Dear Match Game 2016: You [Blanked] Up

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Blog, nostalgia | 2 comments

Dear Match Game 2016,

You’re missing the point.

You’re supposed to be funny, see? Make people laugh? The old 1970s Match Game excelled at that. It oozed with sexual innuendo and double entendre. INNUENDO. That’s key here. They couldn’t directly talk about body parts. They couldn’t draw such things on their cards. No, they had to use their wits. The joy of the show was in the cleverness of it all–puns, Freudian slips, that kind of thing. Wink-wink nudge-nudge say no more, say no more.

breadstick_smYou’re trying to do the same, but you’re preening in your late prime time slot. You want to use that for all it’s worth–after all, other network dramas at that time revel in profanity and nudity these days. So sure, you want to bring out the sexual content, but you lost the thesaurus. The wit has atrophied, revealing a show that is often blatantly crude and obscene.

I’m not laughing. I’m cringing.

The old Match Game pushed the boundaries of obscenity, too. Here’s an amusing thing, though: often it’s even funnier when the content is blurred or bleeped out. We can fill in those blanks and make it into a Mad Lib with custom-tailored waggery. Your new incarnation of Match Game isn’t leaving much room for the imagination.

See, I’m not a prude when it comes to humor. I have many friends who can vouch for my public actions with a flaccid faux breadstick. But see, that breadstick is innuendo. The naughtiness is in the imagination of everyone who passes by. The breadstick itself is quite innocent.

Match Game, you’re not innocent anymore. I think you’re proud of that, too. It’s 2016, right? Damn the censors! We can say what we want! Okay. That’s fine.

I just wish what you were saying was funny.

~Beth Cato


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New Story at DSF

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in anthology:story, Blog, nostalgia | Comments Off on New Story at DSF


I have a new and very personal story up at Daily Science Fiction: “The Quest You Have Chosen Defies Your Fate.” This story delves into depression, bullying, and finding the strength to move beyond.

I think of it as emotionally autobiographical. I experienced deep depression starting in junior high became more debilitating when I entered high school. It’s a war that is never truly over, though my recent years have been fairly stable due to my supportive family, my writing regimen, and daily exercise.

If the story resonates for you, if you think it might encourage someone else in the thick of depression, please share it.

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Story Behind the Story: “Roots, Shallow and Deep” and the Mussel Slough Tragedy

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in anthology:story, Blog, nostalgia, online publication | Comments Off on Story Behind the Story: “Roots, Shallow and Deep” and the Mussel Slough Tragedy

My newest story is a special one for me: a magical twist on a real historical event that took place near my hometown. It’s called “Roots, Shallow and Deep” and it can be read at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

I was in 3rd grade when another 3rd grade class visited to perform their own dramatization of the Mussel Slough Tragedy. It was described as a local incident straight out of the Old West: settlers facing off against the greedy railroad. The kids pretended to shoot each other and writhed in death throes on the portable’s carpet.

I rushed home that day, indignant.

“MOM. HOW COME YOU DIDN’T TELL ME ABOUT THE MUSSEL SLOUGH TRAGEDY?” I was seven or eight then, already keenly interested in history, and I felt like she had withheld some grand treasure from me.

Mom stammered out an explanation, and the end result was a detour that next Sunday to visit the site of the tragedy on our way to church. It made me even more livid when I discovered it was literally a few miles north of the house were I grew up, a straight shot on 14th Avenue.

Mussel Slough Marker near Grangeville, California

Mussel Slough Marker near Grangeville, California

I never forgot about the tragic shoot-out that took place almost exactly a hundred years before I was born. In recent years, I’ve collected numerous books on San Joaquin Valley history through that era, some specifically about the Mussel Slough Tragedy. It remains a contentious event with lots of he-said, she-said debate. Settlers claimed that the Southern Pacific was stealing their land from beneath them; the railroad claimed the settlers were squatters. The settlers who survived the incident were later hailed as heroes by the press, like valiant knights against “the octopus” of the mighty railroad conglomerate. I figure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I made a quick visit home last weekend. Some things don’t change; on our way to church, I begged my mom to make a detour out to the Mussel Slough site so I could take pictures for my blog. The ancient house behind the marker was in the process of being torn down. Almond trees stood in sentinel rows behind the hard-to-read state historical marker. So much of the original fight versus the railroad was because of the settlers’ efforts to irrigate the land, and to be compensated for their efforts. Now, with the drought, there was no water flowing through those ditches.

Home still looks beautiful and green to me, in contrast to Arizona, but it grieves me to see how the land and the people suffer. I look at my story and how people fought to bring water to the valley, and I shake my head. Things never really change.

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Over at the SFWA Blog

Posted by on May 2, 2015 in Blog, goals, nostalgia, public speaking | Comments Off on Over at the SFWA Blog

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. I first found out about the group as a teenager, and well, joining it was a wistful dream for many years. I talk about that in full detail today over at the SFWA Blog. Check it out!

