Oct 20 2018

Scintillation, Part the Third.

Rosemary

There were two other panels that I participated in, both well worth the time.

One was on Writing a Series, with Ruthanna Emrys, Sherwood Smith, Debra Doyle (with her oft-times collaborator Jim MacDonald commenting from the audience), and Fran Wilde.  Many issues were covered, including: planned series vs. accidental series ;   secondary characters who end up getting their own story;  famous series and what makes them good, bad or indifferent;  series where the milieu is the integrating element, with multiple simultaneous series weaving in and out.

In that last category, the prime example is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  There are so many threads going on in that world: the witches; the wizards of Unseen University; Sam Vimes and the Night Watch; Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men; Moist von Lipvig, the reformed con artist who keeps getting dumped into important bureaucratic positions —  what am I leaving out? Because there’s more.  We took a little time reminding ourselves about how wonderful those books are.  They aren’t just charming and humorous; they include some true and deep observations about the human condition, and it’s so clear how much Pratchett just loved his characters.  And he didn’t just love them himself; he had a level of skill that allowed him to bring us right into the story, and love them too.  He was so wonderful. I’ll miss him forever.

Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan  series was held up as a good example of a series that follows one character across his or her life, and the panelists and audience had much to say about how they loved that series…  But alas, inexplicably, it has just never managed to grab me. I can’t explain it.  There seems to be nothing wrong at all with the books.  I simply fail to engage fully.  I’ve tried lots of times!  I suppose I ought to try each and every book, just to be sure.  Maybe there’s an entry point that will open it all up for me.  Because once I’m in, there will be a lot more available!  And I do feel a bit left out… Fortunately, Bujold does not need me.  She has plenty of people who love what she does, and more power to her, I say.

As for the authors in the panels:  Fran Wilde spoke of always having a plan, but also always going off-plan.  She needs the plan to exist, but never sticks to it.  Ruthanna spoke of having a place she wants the story to go, but not always knowing how she’s going to get there (I believe it was her who said that… I might be misremembering).  I told of how I always know where I want the story to end up, and really do like to have a planned structure to the story, which lets me tell tales that are integrated and interlocking; but the moment- to-moment writing happens at the keyboard, and I’m open to surprises, too.

The third Panel was “Where are the Books Like Pandemic?” with Alison Sinclair, Eugene Fischer and Ruthanna Emrys.   Pandemic is a board game, one that is unusual in that the players are not set against each other.  Instead, everyone cooperates toward a common goal — preventing the pandemic of the title.  I haven’t played it myself (yet; Sabine bought it), but I’m looking forward to it.  And the topic of the panel was:  What are the books that work that way?  Books that have no villain, that don’t pit person against person, but involve people working together for a solution to a problem?

Jo was supposed to be the moderator, but was called away for a family emergency.  Her role was ably covered by Emmet O’Brien, who did a bang-up job and introduced us to the idea (he was quoting someone, but I missed who it was — was it Jo’s son Sasha?) that the three types of plot can be expressed as “Man vs. Man, Man vs. Plan, and Man vs. Canal,”

And as we talked the issue through, it did become clear that most non-adversarial novels tended to fall under “Man vs. Canal.” There was a thing, a physical thing that had to be done, and we got together and did it, hurrah!  Blow up the asteroid, explore the alien world, make that starship.  I brought up Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky as in that category.  Let’s Terraform Ganymede!  But then we had to take time out to collectively grind our teeth at 1950’s Heinlein’s attitude towards women, and his assumption that a Real Man knows how to do All the Things,

I made sure to bring up what I consider a prime example of a cooperative novel that is not  in the (Hu)man vs. physical thing category:

Geary Gravel’s novel has no villain, and no big physical survival challenge for the characters to solve.  Instead, it’s a group of people gathered together to address an idea, an assumption held by a civilization.  It almost functions, in some ways, as the intellectual equivalent of a classic heist movie: individuals are selected according to the particular skill they each posses, and the organizer has to convince them to undertake this great cooperative task.

And… I’ve stayed up way too late again.  But that does cover the official parts of my visit to Montreal.

Next up: The unofficial parts.

