Definitely Not an Oncoming Train

Jim is reading paper books. We didn’t have to wait for his new glasses; his vision has cleared up — literally — enough that he can read paper books again. It’s a huge relief, like the best Christmas present ever, almost three weeks early.

He’s currently working on Bujold’s latest, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which I already read and enjoyed a lot. Jim sits in his chair reading and periodically laughs or snorts or snickers or whatever, because Bujold is great at inserting a steady stream of low level humor into her writing, even when the book isn’t a Humor Book. I’m on the couch doing whatever on my laptop and enjoying his enjoyment, because damn, he can read paper books again. 🙂

Awesome stuff, had to share.


Travelling — No Anthologies This Month

Greetings from the South Pacific and all that. [wave]

For anyone looking for the Anthology Listing, I’m afraid I’m skipping this month. I’m on a cruise ship a couple of days out from Tahiti; internet is unreliable, and when it works it costs thirty-eight cents per minute. I usually do several hours of research online before I post the month’s listing, and much as I love you all, I’m not willing to spend a hundred bucks or more to do it. :/ When I get home, I’ll have one (1) day to wash every garment I own before getting back on a plane to go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving, at which point I’ll be doing family stuff. I think November’s going to be a wash for the listing. Everyone keep writing, and I’ll see you in December.

I’ve been having a great time, doing lots of reading and lots of writing, and am sitting here with a truly spectacular sunburn, courtesy of Bora Bora. 🙂 We went on a 4WD tour around the island and up three mountains. It was truly awesome, but the truck had no roof (which was one of the awesome parts, actually) and I got sizzled like whoa. My face has been peeling off my skull in small, dried-up bits, and the peeling part is working its way onto my scalp. I expect to have what’ll look like an absolutely terminal case of dandruff by tomorrow at the latest. [rueful smile]

Tahiti’s awesome; see it if you can. Bora Bora was particularly beautiful, and had great weather, sunburn notwithstanding. Samoa is lovely and has incredibly nice people, but the missionaries did a number on them like whoa, to the point where it’s rather horrifying. (Samoa is very Christian, to the point where you’re required to go to church on Sundays, and when one of the people on our tour asked the guide on American Samoa about their religious beliefs before the missionaries, she smiled and said, “We had no beliefs.” O_O Note that American Samoa was the less uptight of the two stops; Apia was more conservative on the surface, but nobody asked any of the locals there within my hearing about their traditional beliefs. Now I kind of wish I had, for comparison. I’d like to think this one guide is just particularly well brainwashed, and not representative.)

Hawaii is… well, it’s the US, and there you go. It’s worth visiting, definitely, but don’t expect it to feel terribly different, if you’re an American. The Polynesian Cultural Center that everyone raves about is very expensive and very plasticly Disneyfied. Oh, and no one grows sugar cane commercially on Hawaii anymore, something I didn’t know. The last crop was harvested in December of… either 2008 or 2010, I forget now, but just a few years ago.

We have our share of idiots on board, including one gentleman who was on a tour with us who seems to think all brown people speak Spanish. [headdesk] I’ve been wishing I could confiscate people’s citizenship for a while now, because nobody who goes out to foreign countries representing the USA should be allowed to be that obnoxiously ignorant. Every cruise seems to have at least a handful of them, and it’s damned embarassing.

I meant to do a stop-by-stop commentary, but that probably won’t happen at this point. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer. I’m having a great time (and losing lots of weight, yay! being one of the few people on the planet who loses weight on cruises) but am looking forward to being back in my own bed.

Oh, and the internet on this ship has some kind of nanny software installed. 🙁 Early on I was bounced off of several of the sites in my RSS reader because of “adult” content, and I’ve been pretty much ignoring the whole thing since. I’m not sure how tight it’s set, and trying to read something means it’s marked as “read” in my feed reader; I already have to just remember (with my awful memory) that I need to back up on a few blogs and comics, and I’d just as soon not mess up any more feeds, so I have 1000+ posts piled up with more coming in all the time. I’ll try to get through them all, at least eyeballing post titles to see what’s interesting, but if I haven’t commented on your blog in a few weeks, that’s why. [sigh] It’s going to be a busy holiday season.

I hope everyone’s been doing well, and writing well, and that everyone’s safe and unflooded and not blown over. {{{}}}

Oh, and Washington now has gay marriage! 😀 Washington’s voters rock; I’m very proud of the state I live in. I wish the rest of the country would get with the 21st century.

Missing you all,


Going Visiting

I did a Q&A session with writer Giselle Renarde, and the post has gone up on Giselle’s blog. I got to talk about writing, reading, piracy and DRM, and the unfortunate existence of way too many bad BDSM books. Come join the conversation. 🙂


September Stuff

Writing: 21,266 = 9 pts.
Editing: 6594 = 1 pt.
Subs: 1 = 1 pt.
TOTAL = 11 pts

Koala Challenge 9

I have several stories sitting in slush piles with long response times, so subs were way down in September. Luckily I found the ON switch for my writing engine (or more likely, some stranger whacked it with an elbow as they passed by, but whatever, I’m taking advantage of it while it lasts) so I made up for the points and then some with writing, yay! And actually, I’ve had a sub-goal all year of hitting nine points with writing alone; this is the first month I’ve managed it, which feels pretty awesome. Now if I can just keep doing it. 🙂


WorldCon Part 4

Okay, I’m going to wrap up this time, promise. 🙂 No more panels I want to talk about, so this’ll be more random stuff I remember that seemed cool or interesting.

