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Piers and daughter unload boxes July 2014
Jamboree 2015

I wrote Noah's Brick, the one I described in NoRemember and continued in Dismember, a 32,000 word novella about a boy who found an odd brick with three holes on one side and four on the other. By the time I finished I realized that there was a good deal more of the story to discover, maybe in a sequel. But for now Noah and his 9-11 year old friends are embarked on a project to save the animals of the world from the degradation and possible destruction of the planet as we once knew it by loss of habitat, pollution, and global warming loosed by special interests more interested in illicit wealth than in posterity. They have the help of orbiting Arks left by aliens maybe 50,000 years ago, and a Garden in a slightly altered reality where animals will be safe from the depredations of mankind. But it's a big job, especially for children.

In fact, that finishes my writing year of about a quarter million words. I started with the 43,600 word short novel Neris (Siren spelled backward), about the halfbreed son of the sea god Nereus and a mortal woman, who can do the male siren song that summons women. When he uses it to summon a vicious real siren there's a bit of a struggle, but he needs her to help stop the pollution of the sea that is endangering his 50 half sisters, the nereids. (The sea god was tired of having all daughters, so finally got a son the only way he could, his wife being cursed to bear only girls.) One of the characters is the fabled Worm Ouroborus, who circles the world and holds it together by clenching his tail in his mouth. If he ever lets go, the world will came apart, which could complicate things for contemporary society. But after four and a half billion years he's getting tired of this confinement. It's a fun fantasy story that should be published in 2015. Then I wrote the collaborative 40,900 word Jack and the Giants with J R Rain, wherein Jack climbs a beanstalk and finds romance and danger in the Cloud. That fantasy is now in print and doing well. Then Xanth #40 the 100,400 word Isis Orb, plotted by a ten year old girl, wherein diverse characters battle the Goddess Isis for the magic Orb that will grant their wishes. And the 31,100 word science fiction novella Pira (short for Piranha), a love story wherein a 15 year old girl gains the power to incinerate folk with crossing lasers at up to a hundred feet, but all she wants is the love of the Boy Next Door. I think that is my favorite for this year, partly because of the references to the evocative poetry of William Butler Yeats. And finally Noah's Brick. I also wrote five short stories, “Descant,” “Lava,” “Virtugirl,” “Hello Hotel,” and “Cuisine to Die For.” Of those, “Descant” is my favorite, about the romance of a plain king and a plain princess and the literally magic music they make together. The others concern a volcano who forms a lovely woman from hot lava; a woman who exists only as an implant in a boy's brain; Satan's attempt to recruit an atheist (which has points for both sides); and delicious food with no nutritive value, used for reducing one's weight, until something goes wrong. You should be able to find any of these, in due course, by Googling their titles. In 2015 I expect to write Xanth #41, Ghost Writer in the Sky, about a rogue ghost writer who writes mischievous little stories that Xanth residents are magically compelled to act out. They don't take kindly to this, for some reason. What girl wouldn't want to animate “The Princess and the Pee”?

Once I completed the novella, I caught up on videos and reading. I watched Don Juan, about a young man who believes he is the worlds' greatest lover. His alternate view of reality reminds me of the movie about the boy and the tiger on a boat, The Life of Pi, not in detail but in the complete shift of perspectives, one fantastic, the other mundane. Juan is soon in the clutches of a mental hospital, where they try to decide what to do with him. He does have a touch; all the nurses fawn over him. The story he tells is wonderful escapist fantasy, such as living for two years in an oriental harem with 1,500 eager girls. Later, when his girlfriend inquires about his prior experience, he answers candidly, but it turns out that wasn't quite the figure she had in mind. Women can be difficult about the oddest things. A fun movie throughout.

I continued sorting old clippings and discovering interesting things. Such as a twenty year old biographical article by Philip Jose Farmer, whose outstanding 1952 story “The Lovers” marked him as a meteor in the genre. I learned that established magazine editors had bounced it as “nauseating.” Good thing that STARTLING STORIES, where I read it, was more open minded. That was the one, for those who don't remember, where the protagonist's lovely girlfriend turned out to be an insect in human form. His misunderstanding kills her, tragically.

