December 2022

1. “Elf Blood Types”
Either we have some people genuinely interested in elven serology, or some of the audience are vampires.

2. “The Sun Also Rises”
Some people, search engine crawler bots especially, seem to not have noticed this was a prank.

3. “Tom Petty Wins the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics”
Some folks may have taken this parody seriously as well, but perhaps they just found it clever?

4. “A Muse’s Unvarnished Perspective”
Words to live by, and perhaps sustained by some creaky old links still pointing to it from the Absolute Write forums.

5. “The Ebbing”
The only poem on the list, and a major mood.

6. “Memory of a Phantom Airstrip”
I think a lot of these views might have been from me, seeing as I tried to incorporate this into a longer work this year. It may not make much sense on its own, but I find it poignant.

7. “The Cult of the Empty Throne”
Part of some world building I did for a friend for their alternate history French Revolution setting. In the end they replaced it with the much funnier Great Vintner for a wine-based faith befitting Gaul.

8. “Hoklonote: Fact or Fiction?”
Based very loosely on a mythic being from the Choctaw, because it seemed fitting for a supernatural story set in Mississippi to include some elements of truly local beliefs.

9. “Peckémon #289: Chestnut-Sided Warbler”
Since I started birding, it has amused me to classify real birds as “Peckémon” with fantasy powers and elemental types. I’m glad a few folks agree.

10.“The Phantom Meyer Lemons”
This one was suggested by my wife after failing to acquire some Meyer lemons from a local grocery. Project Pucker continues.

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“Oh yeah?” the groblin said. “Well, then, I suppose you know where we groblins comes from, eh?”

“Of course,” said Sub-Archon Dix. “You were fashioned from corrupted earth by the Dark Cloud to serve as its foot soldiers in an attempt to extinguish every light.”

“Hah!” chortled the groblin, tapping its taller gemlin partner on the arm. “That’s rich, innit?”

“Am I wrong?” the sub-archon said, looking haughtily at them.

“Course it is! If’n I asked you where archons come from, would you say they was hand-crafted from loam by the Light Cloud?”

“Well, yes.”

“Archons is made by other archons which trains them and gives them funny hats,” the taller gemlin said.

“We didn’t ask for your bleedin’ creation myth now, did we?” snickered the groblin. “That’s the problem with you archons, you’s more concerned with what happened a thousand years ago than what’s in fronta your conk!”

Dix was silent a second. “So…where do goblins come from?”

“Groblins comes from other, larger, groblins after they be makin’ the beast wif two backs, mate,” laughed the groblin.

“Wait,” Dix said. “Groblins have women?”

“Oh, that’s rich, comin’ from an archon,” the gemlin snorted. “Not only does we gremlins and our cousins have ladies, but you’re lookin’ at ’em.”

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When the mercury fallow lies
And the Heavens open up
The right stars make their hollow cries
And on cliff face ice she sups
From running stream and rain she grows
Upon her rocky throne
Non-euclidean queen of all the snows
Our world now called her home

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Man Lokxo: Welcome back to The Flavor Strikes Back, the only cooking show in the Star Confederation that pits a variety of alien cuisines and chefs head to head as they scramble to complete dishes that can please the biomechanical Foodminds! Coming to you live from Sol I, Mercury, the hottest planet with the highest iron content in its core, let’s meet today’s contestants!

Chef Zhao: As the only human here, I’m adaptive. I can overcome. Thanks to my digestive system and environmental tolerances, I can cook dishes that would poison or corrode most of my competitors and some of the judges. That means I can also take them right to the edge of the Flavor Neutral Zone. If I win, I’m going to make my dream of a creator-owned restaurant called Zhao’s Zingers come true.

Foodlord Hyvew: I grew up in a big Vatna family, and we were always cooking and eating. Vatna cuisine is in my blood, you know? I still remember Grandma Hurq honey-roasting one of our enemies for the whole clan, and I’m gonna do right by her and make the family proud. If I win, I’m going to use the prize money to buy a F7-class food cruiser to help conquer the gastropub in the local cluster.

Ajn the Preparer: Growing up, I didn’t have a family. I had to work my way up from the bottom, making gourmet meals from the carcasses of Fulvan Space Rats at the spaceport. That gives me the grit and gumption I need to make these spoiled brats drink vacuum. When–not if–I win, I’m going to open a culinary school for unhived Fulvans to learn their trade and give them a leg up.

Mealmaster J’kioay: I studied under the legendary Mealmistress Parog, and she taught me everything she knew, except for the legendary Black Hole Dish, which I had to figure out for myself. And since I used it to kill Parog and seize control of her culinary empire, it stands to reason that no one else here has the knowhow needed to defeat me. It is nobody’s business what I will do with my winnings; that is not for them to know.

01111001-01110101-01101101: As my great-grandsire used to say, 01000110-01010101. I have the entire culinary memory of my people to draw on, from Nutrient Slurry 1A to Nutrient Slurry 997281X. When I emerge triumphant, I will add the prize money to the Great Bank in exchange for upgrades to my Cooking Unit.

