When Rape Is Okay: A Commentary on Game of Thrones and Outlander

It isn’t. Unless—

Game of Thrones is a violent, raw world. So is Outlander. The fans occupy a space near each other if not overlapping in a significant manner. However, the demographics are different, but as far as popularity and presence in the cultural zeitgeist, both are clearly positioned to be permanent entries in our social memory.

Sansa Stark Was Raped.

In this week’s Game of Thrones, the character of Sansa Stark was assaulted on her wedding night (a forced affair of its own) by a sadist named Ramsay Bolton. She lay, teary eyed as she was violated by a character who is, to be frank, superseded only by Outlander’s Black Jack Randall in terms of puerile, horrific tendencies. Both characters are torturers. Both are thrilled by blood and pain and hate. Both are men. Both are powerful.

But there is a distinct difference between these characters and their respective audiences.

Enter the Frauds.

A major culture blog (not worth naming here) who purports to be the voice for women in geek culture suddenly decided that they could not, in good conscience, promote Game of Thrones due to the issue of rape. Their breathless determination created a hue and cry from both sides of the fandom, to which the show runners and writers have been forced to comment from atop their giant,well-earned pile of money. But the response by these bloggers, who hold the delicate flower of womanhood in their collective hands, is a lie. They’re frauds, and here’s why.

Where Were You When. . . ?

Ramsay Bolton tortured and maimed another character, Theon Greyjoy, in a brutal, long-lasting physical and psychological assault that culminated in cutting off Theon’s penis. The member in question was only removed after two women were– shamed? Forced? Raped?– by Ramsay Bolton himself, who encouraged them by whatever means to engage in sex with Theon, excite him, and then have the offending penis (which was noted to be large— no symbolism there, eh?) cut off in a savage act of terror. Theon is now a broken, stinking shamble of a human, but more on that in a moment– he’s not important right now. My suspicion? To the bloggers who “defend women”, he never was.

Outlander Fans: Made of Sterner Stuff?

 In the show Outlander, Black Jack Randall is in the process of breaking Jamie Fraser’s character into shards, and then proceeding to sodomize each and every one of those fragments. Ramsay Bolton and Black Jack Randall are, at the least, spiritually kindred, and enthusiasts of blood, rape, and fear. Their tastes deviates somewhat in flavor, but ultimately, they’re drinking from the same trough of pain.
The Outlander fandom is fiercely defensive of the characters, and they accept the brutal transgressions that are happening– not enthusiastically, true, but the writer Diana Gabaldon ( a female, in case you were wondering) wrote these events not to fetishize violence or engage in “rape culture” as the Blog That Shall Not Be Named has implied.
No. This is fiction and world building, and there’s also one other small detail that we’ve overlooked which clearly brands the originators of this furor as frauds, and possibly highly specialized misanthropes.
What ever could it be?

That’s Right. The Victims Are Men.

If the Blog That Shall Not Be Named was consistent, then they would be burning down the offices of Tall Ship productions (who handle Outlander) and they would have long since attacked HBO. But no. They didn’t. That leaves me with two possibilities:
1) The bloggers are blissfully unaware of the millions of Outlander fans, in which case they’re both inept and amateur.
2) As long as the sodomy, mutilation, and horror is directed at men, it’s cool.

To reiterate: Theon had his penis cut off. He had fingers removed. He participated in forced rapes. Jamie Fraser actually utters a line in one of the Outlander books (to paraphrase) that Black Jack Randall smeared Jamie’s own blood on his penis and raped his mouth.

Are you fucking kidding me? These events are front and center in both narratives (Game of Thrones and Outlander), but The Blog That Shall Not Be Named can only now get around to mustering some righteous indignation? Spare me.

Additional fun fact, with apologies to the talented actress Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark– there were quite a few brown women raped and killed in imaginative ways on Game of Thrones, but it took a lily-white redhead to really get your collective dander up? So you’re not only frauds, and soft-core man haters, but you’re bigots as well?

Well done. I’ve always said I prefer my enemies to be open about their prejudices, and this event has illuminated the beliefs of a great many bloggers/media geeks/ talking heads.

Thanks for unintentionally revealing your inner demons. They’re disgusting, and now you can live with them in the open. As for me, I’ll remain a fan of both franchises, and your future outrage will be duly noted, but not by me.

How could I understand? I’m a man, and I know what you think that’s worth.


The Birthday Donkey Whisperer

Seven Years Ago, I Became A Dad.

