April 14, 2014
Almost forgot to post today. I confess, I had rough week last week. For no particular reason, just one of those mood swing things. I started writing three different novels because I couldn’t decide what to work on, but I wanted to work on something. I’m looking at it as priming the pump to see what catches fire. It was a mixed metaphors kind of week.
You know what? I blame the weather. Springtime in the Rockies. 70 on Saturday and snowing on Sunday. It’s enough to give anyone a headache.
I’ve also been thinking about GI Joe (because when am I not?) and the idea that because the entire thing is based on a ridiculous premise, it makes possible any number of ridiculous storylines because the audience has already bought in to the bedrock ridiculousness. And how that whole structure fell apart with that bizarre Cobra-la storyline. Not because it was patently absurd, but because it screwed with the fundamental premise of the show. The audience had already accepted that Cobra is a terrorist organization determined to rule the world, and GI Joe is the elite special missions force, etc. etc. Then the movie and Cobra-la comes along, and it basically said, “Oh wait, Cobra Commander is actually a snake-dude from this prehistoric snake people civilization, and they’re going to take over the world with spores.” It changed the rules of the universe that the stories had existed in up until then, and the audience was left scratching their heads.
Anyway, it seems to me to be a good lesson in making bargains with your audience, and how far you can expect your audience to follow you.
And I really need to go through and label all my GI Joe posts. This is getting out of hand.
April 11, 2014
Remember that yarn I got a few weeks ago?
This is what I turned it into:
A bit blurry (I need to learn to take better pictures), and there’s my foot for scale. I’m really proud of this. I think it’ll go great with my Regency gown, and it’s so incredibly soft. Hmmmm, purrrrr…..
April 2, 2014
I didn’t make a new outfit for Anomaly Con, but I put together many existing pieces I already had, which to my mind is one of the joys of steampunk costuming, and one of the benefits of having a costume closet I’ve been developing for as long as I have. Here’s Friday’s outfit:
I am quite pleased with it! You can’t see the stripy socks and calf boots in the picture. They really added to the ensemble, I think.
Also, I already have my tickets to see the new Captain America movie on Friday. I AM SO EXCITED.
A friend today expressed disbelief that Nick Fury had ever been portrayed by David Hasselhoff. Oh yes, it’s true, and I saw that thing. Her comment reminded me of the Dark Ages of comic book movies. The days when comic book movies were released straight to video. The days of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four and that early 90′s Captain America that was so bad it was never released at all.
Those were dark days indeed. Let us pray we never return to them.
March 26, 2014
In some of my author bios I mention that I “collect hobbies.” It’s partly a joke, and partly the easiest way to sum up all the things I like to do in my spare time. I recently had someone ask me to list my hobbies, and I thought, why not? Let’s give it a go, in no particular order of importance:
Knitting: The one I’ve been doing a lot of lately. It’s repetitive and satisfying and lets my brain rest at the end of the day. (Just this week, CNN posted an article on how crafting is good for your brain!)
Spinning: As in yarn. I learned in the SCA, I usually do it at SCA events when I’m hanging out (I seem to be incapable of just hanging out without doing something productive). I learned to knit because I was ending up with all this yarn from spinning.
Other fiber crafts: I’ve done quite a bit of counted cross stitch. I also know how to make lucet cord, but that’s pretty much just something I do at SCA events.
Costuming/dressmaking: I used to make my Halloween costumes as a kid. Graduated to Ren Faire, then more Halloween, then SCA, and now I’m branching off into steampunk and other historical periods. I like making my own stuff because it always looks entirely original. Especially for historical events, handmade stuff just seems to look better than factory made. I also occasionally do crazy things like the Bosch bird. My next big costume is going to be a bit crazy, too. Six yards of black linen are washed and waiting for the first cut.
Birdwatching: I was a really avid birdwatcher when I was a kid. My grandfather was a biology professor, we went camping all the time, and we’d get up early in the morning to go look for birds. I’ve been getting back into it the last few years, because it gets me outside, it’s zen and soothing, and there’s something really satisfying about adding species to the life list. My grandfather recently gave me his spotting scope, and I may never go back to binoculars.
RPGs: Yeah, I’ve got the sourcebooks and multi-sided dice, and can regale you with tales of West End Games Star Wars campaigns from the days of yore. Alas, it’s been years since I’ve gamed regularly. My crazy schedule makes it hard to keep up with ongoing campaigns.
Horses: I just like spending time with them. For the last couple of years I’ve gotten back into weekly lessons. It’s exercise, and the horses always make me smile.
Fencing: I haven’t been fencing regularly in several years, but I still have the gear and I still know how.
