Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Tale of Two Hecklings

So two undercover drama critics in New York City attended the "Shakespeare in the Park" production of Julius Caesar in order to disrupt it by denouncing the cast and audience. Some people are referring to them as "free speech advocates" for this action, which is rather problematic, since disrupting someone else's free speech is hardly free speech. On the contrary, it's an instance of the "heckler's veto" that we have deplored when it was used to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at Berkeley in February.

Yes, but I have to ask myself why I feel so differently about the actions of these two than about the "hecklers" (rioters, actually) who kept people from hearing what Milo had to say. Is it just because I am a hypocrite, and feel more in sympathy with the position of these two hecklers, and with Milo, than I am with the Berkeley thugs or the Julius Caesar crowd's revelling in assassination porn (if you just woke up from a coma, the producers are using the play to depict the murder of Donald Trump to the infantile glee of their audience)? No doubt my hypocrisy is part of it. But I also see some objective differences between these two hecklings.

(1) The two Caesar hecklers are named Laura Loomer and Jack Posobiec. No one knows the identities of the Berkeley rioters; they appeared in hoods.

(2) Loomer and Posobiec did no violence to anyone's person or property. The Berkeley rioters both hurt people and destroyed things.

(3) After the two were escorted from the scene by security, the play continued, so its "message" was delivered. Milo's talk was cancelled.

(4) The "message" that raised the hecklers' hackles was not an actual idea that you could express verbally: it was the mere depiction of Julius Caesar as Donald Trump, so that his assassination could be presented as a kind of editorial cartoon. This is speech rather in the same way that exotic dancing or burning flags is speech: it is protected, legitimately, but I would call it peripheral rather than core free speech. Milo's speech, by contract, would clearly have been core free speech: a man standing up to speak his opinions, including opinions about public policy, in plain language before a crowd who had come to hear them.

(5) Loomer and Posobiec knew that they would get no sympathy from the local government of NYC: they really were, at least in their minds, speaking truth to power. The Berkeley rioters knew that Berkeley would be on their side rather than Milo's. They were using power to counter truth.

(6) Last, and to my mind most important, Loomer was arrested and charged with trespassing for her outrageous behavior. The Berkeley rioters were not charged. I've read that the Berkeley police stood by watching as they did what they had come to do. One of the most important aspects of civilly disobedient protest actions is that the person who performs them is engaged in minor infractions of the law and is willing to accept the punishment that the law applies for such disobedience. Martin Luther King did so, Henry David Thoreau did so, Loomer did so; the Berkeley thugs did not.

I don't see Loomer and Posobiec's actions as examples of free speech. In a society that properly safeguards and respects free speech, their actions would not be permitted. But then, neither would the Berkeley rioters have gone unpunished. And with the Left glorying more and more in perverse, demented fantasies of violence against the Right, and with shots having now been fired in an attempt to murder a Republican congressman, I can't help but feel heartwarmed by these two standing up and delivering their own message to the sick, snobbish theatergoers in Central Park.

The worthy Robert Kroese says such tactics are stupid and don't work, and that's probably true; but it's not like I have a tactic that would work in my shirt pocket. If he has one in his I wonder that he's not using it. The not-so-esteemed David French says I'm guilty of tribalism for defending these two. I've never been in favor of tribalism; but then I've also never lived through a civil war when New Yorkers in Central Park cheered on the murder of people like me. This is not where we want to be. But it's where the Left has brought us.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Letter from NaNoWriMo, and Reply

Received Feb 10, 2017, 4:32 PM, from NaNoWriMo

What we stand for, what we stand against.

Dear Wunderscribbler,

As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.

Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake.

NaNoWriMo strives to be a gateway and sanctuary for people’s voices. Our guiding belief is that every person’s story matters, and we celebrate the inclusion of all religions, races, genders, sexualities, and countries of origin. We help people find a safe space to be who they are—creators, storytellers, and world changers.

Because of this core organizational value, we join the many voices standing against the presidential executive order that bans refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

For over 15 years, we’ve had the privilege of writing alongside a community from over 200 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We don’t build walls. We strive to dissolve borders through stories, the vital human narratives that expand our worlds.

So while we are not a political organization, we feel moved to take action.

