Monthly Archives: February 2015

Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end

Publicity photo of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy on the set of the original Star Trek series.
Publicity photo of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy on the set of the original Star Trek series.
There are a lot of thoughts and emotions bouncing around in my head since learning that Leonard Nimoy—who portrayed the logical yet humane Spock on the original Star Trek series, the enigmatic and sometimes villainous William Bell on Fringe, and many, many roles in between—passed away on Friday. Before I was able to compose something that made sense of my feelings to post, my beloved husband wrote on twitter:

RIP @TheRealNimoy you showed us how to become whole people even when we felt like we were a mix of random parts.

Or, as writer and Manga Editor Stacy King put it:

Spock was the “it gets better” symbol for 70s nerd kids: a brilliant alien caught between cultures who still managed to find home & friends.

Some people say that we’re conflating a character with the actor that played him. Yes, Gene Roddenberry should get the credit for creating Spock—and when the network executives wanting to dump the “guy with the ears” after seeing the first pilot, for fighting fiercely to keep the half-alien/half-human character on the show. Similarly, credit is due to all of the writers who wrote him (especially Dorothy Fontana). But while characters in movies, television shows, and plays are the product of the creative work of writers, directors, costume designers, or so on, you can’t completely dismiss the contribution of the person who spoke those lines, wore the costume, and actually played the part.

Nimoy could communicate volumes in a cocked eyebrow or the tilt of his head. He’s the one who made us believe that this character that was a hybrid of a cold, emotionless alien and a much less logical human was a real person.

It doesn’t hurt that the man himself seemed quite likable. Whether he was playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, recording some truly awful music, directing movies, voicing parodies of himself in various animated (and not) shows, or being interviewed about any of his work, he always seemed to be having a good time. He took his craft quite seriously, but didn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

If George Takei is everyone’s favorite gay uncle, Nimoy became every nerd’s favorite grandpa. One of my friends retweeted one of Nimoy’s tweets from 2013 where he said that anyone who wanted him to be their honorary grandfather, should consider it done.

When he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which may have been the result of his smoking in his younger days, he started campaigning against smoking, by posting statements like: “I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD. Grandpa says, quit now!! Live Long and Prosper.”

Given his age and the illness, I thought I was prepared for this news. But I wasn’t. By the time I heard the news last week that he was hospitalized, he had already been released and gone home. I heaved a sigh of relief. He even posted to twitter afterward, so everything must be okay, right?

In retrospect, when you read the tweet, it’s obvious he knew. I guess I just wanted to be in denial. I know I cry easily, but I didn’t expect it to hit me quite like this.

I just posted the text of his final tweet yesterday, but it’s a good thought, and worth re-reading:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. [Live Long And Prosper]”

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Friday Links (harmful books edition)

enhanced-buzz-25196-1379944008-1It’s the final Friday in February, can you believe it?

Anyway, here is a collection of news and other things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared:

I Didn’t Kill Benjamin Ng, But Maybe I Should Have. One ex-undercover copy tells about his brush with Seattle’s notorious Wah Me Massacre.

August Washington Post Columnist Would Like A Little F*cking Decorum Please.

The War for the Soul of Geek Culture.

“Get Over It!” How not to respond to critics of 50 Shades of Grey. “It doesn’t matter that it’s “just fiction.” Before Jaws hit theaters in 1975, great white sharks weren’t the villains we now believe them to be. But when the movie–which was purely fiction–became a blockbuster, it directly caused humans to seek out and kill sharks, causing widespread population drops in shark species across the board. The influence of that piece of fiction (coincidentally also based on a novel) even coined its own name: The Jaws Effect.”

Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years.

How to Write About Characters Who Are Smarter Than You.

The Real Problem With Bread (It’s Probably Not Gluten) One wheat scientist has a compelling theory.

ALis Franklin: Fat Chicks in SFF. “I knew, at the tender age of thirteen, that I would never be a hero because I was a girl, and I was fat.”

The Epidemic of Facelessness. I have a fundamental disagreement with the article: I don’t believe most of those who threaten (as opposed to just say insulting things when they disagree) are genuinely surprised that anyone took them seriously. They are genuinely surprised that it had real world consequences. Two distinctly different situations,

The Last of the Typewriter Men: A dynasty of repairmen is keeping the world’s typewriters from going obsolete.

“Close Encounter!” –The Rogue Star That Passed Through Our Solar System.

Ancient Mural Portrays Ordinary Mayans.

Critically Endangered Plant with Brilliant Purple Flowers Discovered in Hawaii.

The Strange Magnetic Bubbles At The Edge Of The Solar System.

John Legend: more black men are in correctional control now than were enslaved in 1850.

Gay unions getting nod in voting by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Scott Lively Warns That SCOTUS Could Unleash The Antichrist By September 2015.

The Press Is Reporting Embarrassing News About Republicans And It’s So Not Fair!

