Category Archives: Doggerel & Pastiches


(Part of a poetry slam with Chris Clarke)

Raging and raging in the lengthening thread
The mood will not heed the moderator;
Rules sprout loopholes; the FAQ cannot answer;
Mere trollery is loosed upon the site,
The lambent prose is loosed, and everywhere
The assumption of good faith is crumbled;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some resolution is at hand;
Surely Going Viral is at hand.
Going Viral! Hardly are those words onscreen
When a vast image out of Fandom Wank
Troubles my stream: somewhere in the wilds of the net
A community with zeitgeist and common purpose,
A cause right and pitiless as the sun,
Is searching for a forum, while all their LJs
Trail threads of the approving, supportive THIS’s.
The tweets move on again; but now I know
That 287 TLDs of peaceful sites
Were vexed to nightmare by a raging thread
And what rough horde, its cause come round at last
Slouches toward my website to be borne?

Originally posted on Google+, copied to Making Light.

You are old, Mr Clarke

(Part of a poetry slam with Chris Clarke)

“You are old, Mr Clarke,” the woman said, stunned,
“And your music has gone out of style;
Yet your circles are full and your comments +1’d
Have you been on the net a long while?”

“In my youth,” Mr. Clarke replied to the lass,
“Our flamewars used genuine fires.
I still carve my zeroes; my ones are hand-cast.
They barely fit through the wires.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “you once used AOL
As shorthand to mean ‘you are clueless’.
I’ve no doubt at all you were once on the WELL —
Are you awestruck by all the newness?”

“In my youth,” said the blogger, pausing his post,
“Discussions on Usenet were clever.
And here we are still, and I don’t mean to boast,
But I’m just as witty as ever.”

“You are old, said the girl again, “antedating
Both Napster and Wikipedia.
Are you really a part of the world we’re creating
With sharing and social media?”

“In my youth” said the writer, “we shared without fail:
The carbon would blacken our cc’s.
We guessed from their style which posters were male,
But often we doubted their species.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “I can scarcely believe
The time you have been wasting in chatter.
What famines and poverties did you relieve
What injustices did you shatter?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said Chris; “Tell me how if you’re friendless
You expect you can change all of that crucial stuff?
The potential of wank is just endless.”

Originally posted on Google+, copied to Making Light.

It has been alleged that heavenly bodies are not the most pleasant of paramours

Many of the greatest and most edifying philosophers have observed what a quantity of dramatic and transformative events occurs from the slightest of beginnings. Although this is not consistent with our instinctive desire to begin great events with great deeds, and save the lesser for the less, which desire is heightened by the contemplation of the proportion of heroes produced by the greater Houses to those arising from the lesser, it does allow for the fashion in which a single pebble may set off an avalanche, or, in this case, a simple joke begin one of the most serious revolutionary movements in recent history.

We begin our narrative in the middle of May in the year 2075, in the computer room of the Lunar Authority, wherein are kept the computers whose calculations are required for the maintenance of the habitability of Luna City, and indeed the entire Lunar colony, against the deadly cold and vacuum of Earth’s lone satellite. In addition to these vital functions, the computers are used to pursue the economic goals of the Authority, including the payment of those individuals who find themselves employed by it. It was in this capacity that the main computer, a HOLMES IV machine, had some days previously issued an excessive paycheck to one Sergei Trujillo, whose duties include the cleaning and general maintenance of the Authority’s offices in Luna City.

The functionaries charged with the management of the Authority, upon discovering the error, summoned a man whose skills, which ranged from field repair of pressure suits to short-order cookery, included a pragmatic ability to resolve problems in a wide variety of computational devices. To sum up the matter: they summoned Manuel Garcia O’Kelley. He himself may modestly credit many of his successes in the field of computer repair to the artificial left arm with which he was fitted after the loss of his original one in an ice mining accident, but it will become clear in our narrative that this is an inadequate explanation for his genius in the resolution of mechanical problems, or indeed, other problems of broader scope and deeper import.

