September 18, 2015
This is turning into a month of unexpected chaos. Most of it the good kind. But I’ve got nuthin’ much to post today, so I will leave you with this:
Are you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of short SF&F available right now? I definitely am. I have great intentions to keep up with it all. . .and then I just don’t because of all the other reading I need to do. But a group of editors who do “Years Best” anthologies have started a Twitter feed to tell us all what they’re liking in short fiction. It makes for a helluva reading list. It’s at least a place to start, you know?
September 16, 2015
Do I think magic exists? Yes. You wanna know I how know? Because I was able to turn this:
Into a bunch of pesto that will last me all winter:
(Okay, so I didn’t actually turn all the mint into pesto, just the basil and sage, because mint pesto would probably be kind of…interesting. But I will turn the mint into tea which will be AWESOME. And magical.)
September 14, 2015
I was on a panel last year with a writer and activist who explained that superhero stories — and particularly the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are fascistic. They’re about Aryan ubermensch acting as judges, juries, and executioners, essentially becoming dictators, larger than life and certainly larger than the faceless masses they’re supposedly saving. Who do they work for? Who are they accountable to? Nobody. They’re an abdication of democracy and an embracing of authoritarianism. And I thought — well, she’s not necessarily wrong about any of that. But I don’t think she’s entirely right, either. Because I don’t think superheroes are fascistic.
Atavism: “The tendency to revert to an ancestral type.” They reach back to a time when the world was large and poorly understood. Think primal, rather than primitive.
The impulse to create heroes with special powers — to believe in them, to celebrate them — is very old indeed. Gilgamesh old. As long as we’ve had writing, we’ve had magical, superpowered heroes. We can assume the oral tradition of heroics goes back even further — those written stories came from somewhere.
Heroes are the tools that human storytellers invented to give us hope. And that hope is distinctly human. Not gods, not demons, not supernatural creatures. They’re human beings who take these supernatural powers and use them for good, rather than destruction. That’s the key, I think: These ancient heroes, and their modern counterparts, are how storytellers take things that scare us and turn them into things that save us.
In Greek mythology, people were most scared of the gods and goddesses of Olympus. They were capricious, cruel, they caused storms and earthquakes, they blighted crops and killed babies. One committed a lifetime of prayers and sacrifices in the hopes of propitiating these gods, and of averting their attention from your tiny human life. But then came the heroes. Theseus, Perseus, Hercules, and so on. What they all have in common: they’re demi-gods. They’re the children of gods, but they’re also human, and they bring superpowers literally down to Earth. They represent those fearful divine powers, but in a form that will slay monsters and tyrants and rescue the innocent from certain doom. They are semi-divine, but they are human, and they want to help.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages in Europe. Saints were the superheroes of the western medieval world, performing miracles and interceding with an absent God to protect us poor mortals, once again making the thing that scared us — divine wrath — a thing that could save and protect us. Their stories were presented in full color in the stained glass windows of a thousand churches for all to see and celebrate. Medieval graphic novels, read over and over again by the faithful.
Where do modern superheroes get their powers? From radiation. From genetic mutation and manipulation. From accidents, from toxic waste. From aliens and outer space. The terrible mysteries of our modern age, transmuted into a form that is human, that can battle all manner of disasters. Notice the different origin stories for Spider-Man in the comic and the 2001 Sam Raimi movie? A bite from an irradiated spider became a bite from a genetically engineered spider. Because radiation was the big scary thing in the 60’s, but at the dawn of the twenty-first century, it was genetic engineering.
Superhero stories change to reflect the times and people writing them. They’re supposed to adapt — they were built that way. That’s why we’re still telling this kind of story, after 10,000 years of civilization. Superheroes are the oldest form of storytelling. Archetype and melodrama and battling monsters and making cosmic journeys and encountering crazy shit like giant scorpions and holy cedar forests. These stories are as old as writing.
Psychologically and emotionally, superheroes are a shield against darkness. Against evil, against death. Against the terrible things that happen to us that we have no control over, like the wrath of the gods. If a portal to deep space and the alien army waiting there opens up over New York City — metaphorically speaking — we want to believe that something will be there to save us. Something human, who we can understand and relate to. We want to be inspired to maybe do that saving ourselves.
Superheroes aren’t just for fun. We need them. We’ve always needed them. Superheroes are atavistic, and that’s not a bad thing.
September 11, 2015
I returned home to find leaves changing and a chill in the air. The season turns again, and where did the time go? The eternal question.
I took a couple of days to visit family in Alabama after DragonCon, which is why it took me awhile to get home and wrap up. DragonCon was otherworldly. It’s doubled in size since the last time I went, and I floated through a lot of it, I felt like. I did a little shopping and a lot of programming and didn’t really get to do anything outside my own schedule, which made me sad. There were a couple of panels featuring most of the cast of Battlestar Galactica that I just didn’t get to because I couldn’t face the lines and crowds. Didn’t get to any concerts or dances, and didn’t get to the main hotels to see the costuming.
But I did wear my Robotech uniform for the last half of Sunday. That was fun. Got a few comments!
The last day, I ducked in to see the art show, and there was Pandora Celtica, a fantastic a capella group from Denver, singing in a mini-concert. So I got to see some really great art and hear some really great music. It was magical and a really nice way to wrap up the convention.
I met so many people and signed so many books, and that was fantastic. People were really glad I was there, and that made me happy. While I probably won’t make it back to DragonCon next year (seriously, next year is looking booked up already), I’m sure I’ll be back at some point. It’s a really unique place and time. A geek Brigadoon.
September 9, 2015
September 7, 2015
The question I’ve been asked over and over again for the last month: Am I sad that Kitty has ended, that I reached the end of the series?
No. No I’m not. What’s more I feel no need to be sad. First off, I finished writing the book more than a year ago. I finished the galleys about six months ago, and that’s when I really said goodbye — that was literally the last piece of actual work I was going to do on the content. I knew it was coming, I was prepared, and that was that.
But now that Kitty Saves the World is out, how do I feel? Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m still not sad. I’m triumphant.
I’ve been working on these books since 2002. That’s 13 years. I’m forty two, which means I’ve been writing Kitty books for over a quarter of my life. In that time I produced over a million words of cohesive story. I’m so incredibly proud of that.
The older I get, the Kitty books will comprise a smaller and smaller percentage of my life. But right now, and forever, and whatever I accomplish moving forward, I have done this huge, meaningful thing that I know made an impact and that I know is good work. A lot of people never get that. A lot of people never get to experience that, having something huge to point to and say, to announce, to proclaim: I DID THAT.
I am triumphant.
September 4, 2015
If all is going as planned, right this minute I am at DragonCon running around like a mad thing being on panels and doing early holiday shopping and gawking at costumes and so on and so forth. I am very likely having a good time!
In the meantime, I think I’ve mentioned I’m re-watching Babylon 5 and enjoying it immensely. On the book side, I’ve just read Naomi Novik’s Unprooted, and it may be the best thing I’ve read all year. It reminded me very much of Robin McKinley’s and Patricia McKillip’s writing, and that’s very high praise indeed coming from me. Very recommended. I’ve also just read (late, I know!) Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper series, and I can’t wait until my niece is old enough to start handing her books by ALL these authors. Actually, I’d recommend the Beka Cooper books to just about anyone as well. Good adventure stuff right there.
Next up, as soon as I get back from the convention: Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife.