FF: Making Up My Mind

January 19, 2018

With the impending release of Asphodel taking a lot of my spare time, I haven’t picked my next novel to read, but have been reading the most recent Smithsonian before bed.

Can She Break the Glass?

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint.  Very strong.  I liked it!

Page: Protector of the Small, Book Two by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Re-read.

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.  Re-read.  Well worth it!

In Progress:

The Dark Prophesy: Book Two of the Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan.  Audiobook.  Just a few chapters in.

Also:

The Dragon of Despair by Jane Lindskold.

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TT: Envisioning Stories

January 18, 2018

JANE: As you were saying last time, Alan, fan costumes aren’t necessarily restricted to costumes based on visual media.  This is absolutely true…  In fact, clever readers of these Tangents may notice that the fans who were shown last week cosplaying Sailor Moon (media) are shown cosplaying characters from a novel.

Tortallans

Do you have any cool examples?

ALAN: Yes I do. In 1979 the Worldcon was held in Brighton, in England. I was there, and at the masquerade (that’s what we call the formal costume contest and presentation) I saw the most breathtaking costume I’ve ever seen. A very beautiful (and very courageous) woman appeared in front of the crowd as the heroine of Robert Silverberg’s award winning novella, Nightwings. She was completely naked apart from a G-string and a huge pair of wings.  The wings were hooked across her shoulders and attached to the G-string at waist level to help balance the load.  The wings themselves were so enormous that she needed two handmaidens to support and carry them behind her. The applause for her costume was deafening, and not just because she was naked and beautiful, but because the whole effect was simply stunning. She really was the Nightwings character.

The BBC had a camera crew at that convention and you can get a glimpse of her on Youtube here.

She appears roughly 20 minutes into the film.

If you watch the whole thing, see if you can spot me. I am briefly on camera, but if you blink you’ll miss me.

JANE: I looked but I couldn’t find you, but then I’m not sure I’d recognize me from 1979, much less someone else.

ALAN: As we’ve said, the idea of dressing up to attend a convention has never really gone away.  These days all kinds of brilliant costumes are in evidence. The people who do this are called cosplayers, and often they combine their interest in costuming with a passion for live role-playing.

JANE: Did you know that the word “cosplay” is actually Japanese?  It has its roots in Japanese anime/manga fandom, and is an abbreviation of “costume/costuming play.”  Such pseudo-English words are fairly common in modern Japanese.  A few years ago, “cosplay” started being applied to costuming in general, and so made its way into English.

ALAN: That’s interesting. I didn’t know the derivation. I’d assumed it was just a Humpty Dumpty portmanteau word.

JANE:  And it is…  Just with an origin a bit more eclectic than most.

Live action roleplaying (or LARPS) started showing up around the time I was first attending conventions.  I believe that the initial impetus was related to the popularity of vampire fiction and, in particular, to a series of roleplaying games then published by White Wolf.  Vampire: the Masquerade was the first of these.  As the title indicates, the idea is that vampires live among us, masquerading as normal humans.  Therefore, the initial LARPers actually didn’t wear costumes.

However, even without costumes, they stood out at cons because they used a variety of poses to indicate whether the character was using magical abilities.  One of the most common, as I recall, was hands crossed over the chest, which meant that the person was invisible.  So you’d have these people (usually dressed in black) pacing around the convention with their arms crossed over their chests, not interacting with anyone because they were invisible.  It was, to put it mildly, surreal.

ALAN: Of course it was – this was at an SF/F con and a con is not a con without a touch of the surreal somewhere around.

JANE:  But getting back to what we were saying earlier, even leaving out those costumes where the influence may be as much media-based as from the text – for example, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones or various comic books — there are many examples of fan costumes based on novels.  Roger had numerous photos of fans costumed as characters from his Amber novels.  When Tamora Pierce came to Bubonicon, a group of fans (featured in today’s photo) did a complex group costume as characters from her Tortall universe.    I’ve even heard of fans cosplaying Firekeeper.

