What I read
Finished A Banquet of Consequences, and, okay, family that makes the Starkadders look like the Waltons at the centre of the plot. But at least Havers is somewhat on the way to rehabilitation and not being transferred, and while I am not convinced by Lynley's new affair (I consider his new squeeze is entirely prudent to maintain high boundaries), I don't think I ever wanted to have at him with a codfish at any point in the narrative.
Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened (2013), found in a local charity shop. Raced through it though on reflection not sure that it wouldn't be better read in doses.
Gave up on the romance about marrying an earl.
On the go
Max Gladstone, Two Serpents Rise (2013) - still not quite feeling it for the Craft Sequence - it's well-done, it's not doing anything I dislike, and yet somehow I feel unabsorbed.
Also picked up in a local charity shop, Jeremy Reed, The Dilly: A Secret History of Piccadilly Rent Boys (2014), which is really, really, annoying. It could be a much better book if the author wasn't so in love with his gosh-wow prose and his vision of the sexual outlaw, not to mention, checking his bloody facts - there were two chronological bloopers in the first 20 pages, a Tory politician described as a Labour MP, a confusion between the Stones' Hyde Park concert and Altamont. Also, how can anyone possibly tell if 'most' late Victorian homosexuals were being blackmailed? The book comes from a publisher I had previously considered reputable, but does not seem to have been copy-edited (this might have done something about the Did Not Do His Research factor and the annoying repetition of favoured phrases) or proof-read, and given that some passages appear to have been written while stoned and there are sentences which are not and places where you think, that is so not the word you want there, this would have improved one's reading experience considerably. There's some really interesting material there but unfortunately the generally cavalier attitude to checkable facts makes me a bit sceptical about his ethnography of gay London, or rather, the gay West End, from Wilde to the era of AIDS. I'm also wondering whether there is any unacknowledged debt to e.g. work by Matt Cook and Matt Houlbrook.
And, finally released this week as ebook (there were hard copies at Wiscon but I was in travelling mode), Liz Bourke, Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy (2017).
 After watching Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon (1953), I actually feel better. I love when that works. The "Girl Hunt Ballet" is even funnier if you have spent the last year and change immersed in pulp fiction and still bounced off Mickey Spillane.
The biggest objection to Steven's statement at Opening Ceremonies was not about content, but about context. Context controls meaning. "How are you?" can be a polite place holder, the opening to a bit of small talk, or an invitation to talk about something serious going on in your life. Opening Ceremonies is a time for the staff of the convention to welcome people, thank people, provide some administrivia, and set the tone. It is not a time for conversations. Those happen later in the convention. It is supposed to be a feel-good half hour to ease people into the space that Fourth Street wants to create. What Steven did was an abuse of power in several different ways. In the first place, possibly inadvertently, he made it sound like his particular issue was, in fact, Fourth Street policy. I'm not sure what it says about Steven that he didn't understand before it was pointed out to him. I can think of both charitable and uncharitable explanations, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is what he did.
Although Steven claimed to be trying to start a conversation, everything about his action was designed to shut down conversation, rather than open it up. He spoke from the dias, at an event which is designed as a presentation, from a written speech. It should also be noted that Fourth Street has a single track of programming, most of the convention was at Opening Ceremonies, and probably 20% of the attendees were new to the convention. The fact that several people questioned Steven and pushed back at his behavior is not to his credit. Instead, it underscores how completely outside accepted norms his behavior was. It was sufficiently upsetting that numerous people broke the semiotic frame to challenge him. Alex, also sitting on the dias, could see people being visibly upset, some in tears. Her decision to shut Steven down was probably based, in part, on watching the damage he was doing happen in front of her eyes. If she did it less than gracefully, again, think about the frame. And think about the fact that this was completely unexpected. It is rare for the Safety Coordinator to have to operate in crisis mode. Usually, we are notified of harassment well after the fact, well after the actual crisis is past. This, this was happening right in front of her eyes.
The specific language that Steven chose, most especially "safe space", appeared to be carefully designed to undermine an entire department of the convention. Fourth Street uses the safety model, they have a Safety Coordinator, and they are doing a pretty good job of addressing issues of harassment and bias in the convention. To have someone, from the dias, in a presentation, essentially say, "These are not really Fourth Street's values," was shocking and unacceptable. If, as I gather elsewhere, this was the result of Steven losing an internal political battle, my god was this not the appropriate response.
