September 12, 2014
This was a panel at Shamrokon — specifically, we talked about space opera and whether it was possible to have space opera that didn’t involve war or violence. We got a bit into the semantics of it all — like, “peaceful space opera” and “anti-war space opera” are not the same thing, because there’s quite of a bit of anti-war space opera — Haldeman’s Forever War and Bujold’s Vorkosigan series — that still focuses on war. And does “peaceful” specifically mean “lacking in violence,” or specifically lacking in person-on-person violence? For example, can a story focusing on a violent natural disaster be considered “peaceful” or are we specifically looking for stories that don’t rely on violence or trauma at all?
It’s a bit of a rabbit hole, trying to define this sort of thing.
Arguably the best part of the panel is when everyone, panelists and audiences, just started tossing out favorite books, authors and reading suggestions. I wrote a some down and am now posting it at the request of some of the panel attendees. A lot of the suggestions are classic older works, many of which I haven’t read, which is why I wrote them down. I don’t think I got everything, so if y’all want to add more, feel free.
Arthur C. Clarke (The Songs of Distant Earth and Fountains of Paradise were my picks)
“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster
Solar Clipper books by Nathan Lowell
Naked to the Stars by Gordon Dickson
The Way Station by Clifford D. Simak (All Simak’s work, some people argued.)
Soviet-era SF: Several people mentioned that Soviet SF of the 60’s and 70’s reads quite different that U.S. SF and isn’t as focused on war. Like, first contact stories tend to be about everyone being happy to meet each other and good things coming out of it. (I remember getting hold of an anthology of 70’s Soviet SF stories and reading that kind of story there.) We didn’t talk about Stanislaw Lem specifically, but probably should have.
Someone recommended a book that I think was called At Auberly Fair, but alas I didn’t write down the author and haven’t been able to find any sign of it online, so I’m not sure I got this title right. Can anyone verify?
Also mentioned: Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, James White, and my own list includes Douglas Adams and Iain M. Banks.
Space opera is experiencing quite a nice resurgence right now, but the books all seem to be war stories. Who are some more recent authors and novels that deal with space and space opera without telling war stories? (I suddenly think of Andy Weir’s The Martian, a new novel that was recommended to me by like five different people last month.)
What a lot of these suggestions have in common is they’re about building things or exploring places. The ideal of Star Trek’s Federation (but even Star Trek told a lot of war stories, what with the Borg and Dominion and such). They’re a bit utopian. And I think we all agreed that this is a good thing that we’d like to see more of.
August 29, 2014
I’ve been working on this project all summer, which is kind of cool, since it turned out to be a pretty busy summer I could just sit back and pick this up and do a few rows without having to think about it.
It’s a scarf made of lace weight alpaca, in a cool spirally curly pattern that looks like a sea creature. I’m just going to keep going ’til the yarn runs out.
August 25, 2014
I recently saw someone on FB post a picture of her sewing space rather than her writing space, and I decided I wanted to do the same thing. Especially since it’s relatively clean and organized right now. (I had company, see.) When I moved, I was able to set up a designated sewing/craft area in the basement, and I just love it. I love not having to clean up projects in the middle of working on them, like I did when I was sewing in my office or on the kitchen table. Now, I can just drop everything and come back later.
The sewing machine is my mother’s. I just sort of took it and never gave it back. (I let her borrow it whenever she wants…) It’s a Kenmore, I think 30 years old at this point and still getting the job done. I’ve got my eye on a serger, though. I think that would be fun to have. Maybe for Christmas.
And yes, that is a picture of a dragon riding horse on the wall. Just because.
August 18, 2014
August 4, 2014
One of the reasons I like the Marvel movies so much is that I just get so darned excited about them. I haven’t fangirled this hard over anything since the first few years of The X-Files. It’s nice to have something to get excited about. Even if I do end up spending way too much time online searching for things like “dancing baby groot.”
August 1, 2014
So, it turns out that werewolf beer is a thing. At least, on several occasions now I have been gifted with werewolf-themed beer, like this Newcastle Werewolf. Alas, for all that I am a fan of drinking, I am not at all a beer drinker. Like, at all. So it’s made me a bit sad that I keep getting werewolf beer, but there doesn’t seem to be any werewolf wine available.
And then I got this:
I decided that yes, The Big Bad Red Blend fairy-tale themed wine was totally close enough. I mean, it’s got a wolf on the label. Even if it isn’t a full moon. (Verdict: totally acceptable inexpensive drinking wines. But I’m the person who says there are two kinds of wine: the stuff that’s gone bad and the stuff that hasn’t. So I may not be the best judge.)
EXTRA NOTE: I’ll be going to see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight. I may post my review early rather than waiting until Monday, so stay tuned.
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.