ALAN: Costumes can also often be thematic rather than being derived from specific literary or other media characters. So, for example, we may have cyberpunk or steampunk costumes, beeping or ejecting clouds of steam. And in these days of the fear of a zombie apocalypse, hordes of the undead are not uncommonly seen lurching around conventions.

Did you know that in 2011, Wellington City Council actually implemented a Zombie Apocalypse Plan (known as ZAP)?

JANE: Are you kidding?

ALAN: ZAP had its serious side – Wellington has regular earthquakes and, being a coastal city, is very susceptible to tsunamis. Anything that makes the populace consider the consequences of a disaster has to be a good thing, if only to force them to prepare for it by laying in supplies of food and water. And vinyl records, of course.

JANE: Vinyl records?

ALAN: Yes. ZAP suggests that the very best way to dispose of a zombie is to hurl a vinyl record at its head so that the skull is pierced through and through.

One councillor commented that it was about time the city had an effective zombie policy. “We haven’t had one before,” he said, “and look what happened. I’m surrounded by zombies on the council.”

Just in case any of our readers think I’m joking, information about ZAP can be found here.

JANE: I believe you, even without the link.  You wouldn’t lie to us!

In addition to costumes based on published fiction or literary themes, there are costumes based on a character from a role-playing game or from the costumer’s work-in-progress.  I always enjoy these because they’re a reminder of how many different forms the creative impulse can take.

ALAN: But as wonderful an addition to a convention as costumes can be, sometimes they can indicate an unsettling trend.  Maybe we can talk about that next time.

Chatting With Walter Jon Williams

January 17, 2018

JANE: This week I’m interviewing Walter Jon Williams, the award-winning author of numerous science fiction and historical novels, about his latest release: Quillifer.

Walter and Quillifer!

So, Walter, I always start interviews with this question: In my experience, writers fall into two general categories: those who have been writing stories since before they could actually write and those who came to writing somewhat later.

Which sort are you?

WALTER:  I decided I wanted to be a writer as soon as I knew there were such things as writers, which was before I had learned to read or write.  I would dictate stories to my parents, who would write them down for me.  Fortunately, none of these efforts have survived.

JANE: Your latest release is Quillifer.  To the best of my knowledge, this is your first Fantasy novel.  What drew you – who are best known for cyberpunk (Hardwired) and space opera (the Praxis series) – to trying your hand at Fantasy?

WALTER: Sometimes the universe just gives you a story and tells you to write it.  I took a 90-minute walk while listening to an audiobook of Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Shakespeare, and by the time I came home I had six books plotted and the name of my character.

That happened a number of years ago actually, but I hesitated since I knew that I’d have to give up my SF career to write a six-volume fantasy.  Then I managed to sell Quillifer to one publisher and a continuation of my Praxis SF series to another, so I ended up living in the best of both worlds.

But the main reason I’m working on the series is that I find Quillifer an irresistible character.  I hope readers find him likewise.

JANE: Quillifer (who insists on being called only by his surname) is very much the “charming rogue” type of character.  In this, he’s definitely a first cousin to one of my favorite of your characters – Drake Magistral whose story is told in the three “Divertimenti” novels: The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, and Rock of Ages.

What is the appeal of this sort of character for you?

WALTER: Rogues see through pretense.  Han Solo punctures the solemn nonsense of the Star Wars movies, Flashman exposes the hypocrisies of the Victorian era, Rhett Butler laughs at the South’s code of chivalry, and Loki is the one you watch in the Thor movies.

Rogues tell the truth.  And of course rogues are very charming, which they have to be if they’re going to go around telling the truth all the time.

And one note: Quillifer isn’t Q’s surname, exactly, it’s the only name he’s got.   He doesn’t need another one.

JANE: Thanks for the correction.  I’d missed that!

