I’m pleased to announce that I had several articles published in 2020, all of which you can read for free:
- Monumental Thinking, which is in the January/February issue of Analog, is my take on suitable replacements for statues being torn down these days.
- Elections Past, Present, and To Come is a reprint plus update of an article from the March 2016 issue of Analog talking about what it’s like to serve as an election official/poll worker. I’ve done this a bunch of times, including the 2020 Presidential primaries. (Do those ever seem like a lifetime ago!).
- What I know about writing about dinosaurs was posted on Cath Schaff-Stump’s Fantastic History blog.
My year end retrospective would normally include a list of my fiction that also appeared in print. Alas, 2020 has not been kind to the publishing industry. I was slated to have three science fiction stories make their print and/or on-line appearances. None of them did. Writers: This is why it’s important to make sure your contract addresses rights reversions and provides a kill fee if publication doesn’t happen within a stated time period. Sigh. These stories are all out to other markets once more.
Most Unexpected Pleasure: Serving as a judge for the Endeavour Award. It’s great to have a role in recognizing fine work by my colleagues who don’t make the choice easy!
Best Trip: Philadelphia Flower Show in early March. Have a look at some of my photos from it.
Best Educational Opportunities: Smithsonian classes went on line. You don’t even have to be a member (a/k/a Smithsonian Associate) to take them. I loved learning about how birds talk, parent, and think. I also sank into lectures on Paleolithic Cave Art, Santorini, Apollo 13, the Etruscans, Machu Picchu, and the Art of India.
Best Pandemic Antidote: Monthly flower deliveries for Zoom arranging with friends. If you are interested, check out revased.com. Or just have a look at some of my creations on my Flowers page and on Instagram.
Late to the Party: This summer I read and binge watched Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Most Fun New Series: The Queen’s Gambit. This show reminded me so very much of my own days as a kid and high school student when I threw myself into the world of competitive chess tournaments. While my experiences took place somewhat later in time, the gender disparity had not changed much from the 1960s depicted in the series.
Guilty Pleasure: Tiger King. The less said the better.
Things to Come: What will the weeks and months ahead bring? Watch this space for announcements of:
- The Next Frontier: my novelette forthcoming in Analog.
- My first flash fiction (under 1000 words) to be published in a horror anthology.
- My first blog post on a different site aimed at professional writers.
- More good things I can’t disclose yet!
Four years ago, Analog Magazine readers had the chance to read my thoughts as to what it’s like to serve as an election officer or poll worker or judge helping to make democracy in the United States run smoothly. Today I am pleased to say that Analog has posted my guest editorial on its blog for free. I’ve also added a quickie update as to what’s changed since 2016 and what hasn’t. This topic is near and dear to my heart as I spent over 25 years as an election lawyer. Hope you’ll have a look at my thought, maybe even while you are in line to vote.
My latest guest editorial for Analog is in the March 2016 issue, which just came out. It concerns elections, voting, and maintaining our democratic self-governance in the United States. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as I spent 25+ years as an election lawyer. Several experiences that made the biggest impression on me, however, took place not in a courtroom but rather in my own local polling place where I serve as an election officer whenever they need me. Actually, they almost always need me as there is a shortage of people willing and able to volunteer for one day to help local officials run the polling places. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do that I hope you’ll all give it some thought if you are able to devote a day to helping our country maintain democracy.
Lastly, I just gotta say, man-oh-man this guest editorial writing gig never gets old!
On Tuesday, I’ll arrive at my local elementary school before 5 a.m., which is a major undertaking for a morning-challenged person. Since I’ll be on my feet for significant stretches with very little time for breaks, I’ll bring along a spare pair of comfortable shoes, caffeine, lunch, and snacks. I’ll help set up the voting machines and electronic poll books, put up signs, etc. Everything must be ready for those morning people who will be waiting in line when the polls open. I’ll spend twelve hours checking people in to vote, answering questions, directing people to the next available voting machine, handing out I VOTED stickers, and such. When the last voters have left after 7 p.m., I’ll remain on the job with the other election officers to verify vote tallies for every race and bond referendum, shut down and seal the equipment, and pack up. The last time I did all this, the only time I saw the sun that day was when I assisted in bringing the portable voting machine outside to the curb so that a mobility-impaired driver could vote.
I volunteer to serve as an Election Officer at nominal pay for several reasons, chief among them is my belief in the virtues of our democratic form of government. Sometimes we Americans take it for granted, looking at voting as yet another on the ever-lengthening list of things to cram into a work day. I find that attitude both reassuring and alarming. It’s alarming in that it can and does lead to low turnout, reduced personal investment in our democratic institutions, and correspondingly lower support for elected officials who are trying to do what they believe is best for people. It’s reassuring in that our electoral system is so entrenched over so many generations that we have the luxury of not thinking much about it because it’ll just be there for most of us. But I can never think this way, not after checking in 18-year-old first time voters or handing an I VOTED sticker to a woman older than me who lived most of her life under Soviet rule and only just became an American citizen in 2012.
Actually, so many people worldwide have no meaningful ability to participate in the selection of their leaders. And when democracy does come to a nation for the first time, it isn’t easy or automatic. We take our fancy electronic voting machines, many with touch screens, for granted. In fact, we’re indignant if we don’t have new, perfectly working equipment, and enough of it to reduce the wait. We also take for granted our ability to move about easily and get to the polling place, or to send in an absentee ballot. It isn’t like this everywhere. There are many, many places where the obstacles to voting include the lack of electricity, poor transportation, and no tradition of peacefully and safely casting secret ballots. The least we can do, and I mean all of us, is to show the rest of the world that we value our precious democratic ability to vote.
Plus there is more that we can do. Counties, cities and other local governments are frequently short-handed when it comes to Election Officers. If your situation is such that you can take election day to serve your community in this capacity, I urge you to consider doing so next time around.