Thursday, December 31, 2009
Second is a public service announcement. The story could not have been written or sold if I had not attended the Viable Paradise writing workshop, applications to which open tomorrow, January 1st. If you aren't already an alumnus/a, and you have hopes or plans of becoming a published writer, you should seriously consider applying.
It is only a week long, so the time commitment is more manageable than Clarion or Odyssey, and it will put you in contact with publishing professionals in a much more low-key and satisfactory way than those speed-date writing conferences where you have to pitch in 5 or 10 minutes. You will get invaluable feedback on your writing, and straightforward advice on how the industry works.
The workshop fee is remarkably reasonable, and includes several meals. The hotel rooms make it easy to share space without stepping on each other, and splitting the room costs make that pretty reasonable as well (even speaking as someone who gets all twitchy at anything above a Motel 6).
And hey, maybe by fall the TSA insanity will be reduced to mere imbecility.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
For Terri, the hot nuts recipe, courtesy of Kate (to whom much thanks). It may be Levantine, and is referred to as a mezzo:
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
1 generous cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili flakes
salt to taste
Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add almonds, stirring with 3/4 of brown sugar. Toss nuts to coat, saute until caramelised. Remove nuts to bowl and toss with cumin, chili and salt. Spread on baking sheet to dry, sprinkle with remaining sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for a couple of weeks in a sealed container.
And in the What? dept., this dainty from Good Housekeeping's Christmas Cook Book 'selections to brighten the holiday season' (published 1958), from the Goody Greetings section:
Old favorites presented in a new way. Stick a long skewer into a grapefruit; string doughnuts onto skewer. Wrap grapefruit in green cellophane, doughnuts in clear cellophane; top with a silver spray.
There follows a recipe for doughnuts rolled in sugar.
There are b/w photos on most pages, including 'Smoky Cocktail Spread' and 'Apricot-Confection Squares', but none of this construction. Anyone out there with expertise in '50s food: what is this supposed to look like, and why?
Friday, December 25, 2009
I bought myself a thriftshop cookie press ($4, missing only one of the nozzles, including all of the random discs) so I can try making spritz cookies, which I've never done. It has a camel disc. Does anyone make camel cookies? What flavour would be most appropriate?
The disc for the heart cookie of the bridge set (hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs) does not look like a heart. I suppose it must produce a heart, just as the squiggly cross must produce a diamond, but I'm taking it on faith so far.
It looks ... okay, it looks like a poppy-head.
Poppy-head is what that same shape is called when found carved on the pew-ends in an English church. Here, I'll show you a poppy-head bench-end from Fressingfield, church of St Peter & St Paul. See the resemblance?
Yes, medieval English churches are well-stocked with these, but Fressingfield must have the most blatant examples. I feel I must quote Simon (stolen from the link above) on Suffolk Churches:
"No, what makes Fressingfield's benches wonderful is the sheer quality of the whole piece; nowhere else in East Anglia is the 15th century so substantial, so full of confidence. Often quoted is Cox in Bench Ends in English Churches (but he is talking about the furnishings as a whole, not just their ends): Fressingfield church, he says, is better fitted throughout with excellent fifteenth-century benches than any other church in the kingdom."
And a happy NSFW Yule to all my pagan friends and readers!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yesterday: gingerbread (cake not cookies); candied grapefruit peel (the first time I've ever done candied peel); sugared walnuts.
Today: cappucino shortbread; honey cookies; two-layer fudge.
Tomorrow: visiting. Other activities uncertain.
The sugared walnuts are dead simple, so it's a sort of public service to share it. Take two cups, or three cups, or whatever amount you have of walnuts (most recently a 1 kg bag). Put them in a bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to just cover them. Leave for 3 minutes, then drain in colander. Tip them back into the bowl and toss with 1 cup of sugar (my observation is that one cup of sugar will do up to 6 cups of walnuts, and possibly more if I could afford more) until covered. Spread them on a baking sheet in a warm oven, and leave overnight. If you've been broiling or baking at 400 or so, just turn the oven off and leave it. If the oven is cold, turn it to 200 or so for a half-hour or so, or kick it up to 400 or broil, then turn it off, and leave the tray in overnight.
Cream 1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp instant coffee, ground fine
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Form into coffee bean shape, indent tops. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes. When cool, dip into melted semi-sweet chocolate.
I only dip them halfway (this time I used fondue 70% dark chocolate mixed with 2 tbsp butter) because dipping the whole thing tends to obscure the indentation, and lose the coffee bean resemblance. And the half-dipping gives them a classy sort of Florentine look.
And evidently I'm on the spectrum, because it bothers me that in a real coffee bean the indentation is on the flat side, which would be the bottom of the cookie.
I'm kind of excited over having done candied peel, which has always seemed to me one of those dainty high-end things, even though the grapefruit rinds ordinarily go into the compost. The recipe came from a Culinary Arts Institute pamphlet called 500 Delicious Dishes From Leftovers, which is fascinating reading. I kept asking myself where all these leftovers came from, or rather, where they've gone.
Sour milk and cream are still with us, but I'm not at all sure I'd use a cup of maple syrup to avoid wasting a cup of sour cream (though the gingerbread recipe is tempting) instead of something cheap like cornmeal muffins. On the other hand, leftover coffee can nowadays just be microwaved. And what the heck is leftover jam? Why not just have toast and jam for breakfast for a couple of days? As Peg Bracken pointed out in her I Hate to Cook Book, there is no such thing as 'leftover cake'. Inspired by the ethos, though, I did take the water that the grapefruit peel was boiled in, and use it for the hot water in the gingerbread. It makes the gingerbread a little sharper, but still good.
All of which does have a writing application of sorts. My friend Joanna (retired bookshop owner) and I have been bookswapping, mostly fantasy and mystery. She follows a number of mystery series, and I think it would be fair to say that it is far more important to her that the characters be interesting and sympathetic than that the mystery be tightly plotted and challenging. So we've both liked the Jill Churchill suburban mystery series, until the last entry which was ... dreadful. And we both decided that one sampling of Mary Jane Maffini's home organiser mystery series was enough, because the main character is a self-absorbed shrew.
The current favourite for both of us is the Home Repair is Homicide series by Sarah Graves. Looking at it from about book 8, I'm deeply impressed by how the author has woven together so many strands of continuing interest.
First, of course, there are the characters. The soap-opera aspect, if you want. This may have started with Dorothy Sayers and the long courtship of Peter and Harriet. Here we have Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree, leaving a bad marriage and high-pressure career, taking her troubled teenage son and starting a new life in a small fishing town. So right there you have the ex-husband entanglement, the new boyfriend possibilities, and the responsibility for her son, all situations that keep on providing complications.
Graves doesn't stop there, but gives us a townful of continuing characters (some of whom are going to die violently) who have ongoing stories, most particularly Jacobia's best friend and confederate in crime-solving, Ellie, and Jacobia's son Sam, struggling with dyslexia and falling in and out of love.
Then there's setting. Eastport has a wild history and economically-strapped present, and can be cut off by bad weather. Setup for tense situations whether there's a crime in progress or not. Plus, colourful as all-get-out.
Most impressive is the nonfiction aspect. Sure, infodumps are a bad thing, but an awful lot of people either read fiction for information, or justify their fiction reading by claiming that it's educational. That's one reason why romances are so often set in exotic places--not just the wish-fulfilment of being able to travel, but the excuse of learning about those places. Half (possibly more) of the appeal of technothrillers is the stats-laden infodump about some weapon or piece of hardware.
Churchill's suburban series used to regularly send her heroine off to nightschool classes or weekend retreats to learn something or other and incidentally run across a murder. The classes and the quirky fellow-students were at least as much fun as the mystery itself.
Now, Graves has this absolutely knocked. First, Jacobia was a financial whiz back in the big city, so she can explain all sorts of high finance quirks and slang (the first couple of books had finance slang titles) as well as having useful and not-entirely-respectable contacts that she can call in favours from. Second, Jacobia has settled herself and son in a tumbledown early 1800s mansion, which is in continual need of repair. So, in between checking out crime sites and interviewing suspects, she repairs plumbing, puts up rain gutters, sands shutters, and so on and so on, all in detail explained to the reader. It's like This Old House with murder. You only have to look at how long This Old House ran to see that this is a subject with legs.
And because the books are first person, Jake can just pull us aside and explain how to sand a hardwood floor or cover your windows with plastic, without having to justify the digression.
