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April 17th, 2014

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I'm in research and writing zone, with much to do. I'm also, however, between reading zones. No Aurealis reading for a little, not Hugo shortlist to work through. I meant to use this time to do more reading for my seventeenth century project, but the day before yesterday I realised that this was a good moment to catch up on some of the books by people who will be going to LonCon. I never want to turn into that person who only reads shortlisted books, and there are so many good writers going to LonCon (some of whom I know, some of whom I have yet to meet) and I have gaps in my reading and the library has books...

The immediate outcome is, of course, that I went onto the library's website and put in a request for as many books by these authors as I can comfortably read before May, while still working on all the work that must be done.

Of course, just reading is insufficient. This was brought home to me when I read the first book (by Mur Lafferty). I start asking questions and those questions must be answered. My question for some of these books seems to be what the differences are for the reader when the writer knows his/her setting intimately and understands the people of the places. What are the narrative differences between a writer writing about home and a writer writing about the other side of the world? (Mur wasn't the trigger for this, actually, the Australian accent in Pacific Rim was. Mur's book just reminded me that I was thinking about it.) These differences apply to built worlds and to our reality transformed and it's extremely interesting.

In a way, I'm applying some of the stuff I worked out for the book (that's still being finished, just not this fortnight) and checking it. Also, I'm reading with my eyes open to these issues. And it's illuminating. Most of the books I don't enjoy are ones that don't use a deeper understanding of their setting and the implications that setting has for its characters. It's not the skill of the writer, but how thin the cultural/historical ice is that they're skating on and whether I can see that ice cracking. understanding of cultures other than one's own definitely affects some readers (in this case, me) because it affects the quality of the world-build and the place of the characters within that world.

Last night's CSFG meeting underlined this. I found myself sitting back and thinking what kind of writer was asking what sort of question. Fewer of us than I expected to see had natural instincts as regards the development or understanding of culture and of individuals within their culture, which was a surprise. Some carefully learn skills. Some demonstrate that they were going to get themselves into hot water sooner or later, or simply write stories based on amazingly thin ice.

I really need to rethink how I teach cultural awareness for writers. I've been assuming that spec fic writers operated within the Humanities and had the same basic understanding as, say, a History graduate. Some do and most certainly some don't. So many have goodwill and some think that goodwill and a bit of uncertainty is enough to develop an awareness of people who come from different cultural backgrounds. Thus we see thin ice.

The skills I taught diplomats and public servants, lo, these many years ago, are similar but not at all the same to those that writers need. I knew this on one level, for I've been working with individual writers on these issues for some time. I didn't make more general correlations between what those specific writers were doing and what the cultural framework spec fic writers in general were operating, though.

My research has given me those tools - I shall use these next few books (25-30, given the time I have to read them in) to hone those tools. I even have a class during the second half year in which I can teach using these tools.

By Sunday, I shall have read 2000 pages of fiction, therefore (I've already read 2 of the books I borrowed yesterday), 500 pages of non-academic fiction, and about ten academic articles (and taken notes from them). My reward on Sunday isn't just 12 more books, it's market and DS9 and all the goodness of life. Also, matzah latkes with cinnamon.

Speaking about the goodness of life, I promised someone (this is a "You know who you are" moment) that I would repost this link during Pesach.

My tweets

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April 16th, 2014

"Bread and circuses"

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Spoilery thoughts on Winter Soldier. I keep meaning to turn these into some sort of coherent post, but I haven't done that, and having a tab I can't close is annoying me, so here, have a bunch of paragraphs.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS if you haven't seen the movie and don't want spoilers then CLOSE THE TAB this is your FINAL WARNING EJECT EJECT EJECT etc.

Did I mention SPOILERSCollapse )

You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.

New Review at LOCUS ONLINE

pgdf posting in theinferior4
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I look at some vintage SF:
Fun things, Apr 15: took possession of the new apartment!
Apr 16: ate tasty Seder leftovers

The apartment remains amazing. I cannot wait to move in. Sooooooon.

After several days of my ear being very blocked and loud, I woke up at 5:40 a.m. today with mild vertigo. Blah blah details blahCollapse ) Nine days since the last bout. They're getting further apart and milder. Still lasting an obscenely long time, but I don't mind so much as long as I'm reasonably functional.

We're moving in ten days. X has a "what if R gets vertigo on moving day" plan all ready, which means I don't have to worry about it, so I am doing my best to think about anything else. Like culling and packing. Once I can move my head again.