For Game of Thrones fans, they had the actual TV series iron throne, which is made out of swords and looks very uncomfortable, in the display area. It was right out in the open and anyone who wanted to sit in it could do so. Every day I saw lots of people taking pictures of the throne, of their friends in the throne, of their friends standing next to George R. R. Martin in the throne, and having other people take their picture in the throne or their picture next to George R. R. Martin in the throne. Once he’s done with the series I’ll read the books — a lot of people seem to think they’re pretty awesome. 🙂

The dealer’s room (which was actually a cordoned off section of the trade-show-sized hall it shared with the art show and the display area and the small stage and a bunch of other stuff) was kind of smallish for a WorldCon, or maybe I’ve just been spoiled. Lots of book dealers, although I was able to restrain myself. 🙂 I found a few books I’d had on my wish list on one table for half off, which was pretty awesome. One was Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq (you find all sorts of cool stuff at SF cons) which I recommend highly. It’s not only a great collection of stories, if you’re into folk/fairy tales, but also there’s an introduction to the book as a whole and to each section talking about characters and culture and custom and such, so I learned at least as much about traditional Arab culture from reading this as I have from any of the Early Arab History type books I’ve read. And it was a lot more fun; I read the whole thing over three or four days and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You know, I think the rise in online shopping, and particularly places like Amazon, has made it easier to restrain myself in a convention dealer’s room. Even small press books are easily available online; it used to be it was hard to even know what was around, much less actually buy it, unless you were at a convention with a lot of dealers and publishers gathered in one place.

I also caught up on the bound editions of Schlock Mercenary (which was up for a Hugo for Best Graphic Story but didn’t win 🙁 ). If you buy the books at a convention, Howard Taylor, the writer/artist, will use a blank page in the back (included for this purpose) to draw you the character of your choice. He was very nice, especially considering I’m awful with names and asked for “Dr. Bunny” (actually her name — she’s one of the regulars so I remember what she’s called), “the ex-special forces spy chick in her baggy stolen combat suit” and “the AI girl doing her Bambi-eyes thing ’cause she rocks at that.” [hides under keyboard] Howard was completely cool about my verbal mangling of his characters, and I am grateful. 🙂

I also got a pair of T-shirts (one for me and one for spousal unit) that say “Harrington Treecats” with graphics to make it look like a baseball team fan shirt. This is awesome if you’re a fan of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. If you’re not, you’re probably going “Huh?” which was the reaction of two of my friends to whom I displayed a shirt shortly after buying them. [heavy, theatrical sigh] I have to start giving my friends books for Christmas.

Other than that, I didn’t spend any money in the dealer’s room. I exercised quite a bit of restraint, although actually, it’s easier than it used to be. There are fewer cool-thingy dealers at cons these days; you used to be able to find multiple dealers selling 8×10 photos, replica weapons (both replicas of TV/movie stuff and replicas of historical blades, plus some very cool battery powered light/laser guns from no particular source), buttons with great sayings on them (I used to spend like $20 on buttons at every con — I had a couple of shoeboxes full by the time I stopped), fanzines, replica patches and insignia and trim and other stuff you needed to make your own Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or whichever uniform, etc. Cons nowadays have little or none of this stuff, and it’s depressing. I’m thinking the economy probably drove most of the more marginal dealers out of business, but whatever the reason, it sucks. [sigh]

I went through the art show with a couple of friends in about an hour or so. It was very small for a WorldCon, or it seemed like it. There were some Ken Macklin originals, which were cool to see; I haven’t seen anything by him in an art show in at least a decade or so. A friend of mine, Stuart Shepherd, sold some pieces, which is very cool. Stu does fantasy art and also aviation/military art. It’s funny, he and I went to high school together, and I saw him at a BayCon like ten or fifteen years later. He wasn’t really an SF con sort of person, but he’d dropped by to look around. He told me he was an artist now and I said, “Hey, we’ve got a couple of spaces left in the art show! If you have any SFish stuff you could go get, maybe you’ll sell something.” It was only like $5 a panel back then, so it made a great impulse buy, especially if you happened to be an artist. 🙂 Turned out Stu had some framed paintings in his trunk, so he signed up, went out to get them and hung them up there and then. I don’t remember whether anything sold that year, but he’s been a regular at the BayCon art show since, and has done more fantasy art. At the time he’d mostly been doing box art for aviation model kits — gorgeous stuff, and I’m not even into planes. He’s also combined the genres; one new piece has a dragon fighting a tank and a military helicopter, and another has some SFish looking fighter planes (from Atlantis, according to the title) buzzing around a modern aircraft carrier.

One of the days, I forget whether it was Thursday or Friday, there was an art demo in the big room near the displays. A young woman in a bikini-ish sort of outfit posed for a number of artists, including the Artist Guest of Honor, Boris Vallejo. Boris was one of the first artists whose work I learned to recognize by style when I was a teenager. I got Boris calendars as part of my Christmas loot every year for like fifteen or twenty years, plus I have a book of prints floating around somewhere. I was on my way somewhere else and didn’t get a chance to watch him (or the others) work, but it must’ve been pretty cool for the baby artists in the crowd to get to watch such a well known pro.

The masquerade is always one of my favorite events; I’ve seen the masquerade at all but a couple of conventions I’ve attended, and usually if I’ve missed it, it was because I was working the con and was stuck behind a desk or something during that time. Phil and Kaja Foglio MCed (properly dressed for the occasion) and did a wonderful job. They’re both obviously comfortable in front of a huge crowd (either that or they fake it really well) and managed just the right mix of jokes and getting on with business. There were only twenty-eight entries this year (another effect of the economy, I’m pretty sure; costuming is an expensive hobby if you’re going all out) but there were some great ones.

