31 August 2011

Off to Dragon*Con!

In the morning, anyway. I've got my stuff together, clothes and food and a book to get signed, and we're driving off in the morning.

I'll be reading with Broad Universe at 10 pm Friday in Greenbriar (Hyatt). Come say hi!

15 August 2011

Book review: Jump Gate Twist

Jump Gate Twist, Mark L. Van Name. Baen Books, 2010.

This omnibus collects the first two Jon & Lobo books, One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack, and two short stories, "My Sister, My Self," and "Lobo, Actually." The author has written intros and afterwords for each section of the book, which reveal some insight into the writing of each tale.

One Jump Ahead starts with Jon attempting to take a vacation, but, thanks to a careless indiscretion, he's hired to rescue a man's daughter from her kidnappers. One of the local heads of a vast, interplanetary conglomerate is trying to get sole usage rights to the planet Jon's vacationing on, and the other major vast, interplanetary conglomerate is angling for the same thing, so the daughter is kidnapped. Except Jon ends up entangled in a plot that is a lot more complicated than that, and he seeks the aid of his former employer, the Saw, a mercenary outfit.

In "My Sister, My Self," Jon loses the person who means the most to him: his sister, Jennie. But not before she "fixes" him. The events in this story are referenced throughout the rest of Jon's stories, and this gives us some insight into his life on Pinkelponker before he's taken to Dump Island (see Children No More).

Slanted Jack is a con artist who used to be Jon's partner in crime, and he waltzes into Jon's life with a request to help this boy who's a descendent of people from Pinkelponker. Of course it doesn't turn out to be so easy, and Jon ends up tangling with arms smugglers, the colonial governing bodies, and the followers of a religion based on Pinkelponker, as well as Jack.

"Lobo, Actually," is a Christmas story told by the AI of a Predator-Class Armored Vehicle: Jon's ship, Lobo, but before he's Jon's ship. A young boy's father is dying of an illness that's going around their planet, because the hospitals don't have the cure. Lobo feels something like pity for him, though it's partly also boredom from being stuck in the town square as their pet scarecrow.

All together, the stories that comprise Jump Gate Twist are enjoyable. They're full of action and adventure, with politics creeping up the side. Jon himself isn't political, but the structural politics of the universe he inhabits are visible as he maneuvers through them. If you like adventure stories (in space!), pick up this book.

08 August 2011

My Online Life

There has been much discussion about pseudonymity and real-name policies in the wake of Google+ (I'm on it! Come say hello!), and what expectations different groups have for online interactions.

I didn't meet the internet until I started college. I didn't get email until I started college. I'd guess about half my peer group (Gen X) was about the same, though among my friends (geeks with a high fraction of CS/math/physics types), I was late to the party. They had 512 baud dialup to BBSes and whatever. I couldn't figure out how to play Oregon Trail on the high school computers. I'm sort of the generation that had a lot of formative experiences in meat-space before the internet really took off. (I know people who are a decade younger than me who say they're "from the internet.")

Yet I have many friends online, some of whom I've never met in person, but I see pictures of their kids or pets on facebook or twitter. I received a box full of Turkish media (books and DVDs) in English from an almost-complete stranger who offered to send me some things to help me understand Turkish culture better. (I was expecting, like a book or 2. I got 5 plus 3 DVDs.) I commented that I love German Christmas foods, and an acquaintance sent me a care package full of marzipan and Lebkuchen and hazelnut chocolate. I hope someday to return the favor, or pay it forward to someone else.

I have friends who I met online and have become close friends, with whom I share trials and joys, to whom I offer support and congratulations. Some of them I've since met in person, but many, possibly even most, I haven't.

I met my husband via the internet, through some people I met in person who had an IRC channel they hung out on and a mailing list.

Thanks to twitter and the German football league, I have casual friends who live in Norway, Pakistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh, as well as Germany and various places in the US and Canada. I talk with fans of my club team on twitter, and the next time I make it to Berlin, I'll see about meeting some of them in person. (To catch a match at the stadium or in a bar, whatever.)

I've been online for seventeen years now, close to half my life. I became more involved in the internet about thirteen years ago, when I met the people with the IRC channel. I've had a dozen online identities since then, on mailing lists, general forums, topic-oriented forums, blogs, communities. I currently have seven different handles online, some more public than others. I don't make it a secret that @exaggerated and @strafraum are both me, but @exaggerated is where I put pictures of my cats and links to my blog, and @strafraum is where I talk about (FIFA) football.

Where was I going with this? Right. I think online is where a lot of people have formative experiences, develop deep friendships, and generally interact with other like-minded individuals. It's so much easier now than it was twenty years ago to find other people who like reading/writing the same kind of stories you do. I've wondered so many times how my high school life would have been different if I'd had access to the internet, or even known that there were other people out there who liked SF/F. (A much less trivial aspect is that LGBTQ teens in small towns can find support online through various communities and know that they're not alone.)

Oftentimes, these experiences take place under a pseudonym, a handle. The handle, once used long enough, becomes as real as the name on the driver's license or birth certificate. It's a name we choose, not the name we are given, and that's as real to us as the name our parents chose for us at birth -- and sometimes more real. People legally change their names for a variety of reasons, and whether it's because they hate their birth name or because they're transgender and their birth name is wrong, those are equally valid reasons.

The first link in this post discusses who is harmed by real-name policies. The answer is anyone who is outside the societally-accepted norm.