My bride and I brought a relatively normal sized infant into the world. He’s growing at an alarming rate, due in part to the height on both sides of the family. Missy comes from a long line of Vikings. I come from a long line of angry American mutts- all quite tall. It’s a genetic match made in heaven if your goal in life is to produce a child who will never need a stepladder to change light bulbs. This is the boy:

The Post-Apocalyptic landscape is our backyard in the glory of “Spring”, a mythical season that’s actually just a period of mud followed by storm warnings, hail, and then the heat of summer. The boy is lounging, being tall. That’s what he does.

We Had A Birthday Party.
He turned seven. We ate a lot of birthday food, had fun, and rode around in a train that we hired for the afternoon. It was delightful. Here we are in our Official Land’s End Camouflage. We like stripes:

 It was held at my Mother-in-Law‘s home; she has more room and less barking dogs. Her backyard is adjacent to a pasture, where there are friendly horses and a donkey whom we’ve known for more than a decade.
This is the donkey:

I must confess: I don’t know a lot of donkeys, but this guy seems to be an absolute gem. He’s not stubborn at all. He’s friendly, fuzzy, generally cheerful, and seems to be willing to charge across any amount of open pasture to answer my bride’s call. She is. . . the Donkey Whisperer. Don’t get me wrong; all animals love her. But this donkey obeys, and he gives the impression of tail-wagging, even though that’s more a dog thing.

He’s besotted with her. Me too, but I get to live inside. And wear pants.

There are an array of horses, too– quite friendly, a bit quirky, as horses are, and fun for the son to feed.

Handsome fellow. Again, I confess to not knowing a great deal about horses unless they are French War Horses, or some other variety used throughout the Middle Ages/Renaissance. That’s more my area, but these guys are dandy. They put the frosting on the party, so to speak.

That concludes the farm report. New audiobook is out this week, it’s fantastic (Thank you Rebecca Cook!). All three current books are chugging along beautifully. I’ve got a zombie short story on Amazon, too– fun for a quick read.
Find everything here: Terry’s Dragons and Zombies and Critters. Oh my.
 If you like audiobooks and want a review copy, let me know. I’ve got a few to give away.

Until next time. Cheers!

The Moon Can Be Lonely

Moonlight is the Great Mood Setter.

I’m writing a book where the main character loves the floor of her kitchen because that’s where the moon shines. That’s autobiographical; in our house, the moons shines perfectly onto the kitchen floor with a buttery square that, over the course of a night, turns into a rhombus. Or a parallelogram. Maybe both are true, but this isn’t 7th grade math, so we’ll just say the light from the moon changes shape.

This is, allegedly, a rhombus.

People like to write sad songs. Enter the moon.

If love and the moon didn’t exist, I’m not sure what anyone would write songs about. Let’s face it, the moon does double duty– it can be uplifting, and it can signify the futility of every stupid thing that is happening in your life at the moment you cast your eyes skyward and see that Big Ball of Judgment hanging overhead. Seriously, if you can listen to Neko Case sing about the moon and not feel queasy, you’ve got a constitution of stone.
A full moon elicits us saying that everyone except us is crazy, unless you’ve just said to hell with it and embraced your own crazy. More power to you. I for one have experienced both sides of this moon issue. On the water, the moon is particularly powerful. It can force us to assess our lives, or try for a kiss at the girl standing with us, or even decide to pick up the phone and forgive someone. The moon has that kind of clout.

“Don’t mind me. I’m just snickering at your life.”

A sense of wonder, too.

Maybe you’re immune to wonder. I hope you aren’t. I hope that whatever happens, you aren’t robbed of the ability to be dumbstruck by the elegance, or distance, or even the sheer alien nature of something that seems like a marvelous, luminary toy that hangs just out of our reach.When the moon is a whisper, at its thinnest state is when I tend to think of it as being something exotic. Stars crowd around and, for a day or two, it becomes an echo. Is that the saddest moon? I don’t know. Maybe any moon can be joyous, although I tend to find it something that  makes us think more than just feel inexplicable happiness. Maybe it’s because the moon is second-hand sunlight, and it needs us to recognize a purpose other than life. Maybe the purpose is something that changes as our moods change, just like the face of the moon itself.

Haircut Day.

I Have Two Hair Stages.

Acceptable, and unacceptable. There is no middle ground.

I like to keep my business in order. This stems from years as a victim of 80s Hair Syndrome. For women, it involved aquanet. Cans and cans of aquanet.

I am a dude. Ergo, I gel.

Tomorrow. Haircut day.

I have two basic looks as well, based on the length of my hair and the time of day. When my hair is long(er), or as my wife calls it, “normal”, then I look a lot like someone who might be a news anchor at a small station you’ve never heard of. Here is an example of said hair in 1986:

Problems. Time of Day. And Problems.

