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.

Well, that happened

I swear to God, I go incommunicado (mostly), and my phone bings to tell me that there’ve been more views on this blog in one hour than there were in the month before that. (I suspect it was most likely someone’s cat standing on the F5 key. Good on you, kitty. You make sure you’re getting up to date info.)

I’m visiting family in Sault Ste Marie; I got in late due to weather, and then went to dinner, and then stayed up late talking and looking at old family photo albums.

I had never before seen a picture of my paternal great-grandfather, and the one I got to look at was from 13 January, 1934. (Yes, an 81-year-old photograph. It was printed as a Post Card, by “Pictorial Studios”, which were located on 29 Newport Road, Near Scala Cinema, MIDDLESBROUGH. Which was about where he lived.)

There was also another picture, much smaller, of him in his work clothes. He was an egg-and-poultry man, apparently, and he also loaned money. (But honestly. It was made clear he was not, you know, a loan shark or anything.)

I am oddly disconcerted by this. I was always told that my heritage was, all in one breath, half-Ukranian quarter-Italian eighth-Irish eighth-Scottish. No-one ever mentioned British. Ever. We lived in London for four years when I was a kid and no-one ever told me I had a grand-uncle three hours drive away.

(And apparently he was a pretty nice grand-uncle, too. Which quashes the first explanation which springs to mind.)

I don’t know. It’s late and I’m tired; I will turn this over for a while, and consider.

I didn’t read Heinlein.

Not the edition I would have picked up in the bookshop.
Not the edition I would have picked up in that bookshop.

Okay, that’s a lie. I read a Heinlein novel during a university course on science fiction. It was Starship Troopers, and it was contrasted with Haldeman’s Forever War. And I may have read part of The Puppet Masters, but since I only remember a bit about how some clothing (hats? coats? tops?) was being outlawed, it is more probable that I just picked it up at the neighbourhood secondhand bookstore and read a few pages. I liked to hang around the SF section and do that sometimes, and it’s left me with an eclectic collection of snippets–that bit, something about a Doctor Who novelization in which a villain had attached a canister of horrible mutagen to Peri[1], and a rich tourist who went to the Savage Theme Park of New York and was stuck there after it was closed for the season.

(Those bits are rather vague, since I would have been between seven and eleven at the time–more than two decades ago.)

But when I was growing up, I didn’t read Heinlein.

I have been thinking, lately, about a line from Toni Weisskopf’s blog post, “The Problem of Engagement,” which runs:

Well, Heinlein is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

I am a fan who reads; horror by first choice, yes, but I always read SF and fantasy when there wasn’t enough horror around. I have loved Worlds-That-Are-Not (or Worlds-That-Are-Not-Quite) for many many years, and I found them through books. I have been, I would have said, one of those “fans who read” for a very long time.

But I didn’t read Heinlein.

See, the first time I picked up Heinlein with a recognition of who the author was supposed to be (this name I’d heard about, seen on book spines, was told was incomparable), in the hope that I would enjoy it? I would have been about twelve; my family was in Algeria at the time, and the English fiction library we had access to was in a repurposed basement. The entirety of the genre section was a single bookshelf, and I made a heartfelt effort to go through all of it.

phantoms
This, on the other hand, is the exact edition of Phantoms I read in that library.

I’m going to digress for a moment, and talk about Dean Koontz.

I discovered Dean Koontz and Stephen King on that same bookshelf (while I’d seen a secondhand hardcover of Cujo a few years earlier, I hadn’t been allowed to read it). Dean Koontz was easier to get a hold of, and often more snappily paced, and I would guess I read a good twenty or so of his books in the next few years. I probably overdid it, and I’d occasionally joke about how I could summarize the commonalities of plot of his novels in a single sentence. I got bored with him, and quit reading. (I’m drifting back, now, but that’s another story.)

But.

When I was twelve, when I was bored and had basically no-one to talk to, when I was starving for something to read and I went through that bookcase, here is what I found in the first handful of pages:

  • The first Heinlein novel I picked up, I read about a guy watching his daughter strip her top off and being proud that she was checking with her husband instead of with him to be sure it was okay.
  • The first Koontz novel I picked up, I read about a doctor who was taking care of her little sister and who’d bluffed an evil biker gang leader[2] into believing that she was too damn scary to mess with.