 

 


Oct 18 2018

Scintillation in Montreal, Part One.

Rosemary

Way back on Monday of last week, I got back from Scintillation, the brand-new small convention in Montreal that Jo Walton started up via Kickstarter.

For years Jo had been throwing a  big yearly event called the Farthing party (after one of her novels), and this year she wanted to convert it into a more formal convention.  Using Kickstarter to fund it, she managed to get enough interest to keep it going for the next couple of years.

So: success!

The event itself was delightful.  After going to so many humongous conventions across the years, it was nice to attend one that wasn’t overwhelming, but was still interesting at every turn.  It was a great bunch of guests (not least of whom was the amazing Jo herself), plenty of opportunity to both hold forth on a panel and chat informally, a pleasant hotel, and a brand-new city to visit.

I  did not catch any of Ada Palmer’s panels, but I did get to hear her and her Sassafras companions perform on Saturday night.  They did some Renaissance tunes and selections from Ada’s Norse mythology song cycle, “Sundown”.   Jo added to the entertainment by reading a selection of her poems.  The woman seems to just generate sonnets spontaneously — I don’t know how she does it.  Makes me a bit jealous, actually.

I had some lovely conversations with friends old and new, like Ruthanna Emrys and her wife Sarah. I caught Ruthanna’s reading, where she read first from  Winter Tide, Book 1 of the Innsmouth Legacy; and then a bit from her upcoming novel, The Fifth Power (link has slight spoilers!), which was really quite a treat.  I’ve already fallen in love with the characters — protagonist and spouse had to pause to change the baby’s diapers while investigating an alien fortress.  My kinda people.

 

Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy) by [Emrys, Ruthanna]

Jo read from an upcoming work, as well, one scheduled for release next year:

Without giving too much away, it’s about Savanarola, who was apparently not the S.O.B. you thought he was.  The part Jo read made me smile, and at a couple of points laugh out loud.   Really looking forward to this one.

Sabine and I also had a nice dinner and conversation with Alison Sinclair, who I met a couple of years ago at and before Worldcon in Kansas City.

You really should check out Alison’s Darkborn Trilogy; she’s used such an interesting setup for her world and society.   I’ve only read the first one, and really enjoyed it — but Sabine’s read them all and can’t say enough good things about them!

Another discovery of Sabine’s:

Arabella of Mars (The Adventures of Arabella Ashby Book 1) by [Levine, David D.]

I bumped into David at the giveaway table — literally, as I physically bumped into him, and also knocked all his books off the table as I was setting up mine, causing him to view me askance as I dithered through an apology.  But Sabine glommed onto his first book, and fell in love instantly.   She got all the sequels, and is now full of enthusiasm about how delightful they are.  High adventure!  Plucky heroine!  You  should take her advice and check them out. I plan on doing exactly that myself.

As for me: I had three panels and a reading.   I read the bits that I previously read at Readercon, so if you went to that, you didn’t miss anything new…

But the panels were an interesting selection —  and I’ll say more about them tomorrow (running out of time today)…  Let’s just say that the words “chuffed” and “gobsmacked” both apply.

 

Chuffed.

 


Feb 16 2018

The Lost Steersman is up, but oddly not linked

Rosemary

Apparently Amazon did not recognize that the new paperback version of The Lost Steersman is a new paperback version of the previously-existing Kindle version, and I had to go tell them!  If you’ve been looking for it, you might not have found it merely by asking Amazon to show you all the books by Rosemary Kirstein.   The fix should take in a day or so, but in the meatime, here’s a handy link!

 

Also, searching for “The Lost Steersman” will get you there.  Apparently this linking process is less automatic than I had assumed.   I do believe I had to do that for The Outskirter’s Secret as well.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the physical proof copy of The Language of Power.  It should be here on Wednesday, and I’m almost certain that there will be no issues, and I’ll be able to approve it to go live that day!  The assistance of my voluteers has made working on that book far less angst-ridden than on the previous.  Many errors that would have slipped by my bleary eyes were spotted by the volunteers.

Yikes, I’m beat.  That’s way too much time spent publishing and not enough time spent writing!  But it’s done.

