The Insepctor

When the protagonist of Knots walked through a fold in the world into a alternate land, it seemed only natural that he would be befriended by a talking cat. Trefoil was only a walk-on character at first, but quickly became a central part of the narrative. I dedicated the book to the cats who kept me company while writing.

In Stellar Horizons, you build your own space program and advance out into the solar system, first tentatively with fragile robotic orbiters and rovers. With each success or failure you slowly gather scientific data and technical experience and move to more and more sophisticated crewed ships, and then bases, perhaps first on the moon, and then other planets.

It’s finally showing signs of spring here in Upstate New York, even though friends from warmer climates have been posting pictures of blossoms for many weeks now. The Ume trees are the first to burst forth (their cousins in Japan have been out for a couple of months now and are already producing fruit.)

After finishing the excellent (but long and relentless) Otherland series, I was in the mood for something lighter, so I picked out some stories in a more humorous vein. I came up with three that satisfied the need, and reviewed them below. It started me thinking about how they used humor in different ways.

I’ve used a lot of aphorisms in my career, short sayings to make a point. Some of my favorites were:

Sufficient unto the day are the meetings thereof
Cheap hardware isn’t
Anything can be accomplished given sufficient caffeine
To explain simply, understand deeply

Time is something that humanity has always known and measured. Early humans marked the days of the year to know when the solstices were, when to plant crops, when to expect the monsoons. But we tend to think of timekeeping as a more modern device. Clocks to tell workers their shift at the factory, or when to expect the next train. (Time zones were the creation of the railroads to allow them to synchronize their schedules.)

This month we are featuring graphic novels, those beautiful volumes that marry artwork with storytelling. The stories can be as deep and as moving as novels that employ only prose, but their form brings both freedom and constraints to tell stories in a different way.

The writing of Sellenria II is moving along. It takes up the story of how Stenn’s ancestor Jonan came to be on Sellenria and explores how events can be surprisingly different than the legends told centuries later. Here, Perrhen is telling of the legends of even more ancient figures in the Kir Leth civilization.

“Gleomere was Polnedra’s greatest creation. In some tales, that was literally true, in that she shaped him to be beautiful, and admirable, and quick, and intelligent, and then imbued him with a portion of her own creative spirit.

If this were a normal year, I would be in Japan with my family. I call my wife’s mother’s house “the last house at the end of the rice fields before the mountains.” It’s in a small village at the edge of a populous river valley. Beyond it are steep hillsides, often planted with rows of tea bushes. Wild boar and monkeys make their home there, requiring a defensive perimeter around the family gardens to stop their depredations. There is probably a local legend of the gaijin who once a year walks over the mountain to see the temple on top and the ruins of a castle that stood there four hundred years ago. The few other hikers stare, but bow when I wish them akemashite omedetou – happy new year – as I pass. Even up here, small shrines and buddha statues are tucked along the path, hiding among the gnarled tree roots.

As 2020 draws to a close, we want to say thank you to all of our loyal readers.

This has been a year like no other, the sort of tale for which you sincerely hope no sequel will ever be made. It appears that we’ll turn the corner on the virus, and with luck, on the economy. There’s more to do, on climate action, on equality, on moving from discord to discourse in our public forums. Perhaps this is the year we can say we made a start on those.

Whatever you celebrate – and we have readers all over the world, so we know that includes Christmas, Hanukka, 正月, the solstice, and probably Beltane as well — we wish you the very best of
fortune in the new year.