Peeve of the Day (or, Not Just Grammar Makes Me Peevish)

Dr. Doyle's Blog

There’s a special kind of irritation I feel whenever somebody starts trying — earnestly and urgently — to tell me about some New! Amazing! and Probably Subversive! thing that I already know. It’s a combination of “I will not be manipulated by emotional argument, dammit!” and “You mean you only just now heard about that?” and “Stop being on my side, you’re annoying me!”, with the exact proportions varying by subject matter.

Scientific theories mostly just get the middle, or “I thought everybody knew that” reaction. I remember being mildly surprised, for example, the first time — back in the eighties, I think it would have been — that I saw plate tectonics described in the popular press as a new and until-recently controversial geologic theory, because everybody I knew had known about plate tectonics for ages. Granted, I spent my high school years back in Texas attending meetings…

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Winter RenFaire

So this weekend I’ll celebrate my birthday by performing magic at the Winter RenFaire  ( Champlain Valley Exposition (105 Pearl St, Essex Junction. VT).   This will be a two-day event, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 6 pm.  I’ll be doing walk-around magic all day, and a formal show each day at 4:30 pm on the Music Stage.

Come find me, and say “Amaze me!”  I’ll do my level best.

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Arisia, and What We Came Home To

Dr. Doyle's Blog

It was a good Arisia, despite the many and varied problems the con experienced heading in to the occasion. Returning to the Park Plaza for a year was an exercise in nostalgia (was the hotel layout always this confusing? were the rooms always that small? were the locally available restaurants always that much better and more plentiful?†), but mostly in a good way in spite of everything.

I was on a total of five panels, including one 8:30AM panel (note to self:  let’s not do that again), with no real dogs and two standouts — the panel on sidekicks, and the panel on the problem of writing near-future sf when the present keeps catching up with and passing the tech. We had one really good dinner out, at the Marliave restaurant, where Jim Macdonald had the Beef Wellington and I had their Sunday Gravy (i.e., slow-cooked beef, pork, and lamb…

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The Unified Doyle and Macdonald Arisia Schedule

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Or, where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing this coming weekend, while we’re attending the Arisia Science Fiction Convention at the Boston Park Plaza.

My Panels:

The Sidekick Lounge

Cambridge     Sat 11:30 AM

Where would our protagonist be without a trusty sidekick? Sidekicks are an invaluable part of storytelling, serving as everything from an audience stand-in to comedic relief. Let’s talk about the roles sidekicks can play, why they’re important to protagonists, and clever inversions of common sidekick tropes.

Giving Characters Big Damn Hero Moments

Beacon Hill      Sat 5:30PM

Achilles in front of the gates of Troy. Hurin in the Battle of Innumerable Tears. Daenerys and “Dracarys!” Speculative literature often includes moments of mind-blowing awesomeness where a character uses combat, skill, or persuasion to save the day. Panelists discuss favorite moments in literature with Big Damn Hero moments, but also techniques to bring these moments to their…

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Kitchen Archaeology; or, The Return of the Lost Recipe

Sister Mary Rose was my kindergarten teacher.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

In our current quest to organize the kitchen, the other day I ordered a baker’s rack from Amazon†, and today we moved it into place. This involved relocating the bookshelf full of cookbooks about a foot and a half to the right, which in turn involved first taking all of the cookery books and magazines off of the shelf.

In the course of the relocation, we found the old black-and-white composition book that I first started recording recipes in, right after Jim Macdonald and I set up housekeeping. To our delight, among the recipes was the caramel apple recipe of Macdonald’s childhood, which I had carefully copied into the notebook from the index card I got it on.  We eventually lost the index card, to our sorrow, and after that there were no more caramel apples any more, because the black-and-white composition book was buried under a decade or more…

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The UniversityThe Pseudoscience Warsy of Chicago gives away free e-books.  Every month there’s a new one, and they’re all swell.  This month’s freebie, I think, is one that folks who follow my blog may really like: The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe by Michael B. Gordin.

I remember reading Velikovsky back when I was in fourth or fifth grade.  My dad had copies of Ages in Chaos, Earth in Upheaval (both in paperback) and Worlds in Collision (in hardcover).  I loved those books.  They were Grand Theories of Everything, in engaging prose, and filled with footnotes to obscure sources.  Then something occurred to me: “Hey, wait a minute,” I said to myself. “This guy literally can’t tell the difference between a carbohydrate and a hydrocarbon.”  (I had a chemistry set and I knew how to use it.  Yes, I was the sort of kid who made molecular models.  As we used to say in New York, Ya got a problem wid dat?)