Although Quillifer is definitely a Fantasy, in many ways it reads like a historical novel.  The world-building – from architecture to commerce to religions and style of dress are all very solidly grounded.  I assume your travels about the world had a definite influence on this.  Is that correct?  Did any specific countries influence this book?  What else did you draw upon?

WALTER: I was aiming to make the world as real as I could, and I did my best to build it brick by brick.  Many of the settings in the novel are based on places I’ve been, though of course they’re all mixed together, so you end up with buildings from Gdansk in a setting from Turkey, and inhabited by people from Dorset.

Once I started doing research I kept finding out absolutely factual stuff that was far more fascinating than anything I could invent.  Turnspit dogs, for example— a now-extinct breed of dog trained to run in oversize hamster wheels, turning the spits before a fire.

And King Arthur’s Court, which is in Gdansk, Poland.  You might have thought that King Arthur had his court in Britain somewhere, but you’d be wrong!  King Arthur’s Court was a high-gothic clubhouse for rich bourgeoisie, who dressed up as knights and held feasts and jousting and other entertainments.  They were cosplaying the Middle Ages in the actual Middle Ages.  I just couldn’t make up something like that.

JANE: I agree!  I knew about turnspit dogs, but not about the cosplaying.  Very cool…

Happily, Quiliifer has its own plot and a very satisfying conclusion.  Earlier, you said you have plans for other novels in the series.  How many can we look for?

WALTER: I’ve contracted for two more, which will appear at approximate two-year intervals, Quillifer the Knight in 2019, and the third in 2021.   If the first three books do well, I’ll write the next three, and take Quillifer from the age of eighteen into old age.

JANE: You mentioned you have other projects you’re working on.  Can you tell us more about these?

WALTER: I’m also working on the Praxis, the Science Fiction Series That Wouldn’t Die.  The publisher tried to put an end to the series after the third book, but couldn’t stop the public from buying them.  All three of the first books have been through many printings, and have never been out of print, and it’s been fifteen years!  So now I have a new editor, and he’s acquired three more.  Right now I’m dealing with the editor’s notes for The Accidental War, which should appear in September of this year.

I’d like to thank my editors Joe Monti and David Pomerico for agreeing to let me alternate books.  Working alternately on Quillifer and the Praxis will keep me from getting stale on either project.

So I’ll be busy for the next several years, and I hope readers will enjoy the books if they can find them, which in these days of collapsing bookstore chains is beginning to be a problem.

JANE: Thanks for taking time out of what sounds like a very busy schedule to chat.  Now I shall release you to go write.  I, for one, will definitely be reading The Accidental War when it comes out.

FF: Making Time to Read

January 12, 2018

Jim’s finishing off a long holiday, but even with that pleasant distraction there’s been some time to read.

Keladry Poses With Her Namesake

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

First Test: Protector of the Small, Book One by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  Warning…  This book has a tough first third.  Pierce does not pull her punches as to how hard a road Keladry will need to travel to become even a page, much less achieve her dream of becoming a knight.

In Progress:

The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint.  Over halfway.  Enjoying!

Page: Protector of the Small, Book Two by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  Obviously, I’m hooked all over again.

Also:

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart by Jane Lindskold.  I want to go visit New Kelvin for real.

TT: A Serpent in Paradise?

January 11, 2018

JANE: So, last time you were talking about how a larger club can embrace numerous sub-fandoms.  Certainly, that can work but from what I’ve seen – and please remember, I’m not in any clubs — the biggest conflict seems to be at the convention level, when a sub-section of the group wants to have media guests.

Sailor Moon!! at Bubonicon

Unlike author and artist guests, who attend for free or (in the cases of Guests of Honor) for expenses only, media guests are expensive and often do little more than a canned presentation, then sit and sign photographs of themselves (for which they charge even more).  The movie Galaxy Quest captures this very well.

I’ve seen more than one group fragment over this.

ALAN: We don’t have this problem – we have a national media convention called Armageddon which is run as a business (and which, I am told, makes a healthy profit).

