I Had A Dream (US Inauguration Day)

Weirdly, I had a dream last night.

It was the night before Biden’s inauguration, and for some reason I was hosting Donald and Melania Trump at our house (or possibly backstage at the inauguration, but it was our house). Maybe they booked us because we did such a good job looking after them when they visited Finland to meet with Big Daddy Putin.

It was decidedly odd. I had a chat with them both, and found Donald to be … pleasant. Like his public and online personae were just an act. It was all fairly quiet and inoffensive, even though I was trying to be critical and challenging, I found I had very little to say because he was so laid back. I did get a bit of a zinger in, while explaining the great influence my older sister has had on my life, personality and ideology. Donald was like, “ah, your family in Australia,” and I said, “yep, I’m one of those immigrants who didn’t bring his whole extended family with him when he moved into the country.”

I meant it as a “not all immigrants are bad and it’s not a takeover by foreign powers, it’s just diversity” statement, but Melania asked whether it was maybe a jab at her and the way she’d brought her parents into the US. It was mildly amusing.

And then they bought one of my books! I was looking around my bookshelves for a spare paperback to give them, and getting agitated because they’d all been cleared away somewhere, when I woke up.

I mean, that was weird, right? They don’t read.

Happy Inauguration Day. Welcome to the world, President Biden. Don’t fuck it up, it’s already a huge mess.

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New Year, New Look

My esteemed and warped-genius colleague, Creepy (aka. Mister C, aka. … well never mind, he has more nicknames than I do) has invested in graphics software and turned his efforts to (among other things) a DeviantArt page. Go and check it out.

The prize of the collection though, at least so far, has to be this one.

Revel in it.

I want to thank my weird and wacky and wonderful brother in penslinging for making me look even remotely like Jason Momoa. I am taking this straight to Mrs. Hatboy and showing it off with great glee. Furthermore, I have found a new avatar for myself – a long-overdue overhaul to my various profiles, and a new me for the new year / decade.

Damn right. He even nailed the eyeroll.

Couldn’t be more chuffed.

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Where to next?

Yesterday I wrote the final words of my first draft of The Last Days of Earth, and got the editors’ proof paperbacks into production from Amazon Spain. All that remains is to edit, get my cover (the drafts I’ve seen so far look predictably amazing), and get it out there.

545 pages, 155,485 words. Done.

I know I don’t do word counts and stuff so much anymore, since I don’t post daily anymore. But there’s my total. Lucky #17 is essentially done!

I abruptly found myself at a loss. Not only have I been working on these two books – The Last Alicorn and The Last Days of Earth – side by side since the release of Panda Egg in November 2019, but this book marks the third and final instalment of the Oræl Rides to War trilogy and a chronology of Earth from 1990 AD to its final year. With occasional dives into the distant past.

It’s been brewing and bubbling away for years. The Archangel Barry was already part of a story I started telling online on the old Monkeyhouse website in the late ’90s, and The Last Days of Earth is based on a dream I had even earlier in my life, and has only just found its way into story form. There are bigger and more important series to get out – with any luck this trilogy will have shaken some of them loose – but Oræl Rides to War was a huge one.

This is still where we’re at, pending the cover to The Last Days of Earth.

So I suppose the next stop is a new anthology – Tales of the Final Fall of Man 4. Then there’s the second half of Tales of the Always Night, Wump and Toop will be wanting me to get on with that. And then, apparently a colouring book! That could be fun. The girls already immediately opened The Last Alicorn when I gave them their copies, and started colouring the pictures.

Ahh, but Phase 3 beckons. Haven’t ventured into hard fantasy yet, it’s going to be fun.

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The Good, the Bad, and the UGGGHH: 2020 in a quick mess of movie and TV reviews

In the closing hours of this inexpressibly dumb year, I’m going to do my time-honoured thing of saying that I’m not going to write a whole bunch of review text, and then probably write a whole bunch of review text. I know myself a little better by this point.


The other day, Wump and Toop and I made the critical emotional mistake of watching Inside OutSoul, and the episode of Star Trek: Voyager where Neelix meets the inventor the space A-bomb and reveals that he is a space Hiroshima victim and a space draft-dodger. Anyway we won’t go into that. Also Mrs. Hatboy was along for the ride but she was mostly watching silent movies on her laptop with her earphones on so she missed most of it. She was along for the movie night, I mean. Not space Hiroshima.

Anyway, we watched the new Pixar movie for Disney+. And it was fine. The more I think about it, the more its message seems to resonate, but it wasn’t anything phenomenal. A man who had never dared to live meets an unborn soul in the same position, and together they … something. Learn about how beautiful life is. It was nice.

I … dislike that the ideas behind the world-building, and the story itself, took a back seat in popular discourse to the ethnicity of the main character. Is it important that Pixar made a black-centred story with African American characters? Sssssssure. Yes, yes it is. Black Panther was about a fictional African nation but it was good, and Luke Cage was fine too, more of all that.

I can’t comment on whether the story of Soul was a real one about the “black experience” or in any way a black-cultural touchstone. Is that what any Pixar movies are for any particular culture? I didn’t think so, but then maybe they’re all about white life and I’m white so I don’t notice. I’m not dismissing that possibility, I just … there’s fuck all I can do about it, so here we are.

I saw plenty of black folks online who loved the movie, so – good. Good enough for me. Everyone brings their own baggage to a movie.

“What if I close my good eye and it’s all blurry, can I pretend this is a story about the unifying human condition rather than the imperialist Pixar hegemony overwriting the African American sociocultural paradigm?”

What I can talk about is the idea of an obsession, a calling, a spark that gives your life meaning. And how that spark can seem utterly all-consuming while at the same time out of reach, frightening, and anticlimactic once you’ve grasped it. Because it was a fucking delusion the whole time.

In a universe that we know, intellectually, is random and uncaring, any and all meaning in our lives is a function of our big dumb overcomplicated brains. There probably is no higher plane, no Limbo or unreality where souls come from and go to. The things we love, the things we feel like we were put on this world to do, are nothing more than a result of our genetics, brain chemistry, environment and upbringing.

But the concept art was amazing. Genetics, brain chemistry, environment and upbringing can fuck off, this was pretty.

So, a man who has lived and breathed music his entire life, while being stifled by modern capitalism and expectations and an unrewarding job as an educator (seems like there was a message there that they could have explored, but I guess trombone girl was it), dies before getting his big shot. Then had literally soul-searching adventures trying to get back so he can have his big shot. Then screws over the cosmic order to get his big shot, and then goes, “huh, that was it?” and realises that there was more to it all.

And then … I don’t know, he goes on doing it. Come back again the next night. And the next, like Dorothea says. “This is water. What I want is the ocean.” He takes that lesson, but it didn’t seem particularly meaningful. It was nice, and the more I think about the ideas that were under discussion, the more I like it. But there could have been a final polishing, a final rewrite. I don’t know.

I guess what I’m saying is, it still wasn’t as good as this.

Inside Out

This movie really hits different when the kid you’re watching it with is pushing 11, as opposed to when she’s 5½. I’ve already said everything I feel I need to say about this movie here, five years ago, so I’ll leave it at that.


What if Inside Out and Soul took place in the same extended Pixar universe, and one dealt with psychology and personality, while the other dealt with higher abstract concepts and the before and after of it all? Not much of a stretch really.


Speaking of a stretch, what if Zardoz was part of an extended cinematic universe? Which Sean Connery universe would it be? James Bond? Indiana Jones? Highlander? The Rock? The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? The Name of the Rose? Outland? It has to be Highlander, right? I’m going with Highlander. Zeist was overwritten to be the future, and “Zardoz” was a post-apocalyptic misinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz. So it practically writes itself. Zeist is clearly a misinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz IV: Time Heist. That’s what we’re going with.

We recently re-watched this horrible classic, not with Wump and Toop but with my good pals Linza and Mr. Bloom and Ilja the Music Man. It was considerably more coherent than I remember – I’m not sure how drunk I was the second time I watched it, or how other-substanced I was the first time, but this time I’d only had about four beers.

A chilling tale of human cultural stagnation and isolationism, Zardoz is just crazy as all get-out.


I remembered I already had two pictures in my archive for Zardoz, so why go looking for more?


Seriously, why?
This was the second picture I had.