Goddamn right I wasn’t interested in more Heinlein. And my take on his work is and remains “I don’t know it,” and I don’t think that’s informed or detailed enough to count as an opinion.

And when I was back in Canada… well, I met other people I could talk to about this genre thing, and we swapped recommendations, and I know some of them liked Heinlein but none of them ever made anything he’d written sound cool enough for me to bump him onto my must-read list. And then there were things like university and work and now, sad as it makes me, I don’t have the time to read that I used to. For a little while in eighth grade I was getting through five books a week. These days I’m lucky to clear eighty books a year.

It doesn’t make me happy, but I can live with that.

So when it comes to the question of

Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

It’s not that hard. You just find other things that suit you better, and listen for things that people describe in such a way that they sound actually enjoyable, and you don’t have unlimited time.

And to that, Weisskopf wrote:

So the question arises—why bother to engage these people at all? They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.

I can live with that, too. And my reaction to that is much the same as my reaction when I put down Number of the Beast. I don’t have time for this, I have not seen enough to suggest I will enjoy this, and so I will leave this behind and go find something that will brighten or deepen or enrich my day.

And if that decision means I am not of your culture, that I do not share your values, I am sure we will both be much happier for it.

[1] Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. If I recall correctly, the mutagen canister was removed from where it was attached to Peri’s belt, and was ?thrown? at the villain, where it interacted with a wooden stake he was standing near. The mutagen then worked on the wooden stake, causing it to explode outwards into a spiky lattice of stake-y wood and skewer the villain to death.
[2] I am not saying Phantoms was particularly nuanced. (Jeter, the man in question, is further developed later in the novel. I would say the development was done to add horror, not subtlety or multi-faceted characterization.)

Driveby cute, and reasons.

White-and-grey cat in a green-and-black hat. This is a hat that I knit

  • partly to stashbust,
  • partly to try out a pattern from Doomsday Knits, and
  • partly because a friend of mine collects hats for the kids at the school where she works. So.

The project is called “Rewoven Threads”

  • because Threads is really a pretty classic post-apocalyptic movie (and an incredibly bleak one, I will add),
  • because knitting a hat to give away to someone who needs it seems specifically to address some small reweaving of the broken threads of the aforementioned movie, and
  • because I needed to weave in fourteen ends.

The cat is in the picture because

  • I apparently have no sense of self-preservation.

(He is plotting my demise. Oh yes. Do not be fooled by the sad kitty-eyes.)

Tidying up.

Still over a week to go before 2014, but I have decided that now is a good time to formally note down a handful of things I have found online that I really like. (This will also enable me to close a few tabs in my browser. I am trying to get better about doing this. I have had tabs open for over a year.)

First, the artlog tag on EliseM’s LJ is often filled with lovely things. (I mention it first because the 3 Woman Sale is over tonight. January is looking to be chill and grey and unpleasant, and I am thinking something from that showing up in the mail is not the worst thing that could happen.  I am waffling particularly over a couple of the earrings.)

Second, Captain Awkward is an advice blog that is shockingly sensible, and very good on reminding people that you actually get to have boundaries, and that you can’t actually make other people feel things.

Written Kitten‘s cache is pretty amazing, since I have stuff still saved in there from… er… four months ago? I should copy that to a file and back it up properly. Also, you know, kittens.

TV Tropes is dangerously likely to be a timesink, but I think it’s nice to have tropes–these and others–layed out so explicitly and discussed. I felt kind of the same way about The Tough Guide To Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

Knitty.com‘s– oh, dammit, a new issue is up. Okay, not closing that tab. Anyway. Yes. Knitty’s an online ‘zine for knitters; free patterns, articles, how-tos, assorted usefulness, lovely pictures. The latest issue seems to have a lot of cables. I love cables.

Hmh. Remaining tabs (all, er, hundred-plus of them) appear to be falling into broad categories. May sort them out and come back later – for the moment, I think it’s time to go light a fire.