Archive for August, 2010
Monday, August 30th, 2010
I’m terrible with names. I’ll come out and say that up front. If I meet you every day for a week, I’ll probably remember your name by the end of that time, assuming I’m not meeting a hundred other people at the same time. I may get close, and I may even get it right, but if I do, assume it’s a fluke rather than some particular skill on my part. Needless to say, this makes networking at conventions, where I’ll meet dozens of people in the course of three or four days, a bit difficult.
I’ve come up with some tricks over the years to make up for my shortcoming in the name-association department. First, I participate aggressively in what a friend once called the ‘almost Japanese obsession with business cards’ at conferences. I swap business cards with anyone I exchanged more than ten minutes with at a conference.
I can’t stop there though – If I do, I’ll come home with a stack of business cards that I won’t know as anything but names on cards. It’s tough for me to send a thank you to the people I met at conference, if I cannot remember the circumstances of our meeting. I have a trick, however that helps me keep this from happening. As soon as I get the chance (sometimes even sitting at the table with the person with whom I’ve swapped cards, but typically in my room before bed) I go through the business cards I’ve received. On the back of each one, I write where I met the person and the circumstances of our introduction. If we talked about something in particular, I write that on the card as well. When I come home from the conference, and it’s time to send e-mails to the people I’ve met, I have all the information needed to jog my memory written on the back of each business card.
Of course, saying this, I realized in the middle of RWA10 that I had prevented anyone from doing the same for me. My cards were black, and the back of the card was emblazoned with the cover for Hearts and Minds, making it impossible to take notes anywhere on the card. Ah, well. Point for me to remember in the future.
So, there’s my trick. Do you have any particular tricks you use to remember the people you meet in the swarm of conference faces? I’d love to hear about them. I’m never too old to learn new tricks.
Friday, August 27th, 2010
Potpourri this week is an eclectic mix of links. We’ve got Library Promotion and Anti-Objectivist screeds and Star Wars. At the end of it all, we have a sad good bye letter from a dying genius. In other words, it’s a typical potpourri. My favorite links of the week, distilled for your pleasure:
- It’s well known that I love the Old Spice Guy (despite assorted problems with the ideology that I try not to think about much) – that said, BYU’s riff on the commercial for their library? Borders on genius: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ArIj236UHs
- If you’ve seen Scott Pilgrim, you should see it again. If you haven’t, you need to go. Most importantly, you need to give the box office money for Scott Pilgrim, so we can continue to have nice things: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2010/08/go-and-pay-to-see-scott-pilgrim-right-now.html
- I’m sharing this because, despite my love of Rush, I generally dislike Randian Objectivists: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/8/12hague.html
- From our “Unexpected Genre Mashups” department – adorable Star Wars art in the style of A. A. Milne. http://blastr.com/2010/08/wookie-the-pooh-is-the-st.php
- Finally, let me say that the too-young death of Satoshi Kon this week hit me terribly hard. I have always enjoyed his work, and think his non-conventional ideas and storytelling style made him a unique, luminary voice in Anime and the world in general. If you’ve not seen “Millennium Actress” do yourself a favor and watch it. I could sum it up as ‘Sunset Boulevard as a love song’ but that genuinely doesn’t do it justice. In his final days, he wrote a letter to his friends, fans and family, which has been translated into English (for those of us who don’t read Japanese). It is tragic, sad and touching. Take tissues with you. You’ll want them: http://www.makikoitoh.com/journal/satoshi-kons-last-words
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
Recently, Wizards of the Coast released the newest incarnation of their Dark Sun campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. I should preface this by saying – I am old. I was in college when Dark Sun first came out. I played a lot of other RPGs at the time, and D&D (then in its 2nd edition, for those keeping track) was ‘that other game’ that only a handful of die-hards played anymore.
When the first Dark Sun came out, the art (by Brom) drew me in almost immediately. This looked nothing like the Tolkein-esque generic fantasy realms to which I had become accustomed. Indeed, it looked like nothing else on the market. So I bought the box set, checked it out, and changed my world.
Dark Sun, more properly the world of Athas, was my first real exposure to the concept of post-apocalyptic fantasy. Magic has destroyed the land and rendered much of it to lifeless desert. A handful of city-states eke out an existence, ruled over by all-powerful sorcerer kings. The Gods themselves had turned their back on the world and no longer answered prayers. I had never thought of Fantasy in terms like these, and it shaped the way I would view fantasy and storytelling in the future – there are places in my stories to this day that I could point at and say “Without Dark Sun, I would never have thought of this”
Seeing Dark Sun on the shelves again brought back a great wave of nostalgia, and immediately set my mind churning for new ideas. I still love the setting, and am more excited than ever at the prospect of running a game set against its bleak, oppressive backdrop. I’ve talked to my group, and most of them are excited by the possibility. I only hope I can do it justice.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Heather Massey posted an interesting (by which I mean thought-provoking) article on The Galaxy Express the other day. Like most articles, it got me thinking about my approach and my little corner of the universe. The line that really got my juices rolling (and admittedly made me want to respond) was Lizzie Newell’s quote decrying the lack of SF in SFR today:
“It has romance books set in space but very few science fiction books containing romance. There is too much promotion of what I consider low quality books. These are low quality from a science fiction perspective.”