The national SF conventions themselves are much smaller affairs, run by volunteers, and they seldom have media guests because Armageddon takes over that function for them.

JANE: There are media conventions here, too.  That isn’t really what I’m talking about.  The problem that can arrive is when a convention that’s more like what you describe as your national SF con develops a group of fans who can’t understand why a media guest can’t be added to the roster.

ALAN: Despite what I just said, there have been occasions when our national conventions have had media guests. If you are careful about who you invite, it can work out surprisingly well. One year our national convention had Danny Don Jules (the actor who played Cat in Red Dwarf) as the guest of honour. He turned out to be an absolutely wonderful guest – he was fun, he was funny, he was very approachable and best of all he was a very knowledgeable science fiction fan who was absolutely thrilled to have been chosen to play a part in an SF television show. It was one of our more memorable conventions – everyone had a ball!

JANE: How did Mr. Jule’s participation come about?

ALAN: I presume the organiser just felt like it and so she wrote to him care of the BBC. That’s just the kind of thing she would do, and she was astonishingly successful at persuading people to come and be guests at her conventions. She was very good at what Granny Weatherwax calls “Headology”.  She put together several excellent conventions by all by herself, with minimal help from other people.

JANE: She was lucky and I guess your national con must have a good budget!

ALAN: No. They are all self-funding from membership fees and the like. There are no external funds for the convention to draw on.

JANE: Impressive!

I’ve attended various conventions that featured media guests.  Most were, sadly, pretty unmemorable. Some didn’t even seem to know much about their own characters or shows.  Knowing that those people were being paid large amounts to smile and sign their name, when I was racking up expenses to be there and doing multiple program items for which I carefully prepared in advance…  Well, I’ll just leave it there.

However, some years ago, New Mexico Tech had a very small SF convention.  The organizer had a family relationship to Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura on Star Trek.  She was amazing.  Not only didn’t she mind being at a con that was small and without a lot of frills, she was thrilled to be free to walk around and be part of the event.  She went and watched the belly dancers, talked to anyone who wanted to chat, and – although I will always regret missing this – apparently went to a campus bar and tried to get the uptight students to dance.  I would have danced with her, no question.

But, as with your story about Danny Don Jules, Ms. Nichols had a lot to offer as a person.  Her speech was not only about Star Trek but about the responsibilities of being a role model.  Anyone further from the whining has-beens of Galaxy Quest could not be imagined.

George Takei was also delightful the two times I crossed paths with him.  So I think media guests may have something to offer – but only if they’re permitted to be more than talking heads for their fictional selves.

ALAN: Media SF/F invites another aspect of fandom to blossom forth – costuming. Some of the costumes can be quite elaborate and are often more than just a simple copy of what the characters wore on TV or in the movie. I remember once seeing a delightful pink dalek trundling itself down a hotel corridor.

JANE: Most conventions here have formal costume contests, as well as informal “hall costumes.”  Some conventions give prizes for both.

Costumes can be a great way for fans to shout out what they’re interested in.  Our local con has some pretty magnificent storm troopers from Star Wars who show up, as well as people meticulously costumed as characters from various anime and comics.

I’ve actually learned about various shows by asking what inspired a particular costume.

ALAN: Not all costumes are necessarily movie-based.  I remember one in particular…  But let me see if I can find a picture of it to share.  Then I can tell you about it next time.

Eighth Anniversary (Almost!)

January 10, 2018

This Saturday is the eighth anniversary of the Wednesday Wanderings.  In all eight years, I haven’t missed a single week.  Many of my posts specifically on writing can be found in my book Wanderings on Writing, but there’re also available on the site.

Wanderings on Sofa

I certainly plan to continue with these Wanderings in 2018.  While posts will include announcements of new projects, interviews, and progress reports, doubtless I’ll wander on about whatever’s on my mind.

This brings me to the matter of memory foam.  Last week, Jim and I replaced the pad on our futon sofa.

