Archive for Silly


So You’ve Discovered A Secret Magical Society With Wizards And Monsters And Shit

So You’ve Discovered A Secret Magical Society With Wizards And Monsters And Shit


Some questions to ask a few people who seem trustworthy, with followups


  • Do you people believe in a god or gods?
    • Is this theological belief, where we must have faith, or are these provably real creatures who might smite me?
      • If real:
        • Please rate their approximate power on a scale of Small Gods to Paradise Lost
        • How does one stay on their good side, assuming they have one?
        • Are any of them pure evil?
          • How sure are we about that?
  • So magic is real. Can I do magic?
    • Is anything horrible going to happen to me if I do?
    • Are the following subtypes of magic possible?
      • Explosions
      • Flying
      • Telekinesis
      • Telepathy
        • Are there rules about telepathy?
          • If not, why not?
      • Invisibility
        • How do I keep invisible people out?
      • Talking With Animals
        • Ethical implications of talking animals?
      • Teleportation
        • Please describe possible disasters
      • Time Travel
        • Please describe the rules, with diagrams
      • Shapechanging
        • How do I know you’re not the Dark Lord?
      • Mind Control
        • How do I know you’re not under the control of the Dark Lord?
      • Love spells/potions
        • Are those legal in this jurisdiction?
          • Are there less creepy jurisdictions?
    • Is magical power hereditary?
      • Doesn’t that have disturbing implications for society?
  • Are prophecies for real?
    • Please provide detailed examples of prophecies that turned out to be true.
    • Who makes these prophecies?
      • Can we use them to play the stock market or bet on sporting events?
    • Are prophets required to be super-cryptic?
      • Can we crowd-source prophetic interpretation to Reddit?
  • Are the following mythological entities or creatures real?
    • Santa Claus
    • Tooth Fairy
      • What does she do with the teeth?
    • Dragons
      • Can I ride one?
    • Centaurs
      • Ditto
        • Not in a sexy way?
          • Maybe in a sexy way.
            • Clarification on human/monster sex in general.
    • Elves
      • Multiple kinds?
        • How do I tell them apart?
      • Special rules they must obey?
      • Subtypes:
        • Giggling, whimsical faires
        • Stern, wise wood-guardians
        • Immortal, amoral schemers
    • Dwarves
      • Subtypes:
        • Drunken, Scottish hooligans
        • Wise makers of powerful objects
          • Take commissions?
    • Hobbits/Gnomes/Halflings/Kender
      • Safely ignored or dangerous menace?
    • Talking Animals
      • All animals or just special ones?
        • Popularity of vegan diets?
    • Vampires
      • Subtypes:
        • Bestial and evil
        • Urbane but still evil
        • Sexy
          • Not evil?
            • Are we sure?
              • Popular dating services.
            • Should I just become one? It sounds awesome.
      • Weaknesses:
        • Garlic?
        • Holy Water/Symbols?
          • Which religion?
            • Troubling implications.  (See gods.)
        • Stakes through the heart?
          • Works on everyone though
        • Sunlight?
    • Werewolves
      • Subtypes:
        • Murderous beasts
        • Noble and loyal
          • Spread by biting or only hereditary?
            • Just bite me already.
          • Full moon — important or bullshit?
    • Zombies
      • Minor nuisance or apocalyptic threat?
    • Ghosts
      • Actually the spirits of dead people?
        • Does this provably imply there’s an afterlife? (See gods, above.)
  • Muggles
    • Do we call them that?
    • How many people know about magic?
      • How do we keep people from knowing about magic?
        • Why do we keep people from knowing about magic?
          • If magic could cure cancer, etc, aren’t we history’s greatest monsters for hogging it?
    • How effective is magic compared to guns and so forth?
    • Are we:
      • Afraid of them?
      • Vaguely paternalistic toward them?
      • Allowed to have sex with them?
  • Magic Rings (or other magic objects)
    • Possible powers?
      • Important caveats?
Movies, Silly

Avengers Endgame and being Comic Book Guy (Spoilers)

(Spoilers for Endgame start somewhere below.)

I have to fight, sometimes, not to become Comic Book Guy.

