Fighting fire with fire

I was having a nice day yesterday. I did a load of laundry before noon; I had groceries delivered, which might sound like a luxury but isn’t if you have bad knees and no car. After lunch I took my laptop and went to a Panera, where I had a frozen mocha and a pastry and wrote for a while. I’m fifty-one years old, and I’ve only just now found a coffee shop where I feel relaxed and comfortable enough to write. On my way home I stopped at a botanica and bought a bag of 100 tealights and some incense, the bread and butter of my daily offerings to the gods. The predicted thunderstorms stayed away while I was out. A nice day.

Then I got home, looked at Facebook, and discovered that Nazis had marched on the University of Virginia. Yes, I’m going to call them Nazis; they may be clean-cut, polo-shirt-wearing, gainfully employed American citizens, but when people espouse all the vows of the Nazis in Germany, use Nazi slogans like “Blood and soil”, give the Nazi salute and shout “Heil Trump”, I’m going to call them Nazis, because Nazis is evidently what they are. The horror of this protest, its support by local police, the attack on counter-protesters by a driver who killed one and injured nineteen more, is only sharpened by the absurdity of the marchers carrying tiki torches, no doubt purchased at Walmart.

While I was perusing incense in the botanica, I saw a variety labelled San Miguel. I know enough Spanish to identify that as St. Michael the Archangel. I remembered that I had a small figure of St. Michael, so I bought some of the incense. By the time I logged onto Facebook, I had formed the intention of calling on the archangel for protection, so I went to one of my magical groups and asked for advice. I was pointed to sources for traditional prayers and advised to do a novena for the archangel, nine days of prayer, to make initial contact with him. “He can be rather aloof,” said one person who replied to my query.

This morning I washed a few dishes from last night before making my tea and breakfast. For me there’s nothing like showering or washing dishes to open my head to new ideas. That’s when I received the phrase with which I titled this entry: Fighting fire with fire.

Those protestors with torches, marching openly with uncovered faces, would certainly identify themselves as Christians. They were shouting antisemitic slogans, so they certainly weren’t Jews. Despite their appropriation of some Norse pagan symbols such as the Othala rune, I’m sure they would disavow being witches, Wiccans, pagans, and probably even heathens specifically. And they were also vocally anti-Islamic, which likely rules out their being Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, or Jain as well.

Despite their resemblance to the crowd that supposedly called for Jesus’ execution when Pilate the good Roman (actually a notorious hard-ass) wanted to free Jesus, they would call themselves Christian. Despite opposing everything that Jesus taught, preached, and stood for. Despite excluding, imprisoning, and executing people whom Jesus would have healed, talked with, and welcomed to his table. Despite that many local Christian clergy rightfully marched as a counter-protest. Despite their refusal to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, give water to the thirsty, or bury the dead (Matthew 25: 31-46).

st-michael-the-defender-icon-608“I came not to bring peace but a sword,” Jesus said, although he allowed himself to be arrested, tried, and executed and did not call for any natural or supernatural help. The sword I call on against these un-Jesus-like Christians, Nazis, white supremacists, racists, sexists, transphobic and queer-phobic and antisemitic bigots is the sword ot St. Michael, the leader of the heavenly hosts. The fire with which I oppose the fire of their ridiculous tiki torches, the fire of their hatred and fear, is the fire of the nine choirs of angels. Today I am starting a novena to St. Michael to oppose the Nazis in our midst with the fire of the love of the Trinity and to protect all those of good will who also oppose them.

Miss Austen meets Mr. O’Brian and Mr. Burroughs

Imagine that Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brian (author of the Aubrey-Maturin novels), and Edgar Rice Burroughs met at a party, got lit on some really fine opium, and had a wild threesome. The love-child of this mini-orgy would be this novel, a smashing blend of Regency romance, Age of Sail, and planetary romance a la ERB’s Mars books.

In order to stave off a threat to her beloved older brother’s life, Arabella Ashby, a young Englishwoman born and raised on a colonized Mars, must return to Mars from Earth as swiftly as possible. In this universe where the planets whirl in an interstellar atmosphere that can be traversed by airborne sailing ships, her best bet is a merchant ship belonging to the Honorable Mars Company. This book has everything: Crossdressing, naval battles in space, delightfully alien Martians, and thorny problems with inheritance law, along with an intelligent, resourceful heroine and an understated romance. I can’t wait to read the sequel and subsequent adventures of Miss Ashby.

I am pleased to announce…

… my first professional publication! My short story “A distinguished visitor from the north”, previously posted on Antinous for Everybody, is now available from Amazon Kindle, featuring a gorgeous cover illustration by Li Oesterberg. Many thanks to my dear friend Sarah Loch for doing the layout on this project. A paperback version of the book will soon be available as well.

Buy it! Read it! Review it (favorably, I hope)! Tell your friends! *throws confetti*

I write fanfic, too

Chicken Hugs and Blueberry Cobbler (2774 words) by RembrandtsWife
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Check Please! (Webcomic)
Rating: Mature
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Eric Bittle/Jack Zimmermann, Eric Bittle & Moomaw
Characters: Jack Zimmermann, Eric Bittle, MooMaw (Check Please!)
Additional Tags: Chickens, Blueberries, Grandmothers, Baking, old people’s stories, Reminiscing
Summary:

Whatever Jack had been expecting when he met Bitty’s Moomaw, it wasn’t this.