I watched Despicable Me, and found it hilarious, just as advertised. I also liked the animation, which looked surprisingly realistic, especially in the backgrounds, despite being obvious painting. Even the parody people put me much in mind of real people in their physical imperfections and facial expressions. The mean criminal Gru, with the cute little yellow capsule shaped Minions and phenomenal technology, adopts three little girls from a girls' home to assist in his nefarious scheme and finds himself taking care of them while he tries to pursue his criminal project to steal the moon by shrinking it into a small ball. All he wants is to get rid of them, until they are gone; then he really misses them. It's a wild struggle to get them back. But he's no longer mean. Which sets it up for the sequel, which I saw out of turn, where he will try to be a good parent.

I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, narrated by Anthony Hopkins, a seasonal classic. I've seen at least portions before, and read the book, but the movie has a lot of detail I don't remember. The green Grinch is certainly a mean character. He steals all the Whoville presents, but they celebrate anyway. That transforms him and he returns everything.

I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, wherein former enemies make common cause to break out of prison and accomplish their missions, which involves a mysterious Orb. Peter Quill who is a human man, Gamora who is a lovely green woman, Rocket, a talking raccoon, Drax, an oversized man, and Groot, a walking tree. Constant, fantastic violence, and of course in the end they save the universe and consider themselves friends. It reminded me of The Wizard Of Oz, in general tone and depth, which is to say, juvenile fun. They will be a team for future adventures, except for Groot, who it seems dies. But maybe he will regrow from a twig.

I watched The Dragon Pearl, which I got at Big Lots for $3, about an American boy and a Chinese girl who manage to rescue a lost pearl and return it to the dragon, righting a centuries old wrong. It's a fun movie, especially the marvelously serpentine golden dragon. Of course the adults don't believe the children, making their job more difficult.

I read The Anubis Murders by Gary Gygax, another from my to be read soon shelf, dating from 2006 there. This is the reprint by PLANET STORIES. Gygax was the Dungeons and Dragons co-creator, well known in gaming circles. I never played the game, but surely would have liked it. I knew him by mail; he invited me to visit and meet his horses, but I passed up the chance. I suspect he was influenced by my novels, and I did put a couple of little demons, D & D, into Xanth. So how was he as a writer? Mixed; he had much background detail on the mythology, and worked out his story well, but was not a really practiced writer. This is a sword and sorcery murder mystery, as the title indicates, as Magister Setne Inhetep and his lovely companion Rachelle investigate a series of murders of high placed officials by the so-called Master of Jackals. They walk into an ugly trap that seeks to frame Setne himself as the Jackal, and put spirited warrior-lass Rachelle into a harem or worse. Fortunately Setne figures it out in time and foils it. Worth reading if you're into that genre.

I watched Charlie's Angels, another $3 video. I had seen episodes on TV long ago, but not the movie. The three angels are sexy. I seem to be having increasing trouble hearing the words in movies, so use the subtitles, but though this is listed as having them, they didn't work. So parts of it passed me by, but the angels flashing nice flesh as they foil the bad guys is fun. This time it seems that a former angel—a fallen angel?--is on the side of evil. She shoots the three, but fortunately they are wearing bulletproof vests and survive.

I like to have music in the background as I write. I used to have the radio on all the time, playing popular songs from the 1950s, before Rock n' Roll ruined it. But a decade ago when my wife was wheelchair bound and slowly descending toward oblivion I stopped, because I needed silence so I could hear her if she called me. After six months she had a diagnosis, CIDP—chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, meaning her immune system was attacking the myelin sheathing around the nerves of her arms and legs, in effect shorting them out so she could not control her body—and with treatment she was slowly improving, but I never really got back into the habit of the radio, retaining the fear that she might call and I would not hear her. An Australian fan sent me a DVD of the kind of songs I like, but it didn't play on my system. Now I have a different system, and it does play on that, and my wife's doing okay, so I have it playing as I type this. Some things do take time to work out.

A couple months ago I mentioned how I was trying to get these HiPiers columns shorter, and wondered how my readers felt about it. I rather expected to get some responses saying yes, I talked too much and trim it down. But five of the six I received said long columns were fine. Those responses continued in Dismember, from self described seventh readers, at least seven of them, saying much the same. One even suggested that I go weekly, so each column could be shorter without losing anything. Um, no; anything that takes me away from my fiction writing is by definition a chore, and monthly is about as much as I'm willing to take off. Remember, I'm a workaholic. Another suggested that I get a hit counter so I'd know how many Column readers I have. I used to have one, then somewhere along the way it got lost. Maybe I can do that again. It does make a difference whether I have 20 readers or 2,000 readers. At any rate, I do expect the next few HiPiers columns to shorten, because I'll be writing Xanth #41, and other things will get squeezed. And no, Ghost Writer will not be ghost written.