You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.
I will be at C2E2 on Saturday (April 26), doing a panel, All Things Fantastic, and an autographing session, both with Mary Robinette Kowal, C. Robert Cargill, Douglas Hulick, Steve, Bein, and Simon Green.

Guest post for Daniel Libris on worldbuilding.

Guest post for the Tor/Forge Blog on rules vs. guidelines.

Guest post for Speculative Book Review about The Goblin Emperor and the Wars of the Roses.

And guest post for No More Grumpy Bookseller about The Goblin Emperor and Elizabeth I.

I also did a live interview with Dungeon Crawlers Radio and a guest post for SF Signal, but neither site will talk to me at the moment.

Crowds scene

My review of MCM Ireland Comic Con went up on the Forbidden Planet International blog today, along with some pictures I took at the event.

You can see all my photos from the con on my Flickr stream, including photos of many of the Irish comic book creators who were at the event.

By the way, have I mentioned that I have a Tumblr? I started it three years ago, but after a time I didn’t have the ability to maintain it along with my other various social media.

Recently, I’ve gone back to updating it. It’s strictly focused on comics and art, so if that’s to your tastes you might like to follow it.

~ Originally published at Splinister. You can comment here or there. ~

New recipe up at the blog: bulgur and chard gratin, aka veggie yumminess (aka “discovered what to do with chards today”) :)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

Leave a comment at original post, or comment here.

This morning I had one of those strikingly awful dreams, in the few minutes between first waking and actually getting up: I was watching/experiencing a film, maybe made in the 1970s, that chronicled a witch-trial from Germany in the 1500s; a total frame-up from the get-go, in which two people were essentially being accused of witchcraft for conducting a sexual affair outside of marriage. There'd been the usual roundelay of humiliation and torture, and now I was making a long, uninterrupted tracking circuit around a huge hall where the protagonists were being burned alive together, each in one bowl of what appeared to be a huge pair of scales that rocked back and forth like a teeter-totter up above.

Under my feet the floor of the hall was ridged and odd-feeling, and when I looked down I saw that that was because other witches had been entombed with their rotting, half-mummified faces sticking up through the surface of the floor, while elsewhere it was dotted with ear-shaped hole that gave me to understand there were dungeons beneath where other accused people listened, waiting to die as well. At a certain point the film started running backwards--our protagonists' skin blushed back from black to pink, their wounds healed, they put their clothes back on, they climbed out of the scales and ran outside, where they were promptly re-arrested and I realized the whole thing was going to happen all over again.

Yeah, anyhow. A penetrating sense of dread and sorrow, haunting in the extreme. So I made myself wake up again, with a wrench, and went about my day.

Last night, for example, I discovered that "Drawn Up From Deep Places" is back on the market again, since its original venue has gone out of business; scoped out another since, so I'm going to spend some time de-pornifying it a bit, and send it off there. (Don't worry, I'll preserve the original "cut" for later.) I also need to push myself through the piece for Aghast Magazine, currently called "Cuckoo," which I hope the editors will like. It's an odd little piece--more a monologue than anything else, and consolidates a few of the less charitable ideas I've had lately about how some people react to the difficulties of being the parent of a "special needs" child. I don't want it to be too "bok-bok," though, so I have to be careful. Better to push through and fix it later, though, as ever.

And the vertigo is still there, though a little better, at least. I'm hoping to work out tonight. Maybe not to do yoga, because sometimes that makes it worse--the lying flat part.

I'll leave you with a link I discovered this morning: the amazing story of Geeshie and Elvie, two formative blueswomen whose music has sparked obsession in hundreds of collectors, but whose lives outside of a brief creative intersection remained a mystery until, with painstaking care, a series of fragments and interviews were compiled to solve--possibly--at least some of the questions their songs raise. I really like the interactive aspect of this article, which allows you to listen to the sections of music it quotes, and definitely think these ladies deserve a book, a movie...whatever. To be heard and not known is a very weird sort of immortality indeed. Check it out, here (

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Charoses, or Charoshet (or any number of other transliterations) is the ritual food eaten during the Seder, meant to suggest the mortar used with the bricks by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. (I suppose we could have been ritualizing sugar cubes, as used by generations of kids to build their school project pyramids.) Anyway, thanks to mamagavone, our charoses was delicious--simply finely chopped apples, ground almonds, cinnamon and grape juice (no wine at our Seder).
Looking at it, I was reminded of the prepared bags of apple-cinnamon oatmeal--so this morning I heated up a bowlful in the microwave, topped with almond milk. Voila! Breakfast cereal! 
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