Beading/jewelry: I’m just a dabbler, but it’s nice to play with pretty sparklies. And it turns out to go hand in hand with the costuming, when I need to make something for a specific outfit. I think my interest in geology and minerals and rocks is part of my general interest in sparklies that make pretty things.
Bookbinding and calligraphy: Another thing I learned to do in the SCA. I’ve kind of put these activities aside. But as with the other hobbies, I know how, and I have all the stuff.
Music: I had something like 8 years of piano lessons as a kid. I really want to start playing music again, in my copious spare time. I own a small Yamaha keyboard, an accordion, a guitar, and a recorder. I just had my first recorder lesson (again, at an SCA event) last weekend.
Cooking: This is something I’m not sure about listing as a hobby. I don’t really obsess over it, I don’t spend hours in spice shops or cooking stores coveting expensive gadgets. But a few years ago I got sick of eating mac and cheese out of boxes and started on a concerted effort to learn to cook for real. I suppose the amount of time I spent on it makes it a hobby.
Obviously, the SCA is to blame for a lot of my hobbies. (Hint: the SCA is a great place for dabbling and trying out lots of obscure arts and crafts before committing to them with lots of money and supplies and equipment.) But I also have one of those personalities where I can’t seem to sit still. I want to be productive pretty much all the time. All the movies and TV I watch? I’m usually doing something else at the same time.
Also: every craft I learn or skill I develop is another thing I can write authoritatively about, and gives me another way of looking at the world. I never want to stop collecting hobbies.
March 19, 2014
Had a bit of a rough day yesterday — the wind woke me up, I didn’t get enough sleep, the weather change made me super cranky, and I kind of muddled through it all. So it felt really great to sit on the sofa with a big knitting project I’ve started and watch some TV last night: Face Off and the Marvel Assembling the Avengers making-of special (with gigantic spoilers for the new Captain America movie!) were both on.
And I pondered a bit. This is going to be a rough post on a serious topic, and I apologize for that. It really needs some analysis, and I’m just going to throw it out there instead of doing that analysis.
Face Off: For the second week in a row, a man and woman were up for elimination, and the woman was eliminated. All the remaining contestants are men. It got me wondering about percentages over all: Over the six season, when a man and a woman are up for elimination, how often does the woman get eliminated, and is the percentage higher? Because I gotta say, it feels like it’s usually the woman who gets the boot and the show does indeed have a gender bias. On the other hand, I may just be paranoid. What I need to do is go through the recaps and actually crunch the numbers. In five seasons the show has had two women winners (Yay, Laura!), which is great from a gender parity perspective. But now we bump that to two women in six seasons… Like I said, I need to crunch some numbers on the show overall before I make any declarations.
Then we get to the Marvel special, which had a bunch of great interviews and confirmed my thinking that these guys really know what they’re doing. (That thing about how a superhero movie can also be a political thriller or a techno thriller or a space opera or some other story besides just a superhero story? Yes!!! That’s what I’m talking about!) But putting aside the actor and actress interviews, just taking all the creators, writers, directors, comics pros — I think there was exactly one woman, Maurissa Tancharoen, co-creator on Agents of SHIELD, who was on screen with her co-collaborator Jed Whedon.
Now, I love both these projects, and I’m pretty sure that none of the people behind these projects are sexist or would ever come out and say that women aren’t capable of doing big serious creative work. But what all this reveals to me are the systemic biases. And it just makes me sad, speaking as a woman in a creative industry — how discouraging, to look at fields that are so male dominated and think that the odds are stacked against women from the get-go.
A personal example: At this point in my career there aren’t too many short fiction markets or editors I haven’t placed stories with. But one market I’ve never sold to is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one of the more prestigious magazines in the field. I pretty much don’t even send them stories anymore, because why would I when there are a half a dozen great markets that love my work? Then this came out: a group of folks crunched the numbers and found that only 14% of F&SF’s content in 2013 was written by women. (Scroll down to see Sean Wallace’s tweet with the numbers. Contrast that 14% with Lightspeed’s 43%.) I saw that and thought: Oh, it’s not just me. It’s not just my writing. There’s a systemic bias that I would have to overcome to get accepted by that market.
It actually made me feel better. But that also means I’m even less inclined to send that market stories than I was before. I imagine a lot of women writers feel the same way, which means F&SF simply isn’t getting a lot of stories by women, which reinforces the pattern of not printing stories by women… You see how this works?
Systemic bias is easy to ignore. But it’s also something that once you see, it’s really hard to unsee.