This is another one that has more meanings the more you think about it, but ultimately depends on the luggage the viewer has stored in their overhead compartment. And ultimately is a statement about the mass quantities of top-shelf drugs available to filmmakers in the 1970s. If this is the future Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez came from, it’s no wonder he was happy to stand up under that fast-moving ventilation fan.

Moving on.

Batman and City Slickers

Yeah, I – I’m not sure where I was going with this one. I mean, I didn’t actually re-watch these movies, but I did a bit of ground-work in establishing that they exist in the same universe. Carl Grissom is Curly. Bob is Cookie. There’s obviously a witness protection double life thing going on but I have had too much sleep to blow the lid off it right now.

Oh, and it did definitely have a Zardoz-style mash-up that speaks directly to my 2020 sensibilities, so there’s that.

The Mandalorian

Let’s close out with a brief look back at a show I was pretty underwhelmed with (due to Star Wars fatigue) for the first season and a half, and then super duper mega excited about for like one episode, and then the season ended.

Spoilers, Luke Skywalker turns up at the end of the show and kicks a whole lot of robot stormtrooper butt, and I don’t even care about the spoiler because nobody should.

I already guessed where the show was headed because I saw a lot of reactions on Twitter. So, just to set the scene, we have a new Star Wars character doing mostly new Star Wars things. He dresses like Boba Fett but he isn’t Boba Fett. Some of the places he goes to are like Tatooine but they’re not Tatooine. He winds up looking after this fifty-year-old baby of the same species Yoda is from, but it’s not Yoda. Okay, so Boba Fett turns up and kicks some butt, and they do go to Tatooine, and Grogu does have Force powers and lived in the Jedi Temple and stuff, but damn it, it was almost a new Star Wars thing. They nearly had original writing and new stuff and a bit of creative integrity in there.

They brought in Ahsoka from animated TV version purgatory, and they said “Grand Admiral Thrawn” one time. THEY WERE SO FUCKING CLOSE.

But then, exactly like a small cock on a cold day, they shrunk back into their warm furry safety-crotch and brought Luke Skywalker in as the Jedi who comes to take Grogu away for training.

Okay, I’m pretty peeved about the whole thing but I have to admit a couple of points.

One, this was just after Return of the Jedi and Luke was just about the only outed Jedi going around attempting to train new ones. So it makes total sense that it be Luke.

Two, they seemed to walk a line between using a real-life younger look-alike of Luke, and mild face-altering CGI to bring him closer to post-Jedi Luke. It was still not exactly right, but at least it wasn’t uncanny valley. They did it fine.

And three, Luke’s butt-kicking scene was cool. It was cool. DAMN IT, IT WAS COOL. It actually reminded me really nicely that Jedi Knights are butt-kicking, name-taking space wizards and they’re fucking formidable. Ahsoka did the same in an earlier episode as well. It called to mind the panicked reaction of the Trade Federation Asian Stereotypes when they found out the negotiators were Jedi. One of the few things I remember, and enjoyed, in that trilogy.

All that said, ugh. UGH, I SAY.

I don’t know where they go for season 3. They’ve fan-fellated themselves into a fanboy-come-spackled corner and they fucking deserved it. The only solace I can take is that at some point between the beginning of The Mandalorian season 3 and Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Luke is going to screw the pooch and Grogu is either going to get killed, or leave the new school Luke makes, or else Grogu is a Knight of Ren with arm and leg extensions built into his goofy uniform.

Ugh. Enough.

Hey, that’s about as close to angry about Star Wars as I’ve ever managed to get. So apparently they can still bring it when they need to, eh? But for real, ranting aside, I’m just not invested enough to really care one way or the other. Never have been. I’ll still watch it, in the hopes that they’ll discover good writers one day. And Grand Admiral Thrawn the day after that. But one thing this year has taught me:

Nothing good ever came of giving the bitching crybabies what they want.

And I’m no exception to that.

Willems said it best a couple of years ago.

And said more this year.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. I used up all of my spare time to give this stupid year a send-off it hardly deserves. I hope you all have a most excellent new year’s eve and I’m looking forward to more fun and discourse in 2021.

At least it can’t get any worse!

