Parallels Between My Novels and Stranger Things 3 and 4

There are strong parallels between Stranger Things 3 and 4, and and my fanfiction series. I wrote my stories with no knowledge at all of what would happen in those later seasons, so these similarities are striking to say the least.

1. El dumps Mike, at the engineering of Hopper. In the TV series (season 3, episodes 1 & 2), Hopper manipulates Mike, and also threatens him, in order to break up the relationship between him and Eleven. In my story, Hopper manipulates Eleven rather than Mike, in order to achieve the same goal. In each case the person being manipulated by Hopper doesn’t come clean: in the TV series, Mike starts avoiding El but lies about his reasons for doing so, to which she responds by “dumping his ass”. In my story, El tells Mike that she needs to break up with him, but won’t say why, which breaks his heart.

2. Dangers of the Void. In the TV series (season 3, episode 6), Mike warns Eleven of the dangers of communing with Billy in the Void. She has only tried this once before, when she accessed the memories of her mother in season 2 (and her mother was a willing subject who wanted to show El what Dr. Brenner did to her). Sure enough, when El accesses Billy’s memories, he is able to latch onto her mind, and see where she is in Hopper’s cabin. In my story, El warns Hopper of the same dangers, when he wants her to access the memories of a comatose hospital victim. She tells her father that the victim may rebel against her intrusion or even die from shock. Sure enough, that almost happens; the victim’s monitors bleep momentarily, though she doesn’t end up dying.

3. El loses her psychic powers, thanks to a creature of the Upside Down. In the TV series (season 3, episode 8), El loses her powers after a piece of the Mind Flayer gets in her leg. In my story, she loses her powers for two days (January 22-24, 1987), when she’s snared on the shadow tree and injected with anti-psychic sap.

4. El leaves Hawkins for the West Coast. In the TV series (season 3, episode 8), Joyce moves out of Hawkins, taking Will, Jonathan, and El to California (in October 1985). In my story, Hopper leaves Hawkins with El (in April 1987), when he takes a job as Sheriff of Yamhill County in Oregon.

5. D&D game. In the TV series (season 4, episode 1), there is a new dungeon-master (Eddie Munson), who puts a lot of players through a killer module. All the PCs are killed, except for Dustin and newcomer Erica. Dustin screws up, and newcomer Erica completes the quest. In my story, there is a new dungeon-master (Vijay Agarwal), who puts a lot of players through a killer module. All the PCs are killed, except for Dustin and newcomer Eleven. Dustin screws up, and newcomer Eleven completes the quest.

6. A major character assumed dead is alive and fighting like a gladiator. In the TV series (season 4, episode 7), Hopper is assumed dead, but is captive in a Russian prison and forced to fight a demogorgon in a “demo-pit” for the guards’ entertainment. In my story, Mike is assumed dead, but enslaved in the Upside Down and forced to fight shadow creatures, also like a gladiator, for the amusement of the Illithid.

7. Vecna. In the TV series (season 4, episodes 4 and 7), Max and Nancy are inflicted by a curse inspired by the figure of Vecna. In my story, Will and Mike are inflicted by a curse inspired by the figure of Vecna.

8. Speaking humanoid more powerful than the Mind Flayer. In the TV series (seasons 4 and 5), the Big Bad (Vecna) who rules the Upside Down is smaller than the Mind Flayer but more powerful, and he speaks. In my story, the Illithid rules the Upside Down; he too is humanoid sized and speaks.

9. A major character dies and is soon after resurrected. That character is also blinded and crippled. In the TV series (season 4, episode 9), Max is killed by Vecna through the creature’s process of blinding and disfigurement. Max is then resurrected by Eleven into a coma state; if she comes out of her coma in season 5, she will be disfigured and (presumably) blind. In my story, Mike is killed by the Illithid and then raised back to life by the same creature. Much later the creature forces him to tear out his own eyeballs, and it also cripples his leg.

10. The End of the World. In the TV series (season 4, episode 9), multiple gates open in Hawkins, initiating the apocalypse — the “beginning of the end of the world”, as Vecna calls it. In my story, multiples gates open in Hawkins, blooming out across Indiana and many other states, initiating a shadow apocalypse — or, as my novella is titled, the “World’s End”.

