Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #65

Dark Corners and Illumination

By Chris M. Barkley:

“Let me reiterate: Racism is a system. As such, it is fueled as much by chance as by hostile intentions and equally the best intentions as well. It is whatever systematically acclimates people, of all colors, to become comfortable with the isolation and segregation of the races, on a visual, social, or economic level—which in turn supports and is supported by socio-economic discrimination.”

From The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Racism and Science Fiction” by Samuel R. Delany, August 1998. (

Professor Henry Jones: Elsa never really believed in the grail. She thought she’d found a prize.

Indiana Jones: And what did you find, Dad?

Professor Henry Jones: Me? Illumination.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, written by Jeffery David Boam, 1989.

When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.

I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.

As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.

When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown.

You should also keep in mind in this era of American history, the civil rights movement was supplementing the struggle for basic human rights alongside a growing emphasis on the pride of being Black and uncovering the suppressed history of women, other various minorities and oppressed peoples.

Needless to say, there was very little representation of minorities (of ANY kind) on television and the movies then, but when there was, our household paid attention. Bill Cosby as an undercover intelligence agent on I Spy. Diahanne Carroll was a compassionate nurse, Julia. Genius engineer Greg Morris on Mission: Impossible. Gail Fisher as Joe Mannix’s hip assistant. Eartha Kitt as Catwoman on Batman. Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek. And Sidney Poitier in, well, anything.

With that small awakening within me, came the realization that the institutions that I was taught to revere without question had glaring flaws, if not dark corners. Outright villany in their ranks. The United States military and industrial complex. Politicians on both sides of the aisle. Walt Disney. Harvard University. Police departments, everywhere. Kelloggs and General Mills. Major League Baseball and National Football League. Oil and gas companies. Automobile manufacturers.

And, as I gradually found out, in sf fandom’s past as well. (More on this later in the column.)

It was with this mindset that I formally entered sf fandom in June of 1976. It was as though my metaphorical had landed on an undiscovered land of opportunity and discovery.

Bright eyed, bushy tailed and somewhat politically aware, I plunged right into Midwestcon 27 with gusto. Besides the friend I came with, Michaele, we knew no one there. Fortunately, the Cincinnati Fantasy Group welcomed us both with open arms.

I will note that although almost all of the members of the CFG at that time were white, there was one other member at that time who was probably the first person of color to join the group, the late Frank Johnson.

Frank, who passed away in March of 2019 at the age of 65, was a good friend over the years, had first attended Midwestcon in 1968 along with a good friend of his, Joel Zakem, who both became full fledged members of the CFG a year later. I knew him and I was grateful to know him as well.

Then, and now, the members of the CFG have treated me with respect. I have truly felt that from the beginning, they have treated me as their peer and an equal. Any animosity or disagreements I may have had with any of them, I felt as though racial animus was never a factor in those matters.

In fact, during the first two decades that I attended literary sf conventions, I felt as though I was completely safe. In addition, I also thought I was positively egalitarian among my peers and I believe they felt the same way about me. Any problems I had at conventions in that era, which I have chronicled here in the past, were from people outside fandom who openly questioned or doubted I should be in such spaces. But I may have been wrong.

During those early days in fandom, I was either an attendee, a panelist or in the lower chain of command of volunteering at conventions.

As I rose through the ranks of conrunning, I was still seen and sought after for assignments and advice. However, as I became more politically engaged through my twenty years of activism at the WSFS Business Meetings, I became gradually aware that some people were not entirely happy with the changes I was trying to implement through changing the Hugo Awards.  One of the main reasons I was trying to push through those changes was because it was becoming readily apparent to me that there was a schism between younger fans who favored media based conventions and older fans who celebrated films but preferred author-driven conventions.

The seeds of this separation were sown from the growing ascension of Star Trek conventions in the mid-1970’s and the explosive (and surprising) success of Star Wars, whose debut irreparably blew the doors off both fandom and the media landscape as well.

The catalyst for this column began with the pointed meme by Andrew Trembley (at the top of the column) on April 18 and this post on the JOF Facebook page on the very same day:

“Question for the group.  Why do we as a group (science fiction conventions) do such a poor job of getting BIPOC?  From what I can see we get less than 5%.  But you go to a comicon and there are hundreds, go to a SF convention maybe 10 or 20?”

THIS is not a new problem for fandom. POC and other marginalized groups have been asked this question over and over for several decades now, and usually by well meaning white or privileged fans, who demand BIPOC fans come up with the answers to a problem they systematically keep perpetuating.

I subsequently read EVERY single response to the query and at some points, it got very ugly. There are some people in fandom who are still under the false impression that fans outside of their sphere are uninformed, ignorant or just plain undesirable to associate with. These sorts of comments weren’t new to me, I had encountered them more than twenty years ago through emails and early internet bulletin boards.

Then, on April 22, while doing research about addressing that very question, Kat Tanaka Okopnik re-posted this blog post on JOF from 2021 on two days earlier: “Jim Crow, Science Fiction, and WorldCon” by Bobby Derie at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

Wherein I became reacquainted with some not so very flattering history of Cincinnati Fandom:

[Gene Deweese had] been corresponding with a girl, Bev Clark, in northern Indiana, and wanted me to go with him to meet her, which suited me fine; I was finally finding girls I could talk to. Gene arranged things and we went up. It was the first time I’d met a black (or African-American, if you prefer) person socially. We got along fine, and later on we’d arranged that the three of us would drive to Midwestcon, again in my car; that car got a lot of use that summer; Juanita and her friend Lee Tremper would meet us there, and we’d have fun. We arrived at Beatley’s Hotel (or Beastley’s-on-the-Bayou, which was one of the fannish descriptions at the time) but Bev was refused admittance. No blacks allowed. None of us had even considered the possibility. On the way out, we talked to a few fans sitting on the hotel porch and some anger was expressed, especially by Harlan Ellison, who said that all fandom would hear about this outrage. We drove home, and as far as I know, nobody ever mentioned the episode again. Except me, of course.

—Buck Coulson, “Midwest Memories” in Mimosa #13 [PDF] (1993), 36

That was in 1953; Coulson added that later that year Bev attended the 1953 WorldCon in Philadelphia with them and there were “no room problems.”

When my friend Michaele and I attended Midwestcon 27 twenty-three years after this infamous incident in June of 1976, we were both blissfully unaware that the convention had been embroiled in such discriminatory acts towards people of color in the 1950’s. Why would we? We had just stumbled on to one of the greatest continuing parties of our lives, that’s why. We had entered fandom at a time when the elder members of the Cincinnati Fantasy group were exiting or dying off and a new generation were just joining.

In light of all of this history, I must give pause to think and question what actually happened during my 46 years of fandom.

Was the opposition to my activism regarding the Hugo Awards treated as altruism  (as I saw it on my part) OR, were people opposing me because of my “outsider-other” status, or was it more plainly, but hidden, racial prejudice against me? At the moment, I don’t know. And frankly, I am very comfortable with my actions and how I conducted myself while I was a fan activist between 1999 to 2019 to leave that judgment to historians and literary critics.

I should also say that out of this cauldron of frustration and angst came some actual illumination.

On April 19, Kris ‘Nchanter’ Snyder (pronouns they/them), a veteran con runner of many years and person of color, laid out a formative set of guidelines they have developed over the years on the JOF (Journeymen of Fandom) Facebook page. (Quoted with permission) To wit:

So you want more Fans of Color at your convention?  I’ll repeat (some of) the advice we’ve been giving you. In order:

1) Listen to what non-white fans are telling you and stop arguing with us that it can’t be that bad. We’re not actually telling you everything.  This means doing research by using Google to read blogs and things.  Don’t engage, just read. If this is exhausting or makes you uncomfortable, I promise it’s 10x more so for those of us who live it.

2) Deplatform your bigots, and anyone who thinks bigots deserve a seat at your table. Anyone who refuses to put in work to root out bigotry, who complains about attending sensitivity training (unless they are a member of imperiled marginalized groups, but like, even then) is a PROBLEM and needs to not be on panels, and not be on staff.

3) Pay for sensitivity training for your staff.  Yes, pay.  You want someone good, and preference should go to trainers who are not-white.  It’s just as important as making sure there is first aid training or people are serve-safe certified. 

4) Make sure your code of conduct covers racial harassment, have a clear reporting and follow up process, have members of that team go through extra training, and then do all the hard follow up work.  It’s 2022. Have an anti-racism statement that you make sure your staff is following and refers back to when setting goals.