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 19

We stood in a semi-circle, looking at the free-standing illuminated sign.

YOU ARE HERE, it read. There was a floorplan of the mall, with a red X in the absolute centre, not far from Pete’s Pints and Deconstructed Burgers.

“It’s the middle of the mall,” Mell pointed out, “which is the middle of the slo-time or the Gnang or whatever you call it.”

“I thought you stopped listening after ‘it was all a dream’,” I accused.

She shrugged. “I did,” she said, “but I’m also not an idiot.”

“What does it mean?” Creepy pondered.

“Why does it have to mean anything?” I asked. “You keep on wondering that, and the universe keeps on being random and pointless.”

The seven Creepies looked at one another.

“Someone’s in denial,” Mister C of 9 said in a low voice.

“And what does it have to do with the Chris Mess?” the Drake asked.

Christmas,” I said, “and nothing. Christmas was yesterday. Nothing happened. This was just a random series of meaningless events, and then they stopped happening, and…” I gestured at the sign, “and here we are. Can’t be much clearer than that.”

“Bit of an anticlimax though, isn’t it?” Creepy said plaintively.

“That’s the natural order,” I shrugged. “You can’t expect closure and narrative structure from a universe. You get what you pay for. And any cosmos that starts with a big bang is going to end with an anticlimax. Don’t say it,” I warned Mister C of 9 as he grinned and opened his mouth.

Man,” Mister C of 9 kicked unhappily at a stray chip packet. “I’m not even allowed to do an innuendo?”

“Not on my watch.”

“I can’t imagine my cliché-craft teachers of old would approve,” Winona grumbled. “Evidently Xix runs a bit of a tighter ship than this place.”

“Maybe we should do Christmas there next year,” Creepy suggested brightly.

“I’ll ask,” Winona hedged.

“So this is it?” Carla said. Her eyes were suspiciously narrowed, but she often looked like that so it was hard to say whether it was additional suspicion. “A couple of cheap shopping mall jokes dressed up in false profundity, you are here, ooooh, you get what you pay for, wow, and then what, nothing actually happens and nothing gets answered or solved? And that’s it?”

“Sounds about right,” I agreed.

“So what do we do now?” she demanded.

I looked at Creepy.

“We could all go back to our place and eat leftovers?” I suggested.

So we did.



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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 18

Winona, blessedly, reappeared as we entered the mall. He stepped out from behind the vending machines, which as it turned out were not as tall as his huge green hat with the iron spike. Disappearing behind them had actually been no mean feat, now I thought about it.

“I was looking for Creepy and Mister C of 9,” he explained. “I didn’t find them, although I did find Mister C of 9’s sword,” he held it up gingerly by one of its crossguards. “He’d stabbed the glowing box with it.”

“It’s a vending machine,” I said, then explained with a flash of inspiration, “which is sort of like a street vendor, only it’s just a box with food and drinks in it, and you give it money and it gives you the food.”

“What happens to the street vendor that is replaced by the glowing box?” Winona asked.

“I – not sure, actually,” I admitted. “I think … would the answer ‘starves to death a hundred and fifty years ago’ be too depressing?”

“It’s sad, certainly, but these things happen.”

“Then I’ll go with that,” I decided. “Of course, street vendors are still around, they sell mostly cooked food provided they have a special license for it, and these machines are owned by corporations that mass-produce preservative-laden snacks that don’t need to be heated up or stored in any particular way, except for the ones that do, and those vending machines have special gases in them that-”

“We may be incriminating ourselves just by listening to you,” the Drake said. “Oh look, there’s Creepy.”

“There you are,” I said as Creepy sauntered back towards us. “Where did you go? And where’s Mister C of 9?”

“He was escorted away by security,” he said, “but then they screamed and ran off when he removed his sunglasses.”

“That didn’t answer my question.”

“Are you sure? It feels like it did.”

“Perhaps we should make for the gastropub you were talking about,” Winona suggested. “Just in case Mister C of 9 decides to head straight there and slay the monstrous Pete.”

“I’m pretty sure Pete’s not actually monstrous, and probably doesn’t even exist,” I said, “but that’s still not a bad idea. You vanished pretty tidily yourself just now,” I congratulated the Xixian as we started through the mall.