Side note for cat owners: If you have a problem with cats using your sofa as a scratching post, you might want to consider a futon sofa.  Although the initial outlay is similar to that for a “real” sofa, the three basic elements – the frame, the pad, and the cover – can be replaced separately.  An added bonus is that most futon frames are made of wood or metal, which doesn’t look nearly as much like a scratching post to a cat as do the arms, legs, and backs of a standard sofa.  Best of all, you get an extra bed out of the deal, one that’s a lot more comfortable than most sofa beds.

Anyhow, the first pad we bought for our futon sofa had been built much like that for a “real” mattress featuring a combination of springs and padding.  It had a lot more bounce than the usual cotton batting futon, and did well by us for many years.

However, archeology is profession that is not particularly kind to backs.  Eventually, Jim hinted that he’d like to get a replacement pad.  When we went shopping, we discovered that there was a new option – a pad made completely out of memory foam.  We tried it in the store, liked it, made our purchase, and took it home.

After removing the old pad, we cut away the packaging that covered the folded memory foam pad.  We expected it to stay folded but, to our amazement, it slowly unfolded, flopping open flat.

No problem, right?  After all, we had to put the new cover on, and that could only be done with the mattress flat.  We worked the new cover around, admiring how tightly it fit, then shoved the frame and pad into the sitting position.  We arranged the pad into place and stood back to admire the effect.

The memory foam pad – still “remembering” that it should be flat – popped out of the frame, flat as a board.  After several more attempts to get it to stay in place, including sitting on the pad, we called the store.  The manager gave us a few tips, including suggesting that we position the pad then place something heavy on the seat while the memory foam set into its new position.

We were at a loss as to what to use to provide even weight.  Then Jim remembered that we had boxes of my out-of-print hardcover novels in the garage.  We brought in six boxes, positioned the pad once more, then – while I sat on the sofa to hold it in place – Jim set the boxes down.  We left it this way overnight and the next day all was well.

The behavior of the memory foam, especially its unwillingness to give up what it “remembered” as normal, made me think about my own life as a writer.  A lot changed in 2017, and I expect more to change in 2018.  No doubt, there will be times when my mental landscape will want to spring back into old patterns, but I plan to be stubborn and push back.

If I learned one thing in 2017 it was that while the new patterns can be tough, there’s a lot to like as well…

FF: Capering into Adventure

January 5, 2018

Over the holidays, I found myself enjoying books that were a little on the lighter side, but with the new year, adventure beckons.

Ogapoge’s Desert Dream

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Crown Jewels by Walter Jon Williams.

The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard, by Rick Riordan.  Audiobook. Reader did improve as he continued, but I might not have continued if I wasn’t already a fan of the author’s work.

Tricky Twenty-two by Janet Evanovich.  Audiobook.

House of Shards by Walter Jon Williams.  Much more of a farce than the first book, but still enjoyable.

In Progress:

The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint.  Just started.  This was one of my Christmas presents, much anticipated!

First Test: Protector of the Small, Book One.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  I don’t think I’ve done these as an audiobook, but I love this series.  I have a cat named Keladry for the heroine.

Also:

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart by Jane Lindskold.  Getting back into the flow.  The only problem with proofing is I can’t just snuggle down and enjoy.

TT: Fragmenting Fandom

January 4, 2018

JANE: Alan and I want to welcome you all to 2018!  Happy New Year!

Fragmentation in Action

And now, Alan, you were saying that Fandom has changed a lot over the decades.  How so?

ALAN: Fandom used to be a monolithic thing, but these days it has fragmented into a lot of special interest sub-groups, most of which have a vague connection to, and all of which are inspired by, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Such fans are very passionate about their interests. And some of their interests are influenced by things other than straightforward SF/F stories and novels…

JANE: One of the earliest subgroups of fandom reflects how important fandom as a way of life became to many people.  Can you guess what this might be?

ALAN: An early subgroup? I’d guess you are probably talking about First Fandom…

JANE: That’s it!

