it’s Election Day — you should vote

Personally, I voted blue down the line, which is standard for me generally, and vitally necessary this year.

Since the turn of the millennium, this is what has happened with Republicans in power:

  • Major economic downturns, with corporate scandals in 2001 (which were bigfooted by the events of early September) and a massive economic crash in 2008
  • The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in its history, at least in part due to the administration downplaying intelligence reports warning about it.
  • A war in response to that attack that utterly failed after several years to do what it was supposed to accomplish, and also used as a false justification to start a second war.
  • The utter botching of the response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
  • The utter botching of the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
  • Dismantling the pandemic response team in 2017, thus leaving the country ill-suited to the pandemic that hit in 2020.
  • The utter botching of every single response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An increase in violence against people of color by police, emboldened by one of the two Republican presidents being a white supremacist.
  • The two most unqualified Supreme Court Justices in the institution’s history elevated to the bench via manipulation of Congressional rules. Those two justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, also perjured themselves, as they swore under oath that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and then they proceeded to go with the majority opinion to repeal it. Another Supreme Court appointment taken away from a Democratic president by a Republican Senate Majority Leader, an un-Constitutional action
  • Repealing of Roe v. Wade.
  • An insurrection that attempted to stop the certification of election results and jeopardize the legitimate transfer of power for the first time in the country’s history.

Please note that most of the above have body counts attached to them.

When Democrats have been in power, this is what has happened:

  • Decent (if far from perfect) national healthcare for the first time in our nation’s history, an action that saved many lives (including that of my wife).
  • Skilled and sensible recovery from the 2008 crash, which included keeping banks and the auto industry afloat.
  • Strong economies.
  • Skillful handling of various natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
  • Actually finding and taking out Osama bin Laden, the ostensible purpose of the war in Afghanistan.
  • In Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagen, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, we’ve gotten three excellent Supreme Court justices.
  • The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine was handled skillfully.
  • Haven’t started any wars, nor had any terrorist attacks on our soil.

Vote today, if you didn’t vote already.

stocking up on antibodies

Wrenn and I are both over 50 and got our first COVID-19 vaccine booster shot in October of 2021, so we decided to get our second booster today. Given that everyone’s decided masks are for wussies, and there’s been a slow uptick in cases since the mask mandates were dropped/lightened, I’m very happy to give myself every possible defense against this……

a lovely fifth anniversary

On Friday, Wrenn and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary by going back to City Island. This time we spent some time wandering up and down City Island Avenue and checking out the little shops. (I even bought a book, a tome filled with Bronx-based ghost stories that should be useful stuff to mine for the Bram Gold Adventures.) City island is a lovely little New England-style fishing village sitting off the east coast of the Bronx.

Then we had an amazeballs dinner at the Black Whale. I’ve been going to the Black Whale since I was a kid. It’s a charming little place decorated like an antiques shop, with little tchotchkes all over the place. When I was a kid, before my mother developed a sensitivity to seafood that curtailed her dining options on City Island, we used to go out to dinner there a lot, and we would often go to the Black Whale for dessert. (I would almost always have a root beer float.)

The outside of the Black Whale (picture snurched from Google Images)

However, they are also a full-on restaurant with very yummy food. We ate in the courtyard out back and had an absolutely magnificent meal. It was lovely and yummy and the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. (Also, how the hell has it been five years? On the other hand, has it really only been five years? Seems like forever, at least partly because the last two years have been so awful.)

The courtyard behind the restaurant, where we actually ate. (Picture snurched from Google Images.)
A black whale compass — very fitting, no? It was next to our table….
They gave us garlic bread! It was yummy!
I had a glass of Montelpulciano.
Our appetizers included mussels for Wrenn and fried calamari for me, though we each partook of the other’s….
Our entrees: Wrenn had ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and feta cheese, in a cheesy sauce, and I had herb-crusted cod that melted in my mouth.
Wrenn’s favorite thing at the Black Whale is their hot chocolate, which is overwhelmingly fabulous.
Our desserts: Wrenn had creme brulee, I had a hot fudge sundae and my inevitable root beer float.
My lovely wife.
Me, happy. (Picture by Wrenn.)