March 10, 2014
I am an introvert. This means I’m perfectly happy staying home all weekend with my dog, my knitting, my crafts, my books, my movies, and my writing, all curled up on the sofa, warm and cozy and safe in this life of the mind I’ve built for myself. If I’m not careful, I would never leave the house. (You know you can get groceries delivered?) And I know this would not ultimately be good for me, because I would eventually end up as one of those stories where people find my body three years later and wonder what happened. (One of my friends says they wouldn’t find a body because Lily would eat me. But I say Lily would go for help.)
I’m really proud of myself this weekend, because instead of just going to the yarn store like I planned, I called a friend and made a trip of it — yarn store, a nice lunch, and a few hours of actual socializing. I felt like a real functional human being.
Pretty, pretty yarn…
Then on Sunday, I didn’t just go out: I went to a ball. This was sort of a new thing for me, but sort of familiar. I’ve been to plenty of SCA dances, but this one was Regency. Actually, the organizer called it the Lewis and Clark Ball — she explained that she wants to make an effort to recognize that American culture in this period overlapped with British culture, and the same dances and fashions and so on were happening here as well. (I mean, look at that gorgeous Regency-style gown on First Lady Dolley Madison.) This event served as my deadline for making my Regency gown. Ta da!
My goal for the event was to go, be social, and dance at least once dance. Well, I ended up dancing every single dance, because it’s hard to sit out when people keeping asking you to dance. What’s better than having a Regency gown you made yourself? Having one that’s been danced in.
So, it was a good weekend.
(My friends Karen and Bill, who encouraged me to come to the ball.)
February 19, 2014
There’s a new Harry and Marlowe story up on Lightspeed!
This was a fun one because we get to see Harry in her Princess Maud role, as well as her family, Princess Alexandra, Crown Prince George, his wife Mary of Teck, and even a quick glimpse of Prince Carl of Denmark. All that research, paying off! I’m on a roll with Harry and Marlowe stories, so I’m giving rein to the impulse — I’ve just sold another one that will probably be out later this year, and I’m gearing up to write yet another. So many stories to tell!
In other news, I’ve been super excited about Guardians of the Galaxy ever since the easter egg featuring the Collector showed up in Thor 2. So weird! So aesthetically different! So intriguing! Well, the full trailer just premiered. I…I….I AM SO SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THIS I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MYSELF. I’ve never even read the comics. I remember when this movie was announced and everyone was so skeptical, why on earth would they make a movie about some fourth string comic heroes, how is this even going to work? And you know what? I don’t care, because THIS IS THE SPACE OPERA I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR MY WHOLE LIFE. This….it’s…space ships….talking raccoons….tree aliens…humor….action…ooga chucka…
I’m gonna stop now. *takes deep breath*
February 17, 2014
January 24, 2014
THIS POST PROBABLY OUGHT TO COME WITH SOME KIND OF WARNING THAT YOU MUST BE 21 TO CONTINUE, IF YOU’RE IN THE U.S. SO. UM. I GUESS THIS IS YOUR WARNING.
“As God is my witness, this is for Science!”
So, we did Cocktail Laboratory at New Year’s Eve.
My friends and I have spent awhile now talking about various cocktails and mixed drinks, inspired by a micro distillery run by a friend of a friend in Golden. Golden Moon Distillery is making some vintage liqueurs, like Creme de Violette. This makes it possible to mix vintage cocktails from the 1920′s and earlier, that went out of fashion because the ingredients were no longer available, or because they just went out of style. (I’m becoming fascinated with how cocktails come in and out of style, how the go-to drinks of fifty years ago vanish, how new ones come into being, and how the old ones get rediscovered. Some of those 20′s cocktails, like the Aviation, are making comebacks. My parents’ favorite drinks from the 70′s have disappeared. What the hell is a Harvey Wallbanger, anyway? Turns out it’s a screwdriver with Galliano added. Um. No.)
Using recipes from Golden Moon, a holiday recipe guide, and my trusty copy of Steamdrunks, we set out to figure out some of these drinks. And because this was totally For Science, I now share what we learned with you.
(We used plastic shot glasses for taster samples. I take full credit for this brilliant idea that meant we could mix one drink and share it between 6-7 people, and thereby keep sampling all night long. I still got drunk, but it took like 6 hours instead of twenty minutes.)
We made a lot of drinks, and we made people write notes, so we would remember what we actually thought about the drinks. See? SCIENCE!
