Dear Pegasus – Fear of Cults

Dear Baby Pegasus,

You are on your way and I’m both excited and nervous. I wrote about my anxieties in my previous letter but I left one out.

I’m terrified because you are a perfect target for cults. When your Gramma was young, she joined a cult. They separated people from their families, fed them little, sleep deprived them, and made them believe that the central figure was faultless if not deific.

When I was young I noticed similar behaviour in school. In this case, it was a teacher with bad intentions who used all the same tricks to turn the class into his own private cult and he took advantage of select people. Even when he was caught, there were elements of the conditioning left in the class to make people want him to return.

You are growing up in a different age than your Gramma or I, and in some ways it’s wondrous. The entirety of human knowledge is available to you with little to no effort. As is the entirety of misinformation and hate that we as a race are capable of. It means that cults today don’t need a compound, they don’t need their old tricks. They have direct access to you through multiple channels and they prey on your fear, distrust, hurt, and pride.

Modern digital cults are cults of hate. They’re not new but they are much more far reaching. I’m scared I won’t have the ability to save you from them; I’m scared I won’t be able to prepare you to defend against them; and I’m scared they will steal you before you know what’s going on.

Your Mum and I do, and will do, our best to raise you and your sister to think rationally. To look at the evidence, opposing views, and make a critical decision based on that and your values.

I just hope it’s enough. I hope that in your darkest moments where you consider joining or participating in these things that you know you always have us to talk to.

I love you so much and I’ve yet to meet you,

Your Papa

P.S. This article explains a lot better what could happen.

Dragon at Comiccon 2019

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

This was Dragon’s third Comiccon and she had a blast! (Read about last year here)

She spent this year playing with her new (they were actually her mum’s) Fisher Price Little People, hanging out with Vic, Aunt Lindsay, Modryb Sonia, and all the other wonderful people who vend around us.

Her favourite thing to do was stand on the cooler and “help” me sell coffee. Other things she enjoyed include:

  • Playing in the wagon
  • Hanging out with Vic, Lindsay, S. M. Carrière, Madona Skaff, and Grannie.
  • Walking around the Con floor
  • Fries
  • Pepperoni Sticks
  • Saying hello to everyone
  • Getting her face painted by Paint Me Playful – Face and Body Painting

The two big highlights for her were Daleks and amazing cosplayers. (Tinkerbell by Princess of the North, Sailors Moon and Venus by Mysticfae, and Rapunzel and Eugene by East Coast Speedster)

Dragon had another great year at Ottawa ComicCon.

Thank you to everyone who interacted with her and helped us this year.

Éric

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 5


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5


Chapter 5: Throwing Shade or Illuminating History

The blood drained from Mr. Plentyn’s face. “How… How…” he trailed off.

“It’s the only thing that fits all the facts,” Seren felt ill.

Looking from one to the other, Jan asked, “But how could a sun be alive? How would you even go about making a living sun?”

Hokulua Station was built along the principles of stations just like it that the Children of the Stars had used for near ten thousand years. The stories said that originally the stations were stuck in one small sector of space, taking generations to go from one system to the other. Inter-Galaxy travel was impossible.

Constant war with pirates and other clans had nearly wiped them out. They were, as a people, on the brink of extinction.

A great Techno-Mage changed all that by developing a sustained cold fusion technique that when applied to a solid, barren, planet would create a micro-star. They guarded the secret of creating stars greedily and only rarely sell micro-stars to other clans, rivals, or species.

The micro-stars allowed faster travel, bigger stations, faster computers, and more powerful weapons. The creation changed the Children from a dying clan into one of the most prolific explorers, scientists, and groups in the known universe.

“I don’t know, but I also don’t know how to go about making a stable non-sentient star either.”

“Dad. Do you think this is a special case or do you think all the stars are…” Seren trailed off unable to say the words.

Jan’s eye went wide at the implication that their entire society had been exploiting living creatures as a power source and asked, “What’s different about this station that would allow the star to communicate?”

They all paused and thought about what they knew about the systems. It was Mr. Plentyn who said, “The power couplings!”

Seren caught on and continued with, “They changed how the power from the star is used. Most stations had secondary generators that would convert the power from the star to a stable current. The new power couplings just use the raw energy and store some in case of fluctuations.”

“But not all the systems use this method.” Mr Plentyn tapped furiously at his computer.

Jan shook their head and jumped to the obvious conclusion, “Just the ones we’ve lost control of?”

“Warning: entering Voidspace. Brace yourselves.” The station alert was the mechanical voice of Hoku but sounded smoother than it should.

Jan cursed and closed their eyes. When the ship had settled down, the captain contacted Mr. Pletyn over the coms, “Whatever you did, good job. We have almost all systems back. Can you get Coms up? We need to get in contact with our ships.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

The moment they’d come out of Voidspace, Seren had started to look at what the affected systems were doing. “Dad,” she said “coms aren’t down. They’re in use. I’ve never seen such a large data exchange. All the nodes are in use.”

