In the interest of getting more data points out there, I had a pretty noticeable reaction to the J&J vaccine last week. It started about 4-5 hours after getting the shot, like a pretty sudden onset of flu symptoms. You know how on day 5 of being sick, you start to feel better but you’re still all wrung out and your whole body feels like it’s been beaten up and you have no energy? That’s what I had. Lasted for maybe a day and a half, then I was fine. No pain or soreness at the injection site. Anecdotally, I’m hearing about a huge range of reactions, from “nothing at all” to “in bed for three days.” I landed in the middle. An odd and interesting experience. It was weirdly kind of nice to have a reason to just go to bed and not worry about things for a little while.

Meanwhile, it’s been a pretty good week. Spring has sprung, my crocus came up late but they did come up, and we’re due for another spring snow which will be fun.

And I’m working on stuff. I’ve got a whole bunch of new thoughts about the War of 1812, how it seems to have been mostly organized by really incompetent people and it might have gone very differently if that had not been the case. This reading has me thinking about the Star Trek vs. the Expanse models of space battles.

Also, I made chicken pineapple curry last night and it was REALLY GOOD.

The Book of the Kraken

April 6, 2021

So after all my bitching about vaccine envy, I got my shot today. J&J, one and done. Now to find my zen space. Whew.

To make the day even more exciting, my newest short story has gone live at Uncanny Magazine. “The Book of the Kraken” is about the War of 1812 but with a giant squid. Because why not? I hope you enjoy it!

In the category of “where do you get your ideas,” this one has a very specific answer, which is this picture:

Clearly, I needed to write a story about a girl and her squid. It took me a few years to pull it together (my niece is currently twice the age she is here), but I did it.

thoughts for the day

March 31, 2021

I’m sure I’ve posted this quote before, but it’s still good, and still helpful, after this past year. It’s from Babylon 5, from Marcus, who got a lot of good lines.

“You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

In other old SF series news, I’ve been watching original Trek for the first time in a while, and I find I love it. I’ve gone back and forth on it over the years, but right now I’m really appreciating its earnestness and the solidity of its stories, which don’t devolve into technobabble the way Next Gen often does.

I also realize that I’m hyper-emotional about everything these days and so this time at the end of “The Menagerie” when Kirk asks Pike if he wants to go back to the planet and he beeps yes I just started bawling. This is is an episode I’ve seen a dozen times. And this time… I dunno, y’all. Loved it.

Also, reading about naval warfare in the War of 1812 and realizing that all the starship battles in Star Trek use that model is kind of nuts.

Lots of thoughts over here today. Just gonna sit with my tea awhile and ponder.

And now for something completely different.

Wondercon is all online this weekend, and free!

And I’m involved. Specifically, I’m involved in a Wild Cards RPG that you can watch. GMed by Walter Jon Williams, with a few of us Wild Cards authors as players.

A gotta tell you, this is A HOOT. I’ve never done anything like this before. My career is SO STRANGE sometimes, and amazing.

You can watch it all through LegionM’s channel, the links and schedule are all right here. Main events are Friday and Saturday. All in support of the Stagecoach Foundation’s fundraising auction. Check it out!

checking in

March 24, 2021

Not much to share because my brain is a stew right now. I’m not sure how I’m even getting anything done, but I am, so that’s something, anyway. We got 20 inches of snow in my neck of the woods about 10 days ago and that was fun but now I want spring. I want to wear T-shirts outside. I want to be too warm instead of too cold.

And I’m experiencing massive, massive vaccine envy. I know I’m low priority and I’m okay with that but it’s really hard being on social media and seeing everyone posting and realizing that it’s getting to where I know more people who’ve had it than haven’t. And that’s good, right? Herd immunity! Except I’m pretty sure everyone I know is going to have a big “yay vaccine” party without me.

God I really want some nice weather.

next research topic…

March 19, 2021

Working on a new thing. I say that a lot, don’t I…

(Image is a book cover: 1812: The Navy’s War, by George C. Daughan)

My library is still closed but has curbside pickup, which is lovely, except that I can’t browse, boo. But I can pick up my books and then pickup my curbside BBQ dinner the next block over and nice food plus new reading makes for a very nice evening indeed.

 

I promised a friend a list of episodes to watch if he wanted some kind of Clone Wars Experience. Here it is. With A LOT of excessive commentary because I think I might have mentioned that Star Wars is the rabbit hole that has been keeping me sane (???) as the pandemic wall has been threatening to crush me this last month or so. I have so many thoughts.

Note: This is a list of episodes I liked and thought were interesting. It’s not “essential” episodes, episodes that tie in to the live-action stories, or anything like that. It’s episodes that I thought were just good stories.