At first, I felt a little guilty. After all, I write Space Opera romance. I am part of the problem, as it were. I’ve got a background in the sciences, and certainly that informs many of the decisions I make when world-building, but I also grew up on Star Wars, Farscape and Firefly. These are shows that are science-fiction only by dint of being set in space. Lightsabers and giant, living starships are cool, but we don’t like to think too much about the practicality of them. Much as I love Hearts and Minds, I have to admit that when I wrote it I would occasionally handwave the science in favor of making a more exciting swashbuckler of a romance.
And that’s when it hit me – What is the story really about?
Am I writing a story about a hardened mercenary and her beta-to-the-core empathic boyfriend? Or am I writing a story about the trappings of science fiction? For me, the core of a good SFR story should be the romance. There needs to be emotional development between the characters, and I as reader need to believe that they can connect with each other and find a happily ever after somewhere. As much as I love science fiction, it’s not the part I’m as concerned about. I would not have liked Farscape as much, bluntly, had it not been for the romance between John Crichton and Aeryn Sun.
Do I still think that the Skiffy elements need to be thought about when writing an SFR? Absolutely. I would never argue otherwise. But I also think that good world-building should show through the characters rather than get in the way of them. I tried to think about the science in Hearts and Minds – it’s one of the reasons that, despite more lethal weapons being available, most shipboard firefights use weapons that fire ceramic flechettes. Hull-penetrating weapons would be dangerous to both sides in a conflict. I never talk about it in the course of the story, but it’s there.
I think this holds true of Science Fiction in general, but it holds doubly so for good SFR – the world in which the characters live should be the background, and their relationship to it and to each other should be the focus of the story. If not, you will lose the reader every time.
Thursday, August 19th, 2010
As part of the Out of this World blog tour, I’m guest blogging over on Pauline Baird’s Web site today. I’m talking about the “Lure of Space Opera” and what it means to me, so what are you waiting for? Go check it out!
Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
With my apologies to Robert Burns, it’s time for another knitting post. Today I need to talk about my terrible addiction to that most notorious drug of sweater and sock knitters – the cable.
I love cables. They are fun to knit, they look really impressive when you’ve done a long chain of them, and most importantly, they aren’t half as tricky as the rest of the knitting world would have you believe. (Actually that last secret is true of knitting as a whole. I shall have to do a post on breaking the great secret of knitting – that’s it’s all easy – open for all of you.) It’s not even math, like some elements of knitting, it’s just counting. I don’t even do the counting in my head – I have a stitch counter on my iPhone that I can set to count for me. I color code my cables on the needle, then label a row on my counter for each cable. When I increment the whole project one row, each of the cables increments on their own counting system, so I always know where I am. Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.
There’s a problem to loving cables, though. Once you realize how easy they are, the tendency is to start putting them on everything. Like a flame paint-job on a car, cables work best with a little restraint. A thin line down the side of a kilt stocking is okay. A twenty-stitch wide knotwork probably doesn’t belong on a footie-slipper. It’s the knitting equivalent of getting a sweet flame paint scheme on your ’82 Omni. You can do it, but even ironically it looks a little off.
Okay, back to trying to figure out how to put triangular knotwork on the earflaps of a hat.
Monday, August 16th, 2010
I am privileged and thrilled to be able to host Pauline Baird Jones on my blog today, part of the great Out of this World blog tour. I don’t want to say to much, but suffice to say, I think she hits the lure of science fiction right on the head:
When I was a little girl, it used to be safe to sleep outside. My siblings and I would spread our sleeping bags on the lawn, sometimes front, and sometimes the back yard. Summer nights in Wyoming were cool, and it was lovely to crawl into the soft flannel that lined our bags, and stare at the sky while my brothers tried to scare my sister and I into giving up and going inside.
Sometimes the moon would be big and round and yellow and sometimes it was just a sliver in the sky, but the stars were always there to provide a backdrop. Back then, that moon and those stars were distant, mysterious, and out of reach except through the imagination. We could peer at the part of the moon we could see and wonder what was on that dark side? The movies of the time seem pretty hysterical now, but they all started with the key question: what if?
I was nine when the first man set foot on the moon and we found out what was on that dark side. If you’ve never watched Tom Hanks’ Earth to the Moon miniseries, I can’t recommend enough that you track it down and watch it. I lived through it, but to see it through older eyes was to bring back the wonder, the awe, and the soaring sense of adventure as we raced to the moon.
I am always touched by the episode on Apollo One when three brave astronauts died. During the hearings that followed, Colonel Frank Borman testified that the accident was “a failure of imagination.” He pointed out that Gus Grissom, in an interview some months before the fire that took his life, had said that “the conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”
We are so used to technology now that it is easy for forget they had to create everything as they went, that the risks were enormous. No one knew how to do any of it until they did it. It was a grand adventure on a grand scale. It was an amazing leap into the unknown.
