Jun 3 2016

Random updates not all about me

Rosemary

I had a few delays this week due to general life-type chores.  I’ve missed my walks in the woods for several days (which I have discovered makes me sorta cranky).   But I’m back in the saddle, and typing away… and the weekend is nearly upon us.

Current fleurs on desk

Current fleurs on desk

I had the fun of sending out a serious chunk of prose to the Fabulous Genrettes, my writer’s group, for analysis and dissection at our next meeting.  Naturally, I just want them to tell me how brilliant I am!  But, being a pro, I’m willing to be told that I’m only mostly brilliant, and that the prose (ahem) desperately needs some loving care, attention, and bringing-to-heel (AKA rewrites).

Other than that there is, at the moment, little to report on the writing front — largely because I don’t generally blog about the content of what I’m working on, and I don’t post  word counts (as explained in this ancient entry from before I had an office and while I still had a day job).  But I am at it, and looking forward to the weekend, which is prime writing time for me, when I have the entire building to myself.

I’m still currently reading Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, but I always do have trouble reading fiction when I’m also writing fiction, so I have paused for the moment.  Ada’s book both deserves and requires attention; I don’t want to read it sloppily, and I realized that I was doing so — so I stopped.  I’ll get back to it in a bit, when I’m at a good pause-for-a-breather point in my own work.

I’ve also picked up Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats,  which, being non-fiction, doesn’t hijack my fiction-processing faculties.  It includes the text to the famous “Make Good Art” speech, always an inspiration to me.

Meanwhile, Google alerted me that E.C.Ambrose mentioned the Steerswoman series in a blog post on maps… and that reminded me of Ambrose’s own books, and the fact that that her blog is great resource for people interested in the writing process.   There’s all sorts of excellent advice on many subjects relating to writing, like: The uses of location, of detail, suspense, and more.  She knows whereof she speaks and expresses it well.  And she’s taught at the Odyssey Writing Workshop.  All good reasons to check out both her blog and her books.

Lastly: Do not forget about the Con or Bust fundraising auction!    Bidding closes on Sunday at 4PM Eastern time, and there are lots of SF/F- related books objects and memorabilia available, and jewelry and handicrafts. Like a steampunk guitar pick-guard!  Seriously, where else are you going to find one of those?

Photo May 24, 6 40 21 AM

 


Aug 30 2015

Worldcon 2015 — just the readings.

Rosemary

This was the first Worldcon I’ve gone to in — wait while I look it up — Yikes, 11 years.  The last one I attended was Noreascon  4 in Boston in 2004.  (Plenty of other smaller conventions between now and then, of course.)

I wasn’t able to wrangle any spots on the program this year, so I was in pure attendee mode.  Yes, entertain and inspire me, pros!   I’ll sit right here.

One thing I was looking forward to was the readings.

I heard Pat Cadigan, who I’ve been following on Facebook lately.   She’s doing the whole cancer-treatment deal, so of course there’s a certain amount of fellow-feeling on my part.  She looked amazingly good!  And from her posts, it seems she’s doing a lot, so I think she has a lot more energy than I did during my treatment.   Or a lot more feisty-ness, at least.   I quite enjoyed her story “Cancer Dancer,” a fantasy in which A Way Out is offered…  They put her in the Big Room, expecting a big crowd, and there were a good number of people there.  Oh, and did I mention: She won a Hugo this year (Correction: No, that was two years ago — I don’t know why I mixed that up, I was right in the audience this year watching her as she accepted a Hugo on behalf of Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who couldn’t be there, for his novelette, “The Day The World Turned Upside-Down.”  Thanks for catching my mistake, Pat!)

I also heard John Scalzi, the first time I’ve ever been in his audience, I think.  This is a guy who’s a real natural onstage.   There was a story, some general audience interaction, a little ukulele (at a fan’s request), a phone call from his wife,  all good fun.  The story was an not-yet-published urban fantasy, and was quite a neat idea.   About it, Scalzi said (quoting from memory here): “When most writers do urban fantasy, they do chain-smoking elves.  I do actuarial tables.”

I heard Jo Walton do a bit from her upcoming book, Neccessity, the third of her  books based on Plato’s republic.  No spoilers, sorry!   But I did so like the character in the section she read.  He has, shall we say,  a unique point of view.  Also, Socrates was present, so of course: dialog!

I’ve known E.C. Ambrose (alias Elaine Isaak) for ages, and yet this was the first time I’d ever heard her read.   She read a section from a prequel to her Dark Apostle series, and when she was done, I said, out loud, before any applause: “Wow!”   It was quite exciting!  Elaine  reads really well, and the prose was strong, the characters were very clear, the scenes were filled with tension, and later, action —  really a good performance of good work.

I was also looking forward to Daryl Gregory’s reading — you know how I much I like his stuff.

 

Daryl Gregory's reading. Not shown: Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory’s reading. Not shown: Daryl Gregory

We were there!  He was not.

I used Twitter to good effect, tweeting him the photo above, captioned: “@darylwriterguy Daryl Gregory where RU? (snf).”  Sabine commented that perhaps he hadn’t recovered from the Afterparty (a name of one of his books, how do you not know that?).   A fan nearby overheard her and tweeted to Gregory: “There was too much Pandemonium at the Afterparty, so @darylwriterguy missed his reading but We Are All Completely Fine.”   Shortly thereafter, Gregory scurried in, all apologies.  He had mixed up the times on his reading and the one after (Jack Skillingstead, who was sitting right there in the audience with us).  There was no time left to read, but Gregory proceeded to charm us, and amuse us and gave away some books.  It worked!  He’s a hard guy not to like.