Stranger Things 4: Separate Ways, Nightmares Apart

The Duffers try hard not to repeat themselves. Each season of Stranger Things brings a new tone, and the fourth wastes no time distinguishing itself from its predecessors. It doesn’t have the E.T. weirdness of season 1, the assault-on-all-fronts feel of season 2, or the slapstick fun of season 3. It has, rather, the feeling of a nightmare that dials the horror up to Eleven. It’s dark — darker than season 2 — with plenty of nasty and terrifying deaths though never gratuitous. We needed this — deserved this — after the sunny silliness of season 3, and it seems to be what the Duffers have been building towards. Stranger Things was bound to take us to hell, and there’s more of the Upside Down this time than in the previous three seasons combined. (I should say the first two combined, since the Upside Down wasn’t in season 3 at all.) As for Vecna, he’s the worst piece of work. He speaks, he watches, and kills you in your daydreams.

And yet, for all this new texture, the fourth season does pay its respects to the previous seasons. Season-1 fans will love the return of Dr. Brenner and Eleven’s backstory at Hawkins Lab. Season-2 fans will like the themes of trauma weighing down the kids (particularly Max), estranged friendships, and Eleven struggling with her identity and her place in the world. Season-3 fans (damn them) will warm to the comedy in certain places, especially the Murray-Joyce duo. That third is a liability. Season 3 was a misfire, and the Duffers should have left every aspect of it behind. That said, the comedy isn’t nearly as bad or all-consuming like it was in season 3, and in fact, season 4 is so strong that its faults are practically invisible.

The largest complaint about Stranger Things 4 is the length of the episodes, which for the record — and surely a new record for American television — are as follows:

Episode 1: 1 hr 16 min
Episode 2: 1 hr 15 min
Episode 3: 1 hr 3 min
Episode 4: 1 hr 17 min
Episode 5: 1 hr 15 min
Episode 6: 1 hr 13 min
Episode 7: 1 hr 38 min
Episode 8: 1 hr 25 min
Episode 9: 2 hrs 19 min

That’s about 13 hours, twice the length of the other seasons (each about six and a half to seven hours long). I can see why a casual viewer of Stranger Things might find these narratives bloated, but I wasn’t bothered at all. Just the opposite, I savored every extra minute spent with these characters I’ve become invested in. Each episode was over before I knew it; I’m glad they were this long.

The Plot

Season 4’s plot is driven by serial killings so gruesome that critics are wondering how the season got by with TV-14 rating. The murders are thought to be the work of a high-school dungeon-master, though of course he’s a scapegoat in the “Satanic Panic” culture of the ’80s. The real killer is a sentient creature from the Upside-Down who weaponizes peoples’ nightmares while they’re awake. The horrors of Stranger Things 4 are psychologically searing. Vecna feeds on the minds of his vulnerable victims, and then twists their bodies into hideous contortions until they die. He removes their eyes too, for good measure.

Insofar as influences go, this is the season of Nightmare on Elm Street, but I was also getting heavy vibes of Shutter Island and Hellraiser. Here’s how the tonal shifts look across the seasons:

Season 1: Stand by Me (primarily), also E.T., Firestarter, Jaws, and Alien
Season 2: The Exorcist (primarily), also Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Halloween, Gremlins, and Aliens
Season 3: Day of the Dead (primarily), also The Blob, The Fly, The Terminator, and Jurassic Park
Season 4: Nightmare on Elm Street (primarily), also Hellraiser, Carrie, Shutter Island, and Silence of the Lambs

The characters are split into new groups, as always, but this time separated by vast distances — only one group remains in Indiana — which makes their stories seem disjointed; only by the end do they converge. There’s the central mystery in Hawkins, a road-trip thriller in California, a torturous road of self-discovery for Eleven, and a prison movie in Russia. I got everything I wanted from these storylines, especially those of Hawkins and Eleven, which are the center of gravity. Sadie Sink and Millie Bobby Brown deserve Emmys for their traumatic portrayals, and the Duffers deserve accolades for landing the best season of Stranger Things yet.


See also

The Seasons Ranked
The Episodes Ranked

If You Could Live (or Relive) Two Years in the Past

Here’s an interesting exercise: If you could go back in time and live out two full years in America, any two years between 1913-1992, what would they be? In other words, sometime after all continental states were admitted to the union, but before the World Wide Web was made public. My years of choice are 1925 and 1973.

