Quick birthday thought from an old gay guy

“I'm not old, I'm FUCKING retro!”
“I’m not old, I’m FUCKING retro!”

I try to post at least a little something every year on my birthday. Since I have been so bad at posting much of anything here this year it felt extra important that I do.

My husband managed to turn the entire weekend into a birthday celebration. He had me open presents while we were online with our gaming group on Saturday. That’s also when they sang to me and made me blow out a candle.

Then when I woke up Sunday and started cleaning and otherwise preparing to watch some football, I kept finding birthday cards he had hidden here and there around the house. He also insisted on getting takeout for dinner.

I took today off from work and slept in a little bit. Among my presents were books that I may spend the afternoon reading.

But the main thing I need to do is post some new words of wisdom since I try to do that every year. This year I give you:

Love isn’t so much something you feel, as it is something you do. But it never hurts to tell those you love that you do love them. Don’t make them infer it.

In which we wind up eating dinner much later than we meant to…

Two bits of background:

First, today is a day we spend the afternoon logged into a friend’s Discord server playing our current RPG campaign. (It’s a Fate-based Star Wars game at the moment, in which I play a Gamorrean named Xagg whose high concept is, “Just tell me who to clobber.”)

While I was shopping this morning I found a small roast in the Manager’s Special part of the meat department, 50% off. So I grabbed it. While unpacking groceries, I told my husband I figured we should eat it for dinner tonight. Frequently on game day if we don’t order food, we wind up discussing dinner after logging out of Discord, and then decide we’ll just graze on the leftover snacks, because there is usually too much, but then we both later admit we wish we had eaten something real for dinner.

Now the anecdote:

We log off a bit after 6pm and I start working on the roast. I chopped up the items from the veggie tray we hadn’t eaten, plus an onion and some small potatoes, season it, put it all in the InstaPot with some water and turn it on.

I tell me husband that I need to lay down for a bit. I swear I also told him, “Wake me when you’re ready for dinner.” He says I didn’t tell him I was laying down or anything else…

Three hours later, I’m still conked out in the bedroom, but I’m having a dream that our friends Jared and Katrina have come over to our apartment just for fun after the game. This is a little unlikely since one of them lives about an hour and 10 minutes drive north of us, while the other lives a four and a half hour drive south of us. But this is a dream, and dreams don’t care about stuff like that.

In the dream we’re having a lovely time. And we started talking about cocktails–because one of the birthday presents (my birthday is tomorrow, but…) my husband had me open while we online with our friends is this really cool book called The Cocktail Codex.

Note: the book and tomorrow being my birthday and such are all true, even though this is a dream.

So in the dream I’m getting some cocktail glasses out of the cabinet and we’re discussing what drink I could make with the booze and mixers I have on hand, and Katrina leans in and whispers in my ear asking me to make a special cocktail for Jared but do it without him seeing what it is.

I can understand every word in her request except the name of the cocktail.

I ask her to repeat it.

She does, but I still can’t understand her.

This repeats several times and I’m getting a bit exasperated. I take a notepad from the refrigerator and ask her to write the name down. She does.

I look at it, but I still can’t read it.

My husband then chimes in and says, “Of course not. Everyone knows you can’t read when you’re dreaming.”

At which point I sat up in bed, wide awake and a bit cranky. It took me about a minute to sort out that I had just been dreaming and apparently woke myself up because I was frustrated with the dream.

I then went to check on the roast. The InstaPot had been in Warming Mode for about 2 hours. I went to the computer room to ask my husband why he didn’t wake me or eat some dinner. He isn’t there.

It takes me a few minutes to find him. He’s deep asleep in the bedroom. When I woke up frustrated from the dream, I just literally didn’t see him there.

He says that when he laid down next to me that dinner still wasn’t ready…

Friday Alternative: No fascists edition


This week has been insane at work with several late nights fixing problems, so there was no time to assemble a proper Friday Five. Look for a links filled post sometime this weekend.

Here are some images that cover one of the recent recurring issues in the news.

Friday Five (voting matters edition)


Welcome to the third Friday of September. September, the most blesséd month, when superior babies are born.

Not long after last week’s Friday Five posted, the air quality in my region starting going bad. There are wildfires around, some just on the other end of the county I live in, and all that smoke and particulate matter made breathing a bit unpleasant for a few days. So I wasn’t surprised that I had a sinus headache and cough last weekend. There were some other symptoms not obviously related, but I attributed most of it to the air quality. As the air cleared up, my symptoms started letting up. But then my husband started experiencing the same symptoms as I had. So now I’m wondering if I didn’t manage to catch something last week that was unrelated to the air quality. Joy!

We’ll keep you posted.

Let’s move on to the Friday Five in which I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about reacting to bad folks, five stories about toxic fance, and five stories about crooks and traitor (plus a notable obituary).

Stories of the Week:

Idaho Far Right’s Election Loss to 18-Year-Old Climate Activist

The mystery of why some people don’t catch COVID – Scientists think they might hold the key to helping protect us all

Scholar who saw all this coming: Americans "do not really understand liberal democracy"

These Incredibly Clever Tweets Prove How Complicated The Queen’s Death Was For Some Of Us

U.S. Inflation Falls For 2nd Straight Month On Lower Gas Costs

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Two-Thirds of Swing State Voters Support Marriage Equality – The findings come from the Human Rights Campaign as the Respect for Marriage Act awaits debate in the U.S. Senate

Florida city condemns school district for refusing to recognize LGBTQ History Month – The Miami-Dade School Board voted 8-1 against recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month. The "Don’t Say Gay" law is to blame

LibsofTikTok targeted a school district’s Pride mural project, with little success – Chaya Raichik called on her army of haters to swamp a California school district’s LGBTQ art project. It didn’t go so well

Montana judge blocks anti-transgender birth certificate rule – Conservative lawmakers in numerous states have sought to restrict transgender rights

Boston Marathon to feature nonbinary category next year – For nonbinary athletes, the qualifying standards will initially be the same as those in the women’s field, the Boston Athletic Association said

This Week in Reacting to Bad Guys:

Elena Kagan: Judges Create Their Own ‘Legitimacy Problems’

GOP senators led by Graham slam Trump Jan. 6 pardon promise

Hardee’s mocks Mike Lindell after he claimed the FBI took his phone at one of its Minnesota locations

Ocasio-Cortez blasts GOP lawmaker’s treatment of witness: ‘I’m trying to give you the floor, boo’

Mueller Investigator on Possible Trump Second Term: ‘I Don’t Have Enough Alcohol in My Apartment to Deal with That’

This Week in Toxic Fans:

Racists Are Worried About the Historical Accuracy of Mermaids – Apparently they can’t handle Halle Bailey singing "Part of Your World" in the new ‘Little Mermaid’ trailer

‘The Little Mermaid’ Was Originally a Metaphor for Unrequited Gay Love

Fear of a Black Hobbit – The demand to keep politics out of art is too often a demand for art to conform to conservative politics And I have some quibbles with this excerpt, but it makes some good point: "prominent genre brands like Star Wars, or Marvel, or Lord of the Rings also have the difficult task of creating content for children while still satisfying their middle-aged stalwarts, whose nostalgia is ultimately insatiable because they cannot look upon novel material with the same emotional intensity they felt as children. Many older fans are convinced they can’t recapture that intensity only because the producers themselves have failed to create stories of the same fundamental quality, when in reality they have simply outgrown the sentiment they are chasing. These campaigns seek to convince this audience that the feeling they are pursuing can be recaptured, if only those making popular art would reject modern progressive dogma—thus creating a well of cultural resentment they can manipulate for political purposes."