If I am unable to get a haircut every three weeks, then we have a problem. When I wake up in the morning, I have a distinct look that my wife calls Handsome But Homeless. Here is what you might expect during the hour of 5-6 AM.

As you can see, it’s in everyone’s interest that I maintain a sleek look, about the same length as that of a beagle’s coat.

Thanks for your time. Now let’s mousse up. Or gel up. Whatever.


Old Books, Dinosaurs, and Being Terrible At Math

I didn’t bother to look it up. What qualifies as Antique?

I know I’m getting perilously close to being old because the books I read as a kid are now valuable. My school lunchbox is probably worth a hundred bucks, easily, and that’s assuming I don’t clean out the fossilized peanut butter residue. The difference between old books and antiques is that I read my books and enjoy them. I don’t gaze at them, dust them, or forget about them as a relic of a bygone era. And I may be strange for saying this, but old books just smell good.

My Bookshelf:
From the age of four, my bookshelf centered on the following topics:
1. Dinosaurs
2. Rockets
3. Volcanoes
4. Dragons
5. Monsters
6. Fossils
7. Any combination of the above, but in space.
I present exhibit one, a 1956 volume that is now so out of date is exists only as a relic. Sort of the way I will be someday, but with less complaining about the temperature of my soup. 

Let’s take a look inside this beauty.

Gorgeous. I love everything about this book. From the tales of hunting fossils in the Gobi Desert to Montana, it’s amazing.
I also learned that my love for reading had some serious effects on my life. Case in point: while other students were actually doing math, I was busy writing stories about aliens that came up from secret tunnels in the bottom of farm ponds which naturally connected to another dimension and oh by the way, they look a lot like snapping turtles. I present the following evidence from 1983, my Freshman year of high school:

Ouch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a student who will go on to achieve great things in History.
I’ve been pawing through my old books; there are titles in my collection that I’d nearly forgotten, but when I pick them up the entire story floods back to me like a returning tide. I love my old books. They’re a record of what I was doing (or not doing–math) and not unlike an old group of friends who will wait for your forever. Books are loyal. Stories are permanent, as long as we remember them.

And Algebra is the devil.

A Brief Word About Pie

Maybe not too brief, but definitely about pie.

Pie transcends my need to eat. I love pie. I specifically enjoy pie between the hours of 1-3AM, usually eaten while standing at the kitchen sink, looking over the back yard. On nights with the moon, I have the reflected light of the sun to illuminate my shameful gorging. And yet, the moon always welcomes me back, or maybe I just ignore any protests because there’s pie. And milk.

I come from a long line of bakers; our family restaurant was actually called “The Pie Stand”, so this fascination is both genetically acquired and learned. It’s here to stay.
Here is a peach pie I made when I visited my buddy Tim. Nothing says, “I’m glad we were pals before puberty” like a baked good.

Question: What Makes A Pie?

I know we’ve all had sweet pies. Can pies be savory and still be considered pie? I’ve eaten meat or potato pie varieties in several countries, and I think I’m comfortable with that nomenclature. True, I have no desire to drink milk while eating a delicious, gravy laden Australian meat pie, but still. There was a crust and filling. I feel the same way about spicy Jamaican meat pies. Chicken pot pie, Shepherd’s pie– still technically pie. Right? Or, no?
Fruit. Chocolate. Dairy. Hybrids.
Fruit makes for an excellent filling (blueberry, apple, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb). I can also see the attraction of cream pies– Boston or Coconut make me crazy. I would fight a circle saw for either of those kinds of dessert. Holidays bring out the baker in all of us. Thanksgiving? Pumpkin. Sweet Potato. Apple. Christmas? Mincemeat. Apple. Pecan.
I heartily approve of holidays that activate our latent baking genes.
The Hybrids.
These are the pies that really take some culinary willpower. Your Black Forest, Chess, and Chocolate Silk fall into this zone. They’re stunning to look at, but more labor intensive. Not really fussy, just demanding.
The Endless Variety.
Look at this bowl of berries:

There’s a lot of pie-tential in that bowl. I can think of three kinds of pie offhand that can be made from that simple bowl of fruit, and that’s without getting Second Level Awesome and using terms like “coulis” and “measuring”.
I’m open to suggestions. I think– and this is just a guess– that there are as many recipes for pie unknown to us as there are in even the most experienced baker’s repertoire. I submit this in the hope that I’ll be inundated with new pie ideas.
Like I’ve been saying all week, it’s February. What else are we going to do?

Between Loss of Family and Myth.

It’s February.

My mom’s birthday was this past week, had she still been here, she would be seventy. She died when she was fifty-two. I’m forty-six, so that seems quite young– in fact, it seemed that she was really young when she died.

