No quarter

A recent article on the far-left site The Atlantic asks for a “pandemic amnesty”, and the very idea leaves me so enraged that I have to comment on it. This post is directed at people like that post’s author, not my general reader. Bear that in mind as you read.

You stole two years of my life over a bad cold. You forced me to put everything on hold because of your fears at best, your thirst for power at worst. Your mandates and machinations took me to the brink of suicide multiple times, left me broken in such a way that I still haven’t even found all the pieces, much less started to put them back together.

Lest you think this is about me, know that my story is not unique. You left thousands to die alone, left millions more wanting to, if not wishing they had. You tore holes in our social fabric. You set education back a generation by closing schools, destroyed public trust in doctors, the media, and government. You ostracized anyone who dared speak against you, calling us deniers, indeed murderers. You strove to see us not merely thrown in jail for beliefs you deemed heretical, but removed from society altogether. You sought to deny us our livelihoods if we didn’t bend the knee to your mad depopulation schemes. And now you want us to forgive you?


What you did to us—to the whole world—is unforgivable. Every virus death after April 2020, when we knew that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were safe and effective treatments, is blood on your hands. Likewise every death from your gene therapy disguised as a vaccine, every lockdown-induced suicide, every senior who died alone because you wouldn’t allow families to visit, every child who can’t read at his grade level, every toddler whose development has been stunted because he never had the chance to see facial expressions, every American fired for refusing to get the deadly shot, and every couple who may never have the chance to reproduce.

All those are your fault. Anyone who took an unbiased look at the data two and a half years ago could see that this virus was nothing major. Yes, it was novel, and that was cause for concern. After all, it was made in a lab, so of course it was novel! Once our immune systems had a chance to learn about it, however, that novelty wore off, and we were left with a particularly pernicious case of the common cold.

Early on, we knew this. The Diamond Princess provided the perfect case study, and its numbers matched the actual data you tried to hide from us: 2 out of every 3 people infected showed no symptoms, about 0.15% of cases were fatal, and children were almost completely immune. The weaker (but easier to spread) strains like Omicron are even less cause for concern. Certainly no reason to shut down schools and small businesses.

Instead of amnesty, then, why don’t we talk about reparations? That’s what you deserve. You should be paying for the damage you caused us as individuals and society as a whole. Pay for the funerals of everyone your fear-mongering killed. Pay back the hospital bills of those injured by your so-called vaccines, and the unemployment benefits for those who were unjustly fired for refusing them. Pay for therapy: psychiatric therapy for the millions who now suffer from crippling depression and anxiety, speech therapy for the children who are finally allowed to learn visual cues again, couples therapy for the marriages strained to the breaking point. Pay for surrogates and sperm donors for the people your shots sterilized. Pay for the cancer treatments that had to be put off.

Then, maybe we can start talking about forgiveness.

Novel Month: End of an era

I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year. It pains me to say that, because it’s been a staple of November for over a quarter of my life. It was always something I looked forward to, something I eagerly anticipated before it happened, enjoyed while it was going on, and prided myself on completing. Not to mention the fact that my writing pushes resulted in some of my best work. Nocturne came out of Nanowrimo, for example.

This time around, I just can’t. When I wrapped up last year, I was in a very dark place. I couldn’t imagine taking the time to write another novel. Now that the time is upon us, I don’t have the time to take! My schedule is packed now. A full-time job, a full-time relationship, the imminent election and inevitable fallout, and the usual holiday rush have all conspired to make 50,000 words in a month impossible for me.

Even if I did want to try, though, so many of my books are incomplete that I feel starting something from scratch would do them a disservice. The fifth Orphans of the Stars novel still needs about 6 chapters. Otherworld #22 isn’t quite halfway done. I’ve left Endless Forms to languish for almost two years at this point, only a few chapters into its fourth book. I’d rather finish those first, and then work on Hidden Hills #3, Gateway #2, the Modern Minds shorts, or the Occupation Trilogy.

Yes, I still have a ton of ideas for stories, and a few of those are really great. It’s just the wrong time for them, unfortunately. It sucks, but…well, I won this thing ten years in a row. How many other authors can say that?


Not too long ago, I thought—even expected—that this would be the last birthday I’d have the chance to celebrate. Why bother living to see 40 if you have nothing to live for? So, at some point I decided that I wouldn’t. That, if things didn’t turn around, then I had no reason to make it to 40.

Now, I’m a year away from that milestone, beginning the last year of my 30s, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m turning a corner for the better. The reason I don’t have any big, fancy post for my birthday this year is because I just haven’t had time to write much of anything lately. The work never ends, against all odds. Even better that that, however, is that I’m spending the week of my 39th birthday with the woman I love.

I brought her home, and we’ll stay here, together, for a few days. Then, I’ll take her back to her home just outside Nashville, where we’ll stay the rest of the week. Together.

That’s what had been missing from my life for so long. I was always in it for me and me alone, because there wasn’t anyone else. No girlfriends, no friends at all. A family who, for the most part, was oblivious. As an agnostic (and now a technetic) I didn’t have that surety of faith so many around me could claim. No, it was just me, alone against an uncaring world.

Now, the world still doesn’t care, but she does. And that makes this a very happy birthday indeed.

Not for everyone

I’ve written a few times about what I call the “democratization” of development. Specifically, I’ve explored how giving ordinary people access to development tools (game engines, programming libraries, and so on) that used to be restricted only to large corporations benefits all of us.