In celebration I’m heading to Boskone tomorrow — not as a participant but as a mere attendant, where I shall delight in hearing fascinating panels, and engaging in conversations with intelligent people.  I’ve been sort of locked in a box lately, and I must get out into the world!

I did get out last weekend for a day, when Sabine and I, with our pals Rob and Jan Walker, participated in an escape room adventure at Mystified in Mystic, CT.  It was great fun!  This particular outfit has a real steam-punk mentality that we appreciated.

Also: in between iterations of corrections and cover-creation, I’ve diverted and amused myself with Jo Walton’s latest book, a collection of her short works.

Starlings by [Walton, Jo]

I have written exactly two short stories, but have ambitions to write more of them.  I find Jo’s collection to be a particularly nice set of examples of the different forms that short works can take.  There are linked vingnettes, structured stories, short-shorts, fictional musings, fictional correspondences, and my personal favorite, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction,” (read it for free on Tor.com) which I have no idea what to call, but which is deeply clever and well-executed.

In the introduction, she does some explaining about what she believes does and does not contsitute an actual story, and when an idea is best for a story rather than an novel — but I’m going to have to have some deep discussions with her when I see her next, because I don’t quite agree, I think…  I love her idea of “mode”, but the “weight” of the ending… ?  Hm.  She might be using “weight” not to mean importance, but something else…

Must go now or I’ll be up too late to get out early to hit the road!


Sep 2 2016

Some things

Rosemary

Still on the home version of a writing retreat. Sort of like house arrest, but with writing.  Plus, at my office instead of at home.

Planning board. Post-it notes to come. Bonus writing advice.

Planning board. Post-it notes in waiting. Bonus writing advice. (Click to embiggen.)

No blogging, I am hard at work! But as consolation, here are Some Things possibly of interest:

1. Cool video! You should go full-screen.

 

2. Articles by Jo Walton on Tor.com about her Thessaly Series.

The Baroque Inspiration

The Platonic Inspiration

The Original Inspiration

3. Couldn’t make it to WorldCon?  You can watch the entire Hugo Awards Ceremony on UStream.
Live Streaming Api (The Campbell award, with first bonus astronaut, is at 34:00.  Best Dramatic Presentation, long form, with second bonus astronaut, is at about 1:08.  Hey, I like astronauts. Fiction awards start at about 1:24.)

That’s it for now.  Must put post-its on whiteboard, draw connecting lines, and muse further.

 


Jul 30 2016

I keep doing this!

Rosemary

I keep waiting until the end of my day to write a blog post…

La-di-da, I say to myself, about time to go home, oh, I think I’ll just knock off a quick blog post...

Hours later:

Well, hours later it’s hours later.

Because there I am, tweaking the pics, checking on the links I’m using, looking up cool things, researching that last snappy bit of wisdom, to make sure I don’t make a total idiot of myself as I impart it. (You cannot make a paper airplane hover between two fans.  Can Not.)

Let’s see if I can do this in under an hour, shall we?

General news: I got my preliminary schedule for the panels at MidAmeriCon, this year’s Worldcon:

Writing Major Minor Characters

Do you ever read a book and come across a character that is so wonderful you want to know everything about them, yet you know you never will because they aren’t the main character? Such characters add immeasurably to our reading experience and yet they are very hard to write. This session discusses how to do just that.

Time – Wednesday 16.00

 

Hard Fantasy – Does it Exist?

“I’m going to write about what Tove Jansson called “the lonely and the rum,” the unschoolable and ungroupable, those strange and shaggy literary creatures that have no ilk or kin and that mathematically can be contained in no set smaller than the set of all sets contained in no other sets’.  (Micheal Swanwick).  Does Hard Fantasy have a place in fantasy literature, and how should we approach it?

Friday, 19.00. 2206

 

“Transcending” the Genre

Critics still use the term “transcending the genre,” but what does that really mean? And what does that mean for fandom – have we gone mainstream? Or are we experiencing snobbish reactions rooted in fannish history? What happens to the discourse when Zadie Smith talks about reading Octavia Butler, or Marlon James says his next novel will be “an African Game of Thrones”? At the end of the day, do we really want all the genre walls to disappear? Do we want to completely transcend genre?

