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This letter

December 2, 2012

This letter from a sold-away slave to his first wife is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve read in a long, long time. 

I would much rather you would get married to some good man, for every time I gits a letter from you it tears me all to pieces. The reason why I have not written you before, in a long time, is because your letters disturbed me so very much. 
You know I love my children. I treats them good as a Father can treat his children; and I do a good deal of it for you. I am sorry to hear that Lewellyn, my poor little son, have had such bad health. I would come and see you but I know you could not bear it. I want to see and I don’t want to see you. I love you just as well as I did the last day I saw you, and it will not do for you and I to meet. 
I am married, and my wife have two children, and if you and I meets it would make a very dissatisfied family. Send me some of the children’s hair in a separate paper with their names on the paper. Will you please git married, as long as I am married. My dear, you know the Lord knows both of our hearts. You know it never was our wishes to be separated from each other, and it never was our fault. 
Oh, I can see you so plain, at any-time, I had rather anything to had happened to me most than ever to have been parted from you and the children. As I am, I do not know which I love best, you or Anna. If I was to die, today or tomorrow, I do not think I would die satisfied till you tell me you will try and marry some good, smart man that will take care of you and the children; and do it because you love me; and not because I think more of the wife I have got then I do of you. The woman is not born that feels as near to me as you do. 
You feel this day like myself. Tell them they must remember they have a good father and one that cares for them and one that thinks about them every day-My very heart did ache when reading your very kind and interesting letter. 
 Laura I do not think I have change any at all since I saw you last.-I think of you and my children every day of my life. Laura I do love you the same. My love to you never have failed. Laura, truly, I have got another wife, and I am very sorry, that I am. You feels and seems to me as much like my dear loving wife, as you ever did Laura. You know my treatment to a wife and you know how I am about my children. You know I am one man that do love my children….

(Found on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog at The Atlantic.)


Typography and eBooks

October 11, 2012

John Gruber on the new Kindle:

Good typographic layout is hard, no argument, but that’s the only thing an e-reader is meant to do. Typographic layout and font rendering are the Kindle’s equivalents to audio fidelity from an iPod — there’s no excuse for it to be less than good, and it ought to be downright excellent.

Amazon’s goal should be for Kindle typography to equal print typography. They’re not even close. They get a pass on this only because all their competitors are just as bad or worse. Amazon should hire a world-class book designer to serve as product manager for the Kindle.

The Paperwhite’s better fonts and contrast look like big steps forward, but this is still the biggest problem with e-readers.

Wednesday roundup: cosmic theology edition

August 29, 2012

Jack Kirby’s birthday was yesterday (he would have been 95), and ComicsAlliance did a wonderful series of posts on his work. My favorite by far was their article on Kirby’s representations of God:




Badass Digest has a great post about the oldest televised presidential campaign ad, an attack on Taft by Woodrow Wilson from 1912:



Talking about the longstanding dirtiness of American politics, the post points out that Thomas Jefferson paid a journalist to slander John Adams in 1800. And, you know, of course he did. I wish we talked about and taught the squalid side of history more — and not just as a moral correction, but because it’s more interesting. The founders are infinitely more compelling as grimy, roughneck polymaths than marble gods with all the answers.

Monday roundup: demonstrably false claims edition

August 20, 2012

Via my dad: NC universities accepted grants from BB&T in exchange for “teaching about capitalism, in many cases the moral aspects of free-market economics. The requirements often include teaching Atlas Shrugged.” According to The News & Observer, the list of schools includes Appalachian State, Guilford College, Johnson C. Smith University, NC State, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington, Queens University, Wake Forest University, Western Carolina, and Winston-Salem State University. I can imagine cases where it would be perfectly legitimate and natural to talk about Rand and the whole free-market-will-save-us-all mindset in the classroom. It’s horseshit, but it’s an important strain of thought. I can’t imagine any case where it’s remotely acceptable for private institutions to buy time in the classroom. Hope the administrators involved didn’t take any wooden nickels!

