|Farthing Party con report: III
||[Oct. 19th, 2013|12:05 pm]
Been completely smashed by work. Wrote this earlier in the week but never got around to posting it due to the tired.
9/28 - 3:30 - John M. Ford
This ended up being more a memorial panel than a discussion panel. As mrissa noted in her Con Report, this was probably inevitable - there is a great deal of chewy stuff that one could dig into in any given Mike Ford novel, and they are sufficiently different from each other that it would be challenging to generalize except at a very high level.
* JMF changed the rules of every form he worked in. For example, in Original Series Star Trek novels, Kirk & Spock must now appear as non-infants, and before page 120 or so.
* He had a horror of being obvious. If he had a fault as a writer, it was in the opposite direction. His work does not resemble itself particularly, and came out during a time period when this was more or less career suicide. These days, editors can tell their marketing staff things like, "Don't sweat that every one of her books is in a different subgenre - she's Gene Wolfe." This was not a viable option at the time.
* Mike did amazing work in gaming as well as SFF. He wrote the award-winning Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues for Paranoia, as well as GURPS Time Travel, in which he explained time travel's possibilities in depth for basically nothing. (That's a 100+ page sourcebook for ~$2,000. Writing RPG books is just not worth it economically unless you're writing for WotC, as I have grounds to know)
* Mike had a very strong moral sensibility - not the censorious kind, but the genuinely humane sort - both in private life and in his work. On hearing a story about foster children getting up from table before dessert and explaining it by saying "Ice cream is for your real children," his response was, "There's more of human evil in that than in all of Hannibal Lecter."
* Mike died intestate, which led to huge issues due to his (hostile) family getting the rights to his work and denying publication. If you're a writer, make a will that addresses your literary estate. (Also, get used - or new, where available - copies of Mike Ford's books and pass them around. They're brilliant.)
* Mike's unfinished novel, Aspects, will be released by Tor relatively soon. It's scaled-up continental fantasy w/ Trains, and Tooth & Claw was written in conversation with it. Multiple panelists felt strongly that it should have been a key part of the fantasy genre's conversation with itself for the last decade or so.
* (To JMF) "Mike, you've lost me here, and if you've lost me, then you've lost a lot of other people."
* "Mike was better at leaving me confused and being okay with it than anyone else."
* "Mike had this weird tendency to get bad copy edits, for some reason."
* JMF quote in response to copy edits: "I think someone is being stupid here and I don't think it's me."
* (Paraphrased) "Mike's work was proof that excellence is possible. It's right there, look!"
|Farthing Party con report: II
||[Oct. 6th, 2013|09:29 pm]
So the density of my notes trailed off a bit as the con went on, based on whether I was on the panel or not, and a variety of other factors. Later installments will probably be shorter.
9/28 - 12 PM - Black Wine
This panel was a discussion of Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine, which won multiple awards (The Tiptree, the Prix Aurora, and the Crawford) when it was released in 1996 and sank without a trace commercially. It's just been reprinted by Five Rivers Press.
Candas was one of my Clarion West instructors, way back in 2000, and I read the Hawaii State Library's copy of Black Wine before going to Clarion. I recall finding it disturbing and unsettling on several fronts, though apparently not as intense as some of the panelists and other audience members did.
Black Wine can be argued to be either SF or Fantasy because it never explains itself, and doesn't provide the reader clear cues as to how it should be read. In fact, large swaths of the setting aren't described in any detail, forcing the reader to fill in the other details for themselves. It's pretty clear that this was a deliberate choice; Black Wine absolutely doesn't straddle genres by accident. The gothic and horror elements contrast with the SFnal and fantastic ones in ways that refuse the reader clarity as to what sort of book they're reading.
