June 2015


Goblins’ origins are obscure and surrounded by many myths and legends, but it seems likely that they evolved in a similar arid environment to that of the orcs as they share the chlorophyll-laced skin of the latter, though they lack similar dentition. They also have only four fingers and four toes on each limb, a trait unique to their biology.

Another uniue biological curiosity is that unlike other sapients, goblins do not undergo a growth spurt at puberty. Instead, they continue to grow at a steady rate that slows slightly as they age. Their often impoverished and violent lives mean that the average goblin is shorter than man-sized, though particularly old or renowned goblins are able to reach impressive heights: Aepebo Manbynk (“Treeboy”), the great leader of the Goblin Revolt, was six-foot-five by the time he was captured and executed.

Goblin religion is a unique variant of the Sepulcher of the Creator, the faith embraced by a significant portion of humans. Goblins believe that they were created by the dark lord Muolih, the fallen left hand of the Creator, as his servants. They regard this as an act of blasphemy that forever stained their people, and so with the deaths of Muolih and the Creator in the Greatwar of legend, goblins generally hold themselves bereft of purpose and of any divine influences whatsoever aside from minor spirits. They believe that, due to Muolih’s taint, they are owed nothing and entitled to nothing but what the can get for themselves.

As such, goblin culture is based around achievement; individuals are born without a name and must earn one through their deeds. Unnamed goblins are referred to using a variety of workarounds: the word bac (“you there”), adjectives (“tall,” “sister”), and as often as not, simply “goblin” or “gob.” A goblin who has earned a name is stripped of it upon surviving a defeat but is allowed to keep it if they perish during said defeat, a cultural convention that leads to the often suicidal disregard for self seen in goblin battle formations.

Stereotyped as crude, stupid, and weak, goblins are actually as intelligent and creative as any other sapient. Their low position in societies and their unique culture of self-depreciation belies their general aptitude for construction, chemistry, and mathematics. The arquebus is their most notable arm, and goblin arquebusiers (ottaobynk, “gun boys”) were and are common sights across battlefields.

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The hearse arrived at midnight, rolling quietly down the cul-de-sac. A thing of night even in daylight, it was like an oily distortion in the dark air, recognizable only in the dim lights reflected in its gloss and the pair of rheumy beams it cast forward.

It pulls up in the dark, further than can be seen. Up to the house where the police cruisers and an ambulance clustered, flashed, a few hours before? Not the way things were usually done, but perhaps. A false alarm might have turned into the real thing, with nothing left to do but summon the last limousine.

A lone relative, without a car, dropped off from a ceremony where they were the soule mourner? The kindness that one ought to be grateful for turned into icy unease by the thick empty weight of the compartment behind. They rode in the same car just last week, only not like this. Not like this.

Suppose that the late hour and the light are just right that it’s the great Hearse itself, the one driven by the Man in Black who awaits at each crossroad. Come to collect, trading scythe for side panels and robes for road but still inky, still inscrutable, still inevitable. Cut him off in late-night traffic if you dare.

Sleep comes on heavy wings; the hearse does not reappear. A metaphor, if nothing else, of the uncertainty at the end of our own rides therein, no matter how certain we be of our destinations.

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And, yea, did He cast out his Palms. And, yea, upon those same Palms were the Marks of which much has been written, the Stigmata. On His left Hand He bore the oozing Facsimile of a 1, and on his right Hand bore he a similarly crimson 0.

By rapidly alternating His hands, could he replicate any Program in existence. At this Sight, yea, the assembled Debuggers and Programmers did fall to their Knees (excepting those many whose Fat precluded this, who instead, yea, fell into their Chairs or Rascals).

In the fullness of Time, though, a thorough Examination was made and the bearer of the Stigmata was found to have an additional one on His ankles, that of the Number 2. And, yea, did they cast Him out from among their Number, rejecting His Code and His rights.

For, as any Coder will tell you, there is no such Thing as 2.

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“This is our rare book room, where we keep our most valuable tomes untouched and raw, just as they were when they came to us, with only a bare minimum of alteration to keep them–and us–safe. Let’s move on.”

“What’s that room next door? The one where the books are all burned and mangled on the outside, but some of the pages look like they might still be readable?”

“Oh, that’s our medium-rare book room. If you think that’s something, wait until you see our well-done book room!”

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On Tuesday, our town passed a rather grim milestone: the 20,000th prisoner was incarcinated here. Now, many people have written about mass incarcination throughout the media, and there are a lot of understandably intense opinions on the subject from all parts of the political spectrum. What I’d like to do here is to take a step back.

Academic exercises about our “carcinal society” tend to seem very remote and ivory tower to average citizens, especially those that do not known an incarcinated person or persons. This, along with a relatively simple “crime should equal incarcination” philosophy winds up completely obfuscating the issue.

So what exactly is mass incarcination? When you boil it down, incarcination is nothing more or nothing less than feeding those convicted of crimes to gigantic land-crabs. And mass incarcination is feeding a lot of those convicted of crimes to a lot of giant land-crabs.

Now, surely you’ve all seen Cl-Clickrr, Tecumseh County Incarcination Crab #3, making its scuttling rounds outside the city limits or carefully guarding its clutch of gigantic eggs in the hollow near Collie Hill. You might have even seen an escapee, stained with digestive juices, that was able to escape incarcination when Cl-Clickrr attempted to regurgitate for its young.

But have you ever thought of the lasting effects of incarcination inside Cl-Clickrr?

What of the few that are paroled after serving their time submerged in hemolymph, that no longer have any hair or limbs? What about those who come home with an insatiable lust for crab meat and wind up robbing a Red Lobster? Those institutional men who immediately violate their parole or cover themselves with rotting shellfish?

Mass incarcination destroyes lives, destroys homes, destroys societies. All it does is protect the powerful giant land-crabs with a vested interest in the status quo. That’s why we need a saner system, one with fewer giant land-crabs, one with fewer convicts fed to those land-crabs, and one with land-crabs bred for rehabilitation rather than digestion.

Only then can we reap the benefits of other societies that have reduced or abolished giant land-crabs altogether. Only then can we shed the embarrassment of being second only to China and its infamous pandarisons in the feeding of our own people to gigantic organisms.

It’s time, people. It’s time.

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“I am Senior Subject Librarian Lea Manhardt, and from now on you will speak only when spoken to. The first and last words out of your thesauri will be “Ma’am”. Do you bookworms read me?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am!”

“This is a library! They can hear you in the crypt under the chapel. You will WHISPER, you filthy bookworms, and you will do it so quietly that my cat will not be able to hear you, and she’s woken up by her own farts! Now whisper like a castrato!”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

“If you filthy bookworms leave my library, if you survive basic training, you will be an open book. You will be a font of knowledge and expertise fit to advise the lowliest hobo and the freshmanniest of freshmen. But until that day you are trade paperbacks. You are the lowest form of literature on Earth. You are not even books, you are pamphlets. Handouts! Ephemera! You are nothing but beat-up, stained romance novels at an old lady’s estate sale, do you read me?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

“Because I am like unto a hardback book with archival quality leather binding, you will not like me. I am not an easy read. But the more you hate me, the more you will retain. I am hard read but I am a fair one, and my orders are to weed out all the paperbacks and self-published poetry from this sorry box of library donations. Do you bookworms read that?”

“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

With apologies to Stanley Kubrick and R. Lee Ermey

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A volcanic wind blew in from the northeast all week, a direction from which it rarely blew, and bore clusters of nascent thunderstorms upon its wings.

“Shit,” said Carl Escobedo, worksite manager for Joyeuse Construction. “Another storm brewing. Pack it up, people! I want those holes sealed well enough that this place floats like a cork!”

His boys, as annoyed as he was at the constant disruptions the storms brought to their renovations, nevertheless did as they were told. As he was putting a tarp in place over a glassless window, Escobedo was approached by one of his carpenters, Richat.

“The boys are getting kind of anxious, boss,” Richat said. “All this rotten weather when we’re trying to work, and on this of all places…they’re starting to say it might be something unnatural.”

“Yeah, it’s unnatural all right,” Escobedo snapped. “Unnatural bad luck that’s pushing my bottom line on this job into the red. Just get everything sealed up and punch your card.”

“If you say so, boss.”

That day’s storm was a humdinger, with three hours of roiling lightning and torrential rains. When it cleared, around 3pm, Escobedo’s crew returned to work…without their boss. Thinking that he might have been caught by the storm and forced to take shelter inside, they unsealed the place.

No trace of Escobedo was ever found aside from his Joyeuse ballcap, hanging on an antique doorknob.

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