13 November 2014

World Fantasy Con 2014 in review

As many conventions begin, mine began with travel. I took Amtrak from Durham to Alexandria, Virginia. For once, my train was only about half an hour delayed. I arrived at the hotel to realize that I should have asked which hotel my roommate for Wednesday, Mur, was staying in.

I suppose I shouldn't go into a minute-by-minute breakdown of the convention, so I'll just say hi to everyone I saw there (my VP classmates Shannon, John, Beth T, Latasha, Mary, and Paul, other VP alums, my roomie JoSelle Vanderhooft, the Helsinki in 2017 bid crew, Carrie, Don) and the people I met (Kat Otis, Laurie Tom, Lawrence Schoen, Ken Kao, Shaun Duke, Chadwick Ginther, Stefon Mears), and the people I spoke briefly to (CC Finlay, the Haldemans, Chuck Gannon, Mike Martinez), and the people I'm forgetting (sorry! There were so many of you!).

Now ends the name-dropping part of this entry.

I had a fun dinner with complete strangers Friday night, after I tweeted asking for dinner partners. So I walked up to 23rd St and had Ethiopian food with Shaun, Chadwick, and Stefon. If the thought of eating with strangers doesn't give you hives, I highly recommend this course of action. There was a chance they'd turn out to be boring or uncool, but I think we got on pretty well.

My panel went pretty well, I think. People said they thought it was good, so I hope they weren't telling me white lies to make me feel better. I went prepared with notes, because I am horrible at extemporaneous speaking, especially at 10 am during a con. (I am a morning person, and I can't sleep past 6:30 or 7, even if I was up until 2 am.)

All the panels I went to were pretty good, though a couple could have used better moderation. All the WW1 panels I went to (all of them except the Great Game, which was really a prelude to it) were fun and informative. Some of them could have had firmer moderation, unfortunately.

There was only one negative panel experience for me, which was Alternate Histories in WW1. One of the panelists didn't seem very well informed on the subject (Germany invaded Serbia! I didn't know that!), said that divergence points were stupid and boring (but isn't that how you get alternate history??), and kept coming back to this one book, The Bloody Red Baron, by Kim Newman. I've spent a lot of time thinking about alternate 19th century history, so I asked a question of the panel that could be summed up thusly: While you were discussing divergence points earlier, you talked mostly about the outcomes of battles or if spies were captured. What would you do to make something earlier that gets into really esoteric neepery interesting? For example, if Friedrich III hadn't died after being on the throne for 3 months, putting a vastly immature Wilhelm II on the throne?

This panelist was the first to speak, and she talked about how divergence points are boring and then something about usurpation. Reader, I may have argued with her. She knew nothing about the Hohenzollern succession! TBQFH I would have been a better panelist on this discussion, and most of my WW1 knowledge is confined to the first months of the war. After she talked around the subject for a bit, I said, "Yes, I know, you don't like divergence points, can we move on?" and another panelist took the question. (I ran into a handful of people who said I raised a good point.) The answer, basically, was to set it X years later, but I kind of wanted to talk about how to figure out the counterfactual history to that point. Maybe some of you who'll be at Readercon will have ideas and we can talk about it there?

I wanted to talk about Leviathan, which is a lot of fun and is definitely alternate WW1 history. But, no, we got all kinds of talk about this book where Dracula survived and married QEII.

Anyway. I had a lot of fun talking to a lot of cool, smart people about writing, WW1, history, books, and all sorts of stuff. I got a "rejected by Clarkesworld" card with an adorable sad robot on it. (I always start with them and Lightspeed, because they send out rejections really quickly.) I don't think I can make it to WFC '15 in Saratoga Springs for financial reasons. (I'm going to Readercon, and I can pretty much only afford to go to one flying-range con per year.) It was definitely a different sort of convention experience than I'm used to, which is good for career-related things, so I'd like to go again sometime. We'll see what 2016 looks like (though I might go to WorldCon in KC.)

03 November 2014

World Fantasy Con

I'm going to my first World Fantasy Con on Wednesday. I'm told this is a very different kind of convention than I'm used to: a lot more professionally oriented, more editors and whatnot around. It's a little intimidating, but I'm looking forward to seeing about a quarter of my VP class there. I miss them.

(All my roommates from THE COMPOUND will be there, me and Tasha and Paul and Shannon, and it will be nostalgic. I learned how to make popcorn on the stove from Paul, and we all sat around our coffee table, one of us in the squeaky armchair, writing and eating popcorn he made and trying not to get too distracted.)

I'm going to be on a panel! Come say hello (or just hear me be a goober, whatever).

Language and Linguistics in Fantasy
Time:  10 a.m. - 11 a.m., Friday, Regency E
Panelists:  Lawrence M. Schoen (M), C. D. Covington, Matthew Johnson, Sofia Samatar
Description:  Foreign languages are often used in fantasy literature to add atmosphere, to show cultural backgrounds, and to bring a richness to the world, as can be seen in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and Richard Adams' Watership Down.  Some authors rely on real languages, while others, such as Tolkien, have invented entire tongues.  Which stories incorporate other languages successfully, and where have authors stumbled, making much of the work incomprehensible?

I'm also part of a group reading. Come hear me and about a dozen other women read from our fiction.

Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Saturday, 2-4 pm, room 1850 (Regency Suite 1).

I will also be helping with an as-yet-undetermined meet-up for the 2017 Helsinki WorldCon bid (likely a bar meet-up). Come find out why you should vote for the Helsinki bid next summer and have a drink (or a soda, if that's your speed).

Hope to see some of you there!

31 October 2014

NaNoWriMo

After a chat on twitter with my VP classmate Shannon Rampe and VP 18 alum Victoria Sandbrook, we all decided to be NaNo Rebels together and revise existing novels in November.

I haven't touched mine since either December (when I wrote an ending of sorts) or March (when I got to the ending in my critique group). I've been focusing on finishing my German teaching certificate this year, and I almost have (one module left!).

I'm re-reading it so I know what actually exists, and then I'll start on the revision and expansion process tomorrow. Its current word count is 51k, and there are a lot of things that need to be fleshed out, like descriptions and emotions and that sort of thing.

We'll see what happens and how far I get in the revision process in one month. If you're participating, feel free to add me as a writing buddy. My profile is here.

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.