I'm not sure how much space the actual mystery takes up in any one of these, but I suspect half the pages at most. When they were handing out hobbies and professions to murder-mystery sleuths, I think Jacobia grabbed one (or two) of the best. Much stronger and longer potential than the scrapbooking mystery series.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Anyway...No Potlatch for me. It's the same weekend as the An Tir Arts & Sciences Championship, which I usually judge at, and which I plan to enter this year so that the next time some Kinglike Entity whines about how laurels never enter it and dismisses my 6 hrs of judging & feedback as pfah not the same, I can get up and walk out of the damn meeting.
Okay, not a noble motivation, but a fairly strong one.
I'm kind of bummed otherwise, because Potlatch is in Seattle this year, and I'd have a chance to visit with friends and go to bookstores and fun stuff like that. And have incentive to finish a story for the writing workshop.
But there you go, this is what it is to be in more than one fandom.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I don't want to let the story go, because I still love the concept (unpublishable though it is) and the character names, and writing in that ornate, wordy, 18th c. voice. So I may be a Nano Rebel next year, and pick the story up where I left it.
The good: Christmas cards are signed & mailed. Christmas letters (personalised & newsletter) are sent. Donations are sent (Oxfam, Operation Eyesight, Amnesty International, Red Cross, Unicef, Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, Covenant House, etc.). Most presents are bought, and mailed as required. Approx 1/3 of home-based presents are wrapped. Freezer is stuffed full of pastry, butter tart mix, cheese pastry, roll cookie dough, shortbread dough, choc shortbread dough, cheese shortbread dough, checker cookie dough, sugar cookie dough, honey cookie dough, coffee spice cookie dough, icing, choc icing, caramel icing, gingerbread dough, half-dozen pies (berry & apple).
New curtains on two of the kitchen windows (I did not make these. One I sewed a lining to, and the other pair I hemmed up). So there will be less heat loss this winter. Finally found an arbour to hold up the garage roses (there's a story to go with that, but maybe later) and stained it. Haven't put it up yet.
It's kind of impressive how much I can get done by not doing something else. I need to keep some particularly difficult task in reserve at all times, to goad me into getting everything else done.
A particular mixed bag, for those who haven't heard elsewise--agent comments on revision arrived, and more revision is required, which I did expect, but she very much likes the changes and expansions made to the latter half of the book, with words like 'perfect' and 'loved'. The first half needs condensing and tightening still, but I can add some scenes from Midame's pov, which I'd rather wanted to do earlier but was afraid of losing focus. And consider making Nomency a duchy, which is another thing I'd considered before and held off as something I could change at any point. It would move closer to the reality of the Small States and away from the fairytale-standard-kingdom, which wouldn't harm the story.
Good writey stuff: I wrote a flashfic!! I honestly didn't think I could do this, but I turned out an 88-word story. I may have to look into flash markets. So that is something positive coming from the local group, which seems to be developing into a real writing group.
Willow Knot has been hacked up again on Scrivener, and spaces cut into it for scenes with Midame, the four chapters that need to be cut by half (faint screams of manuscript heard off stage) have been isolated and prepped for surgery (More ether, nurse!), and notes made throughout for what needs to be enhanced our emphasised or cut.
My chimps story will be going up on Beneath Ceaseless Skies #33 on December 31, with the airship cover art still up (yay!). December 31 is apparently a blue moon, which amuses me mightily.
December 2 is a blue moon as well--two in one month! and ferociously bright it has been the last couple of nights.
Why does this cat insist on resting its head on the crook of my arm?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
So yeah, here's what I did just about a decade ago, children, from the account I wrote just afterwards.
I phoned Mark from the ferry terminal coming back to tell him "I wasn't arrested, I wasn't teargassed, or peppersprayed. I wasn't clubbed. I wasn't even rained on." He said "Awww" in a sympathetic way.
The serious fighting all happened before and after the Victoria contingent was present. To the disappointment of several of the young and eager.
Monday night, found the scrap of paper with the contact number on it, phoned twice, got voice mail the first time "if you're calling about a seat on the busses, they're full" and a person the second time. True to his word, he called back within a half hour (23 min) to confirm that I had a seat on the bus and they were leaving at 5 am from outside the SUB, cost $20. Packed quickly, went to bed, slept very poorly. Cat woke me up at 3:30, said hell with it and got up.
Left house at 4:30, biked to university, arrived before 5 am for the busses, 6 of them, people count 208. I found someone with a clipboard, gave my name, and was told "You're on bus 5, counting from the front." Stood outside the bus for a while and said "This is bus 5" to several who came by and asked. Two others stand about and discuss how they got hold of gas masks, and of rumours that the WTO bought up a case of masks or airtanks. There are a few empty seats after all, and walkie-talkie communication between the busses establishes there were about 20 no-shows. Probably the 5 am departure time responsible for that. But one must rise early to be teargassed for the cause.
Reached terminal early and debarked into the departures 'lounge'. Several organizational speeches were made by people standing on the uncomfortable moulded plastic chairs, others walk around giving everyone stickers from the AFL-CIO "WTO if it doesn't work for working families it doesn't work", the boy across from me sticks it on his crotch (before reading it). I am recognised by E- of the International Socialists and invited to be part of their unit, or 'affinity group' (everyone supposed to march with an affinity group, and buddy up, so as not to get left behind in Seattle). Other people played hackysack or touched up banners. One girl has a banner involving a naked doll duct-taped to a crutch. Probably about women's victimization under free trade, but would make a decent weapon if necessary. C-'s South Park influenced banner is much admired. I suggest that the Socialist Worker run a lifestyles column on piercings, which seems to be a major fashion statement in the crowd. Fortunately the IS group had some older people. I'd been kicking myself mentally for not bringing the long Guatemalan scarf in case of teargas etc, and wondering if the extra pair of woolly socks I'd brought could function in a similar fashion. Though you never see wire service photos of activists running through clouds of tear gas with socks over their faces.
Got onto the 7 am ferry, wander about trying to find the conference room reserved for the organisers, which is reached by going through 2 doors saying crew only, whichever way you reach it. One way goes through crews quarters, and really is crew only, the other is just kidding. The organisers have to work out bus re-assignments, with several people having joined the group at the ferry terminal. The International Socialists make sure that everyone with them goes onto the same bus. 3 busses are on the ferry, others will meet us on the other side. I'm on one of the busses already on the ferry, with the IS (guess the Party members do get the perks).
Walk around with a tall fellow called B- and some clipboards asking people to sign up to help organise Access 2000, nationwide day of student action, and to support the Molsons boycott. B- given to emphatic gestures, a bit alarming when he's holding a clipboard. He is assigned as my buddy, which is good because he's easy to find in a crowd, being tall with fair hair. Then sat down and drowsed a bit. There's a fellow with cartoon-anarchist hair and beard and his lower leg in a walking cast, wearing shorts and sandals, carrying 2 suitcases and a banner with 2 long poles. I keep seeing him, and he never wants any help. Several people ask where the busses are on the ferry, and my multitude of bus crossings comes in handy as we troop downstairs, except for those who are walking off and catching the busses at the terminal.
Busses to the border. Stop once to get the busses back together, and allow one of the comrades to be sick into a ditch. I donate my kleenexes, but let someone else volunteer a water bottle. I transfer my water bottle to my jacket pocket and experiment with tying the woolly socks together. A safety pin would work better, if I had one. E- talks to me about joining IS, and I am dubious about the dues structure.
At the border everyone gets out of the busses and stands in the cold, then walks through the customs, displaying id of various kinds. Then standing in the cold again, while according to some people a dog is led through the busses. Apparently nothing was found, since everyone goes on, except for one girl. No one knows why she was held back, since everyone was warned about the criminal record thing and she says she doesn't have one. A rumour contest springs up, with heavy X-Files influence, to explain why she was stopped.
Nearing Seattle, it stops raining and the sun comes out. Cheers. The group huddled over the radio passes on bulletins, and there is cell phone communication with those already on site. The police have used tear gas to break up a group in front of the hotel. Some tear gas canisters were thrown back by the protesters. Cheers. C- of the South Park banner has brought gloves so he can throw tear gas canisters back (they get hot). I ask if he wouldn't want to go the more classic route of throwing himself on one, as with grenades. Someone else promises to take a picture if he does throw one back. A delegate is reported to have taken a swing at a protester. Cheers. The opening ceremonies have been cancelled. Much cheering. A reporter says that the police used 'flash-bang' grenades. I am one of two people on the bus who knows what those are (that they are not actual grenades), and have to explain it to the rest. Mark later says it was unlikely, since they don't make a good crowd-control weapon, and it was probably the flash from a tear-gas canister going off.
