Archive for August, 2010

I wrote a whole thing, but then I realized that nothing I could say would be better than just letting people speak for themselves.

Over at Fantasy Magazine!

A true and thorough transcript of some of the unfortunate events that transpired during the Inquisition of Johannes Cabal, 8/23/10, provided by Inquisitor Tanzer to her Superiors, among them the Most Honorable and Lenient Inquisitor Staggs.

Gentlemen, I have failed you, and I only hope that the following record will shed light upon the reason that Herr Johannes Cabal was found roaming the passages of the Inquisitorial Chambers when the men employed by Inquisitor Jacobs found him. I pray to God that He will forgive me for my oversights in this matter once I die; for now I pray to God that you, my superiors, will show me the degree of mercy we expect from our Creator.

I had One-Thumb Harry (as opposed to Gap-Tooth Harry, he simply can’t be trusted ever since the incident I described in my transcript of the events of 7/3/09) tie him up, but though Harry assured me that his lack of a thumb wouldn’t hinder him in the art of knot-tying. . . perhaps I’d just better move on to the transcript. I asked:

Mr. Cabal, do you believe this court possesses the authority to try you for your crimes?

No.

Do you even feel that your nefarious actions constitute crimes?

No.

Do you believe in a universal standard for ascertaining right from wrong?

No.

To be clearer, do you feel that there is a way of determining right from wrong?

No.

Do you even care?

No.

Madam, a word of advice. I would recommend you avoid closed questions in future. Didn’t they teach you this in Inquisitorial College, somewhere between “Applying Thumbscrews the Modern Way” and “Framing Innocents 101”? No matter. I shall do you the courtesy of expanding upon my answers while I tie you up and make my escape from this dank cellar it pleases you to call a dungeon. No, believe me, I’ve escaped from proper dungeons, and this doesn’t compare. Yes, escape. Well, the way I’d planned on this working is that I point this handgun at your head, and then you become all manner of helpful. It usually works. Ah, how I procured a Webley .577 in a secure cellar. . . my apologies. . . dungeon, constitutes a professional secret. I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you. No, I would have to kill you. Yes, seriously. I have a gun, and you know I have killed before; I fail to see why this is so difficult for you to believe. Ah, there we go, that’s better. Being in denial is a corrosive state, much better to be in fear of your life.

So, to your questions. I do not believe that this court, as you call it, has any authority. It is a religious court and claims its authority from God, and trust me, God does not care. I am in no sense an atheist; I have met demons and devils and seen the irrefutable handiwork of gods–yes, plural–so why would I deny that which I have scientifically proved? My evidence for your god is more circumstantial. I have met Satan, who identified himself as Lucifer, a fallen angel, and who agreed that he had been cast down from the presence of God for the sin of pride. There is a Satan, ergo, there is a God. Although it occurs to me that Satan is a terrible liar. Try this for a hypothetical; there is no God, except as a scarecrow set up by Satan for his amusement. He watches mortals make fools of themselves in the somewhat smug knowledge that all will eventually go to Hell, because there is no alternative. Think of all the evil that has been done in the name of God–we are in a chamber full of instruments of torture, after all–and then think of how my hypothesis would explain so much.

Well, why not? It would make a change from cribbage. Oh, contain your outrage, madam. I am merely playing devil’s advocate.

Hah.

My actions–most courts would regard adding the adjective “nefarious” as an affront to the judicial process, but I don’t suppose that bothers people who dress for Halloween in August–my actions were necessary. If they are crimes, it is unfortunate, but irrelevant. You have no idea the things I have done to get this far. Stopping my researches, that would be the crime. My right may be your wrong, and that may mortally offend you but, believe me, madam, the answer to your last question was entirely heartfelt.

I do not care.

Now, I can hear your guards falling over one another in their haste to meet my revolver. That is acceptable. Good day, madam.

May God have mercy on his soul. And may the court have mercy upon me. . .

I don’t even know where to begin with this, but I’ll try just saying that Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal books are awesome and you should go read them right now.

