months at most. I figured we’d find a vaccine and people would rally around it and we’d all be better and this thing would go away soon. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The vaccine didn’t come into nearly a year into the pandemic, and the newest (at this time) variant of the SARS-COV2 virus, the Omicron variant, is blazing through our population like wildfire. All told, we have nearly one million people dead in the United States, millions more are sick, our hospitals are overrun, and the health care system is on the brink of collapse.

It didn’t have to be this way.

The pandemic and its mitigation measurements have become politicized, which is a shame. Conspiracy theories surround the vaccine, and notions of mask wearing, social distancing, and vaccine mandates have been decried as socialism and tyranny by certain parties (never mind that said parties probably don’t actually know what socialism is). There is one refrain that bothers me the most, and that is that getting the vaccine and wearing masks are individual choices not to be imposed by the state.

I have Thoughts about that.

Vaccine mandates do work. People who get the vaccine are less likely to come down sick with COVID-19, and if they do catch it, they are less likely to require hospitalization, and far less likely to die from it. They are also less likely to spread the disease to other people. And where vaccine mandates are in place, more people definitely get it. Sure, some people resist the mandate, but employers (such as hospitals — and it blows me away that there are health care workers who refuse the vaccine — and government services such as police departments) report that less then 1% of their employees quit over the mandates.

“But it’s all about personal freedoms and individual choice!” say the ones who (maybe) recognize the utility of the vaccine but who do not believe in vaccine mandates.

And they’re right. Whether or not to get the vaccine is a personal choice. But it’s one with societal consequences. As I said above, getting the vaccine significantly reduces the probability that you will spread COVID-19 if you catch it. which is a good thing. If you’re unvaccinated and contract the disease, then you have a much higher chance of spreading it, even if your symptoms are mild or simply nonexistent. If you do exercise your personal freedom to refuse the vaccine, though, and then you contract the virus and spread it to someone who is unable to get the vaccine because they are too young or are immunocompromised or some other legitimate reason (and I don’t believe in religious accommodations here), then you are responsible for the consequences.

Society has a responsibility, I believe, to protect its most vulnerable members: the elderly, the very young, the injured and sick. This comes right out of my Christian value set. If you are a member of society, then you have the responsibility to partake in that protection. My utilitarian mindset is in favor of the greatest good for the greatest number, and that greatest good means good health.

This is also why I believe governments have the authority, nay, the responsibility, to restrict travel to those have been vaccinated and test negative for the virus. If an athlete from another country tests positive for the virus, or has publicly refused the vaccine, then the government has the responsibility to keep that person out.

“YOU CAN’T FORCE ME TO GET THE VACCINE!” yells the societal libertarian. This is true.

But you should be held responsible for the consequences of not doing so. And if, say, your elderly grandmother, your immunocompromised neighbor, or your child’s playmates, if any of them contract COVID-19 because of your own anti-vaccine position, then you are responsible for the outcome.

If you disagree, feel free to let me know. I’m not likely to change my mind, though. I’ve done my due diligence in informing my opinion and philosophy here, so I believe my conclusions are sound and valid.

NEWS!

I just confirmed that the Autumn 2021 issue of Sci Fi Lampoon, which contains my short story “Arkham House Rules” is now available! Go forth and read this story about Great Old Ones playing Dungeons and Dragons!

SciFi Lampoon Cover

I’m thrilled because this is one of my favorite stories, and I’m happy that it’s found a good home.

Writing Goals for 2022

Writer with dragon
Me, writing, under close supervision from a dragon

Last year I submitted 100 manuscripts to various markets in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. This year I plan to do the same. I’ll collect more rejections, to be sure, but I’m certain there will be at least one acceptance.

Rejections, of course, are part and parcel of being a writer. 99.99% of writers experience rejections of their fiction (John Scalzi, who apparently has been paid for every piece of fiction that he’s written, is, of course, an outlier). Wise woman Mur Lafferty, however, points out that working writers always experience rejections, and it is, in fact, the mark of a working writer. That certainly helped me last year when I was collecting rejection letters left and right, and has helped inure me to the process. I have built up callouses. They still hurt, a little, but not nearly as much.

