December 4, 2013
SNOW! Current count on the ongoing snowstorm: 3″, which is moderately less than predicted, but it’s not over yet. I have the great good fortune of getting to stay home, and I’m hoping to get enough work done this morning that I can take a break this afternoon, maybe pop some popcorn, mull some cider, and sit with the Georgette Heyer book I’m reading. (I’m reading Georgette Heyer right now. Because once you’ve read all of Jane Austen you’ve got to do something. Also, I maybe be planning a Regency story. Maybe.)
Yesterday was the release day for DANGEROUS WOMEN, the giant cross genre anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. There’s an audiobook version as well, that I kind of can’t wait to get my hands on, because Stana Katic reads a couple of the stories. (Not mine, alas, but that’s okay, because my story is read by Inna Korobkina, a Russian actress for my story about Russian pilots. Yay!)
Monday at 7 pm is the big launch party for the anthology at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM. The editors and many of the authors — including me! — will be there for a panel discussion and readings and other good stuff!
And One More Thing! On December 17 at 6:30, I’ll be doing an online Q&A about short story writing through the Delve online workshops and the Pikes Peak Writers. This is free and open to all, but you must RSVP at this link, because numbers will be limited.
And with that: Snow, snow, snow, snow….
November 20, 2013
My vacation reading was Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata, another wonderful fun read in the Culture universe, though a bit melancholy: the story revolves around an entire civilization moving on to a new plane of existence, and I kept overlaying that with knowledge of Banks passing away earlier this year, and the whole thing took on the feeling of a long farewell, which made me very sad. But still a great book.
One of the sub-themes/plots is about what happens when people back up their minds and then transmit/manifest versions of themselves in artificial bodies in order to travel more quickly to different parts of the galaxy and so on, a process that it turns out is relatively simple and common in the Culture (note: this is a vast oversimplification of the whole thing. Read the book to learn more!). Existential questions arise: is your copy still you? When your copy goes out and has a bunch of experiences, it returns and reintegrates those experiences into your original self, but then you have two sets of experiences/memories for the same period of time — is one of those more “real”? Does it matter? If we are made up of experiences, doesn’t that copy somehow become its own person after enough time and experiences have passed? Good meaty stuff here.
So, I had this thought, of how lovely it would be if I could make copies of myself so I could write all these things I want to write: the next Kitty book, the Voices of Dragons sequel, the subversive epic fantasy, the screenplay, and so on and so on. A different copy of me to write each of them! But then I realized — no, I don’t think having multiple versions of myself to write things would work at all. Because those clones would, eventually, be different than me, and the books they would write would not be the books I would write. What we write is made up of our experiences, and those experiences include everything I learn and think and gather up as I’m writing each book. The next Kitty book written by the me who has written the Golden Age books and the YA space opera and all that would be different than one written by a hypothetical me who had not written those other books. I really want all the books I write to be my books, and I want the experience of writing each thing to contribute to the writing of the next thing. I want the cumulative benefit of writing all those books! Even if it takes more time than I would like.
So, on that note, I wouldn’t mind taking part in some of the Culture’s life-extending technologies…
October 25, 2013
How about that Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer? Yeah, I’ll just be watching that a couple more times today.
Agents of SHIELD is still stumbling along. I really liked that bionic eye episode — good story there. My favorite thing is the relationship between May and Coulson and how she’s trying to protect him without looking like she’s protecting him, because she knows something’s wrong. But gosh, the rest of the cast, the rest of everything — still entirely milquetoast. So much potential, but the show can’t seem to bring itself to push beyond adequate.
Then I watched Sleepy Hollow because of all the buzz it was getting. And I was shocked, because I really like it. Interesting characters, different characters, Clancy Brown, cute scruffy men in period clothing, clever secret histories, actual horror (I think it was the second episode with the witch? Actually scary!). It’s another urban fantasy TV series and it’s doing things right. I’m engaged. Did I mention cute men in period clothing — speaking Middle English? (A for effort on including spoken Middle English in a prime-time TV show — especially not calling it “Old English,” which is actually Anglo Saxon. B minus for accuracy, since there were multiple distinct dialects of Middle English — none of which were spoken in 1590, when the community ostensibly existed, and which was well into the Early Modern period and would have been mostly understandable to modern English speakers. But hey, Middle English on prime time TV!) iO9 talks about how to make ridiculous stories great, in reference to Sleepy Hollow.
The time traveler episode of Castle was about my favorite episode in a long time. Arrow has also started up again, and I’m loving it as much as ever. Favorite quote so far: “Mom, will they shoot us if I try to hug you?”
I’ve finally started mainlining the third season of Lexx. Still loving it, especially because the “Fire and Water” storyline is so very steampunk. Actual airship pirates!