Note that this is not intended to run down comic book fans of either gender in general, but rather a reference to the Simpsons character who is never given another name. This guy:

If you’ve never watched the show, he is the archetypal entitled fan who nitpicks minor continuity issues and generally seems to hate all the things he claims to love. I generally don’t go that far, I hope, but I am kind of a nerd for world-building and premise logic, which sometimes leads me down that path.

We talk about “plot holes” in bad movies sometimes, but people often seem to get the causation backward — movie X is full of “plot holes” and therefore it’s bad. This is self-evidently nonsense since plenty of good movies have glaring inconsistencies and logic problems, too. We just notice them more in bad movies, because the badness (which is usually more about character, tone, and other less tangible elements) predisposes us to look for them, and they’re easy to snark about because they’re concrete in a way that an emotionally uninteresting character is not. So The Phantom Menace has tons of logic problems, and I didn’t like it. But The Empire Strikes Back does too (how long was Luke on Dagoba? how does the Falcon get from Hoth to Bespin with no hyperdrive?) and that movie is amazing.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I want to write about some of the little nitpicks in Avengers Endgame, because I am who I am and it amuses me to do so, but that these should be taken as gentle ribbing of a movie that I really, really liked, maybe even loved. It’s really hard to assess Endgame, actually, because there has literally never been anything like it before — the level of ambition and follow-through that made the MCU possible is unprecedented. That the movie exists at all, as the culmination of a ten-year, 22-movie, multi-billion-dollar story arc, is a miracle, and that it’s great on top of all that is almost unbelievable. It’s easy for these things to seem inevitable in hindsight, given the resources available to Disney/Marvel, but look at every other attempt to create a cinematic universe and wonder what might have been.

This is a movie that embraces “fanservice” in the purest sense — not gratuitous T&A or power-fantasy stuff, but doing the wrap-up in a way that lets them put in nods to so many of the plotlines and secondary characters we look back on after a decade. It would have been so easy to make this movie simple; to leave out the time-travel plot and just have the Avengers have to fight some new bad guys or something before finally confronting Thanos. You could even keep the last hour or so just about as-is. But they didn’t do that. For a franchise that’s often described as “safe”, there’s some amazing creative risks in here — this is the capstone of a bid-budget action-adventure superhero franchise that doesn’t start its first action set-piece for almost two hours.

Anyway. There’s some legit criticism of the movie to be made. Black Widow gets the short end of the stick, as always apparently. The all-girl teamup during the battle is a cool moment but feels … dunno, like Marvel taking a victory lap that’s kind of unearned, given the franchise’s somewhat fraught record with female characters? I’m a little weirded out by the prospect of Guardians 3 having Gamora’s memories be reset, although I really really hope it has Lebowski-Thor bumming around. But many people are writing about those, and so having spent a thousand words on throat-clearing and caveats, let me get to what everyone’s really here for — ethical implications of time travel. Right?

After the first movie came out, I wrote a little bit about everyone who dropped the ball and could have thwarted Thanos’ plan. I was curious as to what the deal with Doctor Strange’s plan was — he suddenly offers to give Thanos the Time Stone to save Iron Man, counter to his earlier advice. Presumably, he figured out in his time-mediation that Tony is the key to eventual victory over Thanos, since he a) comes up with the time machine, and b) ultimately does the self-sacrificial snap that destroys Thanos. (Although the Avengers don’t seem to be exactly short on self-sacrifice so b) doesn’t seem that critical?)

However, if Strange doesn’t give the Time Stone to Thanos, then we’re led to believe Thanos never achieves ultimate power. He probably kills Strange and Tony and maybe everyone else but he can’t do the snappy thing. And Strange himself certainly implies that even if he saves Tony getting to the good ending is a pretty unlikely shot. So what this boils down to is that Strange takes an extremely high-risk gamble here with the stakes being the lives of half of everyone in the universe. If he gives Thanos the stone, there’s a small chance that everyone survives (except Tony) but a much larger chance that Thanos just wins. (And, given his speech in Endgame, possibly destroys the universe entirely.) If Strange keeps the stone, then he and Tony definitely die, and maybe some more people on Earth, but the rest of the universe is probably safe. Basically, I feel like Doctor Strange went for the small chance of saving his own skin, risking the safety of untold trillions of sentients. Nice heroing, Cumberbatch!