‘The Boys’ To ‘The Rings Of Power:’ Everyone Is Tired Of Toxic Fans

The Sandman creator Neil Gaiman ruthlessly hits back at troll’s ‘woke’ moaning

This Week in the Crooks, Traitors, and Other Deplorables:

Republican county election commissioner is arrested and charged by the FBI

‘List of Political Grievances’: Judge Delivers Damning Rebuke as He Tosses Trump RICO-Like Lawsuit Against Clinton

Donald Trump’s Lawyers Reveal That Merrick Garland’s Justice Department Has Backed Them Into a Legal Corner

Trump-appointed judge convicts three Jan. 6 defendants but acquits two of them on obstruction charge

Oath Keepers want to suppress evidence of Zello chat host ordering arrests of ‘treasonous’ congressmembers

In Memoriam:

Fred Franzia, Two Buck Chuck Creator, Dies

Friday Five (good news first edition)


Welcome to the second Friday of September. September, the most blesséd month, when superior babies are born.

It has been a weird week. The large volcano that can be seen from when the weather is particularly clear has started venting. If it goes we’re all going to die. That isn’t really an exaggeration. And the night before last we had a small earthquake from one of the many, many, many fault lines around here. It woke me up, but I didn’t realize it was an earthquake. My husband slept through it.

Because for so many, many, many, many months the nes has been so full of crazy and horrifying news, I decided to mix things up a bit this time. So this week I bring you: Five stories that have nothing alarming at all, five stories about science fiction and fact, five more typical stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers & our allies, and five stories about traitors. Plus a bunch of notable obituaries.

This Week in Interesting and Not Alarming:

FDA Finalizes Historic Rule Enabling Access to Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for Millions of Americans

COVID tax relief: IRS provides broad-based penalty relief for certain 2019 and 2020 returns due to the pandemic; $1.2 billion in penalties being refunded to 1.6 million taxpayers

New Raspberry Rally Girl Scout Cookie Joins Nationwide Lineup for 2023 Season

Barack and Michelle Obama make first joint return to the White House for unveiling of official portraits

The Cartoon Mystery That Stumped the Internet

This Week in Science Fact and Fiction:

Here Are the Winners of the 2022 Hugo Awards

Beloved sci-fi bookstore, established in ’70s, reopens after burning down during unrest

You’ve Been Thinking of Australian Mammals All Wrong

In Ethiopia, scientists identify a fossil otter the size of a lion

Fascinating video demonstrates that none of us has any idea what a continent actually is

Stories of the Week:

Another dam(n) extinction: Another rare plant destroyed by a hydroelectric dam

Reionization of the Universe occurred 1.1 billion years after the Big Bang

Search for missing Native artifacts led to the discovery of bodies stored in ‘the most inhumane way possible’

Mystery of woman who went to ER and vanished 32 years ago solved – Myrtle Brown went to a hospital in Brooklyn in 1990 and was never heard from again. Her family was finally able to hold a virtual memorial for her

Neil Gaiman Slaps Back At Elon Musk For Criticizing Amazon’s ‘Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power’ — Update

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

‘Casa Susanna’ Review: A Lost Chapter of Queer History Comes to Life

Country star raises over $100,000 for trans youth after denouncing influencer’s transphobia – Country musician Maren Morris is totally our hero of the day

Trans Floridians sue to block Medicaid rule excluding gender-affirming care – Human rights groups are suing Florida on behalf of four Medicaid beneficiaries who have been denied coverage of their gender-affirming medical care under a new state rule

Lil Nas X voguing to Beyoncé on tour is giving the internet life

Former dean of Christian boarding school charged with abducting teen Important note: the only reason any criminal charges were brought is because the mother of the teen — who hired this anti-gay a-holes to kidnap her child and torture them to try to make them straight — didn’t have legal custody. Nightmares like this happen to hundreds of kids every year with no consequences to the adults because the parents initiated it…

This Week in the Crooks, Traitors, and Other Deplorables:

When, Where and For What Mar-a-Lago Crimes Should Garland Indict Trump?