5) Create safer spaces at your convention.  This acknowledges that you know there are problems, and you are committed to doing work to address them. 

6) Spend money on accessibility services. (You should have been doing this already, but I’m adding it in here.  And god help anyone who asks why this is in here when we’re talking about racial inclusion).

7) Set up and spend money on an inclusion fund to help people who need financial assistance get to the convention.  If you have this, and advertise that it takes donations, people will donate to it, and fans of color who don’t need the services are more likely to come to your convention because it is a sign that you care. 

8.) Commit to doing this for 5 years before you come back and whine that it’s not working.

And though you’d think that post would have been a definitive endpoint to the discussion, people rambled on. As the weeks progressed, it seemed as though there would be no end to this roundabout discussion among the participants.

To accentuate my position, I took it upon myself to post another excerpt from Samuel Delany’s racism essay across Facebook, including a group I am an active member of, Science Fiction For All. Unfortunately, I inadvertently posted the quote twice. The first post was received very favorably by the few members who bothered to comment. The duplicate however, attracted some very unwanted attention…

I wasn’t expecting any comments at all. And if I had known there was a duplicate post at the time, I would have readily deleted it. Instead, I was “gifted” with the presence of one Michael Jones, who proceeded to tell me, in great detail, that my post was extremely problematic:

As some of you may have suspected, the laughing emoji was supplied by Mr. Jones as a parting shot. Sometime between our encounter online, he left as a member of the Science Fiction For All Facebook page. (Whether he was pushed by the admins or jumped on his own is unknown.)  I think I can safely say that he will definitely not be missed by me (or a great many of the current members).

I speculate freely that Mr. Jones is a part of the fannish community that was brought by his parents (and peers) to believe that people matter MORE than their racial ethnicity or national origin. Which is fine, except that as history has shown that setting aside those factors misses the point that continually ignoring people’s cultures, colonization, subjugation and oppression, really DO matter.

In the end, we all must realize that in addition to our personal experiences, we also bring our own sets of biases and prejudices as well. The first step in dealing with some of the more pressing issues in the various factions of fandom today is coming to the realization that these problems exist and that we should be very aware of our own personal shortcomings, or at least be willing to listen and accept constructive criticism when we are confronted with them.

I, and many others have called science fiction (and by inference, fantasy as well) the literature of change. And by change I mean shifts in perspective, either by historical, societal or technological means.

There have been times when I have marveled with dismay that the people who love and admire this branch of literature, can also be the most obstinate, stubborn and hidebound when it is plainly evident that a change in thinking or policy would be a great benefit to fandom.

On the whole, these changes, whether it is for either individuals or our society, is hard but inevitable.

How fandom ultimately deals with it will define us all, for better or for worse.

Let’s emerge from the dark corners. Let’s choose illumination.

There is no ‘them’ and ‘us.’ There is only us.

– Greg Boyle

This column is dedicated to the memory of Frank Johnson, sff fan, global traveler. collector, and a masterful lover of music, art and life itself. (Friends Pay Tribute To WGUC Announcer Frank Johnson | WVXU)

Frank Johnson

It’s About Time

By Rich Lynch: It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel.  Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.

Back in 1939, at the urging of fellow scientists, preeminent physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to the President of the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that Nazi Germany could be planning to develop an atomic bomb.  This, as we know, led to the super-secret Manhattan Project which beat the Nazis to it.  But what if there had also been a second letter from Einstein and Szilard to Roosevelt that warned of the Nazis’ interest in time travel?  And what if that resulted in a second super-secret Government activity, the Indiana Project, which eventually resulted in the creation of a working time machine during the post‑WWII Cold War era?

IMDB describes The History of Time Travel as: “A fictional documentary about the creation of the world’s first time machine, the men who created it, and the unintended ramifications it has on world events.”  And there are no lack of those.  What if, instead of turning the completed device over to the U.S. military, the scientist inventor instead used it to go back in time to save a family member from a deadly disease?  What if the Soviets took notice and stole the machine and its plans for their own uses?  What if persistent meddling in the time stream ended up drastically changing historical events?  And what if it was continuing to happen as the documentary was being filmed?

This is a pretty slick production, especially considering it was made with what must have been a microscopic budget relative to Hollywood norms.  It was structured as a series of short straight-up interview snippets – the Astrophysicist, the Philosopher, the SciFi Writer, the retired Army General, the Time Historian, the family friend – which tell the story in what starts as a straightforward manner.  But then, stuff starts to happen.  Little stuff at first – a coffee cup is a different color, a globe in the background shows a different hemisphere.  And then, not-so-little stuff – a change in an object on one of the interviewee’s desk indicates that the entire history of the world since WWII has been tossed into the blender.  This includes the personal history of the inventor and his family, which becomes wildly recursive until it reaches what seemed to me an inevitable conclusion.

 All this is succinctly and ironically summed up in what one of the interviewees states near the end of the film: “We experience time as we perceive it, but if time could be altered and was being altered would we perceive that?  Would we even notice?”

It’s the ‘noticing’ of all those subtle and not-so-subtle alterations to the timeline that, in part, makes this such an interesting production.  When I watched it at the 2015 Orlando Worldcon, I found it so entertaining that it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it had finally made its way to Orinoco Prime.  And I hear it’s also going to be part of a film festival down in Douglas Commonwealth next year if the COVID-16 pandemic is finally over by then.  Rumor is that President Harris is even going to see it.  You should too.

Hugo Nominees and Other Anime

Star Trek: Lower Decks. ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

By Michaele Jordan: About a month ago, when I posted my first file here on File 770, I was delighted to discover that I was not alone in my fondness for Korean SF/F. (Thank you all!) I immediately started collecting material for a post about fox spirits. (I adore kitsune.) But I had barely started jotting down titles and checking the spelling of Korean actors’ names, when the Hugo ballots were announced.

Of course, everything in the world stopped, while I rushed to order books from the library and line up titles on Netflix, et alia. I particularly noted the anime titles. Several were familiar to me, but I have to admit I the Star Trek titles caught me off guard. I had never even heard of them. So, naturally, my sweetie and I curled up with some snacks, and tuned our electronic hearth to Paramount.

We started with Star Trek: Lower Decks. My first impression—and I mean immediately, like within about 3 frames—was that it looked an awful lot like Final Space. Final Space, alas, did not make it onto the Hugo ballot, although the third season aired on TBS between March and July in 2021. (I like to think it might have been a close race.) It was created by Olan Rogers who then developed it with David Sacks. Officially ShadowMachine in Los Angeles was responsible for the animation but they outsourced it to a Canadian studio, Jam-Filled, who used Toon Boon Harmony software and NASA space images.

If that sounds like more about the animation process than you really wanted to hear, my apologies. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on the research. Because, as I said above, Star Trek: Lower Decks really, really looked like it had been drawn by the same people. Except it wasn’t. The Star Trek show was animated by Titmouse. Creator Mike McMahan (who I hold in high esteem for his work on Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites) specifically wanted a look reminiscent of shows from the turn of the millennium.

Star Trek: Lower Decks main characters.

You could even say the two shows had much in common. Both featured everyman heroes, goofy guys who, despite belonging to a glamorous interstellar military, didn’t have a lot going for them, except their good intentions. Yet they always managed to rise to their occasions, because—if nothing else—they believed in the dream. Unfortunately, Final Space did it a lot better than Star Trek: Lower Decks.

It’s not that I don’t love Star Trek. I’ve been watching it since 1966. (I missed the pilot—or rather, “Mantrap,” which was the first episode aired. I started with “Charlie X.”) My very first convention, back in 1973, was not an SF con, but the International Philadelphia Star Trek Convention. (My boyfriend took me. He had a press pass from the Doylestown Courier—his first job.) But Star Trek is almost as old as I am. It now has rules, and protocols, and boundaries. It is entrenched within its own mythology. You can sit down at any new Star Trek creation, confident that you know exactly what’s going to happen. That’s not what I came to SF/F looking for. Every frame in Final Space was unexpected. But Star Trek: Lower Decks was very predictable, not to mention snarky and sophomoric,

Mind you, I’ll still watch all the new shows, episodes and movies. For instance, we went straight on from Star Trek: Lower Decks to watch Star Trek: Prodigy. My hopes were high. For starters, instead of boring you with production details, I’ll just say it was computer animated. And it is beautiful. Be it aliens or alien worlds, star ships or kitchen tools, every image is gorgeous. If you are wondering why anime fans are, well, anime fans, go look at Star Trek: Prodigy. Anime fans want their field of vision to be filled with wonder. Star Trek: Prodigy does that.

