Going dormant

I’m not really sure when/if I’ll be using this blog again. Not for any real reason, merely that I don’t have time/brains for composing longer things at the moment.

Please, *do* follow me on Twitter, @sigridellis, and/or on Tumblr if you appreciate reblogged gifs of cute animals and social justice politics.

See you ’round the internets —


Queers Destroy Horror is live!

Queers Destroy Horror, the latest in the Destroy series from Lightspeed/Nightmare, is now available!

Portions of it are online for free, and you can purchase the entire issue at the link above.

I, personally, suggest buying the issue, as the essay I wrote for the magazine is part of the buy-only section.

In case you need a reminder, here’s the ToC:


Golden Hair, Red Lips — Matthew Bright
Dispatches from a Hole in the World — Sunny Moraine
The Lord of Corrosion — Lee Thomas
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers — Alyssa Wong
Let’s See What Happens — Chuck Palahniuk


Bayou de la Mère — Poppy Z. Brite
Alien Jane — Kelley Eskridge
Rats Live on No Evil Star — Caitlín R. Kiernan


The Skin-Walker’s Wife by Lisa M. Bradley
No Poisoned Comb — Amal El-Mohtar
The Rotten Leaf Cantata — Rose Lemberg
On Moving Into Your New Home — Brit Mandelo
Flourless Devil’s Food — Shweta Narayan
In Memoriam: Robert Nelson — W. H. Pugmire
Worm and Memory — Lucy A. Snyder
The Great Unknown — Joel Lane


Roundtable Interview with Meghan McCarron, Brit Mandelo, Rahul Kanakia, and Carrie Cuinn — Megan Arkenberg
Creatures of the Night: A Short History of Queer Horror — Catherine Lundoff
The H Word: A Good Story — Lucy A. Snyder
The Language of Hate — Sigrid Ellis
Effecting Change and Subversion Through Slush Pile Politics — Michael Matheson
Putting It All the Way In: Naked Lunch and the Body Horror of William S. Burroughs — Evan J. Peterson
Artists’ Spotlight: Five Queer Artists Destroying Horror Art — Cory Skerry and Megan Arkenberg


Matthew Bright
Kelley Eskridge
Lee Thomas
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Sunny Moraine
Alyssa Wong
Chuck Palahniuk


A.J. Jones (Cover)
Elizabeth Leggett (Dispatches from a Hole in the World, Let’s See What Happens)
Cory Skerry (Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers)
Eliza Gauger (Lord of Corrosion)
KG Schmidt (Golden Hair, Red Lips)

Queers just keep on destroying things, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Go ye forth and check it out!


The Conquered’s Choice: Empire and The Traitor Baru Cormorant

I finished reading Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

My head is spinning, a bit.

I finished it three days ago.


In those geek-circle inevitable conversations, a perennial one is What AD&D Alignment Are You? Like What Hogwarts’ House Are You or Which Pokemon Are You, this is the sort of conversation that can lead to dangerous ground, if you start telling your friends and family what alignment you think they are and they disagree and then you EXPLAIN your thinking and they go “is that how you really think of me, really?”

Dangerous ground.

But I grew up with alignments, and they are a part of how I consider the world. When I was younger I called myself chaotic good. For a while I said I was neutral good, with occasional forays into chaotic neutral. (Hello, college!) These days … these days I think of myself as more or less lawful good.

I really, really, really like order.

I get upset when I see people on the road fail to use a turn signal — not because it’s actually affecting me at the moment, but because the law is there for good reasons, and because we are most often the sum of our habits, and because good habits make for good people. I read the signs in elevators about occupancy not because I think overloading the elevator one time will break it, but because if everyone overloaded the elevator it WOULD break, and we have to think of everyone else’s needs. I clean up the commons. “Sure, you could do it, but the rule is there for everyone not just for you,” is a thing I say to my children all the time.

I am viscerally troubled by non-orderly queues.

I think order has value. I think order and rules make society and people better.


I know a lot about history. I love history. One of the things I love is that people are basically just regular people, no matter where or when. We have pretty much been motivated by the same things, the same desires and fears. Past humans are pretty much comprehensible to present humans. We are always us.

Empires, it happens, have pretty much always been empires.

The economics of empire are brutal. People need a certain amount of Stuff to live. If they make more Stuff than they need to live, that surplus can be saved. If the surplus is saved, it can be given to another person who can then do something else with their time.

This, this is how civilization proceeds. Right there. That’s it. Without that, we have nothing. What is done with that extra time, who does it, and where the products of that time goes — this is what makes an empire.

In an empire the surplus is taken away and used to make some other community of people extraordinarily wealthy. In return the people who made the surplus get … something.


They get something.

This, this is the thing that many discussions of empire fail to notice.


It is true that the “civilizing” laws, products, and governance that the British Empire extended towards, say, India, was brutal, repressive, extortionate, and demeaning. It is also true that uncounted numbers of people saw what the British had and wanted it. My goodness, did they want it. After all, the British were … they were winning. They had won. Many people see power and glory and very reasonably want to be a part of it.

It is true that the Roman Empire was spread at swordpoint. That the Romans stripped surpluses from client states and used that to foster the power of Roman citizens. It is also true that Rome spread methods of agriculture, of architecture, they spread science and math and reading, they made the world better for more people. Uncounted numbers of people yearned for their children to become Roman citizens. To reap the bounty that was taken from their homelands and ancestors.

Every empire I know of — Aztec, Inca, Qin, Mali, Korea, Carthage, Mongol, ANY of them — has taken surpluses from people. All of the empires I know of have given or forced something in return. And in every empire — every single one — some people from the conquered client lands have risen to great, glorious power in the conqueror’s government.

Are they traitors?