We’ve reached the endgame of Trump’s imperial presidency – The Washington Post’s report about nuclear secrets at Mar-a-Lago further exposes Trump’s attempts to wield presidential power after losing in 2020

Trump’s Lawyers Might Think They Just Won. They Still Botched the Case – Trump’s incompetent attorneys turned an administrative matter into a possible criminal indictment. The appointment of a special master doesn’t change that

DOJ appeals decision to order special master to review evidence seized in Mar-a-Lago search and says it’s halted intelligence review

Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to NY state charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud related to border wall effort

In Memoriam:

Queen Elizabeth II has died

SETI Pioneer Frank Drake Leaves a Legacy of Searching for Voices in the Void

Award-Winning Underground Comics Writer/Artist Diane Noomin Dies at 75

Peter Straub Dead: Horror Novelist, Stephen King Collaborator Was 79

Anne Garrels, longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, has died at 71

CNN anchor Bernard Shaw dead at 82

Friday Five (incompetently concealing treason edition)


Welcome to the first Friday of September. September, the most blesséd month, when superior babies are born.

It’s been a week. Again.

It’s time for the Friday Five in which I bring you: two bonus categories, the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers are our allies, five stories about election stuff, plus an obituary.

This Week in Justice:

Ex-NYPD officer who assaulted D.C. officer on Jan. 6 gets record 10-year sentence – Thomas Webster, a retired New York City officer, was convicted of several felonies for attacking a Washington officer with a flagpole and tackling him to the ground on Jan. 6

Proud Boy sentenced to 4.5 years in prison in Jan. 6 case, still says election was stolen – The judge who sentenced Joshua Pruitt, a former Washington, D.C., bartender, called the Jan. 6 riot "a national disgrace."

This Week in The Former Guy:

Ex-Trump Aides Say He Probably Has More Sensitive Documents At Other Properties – Michael Cohen and John Bolton said they suspect Trump could have more classified documents stored in Bedminster, New Jersey, and elsewhere

The DOJ’s new filing punctures Trump’s greatest delusion – Trump thinks that ex-president’s are somehow a protected class under the law. The Justice Department disagrees

Stories of the Week:

Biden delivers prime-time speech on the "battle for the soul of the nation" in Philadelphia

Are lightning bugs disappearing from night skies? Dimming prospects face some fireflies

It Is Long Past Time To Give Up On Most Of The Right – The Fever Will Never Break

Attacks on the LGBTQ+ Community Amount to Stochastic Terrorism

Remember Al Gore? – 2000 vs. 2020 (and 2022)

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

California may act as U.S. refuge for transgender youths – Legislation would provide legal refuge to parents from other states who risk having their trans children taken away or being prosecuted if they support their children’s access to gender-affirming care

Biden Administration Outlines Measures to End HIV by 2030 – The plan calls for an increase in testing, education, and access to PrEP at a time when those are endangered

‘A League of Their Own’ remake shows what it’s like to be Black and trans in the 1940s – Lea Robinson, a Black nonbinary and transgender actor, plays the role of a Black trans man known as Bertie Hart in the new Amazon series

Virginia Won’t Ban Books for Obscenity—for Now – “We have to keep working our way up the ladder,” said the Republican stage legislator who brought the case

New Super PAC To Target Anti-LGBTQ Candidates – Agenda PAC says their aim is to defeat candidates who oppose same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBTQ Americans

Elections and Related:

Ron DeSantis’ First Voter Fraud Bust Is Quickly Imploding – The governor’s own administration greenlighted the defendants’ voter registration applications. Now it has arrested them for voting

Michigan groups ask state court to put abortion rights measure on the Nov. ballot – The amendment — now in limbo — would insert permanent protections into the state’s constitution for abortion and other reproductive health services

‘Really?!’ Bewildered Sarah Palin implodes after losing congressional race to a Democrat

Florida GOP leader to quit after conviction in ‘ghost’ candidate scandal: report

"Corrupt as hell": Ginni Thomas effort to overturn Trump’s loss even more extensive than reported – It wasn’t just Arizona — messages show Thomas leaning on Wisconsin lawmakers to block Biden’s win

In Memoriam:

Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader who helped end the Cold War, has died – Born in the village of Privolnoye, Gorbachev grew up a committed communist during World War II. He wound up winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for helping end the Cold War

Friday Five (what century are we in edition)


Welcome to the fourth Friday of August.