Apropos of very little, during the final battle, how come none of the heroes thought of … like … using the Infinity Gauntlet? I realize that doing the epic stuff carries the risk of self-immolation (although annihilating Thanos and his army seems kind of on a different scale than half the universe, which is a bit unfair to poor Tony) but that’s not the only thing the stones do, right? Like when Thanos was gathering them they made him nearly invincible, and able to turn things into bubbles and so on. It seems like Emo Hawkeye could have taken advantage of that, or Spider-Man, or anyone really.

While we’re on the subject of annihilating Thanos’ entire army, is this really morally acceptable behavior? Did those guys like … sign up? If you dust Thanos and maybe his four named henchmen, would the rest of them surrender? I know some of them are just horrible monsters, but there’s various armed humanoids in there too. This fits with Marvel’s general moral standard of “human with painted skin = has moral standing, CGI with hidden face = kill without mercy”.

Anyway. TIME TRAVEL! Time travel always causes logic problems so we don’t need to get too into that, the movie actually lampshades it pretty awesomely. They establish very clearly that changing the past has no effect on the future so we’re apparently in some kind of branching-timeline situation. Although they then break that rule since Cap goes back into the past and turns up as an old man, which either implies you can change the future or the future is predestined. But that part was incredibly awesome anyway.

The problem here is that there are many better plans available than the extremely fraught one they end up going with. It’s never clear if there’s a time limit for them staying in the past — they’re very excited that three of the stones are in New York, which implies that there is, since that makes them easy to get, but then it’s never really mentioned. There’s a whole lot of urgency, actually, that’s really sort of bogus, since there’s no ongoing threat at the time they start the time travel. Notably, they could have given Captain Marvel a call, and waited a month or something for her to get back, and then sent her into the past instead of like … Warmachine or Rocket.

Or — and here’s where things really get squirrely — they could have just gone back to get more Pym particles. Send Scott to talk to Hank and his earlier self pre-Thanos, load up with like a truckload of the things, and then you have as many tries as you need. It’d be easy to handwave this with some technical impossibility except that Cap and Tony do exactly that to get home from 1970.

This leads us to the biggest issue, which is really hard to explain away. Black Widow dies, and Tony dies, and everyone’s sad. We have some handwaving about how the Infinity Stones can’t bring them back. (Although — I get that this applies to Nat due to her having sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone, but does it apply to Tony? What about Loki?)

However. You have a time machine. It can bring people from the past to the future, without changing the future — it brings Thanos and his whole starship, including a bunch of people who are dead in the present, including Gamora who was sacrificed for the Soul Stone. It’s hard to see any logical reason why you couldn’t set it to just before you did the first time jump, grab Nat and Tony, and then hey presto they’re alive again! (Arguably you could do this for literally anyone who has ever died tragically.) You could also use the time machine to copy people by repeatedly bringing them from the past, so you could have an army of Hulks or whatever if you wanted. It’s … um, hmm. Let’s hope the knowledge of how to use the thing died with Tony. (Except OH WAIT Cap is using it later…)

Again, apropos of nothing, but is it me or is it kind of unclear how the whole Soul Stone sacrifice thing works? Like, Red Skull tells Thanos that he has to sacrifice what he loves the most, so he kill Gamora. How exactly does Black Widow killing herself count as the same thing for Hawkeye? Or … if Nat is making the sacrifice, does that imply she she herself is what she loves the most? That seems pretty self-evidently false, right?

Whew. Okay. I think I’ve got all that out of my system. Once again, I love this movie, so don’t let my nitpicks count against it. Stories are a hell of a lot more than the sum of their plotholes, and I don’t want to contribute to the idea that movie criticism is playing gotcha with sci-fi logic. If we psychotically over-analyze things, it should be because we love them. =)

Content, Movies, Silly

Everyone Who Dropped the Ball in INFINITY WAR (Spoilers)

I liked this movie a lot. If you haven’t seen it, go do that. SPOILERS HERE.







