July 21, 2014
I cry a lot while watching movies and reading books and looking at art and. . .well, I cry a lot. It doesn’t even have to be sad, it just has to be beautiful. If something is beautiful, emotional, and hits me right in that vague spot where my sense of wonder and heart live, I’m going to cry. The opening credits of Lilo and Stitch, for example, make me cry. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that works this week, because of a couple of things.
During my trip, my connecting flight out of Chicago Midway was delayed, and I was kind of miserable. The airport was super crowded, loud, uncomfortable, and for whatever reason I just didn’t have the reserves of willpower to deal with it. So I thought, “I’ll hide in a corner and read my favorite comic books.” (I have like 50+ comics on my iPad at this point.) So I picked a random issue of Planetary, which I suspect is going to be my favorite comic for the rest of my life unless something really amazing comes along. I only got about four pages in before I had to stop because I was crying. Part of it was I was already kind of emotional and upset. And part of it was I just love this book so much, and being with these characters made me so happy, I couldn’t contain myself. It was this specific scene that tipped me over:
Elijah: We keep angels here.
Jakita: I don’t like that I didn’t know about this, Elijah.
Elijah: I know.
– Planetary, #19, Warren Ellis.
There’s a ton of characterization in these lines. When Elijah says, “I know,” he isn’t being snippy or confrontational. He’s sad. He’s made mistakes and he’s trying to amend them — he didn’t tell her about the angels before, but he’s telling her now. Because of how much he cares about her. They’re a team. And I started crying because I love these characters so much. (That thing I talked about last week, about how tired I am of stories where people in dire circumstances are constantly being horrible to each other? Planetary is the exact opposite of that. It’s about unironically saving the world.)
Objectively there was no reason that scene should have tipped me over. I’ve probably read it a half a dozen times before without crying. But this time — yeah, it got me.
Then I went to see Jersey Boys, because sometimes I do go see movies that aren’t science fiction, and I grew up listening to The Four Seasons because that’s the kind of music my parents listened to, and I just adore their music. So this one? It starts, the screen is dark, and an instrumental version of “Oh What a Night” plays as the opening credits starts. And not two bars in I started crying.
(Aside: I really enjoyed Jersey Boys, both because of the music and because I was sitting next to my full-blooded Italian friend who completely and utterly lost it from laughing during one scene that he said happened pretty much exactly like that during his own childhood. Indeed, I was impressed at how many people in the movie talk just like the people in his stories about growing up.)
So, for me, this emotional jugular, this thing that makes me instantly cry after just two bars of music or two lines of dialog, is as much about memory as about story or mood or wonder or greatness. It’s something that makes me happy, something that I remember making me happy. It’s a cozy blanket for the brain, and I love that.
July 11, 2014
So I was thinking about CA: The Winter Soldier and how really really nice it was to see a big tentpole action superhero flick with a man and woman lead, working together, with absolutely no romantic involvement, or hint of one, or suggestion that there ought to be one. Steve and Natasha are friends, or become friends, and are totally professional. I think that’s just great.
Then I remembered the Necklace. THAT NECKLACE.
The necklace was definitely supposed to remind us about Hawkeye, and that Black Widow and Hawkeye might be an item. Was the necklace there expressly to tell the audience that Steve and Natasha won’t be romantically involved because she’s already “taken?”
On the one hand, this is a nice, subtle bit of signalling — much nicer than some ham-handed on-the-nose conversation would have been. On the other hand — is that kind of signalling even necessary? Is the only way to keep the audience from thinking that Steve and Natasha won’t hook up is to tell them that she’s already taken? Like they can’t just be friends? Like Clint has to frakking mark his territory or something? Argh!
Or am I reading too much into the whole thing?
June 27, 2014
A couple of months ago I went to an SCA camping event for the first time in a while. I had a great time, especially thanks to some friends who let me stay with them. They have a round period pavilion — very nice. Since we all fence, they had a system for storing our many rapiers and daggers to keep them out of the way. So this is what I saw when I woke up in the morning:
June 23, 2014
I spent the weekend and the official start of summer — most of the entire last week actually — very sick with what I thought was a cold but turned out to be a “viral sore throat.” The doctor diagnosed and basically looked at me and said, “Sucks to be you. Oh, and don’t kiss anyone.” Thanks, science! I don’t know if I caught it at Denver Comic Con or someplace else, but it’s terribly funny to me that after a stretch of six conventions since the end of March, I get horribly ill after the one that was the closest to home and that I spent the least amount of time at.