The Year 1925

The mid-twenties in general were a time to be alive. It was the ultimate decade of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Presidents Warren Harding (1921-23) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) kept the nation out of war and needless costly foreign intervention. They raised the standard of living for millions. Technological advances and mass production made consumer goods affordable, and the spread of electrical power created a demand for appliances. Many people could buy cars, yielding a new world of paved roads and stores. New York became the largest city in the world, overtaking London. Child mortality rates dropped across the nation. Money was spent lavishly on public education. Women were now able to vote, giving the country 26 million new voters. People danced the nights away, to the latest music on radio. There was Prohibition, which was bad itself, but yielded the benefit of the black market with bootlegging and speakeasies; in effect the price of booze went way down. If there was a decade I could visit during the first half of the twentieth century, it would be the 20s hands down, and the particular year I choose is 1925.

Here are some of the note-worthies of 1925.

Great Books. Some say the greatest year for books was 1925. Books like An American Tragedy and The Great Gatsby were hugely influential.

The First Motel. Hotels had been around since 1794, but the first motel opened in California in 1925, located about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It charged a rate of $1.25 per night. Motels hinted that car culture would soon take over the American way of life.

Gitlow v. New York. This year the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling: that the right of free speech protects a person from state interference as much as federal interference. The Court had previously held, in Barron v. Baltimore (1833), that the Constitution’s Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government, but Gitlow reversed that precedent and established that while the Bill of Rights was designed to limit the power of the federal government, the denial of these rights by a state government constitutes a denial of due process which is prohibited under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pierce v. Society of Sisters. In this year the Court also held that children did not have to attend public schools. States that made such a requirement were acting unconstitutionally.

Scopes Monkey Trial. In the summer of 1925, the Scopes Trial was all the rage — staged deliberately to attract publicity. Tennessee upheld a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools, and fined Scopes $100, although the state supreme court overturned the ruling on a technicality. The nation would have to wait until 1968 for SCOTUS’s substantive ruling: that banning evolution violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, since the bans are primarily religious. But the Scopes trial itself was a benchmark in forcing the question of whether or not evolution should be taught in public schools.

Weird Tales and Adventure (“The Camp-Fire”). The pulp magazines became wildly popular in the 20s. Weird Tales — still regarded today as the most important and influential of all fantasy magazines — had launched its first issue in 1923, and in 1925 began publishing an issue every month. Adventure Magazine, started back in 1910, had grown so popular by the 20s that its letters page, “The Camp-Fire” (not to be confused with the youth development organization by the same name, that also started in 1910), had become a major cultural phenomenon. The Camp-Fire featured editorials and fiery discussions about all sorts of topics, usually about whether or not the author had the right facts in his or her story. Historical accuracy, geographical accuracy, the kind of weapons the characters used — all of these and more were debated with passion. By 1924, a number of Camp-Fire Stations — locations where Adventure readers could hook up — were established across the U.S. and even in other countries. In 1925 one of the Camp-Fire’s most fiery debates was over the character of Julius Caesar. The writers often embellished their lives, reinvented themselves with outlandish fictions (even in their bio sketches); some were con artists. By 1925 Adventure was unquestionably the most important pulp magazine in the world, let alone the U.S. I’d love to live in 1925 as a subscriber to Weird Tales and Adventure, and as a Camp-Fire freak.

Drag Balls. The tradition of masquerade and civil balls (“drag balls”) goes back to 1869 in Harlem. By the mid-1920s, at the height of Prohibition, they were attracting thousands of people of different races and social classes—whether straight or gay. We tend to think of Stonewall (in 1969) as the beginning of the gay rights movement, but decades before that, Harlem’s drag balls were part of an LGBTQ nightlife-culture that gave us gay and lesbian enclaves. What fun. Only after the Depression would this libertine culture fall out of favor, as many would blame this cultural experimentation for the economic collapse.

The Year 1973

The early 70s were gloomy and nihilistic, but that’s what generated so much artistic creativity and cultural progress. Disillusion, cynicism, paranoia, and frustrated rage coalesced in the ’60s aftermath, yielding introspection and existentialism. Films were about dirty cops, shady leaders, conspiracies, isolation, and loneliness. Rock lyrics were about individuals trying desperately to connect to others, to themselves, and to the world around them. The dress and hair styles were awful, granted, but aside from that, it was a groovy period. The best year in particular is 1973. I was alive that year, but so tiny and young that I remember nothing about it. I’d love to go back and live out the year as an adult.