White Christmas #1: 1 oz vodka, 1 oz amaretto, 1 oz cream. Shake with ice, garnish with nutmeg. Really really nice! Boozy and smooth. (recipe found online)
White Christmas #2: 1 oz heavy cream, 1 oz vodka, 1 oz peppermint schnapps, and 1 oz creme de cacao. Shake with ice. Tastes just like a candy cane. (recipe found online)
French Martini: 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1/4 oz chambord, 1/2 oz pineapple juice. Shake over ice. Really, really nice. A big hit with the crowd. (discovered on a trip last fall)
Fallen Angel: 2 shots gin, 1 tsp creme de menthe, juice from 1/2 lime, 2 dash of bitters. Shake over ice. Not just no but hell no! Although I just saw another recipe for a different Fallen Angel that looked much nicer. (from Steamdrunks)
Orange Abbey: 2 shots gin, 2 shots orange juice, 2 dashes orange bitters, garnish with long-stemmed cherry. Shake over ice. One of my favorites. The Golden Moon gin does really well with anything citrus — really opens up the flavor. (from Steamdrunks)
Golden Lily: 1 oz gin, 1 oz dry curacao, 1 oz creme de violette, 2 dashes bitters. Fruity and a little astringent. Kind of meh. (Golden Moon recipe)
Aviation: 1.5 oz gin, 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur, 1/2 oz creme de violette, juice of 1/2 lemon. It’s sharp, citrus, interesting. (From Golden Moon recipe)
The Elf: 1/2 oz Midori and 5 oz champagne. This tasted just like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. This is not necessarily a good thing. (From a holiday recipe book.)
Candy Cane Martini: 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1 tsp peppermint schnapps, 1 oz club soda. Mini candy cane garnish. Shake over ice. Ugh. Medicinal. Actually got worse with each sip. (From holiday recipe book.)
Here we get into egg drinks, which are kind of scary, but also very Victorian. Many of our participants refused any of the drinks made with raw egg, even though for most of them we used pasteurized whites from a carton, rather than whole eggs. (We did not try any of the curdled milk recipes, because just no.)
Egg in a Blanket: 1/2 shot Absinthe, 1 shot brandy, 1 egg white, 1 tsp sugar, 1 dash orange bitters. Shake over ice, garnish with lime. Quite nice, complex blend of tastes. (Steamdrunks)
Rummy Egg: 2 shots rum, 1 shot brandy, 1 tsp sugar, 1 whole egg, grated nutmeg for garnish. Shake over ice. This was a very bland drink. Just like eggnog, basically. (Steamdrunks)
Brandy Egg Cloud: 1 egg, 2 shots heavy cream, 1 shot brandy, 2 tsp sugar, dash vanilla extract. Shake over ice, garnish with cinnamon. This tasted like ice cream, and totally needs more brandy. (Steamdrunks)
And now some absinth drinks (plus the Egg in a Blanket above). Confession: I am not a fan of absinthe. I kept trying it, lots of different brands, with the right kind of loucheing, the wrong kind of loucheing with the burning sugar cube, and I just don’t like it. So I was very curious about making mixed drinks from absinthe — I had never heard of such a thing. Turns out, absinthe makes lovely mixed drinks. Other flavors tone down the licorice, and you end up with really unique cocktails. As Steamdrunks says, absinthe cocktails need very little absinthe, but they make a great hit at parties because they’re so different and exotic.
Green Russian: 2 shots heavy cream, 1 shot vodka, 1 shot (or 1 tsp, depending on taste) absinthe, 1 tsp sugar, mint leaf garnish. Stir gently in a lowball glass. This was a big hit. Creamy and licoricey. Fun. (From Steamdrunks)
Death in the Afternoon: 1 oz Absinthe, 4 oz Champagne. I wasn’t a fan of this one, but some people were. Exotic, but there are too many good alternatives to settle on this one. (From Golden Moon’s recipes.)
- If someone doesn’t like gin, there’s nothing you can dress it up with to make them like it, even as nice a gin as Golden Moon’s. I have discovered: I like gin. It goes so nicely with fruit.
- Eggs and cream basically turn cocktails into dessert — most drinks including egg and cream end up tasting like cake. This should come as no surprise, but it makes for a nice set of experiments.
- My hatred for the current trend of infused and flavored rums and vodkas has only increased. What in five hells would you ever want chocolate cupcake flavored vodka for? Especially when you get the same taste by mixing vodka, cream, and Baileys or Kahlua? There are so many more interesting, classic liquors out there, based on actual real fruits and herbs. If you’re trying to mask the booze, you’re drinking the wrong booze.
- A drink with more than 4-5 ingredients has too many ingredients. Unless you’re really into stunt drinking.