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Q: Will I see any orcs in the cave?

A: The Yadum Caverns are home to a small population of rare and endangered cave orcs. Their population has been decimated by white-nose syndrome and they hibernate from October to March. Do not attempt to interact with any orcs you see, or photograph them with your flash.

Q: Will I see any dwarves in the cave?

A: The dwarves of Yadum Caverns delved too greedily and too deep, and awoke shadow and flame in the depths. As such, they are critically endangered and have been extirpated from the caves. The only dwarves you will see are your fellow tourists or the forest dwarf guide Seyhan if it’s a Wednesday.

Q: What of the fabled flowstone metal with which the hill dwarves built their empire?

A: It was all mined out centuries ago, creating both the Lower Gallery and the wedding reception area.

Q: Will I see Gilcu’s Blight, the vuflia of the ancient world that laid low the Kingdom Under the Hills?

A: Only on the Adventure Tour, which requires an orientation session and a doctor’s note.

Q: Will I see the ruins of the famed Hill Dwarf city of Gzduurzghoi?

A: Due to ongoing conservation work and previous issues with precious flowmetal disappearing, Gzduurzghoi is currently off limits without a permit.

Q: I have heard that there are rare cave animals in Yadum Caverns, is this true?

A: Yadum hosts cave bats, cave crickets, cave salamanders, blind cave fish, white cave crawdads, and Zolsvi, demon spider of the abyssal gate. Remember not to bother any of them.

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Originally aired July 17, 1977.

The HOST stands in front of an old HOUSE, surrounded by scaffolding. Jaunty disco music plays over the THIS GROOVY PAD logo as the program returns from commercial.

HOST: Groovy! Welcome back to This Groovy Pad American Home Renovation, where we’re jazzing up this hoary old 1870s house with some serious disco style!

The HOST walks past an OPEN FLAME in the backyard, onto which HUNDRED-YEAR-OLD HARDWOOD is being thrown.

HOST: Now, we had stained hardwood floors in the front room and in the kitchen, and that is just too old-fashioned, yuck! So we’re tearing it all up, and burning it in the backyard trash pile.

The HOST leads the camera into the HOUSE, where WORKMEN are finishing up tacking down THICK SHAG CARPET.

HOST: In its place, nice new shag carpet is going into the front room, in cool, timeless, lime green.

The camera follows the HOST into the KITCHEN, where fresh plastic LINOLEUM is being buffed. A LIME GREEN REFRIGERATOR sits in one corner, while an ORANGE COFFEE MAKER and a BEIGE OVEN are nearby.

HOST: In the kitchen, we’ve just finished installing a full linoleum floor, which will really go well with our new orange, beige, and green appliances.

Walking UPSTAIRS, the HOST points out the walls of the MASTER BEDROOM, which are covered with PRESSWOOD PANELS.

HOST: Once again, we’ve beautified this room up to modern standards. This all used to be pristine wallpaper from the 1910s, now we’ve torn that up and replaced it all with faux wood paneling for a fresh, chic, modern look.

Descending to the FINISHED BASEMENT, the HOST points at the OFF-WHITE CEILING before running a hand over the GREEN BRICK WALL.

HOST: Finally, the basement here originally had an embossed cast-iron ceiling and natural brickwork. Ew! Eww! We’ve dropped the ceiling and installed fluorescent lights for starters, and we’ve also given these ugly naked bricks a rich coat of olive green.

Back OUTSIDE, the HOST gestures toward the HOUSE.

HOST: With the renovations nearly complete, we’ve timelessly updated this creaky old place for the modern era!

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The Vatna believe that those who demonstrate outstanding moq’HiQ during the previous sol are visited by Warlord Zhu’Ah, who will give them implements of battle useful for the coming year, as well as sweet treats and stuffed animals. Children are typically given toy versions of battle implements; the old saying is that anyone old enough to receive a lethal weapon from Warlord Zhu’Ah is too old to believe in him.

Fulvan Hive
Traditional Fulvan culture emphasizes the whole rather than the one, and as such they believe that Overwind Alpha is manifested from the combined thoughts and feelings of all Fulvans, and delivers practical gifts like drinkware and clothing to the most civic-minded Fulvans. Reform and Orthodox Fulvans tend to give more sentimental and less traditional gifts.

Since the Zypger favor the art of subtlety and secrecy in galactic relations, their annual gifts are delivered by Spymaster Snrub, who inserts sleeper agents (often translated as “elves”) into each household to probe it for weaknesses. Snrub is a great lover of sport, and will bypass houses without any defenses for him to bypass–hence the Zypger tradition of laying traps and snares for Snrub to “disarm.”

The stereotypical Ebzhyna believes in free will, free love, and the breaking down of emotional and physical barriers. Their annual gift bringer is Gobho the Joyous, who lavishes gifts on the Ebzhya with the clearest vibes. These gifts tend to be, at least for traditionalist Ebzhyna, healthy snacks and ecologically sustainable toys.

