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Logged onto the Intarwebz, checked Facebook and a couple of sites. You know how “Teh Smart Pepple” used to tell us that most of the world’s problems were because the heaving masses didn’t have instant access to the sum total of human knowledge?

No. No, it definitely wasn’t that.

Plus, Rita is headed out of State to visit family today, so I’ll be batching it until Sunday — and that usually makes me a little peevish.

I think it’s best if I’m done with the Internet today.

The blog archives are on the left sidebar; and if those don’t hold your fancy, I’ve a blogroll full of people smarter than I am up at the top, under ‘LINKS’ — go visit them.

Or you could help our statistics with Substack by visiting us there, and telling your friends, family, and random strangers at the convenience store about us.

I’ll be back tomorrow when I’m less stabby.


Why, you arrogant little …

So, the computer attached to the server at The Blanket Fort defaults to Microsoft’s Bing for a search engine.

One of the … features of Bing is an AI-powered assistant called “Copilot”.

I discovered this last night, and — as one does — I was indulging my curiosity by asking the AI questions about LawDog. Turns out the AI had me fingered as an author, and knew about the books I had written, right down to their names.

What put the fox into the hen-house was when I asked the question: “Is there a specific story from ‘The Africa Files’ that stands out?”

‘The Africa Files’ is, for those new to my page, an actual book that I did write and currently publish.

You can see where I asked that very question right here, as well as the AI’s response:

I have very few issue with AI — for one, I understand that the second letter in the acronym should be an ‘S’* — but this one set my teeth on edge.

See, the Artificial Stupidity Intelligence wrote a garbage story … and then claimed in at least two places that I was the actual author; and that said garbage story was actually from a book that I wrote:

“One of the standout stories from “The Africa Files” is LawDog’s encounter with a mischievous monkey. Let me share it with you:”

It can’t be a standout story from ‘The Africa Files’ because I didn’t write that garbage; and I damned sure didn’t include it in my book.

It ends with:

“I hope you enjoyed this delightful tale from ‘The Africa Files’! LawDog’s ability to weave such vivid stories makes his book a treasure trove of memories and adventures.”

It’s not from ‘The Africa Files’, because I neither wrote it, nor included it in that book.

I don’t have a  problem with Artificial Stupid writing a story in “the style of LawDog” … I damned sure have a problem with Artificial Stupid writing a story, then telling strangers that I was the one who wrote it. And not only claiming that I wrote it, but that I put it in one of my books.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it — or if anything can be done about it — but I’m not bloody well happy about some algorithm writing garbage, and telling everyone that I wrote it.

Not bloody well happy at all.


*For “Stupid”.

Hail the victorious dead!

Another Memorial Day is here, and as I sip my coffee my thoughts turn to the day itself.

Much like a funeral, Memorial Day is actually less about the dead than it is about those left behind.

The dead are beyond care anymore. They are at peace, and have little, if any, thought for those who are to follow — and yes, we will all follow sooner or later.

So, why is Memorial Day important? As Calvin Coolidge once said, “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”

We must remember our dead warriors not for them, but for us. To continue being who we are as a country requires that we remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

Go and picnic. Hug your children. Stuff yourselves on burgers and bratwurst. Listen and revel in the laughter and gaiety that other died to protect.

Above all else, enjoy the freedoms that others have paid the ultimate price for.

And sometime during this day, take a moment to think of the fallen. To quietly thank them.

Not for them, understand, but for you — so that you remember that everything has a price.


Because we’re here, lad

In the classic 1964 film ‘Zulu’, there is a quietly moving scene where a junior soldier, realizing what is coming for them, plaintively asks, “Why is it us? Why us?”

Colour-Sergeant Bourne, ever-stoic, simply replies: “Because we’re here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.”

Rita is fond of quoting one of my own aphorisms back at me:
“Things never turn out as good as the optimists hope, nor as bad as the pessimists say.”

These two quotes are oft on my mind these days.

I tire of the doomsayers; of the “black-pilled” “prophets” who have been wrong at every historical and political turn in my lifetime, yet whom do not allow their past total abject failures at soothsaying deter them from once more forecasting of  Doom! And Gloom!

“Worst economy EVAH!” Well, it’s not good, but does no-one else remember stagflation in the 1970s?

“Worst political climate EVAH!” Not happy about it, but the America of the 1860s would like to have a word.

“World turmoil!” Yeah, that’s what the world does. Anyone else remember those decades where we were all going to die in atomic hellfire, with the few survivors being chased through a nuclear winter by mutant cockroaches the size of Volkswagen Beetles?

“Waaa-aaar!” I was raised in Africa. I have yet to see a decade, hell, a year, in which the Red Horseman isn’t plying his trade on at least one continent somewhere. I was a soldier during the era of Ronald Reagan, whose brash braggadocio and jingoistic rhetoric were “sure to start World War 3”; and I understood — and accepted — that my fate was to be a speed-bump, to die slowing down Soviet tank columns long enough to allow the Abrams crews to wake up.

Yet … here we are.