Here are the note-worthies of 1973:

The Exorcist. The best and scariest film of all time is released. I’d give anything to see this masterpiece on screen when everyone was fainting in the isle and running from the theaters.

The Godfather. The epic film wins Best Picture, becoming the new Citizen Kane.

Selling England by the Pound. The best album by the best band of all time. Or at least, Genesis was the best band while Peter Gabriel was involved.

Dark Side of the Moon. The most important album by the most important band of all time. Even if The Wall is Floyd’s best, Dark Side’s influence can’t be exaggerated.

All in the Family. The best episodes — meaning the most offensive and insanely hilarious ones — from the best TV sitcom of all time come from the late part of season 3 and the early part of season 4, which spanned the year of 1973: “Archie Goes Too Far”, “Archie Learns His Lesson”, “The Battle of the Month”, “We’re Having a Heat Wave”, “Henry’s Farewell”, “The Games Bunkers Play”, “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Wig”, to name the very best episodes.

Abortion. Roe v. Wade was a problematic ruling, but the result was at least good, guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion.

The Paris Peace Accords. After 16 years, American involvement in the Vietnam War ended. Peace at last.

The War Powers Resolution. The congressional resolution (vetoed by Richard Nixon but then overridden) limits the president’s ability to initiate or escalate military actions abroad. It states that “the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply” whenever the American armed forces are deployed overseas. Many presidents since then have failed to comply with this resolution, and for the worse.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association declares that homosexuality is not a mental illness or sickness, and removes from its manuals the listing of same-sex activity as a disorder.

The Endangered Species Act. The most comprehensive legislation enacted (in any nation) for the protection of endangered species.

Texas Law and Social Media

A federal appeals court in Texas has issued a ruling that allows Texas residents to sue Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other giant social media networks for censoring content based on opinions or points of view. The logic is that such companies aren’t websites but “internet providers,” and that if Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube can censor, there’s no reason phone companies cannot disconnect telephone calls if they hear speech they don’t like. (As “common carriers”, telephone companies don’t discriminate or restrict access based on the content of calls. Internet providers like Facebook were briefly designated common carriers as well, until the FCC killed net neutrality in 2017.)

Herein lies the problem. As I explained last year, social media companies are being treated legally like neutral platforms, or carriers, while being allowed to function as editorial sites:

“Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have been treated legally as neutral platforms (like a phone line) — so they’re not responsible for what people say and post — while being allowed to function as editorial sites — so they can step in to edit or remove what people say on their platforms, or kick them off. That’s having their cake and eating it. If they want the prerogative to censor and deplatform as private corporations, then fine, I support that, but they should be stripped of their legal immunities. They shouldn’t be able to have it both ways.”

I still believe this. Holding big-tech companies accountable would force them into the role of a neutral, non-censoring platform. (For obviously they would never give up their legal immunities: they’d be inundated with lawsuits and go bankrupt within a week.) Problem solved — and without messing with the First Amendment, or trying to incorporate it in the private sphere, as the above article speculates may be on the horizon…

What would the Supreme Court say?

The article concludes that

“It’s possible the dispute won’t be resolved unless and until it ends up before the US Supreme Court. What would happen at that point is impossible to say, but as CNN notes, the apparent willingness to overturn Roe v Wade suggests that some aspects of the First Amendment, particularly with regard to online platforms, could be open to reinterpretation as well, with potentially far-reaching consequences.”

I’m not so sure about that. It was the conservative justices who upheld the right of private corporations to suspend contributors using public access channels in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (6/17/19). Kavanagh wrote the opinion (joined by Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch). It was the four liberals, rather (Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan) who dissented, arguing that the private corporation “stepped into the city’s shoes” and thus qualified as a state actor, subject to the First Amendment.

In other words, if there is any SCOTUS precedent for treating private companies as being subject to the First Amendment, it was set by the liberal minority, not the conservative majority. The Texas lawsuit is different from the Manhattan case, to be sure, but the point is that the conservatives were quite clear in that decision that the First Amendment applies only to the governmental abridgment of speech. If the current case reaches the Supreme Court, we’ll see how firmly they hold to that position, and if the liberals do any backpedaling themselves.

