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.

 

 

 


Dec 19 2014

There’s still time to spend your holiday shopping bucks on books by: Jo Walton

Rosemary

JoWalton

Back in 2002, Jo Walton won the Campbell Award for best new writer, and it’s as if she hit the ground running. There seems to be no stopping her — not that we’d want to. Since then she’s added the Mythopoeic Award (for Lifelode, a favorite of mine); the World Fantasy Award (for Tooth and Claw — another favorite); and both the Hugo and the Nebula (for Among Others, another fav — okay, this is getting silly).

I suppose that it’s for Among Others that she is best known. It’s a book about what happens after the villian is defeated and life goes on — and also a book about loving books. If she had never written anything but that, I’d still love her forever for just that book…

But (like Daryl Gregory) one of the remarkable things about her is her range. She seems able to do it all. And put her own twist on it, too.

She’s written a novel of manners; but her novel of manners is a novel of manners in a society of dragons (Tooth and Claw). It sounds like it should be a joke –but damn if she doesn’t make it work, and work well.

And the Small Change series (Farthing, Ha’penny, and Half a Crown), either puts a spin on the traditional “cozy” murder mystery by making it happen in an alternate universe, or puts a spin on the alternate universe story by making it a murder mystery.

Her latest is My Real Children, which is as close as she’s gotten to mainstream fiction — and you know what? If you have someone on your holiday list who only reads mainstream, but who you want to seduce toward the SF/F side, My Real Children might be a nicely subversive move on your part. You should think about it.

She’s got something perfect for every other person on your list too, actually. For the voracious readers, it’s Among Others; for those who like time-twisty tales, it’s Lifelode (alas, not available as an ebook, so order fast!); if they love Jane Austen, it’s Tooth and Claw; and for the lovers of epic fantasy, there’s the Sulien series (The King’s Peace, The King’s Name, and The Prize in the Game).

But for my personal recommendation this time around, I’m going into left field a bit and suggest What Makes this Book So Great.

It’s a collection of short book reviews, and reading it is like having a fascinating conversation with a really intelligent person who knows a whole lot about the kind of books you love. She’ll give you some great insights on books that you’ve already read, while directing you toward lots of books that you might have missed when they first came out. She’s mostly talking about books she likes — so reading it is actually a very glad sort of experience. Enthusiasm and intelligence — all you need is a fireplace and a glass of wine, and it’s the perfect evening’s diversion.

(Please note:  there’s another writer named Jo Walton out there — namely, Jo L. Walton,  aka Jo Lindsay Walton.  Although I wish him well, this is not about him.)

Our Jo Walton’s website

Jo Walton’s books on Amazon

 


Sep 24 2014

News about writers who are not me.

Rosemary

Remember me saying how much I enjoyed the audiobook of Ellen Kushner’s and Delia Sherman’s The Fall of the Kings?  Here’s something cool: Audible has combined all three of the Riverside audiobooks —  Kushner’s Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, and Kushner & Sherman’s The Fall of the Kings — into one big omnibus audiobook called The Swords of Riverside.  

If you already have an Audible account, please notice you can get this omnibus for just one credit.   This is a fantastic bargain.  And if you don’t have an Audible account, they love to tempt you by offering you your first book free when you sign up, and that’s even more of a bargain.  And if you’re not interested in committing to a membership you can always buy the audiobook at the non-member price which is still a bargain, as you’re getting all three for the price of one audiobook.

It’s over 45 hours of pure immersion in the wonderful, mysterious city of Riverside and its denizens.  You can lose yourself in a whole other world for days on end!  If I didn’t already have all three audiobooks, I’d be doing this immediately.

(Please note: The Riverside books contain same-sex romance, so if that puts you off — then heck, why not try something else by Ellen and/or  Delia, like Ellen’s Thomas the Rhymer — sadly, only in print version and not audiobook — or the excellent audiobook of Delia’s YA novel, The Freedom Maze?)

Other news: Jo Walton’s The Just City is available for pre-order at Amazon — and likely also at your favorite non-Amazonian book-buying site, not to mention pre-ordering  from actual bookstores.  Release date is January, but that’s not as far away as it looks, trust me.  And I know she’s finished writing the sequel, The Philosopher Kings, so I can see there won’t be much of a wait between volumes.

