Seeking Solace

Seeking Solace

howard-zebras-smallWhen assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened.

I believe I’m in the letter of my own law still because I’m not here to proselytize. The preceding paragraph is solely for context so you’ll understand what it is that’s upset me. If, like me, the depth of your own grief and your anger and fear surprise you, you’ve probably been wondering how to cope. I wish I could give you a good answer. I can tell you that one of the things I’ve done is distract myself with the genres I love. The other was to create some art. That is one (and not the only) way I mean to act.

In the hope that it brings you just a little solace, I’ve decided to share that art. It needs more instrumentation and backing vocals, and quite frankly requires a better singer and guitarist besides. Alas, all you get is me. Here, then, is the first and only video I’ve ever recorded for the world wide interweb. I don’t mean it to be taken literally, but it’s about the end of a shining city and the fear for what may come.

Lead Me Down
(Words and music copyright 2016 by Howard Andrew Jones)

Look up from your table and put down your wine.
Quiet the minstrels at play.
Ask why I weep? Well I bear you the news
that Avalon’s fallen today.

The high rising spires that gleamed in the sun
lie broken and charred by the shore.
Hundreds of people were taken in chains
but most of them lie by their swords.

Lead me down;
Lead me down to the river.
Wash what I’ve seen from my eyes.
I would weep by the water
for Avalon’s fallen,
fallen to nevermore rise.

The painters and sculptors were smashed with their works,
the libraries burned by the score.
They cried out for mercy, for reason, for aid
but all of their pleas were ignored.

Lead me down;
Lead me down to the river.
Wash what I’ve seen from my eyes.
I would weep by the water
for Avalon’s fallen,
fallen to nevermore rise.

What do I say to the children who ask?
Can I tell them it’s still safe to play?
What do I say to the people who fear
that someone will take them away?

Unfurl your banners and sharpen your swords
but be sure you know what you intend.
The Earth has soaked up too much innocent blood
and vengeance will burn at both ends.

Lead me down;
Lead me down to the river.
Wash what I’ve seen from my eyes.
I would weep by the water
for Avalon’s fallen,
fallen to nevermore rise.

Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the upcoming St. Martin’s fantasy novel, For the Killing of Kings, the historical fantasy novels The Desert of Souls, and the The Bones of the Old Ones, as well as the related short story collection The Waters of Eternity, and three Paizo Pathfinder novels. You can keep up with him at his website,, and follow him on Twitter or follow his occasional meanderings on Facebook.

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I feel the same and have that the upside is that I’m enjoying my books that much more for the escapism from what is the current reality in place I’m just a little less proud of than what I was a few months ago.

James Enge

Nicely done. The grief is real, but this is some consolation. The silver towers have fallen.


I greatly appreciate Black Gate’s non-political stance, but I am constantly aware of how difficult it is to maintain or even define that Maginot line. I clearly remember, on one of my early blog posts, being taken to task by Vox Dei for the books I wasn’t yet putting into my children’s hands. He said I was patronizing them. I was surprised, also annoyed, but I shouldn’t have been. Politics begins in the home, and extends its nasty little noble tentacles into everything we do, including the arts.

In the coming years, how neutral will any fan site be? Some would say neutrality is impossible, in certain times, in certain ages. One would be Florence Reece, activist and coal miner’s widow. She’s the woman who wrote the union chestnut, “Which Side Are You On?”

Howard, thank you so much for posting this. I look forward very much to the fully realized version (we’ll call this the demo, shall we?) and I share much of your sentiment.


Allen Snyder

I realized overnight between election day and the following day that I’d have to quit reading the A sections of the newspapers (we get the Washington Post and New York Times) for a while. That’s what I’ve done and at least my anxiety has ebbed.

James McGlothlin

Sorry to hear you’re hurting. I didn’t vote for the guy either, but I for one believed Avalon fell much longer ago than this past week.

I was surprised by the first paragraph where you claim that keeping “personal politics” out of posts is policy here at Black Gate. Really? Do you read the same Black Gate I do?

Major Wootton

Thanks for keeping politics at bay. There are good places for political discussion elsewhere, and politicization here would be ruinous — from whatever stance. There’s an outstanding Tolkien scholar who blogs almost exclusively about Tolkien, fantasy, and cats. On the rare occasion when he does blog about politics (as of course is his right), I get almost a sick feeling in the stomach.

Thomas Parker

“This just in: obsessing about Donald Trump can have serious health effects, top scientists say. Research confirms that when more than 60% of your Facebook posts contain references to the election, family members, close friends, and even casual acquaintances will be seized by an irresistible impluse to beat the crap out of you with a folding chair.”

I have been oh so tempted to post this on FB the past few days. I just refuse to permit Trump – as I would have refused to let Clinton – dominate my life for the next four years. The world is so much larger than our politics.


Thomas I share some of your bewilderment,

But about a week before, I recalled an uncomfortable portent from one very shrewd dude by the name of Michael Moore. Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been TOO surprised.

If the Roman saying “panem et circensus” goes back too far for you, check out two books by Robert Black: “IBM and the Holocaust,” and “War Against the Weak.” The implications are, in my mind, utterly horrifying… We’ve seen this cycle before, and the last time around, we sacrificed 250,000 Americans fighting a power-mad dictator that not too many years before that “great war,” quite a few elite Americans…bankrolled that very same dictator :-/

THEN re-watch The Matrix. It’s deeper than most give it credit for. …I think part of what I’m feeling right now is “The Blue Pill Hangover.”


…annnd the author I meant above was EDWIN BLACK.