The original Tor cover was black-on-black, minimalist, and a clear marketing failure. Of the people in the panel and in the audience who hadn't had the book recommended to them, a good number of them picked it up by mistake. (I read it because I wanted to read at least one thing by each of my instructors, a goal which I signally failed to meet. I also managed to read The Deep, which was possibly the least representative John Crowley novel I could've read.) Many thought it would be a classical or modern gothic novel - and, to be fair, it has a fairly gothic sensibility - but the consensus was that Black Wine undermines the Gothic's conventions by having the things behind the tapestry be *truly horrible*, and not providing last-minute saves for its POV characters.
Despite all this, the pacing of revelation in Black Wine is slow, and the narrative threads join up at a leisurely pace. This leaves readers with lots of room to try to piece together its world. 7 languages are mentioned, and the inability to express ideas in a particular language is used for character development. Differences in technology and resources across cultures cut in several ways; there are cultures of airship sailors and sea-bound merchanters who don't really like each other and have different traditions. The book is full of different cultures, spread across a wide variety of climactic zones - it's a whole planet. Men can have kids together; Women too; and who knows how it works? Not the reader. Lots of things like that are mentioned and left unexplained.
The perspective on slavery in Black Wine is much closer, more intimate, and less fetishized than (say) Sanderson's Mistborn, where the darkness is both abstracted and seen through the male gaze. Comparable works mentioned included the Le Guin's Voices and Gifts, and Carla Speed McNeill's Finder, less for the slavery and awfulness and more for the sense of a rich world with real cultural barriers dividing its people.
One of the most interesting points brought up by the book and the panel: You can run away from the place you're raised, but how much of your terrible culture are you going to carry with you?
9/28 - 1 PM - Lunch
We went and got lunch at a lovely little waffle and crepe place over on Saint-Denis. The operator put fruit into the waffle batter, and I had two! Mmm. Strawberry and appple.
9/28 - 2:30 PM - Maybe it's Sunspots
Lots of people, including papersky, mrissa, and autopope (not present) have been having unusually productive time writing of late, for values of "productive" that verge on compulsion. The discussion was on process, and what sorts of things seem correlated to this outpouring of words.
Notable Conversation threads:
* papersky wrote Farthing in 19 days. But when she went back to look, she wrote her other books in not too many more days of work (20-30 odd) - they were just spread out over months and years.
* Another panelist noted that you can grind & grind & grind for years, and then you can't cross the street without bits of books hailing down and waving flaming swords at you. Wrote a novella on an iPad in the middle of her mother's disassembled house.
* Hypothesis: Story can get backed up, but will often find its way out. Happiness (or at least the lack of pain/emotional distractions) is a causal factor, rather than the result of productivity.
* It can often be difficult to talk about this kind of productivity (Mike Ford called it "Finding the Spigot") in ways that won't produce hostility/envy from other writers, even though it's far from an unalloyed good thing. mrissa's rules for surviving this period:
1) No ruining her hands.
2) No ruining her health.
3) No ruining her relationships.
All three are real risks.
* Other things go by the wayside when a writer is in a compulsive high-productivity state. Reading, watching TV, other social or writing obligations, drinking tea, cooking dinner. While reading and researching can support your writing, *needing* to do so can derail this sort of thing.
* Music (especially when you get earwormed) can be either a spur to creativity or a huge impediment to it. Buying lots of food can make keeping up momentum easier. Having food stored up, the right word processor, and/or music for the story or book you're working on are all just different ways of greasing the skids.
* mrissa had never before finished a novel and then done other things and written a flash piece the same night. Upon papersky finishing Among Others, she stopped writing for months, and had to ask herself, "What do I do when I'm not writing?"
* mrissa described writing short stories as trying to fill shotglasses from a tap one after another, while writing novels was more like filling a barrel. Writing lots of short stories all at once is potentially a liability, not just because you have to scramble for new stories to finish, but because the limited # of publications spots most markets have means you end up competing with yourself.