The story starts out a bit darker than I expect of Star Trek. The protagonists are not just a rag-tag band of outcasts, but desperate orphans. They escape from a hellish world/culture by stealing a star ship from their gangster boss. They don’t even know that it’s a Federation ship—they barely know what the Federation is. The only flaw in their escape is that the gangster boss’s little daughter has snuck on board, hoping to stop them.

Pictured: Art for Star Trek: Prodigy . Photo Cr: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

From there on, the story is a bit more traditional. It turns out that, since this is a Federation vessel—and a prototype, at that—it is equipped, not just with a holodeck, but a whole cast of Star Fleet holograms. Foremost among these is Captain Janeway, who appears immediately and designates them as cadets. So our damaged naïfs have someone to train them, protect them from themselves, and, most of all, to care about them. Let the adventures begin!

While I was roaming around, looking for Hugo nominated anime, I stumbled upon (or rather bumped into the widely advertised) Samurai Rabbit. This is not on the Hugo ballot, for the simple reason that it is brand new. But I have high hopes of seeing it on next year’s list of nominees. It is based on the much-admired Dark Horse comic, Usagi Yojimbo, which relates the adventures of Miyamoto Usagi. (Usagi is Japanese for rabbit.) The character is a light-hearted reimagining of the great Japanese ‘sword saint’, Miyamoto Musashi, (1584-1645).

Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles,

I confess that I have never followed the comic. But I am, due to a complicated series of odd chances, in possession of the first issue. I am told it is valuable, and have never dared take it out of its plastic wrapper. So I cannot say how closely the anime follows the comic—I am told there are some significant changes. I can say that, aside from a more three-dimensional imagery, the anime looks very much like the comic.

And it is utterly delightful! The imagery—the sentient animals, the period costumes, the temples, the flying boats, the magic!—is awesome! (Although my husband complains with every episode that the fox should not have her tail growing out of the back of her head.) There is lots of action, and lots of silliness. Please, friends, give it a watch (it’s easy to find—it’s on Netflix) and consider nominating it for next year.

Michaele Jordan was born in LA, educated in New York, and lives in Cincinnati. She’s worked at a kennel, a Hebrew School and AT&T. Now she writes, supervised by a long-suffering husband and two domineering cats. She has numerous stories scattered around the web, and her novel Mirror Maze is available on Amazon. Her website,, is undergoing reconstruction, but just grab a hard hat, and come on in.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Thirty-First

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at Wipe your feet before entering.]

Sign Party

Hello All, Melanie here.

Have you ever had a friend who goes about things in the most contradictory, befuddling way—ways that would make anyone else look like a fool—but for the friend, it works?

Well, X has done it again. I have to say I’m surprised at the turn things are taking for her. It sounds like she has quite a bit going on to keep her mind off writing.

Which, in the scope of the writing universe, is normal.

Without further ado…

Fw: Ball’s in your court

Begin forwarded message:

From: Tod Boadkins

Date: May 5, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT

To: Writer X

Subject: Ball’s in your court


It looks like us getting together is not in the cards. As frustrating as that is, I don’t want to reschedule only to have it cancelled again so it looks like the ball is in your court.

Something you wrote in the email titled “CANCELLING!!!! CLOSET!!!!!” has had me curious. While I feel I may regret asking, what is going on with your closet?

I need you to understand that I do need my notes back. As friends, what can we work out between us so that you can at least share the contents of my notes with me?

This is the last outstanding piece of getting my life back on track since my brother locked me in my basement and impersonated me to the world. I hope you can understand that.

Let me know when you think we can get together so I can hear your side of things.



Fw: Re: Ball’s in your court

Begin forwarded message:

From: Tod Boadkins

Date: May 5, 2022 at 8:24 PM EDT

To: Writer X

Subject: Re: Ball’s in your court


Sorry to hear that your closet is giving you so much grief and for so long. It sounds like something a little more intense than your average fantasy writer’s closet.

Whenever I’m getting ready to write a new book, the closet in my house become more active, too. It’s never so disruptive that disembodied voices talk in my living room or a woman shouts to be let out. It’s just your normal fantasy writer’s closet noises.

I’ve heard that keeping your closet free of storage items can help balance the portal energies that warp when you world build. Maybe you want to clean out your closet and see if that will help. But it sounds like your closet needs something more industrial. Have you tried calling the Society?

In response to your other question: Yes. I’d be happy to stop in for your sign installation ceremony tomorrow. Maybe we can talk about sharing the notes then.



Subject: CAUTION SIGN PARTY!!!!!!!

Dear Glayds,

As you can see I really have my hands full with Tod Boadkins. It’s obvious that his love for me is only deepening and becoming more impossible to deny. I told you last minute cancellations are the surefire way to take your romantic relationships to the next level!!!!!

I can’t write for long as I have to go to the glitter shop and get more purple glitter for the sign Tryxy and I are making. Purple is #bestkittens’ third favorite color. The sign has to be done by tomorrow Gladys!!!!!!

Speaking of tomorrow, I don’t know what to tell Tod Boadkins other than he’s never going to get his notes back. I was walking through the kitchen to take the notes down to Tryxy’s new photocopier in the basement when #bestkitten meowed and I jumped and the notes slipped out of my hand and slid under the fridge before I could stop them and this is just how life is now.

ANyways, I’m writing to invite you to our “Caution: Deaf Kitten at Play” Sign Installation Ceremony and Housewarming Party for #bestkitten tomorrow. Please come out and support #bestkitten!!!!! (And Tryxy!!!! He’s just now figuring out that he didn’t make #bestkitten deaf and that she’s supposed to be that way!!!!!) The event is semi-formal and we’re asking that you bring anchovies to pass.

Don’t wear pink!!!! I don’t want Tod Boadkins to get confused!!!!!!!



Dear Gladys,

It was nice to see you at #bestkitten’s party last night even though you WERE wearing a very slight shade of mauve. As you were saying, yes, we DO have a lot to get caught up on. For one, it was good to have the OLD Gladys back instead of this horrible Melanie that I’ve been having to deal with for the last nine months!!!!

I am a very different writer than I was when you last lived in your own body. I have seen darkness, Gladys. And hell. And Maine. I came very close to selling my first book to Random Haus before they issued the restraining order. And, as you could tell from the way Tod Boadkins was making eyes at me last night and kept trying to change to subject to talk about his missing notes, I am very close to getting married and becoming a fantasy writer POWER COUPLE!!!!!

(If it weren’t for his adorable beard I would have to give him the silent treatment for forever after mentioning The SOCIETY!!!!!!)

That all said, the darkness has definitely changed me. I really need you to look at all the versions of the story that I’ve sent you in the last year and tell me which one you like best BUT ONLY AFTER YOU’VE READ THEM ALL!!!!

Aside from that, I’ve been temporarily on hiatus from writing to focus on #bestkitten’s vet and therapy appointments, Tryxy’s therapy appointments, and getting enough glitter for our Caution: Deaf Kitten at Play sign. You’d be surprised to know how hard it is to find a vat of glitter, Gladys. You’d think it was something that everyone would just keep stocked but NO. People have no survival instincts!!!!! I’ve even had to temporarily postpone any Fellowship meetings until next week!!!!

Btw, (that means by the way) you’re invited to the Fellowship meeting next week even though you haven’t come to any of the other meetings. It will be on Thursday at 12 in the usual place (the Velvet Room at the Library) and we will be discussing how I’m the Chosen One.

In the meanwhile I’m going to hold off working on my story until after you read all the versions I’ve sent you and tell me which one is my story. Then, I’ll work on that version even though I probably will take a little bit from each version and blend them all together. If I had the anti-horcruxes this would all be much easier!!!!

Now that our neighborhood knows that there is a deaf kitten at play and all of #bestkitten’s noisy toys have been replaced with shiny toys, I definitely have other things to think about!!!

More importantly, what do you think of this wedding dress for when Tod Boadkins and I get married???? Are there enough ruffles???? Do you think it should be more neon????


Fw: Putting myself out there

I told you, Gladys!!!!!!


