Archive for July, 2015

FF: Change, Transformation, and Self-Discovery

July 10, 2015

One new author, but mostly continuation of series I’ve become interested in.

The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include either short fiction or magazine articles.

Kwahe'e Approves of Sammy

Kwahe’e Approves of Sammy

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 few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, edited by S.M. Stirling.  Although there are a fair share of “we’re just holding on and here come the bad guys” stories,” there’s a lot of thoughtful treatment of how people would react to “the Change,” whether immediately, a few years later, or even decades on.

Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane.  Audiobook.  Kit and Nita’s summer holiday becomes entangled with underwater magic.  Lovely use of non-human perspective.  Some very good material regarding making choices – even if those choices don’t benefit oneself.

Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy by Wendelin Van Draanen.  This time Sammy finds herself accused by a priest of stealing his treasured personal cross.  While trying to clear herself, she discovers a homeless girl and uncovers a monumental scam.  Includes a very well-rendered softball game and the first hints about Sammy’s absent father.

In Progress:

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. Audiobook So far, I’m enjoying a great deal.  The setting is richly detailed, so much so that it’s been easy to overlook that the plot is comparatively skimpy, and the characters fall into very familiar types.  Some interesting events do eventually happen – not plot twists, since I’d been expecting something along these lines, but intriguing developments.

Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf by Wendelin Van Draanen.  Sammy is blackmailed to find a missing dog.  Only part way in, but Nancy Drew never had such problems!

Also:

Beginning of the month magazines…  Good article in American Archeology about the possible impact of the bow on cultural development.

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TT: The State of Flags

July 9, 2015

JANE: Do you folks have any other flags?  Perhaps ones representing regions, the way we have state flags?

New Mexico State Flag (outside Jim's office)

New Mexico State Flag (outside Jim’s office)

ALAN:  No, we don’t. There aren’t any smaller divisions analogous to your states here. There are vaguely defined geographical areas such as Canterbury in the South Island and Hawke’s Bay and the Waikato in the North Island, but they certainly don’t have flags of their own.

However, having said that, I’ve discovered that Otago, an area deep in the South Island, does actually have a flag, though I have no idea why or what use they make of it. I doubt that anybody outside of Otago knows about it, though.

So tell me about your state flags. How does that work? What are they used for?

JANE: First of all, as to the origin of state flags… I’d always assumed that state flags – at least the earlier ones – were in some way associated with flags of the original thirteen colonies.  However, when I did some research, I learned that I was incorrect.

The tradition of state flags dates, in most cases, to the 1890’s when the World’s Columbian Exposition was held and there was a need to be able to provide a quick visual for each state.  So, in a sense, state flags grew out of the same impulse you outlined last time – a need to unambiguously identify specific areas.

ALAN: Very understandable. That’s a strong motive for having a flag.

JANE: State flag designs have changed over the years, in some cases, multiple times.  Georgia, in particular, seems to have a mania for redesigning its flag.

New Mexico, where I live, has had only one flag and apparently for good reason.  According to a survey done by the North American Vexillogical Association in 2001, New Mexico has the best-designed flag of any U.S. state, territory, or Canadian province.

Georgia, by the way, was rated worst, which apparently led to yet another re-design in 2003.

ALAN: What’s so special about the design of the New Mexico flag?

JANE: I really don’t know all the details that went into the judging, but apparently the Vexillogical Association likes imaginative flags.  Apparently, something like half the state flags have a design described as “seal on a bed sheet,” which is the state seal put on a solid background.  Since seal designs can be heavy on detail, I can see why they would be too busy to serve as unambiguous identifiers.

ALAN: Perhaps they should put a walrus on the bed instead of a seal. What does the design of New Mexico flag do to avoid that trap?

JANE: With great dignity, I am going to ignore your joke.  Walruses indeed!

The New Mexico state flag is simple and striking.  The field is brilliant yellow, rather than the more common blue.  The yellow field is emblazoned with a circle with four radiating arms, these consisting of three lines apiece, coming off it.  This symbol is called a “Zia,” after the tribe that used it in their work.