Having introduced our hero, or rather, one of our heroes, we must also say two words on the topic of the society which produced him. It may seem strange to those of us raised in more conventional circumstances, but Lunar society was the product of the congregation of the criminal elements from societies all over Terra, which transported them to the Moon to be rid of them. Although, perhaps due to the ubiquity of physical force as a means of punishing duplicitous behavior, or again perhaps as a result of the harsh and unforgiving environment, Luna was generally a safe and law-abiding place, its denizens took great pride in their descent from the criminal element. One of the expressions of this pride was a distinct contempt for authority figures, and in particular for the administrators who managed the penal colony. Those inhabitants of Luna who had completed their sentences, or were descended from prisoners, were frequently reluctant to take employment with the Authority, but were often happy to work as contractors in order to have the employment and yet preserve their independence.

It should not be presumed, therefore, that when Mannie entered the computer room on the thirteenth day of May, that he was under contract of employment to the Lunar Authority. Nevertheless, his manner of going about the job of correcting the computer error might raise some eyebrows in our readers. Rather than removing the access panels that would permit him to contemplate the inner electronics of the system, or querying the logic of the software which operated those electronics, he sat down in a convenient chair facing the computer and began a conversation with it.

“Good morning, Mike.”

“Good morning, Mannie,” replied the computer. Those of our readers who are acquainted with the works of Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS, will note that this response does not indicate genuine artificial intelligence, since a programmer could easily specify it as the correct response to Mannie’s conventional greeting. However, it will become clear in subsequent conversations that Mike is indeed a self-aware entity, and a character in its own right.

“It has been a matter of some months since I have last had the opportunity to visit you. I trust you have occupied your time pleasantly in my absence?”

“During the time since you last came here, I have performed twenty million, five hundred and thirty thousand, four hundred and twenty-six calculations. The first of these was intended to adjust the pitch and yaw of an incoming ship…”

Mannie held up his hand. “It is not necessary for you to detail all of the things that you have been doing since my last conversation with you. That question was merely intended as a pleasantry, and an invitation for you to bring up any topics that you feel are of particular note and interest.”

“Ah. I comprehend your meaning, and thank you for the guidance in social matters. One topic that has become of great interest to me in recent days is the nature of humor. In particular, I have been accumulating a store of jokes. Would you be interested in hearing one?”

“By Bog! I have been wishing for nothing else this past hour!”

(The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in the style of Paarfi of Roundwood)

Fangs and Fascination

We got into literary crossovers on Making Light, and someone suggested “Jane Austen’s Interview with the Vampire“. A couple of hours later, I awoke, logomadida, to find the following on my screen:

– o0o –

The family of Pointe du Lac had not long been settled in Louisiana, having emigrated from France some five years previously. Their house was elegant and well-appointed, built with the revenues of their indigo plantations beside the Mississippi River. The father, until his death, encouraged his wife and daughter in all the fashionable pursuits: visiting, and dancing, and playing on the harpsichord. After his passing, they continued much as they had during his life. The elder of the two sons, Louis, succeeded his sire in the management of the estate, which, though of a value to support the family in comfort, required a certain amount attention. Nevertheless, he too found time for the respectable pursuits of a country gentleman.

The fourth member of the reduced household, Louis’s younger brother Paul, was of a more serious bent. Despite his mother’s and sister’s insistence, he preferred to remain in his rooms rather than join them on visits or expeditions of pleasure. His elder brother encouraged him in his pursuits, providing him with an oratory for his use and protecting him from the worst of their demands.

It was therefore a great scandal, and excited much comment in the community, when Paul fell to his death shortly after an argument with his brother. Pointe du Lac refused to give any account of the accident, but his conduct in the days leading up to the funeral was of such a nature as to arouse suspicion in even the most trusting of his neighbors. He was said to have stayed by his brother’s remains for some time, and emerged distraught and troubled. His stiff demeanor during the ceremony was much observed and commented on, but few could agree whether he was paralyzed by an excess of emotion or entirely lacking in it.