P.S. He’s not getting those notes back. I told you once they’re the fridge they’re under the fridge forever!!!!

Begin forwarded message:

From: Tod Boadkins

Date: May 7, 2022 at 9:08 PM EDT

To: Writer X

Subject: Putting myself out there


Alright. You got me.

I told you the ball was in your court, but I can see I might have to look like a fool on this one.

Since my ex-wife left me, I’ve tried to stay away from this kind of thing. I don’t know what it is, but I keep thinking about you. I’m not sure if I’m attracted to you, or if I’m just really confused about you staking out in my house for two to four weeks and foiling my brother’s plans while raiding my secret room. Or if I just need therapy.

It occurred to me that maybe the reason you keep finding other things to do is because I’m not putting enough on the table.

Let me take you out to dinner.

We can talk about our closets.



















Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Thirtieth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at Wipe your feet before entering.]

The Neutral Ninja

Hello, All! Melanie here.

I could mention that I spent last week passing a kidney stone (fun fun fun) or that it’s my anniversary (yay!) But instead, I’m going to leave this here for your convenience. You may need it later.

Without further ado…

Subject: I need new friends

Dear Gladys,

As a courtesy of our friendship, I am sending you an update on all the various developments in our happy household which YOU don’t live in.

Things are REALY looking up for Demonkitty!!!! Last night the UPS machine dropped off Tryxy’s REAL TRUE DRUM KIT!!!! Now we can use our pots and pans for making apple macaroni and cheese instead of as percussion kits like NORMAL PEOPLE. Tryxy has immediately gotten to work, you should see him. It’s like he’s on a musical honeymoon, rattling off drum fills, banging on the high hatty thing, and just GLOWING although I’ve asked him to please turn down his personal wattage because I was getting tan lines.

Also you may be pleased to discover that I had a vision the other night and, as a result of my incredible creative clairvoyance, I took a sharpie and designed Demonkitty’s BAND LOGO!!!!! Tryxy loves it!!!! Here it is

Isn’t it AMAZING??????? I took #bestkitten’s face and Tryxy’s teeth and PUT THEM TOGETHER!!!!!! And while R____ is now an official member of Demonkitty and I will be an official member sometime soon I’m sure, but the ORIGINAL members are Tryxy and #bestkitten. This is something that all the REAL fans of Demonkitty will know in the future.

Hang on. Tod Boadkins just texted me to ask if he’s seeing me tonight. I have to go last minute cancel our date again!!! Have to keep this man guessing!!!!!


Subject: Re: I need new friends

Okay Gladys, I’m back.

While I’m very excited for Tryxy and #bestkitten, it has become apparent to me that I need new friends. I know that I am very mature and have very subtle emotions, Glayds, but I have not been happy with the way my current friends have handled the Fellowship I invited them to. Fellowships are supposed to work out perfectly. NO ONE HAS OFFICIALLY OFFERED THEIR SWORD OR THEIR AXE, GLADYS!!!!!1!

Even worse, I held another meeting at the Velvet Room in the library YESTERDAY and NO ONE CAME. Of course I sent out all the invitations by ESP five minutes before I called the meeting but you would think that someone would have made the effort!!!!!

I have taken some time and reflected on this and have come to realize the crux of the problem. My friends are all wrong. I’m not trying to get rid of them. They can’t help it that they aren’t as visionary as I had generously assumed them to be, but I definitely need some new ones. Tryxy’s amazing as always but I get the feeling he doesn’t really want to be in the fellowship and I guess that’s okay.

Remember that little black book you had when you were a famous hollywood producer??? I need you to send me ten or twenty names and numbers of new friends and I need you to do it NOW. I’ve already lost an entire TWO WEEKS wasting my time. I am the Chosen One Gladys!!! Dream Gaiman came to ME!!! And my friends don’t even realize what’s right in front of them.

I’m not picky. Some famous actors and models will do. Especially if they look like elves.

In the meanwhile, things are heating up fast in the romance department!!! I have last minute canceled on Tod Boadkins three times so far so things are moving right along. I’ve also spent plenty of time practicing changing my Facebook profile from single to “in a relationship with Tod Boadkins.” Once I accidentally changed it to married and tagged him just to see if it worked, but since he didn’t add me as his spouse I think Facebook must have been having tech issues.

My story pages are not moving. I ordered all these pencils and I still don’t have anything new. My robes and cloaks are helping me feel more like a fantasy writer (too many fantasy writers look like ordinary people, Gladys!!!!) but I am having a small problem with all the whiplash.

Have to go, Gladys! I have an appointment at the chiropractor since I threw my neck out after my ultralong pink Galadriel robes got caught in Mr. Morgan’s automatic doors when I was grocery shopping last week!!! Me and Mr. Morgan are in a heated legal battle again!!!!!


Subject: My my my

Dear Gladys,

Well would you look at this???? Silverfox is finally coming to his senses. I know he SAYS he wants to talk to #bestkitten but I’m pretty sure that’s a typo.

Fw: I’ve been thinking

Oops!!!! Forgot to forward!!!!


Begin forwarded message:

From: Silverfox Firepaw
Date: April 27, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT
To: Writer X
Subject: I’ve been thinking


I am still considering your little offer although I don’t think you will care for my answer.

Mind if I pop by tomorrow? I need to talk to #bestkitten before I share my thoughts.

in friendship,


“writing is weaving real worlds from invisible threads”

Subject: BUGRLAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I’m shaking. Something terrible has happened.

The book burglar BORKE INTO MY HOUSE!!!!!!!!

Also, just because Silverfox is coming over to apologize tomorrow, it doesn’t mean I don’t want those actors and models!!!! Please send immediately.

If it weren’t for #bestkitten coming up for her midnight wedge of ham the burglar would have gotten in without a hitch!!!! Fortunately #bestkitten wants her ham wedge when she wants her ham wedge and apparently when she saw the burglar, he failed to pet her so she meowed the loudest meow that she has ever meowed and all of the glass in the kitchen shattered!!!!!

That’s what drew my attention to the fact that there was a burglar in our kitchen!!!!!! Fortunately my closet has been acting up more than usual and I couldn’t sleep. I was only in the next room over but the burglar didn’t know I was in the next room because you see I had already shot out all the lights for the evening. I had made my way down to make my midnight kettle corn and buffalo chicken chunky dunkers and had gotten as far as the dining room when I was knocked on my coccyx from #bestkitten’s extra loud alarm meow.

I scrambled to my feet and ran after the burglar shouting for Tryxy (who had fallen asleep in his abyss listening to Lil Nas X in his head phones so didn’t hear me.) We both skidded all over the kitchen glass and several times his feet got all tripped up in my robes. I ALMOST HAD HIM GLADYS!!!!! But the slippery bugger kept appearing and disappearing!!!!! He wore this confounded beige and off-white ninja suit so he matched with EVERYTHING!!!!!!! He’s like the Yacht Rock of Thieves!!!!!! Every time I tried to see him I just heard the blue-eyed soul sounds of Spandau Ballet!!!!!

I chased him all the way out into my backyard but then he completely disappeared against all the neutral tones of my evil neighbor A____’s new pop up gazebo and he was gone!!!!!

Oh look! Tod Boadkins just texted me asking me why I listed that we were married on Facebook. I knew he couldn’t resist!!!!

ANyways Gladys, when I went back in my house and checked my safe, my award-winning autographed copy of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown was GONE!!!!!!!!

The book burglar is now one step closer to unlocking the MAP that locates all the anti-horcruxes and my friends haven’t even formalized our FELLOWSHIP!!!!!!!!

To make matters worse, when Tryxy DID wake up he called DETECTIVE FISCHER AND NOW SHE’S ON THE WAY TO INVESTIGATE. This is bad, bad, bad!!!!!

Oh. There are all the red and blue lights.

I have to go gladys.

This is awful.



Dear Gladys,

As you know from my midnight email last night, the Neutral Ninja has stolen my award-winning autographed copy of The Hero and the Crown.

He is now one critical step closer to beating me to all the anti-horcruxes and becoming the most famous and powerful fantasy writer in all of time and I haven’t even gotten ten new words written in my epic fantasy saga in spite of all the branded pencils I now own.

But fate has taken up her cruel baseball bat and banged on the lids of all my metal trashcans YET AGAIN.

The fellowship has betrayed me.

