30 April 2009

I just quit my job.

For a variety of reasons, which I won't go into here.

But hey. I'll have a lot more time to work on the half dozen projects I've got lined up! Maybe even write a novel! (Or edit the crap out of the one I've finished already.)

27 April 2009

History is cool.

Learning history in US high schools is bollocks. As I commented elsewhere, my high-school-based knowledge of World War I could be summarized this way: Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand, Germany invades Belgium, lots of people die, the Lusitania, more people die, and the Treaty of Versailles.

That's the problem with having US history in two years and that being the only major source of your historical knowledge. You don't get the big picture, and you miss a lot.

I learned about the Weimar Republic and how the Reparations dictated by Versailles made the economy of Germany worse, which only encouraged the anti-Semitism (long known in Europe) and hatemongering that allowed the NSDAP to come to power, through my studies of German and reading on my own. There were other factors, of course, but the way history is taught is a gross oversimplification that serves no one.

I'm reading Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, which details the outbreak and first month of World War I (August 1914). It's very well-written, with insights into the personalities and character flaws of the major players on *both* sides. The battle descriptions kind of bog down, but there are maps. I hope reprints fixed some of the minor problems with regiment number placement on the maps; the copy I have checked out from the library is from 1962.

In that mood already, I picked up my copy of Im Westen nichts Neues. I own copies both in German and English (All Quiet on the Western Front). I got the copy in English for ... AP English maybe? It's got lots of notes in it. The German one was a Christmas gift from a German woman I met when I was living in Marburg. She was from Dresden, and she did an exchange to my college the next year.

There's a paragraph in the frontispiece: This book should be neither an accusation nor an acknowledgement. It is only an attempt to report about a generation that was destroyed by war - even if they escaped the shells.

23 April 2009

My letter to MANAA

Dear MANAA,

I am writing to express my support for your efforts regarding the whitewashing of the Avatar: the Last Airbender movie. I'm saddened that Paramount doesn't see how discriminatory their casting call was, let alone the final casting.

I love Avatar because it's not a European-fantasy story, but draws from the diverse cultures of Asia. There are plenty of European-fantasy stories in existence, and it's disingenuous of Paramount to claim that they're "increasing diversity" by making the story about white people.

I'm Caucasian (and an adult), and I can identify with the leads in Avatar. They're real characters, *humans*, with goals and dreams and traumatic pasts. I can recognize my teenage self in Katara, in Zuko. I can feel Aang's pain at seeing his entire nation wiped out. Hollywood's belief that white people are the most important audience and that we won't like movies or shows with non-white (male) leads is appalling, and it contributes to the perpetuation of a non-diverse system.

The film Paramount is making isn't the Avatar I love. I won't be seeing it.

Thank you for your hard work on this issue, and I urge you not to give up.

20 April 2009

On old projects and new

So. I've got this novel I've been working on sporadically over the last 7 years. It's not very good. I feel somehow obligated to take it from the first draft where it is to a revised draft, adding in a bunch of stuff, like descriptions.

Problem is, I don't really want to. It's too overwhelming, and I want to move on to a different project. I think the dicta of "the first novel belongs in your basement" and "you'll only improve if you keep writing" are having an effect.

It's true, I've been trying to write short stories (with some success; I'm revising the crap out of the one that was rejected, though mostly I want to kill it with fire. It needs a lot of work, and I haven't got the time to wrangle it. Though that might be a focus issue.) Still waiting to hear back on the piece of flash I submitted. I think that was better written, tighter, because it had a harder word limit. It lacks plot, but it's sort of a milieu story, so.

I've been taken by a long-timeline story bug lately. Starting with an alternate history (diverging in 1888 to cause a different series of events in 1914, which then basically alters 20th century history as we know it) and going up a thousand years into the future, with space colonies and things.

I'd rather work on that. I can start with an actual plot, timeline, and characters, rather than making shit up as I went along. I've got ... 3 or 4 stories I can work on, once I figure out some more things. World War 1 was fascinating in its clusterfucktasticness.

14 April 2009

The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart: MEMORY by LM Bujold

I could read this book a hundred times and not get tired of it. While it's the best of LMB's Miles books, it's the worst place to pick up the series: you need the emotional investment in the characters for this one to hit you.

It's a book with a lot of growing up and good advice. I daresay it's inspirational.

Jo Walton has an excellent post over at Tor.com (Beware: there are spoilers!) I'd sort of hoped to have this up before she got to hers (so I could blatantly self-promote in comments), but some Life intervened over the weekend.

This could be a companion piece to The Mountains of Mourning. In MoM, Miles learns who Lord Vorkosigan is and develops the anchor to Barrayar that is his identity. In Memory, Miles finds Lord Vorkosigan who was lost, suffocated almost, by Admiral Naismith.

Toward the beginning of the book, Miles goes back to Silvy Vale, with the plan of visiting Raina Csurik's grave, but plans never work out, and he spends the day visiting Harra and the Raina Csurik school (and drinking maple mead with the locals.)