Right? Okay. So leaving the theater, it occurred to me that the heroes actually had a ton of chances to stop Thanos’ plan, and the fact that they didn’t manage it is sort of astonishing. Just for fun, here’s a list of everyone who, by not being slightly smarter/more ruthless, bears direct responsibility for the death of half the universe:

  • Loki could have left the Tesseract behind on Asgard to be destroyed.  This is maybe half a point, since it’s not 100% clear this actually would have destroyed it.  But later events imply that the stones are actually destructible, so maybe?  (Side note: having the stones be indestructible would make waaaaaaay more sense.)
  • Loki gives up the Tesseract to save Thor.  As will become a theme, it’s not super clear where he had it or what would happen if he actually held out on Thanos, but everyone acts as though he’s actually giving Thanos something.
  • Doctor Strange could have destroyed the Time gem immediately on hearing Thanos was doing stuff.  They handwave that he’s sworn to defend it but you would think not giving Thanos unlimited power would take priority?
  • Doctor Strange decides to bring the Time stone with, instead of leaving it somewhere slightly safer then hanging around his neck.  If the spell really does prevent anyone from taking it, even when he dies, he could also have safeguarded it by dying?
  • Iron Man decides to take the ship (and the Time stone) to Titan.  Not taking it back to Earth is understandable, but you know what other option was available?  Literally anywhere else in the universe.  The one thing Thanos emphatically does not have throughout the movie is perfect knowledge of where the stones are, because he’s constantly asking people.  So just like … go lose yourself somewhere?  Space is big.
  • Gamora goes along with the plan to go to Knowhere and … do something?  It’s really not clear what the actual plan is since if Thor, Hulk, and Loki got curb-stomped by Thanos it’s pretty clear Starlord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis aren’t going to be able to take him out.  Maybe they thought they could get the stone first and run away, in which case you can add Starlord for not just turning the ship around and running away.
  • Gamora for not killing herself once it was clear Thanos was there, or indeed earlier.  That seems harsh but she did ask Starlord to kill her, so she was obviously aware this was a problem.  She could also kill herself later, when Thanos has her in prison and apparently unsupervised.
  • Gamora for giving up the location of the Soul stone to save Nebula.  This one is particularly bad since she a) knows exactly how bad this is, and b) has no expectation that Thanos won’t be able to take the stone once she tells him.
  • Starlord for ruining what was actually a perfectly functional plan to get the gauntlet away from Thanos that almost worked.  He is just the worst.
  • Scarlet Witch and Captain America in some combination for balking at Vision’s perfectly reasonable request to let him sacrifice himself for the good of the entire universe.  Extra points because Cap never really answers Vision’s comparison of his WWII era sacrifice of himself to save America.
  • Doctor Strange, again, for giving up the Time stone to save Iron Man.  At this point he had some vision of the future to guide him, but it’s not clear what would have happened if he’d held out, similar to Loki above.

I think that’s it?  Thanos was really pretty lucky that all the stones were in the hands of good people who would give them up when friends or loved ones were threatened, rather than like Magneto or Doctor Doom or somebody.

Also, note to Thanos: even with a slowly falling world birthrate, human numbers approximately doubled (from 3.8bn to 7.5bn) between 1972 and 2018.  Assuming other civilized planets are similar, you’re going to be doing this again roughly every fifty years, forever.  Probably more often actually, since the greater availability of resources will lead to faster growth rates.  Read your Malthus, man.

Movies, Silly

Abridged Script to BLACKHATS

This is an attempt to reconstruct the script of the movie BLACKHATS, which I watched on the plane ride home and was completely baffling in its badness. I rented it for $6 and there’s an hour of the flight left, so I may as well use it to entertain myself.


Everything is fine. Suddenly, COMPUTERS! We zoom inside the computer to see a light turn on. Then everything is NOT FINE. A water pump breaks, and the reactor almost immediately explodes, because that is how reactors work.


CB: Can you find out who did this?
CC: Only with the help of the Americans. They still have the … code of the … virus? Or something. Ours got exploded in the reactor.
CB: Fine, I’ll have to convince the FBI.

FBI WOMAN meets with FBI BOSS.

FW: I think we should work with them.
FB: Work with the Chinese? Never! *pause* Okay, fine.

Meanwhile, THOR is in prison. He gets called into the prison warden’s office to get yelled at for hacking into the prison commissary with a phone or something. The point is, we know he’s a HACKER, and he mouths off to the warden so we know he’s COOL. He also does some push-ups so we know he’s BUFF.