My other major writing goal for the year is to write a short story every week. I’ve done it before; in 2007/2008, I wrote or revised 53 short stories, and some of them were awfully good (one of them, “Trying to Stay Dead”, was even published in a paying market). Some of them were eye-bleedingly bad. Most were just okay. I tried again in 2013, but didn’t get nearly as far, though one story, “And the Devil Will Drag You Under”, became the basis of the novel I’m working on with the same title. Ray Bradbury originally suggested this exercise back in the day, and said that it was impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row, and in my experience that is true.

The two goals — 100 submissions and 52 stories —are tied together. I mean, after 100 from 2021, I’m sort of running out of stories to submit, so it’s time to create some more. My first story, which I have planned on completing by Sunday the 9th of January, is a science fiction horror story called “Stay Away”, and takes place in a colony on the moon of a distant planet.

I won’t be sharing these stories, either on my blog or via my mostly defunct mailing list. This is because if I shared them anywhere (save for a password-protected post on my blog, I suppose), many markets wouldn’t accept them; they would consider them reprints, and there are plenty of markets that don’t accept those. But if you ask me very nicely, I might share them with you privately.

So watch out! 2022 is going to be a heck of a year, writing-wise. Things might get stressful, especially when school starts up again on January 24 and I try to keep up with my writing, but I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.

 

Locus of Control

Frankenstein Stamp
This is me at the beginning of the year

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I think I’ve said that already in this blog, but I’ll say it again. It’s just that January 1 is such an arbitrary date to decide that you’re going to improve yourself. I used to make March 25 resolutions for reasons that are no longer relevant, but I don’t do that anymore either. But this year, I do have some goals, and I have decided to focus on various areas of my life — loci, because I like to use fancy words — that need attention and improvement. I’m listing them here to keep myself accountable, but you’re welcome to read them as well and comment just in case you want to.

Loci/Goals:

  • Writing: I want to focus even more on my writing and make it a larger priority. I want to end the year with at least fifty submissions; one hundred was manageable, but I think I’ve run out of market/manuscript combinations. I want to write some more stories so I can send different stuff out there. And finish one novel and at least start another.
    • Goal: To end the year with 182,500 words written. That’s a minimum of 500 words per day, which is easily done as long as I make it a priority. Those don’t count words on my blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
  • Daikaijuzine: My main goal for Daikaijuzine for the year is to switch platforms, from Drupal to WordPress. Drupal has issues that WordPress does not, and I know I can make it look better with WordPress. Also, I know WordPress a lot better than I know Drupal. Fortunately, there is a good Drupal → WordPress migration tool that I can use to help with this.
  • Health: Physical and mental. I’ve been doing pretty well with this already; Jennifer and I both signed up for Noom, and it’s helped quite a bit. We also signed up for The Outbreak Challenge, and that’s gotten us moving around a lot, and that also helps. My blood pressure is down, my resting heart rate is down, and I’ve lost ten pounds so far. Yay me. Just gotta keep on keepin’ on.
  • Church and Community: I plan on attending church more regularly, at least online. I haven’t for over two years now, primarily because of the pandemic (ugh, so much because of the pandemic), and I always feel better on a Sunday morning after going. I also want to get more involved in the community by doing some volunteering. I lump these two together since giving of oneself to the community is part of the Episcopal Church’s primary teachings. Love God, love your neighbor, change the world, and all that.
  • Learning: I already go to library school, and I enjoy that, and I aim to continue. Jennifer offered me a Master Class annual membership for my birthday, but after a lot of consideration I turned it down. I would like one, but I know that between work, school, and writing, I simply wouldn’t have time to devote to it. And that would make me sad. I should also read more nonfiction. Maybe write some nonfiction, too, but let’s not get too crazy.
  • Friends/Family: Reach out more often. I have many good friends (some I’ve known for thirty years or more), and that makes me happy.  I’ve always known this, and I cherish them, celebrate their accomplishments (and try to minimize my own sense of envy or jealousy if it comes up), and so on. I want to reach out to my friends more, especially my long-distance friends who make an effort to contact me from time to time. And family, too. I’ve been lax in calling my parents and sisters over the past couple of years. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Then there are some other areas of my life that need constant attention: the household (note: clean more), the cats (note: pet more), and so on. No specific goals come to mind for these, but I don’t want to ignore them.

And that, I think, is it. That’s a lot. I’ll keep on keeping on, and that’s a great thing to do. May the new year bring you peace, prosperity, and love.


