May 7, 2014
When I was in around fifth and sixth grade, one of the leaders of my Girl Scout troop was an ornithology professor at the University of North Dakota. She found out I liked birds and birdwatching and, well, took me under her wing. On one of our hikes, she found me an owl pellet and we dissected it together, finding pretty much the entire skeleton of a tiny little vole. I kept the skull and a vertebra, tucked them away in a box with other bits of bone and fossil and rattlesnake rattles and so on that I’d collected.
During the recent purge/clearing out, I found the box with the little vole skull in it.
The other thing I’ve been doing is sorting out my bead stash. (Boy, did it need it. I did not realize I had three bags of the same kind of bead in three different places.) Awhile ago I got these little bottle pendants thinking I’d do something with them, fairy charms or whatever. Turns out, the bottom jaw of the vole skull exactly fit inside one of those bottles, and I made this:
This is why it’s so, so hard to stop being a pack rat. Because I can sit there and ask myself, “Do you really need this? Are you really going to use this in 5/10/30 years?” And the answer may very well be, “Yes!!!”
(That’s a piece of garnet and a bit of cotton batting there with the jaw bone.)
April 25, 2014
So, I’ve been looking for a good version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” to give to my niece Emmy. I found one, something close to the one I listened to as a kid. I also dug up another album from my collection, one I haven’t listened to in ages. One that’s obscure enough that I’ve had trouble finding it on YouTube or anywhere else to even give you a sample of. What is this lost treasure?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “Peter and the Wolf,” and “Carnival of the Animals Part Two,” by “Weird Al” Yankovic and Wendy Carlos (composer of the original Tron soundtrack).
This is only one song from his version of “Carnival of the Animals,” but it gives you an idea. I listened to “Peter and the Wolf” for the first time in probably fifteen years, and it’s freaking hysterical. “And as always, the part of Bob the Janitor will be played by…the accordion!”
I’m so glad I can pass this sort of cultural legacy on to my niece.
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*