The colors were taken from the red and yellow of the Cross of Burgundy flag flown by the Spanish empire. Combined with the Zia, the flag represents both native and colonial elements.

Ask me what the Zia symbol means!

ALAN: What does the Zia symbol mean?

JANE: How kind of you!

According to Wikipedia, “Four is a sacred number which symbolizes the Circle of Life: the four directions, the four times of day, the four stages of life, and the four seasons. The circle binds the four elements of four together.”

Another site, devoted to state flags added a fifth element: “the Zia’s belief that with life comes four sacred obligations: one must develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others.”

ALAN: That sounds very appropriate.

JANE:  There was even a little “pledge” that used to be said in New Mexico public schools, just in case anyone missed the point: “I salute the flag of the State of New Mexico and the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”

ALAN: Someone has obviously put a lot of thought into that design.

JANE: You’re right!  New Mexico didn’t have an official state flag until 1920.  As with your current situation in New Zealand, a contest was held to suggest designs.  The contest was won by Dr. Harry Mera.  Mera was an archeologist and adapted the Zia symbol from one he found on a nineteenth century pot.

He then combined this with the colors from the Imperial Spanish flag, creating a flag that acknowledged how New Mexico’s complex heritage includes elements from both Spanish and indigenous populations – and the hope that “devotion to the welfare of others” would help these work in harmony.

I asked Jim if he was familiar with Mera and he immediately became very excited. I quote: “H.P. Mera is the dean of New Mexico pottery studies (his pottery reports were just recently collected and republished, because they continue to be relevant).   Mera was responsible for the numbering system for sites in the state. Nearly all of the early numbers in the system are for sites that he visited, mapped, and collected pottery from. Very cool!”

ALAN: That would seem to make Dr. Mera perfectly qualified to design a state flag. I’m glad his talents were properly recognised.

JANE: It’s interesting but, while I’ve been aware of the New Mexico State flag ever since I moved here, those of some of the other states I’ve lived in aren’t so memorable.

Although I lived in both New York and Virginia for some years, their state flags made so little impression on me, I had to go look them up.  It’s no great surprise that both fall into the “seal on a bedsheet” category.

ALAN: If even the residents can’t call the flags to mind, it would seem that the Vexillogical Association’s criticisms are right on the mark!

JANE: Maryland’s flag is interesting though.  It’s quite colorful, using black, gold, red, and white.  It also looks more like a medieval banner than something you’d expect to find in the U.S.

This is because it’s derived from a combination of the Calvert coat of arms and those of the Crossland family, to which Lord Baltimore (who founded the colony) belonged.  His title was pretty medieval sounding too: “Cecil Calvert, Second Baron Baltimore, First Lord Proprietary, Earl Palatine of the Provinces of Maryland and Avalon in America.”

ALAN: I am speechless. What a wonderful title!

But weren’t you born in Washington D.C.? Does it have a flag, and if so what does it look like? Is it yet another walrus?

JANE:  No walrus, or even seal…  D.C. actually has quite a striking flag. It’s based around George Washington’s coat of arms, and features broad red and white strips, with three big red stars.  However, the city emblem gets lost in D.C., where the U.S. flag dominates, as it should, given that the city is the nation’s capital.

ALAN: In some ways that’s a shame – something so striking surely deserves to be more prominent.

JANE: Certainly, the residents of D.C. would agree.  So, of the four states I’ve lived in for any time (my birthplace, D.C., as I have repeatedly commented is not a state) two of the flags made an impression.

I wonder how our readers feel about their own state flags?

Help Make Artemis This Summer’s Hot Destination

July 8, 2015

Three topics this week: a signing, a contest, and the curious behavior of the toad in the nighttime…

Here we go!

Summer on Artemis...  Ah...