Meanwhile, at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, HACKERS once again zoom the camera inside a computer and do something with LIGHTS. This causes a catastrophic rise in the price of soy. (Seriously that’s what happens.)

Meanwhile, CHINESE COP meets with his sister, GIRL.

CC: I need you to come with me to America. You are an elite network administrator, and I need one of those I can trust.
Girl: No. On second thought, fine. Does the fact that I’m an elite system administrator mean I get to do computer stuff in this movie?
CC: No, you basically read stuff off screens to us.
Girl: Dang.

They go to NON-SPECIFIC AMERICA and meet up with FBI WOMAN and her partner FBI JERK.

CC: I will immediately establish good relations by telling you how much your technical people suck.
FW: I don’t really even argue with this.
CC: We need my old college roommate Thor.

THOR gets offered a deal to get out of prison, but he negotiates it to a better deal so we can see how COOL he is.

CC: Hey bro, good to see you!
Thor: Your Earth prison could never hold me! I mean, hi bro. Sorry, I’ve been doing so much of this Avengers shit it slips sometimes.
CC: This is my sister Girl!
*THOR and the CAMERAMAN both stare pervily.*

They go to the Chicago computer center and THOR shows up the pencil-necked dweeb who works there by typing on a command line, because he is a HACKER. He runs .exe files on UNIX because that is a thing that happens.

FW: Okay, so this dude planted the virus here. Let’s all go find him.
Thor: Why don’t Girl and I go by ourselves, and you two stay here? Because … reasons. Something about grids.
FW: I don’t trust you so I’m sending FBI Jerk along. Try not to evade him so effortlessly the movie won’t even show us how you do it.

He DOES. The guy they went to find is dead, but he was meeting another guy at a Korean restaurant, so they go there. Nobody shows up. Thor finds a camera and concludes that it’s a trap, and then every Korean in the restaurant inexplicably tries to murder them, including the chef. They escape.

Girl: You are awful good at hand to hand combat for a hacker.
Thor: Verily, none shall stand before the might of Mjolnir!
Girl: But since this was a dead end and we learned nothing, this whole part of the movie is pointless.
Thor: We had better have sex then.
Girl: Why? The movie has made no effort to establish any romantic feeling between us, other than you staring at me like a creep.
Thor: I DO look like Thor, though.
Girl: Point.

They have that weird PG-13 sex where you don’t actually take any clothes off, but wake up later naked under a sheet.

Meanwhile, the competent characters blackmail the representative of the Exchange into revealing his client records, because this is something we are totally comfortable with the FBI doing. They discover that some money from the soy bubble went to China, which is a small place completely accessible by a few minutes’ car ride from Hong Kong.

Everyone meets up in China, and they find the three guys who took the money. Thor discovers they’re being sent their instructions by EVIL FOREIGN MAN, who sits in a cafe texting to nobody all day long while the Chinese police watch.

FW: Wait, you guys are actually watching him already, but you don’t have the content of his texts?
CC: Unlike America China is big on civil liberties.

They try to arrest EVIL FOREIGN MAN, but he produces an army of gun toting thugs out of his back pocket. Chinese police charge in and die horribly in huge numbers. Thor turns out to be pretty good in a gunfight, too. Eventually EVIL FOREIGN MAN kills all the police and escapes in broad daylight, because China is a DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE apparently.

Thor: Dang. Once again we are completely foiled and useless.
CC: We actually sort of suck at our jobs. By the way, are you banging my sister?
Thor: Verily.
CC: Right on, bro.
FW: This movie could pass the Bechdel Test if Girl and I exchanged a line, but we won’t.

The Chinese police arrive to say that the reactor is now “under control” so they can go in and retrieve the hard drives of the hacked computers, which may yield a clue. CHINESE COP, THOR, and GIRL do this instead of trained nuclear technicians. It looks like they might pass out and die, but then they don’t.