I continue to sort through backlogged folders. Now I'm in the Writing/Publishing folder. One item in the January 1991 issue of MYSTERY SCENE was by Philip Jose Farmer, who flashed like a meteor into the science fiction screen with his story, later a novel “The Lovers,” about a man's lovely girlfriend who turned out to be an insect in human form. I had found it in the August 1952 STARTLING STORIES, one of the junkier magazines of the day. Why hadn't such a brilliant piece appeared in a top magazine? Because it had been rejected there as “nauseating.” Which shows part of the problem with the market, then and now: editors may select what they personally like, rather than what their readers like, and they can be prissy in their tastes. It did not take me long to graduate from the magazines to novels, where I had much better control, bypassing ignorant editors, at least to a degree. In recent years I moved into self publishing, but then my self publisher was bought out by an electronic publisher, and I had a problem there, which I essentially settled with the by no means empty threat to return to self publishing if I had to. I'm 80 years old and I want to finish out my career and life writing what I want to and making it available for my readers in the formats they prefer, whether hardcover print, electronic, or audio, and I will do so, one way or another. I suspect that's the way every writer feels, and today with the Internet they are finally free to do it, and traditional publishing is in decline. Fortunately I did not waste my money when I was a bestseller, so am in no danger of going hungry.

Which leads into another subject: the corruption by money. It seems, according to an article in the year's end issue of THE WEEK that just as power tends to corrupt, money as a form of power does the same. This explains why billionaires are notoriously antisocial; all they care about is more money, though it does not make them happy. It's like alcoholism; all the alcoholic wants is another drink, even though he knows it will ultimately kill him. A rich man tends to be less ethical than a poor man, more likely to shoplift, steal (legally or illegally), more likely to cheat financially, more likely to drive recklessly, less likely to help those in trouble. He simply doesn't care. He feels privileged, not bound by decent restraints. Surely money is a primary instrument used by Satan to gain converts for Hell. Okay, I'm rich, occupying the bottom of the top one percent, which is sort of the dregs of wealth, not the big league, but I'll never be in material want. Yet I remain, as far as I can tell, moral and ethical. The distinction was formulated by Theodore Sturgeon: morals are proscribed for individuals by society, such as thou shalt not commit adultery, while ethics the individual prescribes for himself, such as not kicking your dog. Both have their place. I don't shoplift, steal, lie, or hold needy folk in contempt. I wear blue jeans and crocs, drive a Prius to help save the environment, clip my own yard, wash my own dishes (we've never had a washing machine), and don't seek personal notoriety. I answer my fan mail responsively, considering fans people who have feelings like mine and who deserve fair responses. And the dog? If a dog threatens me, then it's a personal matter and I will strike the dog. Just as I will figuratively bash a person who tries to take me down. There are those who have tried. I'm not a pacifist. But I won't go after either dog or person without provocation. So what happened? Why didn't money corrupt me? Is there something wrong with me? Well, maybe. When I was young I decided that if I ever got rich, I would use my money to benefit the world rather than for personal aggrandizement. I did get rich, and I'm doing my best to honor my pledge to myself, in feasible ways. Just dumping money on a good cause does not really work, so I am cautious, trying to confine myself to things I know something about. For one thing, it can be a challenge even to know what a good cause is. Save lives? That contributes to overpopulation. I'd rather invest in population reduction, such as by supporting safe affordable contraception. That's why I invested in Xlibris, fifteen years ago. No, not for population control. Today that outfit is not what it was in my day, but at least it facilitated the phenomenon of affordable self publishing, which was my object. That's why I maintain my ongoing Survey of Electronic Publishing and related services that anyone can use without charge, and get information as accurate as I can make it, regardless of the wishes of some publishers. That's a service that only an ornery independent cuss like me with the money and gumption to wield a legal sword can render, which is one reason I do it. Because a publisher that will cheat its authors will also threaten them into silence, and take legal steps to silence them if need be, and the law does not necessarily bring justice. A writer can lose his/her career for telling the truth. I know, having been the route, except that I was one of the rare ones to survive. As far as I know, no other successful writer has put the time and money I have into trying to do right by other writers. I like to think that writers are a superior breed, but it plainly isn't so. So it seems that I really am different, as I can see by the occasional stares of amazement I receive. Yes, sometimes it costs me, as happened when I was offered $20,000 for a novella, ten times what I was to receive for it for the anthology for which I wrote it, but declined because it would not have been ethical to yank it from its projected publisher. Then it turned out that the publisher had rejected my piece, without telling me, so the sale was lost. It seemed that that the editor had known of the other offer I got, and it never occurred to him that I wouldn't jump ship for the money. Apparently any other writer would have. Sigh. But I prefer to stay my course. Yet I wonder: why does it seem to be so rare to practice simple fairness in one's interactions with others? Why am I different? Why didn't money corrupt me? I certainly hope that I am not a freak in this respect. I have even seen compulsive honesty listed as a character defect.