I decide to take off my sweatshirt and tie it around my waist so I can use it to cover my face if necessary. Craig has brought 3 of the dustmasks used for putting in fibreglass etc. Our onsite contact tells us that we have a route that doesn't take us near teargas. Some present seem disappointed. Those who have moisturizer or sunblock on their faces are encouraged to wipe it off, as it facilitates the teargas effect. Recommended strategy is to run away. By the time we park, word is that the teargas has dissipated and the march route is clear.
Arrive at the parking lot near the Space Needle at 12:15. Disembark, take out banners, signs, etc. M- had asked me to help carry the giant agitprop banner (bloated bureaucrat swallows earth, mosquito-nosed plutocrat sucks blood of skeletal worker, men in suits sit around table with piles of cash and weapons), but E- gives me a clipboard with the clenched fist stencilled in red on the back and tells me to get signatures for the Molsons boycott while we're assembling and waiting to march. This is a bit difficult since we can't wander too far away for fear of losing our group, and there are at least a dozen clipboards going around, so many people have already signed. Sometimes we ask each other for signatures, not seeing the clipboards. CUPE Vancouver is behind us for a while, and say I can march with them, but then they peel off for another part of the procession. IS links up with another IS and ISO, though this takes a bit of manoeuvering in turning the giant banner around and crossing the broken ground of the parking lot divisions.
There's a fellow in a wolf mask and 'royal' robes on a throne, holding a scepter with a dollar sign on the end, being carried on a platform by a dozen men. There's a fellow on stilts, all in black, with extra long fingers to his gloves and whiteface, and a WTO sign around his neck. There are people dressed as sea-turtles. There are people wearing those big-puppet outfits, done up as Latin American workers, Death, etc. There are environmental groups with banners of stump forests and puppets of dolphins and turtles. There's a tiny group with one man in a suit, carrying a sign saying "CEOs against the WTO". There are more trade unions than I've ever seen in one place, from nurses to painters.
The AFL-CIO people are the march marshalls, and they line the route wherever there's an intersection, indicating the way. They have dayglo hardhats and baseball caps, and rain-ponchos with the no-WTO symbol on the back, which later I hear they were giving away somewhere on the route. Damn, I wanted one. There's a drum band on the way, with drums made from water tanks and so on.
The End the Blockade Against Cuba people give me a placard. I get a few more signatures, but risk losing my affinity group in the crowd. Luckily the huge banner is easy to spot, so I catch up again each time. At one point I hold someone's dolphin figure while he signs. Another girl spots Glen Clark among the suit-wearing standers-by, and gets his signature on her petition.
It's a lot like being in the James Bay Day parade, in that there is almost no one on the sidewalks, everyone is in the parade. Those on the sidelines often have placards or costumes, as if they've dropped out of the march for a while to see everyone else's floats. Occasionally there are pockets of men in suits, with briefcases, who look somewhat bemused by everything. They may be delegates, since it's hard to guess what else they might be. A couple of girls get them to sign petitions, which they do with a fairly good grace.
The women carrying the giant red bucket for donations to Indonesian trade unions are interviewed by the first news team I've seen, an interviewer and a camcorder man. Otherwise, everyone with a camera seems to be part of the march, making a record of the occasion.
There is chanting. At times there are dueling chants, as one segment starts up a chant and another segment, too far away to recognise it, starts another. The Canadians encourage a French chant "Resistez la O M C", and for a while I'm marching near a latino group chanting (as far as I can tell) "El pueblo unido sera nunca derribo" which is easier to march to than the English. When I get back to the Socialists, they're singing Solidarity Forever, and I wonder where popular movements would be without John Brown's Body. Choir training comes in useful, both in faking singing the verses of songs I haven't memorised, and picking up chants quickly. The Canadians, nearing the hotel, strike up "Pettigrew, no more lies, you just want to privatise" and I wonder later if this contributes to Pettigrew's reported nervousness.
Forgot to say, as we were approaching Seattle, the skinny guy in the bush hat got up and apologised for presuming to tell us the basic guidelines of protesting, since we all knew so much more about it than he did, almost didn't tell us, but was persuaded to after all. Anyway, key point was that if asked who our leaders were, to say "We have no leaders" or "We are all leaders", not to point to someone who'd been helping organise the busses or whatever.
Had been hearing more music and drumming up ahead, apparently some gathering or turning point ahead, probably where all the street theatre had happened. This is the first part of the route I've seen to have any more disarray than is normal in the downtown of a large city. Still not much, an overturned concrete garbage container or two.
Fellow sitting on top of a van with a megaphone, says that we have the choice to go straight ahead, which will bring us in front of the hotel where it's all happening, or turn and continue with the march. Says he's been teargassed this morning. A large proportion of the students go straight, but the people in charge of the giant banner continue with the march. My avowed intention having been not to be teargassed etc. if I could avoid it, I go with them.
The march thins out a lot and consequently speeds up. More people take photos of the giant banner. One fellow is almost run down by it as he stands with a camcorder (the people holding the back poles can't see in front) but the front people lift the edge up over him. We pass a motorcycle cop and wave at him, some of the union guys stop to talk. He says that "you guys marching are no problem". I wonder what he did earlier today.
Must be almost at the end. The ISO peels off and starts dropping their signs at a parking lot. Someone is making a speech as they gather around. The second news team I've seen is standing idly, one fellow with a big fluffy mike, the other with a camcorder. People start poking through the pile of discarded signs for ones they like. We're not at our parking lot though, so we start off again, after grabbing a few signs for next week. E- is disgruntled at not knowing why the ISO stopped here.
We pass the bar near the parking lot, and the 5 black guys drinking on the fenced 'verandah' cheer us. We wave back and shout exhortations not to drink Molsons. (On the way in, passing McDonalds, there had been shouts to "unionize McDonalds!") Back to the bus, much fewer than we started out, hoping that the strays will turn up soon. Some of the banner crew are regretting staying in the march. Banner folded up, signs gathered and taped together, money for Indonesian trade unions counted, sandwiches and snacks eaten. Fumes from busses warming up and cigarette smoke from the addicts facing a long smokeless ride combine unsalubriously.
Everyone was told that the busses leave at 4:30 whether you're on them or not. One person 'Zapatista Jim' has told others that he'll be staying in Seattle. Organisers run from bus to bus, trying to track down the last few people. The busses leave.
Again, people gather in the back with the radio. Bulletins are passed to the front as we travel. The National Guard is being called in. The police are sweeping the streets. A curfew is being set. The mayor is declaring an emergency. Envy on the bus.
M- comes and talks to me about joining IS, much less of a hard sell than E-. We talk about families, work, etc. E- comes by again, when I'm looking at the handbook. I've turned to the song page, and he asks me if I know the songs (Union Maid, Solidarity Forever, and Which Side Are You On). Oh yeah, I say, and tell him the story of my grandmother and The Peoples Flag tune. Neither he nor M- know the song, so I yatter on a bit about my family background (having previously said that socialism was 'in the blood'). E- says that his family was right-wing conservative, and I wonder if they'd been atheist would he be an evangelical Christian? I've never had my economic origins envied before; it's a strange experience.
As it gets darker, the bus gets quieter, and only the bus driver's idea of stopping at a truckstop wakes people up. Almost everyone dashes in for takeout, and a couple hit the espresso stand. But it means that people are awake when we reach the border, with frantic walkie-talkie communication between the busses to make sure that the passenger lists compiled on the way down are still valid. This time we don't have to get out. The customs woman just asks if anyone bought anything, a few people say 'a cheeseburger', she says "Welcome home" and we drive on. E- makes a slightly confused speech about not being home but in an occupied country that he happens to reside in, but saves it until we've driven off.
Get to the ferries. Unload all the signs, buckets, clipboards, etc. because it's different busses on the other side. I carry the clipboard crate with E-. We all walk through and to the lounge, which is of course the furthest dock. I phone Mark and reassure him, knowing that he will have been hearing stuff on the radio. He conceals his anxiety well.
The few people whe are just taking the ferry and weren't part of the protest look a bit lost in the crowd. We walk on, find a place and put down all the paraphernalia. Not having hit the truckstop, I hear the buffet calling, and abandon my affinity group for a while to eat and read Raymond Chandler.
