Oct 31 2019

Somehow still trying to catch up


Summer and Autumn have been unusually busy for me — a lot more chunks of travel than I generally do in so short a time.  I seem to be having a lot of trouble getting my feet back under me…

I’m one of those introverts who can happily operate as an extrovert — for a limited period of time.   But after a certain point, I need to go off, be alone, and sort reassemble my personality.  But by stacking up my social interactions this closely, it looks like the down-times between events just aren’t enough.  I’ve basically overloaded my central processor and am operating at a decidedly sub-0ptimal clock speed.

But everything I was doing was so very interesting!  Couldn’t miss out on any of it, right?

Well.  One more spate of socializing, and I’ll basically hunker down for the rest of November.

November is National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo), and no, I’m not planning to sign up for that.   But what I will do is take the month of November off from working on Book 5 (and/or Book 6, and/or the linked &YA novel), and work on a completely unrelated short-ish story.  Because I need to think about something else for a while!   Something with a definite endpoint.  I’ve been banging my head against the issues in Books 5 and 6, I seem to be going in circles.  Clearly, I need to step away for a bit.  November sounds good for that.  Plus: hey, short story!  Well, short-ish.

I generally forego big Thanksgiving holiday trips and extended visits, so November is my traditional time to shut out the world and let it eat turkey without me.  Although, I will show up for leftovers.  If it doesn’t involve an overnight.

Some of what’s been keeping me busy:

This was my second year attending Scintillation in Montreal–  actually, it was only the second year of Scintillation’s existence.

This is a lovely small convention, with an excellent  collection of  guests.  The hotel is a Holiday Inn right at the edge of Montreal’s Chinatown, with fascinating walking areas, and great food and sights. Although, this time I didn’t do as much walking around town as last year.   I do think I want to make sure that I don’t skip that next year.

Hotel lobby with convenient restaurant and koi pond. Plus: labyrinthine paths over the water.


Friendly fishies.

Some standout moments:

I attended a reading by A.E. Prevost, who is also one of the proprietors of Argo Bookshop. I had never read anything by Prevost, and came to their reading completely cold, and was absolutely delighted.  I do wish I could recall the name of the story, however; it’s a work in progress, and I do not want to miss it when it’s published.

I was on a panel about designing aliens, with Alison Sinclair, Diane Kelly, Jim Cambias and Ferret Steinmetz, which was a lot of fun — and later had an especially interesting conversation with Diane, who is a biologist at UMass Amherst, and Jim, who it turns out is her husband.  (I nabbed one of Jim’s books, but I’m so incredibly behind in my reading!  So I cannot speak knowledgeably about A Darkling Sea yet, but I do possess a copy!)

Jo Walton‘s reading was especially wonderful.  She read from the start of Or What You Will, a book certain to break the heart (in a good way) of any writer who reads it.   The excerpt certainly did that for me.  And she also read some of her best poems, so… I was blown away on two entirely separate fronts.


Or What You Will by [Walton, Jo]


Ruthanna Emrys had a reading as well, from an upcoming work (whose title escapes me, darn it!).  It’s the second time I heard her read from this book, and I keep liking it better and better.  You know, it just makes sense: when you’re meeting the aliens, if your baby’s diaper happens to need changing, you just stop and change the damn diaper.  That’s life.

Su J. Sokol read from the sequel to Cycling to Asylum.   The section she read was compelling enough that I instantly bought the Kindle version of  Cycling to Asylum so I could get up to speed!

Cycling to Asylum

Su and I were also on a program item together, which was, um, an interview of me.

This is the third time in my life that I’ve been in the spotlight in some way, and it felt a bit unlikely, a bit unreal… until it actually started.  Su and I just basically had a conversation; she made the whole process quite simple and enjoyable.  And the audience was full of wonderful people, and I was amazed, and touched by their attention and appreciation.   I want to say more about this, but — later.  I need to mull this over a bit.

For my own reading, I read from the beginning of Book 5 — and then did a change-up and also read from the beginning of Book 6.   Alas, I had forgotten that when reading the start of Book 6, it’s a good idea to practice it out loud first; there’s a specific rhythm to the way people in The Crags speak, and when I don’t prepare, my delivery can falter.  Which it did.  But it was still fun

I’m going to have to pause here, since (as usual; will I never learn?) I’ve left blogging to the end of the day and the end of the day has come and gone, and the beginning of the day already looming.  Must sleep, and then prep to leave again, and then leave, and then come back.

So, more later.  (Unless that short story is going really well, in which case I will be busy!)


View from the footbridge just outside my office building.


Oct 20 2018

Scintillation, Part the Third.


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.


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.