Um, segue into compulsive honesty. That does become problematical at times. What do you do when an aspiring writer asks you to read his piece, and it turns out to be abysmal? I warn writers that my comments will be candid, but they don't necessarily understand that I mean it. Yes, it has cost me fans. I have learned to temporize. “Your piece is not nearly as good as it will be when you graduate from high school with more experience in the craft of writing.” I may have mentioned my thought experiment with “Does this dress make me look fat?” A partial answer will do: “No.” The full answer might be “No, it's not the dress that makes you look fat. You'd look fat in anything.” Is it dishonest not to give it? Social expedience says no; denial is endemic in our society, and the lady in the dress doesn't really expect or want candor. I'm an experienced craftsman with words, so I try to find ways to answer treacherous questions in a manner that satisfies without offending. But it can be a challenge. Am I perfect? Hardly! But I try. So I retain the weight and values I had in college, over half a century later, essentially unchanged by food, experience, or wealth. I'm not good or bad, merely non-addictive, whether the temptation is drugs, power, or money. Again I wonder: why is that so unusual? I hope there are others out there like me, ordinary folk with garden variety ethics who don't let greed or illicit desire govern their lives.

Other notes: The Ride, by Erinna Chen, which I review here in 2008, has now been published. That's the one wherein the author got smashed by a car and during her long recovery resolved to write a book about the experience, including references to me, her favorite author. I wrote an introduction for it, but that has not been used. My novel Isle of Women is available until Jamboree 8 in Open Road's “First in a Series” campaign for $1.98 for the ebook. Similarly you can get Refugee for $.99 and To Be A Woman for $.99, all first in their series. And for hardcover collectors, Xanth #38 Board Stiff and $39 Five Portraits will be available in hc on Jamboree 6.

S Wayne Hendry forwarded some true experience humor from the book Disorder in the Court, by Charles M Sevilla. Such as Attorney: “What was the first thing your husband said to you thin morning?” Witness: “He said 'Where am I, Cathy?'” “And why did that upset you?” “My name is Susan!” And this: Attorney: “All your responses must be oral, OK? What school did you go to?” Witness: “Oral.” And another: “The youngest son, the 20 year old, how old is he?” Witness: “He's 20, much like your IQ.” And this: Attorney: “Are you sexually active?” Witness: “No, I just lie there.”

Other notes: I understand that feminists like the Wonder Woman comic. In The Secret History Of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore, it is revealed that the male artist lived with his wife, his mistress, and a third woman in a “sexually experimental” household. It seems that feminism was more for show than for real life. Also an obit on the psychologist who became Ayn Rand's lover. She was married, but told her husband she was having the affair and that was that. Then later she discovered that her lover had another lover on the side, and she blew her top, denouncing him for moral failure. So much for consistency; she was a hypocrite. An ad for a book in 2001 reveals the duplicity of the IRS going ofter small taxpayers, not the big corporations. “Why do you think we go after the little guys? They can't fight back.” Now we know. From 2003: Percentage of women who would choose chocolate over making love: 50. 2004 clipping: Smedley Butler, the most decorated Major General in marine corps history said “War is a racket. It always has been.” He was in a position to know. 2005 clipping: Gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation, show that the 25.47 cent price for a gallon in 1919 was equivalent to $2.86, compared to $2.09 in 2005. I remember in 1955 when it was just over 29 cents, equivalent to $2.11. That sure lends perspective! Prediction in the year 2000: there will be a stock market rally from 2006-2009. Then from 2010 to 2024 there will be serious deflation. Why? It's the convergence of two long-term cycles. So we are now in a 14 year deflation. Just so you know. I've checked other economic predictions in the past; they are obviously guesswork, seldom correct. Article about the global food shortage says there is plenty of food, but poverty prevents people from getting it. Eliminate poverty and there's no food shortage. “There's plenty of food. Too much of it is going to feed animals, too much of it is being converted to fuel and too much of it is being wasted.”