“Well, that I can fix. Come with me, kids.”

As they walked towards the docking bays, Jan asked, “Where was the signal going?”

Seren smiled, “It seems to be pointed at something close by. From the intensity and spread, I’m guessing a planet or other station.”

“Why are you smiling?”

“If it can talk to someone, then that means we can talk to it.”

“What are you planning?” Jan couldn’t help but smirk, Seren’s excitement was contagious.

“I want to know where that signal is going.”

Mr. Plentyn put them to work. They connected the internal coms to the transmitter on one of the larger transport ships in the docking bay. After they were done, he contacted the captain, “Captain. You don’t have data or coms based mapping, but you have voice.”

They listened to the chatter.

“Echo 2 and 3, go get Alpha four from our… guests? Sir, can we stand down?”

“This is the captain. Give me a full report Echo leader.”

“Yes sir. Nice to hear your voice.” Echo leader told the captain about the ships shaped like stars and the mysterious planet in Voidspace with its own star. How one of the ships saved one of their own and haven’t attacked. They just sat waiting. When he was finished he paused and said, “Wait a second. We have movement. The ships are leaving and taking orbit around the planet.”

“Come home fighters. Looks like we have a mystery to discover on that planet.”

The three of them walked away from the shuttle and sat in a corner of the docking bay. None of the fighters were docked in this bay. It was for transport ships only.

“We need to tell the captain.” Jan said, sounding like the military officer they were determined to be.

“We can’t do that,” Seren sounded sad and worried while still having an edge of excitement in her voice. “The captain would have to tell the Techno-Mage and we’re not sure if he knows.” The Techno-Mages gave up their names and identities when they joined the order. There was one on every station and in every ship. They kept the peace and kept things working, while creating wonders.

They argued between each other for a long while until finally Mr. Plentyn shrugged and said, “Plus this is all conjecture. There’s no way to prove what we’re saying. I need to do some investigating. Give me a day.” His eyes were sad and his head creased with worry. After they both agreed not to tell the captain he got up and left.

As Seren and Jan were walking out of the bay Seren saw a shadow move in a funny way. She turned and followed it to a small civilian transport. It was a short distance jumper that held four people.

They watched as the ship powered up and as the doors closed Seren pulled Jan on board.

Sitting in the pilot’s seat looking like she needed a nap and a bath was Annie.

“Annie what are you doing?” Seren smiled at the other girl.

“I’m going to see what’s on that planet. Want to come?”

Read Next (June)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

It’s Just a Joke!

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When I was in high school, I wanted to be funny. I looked through the school and public library for books on humour. I thought that there had to be a how-to book on stand-up comedy and jokes. If such a thing existed, I never found it. There are now countless youtube tutorials, psychological texts, and how-to blogs.

“So… if you put funny teeth in your mouth and jump around like an idiot, that is considered funny!”

– Data (Star Trek The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona”)

Let’s just say I understand where Data was coming from.

The most common way to make people laugh is to surprise them. This could be with a twist pun (How is a doctor like a rock? They’re both Sedimental.), an absurd ending (How is a doctor like a rock? You want neither to get stuck in your shoes.), or a shocking/macabre ending (How is a doctor like a rock? In Alabama, both will kill a pregnant girl.)

These rely on you understanding certain cultural and linguistic markers. If you didn’t know that sediment is often made of rocks and that it sounds like sentimental, or a rock hurts when it’s stuck in your shoe, or that Alabama is trying to pass draconic abortion laws, the jokes would be meaningless.

Dangers of a Joke

Here’s where things get uncomfortable and where I’ve gotten in trouble.

Jokes matter. They are not always frivolous fun. They are often tools used to reinforce and propagate stereotypes.

Stereotype: A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

– Oxford English Dictionary

When you share or make a joke that includes a negative stereotype, you are effectively approving it and introducing it to others.

Let’s be clear here, laughing at these jokes does not make you a bad person. We’ve all laughed at a dumb blonde joke or something like them. Sharing, telling, or otherwise disseminating this joke is the problem.

Often it’s not until you think about the joke and why it’s funny that you realize that it’s portraying someone in a negative way.

Think before you share.

Challenging a joke

This is the part that I haven’t figured out. When I mention the negative effects of jokes or point out the detrimental aspects, I usually get yelled at.

People are extremely defensive of their humour, going to great lengths to defend it and its premise. I once commented, on Facebook, about how horrifying a joke about a grandmother slipping birth control pills in her granddaughter’s food was and I was attacked for not having a sense of humour or understanding what it’s like to be young.