In response to the executive order, as well as any future government efforts that threaten people’s basic freedoms, we will:

  • Celebrate creativity over apathy, diversity over fear, and productivity over despair.
  •  Welcome all stories and continue to make NaNoWriMo a safe space for all writers.
  •  Advocate for the transformative power of storytelling to connect people and build a better world.

If you have concrete ideas for how we can work toward these goals (or if you have feedback about anything in this message), please share your thoughts.

Thank you for being part of NaNoWriMo. We are all individuals of different beliefs and backgrounds, but we come together through a shared passion. We pledge to remember that, and to look to our community as a model and inspiration, as we get to the work ahead.

With gratitude and optimism,
Grant Faulkner
Executive Director



I also favor people's ability to exist, and to tell their stories, and celebrate the inclusion of all religions, races, genders, and sexualities, and countries of origin.

In words composed by a great speechwriter, "it is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

"And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their hearts with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator." (Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump)

I fail to see, however, why these commitments would move you to send an email on behalf of NaNoWriMo opposing the executive order that temporarily suspends immigration from a list of nations, compiled under President Obama as posing a particular risk of terrorist attacks, until the nations in question can comply with informational needs of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to give our government reasonable assurances that their citizens entering our country are who they say they are, and do not present a risk of attacking our people. Perhaps you have not read the executive order and are relying on mainstream media accounts for your understanding of it. The order is here. Whatever one says about the wisdom or need for such an order, the immigration policy of one nation is hardly relevant to the business of writing novels in a certain month.

It seems more likely that you felt a strong need to be affirmed in your hatred for all things Trumpian, and an assurance that the people you associate with share that hatred, so that you could pretend that it makes you better than people who do not share it. At some level, you must know that the hatred that makes Trump opponents physically attack people going to listen to a Trump supporter speak in Berkeley, and makes them scream epithets at Trump supporters in the street, and physically block a Trump appointee from entering a school in the District of Columbia, and physically attack people they thought were Trump voters in Chicago, in Maryland, in Virginia and Connecticut, California, and Florida, and murder a man in Georgia--this Trump-hatred is not a virtue, but a terrible, soul-destroying sin: and if you ever calm down enough, you will also be able to see that a nation's measures to protect its borders are by contrast not hatred at all.

In any case, this kind of bilge from NaNoWriMo I don't need. I've unsubscribed to your list. I trust you will be pleased.

Justin M. Tarquin

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Getting along ... or not

At the end of 2018, a curious event will occur that has happened before only twice: at the end of 2010 and at the end of 1926. The first occasion, at the end of the third year of Calvin Coolidge's presidency (he took office in 1924 on the death of Warren G. Harding), was the first time that the US had had Republican presidents for exactly half of the preceding century: 1926 completed the fiftieth such year.

For the next fourscore and four years the number of Republican presidency years was consistently higher than 50, as high as 64 for the end of the Eisenhower administration and the beginning of Kennedy's. From that high point, the running-century total crept steadily downward as the Reconstruction years aged out of the window, finally reaching the exact 50-50 split between Republican and Democrat presidency-years at the end of President Obama's second year in office. (Of course, for the earlier years of this analysis, the beginning of the 100-year window included a lot of time before the GOP was even founded in 1854, and in which the older parties would have been included. This is why the two-decade Roosevelt/Truman administrations made no dent in the Republican total: that total included no years at all from the period 100 years before those two Democratic presidents.)

Under Obama the percentage of Republican presidency-years over the previous century went down to its post-Coolidge minimum of 48% in 2012, and remained there for the rest of his time in office, as the Obama years being added onto the front replaced Wilson years departing from the rear. But at the end of 2018, we will once again be at an exact 50-50 split, divvying the time evenly between the two modern parties.

I bring this up, not because I'm obsessed with puzzles and numerical trivia (oh, who am I kidding? Of course because I'm obsessed with puzzles and numerical trivia), but (also) because it shows something being forgotten in today's rancorous political feuding: a simple fact, one that anyone would think painfully obvious, but somehow so very conveniently forgotten, so temptingly neglected, that in partisan times like ours most of us would rather sweep it under the rug. Still, putting an elephant (or even a donkey) under a rug is actually not a practical way of disposing of it, or of the problems it's going to cause. So I propose that we simply face it:

This country is about half Democrats and half Republicans.