Remember the folks who wrote giant walls of text about how aeroplanes were going to fall out of the sky, cities would go dark, and the Internet crash, leaving all of us at the mercy of warlords ruling a post-Y2K apocalypse? Does anyone actually remember Y2K these days?

Remember That Guy who talked your ear off about how Carter, err — Clinton, err — Obama was going to declare martial law so he could stay in office after his mandated terms were up? (Insert Reagan, Bush, Bush, Trump for the other side of politics.) And — so far — wrong every time.

And probably the same guy who has a quick-draw dissertation on how — via some United Nations shenanigans and a convenient spouse or family member — the same aim would be achieved. And how many decades has that one come up wrong?


Are things great?

Oh, I didn’t say that. Politicians are lying, self-serving bags of o-rings, morally bankrupt; and greedy beyond any fevered dream of Mammon could have hoped for.

But … is anyone actually surprised by this?

The media are hypocrites, who dissemble with pious expressions or noble brow, all the while shrouded in cloaks of sanctimony and mendacity; safe and happy in the knowledge that they will never be held to any sort of account for their lies, perfidies, and libels.

No, you don’t hate journalists enough. You think you do, but you don’t.

Again, though:  Is anyone actually surprised that the Legacy Media has returned to their roots with William Randolph Hearst and Yellow Journalism? Were they ever actually that noble, or are we looking back through rose-coloured lenses at a carefully-curated image?

I realize that the afore-mentioned media has a vested financial and political interest in keeping the very worst of news up under your hat with you; that their profit margins require that they keep smacking us in the face in a 24-hour cycle of doom, gloom, and despair …

… But we don’t have to listen. We don’t have to watch.

I understand that social media has a vested financial and political interest in bringing the absolute worst that we as a species do on the regular as a barrage into our phones, and computers, and homes …

… But we don’t have to access social media.

Are things right now as good as the optimists claim? Hell, no. Are things as bad as the pessimists are dooming about? Also, hell, no.

Is it comfortable, nay, reassuring to be alive during this time? No. God, no.

But we’re here. Nobody else. Just us. And we can weather Teh Stupid that pretty much is the Sum Total of Human Existence (just writ large on Social Media and a 24-hour news cycle) with calm, confidence in our neighbors, and honest preparedness …

… Or we can run around with our hair on fire, listening to every kook who hasn’t been correct since Christ was a corporal, spewing panic, and just generally making things worse (as well as looking like a complete oik, historically)*.

I know which path I’m going to take. I invite you to take the same one.


*Having seen how fast the average person panicked during the Recent Covid Unpleasantness™, I have my doubts, but I’m trying to  not to be a doomer here. Give me a break.

Well, hello, there!

Well, since the Tangent Online news took off, I’ve gotten some questions back-channel from folks who seem to have a certain wrong idea about how we do things, in particular in the way we pay our authors.

So, let me clear that up.

We use Pubshare for our royalties, so this means that our authors do need an account with them.

For every $100 that one of our books earns, Amazon takes $30, and sends the rest ($70) to Pubshare.

Of that $70, Pubshare takes $7 (10%) and divides the rest ($63) among the authors, and Raconteur Press, equally.

Yes, we take an equal share along with our authors.

Now, for the part that some folks just can’t wrap their minds around: We will hang on to the rights to your story for one year. After one year, the rights revert back to the author — HOWEVER …

… We Do Not Stop Paying Authors After A Year.

Read that again: we will pay our authors for as long as this publishing house exists.

Yes, as long as we have enough royalties to make a minimum payment, we will send money to our authors.

We are still paying authors for the first book we published, in April 2022, so please stop telling potential authors that we only pay for a year.

Thank you,

LawDog/Ian Mc Murtrie
CEO, Raconteur Press

In which your humble scribe …

… hyperventilates into a brown paper bag.

For those Gentle Readers who may not be as familiar with the inner workings of Sci-Fi as they might wish, Tangent Online is an Internet reviewer of short stories in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre.

It is so highly regarded that it has been nominated for the Hugo award multiple times, as well as nominations for Locus, and the World Fantasy Award. 

Paul Di Filippo of Sci Fi Weekly described Tangent Online as: “a one-stop clearinghouse for information on the good, the bad and the ugly in the short-story jungle.”

As you can see, Tangent Online is no small thing.

So. We get this:

Let me read the really good part:

“The reviewer enjoyed the anthology so much that he [recommended] all 10 stories, something in my 30+ years of editing Tangent Online that has never happened.”

I don’t know if people understand what a really big deal this is for Raconteur Press.

I’d like to congratulate our Guest Editor, Dr. James Young, and each of the authors whose stories appear in this little antho. If you’d like to read the review for yourself, it’s here.

If you’d like to see what the fuss is about — and I think you should — Giant Freakin’ Robots is here.

Now, I think I’m going to go have a nice little lie-down and clutch my pearls for a bit.


Fountain Pen Question

Over on Facebook, Gentle Reader Richard Hopkins asks:

Well, that is a question with a many-layered response.

Are they better? For me, yes. For Rita, yes. For other folks? Well, maybe, maybe not.

They are more fiddly than a biro or a gel-pen. The ink is a little more smeary than that from a ball-point, and it takes longer to dry.