Happy 40th: Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian is a special film for me. Released on May 14, 1982, it was my first R-rated experience in a theater, and did a wonder on my youthful sensibilities. Between scenes of graphic sex — especially Conan’s coupling with a vampire who goes rabid on him at the moment of orgasm — and a deluge of gore, I was utterly stupefied, and if not for the subject material which interested me, would have probably taken days to recover. Conan threw me into a world of lust and brutality I was so unprepared for at age 13, but it also felt like a real-life Dungeons and Dragons game. This was high adventure in which thieves robbed the temples of evil priests, rescued their victims, battled giant snakes, and stumbled on forgotten swords held in the clutches of cobwebbed skeletons — the kind of scenarios I fantasized about daily when throwing the 20-sided die.

Today it holds up well — astonishingly well, in fact, when compared to inferior PG cousins like Willow, Krull, Legend, and of course the abysmal sequel Conan the Destroyer. The ’80s gave fantasy such a bad name that I came to view Conan the Barbarian as a one-time exception in a genre flooded by cliche and hollow characters, and not until Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings would I be forced to revise my opinion. The first fifteen minutes alone make clear that Milius is about serious business and refuses to pull punches, as the young Conan witnesses his entire people slaughtered in a village raid, and his mother decapitated as he clings to her. Battles are so violent that the film feels like an historical epic instead of fantasy, as if Hyboria were exactly as Robert Howard intended: a mythic version of the ancient world, like Middle-Earth.

The film in fact anticipates Lord of the Rings in some interesting ways, but most fundamentally with the score. It is no exaggeration to say that Basil Poledouris’ compositions are amongst the most powerful ever written for any film, and this is agreed on by critics who aren’t terribly wild about Conan. Thundering brass and Latin chants roll over grim battle sequences, while variations of the main theme play at just the right moments, and a gothic choir creeps in almost unnoticeably on the slow melodies. Then there is the waltz, one of my favorite pieces, for the orgy scene: the redundant movements fit perfectly over the sex, cannibalism, and Thulsa Doom polymorphing into a snake, and puts me in mind of Ravel’s Bolero. I still listen to this soundtrack as much as I do Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings, and am floored by how much talent Poledouris was able to poor into such an obscure project.

The acting performances are the film’s only liability, but not in a major way, and in Schwarzenegger’s case his poor talents actually work for him. His barbaric role demands little more than grunting out one-liners, swinging a sword, maiming foes, punching camels, and fucking women, and his Austrian accent somehow, amusingly, fits just right in this context. Dialogue is used frugally throughout the film in any case, so Conan’s companions (cast more for their athletic than acting talents) don’t come off terribly bad either. But James Earl Jones is genius, and he completely steals the show as Thulsa Doom, the high priest of Set based on Thoth-Amon from Howard’s books. Jones oozes malevolence with all the trappings of a hippy cult leader, hypnotizing with a stare, and commanding loyal followers to jump to their deaths on a whim. The snake theme is milked for all its worth, and considering production values of the early ’80s it’s a wonder how convincing the giant serpents are. Doom even shoots snakes from his longbow, and one of them of course kills Valeria, pushing Conan completely over the edge in his hunger for revenge.

In terms of its treatment of source material, Conan has been a bone of contention, pleasing and displeasing fans of the Howard classics in equal measure. Most everything is pastiche (Valeria is an acrobatic thief more like Belit instead of Howard’s pirate; the high priest of Set is named after a sorcerer who never even met Conan), distortion (the god Crom invites prayer-challenges and has a jovial side reminiscent of our viking gods, unlike Howard’s Crom who disdains all prayer as weak and is completely cheerless), or invention (Conan’s early years on the Wheel of Pain). As one who never got around to reading Howard’s books until much later, none of this could bother me, but my best friend knew Howard inside and out and loved the film as much I did. I’ve always believed that strict adaptations are too stifling (and again Lord of the Rings is instructive), and anyone with a good ear knows that the name of Thulsa Doom cuts deeper than Thoth-Amon.

For all it’s gravity and grim outlook, Milius’ film is not without humor. Conan praying to Crom and telling the god to fuck off is priceless. So is his punching the camel’s face. My favorite line is his answer to the question, “What is best in life?” You have to imagine Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent for the full effect: “Crush the enemy, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!” My friend and I got more mileage out of that ridiculous saying than it deserves, and it pretty much sums up Conan better than anything I can think of.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5.