About half the time, Democrats are going to run the federal government, and about half the time, Republicans will.

This of course has policy implications, to anyone who thinks about a government program that he likes while envisioning it in the control of people he trusts, but not thinking about how the other party would use it. Did Republicans like expanded government surveillance powers under GWB? Well, how about under Obama? Did Democrats think the IRS targeting conservative groups was, well, hilarious? Are they still laughing now the Trump will be controlling it? How about the Department of Education: wonderful that the federal government can impose Common Core on everyone, right, Democrats? Oh my gosh, now Betty DeVos is the Secretary of Education--pull your kids out of the public schools, quick! And Republicans, before you get too contented with the thought that Trump is going to make all your gripes go away for good, remember that half the country is still Democrats; his victory in 2016, no matter how much of a relief it was to his supporters, was still a historically slim Electoral College victory, and that was with the very. Worst. Candidate. Ever, as his Democratic opponent. Who better than Clinton the Democrats will run in 2020 is unclear, but they could hardly find anyone worse.

In other words, half the country is Democrats, and half are Republicans.

There was a marvelous movie, made probably fifty or sixty years ago. If I ever knew its name I've forgotten it now, along with nearly everything about it except for the basic premise. But the premise was so mythically, allegorically significant that I'm sure I'll remember it always. I doubt that watching the movie again would even be as stimulating as simply contemplating the situation. A group of prisoners, probably in the American South in the 1950s or earlier, are being transported in a van, manacled together in pairs. Or maybe they were manacled to links welded to the van itself, but the guards were short one pair of cuffs, and so the last two prisoners had to be handcuffed to each other: a black man and a white man. They object to being so attached, because neither one likes the other on principle, but the guards laugh off their complaints.

The van has a road accident, and everyone aboard is killed (I suppose), except for our pair. The two of them escape, still cuffed together, and have poignant adventures as they are forced to work together to make it to freedom. I recall one point where they were trying to ascend a steep, muddy slope, in the rain: maybe they had been going through a gorge, and a flash flood would soon send a wave upon them that would drown them both unless they made it to the top. But for a long time each kept trying to climb without considering the other one's difficulties, and so both kept falling back again. Eventually they caught on that they had to cooperate to make it up together, but quickly forgot this lesson again as soon as their danger was past.

The most dramatic, haunting, and absurd scene came later, when their frustration with each other reached a climax and their tempers were worn away to nothing, and they set upon each other in an insane fight. Each of them was shouting, "I'll kill you!" at the other--still manacled together, of course--as we in the audience sat open-mouthed at the lunacy of trying to corpsify your handcuff-mate while still desperate to evade your pursuers.

The allegory was presented in terms of racial prejudice, but it could apply as well to today's centrifugal politics.

Unfortunately, recognizing the relative desirability of peace over war does not help to achieve it. There is something called the J-curve theory of revolutions, which my brother once described to me as "first things get better, then things get worse, then things go kablooey". Wikipedia has a longer but hardly more vivid description. If the Left considered the Obama years as "things getting better" and the Trump years as "things getting worse", perhaps the outrageous behavior we're witnessing has its explanation there. Will it escalate still further in the years ahead?

I have a feeling it's going to be hard to write science fiction concerning the decades ahead that won't quickly be overtaken by events. Writing good, inspirational SF/F is one way of fixing the culture, but fixing a culture is slow work: pray that we have enough time left. And get back to writing.

I have about seven hundred words done on my second story, and hope to get at least a couple thousand done over the weekend.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What's New: Link roundup

It's Monday, so what about a roundup of news items from the past week of interest to those of us trying to take back the heart and soul of science fiction and fantasy from the SJW gatekeepers (may they repent and find the peace the world cannot give)?

Whenever we're lucky enough to get a new book from John C Wright, that event would have to top any list I make up. This morning JCW's latest installment in the Moth & Cobweb series came out, DAUGHTER OF DANGER. I got mine already, and it looks like the Wright stuff.

Speaking of JCW and Castalia House, the latter's blog now boasts the former as one of their new bloggers, along with PC Bushi and Jasyn Jones (a.k.a. Daddy Warpig). Good for them, and for us all!

Also with a new book this week is Lou Antonelli, with his debut novel: ANOTHER GIRL, ANOTHER PLANET, an alt-hist novel. He describes the recent history of the presidency in his alternate world, which seems to have diverged from our own timeline in the late 1960s through a plausible-sounding sequence of events. Sounds interesting to me; indeed, if I had had a choice I might have diverged from our own timeline about then as well.

And with a shorter work, a novella or novelette (I haven't counted the words), Castalia House blogger Rawle Nyanze came out last week with SWORD AND FLOWER, which incorporates stylings from anime and Japanese folklore with a constructed universe that reminds me of Philip Jose Farmer's amazing confections. I finished it in a few days and am eager to see more of these characters and world.

With the beginning of February, the Dragon Award nominations are open. Our doughty Declan Finn is on the case with this blog post with suggestions for works you might consider nominating. Note that you can nominate for the Dragons FOR FREE, just for being a science fiction and fantasy fan, so this is a great way YOU can support meritorious authors and their works. But even if you're not interested in the Dragons, Declan's list has a lot of good suggestions for your reading list--and if you're like me, even though your reading list is growing faster than a protoplasmic monster in a 1950s B-movie, you know you still can't resist checking out new works to add to it.

Speaking of Declan Finn, let's not forget his own book that came out just last month, LIVE AND LET BITE, the latest in his Love at First Bite series. I haven't read it yet but it's got a priority spot. (Also, Declan Finn is one of the authors in the upcoming young adult Arthurian anthology, TALES OF THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, in which--I may have mentioned--my own first story is to appear.)

Before leaving the Dragon Awards, I note that Larry Correia, the beloved Ur-Puppy himself, after winning a Dragon last year for his SON OF THE BLACK SWORD, posts his request that his fans not nominate him this time, for the sake of sharing the love with other authors. Still, if there were a special Dragon for selfless devotion to improving the field of SFF, I can't think who'd be a better choice for it.

Cirsova magazine's blog published a manifesto on "Attempting to Define the Pulp Revolution". The movent(s) keep brewing; it's morning in science fiction/fantasy. There are actually multiple literary rebellions going: Sad Puppies appears to be on its last gasp, but the Pulp Revolution, the Lyonnesse project, and Superversive SF are thriving. The will is out there, and we're finding each other.

By the way, Cirsova's Kickstarter for 2017 is doing well. You can get digital copies of the two issues coming out for $1 (?! I feel like that can't be right, but that's what I saw). I've seen the draft of the first one, and it's very good.

The blog Cogitationes Astalnaris (hat tip: Brian Niemeier, whose FB post pointed out this link) has an excellent review of FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS, the Superversive Press anthology with an introduction by Milo Yiannopoulis. The book got a great bump in the ratings again last week due to the Berkeley riots that prevented Milo from speaking there. God brings good even out of the sins of men.

Coming up: I see the blogger at Seagull Rising (that's Jon Mollison, right?) says he's completed a draft of his first full-length novel, so that's one to watch for. The last Superversive SF roundtable podcast made plans for a Valentine's Day podcast on the topic of Love in superversive SF: I'm looking for announcements of this, hope it's happening.

Got a flash-fiction (under 2000 words...actually, under 1888) story on the theme of "superstition"? Can you have one by February 28? would like to hear from you.

Well, that was more work than I expected, and I've probably still left a lot out. How about this, you see something you want me to include next week, let me know?

Friday, February 3, 2017

"Captive Market", Philip K Dick (1955)

Over lunch I read Philip K Dick's story, "Captive Market" (Worlds of If, April 1955). I picked it almost at random from the issues at that Web site and the stories in that issue (well, it was PKD, and that caught my eye), and I found the story far better than what I'd usually get randomly picking from a modern SFF magazine at Barnes & Noble. So that supports the contention that SFF has sorely deteriorated since the coming of the SJW gatekeepers. Also, it was good without using any of the old-SFF tropes or cultural features that disturb the sensibilities of today's delicate youngsters: no swordfights, ray guns, space princesses, or monsters (not that there's anything wrong with all those things). Instead, "Captive Market" tells a story of a post-apocalyptic future meeting a present-day backwater through a marvellous time-travel phenomenon, and casts it into the mold of a dark, convincingly SF fairy-tale.