I had a good time for my one day at Denver Comic Con — I even got to listen to some other programs, like Edward James Olmos’s spotlight. He’s a sharp and passionate guy, who’s had a hell of a career. You don’t realize until you line it all up — Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver, Battlestar Galactica, and so on. He talked about it all. And he really seems to love leading the audience in a nice round of “So say we all!”
I also spent the day thinking about how much conventions have changed. I went to my first convention in 1988, I think — Starcon here in Denver, one of the predecessors of the current incarnation of Starfest. It was small and kind of insular and really good fun, and it had everything most modern conventions have — a dealer’s room, actors on the big stage, a masquerade, a film room, an anime room, panels and activities like “Jedi Jeopardy” and “Build an Alien.” In fact, it had everything a modern comic con has — but a bare fraction of the attendance. There’d be maybe a couple thousand, and it would be the nerdiest of the nerds. There’d be a handful of costumes — a lot of Star Trek uniforms and a few “out there” ones that would get a lot of attention because there were so few people dressing up. There’d be an award for “best hall costume” as well as awards in the masquerade.
So last weekend, I was thinking about what’s changed so that we have essentially the same thing going on, but with 86,000 people (DCC’s final attendance count was around that) instead of a couple thousand. What’s covered by conventions has expanded, sure. A lot more people know about them — back in the day, I think a lot of people just didn’t know conventions existed. But more than that, genre is everywhere. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are super popular, anime airs everywhere on TV and you don’t have to actively track it down like you used to, gaming is everywhere, the biggest movies are all superhero movies, etc.
Conventions have always given people a deeper access to the things they love — meet the actors, buy the T-shirts, network with other fans, etc. There’s just so much more of all of it now, and comic cons stepped in to fill that need in a way that Starfest and the nerdier, longer-running conventions haven’t. 25 years ago, dressing in costume was something different and odd and only some people did. Now, it’s getting to the point where the last few conventions I’ve been at, more people have been in costume than not. It’s becoming an essential part of the experience.
Conventions have always had an air of the mystical. The very strange and mystical way people treat the actors, for example — even just a glimpse of Adam West seems magical, and why is that? I kept thinking, this, the whole convention, is like church. Pop culture church. People wear special clothes. They spend lots of money. All of it in worship of the special things they love. So what’s different now? What is it about comic cons now that wasn’t there 25 years ago? I’m not sure.
What I do know is now, it’s all cool. People don’t look at you funny when you say you’re going to a convention, like they did back then. They think it’s cool. How about that? If you went back in time and told that to my high school convention going self, I never would have believed it.
June 13, 2014
Happy Friday the 13th!
I went riding on Wednesday and got to the barn in time to observe the barn cat, Bob, maim a tiny baby rabbit. That ended up being pretty indicative of the whole week. There was a lot of tedium and crankiness, logistical stuff, recovering from one convention and getting ready for the next while also dealing with a couple of deadlines.
I didn’t do much, if any, new writing because I was going over galleys for one thing, and the rough draft for another, that’s due the 15th. Not writing new words always makes me cranky, but this tedious reading and re-reading of old work is a necessary part of the gig, and for some reason it takes up a huge amount of brain power and concentration, not to mention time. Anyone who wants to be a professional writer needs to understand just how much of the job is this kind of tedium. It’s really necessary because this stage is where the embarrassing mistakes get caught and corrected. (I hope…) But gosh, it’s really time to be working on something new.
I’m also in the middle of another G.I. Joe binge — this happens every 2-3 years, where I go out and buy a bunch of comics and nominally catch up on what’s been happening in the Joe world since the last time I binged on it. I also suddenly realized I need to pull out the DVD of the second movie, which has been sitting on my coffee table for like six months, and see if all of Flint’s characterization ended up in the deleted scenes, as I suspect.
That actually sounds like a good thing to do in a week that’s been characterized by tedious work and dying baby bunnies.
June 9, 2014
June 5, 2014
My brain’s leaking out my ears…as I type this it’s yesterday and I’m packing and freaking out. I had like ten things I wanted to blog about this week, and they’ve all gone out of my head.
But here! I’m reposting my Phoenix Comic Con schedule because they’ve added some things.