What I’m reading: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Of all the YA books I read last year when I was on the Norton Award jury, many were “Book 1″ in a new series. The only “Book 1″ I read where I had any inclination to pick up the sequel was Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, which is one of the best examples of a multiple p.o.v. ensemble cast of characters I’ve ever read. I could learn, reading that book. After reading a bunch of non-fiction and slogging my way through several problematic novels, I really wanted to read something I could dive into and swim around in and play. The Dream Thieves is it. This time, I’m loving the language. She can really put a sentence together. Deep happy sigh.
I’m saving Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata for my vacation in a couple of weeks.
And that’s what’s on my mind lately.
September 6, 2013
Avenger Field and the WASP Museum
There isn’t much of the original air field left. Some hangars burned awhile back, and there’s now a community college on the site. But the WASP Museum is housed in one of the original hangers, and there’s a replica of the old Wishing Well along with a monument to the pilots. Mostly, I really appreciate the whole thing as a celebration of the accomplishments of this group of women during a difficult time.
Darrell K. Sweet
The Artist Guest of Honor at Worldcon was Darrell K. Sweet — in memoriam, since he sadly passed away a couple of years ago. I have a confession: I haven’t really been a fan of Sweet’s cover art. It’s everywhere — for a long time, he was the go-to artist for epic fantasy. He did the covers for Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. But at the Worldcon art show, I got to see many of his original paintings — and I loved them. Seeing his art printed on book covers flattens them, but in person they absolutely glow. He also has a lot of western-themed paintings, in the Remington and Russell modes. Great stuff.
But the painting in the show that stopped me in my tracks was the cover he did for Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood. Because I’ve owned that book for 25 years and didn’t realize he’d done the cover for it. I love this cover, and seeing it in person was one of the highlights of the con for me. I’m reading the book again now, because how could I not?
August 7, 2013
My niece Emmy and her parents came to visit last week. I got to read with her for a bit — I introduced her to Richard Scarry, because that baby animal book was boring. (We are reading my old copy of Busy, Busy World. My favorite, Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, is over to the side.) She likes the boat pictures best. She’s nineteen months old this month. And yes, we appear to have exactly the same hair. Those Swedish blond genes my brother and I got are pretty darned strong.
Also, it is my brother’s birthday today. Happy Birthday, Rob!
June 19, 2013
So I’m reading this book,which is something of a prequel to another series by this same author. I know from having read the series that all these characters turn into gods and dragons by the later books. That’s right, they all turn into dragons! But this prequel is just the first in a trilogy, and I’m close enough to the end that it’s becoming clear that nobody’s going to turn into dragons in this book. Which totally bums me out. I want dragons! Now!
Here’s a sneak peek of the Kitty in the Underworld playlist:
March 20, 2013
Usually, research is a lot of fun. Digging up unusual information, finding cool little gems, generally learning more about the world so I can make my stories richer and more real. Sometimes, though, it’s kind of a drag, not because it’s tedious or there’s a lack of information, but because of the subject matter. Recently, I’ve been researching the current rise of militia movements. There’s enough overlap between militia movements, white supremacist groups, and other realms of violence and hate, that the reading gets pretty grim. Especially when I think about how this isn’t history, this isn’t happening in some far off place or time. It’s right here, right now.
But even this kind of research has its moments.
One difference between the 1990′s militia movements and the current resurgence? Some militia groups now have Facebook pages. Open to the public Facebook pages. With pictures of their latest deep-woods training expedition. The takeaway: if you are ranting online about the evils of government surveillance and how the New World Order is coming to take your guns and put you in a concentration camp, perhaps you best not do it on a site where you have posted pictures of yourself and granted easy public access to your home address. I mean, y’all are doing the FBI’s work for them!
February 27, 2013
Research can be a mixed bag. There are always exciting gems to be discovered, but if you find yourself writing about an obscure enough topic, you may not find anything at all. In the Harry and Marlowe stories, I’m writing about an actual historical figure — but the only comprehensive biography about her is in Norwegian. If I want to know more about Maud of Wales, I have to come at it sideways. This week, I’m excited because I got a package in the mail, an out-of-print book that I managed to find and order:
Maud is the one in the middle, with her two older sisters, Victoria and Louise. This is the book that’s going to help me write more Harry and Marlowe stories. I’m to a point in the sequence where I need to know more about her family, her relationships with her siblings, her grandmother, and the political situation of the real history and how I can use that to shape the alternate history. I’ll learn more about Maud, and about her brother George, who also appears in the stories. I’m only a couple chapters in and I’ve already learned a bunch.
- Maud knew Russian.