I also swear a lot because I guess I have Opinions and Things.

There are some glaring omissions on this list. Pretty much everything involving Mandalore bugged me, I think because Satine is such an obviously doomed character and that was frustrating. I skipped most of the baby Boba Fett episodes, because once again they had an inevitability to them that wasn’t interesting to me. This list doesn’t include very many big battle episodes. I found them grim. After this last year, I think I’m feeling fragile and I want stories of love and community and there’s precious little of that in this show.

So yeah, it might be that I just picked a really bad year to watch The Clone Wars for the first time and I might have felt differently five years ago or five years from now. Isn’t that funny?

Another note: As I was putting this together I got out the chronological list, as recommended, to see how screwed up the timeline of the first three seasons is, and holy shit it’s a mess. Wow. So here we are.

And I watched the movie which has a lot of what I don’t like about the series: endless noisy battles. But it’s also when Ahsoka and Anakin meet which is kind of important. And Jabba the Hutt has a son? Like, a little baby slug? WTF? Why? WHAT HAPPENED TO STINKY THE HUTT WHERE IS HE IN CANON WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM WTF AND DOES HE WANT REVENGE ON LEIA FOR KILLING HIS FATHER YOU SEE THIS IS THE SORT OF CAN OF WORMS YOU OPEN UP WHEN YOU DO THIS KIND OF SHIT.

Apropos of nothing, has there ever been a Hutt Jedi? Hmm…

Looking at my notes, there are lots and lots of relevant episodes. We meet Hera Syndulla’s father, Saw Gerrera, see the Darksabre for the first time, etc etc. Just lots of stuff that comes back later. I don’t know if it makes those episodes good stories, but it does show that everything ties together. I left a bunch of those, that are mostly interesting for the callbacks, off my list. My list will give you a story about Rex, the Clones, and Ahsoka, and how badly the Old Republic screwed them over.

1.5: Rookies. We meet some individual Clones who are going to be important later. Rex, Cody, and Fives. Argh, this makes that malfunctioning chip storyline EVEN WORSE. I think the heart of the show is the ambivalence of the clones. They are sentient beings deserving of rights. They are slaves. The Republic never actually tries to reconcile this.

2.10: The Deserter. Rex meets a Clone trooper who deserted years ago and took up life as a farmer and started a family. It shows Rex that he has a choice, that other lives are possible. This is the episode that made me keep watching the show, because it gave Rex a character arc and made the clones compelling.

2.11: Lightsaber Lost. Baby Ahsoka has an adventure. A keen stand-alone story.

2.13: Voyage of Temptation. But only the last ten minutes. Like, start it at minute 18:00. This is a Kenobi/Satine story, which as I mentioned in a previous post drive me batty because Kenobi is kind of terrible. But this last bit may be the most iconic Anakin Skywalker moment in all of Star Wars canon.

3.1: Clone Cadets. I loved it, I love them. But then, it’s part of the Clone trooper story which I think is one of the strongest threads of the series.

3.2: ARC Troopers. Ditto.

3.15-17: The Mortis storyline. This ties in a bunch of stuff and is super spooky. Does the animation style change? Or am I just getting used to it? This really blows up Jedi lore in a way I found fascinating. This is also the storyline that convinced me that Anakin never had a chance, everyone is just screwing around with him. Also hugely important for Rebels, weirdly enough.

3.09: The Hunt for Ziro. This is a Hutt-centric episode that is so full of WTF-ery that I hardly knew how to deal with it. Hutt mummies, y’all.

4.7-10: The Umbara storyline. AKA Clone Platoon. Clone centric, really rough going. But it’s critical not just for the Clones, but for the fall of Jedi. The Jedi of the Old Republic are corrupt. It explains everything.

4.21: Brothers. The return of Maul. This is on the list just because it’s so completely horrifying. “Ah, so it began without me” is the creepiest line ever.

5.8-9: Bound for Rescue/A Necessary Bond. Hondo is totally creepy here.

5.12: Missing in Action. A Clone with amnesia. It’s one of the supreme disconnects of the Old Republic, that it relied on what is essentially slave labor. The show keeps emphasizing the humanity of the Clones, which means the whole system is based on an irreconcilable paradox. The “heroes” of the story, Anakin and Obi Wan, never confront this.

5.17-20: The Jedi Council fucks over Ahsoka Tano. Yeah, after this whole storyline, just fuck ‘em. Ahsoka’s the best and the Jedi Order can just burn to the ground. (I have strong feelings about this.)

6.1-4: This is the storyline that foreshadows Order 66. A Clone’s chip malfunctions. This is horrifying and terrible and a good story.