In later life I learned that “nonfiction” is just a publishing category, not a promise by the publisher that everything (or, indeed, anything) in the book is true.  Or, later still, that the difference between fiction and nonfiction is that fiction writers tell their own lies.

The realization about Velikovsky came to help me later on when the books by Mark Lane et al. came out; the master questions being What do we know, and How do we know it?

To the book at hand: Gordin quite rightly begins by noting that no one thinks of themself as a pseudoscientist.  They think of themselves as scientists.   He also notes that scientists don’t call everything they don’t like or don’t agree with as  “pseudoscience.”  There’s lots of bad science out there — little of it is labeled a pseudoscience.

Then we go on to  a grand theory of everything, in engaging prose and with footnotes to obscure sources, linking the publication of Worlds in Collision and its reception to the Red Scare and Joe McCarthy.  McCarthyism then gets blended with Lysenkoism, Freudianism, Reichism*, and Creationism.  Velikovsky and his influence continue on to the Vietnam War and the — how shall we say this? — worldviews in collision?  society in upheaval?  age groups in chaos? — of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Gordin doesn’t go the next step, to link all of the above to the antivax movement and climate change denialism, but if we accept the rest of his argument, that step is inevitable.

Anyway, good book.  Red Mike says check it out.  (And hey, it’s free….)



  • Doyle and I visited the Reich house in Strangely Rangeley, Maine — it isn’t too far from where we live — where I discovered that, like my parents, Dr. Reich had subscribed to the Book of the Month Club.  The volumes in his library were all oddly familiar to me from the books on the shelves at my childhood home.
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One More Day

Dr. Doyle's Blog

A reminder:  My annual holiday sale of editorial and critique services ends at midnight on January 5th, 2019.

(For the purposes of this sale, “midnight” is 2400 hours in either my time zone — Eastern Standard Time — or yours, whichever is more to your advantage.  I’m not going to quibble over details.)

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2018 Is Drawing to a Close

Dr. Doyle's Blog

And my annual holiday edit-and-critique sale has five more days to run.  From now through Twelfth Night (5 January 2019) , my usual rate for a standard-sized novel goes down from $1500 to $1000, and my $2000 rate for 100,000-words-plus doorstops goes down to $1500.

Twelfth Night around our house is also the official date on which the Christmas tree comes down — a rule I instituted after one year a couple of decades back when (for reasons that I no longer remember, except that it had been a particularly grey and dreary winter), the tree didn’t get hauled outside until almost Easter.

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Special Promotion

Two From the Mageworlds by Doyle and Macdonald

Two From the Mageworlds

The Confessions of Peter Crossman

The Confessions of Peter Crossman

From now through the 1st of January, two of our e-books are on sale over at Smashwords at a special promotional price: Free.

They represent the two major genres in which we work: fantasy and science fiction.  So, if you’ve never read any of our books, here you go: Two From the MageWorlds, and The Confessions of Peter Crossman.

By the way — now it can be told — we’re planning to bring our best-selling and award-winning YA novel Knight’s Wyrd back into print.  With luck we’ll have it out by and at Heliosphere.


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(Seasonal) Thought for the Day

One thing that didn’t get added to the Tradition was having a power blackout on Christmas Eve. (We did in fact have a blackout one year.) The work-around for that involved making Paper Bag Apple Pies.

Here’s how to make a paper bag apple pie: Make an apple pie in the usual fashion. Because the (electric) oven isn’t working, place the raw pie in a paper shopping bag, place it on the hearthstone of your fireplace with the open end toward the blazing fire (which is also all that’s warming your entire house) and wait until the pie cooks. Which it will. You judge this by the color of the top crust. Note: You do not leave this alone for even a second. Also, make sure your Christmas Tree is well clear of that cheerful blaze. Not that it’s too difficult to keep the tree away, because everyone in the house will be clustered around that Cheery Blaze, and that tree doesn’t have c chance of taking up room that a person could occupy.

Despite the cry of “Tradition!” there was no demand to cut the power the following year.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

A word of warning to anybody contemplating the acquisition of offspring: Be aware that anything you do for Christmas just once instantly becomes a Hallowed Holiday Tradition, and you fail to do it again every year thereafter at your peril. By the time all your kids are teenagers heading for college, you will inevitably be dragging a whole sled-load of Tradition behind you as you head into the joyous season.

And a further, happier thought:  If you’re still stumped over what to give as a holiday present to the writer in your life (even if that writer is you), remember that my seasonal sale of editorial and critique services is ongoing through Twelfth Night (5 January 2019.)

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