Fisking the Guardian’s Village Idiot Again

Let me cut right to the chase. Damien Walter is a liar.

Don’t worry, I’ll go through the whole thing, but let’s get the important stuff out of the way for the TL/DR crowd.

In another incredibly ignorant yet smug article from the Guardian Damien said the following:

 Baen’s chief editor Toni Weisskopf went so far as to issue a diatribe against any and all sci-fi that did not pander to this conservative agenda.

Cite it, Damien. Cite where Toni Weisskopf ever said that. If you can’t provide a cite of where she said that, then you are a liar and you should issue a retraction and an apology.

 Here, let me help you. Here is Toni’s “diatribe”. People can read it and judge for themselves.

So where is the part about pandering to a conservative agenda?

Damien can’t quote it, because it only exists in his head.

The problem isn’t just that Damien is a liar, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that he is also extremely lazy (I suppose that is to be expected from somebody who is collecting “book welfare” from the state). Rather than find a real quote from Toni he simply took John Scalzi’s version of what Toni said and used it instead. The problem there is that Scalzi’s post misconstruing Toni’s essay was obvious bullshit.  

Damien has done the same thing with me twice now, where he “quoted” things I never said. Instead of using my own words against me, he used Jim Hines’ version of what I said instead. And because Damien is lazy and a liar, when he got called on it he then took to Twitter and asked his followers to go through everything I’d ever written to find examples of racism, homophobia, or misogyny after he’d already made up the quotes. Of course, the crowd sourced witch hunt came up with nothing.

Because basically Damien sucks at everything.

If Damien wasn’t so incredibly lazy when it came to building straw versions of his ideological opponents a cursory Google search would have shown why that particular accusation against Toni Weisskopf is nonsense. It must be kind of hard to pander to a conservative agenda when she publishes authors from all over the political spectrum. 

In her supposedly conservative diatribe she mentions the fan community of 1632, which was started by Eric Flint, who is a card carrying communist. And Eric isn’t some coffee shop wannabe in a beret, typing on his iMac, sipping a latte, and trying to impress stupid chicks by quoting Marx.  He was a labor union organizer who went down to Alabama to try and get the steel workers to strike in the days where that sort of thing could get you beaten to death. I disagree with damned near everything Eric Flint believes in, but I respect the man for arguing and debating his beliefs. Eric Flint may be a Trotskyite, but he isn’t a mealy mouthed liar like Damien.

Yet Eric Flint is one of Baen’s most prolific and successful authors. You know, if Toni actually only cared about pandering to a conservative agenda that doesn’t really explain why she publishes authors I know are politically left like Mercedes Lackey, Stoney Compton, Sharon Lee, or Steve Miller. I think Sharon blocked me on Facebook after a discussion about abortion.  If I remember right Lois Bujold is a democrat. Baen just picked up a David Coe series, and David is a democrat (and great guy and excellent author).  Elizabeth Moon—despite blowing WisCon’s mind by saying maybe, just maybe militant Islamists are telling the truth when they say they want to kill us—is a hard core feminist. 

Since we’re talking about Baen mil-SF it is kind of hard to ignore David Drake, who is one of the big dogs of the genre, and newsflash, Damien, he’s not exactly a right winger.

I have no idea what the politics are of Jody Lynn Nye, Catherine Asaro, Steve White, Mark Van Name, Frank Chadwick, Robert Conroy, Chuck Gannon, or a whole bunch of others are because frankly it never came up.

On the other hand, Baen publishes me (International Lord of Hate), Mike Williamson (libertarian), Sarah Hoyt (libertarian), Tom Kratman (republican), Dave Freer (not sure what party actually since he doesn’t live in the US) and John Ringo (?) And seriously on the question mark. I’m not actually sure, and I’ve had some good political discussions with Ringo. He’s got way more depth to his outlook than his critics give him credit for. And we just signed Brad Torgersen (moderate republican).  And sorry, Brad, by my standards you are moderate.

Wow, look at Toni go with all that right wing pandering!  It is almost like she doesn’t care about an author’s politics, but only if they entertain their audience and sell books or something crazy like that!

Toni doesn’t pander to a conservative agenda, the only pandering involved is the pandering to fans by giving them what they want to read. Unless by “conservative” Damien actually means old fashioned values like reading should be fun then by all means, Toni continue to pander away! But to the Damiens of the world allowing any speech that dissents from proper goodthink is horrible and must be stopped at all costs. If that means libeling innocent people, then it is justified. I only wish he wasn’t so damned bad at it. 