As you might imagine from the cover image to the left, both books are about a gentleman by the name of Johannes Cabal, and he is a notorious, unscrupulous, and irritable necromancer. They are both also completely lovely examples of how it is indeed possible to make fantasy humor work without resorting to puns, or–even worse–wisecracking stock fantasy characters like dwarves or goblins.

The first in the series, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (2009) chronicles a year in the life of Johannes Cabal as he co-runs a demonic carnival. It is written in a style that I can only really describe as “wouldn’t it be awesome if The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels dealt with demons and vampires instead of spaceships? Yes.” The plot is well-conceived, the writing is excellent, and the characters are amazing. Johannes Cabal himself is deliciously nasty, socially inept, and utterly unscrupulous according to our meagre standards of what it means to have scruples. He does the things lesser men fear to do–if you’ve ever imagined, for example, snatching the iPhone out of the hand of that man on the plane who keeps waving away the flight attendant as she asks him time and again to power down his device so you can take off, and then braining him with it, sitting down, and wishing that the flight attendant would stop gawping at you and just bring over your little plastic cup of orange juice because you’re a bit thirsty, then this book will likely appeal to you. My only complaint with the entire endeavor is the pacing, which I felt faltered briefly in the third act–that said, the novel recovered completely in the fourth, and the ending left me all misty-eyed and deeply grateful that I had the sequel to comfort me in my distress at having to shut the book because it was over.

Johannes Cabal the Detective is somehow even better than Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. It is a masterpiece of silliness and good times, and I enjoyed every single moment I spent reading it. I can’t say anything about it, because I would hate to rob people other than my husband and my two best friends, who have spent the last week being very understanding of me chuckling to myself and occasionally spoiling bits of the plot, of the experience of discovering just what’s up with this book. Just go read it.

So yeah. Watch this space for more Johannes Cabal craziness, as there’s something fun in the works, let me tell you–I, however, must nip off and find the two Johannes Cabal short stories available in issues 1 and 3 of H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror. It’ll help me deal with the sense of loss that I shan’t hear anything new of Herr Cabal until I get ahold of The Way of the Wizard, which I’ve heard contains an all new Johannes Cabal adventure called “The Ereshkigal Working.” Huzzah!

Sure sure, Dr. Laura has “apologized” for articulating the word “nigger” on her radio show this week (though she has apparently excised the offending segment from her online transcript; thankfully sites like Media Matters snagged the whole thing so it can live forever on the internet). I’d like to take a little time to deconstruct her apology a bit, however, because it is filled with the same stinky privilege that informed her, um. . . I guess we could call it a “gaffe” instead of “racist outburst” for the sake of argument, right? Anyways.

For those who haven’t heard of this awesome piece of awesomeness, for some reason unbeknownst to me at least, a woman named Jade called Dr. Laura’s show for the cranky blathering that she passes off as “advice.” Jade is black, and she was concerned and frustrated because her white husband won’t just fucking tell his asshole friends and relatives not to do that thing where majority-dwellers assume that an “other” (like a real live black woman!) can speak for an entire group.

Dr. Laura then got all huffy and stuff (no, really?!) because it’s not at all racist (apparently) to ask a black person what, you know, all black people think about a given issue. Everyone knows they all think the same, amiright?

But yeah, so it unshockingly degenerates after that into a baffling exchange wherein Dr. Laura basically just shows her ass over and over again with comments like:

Well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply ’cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise.

and:

I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says [nigger], it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.

and, I guess because Dr. Laura ostensibly doles out “advice” on her show:

If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.

GAWD ALMIGHTY. You can read the whole amazing transcript, it’s linked above. There’s just so much to mine there, mostly amounting to the poor caller being accused of “having a chip on her shoulder” for expressing the sentiment that, essentially, well maybe black people don’t have some sort of psychic connection wherein they all think the same way about stuff–you know, “black-think” as Dr. Laura so sensitively put it in her summation at the end.

It’s so outrageous. But the thing is, Dr. Laura articulating “nigger” several times isn’t what’s so problematic here, shockingly enough. Sure, throwing around the word “nigger” in casual discussions of race like it was no big deal marks you as an idiot (or someone who knows she’s losing an argument so she throws out an epithet so completely offensive that it’ll get people riled and impact their ability to argue with you effectively, not that I think that could have been her purpose at all, oh no no no of course not!), but that’s the obviously problematic part of all this.