This review is reposted, with some modifications, from a blogpost I wrote in 2011.

When Roe Falls

Not all maps that you find online tell the same story. According to The Center for Reproductive Rights (which has the most documentation), this is how things look if Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer.

A. Abortion protected (21). These states (dark blue, light blue, green) currently have passed laws codifying the right to abortion:

New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

Of those twenty-one, nine of them — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington — have been very proactive, either by enacting laws to expand abortion access, or by passing comprehensive abortion rights legislation. Four of them — Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont — ensure the right to abortion throughout even the third trimester.

B. Abortion legal, but not protected (4). In these states (yellow), it is currently legal to get an abortion, but the right is not protected by law:

New Hampshire
New Mexico

C. Abortion likely to be restricted or banned (25). In these states (orange, red) law makers are hostile to abortion:

North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Of those twenty-five, thirteen of them — Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming — have trigger laws in place to restrict or ban abortion; they would likely go into effect immediately after Roe is overturned. The other twelve — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin — have zombie laws (predating Roe) still on the books, or laws making abortions difficult to obtain, or lawmakers who are currently intent on restricting or banning abortion.

In other words, the country is evenly divided, with 25 states abortion-friendly and the other 25 abortion-hostile.

Former predictions: fact and fiction

While nothing has been decided yet, I think it’s a safe bet that the leaked draft reflects how each justice will sign off next month. In the post I wrote back in February, I predicted the likelihood that each justice would vote to overturn Roe as follows:

Clarence Thomas: 100%
Samuel Alito: 95%
Brett Kavanagh: 80%
Neil Gorsuch: 65%
Amy Coney Barrett: 60%

John Roberts: 15%
Stephen Breyer: 0%
Sonia Sotomayor: 0%
Elena Kagan: 0%

That was my (serious) prediction in February 2022.

Four years ago, however, in 2018, I wrote a futuristic novel, Stranger Things: The New Generation, in which Roe was overturned in the year 2021. I was off by one year, but I had no idea at the time that Roe would be revisited by the Supreme Court; I never seriously expected to see that happen in my lifetime — not even with all the Trump madness going on at the time in 2018. I was just imagining a horrific future for dramatic purposes. Yet what I imagined turned out to be pretty accurate. This is what I wrote:

“In 2021, the kids from Hawkins — Jane Hopper, Lucas Sinclair, Dustin Henderson, and William Byers — each turned fifty years old. It was a terrible year for their milestone, marred by national crises heralding worse disasters… Two appalling decisions were reached on the Supreme Court. The first was Carlson v. Dale, which overturned Roe v. Wade. The outrage spawned movements that made Antifa look pacifist. Violence shook the streets. Jane despised abortion, and would not have aborted Mike even to save her life. Were it not for her friends and father, she would have grown up to be a virulent anti-abortionist. Thanks to them (all men, interestingly) she understood why the issue was ethically challenging, and she had come to accept a woman’s right to choose. Now, after forty-nine years, that right had been torpedoed at the whim of five justices: Samuel Alito (who wrote the decision), John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanagh, and David Usher. The appointment of Usher to replace Ruth Ginsburg had sealed Roe’s fate. A scathing dissent was penned by Trump’s own Neil Gorsuch (who had turned out quite differently than expected), and approved without reserve by the remaining liberals: Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The dissent lamented the shame of a nation.”

I had Samuel Alito writing for the majority. I had Ruth Ginsburg gone and replaced (by a fictitious justice named David Usher), even though there was no hint in 2018 of Ginsburg retiring or having any health issues. The only two justices I got wrong were Roberts and Gorsuch. If you swap their votes, it’s a near perfect “prediction”. But again, I was just spitballing. If you had told me in 2018 that Roe v. Wade would be up for a pounding by SCOTUS in the next few years, I would have had a hard time believing it.

Next January (1/22/2023) would have marked the 50th anniversary of Roe, and while it’s premature to eulogize, my serious prediction made back in February appears to be fait accompli. The outcome will be mighty unpleasant for half the country, and I find it deplorable that we haven’t reached a point in America where the right to abortion can be taken for granted.