I know, I always call my updates that when it’s been friggin’ forever, but I don’t care even one bit!

First of all, I must mention that there’s a new Films of High Adventure over at Fantasy Magazine, this one on The NeverEnding Story. We’re probably the nicest we’ve ever been to a movie prominently featuring an annoying moppet telling the audience what they’ve seen/are about to see, so, yay!

Moving on, I’ll be heading to Florida this Saturday to visit my folks! I’m looking forward to reading some novels, chilling out, cooking some food, doing crafty stuff with my mom, taking walks with my dad, all that sort of thing. Sadly, John will be in Orlando at a staff conference for his job while I’ll be in Tampa, but I think we’re going to organize some WoW parties with Raechel, who’ll be holding down the forts in Boulder.

I am also very proud that I just sent out the novel I finished up recently to the host of awesome beta-readers who volunteered to tell me if it sucks or not, and also correct my grammar. I am excited to get some outside eyes on this project, because I am too blinded by love for it to be objective at all. I know we need some time apart, this book and I, so I’ll be reading some non-fiction so maybe I can perk up a few details, and also reading some fiction to cleanse my palette. I’ll also be working on some various and sundry fiction and creative non-fiction things, and I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with short form since I can’t recall the last time I wrote a short story.

Additionally, I feel the need to mention that I just read what I believe might be one of the most racist stories ever written, and no, I’m not talking about that piece in the NYT about how Indians have taken over New Jersey (though it was, obviously, in the running). No, I speak instead of Robert E. Howard’s “The Vale of Lost Women,” which wasn’t published during his lifetime but still managed to find its way to the printed page several times. I know it’s pretty un-shocking to out Howard as a racist, but seriously. I give authors from the past so much leeway when it comes to the odd racist comment or sexist trope. I feel strongly that there’s a place and time for holding people accountable for their beliefs–and that people, both living and dead, should be held accountable for their beliefs–but that such accountability need not be the only way to consume and interpret stories written during a different time. This story, however, gets a big brown F in every way. It is hideous. Not only does it have Conan straight-up telling a girl he’d rape her if he felt like it (and, OK, whatever, I’d forgive that in isolation, it’s a Conan story), but the girl in question is a little white girl with blonde hair who was captured by black savages and raped by their hideous leader. Let’s just for a moment consider Howard’s description of the leader, a fellow by the name of Bajujh (FAIL, already):

On an ivory stool, flanked by giants in plumed headpieces and leopardskin girdles, sat a fat, squat shape, abysmal, repulsive, a toad-like chunk of blackness, reeking of the dank rotting jungle and the nighted swamps. The creature’s pudgy hands rested on the sleek arch of his belly; his nape was a roll of sooty fat that seemed to thrust his bullet-head forward. His eyes gleamed in the firelight, like live coals in a dead black stump.

Woah. Also, the rest of the language regarding Bajujh and his tribe hits all the notes–the black folks are compared to animals (“panther-like”) or demeaned for possessing native African-ish features (their hair is described as “kinky” and “wooly” as compared to Conan’s and the little white girls’ flowing tresses, among other crimes of wtf). The women are described uniformly as “wenches” (often “ribald wenches”) with white eyeballs rolling wickedly in their black faces or, by Conan himself, as “black sluts” who make him sick with their very appearance. Jesus. So, yeah. I don’t know why this struck me as being blog-worthy, I just. . . I’m making my way through my anthology of all the Conan stories, and up until now there’s been some serious-business Orientalism and some problematic white-dude-conquers-brown-people-for-good nonsense, but this was my first encounter with out and out WHAAAAAA?!?!?! in that book. I’ve read novels about slavery written by white English during the 18th century that were less racist and accorded more respect and humanity to black folks than “The Vale of Lost Women.” Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Finally, and most of all, sadly, I recently had to put my beloved cat Penelope to sleep. About a year ago, the vet noticed some of her liver values were elevated. Perhaps eight months ago, she was diagnosed with fatty liver disease, which is curable with effort and attention. We gave her the effort, we gave her the attention. Things were looking up for a time, she was steadily improving. Then, right before we went down to Florida for weddings and family visiting, her shape got kinda odd. At first it looked like maybe she’d just gotten a pot belly–she was eating more–but I took her in for a checkup before the vet had recommended anyways, to be sure. It turns out that her liver had failed, though her pathology wasn’t totally consistent with that or anything else. I believe now that a number of things just gave out at once. We did everything the vet recommended, but it wasn’t enough. The vet was frankly baffled she was even alive and as perky as she was toward the end. Most cats, apparently, would’ve succumbed to disease or depression far earlier. Penelope was a fighter, though–she loved her life, it was obvious she was trying every bit as hard as we were, but she started to decline after a few mild gains. A few days before we made the decision to have the vet come to the house and help her pass on, even though she was having trouble jumping, she got into bed with me, something she hadn’t done in years. Every day she meowed and purred and snugged and took a few little laps of tuna water or hummus, even though she was having a hard time keeping herself clean.

I miss her so much. Her favorite chair looks so empty now, the little bed next to mine that she slept in toward the end of things seems even smaller. I had been getting up in the middle of the night to pet her and check on her after the diagnosis/prognosis, and a few times I’ve woken up for that purpose only to realize that she is beyond being checked on any more. I am glad she is at peace, but twelve years wasn’t enough for me.