In person, I’ve called out jokes and gotten groans or “come on man, it’s just a joke.” I once almost got into a fist fight over someone using Jew as the punchline for a joke about being thrifty.

Recently, I commented on how I didn’t think a joke was funny because of the stereotype and was treated to a series of history lessons, personal stories about how the stereotype is true, and was then accused of being too sensitive.

I can’t give you a good way of dealing with it. If I find it, I’ll update this post, but for the moment know that people are extremely defensive about their jokes and humour. Be careful not to confront the wrong people in person and be warned it might lose you friends online.

In Conclusion

Think critically about your humour, challenge your own preconceptions, and try to not encourage negative stereotypes.

If you confront people about their humour, be careful.

Remember, the kids of antivaxxers and jokes about Dorian Gray never get old.

Éric

Teen Detectives

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I have loved Teen Detective books and movies since I first read Haunted Island by Joan Lowery Nixon and the BSC Mysteries. Even now I can’t get enough of them.

My wife has introduced me to Trixie Belden and I’ve loved the first few books.

I love the fearless and curious nature of these types of characters. I also love the way their victories are fuelled by their innate sense of right and wrong.

My love for these sorts of characters is a big influence on my writing. (Shocking huh?) From Elizabeth, Hal, Rachel and all the way back to Seren, my favourite characters are smart, curious, and dedicated to what they think is right.

Even in their arrogance and intellect these characters are innately hopeful. Solving a mystery means getting to a conclusion, discovering the truth, and often bringing to justice those responsible. It’s cathartic and wonderful in a world that has so many hopeless feeling situations.

And now for a confession. I’ve never read Nancy Drew. It’s on my list for this year; at the very least I should read the first one and see what I think.

Later Days,

Éric

Dear Pegasus – Being a Man

Dear Baby Pegasus,

As a parent, my goal is to help you be the best version of yourself you can be. That’s the goal, but on a daily basis I’m usually just trying to make sure you and your sister survive with limited trauma.

You’re on your way, two months now before you get here and I’m terrified. I feel like I just got used to having three members of the family. I have no idea what you’ll be like, or how you’ll get along with your sister and it scares me.

I also harbour a strange fear. I’m not sure how to raise a boy. I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by girls and when I made friends with boys it almost always ended poorly. I often have no idea what to say or how to act around other males. I can count on one hand the men I’m close to and feel comfortable with.

Gender is a social construct, but with it comes social constructs on behaviour and shared truths. I feel like I missed the “male” seminar and that means in groups of men I often feel like I’m missing something. Some subtext that I just don’t follow.

Yes I’m empathic, yes I’m a writer, and yes I am a man. But those are despite my anxieties, not because of them.

All that to say I have no idea how to raise you to be a good, great, or any sort of a man. Sorry.

What I do know is that I’m going to do my best to raise you as a caring, intelligent, and good person. It means I’m going to try and ask myself if I treat you differently than your sister and if it’s because you’re a boy. I want to make sure you don’t just respect others but have genuine compassion.

No matter what, know that your Mum and I love you and want what’s best for you,

Your Papa

Thank You Ottawa ComicCon

Hello Imaginary Friends, Coffee Lovers, Blushers, Fandom Travellers, TARDIS lovers, and Crochet aficionados,

THANK YOU! To everyone who came to see us this past weekend at Ottawa Comic Con. It’s not the venue or the guests that make a great con, but the attendees, and this year you were extra awesome.

Without you ,there would be no JenEric Coffee, Designs, Travelling TARDIS, or Blush. (Aspiring Something would still exist because I don’t think I could stop writing, but it would be much less fun alone.)

Thank you again and see you next year at Ottawa ComicCon 2020!

Éric

Seren Plentyn and the Secret of Hokulua Station – Chapter 4.5

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Since I missed the update for April, here’s a bonus chapter.


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 4.5 | Chapter 5


Chapter 4.5: All About Stars and Shapes

Seren

“I wanted to be a soldier not a repair-person,” Jan said, giving Mr. Plentyn a tool.

“Consider yourself part of the volunteer engineering corps,” her replied dryly.

Jan laughed and said, “I should be out there with the pilots.”

They stood in one of eight shield generating rooms. In theory, if one failed the others covered the difference. They should have been able to have minimal shields with only two functioning generators. None of them were working.

“Aern. We’ve lost control of the engines.” The commander’s voice was calm but barely controlled.

“If you just yell out everything that breaks, it distracts me from actually fixing anything.” There was no response from the commander.

After a few minutes of poking things with tools, he swore and said, “I can’t tell what’s going on.”

“What do you mean? You could re-build these systems from scratch.” Seren knew her father was an one of the best engineers in the fleet. He’d turned down multiple job offers in the station design corps for engineers. He said it was because he loved the challenge but she was fairly certain it was because he missed her mother and this reminded him of the time they used to do it together.