“I was a Mysterious Disappearer Third Grade before being granted a place in the court,” he said modestly. “After I’d safely abdicated from the throne, of course.”

“What’s a Mysterious Disappearer?” I asked.

“I always assumed they were assassins who made inconvenient people disappear,” Creepy remarked.

“No, no. It’s a branch of the Guild of Quest Givers, Clue Sharers and First Act Arc Finishers,” Winona explained. “I specialised in making fleeting eye contact with an adventurer or lead member of a band of ragtag heroes across a crowded marketplace, and then vanishing when a knot of bickering merchants or a cart laden with yams went past. It’s a lot of training, a lot of very undignified scrambling and getting your feet run over by wagons at the start,” he laughed fondly. “I still remember my old instructor, Camulon the Extant,” he said, and suddenly barked, “I can still see the edge of your robe behind that stack of chicken cages, Bunklet! Bloody pathetic!

“‘Camulon the Extant’?” I raised my eyebrows.

“Camulon tore up the book, back in his day,” Winona said wistfully. “His thing was just being there the entire time, and having the same conversation with anyone who came past. Rain, hail or shine, he was an immovable object. Most of his friends were killed in the NPC massacres following my … father’s … rise to power,” he glanced at Creepy. “Camulon survived, but he spent the rest of his life teaching elementary cliché-craft to pimply teenagers. Some people whispered that it was his penance, for surviving.”

We found Mister C of 9 standing outside Pete’s Pints and Deconstructed Burgers, looking rather forlorn. He brightened up when he saw us.

“You found Stormbringer Sting Snaga Sikanda Scalpel Sorrow Sihill Swordy McSwordface,” he said happily, as Winona handed over the dead black blade.

That’s the name you gave your sword?” I blinked.

“Yes, it is,” he tucked Stormbringer Sting Snaga Sikanda Scalpel Sorrow Sihill Swordy McSwordface away and drew his black garb around himself with dignity. “But I can change it to ‘Bob’ if it’s too confusing…”

“So what about this place?” Carla stepped up. “Hopefully you’ve seen by now that, despite what the Drake said about war crimes, this is just a regular pub restaurant and is not in fact run by a monster. And either way, it looks like it’s closed for the holidays…”

“Over here,” Mell called. “I’ve found it.”

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 17

“The Shopping Centre of the Universe Mall and Gastropub,” Doctor Cratch read the sign with profound, abiding disgust. “You were right, Hatboy. I don’t like it.”

“I hate it,” Carla agreed.

Doctor Cratch pointed at her. “Me too,” I said. “I hate it, Hatboy. I hate it.”

I shrugged. “It’s the middle of the shrinking circle of Wasteland and slo-time,” I said. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“What is a Gastropub?” Winona asked.

“Malicious Gastropub Franchisery was declared a human rights violation by the Commercial War Crimes Commission of the late Twenty-Third Century,” the Drake said helpfully.

“It’s a tavern that charges as much for its food as a restaurant does,” I explained to the puzzled Xixian.

“Hm. And what is a restaurant?”

“It’s a tavern that serves expensive food and…” I thought about it for a moment, “…doesn’t rent rooms to people?”

“I see.”

“I think the one in this mall is called Pete’s Pints and Deconstructed Burgers,” I added.

“Food Deconstruction was classified as a form of torture as early as 2220,” the Drake said disapprovingly. “This Pete is clearly one of history’s greatest monsters.”

“Maybe killing him will break the curse,” Mell suggested.

“What curse?” I demanded.

“I don’t know, I stopped listening after ‘it was all a dream’,” she admitted. “I just assumed there was a curse and we have to break it to clean up the Chris Mess.”

“That’s not-”

“Creepy and Mister C of 9 already went in,” Winona piped up from the back of the group.

I turned – Creepy and Mister C of 9 had been standing right beside me – and sighed. Sure enough, they were gone. I heard the raised voice of one of them – how many litres do you get for that price? What? How much of a litre? – from the row of vending machines inside the main entrance.