Outrages: Newspaper item: a Senate report provides a damning indictment of the CIA's torture program, which not only severely stained the honor of America, it was ineffective. I agree. In fact it was worse: they tortured an informer who told them what they wanted to hear, to make the torture stop. Thus the fiction about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the pretext to invade that country. That's the thing about torture: it can elicit false information, which is worse than no information. And the Republicans defend this? Former Vice President Dick Cheney does. Another report tells how for decades the Bob Jones University told sexual assault victims that they were to blame for the abuse, and they should not report it. This is the Christian thing? How could anyone ever think that Jesus Christ would ever have supported this? I'm agnostic, not religious, and if religion supports torture or sexual abuse, I'm glad to be clear of it. 1992 clipping: the drug lord threatened a New York officer's family, and he went after them. Along the way, this deadly comment: “I've never seen the ACLU come into a building where drug dealers are operating and say 'Let's protect the rights of the honest people.' Are they only civil libertarians for criminals?” I had my own encounter with the ACLU, and while I support their mission, I am similarly doubtful about their mechanisms.

More old clippings on writing: Mike Royko, who died in 1997, said “It has been my policy to view the Internet not as an 'information highway,' but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.” Pretty sharp observer there. Andy Rooney in 1997 expostulated on how writers are expected to give away their wares free to organizations who wouldn’t dream of asking a carpenter, electrician, doctor, or even an insurance agent to give his time free. Amen. And a current one: Cory Doctorow, a successful writer, says that hardly anyone makes money by writing. “Most writers never publish books, for instance; most who do don't make much money; and most who make a bit of money don't make it for long.” Yes, it's true, despite rare exceptions, he being one, I being another. I think of writing success as a lottery: it's great if you win, but the odds are vastly against you. And a 1996 confirmation of something I have said: publishers pay bookstores for good display space. So in practice they don't care what authors or readers want, only what they can push to make money their way. Money is governing art. That corruption is part of the death knell for traditional publishing. It's one problem the internet solved, to a degree. 1995 article on arbitration: it can be a poor way to settle a dispute. Don't I know it! I paid for the arbitration for another writer, so got a copy of the decision, two thirds of which spelled out the fee for the arbitrator. That was apart from it being a bad decision. Courts aren't any easy answer, but do beware of arbitration; it may not be any better. 1994 clipping on legendary fan turned pro Forest Ackerman, the inventor of the “Sci-Fi” atrocity, from which I learn that he had 50 pseudonyms and wrote copious lesbian fiction. Live and learn.

Neat stories: Canadian man planned a round the world trip with his girlfriend, but after he paid for it, they broke up, and the ticket was nonrefundable and could be used only by a woman of that name. So he advertised, and found another woman with the same name, and she gets a free trip. Pregnant teen age daughter decided to give her baby up for adoption, but the family wanted to stay in touch. Turns out there's an adoption agency that arranges it so that both the adoptive family and the blood family can retain contact with the child, who will grow up knowing both. I like that solution.

News flash: Florida has now passed New York as the third most populous state. I'm not sure whether that's good. Now the order is California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan.

1998 clipping from the TAMPA TRIBUNE: a local author challenges religious beliefs. Not long ago I did spot research and a discussion of Jesus, so while I'm not religious myself, I retain a certain interest in the subject. The author was Robert Gillooly, All About Adam & Eve. He says the story lines of the world's great religions are all remarkably alike. Immaculate conception, exorcism and communion, for example have been taught and practiced since the dawn of man. Well, I'm not sure about immaculate conception being actually practiced, which would be parthenogenesis, just the story of it. Many biblical narratives, such as the story of Genesis, were ancient myths rather than the literal word of God. The earliest Hebrew prophets were in effect fortune tellers who roamed the countryside to sell their God-given predictions of the future. The prophets of Baal, the Bull God, offered the same service. Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, Moses in the bulrushes, are all traced to ancient religious cults whose myths inspired the Bible writers. And so on. Stripped of its religious trappings, he says, prayer is merely wishful thinking. I find this interesting and I'm inclined to agree. Was Jesus another itinerant prophet who happened to be taken more seriously, once the myth-makers latched on to him? This seems likely.