I pre-ordered it in the Kindle version, so that when it comes out it will instantly show up on my Kindle.  I love pre-ordering.   I order, then basically forget about it, so it’s like buying a surprise present for myself.  I’m always surprised!

Other other news, being actually about me:  Still worn down, and hauling myself to three days a week of the Day Job.  My boss is deeply happy to have me back. Much has gotten tangled there which now I am laboriously untangling.

And I actually braved New Haven one day, and stopped off  at Hull’s Art Supply to buy a bunch of bookbinding supplies, since I suddenly realized that the supplies I had on hand were Not Right, Not Right At All, and that I wanted a new journal/workbook Immediately If Not Sooner, and that to accomplish this Steps Must Be Taken.  And so I took them.  (Quite soon I must make a trek to Boston to visit the Paper Source in Somerville MA.    Hull’s just doesn’t have the hand-marbled one-of-a-kind papers that the Paper Source carries, although it has everything else I need. )

Simple cover, classy innards.

Simple cover, classy innards.

I also treated myself to a late lunch at the Booktrader Cafe, where once in the misty depths of time, the Fabulous Genrettes used to meet.  The main room at Booktrader seems once to have been some sort of greenhouse or solarium, and so is entirely constructed of glass, including the roof, which fact I love beyond all reason.   I’m always happiest when I can see the sky.


Jan 18 2011

Decisions…

Rosemary

On my Kindle, I had, waiting in the wings, Catherynne M. Valente’s This Is My Letter To The World: The Omikuji Project, Cycle One. I’ve had it for a while now.

But I had not started reading it, because I knew that if I did, I would use all my non-DayJob, non-gym time reading it. And I’m supposed to be using that time writing.

Yes, I was STRONG!

But then…

This morning, my Kindle automatically downloaded my pre-purchased copy of Jo Walton’s Among Others. Pre-purchased because it had not yet been released, but I knew I wanted it. But today it was officially released, so …

Zing! It shows up on my Kindle.

Oh, look, say I. Maybe I’ll just take a peek…

And you can guess the rest.

Seriously, this is such a lovely book.

I ought to read it really fast, so that I can get back to writing…

But I now feel I owe it to The Omikuji Project to read that next, because it’s been waiting so long.

Decisions…

Okay, I’ll finish Jo’s book, then spend some time fictionless (except for my own), and hit Valente’s book sometime next week.

Actually, I want to do everything simultaneously. Alas, not possible.


Dec 18 2010

and I forgot to mention Jo Walton…

Rosemary

…in the list of authors I posted a few posts back.

I have no explanation for the omssion, other than that I was in a rush, and about to hurry off to the DayJob.

Anyway, it’s not too late to add Jo Walton books to your gift-shopping list!

Seriously, I just bought the Kindle version of Among Others. Even though it’s not out yet. Because sometimes the Kindle version comes out first, and I don’t want to wait. As soon as it’s released, zing right on to my Kindle reader.

I’m probably in no danger of having bought something for myself that someone else has bought me for Christmas, because if they buy it for me, they’ll probably buy the hardcover. Which I would be happy to have.


Dec 18 2010

The difference

Rosemary

Over in the comments, Jo Walton and Michael_gr reminded me of some issues that came up when The Steerswoman was first released.

One of which was: Market it as science fiction, or as fantasy?

I couldn’t help wondering, at that time: If people think it’s fantasy, then when those who prefer fantasy realize somewhere down the line that it’s realy science fiction, will they feel cheated? But on the other hand, if people assume it’s fantasy, those who prefer science fiction won’t even pick it up at all!

And won’t this totally screw my sales numbers?

It’s a good question to ask, all these years after the first release. I wonder how much effect that ambiguity did have…

But what happened was this: Del Rey came down on the side of “Market it as SF”:

cover art by Richard Hescox

cover art by Richard Hescox

(See the original on the Northern Arts website, here. Where it is for sale.)

And the British publisher, Pan, went for fantasy:

cover art by John Higgins

cover art by John Higgins

(See the version on Higgins’ website, where you’ll have to click it from a list on the left.)

