[All dialogue in «angle quotes» is translated from the Spanish]
«Whatcha doin', Spooky?»
Jack Morrison looked up upon hearing Leticia Delgado's question from where he sat with his notebook. Paper, pen, overstuffed chair - old school, like he was. «Updating the dossier.»
«On your old friends?» she asked, putting away her phone, and grabbing an orange off the counter separating the small kitchen from the small living room.
«They're not my old friends,» he growled. «But this attack by Amari, and this fake Overwatch news - maybe it'll help fit some more pieces together.»
Leticia nodded, peeling the orange. Morrison had been hauling that notebook around as long as she'd known him. He'd never let her look at it, and she'd never pushed too hard. But she'd been curious, and if he was going to open up a little, well, it beat sitting around, anxious and bored. «Why you so obsessed with this new Overwatch, anyway?»
He shook his head. «It's not Overwatch. The real Overwatch - my Overwatch - went down with me, when Talon moved against us.»
The street fighter cocked her head to her left. «I thought that was the UN.»
Morrison snorted. «Talon, UN - it's all the same thing, has been for a long time. Early 2068 - a few months before the Slipstream exploded - that's when I started to realise what was really happening, what was going wrong.»
«Talon,» she said, before biting into a wedge, «...controls the UN?»
«Talon proxies. Maybe mind controlled, like Lacroix, maybe conscious traitors, I don't know. But they're pulling the strings. I just have to find them all, cut them all down, show the world what they've done.»
«I know they're terrorists, but that's what they call us, too...» She swallowed the piece of orange.
«They really are, though. More than anyone knows. More than anyone understands. But I'm the one who's seen it.» He poked at his notebook. «I'm the one who's figured it out.»
«You got evidence?» She peeled threads off another piece of the orange. «I mean, if they're that kind of dangerous...»
«It's everywhere you look, once you start to see it. Start with Gérard Lacroix's murder - Talon eliminated him as soon as he got too close. You think he was their mole? Of course not. He just knew too much.»
The young Los Muertos gangster bit into another wedge. «I don't even know who that is.»
«You...? Yeah, I, guess you wouldn't. You'd've been, what, 12? 13?» He chuckled. «Gérard Lacroix was head of Overwatch's anti-Talon task force. Good man. Murdered in his sleep by his wife - or rather, by whatever thing Talon put in his wife's head after they took apart her brain.»
«Wait. I've heard part of this story... are you talking about la blue girl?»
«The killing corpse? The purple assassin? Yeah. The Widowmaker. Second-best sniper in the world. I was friends with the woman they killed to create her.» He flipped to the Amélie Lacroix section of his notebook, filled lately with his notes on her partner, the teleporting assassin known as Venom. «I'm not sure who they killed to create her girlfriend. I thought it had to be Lena Oxton, somehow back from oblivion, because...»
«Lena Oxton... the Widowmaker's girlfriend? Wait, you think the hero of Old London is the spider's sidekick? Really?» Laticia snorted. «Put this in your notebook, I heard about it from the old squad leader. Those two showed up at an arms show together a couple years ago, right? Got disrespected by a some anglo Texans, and killed like a dozen people just to make a point. They're not...»
«I know. The girlfriend part, that's what made me think it might've been Lena.» He tapped the page with the tip of his pen. «Still think it might be. Just can't figure out why they'd keep the lesbian angle. I didn't even think Amélie liked girls, not that there's anything left of her in that machine. But it has to be important, for some reason.»
Hoooo, she thought. This is kind of nuts. «I'm sorry about your friends, Jack. But this - it's a lot to take in.»
Jack looked up at Laticia, and nodded. He trusted her. He hadn't trusted anybody in a long time, and he didn't trust the trust, but it was still there. «It's a lot more to live through.»
She let out a little bit of a 'heh,' and replied, «This's why you don't talk about your past much, huh?»
He nodded, flipping through pages, adding small notes in tinier text. «One of the reasons.» He dotted a couple of lower-case Is and put the book down. «The part I can't get past - there is just no way that the real UN would ever have moved against us. Not like that. They'd never have shut me down, not us, we mattered too much. Not even with that bastard Gabriel turning on us, turning on me...» He'd run through the story too many times in his own head even to get angry anymore. «I don't know whether they brainwashed him or reconditioned his mind or whether he just got bought out, but he turned on us. All those lies at the hearings, all that slander, all those leaks...»
«I remember that part,» she said, finishing the last of the orange.