That’s it for Holidailies!

I Should Write These Things Down

Dinosaur eating gnomes
My parents gave me this gnome-eating dinosaur

I have a terrible memory. I barely remember anything that happened this past year, save that I submitted one hundred manuscripts to various markets and received exactly one acceptance. I think that the whole sea shanty thing was this year as well? I don’t know. What else happened this year? I should write these things down, I suppose. I have a journal, but mostly it’s just things I have to do on a daily basis, priorities, and meetings, and not things that I’ve done. And this blog is an unreliable source of memories, as well; mostly I just blogged about writing and minor things.

Oh, and there was school. I won’t talk about school here, even though I have been enjoying it. Perhaps in my next blog post.

I am the unreliable narrator of my own life. When I finally do write my memoirs (tentatively titled An Unauthorized Autobiography Inspired by True Events), people will complain about that. Too bad for them, because unreliable narrators are all the rage in literary fiction.

So anyway. Today is my birthday, and I’m turning 54. I don’t mind that at all. It’s not as momentous a year as 50, of course, but I’m not mad about it. My fifties have been good to me — though, of course, there has been that inconvenient pandemic thing. I’ve gotten some great presents, including the above-pictured yard decoration. Jennifer and I won’t be putting it in our front yard, since things in our front yard tend to disappear (we used to have two really cool dragon statues that vanished from our front yard the very day we put them out). I got a desktop cell phone holder so I can have my phone next to me when I’m working. It’s pretty cool. And, of course, I got a BUNCH of books, including Buckaroo Banzai vs. the World Crime League, which I’ve been wanting to read ever since I heard it was coming out. I loved The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension and, like millions of fans across the world, was so disappointed when the promised sequel film never happened.

I also got several science books, a couple of horror books, and a science fiction novel. Oh, and my mother-in-law gave me the LEGO Space Station kit, and I’m planning on assembling that tomorrow. Oh, and a DVD collection of the British comedy series Mrs. Brown’s Boys, which I’m very much looking forward to watching.

As for 2022. I’m still processing the fact that we live in the 2000s; when I was a kid, the future seemed so far away. I was so anxious as a kid, and I was constantly scared of what the future might bring; and now that it’s here, it’s not so bad.

Anyway. Best wishes for a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.


And Happy Holidailies to you!

Eye’ll Be Home For Christmas

Ever ones for tradition around here, Jennifer and I put up our Christmas tree very recently. I know, older tradition recommends putting up the tree on Christmas Eve itself, but we’re not that traditional. Partly it was procrastination, party we just aren’t all that into the Christmas spirit this year (see an earlier post I wrote where I discussed my feelings about the season), and partly we just weren’t sure we wanted the hassle of continually picking up ornaments that the cats had liberated from the tree to the floor.

But then we saw a show on Discovery+ (which we got specifically for the holiday baking shows). I forget the name of the show, but they did mention that “theme trees” are all the rage right now, the latest craze, the “in” thing. One tree that a pair of decorators came up with was particularly of interest to us, so we decided to replicate it.

So here you go:

Eyeball Tree
Can you feel its eyes on you?

(click to embiggen)

Yes, we put eyeballs on the tree. It wasn’t entirely like the tree we saw on television — that one had larger eyeballs, hand painted, and some of them were on servos so they could spin about. If I were engineeringly inclined, I’d do the same, but I’m not.

Turns out you can buy lots of things on Amazon, and even though I don’t trust or like Amazon, I do a lot of shopping there. You can get a package of 150 table tennis balls and a package of 300 small googly eyes for less than $30 total, and a bunch of ornament hooks at your local CVS for less than $2. So we put up the tree one evening, then spent another evening gluing googly eyes to table tennis balls and installing hooks. The above is the result.

Need a closer look?

Eyes in the tree
Eye See You

Jennifer has dubbed this tree “Eye’ll Be Home for Christmas”, and I like it. I couldn’t think of anything cosmic horror-ish to name the tree, so I’m going with Jennifer’s suggestion. I do like the idea that it’s a tree Santa would approve of, since he could probably install a wireless hotspot in the tree and add receivers and transmitters to each eyeball, et viola, the ultimate Santa Spy Tree.

You’re welcome.

And Merry Christmas.


Deck Those Halls with Holidailies