“Everything is working at peak performance, some of the systems are working better than they should. But those that are down aren’t broken. It’s like they just don’t understand what to do.”

Groaning, Jan said, “So it’s a code problem.”

“In that the hardware is fine, yes. I just don’t know how to get the station to do what I tell it.”

“Too bad you can’t bribe it. My little sister wouldn’t come out of her room in the morning if it wasn’t for her favourite cereal.”

“I suppose I could offer it some computer chips,” Mr. Plentyn said with a chuckle.

The three of them laughed and then he turned back to the computer with a sigh. He started tapping at the controls in a vain attempt to coax the station to function the way it was supposed to.

Seren couldn’t understand what was wrong. The AI seemed fine on the surface but what about the message they found? The message that was being transmitted through subspace modulations of the shields repeated, “fear, pain, death,” over and over.

“Dad. Can an AI feel pain?”

Looking weary and a little confused he said, “Not that I know of. You could have it programed to simulate pain but that would be cruel.”

“Is there any system that’s alive?”

“Not that I know of, except the bacteria that makes the memory banks.”

“Are there any old systems that were recycled?”

He stopped looked at her and his eyes went wide. “The micro-star. I haven’t been able to figure out how it was made or why it’s so efficient. Oh Black-of-Void.”

Jan looked between the two and asked, “Sorry for those of us that don’t speak techy?”

Feeling sick to her stomach, Seren said, “If an intelligent creature were used as a powersource they could create all of these issues. The Sun’s alive.”

Annie

It was another few hours before anything else happened. They stayed in position protecting the station from the mysterious star-shaped ships that weren’t moving. All Annie wanted was to go find out more about that planet. It looked lush and green from her viewport. The other side of the station from the planet was a small white dwarf star. It was as close to the planet as a typical moon.

Despite it draining her fuel, Annie activated her scanners. The planet was a typical class M with slightly higher gravity. The sun revolved around the planet. On the surface, there were signs of a long gone civilization.

The universe was an impossibly large place but the Children of the Stars had been travelling since they left their little planet. They’d catalogued hundreds of millions of planets and the preponderance of life was staggering. It seemed that despite being fragile and impossible to believe, life was incredibly common. Intelligent life sprung up everywhere.

Civilizations unfortunately had a habit of burning out before they’d taken to the stars. The Children were some of the handful of space-based lifeforms. It made that the Children had a fantastic amount of archaeologists, anthropologists, and diplomats. Beyond that, it meant that each citizen had a gluttonous curiosity about other civilizations.

The readings showed a civilization that had either died out or left a long time ago. The plant life from the planet had reclaimed every possible surface. It was under a massive mound of ancient trees that Annie’s scanners picked up a massive structure. It was the size of the station, made of an alloy that had resisted the elements and survived for millions of years.

When the computer showed her an image of the building she gasped. It was an eight point star, just like the ships outside. Why weren’t they moving to the planet, it must be their home world, or at least a world where their people had once been?

“Echo Leader. This is Echo 2. I’ve been scanning the planet. I know I shouldn’t waste the fuel. There’s a structure down there showing a minimal amount of power that’s shaped just like these ships.”

“Echo 2, conserve fuel and standby. Let the techs and archaeologists take care of the planet.”

To herself and off the coms she muttered, “Seren would have a field day down there.”

Settling down for a long wait, she concentrated on her thoughts and the data in front of her. She didn’t see Alpha 4 lose control until she heard his screams. “I’ve lost all power. My batteries are not responding. I’m going down.”

All the ships were equipped with grappling hooks and matter tracktor beams but she was too far to react. She watched helplessly as the ship fell towards the station. Just as it looked like he was going to destroy a large part of the rings, a Star-Ship (they obviously weren’t pirates) swooped passed the defendars and caught Alpha 4 in a beam of light.

Read Next Chapter


While you wait for the next chapter, check out previous serial stories:

Reminder Please: Nominate us for the Aurora Awards 2019

Hello Dear Readers and Friends,

The Aurora Awards Nominations close on May 18!

We would greatly appreciate if you were to nominate us for those categories we’re eligible for. Please, pretty please… 🙂

See below the cut to get more details

Read moreReminder Please: Nominate us for the Aurora Awards 2019

Ottawa Comiccon 2019

Hello!

JenEric Designs, JenEric Coffee, The Travelling TARDIS, and Eric Desmarais will be at this weekend’s Ottawa Comiccon. We’ll be at booth 2606 and 2608 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

We have two new flavours for this years event: In Another Castle (Peach) and Unbirthday Cake (Cake Batter).

We’ll also have another 16 flavours available.

We’ll also have new Captain Marvel crocheted awesomeness!

Hope to see you this weekend at Ottawa Comiccon!