My response is going to be longer than Damien’s original article because of Alberto Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle: 

 Brandolini's Law

As you can see, it has already taken 800 words to go over everything that is wrong in a single Damien Walter sentence. Damien’s bullshit is so dense that perhaps it is a good thing he’s too lazy and screwed up to actually finish a book. If such a thing were to exist it would probably create a black hole of suck and destroy the whole world. Hang on… Does anyone know if the British government is paying Damien to write a book, or to NOT write a book? If that’s the case, the British have been protecting us all from a novel of Clampsian proportions. Thank you, David Cameron! I take back all those things I said about your shitty healthcare system and the fact your per capita GDP is equivalent to Mississippi’s.

Because life is too short to go through everything that Damien gets wrong in a single article, I’ll stick to the highlights. He is in italics, I’m in bold.

Space Opera strikes up again for a new era

From Guardians of the Galaxy to Ancillary Justice, sci-fi is returning to alien worlds where distinctly earthly, political dramas play out


He starts out with a picture of Robonaut for some reason. I’ve lifted weights with Robonaut, and you sir, are no Robonaut. 


I asked Robonaut his opinion and he told me Damien Walter is an asshole.

I asked Robonaut his opinion and he told me Damien Walter is an asshole.


Science fiction is not a genre. The most successful literary tradition of the 20th century is as impossible to neatly categorise as the alien life forms it sometimes imagines.

Actually, it is a genre according to the definition of the word genre, and more importantly it is a genre because genre exists so bookstores know where to shelve things. Damien would know this if he’d ever actually tried to pitch or sell a book.

But “sci-fi” does contain genres. The rigorous scientific speculation of Hard SF. The techno-cynicism of Cyberpunk, or its halfwit cousin Steampunk.

Fuck you. Steampunk is awesome.

The pulp fictions ofPlanetary romance and the dark visions of the sci-fi Post-Apocalypse.

Those would be sub-genres. Shit, dude, go on Amazon once in a while or something at least.

These genres flow in and out of fashion like the solar winds.

Groan. That’s not even how… Shit. Never mind.

 After years condemned to the outer darkness of secondhand bookshops, Space Opera is once again exciting the imagination of sci-fi fans.

What ignorant tripe. One recurring theme with these Damien articles is that he doesn’t actually know much about the subject he’s being paid to write about. I get the impression that Damien really hasn’t read much. He’s blissfully unaware of what is out there, what has been published, what is actually popular, and what has sold well. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he wasn’t so smug about it. I truly hope the Guardian isn’t paying Damien for these columns. I hope he’s like an intern or something.  

Space Opera hasn’t been consigned to the secondhand shops. Space Opera has been selling really well for a really long time. 

At the box office Guardians of the Galaxy has resurrected the kind of camp space adventure made popular by Flash Gordon

What about Star Wars? What about the hundreds of Star Wars tie in novels? I seem to recall that some of the bestselling novels of the last few years were from Halo and Mass Effect. Not to mention Ender’s Game was a massive continual bestseller for decades before the movie. He’ll go on to bash Baen Books, but Space Opera has been Baen’s bread and butter since the mid 1980s. Hell, Firefly was Space Opera.

 while on the printed page Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie has scooped the prestigious double honour of Hugo and Nebula awards. 

Still haven’t gotten around to reading that, but I seem to recall an article talking about how the author said she’d sold a total of 30k copies so far, so don’t make the mistake of mixing up “award winning” with “popular”  (as we’ve seen, they are not mutually exclusive, but certainly aren’t synonyms). 30k is solid midlist, especially on a first book, but it is tiny in the grand scheme of things.  

Stories of space exploration have never lacked popularity

Uh… Didn’t Damien just say they were consigned to outer darkness and used book stores… My hell, does the Guardian even edit these things?

In the early 20th century when it was still possible to think space might be crowded with alien civilisations, stories like EE “Doc” Smith‘s Lensman series were immensely popular. But as we probed the reality of outer space we found only infinities of inert matter and a barren solar system.

Meanwhile, the much maligned Baen Books is publishing books by actual NASA rocket scientist Les Johnson that make space exploration exciting again.