I prefer to use consent as a model for dealing with crappy behavior in conventions. Using this model, what Steven did was completely beyond the pale. He foisted on an unsuspecting and unconsenting audience and incredibly complicated and uncomfortable topic, and did it in such a way that objecting was very hard, and conversation nearly impossible. Let's say you want to, for example, have a conversation about whether old white guys should be allowed to bang on about cultural appropriation. If it is on the schedule, clearly marked, and the panelists identified, a body could make an intelligent choice about whether or not one wanted to have that conversation. Or a body could decide that they don't have enough spoons for that particular conversation, and not go. It is not ok to try to force other people to talk about the things you want to talk about.
It should also be noted that there are conversations that are not valuable. No one needs to have another conversation about whether or not the Nazis were right about the danger of Jewry destroying Western Europe. No one needs to have another conversation about whether Jim Crow was maybe a good thing for colored people. These conversations give oxygen to toxic concepts, and yield no light. Fourth Street may well decide that some conversations are not likely to yield much enlightenment, but likely to cause actual hurt to attendees. This is not avoiding difficult concepts, this is properly budgeting time. There's a limited amount of Fourth street, an infinity of really cool things to talk about, and I get down on my knees in gratitude to editors who are good at their jobs.
Terms of Art:
I would like to point out that “safe space” is neither a literal nor a metaphorical phrase. It is a term of art, coming out of various complex discussions about how to deal with racism, sexism, and kierarchy. Like the term “positive reinforcement” which, in operant conditioning, doesn’t mean what you think it means, “safe space” has a specific, technical meaning. And the attempt to treat it as either literal or metaphorical completely misses the point. Deliberately so, in most cases.
I have problems with using the term safety to discuss harassment and its attendant issues. However, I am really, really annoyed at the people who use the term “safe space” as a stick to beat people doing real work. And seriously, pretending I don’t know what metaphor is is just not on.
In its most basic sense, “safe space” just means a place where we don’t have to have 101 conversations. A safe space for women means not having to constantly explain why we are fully human, not having to do the work of explaining why harassment is bad. A safe space for people of color means much the same, a space where people of color don’t have to explain their life and experiences and reassure the anxious white people around them. Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is, in point of fact, a “safe space” for fantasists, a place where writers and readers don’t have to explain why this stuff is important, don’t have to justify their passion for fantasy. That conversation is very much off the table.
Freelancer! From the distant future the Factions bring you our Mutant Chronicles Bundle featuring the 2015 Third Edition of Mutant Chronicles, the dieselpunk techno-fantasy RPG of future darkness from Modiphius Entertainment. With its fast-playing, cinematic "2d20" system designed by Jay Little (Star Wars: Edge of the Empire), Mutant Chronicles 3E is a thrill ride across a Solar System beset by megacorporate intrigue and the invasion of a terrible alien force.
(He had an LJ aged 12? Precocious or what?)
I slept badly last night. I never used the c-PAP at all because it seemed unwise with reflux and with me getting up repeatedly during the first couple of hours. I woke up with the sneezing and runny nose again, so apparently the c-PAP doesn't relate to that. Damned if I have any clue what's going on.
I guess I'll keep the extra appointment I have with my doctor next month (I was supposed to cancel it in favor of the scheduled follow up in August, but I held onto it in case something came up). My chances of getting in to see her any earlier are almost zero. I didn't want to keep that appointment because it Thursday during Art Fair. That week is pretty much the worst time to go to UHS all year long as all the buses will be both detoured and packed. My dentist appointment, in the same general area, is the Monday of that week, but that should be before the detours start. Official Art Fair is usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with set up on Wednesday.
The technician came today to do the tune up on the air conditioner. He says it all looks good (which isn't surprising given that the unit is only two or three years old). The woman from their office who called to let me know that he was on his way kind of freaked me out because she insisted that all of our windows had to be closed in order for him to work. Scott declined to shut the windows last night because the predicted high for today was 73F, and I can't shut most of the dratted things on my own (and Cordelia was still asleep). She assured me that the technician could close them for me. He was puzzled as to why she'd think it would be necessary. He said that that requirement is for when it's actually cold outside. That is, if the windows are open and it's 50F outside, it's kind of hard to get the AC to do anything so that he can see how it's working.
Anyway, that's done until the furnace tune up in the fall. We get the same guy each time, and I like him.