“Alright,” I said, “let’s go in. Everybody stay together, I think their public announcement desk is run by a hungry ghoul so if anyone goes missing we can’t-” I turned back again, and sighed. Now Winona was gone as well. I’d only looked away from him for a second, but a small group of shoppers had passed between us on their way into the mall and he’d vanished along with them. “Just try to keep the Drake in your line of sight,” I said, waving the towering figure to precede me. The Drake obligingly raised an elongated arm in the air and spread her pallid, tapering fingers. From the expressions on the faces of nearby Shopping Centre of the Universe patrons, the Creepies were the only ones who weren’t going to be keeping the Drake in their line of sight for the foreseeable future.

“What are we even looking for?” Carla asked.

“As of this moment, Winona and Creepy and Mister C of 9,” I muttered, looking around.

“Because unless you do something, they’re probably going to kill the hapless innocent day manager at that gastropub you were talking about,” Carla warned.

“Unless I do something?” I objected. “Why me?” Carla looked at me flatly. “Fine,” I threw up my hands in exasperation.

We headed into the Shopping Centre of the Universe Mall and Gastropub.

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 16

“Okay,” Mell spoke up, “this is all a dream. First thing any of you have said that makes sense. What are we supposed to do to wake up?”

“It may not be that sort of dream,” Doctor Cratch said, “especially if we are actually participating in a Dreamscape. If a dream is just the subconscious sorting and processing of individual first-person sensory data and memory, and this is an unquantified dream-construct perhaps originating from one of us, or all of us, or someone else entirely, then that is the subconscious we are dealing with – not necessarily our own.”

“Have you done this before, Doctor Cratch?” Winona asked.

“Me? No,” Doctor Cratch said with a wave of his hand. “No, but I’ve studied it, in my own modest way. And I’ve failed to do it, which is far closer to succeeding than never trying to do it in the first place is.”

“So what did that teach you?” the Drake pressed.

“That you don’t want to wind up in the Gnang,” Doctor Creepy replied firmly. “This slo-time thing. It’s bad.”

“We know that already,” Carla snapped.

“And we’ve been out in it,” I said. “Several times. Kind of. Carl is actually studying it,” Doctor Cratch looked at Carla. “No no, that’s Carla,” I went on. “See, Carl is an associate of ours whose name is actually Ana-Lennox Medianu, her nickname was Lenny but her other nickname was Carl, a few years back she helped us save Christmas, except the entire cultural concept of ‘Christmas’ was actually a parasitic ur-meme sub-universe that-”

“Now you’re just padding it,” Mister C of 9 accused.

“Fine,” I said, “so what do we do?”

“Usually,” Doctor Cratch said, “the best way to find the key to a Dreamscape is to look in its direct centre.”

“The centre of this house?” I asked.

“The centre of our couch?” Creepy added.

“Been there.”

“Think a bit bigger,” Doctor Cratch advised.

“Listen Doc, if you’d seen the inside of our couch-”

“I’m talking about the centre of this universe,” he said, spreading his arms grandly. For a moment he looked like a very weird Hawaiian-bellied albino bat.

“The centre of the universe?” I frowned.

“You mean Planet Zero?” Creepy said in despair. “But it’s so boring there! It’s just gift shops and museums, and it’s windy all the time, and there’s no sugar.”

“No, not – okay,” Doctor Cratch was evidently not experienced at dealing with super-sidekick minds. “Maybe Planet, um, Zero was it? Maybe that can be kept in the back pocket for now-”

“That’s where Professor Zero keeps it,” I agreed.


“Can we stay on topic?” Carla pleaded.

“What I mean is, if this slo-time is encroaching on your … environment … then what we should do is outline its inner borders,” Doctor Cratch said. “That way, ideally, we’ll end up with a circle on a map, and the centre of that circle will be the centre of this Dreamscape.”

“Oh, I did that already,” I said.

“You did?” Creepy blinked at me.

“When?” Carla demanded.

“Ages ago. I was actually tracking the growth of the Wasteland,” I said, “but that’s really just, like, a symptom of this slo-time encroachment thing. If you go into the Wasteland far enough, even the nothingness stops,” the Myconet had told me about the phenomenon, but I definitely wasn’t going to mention strange talking mushrooms to anyone in this conversation.

“That sounds like it fits the bill,” Doctor Cratch was saying. “Did you make a circle on a map and find the last place, right in the centre, that the slo-time will overrun?”

