From the pen of Sarah Dimento


First, cover art for my next collection of essais, Style is the Rocket:

Featuring the title piece and a Bunch of Other Cool Stuff.

[Read more...]

Groundhog Day

A triviality.

When I was very small, back in the Lower Silurian or thereabouts, my kindergarten teacher (a mollusc of great learning and dignity) told me about Groundhog Day. Every second of February, folk gather round the groundhog’s den to see it come out. If it does not see its shadow, spring will come early; if it does, there will be six more weeks of winter—

It was at this point that I baulked. Here in Alberta, six more weeks of winter after February 2 is an early spring; earlier, in fact, than any spring I have ever seen since I have lived here. [Read more...]


So here we are at last. I am posting this on Decembuary eleventeenth, after another round of consultations with ‘all sorts and conditions of famous physicians’, to see what is to be done about my excessive fatigue. The consensus is that I need vitamin D, activity, and a bit of sunshine when I can get it. I have been gobbling vitamin D tablets and making myself get outside more, and it is indeed beginning to have effects. Then, too, now that we are past the dark days of Decembuary (that infamous double month, relieved only by Christmas and Hogmanay), the light is visibly beginning to increase. We are having our usual mild patch in the middle of the winter, and I find that I am starting to improve.

I have yet to get any copy written, but I have tackled one related job. I have figured out how to get my ancient copy of Adobe Illustrator to play nice with the file system in a shiny new version of Mac OS X. The other day I spent considerable time drawing a map in Illustrator, and when I finally got to the point at which I thought I had better save my work, the machine went


and Illustrator crashed, leaving not a trace of my work except for a full screen of bug reports to be auto-sent to Apple. I went into a funk and stayed there until the smoke coming out of my ears turned from ominous green to a safely neutral white. Some of this language is figurative.

It turns out that it is the modern OS X dialogue boxes that are incompatible with Adobe CS3. If I check the option to ‘Use Adobe dialog’, it saves my file without complaint and does not crash. So I have been messing about with maps just for practice (and also for a spot of tabletop gaming that I have been doing on Saturdays). I should soon graduate to actual writing, D.V.

And to those of my Loyal Readers who dream dreams, a joyous St. John Bosco’s day.

Checking in again

Carbonel mentions that it’s been a while since my last post, and inquires after my well-being. (Thanks, Carbonel!)

The Loyal 3.6 may be relieved to hear that I am well enough in myself, though I’ve been plagued by unusual fatigue this past week. I am trying to get through a shortish (~25,000 word) writing project, but have not been able to concentrate very well. I can do odd little world-building jobs and that kind of thing, but when I actually sit down to write copy, I find that my brain has turned to tapioca pudding.

As soon as I get some decent headway on the current project, I hope to post a sample. It’s a novella with the working title The Stone Sword, a sort of prequel to The Eye of the Maker, which I am writing partly to work out some backstory that I will need to continue the said Octopus; and partly because it will make a good cheap (or free) ebook to scatter far and wide as a promotional gewgaw.

Arson, bigamy, and chess

What purpose is served by saying that men like Maxton are in Fascist pay? Only the purpose of making serious discussion impossible. It is as though in the middle of a chess tournament one competitor should suddenly begin screaming that the other is guilty of arson or bigamy. The point that is really at issue remains untouched. Libel settles nothing.

—George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

(James Maxton was a Scottish socialist politician and orator of the earlier twentieth century, and the leader of the Independent Labour Party. He was extensively libelled in the Communist press for publishing remarks critical of the Republican side’s conduct in the Spanish Civil War. It should not be necessary to add, but perhaps is, that he was never in Fascist pay.)

If you have followed a link to this page, it’s probably because I tangled with someone on the Internet trying to win an already-lost argument by escalating it to a flamewar, and calling his opponent a Fascist (or equivalent name). I am putting this here so I won’t have to repeat the point ad nauseam in other people’s comboxes.

My own combox, fortunately, is a place where I have never needed to resort to such measures. I thank you, my 3.6 Loyal Readers, for your civility even in disagreement and your warm-hearted support at the other times. You are, each of you, a joy to be prized, and I thank you. A very happy and prosperous New Year to you all!

The Worm of the Ages

A myth of Färinor, taken from The Tower of Vargon.

The Loring poked the fire vigorously with a stick, making the flames leap on high and sparks climb dizzily into the night. His bald head seemed to glow in the sudden light, and his dark eyes glittered sorcerously. ‘Has nobody got a story to tell us?’

‘Old or new?’ asked Kataki.

‘Old, to be sure,’ said the Loring. ‘Tales and apples are bitter when picked unripe.’

Mazuj sighed. ‘My grandmother used to tell stories, but I don’t remember them well enough. Avel?’

‘I don’t remember my grandmother at all. I was too young when the reapers took her.’

‘Then it falls to me,’ said the Loring. ‘I never had a grandmother, but I can tell you a tale as old as I am, if that will do.’

Kataki laughed. ‘Were there tales so long ago?’ she asked archly.