It's a story about becoming the person you want to be. Miles' friend Elena quits the Dendarii Mercenaries to live peacefully on a planet and raise children, because she's been a soldier and she wants to see what else she can be. When Miles is heading back to Barrayar, he tells Sgt Taura that he wants the freedom to be as he as he can.

More after the cut:
In Silvy Vale, Miles has a conversation with Harra Csurik about, well, life and everything after. He's telling her about the abrupt shift in his life, and how the plans he'd laid for himself have gang aglee.

"You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on."

"What do you find on the other side? When you go on?"

She shrugged. "Your life again. What else?"

"Is that a promise?"

She picked up a pebble, fingered it, and tossed it into the water. Moon-lines bloomed and danced. "It's an inevitability. No trick. No choice. You just go on."


Miles is still suffering from Great Man's Son Syndrome:

How could you be a Great Man if history brought you no Great Events, or brought you to them at the wrong time, too young, too old? Too damaged.


But he comes to a realization, while thinking about family traditions: The Vorkosigan family has always served the Imperium faithfully, and Barrayar has been cruel to them.

Naismith was obsessed with winning at all costs, and being seen to have won.

And Vorkosigan ... Vorkosigan couldn't surrender.

It wasn't quite the same thing, was it? [...]

A hillman, dumb as his rocks, just didn't know how to quit. I am the man who owns Vorkosigan Vashnoi.


Vorkosigan Vashnoi that had been nuked from orbit during the Cetagandan invasion and was still a blighted, twisted radioactive wasteland, and gifted to Miles from his grandfather.

The story is part mystery, part romance, part personal growth. We see a new side of Gregor, a very different Simon, and a more matured Ivan (the ass Miles can trust absolutely, to handle the high explosives he might find. We tend to forget that "that idiot Ivan" is Vor, with everything it entails.)

09 April 2009

Reading, reading, not writing

I'm working through Memory, slowly but surely. I wish I had a large block of time so I could get through it and blog about its awesomeness, but with several other projects, hobbies, and a 40-hr job, I've got to budget my time like a mad budgeting thing.

Project 1: Making stuff for Artists' Alley at Animazement (Memorial Day weekend); attempt to make something for art show. Time budgeted: 2 hours/week (while watching House & Heroes); one additional hour if Kings isn't canceled.

Project 2: Reading up on World War 1. Right now, working through Tuchman's The Guns of August. It's written in an easily readable style, rather than the extremely dull textbook version of history. I've decided that Kaiser Wilhelm II was the George W. Bush of his time, which makes a lot of early 20th century history more accessible. Time budgeted: Whenever I can fit it in.

Project 3: Writing. Revising a short story, revising a novel. Time budgeted: 1 hr + Thursday evenings, whatever I can fit in on weekends (usually a couple hours each day.)

Hobby 1: Tai chi. I have one class, Wednesday 6-7:30. I also have to practice, and now that I am learning multiple routines, I need to allot more practice time. Time budgeted: 20 minutes weekday mornings, 1-2 hours per weekend (outside!)

Hobby 2: anime. I love those cartoons. Luckily, I'm not following very many shows right now, so my weekly gathering of nerds (Tuesdays 7-10, dinner @5:30) is sufficient. Anything I'm trying to keep up with (Gundam 00 just ended, Tytania should be close, but I'm way behind on it) I fit an episode in here and there.

Hobby 3: Reading. That's sort of a given! I don't have any time budgeted per se for this one. I'll relax in the evening with a book, usually between 9 and 10 (when old people like me turn into pumpkins.) But 3 nights a week, I'm doing something else between 9 and 10, so it's another "when I can." Though I can oftentimes manage to read while I'm at the day job, on downtime. I've got The Guns of August with me today.

Plus things like hanging out with friends, spending time with my husband, playing with the cats, and sewing (which I'm taking a break from, ohgod I need it.)

This is why I wish I were independently wealthy. I wouldn't have to go to work 8 hours a day, and I could use that time on all the things I like to do.

02 April 2009

Interesting.

I am faced with a ... not a conundrum, really, but a thing to wonder about.

When I started writing Nothing Beside Remains in, uh, late 2001? early 2002? Something like that, anyway, I had vague senses of where things would go and what would happen and what their culture was like. I'd put in some things that were vague, since I figured I'd go back and fix it later. You're not really supposed to admit that you're just making it up as you go along, but I sort of was. I mean, I knew where everything was going, in general, and sort of how they got there, but... yeah.

I finished it in 2005, and have been lethargically editing it ever since. I finally got it all typed up around Christmas, so now I'm faced with the task of, uh, making it not suck. Because suck it does. It's a first draft; that's sort of a tautology.

Anyway. I'm not sure when the fighter types became Chinese martial artists, but they did, down to learning forms in temples (think Shaolin monks.) That was part of it from the beginning, but it was one of those vagaries that I hadn't laid out. And since I started studying tai chi, my philosophy has developed somewhat, and since I'm learning weapons now, I'm delving further into the philosophy of weapons styles.

Interesting. And maybe one of these years I'll sit down and write out every worldbuildy detail that's in my head. Or maybe I'll save that for when it's necessary: the giganto alternate history and future space opera thing.