Time – Sunday 13.00

Of the above, I think I’ll have the most to say about the Major Minor characters.  It’s something I love doing.

In addition to those, I’ll also be on an panel about living with cancer (if you’re just joining us, I spent 2014 and most of 2015 being treated for breast cancer, with great success).   I don’t know yet what time that will take place.

I think I also requested a Kaffeeklatsch, but I can’t recall if I requested a reading!  Ack!  It would be good to know, as I have to decide what to read!

Although Worldcon itself is over two weeks away, I’ll be traveling or otherwise occupied for much of the run-up to it, so I’m already having little stress-fits about the prep.  Well.  All will work out, in the end, I’m sure.

Last weekend I spent some time visiting pal and fellow Genrette Laurie J. Marks and her wife Deb Mensinger, in their vintage bungalow, which they are in the process of lovingly restoring to its early-20th-century glory.  Deb knows what she’s about, being a professionally trained preservation carpenter.

Ravens figure largely in Laurie's Elemental Logic series.

Ravens figure largely in Laurie’s Elemental Logic series.

Laurie also knows what she’s about, as couple of hours of conversation about our respective current projects resulted in me helping her solve one of her plot problems, and her helping to solve the basic major problem I was wrestling with in Book 5 –  so that now I am currently mostly wrapped up in solidifying that central fix, and setting the book onto the path of righteousness, AMEN.    After which will merely remain the writing of it.   Which sounds like the hard part, but trust me, it’s not.

Other news:

Hey, look, Ada Palmer was interviewed by Scientific Amercian about her novel, Too Like the Lightning.  Holy smokes.

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of reading Jo Walton’s, Necessity, which takes some unexpected and rather fun turns.   But I do occasionally want to kick certain gods in their butts.  Not namin’ any names, here.

 

Oh, look, I found some orange roses.

Oh, look, I found some orange roses.

See that guitar?  Been practicing.

 


Feb 29 2016

More news about other people, one of whom could be YOU.

Rosemary

Remember the Schrodinger Sessions?  I talked about them last year.  They were a workshop on quantum physics, specifically created for science fiction writers. I was thrilled last year when my application was accepted, and even more thrilled during the three days of the workshop.  It was fascinating, elucidating, mind-blowing and emotionally uplifting.

Well, word has come down the pipeline that they’re going to be doing it again this year.   So…

Are you a writer?  Specifically, a writer of science fiction?  Do you need a better grip on this subject?   This is your chance.  You might end up spending three days eyeballs-deep in real, non-hand-waving scientific theory, led by real working scientists.

Cooling with lasers.

Applications aren’t open yet, but soon — so keep your eye open.  I’ll put up a note here when I hear further news.  Meanwhile here’s the website for last year’s event, so you can read more about it.

A similar thing exists for Astronomy, called Launch Pad, and it’s been going on for several years now.   The deadline for applications for that is — oops!  March 1.  Well, if you move fast you can still apply.  I never have, for different reasons each year.  This year’s reason: I can’t take the time out of my writing schedule.  But YOU could try for it!

My only regret about the Schrodinger sessions is that I haven’t been able to use what I learned yet —  because I’ve been deep in a long-term project that does not involve quantum physics (AKA the rest of the Steerswoman books).  I couldn’t step away long enough to turn to a different project last year, nor this year, probably.    But the whole experience has gone into the hopper.  We’ll see what comes out soon enough.

Other things YOU could be doing:

Do you like poetry?  You remember that Mary Alexandra Agner has a Patreon whereby you can support her science-inspired poetry, and get poems sent to you monthly, right?   I’m pleased to be one of her patrons…

Well, Jo Walton also writes poetry, with a wider range of inspirational sources — and Jo Walton now has her own Patreon account to support that effort. I really enjoy Jo’s poems, which I read on her blog regularly.  So I signed up to demonstrate my support with actual cash money.   You could do that, too!

(Okay.  Back to the unweaving of my currently-wrongly-woven tale, so that I can reweave it into what I should have been weaving in the first place.  I blame the day job.  Which is gone now.  So, you know: time to get it right.)