Howard Edward Jones, I don’t know you personally, but I understand your grief. Having fought this fight over three decades, I can give you only scant comfort, but it is real comfort: The American you carry in your heart is what matters; it’s worth saving. I have written cautionary tales, but allegory is not enough. The America we all carry within us, the shining city on a hill, is worth saving; worth renewing. Whenever I have been abroad and spoken with people for whom democracy is worth fighting for, and dying for, I realize anew the value of this dream. Madison understood the risks and tried to limit them; so should we. Nothing worth having is ever secured without cost. In this new century, we face a different cost; and pay it we must — or lose all. For me, in any case, that cost is worth paying.


My career in the Air Force cured me of any real interest in government other then change is at a glacial speed. I am somewhat disappointed in the country with the ‘fear’ going on which prior to this was usually the sole province of the words IRS is on the phone. I don’t mind politics/religion shared in a polite reasoned manner and frankly never even noticed it at Black Gate which has always seemed to be to be an encouragement of all sorts of fantasy and genres and the love and devotion to them. I suspect a certain leader is going to find a bit of a mountain of work ahead of him and a bit more fine tuning then then may have been the past work ethic-we shall see. Just saying.

[…] (9) AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE. In the end, Black Gate managing editor Howard Andrew Jones couldn’t help himself — “Seeking Solace”. […]


I do truly appreciate that this site is a politics-free zone. It is rare and refreshing escape on the internet. Much like Greg and several others mentioned, the grief is real. I’m still processing the whole matter and will be for awhile to come.

As far as an ideal being lost, that is very appropriate. And yes, it wasn’t ideal, but I feel like it was betrayed. No matter who anyone here voted for, I know that we all need to try to be the best we can and treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve. We are better than this and I think in the end, that ideal will resurface, stronger and better.

Hope that makes sense.


Liberals sure are melodramatic.

Joe H.

I have never recorded myself playing or singing anything (you’re welcome), but in a similar spirit here’s Waterson:Carthy singing Stars in My Crown:

R.K. Robinson

If we could get back to the heart of the post…

I really like the poem / lay and shared it with my wife who also thought it was great, though she didn’t pick up on the reference(s). Very well done. Thank you.

Wild Ape

Respectfully, I’ve always been treated well by you even though you know I’m on the opposite side of the fence. I’ve always liked your insights to REH and you are the only author who I make an exception to Tor and buy your books chiefly because you are nonpolitical.
Black Gate was smart to have a non political place where both sides could talk. Your focus was on the ‘stuff’ and not political narratives for a long while. I think that is why you were successful in bringing in all kinds of people. Sure there might have been some spats here and there but this was a fun place to visit.
Black Gate became a drag when the Hugo-Puppy wars flared up. Respectfully, that is when Black Gate set aside its neutrality. There were multiple posts that were anti-Puppy and I never felt that you gave the other side a fair shake. Ever. Things got worse when you guys were nominated because you were forced to take sides and frankly contradicted your apolitical ethic. There was no win in that scenario. What could have made a difference would be to allow an opposing blogger or one of the Puppy leaders but instead there were waves of anti-Puppy posts. John did his best to keep the flame wars here open for discussion and allowed it to play out. The Puppy battles were really politics and nothing is as divisive as politics. Politics is a personal journey like religion so things got personal. You guys didn’t ask for that. It is what it is.
I know you guys are upset about the elections. Or is it the Dragon Awards? (Sarcasm-pardon the timing of the joke). My humor is recognized by military types but here on this site you guys get spun up easily. Power fades. Every dog has his day (no Puppy reference intended). Yours will come again and your universe be restored (and from my perspective clock eyed) so hang in there. Keep doing what you do best and put up brilliant posts and kick ads stories. All the best to you sir!

Wild Ape

The song is pretty good. It has the right touch of political subtlety. The only thing it needs is a little more cowbell.
I think you should look at Black Gate a little differently. Politics has already reared its head and you are filled with good talent but it leans left. I think the Puppies have made credible efforts to work with the Hugo establishment. They also faired very well with the Dragon Awards. If I were at the helm I would try to expand the readership by allowing right leaning bloggers too. Yes it will hack off some of some but Black Gate would not be overtaken by that, just enhanced and perhaps bring people back. And I doubt that would spill much into other segments of the site. There is a big audience y’all are missing. I think that the politics will rise and fall but I think most of it will wash out and more will be here for the ‘stuff’.
I can’t help you much with your hurt or concerns. In the end neither one of us has much power nationwide, but we do have great power in our immediate local. Good people of all stripes are always in demand and we can bridge real gaps and make a real difference. People are afraid. Appeal to their higher nature. Black Gate could do just that right here within our circle of people who love our own niche.

M Harold Page

@ Wild Ape

“. What could have made a difference would be to allow an opposing blogger or one of the Puppy leaders but instead there were waves of anti-Puppy posts.”

You see I would have possibly agreed with you except that the pups put us on their slate, meaning we – well John – had to turn down a nomination not once but twice.

It’s hard to express how that felt. I’m proud of my involvement in BG – these fine folk are my scattered war band, and Black Gate is our mead hall – and it would have been nice for us to be able to trumpet “HUGO NOMINATED” or even “HUGO AWARD WINNING.” Professionally, it might also have been nice to be able to say one wrote for a Hugo Nominated site.

Slating us was at once an act of cruelty – like mockingly asking the ugly girl to the prom – and a spoiling action, since we’ll never know whether we would have had those nominations anyway.

So, though I am sympathetic to the “take back SF for blowing s__t up in space” sentiment, the pups essentially set fire to our roof shingles and drove off our cattle.

At that point it stops being about politics and becomes more about the desire to put an axe through somebody’s rib cage and use their gilded skull as a mead cup.

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