The ferry arrives. I discover that the clipboard box is easily carried by one (I say "I'm strong, I'm a mother") and we walk off and find the busses again. The arrangements now are looser. One bus is designated for dropping people off downtown, and it's up to people to get on and find their own seats.
Back to UVic, arriving in front of the SUB at 11:20. I abandon my bike for the night, and find Mark in the van. We go home and I go to bed. I have no scars to show my child. ("And this one I got at the barricade in front of the Sheraton")
Friday, November 20, 2009
Clearly his logic circuits aren't connected in the usual ways and there's no point attempting to engage him in discussion, or even ask him what his aims are--does he really think he'll change anyone's mind or heart by shouting at them that they're damned? He shouted at me two days ago about women who hated men but copied them by cutting their hair short, and I was tempted to whip my braid out from under my rainjacket, but then he probably would have gone on to my wearing men's clothing or something (rainjacket is made from chemicals?).
But I remembered the advice I'd been given for walking the picket line (these many years ago) of responding to hostility or abuse by saying "Have a nice day!" So this morning I smiled at him and shouted "God loves you! Be happy!"
And he smiled and waved, and blessedly shut up.
The table was crowded with the principal officers belonging to the prince and the duca, who, as the minstrels swept the sounding chords of their lutes, and in their verses celebrated the martial deeds of heroes of other days, while at intervals the hollow timbrels and the warlike trumpets resounded through the hall, with stern and haughty look recalled to their remembrance their own prowess on the sanguine plains.
High was raised the goblet sparkling with the ruby draught, and joy reigned in every heart, save those of the duca and Rosalina: far different indeed was the cause, but great was the grief of both.
Affliction had found a passage to the heart of Rodolpho in the early death of the amiable duchesa, and fatally, in order to divert his grief, he had abandoned himself to every species of dissipation, which, at last, had made him commit deeds of sable hue, which darkened all his future days, and rendered him a slave to the horrors of an accusing conscience.
You'd never get away with that nowadays, which is why I want to play with it for Nano, which is like a hugely stressful adventure playground of time. It's an easy style to guy, as Mark Twain did, among many others, and it's desperately vague to a modern eye. But it's not the eye it appeals to, I think. It's the ear. It demands to be read aloud--and probably was by thousands of people.
Here's my venture:
The Count Scarlatto to Rosalinda
Rosalinda! I command you set aside that insolent air, that bold and disobedient spirit that leads you to defy me! Bow that haughty black-tressed head, lower your flashing eyes and learn obedience if you have it not!
Hear me. You will leave your craggy fastness and, attended by the virtuous Clara M--t, to H--k repair with all speed. I will allow no question, no hesitation, and above all no flouting of my will.
Child, I am not vindictive if I am not crossed. Therefore do not cross me, but obey. You think me, perhaps, grown forgetful or forgiving in my latter years, but I am still the man who brought terror to rule the chasms and passes of the Pyrenees, whose name--that name you bear--was whispered in shuddering breath by cowering travellers, whose lightest word summoned scores of brigands from the rocks themselves!
It was my strength of arm, my reputation, that has ensured your survival, as the eagle's fierce talons protect and nourish the downy eaglet in its tow'ring nursery, and think not I will hesitate to turn those talons upon you, should you prove ungrateful as the pelican's young.
I bid you go to my estate in H--k. Once there, much will be revealed, and you will be repaid in knowledge for this submission to one who must command your duty if your proud heart refuses fear. This much I tell you now, in proof of earnest: thy mother's name was Dulcinella.
Dulcinella! How the sound pierces my heart, how my rage rushes torrent-like as I recall her fate! You think me heartless, and I tell you it is because the fate of Dulcinella has torn that organ to bloody fragments.
Yet she will be avenged. Yes, and you my instrument. Haste, Rosalinda, haste, and I will unfold a tale that will harrow thy young soul and bring you to swear yourself to my cause, to devote yourself to one aim only--to bring just revenge upon the head of him who--but I say too much. Lest these letters go astray and be seen by impious eyes, I will restrain my impatience until you have arrived.
Bring with you your mourning-clothes and the locket set with jet and pearls--do not pry it open--also the small casket bound in brass. Do not pry the lock, nor drop it upon the rocks. What it holds is precious beyond your knowing.
In your absence, Arnaldo will take command, with the castellan Rinaldo as his second. Bring with you also the account-books and the morocco-bound ledger, and be sure the sums are correct. Do not allow the men to fire off their muskets into the air merely for celebration: it is only to be done in order to terrify travellers, and to cease immediately on their surrender. We have spent altogether too much on powder this quarter.
thy respected and to-be-obeyed great-uncle,
Adalbert, Count Scarletto
I didn't say anything about Rosalinda last time, did I? She's the bold bad twin, the Little Robber Girl to Ethelinda's Gerda. Instead of a kindly dithering clergyman grandfather-figure, she has the infamous Count Scarlatto, and instead of the redoutable Fortuna Beldam, she has the pale and mysterious Clara M--t (you may note, I also love the period convention of dashes to hide identity) of secret sorrows and sorrowful secrets.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Started by dipping back into some source material, picking up Evelina (by Fanny Burney), and on the Richardson side, Pamela and a (severely trimmed so that it fits into one volume) Clarissa Harlowe. I've read a severely-trimmed Sir Charles Grandison, with lovely Chris Hammond illustrations, but this is my first acquaintance with Clarissa Harlowe. That for the novel of sentiment/manners, trusting that I had Jane Austen's works reasonably well absorbed into the hindbrain, having read them all twice (okay, except for Mansfield Park, that only once) as well as most of the juvenilia and several continuations-by-other-hands.
For the Gothick, I had Clermont, Castle of Wolfenbach, Manfrone or the One-handed Monk, and The Passions by Rosa Matilda, having read the first two previously, and dipping into the second two. There's a beautiful passage from Manfrone that I will try to quote later.
For scholarly material, I had The Epistolary Novel in the Late Eighteenth Century, by Frank Gee Black and The Gothic Novel 1790-1830, by Ann B. Tracy, which is a collection of plot summaries (all hail Ann Tracy!) and index of motifs that makes for somewhat hilarious reading--one of the reasons synopses are so difficult is that summary piles on what narrative portions out, and the effect can be, um, bathos instead of pathos--as Tracy admits.
Back when I'd come up with the original concept, I'd thought of the two correspondents as being cousins, and each writing from her own coign or eyrie (look, it's already affected my vocabulary) of genre and convention. When I came to the point of needing a plot, what swam up from the depths was the old twins switching places plot (because the idea is not to be original), allowing for more explanation and observation and complication all around.
Which meant not starting in media res with an existing correspondance, but bringing the two to the same place so that they could become acquainted (because obviously they had been parted and kept in ignorance of each other, I mean, obviously!) and the switch could be effected.
Which meant they had to start out with other correspondents to whom to confide their situations, hopes and fears, and thus I had more characters all at once. As to be expected with twins, there was immediate mirroring of their circumstances. Each had an older woman companion or mentor (with her own secrets), and each had an older man who stood in as grandfather. Each was about to be removed from her home and sent to the place (London) where she could meet her long-lost twin.
Ethelinda is the good twin. As you might guess from the name, she and her circs are a hommage (as they say in high-toned literary circles, rather than copy or rip-off) of Evelina, including her fluttery old hen of a clergyman guardian (I heartily disliked Evelina's guardian, so I'm taking some resentment out on his double), but for female mentor I've given her a more redoubtable sort, Lady Fortuna Beldam (I'm so in love with that name you wouldn't believe) based on early women travellers like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lady Hester Stanhope.
Poking through my background reading, I realised that the divide between the Novel of Sentiment/Manners and the Novel of Gothick Horror (they weren't called Gothics in the day, any more than Gothic architecture was called that in the 14th c.) was much less a chasm than a ditch. The highly-coloured and unlikely events of the Gothick, the abductions, the imprisonments, the forced marriages and secret marriages, the concealed births and disinherited heirs ... pretty well all happened in novels of sentiment as well. Richardson built his reputation on Pamela, a long series of abductions and attempted seductions, but of a servant girl instead of a heiress (Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison are about gentryfolk abducting each other). Evelina, because of a secret marriage and concealed documents, is really the heir to two fortunes, but she has been raised in rustic seclusion, just as Ann Radcliffe's heroine was in Mysteries of Udolpho.