Thor: The data is on here, but it’s too badly corrupted to use!
CC: We pulled a hard drive from inside a breached nuclear reactor, I’m amazed it still works at all.
Thor: FBI Woman, when you arrested me, you restored my corrupt data somehow.
FW: The NSA has a program called Black Widow that can do that. They let us use it in a high profile case like yours. Now, though, this case that involves nuclear terrorism and the all important soy market apparently isn’t good enough.
Thor: I will break into the NSA by the power of HACKING!

Shockingly, this invokes something semi-plausible (if you squint real hard), rather than just typing really fast. They get the data and find out that the bad guy is using a service that hosts black hat hackers in Jakarta.

FW: Wait, if there’s a service like that, shouldn’t we, the FBI, know about it already?
Thor: Unlike the NSA, this Indonesian ISP is impenetrable to HACKING. We’ll have to physically break in there and grab stuff.
CHINESE BOSS: Not so fast! The NSA called and said they know you hacked them. Chinese Cop, turn Thor over to the Americans!
CC: Right away, sir, let me definitely not go warn him.

He DOES. Thor and Girl escape.

Thor: How did they detect my HACKING?!
Girl: Uh, you called them and asked for something, and when they said no it was stolen literally minutes later. It doesn’t take a genius.

Thor, Girl, and Chinese Cop meet up.

CC: Now that you’re a fugitive, we’ll have to sneak you into Indonesia, Thor. Girl, you have to stay here, because this is suddenly too dangerous.
Thor: That’s right. This isn’t like walking into a nuclear reactor, this is serious.
Girl: You guys suck.
Thor: You don’t want to date me anyway. I’m on the run from the law now.
Girl: Fine, but let’s make out one last time.

They do. Suddenly EVIL FOREIGN MAN shows up and destroys the car Chinese Cop is in with a bazooka!

Thor: Brooooooo!

FBI WOMAN and FBI JERK have been following Thor. They talk a bit about her dead husband, who was killed in 9/11.

FW: Wait, does that count as talking about my family? Did that raise my death flag? Son of a BITCH!

They show up where the gun toting thugs are trying to kill Thor. The FBI agents IMMEDIATELY open fire, and and killed by the bad guys. (I can’t stress enough that their procedure is: drive down the street in a foreign country, see gunfire on the road ahead, start firing guns out the car window without trying to find out what’s going on.). Thor and Girl escape, again in broad daylight, because again, DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE. They procure fake documents and exit from the country within literally minutes, because ditto.

Girl: I got the bad guy’s account file somehow, and it lists that he ordered satellite photos of this spot in Malaysia. Let’s go check it out!
Thor: You didn’t hack him, did you? Because HACKING is my job.

In Malaysia, they discover a deserted dam with water pumps of the same brand as used in the nuclear reactor.

Thor: That’s it! The reactor was PRACTICE! The bad guy’s real plan is to destroy this damn, flooding the tin mines in this valley, thus causing an increase in the price of tin while buying tin ore futures!
Girl: That’s seriously the big twist? The bad guys are manipulating the tin futures market, with the money they made on a soy bubble? Is the goal to make their plot so boring that no action hero will come foil it? Not to mention that makes no sense, since destroying a reactor would draw huge attention. This dam is completely unguarded, he could just WALK here and destroy it with a hammer! And–
Thor: I summon BIFROST to transport us to Jakarta!

They break into the top secret ISP by dropping a truck through the roof of the building, then just sauntering in with the cops, once again demonstrating no regard whatsoever for bystanders’ safety. Once they have the data, they steal the soy money, and call the bad guys.

EFM: Who is this?
Thor: Seriously, what accent are you even trying for? Let me talk to your boss.
EFM: Never. Well, fine.
BAD GUY: I am of course vaguely British, unlike my mostly ethnic henchmen. You’ve got my money, what do you want?
Thor: I want a cut of your scheme.
BG: Wait, so you’re holding my money hostage in exchange for more money? How does that make sense?
Thor: Your Earth numbers confuse and anger me.
BG: Interesting. Okay, but I demand a personal meeting, even though that can serve no possible purpose other than for us to try to kill each other.

Thor schedules the meeting in a big public square, thus deliberately starting a gunfight in a dense crowd. He prepares with a screwdriver up his sleeve and makeshift body armor made from magazines.

EFM: I will frisk you, rather than shooting you on sight, although killing you is clearly the plan.
Thor: Thanks! I’ll stab you in the face with this screwdriver and take your gun.
BG: Thugs, kill him!