My friend Karen McWilliams (who went to high school with me and Stu) went as the Undine, based on Anderson’s mermaid, who died after being betrayed by her prince. Karen is a master costumer, and she won Best Use of Dyes (a workmanship award), for obvious reasons, but she also got a presentation award. She’s been studying movement for over thirty years, and can move and dance in a costume on stage in a way many other costumers can’t. I linked to a series of photos, but you really had to be there to get the full effect. That’s true of a lot of costumes, especially the funny ones; they look kind of okay-whatever if you can’t see the presentation.

Princess Pacman was one of those — it’s kind of okay-whatever if you just look at the costume itself, but the presentation was hilarious, all about how Princess Peach (from the Super Mario games) discovered that her love, Mario, was leaving her for some other floozy, and how she set out to find her true love, someone who’d love her and appreciate her. She ended up with Pacman. Trust me, it worked. 😀 She won a presentation award, Most Humorous.

Lance Ikegawa came as a Blue Meanie from the Yellow Submarine movie, and it’s awesome. 😀 He got a workmanship award too, if I recall correctly; the blue fur is some ridiculous number of blue clown wigs, cut up and sewn into the body part of the costume. Definitely click through and take a look, especially if you remember the movie. 🙂

Another nostalgic kind of costume was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater, by Susan Scheufele. This one was in exhibition only; usually that means the costume has won an award at a convention the same size or larger than the current one. At WorldCon, that probably means either another WorldCon or a CostumeCon.

One of my favorite costumes was a large group who came out as Semi-Precious, each one representing a semi-precious stone. Costumers have been doing this sort of thing for years — putting together group costumes based on the seasons or the zodiac or the continents or the elements or whatever they think they can do cool wearable representations of. So okay, someone thought the semi-precious stones would work, and the costumes weren’t bad, in all the different colors. Each one carried a banner with the name of the stone they were portraying, so you could tell which was what. Okay, that was cool — they’re all spread across the stage with their serious processional-type music playing, when suddenly the music stopped, and started up again, and everyone flipped their banners. The person with the first banner dashed over to stand just before the second, then the third, then the fourth, etc., keeping the lyrics going. It was great — everyone was laughing and clapping and groaning. 😀 They won a presentation award, “Worst Internet Meme.”

Another one of my favorites was Night at the Sci-Fi Museum. They did sort of a parody of the Night at the Museum movies; when the lights came up, the bug-alien and the space-lady were up on boxes, frozen like exhibits. The night watchman guy came wandering on stage and they played with him for a bit, only moving when he wasn’t watching, with him between them. The space-lady got his keys and she and the bug were able to escape. It was done all tongue-in-cheek and it was very funny, and the costumes themselves were great too. They won Best In Show for Original Presentation.

There were a bunch more, including some more really good ones, but you can see for yourself — here’s the “masquerade worldcon reno” Flickr collection, and the “worldcon 2011 masquerade” Flickr collection. Currently it’s three people’s worth of photos between the two of them; hopefully more will be added over time.

The Hugos was your basic award show. Jim and I always go when we’re at WorldCon, and it’s fun to watch the results and see how many I voted for actually won. (Usually not many. [duck]) My second favorite part of the evening was when Chris Garcia and James Bacon won the Best Fanzine award for their zine Drink Tank. Chris pretty much melted down on stage. 🙂 It was great — he ended up sitting on the stage cuddling his statue while James was taking his turn to thank everybody at the microphone, hee!

My favorite part was when Robert Silverberg got up to award the Best Novella Hugo. He and Connie Willis have been taking humorous shots back and forth at each other at the Hugos for however many years, often with a theme of stretching out their speech or presentation intro or whatever while the other is sitting somewhere waiting to find out whether he/she has won something. Because no one is in a hurry at moments like that, right? Silverberg is a brilliant presenter, a wonderful speaker, and has a talent for being dryly hilarious. He managed to stretch his introduction out for several minutes, and whenever it seemed like he was going to get on with it and read the nominees, he’d start up again and keep going with the rambling. It was awesome, and a privilege to watch a master at work. 😀

Unfortunately my least favorite part of the Hugos contrasted strongly with Silverberg’s presentation. The two guys MCing the ceremony spent a lot of time stretching things out in various places (I’m not sure why), and tried very hard to be funny, but usually failed. I don’t know, I’m sure there were other people who thought they were wonderful from beginning to end, but before very long I was whispering “Why don’t they get ON with it!” to myself and/or my husband every few minutes. They tried hard, and neither one is a professional performer or anything, so I’m sure they did their best. I wish we could just have Robert Silverberg MC the Hugos, all of them, forever. That’d be very cool.

Oh, my other favorite part — Phil and Kaja Foglio won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for their excellent steampunk web comic Girl Genius. Best Graphic Story is a new category, and the award has only been given three times, including this year. Girl Genius has won all three times. After accepting the award, Phil announced that he was removing Girl Genius from consideration for the award in the future. I thought this was incredibly cool, a very gracious move by someone who already has a nice collection of Hugos. You see, before Phil was a professional artist, he was a fan artist, and back in the late ’70s he won the Hugo for that twice in a row before removing himself from consideration. I remember hearing people snark and sneer at him for that, trying to frame it as a demonstration of huge ego. I think someone with a huge ego would be more likely to want to win as many awards as possible, and I admire him for doing it, both times. Especially this time; since the Graphic Story category is still so new, it’s not really cemented into the roster. Fans could still decide that it’s not needed, or that it’s silly, or that it’s just a vehicle for giving one guy (or rather, one group of people — Kaja Foglio and their colorist Cheyenne Wright are part of the comic team and also got statues) a Hugo every year, and vote to eliminate the category. Pulling Girl Genius out gives the category a chance to grow and show its viability by demonstrating that there are enough really good graphic stories every year for a Hugo category to be worthwhile. Props to Phil for doing it, and to Kaja and Cheyenne for agreeing.