Evidently I would need to distinguish the two storylines by something more than choice of events.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
As those who know me know, I'm not the most social of persons. At WFC last year I would have been content to attend panels and buy books, but Mark pushed me into socialising and buying people drinks and so on. Which is also entertaining, because I will admit, yes, that whatever socialisation I possess comes from the Society for Creative Anachronism and from fandom--which is why I am such a geek.
The advantage of socialising in geek circles is that it hugely reduces the occasions on which I lie awake reviewing every word, glance, and gesture I've made for social faux pas. Because mostly no one notices.
Anyway. It's been said that the lessons of Viable Paradise are time-release processes, that they unpack over months and years (like that friend of my husband who fell out of his chair laughing in Music Theory class because he'd just gotten a PDQ Bach joke).
The friendships also unpack. VPXers whom I didn't get to know during VP itself become acquaintances and friends over time spent online and at cons. The network expands, busy little spiders sticking strands to strands to strands.
That being the long way around of saying that I got to hang out with Dru, a damn fine roomie, and chat with Zak and Sharon--one of the WFC giveaways was the latest Realms of Fantasy, with Sharon's name on the cover!--and meet VPers of both single and double digits (or triple & quadruple if you use the Roman numerals). I missed the VP dinner, because of having no watch and no sense of time, but made the gathering in Zak and Sharon's hotel room, where I had a rather nice half-glass of mead. I met some of the Fighting Thirteens, and a fine bunch they are, and well-named.
I failed to buy drinks for either Tim Powers or Mary Robinette Kowal, though both of them came and went repeatedly to the table in the bar that the VPers had laid claim to, and Mr. Powers very kindly gave me the bullet points on how he does research, in quick bursts of knowledge between dashes back to the editors & publishers table.
I learned that from the back I can be mistaken for Sherwood Smith. I don't see the resemblance myself, but then I can't see me from the back. She also dresses with far more flair than I do--but I did get Lucy's okay on the clothes I brought, which were intended to look moar srs than the usual dressed-out-of-the-laundry-basket look that's all I can usually manage.
World Fantasy has a couple of distinct features.
One is the Giant Bag of Books that attendees are given, which they can then swap and trade as they wish (there's a swap table where you can leave your surplus, and would it surprise you at all to know that almost everyone who put books on there stacked them appropriately and tidily? and sorted by type, with all the zines and journals on one side and books on the other?)
One is that there's one giant autograph session where all the authors of whatever degree sit at tables with their names and whatever display they are inclined to put together, and sign books and chat. I was able to get books signed for friends by Sherwood Smith, Tim Powers, and Jane Lindskold (the next day), and thank Garth Nix for signing Zoe's book last year. Got books selfishly signed for myself from Elizabeth Lynn and Patricia McKillip, and found myself buying Elaine Isaak's new book The Eunuch's Heir, and Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer--he had a brilliant elevator pitch, I have to say.
On my last circuit (because I am utter pants at finding people in giant rooms) I spotted Lucy sitting among the others, with a name card in front of her, but I had nothing for her to autograph for me (sob!) This year the organisers made 'tent cards' (now I know what they're called, I feel so informed) for everyone. On the way out I picked up my owny-own tent card so I could pretend I was real. Or practice for being real, however one cares to phrase it. I'm going to have to think about what looked good on the tables. A good many authors don't seem to think about presentation at all.
Wandering past the bar I stopped to take a picture of some luminaries of Canadian genre publishing representing themselves as the three wise monkeys, and ended up going for dinner with their party, which expanded as it went. Janice had come out wearing the light dress she'd put on for the Edge party, and outside was chilly. Brian Hades was taking his jacket off for her, but I was carrying my sweater, and offered that, thus becoming part of the Janice Effect, which is that when she needs something she has only to look around to have it supplied--this was explained by Mr. Hades (the princess Errigenie in Willow Knot has a similar effect, so I understood). Someone (at the Edge party?) had been singing first-aid songs, and someone else had been captioning them, so two of the women were practicing the ASL(?) sign for internal bleeding, which I now know, though I'm not sure I'm doing it with the correct hand. A party where you learn the signs for emergency medicine simply has to be a great party.
At the Mexican restaurant, Brian Hades gave us the Cole's notes version of his grandfather's life story, which really should be a Great Canadian Novel, possibly by Robertson Davies. What can be better than a boy orphaned by a fire joining the circus to become a fire-eater and magician, travelling with Gypsies, riding the rails and eventually becoming a fireman?
Two young girls were going from table to table doing card tricks, and Janice taught one of them a trick with a knife (paging Michael Ondaatje for an obligatory CanLit ref) to add to her repertoire. (you can do it with a pencil, but there were knives on the table)
The menu had grasshoppers listed, with a parenthetical yes they are grasshoppers. Unlike the eels I had in Norfolk, the grasshoppers had no immediate research application, but how often does the chance come one's way? So I was one of the three at the table who ordered the grasshopper appetiser (I also had chicken soup, to soothe me in case the grasshoppers weirded me out.) You'll want to know, I expect?
So. They come in a bowl, with guacamole and thick nacho chips. They are fried in oil, and look like a bowl full of small brown bugs. The way of eating them is to dip the nacho in the guacamole, and scoop up grasshoppers with it. This triggered my squick somewhat, because clinging to the guacamole they look very bug-like. It was easier to spoon them than dip them.
Mostly they tasted of oil and salt. The texture was crunchy. They're cooked complete (well, imagine the labour of peeling or de-legging individual grasshoppers) but the legs of the smaller ones come off when they're stirred about, so there's a scatter of tiny legs clinging to the edge of the bowl, which was also slightly squicky. When I was able to examine some of the larger ones, they were quite brown except for the abdomen(?) which was paler, more greyish or greenish. I imagine that was the actual food-part.
There were a few moments when I thought 'I have bugs in my mouth' but generally I was more conscious of just how salty they were. I expect they'd be better with beer, if I liked beer. I ate about half the bowl, and took the rest away to eat cold the next morning, wrapped in a tortilla. They aren't bad cold, but I'd like to know what they taste like without the salt and oil.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
WFC, as you may know, limits programming to one or two tracks of panels. On the surface, this makes it resemble a small fannish con, like VCon of old. Probably the limitation is to allow plenty of opportunity for business to be done in the bar, but that side is still muchly a mystery to me.
Friday I started with the Who, What or Why Done It panel, about mysteries and puzzles in ghost stories and urban fantasy, which sounded like fun buuuuutttt... when the moderator showed up (late) and then spent what felt like 10 minutes rambling on about what he'd been reading before he came, introducing the panelists (himself), giving them five (long-winded and verbose) questions to consider, talking about the etymology of 'mystery', praising another story he'd read recently, and ... Well, I left before he'd given the panelists a chance to talk. Every time he paused, and I thought 'he's done, he's going to open discussion' another clause would roll oleaginously from his lips, never a period, always a comma. I ditched. (The same moderator drove me from a panel last WFC--why is he asked to moderate?)
And headed over to Writing Human Characters, which was well underway. This was okay, going over fairly well-trodden paths. Make characters human by giving them something they want and can't have, how to make an alien/inhuman 'human', but how to make a character really alien if they're all humans with forehead prostheses? Discussion of monocultural planets and races (one of my pet peeves) and the dubious practice of using non-European stereotypes as a basis for alien races. All in all, entertaining.
Shelf Lives was a slideshow and talk by John Picacio about how he creates book covers, which I found very interesting, especially the layering of effects, and how he gathers photos and items to trigger concepts.
Non-Conciliatory Fantasy was a bit frustrating, in that the panelists (and audience) didn't seem to be clear whether they meant 'conciliatory' or 'consolatory', ie. fantasy that does not bring into harmony, or fantasy that does not alleviate grief. Because those would be different. It strikes me that most epicky fantasy is non-conciliatory because it ends with one side defeated in battle, or mostly defeated but enough undefeated for the sequel, but it rarely if ever ends with treaties, negotiation and hard-won harmony. (Adjust for ignorance--I read very little doorstopper fantasy). But generally the discussion was about non-consolatory fantasy, fantasy that doesn't leave you feeling comforted or reassured. Point made that many epic fantasists were survivors of war, soldiers, drawing on their combat experience, from Tolkien onwards. Was any fantasy classic really conciliatory/consolatory? Conclusion seemed to be that most end with loss, something small and precious saved from the general wreck. Heroes and anti-heroes considered briefly, the anti-hero not a recent development either, Jack Vance's heroes often brutal and amoral, this bearable because of his detachment.