7.1: The Bad Batch. Basically Clone Wars meets GI Joe and I’m not even joking. (One of my favorite aspects of this show is watching the Clones explore individuality, with names, tattoos, unique identities, etc. They’re so hyper aware of it, which makes it that much more tragic.)

7.09: Old Friends Not Forgotten. As a result of binging I don’t actually remember what happens in this specific episode but my note with it says, “They’re just fucking with us now.”

7.10-12: Aaaaand this is what it’s all been leading to. This is where it all hits, and I have to admire them because they just went there. These episodes happen simultaneously with Episode III, and we see Order 66 from the point of view of the Clones, whom we’ve been invited to sympathize deeply with the entire show. It’s as gut-wrenching as you’d think. It’s Ahsoka and Rex just dealing with it and they’re magnificent and heartbreaking, and Anakin and Obi Wan are clueless. The great Jedi Knights went through this whole war with their heads so far up their asses they never figured it out. And that last goddamn scene. Geezus.

I’ve seen a couple of commentators claim you just need to watch the last four episodes, but I think you need a bunch of the Clone episodes, and you need to see Ahsoka’s journey of disillusionment, for those last four episodes to have an impact. That’s the arc that forms the spine of this show.

 

Dickinson (TV show)

March 12, 2021

I watched both seasons of “Dickinson,” the anachronistic and surreal Apple TV show about Emily Dickinson. It’s wildly uneven, by turns brilliant and awkwardly heavy handed. It’s one of those period shows where someone starts coughing in one episode and dies in the next. Hailee Steinfeld is great in it. It’s got some interesting things to say about being an artist, and how one gets emotional support as an artist.

But I judge everything Emily Dickinson-related by whether it mentions Carlo, Emily’s big Newfoundland dog who was her beloved companion for her entire young adulthood. The very good film from a couple years ago, “Wild Nights with Emily,” gets a pass because it takes place after Carlo died.

This show, which takes place exactly during the time when Carlo was in his prime, makes no mention of Carlo. It seems like a big missed opportunity, given all the other weird imaginative stuff that happens in the show. I can picture this big lunk of a dog offering Emily advice and saying “I told you so” when she doesn’t take it.

There are entire biographies of Emily Dickinson that barely mention Carlo, and I don’t understand why not. He was important. The time in her life when Dickinson became reclusive coincides with Carlo’s death. Dog people understand this, how having a dog at your side can make you brave and adventuresome when you might not be otherwise, and what a blow losing that can be. I wonder if there aren’t enough dog people studying Dickinson. Dickinson scholars are cat people, and so they don’t understand.

Here’s the story I wrote about Emily and Carlo, that I don’t think I’ll be able to read now that my own dog Lily is gone.

 

writing retreat recap

March 10, 2021

Time for the report.

From Wednesday to Sunday, I wrote about 15,800 words. A reminder, my usual daily word count is about 1000. So, I did triple what I normally do, got a big chunk of a new novel started, and it felt really good.

Then I wrote zero words on the project on Monday and Tuesday. I just flamed out. That didn’t feel so good.

And this has always seemed to me to be the problem with binge writing, that it’s possible to rack up amazing word counts in a short amount of time, but it’s ultimately unsustainable. In fact, even over the course of those few days, my word count decreased from day to day. It’s just tiring.

I did learn some things about shaking up my schedule and what it takes to write 5000 words in a day — lots of planning, a detailed outline, and breaks. I got those words counts in 3-4 two hour sessions spread across the day, not all at once. I also didn’t watch any TV (except for the last episode of WandaVision) or do any crafting, and I kept Facebook off.

So rather than try to maintain that pace, I might pick a day, once a week or so, to clear the schedule and write. It might be a good way to launch a new project or wrap one up. It’s something I do already — write an entire short story draft in one sitting, or get through a big climactic set of scenes in a novel all at one. But that’s almost always by accident rather than intention. It might be worthwhile attempting big writing sessions by intention.

So yeah, still learning, still trying new things. Keep on keeping on.

 

working working…

March 5, 2021

I’m trying something a little different this weekend. I signed up for a virtual writing retreat. At first, I was just going to take part in the social aspects. But I’ve got a couple of new things I’m working on, and this suddenly seemed like an opportunity: how much word count can I actually accomplish over the five days of the retreat?

Just because I’m not going somewhere different doesn’t mean I can’t shake up my routine. I’m usually not a fan of binge-writing. My slow and steady 500-1000 words a day gets me where I want to go. But what if… what if I just tried something different?

Especially right now, at the one year anniversary of the pandemic turning everything upside down. I’ve been out of sorts and cranky, and I’m not alone. Why not distract myself? Just to see what happens. So this weekend? I am writing. A lot. We’ll see what I can do.

Wish me luck.