And since we were right there, we just stayed for Jack Skillingstead‘s reading.  I had never read anything of his before, and it was quite worth hearing.  I might look him up now.

I’ve been reading Kay Kenyon lately — Sabine recently turned me on to her stuff, and I quite enjoy what I’ve read so far.   So, we caught her reading as well.   The excerpt she read didn’t quite grab me — but I’m definitely going to keep digging in to her work.

But for me, star of the show: Ada Palmer, who read from her upcoming first novel Too Like the Lightning, a story set centuries from now, but told with the tone and style and language of an 18th-century memoir.   It sounds like it should be a gimmick, but it’s not —  it’s a brilliant move, and the execution was spot-on.  I was utterly fascinated, and then frustrated that it won’t be released until next year!  I shall pre-order, needless to say.

Well, you wanted to hear about more than the readings, didn’t you?  But alas: out of time!   I’ll  talk about the other stuff later…

If you wanted an update on the whole Hugo awards vs. Puppies business — there are plenty of sources.  You don’t need me to repeat it right?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about there, here’s an article in the Chicago Tribune on the subject.

Also, you can watch the streaming of the whole ceremony at this link.

 


Feb 21 2015

Boskone in the blizzard

Rosemary

For the last few years, Boskone has been held at the BostonWestin Harborside —  a seriously upscale hotel.  Why this is the case, I do not know… you’d think that a less-expensive location would attract more attendees.   It’s a bit of a squeeze to be able to afford the weekend.

But I have to say that this year I actually appreciated the amenities.   Having returned to the day-job, being a bit more tired from that, and uncertain about my energy level after all the treatments of various kinds — it was nice to just pay the money and take it easy.

25 year old Macallan.   The best scotch I've ever had in my life...

25 year old Macallan. The best scotch I’ve ever had in my life…

 

Park in the expensive hotel garage, dine at the restaurants.   Relax in the hotel lounge/bar/atrium, with the indoors birches, and gaze out the three-storey-tall wall of glass at the MAJOR BLIZZARD outside.  Pretty nice.

In between the sessions of snowplowing.

In between the sessions of snowplowing.

I was on only two panels, which was about all I could reasonably handle this time around, I think.

One was on cross-influences between music and science fiction/fantasy, which evolved into mainly a discussion about how filk music has expanded from from jokey parodies and developed into simply music with sf/f themes.    Much was said by persons far more erudite than myself, and I feel I learned a lot.

The second was on world-building: how we do it, and how we communicate it.   This was a lot of fun.  My co-panelists were Myke Cole, Peadar O Guilin, Lauren Roy, and E. C. Ambrose (aka Elaine Isaak), who also served as moderator.

I have to say that Elaine is a brilliant moderator — as well as having a lot to say as a participant.   She kept things moving, brought up great topics, and did it all with grace and aplomb.

I believe that what made it so interesting was first, the range of viewpoints represented; and second, our willingness to step up and disagree with each other (in a civilized way).  Myke set the tone on this, by announcing  up front that he was by nature a very vehement person, and warned us that he’d state his opinions in a strong manner, but that it didn’t mean that he didn’t respect our opinions — it’s just the way he was.  I now feel that every panel should begin with a similar announcement by someone, because we were off and running.  I believe no one held back.  This made for a lively exchange, and a good overview of all the different ways to make your world-building work.

What are those ways?

Well, there’s the minimalist approach (Myke’s choice), where you create just enough world to have the illusion of there being more world behind it — like the plywood cut-outs of houses used in old movie sets.   The reader creates the sense of the world by the clues and cues given by the author.
Then there’s the wide, deep, detailed world, of which the reader only sees the bit pertaining to the story at hand (As J.R.R. Tolkein did).

And there are all sorts of ranges in between the extremes.

And there’s my approach, which is a sort of feedback loop, where you might create some aspect of a world in order to justify a particular dramatic point, which  aspect then generates other details about the world (or necessitates actual research!), which then in turn inspire further dramatic points — and  repeat until the world or society reaches the required level of depth and breadth.

As for how your world is communicated: Elaine had a lovely demonstration (which she uses when teaching writing), where she has people take out a penny, and look at the penny, and see just how much the simple existence of this tiny object communicates about the society that uses it.    There are obvious things it tells us, such as that metal is used by this culture — but did you ever notice that there are two languages on a penny?  And that there are examples of clothing, and architecture?   And she said more — I won’t tell it all.   But that was such a smart thing to say, and such a smart thing to make us notice.

And lots more was said — about research, and inspiration (Peadar spoke of looking for the extremes; I spoke of flipping expectations).    It was all fun and interesting.   I’d do that again, with the same line-up, in a heartbeat.

Non-paneling, just hanging around…

Jo Walton introduced me to Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller of the a capella group Sassafrass, and we were treated to a couple of stunning tunes from the Norse Myth song cycle/play that Ada wrote.   Even with just the two singers, the songs were amazing, and moving.

At one point I actually borrowed a guitar and sang and played Buddy Mondlock’s “The Kid”, which I thought I could handle… but my voice is still shredded, and my breath control non-existent, and my fingers wouldn’t do all the fiddly bits of the arrangement I use, so I had to simplify on the fly… but it felt good.  Time to put in some practice and get my serious chops back.

Here’s Buddy himself doing the song:

You know,  I seem to be the only person who does the third verse these days (“I’m the kid who fell asleep at the movies…”).   Possibly because it’s rather a long song when it’s included… But it was on the lyric sheet included with the cassette (!) when I bought it ages ago, and I do love that verse.

Also, I had an autograph session!

 

The crowds at my autograph session

The crowds at my autograph session

Oh, and I did a reading.

About which, more later.