The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato

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Earthquake Day

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Blog, clockwork dagger, nostalgia, online publication, podcast | Comments Off on Earthquake Day

I will always think of October 17th as earthquake day.

1989. I was nine, at home in Hanford. I was watching the 5 o’clock news on KSEE 24 out of Fresno with my mom and brother. We felt the earth move. We all looked at the hanging lamps; their sway confirmed that an earthquake had indeed occurred. When the news resumed after commercials, Bob Long and the other broadcaster mentioned they had felt something, too. The breaking news quickly shifted to San Francisco.

Today the news is all on Ebola and war and lots of other scary things. A new year, a new fear.

Moving on to more pleasant things…

Coffee Time Romance

J. Kathleen Cheney did a great interview with Jeremy Brett on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Archive at Texas A&M. This is of particular interest to me because I now have two earlier editorial drafts of The Clockwork Dagger at the Texas A&M archive. You can actually go into the Cushing Library and view my materials. As a library geek, this pleases me to no end.

My story “Hatchlings” can be read at Daily Science Fiction. It’s about the cruelty of children and the benefits of pet monsters. This one was inspired by Pokemon.

I also have two old favorites newly published as podcasts:
“Red Dust and Dancing Horses” at Escape Pod
“Reading Time” at Cast of Wonders, a podcast for teens

Also, I have a guest blog and excerpt from The Clockwork Dagger up at Coffee Time Romance.

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Memories of B. Dalton and the Booksigning that Won’t Be

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Blog, clockwork dagger, nostalgia | 8 comments

[In a week, I hold my first booksigning at Changing Hands in nearby Tempe, Arizona. This got me thinking about how I always imagined things would be…]

I grew up in small-town agricultural California. My local bookstore was a B. Dalton in the Kings Mall. My early memories of that store have my head below the level of the counter. It was a place of countless books and dark woods and garish 1970s orange. Tall ladders stretched to storage crannies high above. Craning my head, I felt like Jack looking up the beanstalk. There were treasures up there.

My mom would scold me to not even touch the ladders in passing. “You have to work here to use them,” she said.

Me at age 5

[Me at age 5 with a B. Dalton bag on the far right and new bounty before me.]

On March 6th, 1993 the new Hanford Mall opened. Why do I remember that exact date? I don’t know. It was a major landmark in my 7th grade year. Other kids at school talked excitedly about the new clothes stores and Disc Jockey. My brother couldn’t wait for the arcade. Me, I wanted to see the brand new and larger version of B. Dalton. Due to Hanford’s proximity to Lemoore Naval Air Station, the store carried a larger than normal selection of science fiction and fantasy.

I can’t even say how many hours I spent there. During my brief time in high school (brief, due to the saving grace of an early graduation that allowed me to escape the toxic environment) I would often walk to the mall after school. I was the obsessive-compulsive customer who would place the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books in proper series sequence.

I wanted to publish a fantasy novel of my own. I wistfully stared at the spot where DAVIS would be shelved. The thing is, publishing a fantasy novel involves writing one. I wrote a few pages here and there, character biographies, sketches, maps, but never made a genuine effort. I was too afraid it would be awful. A few times, I saw authors hold signings at my B. Dalton. They set up a table for them right at the front with full visibility of the mall traffic.

I wanted to sit there, proudly, my books stacked on the table before me.

At age eighteen, I was hired as a seasonal employee at B. Dalton. It was my dream job. I quickly found that I was awkward at handling anything on the phone, and working with the cash drawer made me very nervous. But shelving–oh, I could shelve books and work stock for endless hours. One of my happiest days was when I spent my entire shift placing 50% stickers on all the calendars.

A few years later, I married my Navy sailor husband and moved away. The B. Dalton was in danger of closing at one point but Borders stepped in to save the store. It was odd, on a rare visit home, to see all the B. Dalton signing gone.

And then, of course, came the demise of Borders.

My hometown has no bookstore now. The next nearest big city, Visalia, does not even have a bookstore beyond one for college textbooks. To find a Barnes & Noble, a person has to brave traffic and drive 45 minutes to Fresno.

When I walk through the Hanford Mall, I can still see the B. Dalton there, like a ghost. I can see the younger me, so pudgy and wounded by the world, sitting criss-cross with my backpack against my thigh, a fantasy book in my hands. That store enabled me to escape. It helped to keep me alive. All those childhood fantasies of “I’m going to be an author when I grow up and I’m going to hold my signing here…”

Now my book is a reality, and I can’t. Sure, I could hold a signing elsewhere in my hometown, but it’s not the same. A lot of things in Hanford aren’t the same–there are many wonderful new things there in recent years. But there’s no bookstore. No place for kids to visit and stare up the ladders, and wonder at the new books hidden in the heavens above.

Clockwork Dagger

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