‘There were deeds,’ the Loring answered; ‘they were made into tales later.’

Avel looked so eager that he almost seemed to smile. ‘Is it a true tale, Master Loring?’

‘As true as words will allow, child. It will not go easily into your speech, but I shall do the best I can.’ The old man stretched his limbs one by one, then sat cross-legged with his hands on his knees, facing the three children across the fire. ‘Hear and heed,’ he intoned, ‘while I tell of the Worm of the Ages.’ [Read more...]

The Kings of Old

A carol.

The kings of old wore purple and gold
while children in rags knew hunger and pain.
They sacrificed to idols of clay,
their blood and their labour they offered in vain.
A child is laid in a manger,
yet princes bow down and presents they bring:
Now sing, choirs of angels,
proclaim to the world the newborn King!

The kings of old in darkness and cold
abandoned all hope and thought themselves wise.
The children ask, ‘Is there nothing better?
If night is for ever, why do we have eyes?’
But a star shines in the darkness,
and green is the tree that promises spring.
Rejoice, all who sorrow:
a new life begins when Christ is King!

The kings of old, their people they sold,
enslaved them in lies, enchained them in sins,
despair and death in sad iteration—
Each generation ends as it begins.
A way leads out of the prison,
and Heaven’s bright gates are beckoning:
Hear, all ye nations,
and all shall be free in Christ the King!

Smoke signals for experts

Mary Catelli inquires:

So working on the world and how do you send letters magically?

Without involving owls, thank you.  I send the kids to a magical school already.  So no owls.  Or doves or eagles or . . . .

I could have them sent by mailman.  Still, a magical means to send them would add to the world-building.  But eliminate winged messengers, and what other form of magic would be metaphorically suitable to transport them?

Something to brainstorm, I think.

Your Humble Correspondent replies:

The enchantment for this requires matched pairs of amulets: rings for choice, since they are so compact and convenient and easy to carry about. Each pair of rings is imprinted with the essence of both parties to the correspondence. You place your ring in a hearth or brazier, prepared to receive enchantment in the usual way, and the recipient (who is expecting your letter at any moment) does the same with his. You then build the smallest fire that will sustain itself, and burn the letter in it; whereupon the vibrations of essential fire in the matched rings will call each to each, and the other party can read your letter in the flames of his own fire, or in the ashes.

N.B. If, like any civilized person, you are carrying on epistolary friendships with many other people, you will want to get a specially constructed hearth with rows of brass pegs in the firebox, so that you can receive letters from whichever of your acquaintance wishes to write to you. When sending a letter, of course, you must remove all the rings except the one intended. It is considered good manners to kindle a fire in the sunset hour and keep it alight for some two to four hours thereafter, so that all correspondence may be conducted in the evenings.

Muggle magic

Mary Catelli wonders aloud:

Read an article on Harry Potter. In which the author asked why the wizarding world didn’t have TV.

Duh. Because the images would go walking around and vanishing and maybe even talking to you instead of saying their lines.

though, actually, the mobile pictures of the wizarding world might be fun but they aren’t very useful for the basic purposes of pictures. Suppose you actually wanted a photograph of your family to show people. It would be awkward if one child’s image was shy and ran off. And for historical purposes, you want an illustration that doesn’t stop depicting what you want.

Sculpture can be stationary. why not flat images? How much magic does it take to do what Muggles can do with mere chemistry?

I respond, with the lessons I learnt at G.K.C.’s mighty knee:

The sad and solemn secret of Elfland, of which Hogwarts is an outpost, is that the fay-folk lack one great and awful power given to us Muggles by our Creator: the power of ‘Thou Shalt Not’. So it is for us to say, ‘I make a photographic image of thee, and thou shalt not walk out of it.’ When we tell a thing to stay put, it stays, backed by the colossal might of Nature and Nature’s God. It is because the fairies have not this power that all fairy-gold turns back to dust.



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae was a physician and occasional poet from Guelph, Ontario. Upon the outbreak of the Great War, he was called to the colours under which he had served, and despatched to Belgium with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. As brigade surgeon to the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, he treated the wounded under fire during the Second Battle of Ypres in April and May, 1915. During the intervals of the battle, he wrote the rondeau above, which was published anonymously in Punch that December and immediately became world-famous.

In every war before the advent of antibiotics, and a good many wars since, disease was a greater killer than enemy fire. Lieutenant Colonel McCrae (he had been promoted from major during the war) died of pneumonia and complications in January, 1918, ten months before the armistice. He was one of 60,000 Canadians killed in the First World War, out of a population of only eight million.

We still remember. God save us all from breaking faith with those who died.

Message fiction, Victorian style


But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: ‘Flowers and fruits, and other winged things.’ These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed.

― Andrew Lang

The apple-blossom fairies are mostly gone, thank God, but the same failing recurs in other guises. The same could be said of most of the critical darlings of any given moment, especially in our genre (which is insufferable when not humble): They try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed.

Hat tip to Mary Catelli.