Let’s see, what else? I put a twenty into a slot machine (a Wizard of Oz machine — three are ganged together and the special minigame affects all three, whoever triggered it; it’s lots of fun) and got almost ninety dollars out, so that was An Excellent Thing.

My mom and brother (who live in Reno) came to the hotel to eat with us a couple of times, and it was great seeing them. My brother’s in retail management, and he just moved to a new store; he looks much less stressed, and I’m very happy for him. {{}}

One of the restaurants at the Atlantis (I forget the name — it’s the gelato place next to the buffet) has awesome pizza. I had to watch Jim eating it for days while I had pasta or something similarly soft; I had my temporary crowns in and I couldn’t bite anything hard or chewy or thick for fear they’d break while I was a thousand miles away from my dentist. 🙁 I finally said “Frack it!” and got a pizza anyway, which I ate with a knife and fork. I don’t care if I looked like a doofus, it was wonderful — bacon and spinach with white sauce — and all the moreso because I’d been eating pasta and omelets (and mashed potatoes and apple sauce at home) for days and days. Pizza, yum!

Oh, another friend of mine drove out from Sacramento just for Thursday with her son. He’s a major George R. R. Martin fan and he wanted to get his Kindle signed. 😀 I only see Laurie once or twice a year, so this was great; we spent the day together being fannish, which is appropriate because we met at an SF con when we were both teenagers.

I think that about wraps it. Definitely click through on the masquerade photo collections — they’re very cool, especially if you’ve never seen an SF convention masquerade before. [wave]


August Stuff and Some Links

Writing: 9204 — 3 pts.
Editing: 4380 — 1 pt.
Submissions: 5 — 5 pts.
TOTAL: 9 pts.

Koala Challenge 9

Still not where I want to be on writing, but it’s more than July, and July was more than June, so hopefully I can keep up the trend.

Some Links:

Fantasy Art — Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor — This Tumblr thread collects artwork of female fighters wearing armor that might actually protect more than 5% of their bodies in a fight. There’s some great art here, so check it out. I particularly like this one, a cartoon that comments on the issue. 🙂

Iowa Student Dies After Brutal Beating in which Attackers Shouted Gay Slurs — The media’s attention has drifted away from the issue of anti-gay bullying and bashing, but kids are still dying. Marcellus Andrews, 19, was a college student and member of his church’s drill team when some guys in a truck stopped and attacked him on the porch of a friend’s house. They called him a faggot while beating on him, and one of these jerkwads kicked him in the face when he was down. He had severe head trauma and died in the hospital. This crap might not be making big headlines the way it was earlier in the year, but it’s still happening and it still needs to stop. 🙁

CHRONICLES OF MANSPLAINING: Professor Feminism and the Deleted Comments of Doom — I just ran into this one today. It’s framed by a discussion of a particular incident, but in general this is absolutely the best explanation of what “mansplaining” is and why it’s offensive that I’ve ever run into.

Then the blogger, Sady Doyle, explains how this springs from and feeds into the larger issues:

Here’s where we appeal to that “lived experience” thing. Because: Have you ever had a guy come up to you — on the street, in a bar, whatever — and just straight-up say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” Happens all the time, right? Happens to women, all the time. But have you ever just straight-up said, “no?” Not “no, I have a boyfriend,” or “no, I’m busy,” or “no, I have to race to save the city from the Joker’s diabolical machinations, for I am the Batman,” or any other excuse: Just the word “no,” by itself?

Yeah. So you know what happens next, after you say “no.” The guy always keeps talking. He tries wheedling, or begging, sometimes. But if you say “no” firmly enough, or often enough that he gets the point, the dude just starts yelling. He tells you that you’re not that hot. He tells you what a bitch you are. (“You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce,” was my favorite of these.) Sometimes he follows you down the street, yelling at you; sometimes, he follows you in his car. These dudes are always so fucking certain that they’re entitled to your time and attention that they will harass you until you give it, or at least until you’re scared and sorry for not giving it. You do not have the right not to interact, as far as these guys are concerned.

That’s the real problem behind Mansplaining, and all the rest of it: We live in a culture where men are taught that, if they want women’s time and attention, they are entitled to it. They simply cannot grasp that a woman has the right to say “no.” You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce or you coward, I have more blog traffic than you: Whatever it is, it’s a guy insisting that he’s entitled to a form of attention a woman doesn’t want to give him, and lashing out at the woman for not giving it. From hence springs Mansplaining, sexual harassment, rape culture, and everything else we don’t like about how men treat women, from the tiniest violation to the most violent. All of it, ALL of it, springs from the idea that women should be ignored or punished when we say “no.” Which is the idea Professor Feminism is reinforcing with his actions, as we speak.

The guys who comment here are cool, and actually see women as human beings. There are some guys in the comments at Tiger Beatdown who likewise Get It and aren’t part of the problem. So many men are, though, that a majority of women in our culture treat all men they don’t know well carefully, fearfully, because they have no idea which guy is cool and which guy might start with the “Who do you think you are to say ‘no’ to me, bitch?!” drill. Back to Sady: “That’s what it’s actually like, being a woman: Playing nice with every random asshole, because this random asshole might be the one who hurts you. And then, if he hurts you anyway, they’ll tell you that you led him on.”