First Fandom has been around since 1958, when various people started realizing that they’d been involved in fandom for at least twenty years.  First Fandom members have their own shoulder patch and are very proud of their long-time participation in various fanacs.

First Fandom member Jack Speer, who was widely regarded as a historian of fandom, regularly attended Bubonicon.  He’d sit in the front row during panels, glowering at the panelists.  I really felt I had “arrived” when he complimented me on something I’d said, because the younger you were (and newer to fandom), the harder it was for you to please him.

But other than their shoulder patch, First Fandom wouldn’t have changed the general look or feel of SF/F conventions very much.  Indeed, one might argue that some members of First Fandom would have been dedicated to not having anything change.

You’ve been involved in Fandom for a long time and in several countries.  What sub-fandom began to change the look of conventions?

ALAN: I think there’s a couple of influences here. In the UK and (as I later discovered) in Australia and New Zealand, there are flourishing fan groups dedicated to the British TV programme Doctor Who. The New Zealand group is particularly active and has even discovered a couple of “lost” episodes lurking in private collections.  (In the early days, the BBC did not keep archives of their programmes and many programmes disappeared.)  Is the programme shown in America? Does it have an organised fandom there?

JANE: Absolutely!  The latest reboot of the show has invigorated the fandom quite a lot.

ALAN: And then we have Star Trek which was (and still is) a hugely popular TV programme that introduced a great many people to SF in particular and to fandom in general.  It wasn’t long before it had a dedicated fandom all of its own, though the overlap with what I suppose you might call “standard” SF fandom was large.

JANE: Star Trek fandom was the first one I heard about.  For a long time, I didn’t realize that SF fandom was anything else.

ALAN: When I first came to New Zealand I discovered a flourishing fan base that called itself STANZA – the Star Trek Association of New Zealand. It no longer exists (at least not under that name, which is a pity because I think it’s a clever name) but in its day it had a lot of members. In collaboration with a group of people who enjoyed building models, STANZA constructed a full size model of the bridge of the Enterprise which they used in role-playing scenarios. The bridge set was far too large to remain permanently assembled, and so it spent most of its life in small pieces in people’s cellars. But it appeared on special occasions.

JANE: That sounds cool!

ALAN: One year David Gerrold (who was a Star Trek scriptwriter) was a guest at our national convention and the set was assembled in his honour. A small play was written and performed. Gerrold was most impressed and he complimented the two groups responsible for the set. He even autographed a section of it…

I have no idea where the bridge set is these days. It seems to have faded away and I haven’t seen it for years. Pity…

JANE: From what I’ve heard, Star Trek fandom was one of the first fandoms here to separate itself from the main.  People would show up at cons wearing Spock ears and the like.  This would have been fine, but many of these people clearly had no interests in anything but the show, which alienated them from the convention at large.

ALAN: That’s a very real danger – and now that a lot of different fandoms have started to appear, many people believe that we really need to start thinking about how to handle the problem.

I don’t know how it works in other countries, but here in New Zealand we have a couple of SF/F clubs (for want of a better word) which have come up with a solution that handles this fragmentation in a very clever way. Special Interest Groups flourish under the overall umbrella of the club organisation so that people with minority interests can continue to indulge themselves in their obsessions without losing sight of the larger group of which they are also a part.

JANE: My impression is that this is the case here in New Mexico, as well.  But I think that in areas with larger populations, separate clubs flourish outside of the general organization.

ALAN: Perhaps we’re lucky that we have a small enough population to sustain the model.

The clubs also organise monthly, more general SF/F events which attract people from across these groups, to a greater or lesser extent. Though that, of course, depends very much on what the monthly meeting is about. But at least it’s a good opportunity for everybody to keep in touch.

There are also monthly parties which are, of course, just an excuse to eat, drink, make merry, and be sociable. The stereotype says that SF fans are not good in social situations. There may be a degree of truth in this, but I’ve always found that when they gather together as a group, they tend to feel less threatened and will often come out of their shells. These parties are very successful in bringing people from the Special Interest Groups together. Sometimes we even talk about science fiction at them!