The recently bought-out Weird Tales announced that it would be publishing the first chapter of a self-published novel set in a “reverse-racist” dystopia where black folks brutally subjugate whites, while criticizing the book’s critics for an insufficient understanding of irony. It’s exactly as stupid and racist as it sounds. In the book, white people are called “pearls.” The book’s called Saving the Pearls. Which means it’s called Saving the White People. Which feels like trolling, but I guess it’s not? In any case, Weightless Books is offering free e-subscription transfers to other magazines for current Weird Tales subscribers, and I’d be pretty surprised if the magazine is under the same ownership a year from now. (They’ve since reversed course and taken down the original post, but there’s still a cached version available.)

I saw Niall Ferguson give a lecture when I was in college and wondered why the school sunk any funds on the dude’s speaking fees. He personified the sort of rhetoric that values egotistic contrarianism and sarcastic bloviation over stuff like evidence. The kind of guy who would rather get the last, cutting word than be right. It doesn’t look like much has changed since then: he’s got a bullshit-ridden cover story in Newsweek that flat-out invents numbers in order to attack Obama’s record on the economy, with a pile of obvious and easily-documented lies to set beside his existing pile of false predictions.

So on the same day that Newsweek publishes a cynical attention-grab, a puffed-up and unsupported claim, we have major media outlets like NPR and The New York Times too cowardly to state outright that women’s bodies do not, in fact, reject pregnancies resulting from rape. Our whole conception of objectivity is so warped at this point that opinions are more sacred than evidence. People like Ferguson get platforms for easily falsifiable assertions — because, you know, it’s just his opinion, and Newsweek can’t be bothered to fact-check — but supposed journalists are too demure, too shy of bias accusations to include relevant datapoints like, “A member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology either willfully lied or doesn’t understand how human bodies work.” Todd Akin didn’t misspeak. He made a dangerous and demonstrably false claim. Call it what it was.

You see a similar elevation of “opinion” in the new Weird Tales editor’s critique of Save the White People‘s critics, on whom he wishes a blessing:
The blessing is to wish they acquire sufficient wit, wisdom and depth of literary analysis to understand what they read, and also the compassion not to attack others merely because they hold a different opinion.
It boils down to the lazy, relativistic, “You gotta respect everyone’s opinion, man.” The same tack that major media outlets take. If there’s an ideological binary, or a perceived binary, we treat both ends as valid propositions in the interest of “fairness,” regardless of the claims or evidence on either side. But it’s performance over reason. Cheap self-aggrandizement. We’re above the fray, and we make the best cheap plastic fairness machine that money can buy. Sure, there’s often reasonable disagreement over what constitutes fact, evidence, or sound argument. But there are also plenty of cases where there’s not, and it’s the job of reporters and editors (among others) to tell the difference. You have a legal right to hold pernicious and false beliefs. You don’t have a right to have them taken seriously. Ideas are powerful, and the way we frame them can have massive consequences; otherwise, institutions wouldn’t bother paying seven figures to ensure that their pet ideas get the right kind of time in the classroom. Civility is important, but it is deadly dangerous to confuse reasoned argument for incivility.

The Sympathy

April 26, 2012

Should’ve posted this a week ago, but: I have a new story up at Lightspeed, “The Sympathy.” If you’re in the mood for something quietish and urban fantasyish that takes place mostly in truck stops or on the Interstate, check it out. (And listen to the excellent podcast!) You can also grab the Kindle edition of April’s issue of Lightspeed, including stories by Marc Laidlaw, Vandana Singh, and Kim Stanley Robinson.


January 2, 2012

In the first story I published, 2012 was the future. Not just the future, but the end of a story that stretched across nearly a decade. It was supposed to be an unsettling time right on the horizon, nothing shiny or impossible. Still, it feels a little strange to be here now. The guy who wrote that story would recognize the future, but I don’t think he’d know what to make of me.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011

I hope you managed to escape Krampus for another year.