The Obet spawning strategy requires the strongest hatchlings to eat their weaker siblings, and for parents to eat any hatchlings that are deformed or unacceptable. As such, Broodmistress D’lyel will reward the most evolutionarily competitive Obet with the delectable young of their evolutionary inferiors. While this was quite real in historical times, most modern gifts are gummy young and other treats.

The networked and heavily augmented 11001001 lack sentience without surgical implementations, and live a partly virtual life. Their annual gifts take the form of data packets delivered by IO.exe, which contain small games, sums of credits, and other goodies.

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Madison R’Svask

Dear Warmaiden Madison R’Svask:
My Vatna friend keeps saying that I lack moq’hiQ. What is moq’hiQ, and should I be worried if I lack it?
-Jessica 112, CloneStation 221b, Replicon Space, 97389-3305

Dear Jessica:

Oh dear. I don’t know how much you know about Vatna culture, but someone saying that you lack moq’hiQ is a very serious insult! Are you sure you’re really friends?

For some context, a lot of people like to throw the word moq’hiQ around because it has street cred, or because they saw it in a Vatna action movie. But it’s definitely a word that only a Vatna should use, and carefully at that. I’ve only heard my dad, Prime Warlord Zadias R’Svask of the ruling gyu’Vatna warrior caste of the glorious Vatna Hegemony, say that anyone lacked moq’hiQ a few times. And each time, it led to a BloodWar. It’s just that strong a word!

moq’hiQ is a pretty untranslatable concept, but it could roughly be said to mean honor, gumption, common sense, and smarts all wrapped up into one like a luxury bath bomb (but not one of those stellar mines peddled by Xenia Zzazzsk that will turn your tub into a black hole). A Vatna who has a lot of moq’hiQ is riding high, but saying that it is lacking is like calling someone a dumb, dishonorable, coward all at once! It’s really hurtful.

Now it’s one thing for a non-Vatna to say another non-Vatna that moq’hiQ is lacking. That’s not great, but they all they know about Vatna culture they probably learned at Kragh Fleet from the back of a Slurpy-Meal™. But for a Vatna to say that to someone? That’s a really serious insult.

The way I see it, you have two options available to you, depending how immersed your friend is in Vatna culture and how grievously you feel insulted. You can laugh it off, but note that whoever used such hurtful language is not really your friend. That’s what I did when Xenia Zzazzsk called me a flaccid nishaQ in a video that went out to all 28.2 billion sapients that follow her on ClipClop. Now, I grant you that’s not as grievous of an insult, but I just ignored it and did an endorsement video for Star Confederation Monthly. I proved Xenia wrong by behaving in a way that no flaccid nishaQ ever would! If you do this, I would stop hanging around with your friend as well. They have shown that they don’t really care for you.

The other option of course, is to fight for your moq’hiQ and prove that you have it in abundance. If you’re not willing to declare BloodWar or if you lack a battlefleet, the traditional Vatna way is trial by single combat. As the aggrieved party, you have choice of weapons, and I would suggest either a set of dueling plasmacasters if you’re a good shot or a pair of sil’skek blades if you aren’t. Remember: a Vatna can be disabled by a plasma strike to the armored forehead plate even if it is not enough to kill them, and you can slide a blade up under the 13th rib from behind to pierce a Vat’s ql’tach and kill them instantly. Good luck!

Either way, just remember that your value is in you, not in the labels others place on you. Stay tuned next week for my exclusive interview with Its Holiness 11011101, the Machine God of the controversial but chic new sect of Robotulism. Hearts and stars, glory and honor everyone!

-Warmaiden Madison R’Svask

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Hadal darkness whispers forth
A dream of winters past
Diamond dust not coats the earth
As mercury drops in its glass
On solstice past this chill appeared
The whole land in its grasp
But this occurrence, it is feared
Is more a dying gasp
A day ago the meter danced
With a summer’s high and low
As the week ahead advance
Back up there it will go
A cold snap of a couple days
Is all winter musters now
They say that we must stop the blaze
They never tell us how

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The sky has always been blue, and the waters have always been blue, but once the land itself was blue as well. So was it made by the Great Bird, who desired that everything be in its image and therefore perfect. After the Great Bird sung the song that began the world, it left on a migration of a thousand thousand years and trusted to its creations to maintain the hue of their creators.

Many, however, chose to attempt to stand out by changing their hue from the blue of the sea and the blue of the sky. Though the sea and sky themselves remained loyal to the Great Bird, the trees adopted hues of brown and green out of vanity. The earth, not to be outdone, cocooned itself in a rainbow of hues.

This led many of the birds to change their colors as well. Many had remained blue, but the reality of the new hues of tree and earth made them vulnerable to predators, and many assumed hues of brown or green. Others sought to outdo the trees and the earth in garish hues. In the end, only the bluebirds maintained their color, as only they were loyal to the Great Bird and carried on its legacy even at the risk to themselves.

Other birds have since thought better of their choice and switched back to blue. But the bluebirds remember a time when the indigo bunting was brown, and the blue jay was grey. They, and they alone, have borne the true hue since the dawn of creation, and they will continue to bear it until the Great Migration of a thousand thousand years is complete and the Great Bird returns.

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