15 September 2014

Post-DragonCon update

I had a blast at DragonCon again this year. This time, Ben and I made armor for the first time so we could cosplay as Sasha and Aleksis Kaidanovsky from Pacific Rim. We didn't quite finish everything in time, and we discovered a few things that will need to be adjusted/fixed for future conventions, but for a first armor done in about a month (less, actually), I think we did pretty well.

Us and Comrade Jellyfish (Comrade Squid was unavailable)

Sadly, shortly before DragonCon, one of our cats died. She had (probably) a rare and untreatable cancer, so we had to let her go. Mylene was a sweet, friendly orange bundle of love, and the 11 years we had her weren't enough.

Mylene, 2003-August 2014

Right before DragonCon, I interviewed for an opening to teach German at a local language school, and I have my first class this afternoon. It's a private lesson. I have a regular class starting in early October. And suddenly I have to prep a lot of lessons...

The next convention I'm going to will be World Fantasy Con, where I'll see some of my VP17 peeps and maybe some instructors, as well as friends Carrie, Don, and JoSelle. And probably a lot of other people. Maybe some of you!

Next year's convention schedule will be IllogiCon (January), Shatterdome ATL (June), ReaderCon (July, hopefully), and DragonCon (Labor Day).

11 August 2014

We have got to stop meeting like this.

I'm back with another "sorry it's been so long" post. I don't really have a good excuse.

I read more of the Hugo nominees, but it's been long enough since I read them that I don't feel like I can give them a fair review/summary, and voting is closed anyway.

I'm working on an exam in my teaching-German distance learning course, which is due Tuesday (actually 6 pm tonight thanks to the time difference). It's basically taken up all my time in the last 2 weeks that hasn't been taken up by Shatterdome ATL-related stuff. Though I've spent the weekends working on costumes for Dragon Con, which is in less than 3 weeks oh god, and we don't even have half the things we need.

I haven't done much in the way of writing in a while. I'm focusing on this course I'm taking that I need to finish by April 1. I only have 2 modules left after this one, and each one takes about 6 weeks if I focus on that. I'm taking off between the time I turn this exam in and Dragon Con. Even so, hopefully I'll be done by the new year, and I'll have a shiny certificate in teaching German ... that pretty much no one in the US gives a damn about. Oh well.

After that, I can get back to focusing on writing. And finding a job, I guess.

11 June 2014

2014 Hugos: novelettes

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang: This story had the potential to be a cliche, but Chiang's skill avoided that. The narrator describes his somewhat estranged relationship with his daughter and relates it to a technology that allows you to record and remember everything that you've ever done. He weaves it together with a story of a young African man who learns to read and write from a Christian missionary, who discovers that the truth he learned about his tribal ancestry isn't the facts. It's an excellent look at both the advent of technology & its effect on memory and at relationships.

OVA by VD. I'm not going to type out the full name of this, because I don't want his fanclub to descend on my blog. To be quite frank, this story does not deserve to be on the Hugo ballot. The writing is like a twelve-year-old who really loves Terry Brooks or Terry Goodkind and wants to write a story just like theirs. It's painful to read, and exceptionally dull to boot.

The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard: Another entry in her Dai Viet universe (aka the Xuya universe), this one is about the ship Minds and the Outsiders who separate the Minds from the ships, only that isn't quite obvious from the beginning. It's also about colonization, as many of the Xuya stories seem to be; this one is about the loss of culture and self and memory.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal: Elma is an aging former astronaut, resident on Mars, whose husband has a fatal disease and who gets a last chance to go into space on a mission that a young astronaut couldn't do. It's a story about love and aging and caring for a dying loved one.

"The Exchange Officers" by Brad Torgersen: Every time I read one of his stories, I think, "Well, maybe this one will do something for me." This isn't it. this story is about people who Operate remote-controlled spacecraft from a space station, which is then attacked by Chinese space soldiers. It is competently written, extremely dull, and jingoistic as fuck.

09 June 2014

Shatterdome Atlanta recap

It's been a week since the first con I chaired ended, and I'm mostly recovered.