«Big news, even to the tween set?»
«We watched the hearings in school.»
The solder smirked. «Not surprised - schools are about control. But all that propaganda aside - we mattered too much. The real UN - an uncompromised UN - wouldn't've shut us down. Never.»
She tapped her fingers, one, two, three, four, on the table, working out bits in her mind, before sweeping the peels away. «So... if Talon took over the UN, then...»
He nodded again, this time, approvingly. She gets it, he thought. «Then they have control over a lot of the governments, too. Deep state agents, fingers in key parties, big and small.» He picked the book back up, made a few more notes, and closed it again. «But I'll get it all out there, sooner or later. Once I have it all figured out. Then everyone will know, and we can start to put the world back together.»
The soldier looked down at his empty mug, feeling all talked out. «Hey. You mind making some more of that coffee?»
Delgado looked quizzically at Jack Morrison. «My coffee?»
«Who else's? I can't make it the way you do.»
«You can't... you hate my coffee. You always dump it out, and by the way, you still owe me new beans.»
«I don't hate it, I...» and he remembered, oh, yes, he kind of did, didn't he? No, that's not right, he loved her coffee. Nobody else could get it quite right, particularly not that white-haired... he shook his head, no, that doesn't make sense. «I'm getting used to it. It's kind of growing on me.»
«Ha!» She grinned. «I'll teach you how to appreciate good food yet, gringo. If I do this, you can't pour it out! I have to make a whole pot, or it comes out too weak, like yours. Just, you know, not as bad as yours. Which is terrible.»
«Wouldn't dream of it,» he groused, and stood up. «While you make that, I'll go out, get some more beans. I do owe you.»
«It's been quiet long enough, yah, I think it's safe.»
He nodded his agreement. «You heard anything from Araceli?»
Laticia shook her head, checking her phone again. «No, not yet. I'm worried.»
«Afraid the Maras got her?»
«Worried they might've.»
«I hope not. She's no soldier, but she's... a pretty good kid.»
Delgado smiled, surprised. «Thanks, Spooky. That's the nicest thing you've ever said about her.»
Morrison looked through the edge of the blind from the gang house. Twilight, and all clear - at least, as far as he could tell. Amari doesn't double-dip, he thought. We should be fine, for now. «I'll be back in a few minutes,» he said, throwing his gun over his shoulder. «With dinner.»
«No hunting in city limits!»
«Not even for tacos?»
«Okay, maybe for tacos. You know the kinds I like?»
«'Course I do,» said the soldier, opening the door. «If I'm not back in 15 minutes - leave, and don't look back.»
«Don't have to tell me twice!»
My daughter is off to camp this week. A Spanish-language immersion camp, up north.
She did NOT want to go.
But it’s time.
One’s first experience staying away from home should not be college, in my opinion.
She is starting ninth grade in September. My son is starting eighth grade.
They are fantastic kids, and I love them both.
The world goes on. Kids go to camp, willing or unwilling, and they come home again, older and wiser.
Onwards and upwards.
There’s the saying that “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” but in order to learn your history, sometimes you have to dig deeper — much deeper — than what is commonly known. This is a fact that has relevance for author Beth Cato and her latest novel Call of Fire.
I love that historical fiction can be entertaining and educational at the same time. When I began to research prior to writing Breath of Earth, the first novel in this series, I was genuinely excited to delve deeper into turn-of-the-20th-century California history. My books feature a 1906 America that is allied with Japan to form the Unified Pacific, a world power in the midst of conquering China as part of its goal to dominate mainland Asian. I bought a number of books on Chinese immigration and experiences in America in that era.
As my research continued for my second book, the newly-released Call of Fire, I found that I dreaded reading more on the subject. I’ve been a history geek since I was a kid and I went into this with the knowledge that Chinese immigrants had been treated poorly, but I had no real comprehension of the horrific abuses they endured.
This wasn’t just about far-off California history anymore, either. This was about my hometown, the place I was born.
Like many other San Joaquin Valley cities, my hometown of Hanford was founded by the railroad in the late 19th century. Chinese men did much of the hard labor to lay the tracks and blast their way through mountains to connect the state with the larger continent. Centrally-located Hanford had one of the largest Chinese communities in the valley. These days, the city is proud of what remains of its China Alley. There’s a lovely tea room there, as well as a preserved Taoist Temple with a gift shop. The Moon Festival each October is a big draw.
When I was a kid, though, I was puzzled that Hanford still had its China Alley but other nearby cities–even larger ones like Visalia and Fresno–did not. My mom told me something like, “They were probably torn down over the years.” That made sense to me. Hanford’s China Alley has some decrepit buildings, too, and it’s only been in recent years that other parts have been lovingly restored to become a year-round attractions.
During my research, though, I finally found the real answer to my childhood question. The other Chinatowns weren’t simply torn down. In the 1880s and 1890s, they were firebombed and the surviving Chinese were run out of town. There were even race riots in vineyards near Fresno.
Hanford still managed to retain some of its Chinese population, but that didn’t mean all was well during that period. I found mention of an editorial from my hometown paper in 1893 that admonished young white women of the county to improve their kitchen skills so that they would not hire Chinese cooks.
I called up my mom. “Did you know about all of this?” She did not. I called up my grandma. Same answer.
That’s when I became angry.
What the Chinese had endured had been erased from local history. Men were murdered. Families terrorized. Livelihoods destroyed. Then the butchery and abuses they endured were forgotten.
When I write about these kinds of racist incidents in my books, I imagine many readers will think that the stuff is pure fiction, all part of the elevated drama of my alternate history. That’s exactly why I include an author’s note in each book along with an extensive bibliography (which I also have on my website at BethCato.com). I want readers to know about the ‘Dog Tag Law’ that required Chinese immigrants to carry an identity card, America’s first internal passport, starting in 1892. I want them to know what happened in Tacoma, Washington, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
I hope people enjoy my books Breath of Earth and Call of Fire, but I also want readers to learn, as I have, that our beloved hometowns may possess dark secrets that need to see the light. We can’t undo the crimes of the past, but we can learn. We can remember.
Rock and Riot 16.23
We’re getting close to the end of the comic! Now is the best time to catch up, or spread the word to others! Thank you so much for reading ♥
Denouncing Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists by those names should not be a difficult thing for a president to do, particularly when those groups are the instigators and proximate cause of violence in an American city, and one of their number has rammed his car through a group of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring dozens more. This is a moral gimme — something so obvious and clear and easy that a president should almost not get credit for it, any more than he should get credit for putting on pants before he goes to have a press conference.
And yet this president — our president, the current President of the United States — couldn’t manage it. The best he could manage was to fumble through a condemnation of “many sides,” as if those protesting the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists had equal culpability for the events of the day. He couldn’t manage this moral gimme, and when his apparatchiks were given an opportunity to take a mulligan on it, they doubled down instead.
This was a spectacular failure of leadership, the moral equivalent not only of missing a putt with the ball on the lip of the cup, but of taking out your favorite driver and whacking that ball far into the woods. Our president literally could not bring himself to say that Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists are bad. He sorely wants you to believe he implied it. But he couldn’t say it.
To be clear, when it was announced the president would address the press about Charlottesville, I wasn’t expecting much from him. He’s not a man to expect much from, in terms of presidential gravitas. But the moral bar here was so low it was on the ground, and he tripped over it anyway.
And because he did, no one — and certainly not the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists, who were hoping for the wink and nod that they got here — believes the president actually thinks there’s a problem with the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists. If he finally does get around to admitting that they are bad, he’ll do it in the same truculent, forced way that he used when he was forced to admit that yeah, sure, maybe Obama was born in the United States after all. An admission that makes it clear it’s being compelled rather than volunteered. The Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists will understand what that means, too.
Our president, simply put, is a profound moral shambles. He’s a racist and sexist himself, he’s populated his administration with Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists, and is pursuing policies, from immigration to voting rights, that make white nationalists really very happy. We shouldn’t be surprised someone like him can’t pass from his lips the names of the hate groups that visited Charlottesville, but we can still be disappointed, and very very angry about it. I hate that my baseline expectation for the moral behavior of the President of the United States is “failure,” but here we are, and yesterday, as with previous 200-some days of this administration, gives no indication that this baseline expectation is unfounded.
And more than that. White supremacy is evil. Nazism is evil. The racism and hate we saw in Charlottesville yesterday is evil. The domestic terrorism that happened there yesterday — a man, motivated by racial hate, mowing down innocents — is evil. And none of what happened yesterday just happened. It happened because the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists felt emboldened. They felt emboldened because they believe that one of their own is in the White House, or at least, feel like he’s surrounded himself with enough of their own (or enough fellow travelers) that it’s all the same from a practical point of view. They believe their time has come round at last, and they believe no one is going to stop them, because one of their own has his hand on the levers of power.
