Pictured here: An excerpt from Richard Dawkins’ angry response to an American radio station that canceled a talk with him because of protests from the local Islamic community over Dawkins’ continuing abusive speech about Muslims. In his open letter, Dawkins claims loudly that he differentiates between Islamism (meaning fundamentalism) and Islam, and challenges the radio station to provide examples of any anti-Muslim speech from him. The immediate problem being that the very same paragraph contains multiple examples of Dawkins failing to differentiate between Islamism and Islam, when he speaks contemptuously of Islamic “scholars” (the quotation marks are his) and decries the “mysogyny and homophobia of Islam.” Then he demands, “Why does Islam a get free pass?”
Sir, you can’t have it both ways in the same paragraph. As one academic to another, I can tell you that this is exactly why Islamic communities, many of whom have come under literal attack here in the U.S., are saying that you engage in hate speech against Islam. These are examples of why people think you are engaging in bigoted rhetoric and not just critique of fundamentalist movements as you claim.
I admire Dawkins’ work on popular science very much (his “Greatest Show on Earth” book on evolution is an eloquent, intellectual, and well-argued book, and one of my favorite works of popular science), but when he begins ranting about religion – especially Islam – his rhetoric gets very sloppy and he resorts to the kind of sweeping generalizations that he eschews in his other work.
And in America right now, doing that hurts the lives of American citizens.
That’s why an American radio show is cancelling your talk, Mr. Dawkins. It isn’t because they want to give “Islam” a “free pass”; it’s because the kind of rhetoric I underlined right here in your letter gets mosques burned in Texas and gets hijabi women attacked on subways in Oregon and gets Americans killed.
And as an academic, you know better; this is an intellectual laziness that carries a cost in lives and that we simply can’t afford.
I want to take a moment to talk up the master craftsmen, craftswomen, and craftspeople we have here in Colorado. Geekify (www.geekifyinc.com) is a local company, and you should all go check them out. They are a bunch of extremely nerdy people (my people) who design custom kindle cases, iPad cases, gadgets and pendants and D20 dice cases and maps and replicas of famous books from fantasy lore. They are remarkable.
This is the kindle cover they made for me. It has a TARDIS on the front, because my library is my TARDIS, through which I explore all of time and all of space. This cover is a tiny little thing that is much bigger on the inside: it will hold inside it a library more vast than my ancestors could have dreamed.
On the back, the White Tree of Minas Tirith, a symbol of hope that persists across oceans and millennia, a reminder that new blossoms can flower from what appears dead. As well as a list of my oldest fandoms, the stories I return to over and over again.
On the spine, the inscription ‘Stant Litore’ – the motto, pen name, and life story I adopted for myself two decades ago. Latin, from the Aeneid. When Troy is burning and the sky is full of ash and smoke, the refugees fleeing down to the coast can see that everything they have ever known or loved has burned away. It is simply gone. Forever. But ahead of them, someone is yelling out: Hurry! Hurry! The ships stand at the shore [stant litore puppēs], they are ready to take you away. The anchor is already drawn up. Hurry!
What none of the survivors know at that moment, what they can’t know, is that once they embark on those ships and cross the wine-dark sea, they will found Rome, a civilization that will last – in one form or another – for three thousand years. There is a future ahead of them that is more vast and beautiful than they can possibly imagine. It does not change anything that has been lost. It does not erase the loss. It simply means the story has not ended. Not yet, not nearly.
That is something I have always needed and wanted to remember: the story and the name at the heart of all my stories.
And go check out Geekify. I adore their work. Buying local is easy when it is so beautiful. Here are glimpses of other projects they have made for me over the years.
A Neverending Story tablet cover:
And a leather-bound, rebound Book of the New Sun omnibus. We took the ‘Severian of the Guild’ paperback from Gollancz (a UK publication) and bound it and added a ribbon. The book is surprisingly durable:
Remembering now that one of the side effects of sleep deprivation is paranoia. Whoo boy. I feels it. At times like this, though, I just have to remind myself of the immortal words of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”
To my American readers, happy 4th! To everyone: What a summer this has been! I am overwhelmed and joyous. Besides the release of a new time-travel novella (Ansible: Rasha’s Letter), I am delighted to report that I have a new son, and a new house. And there’s quite a story behind both…
Círdan Leto Litore Fusch is named for the Elven shipwright Círdan, keeper of the Grey Havens, who appears often on the coasts of Middle-Earth to rescue refugees and bear them across the sea – like an Elven Dunkirk.
His middle name Leto is from Dune. Duke Leto is a noble character, known for statements such as “Without change something sleeps inside of us, and seldom awakes. The sleeper must awaken.” Leto II, his grandson, is the God Emperor – part human, part giant sandworm. You can see a little of the resemblance in Círdan Leto in this photo, in which the young God Emperor is not amused:
His sisters River and Inara are named for characters in Firefly. Yes, we are a most nerdy family. My oldest, River, has entirely adopted baby Círdan:
Young Círdan Leto is healthy and strong, and about 7 1/2 pounds (roughly 3 1/2 kilograms, for my metric readers in Europe and elsewhere), and I am so excited to get to know him better.