It went very well. The core con com was experienced and worked well together. I bought some cute art prints from the artists in artist alley. When it was all over, I drank a lot of Scotch and also Bärenjäger. And a little bourbon.

The highlight of the con was entirely unexpected. At one point, an attendee noticed that one of the stars of Pacific Rim tweeted that he was in Atlanta. So an "everybody tweet at Rob and let him know about the con" campaign was launched. I didn't think much more about it, because as if he'd show up, right?

me, Rob Kazinsky, Ben
This is me, Rob Kazinsky, and Ben.

He showed up. He was very nice (the complete opposite of his character!), and he was a guest judge for the costume contest (which was about to start when he arrived). On behalf of LOCCENT Atlanta, thank you so much, Rob!

I want to say how nice the attendees were. It was a very supportive, friendly environment, and so many recaps on tumblr were full of appreciation for the atmosphere. We wanted to make it a safe space for everyone, and it seems to have worked. The harassment policy wasn't violated, and I haven't heard of any ickiness. This was the best part of fandom--and it was diverse. This is the future of fandom.

In a month or so, LOCCENT Atlanta will reconvene and discuss whether we want to do this again. After half of the con com gets back from their respective international trips.

02 June 2014

2014 Hugos: Ancillary Justice (novel)

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This book got a lot of buzz when it came out. I borrowed a friend's copy recently so I could read it for the Hugos (since Orbit has decided not to put the whole book in the packet, just an excerpt).

In the far-distant future, humanity has spread throughout the galaxy. The Radchaai Empire has expanded for millennia, but the Lord of the Radch has decreed that a particular annexation will be the last.

The narrator, Breq, was present at the final annexation as the starship Justice of Toren and its ancillaries (AIs in human bodies that act as soldiers). She is separated from her ship, and when she stumbles across an old captain of hers, lying face-down in the snow, she cleans her up and drags her along on her quest.

The Radchaai language doesn't have a gendered third person pronoun, so the narrator uses she as the generic term. (Which leads to sentences like "she was probably male.") It's an interesting linguistic trick, which mostly works. Breq has trouble using the right pronouns for people when speaking languages other than Radchaai, which is too Sapir-Whorfian for me to believe. But it's an interesting conceit.

There is a lot of politics going on, which Breq is wrapped up in, of course, and it's different from your standard-issue space opera. (I like standard-issue space opera, but change is always good.) Class issues are discussed front and center several times.

It took a while for me to get into it (Leckie dumps terminology on you and expects you to run with it, which I generally find frustrating), but once it was explained how the narrator could be in multiple places at once and what Esk and Amaat and all that meant, I found it a much easier read. Then I read the hell out of it.

If you like space opera, you should definitely read this book.

26 May 2014

2014 Hugos: short stories

It's that time of year again. I'm working through the fiction, though afaik the packet isn't available yet, so I can only read what's freely available online (or from friends/the library) or already in my collection.

The list of nominees is here, with links to some of the pieces.

Now, my thoughts on the short fiction (in the order they appear in the list above).

"If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky: This is well written, and the ending, where you find that "you" were hospitalized, probably permanently, following a gay-bashing, does pack a punch, but when I read it, after half my twitter timeline gushed about how amazing it was, I wasn't moved. It felt overly preachy. It resonated for a lot of people, though.

"The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt: I couldn't get into this story at all. The narrative voice never clicked for me.

"Selkie Stories are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar: Like "Dinosaur," this story made the rounds of my twitter timeline when it went live. I thought it was ok, a clever take on an old story, but that was about it. (I also saw the ending coming.)

"The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere" by John Chu: A young Chinese-American gay man wants to introduce his partner to his family. His sister is vehemently against it. Also, when you tell a lie, water falls on you. This manages not to be the same old story we've read a hundred (thousand) times. It is very well written and it works.

09 May 2014

Busy, busy, busy.

Shatterdome Atlanta is in 22 days, and I'm spending several hours every day working on that.

I'm finishing up a short story for submission to an anthology.

I'm taking the 5th exam in my distance learning German-teaching course starting Sunday (15 days).

A friend is visiting from California the 20th-23rd.

I'm going to Berlin in about 6 weeks, and I need to plan for that.

Back when I can breathe again.