* Intermittent reinforcement can drive animals to superstition - superstitious pigeons! Many writers are superstitious pigeons about writing, clinging to things that worked for them last time. Some writers get their bad habits linked to their writing; it's a good idea to making sure not to link your writing to that sort of thing, or to using a particular word processor, or a particular kind of stationery.
* mrissa is a superstitious pigeon the other way; taking Sunday off is insurance. She's also trunked more stories than usual lately, because when there's not enough story there even with the spigot on...
Good or memorable lines:
* mrissa, quoting me: "The hard part of writing is the thinking."
* "If all you care about is word count, no one is more productive than Mike Resnick."
* "Strawberries, Creme Fraiche, and Brown Sugar. Eat this, young writers!"
* papersky (paraphrased) - "I resent the Romantic notion of urgency in art."
|Farthing Party con report: I
||[Oct. 6th, 2013|01:12 pm]
So last weekend was (the last) Farthing Party. Farthing is always a lovely time, and as some of our dear friends couldn't make it this year, I have extricated myself from uffish slumber in order to recount some of the discussions that were had. Food will probably get discussed also, though not in any great detail, since most of the time I would be making repetitive contented noises.
Any exclamation points and/or unnecessary capitalization in panel titles are my responsibility/fault, as are parenthetical comments.
9/28 - 10 AM - A Good Read
Slept through this one, alas.
9/28 - 11 AM - Mad SCIENCE!
This one started out with a series of jokes about an attendee's 'one velociraptor per child program' T-shirt. No velociraptor left behind! A velociraptor in every pot, and pot in every velociraptor! Alas, it was made clear in sonorous tones that no mainstream candidate was likely to endorse any variation on this platform. (Apparently velociraptors are the 4th rail of politics.)
Notable conversation threads:
* Real science has human studies boards and lots of paperwork. One of the appeals of mad science these days is saying "screw the paperwork!" (though mrissa has a story about the credibility of planet-destroying threats sans experimental data...), but if you do that these days, people go "they're mad!" Dr. Chromedome in The Tick is a good example here - "The Mad Scientist does not wear the 'Hello My Name Is' badge! Warm fuzzy nice nice! What is the point of science if no one gets hurt?"
* Modern depictions of mad science often have sexual overtones. See Girl Genius's spark collaborations, Young Frankenstein, and the like.
* Wernher Von Braun as Gary Stu/ultimate 'fictional' mad scientist, despite being real. Apparently the Tom Lehrer song made Von Braun angry because he actually *was* learning Chinese.
* Dr. Frankenstein was an undergraduate, both in age and temperament. Not only do particular forms of hubris manifest themselves most often in young people (who imagine they can overthrow all previous knowledge), but undergrads tend to make bad parents as well.
* Cyteen has lots of parallels to Frankenstein. Ariane Emory was a terrible mom.
* Dr. Frankenstein was also a mad alchemist, of the sort that had to flee from city to city and inflate their claims massively in order to get patronage and funding. Part-time alchemists mostly concluded that alchemy was crap and didn't work.
* Mad science is visually striking, which is why it showed up so often in early film and (more recently) in comics, where the special effects budget isn't as much of a limiting factor as in film.
* We may not recognize mad science because the scale is wrong. Cell phones in your pocket aren't ginormous death rays. Counterpoint: Supercolliders and the National Ignition Facility aren't small in scale. (Counter-counterpoint: But how many nations have we ignited recently?)
* Mad Science narratives don't cope well with corporate science and teamwork. Single scientist narratives don't work well these days, even though no one person at Google understands the entirety of how Google Search works in detail.
* Also, corporations doing things tend to seem more normal and "sane", even when what they're doing would be psychopathic on a personal level. See fracking tainting water supplies, and the same crew of liars from Merchants of Doubt being the ones defending both the Tobacco industry and denying Global Warming.
* Geoengineering is deeply mad science. See people seeding the Pacific ocean with iron because "we've got to do something!" Also covered in Kim Stanley Robinson's 40 Signs of Rain and Tobias Buckell's Arctic Rising.
