4 min read

Letter of News: NPR, Book of Dragons, Blaseball Zine

I wrote some blaseball erotica and you can read it.

Dear Friends,

Some quick bursts of news today!


First, I reviewed Becky Chambers' A Psalm for the Wild-Built for NPR:

Centuries ago, robots woke to sentience and went on strike, and the humans who made them as laboring tools decided to respect their newfound agency and release them. The robots chose to vanish into the wilderness in order to learn about a world beyond the bounds of human design.
Generations after that decision, Sibling Dex leads a good, comfortable life in a good, comfortable world, one that successfully bounced back from terrible environmental cataclysms and reorganized itself around principles of compassion and hospitality. After spending their youth as a Garden Monk, Dex abruptly changes vocation: They decide to become a Tea Monk, travelling from place to place and offering relief to the weary one brewed cup at a time. There's a nameless dissatisfaction in Dex driving this yearning for movement and change, which they articulate to themselves as a desire to hear the fabled sound of crickets.

This book is only 150 pages long, and I kept bumping against my wordcount as I tried to articulate my feelings about it. This is my first time reading Becky Chambers' work, and I'd love to know, from those of you who've read this and the Wayfarers series, whether you feel Psalm is representative or a departure.

Book of Dragons Kindle Discount

This really splendid anthology – edited by Jonathan Strahan, full of amazing short stories and poems, including one by me – is currently $1.99 on Kindle (at least in North America; this varies from region to region, and I haven't checked them all). If you've wanted the opportunity to dip into this big book and see whether you'd like to renew your acquaintance with dragons, here's a great chance.

The Return of Blaseball – and a Zine

All right, so. I have four separate drafts of a Big Blaseball Feelings essay, and I keep being surpassed by the cultural event itself; probably many of you reading don't even know what Blaseball is, and from my perspective explaining it requires obtaining enthusiastic consent from interested parties so that they know what they're getting into. Here's the tl;dr from Polygon:

Created by The Game Band, Blaseball is an online, alternate reality, surrealist fantasy baseball game. At the same time, it is none of those things at all. The game transforms week-to-week, and while it models itself after America’s favorite pastime, it’s slowly getting further and further away from the sport.

Here is a fantastic video (the first in a series) to explain with sequins and unbearable charm:

(If the above is How it Started, do consider, for sheer wackiness, going straight to the latest video by Quinns, now The Anchor, for a sense of How It's Going:)

But for my purposes, all you need to know is that it's a game with a very minimalist interface and a very maximalist fanbase, and that I've written some erotic fanfiction* for it.

Yes, really.

Five square tiles on a black background are arranged in the shape of a baseball diamond that has grown an additional base at top left. The tiles contain images mixing red, white and black: leaves and roots; white blood cells; tentacles; berries and leaves; and two gender-ambiguous faces kissing. The red outline of a heart traces through all the bases, mostly framing the kissing faces. Below the images is a title: Diamond Hearts.

It's been a source of constant, extraordinary joy in my life to find myself part of a small collective called Chaotic Wild, a group of haphazardly pseudonymous blaseball enthusiasts expressing our love of the game to each other in private and to the world in public through occasional zines. This is the second one, and the first to which I've contributed. (You can find the first one here.)

It's a totally free downloadable PDF, and in my extremely biased view there's plenty to enjoy without knowing anything about blaseball. For instance, a mysterious individual named Drusilla Brunch does a Tarot reading turning up the following gorgeous cards by Sam Kabo Ashwell (who also contributed a stunning villanelle called "Sacrifice Play"), excerpted with permission here:

Knight of Cups: A woman clad in white knight's armour, with blood-red hair, holding a baseball bat over her right shoulder while offering the viewer a cup of red liquid with her left hand. The background behind her is grey at the top, with indistinct figures of birds in black; it is black at the bottom, with indistinct figures of sharks swimming in grey.
Justice: A laurel-crowned woman with short hair and no eyes, wearing a business suit and high heels, and a terrifying necklace with three vertically stacked eyes on it. Her legs are crossed and she holds up a red scale with a feather on one side and the bust of an idol on the other. The weight tips towards the idol.
Nine of Wands: Against a black background, a red gate made up of nine bars. A gender-ambiguous grey figure is running through the bars, in a way that suggests they are trapped but in motion, on the cusp of breaking the gate or being broken themselves.

Anyway I won't tell you my pseudonym or which piece I wrote; I think it's fairly obvious. But if you need a hint, I'll offer up a totally different piece of Sam's art as a clue.

Paula Turnip, a bog dryad playing for the Seattle Garages, is standing at a blaseball base, reaching out with a branching hand to catch the ball that will enable her to tag out Paula Mason, a human player for the Hades Tigers, who's sliding in under Turnip's legs. Their eyes are locked on each other in defiance and competition.

Enjoy! And please feel free to speculate and share your guesses!

*("But Amal, aren't you writing a novel right now?" Yes well look I've never done this before; some people are plotters, some people are pantsers, and some people write elaborate blaseball smut, everyone has a process)