It’s been a week.

It’s time for the Friday Five in which I bring you: two bonus categories, the top five stories of the week and five stories of interest to queers are our allies (plus a couple of things I wrote).

This Week in We’ve Been Telling You:

Daylight Savings Time Turns Us Into Terrible People by Making Us Exhausted, Study Finds

This Week in the Dreams:

Some Very Biased Thoughts about The Sandman on Netflix

Stories of the Week:

How a far-right, Christian cellphone company ‘took over’ four Texas school boards – Patriot Mobile markets itself as “America’s only Christian conservative wireless provider.” Now the Trump-aligned company is on a mission to win control of Texas school boards

Webb’s Jupiter Images Showcase Auroras, Hazes

‘The Future We Deserve’: This Florida Gen Z Candidate Thinks He Can Chart a New Path For the Youth

Oldest human relative walked upright 7 million years ago

[Study: Trump Tax Cuts Failed to Help Anybody But the Wealthy](Study: Trump Tax Cuts Failed to Help Anybody But the Wealthy) Big surprise…

Stories of Interest to Queers and Our Allies:

Texas church that performed unlicensed and homophobic version of ‘Hamilton’ forced to donate to LGBTQ causes

Judge blocks Utah’s transgender sports ban for being discriminatory – The injunction is the first victory for three families of trans children who sued the state

6 LGBTQ candidates won their Florida primaries. They all oppose the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law – For these candidates, the law isn’t only a personal insult to their dignity and families, it also endangers queer kids across the country

Federal court rules that trans youth healthcare ban is a form of sex discrimination – Arkansas cannot enact its law banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth

Former Marine Disarms Man Who Brought Grenade To Gay Bar

Things I Wrote:

Chuck is the artist, Chas is the writer

There are things worse than gatekeeping…

There are things worse than gatekeeping…


I have been very bad at writing any reviews of any of the genre series, movies, or books I’ve read in the last year. For instance, the last review I posted was for episode 4 of season 2 of Star Trek: Picard back at the end of March. Since then I’ve seen the rest of that series, watched the entirety of season one of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and the entirety of Obi Wan Kenobi, and season one of Ms Marvel… not to mention five novels nominated for the Hugo Award this year (this was the first time in a while that only one of the books that made the short list was one I nominated and therefore had already read!).

In other words, there have been a lot of things that I ought to have written reviews of in the last five-six months that I haven’t.

Most recently, I binge-watched season 1 of the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. This isn’t going to be a full review. The series adapts the first two graphic novels in the comic series, Preludes and Nocturnes (issues 1-8), and The Doll’s House (issues 9-16; unless you have the first edition, which included issue #8 even though it had been in the previous graphic novel for various reasons). There was at least one stand-alone story in those two volumes which isn’t included in the series, but that’s a detail for a real review.

If I ever get around to writing one.

I think the series is very well done. I think the casting of the characters is brilliant. As a fan who read much of the original series in individual comic books back in the day, I have quite loved it.

There are people who don’t. There are people who claim to be fans of the original series posting angry reviews of the series–reviews that make it fairly clear that they didn’t actually read the original series. Because the recurring theme in all of the angry reviews I’ve seen so far is: why are there so many gay people in the story?