* Stalinist science was plenty mad. See Lysenkoism, and the plans to build a dam across the Bering Straight to melt the Arctic. Which the US was cool with, apparently. (Man, the Cold War was nuts.)
Good or groan-worthy lines:
* "Crows have 5 primary flight feathers, while ravens have 4. The difference between these birds is literally a matter of a pinion."
* "I'm not a mad scientist, I'm a mildly deranged technologist."
* "Too mad scientists, not enough hunchbacks." (Apparently a saying at Tor.)
* All models are wrong, but some are useful. Computer modeling is not magic; believing the model is mad.
* "We’ve been good. We deserve to have pygmy mammoths."
|Weaponized for your Delectation
||[Sep. 5th, 2013|08:44 am]
So it's been a while, huh? I have like 3 months of reading to write up, but this post is not that.
No! This post is to notify you that mrissa and I have a new story up at BCS: On The Weaponization of Flora and Fauna. It is full of naturalism and botany and things! (Often things that have pretty feathers and/or can turn people to stone/vibrate metal apart with their cries...)
Anyway. Story. Please go read it, if that prospect pleases you.
|Stuff, and some Nonsense
||[Jul. 2nd, 2013|11:19 pm]
Hello, LJ. It's been a while.
I started a new job in the city (San Francisco) a month ago, which has been eating up the majority of my time, aside from the week where I flew out to Minneapolis for 4th Street. Which was great, but also exhausting in its own way.
One consequence of all this activity was that I didn't finish my book post for May in a timely manner, which is sad, because I got to read a whole bunch of books I liked. But I just didn't have the concentration and mental energy to spare-- not if I wanted to juggle scheduling stuff for 4th Street and get to work on time and have some small iota of concentration left to write letters and play games and actually read things to keep myself sane.
I don't know if I'll ever go back to do a full book post for May, but here are the books I read, with abbreviated commentary:
( Truncated May Book PostCollapse )
I may do this again in a day or two with the books I read during June.
|SFWA kerfuffle linkspam
||[Jun. 1st, 2013|11:16 am]
This isn't trying to be comprehensive, but I feel like a lot of people have been making smart points about things in the wake of the most recent article by Resnick and Malzberg in the SFWA Bulletin (which can be read here - scroll down - if you have the tolerance for it).
* E. Catherine Tobler has written a letter resigning her membership.
* Kameron Hurley has an appropriately brutal response to Resnick and Malzberg.
* Ursula Vernon asks whether SFWA is an abusive relationship or an untrained puppy. (Read the comments, especially those of lwe and timprov.)
* Caroline Ratajski has collected a list of the good things SFWA does.
Many people I like and respect are SFWA members, and I'm confident they've done good work and good things while a part of the organization. But the recurrence of this sort of incident, and the fact that a lot of SFWA's dysfunction appears to be baked into the organization's structure (e.g. 3 pro sales and you're qualified for life; the secrecy rules re: the online forums; the lack of any sort of barriers to the recent Vox Day embarrassment) isn't really encouraging.
|4th Street Panelage for 2013
||[May. 4th, 2013|08:58 am]
So I posted the current list of panel options over in the 4th_st_fantasy community.
Comments disabled to encourage people to provide feedback over there. I've been kind of swamped this week, but when I get some breathing room I hope to be able to respond to people's thoughts.
|Arthur Copies of Analog
||[Apr. 25th, 2013|11:04 am]
So I just got my contributor's copies of the July/August issue of Analog in the mail. "Milk Run", which mrissa and I co-wrote, can be found on page 80. Yay!
There is also a giant cavalry bird* on the cover. Isn't that a thing!
I suppose I'm lucky, really. The cover is completely lacking in pink dinosaurs or astronaut protuberances.
*: Not a Chocobo, obv. That series is called Final Fantasy, and this is Analog. Full of totally serious hard science fiction!
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