Another project I took on has been figuring out what the cocktail is that the bartender pours during “Snow” in the movie White Christmas. When you google “White Christmas” and “cocktail recipes,” it turns out there are something like ninety hundred different recipes for drinks called “White Christmas.” I have not yet discovered a drink that makes that lovely white froth. The quest continues. (Yes, I understand the actual drink was probably just a prop made out of dishsoap. I don’t care! Much like Mythbusters, I intend on figuring out what it would take to make that drink a reality.)
January 22, 2014
I picked yesterday to get my working life set up on a brand new computer, which may not have been the smartest thing to do after recovering from a trip, but it was definitely necessary. It’s kind of like the dentist trip, better to get it over with and it’s usually not as bad as you expect. In fact, I had the thing mostly up and running and was getting some work done within about 2 hours — this included transferring over my Word files and photos and music and whatnot. Excellent! I hit a couple of glitches that will take some time to smooth out, but I can work. I actually look forward to playing around with the new system and seeing what bells and whistles I can use.
So, I have a lot of commentary I could spout off about cyberpunk tropes in general, which ones have made it into the movies, and the ways in which cyberpunk has evolved — and in some ways, died out. In grad school I took an upper-level seminar on the topic of. . .come to think of it, I’m not even sure what the topic ultimately was, I think the professor may have just been mining us for her own paper topics. But we read Snow Crash. This was the second seminar in which I had read Snow Crash, because the novel has passed over the barrier and become “okay” for academia. As the only SF geek in the department, I got to then go up to the professors teaching it and ask if they’d read Neuromancer. In one case, yes, “Because Frederic Jameson made it okay to read science fiction,” to which I thought, “What the actual holy hell are you talking about?” The other said, “No, because I’ve heard it’s very problematic in its treatment of women.” And I said, “Well, yeah, probably, but if you haven’t read it you’re missing a big chunk of Snow Crash. Seriously.” (Like Snow Crash is all that better in its treatment of women than Neuromancer, sheesh…)
There’s a reason I didn’t go on for a PhD.
Anyway, I’ll never forget this seminar because in the middle of the discussion of Snow Crash, one of the other students, clearly baffled, said, “The story here is really kind of conservative. I thought cyberpunk was supposed to be all radical and subversive, but I don’t see that at all.” To which I, the only person in the room who had any experience with cyberpunk beyond Snow Crash, said, “Um no — this entire sub-genre exists to make nerdy computer guys feel better about themselves.”
Cyberpunk is heroic, conservative, and messianic. It’s about a powerful elite — the computer programers who know the code, who know how to manipulate the system — being the center of attention, the objects of desire and admiration.
I think one of the reasons cyberpunk kind of died out as anything other than a set of adventure tropes is that once the Internet opened up to a wider audience, it turns out you don’t need a hacker elite — anyone with a smart phone can surf the web. And it turns out we don’t really care about the code underneath. (Although even I can do basic HTML, right?)
This doesn’t mean cyberpunk isn’t still fun. It’s just not the literature of the future people thought it was in 1985. Anyway, here’s my list of movies I was thinking of as cyberpunk movies, which I’m throwing open to discussion. In rough order importance — or maybe it’s in rough order of my own preference:
Tron/Tron Legacy (let’s just mash them up, even though they’re thematically quite different)
The Matrix (I have a confession: I don’t think this holds up all that well. It’s stylized and kind of overwrought, and that scene where Neo and Trinity walk into the building and blast away absolutely everyone — and everyone they shoot is wearing a law-enforcement uniform — was kind of deeply upsetting the last time I watched the movie a few months ago. The post 9/11, post public shooting epidemic world has changed how this movie goes over.)
Electric Dreams (Anyone else remember this? It’s a big reason I haven’t gone to see Her yet, because I saw the previews for Her and thought, wait, isn’t this like Electric Dreams?)
Ghost in the Shell
There are a couple of movies that I either haven’t watched or don’t remember well enough to comment on — someone want to help me out on Hackers and Swordfish?
Then there are a bunch of movies that are definitely cyberpunk, but just aren’t very good: The Matrix sequels, Johnny Mnemonic, Elysium, Lawnmower Man, Nirvana.
Wikipedia has a much longer list of cyberpunk movies, but I don’t know that I’d class all these as cyberpunk. They seem to be lumping a lot of post-apocalyptic in with cyberpunk, as well as anything with robots and cyborgs, but I’d say there needs to be a significant computer hacking element to really be cyberpunk. Like Blade Runner — it has every cyberpunk trope but computer hacking, so how do you classify that? Is it the AI that makes it cyberpunk, not the robots? Then is 2001 also cyberpunk? Isn’t genre fun?