Having missed the Round Robin Painting on Thursday, I wanted to listen to Artists Who Write and Writers Who Paint. It was fun, and convinced me that I'll have to read Seanan McGuire: when the discussion veered over to book covers and how authors are not consulted, she mentioned that she'd been asked what was the one thing she wanted on her cover and she'd said 'clothes'. That her heroine should be fully clothed, no butt-cleavage, no tramp-stamp, and that this wish had been answered. That one reader had taken Toby for a boy, and she'd wanted to hug them for that. Discussion of using art to unblock or to organise and free thoughts by painting/sketching. I was surprised to learn that no one really made sketches or paintings of characters or settings or scenes, though occasionally art echoed the mood of a story-in-progress.
Academic Treatment of Fantasy and Horror, the advance of genre studies in the last ten years. It's happening, but the 'name' universities are still resistant, and likely to continue so. Degrees in genre studies are easier to get via sociology (popular culture studies) or anthropology than through eng lit.
Know the Soup You're In, slideshow and talk by Lisa Snelling about the creative process, and how she balances art and mass production, where she finds inspiration, and finishing with a lovely playful short film made by a friend, which reminded me of early Norman McLaren.
When People Confuse the Author with Their Work was huge fun with lively opinionated panelists and lots of anecdotes. The fear of your mother (of whatever sort) reading your work as an inhibiting factor, and the decision to write deeply flawed characters. Not answering fan mail from prisons. Preconceptions about one's favourite authors, disappointment or relief? Is the confusion more likely with first-person narrative? Three of the panelists had worked in publishing and found it necessary to separate their love of certain authors' works from their increased knowledge of the certain authors' personalities.
Urban Fantasy as Alternate History, a fascinating topic: if supernatural creatures really were part of society, what would the sociological, legal, historic etc. implications be? And it started off well, with examples of how history might be changed, ways the panelists had approached the question, who did it well ... and then it veered into what's the difference between science fiction and fantasy, and the moderator made no attempt to bring it back, but in fact led it determinedly into surely one of the most trite of all genre questions. So I left.
Coarse Dialogue and Graceful Description, about balancing high and low diction in fantasy, moderated by Deanna Hoak, whom I totally fangirl. Did veer a few times into good and bad copyediting anecdotes, and notable for Ellen Kushner and James Frenkel having a set-to. I felt that Guy Gavriel Kay ran on rather when he got hold of the mike, too.
What Makes a Good Monster was okay, but in some ways was a mirror-image of the Human Characters panel. The most frightening monsters are the most alien or the most human? Humans can make the best monsters; Pennywise the Clown is vastly more frightening than the giant spider-thingy it becomes.
The Sorcerer in Fantasy was one of those panels where every panelist disavowed writing about sorcerers, but they managed to muddle through until it turned into a discussion about the difference between magic and technology, which ties with sf vs. fantasy for mind-numbingly irrelevant and over-studied question. I ditched.
Contemporary Rural Fantasy was pretty good, though not brilliant. Contemporary rural settings make for fantasy for teens and children, horror for adults, so much discussion of horror. With population more and more urbanised, perception of country changes, both safer and more dangerous. There have always been works set in the countryside, why is it not recognised as a subgenre, or so often conflated into urban fantasy? Panelists and audience name rural fantasy works, come up with fairly substantial body of works. Moderator says again that subgenre is waiting for iconic work which will establish it.
Bad Food, Bad Clothes and Bad Breath was brilliant. Just bloody brilliant. Discussion of the gritty and unpleasant realities of pre-industrial societies. I'd thought of ducking out early to catch some of Weird Weird West (which I heard was also brilliant, afterwards) but couldn't tear myself away. Must go and find Kari Sperring's academic work (under different name). Why agriculture? Unintentional germ warfare. Insect life. Positive influence of Christianity, sorry about that, guys. Why doesn't anyone in fantasy have lice or fleas (I do happy dance here, because I have, yes, a lousing scene in Willow Knot) and why do the characters have such enlightened views on medicine and slavery and so on? Anyway, I can't restrain myself, but actually do go up post-panel and brag about my lousing scene.
And those were the panels I attended.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Flight down better than I expected/feared. Sent aside at Seattle--apparently I have been flagged, but the Customs person this time may have sorted it out (we'll see what happens the next time I cross). She did say it was the most confusing case she'd seen and she had to go back twice to talk to a supervisor. Obviously I don't know what the Port Angeles Customs had put on my file, but at one point she asked me if I'd ever been a customs broker (?!?), because there was apparently some note to that effect. And here I thought the problem at Port Angeles was that Mark didn't have a customs broker (it was said--not to me--that he should have one, as if a small business like his could even afford it).
So still a bit of trepidation whether this will happen every time, leaving my fate up to whether the Customs person is in a good mood or not, and what will happen the next time I travel with Mark.
The security theatre side of things was fairly well managed and relatively painless--everyone going to the States gets patted down and has their baggage gone over with a sniffy-wand, but I don't have any twitches about people seeing my rolled-up socks or sanipads, fortunately, or ticklishness about being patted down, and the staff were pleasant and efficient about it.
At the Light Rail stop in San Jose, found myself part of a cluster all going to WFC, including the (co?) chair of the 2011 con. Geekdar? Fandar? Anyway, we all recognised each other by type pretty quickly, and combined knowledge to identify the correct stop for the Fairmont (the directions having said 'stops in front of the Fairmont' without naming the stop) and to find the actual building and entrance.
The first entrance we came to didn't open to the Great Unkeycarded. What a lot of walking there is when you have Architecture and Vistas.
Today I mostly went to readings, because there isn't much programming and because I was feeling that I didn't know who anyone was, and wanted to associate works with names. Last year I missed most of the readings, though I did make it to Patricia McKillip's, where she read from what she apologetically called a first draft (dear lord, if all our first drafts were like that, books would reach print a damn sight faster).
Also, I've been wondering how a writer chooses a reading--I'll have to ask about that, when there aren't other hands waving (which mostly there weren't).
Blake Charlton read a scene from his YA fantasy where Nicodemus bargains with a gargoyle and loses control of the situation. I missed the opening, so I'm not sure how much explanation he gave, but the setting was pretty well laid in and I had no trouble following. I'm a sucker (as you can guess) for library settings, and gargoyles who reshelve books is a pretty cool concept. So his reading gave a good taste of the world and character, and left off with clear indications of immediate trouble.
Janni Lee Simner read the prologue and first chapter of Thief Eyes, another YA fantasy where a modern teen discovers that her mother's disappearance may be linked to an Icelandic legend. I missed part of the prologue, but the story caught me with the modern segment, the grieving resentful girl badgering her evasive father for answers.
Two readings from a recent co-authored fantasy novel, and I would have ducked out before the second one if I'd realised it was the same book. EFP and evidently given a pass on wordcount to judge from the flabby writing, with all the 'then's and 'too's and 'suddenly's left in, overexplaining, and the same information provided again and again. Also hitting way too many of my twitches, like bad people having bad teeth, inconsistent naming (a character named Baldric, ffs) an apparently medieval world with 18th c. architecture. About the time someone quaffed a tankard of (telegraphed as drugged) wine to the dregs, I had to ditch.
Later, Frederic Durbin read several excerpts focussing on what I would have guessed to be a secondary character, one of what seemed like winged house-elves, hitting various points of the story from a side-view. His enjoyment of the character and of sharing her thoughts with the audience was rather sweet.
Ken Scholes rolled up with a fair-sized entourage, read a fable (it had talking animals and a moral, therefore was a fable) about chimps on the moon, and took a lot of questions. I wonder if there's a fame tipping-point where you have to choose a short reading to allow time for questions? Several questions were about how he managed writing with babies, but I was most interested by what he said about moving to novels from short stories--his discovery that his short stories had novels hiding inside them.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Miss Perkins, that camera has a bloody neck strap. Put it around your bloody neck! I couldn't believe her as a photographer, and the omg i dropped my camera and must rush back into deadly peril to retrieve it thing stopped being suspenseful and became evidence of mental impairment at the second instance.
She dropped her camera howevermany times, she forgot her film! and the filmmakers expect me to believe that she got the maguffins all the way to Nepal in her flappy coat-pocket? No.