Happy anniversary to us!

why limit a birthday to one day?

Because Wrenn had to work for 15 hours on Monday on her temp job and because I was flying back home from Indianapolis, we decided to postpone my birthday festivizing to Thursday the 21st. By then, Wrenn’s job was done (she’s now looking aggressively for more permanent work), and so we went out to City Island with all four parents, the Godmommy, and Matthew to Portofino for a lovely lunch.

L.-r.: Helga, Daddy, Livia, Matthew, John, Mommy, Wrenn, and me. You can’t see it at this angle, but I’m once again wearing the “It’s My Fucking Birthday” sash — much thanks to ToniAnn for the loan of that….
My appetizer: insalata tricolore
Wrenn’s appetizer, which she shared with me (as I did the salad): mussels
A lovely Ruffino chianti
My main course: a yummy yummy risotto pescatore
Capuccino, plus Wrenn’s and my desserts of chocolate mousse cake and vanilla ice cream

Today is Wrenn’s and my wedding anniversary — it was, amazingly, five years ago now that we became a married couple at Mario’s Restaurant — and we’re gonna celebrate with another City Island meal, this time at the Black Whale.

Happy birthday to me! Happy anniversary to us!

another successful trip ’round the sun

I spent my 53rd birthday in two different states, as well as on a plane. It started waking up in Indianapolis when it was snowing, and ended with me driving from Manhattan to the Bronx in a monsoon. In between, I had dinner with my parents, took a karate class, and drove Wrenn home from work at close to midnight.

My trip to Indianapolis for Indiana Comic Convention and Wrenn’s job (which ends fully on Wednesday) means we put off the proper birthday festivizing until Thursday, when the family will have lunch at Portofino on City Island. In the meantime, however, ToniAnn gave me the “IT’S MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY” sash to wear this morning, seen in the picture above. I wore it proudly and happily.

My presents so far have included a Cameo video from Garrett Wang, thanks to Meredith and Sas, a Green Hornet and Kato Funko Pop set, thanks to ToniAnn, a fun night out at the Patron Saint Club in Indianapolis Saturday night, thanks to Carlos Ferro, and a bajillion birthday greetings publicly on Facebook and Twitter and privately via text, e-mail, and Facebook Messenger.

Happy birthday to me!

fuck Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter instructing teachers and doctors to report parents who give trans children gender-affirming care, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that gender-affirming surgery is child abuse.

This has been swallowed in the news cycle by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that’s understandable, but we shouldn’t forget that Texas is run by scum-sucking weasels and the state of Texas is not safe for trans people.

Back in 2013, then-Governor Rick Perry took out ads trying to lure businesses in other states to Texas — including New York. Lewis Black did a segment on it, which included a magnificent PSA of New Yorkers, led by Black, telling Texas to fuck off. I found myself remembering that today for obvious reasons.

Because the internet is wonderful, that video is still archived at Comedy Central’s web site. Click on this paragraph and go watch it right now. It’s magnificent.

“Remember the Alamo? Neither do we!”

on the fall from grace of Joss Whedon

Me and Joss Whedon at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, a picture I used to think was funny

An article dropped on Vulture yesterday by Lila Shapiro which details the fall from grace of Joss Whedon following first an open letter his ex-wife wrote on her way out the door of their life together, and then the Justice League debacle, which led to a lot of allegations coming to light going all the way back to Whedon’s Buffy days.

I’ve been connected to Whedon’s worlds both as a fan and as a pro since the late 1990s. I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and I wrote four Buffy books (a novelization, two novels, and I worked on one of the official reference books) and novelized Serenity and wrote a Firefly role-playing game adventure. As a result, I was always heavily plugged into the intense fandom that grew up around his creations.