The original comics had every single one of the queer, gay, lesbian, trans, and even nonbinary characters that are in the TV series. They haven’t been added for modern day "wokeness." Mr Gaiman didn’t always use modern terminology to refer to some of the characters’ orientations and gender identities back in 1989 when he started the comic series. And yes, in the original comics there were elements around some of the queer characters that many view as problematic. But, for instance, Dream’s younger sibling, Desire, was very explicitly referred to by other characters and the narration of the original comics as "they" and explictly referred to as being neither male nor female but both and more from the beginning (which makes sense, as the Endless are anthropomorphic manifestations of mortal concepts, and Desire specifically represents/ embodies/incarnates the desires of all mortal creatures in the universe–not just straight white neck-bearded fanboys who spend their free time arguing about comic history minutia in the backroom of comic book stores).

There is a temptation to put these hot takes in the same category as the idiots who ask when Star Trek became political (that would have been September 8, 1966, when the very first episode of the original series aired). People who watched the original Star Trek series as episodes being syndicated on television during the 70s and 80s (and who were children at the time) didn’t understand the politics that were being referenced. It went over their heads. To the extent they did notice they probably just absorbed it as platitudes. So it’s sort of understandable (if not excusable) that some Trek fans can be surprised when they notice similar moralizing or critiquing in more modern incarnations of the Star Trek.

But I don’t know how anyone could have read the original Sandman and not noticed that the Corinthian was gay. Or that Hal was a drag queen who mentioned an ex-boyfriend. Or that Alex Burgess (son of the Magus) was very gay and even explicitly talked about his sexual awakening when he gave in to a crush on a gardener. I could keep going.

It’s okay if they don’t like the series. It’s even okay if they read some of the comics when they were younger and didn’t remember these details. I mean, to me it tells me they are either extremely stupid or intensely deep in denial–but denial is a powerful thing, so it isn’t inconceivable.

The issue is that a number of these folks appear to be review bombing the show with all their anti-gay vitriol. Which one can only interpret as a conscious attempt to keep anything more like this current series from being made, and to discourage similar endeavors by others.

Which gets us to the title of this post, and the sentiment expressed in the image I attached above. There are things worse than gatekeeping. One of those is trying to prevent other people from seeing/reading the kinds of stories that they want simply because those stories aren’t to your liking. There is a strong feeling among certain types of so-called fans that anything they don’t like shouldn’t exist, and if it does exist, it should not be praised or lauded and so forth.

Which is sort of ironically funny. Because while I’m willing to believe that a tiny percentage of these upset people really did read at least a few of the comics/graphic novels some years back and just didn’t understand what was going on–I’m quite certain that most of these guys claiming to be fans of the original are simply lying–and they are lying about being fans of the original because the original series is a much-lauded and award-wining comic series.

I mean, yeah, some of them are lying because they are the kinds of fanboys who don’t want any sci fi/fantasy that caters to queer people, or that doesn’t agree with their extreme rightwing politics, et al. But a lot of the others fall into this ironic category. The Sandman has been referred to as a classic. One issue of the comic series even won a World Fantasy Award (and some folks were so upset about a comic book winning the award that they changed the rules so it couldn’t happen again). The comic series won literally more than two dozen Eisner Awards. It’s won a Bram Stoker Award. Individual issues and graphic novels have been nominated for (and at least once won) Hugo awards. It has been declared by more than one authority the best comic series, ever.

So I am quite certain that there exist a bunch of fanboys out there who have never cracked a single cover of the original comics (oh, maybe they read some of the spin-offs and such written by people other than Gaiman in the years since, or they watch the Fox TV series Lucifer which was very, very, very loosely based on a couple of characters out of the original comics) but who have claimed for years to be Sandman fans, because so many other people say the series was so good.

And it was. And still is.

I realize that there is a way you could look at my rant here as a form of gatekeeping, because I am mocking these guys who are claiming to have read the original series when it is crystal clear that they haven’t. But gatekeeping isn’t about fact-checking, it’s about misusing the concept of fact-checking to tell people who are enthusing about a book or movie or series that they are are liking these things incorrectly–they are the wrong kinds of fans.