Silverfox came to talk to #bestkitten today and then he very quietly and respectfully came to see me and told me that he had spoken with Marjorie and also now with #bestkitten and they all agree that they will help me but not in the way I was asking. They are willing to combine our powers to locate the Neutral Ninja and return all the stolen autographed copies of the Pillars of Fantasy to their rightful owners. But they aren’t yet sold on helping with the anti-horcruxes especially since they may have deadly guardians, or not exist, OR finding them will give all of the power of writing fantasy to just one person, and putting a stop to the crime wave SEEMS MORE IMPORTANT.



He then asked me very quietly and respectfully what my thoughts and feelings were on the matter and I couldn’t help it, Gladys. I had to tell him about how Dream Gaiman has come to me and has been helping me and that means that I’m the Chosen ONe and you know what he said?

He said, “Oh. Yeah, Dream Gaiman always comes to writers and helps them. It’s just how he is.”

DREAM GAIMAN HAS BEEN VISITING ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE’S DREAMS?????? He’s only supposed to visit mine!!!!! How else am I supposed to muster an inflated feeling of superiority that helps me battle through the hardship that is writing the NEXT BIG EPIC FANTASY SAGA OF ALL TIME!!!!!

And now I’m completely out of popcorn kernels because my kettle corn needs have gone THROUGH THE ROOF since last night!!!!

Oh would you look at that? My copy of The Hero and the Crown was behind the bottles of popcorn oil. I forgot I put it there!!!!!

I’ve foiled the Neutral Ninja this time, Gladys!!!!!! I can do this!!!!

And Tod Boadkins just texted me about our hot date tonight (although he keeps calling it a “meeting”, he’ll wake up, Gadys!!!!)

Oh, the wheels are turning yet again!!! Another email from Silverfox just came in. The Fellowship is gonna be ONNNNN!!!!!!

BRB. (That means be right back.)


Fw: Meant to ask


I have to cancel with Tod Boadkins and take her to the vet IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!

Begin forwarded message:

From: Silverfox Firepaw

Date: April 28, 2022 at 2:17 PM EDT

To: Writer X

Subject: Meant to ask


I meant to ask you when I was there earlier. Were you aware that #bestkitten is deaf? That may be why she has such a powerful set of lungs.

Have you given any thought to our proposal?

in friendship,


“writing is weaving real worlds from invisible threads”










Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Twenty-Ninth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld?s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello all! Melanie here.

Hope you’re off to the start of a great day and a great week. Not to give anything in the following emails away but I’ve been reflecting on the flawed process that is storytelling, that is art.

I spent a couple summers doing traditional beadwork with one of my aunts as a teen. I remember her telling me that, no matter how much you work at making the perfect sunburst pattern or earrings or traditional fan, we always leave in one mistake on purpose because that’s where “the medicine gets in.” It always captivated me, this idea that our flawed nature is the very thing through which healing and magic enter the world.

However it enters your day, I wish you magic.

Without further ado…

Subject: Secret secret SECRET meeting at the Velvet Room

Dear Gladys,

As you know, I am now home from jail having won my battle against Detective Fischer and her trumped up JAYWALKING charges. I’m sure she didn’t know what hit her!!!! I am far more cleaver than people like her imagine!!! AFter all, I AM A WRITER AND WRITERS ARE SAMRT!!!!

AFter I was emailing you last week, I had an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IDEA about how to stop Tod Boadkins’ stupid council from getting to the writing anti-horcruxes before I do!!!!

While you didn’t send me Elrond’s new phone number which was very untimely of you and is one strike against you, I’ve decided that I don’t need Elrond’s help until later. Remember how, in The Lord of the Rings, everyone gets together and decides to throw the one ring into the fires of mount doom? Well it has become ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT I AM FRODO and I need my own group to overthrow Tod Boadkins’ stupid council of the most boringly boring bores.

I am also Elrond.

No, I’m Liv Tyler.

I’m Frodo if Frodo was Elrond and Elrond was Liv Tyler. FInal Answer.

No. I’m Katniss if Katniss was Leia and Leia was Dana Scully who was Beyonce!!!!

What was I saying??? Oh! You are cordially invited to a very secret, super secret gathering at the Velvet Room at the Cradensburg Town Library right NOW to discuss nothing less than the FUTURE of MIDDLE CRADENSBURG!!!

I picked the Velvet Room because it feels a lot more epic than my living room.

Please bring your notebook as I need you to take the minutes. Wear your best robe looking things or maybe a cloak. We’re going for impact here!!!! But don’t draw any attention to yourself!!!!!!


P.S. Could you pick up one of those meat and cheese platters from Mr. Morgan’s.

P.P.S. Oh! And some of those olives that come with the little pickle forks?

P.P.P.S. And some elegant looking goblets for us to drink out of when we’re talking???? I’ll pay youback after I’m famous.

P.P.P.P.S. This is going to break Tod Boadkins’ heart since he is in love with me, but maybe this is the wake up call he needs, Gladys!!!!!

Subject: Still waiting!!!!

Dear Gladys,

My secret secret SECRET meeting is going to start in a little over an hour and I still don’t see you here at the library with or without a cloack and that meat and cheese platter!!!!

But you know who I DO see here???? DETECTIVE FISCHER!!!!!!!!!

She’s poking around in the ancient maps of Cradensburg section!!!!! That’s where I went to look up where the possible locations are for the anti-horcruxes!!!!!!


Oh! Gotta go! The shelf I was hiding on top of just dropped a dusty old encyclopedia volume onto the desk that Fischer is reading at below my sleuthing spot!!!!!


sent from my iPhone

Subject: Minutes from the Fellowship

Dear Gladys,

I know you are probably a new version of Gladys and you are still getting used to being a timeshare entity and all, but I am saying this because I care about you.


Since you are not here I am stuck doing your job. Please keep these minutes in a very secret secret place.

The Fellowship Meeting Minutes
Date – April 23
Location – The Velvet Room at the Cradensburg Town Library
Objective – The FELLOWSHIP

Writer X – the next big epic fantasy writer
#bestkitten – the best kitten, vocalist for band DemonKitty
eventually Tryxy – showed up late but is the drummer for band DemonKitty (get the strange feeling that Tryxy does not want to be here. So weird.)
Marjorie – receptionist at The House of Nine Gables. Writes but never shows it to anyone.
Silverfox – incredible Furry Fiction writer, makes good harpoons in a pinch



Refreshment provided: Donuts by Marjorie

Writer X has sworn everyone to secrecy.

Meeting is paused to kick out high schooler that wandered in because we have donuts.

Writer X has very elegantly explained the existence of an unknown number of ancient hidden writing anit-horcruxes that will endow the bearer with unspeakable mastery over that element of writing so that they can rule all of the writing world and become the most epic of epic fantasy writers of all times. Writer X looks a lot like Beyonce if Beyonce were Dana Scully who was Leia and Leia was Katniss.

Marjorie says wait, what.

Silverfox says you’re kidding me right.

Marjorie says she never kids.

Silverfox says how are they anti-horcruxes, what does harry potter have to do with all this? I mean are we talking about killing people to cut off pieces of our souls or something?

Marjorie says possibly, knowing X.

eventually Tryxy says do you even know where these anti-horcruxes are.

Writer X elegantly explains that the true locations are yet to be fully known but that they will reveal themselves to the worthy soul, the one who is destined to become the next big epic fantasy writer of all time if her friends would just get with it.

Silverfox says why are we continuing with this conversation without discussing the fact that these things can’t exist.

Marjorie says why do you say that?

#bestkitten says mew mew

Silverfox says awwww she’s so cute I say that because if there are (uses air quotes) anti-horcruxes that could bestow a writer with such powers, and they’re as ancient as you say they are, don’t you think others would have found them by now?

Marjorie says not necessarily

Silverfox says okay okay I’ll give you that. If they haven’t been found yet, doesn’t that tell you that maybe they’re not the easiest thing to get to and when I say easy I mean they’re probably at the top of some cliffs or guarded by some monster or something, right?

eventually Tryxy looks shiftily back and forth.

Marjorie says think about what finding something like that could mean. It could mean writing the most perfect book that isn’t problematic in any way. I mean, you could write a story that can’t be picked apart for its moral failings in any era. All of fantasy fandom would have a single book—

Writer X sexily interjects: or series of nine books

Marjorie continues: that could unite every reader in every time. Wouldn’t you want to read that book? Wouldn’t you want it to exist?