Where fountain pens shine over ball-points or gel-pens is if you hand-write a lot. Writing with a fountain pen takes very little pressure, and if you’re filling a page or more — or if you’re writing one or two lines on multiple pages — the so-called “writer’s cramp” will take much longer to get you with a fountain pen.

Also, a fountain pen is much, much more expressive than any other pen. The design of the nib means that the width of your letters will vary according to emotion throughout your writing.

Done right, a fountain pen is much less expensive in the long run than a rollerball, gel-ink, or even a cheap ball-point biro.

As I mentioned above, though, a fountain pen is also much more fiddly than any other writing instrument.

It all comes down to personal taste and needs, as to whether a fountain pen is actually that much better than a bog-standard Bic Clic Stic.

What would I recommend to get started?

Pilot’s Varsity disposable fountain pen. Hands down. These are damned decent little pens. Write with it until it’s empty, then bin it, and grab another one. You can find them on Amazon, but quite honestly Rita and I find them at University book stores — often in a tub at the register — for a lot cheaper.

If you use a Pilot Varsity for a while, and find yourself bitten by the fountain pen bug, the next thing you should do is wander over to Lamy, and pick up a Safari, or an Al-Star. The only difference between the two is that the Safari is plastic and the Al-Star is aluminum. Go ahead and throw a Z28 converter into the shopping cart while you’re at it.

Yes, fountain pen snobs look down on the little Lamys. They shouldn’t. For daily use, these little pens are fantastic work-horses, and with the converter the wide, wide world of bottled fountain pen inks has now opened up for you.

I hope that helps, Richard.


That’s better

I’ve been carrying a Streamlight MicroStream AAA  pen-light in my pocket for about as long as Streamlight has been producing them.

I find that a good pocket light is every bit as useful as a good pocketknife, and — quite honestly– I probably use the light more times during the day than I do the knife.

They’ve always been less than $20, and when I lose them — if you carry and use your kit, you’re going to lose it sooner or later — when I lose one there’s not much fashin’ about it.

With my vision issues it hits the sweet spot of being bright enough to be useful, but not so bright that it overwhelms my retina and punts me into the new wonders of the optical migraine.

Yes, I know that there are brighter flashlights out there, but 500 lumens on a white wall shuts down the left side of my visual field for about 15 minutes, and I have to put up with purple smears in my vision for about an hour.

Not, as they say, quite optimal.

I find that if you use the lithium AAA batteries you get more than the listed lumen output and run time, by the by.

The only problem with them is that the only come in black. I realize that’s “tactical”, and I also realize that by the time I need to replace one it’s generally worn and scuffed to charcoal grey, but the truth of the matter is that my vision has deteriorated to the point that finding it in the shadows of the cubby where I store my pocket litter at night can oft be challenging, to say nothing of when it falls out of my pocket into the grass or the shadows under furniture.

I managed to hang onto my last one for a decade or more before it finally vanished, so after futilely looking for it for a while, I gave up and visited the Streamlight store where I discovered to my delight that they now come in red. A hopefully more-visible hue.

It’s in that worn spot in my left pocket as I type this, where I’ve been reflexively patting for a week.

All is right with my world.


I’ll do it my way …

I love seeing stuff like this, but it annoys me at the same time.

Here’s a screengrab for those who don’t do ‘X’ or ‘Twitter’ or whatever it’s called today:

Why am I annoyed by this? Because authors getting paid for their work shouldn’t be shocking. The fact that an author is surprised that we’re paying her for her work irks me to a degree that I’m not exactly sure I can articulate properly.

Why is it that a pack of misfits with brain-squirrels, bumbling around with only the SHAG Principle* as a guide-lamp, and happily making Every Mistake Known To Man is held up as an example of “what SHOULD be” in an industry that’s been around since the 19th century?

The gratitude the we get from authors for just … treating them right … shouldn’t happen. Treating authors right should be the bloody norm, and not something worth being grateful over.

Soapbox Rant time.

When I first started this, I was told that “Anthologies will lose you money.”

Well, we’re doing it our way, and we seem to be doing fairly well.

I was told, “You can’t tell your authors how many books are sold, or how many pages are read.”

Well, we’re doing it our way, and yes you can.

I was told, “LawDog, you can’t keep open books.”

Well, we’re doing it our way, and it turns out that you certainly can.

I was told: “There’s no way you guys can publish an anthology every two weeks.”

Well, we’re doing it our way. And we can.

At Foolzcon and other cons, I’ve been told, “You can’t change the publishing industry, Ian.”

Huh. Maybe not. But you know what? NextGen presses like us, Three Ravens Publishing, Jumpmaster Press, Cannon Publishing, and others will continue to treat authors as valued partners, instead of cash cows to be milked dry and discarded; to treat authors as we would like to be treated; to just be decent human beings — and those who follow the predatory model of publishing can either evolve out of being parasites, or fall by the wayside as authors find that there are options who will treat them fairly.

No, I may not be able to change the publishing industry, but I’ll be damned if I’ll fall into their ways.

By God.


*Scientific Hairy-Arsed Guess