Summer on Artemis… Ah…

This Saturday, July 11th, at 4:00 p.m., I’ll be at Page One Books in Albuquerque, taking part in a special event for Artemis Invaded.  Other of my books will be available as well.  I’ll give a reading and take questions – not only about the “Artemis Awakening” series!  Bring any questions at all.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll guess!  I’m also making something sweet…  Haven’t decided what, though…

That’s the signing…  Here’s the contest!

Want to be part of making the planet Artemis this summer’s hot destination?  Here’s how you can do it!

Post a review of Artemis Invaded or Artemis Awakening to Amazon.com, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble.com, your blog or Facebook page.  Then submit the URL at the link below to be entered to win your choice of a signed, personalized, first edition, hard cover of either Artemis Awakening or Artemis Invaded.

Wait!  There’s more!

Already have both of these books?  Other prize options are available, up to and including: audiobook downloads, ARCS, copies of other of Jane Lindskold’s novels, or even something weird, wild, and wonderful. (The choice of this last is up to me.)

Multiple entries will be accepted but, to avoid confusion, a separate URL must be provided for each entry.  Open only to U.S. residents, unless the entrant agrees to accept an audiobook download as a prize.

You may enter by posting the same review to different sites.  However, you must submit separate URLs for each entry to qualify.

The initial period to enter will be from July 8 to July 21th.  However, entries will continue to be accepted through midnight Mountain Standard Time on August 10th.  Beginning on July 22nd, one winner a week will be announced on July 22th, July 29, August 5, and August 12.

If response is overwhelming, a special Final Week extra drawing may be included for those who posted two or more reviews.

Help make Artemis everyone’s “go-to” summer destination!  Words have power!  Use them!  Ready to get started?  This link will take you to the contest: a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now…   The Curious Behavior of the Toad in the Nighttime.

On Fourth of July, Jim and I heard fireworks going off, coming from the direction of our neighbor Therese’s house.  We wandered outside to find out what was up and discovered that Therese and Roberta (who lives across from Therese) were setting off fireworks.

They made us welcome with the gift of a very large sparkler apiece and a selection from a bowl of chocolates.  Then we sat down on Therese’s driveway to review Roberta’s selection.

Although she had a small selection compared to some of the extravagant displays we could see going off around us – one advantage of living in a place without many tall trees is that one can clearly see fireworks that are being shot off miles and miles away – Roberta’s display was quite elegant.

We were about half-way through, laughing about how a firework named “The Weasel” had, in fact, “weaseled” by refusing to go off, when we realized that our party of four had acquired a fifth member.

A medium-sized spadefoot toad had hopped out onto the driveway and settled down about two feet away from Jim.  It did not appear frightened or dazed.  Nor was there any water or insects to attract it.  By all apparent evidence, it simply wanted to watch the fireworks.

The toad stayed with us through the second half of Roberta’s show.  Then, after the grand finale, it slowly hopped out into the street, paused to inspect the spent fireworks, and then continued on its way, eventually vanishing into the shadows.

Jim and I have always felt fortunate in our neighbors and have often spent Fourth of July in similar informal entertainments.  However, this was the first time a member of the local wildlife community joined us.  As spectacular as the fireworks were, that was a special summer event indeed!

Hope your summer is special, too!  Join me at Page One or on Artemis!  I’ll be looking for you!

FF: Busy, But Still Managed to Read

July 3, 2015

This week was really busy.  Not only did Artemis Invaded come out, but I immersed myself so I could finish a rather long (14,000 plus words) “short story” about the further adventures of Stephanie Harrington and Climbs Quickly (the main characters in Fire Season and Treecat Wars).

Persephone Says, "Never change."

Persephone Says, “Never change.”

The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include either short fiction or magazine articles.

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 few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane.  Audiobook.  Although this book is clearly intended for the junior high set, it doesn’t pull any punches with vocabulary.  If you read it wanting Harry Potter, you’re going to be disappointed.  If you read it with no expectations, there’s a lot to like.