And I found myself concerned about the near-deification that went on surrounding him. The “Joss Whedon is My Master Now” T-shirts and the “trust in Joss” mantras — and just generally, referring to him as “Joss” as if he was their friend.

This always twigged me a bit. For starters, he was still a Hollywood producer, for all that he proved himself to have a certain geek cred. Also, this level of hagiography regarding him is the sort of thing that can go to a person’s head. Plus, his flaws as a writer tended to get overlooked or explained away, whether his laziness in world-building or the severe lack of presence of people of color in his productions (brought into sharp relief when he took over Justice League and practically wrote Cyborg out of it) or his creating an Asian-centric science fiction setting but neglecting to cast a single Asian.

And then there was his inaction with regard to Serenity novels. While there are now Firefly novels from Titan, which is great, the original deal back in 2005 that Simon & Schuster made was for three books: my novelization of the movie and two original novels. Several authors pitched to S&S (including me), and those pitches were met with resounding silence from Whedon’s office, to the point where S&S had to cancel the other two planned books due to Whedon never approving any of the pitches.

My concerns proved to be, if anything, underestimating the case. Revelations from Whedon’s ex and from Ray Fisher showed that the hero had feet of clay.

The interview is the first time Whedon has spoken publicly since he was all but hung in effigy by the entire universe, and he didn’t waste any time inserting his foot once he opened his mouth. At no point does he take responsibility, and he spends lots of time making excuses. He unconvincingly denies many of the allegations, or tries to downplay them.

The worst is how he responded to Shapiro’s questions about the affairs he had with people working under him on his TV shows.

“I feel fucking terrible about them,” he said. When I pressed him on why, he noted “it messes up the power dynamic,” but he didn’t expand on that thought. Instead, he quickly added that he had felt he “had” to sleep with them, that he was “powerless” to resist. I laughed. “I’m not actually joking,” he said. He had been surrounded by beautiful young women — the sort of women who had ignored him when he was younger — and he feared if he didn’t have sex with them, he would “always regret it.” Looking back, he feels shame and “horror,” he said. I thought of something he had told me earlier. A vampire, he’d said, is the “exalted outsider,” a creature that feels like “less than everybody else and also kind of more than everybody else. There’s this insecurity and arrogance. They do a little dance.”

What a spectacular load of tripe.

Almost as bad is his response to Gal Gadot’s description of the harassment she received on the set of Justice League: “English is not her first language, and I tend to be annoyingly flowery in my speech.” So it’s her fault for misunderstanding him, because her foreign self can’t understand how beautifully he expresses himself. Gak.

Whedon’s horrendous behavior doesn’t change the good work he’s done, any more than JK Rowling’s toxic transphobia changes the good work she’s done. But it’s why it’s often important to separate the art from the artist. Because the artist can be a total piece of garbage and still create great art.

Just don’t assume that the artist is great because the art is. This sort of thing is why I tend to be self-deprecating and modest about my own work. I’ve seen what fulsome praise does to some creative folks, and I don’t want that to happen to me.

goodbye 2021, hello 2022

2021 was a helluva lot better than 2020, but that is a very low bar to clear.

Still, there was a lot of good this year. Also a lot of bad, as the words “delta” and “omicron” and “unvaccinated” did a lot to fuck this year up. Going into 2022, I will just say this: get your COVID vaccination already, and if you can’t or won’t, stay home, and if you must go outside your home wear a fucking mask. 42,000 nerds kept their masks on for five days at Dragon Con, you can keep yours on while you go to the store.

Anyhow, there was a lot of good this year, starting with vaccines becoming available. Wrenn and I got appointments to join Team Pfizer the nanosecond we were eligible in February, and we got our shots at Yankee Stadium, which was a vaccination site specifically for Bronx residents. (They didn’t care much if we were actually qualified, but they checked three times to verify that we really lived in the Boogie-Down.)