Reading it right after my post of yesterday, I'm also struck by how it exhibits the "right way" of offending, or let's say challenging, a reader's opinions: in this case, my own. I doubt that PKD set out to write a story that would depict the rapacity of a petty businessman as the ultimate death-blow for humanity, with a simple "Moral: Capitalism sucks" implied. But although you could take that from it, that's not what I get from reading it. At every point in the story, it's just telling a good tale. I presume that PKD had a jaundiced view of profit-making businesses, and that his attitudes worked their way into the story; but even though I certainly don't object to people making honest bucks, I don't get any uncomfortable feeling that the characters have to be taken as archetypes: their failings are their own.

My own story, "The Kings of the Corona", has its own stamp of its author's personality: you could, if you like, take it as a sort of libertarian allegory. But I was actually surprised myself to see the story growing this way--I didn't intentionally put those ideas into it (honest!), it just naturally filled in that way, probably since it came from materials in my mind, and there's a lot of libertarian-leaning stuff in there.

So, perhaps, the way to write a story that expresses your point of view on larger issues in life is not to try to do that at all. Focus on writing a good story, and perhaps choose a plot with a central conflict providing fertile ground for issues you have a strong point of view about, and just let it happen.

I'll let you know more when I know more. As I say, at this point I'm still getting started on my SECOND story.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Proofreading, writing, and reading

For much of January I was working on two volunteer proofreading projects. One was the fifth issue of Cirsova magazine, and the other was on portions of the upcoming young-adult Arthurian anthology, TALES OF THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING (edited by Anthony Marchetta: the original description is here), which will include a story of mine: my very first story, in fact. It's called "The Kings of the Corona". I recommend both Cirsova and TOTOAFK.

I may start proofreading as a sideline one of these days. I'm also working on an outline for a second story, not yet titled. More on that later.

I also have lots of ideas for other stories in my notes. One thing that has given me half a dozen new ideas already is the new-last-month anthology FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS from Superversive Press, which I'm enjoying. There are 20 stories (and an introduction by Milo Yiannopoulis), of which I've read eleven. I've already had more than enough fun to feel the $4.99 Kindle edition was a great buy, so I recommend this one too.

All the stories in the anthology have in common the theme of presenting ideas that would be offensive to the kinds of troglodytes who rioted to prevent Milo from speaking at Berkeley last night. I love this concept, which is of course rich with potential, and I want to work in that field. I can think of lots of ways to include what are today avant-garde ideas (you know, like truth and beauty and justice--not the "social" kind of justice, but actual justice). But the trick will be to write stories that work very well as stories--entertaining, properly paced, developed characters that the reader can care about, and so on. There will be a temptation to luxuriate in the "forbidden" themes themselves, since even writing or reading the things the SJW establishment has declared out-of-bounds is a relief and pleasure in itself, but that's only half the job. We'll need really good stories if we're to attract readers who aren't already feeling stultified by the SJW nonsense, and that's the only way the culture will change.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dr. Matrix explains 2016

The year just ended seemed so, well, odd to me that I felt a need to get some insight on it from the spirit world. I had lately learned a system for consulting with the souls of the departed, so I gave it a try. Not to bore you with the details of preparing for the seance, in a few hours I found myself in conversation with a spirit who identified himself as Dr. Irving Joshua Matrix.

"Dr. Matrix!" I exclaimed. "I thought you were a fictional creation of the late, great Martin Gardner!"

Martin Gardner wrote a series of esays recounting his interviews with Dr. Matrix over a period of many years from the 1960s to the 1980s. Dr. Matrix was a numerologist and always explained contemporary events through numerical coincidences. His theory was that numbers control human behavior, in some mystical way.

"Well, here I am," he (it?) said. "You wanted to ask something about 2016?"

"Of course. I mean, what's with Pokemon Go? And clown attacks? And how does who can go to which bathroom in North Carolina become a national issue? And..."

"My time is limited, you know. Maybe you should prioritize?"

" does the Republican party come to nominate a candidate that past Republican presidents wouldn't endorse, and whose nominating convention prominent Republicans wouldn't even attend?"

"That's more like it. You know the GOP was founded in 1854, right?"

"Um, yeah, sure, I knew that."

"Making it 162 years old in 2016. You'll note that 2016 is a shuffling of the digits of 0162, leaving no digit in the same position. Hence, the shuffling of the power within the party."