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.  This was recommended to me by a six year-old friend.  Richly illustrated in vivid color, it tells of Princess Magnolia who fights monsters as the mysterious Princess in Black.  At first, I’ll admit, it read like a retake on SheRa, Princess of Power.  However, there’s a real sense of the how kids have rich inner lives.  Princess Magnolia’s just happens to be more than fantasy.  This, as well as a princess who looks like a little girl, not a super model, won me over.

Island Dreams by Gerald Hausman.  A strong sense of place and an almost magical ability to make the reader not only see, but feel, hear, smell, and even taste locations makes for a vivid poetry collection.  Some of the personal ones – especially on the death of family or friends – are like peeping into the author’s heart.

Naruto, issue 70.  Manga.  Since Jim and I are watching the start of the story as anime, reading as the story is building to the end is providing some fascinating thoughts on story development.

In Progress:

The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, edited by S.M. Stirling.  I’m about half-way through this long collection.

Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane.  Audiobook.  Kit and Nita’s summer holiday becomes entangled with underwater magic.  So far, interesting.

Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy by Wendelin Van Draanen.  This time Sammy finds herself by a priest of stealing his treasured personal cross.  Just started.

Also:

No also, unless you count re-reading my manuscript.

TT: Contentious Flags

July 2, 2015

JANE: Alan, last week, you mentioned that there’s actually a Maori flag of sorts. How does that work?

ALAN: Yes – Tino rangatiratanga is a Maori phrase that probably best translates as “Maori Sovereignty.” It’s also the name of a flag that is sometimes referred to as the Maori flag. Personally I find it to be a very attractive design.  (You can find a discussion of Tino rangatiratanga as a political movement at this link).

Maori Flag

Maori Flag

JANE: That’s a gorgeous flag. Why can’t you guys just use that one? It fills all your requirements and would look lovely on knickers.

ALAN: Indeed it would! Personally, I’m very fond of it. Unfortunately, it comes with a lot of baggage. Many politically radical Maori activists passionately promote the Tino rangatiratanga  flag. There have been requests to the government to have it flying alongside the New Zealand flag on significant dates such as Waitangi Day. Surprisingly, these requests have been quite effective and the flag is now often flown in that way. But its association with a set of sometimes rather extreme political views means that it is unlikely to be adopted as a national flag. In a very real sense, it’s seen as being divisive rather than as something that can promote unity.

JANE: I can understand that.  Pity.  It’s more than pretty.  It’s elegant and memorable.

Here in the U.S. we also have a flag that is still flown in some areas of the country, although it can stir up some negative reactions.  This is the flag commonly called the Confederate flag.  It’s gotten a lot of press lately because of the recent shootings in South Carolina, but as a Yorkshireman-born and naturalized New Zealander, you may not be aware of its actual history and origins.

ALAN: I’ve always just assumed that it was the flag under which the Confederates fought in your Civil War. I’ve never thought of it any more deeply than that. Is there more to it?

JANE: There is indeed.  Oddly enough, this flag was never used by the Confederated States of America – the “South” in the American Civil War.  Instead it was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by General Lee.

Given the constellation that ornaments New Zealand’s current national flag, you might be amused to know that one of the nicknames for this flag is the “Southern Cross.”

ALAN: I love the nickname! I had no idea that the flag wasn’t actually used by the Confederate States. I suppose that’s what happens when you learn your history from the movies…

JANE: Or television.  I’ll get to that in a moment…

The Confederate flag had a resurgence in popularity in the early twentieth century as an emblem of the American South.  In World War II, some military units associated with the South carried the Confederate flag as a sort of identity marker.

However, later the flag was adopted by radical racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. This tarnished the flag’s image in the eyes of many.

ALAN: Yes, I can see how that must have poisoned the well.

JANE: Not all the uses have been negative.  There’s one that’s actually amusingly appropriate.  Did you ever watch a television show called The Dukes of Hazzard?

