Touching base

Well, seven months into lockdown. That feels a lot less weighty than six months – unsurprising, given that it’s not an especially neat fraction of a year – but I do kind of miss summer.

We went to a drive-in over the weekend! Apparently one opened up ten minutes from home, and I missed hearing about it until the season was nearly over. The screen wasn’t quite as large as the drive-in we went to last year (my first time ever), but… hours spent out of the house. For fun. It was kind of lovely.

Managed to pick up Wasteland 3 again over the weekend (I ended up putting it down for nearly a month), and it’s… I mean, part of it may be that I was forgetting to specifically schedule leisure as a thing that had to get done, but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s also one of the few longer games where I feel like I really want to play through again and try substantially different choices.

(Nothing that supports slavers, though. There are lines beyond which fun is not had, dammit, at least not for me.)

I did not think it would go on this long.

Six months ago today I called in sick to work. I had been trying to focus all day the day before, and I had been failing more miserably than I can tell. The plan was to go over to a friend’s for dinner, and we all got in touch with each other and agreed that it was probably a good idea to cancel.

And that was Friday (the 13th, hah), and the weekend was weird and tense, and by the time Monday rolled around lockdown was in full effect. There was still snow on the ground.

And really, I don’t quite feel like summer happened (a very common sentiment, from what I hear), and now we’re sliding down into fall again. I love fall, but I wish I could have a chance to enjoy it without all the worry.

Odd little memory from the middle of March

I got to go in to the office yesterday. (I say “got to” because when I found out about it, my reaction was similar to the reaction of the dog if you ask her if she wants to go for a walk. I like where I work.)

So I went in and said hello to reception from a safe distance and through the plexiglas shield, and then went up to the fourth floor where I was the only person, and turned on the lights, and filed stuff and restarted my computer and packed up some things from my hutch that didn’t come home in the first emergency wave. And I left after 45 minutes.

(The sign-in sheet said that there was one other person in the building, but they were on the second floor so I didn’t see them.)

I have missed work. I like everyone there, and I love being part of what we do. I’m working from home, so I’m still doing something, but I really miss seeing people and saying hello and listening to conversations in the kitchen while I knit and… just people.

I called in sick on Friday the 13th, so my desk was very “this is the middle of the work-week”. The calendar pages for March and April (because of course I put current-month and next-month there for tracking at a glance) were still taped up to my hutch.

It was very much a reminder of what-was-normal-before that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s left me a bit melancholy.

Pencil points and nail polish.

In what is probably not the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind upon reading that title, I have been cleaning and repairing window screens today. (You use the pencil points to poke the broken screen wires back into place, and the nail polish to seal the hole.) It’s not the only thing I’ve done, but it’s definitely what I can point to as a concrete accomplishment.

I have definitely hit that point of the pandemic where decluttering has turned into a Thing. That said, I have also hit the point of decluttering where I’ve run out of boxes to put stuff into, so it’s a little harder to measure how the progress has been going lately.

I’m reading again, which is nice, and I started writing an odd little thing today. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, but I don’t think it’ll be long to finish a first draft.

And in other news, I am seriously starting to wonder what Hallowe’en is going to look like this year. I don’t think trick-or-treating is going to be at all recognizable.

Catching up.

Okay. Time for a quick recap.

It’s been a week and a weekend since “Late Night at the Low Road Diner” got published, and I am still really pleased about it.

I should have another short piece coming out soon, set in the After the War universe–details soon! I’m very pleased to have been invited to write for the setting, and I hope you enjoy it when it comes out.

Crit group was yesterday. I am very lucky to have my crit group; they are a thoughtful, well-informed group who manage to articulate a lot about expectations and pacing and emotional weight and signalling, and even when it’s not my story getting critted it is honestly so good to be able to hear everyone else’s thoughts.

Consider that my writerly advice, rather than going on about adverbs. Find people who can give you good critique and treasure them. I find it’s too easy to be looking at your story and seeing what you meant to put in there rather than what’s actually on the page, otherwise. (Admittedly, I once wrote a story about a couple of fictional characters come to life and completely forgot to mention anywhere in the story that that was what they were. So I’m particularly prone to blind spots. Also I once wrote a story that I forgot to mention was about fictional characters coming to life, so you may want to take any advice I offer with a grain of salt.)

Also yesterday, I finished handwriting the edits to a 13,500 word story, and am now typing them up. I’m suspecting I will need to give it another editing pass, and it’s going to end up in the nearly completely unsellable length of 15-16K words, but it will be done.

I’ve also finished my travel arrangements for Scintillation and the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, so October is going to be a very full month, but at least one that’s well organized.

Taking stock

(This is a very carefully circumscribed post, because that is what I need at the moment.)

Slowed down on getting rid of books. On the other hand, making progress on reading them, which is always nice.

Since it generally leads to a lot of people I know talking about writing and encouraging each other on wordcounts, trying to do NaNoWriMo. The Story Hospital has an excellent post on that.

Worried for people right now, and hoping everyone is doing as well as possible.