When evil believes you are one of their own, and you have the opportunity to denounce it, and call it out by name, what should you do? And what should we believe of you, if you do not? What should we believe of you, if you do not, and you are President of the United States?
My president won’t call out evil by its given name. He can. But he won’t. I know what I think that means for him. I also know what I think it means for the United States. And I know what it means for me. My president won’t call out evil for what it is, but I can do better. And so can you. And so can everybody else. Our country can be better than it is now, and better than the president it has.
The outline for my remarks on The Expanse and politics at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.
- Spoilers through 2nd Season of the TV Series (Caliban’s War)
- Will talk about both books and TV series
- Who am I
- Emma Humphries
- Programmer and Project Manager, 20+ years experience
- 29 years in fandom (28 WisCons)
- Format: I’ll talk for 25 minutes or so, and then we’ll have a discussion for the remainder of the time we have
- What is The Expanse?
- ASK: how many of you have read or watched?
- Series of Novels and TV Programs
- James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)
- Future history of the Inner and Outer Solar System
- Why talk about politics?
- Because SF has been the acceptable place to talk about politics
- Queer/Non-binary/Trans representation
- Universal Income
- What I’m Not Going to Talk About
- I’m going to suggest you start with the Black Girl Nerds podcast who have been recapping and discussing the TV Series
- Why The Expanse
- I love space opera
- I adore the women in this show
- Naomi Nagata: Ship’s Officer and Engineer
- Bobbie Draper: Gunnery Sgt in the Martian Marines, who trains under one Earth Gravity
- Chrisjen Avasarala: UN Undersecretary who knows where the bodies are buried
- All represented as women of color in the TV show
- All flawed, but real characters, I empathize with
- I stan for Chrisjen
- Competent, middle-aged women are awesome
- Charlie Jane Anders on Twitter: “Now, more than ever, we need Chrisjen Avasarala. #TheExpanse https://t.co/Ih8j19kh1W”
- I love to hate on Holden
- But, honestly, can anyone stand Holden?
- Miller’s stuck with him because of alien machinations
- What does Naomi see in him?
- Queer/Non-binary/Trans representation
- The good, there are gay and lesbian characters
- The bad
- Heteronormative relationships
- The Martian ambassador and his husband
- Annushka "Anna" Volovodov
- A settler couple on Illus
- Two hundred years in the future, and the nuclear family is still the norm
- Holden’s family back on Earth, a poly-cule, are considered weird/aberations
- No non-binary or trans characters
- The non-normative relationships and characters are the thieves, rebels and sex workers
- Heteronormative relationships
- Definition time!
- A type of political discourse which posits an “authentic people” in opposition to “a privileged elite.”
- In left populism that’s often the workers vs the wealthy
- debates on distribution of wealth
- in right populism it’s white people vs everyone else
- debates on who is and isn’t part of the “nation”
- The OPA is a populist movement with both right and left characteristics
- Anderson Station, and Illus are left populist actions
- Workers, abused by Inner Planets wealth and corporations standing up to power and paying with their lives, and/or using violence as a means
- But the OPA has a right-leaning side which is terrifying
- We see it at the end of Season 2 where the economic populism gives way to an nastier ethnic populism
- In the 2nd Season a Belter Ship, carrying evacuees from Ganymede to Tyco Station, puts all the people from the Inner Planets out the airlock
- It will only get worse in later books
- Definition time!
- Universal Basic Income
- Also known as Social Income, or under the UN in the world of the Expanse, “Basic”
- There’s a body of economic research that finds evidence for giving people direct cash assistance as the best way to support people
- Basic income, in and of itself is not sufficient
- You need universal access to healthcare
- In “Churn,” for example, we see the UN handing out substandard/palliative-only care
- A well-implemented Social Income system, with healthcare (including reproductive healthcare), transport, and housing can provide a stable base for people to build on
- In the world of the Expanse, the social income system is geared to subsistence and governability
- Needs more work
- Tell me why all your queer relationships are heteronormative
- As a queer dyke, I want to see relationships like the ones I see in my community in the here and now, or at least understand why they aren’t there
- Yes, this is a honest portrayal
- How populism, unchecked, can go from a liberation struggle to genocidal violence
- Social Income
- A pessimistic view
- Is this in the service of story, people struggling to escape a dismal earth? Or a libertarian view of the role of the state?