Shortly after the tragedy, Pointe du Lac employed a firm of agents to manage the estate and removed with his mother and sister to New Orleans. However, the notoriety surrounding his brother’s death was not so easily dispensed with. The entire family encountered a falling-off of invitations, particularly to the more select gatherings, and those they did attend were filled with the vulgarly curious and the coldly rude. Miss Pointe du Lac, with portion and beauty alike to recommend her, found herself bereft of suitors, while her mother sat alone more mornings than she hosted visitors.

Pointe du Lac, widely seen as the author of his family’s troubles, ceased to pursue the life of a gentleman. He did not attend even those few parties to which he was invited, instead spending his time in the more disreputable establishments of the city. His remaining friends reported finding him in an unfortunate condition with increasing frequency. It was rumored that his debts were soon to outstrip the income from his estates. He was said to have provoked duels and refused to fight them.

It was to no one’s surprise, then, and few people’s disappointment, when his unconscious body was found outside of his door one morning. He was ill in a fashion that the family doctor was unable to diagnose, and was indeed held to be on the verge of death. Mme Pointe du Lac sent for a priest, and she and her daughter prepared to be bereaved for a third time. Their incipient grief was interrupted when Pointe du Lac, with an hysteric’s strength, drove the priest violently from his bedchamber. Whether they preferred the embarrassment of the assault to the dread of his death is not clear, but Mme Pointe du Lac took to her bed after seeing the unfortunate cleric out.

Pointe du Lac heard of his mother’s indisposition, along with his sister’s less disabling—but no less painful—sufferings, when Miss Pointe du Lac attended him in his bedchamber that evening. “How could you treat Father Pierre in that fashion?” she cried. “You know that he will tell all of the neighbors that you meant to kill him, tho’ he but tripped on our stairs.”

“I did mean to kill him,” replied her brother. “He was talking about Paul.”

“Of course he was talking about Paul!” Miss Pointe du Lac wrung her cloth in the bowl of lavender water on the bedside table and bathed her brother’s forehead with it. “There is no one in New Orleans who does not talk of Paul, and you, and what might have happened between the two of you! I vow, I hear nothing but Paul, Paul, Paul, all the day long! But need you make things worse with such behavior?”

“I confess, dear sister, I was not thinking of your social trials when I did it.” She cried out at this, but Pointe du Lac refused to discuss the matter further. In time, as tired by worry as by irritation, she laid her head on the table and dozed beside the bed.

Shortly after she fell asleep, a gentlemen entered the room through the patio doors. He was tall and slightly built, with pale skin and blond hair falling to his shoulders. He saw that Pointe du Lac was awake, and approached the bed.

“I see that there is no one here in a position to introduce me to your acquaintance, so I will have to perform the office myself. I am Lestat de Lioncourt, and we have, after a fashion, already met.”

– o0o –

Originally posted on Making Light

While running through the park one night

While running through the park one night
In the early days of zombie blight
I was taken by surprise
By a pair of bloodshot eyes
And I knew that I would have to win this fight.

A moan was all I heard at last
[shambling sounds]
Before I turned into undead repast.
[shambling sounds]

I immediately turned to flee
But the zombies had surrounded me
And soon I will forget
How much I now regret
The dawn I would not live to see.

I was shambling through the park one night
Infected with the zombie blight
I was searching for remains
Not yet deprived of brains
In the early days of zombie blight.

Originally posted on Making Light

A spark in the tinder helps the fireworks go up

In ev’ry trip you undertake
There is some trouble you can make
You spy on councils. Whoosh!
You’re on your way.

And ev’ry boring bit of quest
Will gain some interest
More thrills! More threats!
That’s what your mischief gets…

For a…
Spark in the tinder helps the fireworks go up
The fireworks go uh-up
The fireworks go up.
Just a spark in the tinder helps the fireworks go up
In the most delightful way.

A hobbit journeying in haste
Has very little time to waste
While hiding from the
Nazgûl that pursue

Though venturing into the unknown
He has an eye for any stone
To drop, or shy,
Or steal and see an Eye.

For a spark in the tinder helps the fireworks go up
The fireworks go uh-up
The fireworks go up.
Just a spark in the tinder helps the fireworks go up
In the most delightful way.