Silverfox blinks and says Ummmmm, first of all that sounds terrifying. And that also sounds like an even greater argument for the existence of monsters as guardians.

Tryxy looks even more shifty.

Someone clears their throat loudly from the doorway.

Detective Fischer: The meeting room registry said that a secret secret SECRET group was convening in the Velvet Room. With a name like that, had to check it out for myself. Hello X, how’s freedom treating you?

Silverfox says Did you ever find out who’s stealing all the fantasy books around here?

Detective Fischer once overs everyone, smirks, and leaves.

Silverfox says I’ll take that as a no.

Writer X elegantly redirects the fellowship to the situation at hand, namely her writing career. Her voice sounds like Galadriel. She says that there is already a group of pretentious established writers who are trying to use their status to get access to the anti-horcruxes, people who already have established careers and books out with their names on them and if they were to get their stuffy claws on the anti-horcruxes before I do, it means none of us will be able to get our god awful stuff published. Time is running out.

Marjorie says why are you using that weird voice.

Tryxy says How about instead of sitting here holding meetings in library rooms you go home and keep working on your novel, X. You always get started and then when things get hard you just stop writing and try to find the easy way out or the completely irrelevant way out.

Marjorie says Are you a writer?

Tryxy says I write songs

Marjorie says Songs aren’t stories. Taking a break from your writing is still writing. You can’t yell at a writer for not writing.

Silverfox is chewing his lips like he’s trying not to say something completely accurate.

Tryxy says she ordered 5000 pink personalized pencils this week to help her feel better about the middle of her book. Did you tell them that, X?

Writer X elegantly says I don’t know what that has to do with anything.

Tryxy says the pencils aren’t going to write the book for you.

Silverfox says where do you keep 5000 pink pencils.

Marjorie says even if we were to find these anti-horcruxes, how are we going to divvy them up? We haven’t talked about that at all.

Silverfox says X should divvy up the pencils. Why 5000?

#bestkitten speaks in a combination of purrs, stretches, showing her belly, and nose bumps that suggest she believes they should work together with the Tod Boadkins Circle of Abominable Bores to stop the book-burglar and return the stolen fantasy books to their rightful homes.

Silverfox says she’s so blooming cute do you keep the pencils in their own pencil boxes?

Writer X mysteriously rises from the grand meeting table as her fellowship fights among themselves and stands near the overstuffed velvet pillows, stares distantly at the painting of Mr. Ernest L. Crankweil that they keep in here for some reason even though it doesn’t go with the pillows. She draws a recorder from her flowing pink robes and as the others continue to squabble, she plays a haunting version of the blue bell of scotland or at least the parts of it she can remember. Silence falls on the companions.

The librarian is standing in the doorway clearing her throat.

Librarian says Excuse me. We don’t allow people to blow on whistles in the library. Your time has run out and the Cradensburg Living Chess Board Cosplay Club is waiting for their turn in the velvet room. Is that a cat?

Gotta go, Gladys!!!!!

Fw: Let’s Talk


I am home from the library!!!!!


What should I do???? I can’t call off the fellowship now I just ordered more robes and cloaks!!!!!!


Begin forwarded message:

From: Tod Boadkins

Date: April 23, 2022 at 1:38 PM EDT

To: Writer X

Subject: Let’s Talk


I haven’t heard from you since we visited my “friends.”

I’ve been doing some thinking.

I don’t like the way I handled things down there.

Especially considering that—even though your methods baffle me, you were the only person that suspected my brother was up to something and you tried to do something about it.

That says a lot about you.

I let my “friends” be dismissive of you.

I wanted you to understand that this is bigger than you or me.

I guess I hoped you could see yourself as part of it. My “friends” didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet. They acted with a lot of pretension.

Let’s be honest. You and I don’t have a lot in common as individuals. We’re in very different places in our respective careers but I guess we both love the craft in our own ways. I haven’t emphasized our commonality. I can be a blockhead, okay?

My ex-wife always said I didn’t listen. In the rush of trying to get my life back on track, I haven’t given you any space to have a voice in all this.

I’m not trying to be friends or anything, but I’ve tried to get through to you for weeks now and have failed. Maybe it’s time I listen. At least once.

Let me buy you a coffee.

Say… at Ink Black (Coffee Club)? Tomorrow?
















Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Twenty-Eighth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld?s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All! Melanie here. =)

I hope your Pesach and/or Easter and/or Ramadan treated/is treating you well. Do you do much for the holidays?

My kids recently commented to me that we don’t really celebrate any holidays. I was mildly perturbed. The way I see it, being multi-racial and multi-cultural, we celebrate SO many holidays that the only way to keep up with them all is to simply acknowledge that they’re a day and they exist.

My youngest’s response? “Yeah, mom. So basically because we celebrate all of them, we don’t celebrate ANY of them.”

And here I was thinking we were all festively doing nothing.

Without further ado?


Dear Gladys,

I know that you are receiving this email earlier than you are used to and I technically still have three more days to wallow in despair about all these already established writers trying to steal the anti-horcruxes out of my very hands!!!! Sorry, I know that wasn’t the end of the sentence. But it should be, Gladys!!!! I get very upset!!!!

Anywoo, where was I???

RIGHT. There was another book burglarly!!!! ON HORN HILL!!!! In the middle of the day!!!!! Tryxy and #bestkitten are in band practice and R____ just came over with his keyboard because they’re auditioning keyboard players and, the next thing I know, Ms. B___ waltzes over and snootily says “Oh! I’m just checking to see if you have an alibi because someone just broke into Elvis Parkinson’s house and stole his autographed copy of The Wheel of Time and I figured it was YOU.”

NOW THEY’RE STEALING ROBERT JORDAN???? THAT’S TOO FAR, GLADYS!!!! That means the thief is ONE STEP CLOSER to being able to unlock the MAP if I can believe voices I hear in bathrooms!!!!

I’ve got to do something, Gladys. Even worse, my evil neighbor A____ is out there running a SMEAR campaign against me in the neighborhood!!!! And she sent me a bill for her broken living room window but she’s not very smart, is she Gladys???? THE WAGON WHEEL BROKE HER WINDOW. I DIDN’T!!!!!!!!!!

Gotta go!!! The police are starting to arrive. I’m going down to the scene of the crime!!! Someone has to tell these police officers what they need to do and make it clear to my neighbors that I’m not stealing their books!!!!

Have to put down the phone, need to focus on my power walk!!!!


P.S. I’m still going to use my three days of wallowing!!!!

sent from my iPhone

Subject: I’m much calmer now, you can go ahead and call me back

Dear Gladys,

If you are wondering who was calling you from the town jail THAT WAS ME!!!! Did you check your messages????????


P.S. PLEASE TEXT TRYXY AND ASK HIM TO TURN OFF MY DEVILED EGGS!!!! They will burn while I’m in jail!!!!!

P.P.S. Can you please talk to Tryxy about letting me audition for DemonKitty. I told him I was a virtuoso recorder player in third grade but I think he needs to hear it from you!!!!!

sent from my iPhone

Subject: Checking in

Dear Gladys,

I’m now emailing you from Detective Fischer’s computer as part of the deal I am working out with her in exchange for my IMMINENT RELEASE.

I’m sure you are dying to know about my book.


Gladys — what if my artistic soul is pointed in the wrong direction? What if instead of becoming a famous epic fantasy writer, I’m supposed to become a famous musician in the band DemonKitty???

Sitting here in jail, I just feel like I’m finally seeing the writing on the wall. What if the reason I can’t get anywhere with my writing is because the industry is TOO CROWDED???? There’s almost NO ONE trying to be famous pop stars. It’s a WAY LESS competitive field. And I still have that recorder I bought when we were in third grade.

I just feel like the right answer was in front of me all along. Or in front of me, but in a trunk full of all the crap I kept from when I was a kid.

But what I’m really writing to you about is — if Detective Fischer questions you, DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE ANTI-HORCRUXES!!!!! WE DON’T KNOW WHOSE SIDE SHE’S ON!!!!

Did Tryxy get back to you yet about leting me audition??? Tell him I can play greensleeves and the bluebells of scotland. Mostly. If you give me a few tries.


All correspondences sent from this device are subject to review by law enforcement and can be used as evidence in a court of law.

Subject: Proposal

Dear Gladys,

I?m still here with lame-o Detective Fischer and she is really trying to put the thumbscrews in but I think I?m wearing her down!!!!