I am not pointing at people who are clamoring to get into the Sandman fandom and saying that they aren’t welcome. I am pointing to people who are screaming about how much they hate The Sandman and insisting that anyone who does like this thing they don’t like is the wrong kind of fan. Which is a different thing all together.

They are free to dislike it. That are free to say they dislike it. They are free to go watch something else.

What they shouldn’t do is try to stop other people from liking it. And they shouldn’t be lying about their past experience with the story in order to try to add fake gravitas to their hateful, homophobic screaming.

Chuck is the artist, Chas is the writer


Many years ago the famous author Terry Pratchett was going to do a reading in the city where I lived at the time, Seattle, Washington. You had to reserve seats for the reading, though the tickets were free. My husband and another couple among our friends wanted to attent, so we reserved seats and planned to attend together. Specifically, the other couple was going to show up at our place in a Seattle neighborhood about 2 miles from the venue where Mr. Pratchett was supposed to speak, and the four of us would drive over together.

Each of us had at least one of Mr. Pratchett’s books we intended to bring with us to ask him to autograph.

We discussed the reading and our attendance plans on several mailing lists associated with the science fiction shared universe ‘zine that I was Editor-in-Chief of and that many of our friends were members of either the Editorial Board or the non-profit Corporate Board of Directors overseeing said fanzine.

So on a particular Saturday afternoon my husband and I were waiting for two of our friends to arrive at our door so we could all pile into one car with the books we wanted autographed and drive to the nearby University for the reading.

There was a knock at our door. I opened the door expected to see the two friends we were expecting. Instead, another friend of ours (who was also involved in the sci fi project as a writers of stores, an illustrator of stories, a cover artist for the fanzine, and a member of the editorial board). I opened my mouth intending to say, "Oh, you’re coming to the reading, too?"

But before I could say that, our friend, Chuck, said, "I think I’m having a heart attack, and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I came to ask you guys."

Now, at this time Chuck lived only a half mile from the place where Mr Pratchett was scheduled to read, and only 3/4 of a mile from the University District Hospital’s Emergency Room. But instead of heading to the nearby Emergency Room, our good friend Chuck had gotten on a bus, which required him to change buses halfway through, and took the four mile trip to the duplex where Michael and I lived over in the neighborhood of Ballard, Washington, to ask us what he ought to do about a heart attack.

We bundled him into our car, scrawled a quick note to our other two friends, and headed over to a different Emergency Room that was barely half a mile from the place we lived at the time.

It turned at that Chuck was correct: he was having a heart attack. There were various things the doctors wanted to do before they would let us take him home.

When our friends arrived at our duplex (this was back in the late 1990s when none of us had cell phones so I couldn’t sent a message to tell them what was happening), the note had somehow blown off the door. So they waited a while for us to re-appear, then the went to the Pratchett reading, and afterword, one of them asked Mr Pratchett to give her an autograph that said, "To Gene: Where were you, you bum? Terry Pratchett."

Chuck was, indeed having a minor heart attack, so my husband and I hung out in the hospital lobby until the doctors decided our friend was physically stable and we could take him home.

Now, while the decision to get on a long bus ride that required a transfer to get to some friends to ask what he ought to do about a heart attack very much sums up some parts of Chuck’s personality, in all fairness I have to point out that he took important and wise actions related to the health situation afterward.

For years Chuck’s primary source of income had been as a administrative person for a comic book distributing firm, and the rest of his income was supplemented by writing, illustrating, and editorial work he did for several small comic book publishing companies. After this incident, Chuck went to remarkable lengths to find a steel foundry that was doing business in Seattle, and took a job that involved a lot of physical activity at the foundry, so that he wasn’t spending every day sitting at a desk. This move prevented him from having any more cardiac events for some years after this.