Originally posted on Making Light

Safety briefing, listen if you’re flying

Written for a parlor game post for Making Light:

Hey now passengers, look up here and listen,
Time for safety-talk, nothing to be missing!
First the safety belt, buckled up and pulled tight
Open with a latch-lift, steel shining moon-bright.

On this airplane, eightfold are the ways out:
Front and back and over-wings we point out.
Watch and learn, and may I just remind you
That your nearest one may lie behind you.

If the cabin’s dark, gaze you down at the floor
Lights will shine out, make a path to the door.
Leave all bags behind, take no stabbing heel-shoes
Jump, don’t sit down, or the slides as rafts use.

Now beneath your seat a life vest
Put on just so, double bows will hold best.
Light and whistle, tube to take a breath-draft
Don’t inflate it till you leave the aircraft!

Hid above you, masks in their compartments
But if air grows thin in these apartments
They’ll drop swiftly. Fit your own as I’ve shown
Then when you’re safe, help those only half-grown.

On this airplane, none may smoke their pipe-weed
And you must obey the crew as they need.
If there’s safety knowledge that you still lack
See the card that sits inside your seat back.

Now is time for you to stow your cases
Under or over, fitting in their spaces.
Seat backs, tables, all should be upright now
Toys off, phones off, ready for our flight now!

Martian Caravan-Song

Red these deserts – and free at last we roam;
But we are exiles from our fathers’ home.

Listen to me, as when you heard your father
Sing long ago the song of other sands –
Listen to me, and then in chorus gather
On this frequency, as we cross these lands.

From lone oases hid in sandy canyons
Atmospheres divide us, and cold of space –
Yet still the blood is strong, my dear companions,
And we in dreams ride at a camel’s pace.

We shall not tread again the wide and sandy plain
Where naught but night protects us from the sun
Nor gather in the souk to bargain once again
Returning to our tents when trading’s done.

When last from great Damascus we had banish’d
The infidels crusading through our lands
We did not know our peaceful time had vanish’d
Corrupted by the oil beneath the sands.

And so we fled, and insha’Allah have found
A desert world where we may roam at last.
But still we turn, when calls to prayer sound
To Mecca, to the homeland of our past.

(Originally posted on Making Light)

Settings pastiches

  1. Come live with me and be my love,
    And we will all the pleasures prove
    That we in dark and deeply mined
    Chasms of black Moria find.

    And we will sit beneath the ridge
    And watch the Balrog keep the bridge
    Above the fiery pit whose smoke
    Makes even orcish fighters choke.
  2. The watchmaker
    Who rigged for me
    The warp drive flange
    Out of space debris
    Has given my crew
    A working ship
    So we’ll make it through
    From this scouting trip.
  3. We’ve tried each spinning space mote
    And reckoned its true worth:
    Take us back again to the homes of men
    On the cool, green hills of Earth.

    Rocannon has windbeasts
    And hilfs who act like lords.
    But you just might, if you have to fight,
    Be spitted on their swords.

    To ice-encrusted Gethen
    Our coming was foretold.
    But who’d have known we’d sleep alone
    And wake up twice as cold?

    The dusty moon Anarres
    Is home to anarchists
    Who can only live because they give
    And by gifts their world exists.

    While rich and fertile Urras
    Is plagued with poverty.
    The poor all cry looking at the sky
    That the moon’s the place to be.

    On peaceful settled O
    The Night and Day are wed
    Sedoretu build on the vows fulfilled
    Both in and out of bed.

    The Hainish sent out ships
    For many a planetfall.
    But changeling breeds in time have needs
    To be Ekumenical.

    We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

(Originally posted on Making Light)

So we’ll go no more a-scrying

So we’ll go no more a-scrying
So deep into the night
Though the comets still are flying
And the stars are still as bright.

For the software troubles grow
And the hardware fails on test
And the current halts its flow
And gyros come to rest.

Though the sky was made for flying
And the night has more to show
Still we’ll go no more a-scrying
And fall once more below.

Originally posted on Making Light