Mars was not striated with canals hiding the lost civilisation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter stories. There were no secret messages from the makers of the universe encoded in the transcendental number Pi and no signals game from a distant star welcoming us to the United Federation of Planets. It seemed we were alone, and the edgy possibility that space opera stories might reflect the un-glimpsed reality of outer space gave way to the blunt realisation that these were fantasies, plain and simple.

Damien is a sad little man sorely lacking in imagination. The only truly speculative thing I’ve ever seen Damien get really enthusiastic about is deviating from sexual norms. And for the record, I don’t know or care what Damien’s orientation is, though I’m willing to bet when the act is over there is a lot of weeping involved.

Far from showing us the universe, space opera reflected and amplified our earthly conflicts. Star Trek presented itself as a utopian future, but it was a utopia complete with blunt racial caricatures of America’s enemies as Soviet Klingons and inscrutable oriental Romulans

Anybody want to ruin Damien’s day and inform him what Gene Roddenberry’s politics were?

This bit is funny though, because a constant thing with the Damiens of the world is that everything you enjoyed is somehow racist. Just like how last week GenCon was racist, and the week before Guardians of the Galaxy was racist. Now you know that the show that dared to have a black female bridge crew main character in the 1960s was super racist and you’re a bad person because of it.

 Libertarian author Robert Heinlein used space opera to play out his militarist social fantasies in novels like Starship Troopers

And he also used Stranger in a Strange Land to play out a strange hippy fantasy… Sometimes I wonder if these Heinlein bashers ever actually read any of Heinlein’s stuff? Heinlein wrote everything and he did it with style. 

 Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series made science the ultimate saviour of humankind, its only hope against the irrational forces of human nature, a fantasy Richard Dawkins would certainly appreciate.

I know when I go to browse the Barnes & Noble and pick up a new book my first worry is if a bossy atheist who looks like Hermione Granger would enjoy it.


That is kind of unnerving.

That is kind of unnerving.

Our inter-galactic future, it seemed, would repeat the brutal empires, futile warfare and oppressive social structures of the past, but on a grander scale.

He says, totally without irony, as he demands that sci-fi preach about today’s sexual issues and late 1800s economic theory.

It was resistance to this idea that inspired a very different kind of space opera. Led by British writers influenced by the earlier New Wave, the New Space Opera explicitly challenged the politics of the genre. M John Harrison’s The Centauri Device depicted the future as a hyper-capitalist nightmare, an absurdist satire of western materialism inflated to a galactic scale. Iain M Banks’s most famous creation, the Culture, is a galaxy spanning egalitarian society, the complete opposite of the militaristic fantasies of much space opera, and a big part of the joy in reading his novels is watching the fun-loving hippies with guns overpower one brutal galactic empire after another.

How to write a Damien Walter Column in 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Come up with some half assed premise.
  2. Read the synopsis of various famous books on Wikipedia.
  3. Lie about somebody who actually has readers to get traffic.

Now comes the paragraph where he ripped on Toni.

Today space opera is a battlefield for competing fantasies of the future.

Huh? I think he means that authors, when they create an imaginary future, must be making a statement about competing ideologies today. Well, first that is demonstrably false because we can quickly come up with a couple hundred examples where that isn’t true, and second if it really was a battlefield, my side is the one that sells more books. So we win. Yay.

As America plunged in to renewed militarism after 9/11, sci-fi books again began to mirror real-world wars. 

Notice. Lots of pasting Wiki synopsis earlier, but no examples to back this one up at all. Since this is the Baen paragraph, off the top of my head the only thing I can think of Caliphate.

Baen books specialises in works of “military SF” that, behind their appalling prose styles and laughable retro cover designs, speak to a right-wing readership who can recognise the enemies of America even when they are disguised as cannibal lizard aliens.

Wow… That’s a lot of bullshit crammed in that there click bait, but I’ll do my best.