This relates back to my post last year on how women are socialized to be victims, and men are socialized to believe that anger is the proper response whenever a woman denies them something they want.

And to wrap up on a couple of positives:

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich — Warren Buffett This is an NYT op-ed piece by one of the richest people in the country who thinks it’s time America’s super-rich paid a bit more tax. Nice to know not all the super-wealthy are scrambling for every shelter and loophole they can find. Props to Mr. Buffett — I wish the Republican bigwigs would listen to him.

School Superintendent Gives up $800,000 in Pay — Massive kudos and applause to Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell. His area has been hit with some of the highest unemployment in the country and his schools were suffering along with everyone else. Powell effectively retired, then let them hire him back for $31,000 per year, which is $10K less than a starting teacher makes.

“A part of me has chaffed at what they did in Bell,” Powell said, recalling the corrupt Southern California city officials who secretly boosted their salaries by hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It’s hard to believe that someone in the public trust would do that to the public. My wife and I asked ourselves ‘What can we do that might restore confidence in government?'”

He also said, “How much do we need to keep accumulating? There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.”

Another rich (or at least very well off) guy who deserves major props.


WorldCon Part 3

Another panel I went to was “Editing Anthologies.” The panelists took a poll right at the beginning and discovered that about 2/3 of the audience (including me) were there because they were writers looking for insights on what editors were looking for. The other third was there because they were editing or planning to edit an anthology in the future. To that one third of the audience, the panel universally said, “Don’t!” LOL!

This one pretty much went over familiar territory, except for some comments by Ellen Datlow, the only panelist who does invitation-only anthologies. The pattern I’m used to is that when an anthology reading period ends at a certain date, the editor sends firm NO responses during the period, but saves stories they’d like to use until after the deadline. Then, with a stack of good stories, they do their final selection and put together a TOC, then send “Sorry, not quite” rejections for the stories that didn’t quite make it and contracts for the stories that did. This makes logical sense to me — if you’re doing a steampunk antho, you might get a really excellent story about pirate who attacks ships in his steam-powered mechanical squid, but then three weeks later get a seriously awesome story about a pirate who attacks AIRships in his flying mechanical squid. Wouldn’t it have sucked to have bought the first one already? ‘Cause both of those stories would really be too much steam-powered mechanical squiddage for one anthology, right? Or whatever.

Ms. Datlow buys stories as they come in, though. I was sort of o_O when she said that, although if she talks to all her invited authors about what they plan to write ahead of time, so she can head off any too-close duplication before the stories have been written then I guess I can see how that works. It was sort of startling, though — something I didn’t know about invite-only anthologies. I wonder if other editors doing anthos by invitation work the same way?

John Joseph Adams was there too — he edited The Way of the Wizard, which I had on the antho listing for a few months. He said he did the book both ways, specifically inviting a group of writers to submit for it, and opening a handful of slots to be filled through open submission. He got about 900 slush-pile stories for the book, which… wow. [blinkblink] This is why pro-pay books are usually invite-only; there’s no way the editor is going to make even a dollar an hour if they have to read through 900 slush pile submissions, especially if they only get half a dozen usable stories out of them. I knew the pro-pay anthos got a lot of submissions, but I had no idea the numbers were up that high. Unless that’s an outlier — and I don’t think it is — I’m exponentially more appreciative of the editors who do open up submissions to their pro-paying anthologies, or even books in the upper end of semipro.

One thing I learned at WorldCon this year is something about myself rather than about conventions, and that is that there are certain panels I just shouldn’t go to anymore.

I went to a few panels that taught me more about myself this year than about the subject matter. I’ll usually look through the program guide and mark panels on topics I’m interested in. Makes sense, right? But I’ve found over the last couple of years that I’m learning less and less at panels on topics I’m into, and thinking more and more about how I’d contribute to the conversation if I could. If I’m sitting there listening to what’s going on, but most of the buzz in my head is about what I’d say, how I’d answer that question, how I disagree with that panelist or how this panelist here has an interesting approach but I did it differently, then I think it’s safe to say I’m not getting much out of the panel.

At least I’m not one of those people in the audience who insists on actually verbalizing all these thoughts — when someone on the panel has to tell an audience member to stuff a sock in it, however diplomatically they phrase the request, you know that’s someone who shouldn’t have come to hear that panel. Maybe these are panels I should be on, I don’t know; it depends whether anyone else would think my running commentary was interesting. But either way, it’s really not a productive use of my own time, aside from the frustration factor.

I think part of the problem is that most convention panels are at the 101 level. It’s pretty rare to see Advanced Whatever in an SF con program book. Even when the general topic is something fairly technical, the presenters tend to feel like they should explain it all for the beginners anyway (which I greatly appreciate when I’m one of the beginners) and they might not get through all their planned material because they’re backing and filling and answering questions. It’s not like conventions could have prerequisites for panel attendance, but the (generous and inclusive) wish of the speakers to make sure everyone is following the conversation rather pins that conversation down to a beginner level. I’m not sure what can be done about this, or if anything should be. Maybe panel discussions all should be at the 101 level, and anyone interested in more can exercise their Google-fu and find advanced resources on their own?

At any rate, if I’m going to be sitting there wishing I could talk rather than actually learning anything new, I’m probably better off in another panel. I need to start asking myself, “Will I learn anything in that panel?” rather than “Am I interested in that panel topic?”