The Traitor Baru Cormorant is the first book I can recall reading that lovingly, cruelly, ruthlessly portrays the Conquered’s Choice.


The empire in The Traitor, The Masquerade, is lawful evil. It is clearly, manifestly, lawful evil. This is made absolutely unequivocal. But it is lawful. And evil does not mean stupid.

The conquered peoples in this novel — they get stuff. They get dentistry. Literacy. Economic systems that provide cushions in times of famine or drought. They get advanced medical care. More women survive childbirth. More workers survive injury and accident.

If the things the Masquerade takes in return — language, marriage, autonomy, control of family, religion, history — are not all that important to you, personally, why on earth would you not desire to see your children survive to adulthood? If the trade is your husband’s life after surgery for an infected tooth in exchange for a religion that was only moderately important to you, why would you not take it?

If the trade is your life and history and language in exchange for your child going on to become a full citizen of the empire … well, I don’t know about you. I expect I might trade my children away to the new, imperial educational system. I would want them to live, to survive, to benefit, to thrive. If it meant that they never came home, that they didn’t remember me …

I don’t know. I might still make that trade.

If resistance means I lose everything, and compliance means I lose some things

Is compliance treachery? Is collaboration betrayal? Who is betrayed if one decides to live?


The thing about Seth Dickinson’s novel is that every one of these characters has their own individual response to the Conquered’s Choice. These replies are human and varied and deeply personal. This makes every. Single. Character. in this novel richly nuanced.

Do you know how RARE that is? My goodness.

All of these people, these sets of living, breathing motivations and goals, they all dance with each other in a plot that is entirely derived from human beings being human. This is an accomplishment so complicated that I fist-punched the air (actually, literally, on my living room couch) when I reached the end of the book.

Dickinson pulls it off. He makes it all work.

This book is amazing. It’s … it’s stunningly good. I was stunned. It’s now three days later, and I am still stunned. The Traitor Baru Cormorant is not only technically executed with incredible skill, it not only has detailed worldbuilding of depth and complexity, it not only has a host of intriguing and well-developed characters —

— it also explains, clearly and it raw, painful detail, why good people join evil empires.

The Conquered’s Choice.

Mr. Dickinson, I can honestly say that I look forward to everything you will write in the future. Thank you for this book. It’s amazing.


Book recs!

I just read this post by Kameron Hurley on the gruesome truth of publishing numbers.

So it’s time for some book recs!

Hild: A Novel, by Nicola Griffith.

This is the detailed historical fiction of my dreams. If what you want is a close look at Anglo-Saxon life in the 600s CE, this is the book for you. It does slow a bit, pacing-wise, in the middle third, and I know a few folks have stalled out at that point. But the end picks back up. One note — the book ends with Hild still in her late teens, and we are nowhere NEAR her becoming abbess of anything! So much more of Hild’s life to read about, should Ms. Griffith continue writing about her …

:looks hopeful:

Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell.

While set in his Fallen London universe, this novella requires no prior knowledge or reading. In fact, I consider this to be a great lure to get folks to read the other novels! What I particularly loved are the protagonists. It’s not often that we get to see women past the age of twenty-five in urban fantasy or crime fiction, and I found it DELIGHTFUL. The older I get, the more I enjoy reading about crones. Makes me so pleased!

A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire.

It’s hard to rec the umpteenth book in a series. Readers of the series probably already have it, and new readers are going be like, “um, how many do I have to read? Really?” But this is a great place to jump in. It’s very embedded in the world of October Daye, yes. But the adventure is a solid one, the plot straightforward. If you can pick up an ongoing comic book, you can read this novel.

Here’s my specific recommendation — if you read the first couple Toby books and fell away from them, jump back in HERE. Grab A Red-Rose Chain and get re-acquainted. Toby has really grown, her life has changed. She has acknowledged a number of things she was denying before, she has learned a lot. So have her various allies. This, this is how you Level Up an urban fantasy series.

Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon.

Oh, this book is a delight. More to the point, it takes a long, hard look at adolescent relationships. Not romantic relationships, but friends and family. So much of our fiction provides maps for romance, and so little gives us ideas and options for handling the difficulties of friends. And, yet, we are all far more likely to have friends in our teens than romantics partners. How does one learn to recognize when a friend isn’t very good? How can one make mistakes, apologize, and learn to do better? This book addresses those concerns.

Probably the best thing *I* enjoyed, though, is the sheer bloody-minded practicality of the protagonist. I LOVE that about Urusla’s characters. Love. It. I love how PRACTICAL they all are. Just … Yes. This is fiction that makes me giggle with delight.

Also, I like the gardening.


Worst Bestsellers podcast guest appearance!

I am a guest on this weekend’s Worst Bestsellers podcast!

Episode 30: Dianetics

This book is horrible, and I recommend you don’t read it.

We all got rid of our copies of the book in creative ways.

Thanks to Kait and Renata for having me on the show! Even though I swear a whole bunch!

(Also, a legit trigger warning for the way Hubbard describes and discusses abortion. It’s constant, and disturbing, and pretty much gross.)


A few links of interest –

1. The Stuff You Missed in History podcast had a great interview with Dennis Carr of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They discuss the current exhibit, Asia and the New World, specifically the central position of Latin America in trade with Asia. It’s fascinating. I learned a lot!

2. And I bought the book, Made in the Americas, as a result.

3. I’m still really enjoying The British History Podcast

4. Here’s a round-up of non-compliant Bitch Planet knitting projects.


Wes Craven is dead

Oh, man.

Wes Craven died this weekend.

I spent yesterday re-watching some of his films.

Here are some of my previous thoughts on his films, and on horror overall.

The Girls Who Lived

Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors

Crazy or possessed: gaslighting and The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)


I’ll be in mourning.



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