  1. Earlier genre doesn’t exist, except then it does, then he gets to another sub-genre and feels the need to put “military SF” in quotes as if it is somehow made up. Pretty sure it actually exists. Military SF is basically Space Opera with military themes or setting, though it can also be very hard sci-fi depending on how it is written.
  2. Baen makes serious bank off of Mil-SF. Remember that bit earlier about the award winner selling 30 thousand copies? To put that number in perspective I’m a relative nobody, award loser, and I think we’ve given away more free promo copies of my books than that, I’m that still isn’t enough to make a statistical blip in the numbers. John Ringo, David Drake, and David Weber have each sold millions of copies. Mil-SF is extremely popular.
  3. Millions of copies, Damien, millions. Soak it up. :)
  4. Appalling prose styles? That’s a pretty broad brush to paint with there, Mr. Fashionable Solar Winds of the Competing Fantasies of the Future. But since the only things Damien has ever released have been some angsty short fiction that read like a high school creative writing class assignment he’s certainly the dude I’d take professional writing advice from.
  5. I never thought of Lois Bujold or Ben Bova as having appalling prose styles. Chuck Gannon just won the Compton Crook Award and he’s an English professor. I can just imagine Toni’s edits in the margins “Make this more appalling!”
  6. My understanding is that Damien has been working on his first novel for four years now and has a grant from the British government, so he’s collecting book welfare and yet still manages to talk shit about writers who actually put their stuff out there. What a sad little man.
  7. Aspiring authors, get this through your head. Cover art serves one purpose, and one purpose only, to get potential customers interested long enough to pick up the book to read the back cover blurb. In the internet age that means the thumb nail image needs to be interesting enough to click on. That’s what covers are for. Baen covers are distinct, the fan base knows what to look for, and the books sell extremely well.
  8. The cover of my last novel was a big purple demon and a big muscled guy punching each other in the face surrounded by monsters in test tubes and shattering glass. Was it over the top? Oh, hell yeah. Retro-outlandish? Perhaps. And during release week I had the #1 audibook in the country, #1 fantasy eBook on Amazon, and BookScan had me as the #2 bestselling fantasy losing only to Outlander while everybody was super excited about it ending up on Showtime. Mission accomplished.
  9. Book covers aren’t for Social Justice. If there is a hot chick on my cover, my first concern isn’t if Jim Hines is going to try and contort his pasty white body into that pose, it is going to be if the cover is going to pop on the shelves and draw the customer’s eye. I’d wrap all the hot chick’s chainmail bikinis in gold foil if I could get away with it.
  10. Book covers aren’t modern art exhibits. If Damien ever manages to sell a book, he can feel free to get as artsy fartsy as he wants, and I’m willing to bet that my book with fire breathing monsters and buffed people with guns on the cover sells a hundred times as many copies.
  11. Wait a second, is a snooty book critic actually admitting to judging books by their covers?
  12. If we’re selling this many books, then we can’t hardly be limited to just a hard right wing audience, unless of course, there are far more right wingers out there reading books than left wingers… But that thought is just too terrifying for Damien to contemplate.
  13. The only Baen book series I can think of with cannibal alien lizards would be Ringo’s Posleen invasion series, except the first book came out before 9-11. And John based the Posleen on the Mongol horde. I don’t remember the part where America fought the Genghis Khan. Harry Turtledove had militaristic lizard aliens invade during WW2, but that series started in the mid 90s, and it wasn’t from Baen.
  14. I’ve seen a bunch of comments on the FB thread where people are trying to figure out what the hell series Damien is taking about but I don’t think Damien actually reads books. That might expose him to dangerous badthink. He’s better off sticking to the Wikipedia synopses.
  15. Sadly for Damien, no matter how awesome he thinks his prose is, and the fact he writes for a major newspaper, the most widely read he’s ever been in his life is when I quote him on this blog.

Baen’s chief editor Toni Weisskopf went so far as to issue a diatribe against any and all sci-fi that did not pander to this conservative agenda.

Already covered why that was crap. And honest truth, Toni isn’t exactly a fire breathing right winger. She’s pretty calm, flexible, doesn’t really care what anyone does, and likes just about everyone. I wasn’t going to bother with any more of Damien’s inane articles but then he had to go and talk smack about my friend.

So the success of a novel like Ancillary Justice unfolds against a background of ongoing political strife within space opera. Anne Leckie’s novel builds upon foundations laid by Ursula Le Guin and Iain M Banks among others. Her vision of the future is one where empires rule the galaxy, but Ancillary Justice is an overt critique of the ways that power is used and abused. It continues the tradition of feminist writing withinscience fiction, famously adapting its pronoun usage as the central character struggles to understand the alien concept of binary gender.

I still haven’t read Ancillary Justice so have no comment on the book, but Leckie might want to talk to Damien about him continually touting her as an example though. Damien’s endorsement is like an anti-plug.