I?m writing to offer you a proposal you can’t refuse.

What if I let you become my new music manager?????

Isn’t that exciting????

The first thing I need you to do is draw up a contract with me as the star recorder player?recordist? recordian? record player?

ANywiz, I need you to draw up a contract with me and DemonKitty and send it right back to me, okay??? This will immediately guarantee that you get at least 10 percent of whatever I get!!!! Well. Two percent. WIth possibilities of expanding to 10 percent. Or three percent. Or two point five.


All correspondences sent from this device are subject to review by law enforcement and can be used as evidence in a court of law.


Dear Gladys,


As a result, I STILL have not been released from jail. However, on the bright side, I have got Detective Fischer RIGHT WHERE I WANT HER. She is now allowing me unlimited emails!!!!

I’m still waiting for you to send me the contract but don’t worry, I will give you a little time to go to an entertainment lawyer and make sure everything is perfect.

As I’ve been sitting there in the interrogation box, I’ve been thinking about this whole anti-horcrux thing and why I am so upset other than the fact that all of these established writers and editors are trying to sabotage my writing career!!!!! It’s been hard to put my finger on it but I think I have come down to the center of my problem.

Tod Boadkins is in love with me.

Why else would he have such an adorable beard???? And why else would I watch him stalking me from my window where he couldn?t see me for three whole hours instead of getting any writing done???? OBviously he is really in love with me and I really can’t blame him. I mean, he’s a writer and he is obviously drawn to the fact that he has spent several weeks imprisoned in his own basement in the same building as the next big epic fantasy and/or famous recorder player for DemonKitty. WE’RE A POWER COUPLE!!!!

Well, no. C____ and I were the real power couple.

But Tod Boadkins is close.

Why else is he hellbent on getting those notes about the possible location and leads of one of the anti-horcruxes??? Obviously he just wants to be close to me!!!!

How do I get him to wake up to this, Gladys????

I need you to consider being my match-maker. I could probably even talk Tod Boadkins into signing with your new management company!!!!!

Anywoot, I have to go. Detective Fischer has more questions about my ninja suit and my role in sabotaging a sea-going vessel full of memoirists.


All correspondences sent from this device are subject to review by law enforcement and can be used as evidence in a court of law.

Subject: My Secret Secret SECRET Scheme

Dear Gladys,

THIS IS MY LAST EMAIL TO YOU FROM JAIL. I’m writing to let you know that I think I have the solution to our little underground secret secret group of people trying to get the anti-horcruxes before I do!!!!

Watch for my next email which should come before Sunday of next week.

It’s time to summon a fellowship, Gladys!!!!! Don’t tell Detective Fischer!!!!!

Do you have Elrond’s phone number?


All correspondences sent from this device are subject to review by law enforcement and can be used as evidence in a court of law.



















Fight With Art

By James Bacon: “Fight With Art” is an exhibition of Ukrainian Contemporary Art created under exceptional circumstances taking place now in Kraków at the Manggha Museum until April 30. 

We reached out to curator Artur Wabik to learn more of this topical exhibition:

“The War in Ukraine affects the entirety of Europe and European people, including artists, curators, and other workers in the cultural sector. While providing shelter to refugees, and sending food and supplies to the fighters, we must not forget that our first language of expression is culture and art. With this strong foundation, we can fight today for truth and peace. Culture is the arbiter of civil society, it prevents us from sliding into the arms of brash propaganda and naked aggression.

“This is perfectly understood by the artists from Ukraine, who have been involved in building a civil society since 2014, creating works that comment on the current political and social situation. Many of them arise in opposition to Russian disinformation. Perhaps that is why they eagerly use popular, concise art forms, such as murals, stencils, posters, or comics.

“This War that now engulfs Ukraine meant that many of these artists had to put away their pencils and paintbrushes and reach for real weapons. One of them is street art artist, Dima Fatum, whose illustration, which is the leitmotif of the exhibition, was created a few days ago in the bombed Kharkiv. Others emigrated to Poland, where they started cooperation with the local artistic community and formed new friendships.

“It is our duty to give a voice to artists from Ukraine and to create a platform for the presentation of their works. Both those created at the front and those created in exile, Ukrainian contemporary art, and its creators need our support more than ever. We give selflessly, remembering that once Polish artists also received shelter and support from greater Europe. Today, we honor an old debt and we will pay and pay it forward, and persevere.

“Fight With Art is a living, experimental exhibition that will change. As life has now unexpectedly changed because of the war in Ukraine.”

The exhibition was opened on Monday, April 4, and there are some meetings planned with the Ukrainian artists and art critics who are already in Kraków. There is also a desire to launch an online auction of selected works.

As well as refugees who have found safety in Kraków, artists from Kyiv and Lviv are represented. Most of them are members of Ukrainian Assembly Comix or The Will Publishing.

(The Patreon we mentioned for The Will and the Anthology Comic The War is going very well with art being added continually — ( 

The exhibition is presented as part of FestivALT in cooperation with the Muzeum Komiksu and the Muzeum Sztuki i Techniki Japo?skiej Manggha at the Manggha Museum – Marri Konopnickiej 26, Krakow, Poland.

Artur Wabik adds, “Some artists hid their works to protect their art from the war and they agreed to transport their works to Lviv and from there to Krakow in order to make them available to a wider audience, others sent us the materials in electronic form to be printed in Krakow. Others are Ukrainian artists currently living in Poland. We want help Ukrainian artists fight with their art!”

FB video of exhibition by Viktoriia Steblyk:

Two images and poster. 

The following works were created in March by Dima Fatum, a street art artist who was involved in a territorial defense of Kharkiv. All of them are war-related and were created between shellings.

Many thanks and best wishes to Artur and all the Ukranian artists.  

R.M.S. Titanic … “A Night To Remember”

The Titanic in Belfast.

By Steve Vertlieb: It was one hundred ten years ago, on the night of April 14, 1912, at approximately 10:40 PM, when R.M.S. Titanic met her irrevocable date with destiny, striking an iceberg in the icy Atlantic and, within hours, sinking beneath the frozen waves of unthinkable terror.  Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board. Her sinking, two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (ship’s time; 05:18 GMT) on Monday, April 15, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people. 

She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.”  This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years.

As a little boy, during the early to mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the bridge of a huge ocean liner, cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. I’d stare at the icy sea from her deserted decks in spellbound fascination, shivering in the black night as the infinite waters of eternity reached out from their depths to consume me. A sense of fear … of helplessness … of consummate trepidation and terror … wracked my subconscious memories as though trying vainly to recall a distant recollection … a troubled remembrance, lost and adrift in my subconscious … a horrifying perception of some tragic event waiting in the rapidly diminishing distance of my recollection, both to claim and ultimately consume me. After a time the ship seemed to disappear from my limited field of vision, and I’d find myself transposed … walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, as I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night in fear, unable to awaken, with encroaching dread. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself standing next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. It beckoned to me. I sensed that somehow I belonged within the crumbling remnant of this decaying, watery tomb. I awoke screaming on each of these nights, clawing at the lamp beside my bed in order to brighten the darkness and return a semblance of sanity to the infinite darkness.

I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for what seemed an eternity. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats, along with a crippling sense of dread, and ominous foreboding. I’ve never subscribed to the concept of reincarnation … except in this singular instance. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d returned three decades later as a little boy, awaiting his terrible fate and destiny, beneath the frigid waters of the Atlantic once more. I fear the ocean still. I cannot swim, nor have I ever wished to learn.

Once, in the waters off Puerto Rico, I stepped into a hole in the sand near shore, and felt myself drowning. I screamed in abject terror at the thought of being consumed by the darkness beneath the sun, begging for someone to reach out their hands to pull me back. In another instance, floating in the calm waters of The Dead Sea in Israel, I began drifting further and further from the comforting shore. Unable to stand, I cried out in terror for someone to rescue me. While I recognized intellectually that it may have been impossible to drown in these distant waters, the thought of being carried involuntarily out to sea, unable to break my descent into oblivion, brought icy dread to my heart, as I screamed for help. In moments of clarity, I try in vain to calm my imagination and return somehow to the clouded perception of reality.