The Rhodes scholarship wasn’t designed for my people — that’s why I had to win.

We must offend religion more: Islam, Christianity and our tolerance for ancient myths, harmful ideas.

I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year.

The Walking Dead’s Gay Kiss Ignites Controversy Online.

“Giuliani is a Kardashian now”: Martin Short’s blistering “Nightly Show” takedown.

The Murky Gay Politics Surrounding the ‘Stay Weird’ Oscars Speech.

Just let them kiss already: Why are TV shows so weird about male relationships?

Why Arkansas Needs To Take Graham Moore’s Advice and Stay Weird.

Old foe of gay rights rises against ‘religious liberty’ ploy to legalize gay discrimination.

Twink: The Other T-Slur.

How To Talk To Girls On Twitter Without Coming Off Like A Creepy Rando.

Benjamin Netanyahu Has Been Lying to Americans For 20 Years.

Marco Rubio’s Obamacare Alternative Signs Up 42 Whole People.

Kansas GOP Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook Wants To Criminalize “Harmful” Books.


There is only one day left to nominate works for the Ursa Major Awards. It just so happens a story of mine published last year qualifies, The Luminous Pearl. You can read it at the link. If you like it, please consider enrolling at the Ursa Major site and nominating it in the short fiction category.

Much more recently I wrote about Literary digressions and how I accidentally wrote a book one night.

I also wrote about Pulling the trigger (warning), things that come

From the roots, and worried about how whether I had Outgrown a favorite author from my childhood.

Could There Be Another Planet Behind the Sun?:

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A homeless dog living in a trash pile gets rescued, and then does something amazing! Please share. (I’m still crying):

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Who Is Fancy: Goodbye:

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Teen-ager leaning against a "You must be this tall to go on this ride" sign.
At a Six Flags theme park. I was 19 years old.
One of my unpublished goals last year was to re-read a bunch of books by one of my favorite authors from my middle school years. One of her books I have re-read again and again and again over the years since, but there were a lot of her other books that I remember liking quite well that I haven’t read since my late teens.

While several of her books are grouped as series, she didn’t write them in chronological order. She would write stories about the children of characters from her earlier books, for instance, and then decide to go back and write a story about some of the original supporting characters before any of those second or third generation kids had been born. So I was also going to try to read the series in the order of the events depicted within the stories.

The first one was easy to read… Continue reading Outgrown?

From the roots

© 2015 Gene Breshears
A cherry tree just a few doors down from our place.

There are a lot of cherry trees in our neighborhood. Most of them put forth pink blossoms. A few are white. There’s something about the pink ones that always strike me as more delicate and fragile than the white ones. And a whole row of pink cherry trees covered in flowers is gorgeous.

I noticed this morning that the new shoots coming up from the stump where a split from the trunk had been cut off some time ago were covered in only white blossoms, while the upper branches are all pink. I assume that the main cherry tree is actually a graft of a pink-blooming variety attached to a hardier white-blooming root, and that the new shoots are coming from the root stock.

My big, aggressive pink climbing rose started a similar growth pattern last year. While the grafts that produce huge pink roses has always been very fast growing and very bushy, after 19 years, something made the root ball start sending up new shoots. These new growths go even faster than the graft, though the branches are never as thick or strong. And instead of blooming enormous pink and peach double blossoms, it blooms in tiny white single blossoms. When they fully open they don’t even look like roses.

Lots of plants we humans find useful don’t grow “true” from their seeds. Many of these carefully cross-bred varieties aren’t disease resistant or otherwise are less robust and hardy then the wild, “mongrel” versions, so we graft shoots from the delicate and feeble versions that look the way we want or produce the size of fruit we want, et cetera, onto the root balls of those sturdy and vigorous mongrels. The hardy roots do the hard work of pulling nutrients and water from the soil, fend off underground bugs, fungus, and more, while the parasitic hybrid grafts are visible avoe, gathering sunlight which it uses to convert the carbon dioxide absorbed from the air into carbohydrates to store in the roots (and elsewhere) and new growth.

It is a symbiotic relationship, rather than parasitic, but when the root sends up its new shoots, I always feel as if the oppressed root is trying to live out loud and proud. So I’m going to let my rose grow both types of stalks for at least another year.

Because everyone deserves some time in the sun.

Pulling the trigger (warning)

Safety sign reads "Warning: Unpredictable Triggers"
Years ago, when I was a member of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus, there was one particular controversy that surfaced from time to time, in slightly different forms: that a particular piece of music we were rehearsing perpetuated oppression and therefore should never be performed.

This debate was triggered one time by a particular piece of classical music which included religious text, and we wound up setting aside some time at the spring retreat to discuss the issue. There was a large group discussion, then we broke into small groups, then back to the large group again. A very curious fact came to light during this process: every single one of us who felt strongly that we wanted to perform this piece, in part because as an out queer group our performance would be “taking it back” had been raised in conservative Christian families, and had experienced various traumatic events at the hands of people claiming to be acting on god’s behalf… Continue reading Pulling the trigger (warning)

Literary digressions

ursula-k-le-guin-quotes_8626-3I accidentally wrote a book.