This battle for the political high ground, while it is often petty, is far from unhealthy.

Interesting. The last time he talked about a battle within sci-fi it was SUPER UNHEALTHY when my side actually bothered to show up for once.  

The future science fiction has forecast and helped to shape, the future we are now deeply enmeshed in, is a profoundly political place.

Yeah… Judging by that line I’m betting Damien is straight up going to blow us away with his mad prose skilz.

That today’s science fiction writers engage with, reflect on, and fight over that future is a sign of an artform in fine health.

Yet in the same article Damien condemns a publishing house that actually has a politically diverse group of authors, but which puts reader enjoyment first, and is commercially successful. Then he makes it worse by attacking the character of its publisher. Toni Weisskopf is a true professional, and a pleasure to work with. She has spent countless hours developing new talent and also promoting and rereleasing old talent, all because she is a hard core, long time scifi and fantasy fan, and truly loves this stuff.

There’s a reason liars got the lowest circle in Dante’s hell.

EDIT! Damien engaged on Facebook. He tried to play semantic games, but I drew him out and finally got him to admit to libeling Toni Weisskopf. Check it out:

He admits that’s not what she said, but how he FELT, but that’s okay, because his column is opinion. This guy is seriously dumber than I suspected. 


Next BOOK BOMB! Tuesday the 9th, Curse of a Dark God by John Brown

John Brown has released his second fantasy novel, Curse of a Dark God. If you can’t wait I’ve already got it linked off to the left as the book of the week, but we are going to Book Bomb it on Amazon on the 9th to bump it up as much as possible.

John will also be putting the first book in the series on sale if you want to try it out too.

Why am I Book Bombing John? Well, first off he’s a friend. We started out about the same time and toured around America together signing books. John was signed with a major publishing house at the time. His first book is excellent. I mean seriously, the dude has skills. The only thing anybody complained about in the first book were changes his editor told him to make. 

But second reason, John got yanked around by his publisher. He tried to turn in the sequel, but then they made him change most of the book (and it was already really good). So he did. Then they made him change the things they didn’t tell him to change the first time. By this point my second and third books have come out. (and for the record, it wasn’t just me, but the EBR guys had also read that draft and thought it was a great book as it stood) Then he made the changes, and they told him to cut it from something like 235,000 words to 150,000 words. Okay… So he did. Then add all that other stuff back. At this point my sixth and seventh books have come out and he’s still getting the editorial run around, and the market has already forgotten about his first book.

So John said screw it, and got his rights back. Now he is finally able to get his 2nd and 3rd fantasy novels out there in the shape he wanted them to be in. (he also wrote the thriller Bad Penny, which is awesome, and was Book Bombed here last year). 

So Tuesday the 9th, we’re going to see how high we can get book 1 and book 2 up on the Amazon bestseller lists. 

The Drowning Empire, Episode 61: Ripples Upon the Moonlit Water

The Drowning Empire is a weekly serial based on the events which occured during the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is a tale of samurai adventure set in the magical world of Rokugan.

If you would like to read all of these in one convenient place, along with a bunch of additional game related stuff, behind the scenes info, and detailed session recaps, I’ve been posting everything to one thread on the L5R forum,

This week’s episode was written by Patrick Tracy. By the way, Pat is an award winning poet, and did this entire bit as haibun poetry. 

Continued from: 


Ripples upon the Moonlit Water

Haibun poetry

Patrick M. Tracy


Bai came to stand in the doorway as the sound of the horseman grew louder. She saw a flash of purple garb, and her heart surged within her. It had been some time. The baby had arrived, serving as a reminder that Moto Subotai had been real. She had named the child, a strong boy who grew fast and had the sharp eyes of a hunter, Tai-Xiao. Even now, he had slipped from the crib again, and pulled himself to a standing position in the doorway. She looked down. When he caught her eye, a grin spread across his face. There was happiness in him. The world had yet to erode such things away.

The purple-garbed rider thundered closer on a massive steed, coming to a dusty stop before their small cabin. He unraveled a sheet of parchment and squinted. “This is tract 229?” It was not Subotai, but a young samurai with a face coated with grime and a lathered horse. He wore no expression other than fatigue.

Bai bowed low. “Yes, honorable samurai. Make any wishes known to me, and I would help you become refreshed from your ride.”