As our space program faces an uncertain future, it is possible that only authors of speculative fiction will keep us boldly dreaming of going where man has yet to go. The good news is that our fictional journeys aren’t life threatening. It is, however, my opinion that now is not the time for a “failure of imagination.” It is time to turn on the boosters and ramp it up.
That little girl that used to gaze at the night sky lived in a world where the most she could hope for was to see a man step on the moon. Now we live in a world where women pilot the space shuttle, a world where we now share a space station with the people we once raced into space in the midst of a cold war. The new millennium has the potential for many more possibilities than when I was small.
I say again, this is not the time for our imaginations to fail. Most of us live in a world where it isn’t safe to let our children sleep outside alone and too many of us are so focused on the things of this world that we forget to look up and ponder the moon and the stars and the huge and amazing universe that surrounds us.
No matter what happens in the real world, in our real lives, we need to keep trying to nudge the next generation into looking up from their video games and homework and their gravity based problems. We can keep trying to get them to see the stars and to dream the big dreams until mankind is once again ready to make that big leap into the unknown.
Pauline Baird Jones
made the leap into speculative fiction when her character, Captain Sara Donovan informed her that Earth wasn’t big enough for her story. She needed another galaxy. Before The Key
got a title, it was known as the BAB (big a** book) because Sara apparently needed a lot of words, too. Pauline recently released her second BAB, Girl Gone Nova
, whose characters also tried to push her around. If you read it, you will find she pushed back. That didn’t stop Colonel Carey (from both books) from deciding Pauline needed to take a walk on the Steampunk side. Tangled in Time
will release in December, but only as a novella. Pauline needed to save some words for the next BAB. You can find out about her BABs, her science fiction romance, and other stuff on her website at: www.perilouspauline.com
Girl Gone Nova: Doc–Delilah Oliver Clementyne’s—orders are simple: do the impossible and do it yesterday. A genius/bad ass, she does the impossible on a regular basis. But this time the impossible is complicated by an imminent war between the Earth expedition to the Garradian Galaxy and the Gadi, an encounter with some wife-hunting aliens, and not one but two bands of time travelers. The only way it could get worse? If the heart she didn’t know she had starts beating for the wrong guy… Available through B&N, Amazon, and Fictionwise, as well as on the Kindle
“After a multiyear absence, Baird Jones makes a very welcome return by once again visiting the alternate reality first explored in The Key. Time paradoxes run amok in this extraordinarily complex tale. Amongst the densely packed and mind-bending action, there’s also some welcome humor. A spectacular ride!”
–Romantic Times Magazine, Jill Smith, 4 and 1/2 stars!
Monday, August 16th, 2010
As part of the Out of this World blog tour, I am pleased to host a special guest today. Please swing by the blog to check out a great post from Pauline Baird Jones, author of Girl Gone Nova.
Friday, August 13th, 2010
Today is the only Friday the 13th in 2010. This is it, the only one. It seems like I should do something appropriate to celebrate, and since Mrs. Vorhees and her enfant terrible have set this day as a horror movie holy day in our collective conscious, I thought I would recommend three little known horror movies. I wanted to pick films I recommend, and ones that the majority of people haven’t seen. I also gave myself one other limitation when I was putting the list together – all three films had to be available on Netflix’s instant download. No hunting obscure video stores or late night galleries; just click and view.
So without further ado, here’s your available viewing for Friday the 13th:
- Session 9 – One of my most frequently recommended films, I cannot say enough good about Session 9. It’s a suspenseful potboiler, rather than an over-the-top gore fest, and it gets extra points for being shot in the profoundly creepy and all-too-real Danvers State Mental Hospital. Even with David Caruso in it (pre-CSI:Miami, even), this film’s a winner.
- The Host – One of a small number of films that take the Giant Monster movie to artistic levels, South Korea’s Gwoemul manages to mix drama, satire and political commentary into a brilliant depiction of inept bureaucracy and America’s all-too-big footprint on the world. As a sidenote, the #1 giant monster-as-art film is also available for instant download, and if you haven’t seen the unedited, emotionally powerful 1954 Gojira, you owe it to yourself to watch it. There’s no Raymond Burr, and no flinching from the real impact of nature gone mad.
- Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary – With Fang-fever gripping the country, I’d be remiss without including a vampire film. I freely admit that this one’s a bit of an odd inclusion though, in that it’s as arthaus as it gets. A 21st century film, shot as a silent, complete with title cards. Modern effects are mixed in alongside some of the most classic effects from the dawn of filmmaking. Further, almost the entire cast are members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and ballet plays an enormous part in the depiction of the film. I adore this film for several reasons – one, it’s the first time a film really explores the underlying Racism of Dracula – fear of the mysterious easterner whose ways are not British ways. It also plays with the conventions of the story, knowing that we are all familiar with it already. It jumps around, and makes us look at the relationships in new and surprising ways.
One notable exclusion – even though it’s on Instant View, I can’t recommend the version of “Let the Right One In” that’s currently on Netflix. The American subtitling is terrible, and loses much of the understatement and nuance of that haunting, gorgeous film. If you can find the European subtitled version, by all means, you should see it, but until the change the version on Netflix, I can’t recommend it.
Proudly powered by
WordPress Entries (RSS)
and Comments (RSS).