“Yeah,” I said, “but you’re not going to like it.”

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The Seven Creepies in: The Christmas Crossover Caper | Part 15

Now, I felt, we were finally getting somewhere. Although I couldn’t help but feel it was an awfully flimsy premise – and that we were finally getting somewhere awfully late in the day.

“Okay,” I said, “a telepathic alien simulation.”

“I don’t know that this one is alien,” Doctor Cratch said. “It could be one of us generating it, or all of us together. There’s a lot of talk about how humans can’t really do it because we haven’t got the discipline, but there’s plenty of alien snobbery built into that assumption.”

“Don’t get me started on alien snobbery,” I muttered.

Doctor Cratch spread his hands. “I know, right?” he exclaimed. “Some of them don’t even think we’re sentient.”

“Just because almost none of us are capable of self-reflection, independent thought or behavioural patterns outside the single-celled stimulus-response model,” I scoffed. “The nerve of aliens.”

“It boils my blood, I tell you,” Doctor Cratch agreed. “And besides, if we’re all representatives of consciousnesses of unknown provenance, who’s to say which of us are or are not capable of manifesting a coherent telepathic environment, and also successfully formulating a concept of self awareness?”

“I am acutely self-aware,” Winona said.

Doctor Cratch pointed supportively at the Xixian, and gave him a thumbs-up. “See? Good for you.”

“Don’t let the Man keep you down,” Creepy joined in. “Even if the Man is actually an alien.”

Especially then,” Mister C of 9 added.

“Alright, but is this what we’re going with?” Carla asked, as I had basically known she would. “‘Turns out it was all a dream’? That’s our big conclusion?”

“It’s a classic,” Creepy said mildly.

“And it would tend to answer what this has to do with Christmas,” I added. “‘Turns out it was all a dream’ is a pretty big part of the-”

“But this is not a visitation from three deep-seated manifestations of religious-indoctrination-based guilt with the intent of salvaging your sociocultural credit rating,” Carla objected.

“Isn’t it, though?” I couldn’t help asking.

Carla was right and wrong, of course. She was right about the Seven Creepies not being manifestations, although if you really wanted to dig into the psychic landscape simulation idea I suppose you could make a case. And there weren’t three of them. It could very easily be a variant on the concept, but I got the distinct impression that it wasn’t.

What she was wrong about was the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future being manifestations of Scrooge’s psyche. They were actual entities. We’d met them – or were going to have met them. It was hard to keep straight because they were personifications of time, and at least one of them had told me to keep my mouth shut about it until later. Or earlier. Doesn’t matter. The point is, she was wrong.

Again, if you wanted to make the case that everything was happening inside someone’s head and it was all a dream, you could very well do that. It does tend to be a gateway ideology that ends up with you being marched into prison by a superhero of some kind, or a lone wolf cop who plays by his own rules and his plucky comedic partner, however, while ranting about how everyone is a fool and you’ll show them all and no cell can hold you. It’s a slippery slope.

All I’m saying is, you need to be careful with the assumption that things aren’t real. Because as soon as you start doing that, you leave yourself open to a serious kicking when certain things, and specifically their boots, turn out to be real.

That’s my point.

Posted in Chuck Dickens’s “A Christmas Carl”, Creepy and Hatboy Save the World, Kussa mun hopoti? | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Breakfast Corn Cakes; or, This Isn’t Really About the Corn Cakes

Mrs. Hatboy is back and cooking, just in time for Christmas!

Mrs. Hindle's Viands and Vittles

After a long hiatus, Mrs. Hindle is back, dear readers! What can I say? I am a master procrastinator. Recently I’ve binge watched a YouTube channel that does all the stuff I’d like to do if I had the slightest skill with video. I don’t, though, so I decided to get back to writing and if you need something to watch, look no further than Tasting History with Max Miller.

I have lots of interesting new cook books to share with you, dear reader, which is a nice thing, isn’t it? Today I’m making a soft start with an easy recipe for “Breakfast corn cakes”.

What makes the recipe special is not so much the contents but rather the book it was published in. As you can see there are two paragraphs side by side. It’s the same text in Finnish and English, because today’s recipe comes from a…

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