I do the chess puzzles in the newspaper, and am annoyed when they blow it. This time it's the one for 12-26-14, the day after Christmas, where White is supposed to win material. I figured out their answer, which gains a rook for a knight, but that was beside the point. White's bishop can take Black's rook outright, without losing the knight. How could the puzzle maker have missed that?

Health test: stand on one leg for 20 seconds. If you can't, you may have cerebral small vessel disease, a precursor to stroke or dementia. Fortunately I can, though I really have to focus. That's with eyes open; with eyes closed I'm hard put to it to last 5 seconds. What strikes me here is the ease of the test. At such time as I can't pass it, I will hie me off to my doctor for a brain scan to learn the worst. At my age, this may not be long.

1998 item by Martin Dyckman, of the then St Petersburg Times. I interacted with him peripherally and regard the man as close minded, but here he's making sense. He asks suppose it were possible to live forever. Would you? Should you? Don't be too quick to answer. For one thing, immortality would not be feasible without stopping births, so as not to get crowded out of room. No cute babies, no playful children, no difficult teens, no lovely young women. Just old folk living forever. As he puts it: “What a lonely, selfish, empty eternity such a life would be.” He cites Ben Bova, a science fiction writer I know, who ponders the question similarly. He says they would have to raise the Social Security retirement age from 65 to 650. Um, how about that? You thought to retire next year? Tough beans. I hate death, but believe I'll have to settle for the present order.

1997 ad: Learn how the government jiggers the numbers to understate the rate of inflation. When the price rises on one product, people shift to another product, so they don't list that price rise, but it's there. They ask homeowners what they think they could rent their houses for. This is accurate surveying? I've seen it myself; when we had a small car, we had the cheapest price for the auto tag. Then they eliminated that category, so we had to pay more for a different category despite their claim that there had been no price rise in tags. Similar story for brands of groceries: the cheapest brand disappears, and there's nowhere to go but up though no brand has changed price. That's not listed as inflation, but we still had to pay more. “The truth is that economists and financial analysts outside of Washington recognized for years that the CPI (Consumer Price Index) is actually understated by at least 2.3 percentage points. Anyone who goes to the supermarket will confirm this.” Yes, we do go, and do confirm it. We did not subscribe to their periodical, but do agree with their point. Inflation is worse than official statistics indicate. An irony is that they could stop it if they wanted to. Switzerland did, for decades. They don't want to. Why? That' a whole other discussion.

The WASHINGTON SPECTATOR for 12-1-2014 quotes Teddy Roosevelt: “Conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition for progress. In our day it appears as the struggle to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.” That is still happening today, in spades, as we consider things like gay marriage and fair taxation. The keep the government out of my business folk nevertheless labor to prevent the gays from having their freedom, despite the preference of the majority, while pushing for ever more tax loopholes for themselves that the grunts in the trenches can't have.

WIRELESS catalog has some fun things. Such as T-shirts with messages. Remember the one that said “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with catsup?” Now they have one saying “Do not meddle in the affairs of cats. For they are cunning and you sleep with your mouth open.” And “What I if told you, you read the first line wrong?” And “Zombies hate fast food.” (Picture of a girl running away.) And “Careful, or you'll end up in my novel.” Right; there's a shortage of crunchy folk for dragons to eat.

Let's finish with a review of the 48th and last book I read in 2014, The Animal Connection, by Pat Shipman. My wife gave it to me for Christmas. Ms Shipman makes the case that just as man domesticated animals, so animals domesticated man. Today we need animals, just as they need us. She reviews mankind's history for the past few million years, showing how we have related to animals back when we hunted them for food and the greater concentration of meat enabled us to reduce the size of our gut, to the phenomenal empire of the Mongols, made possible by the horses they rode. Also the diseases we got as viruses adapted from animal hosts to us, like the Black Death. So there have been costs, but overall our association with animals has benefited us greatly. The Dog was the first one domesticated, 32,000 years ago, followed by the Goat 12,000 yeas ago, then Sheep, Pig, Cat, Cow, and later the Horse, 6,000 years ago. It seems the Neolithic Revolution was no such thing; it occurred over the course of tens of thousands of years and was fully formed around 10,000 years ago, the completion of a long slow process. There's a lot more to learn from this book. I have studied the long-term history of mankind about as much as any layman has (remember my GEODYSSEY series), so I know whereof she speaks, and it is well worth pondering. The book is readable for the novice too.

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