The Unicorn samurai glanced at her. The baby had accentuated her feminine shape, and she was yet young enough to be desirable.

“No time. I ride hard again in but a moment. Bring a water bucket, so my horse can drink.”

Bai moved quickly to do so. Tai-Xiao bounced on his bare feet, pleased to see the new wonder. He tottered out from the door to stand grasp at the horse’s fetlocks. The beast made a noise low in its throat, but stood still, looking down at the tiny person at its front hoof.

Her heart in her throat, she dropped the bucket and scrambled to scoop the boy up. “Many apologies. He is a curious boy.”

The samurai gave her a knowing look. “And keen on horses, for a peasant child.”

Bai returned Tai-Xiao to his crib and brought the horse’s water. The samurai eased himself out of his saddle and stretched his legs as the horse slaked its thirst.

“There is no man present here?” the samurai asked.

“I am sorry. My father is away at the market today.”

The samurai shrugged. “To you, then. Do not think to keep it a secret, as one will be back next year, and will ask.” He handed over a heavy sack of coins, the like of which she had only seen once, when Subotai had left them. The day he had gone away, they had found enough coin to feed their small family for a year. An off-hand gift, or perhaps not. Subotai was the only samurai she had ever really known. It was likely that he would remain the only one who would allow her close enough to begin grasping what it meant to wear a sword and serve a Lord through blood and risk.

“Did this…did this come from Moto Subotai-sama?” she asked.

The samurai nodded. “It was a condition of his will. The son of Kohatusu was assassinated a few months ago. He left enough koku to see that your farm is comfortably provided for.”

Bai found that her legs had lost their strength. She hit her knees, then rolled to her side in the dirt. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t keep the tears from coming. The horse, startled, backed three paces and shook its mane, stamping its hooves at her. A tiny sound escaped her, like the call of an injured bird.

The samurai put his hand upon the horse’s neck to ease it, looking down at her. Just a hint of compassion appeared in his eyes for a moment. “He was a good man. He is greatly missed. You would do well to hide the boy next year. Others may not be so discreet as I am in their retelling of the day.”

With that, he mounted up and pounded down the path, disappearing. Tai-Xiao, escaping from his crib once more, put his chubby hand against Bai’s shoulder, shaking her. She turned to him, his sharp little eyes clouded with doubt. She took him in her arms and rocked him back and forth, wordless. She had imagined that simply knowing that her great love existed in the world would be enough. That had been wrong. Every day had been filed with loneliness and hope for a return.

Those feelings were as nothing beside the desolation that filled her now.

This tiny farmhouse

the end of a lonely road

once a battlefield

The glimmering dream

slim hope for a love denied

in gloom, a candle

Coins, given for blood

word of a good man’s passing

emptiness triumphs


Shinjo Namori tucked her axes into the sash about her waist and walked to the administrative offices of the Ide couriers. She had not been there since Subotai’s death. It was time to make things official. Today was the day when she was duty bound to remove the mourning clothes and move forward with her life.

She entered her old workplace. The courtiers there regarded her in silence, muting their surprise behind the faces they kept as a matter of habit. She walked past them, the group she had, at least for a few weeks, been in charge of. She dropped off the sealed scroll on the writing table of the lead courtier, a man she had not had a chance to know well.

The letter was her resignation, and it was late in coming. For some time, long before she had married Subotai, she had known that something was growing inside her, something that would prevent her from ever being a great courtier.


Everything resided within the long shadow of death now. She no longer cared for the finely chosen words and carefully-considered stratagems of court. She found that she couldn’t adequately restrain the burning cauldron within her, nor did she wish to. The Ide life, for her, was over.

She went to the stables, letting Tento out of his stall and using a farrier’s brush on his neck and flanks. It was this alone that seemed to bring her peace, at least for a few minutes. She hoisted the saddle onto his back and cinched the girth straps tight, then mounted up. The horse seemed to know that Subotai was gone, now that she was his mistress now. While his spirited behavior continued, and the stable workers all feared a nip or a kick from the big stallion, he was always on his best behavior with her. Subotai had always said that he was no normal horse, and she believed it now. When he looked into her eyes, those big black pupils would encompass her, as if she were being examined by a Fortune.

And when she dug her heels into his flanks, he exploded forward as fast as an arrow. Every day, she would point him in a direction and allow himself to run himself out. In that frantic burst of power and wind and horse sweat, she left herself behind.