We actually got to go places this year, and between us, Wrenn and I got to take trips to Manassas, Maine, Cooperstown, New Hampshire, Maple Shade, and Raleigh, as well as lots of in-person conventions, which finally became a thing again, from Pensacon in May to DisCon III in December. It was a joy and a pleasure to do panels and participate in Bard’s Tower and sign autographs and do readings and all that good stuff. And it was especially fun to do road trips with Wrenn, as we love taking long car rides together, because we’re dorks.

Plus we got to attend actual parties, including tonight’s upcoming festivities at our friend Peter’s house with many of our dearest friends. And holidays and birthdays were celebrated in person, too, starting with Easter at my parents, continuing with my birthday (our first restaurant trip since the apocalypse started, at Keens Steakhouse), and also including things like the annual 4th of July party and the milestone birthdays of my father’s 75th and ToniAnn’s 35th. (Sadly, we were unable to do Meredith’s 40th in person, as it was in January before vaccinations.)

EDITED TO ADD: Sweet Mother McCree, I can’t believe I forgot to include this paragraph in the first draft of this post, but…. In November of 2021 I also — after several months of intense preparation, and after a grueling five-day promotion that included an all-day hike on 25 miles of the Appalachian trail and an all-night session in the dojo on top of the usual three-day black-belt promotion, I was promoted to fourth-degree black belt, which means now I’m Sensei Keith. I went up alongside Sensei Charles, with whom I also went up for my second- and third-degrees, and it was an amazing, edifying, tiring, exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful experience. In addition, I also got to start teaching again, with my afterschool karate classes re-commencing in September and also teaching periodically in the dojo (including filling in for Shuseki when he went on vacation a couple times). Karate has made me a better, more centered, stronger person in so many ways, and it’s been one of the things that’s kept me going these last couple years.

My writing life proceeded apace, with two books of mine published (Animal and Systema Paradoxa: All-the-Way House) and one of my older novels reprinted (my Spider-Man novel Down These Mean Streets in The Darkest Hours Omnibus), plus three short stories (two in the anthologies Turning the Tied and Devilish and Divine, one released to Indie GoGo supporters), and a ton of nonfiction for two anthologies as well as my usual epic output for Tor.com and Patreon — for the latter, there were also a dozen new vignettes.

2022 promises more fun stuff, including a big bunch of short stories, the next Bram Gold novel (Feat of Clay, which is halfway done), the next Precinct book (Phoenix Precinct) to at least be written, the long-awaited second collection of urban fantasy tales set in Key West (Ragnarok and a Hard Place: More Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet), a nifty serialized project that I’m not quite ready to talk about publicly yet, my Resident Evil comic book, and tons more, including continuing the Enterprise Rewatch for Tor.com and continuing to review new Trek episodes for the site, as well as revisiting “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” in the summer and at year’s end. (For that matter, we’ll start the year with looks back at Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Eternals.)

In the meantime, I want to give thanks and praise to my nearest and dearest, especially the Forebearance (The Mom, The Dad, The Infomancer, and The Tall Curly One) who are the best parents money can’t buy, as well as the Godmommy, Meredith, ToniAnn, Anneliese, Sas, Kyle, Matthew, and everyone else who’s been an important part of my life this year, whether you’re someone I see regularly (like our lovely downstairs neighbors) or someone I talk to on Facebook messenger a lot or someone I only see at conventions (like Alexi and the rest of the Bard’s Tower gang) or someone who read my writing and loved it.

I can’t forget the fur creatures, who helped us get through the year by being all cute and cuddly: our two sweet black cats, Kaylee and Louie, as well as ancillary family animals Junior, Beauty, Spot, Hima, Tempura, Jazz, Thor, Loki, and everyone’s favorite cartoon dog, the irrepressible Professor Zoom.

I have the best family, the best friends, and the best fans in the world, and I love you all. There was a lot this year that did not go as planned and that could’ve been better, but we’re still trending in more or less the right direction at least. Let’s hope that stupidity and tenacious viruses can be overcome by science and sensibility (I know, I know, I’m an optimist) and that 2022 is even better than 2021, which was way better than 2020.

Happy new year!