And yet, there have been moments, while walking along the friendly boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, caressed by summer breezes, that I’ve grasped the railing adjoining the darkened beach, stared out into the beckoning waters of The Atlantic, and allowed my already fertile imagination to lose its roots in the present. In those nightmarish moments, as I lose my grip upon my surroundings, I imagine the ocean rushing toward me, reaching out its icy tentacles in the troubled night, to consume and envelop me, I stare into the night, frozen in a grip of debilitating fear, wanting to scream … but I cannot. It remains a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams … a vision blurred by the passage of time, yet ever lurking malevolently beneath the icy waters of the eternal sea.

May God rest Titanic, along with her immortal soul, and the souls of all those who perished on that terrible night.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Twenty-Seventh

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here!

I… I thought we would be receiving more antagonistic scrapbooking photos and I, for one, was here for it. I wasn’t expecting the tone of this series of emails. Or this unexpected (but valid) criticism of the way I answer emails.

Anyway, I hope your week is off to a good start and that you feel twinkling with magic? Don’t go climbing down any holes. There could be people inside them that make you feel small.

Without further ado…


Dear Gladys,

How are you? I’m FINE.

Quick question: Why don’t you answer your phone when I call you? I’m beginning to think you don’t want to talk to me but I know that is perfectly ridiculous. It must be because you have a new person inside you again. If this is so, I would like to introduce myself to this person until the other people in you return even if it just ends up being Melanie who never responds to any of the pages I send you.

Hi, new person. Welcome to your timeshare body. I suppose. My name is Writer X and I am ONLY one of your CLOSEST FRIENDS IN THE WORLD??? We went to high school together and I am going to be the next HUGE epic fantasy writer of ALL TIME so if you were wise, you will prioritize my emails and phone calls because everyone wants to be friends with someone famous and that means being friends with them BEFORE they’re famous so that when People magazine interviews me they also interview YOU and you could be like the cool friend who was like “I always knew X was amazing. She just has this glow about her and a little twinkle of magic.” Then I could look at the camera and say, “Oh, you’re too funny, Gladys! Isn’t she funny?” And they could take pictures of us and I will look AMAZING and twinkling with MAGIC!!!!

You are the Kelly Rowland to my Beyonce. Nice to meet you!!!!

Oh. Gotta Go. Police are here and I need to climb under my couch and pretend not to exist.



Dear Gladys,

I’m FURIOUS!!!! Oh, btw. Tryxy says “Hi!!” HE’S ABOUT TO SHOP FOR SNACKS.


Okay, right now I am sitting in my car in the parking lot of the gas station and I’m SO MAD!!! Remember those Anti-Horcruxes I wasn’t telling you about??? And about the notes that Tod Boadkins will never ever see again in his life??? And how he invited me to something so that I wouldn’t call the cops on him???? And he has a fantasy book out right now called Broken Tides?????

WELL I WENT. I got all dressed up in my MOST WRITERLY PINK and put on my new thigh-high spelunking boots and instead of staying home and working on my story to the sound of my closet going berserk or listening to Demonkitty band practice, I WENT.

First of all, we had to drive out to these old caves on the other side of Swamp Hill (did you know those caves were there???) Then we had to do all this repelling and the headlamps messed up my hair and then we were in some old granite ruins carved away in the bedrock by ancient underground rivers and run through with little black streams of water and then we had to trudge for A MILE up the streams of water UNDERGROUND smelling like MUD and SQUELCH (I can only describe the smell as SQUELCH!!!) to get to this narrow passage where hissing gas lamps lined the dripping walls and then there was this little door that was like an entire foot thick and then we had to squat through this little door and then we were standing on the outside of this building that I had no idea was down there but was built like an upside house. All the chandeliers were on the floor and the furniture was nailed to the ceiling. It was so damp that all my clothes stuck to me and became insufferably itchy and Tod Boadkins looks back at me and says, “No matter what happens, you can’t tell anybody about this place, do you understand?” And of course I lied.

And then we went into this room that was like an upside library and there weren’t any croissants.

There was an entire group of people who were down there who all felt they were VERY important and VERY smart and they all announced that they were editors and agents and writers with actual books published and publishers who own publishing houses I’ve never heard of and explained—since I was new there—that they were part of a very NOBLE secret group while they were telling me all the things they’ve accomplished and how many degrees of separation they are from Brandon Sanderson. I began to feel very unimportant and very dumb. And some of them had books that sounded like ones I want to read and that made me feel the opposite of twinkling with magic!!!!! And while they were friendly and cordial when they found out that the only thing I’ve ever finished writing was a bunch of True Blood fan fiction they all just looked at Tod Boadkins and one of them said, “Are you sure she should be here?”


I was extremely upset, Gladys!!!! Then Tod Boadkins told me not to worry about anything that we were really here to go to the SECRET secret group and we left the room and the people who didn’t have any croissants and went down this set of stairs, and then down another…and then down another…and then down another until it felt like we were so far underground that we would drop out the other side of the earth and we must have because when we got down the last set of stairs there was a moon in the sky and this circle of standing stones with a bunch of tall white thrones made of rock situated in the center like chunks of dried pineapple in the middle of a fruitcake and there were these figures in glittering robes sitting in the seats looking down on us and you know what they did??? They told me to give Tod Boadkins back his notes because I—ME!!!! I!!!!! am “holding up their progress” which is “the most important thing that could ever happen to the written word EVER.”

And they STILL didn’t have any croissants!!!!

Anyways, Gladys, this is EATING ME UP RIGHT NOW and I would keep talking to you about it but there are all these police cars suddenly coming down the road behind me and I think I need to go hide in the dumpster behind the gas station until Tryxy comes out.

BRB. (That means be right back.)

Write later.


sent from my iPhone

Subject: I need to tell you what happened when I went to the toilet

Dear Gladys,

I’m home now. It turns out the police weren’t after me which was confusing and so I followed them and it turns out there was another book burglary here in town and I saw Detective Fischer furiously eating a microwaved burrito in her car (and she chews really strangely, like a chipmunk.) She must have felt me staring at her because she SWIVELED HER EYES RIGHT AT ME and I had to cram my head down so she couldn’t see who I was as I was driving away and I smacked my forehead on my steering wheel and now I have a goose egg. Fortunately, I didn’t hit a mailbox until I had already turned the corner and was out of her view.

Anyways, I was telling you about what happened when I went to Tod Boadkins secret SECRET group. Well, I asked if I could go to the bathroom and that was back up two flights of stairs and Tod Boadkins said he had to go to the bathroom too so he would take me there but I really didn’t have to go to the bathroom, Gladys, I really had to cry and I didn’t want anybody to see me.

So there I am, in the bathroom and there’s a vent above the toilet and through the vent I can hear people talking and one of them is Tod Boadkins. And you know what they’re talking about??? The BOOK BURGLARIES!!! They’re all saying something about how whoever is stealing the autographed fantasy books must be trying to use them to unlock the MAP and if THAT person unlocks the MAP then they’re all SCERWED because then that person will know where all the anti-horcruxes are and can get to them first.

Here’s the thing, Gladys. I am having a very hard week. Tryxy and I are both back to working full time selling tractors and—while I am suddenly able to pay my mysteriously large credit card bills, I no longer have the luxury of being a FULL TIME WRITER. I’ve done ALL this work—and my demon from the void of Ashiput did all this work—and I STILL don’t have anything to show for it!!! And I looked through my pages and none of it is making any sense any more at all. And then you’ve got TOD BOADKINS here and he ALREADY has a book out and he’s friends with a bunch of people who are ALREADY editors and agents and writers with books out SO WHY DOES HE NEED THE ANTI-HORCRUXES OF WRITING??? There are people like me out here who need them more than he does!!!! And all these people want to do is get all the Anti-Horcruxes so they can have more books published and be more powerful and MORE famous and I haven’t even finished my first draft and my closet has started up again!!!


And Tod Boadkins only wants to talk to me because he thinks he’ll get his notes about where the first anti-horcrux is back. I spent all those weeks stalking him in his house and THIS is all he cares about????

I feel GREAT.

How am I supposed to get to the anti-horcruxes first before Tod Boadkins and all his super-important already established writing friends steal all the horcruxes and become such powerful fantasy writers that no reader would EVER want to read my books?????


It’s too late for croissants. I need an emotional support Twinkie, a bubble bath, and about 46 positive mood candles. And maybe some Yanni. And I need C____. But he’s dead and I don’t know how to bring him back.

I think this is my dark night of the soul. I have to go. I’m just glad I have Tryxy and #bestkitten.