- Phoenix Comicon Books and Authors Kickoff : Thursday 7:00pm – 8:00pm
- Autographing Schedule – Books and Authors Friday : date/time TBA
- Spotlight on Carrie Vaughn : Saturday 1:30pm – 2:30pm
- Setting and Place in Urban Fantasy : Saturday 4:30pm – 5:30pm
- Autographing Schedule – Books and Authors Sunday : date/time TBA
- Not in Sequential Form: Superheroes in Prose : Sunday 12:00pm – 1:00pm
The Friday signing is 4:30, the Sunday one is 1:30, both at table 2526 — near Mysterious Galaxy, I think they said. And Noon Saturday at the Tor Booth. Geez, I hope I can remember all this, I think I have it written down…do I have it written down? Okay. It’s fine. Whew.
Hey! I remember one of the things I wanted to post about. I got a new rapier:
Isn’t she pretty? I haven’t fought with her yet. But I will, oh yes…
May 21, 2014
In my thinking over the TV I’ve been watching, I realized I’d stopped watching Doctor Who — I never watched most of last season, and I don’t think I’m going to. It happens sometimes, a favorite show becomes not-so-favorite — I stopped Battlestar Galactica around season 4 because it stopped making sense, The X-Files around season 6-7, because it lost its focus. I was passionate about those shows, and it’s hard letting go, but sometimes there’s a point where a show becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, and then it’s time to stop.
I realized something else: I think over the last three doctors, Martha may be my favorite companion. Rose was the most fun to watch, Donna had a powerful story, but comparing them all together, I think Martha’s the best, because she’s the only one who maintains agency throughout her run. She’s the only one who doesn’t get — and I don’t think this is too strong a word — violated by the Tardis or time vortex. Rose absorbs the vortex, Donna becomes a conduit then gets her mind wipes, Amy gets knocked up, Rory gets killed how many times, Jack loses his mortality. They’re all fundamentally altered, and in their big climactic stories, they’re victims — they become tools, they become weapons, and they become broken by their time with the Doctor. By the end, they’re all taken away — sucked into other dimensions, memories wiped, lost in time. The Doctor loses them, and they are helpless.
But not Martha. All on her own, with no extra powers, with only her wits and a backpack, she goes out to single-handedly foment rebellion against the Master when the Doctor is incapacitated.
And then, she decides to leave. All on her own, she makes the decision, and she just leaves. She doesn’t get yanked through time and space, she doesn’t lose her home, her experience, her past, her place in time and space. All the other companions of the last three doctors are victims. They sacrifice everything, they lose everything up to their lives — more offerings on the altar of the Doctor’s guilt. But not Martha.
When you line up all the other companions, it becomes clear how special Martha really is, because she stays herself.
May 19, 2014
So, I was noodling around on the web and I found this fan art for After the Golden Age on the Tumblr Atethebirds.
Broke my heart a little bit, that did.
(In other news, I have the idea for the third book…we’ll see when I can work on it.)
May 14, 2014
Reminder for those attending RT Convention: Secret Mission is go! Find me (either at the Book Fair on Saturday, or after a panel, or some other time when I’m not otherwise occupied), recite for me some bit of poetry or lines from a play that the Master of London would have known and appreciated when he was alive, and be rewarded. (While supplies last, I’m afraid!)
In other reading news, I’ve just finished The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and I loved loved loved it. It’s a turn of the century (last century) immigrant story, with fantasy — in fact, this is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I talk about wanting to expand the definition of urban fantasy as far as possible, because this is great urban fantasy: modern setting, a familiar (though historical) New York City, with amazingly well-drawn fantastical elements. This is the kind of book that makes me as a writer insanely jealous, because it’s so well done and I’m just staring at it, thinking, “How?!” Catnip, people. Word catnip.
And that immigrant story: there’s a movie called The Legend of 1900 which is fair to middling (the ending stank), that I saw mostly because Tim Roth is in it, and it’s also an immigrant story. There’s this absolutely gorgeous, heart-wrenching opening scene taking place on the deck of a passenger steamer: there’s fog, and all the passengers are looking over the railing, waiting for their first glimpse — and the fog parts and there she is, the Statue of Liberty, and the sense of joy and hope at that view is fierce. The Golem and the Jinni has a similar scene, just as powerful, and for anyone who had ancestors come over from Europe on one of those ships, with everything they own in the world in a suitcase, (my great-grandfather Linder arrived from Sweden on the Mauretania), it’s like peeking over their shoulder for a little while. It’s like time travel.