29 July 2010

NASFiC/ReConStruction panels!

I'm going to be on several panels at NASFiC next week. Here's a tentative list:

Thursday 8/5
1:00 pm LIT108: Harry Potter retrospective. Now that it’s over, was it as good as we thought?

Friday 8/6
10:00 am LIT009: Fifty years ago today. A retrospective of SF/F in 1960. I may try to swap this one for something I actually know about.

4:00 pm LIT008: Rural settings in SF/F. Typically rural areas appear in Fantasy and cities in SF. What does this say about the two genres? Or is this generalization even true? I have no strong feelings on this subject. I will, however, gladly blather at length on it.

8:00 pm CON006: Broad Universe rapid fire reading. I'll be reading approximately the first half of "U8" and probably an excerpt from my in-progress short story, currently titled "Valkyrie One." (Other Broads will be reading as well.)

See you there?

24 July 2010

Book review: The White Road

The White Road by Lynn Flewelling, 1st ed 2010.

The White Road picks up where Shadows Return left off, so you'll be extremely lost if you didn't read SR. You know all those questions left dangling all tantalizingly at the end of SR (and alluded to throughout the first 3 Nightrunner books), like "what on earth is a rhekaro?" and "why did the Hazadrielfaie fuck off to the mountains of the north, anyway?"? They're answered very satisfyingly, yet there are enough threads left dangling for further sequels: Phoria is still at war, and still hates the wizards of the Oreska, and distrusts Nysander's Watchers.

Alec and Seregil are dealing with the fallout of the Plenimaran plot that got Alec captured and resulted in Sebrahn's existence. They retreat to Aurenen for a while, where Seregil's nemesis Ulan of Viresse plots against them. They decide to go back to Plenimar to retrieve the book that Yhakobin used to create Sebrahn, to attempt to destroy it, or at least get it out of enemy hands.

Meanwhile, the Hazadrielfaie set out to destroy Alec and Sebrahn, because they exist and they should not.

I admit, I got really bored of all of Alec's "mothering" instincts toward Sebrahn. That whole subplot did nothing for me, even if Sebrahn himself started to grow on me. Aside from that, I loved the book. A lot of the scenes in Aurenen were very poignant, especially the scenes with Seregil and his family. Then the action started, and I didn't want to put it down.

I recommend this book if you've ever read Flewelling's other works and enjoyed them (even if you didn't like SR very much because of Sebrahn). If you haven't read her other works (and you like fantasy), go pick them up!

19 July 2010

Ghost stations of Berlin

I am a child of the 1980s, and as such, the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union happened around the time I came into political awareness. It's only to be expected that something of that magnitude would have influenced me a lot.

I've been to Berlin 3 times now. Once for 3 days in 1997, once for a week at Christmas 2007, and most recently May 2010. At Christmas 2007, I learned about a consequence of the Berlin Wall that I'd never heard of before: Geisterbahnhöfe: ghost stations.

The public transit system in Berlin was started in the 1890s, and the rail system several decades before that. So when SED-president Walter Ulbricht built the wall (which he rather famously denied plans for), the two subway lines and one street-train line that crossed from West to East to West were closed down, and no one could get on or off at those stations. (With exceptions: at Friedrichstrasse there was a border station, where the West Germans could pay a fee and visit family in the East.)

Berlin wasn't divided in half on a north-south line. The Soviet sector encompassed a certain set of districts, and Mitte, where the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz are located, bulged out a bit into the west.

The Soviet/SED leadership called the wall an "anti-fascist protection wall," a fine bit of doublespeak: while they claimed to want to keep the "fascists" in the West out, they really wanted to keep the East Germans in. And, of course, someone could hop onto a train at, say, Alexanderplatz, and get out in the West and never look back. So, of course, they walled off the entrances and stationed border police inside, to prevent people from escaping through the rail tunnels.

Of course, people tried, and some were almost successful. People also built tunnels under the Wall, usually from a starting point in the west (in somebody's basement, frequently), but they were also discovered eventually.

Then in 1989 and 1990, these stations that had been abandoned for close to thirty years were in terrible disrepair, and it took years to reopen them all.

When I learned about the ghost stations, I knew I had to write a story about that. It took a while to find it, but I finally did. "U8: Alexanderplatz (1989)" is the result.

13 July 2010

Back from ReaderCon

Thanks to an offhand comment on Twitter, Jaym Gates and I decided a roadtrip from Raleigh-Durham up to Burlington, MA (northwest Boston) for ReaderCon would be a good idea. Having done it now, and spent about 30 hours in the car round-trip, I have to say it's nowhere near as good an idea as one would think. But it was a fun trip, mostly because of the company. Next year, though, I'm flying.

I attended a handful of panels, which were all interesting. I was sad to miss the Great War Geeks Unite! panel, because the World Cup third place match was on, and Germany was playing. (Stupid Spain.) Though in the 15 minutes I was there, I heard some great book recs and wrote them down. I'm not yet a full-fledged Great War geek, but I'm working on it. (I started reading Stone's World War One: a short history recently; while it's impossible to go into great depth in a 200-page book, it seems so far to be a good overview for anyone who wants to fill in the gaps their high school education left.)

The weird thing I think about it was that I went to the bar to hang with Jaym, and she was hanging with some people, one of whom I later found out is the editor of Realms of Fantasy. Um. (He's a pretty good nerdcore rapper, actually.) And I got a hug from the assistant editor of Lightspeed. It's apparently that sort of con. Which is awesome, in both senses of the word.

I read from "U8: Alexanderplatz (1989)" at the Broad Universe RFR, and I got a lot of compliments on it. I had my Germany jersey on (it was game day!), so I was pretty recognizable, and a couple people came up to me later in the day. I also had a report that someone went to the BU book table and asked specifically about the book I was in! (It isn't out yet, sadly.) So I'm sort of chuffed about that.

I volunteered 8 hours at the con, so I get a free 2011 membership. It's a pretty good way to spend time and meet people, especially if you have a lot of free time between panels you're interested in.

Then after the con, I went with Jaym to have dinner at Bart Leib's house. (Kay was out of town.) They're the co-editors of Crossed Genres. (And they have two adorable kitties!) I met some other fannish folks there, and we may meet up at either NASFIC or Dragon*Con.

All in all, it was a good con, and I look forward to going back next year. By airplane, thank you very much. Hopefully I'll have a different published story to read from!

01 July 2010

What am I doing?

- I'm writing a short story about women in the military. I'm hoping to have a first draft in the next week or so.

- The notes I've received on Iron and Rust are percolating in the back of my mind. I've only gotten one set back so far, and I'm waiting on two more. Once I get the others, there'll be more for my brain to gnaw on while I work on other things.

- I'm going to ReaderCon in Boston next week. I'm alternatingly terrified (the other attendees are way smarter and more well-read than I) and excited (a con! for book geekery!) I hope to meet some more Broads and learn some cool stuff from the panels.

- I'm also going to NASFiC. That's here in the Triangle, so I don't have to make extensive travel arrangements. I'll probably be sleeping on a pair of friends' couch, since they live much closer than I do. I have some more news on that, but it's not official yet, so.

- For my third con in three months, I'll be going to Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I don't have much to say about D*C, other than I can't wait, because I love D*C. I don't go for the guests or the panels, really, though sometimes they're pretty awesome. I go to be with geeks for four days.

- And, of course, it's World Cup season, so I'm watching a lot of football. In Spanish (on Univision) because I don't get ESPN. The Argentina vs Germany match is going to be interesting. I'm holding my thumbs for the Nationalelf.