Of course, there are certain assumptions made about the audience as a whole. I went to Joan Slonczewski’s panel “Microbial Madness: How I made Money off Biowarfare and other True Adventures” (which was excellent, BTW) and toward the beginning when she was explaining how microbes multiply, she said something like “One, two, four… you all get the math so I’ll move on.” One can generally assume that an SF fan audience does indeed get a certain level of math, at least conceptually. 🙂

(I highly recommend her fiction, by the way. She writes hard SF but from a biological point of view rather than the more traditional hardware/physics point of view. Great writer, with a fresh angle.)


WorldCon Part 2

Another panel I made it to was John Scalzi’s “A Trip to the Creation Museum.” I’d previously read Scalzi’s blog post about the visit and had a great time reading it. I knew it’d be even more fun in a room full of like-minded folk, so I made sure to get there to hear it live — I even managed to get a seat. 🙂

Scalzi explained in the panel how this came about. The Creation Museum (which is exactly what you think it is) was built within a reasonable distance of Scalzi’s home, and someone asked if he was going to go. He explained exactly how unlikely it would ever be that he’d visit such a place, even under considerable duress. A bunch of people thought it’d be hilarious for him to go, though, so he finally made a deal — he’d go if the people who thought it’d be hilarious raised $250, which he would donate to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He says on his blog:

As of 11:59 and 59 seconds (Pacific Time) last night, the “Drag Scalzi’s Ass to the Creation Museum” donation drive raised $5,118.36. That’s 256 times the admission price to Creation Museum, a multiple I find both amusing (from a dork point of view) and gratifying, since it means what tiny bit of income the creationists running the museum gain by having me pass through the door will be utterly swamped by the amount I’m going to send to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Would that it worked that way for every admission to that place.

For those of you who were wondering, some statistics: The first milestone for this fundraiser, the $250 to get me to go at all, got passed within the first hour of posting the challenge. The $1000 mark got passed about 12 hours later. The $5,000 marker got passed last night sometime between 6 and 11pm, while I was out on a date with my wife, celebrating our anniversary. I’m particularly pleased about hitting the $5k mark. The least amount donated was $1; the most was $300. More than one person donated more than $250, usually with the notation “Ha! Now you HAVE to go!” Multiples and variations of $6.66 were amusingly common, although the $5 suggested amount was the amount most received.

The people at Americans United were reportedly delighted by the donation, if a bit bemused by the curiously specific amount. 🙂

The panel was indeed humorously awesome and I’m very glad I went. The visit report is funny too, scaled down a bit to take the solo experience into consideration. Highly recommended.

I went to another panel that I’m not going to name specifically, since I want to do a bit of constructive analysis, although I suppose anyone who gets ahold of the program book could figure out which one it was, since I have to give some detail to get my point across. :/

All right, fine, it was on world creation for writers, how to create a realistic world for your science fiction story. I’ve been to such panels before, and they’ve all gone pretty much the same way, which isn’t a compliment. What tends to happen is that there are several scientist types on the panel, one or two who are into the astronomy and planet creation end of things, and one or two who are into the smaller scale geology and biology end. The logical thing to do is to start out with the creation of the star system and the planets, talking about dust clouds and star spectra and magnetic fields and galactic arms and gravity and such. You have to have all that before you can have any small scale geology, much less anything biological, so starting with the bigger picture makes sense.

The problem is that the panelists get used to the idea that the stars-and-planets people are doing all the talking at the beginning, and… they usually just keep on doing all the talking. One person in particular has been on every similar panel I’ve ever attended; this individual really likes to talk, to jump in, and even to interrupt. To give the person credit, they’re a good speaker and know a lot about the subject and are very eager to share that knowledge, which is cool. But, as has often happened before, this person plus the other stars-and-planets person ended up doing about 85% of the talking. The biolologist did about another 10-12%, and the geologist squeezed in whatever shards of speakage were left.

This isn’t an ideal way to run a panel, and the moderator did nothing to get things under control.

Again, there was a lot of great info presented here, but it was frustrating to watch all the same. And judging by the look on the geologist’s face through the last third or so of the panel, that person might well be thinking twice next time an invitation shows up to be on panels. Or maybe their lunch didn’t agree with them. At any rate, they didn’t seem to be having a great time.

I think (if anyone cares what I think) that in future it’d be better to split this panel into two. Let the stars-and-planets people have a panel all to themselves. They’ll do a great job with it, and it’ll end up being essentially the same panel they’ve given for however many years, without the bother of having to talk over and interrupt those other folks. Give the smaller-scale geologists and the biologists — maybe add a botanist and an oceanographer to round things out — their own panel, talking about smaller scale landforms, climates, biomes, and what sorts of life might develop under different conditions. That’d be at least as useful to SF writers as the stars-and-planets panel, and separating them out seems to be the only way to give the smaller scale planetbuilding speakers a chance to get more than five sentences in edgeways. Everyone wins.


I’m Back! WorldCon Part 1

WorldCon in Reno was a lot of fun, and one of the best run conventions I’ve attended. I’ve worked almost 50 conventions and conferences, so I can often spot problems from the front of the house. I didn’t spot anything here; even the Masquerade and Hugo Ceremony both started within a few minutes of their scheduled times, which is pretty amazing. 🙂 I got to hang with friends, went to more panels than I usually go to in half a dozen conventions, and generally had a great time.