 


Dec 20 2015

Yes, the dreaded chores of officaldom ate my week…

Rosemary

… but only because I was still fighting that dratted cold/flu thing.    Not at my sharpest, I’m afraid, and yet still had to do all those official-type things previously mentioned, plus one more that I had not even known about.

Apparently, on acquiring an off-site office for my writing, I became an Actual Business in the eyes of my town’s tax code.   And the other day I got a call from the Town Assessor’s office about property tax on the contents of my office.   I had not filed a thing I was supposed to file but never knew about, involving money that I should have paid them!   They were not angry, just concerned.

Much discussion, with two different people at the Assessor’s office.   They did not know quite what to make of me… I don’t manufacture anything, I have no clients, I’m not a service nor a consultant.  And yet, I have a location, and objects in it, used in the course of plying my trade.  It seems that I’m the only actual real author they ever had to deal with!   I guess all the other authors have offices in their home or in their attics.

I had sad visions of getting hit with a bill that would make it impossible for me to afford maintaining my beloved workspace… But not to fear.   After the complex detailed form was completed (carefully confirming that I did not have any horses or ponies, did not store farm equipment, did not have any manufacturing equipment, etc), it looks like my tax bill will be a whopping $35, or thereabouts.

I’m pretty sure I can handle that.

Eight pages of this.

Eight pages of this.

So, all is well.   Plus, I am now known at Town Hall, which is always a good idea.

And the cold is almost gone, just in time for Christmas.  And all my really important shopping is done.   Well, urgent shopping, anyway.  There are people I don’t see until well after the holidays, which means that I can snag prezzies at sale prices.  Heh.

News about people who are not me:

nec

Jo Walton has revealed the cover of her next book, following on The Just City and The Philosopher Kings.   This will be coming out in June, which is a long away away, alas…

But if you want something Right! Now! , and you loved Ellen Kushner’s  Riverside (from Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and The Fall of the Kings — her collaboration with Delia Sherman), do check out the Riverside-inspired stories being released in serial form by Serial Box.   You can have ebook versions or audio versions, and I’m going to get one set, but I haven’t decided which yet.  And I do believe that there are more on the way.  (Also, check out the cool hand-cut silhouette art that illustrates the “covers.”)

And sad news: the famous Emmy, co-star of Chad Orzel’s How to Teach (Quantum) Physics to Your Dog and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog has passed away.  I’m sad I never got to meet her. In my mind,  she will live forever, trying to chase quantum bunnies around both sides of trees.

 


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.

 


Apr 4 2015

So, this thing happened to Jo Walton…

Rosemary

… where she won the Tiptree Award!  

It was a tie, actually between Jo’s My Real Children and Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road (which I have not read, but now must).

I think Jo is rapidly running out of awards to win… She seems to have gotten them all, for one work or another.  At least in literature.

What’s left?  Well… Pulitzer and Nobel, I suppose.  Just a matter of time now.

I’m so pleased about this!

The Tiptree, if you’re not familiar with it, is given to works that explore gender issues — which I had sort of forgotten that My Real Children did, since gender as such wasn’t the main focus of the book.   But it does examine attitudes towards gender, and expectations of  gendered behavior.  And it does so in a very interesting way; you should check it out, if you haven’t already.

In other news: No news from the Schrodinger Sessions people, which leads me to suspect I have not been selected (insert frowny face emoji).  Well, if it’s a success, maybe they’ll repeat next year, and I’ll try again.

Also:  Chaos at the Day Job!  Bizarre acts of management, with explanations for said actions to be provided one week later at a company meeting.  It’s very odd, and I’ll let you know more when the shakedown is done shaking.

Plus: I didn’t make it to Eastercon in England, which I had sort of been considering of attending, as compensation for having to cancel out of Worldcon last year.   But ongoing ominous rumblings at the Day Job encouraged me to hang on to my savings instead, until I knew for certain whether I could spare the bucks.  I had to give Uncle Sam a whole chunk in taxes, so… I figured I’d wait for a bit.

Lots of stuff seems to be up in the air….

 

 

 


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.