Because it does. The indie gaming scene is the only place real innovation in games still takes place. Open-source software runs the world, even if you never see it. These wouldn’t be possible if we lived in the bad old days of the 90s and early 2000s, when a decent compiler and IDE cost as much as a new computer, when even the “family-friendly” console manufacturer’s answer to “how do I start making games?” told you to go to college.

We’re better than that now. And even though some of the biggest causes (Github, Minecraft, Firefox) have fallen to —rather, joined—the dark forces of wokeness, the legacy they built while they were still on the side of good remains. For all intents and purposes, programming is open to everyone.

The next question one might as is a natural follow-on to that statement. Programming is open to all, but should it be? Or is there something to be said for gatekeeping? After all, we’ve seen what democratization and inclusivity have done to RPGs. We’ve seen the massive drop in average literary quality that came with the opening of the Kindle Store.

Of course, I could never agree with that. If not for the world of open source, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I’d had to save up to buy every single development tool I ever used, well, I wouldn’t have used very many of them. Billions of people around the world can understand where I’m coming from. Many of them live in worse poverty than I ever have, but they all have the same opportunity to learn this craft; one of my coworkers lives in Nigeria, and what person who grew up in the 80s and 90s would ever expect that?

From the financial standpoint, then, democratization is undeniably a good thing. From the social perspective, it’s the same. Yes, we have trouble. Straight white men are being pushed out of tech circles everywhere you look. Those who stay are muffled into impotence by “code of conduct” censorship regimes. But programming doesn’t require a community. It creates them. And those of us who truly create through code have the power to determine who we want inhabiting our communities.

Despite the numerous problems allowing the whole world into development has caused, then, I still wouldn’t want to go back. We’d just be giving up too much.

Another question I would expect one to ask is who should learn to code. It’s a valid question, as the very phrase “learn to code” has become kind of a buzzword—merely saying it became a bannable offense on Twitter, so you know it has some positive effect. Philosophically, it cuts to the heart of democracy in a way few people understand. After all, if everyone has an opportunity, does everyone also have the responsibility?

One reason this question came to mind was because of a disagreement I had with my boss a couple of weeks ago. He insists that development is little more than physical labor, on par with, say, a factory or assembly line job. As a developer myself, I feel what I do is more of a craft, a skilled trade that is mostly mental. I don’t just write code; I solve problems. This difference of opinion is, in a sense, a different way of looking at the fundamental question, because an unskilled job is something anyone can learn how to do.

I do believe that everybody should learn about programming. Computers are such a fundamental part of modern life that we are doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t understand at least how they do what they do. For the same reason, I think everyone needs a basic understanding of how a lot of other things work: internal combustion engines, power plants (of all kinds), radios, electronic circuits, indoor plumbing, and so on. Rather than teaching our children about make-believe genders, wouldn’t this be a better use of compulsory education?

That said, while we all need some knowledge, I recognize that not everyone has the ability to use that knowledge as a professional developer would. This is the crux of my disagreement. My boss thinks “developer” is a title, something you can train for and take on, the same as a sales manager.

I, on the other hand, see from personal experience that not everyone has that mindset. I’ve tried to teach programming to a few people, and it doesn’t stick. They’ve all said the same thing when I asked why: “My brain just doesn’t work that way.” And that’s really what it is. Some people are just wired differently. We have a different way of looking at the world.

You can’t chalk it up to intelligence. My brother is very smart, but he completely zones out the minute one of his favorite Youtube personalities starts talking code. Yet I’ve seen people who would struggle to reach the average in an IQ test write some masterful programs.

You can’t say it’s a mental disorder. I have only two of those: anxiety and depression. Neither are universal among programmers, though we collectively cover a huge swath of disorderly mentality. Many of the top developers truly are on the autism spectrum. One of the best who ever lived, Terry Davis, was a paranoid schizophrenic. But there are plenty who are, by all accounts, perfectly normal. I consider myself an average programmer, and I’d say I’m also near the mean in terms of mental health.

You can’t claim it’s because of demographics. Yes, I’m an American man, and most of the programmers you might know by name are the same. That’s only fair, as the US effectively invented the field, and it became male-dominated early on. (Not always, however. The inventor of COBOL was a woman, as was the first programmer who ever lived.) Yet there are great developers all over the world, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Russia’s hackers are famous…or infamous. Japan has given us some of the most talented and most devoted devs you’ll ever meet. And many great tools are being made in the Republic of China, even as the hardware they’re running on comes from the Communist usurpers on the mainland.

No, there’s something in the way certain people think that makes them good or bad at programming. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with having our differences. I know I’m hopeless at, say, drawing. I’m too squeamish to ever be a doctor or a hunter. I recognize this, and I recognize that some people might just have a problem ever learning how to code. I still believe they should understand the fundamentals, if only because that would give them a better view of the world they live in. But I can respect their wishes to never go beyond that introduction.

In the end, it’s good that development has become democratized. Whether or not everyone uses the gifts we have been given, it’s better for all of us that they are there. When programming was reserved for the elite, only those who had that status could participate. But the programmer’s mindset is not limited to the rich, the college-educated, or the Westerner. It can show up anywhere, in anyone. Much like a fantasy gift of magical talent or the Force in Star Wars, our power does not come from our upbringing. It’s a part of who we are, so it’s good that we all have the chance to discover, train, and harness it.