The other big news from this science-fiction writer’s life is that we are moving this month to a new house. This started as a crisis: our landlord announced unexpectedly that we had a few weeks to leave the home we’re renting — this despite having a special-needs child and a new baby about to arrive. We negotiated with her for a little more time, but the long and the short of it is, we need to move. Quickly. I was taken aback, but I sent up the bat signal and called for help. The beautiful thing is that we have many people who care about our family: local readers and fans, other writers in our city, our faith community, colleagues at work. A host of some twenty to twenty-five people showed up a couple of weekends ago and helped us pack up the entire house. Usually I expect from readers only that they enjoy my novels (or don’t); to have so many fans of Ansible, The Zombie Bible, or The Running of the Tyrannosaurs show up to help us box up a house we were being ejected from – that touches my heart deeply. Some fans and writerly colleagues even instagrammed or tweeted it:
I am more grateful than I know how to say. I have few ways to say thanks other than having offered pizza on packing day — and other than writing many more stories for my friends and fans to enjoy, but that I certainly will do.
While all this was taking place, we rushed about looking at houses in our town, found one, went under contract, went through inspection, and now we are just waiting to close. (It has been a flurry; I don’t recall having been this sleep-deprived in many years.)
So this began as crisis (no one wants to move rapidly while a new baby is arriving, especially in a high-cost housing market where there may not be any room at the inn), but there was a gift hidden inside the crisis. Yes, we are buying a home. And, to our shock, it’s our dream home. And no one else wanted it. All the young yuppie couples in our town are looking for two-story, American farmhouse-style homes. We wanted a one-story ranch: perfect for Inara, who will do most of her moving around by wheelchair for some years yet. It’s also an open floorplan. River was zooming Inara around the long living space in her wheelchair, cackling with delight:
It’s big, and there’s a spot for a basement study where I can put in a window and some rugs and bookshelves and write. It’s astonishing to us that we were able to offer on this place affordably. It really is our dream home, though: Inara’s life can be lived on one floor, and there is space for her medical equipment and, well, everything. It’s immense.
This is Inara and her big sister River, seeing Wonder Woman recently at the theater.
Also Inara. One of my readers saw this photo and said, “Why am I just immediately assuming she’s pulling an assassin’s knife out of her hair? Because it was my IMMEDIATE thought.”
I won’t be writing as much for the next month, except for scribbled notes and partial sketches of scenes on the backs of receipts and index cards, but I think this will be a lovely home to write in. And after years of renting apartments under the persistent pressure of medical bills and scribbling down novels on dining room tables – and then finally renting a house but only for a short while – this is a luxury I can barely imagine. The children are excited; we made looking at homes as much of an Adventure for them as we could.
For me, when I think back, it has been a long journey. I was born in a trailer perched on a little hill on five acres of rocky ground, and later as a boy I lived in a mobile home. To step today, unexpectedly, into a house like this makes me want to weep. Let’s hope everything goes very smoothly with closing.
The real hero of all this story, however, is my wife. Jessica is unstoppable and improbably indefatigable. As I write this, she is coordinating and planning an effort to get a bill in front of our state government to require that landlords give more advance notice when requiring that a tenant with a disability vacate a home. Earlier this season, she took our daughter in her wheelchair and held in-person meetings with our local congressman (after months of persisting in getting an appointment), and changed his mind on a healthcare bill at the eleventh hour. (Few human beings survive an encounter with my wife unmoved.)
She delivered baby Círdan by C-section and was out of the hospital in less than 48 hours:
The next day, while weepy from baby blues, she said a brief goodbye to baby Círdan, kissed me, and headed right out to the car that was waiting to take her to a local social justice summit, where she gave an impassioned speech on accessibility.
I said to her before she left, “Go change the world. I love you. I’ve got the kids.”
I watched her go, sleepily, deeply admiring of her. Then I tucked baby Círdan into my arm and took him back inside the house. I saw that his big sisters were napping, momentarily as exhausted as their parents. Círdan looked wakeful and needed entertainment. A light bulb went off in my head as I walked to my desk: “Come on, baby boy, Daddy’s going to show you how a PS4 works.”
I sat down, revved it up. “Check this out…”
In roleplaying terms, my wife is serious DPS (damage per second), while I am the bard, the minstrel, the sometimes-healer. She changes the world. I tell the stories and hopefully move a few others to change the world, too.
Lives is the story of my daughter Inara’s journey through illness, and my journey with her. It is also a freefall through the Greek text of the Beatitudes: both memoir and devotional. It is from the heart: The story behind all the stories I write. I hope you will enjoy it and find something in it that moves or inspires you.
And I imagine there will be more photos of Círdan Leto on my blog soon. Meanwhile, you can also support my family and my fiction by becoming one of my Patreon members, which grants you complimentary access to the ebook editions of my novels and a behind-the-scenes look at new science fiction and fantasy projects in progress:
I hope one day to have 1000 readers on Patreon. This is a really significant number to me.
I want to write stories that move people’s hearts and make them cry and give them hope when hope is hard to have. When I started sharing my novels and short stories, someone asked me what “success” would look like to me. I said, “If I move the hearts of a thousand readers, then my stories have done their work.” I want to build a community of 1000 readers in my Patreon family. So come take a look.
If you would like to explore my fictional stories further, check behind Door Number 1, 2, or 3:
Choose wisely, as great dangers await…
Thank you for all for reading, and may your year ahead be filled with beautiful stories and much imagination, and maybe with unexpected gifts (though I don’t wish on any of you that the gifts come hidden inside of crises).