Speaker for the Dogs

“Dad, what does Bender say?” he asks me, fully expecting an answer.

I want to break into the chorus of “What Does the Fox Say,” but the coffee cup is already at my lips and I simply struggle to swallow. A-bear asks of me the impossible, fully expecting I’ll have the capacity to deliver. The possibility that I might not have the answer to this or any question never enters his mind. I am practiced at this, I can make up the difference.

My first boy, who is nearly 18 and soon on his way to college, wasn’t so much this way. With him I could do no wrong. At a time in my life when I made so many mistakes and failed so miserably my reputation with him remained golden. I couldn’t be tarnished and looking back that far I know that the reason I stopped screwing up had a lot to do with living up to his expectations of me.

“Bender wants your table crumbs, he says ‘give me all your cinnamon roll,'” I reply after chocking down a hot mouthful of java-juice. It burns on its way down, so I have a little trouble imitating the begging Bender, who table-sharks our local coffee café, with the appropriate element of Scooby Doo.

“No he doesn’t,” Aral replies with indignation, “he says, ‘Rut row, give me all your cinnamon roll.’ Ah ha ha ha ha!” He’s got his Scooby down, which is surprising since he’s only ever heard it from my mouth.

“You’re right, little cub.”

Time enough …

Last night I went to bed intending to get up early. I wanted to do some yoga. Maybe sit for a peaceful moment, listen to my breathing or the rain. I went to bed early and then didn’t sleep, staring out the window at the clouds, backlit by the city, as the rolled their way north. When I did obtain some slumber I had anxiety dreams. Seems even I don’t think I deserve a house on the island, because last night, while in the moving truck crossing the Sound, the ferry went down with all hands. And this morning there I sit, at the bottom of the Salish Sea, amongst all our household goods. Notably, my dog sits next to me on the bench of the moving truck.

Dreams are creepy sometimes. I don’t even know why I was in the moving truck. But the most lasting effect of that little gem is that this morning when my alarm went off, I simply turned it off and rolled over snuggling under the down comforter.

A-bear has asked me several times just this morning what dogs are saying, he expects that I’ll interpret their body language and translate this into words he can understand. Pepper jumping around at the front door? “Errrrmahgerd, I have’ta pee!” The Maltese walking down the sidewalk with its owner? “Can I have some kisses, please? Just little kisses.” The guy walking this dog wasn’t impressed. And Bender at the coffee shop, who perpetually orbits under the table sniffing around for a tasty snack.

My leitmotiv seems to be acting as Speaker for the Dogs. For this I am thankful, life couldn’t have blessed me more. And so, sitting at the café sipping my favorite cuppa, I’m going to give myself permission let go of my house buying anxiety. I’m going to, at least for a time, forget all my self imposed deadlines and write for the joy of it. I’m going to talk like Scooby Doo and make my youngest son squeal with glee. I’m giving myself permission to simply be that guy. Not the idealized person I imagine I should be, but the guy I actually am. The person the moment calls for.

Kick My Friends


Last year I attended and/or was a guest at a number of really excellent genre conventions. I learned several lessons. Made some good contacts. Enjoyed lively discussions. I even played Cards Against Humanity in front of a crowd and danced to the John Scalzi’s mesmerizing master mixes. But the one thing that I got out of all this convention attendance that I hold most dear was a handful of new friends.

This year my convention attendance will drop dramatically. I can’t afford plane tickets or hotel rooms and still be able to buy a house. And right now, from this rather uncomfortable stool at my local cafe, a house seems like about the only thing I really want. If everything works out I’m headed to WorldCon, it is a mere day’s drive away, and if my budget is too tight I can camp.

So while I’m looking forward to WorldCon it’s sort of a great big question mark in my mind. Could be fun, might be stressful, and I might learn something valuable, but not “Whaaaaahooooo, I’m going to attend a convention jam packed full of strangers!”

That said, my favorite convention last year was by no small margin GeekFanExpo. It was small enough that I got to spend a lot of time intimate time with creators and fans alike. There didn’t seem to be a raucous or immature “party till you puke” sort of vibe that grew from the dark recesses of the hotel until it overcame the whole affair sometime after midnight. And, the best part, I made some pretty awesome friendships while I was attending.

This year they’re trying to do it all again. It takes a lot of effort, time and money to make something like GFX happen at all. Contracts must be negotiated with multinational hotel conglomerates and mom and pop vendors alike and everything from site security to harassment policy must be taken care of well in advance of the opening ceremony.

Personally, I’d love to see this happen again. GFX was an awesome time last year and we all could use a second chance at awesome. Right now the shows creators have put up a Kickstarter which they’re using to fund the seed money to make the convention a reality. If you’ve got the spare nosh consider plonking it down for a most excellent celebration of all things geek.


Question of the Day

Yeah so this is now bugging me. A plotting decision for which I can see no real justification. In the movie Big Hero 6 the charters Hiro and Tadashi Hamada live with their aunt Cass. The backstory is that when Hiro was four their parents died. No real explanation beyond they’re dead is provided. Their aunt takes the boys in and loves them, sure enough, but I keep wondering “Why?” Why even include this in the early scenes of the movie at all?

Seems like an unnecessary complication in the development of Hiro’s story. Did the writers want us to believe that Hiro was already acquainted with the the prospect of personal loss? Is it possible that Tadashi’s death, a big brother who fills a parental role, might seem less catastrophic because Hiro also lost his parents. Maybe this backstory is developed in the comic book, which I haven’t read, and the screen writers just included this detail to maintain some sort of pluralism with that version of the story?

Guess that’s what a morning of editing might do to you. After seeking holes in my own plot for so long it actually seems like a little break to poke holes in other’s stories. Still a great story, a movie I really enjoy, but I can’t help but wonder why.

False Expectations: Guest Post

Okay, it’s done. It’s out there.

Last summer I met and got to know Jim Hines first at DetCon1 and later at GeekFanExpo. I had read his Goblin series previously when a friend turned me onto it (thanks Darren) and really enjoyed this underdog-fantasy. So, after the books and after spending some time in his company, I knew Jim had a way with words. But what I didn’t know was how much this guy cares.

Jim and I after Story Time at DetCon1

What I mean by that is that, if you’re sitting across a bar room table talking about what ever with him, you’ll soon get the impression that he’s really listening to you. Not just occupying the down time for his mouth by constructing his counter argument to what you might be saying. And not just nodding his head and letting your words bounce off his ears. Jim is an obviously phenomenal listener.

Near the start of the year he put out a call for essays to be included in the second of his Invisible series. He had previously brought together a variety of voices last year to talk about the “importance of representation in science fiction and fantasy” and he was doing it again. A wild hare took me for a ride and I pitched an idea for an essay.

Wild Hare Ride

At first, I thought I might write about the misrepresentation of PTSD veterans or maybe something from the point of view of a seizure patient. In the end however, I chose to talk about how popular military fiction tends to get martial life wrong. Really, really wrong.

You can find the essay on Jim’s blog, it was published this morning. It will be included later this year as part of an anthology. I’m hoping to hear some opinions on this topic because, like it or not, the martial myth is such a big part of the standard American experience. I’d love to hear what you have to say even if you disagree. Especially if you disagree.

Year Three

LinkedIn and a friend and former MSFT colleague just reminded me that today is a bit of a holiday for me. Three years now I’ve been a stay at home Dad, another job I’m probably not qualified for. Aral and I have spent the morning listening to music and cleaning the house. The dog is content to sit under the table and watch us. We’re waiting to hear back on an offer we’ve made on a house.