- George had a productive career in the Navy. On an early training voyage, he tried to bring a pet kangaroo home from Australia to give to his sisters.
- I had forgotten that her oldest brother Prince Albert Victor has been proposed as a possible candidate for the identity of Jack the Ripper in some of the wilder Ripper theories. (This is a very wild claim, as he was most likely not even in London during the murders.)
- Her father, Edward VII, was a bit profligate and there were very likely at least a couple of illegitimate half siblings.
- She was an avid chess player and a patron of the International Ladies Chess Congress. In other news, there was an International Ladies Chess Congress.
And all the photos of young Maud and her family are just wonderful. She always seems to have this very impatient look in her eye, as if she’s thinking, “Pictures are silly, let’s get on with it.” This is all stuff I can use. Bwah ha ha!
February 20, 2013
Remember those Harry and Marlowe stories I just mentioned? They’re out now! I should have waited a day to post!
More info about The Mad Scientists Guide to World Domination, including “Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution.”
So I watched Arbitrage, and it drove me a little batty that almost every character was from Hollywood Central Casting, Cliche Department. (The exception was the main character’s daughter, who was smart, ethical, savvy, a mother, and a generally decent human being. I think this would have been a better movie from her point of view.) In fact, when the Euro hipster art dealer mistress went to the back of the gallery during the big opening to snort cocaine, I busted out laughing. Dude, that is so 1988. **SPOILER** I also think the movie would have been better without the car wreck, which turned the whole thing into a two-hour episode of Law and Order, but what’re ya gonna do? **END SPOILER**
Fortunately, I didn’t stop watching there because the next scene was Tim Roth playing Columbo…and he really was playing Columbo! It wasn’t my imagination! “My deepest condolences, I’ll leave you alone now…but if I could just ask one question…I couldn’t help but notice that cut on your forehead. You mind telling me how that happened?” It was beautiful.
And did you know that Columbo isn’t actually original to Columbo? That character, the bumbling detective who is completely despised and dismissed by the criminal suspect, but who in reality is the smartest one in the room and trips up the suspect through roundabout questioning? That character has been around for a long time. Petrovich, the detective in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is this type. And before that, Inspector Bucket in Dickens’ Bleak House. That’s right, Charles Dickens invented Columbo!
I love being an English major!
January 14, 2013
This post is for people eligible to nominate works for the Nebulas (active members of SFWA) or the Hugos (attended Worldcon last year, or will be attending this year and have already purchased your membership).
I’m mostly putting up this post because I’m actively campaigning to get Something Else Besides Doctor Who on the Best Dramatic Short category in the Hugo. So many works are eligible, there are so many good shows, good webisodes, good creative work being done. And seriously, Doctor Who just isn’t what it was five years ago, and can we please move on? So what am I going to be nominating?
“Happy Birthday, David.” Prometheus may have bombed, but this promo video is still astonishing, a two and a half minute bit of flash fiction on video that illuminates the emotional uncanny valley. It’s creepy, intriguing, and I love it.
“Absolut Greyhound.” I ought to be embarrassed recommending a vodka commercial for the Hugo, but I’m not, because this is another astonishing bit of flash fiction on video: a complete story about a certain kind of technology and the culture around it. Decadent and gorgeous.
Best Dramatic Long: I just want to remind everyone about Chronicle, the amazing Wild Cards-like found footage superhero flick from earlier in the year. I’ll also probably nominate Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, which hit all my big spaceship SF buttons and mostly did a great job, despite a mis-step in the plot. (Notice how them sleeping together didn’t actually change a darned thing and made little sense and didn’t need to happen?)
And a couple of recommendations for best Novel:
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. I talked a lot about this novel at cons last year, pretty much on any panel where someone asked how important it is to stick to strict genre categories, because this proves that good story trumps any kind of marketing category. Write a good book, the publisher will find a way to sell it. This one got marketed as urban fantasy, with the hot chick with a weapon on the cover. But it’s also a post-apocalyptic fantasy with gods that’s also a legal thriller. It’s pretty much unlike anything you’ve read.
Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey, because I’m a fangirl of this series.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Something I’ve learned with all the young adult books I’ve been reading over the last year: there really are some SF&F readers who refuse to read YA because they think it’s beneath them. And there really are YA fans who won’t read SF&F because they think it’s beneath them. So SF&F YA really gets the short end of the stick, and what that means is a lot of people are missing out on books that they’d really enjoy. Like Seraphina, a traditional fantasy with dragons, great worldbuilding, a complex society and politics, that’s also a book about passing. If you love Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip, you should read this book. Don’t overlook it just because it’s labeled as YA.
More as I think of them…I’m woefully behind on reading shorter fiction this year. We’ll see if I can catch up.