Jim and I flew in on Tuesday, got our badges, and had the evening free to relax and check out the program schedule before things officially started on Wednesday. We stayed at the Atlantis, the main convention hotel, which is attached to the convention center with a (very very) long skyway. It was quite a hike from our room to the panels and such at the CC, but I was happy not to have to walk outside, where the temperatures were distinctly uncomfortable, especially for someone who’s become acclimated to Seattle weather. Although in contrast with the heat outside, looking out the skyway windows we could see the hills above Reno, and one of them still had snow on it. O_O Wow. Reno itself is about four thousand feet up, so the top of that hill (which is probably a mountain, officially) is probably a mile up or close to it; that must be why the shaded slopes were still snowy. Still, it’s an odd sight in the northern hemisphere in August, especially when one is wishing for more AC.

The first panel I attended was the most useful — Mary Robinette Kowal, who’s a puppeteer and voice actor as well as a writer, did a panel called “Giving an Effective Reading.” It was opposite the Opening Ceremony, but it was a wonderful panel and I’m very glad I went. I thought I had a general idea of reading aloud — I’d done it in school, after all, as I’m sure everyone has — but I was still nervous about my ability to read my own work in front of an audience.

She started with story selection, looking at things like the number of characters, the way the language lends itself to interpretive reading, and making sure your selection is a complete whole, even if it’s a chunk of some larger story. When she got into using the voice like an instrument, Ms. Kowal had us go through a number of exercises, demonstrating different aspects of voice, including things I’d never heard of or thought about, like the placement of your voice — which part of your mouth resonates when you’re speaking. This was very ?? when she first described it, but the results were cool.

The panel was less than an hour long so she sort of rushed through a number of topics, but she has a great collection of posts on reading aloud on her blog. Highly recommended for any writer who might want to read their work to an audience. Hint: Don’t wait till the night before to click through the link. 🙂

That’s a good wrap for now — more next time. [wave]


September Stuff

Still in the writing rut. :/

2 submissions = 2 pts.
3654 words written = 0 pts. [hides under keyboard]
12,800 words edited = 2 pts.
TOTAL = 4 pts. which is extremely disappointing

If one of the subbed stories had been 2200 words longer, I’d have gotten another point for the pre-sub clean-up edit — I need to write longer. 😛 Of course if I’d written more, I’d have gotten some writing points too, so….

Koala Challenge 4

I got an acceptance on one of the stories I subbed in August, though, so that’s cool. It was for Torquere’s Halloween Sip Blitz (short Halloween stories released in a bunch, sort of like an anthology only not all in one book). It’s another Cal-and-Aubrey story, the characters who starred in “Unfinished Business” and were supporting characters in A Hidden Magic. They’re great guys and their character dynamic together is a hoot; I love writing about them. 🙂

Earlier in September, my husband and I went on a late-anniversary trip (the rates were better a couple of weeks after the actual anniversary, and I’m not sentimental enough to insist on spending more money for the same trip just because of the date) to San Francisco. I’d planned on blogging about it at the time, or shortly after getting home, like I did last year, but the first four or five days were a total disaster. My, umm, natural cycles hit about ten minutes after we checked into our room, and it was a killer. I haven’t had that bad a time since I was on the depakote, which messed with me something awful — known possible side effect, and I hit the side effect jackpot with that particular prescription. Then just as that was slowing down to the point where I could consider maybe leaving the hotel the next day, my husband (who’d been going out by himself, bringing food back periodically, and generally leaving me alone to cuss and wish for menopause) came back with some wrap sandwiches from this little Mediterranean place. He got me a chicken wrap, and the chicken was a bit dry, but I didn’t think much of it. About five hours later I had a case of raging food poisoning. 🙁

That took another couple of days of vacation time.

Once I was a few minutes’ walk from death’s door, we went out and had a some fun. We went to the same dim sum place we went to last year, and the food was just as good. Then we walked up to the Museum of the African Diaspora, which is small but has some cool exhibits. We watched a film about Celia Cruz, the Cuban salsa singer. I’m not really into music much, so I’d never heard of her, but the film was very good, interesting even if it’s not one’s style of music. They had some computerized displays with touch-screen monitors in the walls, about different kinds of foods from Africa, and another set about personal adornment, showing native styles of clothing, jewelry, makeup, hairdos, piercings, pretty much anything, and each style morphed into a style you see today in the modern West, to show descent. I hadn’t thought about that, specifically, matching up modern American styles with traditional African influences, so that was interesting too.

We rode the trolley up to Castro and went to A Different Light. I got a bunch of books, and a couple were even on sale — half off, yay! I like e-books, but I really miss being able to just look and browse. Some of the e-book vendors have done a fair job duplicating the experience (and others need to put a lot more work into it) but there’s nothing like browsing actual books on shelves, you know? I’m not one for buying a lot of gew-gaws or souvenirs on vacation — I don’t hit all the fashion boutiques or the big department stores either — but I’ll usually drop some serious cash in bookstores, so I guess that makes up for it.