She was always watched, however, always monitored.

Yesterday, it had been Moto Tenzen, who had somehow known where she would ride, and sat there on his horse, face impassive behind his Vindicator paint.

Today, she could hear the heavy hoofbeats of a Yutuku warhorse behind her. Looking back, she could see Yutaku Kaede, standing in the stirrups, her teeth glinting as she gave chase.

If it had not been for Tenzen and Kaede, she didn’t know if she could have retained her sanity. One of them had always been there, making sure that she ate, making sure that she didn’t plunge a tanto into her heart when the despair became too much. Tenzen would come, and they would spar for hours, until she was so exhausted that she couldn’t raise her wooden sparring axe. Kaede would simply appear, and be there, and hold her shoulders when she wept.

Perhaps it was selfish to use them both in this way, to lean on them so much, but she had done so, and now could not imagine doing anything else. They had become, in a way that she couldn’t quite understand or describe, a family.

Tento slowed to a trot, and she steered him towards the bank of a small stream, just on the edge of the forested area to the north of the keep. She slid from the saddle and knelt at the river’s edge, dipping her hands into the cool flow and splashing her face. Delivering her resignation from the diplomatic service took a great weight off of her shoulders. No more pretending to something that was in the past. No more hiding the fire that burned inside. Her family would, perhaps, be disappointed, but she was no longer of great use to them, now a young widow.

Kaede’s massive horse thundered to a halt, putting its shoulder against Tento and pushing with its neck. Tento, outweighed by five-hundred pounds, put up a solid effort before being pushed downstream by several yards.

Kaede dismounted with a graceful movement and surveyed the nearby area. Satisfied, she came and knelt near Namori’s side, closer than samurai would typically chose to. Namori had become used to this, and understood what it meant.

“It is likely that I will marry again, Kaede.”

“If you joined the Battle Maidens…”

Namori shook her head. “I am not a maiden by any stretch of the imagination.”

Kaede looked down at her knees.

“I have done my mourning and you have been a faithful friend through all of it. I thank you for that. I am not unaware of your feelings toward me.”

“I…apologize for the weakness of my heart, Namori-san. It wishes for things that it cannot have,” Kaede said, refusing to meet her eye.

Namori reached to her, tilted her chin upward. “I don’t wish apologies from you, Kaede-san. I wish you to understand what will be. I am not going to retire from life, nor will I end my time here with a blade. I will stoke the flames within me, and I will put them to use. I do not yet know where that road will lead me, but you will always be among my closest and dearest friends. You have been at my side in the darkest moments of my life, and I will never forget that.”

Kaede watched her expectantly.

“Whether I can ever…feel as you do, I cannot say. My heart is not built as yours is, and seeks different paths.”

Kaede reached up, touching Namori’s hand, still beneath her chin. “What path will you walk, then?”

Namori traced the scar across Kaede’s cheek, then let her hand slide away. “If Tenzen-san will allow it, I will become a Vindicator, his apprentice.”

The burden of peace

I let slip from my shoulders

my rage triumphant

Despair left behind

astride my dead husband’s horse

safe at full gallop

The truest of friends

cling hard to the fleeing spirit

keep her safe from harm

What the heart yearns for

wishing for what cannot be

pierces tender flesh


Moto Ayumi examined her face in the mirror. She was still attractive, her skin free of the deep wrinkles that some women developed at her age. Ayumi realized now what she had truly bargained and sacrificed to retain this beauty. The wandering soothsayer had told her that it would be thus. If she did not bear children, she would retain her beauty into middle age. If she bore children, she would lose her beauty and die a hag.

It had been that fortune that had brought her here, that had ruined her family and caused Subotai’s death. The boy that should have been hers. Her great sin. She had damned him at birth, and then treated him with cold distance in life, the reminder of all her schemes.

And now this. Subotai dead by an assassin’s hand, surely the same people who were blackmailing him. Kohatsu retired to a monastery and gravely ill, and she alone left in their large estate in the north. Whatever she had hoped to save, she had destroyed. Whatever she had tried to keep, she had lost. Her life was a failure.

Ayumi dressed in her finest kimono and spent even longer than normal making sure that her hair and her makeup were perfectly done. She was especially kind to the servants as she went through the household.

At the stables, she found the coachman, Hozho. “I wish to go to see the sunset at the top of the hills.”