ALAN: Oh, yes! A friend of mine who was a keen motorcyclist once told me, with a perfectly straight face, that he was going to replace his leathers with a Dukes of Hazzard T-shirt. When I asked him why, he pointed out that they were constantly crashing into things and being thrown out of their vehicles and they never got so much as a scratch or a graze. He didn’t know what the T-shirts were made of, but the material obviously provided much better protection than a full set of leathers did!

JANE: Oh…  I’m laughing.  I read that to Jim and he’s bent double at the waist with tears coming out of his eyes.  You have seen the show!

On The Dukes of Hazzard, the main characters drove a car called The General Lee.  Painted on the car’s roof is the Confederate flag.  When you remember that this flag was the banner flown by the actual General Lee, it is nicely appropriate.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence, either.  According to one source I looked at, the car was originally going to be called “Traveler,” after General Lee’s horse, but the idea was dropped because they figured no one would catch the reference.

ALAN: Probably true. I only learned about Traveler when I read Connie Willis’ novel Lincoln’s Dreams. But I think I’ve always known about General Lee.

JANE: Hey, that’s where I learned about the horse, too!  See, reading SF is educational…

Anyhow, you can find lots of information about the Confederate Flag on-line, including some really loopy stuff, so I won’t repeat.  In a sense though, it’s become our Maori flag – a design that has acquired numerous negative associations that have nothing to do with its original creation.

ALAN: A striking parallel.

JANE: I actually have another flag-related question for you, but it could get complicated, so I’ll save it for next time.

Artemis Invaded Is Now Officially Released!

July 1, 2015

Why am I bouncing up and down in excitement?

June 30th marked the release of Artemis Invaded, the sequel to last year’s acclaimed novel Artemis Awakening.

Cover Flat Revealed...

Cover Flat Revealed…

There’s also good news for those of you who don’t buy hard cover books and don’t use e-readers.  Artemis Awakening is now available in paperback!

Cover Revised for Paperback!

Cover Revised for Paperback!

So what’s all the excitement about?  For me, Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded embrace the type of science fiction that got me hooked on the genre.  Rather than dystopias that make you feel better when you close the book, here’s a world filled with wonder and the fulfillment of dreams.  Rather than characters you’re glad you’ll never meet, here are characters you wish you could be – and that you can be both while you’re reading and in your dreams thereafter.

Rather than being told everything you can’t have, Artemis is a world designed to make both inhabitants and visitors wiser, stronger, more alert to possibility.  And this isn’t limited to humans.  There are some very interesting animals.  And the planet Artemis herself…

Mystery.  Intrigue.  Romance…  It’s all there and more!

In Artemis Awakening, Griffin Dane achieves his long-held goal of locating the long-lost planet of Artemis.  Unfortunately, things do not go according to plan.  When a malfunction causes Griffin’s shuttle to crash on the planet’s surface, he’s rescued by Adara the Huntress and her puma demiurge, Sand Shadow.

Events cascade from there, including the revelation that many things that both Griffin and Adara held as established truths may not be true at all.

Artemis Invaded continues the on-rush of events triggered by Griffin’s crash – which may not, after all, have been a crash.  Old enemies and rivals are joined by new opponents.  Adara must come to terms with her bond with the planetary intelligence – and with the two men who are best friends, and rivals for her affections.

A new discovery reveals the actual reason the planet was created.  Obsessed with his finds, Griffin is in grave danger of alienating his allies, just when he will need them most.  And the invaders…  Let’s just say you don’t need to worry about this turning into same-old, same-old military SF!  This is much, much cooler.

Who says?  Well, I do!  The question SF/F writers are asked most often is “Why do you write ‘that stuff’?”  This is why, because it’s so much fun to take reality to the limits and beyond.

I hope you’ll join me on Artemis.  Also, if you like Artemis and want to be sure it’s there to go back to, help push out the signal.  Word of mouth is the best way to make sure you get more of what you want.  Don’t stay silent!