After the bookstore, we walked up a few blocks to a little cafe Jim had found online. The food was wonderful — I had a really excellent macaroni and cheese — but the chairs were horrible. They were the kind with the bars coming down from the back, diagonally to attach about a third of the way up either side of the seat. I’m sure that’s a fine style if you’re skinny, but if you’re fat it’s torture, and I’m not even kidding. It’s amazing how many restaurants have chairs like this; for places that sell food, and that make more money if their customers eat more, you’d think they’d want to encourage people to come and eat, and people who eat a lot to come often. Sorry, I was in serious pain well before we were finished, and I’m not going back there no matter how great the food was. 🙁

We took a formal tour on our second-to-last day there; the brochure advertised a bus tour of the city, lunch in Sausalito, and then a trip up to Muir Woods where we could walk around for a while. My Great-Aunt Angie took me on what sounded like almost the exact same bus tour (no Sausalito lunch stop) thirty-some years ago, and the woods had been beautiful, so I was enthusiastic about going again. Jim agreed, so we went. Turned out this one was different. On the tour I took with Aunty, we just drove around the city while the guide did his patter, which was interesting and enjoyable, and then we went to the woods. This time there were nine stops on the tour, seven of them in SF, and it seemed sometimes like we were stopping to get out every three blocks or so. Which would’ve been fine except it started early in the morning and it was cool and dewy (as San Francisco is) and the first stop let us out in a neighborhood street a few blocks from the top of Lombard Street, where we were going to walk down. Getting there, I brushed against some shrubs or something hanging out into the narrow sidewalks, and my leather sandal got wet. So, wet leather strap, swells a bit and roughens, then a long walk down a steep hill with the skin at the top of my foot rubbing against the edge of the wet, rough leather strap with every step. 🙁 By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, I was way past blister — I had an open sore with a couple shreds of skin hanging off, and of course my sandal rubbed on it every time I took a step.

I really wanted to be able to walk around the woods, though, so I skipped about half the remaining stops — just stayed on the bus. It actually wasn’t bad; some of the stops, like Chinatown, were in places I’d been through just a year ago. And as a bonus, once we found a place to park, the driver — who’d been basically silent the whole trip so far — chatted with us and told us a bunch of stuff about Chinatown, which was where he’d grown up. That was pretty cool.

The Palace of Fine Arts is gorgeous, but you mostly go look at it for the outside architecture, and I could see that fine through the bus window. I got out at Grace Cathedral, because it’s beautiful and I haven’t been there since I was in college (I went with a couple of classmates for an art history project), and I looked at the sculpture garden outside the new DeYoung Museum, which was very, umm, modern, and I probably could’ve skipped that too without missing much. Lunch in Sausalito was nice, although we chose a place the tour guide recommended primarily for its speedy service, because you do not want to miss the bus on these tours. 🙂 Then most of the tour folks caught the ferry back to San Francisco with our original guide, while the dozen or so of us going on to Muir Woods got into a smaller bus with a new guide.

If you’ve never been to Muir Woods, I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance because it’s gorgeous. Quiet and dim, huge redwoods, laurels, a little creek running down the middle of the valley… and we saw deer! 🙂 I know that’s kind of a boring, everyday thing for some folks who read this, but it was pretty darned cool for us. The paths are fenced — low, wooden railings on either side — and you’re not supposed to go off the paths. The deer come amazingly close to the paths to feed; it seems like they’ve figured out that so long as they don’t get too close to the path, all the two-legged critters that walk up and down it won’t bother them. The first one, a large doe, was about ten yards or so away. The second, a really small deer our pamphlet said was full-grown, just small, was within about three yards of the path, perched on a big, fallen log and reaching up for leaves over its head. You couldn’t quite have bent over the railing and touched it, but it was pretty close to it. That was pretty amazing. 😀

The valley is narrow, and the path runs on either side of the creek, with a series of numbered bridges. Our guide said that up to bridge three, over to the other side and back was about a mile loop. Up to bridge four and back was two miles. Usually I’d have gone for bridge four, cane and all, but with my foot still torn up I thought bridge three was the more prudent walk, and that one worked fine. We didn’t hurry, and we still got back with plenty of time to spare before leaving; we sat on the railing in the middle of bridge one and just hung out in the quiet, listening to the water for a bit.

The bus took us back to Sausalito, where we took the ferry back to SF. The tour started and ended at the Ferry Terminal building, which is like a three minute walk from the front entrance of our hotel, so that was convenient both ways. At that point I just wanted to collapse and sleep, but I’d made arrangements to see a friend that night, so I took off my sandals and just sort of dozed for a bit.

I’ve known Karen since seventh grade homeroom. She took BART from Livermore, where she lives, to the Embarcadero stop which is about thirty seconds’ walk from our hotel. (It was worth delaying the trip a bit to get back into this hotel — great location. 🙂 ) Karen isn’t a mass transit person, so it was something new for her, but everything went well, both coming over and going home later that evening. I put on my sneakers (lucky I packed two pairs of shoes!) and we went up to the Stinking Rose — the garlic restaurant we went up to last year) taking a cab instead of walking. The prime rib is just as big, and the garlic-cream swiss chard is just as awesome. We had something yummy for dessert, I don’t even remember what, then cabbed back to the hotel. Karen stuck around a bit to talk, then went home; Jim walked her down to the BART station, not only because it was late at night, but to make sure she got on the right train okay, and that all went fine.

The next day, we came home. We got to the airport, checked our baggage, and my pants split. [facepalm] Not the classic up-the-back, luckily, but just the fabric on one side high on the inner thigh. You know, where the fabric gets worn if you’re fat? It was uncomfortable but Jim assured me it didn’t show, so I just ignored it as best I could and we went on. The flight was uneventful, but I lost my pedometer in the cab on the way home from the airport. [headdesk] It’s like Murphy needed a couple of last pokes to remind me he was still on duty after a few good days. 😛

Between this and our last cruise, where I also got sick and sprained my foot, the universe owes us about a dozen completely perfect vacations, seriously, LOL! I’d have had a hard time writing about this in a story and making it sound believable, with one thing piling on top of another, on top of another, on top of another. I don’t think I’ll ever be that good a writer. 🙂 Here’s to October being better. [crossed fingers]