“Hai, Mistress.” Hozho said, setting to work getting the horses attached to the carriage.

It was a pleasant ride. The road was not as bumpy as the year before, as the lack of rain had kept furrows from developing. The going was fast until they hit the switchback trail up the tall hills to the west of Outsider Keep. After toiling up those narrow roadways for an hour, they were at last at the high vantage point, able to look out and almost see the beginnings of the desert, far out on the horizon. It was a beautiful place to watch the sunset, perhaps the best in the empire.

Ayumi sat on the stool Hozho placed for her and observed the sun’s travel. The lip of the world nibbled at it, the red flame eaten away until only the glimmering remainders could still be seen. It was a good sunset. She had watched it from here many times. This was one of her favorite places. Now was as good a time as any to do what she had to.

She rose, turning to the coachman. “Goodbye, Hozho. You have been a good servant. I wish you well.”

Turning back to the cliff’s edge, she took one step, then another, and met the wind, her kimono’s folds flapping in the sudden wind. She turned away from the quick-approaching ground. She could see the first of the stars appearing overhead.

“I am sorry, Subotai.” she whispered. The sound was lost to the rushing air.

The things we bargain

against a fearful future

we are doomed to lose

A final sunset

two steps from the precipice

the western light dies

The wind steals my breath

my whispered apologies

the ground approaches



To be continued next week:

Really Good Deal: $5.95 Hard Magic Audiobook

Audible is doing a Daily Deal Anniversary Sale. 

Hard Magic is one of the books that was picked. If you’ve not tried an audibook, I really recommend it, and this is a really cheap way to check it out.

Hard Magic won an Audie for best fantasy, Bronson Pinchot was up for best narrator, and this series is one of the bestselling audiobook series on Audible. 

Gauging Interest, Fully Illustrated Christmas Noun Books for Christmas Presents

Random thought. I made the mistake of revealing that I like to doodle cartoons back during the challenge coin kickstarter. Ever since then I’ve had fans asking me for doodles of various things (despite the fact that I can’t actually draw). Then during Sad Puppies I did another cartoon, which you guys seemed to enjoy, and once Jack colored those they actually looked pretty decent.

You know what I’ve got that would lend itself to my remarkable artistic skills? THE CHRISTMAS NOUN! 

So Jack and I got to talking about it. How many of you would be interested in a fully illustrated Christmas Noun book to give as a Christmas present? 

It would be like a demented children’s book, not meant for children. And I get to draw Wendell driving a monster truck having a car chase against a sleigh pulled by velociraptors. I’d do a full color picture for each year’s episode, and then black and white smaller pics for in the story.  

Knowing how much it costs to print stuff here, size wise and with the color pictures and good paper, they’d probably be $20 to $25 each. 

Interested? Or is this idea just too silly to live? 

Baen Spouses Round Table! The Lovely Mrs. Correia Speaks!

The spouses of several Baen authors get interviewed! 

I am really used to people who know me, meet my wife for the first time and say “How the hell did SHE marry YOU?”

I don’t talk about my family a lot on the internet, but I’ve got an amazing wife and 4 kids. 

EDIT: I just listened to it. The very end of the interview at like 59 minutes in, the giant crash was my 2 year old knocking over a shelf, followed by him crying. :D The best part is my wife’s “What did you just do?!” 

Bridget 1

Bridget 2

I totally married a jock. Bridget is a runner and does triathlons. 

Bridget 4 

The Lovely Mrs. Correia is awesome. Here we are looking at fish. Since we’ve got 4 kids she’s got that purse of holding filled with rations and emergency supplies. 

Bridget 5

Here she is geeking out in Apollo Mission Control. 

Bridget 3

She has a great sense of humor capable of putting up with my goofiness. 

Bridget 6

And she is a bad ass who will drop you like a bad habit. Here she is at the monthly Ladies of Yard Moose Mountain Shooting Night.  

Kaiju Rising physical book is out now

For those of you who missed out on the Kickstarter, you can now get the Kaiju Rising in physical book. The eBook has been available for a bit.  It is also available on Audible. It is a big fat anthology of giant monster stories.
I’ve got one in there called The Great Sea Beast.  I had a lot of fun with it. It is a sort of 13th century Moby Dick story about a drunken samurai archer on a mission of revenge against a rampaging kaiju. And yes, I really do love my job. :)

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