They shoot lots of random civilians, but Thor is impervious to bullets due to his magazine armor. He kills the thugs. BAD GUY, a fat, pasty British hacker, pulls a knife and attempts to engage THOR in hand to hand combat. Thor stabs him about a million times immediately.

Thor: That’s what you get for HACKING when you’re not COOL.
Girl: I love you! For some reason!
Thor: Abs, I assume.
Girl: But aren’t we still on the run from the FBI? Won’t they easily find the money? For that matter, how are we going to get out of Indonesia after starting a gunfight in public?
Thor: Easily.

Indonesia also being a DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE, they do.

News, Silly

THE MAD APPRENTICE Cat Picture Giveaway!

If you know me at all, you probably know that I like cats. My cats, Sakaki and The Tomoes, were eager to help me advertise THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY, as depicted below.



Now it’s your cats’ turn!

From now until the release of THE MAD APPRENTICE, on April 21st, everyone who emails an appropriate picture to will be entered in the giveaway! Winners will receive a hardcover copy of THE MAD APPRENTICE, signed by me and personalized as you like.

Pictures should contain, at minimum, the following:
-A copy of THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY. (Kindle, audio, etc are fine!)
-A cat.

My UK publisher has agreed to ship copies to UK winners, so the contest is officially open to UK entrants! Winners in the UK will receive UK (paperback) editions, and I will try to send over a signed bookplate to put in them.


What if I don’t have a copy of THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY?

They are available wherever books are sold, in paperback, e-book, or audiobook! THE MAD APPRENTICE is a sequel, so you’d want to read the first book first anyway.

What if I don’t have a cat?

That is a serious problem and you should remedy it immediately!

For those who are, for whatever sad reason, unable to get a cat, some creativity will be required. Here are some possible options:

  • Borrow a friend’s cat.
  • Borrow an enemy’s cat.
  • Go to the zoo and borrow a lion. (Note: Do not actually do this.)
  • Go to the library and pose with the stone lions. (Probably safer.)
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of costume!
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of photoshop!
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of actual magic! (Recommended!)
  • Acquire a picture of a cat and use that. (There MAY be some pictures of cats on the internet, if you look hard.)
  • Draw, sculpt, or otherwise create a cat ex nihilo.
  • Use googly eyes and construction paper to make THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY into a cat! (Note: Not responsible for damages to THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY. You may want to buy an extra copy for this purpose.)


  • Winners will be selected at random from among qualifying pictures. I will contact winners by email to get snail-mail addresses, desired inscriptions, etc. Particularly awesome pictures may receive a small additional prize at my discretion.
  • Currently open to only the US and Canada — and now to the UK! See above. I’m really sorry, but shipping books elsewhere in the world just gets very expensive from here. (If you just want to send me cat pictures for fun, feel free!)
  • Feel free to include yourself in your pictures. However, pictures will be posted on my website, Twitter, etc, so don’t include anything you wouldn’t want the whole internet to see! Any names and other information will of course be kept private and not used for any non-contest purposes.
  • I am not responsible if you are clawed by a cat who refuses to hold still for a picture. Cat at your own risk.

Now go forth and photograph cats with books!

Minis, Silly

The Defense of Fort Hellcow

I blame Myke Cole for encouraging this sort of thing, and ML Brennan for encouraging me, specifically. Book fort!

Stardate: 8-9-2013. The construction of Fort Hellcow is completed, using amply available local materials.

The defenders, anticipating action, deploy to the walls.

The colonel and his elite troops guard the gate.

Elevated firing positions are built into the cliff face.

Heavy weapons deploy over the gatehouse.

With the enemy confirmed closing in, Command allocates reinforcements.


As the savage aliens approach, however, it becomes clear that the prospects for the defenders are bleak.

Very bleak.



The enemy numbers seem endless.

The defenders prepare to sell their lives dearly.





But wait — in the distance…

A column of friendly armor, rushing to the relief of the battered defenders!

Anyway. The important thing is that everybody gets home without getting stepped on.

Why yes, I am definitely an adult, why do you ask? (How else could I afford so many toy soldiers?)