"Holy cow! I would never have thought of that! But then, how did Trump come to win out? Everyone seemed to think Hillary Clinton would win."

"Hillary was overconfident," he said, smirking. How I could tell that a disembodied spirit was smirking I can't say, but I could. "I'm afraid her numerologists were not as competent as I would have been." Hillary Clinton used numerologists? I thought. "They were deceived into thinking 2016 would be auspicious for her by the somewhat remarkable fact that 2016 times 81833 turns out to contain all the digits from 1 through 9, each one exactly once."

"Uhh," I said, whipping out my calculator. I punched in the product and found it to be 164,975,328. "Yep, all nine digits. But so what? What was that 81,833 about?"

"Translate the letters HRC, her initials, into their positions in the alphabet," explained the spirit patiently. "H is letter 8, R is 18, C is 3. So HRC is 8183, and if you repeat the last 3, there you are."

"Huh," I said. "Well."

"But what they neglected to consider is that an even more significant product is to multiply 2016 by 818330, so that you get all ten digits in the result. And that suggests HRC 30. You see?"

"Umm," I said, not seeing. "But the alphabet has only 26 letters?"

"Good lord. Don't you know the significance of the number 30 in journalism? You put it at the end of a story. It lets the next person handling the paper know that he's at the end."

Light dawned. "You mean..."

"Absolutely. 2016 marks THE END of HRC's political career."

Somehow, he seemed to be making sense. "But why Trump, of all people?"

"Well, 2016 is something new in American politics. This is, of course, the first election year in US history that's a triangular number."

"A triangular number? Let's see, that is..."

"You call yourself a math major? A triangular number is a sum of consecutive integers starting with 1. Such as 1 itself, 1+2=3, 1+2+3=6, and so on. Fifteen pool balls form a perfect triangle at the start of a game because 15=1+2+3+4+5, and those are the numbers of balls in the five rows of the triangle."

"I see," I said. "And 2016?"

"Is the 63rd triangular number. Hence the departure from previous trends, such as the GOP nominating a candidate whose last name did not have either 6 or 4 letters."

"Wait, now--what's that about?"

"Great Gauss's ghost, you really are a beginner, aren't you? You haven't noticed that ever since the Watergate scandals, every GOP presidential candidate's first and last names have had either 6 or 4 letters?"

"What? Wait a minute," I said. How could anything so bizarre have escaped notice? Let's see: Gerald Ford; Ronald Wilson Reagan, George Bush -- two of those -- Robert Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney: holy guacamole, he's right!

"But what could account for that?" I said, baffled.

"Gerald Ford set it off, of course. The Republicans were so relieved to be done with Watergate, and FORD suggested F or D, which translated to their alphabet positions, meant 6 or 4. The trend held for nearly 40 years. It even affected most of their vice presidents. Up until the overwhelming influence of the triangular number, 2016, when you elected the 45th president: 45 being the 9th triangular number. Hence, Donald John Trump, whose name has 15 letters..."

"The fifth triangular number!"

"Now you've got it. It didn't hurt that 2016 divides into 20 and 16, which are the positions of T and P in the alphabet, the first and last letters of his name.

"Of course, once he got the nomination it was practically over, since 2016 is pretty obviously a Republican year, based on its remainder when divided by 17. Since 1968, every election year whose remainder when divided by 17 was from 1-7 has had a Democrat president, and all others Republican."

My head was spinning by this time. "Then--then, for instance, that's how Barack Obama won reelection in 2012? It was fated all along? I mean, even Karl Rove was flabbergasted--"

The spirit snorted. Imagine something that could make a spirit snort. "Of course he won in 2012. It's four times 503, a prime number. The Democrats haven't lost an election in a year that was four time a prime since Reconstruction. I mean, if people would pay attention to just rudimentary numerology--"

"Okay, hang on. What can you tell me about 2017?"

"Twenty-seventeen, now that's when things are going to get really interesting," he said, but his voice seemed to be coming from farther away. "You see ..."

It was as if he were retreating down a hallway. "Dr. Matrix!" I cried. "Talk louder! I can't hear!"

I could still make out his voice, but only snatches of words now. "... prime ... expressed in base ... cube root ..."

And that was all.