I have a son who is six. I find myself placing a hand on his forehead when I enter or leave the room. It’s a sort of reassurance, probably more for me than him. My mom did the same thing to us kids. Even when she was sick, her hands felt warm. I remember that warmth as something other than just a touch; it was a remembrance of her presence as she moved about the house.
She died almost nineteen years ago. At what point do the factors of my own memory and aging begin to overtake the brilliance of her impact on my psyche? Will she pass into a state of legend? I have learned more about my mom since her death than I knew of her during her life– not the details, or the “mom” aspect of her, but who she was as a human.
She was a person before I arrived. She lived for twenty-four years. When did she decide that something as simple as touching her children on the forehead would be the right thing to do? Was it natural? Or learned?

For me, it was learned.
It seems like an anchor that keeps her memory closer to me than just a myth, or a legend. I think that when we lose someone we love so much, our goal is to stop them from becoming a part of history.
History is distant; loved ones are now, even if they are giants in our memory.

February Sucks and I Want This Desk: A Love Story

February: I’m not a fan.

It’s the shortest month for a reason. Football (in the US) is over). Sports as we know it begin to hibernate until baseball season. For much of the nation, the weather is putrid. Naturally, in this national funk, my thoughts turn to a fifteen year quest that remains unfulfilled.

It’s So Much More Than a Desk.

Before I discuss my personal Great White Whale, let me give you some back story about my wife’s  eerie ability to find rare and unusual gifts. She’s like a tall, Norwegian bloodhound with really great legs, but a high customer rating on Ebay to boot. Nothing escapes her internet sleuthing, except for an odd furniture request I’ve had as a standing goal– even she hasn’t been able to find my dream desk, which is crazy given her skills. Since there isn’t anything else fun in February, I shall reignite my search for The One That Got Away.

Scene: 2002. The Hemingway Collection from Thomasville

I was watching television and saw– and got excited, mind you– an advertisement about a furniture collection. Thomasville announced that they were creating two American collections based on Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart. Look, I write books and I’m over the age of forty; either one of those men lived the kind of life that I was raised to consider just short of Godhood.

How Writers See Themselves. But Of Course.

 So, I see this desk.Yes, it’s mass produced but I don’t care. I freak out and start looking to buy one, only to find out it’s around 2500 dollars.
“No, we can’t take a post-dated check,” Said every Thomasville store. Trust me, I asked.
All right then. I file the item away as *to be located* and move on with my life. I’ve seen two versions of the desk in various locations around the United states– one in California (of course, those people horde all the cool things) and one at an undisclosed location. The seller was rather tight-lipped, leading me to think the desk was stuffed with human skulls or something; naturally I wanted that desk even more.
I envision myself sitting at the desk, writing novels of great weight, penning letters on handmade vellum and generally acting like it’s 1937, but without all the Nazis and Stalinists ruining everything. I would wear some sort of linen something, a devil-may-care attitude, and I would have my first whiskey at eleven a.m., right after I had my first screaming match with a shadowy editor somewhere– this brawl would ensue on a vintage handheld telephone and would include terms like scalawag and reprobate. Seriously, it’s a fantastic desk.

Wanna see?

Be still, my heart.

 Do I need a desk with faux Arabian Oryx horn legs? Of course not. But I want it very much indeed. So, I’ll keep poking around on ebay, pinterest, whatever, and then one day, it will be in my grasp at a reasonable price, though located in the U.P. of Michigan or something. No matter, there’s a lesson in here somewhere about patience and, character, maybe. Or just plain old consumerism. Either way, if you see one of these beauties, you tell me. I’ll be there with my postdated check.

Stillborn: A Lesson In Fiction

Bad things happen. Frequently.

Bad things cause vivid memories, and if they linger, and you write, you can turn those same images into fuel that churns the waters of your imagination.

I’m writing a character who is totally enmeshed in loss, and I reach back to a short poem from 1998 to find the fuel I need. I hope you enjoy it, and that the emotion is real, maybe?

His physician’s coat rustles
as he leaves-
 the door glides shut, to leave my wife
and I alone with the fluorescent hum
of the lights, a cold steel table
and our sadness.
Our spirits as empty as her womb
her shuffle is tender,
towards the door
to the car
each step normal
just like my stop at the nurse.
Her smile is pasty
she hands me my son in a bag.
On the ride home, I stare at his face
hoping he fogs the plastic
but the bag is as still as the air in the car.
We walk, the yard is frosty
she watches me from the window
as I stop near the hickory
and start to dig.
The pit (grave) is tiny
and the walls collapse
on his face.
Bones pull hardest
when they are small.
The walk back to the house is long.
Summers later, we lay rigid
next to each other
the fear of each furtive union causing wonder:
Will I dig again?