“The Shadow Out Of Innsmouth”, H.P. Lovecraft

I shall plan my cousin’s escape from that Canton mad-house, and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.

Oh, I have so much to say about Lovecraft.

The first work of his I read was either “The Dunwich Horror” or “Pickman’s Model”. I didn’t start noticing how stridently he kept bringing up race and miscegenation for a long time, to which the only defense that I can offer is that I started way young (and I actually have something else to say about my tendency to not question authorial voice, which is a different issue for another time).

But this quote; this one chimes with me. Because while I believe Lovecraft thought he was writing a terrible horror story about the triumph of degeneration, the more I read it the more it’s about a triumphant escape, and coming home, and realizing who you are to dwell in a place of loveliness and acceptance.

(Also, you know, Deep Ones. Who are neat, although I prefer ghouls.)

Possibly useful information

Most people I know know the things I’m about to say, but I don’t know most people. And since I’ve mentioned a few of these things to people over the last week and they seemed to find it useful, I figured this was not a bad time to mention it.

The Hugos

The Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in fantasy and science fiction. They’re awarded every year, and they’re not a juried award. Everyone who has a Worldcon membership for last year, the current year, or the year to come can nominate works for the ballot. Everyone who has a Worldcon membership for the current year can vote on the final ballet.

I’m not saying voting is trivial; the cheapest membership is $50 this year, and it’ll go up at the end of the month, and that’s in American dollars. (In recent years, the Hugos have provided a content pack that contains samples or full copies of the nominated works, which helps take some of the sting out of the outlay.)

Submission Grinder

So I was talking to someone at a party and she mentioned that she wrote very short fiction, about a hundred words, but “no-one would publish that”. After I was done blinking, I told her about the Submission Grinder.

The Submission Grinder is an online tool where you can keep a record of your writing and the places you have submitted it to. It lets you search for markets by genre, rate of pay, simsum or reprint policy, award nomination… you get the idea. It’s free.

There is also Duotrope. My understanding is that it provides a substantially similar service, but is not free.

Writer Beware

When you sell something, you will get a contract. If you are uneasy about that contract, if you don’t understand something, if you’re not 100% clear on copyright, if (as I did) you completely misread a phrase and are trying to figure out what the hell it means, you can go look at Writer Beware.

(You can even email them to ask questions. I did.)

Adjectives

I hear that every writing advice blog post has to have something about adjectives in it, and this is heavily about writing, so I thought I would mention them. That’s all.

Mayyyybe… you’ll think of me…

PIPBoyThe light of my life got me a PIP-Boy.

I’d explain, but there is too much. Let me sum up.

Lo these many years ago, I ran across a computer RPG called Fallout. It was a retrofuturistic[1] post-apocalyptic game, in which you travel out from the great underground Vault where your people have lived for generations to find a replacement for the chip for the water purifier.

It spoiled me, in a lot of ways. (I used to approach other games just naturally expecting that I could play a female character unless there was a reason, and expecting many-many-lots options for how to deal with problems. Fallout, I love you–I have loved you for many years–but you’re probably a chunk of the reason that shooters bore me to tears.)

Anyway. The characters–the protagonists you play, I mean–have a PIP-Boy; a Personal Information Processor Boy, which keeps track of such useful in-game things as inventory and quests and maps and the like. (In Fallout, there were buttons to pick the various options. The button for “Clue” had been ripped out, and the label had been near-completely scratched off.) The PIP-Boy is… it’s as iconic as the whip of Indiana Jones, the pipe of Sherlock Holmes, the sonic screwdriver of the Doctor.

pip-boyThe collector’s edition of Fallout 4[2] comes with a PIP-Boy, and you can put little foam inserts in it so whatever phone you have fits in there. I wanted one. I really really wanted one. I am being fiscally responsible, and held off.

And the light of my life brought me a PIP-Boy created on a 3D printer specifically to fit my phone, that I get to paint all by myself. I can even add little LEDs, too. And it’s light enough I can wear it, and it fits, and…

I have a PIP-Boy.

[1] Ray guns? Yes. Super-mutants? Yes. Cellphones and LCD monitors? God no, no-one’s ever seen one of those.
[2] Finally. …I still have a spare copy of Fallout: New Vegas to give away, by the way! Only on Steam, though.

Speaking of the Hugos

Ann Leckie receiving her Hugo at the LonCon 3 award ceremony in 2014.
Ann Leckie receiving her Hugo at the LonCon 3 award ceremony in 2014.

Was reading one of (many, many) online discussions of the Hugos and SFF fandom the other day, and it was mentioned that a surprisingly high number of people aren’t aware they they’re not a juried award.

So, to be explicit:

If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy, you can buy a Worldcon membership.[1] That lets you nominate on and vote for the Hugos.

The ballot is already set for this year; it’s here. But a supporting membership to Worldcon still lets you vote to rank the works on the ballot, and nominate works for the ballot for next year.

You certainly don’t have to, but you can.

[1] Okay, I mean, technically if you’re a legal person who can buy things, you can buy a Worldcon membership, but I can’t imagine why you would buy it if it wasn’t from an interest in the genre.