If you’re not familiar with Check, Please!, it’s a delightful webcomic about a young gay man from Georgia who gets a hockey scholarship to a New England college. He’s been a figureskater and played co-ed hockey, but he’s never played the all-male game in which checking (aggressive bodily contact) is allowed. There’s some unexpected bodily contact in his future… and a lot of baking. So much baking. You have no idea.

POEM: Dog Days

“Hermanubis, show me the way out of this valley.”

The dog-headed lord raises one arm and points

To where Sirius is rising with the sun.

Then he drops to all fours and nudges me with his snout

To get me moving. I climb to my feet and pick up

The caduceus where Hermanubis dropped it.

The god barks joyfully and trots toward the light,

Looking back over his shoulder to make sure I follow.

 

How long have I been in this valley?

The river has pooled and stagnated.

The flowers on the bank have withered.

All the steep hills to either side are still in shadow,

Slopes of broken rock that cut my feet.

At least I think they did. But the dog-god

Is making his way forward along the riverbank,

Leaving his paw prints in the soft mud,

And I think I can follow, leaning on his staff.

 

The stream gets wider as we head up the valley;

The water begins to move. Where did it come from,

Flowing away from us now, leading us the way

We were going? What are these red flowers,

Emerging from the mud as the water widens?

I can see my reflection in the stream, lit

By the twin beams of Ra and Sothis,

But I hardly recognize myself.

 

The further we go, the brighter, stronger,

Hotter the light gets. I lower my eyes till

all I can see are the faithful dog’s footprints,

Bordered by shoots of green, but still

I falter. I cover my eyes against the light

And grip the god’s staff more tightly,

But I cannot go on–until a shadow appears

And rises to engulf me. Hermanubis barks.

 

The sound of baying hounds and barking beasts

Answers the cynomorphic god. I stumble back

As the pack of them surrounds us, barking,

Panting, whining. But it is not their shadow

Which comes over me, cool and beneficent,

Softening the light so that I can see again,

I can lift my head to see him–my god,

Antinous, the master of the hounds.

He pets Hermanubis and smiles at me.

 

“Come on, we’re going hunting. Don’t worry

About keeping up. Your feet will be fleet

As Hermes’ if you run with us! Come on!”

Buskins on his feet, a quiver over one shoulder,

A bow with arrow in his hand, he is dressed

For hunting. The dogs prance and bark.

The wings of the caduceus flutter;

Its dormant snakes stir. Can I find

What I am seeking if I run with the hunt?

In the presence of the god it seems possible.

The divine boy turns, whistles;  the dogs

Lead off, and in the safety of his shadow,

I run forward, fleet as Hermes, I run, I run.

The shock of realistic television

A good many of the folks I follow on Tumblr are fans of the show Sense8. As you do when a lot of your friends love something, I watched the first episode a few weeks ago. It was… a lot. Shocking, disorienting, kind of bloody, a plethora of characters and locations thrown at the viewer one after the other.

I gave it a second chance this weekend, and I’m glad I did. I found the second episode less shocking, the editing less disorienting, and the violence level went down. And my heart ached for silent, frustrated Sun, for gorgeous Lito and his adorable Hernando (those glasses!), and most of all for Nomi, abused and terrorized by a mother who calls her daughter by a male deadname.

That’s the point of fiction, or one use of it: To remind us of the realities of other people’s suffering, other people’s joy, by making us feel those things through characters who don’t exist. How many women in this world, young or not so young, in every country and culture, are as frustrated as Sun, unable to express their true power because they are female? How many gay men are still unable to live authentically, whether in their work lives, or with their birth family, or maybe in their religious communities? And I know, furiously, that there are real trans people out there whose families would gladly turn them over to a surgeon who promised to “fix” their brains, to make them okay again, docile and smiling and helpless to do anything but accept the gender they were assigned at birth.

To feel for one fictional character has the potential to make us feel for all the real people in the same dilemma. It doesn’t always work that way; I know, for example, that there have been readers and writers of m/m slash who insist that real-life homosexuality is still a sin. But it has the potential, it has the potential, at least, to crack open the mind and heart.

The first episode of Sense8 really did shock me, in a very visceral way. The scene where Nomi and Nita are making love, and you actually see them climax, then see the dildo and harness Nita tosses on the floor–that shocked me. It jolted me as if I had scuffled across thick carpet and then put my hand on a metal door. Why? I’m not a prude; I read and write erotic fiction, I even watch porn. But I’m used to seeing scenes like that only in porn; more than that, I’m not used to *seeing* sex scenes like that, at all, because I only read about them. A scene of two women having sex, with a dildo, that focuses on their faces, their pleasure, their emotional intimacy, that is not orchestrated for the enjoyment of a male viewer, but merely depicted as a normal part of two people’s life together–where in the world do you see that, except in fanfic, and in other fiction written by and for women?

All the other sex scenes have had the same quality, Wolfgang with his not quite girlfriend, Shugs and the enthusiastic Bambi. The sex is consensual; it’s oriented to pleasure; and it’s filmed as if you just walked in on people having sex, oops! not for the viewer, the male gaze. That’s not television. That’s not cinema. That’s fiction, fanfiction, even, that’s fiction by women–which just goes to prove, I guess, that the Wachowskis really are women. (I jest–of course they are. But there it is.)

I know I have only two seasons to watch, and a movie to look forward to. But I hope the Wachowskis, aided and abetted by J. Michael Straczynski, who was writing awesome female characters in the 1990s in Babylon 5, will continue to explore this kind of territory in their work, and we’ll start seeing more of real life like this on our screens.