The clubs publish a regular fanzine which reports on the activities of the Special Interest Groups, so there’s still a sense that we are all part of the same family. The model works very well.

JANE: What you describe sounds very similar to what I have seen here in the U.S.  However, there is a serpent, even in fannish paradise.  I wonder if it lurks there, too?

ALAN: Why don’t you whisper the secret in my ear? That way nobody will get scared.

JANE: Whisper. Whisper.

ALAN:  Ah!  Let’s talk about that next time.

Inspiration and Calendars

January 3, 2018

On New Year’s Day, I ritually opened my two wall calendars for 2018.  The one that’s going in the kitchen where I’ll see it every day and where it will serve as command central for Jim and my life over the next year is the annual Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo Fantasy calendar.

This Year’s Selection

I chose this one for several reasons.  One is that Julie Bell is the cover artist for the Firekeeper novels, and much of this year is going to be centered around the Firekeeper Saga.  As many of you already know, I’m in the process of writing Wolf’s Search, the seventh Firekeeper novel.  I’m also preparing the first six novels for an updated e-book release.

Julie Bell very kindly offered me a deal that will enable me to use her artwork for both the e-books and for Wolf’s Search, so having her art where I can see it every day will remind me that unexpected good things can happen.

I’ve also had a liking for Boris Vallejo’s art since those days of yore when a bonus for membership in the Science Fiction book club included bookplates featuring “Golden Wings,” his wonderful painting of a warrior woman riding a winged horse.  I’m certain that looking at his and Julie’s artwork daily will remind me of that younger, dreamier, more optimistic me.  I’m going to need that this year.

My office calendar is completely different.  It features brightly-colored mosaic cartoons, mostly of owls, although several other forest animals are included.  Some pages incorporate brief inspirational sayings like “It Takes Courage to Fly” or “Have Patience and the Storm Will Pass.”  Since in 2018 I’m definitely flying in different skies – starting with the self-publication of my novel Asphodel either in late January or early February – I’ll appreciate the reminders that I’m not the only person who needs encouragement.

After all, sayings like these wouldn’t end up printed on calendars if the need was unique, right?

A bonus to my office calendar is that the mosaic approach is something I want to try in several of my own art/craft projects, so seeing these images every day will remind me of something I’m looking forward to pursuing further.

Last year’s experiment with using a bullet journal went very well, and I’ll be continuing using one this year.  One thing I learned is how important it is to date entries. I did some of this last year, but I’ll be doing even more in 2018.

For example, I was very down on myself for the lack of progress I was making in getting Asphodel out.  Then I went back to the page dedicated to that book in the journal and realized that at this time last year I hadn’t even finished my revisions, nor had I begun the final proofing, which included several months reading the manuscript aloud to a group of friends.  Suddenly, rather than feeling as if I’d been slacking, I realized how much I had achieved in a relatively short span of time.

When you work for yourself, it’s really easy to lose perspective.

Now it’s time for me to go write fiction…  Catch you later!

FF: Reading on the Road

December 29, 2017

As we were on the road this past week, driving to and from Arizona, we let audiobooks fill the long hours.

Ogapoge Tries to Open the Box

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Top Secret Twenty-one by Janet Evanovich.  Audiobook.  This one was pretty good.

The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt.  Advanced review copy of the April 2018 release.  Should we let fear rule us?  Will aliens be truly alien?

In Progress:

The Crown Jewels by Walter Jon Williams.  P.G. Wodehouse meets Jane Austen meets crime caper.  Very amusing.

The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard.  Audiobook.  Just started.  New reader.  Not very good quality.  Let’s see if it improves.

Tricky Twenty-two by Janet Evanovich.  Audiobook.  Didn’t quite finish while on the road.

Also:

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart by Jane Lindskold.  One hour a day, proofing for new e-book release.  Didn’t get much done over the holiday on this.