When I asked Pan why they made that choice, they said that they believed that women would especially like the book, and “more women read fantasy”.

That’s what they said, folks.

Anyway, I like both covers, for different reasons.


Feb 21 2010

Back

Rosemary

Actually, back since Wednesday night.   The blizzard delayed me returning Tuesday, so I had an extra day with Ann Zeddies and Geary Gravel.

Which was lovely indeed.   “Ah,” says I, “I am now inspired both by the excellent convention, and the time spent with my fellow writers,  and shall devote all my time to cranking out out great mounds of brilliant prose.”

All my time aside from the DayJob, that is, which pays the rent and supplies the indispensable health insurance.  You know.

Plus: sick kitty, oh noes!   A certain amount of worry and phone calls and shuttling to the vet was required.   Meds for the kitty worked, thankfully.

Much better now, thanks

Much.  Calmer.  Now.

So, the Convention:

I was not staying at the convention hotel this time — and that really does make a huge difference in the whole experience.

Ann, Geary, my sister and I were all staying in New Hampshire with dear friends who have the most amazing house.   And spending time with them was a treat in itself.

But the convention was less than it could be.     I could not do much on the spur of the moment, could not hang out to all ridiculous hours, could not socialize as much as I wanted to, nor attend many panels that I was not part of myself.

Things I wanted to do but could not: attend either of Kate Nepveu’s program items; attend the reading by Chad Orzel; attend David Anthony Durham’s reading; attend Walter Hunt’s reading; attend anything with Melinda Snodgrass on it; see if I could spend some time with Jo Walton;  see the Zelazny play that was put on ( actually sat down in the audience, then realized that I was really tired, and still had to get back to New Hampshire!); and many more…

On the upside, we were hanging out in the Con Suite, catching a bite to eat, when Melinda Snodgrass sat down with us and just started shooting the breeze (we discussed Facebook); and David Anthony Durham was on a panel with me, so I just turned to him, introduced myself,  and told him how much I was enjoying Acacia (he was all Aw Shucks — so charming!).   And I actually moderated a panel (about the Heroine’s Journey), which I have decided I’m pretty good at, and don’t do often enough.  And I ran into Kate and Chad, and got my copy of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog autographed.   Plus, at my panels, and my autographing, many people made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed my work.

So, good convention –but I wanted more!   Thus, next time: stay at the hotel.

I only managed to attend one science presentation: Geoffrey Landis on NASA’s mission to the sun!   I was so hungry for science that I spent the whole time bolt upright in my chair, jaw dropped in happy astonishment.   I don’t think I blinked once.

Gotta get more of that!


Jan 31 2010

Boskone, yes!

Rosemary

Yep, I’ll be going to Boskone.   It’s one of the two east coast conventions that I rarely miss (the other being Readercon).

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday3pm        The Heroine’s Journey
Lois McMaster Bujold
Greer Gilman
Rosemary Kirstein        (M)
Margaret Ronald
Jo Walton
Is it different from that of the hero? If so, in what ways?

Yes,  I’m the moderator of that one — always an adventure.

Saturday5pm        Autographing

Sunday  12noon     When The Magic Goes Away
David Anthony Durham
Rosemary Kirstein
Tom Shippey        (M)
Jo Walton
Jane Yolen
There is magic and mystery and great beauty. And then the Old Magic
slips away from the forests, the gates to Faerie close, and the last
ships sail to the west. There is a bittersweet memory, perhaps, of
what it was to be more than merely mortal. Explore this theme, and
why it is so potent.

Sunday  1pm        Long Series: What Gives Them Staying Powers?
Jeffrey A. Carver
John R. Douglas        (M)
Alexander Jablokov
Rosemary Kirstein
Alastair Reynolds

Is it just the comfort of returning to a familiar place….or something more? Expound.

I’m  pleased that I’m sharing the panels with this particular collection of writers.   It should be really interesting.

Downside: I won’t be staying at the actual hotel this time, but commuting from the hither side of yon.   So I won’t have my guitar.   Or a place to take a nap, should the pressure of fame overcome me.

(edit: the convention is in Boston, February 12, 13 & 14.)

Hey, come to Boskone!   Here’s the info.