An open letter to my niece

By | Comms | One Comment

Sweetheart, I’m reading this book about Joan of Arc and it made me think of you, not least because Joan was born and grew up in Domrémy-la-Pucelle, a little town that’s about a four hour drive from Paris, where you are while I write this. France is pretty cool when you’re a girl in 2015, but Joan grew up over 500 years ago, when being a little girl in France, or pretty much anywhere, was a lot more restrictive. To hear Harrison (the lady who wrote this book I’m reading) tell it, women in the 15th century were consigned to three gender roles: virgin, wife or widow. You’ll notice that all of those roles are defined by their relationship to men. All people in 15th century France lived under Feudalism, which you’ll learn about in high school. What you need to know now is that social mobility (the ability to change your lot in life) was super limited. You usually…

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Why Chinese Intelligence has my records

By | Comms | 4 Comments

The other day, I got an email from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) letting me know that my SF-86, the form I filled out in order to obtain a security clearance, had been stolen. While OPM never came out and said it, the general conclusion is that this was performed electronically by hackers in league with or directly employed by the Chinese government. Let me tell you what’s typically on an SF-86: Everywhere I’ve lived, everyone I know, everything I’ve done, for the last decade. This includes criminal history (I have none), detailed medical information, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about friends and family, where I’ve traveled, my foreign contacts, my business interests and financial information. It’s incredibly comprehensive. And now in the hands of folks I don’t know, who have no allegiance to me, who may well be committed to my undoing. I have read solemn speech after solemn speech from OPM’s leadership, from officials at USCYBERCOM, from all…

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An Open Letter to TheBoyInTheClock

By | Comms | 5 Comments

Dear TheBoyInTheClock, My friend Sam Sykes, an author of no mean repute, turned me on to your story, The Spire in the Woods. I finished it yesterday, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not a huge horror fan. I read it once in a while, and mostly consider it another variant of fantasy. So you know my tastes, my favorite horror novel is probably Joe Hill’s N0S4A2, which is the only work of fiction I’ve ever read that actually frightened me badly enough to impact my sleep. That was before I read your story. The Spire in the Woods is fantastic. It’s a nod to both campfire ghost stories and the Lovecraftian sub-genre. It has a consistent magic system, its protagonist is flawed without being irredeemable, its supporting characters are believable and compelling. The stakes are high and you keep ratcheting them up. You extrapolate history and locality with a resonance that really transports. The reveal at the…

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You’re better off lifting than weeping

By | Comms | 9 Comments

Writing, like any artistic endeavor, is fraught with mental health pitfalls. This has always been the case, for as long as we’ve cared enough about artists to learn of their personal lives. Some of this is due to the uncertain nature of the business: fortunes rise and fall quickly, ambition is rarely paired with reward, and the snipe-hunt for respectability and social-standing is most often tied firmly to non-creative fields. And some of this is genuinely linked to root level mental health: your brain making too much of the sad chemical, and not enough of the happy chemical. In recent years, many prominent members of my genre have admitted to their struggles with depression, and I’ve seen it cut through luminaries in every other aspect of my life. I am now reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, only to discover that Capain Merriweather Lewis (the explorer of Lewis & Clark fame) suffered from severe depression that most believe led to his…

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An open letter to Chief Warrant Officer Brad R. Torgersen

By | Comms | 622 Comments

Chief Warrant Officer Torgersen, As you are no doubt aware, The Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell Repeal Act of 2010 removed barriers to homosexual members in the armed services, who may now serve openly and as equals. You have long held the position that homosexuality is immoral behavior, and most recently made denigrating jokes regarding the orientation aimed at Mr. John Scalzi. Your moral positions are your own, and I will not question them. However, I will remind you that you are a military officer and charged with the leadership of men and women of *all* walks of life, religions, creeds, sexual orientations, socio-cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Every single one of these people has the right to believe that you will faithfully discharge your duties as an officer, not spend their lives carelessly, not make them endure unnecessary hardship, that you will care for them with compassion and dedication. On or off duty, you are *always* an officer. Your repeated statements of your thoughts…

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