Pluralistic: 17 Aug 2021

Today's links

The cover for KING BULLET.

Sandman Slim's final adventure (permalink)

It's been more than a decade since Richard Kadrey blew the roof off supernatural horror with his hardboiled SANDMAN SLIM, the tale of an LA magician whose coven sends him to hell, who returns to wreak bloody revenge.

As impressive as that breakout was, Kadrey has only gone from strength to strength, publishing ten more volumes in the series that took James Stark – Sandman Slim's birth name – through a series of ever-escalating supernatural challenges.

These sequels didn't just demonstrate Kadrey's incredible, deep knowledge of esoterica, which he mined relentlessly to fill in a rich, fresh multiverse that blended deep lore with contemporary themes.

They also turned Stark into more than a hardboiled antihero, going to character development places that classic noir never went – Philip Marlowe is the same reactionary asshole in The Big Sleep as he is in Playback.

Though Kadrey's voice had more in common with Chandler's bone-dry delivery and spectacular violence, his handling of Stark is closer to the way that MacDonald handled Travis McGee, humanizing him, having him grow.

Last year, Kadrey published BALLISTIC KISS, the next-to-last volume in the Sandman Slim series – a book that manages to be both a hard-driving pulp noir story…and a surprisingly touching story about depression and anxiety.

After all, what demon could Kadrey throw at Stark than the hosts of hell that he'd defeated in earlier volumes? Why, Stark himself.

Today, Harpercollins publishes KING BULLET, the twelfth volume and grand finale in the Sandman Slim series. After more than a decade of building the airplane in midflight, Kadrey finally takes it in for a landing.

King Bullet sees Stark at his most powerful and most vulnerable, because Stark has finally let others into his life, in ways that help him cope with and overcome his trauma. But these others are also threats, because they are vulnerable in ways that Stark is not.

So when LA is stricken with an epidemic that kills swiftly and turns survivors into blood-maddened horrors who chew their own faces off, Stark isn't just facing down another bad guy – he's defending his people.

To do that, he has to recognize and take account of their own priorities and fears, their own red lines. It creates complexity in the caper than no standalone noir hero ever really grapples with.

All this against a backdrop of LA in ruins, terrorized by the eponymous King Bullet and his blood-maddened, face-eating marauders. The contrast between the interpersonal and the spectacular makes for a lot of contrast.

It's a Sandman Slim book, so the pace never lets up. It's a Sandman Slim book, so the action is incredible. It's a Sandman Slim book, so I read it in one sitting.

And when it was done – no spoilers – I put the book down and stared at the dark room around the pool of light from my reading lamp for a long time, and thought about how this decade-long journey ended.

Kadrey has written a true capstone, worthy of a significant and ground-breaking contribution to the field. Endings are hard, and this is a good one. I'm going to miss Stark – but I'm so glad that he got such a worthy conclusion.

The Earth floating in space, wreathed in flame; centered over it is the Chevron logo.

Big Oil caught lying about methane (permalink)

When we talk about the climate emergency, we focus in on CO2, a long-lived gas whose release will eventually roast our planet and boil us all in our own skin. But a potentially more important threat is methane, which 84 times more greenhouse-y than CO2.

Thankfully, methane's effects taper off quickly as the gas breaks down, which means that if we can get a handle on methane release, it will cease to be a threat in short order. To that end, there's been enormous pressure on the oil and gas sector to cut methane emissions.

Oil and gas extraction and refining are a prolific source of methane emissions. And unlike the CO2 that's released when downstream users burn fossil fuels, methane is released by the fossil fuel sector itself, which means that it is best poised to take action to halt it.

For years, oil and gas giants have self-reported their methane emission rates, claiming to have made great strides in capture or reduction, especially when a well is decommissioned (decommissioned wells leak incredible quantities of methane unless they're properly sealed).

From the start, we've known that they were lying about these numbers – the measurements of atmospheric methane demonstrated that the sector was not dealing with its messes, and was cooking the books, but it was impossible to say which companies were lying and by how much.

Until now.

Reuters has just published a first-of-its-kind analysis of a dataset of observed methane emissions from different oil and gas companies' facilities and wells, imaged by high-resolution satellite cameras.

The worst liars are Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Marathon Oil and Exxon Mobil. Contacted by Reuters, spokescriminals representing each of these companies defended corporate genocide with a string of lies, each more risible and ghastly than the last.

None of the spokespeople were identified by name, which may shield them from a criminal and humanitarian reckoning when we apply the corporate death penalty to their employers and try their executives for crimes against humanity.

(Image: Cristian Ibarra Santillan, CC BY, modified)

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Danny Goodman's secret history of Hypercard

#15yrsago Federal court bans Bush’s warrantless spying on Americans

#10yrsago CCTV deterrence and the London riots

#10yrsago Cookie Monster performs Tom Waits’s “God’s Away on Business”

#10yrsago Homeopathy multinational sues blogger over statements that its mythological curative had “no active ingredient”

#10yrsago Criticism of a brand lowers the self-esteem of its adherents

#5yrsago Neil Gaiman’s nonfiction: what makes everything so great

#5yrsago Europe’s banks want to store billions in cash to fight back against negative interest

#5yrsago Reputation systems work because people are mostly good

#5yrsago The surprising spryness of fighters in 15th C armor

#5yrsago The guy who started Serbia’s ethnic cleansing led a pro-Trump rally in Belgrade

#5yrsago UC Davis Chancellor spent $400K+ to scrub her online reputation after pepper-spray incident

#1yrago No one wants an H1B visa

#1yrago Post Paladin

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Yesterday's progress: 252 words (15262 words total)

  • A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING

  • A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla