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Norwescon

I'll be at Norwescon for work-related reasons, specifically because Toh EnJoe's wonderful book Self-Reference ENGINE is a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award. Two panels on Saturday:



Saturday noon-1pm - Cascade 5 - Japanese SF: Coming to America
Anime and manga have been a part of the American science fiction scene for a generation, but Japanese prose SF has only been making its presence known in the US for the past few years. The forthcoming feature film Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need is Kill, may be a game changer. Come hear what's up with science fiction in Japan, and what may be coming to these shores soon.
Masumi Washington (M), Toh EnJoe, Nick Mamatas


Saturday 5-6pm - Cascade 13 - Philip K. Dick Award: What It Is, What It Means
Administrators and nominees for this year's award discuss the PK Dick Award and the legacy of Philip K. Dick.
Gordon Van Gelder (M), Gordon Van Gelder (M), Anne Charnock, Cassandra Clarke, Toh EnJoe, Jack Skillingstead, Masumi Washington (it's on my schedule though I am not listed on the site. I imagine I'll be squeezed in between my colleagues.)

I will be totally, absolutely honest with you here. I wasn’t really expecting to like Mary Robinette Kowal‘s Shades of Milk and Honey [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy].

It’s nothing to do with Kowal or her writing. I’ve adored other things I’ve read by her. I’ve nominated and voted for some of her work for various awards. She’s a good writer. But this one just didn’t look or sound like my kind of book. The description, “Like Jane Austen wrote a fantasy novel” didn’t hit any of my buttons, and I’m afraid the cover art didn’t help. (The newer editions of this series have different and much improved artwork, in my opinion.)

I tend to prefer more action in my plots, more humor and fun in my fiction … which I’m sure comes as a tremendous shock to anyone who’s read my stuff. So it took me a while to pull this one off of Mount ToBeRead…

…at which point I devoured the story, finishing the book in three days, and sacrificing a bit of sleep in the process.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

…an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

There are a few action-type scenes toward the end, but for the most part, this is a relatively quiet book. And I loved it. I loved the characters. I loved the relationships between them, and the way Jane’s insecurities crashed into those of her sister, and the conflicts that ensued. I loved the language, which was careful and formal without ever feeling stilted or stuffy.

The magic was particularly enjoyable. In a genre that includes Gandalf and Dumbledore, the glamours of Kowal’s world are relatively limited in scope: the manipulation of light and sound to craft illusions. It’s seen as a lady’s skill, like painting watercolors or playing a musical instrument. But Jane is very skilled and passionate about her art, and it draws you in until a scene about crafting an illusory birch grove is as thrilling as any battle between heroes and goblins.

Certain elements and twists in the story felt a little predictable, but I wasn’t reading for the plot twists. I was reading for the sheer enjoyment. And I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

You can read the first two chapters at Kowal’s website, and I strongly encourage you to do so.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

The Triumph of the Moon

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton

An interesting look at the influences and currents prior to, and their culmination in, the developments of modern pagan witchcraft. In Great Britain, and somewhat in the United States.

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Captain America and Easter Snow Oh My

It is April 16th and there’s like 2 inches of new snow out there and I am NOT OVER IT OK.

However, I am still alive, contrary to the outrageous claims made by the date on my last blog post. I’m even nominated for a Nebula for Six-Gun Snow White and going to be Guest of Honor at Minicon in Minneapolis this weekend. Which means no Easter Egg dying for me this year, but panels for everyone!

Also I saw Captain America 2 last night and am mildly obsessed with reading the VERY FEW negative reviews because if it’s Marvel critics are now required to like it or face a personal visit from a hungover Iron Man, so that I can dissect how entirely I felt it went wrong when I loved the first one–really the only superhero movie of the current coolkids vibe that I liked on its own merits. I’m endlessly fascinated by stories that seem to almost work but blow the dismount in some way.

All the set pieces were there, albeit run through the guts of the same desaturation engine that video games seem to be churning merrily through at the moment. (Seriously, 4 color panels are starting to look downright lurid in comparison) But they were just set pieces, and not even superhero set pieces so much as Jason Bourne set pieces glitter-glued onto a We Stand With Snowden plot, which actually doesn’t play that well with a superhero universe where all solutions must be phraseable as personal mottos and tie into a movie that won’t be out til next year and also magic. Plus, don’t ever ever mention where all the money to build these evil systems comes from or any kind of class issues while trying to say something about contemporary politics, because the whole genre sort of winces at 1% issues and goes “Oooh! Look over there! Tony Stark is so cool!”, or show anyone but the 20 people allowed to live in a single-hero film/province of MarvelWorld so that there can be a PG 13 rating and we can ignore the massive civilian casualties which are actually inevitable during the pitched machine gun broad daylight super secret “spy” battles. Instead, Twitter stands in for the rest of planet Earth. Which leaves one with a feeling that you can always spot evil because it’s blowing things up, when the truth is the worst things happen without a sound, behind closed doors, with a handshake and a smile. And the Greatest Generation that Captain America provides such a nice clean altar for us to worship, far from being a bastion of wholesome morals, shook a lot of those hands before most of us were born.

The first film actually wanted to dissect some (SOME) of this stuff. The strange obsession with superheroes and simultaneous terror of dictators when it really just takes one bad day to flip one to the other, propaganda, the military using up bright and beautiful young men until they turn into monsters. But somehow Winter Soldier just really wants to be a mainstream spy thriller, and seems wholly uncomfortable with its speculative trimmings, and has in fact trimmed them down to little more than your average James Bond jaunt. Captain America is in the actual military doing straightforward pirate boarding missions. There was a sinister story to be told there about how militaristic and frightening superheroes actually are, but they didn’t want to tell it, along with about five other more interesting stories hiding between the lines. What they did want, as many interviews have attested, was to make “an old school 70s spy thriller.” Oooook.

I feel like there’s something going on there, that filmmakers want the geek money that comes with any superhero franchise at the moment, the longing to see these characters onscreen, but is still deeply ambivalent about the subject matter. Either because there is a desire among those for whom these films are passion projects to make what was once mocked as being childish Extra Serious and Adult, or because those for whom they are not want the money without having to dip their fingers into anything so unsavory and suspect as, like, color, or fun, or magic/tech/mutation that doesn’t stand in for the civil rights movement. Either way, every “geeky” intellectual property seems to be getting the artistic equivalent of Captain America’s transformation: something weaker and smaller and weirder with a good heart being pumped up with industrial chemicals until it looks like some higher-up’s idea of a real man.

And, you know, be sure to never let Black Widow have a story of her own outside of bending over center screen, booting up a Mac, and worrying about the real hero’s relationship status because, well, girl, am I right?

In other news, April 16. Snow. What.

Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

Apr. 15th, 2014

It's easy to agree to do the lazy thing, particularly early in the morning. Really need to work on resisting that temptation. Lazy thing tends not to lead to good things, as I am well aware.

Need to be less lazy in general.

Looked up the swelling thing after posting Saturday and realized its probably some kind of spreading dental infection, so I started taking those antibiotics I have in my Hoard of Meds. Saw (local) dentist yesterday, who gave me Rx for the same antibiotics I am already taking, so going to fill those and add to Hoard to replace those I'm taking.

Fucking hate antibiotics.

Oh, and dentist told me after doing some X-Rays that I basically have 4 teeth on that side of my mouth all next to each other that have abscesses or potential ones, any/all of them could be causing the swelling issue, which will come back if I don't do something about it after finishing antibiotics, and suggested I try going to dental school because expense.

So basically, literally all my teeth are disintegrating. This whole, will have no teeth soon enough is looking more and more likely.

One would think this might motivate me to stop puking food, but nope, of course not. That would imply a certain level of sanity that I clearly, clearly lack.

Whatever. Whatever whatever whatever. Lost causes and all that.

Some stuff

What's up with Oliver? He's sitting up. See?

oliversitting

And doing other developmental stuff; checking with his mother when a stranger appears, picking things up with his thumb and forefinger, lots of babbling, and all the like. Hair hasn't fallen out, eyes (gray) haven't changed color yet, so many old wives seem to be spreading information of dubious quality.

Speaking of information of dubious quality that is not at all financial advice in any way, I've been noticing a lot of my writer contacts online sweating taxes. Most of them are Turbotaxheads, and they mostly seem to wait for everything—1099s, etc. to come in before starting their taxes. What I've been doing is setting stuff up in February and when anything new comes in, I turn on Turbotax and just enter it. Then on days when nothing comes in and I have a bit of time, I'll add up one pile of receipts (e.g., plane tickets, book purchases) in an evening and input that. When I don't receive 1099s, I know how much to input thanks to normal record-keeping. It just seems much less stressful to do taxes in bits and pieces. Anyway, I finished my taxes in late February.

Speaking of, I got a surprise royalty check yesterday, from an essay I wrote on the first Anita Blake book for the essay anthology Ardeur. I've participated in something like fourteen of those pop culture anthologies, and this is only the second to earn out. (The other was the one on House, which sold to a foreign territory to earn out.) And it was a decent little check too—enough for a dinner for two at a place with metal forks (but still paper napkins), I mean. Little surprise checks are always the best. They say, "Hey, remember that thing you did once? Remember that person you were? This is a message from that distant past: go buy some socks."

Invisible is Live!

InvisibleAs of today, Invisible is officially a thing! In addition to the guest blog posts featured on the blog, the e-book anthology includes bonus material from Alex Dally MacFarlane, Gabriel Cuellar, Nonny Blackthorne, and Ithiliana.

It’s on sale for $2.99 at the following sites, and I’m hoping to add to this list as other retailer links go live. All proceeds will go to the Carl Brandon Society for Con or Bust.

I learned a lot from this project. I think these essays do a marvelous job of answering the question, “Why does representation matter?” and of looking at different types of representation in our genre.

I’m a big believer in the importance and power of story. The contributors to Invisible showed me new aspects of that power, things I hadn’t necessarily considered before.

If you’re a reviewer and would be interested in a copy, please let me know. And if you feel like spreading the word, I’ll send you a tray of fresh-baked karmic brownies (or another imaginary karmic goodie of your choice).

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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"Whiskey and Water" Elizabeth Bear

Whiskey and Water is the second half of the duology started with Blood and Iron (which I talked about before). It is set 7 years later and in many ways deals with the unfinished business from and consequences of the end of the first book. But where Elaine and the stories of the Fae & Merlin were the centre of the last book, in this one it's Matthew Magus and the stories of Hell & the Devil in his many forms that take centre stage. I finished reading this a while ago but I've been putting off talking about it because while I know what happened on a surface level I have a tantalising feeling of not quite getting it on a deeper level. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, I just have a sense of something just outside my grasp.

Read the rest of my review on my blog.

My Book Reviews

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