The more insidious–and thus more damaging–aspect, is the willingness on Dr. Laura’s part to play the wide-eyed innocent white person who’s like, just so confused by all this “black stuff!” Gosh n’golly, why can black comedians on HBO say “nigger” but I can’t? It drives me insane.  It’s like, the same privileged bullshit Aaron McGruder called out constantly in early Boondocks comic strips, or that Spike Lee mined in Bamboozled where his Quentin Tarantino knockoff tells Damon Wayans that he knows more about black people and what’s offensive because knows, um, Spike Lee.

Dr. Laura pretty much exemplifies racial privilege. Her comments during the show–and in her apology–are representative of the sort of entitlement that says “as a white person, I find it offensive when black people won’t let me causally use hurtful racial epithets that have been reclaimed to some extent within the black community! That’s discrimination, you know, and we live in America!” And it’s sad.

It’s also disingenuous–because, honestly, the concept of in-group versus out-group is understood by everyone. And Dr. Laura seems to get that–after all, she apologized for using “the n-word”–but yet, of course, she doesn’t seem to realize anything else that she did wrong during that exchange:

I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the “n” word all the way out–more than one time.  And that was wrong.  I’ll say it again–that was wrong.

I ended up, I’m sure, with many of you losing the point I was trying to make, because you were shocked by the fact that I said the word.

Right! Right! Yes, Dr. Laura! Thanks for “getting it!” Your point, which as far as I can tell was that that a woman who’s upset because she feels compromised by her husband’s unwillingness to stand up for her individuality, has, quote, “a chip on her shoulder”–that was totally lost because you said “nigger!” I suppose that, actually, we can only hope that your other points–that black people voted for Obama because he’s black and they’re black and not for any other reason–were lost, as well. . . not because you said nigger, but because that’s an ignorant attitude that allows white folks to feel better about the world because it ignores what a whole lot of what both black and white folks call “reality.”

And the most hilarious thing about all of this is how Dr. Laura also manages to then undermine herself in a last-gasp effort to redeem herself to her white conservative demographic. Let’s just take a moment to analyze the letter she put on her blog in defense of herself–the lone example of all the mail she received on the matter, that was, I’m sure only incidentally, written by a black lady:

I believe that African-Americans using the n-word is disdainful, as well as Caucasians or any other race for that matter.  I agree that the argument some African-Americans use that it is ok for them to use it and not others, is ridiculous.  But, I have to say, when I heard you saying the word repeatedly, it struck a negative chord with me.

I don’t believe you are a racist, and I don’t believe, as an African-American woman, that I am hypersensitive.

Wait–what? Could it be. . . omg! This particular black person disagrees with the notion that it’s OK for black people to use the word nigger! But. . . I thought. . . waaaait a second. . . I thought black people were guilty of “black-think!” That they all just agree on stuff? I mean, didn’t “they” just put Obama in the White House cuz he black?

Could it be, that perhaps Jade, who mistakenly sought advice from Dr. Laura in the first place, was right to feel offended when people constantly try to force her to represent all “black people” because. . . wait, maybe. . . it’s that black people. . . just like white people. . . have different opinions about stuff?

Nah. They probably just all have chips on their collective shoulders.

It seems that Running with the Pack was reviewed over at Innsmouth Free Press, and that, among others, “In Sheep’s Clothing” attracted the notice of Ms. Kinney enough that she discussed it in depth! Yay!

I continue to be touched and amazed by the favorable attention my story has received. Yet, I must admit, while I was intensely happy that my narrator was dubbed the “heroine” of the story by Ms. Kinney over at IFP, my favorite review of all actually appeared on my facebook page, courtesy my good friend David, who said on the matter, “[I] do like the black magick references and lessons against working with one’s neighbors.”

Being in the business of providing valuable advice and life-lessons has its rewards, and it’s nice to know that my message was interpreted correctly by at least one kind soul. Cheers!