This was not a case (as has happened to me a few times) where I began writing a short story and it just grew into something much longer than I meant. This time it was because I couldn’t finish a scene in the denouement of a book which I had planned as a book.

I had been working on the second novel of my Trickster series for a while. I had finally finished the the big climactic battle, and was working on the wrap-up chapter last September. I’d been struggling with one specific scene in that final chapter for more than a week. It wasn’t meant to be a super long scene (though when it was finished it was about 1200 words). I knew what had to happen in it. I needed to tie up one of the main plot lines and its most closely associated subplots… Continue reading Literary digressions

Friday Links (spinning universe edition)
Yay! (
It’s already the third Friday in February!

Anyway, here is a collection of news and other things that I ran across over the course of the week which struck me as worthy of being shared:

A Transgender 9-Year-Old’s Mom Made A Touching Video To Explain His Transition.

A gay dad’s letter to Austin Wallis, and the high school that rejected him.

Sculpting Human Evolution – Elisabeth Daynès.

What ISIS Really Wants: The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Fox News Compares ISIS Extremism To The Confederacy.

When space expanded faster-than-light.

Why Rand Paul’s Biology Degree Claim Matters.

You Can’t Take Back What You Already Have.

Why Does Everything In The Universe Spin?.

Human Neural Stem Cells Restore Cognitive Functions Impaired by Chemotherapy.

New Horizons Now Close Enough to See Pluto’s Smaller Moons.

‘Glee’ Features 200-Person Transgender Choir (VIDEO).

How I Found Myself on Friday Night’s Episode of Glee – the Experience.

Aaron Schock’s ‘Flamboyant,’ ‘Racy,’ ‘Ripped Ab Muscles’ ‘Lifestyle’.

How My Dad Became a Queer Black Feminist.

GOP prez contender see no marriage, hear no marriage.

Lenovo caught installing adware on new computers. It’s actually much worse than just adware…

Breaking: Massive Backlash from Parents and Students in Oklahoma After State’s Attempt to Ban AP History.

Seattle Police Union President to Cops: Get With the Times or Get Out of This City.

A More Realistic Version of the Law & Order: SVU Episode “Intimidation Game”.


One name, two name, real name, true name.

Storytelling should not be preaching.

Heron Surfing Kruger Style – on the back of a Hippo!:

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Solomon Georgio Stand-Up 02/10/15 – CONAN on TBS:

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Unlock Your Heart – Kenyth Mogan (Official Music Video):

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Nala the 5-year-old Norwegian Forest/Maine Coon cat from Norway loves going outside and playing in snow. She especially loves playing catch with it. Her humans put together this compilation of her snow obsession and included a few clips of her other adorable antics.:

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Rachel Maddow: ELVIS ‘Leaves the GOP’ in Mississippi! WHY?:

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Misconceptions from Television – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep. 14):

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One name, two name, real name, true name

Me sitting on the hood of a car.
Grandma took this picture of me when I was three or four.
I’ve written more than once about names: the names I’ve been known by, or the names people I’ve known have used. Each time I’ve at least circled around the question of what, precisely, do we mean when we talk about someone’s real name?

You will find a number of people who insist that only one’s legal name can be considered the real name. But being a person who has legally changed his name (and having known a few other people who have done so), I can assure you that there are also a significant number of people who insist that a legally changed name, while certainly legal, is not real. They insist that only the name given by one’s parents at birth is real, and all the rest are counterfeits… Or nicknames, or something. I confess I have trouble understanding their reasoning, because anytime I tried to discuss it with one of these people, they always reverted to insulting or dismissive language. “You’re just changing it to rebel against your parents,” or “So you didn’t like your name? grow a little backbone and embrace it.”

Continue reading One name, two name, real name, true name

Struggling with meaning

I wrote yesterday about why I believe storytelling shouldn’t be preaching. I’ve also written about how author’s values inform stories, usually not in the ways you think.

Sometimes stories come about because the author is trying to figure something out. We write the tale hoping to find that answer. I wrote a story set in my Trickster universe that was one of those. I’d had the bare bones of the conflict in my head for a long time, a kind of just-so story to answer a question about how one of the characters got into a particular vocation. But while I had an opening problem, I didn’t know how it ended, so it sat in my big list of story ideas on the hard disk for a couple of years.

Completely unrelated, I had been struggling for a long time to understand a particular zen koan. And it occurred to me, one day, that this character’s struggle might be something like the koan.

The next thing I knew, I was writing a story… And what came out was something called “The Luminous Pearl, or the Second Tail of Sora.”

Go give it a read, and tell me what you think.