In addition to being the single most prolific writer, artist, and editor of the Tai-Pan Literary and Arts Project (of which I had the honor of being editor-in-chief for about 27 years), Chuck was involved in lots of other projects: he had a patreon, he had is long-running comic strip Mr Cow a fantasy comic book series, Champion of Katara, and the related fantasy series Felicia, the Sorceress of Katara.

Chuck was also–hands down, no arguments–the very best person to read a story aloud. When, at our monthly writers’ meetings, some people had a scene, or short story, or chapter from their own work in progress to read but were feeling trepidatious about reading it aloud for critique, Chuck frequently volunteered to read there stories. And even with zero-prep time, Chuck did the very best voices.

In my opinion, his writing deserved to be read by a much larger audience than found him on the various venues he published his work on. Similarly, while I am extremely happy that I own several of his story illustrations and book covers (hanging at various places around my apartment), I think that a much larger audience should have seen his stuff. And I absolutely wish that many, many more people had gotten to hear his voice talent.

Many months ago a mutual friend (Chuck’s best friend, and a writer who is one of the few people I put in the same category as Chuck), informed several of us that Chuck was experiencing health issues but only wanted a very limited number of people to know the details.

Chuck continued to attend our monthly Writers’ Meetings for a while, but had communicated to me that he didn’t want to talk about his health situation with others. So it was only very recently that I was able to tell many of our acquaintances what was up. And when my husband and I headed into the nearby hospital this weekend for a round of sitting with him, I was convinced that there were going to be several more days of us spending part of the day sitting by his bed and either reading messages from friends far away, or talking about some story ideas I had for his universe (with his permission I had written a Christmas Ghost Story set in his Champions of Katara universe, and had discussed a few other ideas in very broad terms.)

This is not the first time I have sat at the bedside of someone I knew and loved who was heading toward what the doctors all said was the end. But on Saturday I was still very naively thinking that I would get to sit at his bedside on the the next several days I had committed to.

So I was talking about one of my silly story ideas set in his universe, trying to keep a familiar voice sounding in the room no matter how unconscious he was, when he just…

…stopped…

…breathing.

I knew that he had a Do Not Resuscitate and a Do Not Intubate Order on file, but I still (having been programmed by many years of movies and TV shows), expected something more urgent from the medical people when I pressed the red button and told them I thought he had stopped breathing.

But Chuck was gone.

A lot of our mutual friends and acquaintances have shared more interesting and illuminating stories than the one I shared above about Chuck and his many idiosyncracies and talents. I should try to see how many of those are available on line to link to.

But while I’ve been thinking about Chuck, and what he means to me, I’ve thought about a phrase more that more than one of our mutual friends have used: referencing his gentle humor. And while I’ve talked about how for years he got me again and again every month with his deadpan pretending to not know what I was talking about when I asked if he had a story to read for our monthly Writers’ Meeting, I realize that "gentle" only scratched the surface.

Chuck had a wicked sense of humor, but his humor was also always kind. I think that we, as a species, don’t always fully appreciate just how valuable kindness is, nor do we always recognize how uncommon kindness is. I, personally, am fundamentally a snarky, flippant, irreverent, and impudent a personality. Chuck was extremely clever and sharp-witted–and sometimes even impudent–but his satire and felicitousness were never cruel or biting.

Chuck was always kind.

And I think that is what is leaving the biggest hole in my heart right now. Yes, I wish I knew how several of his stories in progress would have ended if he had had more time, but I’m mostly going to miss his kindness.


Over the years I worked with him, Chuck would sometimes sign his work "Chuck Melville" but other times sign it much more formally "Chas P.A. Melville." I asked him more than once which he preferred and why. The only time he didn’t give a deflecting humorous answer he said, ‘Chas is the writer. Chuck is the artist."

So I tried to follow that guideline when his work appeard in the publication I was editing ever since. I still don’t know what precisely his two middle initials stand for. One of his sisters revealed one of the initials in a posting on his Caringbridge site. I’m willing to let the other initial remains a mystery.

Friday Five (we told you so edition)