I've gotten the trash out. I'm holding out on the recycling in hopes that I can break down some of the boxes in the basement and get rid of them. I like keeping a few boxes in case of wanting to send a package, but we've probably got thirty Amazon boxes down there. We don't need that many, and I know there's room in the bin for at least some of them to go.
How often is the thing that brings a story to life a question of grammar? And yet, I know exactly what Linda Nagata means. Here she is, explaining how verb tenses turned out to be the key:
If there ever was one bright spark, one bit of insight, one unexpected plot twist that brought The Last Good Man to life, I don’t remember it. What I do remember was how flat and uninteresting the manuscript felt to me in the earliest days.
This wasn’t an unusual situation for me. Beginnings are hard and it can take time to work out a tone and style that feels right. So I kept pushing forward, telling myself that if I kept going, the essential spark that every novel needs would eventually ignite.
It didn’t happen. Not for over 30,000 hard-fought words. Sure, the story was advancing but I wasn’t happy with the tone or with the way it was being told—and I didn’t know why.
I’d done my preliminary work—a lot of preliminary work. I’d been tossing ideas into the literary stew pot for months, revising my synopsis again and again. This was a very near-future story centered on a small private military company—contract soldiers of the sort hired by corporations, NGOs, and the US government. These were “white hat” mercenaries, choosy about their clients, working only for the good guys, and though they were a small force, that force was amplified by the autonomous robotic weaponry they could deploy. And I had an unusual protagonist in True Brighton.
Middle-aged women are not generally considered cool enough to serve as the lead in a techno-thriller, but I wanted to give it a shot—I wanted the challenge—so I made True forty-nine years old, a retired US Army veteran and mother of three who is still fit, strong, and agile enough to qualify for field missions.
All the pieces seemed right. For months I’d sensed the potential in this story, but still somehow the spark was missing.
Up to this point I’d been writing in third person, past tense. Then—30,000 words in and on the verge of despair—I chanced to read a novel written in third person, present tense and I was intrigued. Could I write The Last Good Man in third person present?
Present tense is commonly used with first person, where the narrator relates the story using “I” or “we.” I’d done a whole trilogy in first-person present. But I’d never written in third-person present. Inspired by the novel I was reading, I decided to try it.
And I liked the energy of it! It was just a technical change, but at last the tone of the story felt right. I continued to move ahead, writing additional pages every day in present tense, and at the end of the day I would revise my past work, gradually shifting it from past tense to present, adding detail as I did.
I was far, far happier with the feel of the story. The change in tense had given it the spark it needed—or maybe it had given me the spark I needed. Whichever it was, I never considered shifting back.
From the cover copy:
Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.
Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.
“…a thrilling novel that lays bare the imminent future of warfare.” —Publishers Weekly starred review
Linda is a Nebula and Locus-award-winning writer, best known for her high-tech science fiction, including the Red trilogy, a series of near-future military thrillers. The first book in the trilogy, The Red: First Light, was a Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial-award finalist, and named as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and several anthologies.
Linda has lived most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.
Random quote of the day:
“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
—Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.
Mirrored from Better Than Dead.
Date: 12 April 2016
Place:... (more at http://www.thomryng.com/camino/camino-
Originally posted at Pilgrims on the Way. If you wish to comment, please do so there.
File under: Photo of the Day
Mom came up this weekend to go to one of the local art museums, which has an exhibition of paintings from a collection that focuses on the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a lot of Impressionists. Alas, I am just not an Impressionist type of person. The painting I liked best was Alfred Sisley's Snow at Louveciennes, and that was because it reminded me of tramping through the snow in Arashiyama, Kyoto--the small hilly village, the snow, the feeling of cold in the air.
I pretty much spent the time Mom wasn't here playing Skyrim, and have come up with an actual motivation for Murderface 2.0! That shall wait for a real post. Let's just say it's petty and completely disproportionate to his actions.
I have discovered a brand of lactose-free yogurt and have been eating yogurt pretty steadily over the past few days thanks to antibiotic side effects, the less said about which the better. But plain yogurt with maple syrup is rather addictive.
And to end it all with, I now have another sore throat, which is much more obviously a respiratory-related thing than last week's was, and I am expecting to come down with a cold Any Moment Now, given my general run-down feeling right now. Alas. (I may be continuing to play Skyrim, in that case...)