The running gag about saving her last shot was poorly paced, and the weight of the looming, inescapable payoff--she's going to waste the last shot & probably ruin the roll--was hanging over my head like the rubber prop sword of Damocles.
Usually the point of the 'accidental destruction of evidence' trope is to prevent the unbelievable truth (Loch Ness Monster, aliens, sasquatch, ghosts) from being revealed and to leave the protagonists and audience united in being the only ones who know the unbelievable truth. But I couldn't see such a point working in the established World of Tomorrow, where giant robots swoop down onto cities and zeppelins moor on skyscrapers.
The other running gag, about whether she'd sabotaged Joe's plane, lost its humour for me early on, when he said that as a result he'd been imprisoned in a slave labour camp where they threatened to cut off his fingers. The film skimmed over that with a sort of yeah, yeah, you big baby air, but surely I'm not the only viewer for whom physical mutilation or threats thereof is one great big unholy squick?
It's a quandary. If I'm meant to take that mutilation as a serious possibility in the film, then Polly loses all my sympathy. If I'm not meant to take it so, then this is a film where nothing permanent can happen to any of the main characters, and the events lose all suspense.
Probably I would have been better off watching on the big screen, where the set design would have overwhelmed the characters and just squashed me back in my seat aesthetically. The opening, by the way, I did love, with the Expressionist light and shadows, the zeppelin, the first robot attack with the massive robots crunching through the streets. Maybe the whole show should have been about the robots, and maybe Frankie, a match for them in implacable self-possession.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Right, the rest of the conference. So, this was the 4th time it's been held, alternating between Alberta and BC, the two provinces with the Personal Information and Privacy Act (pronounced like Pippa, for all you Robert Browning fans). A piece of luck that it was in Vancouver so soon after I offered to be Privacy Officer.
Three academic speakers:
Ian Kerr on 'Robot Law is Taking Over: privacy in the age of automation';
Jesse Hirsh on 'Finding the Missing Pieces: why solving the privacy puzzle is a lot more difficult than we think';
Hal Niedzviecki on 'Privacy in the Age of Peep: why we don't care about our privacy--and need it more than ever.'
All three were lively and engaging speakers on the intersection of privacy and technology, from fairly different viewpoints.
Last was a talk by a law firm on legal decisions and cases in the past year. This was more interesting than I expected, but difficult to make notes on because of the assumption that the audience already knew most of the cases. (It could also be that I'm a lot more used to making notes from academic lectures than from legal cases and don't know what to listen for.)
Five breakout sessions: I went for option A in each case, because that seemed to be the employee / employer stream.
Balancing an employer's right to medical information with an employee's right to privacy. This is a pretty hot topic presently, so I took extensive notes. The particularly fraught issue seemed to be that the employer was not entitled to know the actual diagnosis--but was entitled to know enough about the diagnosis to themselves evaluate return-to-work conditions, and that got very grey. I could see that slipping into the employer disregarding what the doctor said because of a perception that doctors were just parroting employees, or else demanding so many specifics that they might as well be gven the diagnosis. The speaker came very close to paternalism at times, but didn't quite slip over.
Everything you wanted to know about employment privacy but were afraid to ask. As you can maybe guess from the rather coy (and dated) title, this presentation spent a bit too much time on its cute scenarios and not enough time exploring the issues involved in those scenarios. The attempt to engage the audience with a little storytelling was well-intentioned, though. The takeaway was that tech geeks will want to use tech, and privacy geeks will interpret all possible situations as privacy-related, so everyone needs to step back.
Privacy and working offsite. This was after lunch, and not as hot a topic for me, so not so many notes. But a quite good presentation, with lots of anecdotes--the biggest risk seems to be to physical records being left in cars or on porches (printouts tucked into a car bra is a favourite) with the groceries, and electronic transmission being much safer.
Emerging technologies and employee surveillance. Some of this tied back to the employment privacy talk, and the issues of what employees will accept as reasonable (reasonable is the Word in PIPA, being in pretty well every clause, sometimes twice) and what will raise resentment.
Building a culture of privacy. This was very specific, tied right in to what a particular lab did to make security of personal information a routine, built in to even the office and exam rooms layout--whether computer screens were visible to passers-by, whether the photocopier could be monitored, what went in the shredder automatically and what was safe to go into the recycle unshredded. Pretty interesting, and they looked to have done a good job of making the employees feel part of the process, rather than being suspected as weak links.
The slant generally was from the employer's side, but one becomes used to adjusting for that. In one session the speaker asked how many present were a)employers, b)legislators, c)union. Only two union members in the room. I was one, and I'm pretty sure the other was the same union person I'd talked to the first morning.
A fellow from Translink that I was chatting with at the reception said it was about time the unions started to consider privacy issues (have to admit, I don't see myself as representative of The Unions as a whole), and when I was talking to the Verney Conference guys on the second day about the employer-slant, they seemed interested in expanding the union side and introducing union-specific topics.
Continental breakfast was, yes, included, and a lunch. The lunch was good both days, being somewhat-fancy pizza (3 kinds) on Sunday, and they set up three serving stands so the lineups were manageable. Desserts, too--I only got the carrot cake (not my fave) on Saturday, but Sunday was tiramisu and rice krispie rectangles. Also many different party snacks the first evening, during the reception.
I ended up way too caffeinated from all the tea and coffee. Chatting with the Verney guys I found out how much some of those refreshments cost, which caused me some palpitations (I already have strong constraints about wasting food.), hearing that a can of pop costs $5, and one of those juice pitchers $35. I shudder to think what my two slices of melon and croissant cost.
Bearing in mind that it wasn't just a pitcher of juice, it was a pitcher of juice poured and served by several people in black & red vests, and removed and washed afterwards. (Query to self: is the Hyatt Regency a union workplace?) And on the 3d floor of a downtown building that has to be heated and lit and cleaned and maintained and taxed.
The first go-round of coffee and tea was poured for you by the vest-clad staff, perhaps to reduce the risk of attendees scalding themselves, but after the first rush presumably the thermoses had cooled and the risk was reduced enough that one could wander out and get one's own drinks.
Oh yes, and loot, were you wondering about loot?
The conference bag was a black wine-bag (the kind with four pockets in the corners to hold bottles upright. A notebook with the conference info on the cover. A schedule booklet of course. 3 pens, one for the conference, one for Verney Conference Management, one for the sponsoring law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais. A notepad titled 'Managing My Information'.
Sunday we were encouraged to take the extras home with us, so I have 4 wine bags, 4 notebooks (my weakness) and 8-10 of each kind of pen.
Info tables--the best was the federal Privacy Commissioner, which had calendars and postcards with cartoons, as well as a bunch of infosheets and booklets. Would you have associated the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada / Commissariat a la protection de la vie privee du Canada with rather cheeky cartoons? Because I wouldn't have, previously.
Oh, I also got a spiffy black bag with the slogan 'If you can't protect it, don't collect it', unfortunately not as snappy in French as 'Si vous ne pouvez pas les proteger, ne les recueillez pas'.
About 200 attendees, down about 20 from last year (I heard). Black was definitely the colour for the event, with the dais table and backdrop draped in black, black gimme bags, and black the predominant clothing colour. I think I saw one pair of grey trousers, with everyone else in black slacks or skirts, and black jackets or blazers, some black sweaters, some dark burgundy-to-cherry sweaters, white or other solid-colour shirts.
I was wearing red trousers, because I don't own any black (the cat hair shows up too easily), and because I am a union agitator mwahaha. Also was the only person wearing runners. I do have black shoes! Okay, runners that look just like black shoes, but I have to get laces for them before WFC.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
One point of intersection--the keynote address was by Dr. Ian Kerr, who referred extensively to both Isaac Asimov and Cory Doctorow. He had a slide for Asimov, but I don't recall one for Cory. He did have a pic of 'robots and doughnuts', which his wife claims are all he thinks about. His talk was on Robot Law, and the system of permissions created by our use of electronic IDs and key-cards, etc.
Anyway, I had my little six-degrees moment, thinking 'Cory Doctorow critiqued my manuscript!'
Yesterday there was a reception on the 34th floor, for the creator of PrivacyScan, a journal for privacy professionals (see, I had no idea) who was semi-retiring (ie will still be writing articles & advising, but no longer editing). I spent part of the time 'networking' or at least chatting, and part staring out over the city views.
Another day of talks to come, as I write, but by the time I post it will be over.
At the end of the short passageway to the elevators, there's a wall-size mirror, with the words Sunny, Cloudy, Rain, on one edge. Today the word Rain is lit white. This makes me feel as if I'm in a 1960s European sf film, like Alphaville or The Tenth Victim.
October is turning into a hotelling month. First was VCon, staying at the Marriott because Mark was selling in the Dealers' Room. Then the PIPA conference at the Hyatt (but staying at the Sheraton). Next I'll be at Tir Righ A&S (note to self: email and offer to judge, right quick), hotelling again because it's past camping season. Finishing off with World Fantasy in San Jose.
That's like 2 year's worth of hotel-time for me, in a month (and yes, I should get over my thing about hotels & taxis, I am not a starving student anymore). And a spread of themes from fan to pro, from modern to past to future, from mundane to fantastic. It may be more striking to me because I'm still blinking my way out from under the rock of revision.
I didn't foresee how much revision would eat my brain. Even when I wasn't actively revising, or even (as far as I could tell) thinking about revision, I had difficulty remembering things like appointments, lists, order in which to accomplish tasks. I could do whatever was in front of me, but in a very focussed way, not noticing the time it took. When I was done, or hungry or thirsty enough to break concentration, I'd feel a bit lost.
One hopes the next go-round will be less intense. I'd like to do Nanowrimo this year, and make a better showing than last year, which was abysmal for me. Possibly because I had an extensive outline, so this year I'm going to wing it with just a concept. I love my concept, so I will be all weepy if I don't get to play with it--it's been kicking around for a couple of years, but I've started my background reading, so maybe....
See, several years ago I got interested in the Gothic Revival, which features in Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, where the young heroine is a great reader of 'horrid novels' and imagines herself and her acquaintances to be entangled in a Gothick plot rather than a novel of manners. My interest was more likely sparked by Varney the Vampire and 'Monk' Lewis, but I can't remember for certain. So I set out to read as many (reprints mostly) of the Gothic classics and 'Northanger Novels' as UVic's library held, which turned out to be rather a lot. I'll stick the list in if I have time.
Fortunately, at the time I had a high tolerance for florid prose and stories-within-stories, since a proper Gothic heroine never meets another character without having to learn that character's tragic and plot-development-related life story. She rarely ventures into a haunted chamber or dank underground cell without finding a tattered scroll or sheaf of papers stained with tears or blood and relating someone else's T&PDRLS, which she must read by the light of a single flickering taper in her own haunted chamber. The layering doesn't quite reach Thousand and One Nights level, but it can be difficult to keep track of how far one is from the main storyline. In my 20s I had patience with this sort of structure. I'm grumpier now, so it will be interesting to see if things have changed.
I haven't read nearly a many equivalent novels of manners (if that's the right term) so I should try to even it out. Most of Jane Austen, one Fanny Burney, a Charlotte Smith that teetered between Gothic & manners (can't remember the name - her first novel though), oh and a little Richardson--Pamela of course and an excerpted Sir Charles Grandison (the original Gary Stu).
Anyway, I plan to indulge myself soundly in epistolary unlikeliness. But until then, I'm sorting out The Cost of Silver into Scrivener, and figuring out what keywords & notes are appropriate for each scene. It was awfully hard to leave the Mac at home, but I wouldn't have had the time and concentration to get any further with it.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I'm on the 25th floor of the Sheraton Wall Centre, a cliff-face dwelling with all the amenities, including a bathrobe that I could buy for $105. There were two chocolates on the pillow--actually on the bedspread on a card, because the pillows (all 5, one embossed with the hotel logo) were vertically arranged for more comfortable viewing of the bureau-wide flatscreen tv.
Not sure how many floors there are, (FutureBarb says: 35) being rather tired when I arrived, but the 25th allows for a considerable view over the city, and not much in the way of obstruction short of the mountains. The windows (a wall of them) are floor-to-ceiling, but in consideration of humans being ape-related rather than eagle-related, gauze curtains hang before the whole expanse. There's a balcony, but while I'm willing to lean against the glass, I'm not so sure about going outside. Sometimes my natural caution about heights deserts me.
The Sheraton is much nicer than the Marriott Pinnacle for room design, though both have comfy beds with two degrees of pillow and cosy duvets. This room is a narrow right-angle triangle (cliff-face) with the bathroom as the base and the little glass table where I sit typing at the point. Beside the bureau & tv is a vinyl comfy-chair in a colour I can't name at the moment, like a bright terra-cotta.
I read the earthquake instructions. They tell you to shelter under a wooden table or desk. The table is glass, and there is no desk. I don't fancy my chances of pulling all the drawers out of the bureau and squishing myself in between the supports.
It will be some time before I post this, because an internet connection costs $11 for the low-end, so I'll wait until I'm at a coffee shop with free internet. But I have a $5 voucher for food here because of skipping housekeeping for today, so I'll have coffee here at least.
How do I come to be here, you ask? Aha, I am on union business, attending a conference on privacy and information. Because not only am I on the union executive (as a trustee) but I'm the new privacy officer, and need to know what in heck I should be doing.
In about 10 minutes I'll be walking the 10 blocks to the conference hotel and seeing if the free continental breakfast is for all delegates or just those staying at the (pricier) hotel. I'm bracing myself to take full and informative notes about the conference sessions so that I can report when I get back.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I've been wandering about dazedly the last few days, feeling rather like Mole in the opening of Wind in the Willows, squinting in the spring daylight after a winter underground. I came very near shouting 'Onion sauce! Onion sauce!' at the campus rabbits on Friday.
Because! Willow Knot, revised up to 120k from its hacked-down 105k, has gone off to my agent in both electronic and paper forms. This makes me feel much more like An Agented Author, because I've filled in my side of the agreement, for the first go-round anyways. I fully expect to have more to hack out and fill in and smooth over.
This weekend, though--Happy Thanksgiving!--I'll be reading other people's published books, baking an apple pie for the boy, and maybe watching dvds. And updating my blog. I've already slept in to 8 am, like a slothful sloth (except not upside down).
You may recall that I figured to have the revision done and dusted by the 14th. Well yeah. There was what one might call the Fortunate Fall of my desktop computer having kicked over in mid-August, leaving me with no large screen monitor. I love my eee (on which I am writing now) but its screen can be covered by one hand. And I seriously needed a big screen to read over the revision for flow. Half a page at a time was not enough.
Paul gave me his old Mac laptop, which has a screen at least as big as my dead desktop's. And he loaded it with the free trial of Scrivener, which he and Mark have been pimping to me for a while. So I shoved WK into Scrivener, a fairly easy task since I'd broken it into scenes and given the scenes descriptive titles already, and took a good hard look at the story flow.
That was when I fell in love.
Yes, I love Scrivener madly. I would bake it cookies and run hot baths for it, and haunt used bookshops looking for missing volumes in its uniform editions of Mark Twain. Like that.
And Scrivener revealed to me that I could knock one more winter off the forest section. And it showed me that the palace section desperately needed a 12th Night masque with a dancing bear.* It let me look at two scenes at once so I could meld them into one scene without losing the important bits. It let me look at a floorplan of the palace while I walked characters through. And it compiled the whole shebang together in order at the end.
Okay, there were some Adventures in Formatting for me then, because Open Office decided to indent all first lines, most of which were already indented (because I do that), and the font changed in one chapter for no apparent reason, and so on. But most of that was my not realising just how much Scrivener does, plus the usual sort of wackiness found in moving files through different systems and different word processing programs.
So I've bunged Cost of Silver into Scrivener, and I'm going to muddle about with the status and label settings now that I have an idea how they work. And yes, I've registered Scrivener, I did that about 20 days into the free trial.
Note: I am not a convert to Mac. But I'm willing to use one for the sake of Scrivener.
The Outside World well sort of:
Had a fine time at V-Con last weekend. I was invited to be on a panel(!) by the kind offices of Susan Walsh. The topic was Vampires We Have Known and Loved, with Tanya Huff, Rhea Rose, etc. Tanya was lovely and gracious, answered a number of questions about the tv series and about sequels to her past series, and did her best not to dominate the panel despite the audience attention. Two of the panelists were on because they'd just contributed to a vamp anthology calle Evolve, and another was a voice actor who'd done a vampirish villain or two. And me.
So I took the folklore tack and commented on how the vamp concept has changed over the years, a little bit on the challenge of portraying vampires in a historical setting (Stuart England) where there was no concept of blood-drinking walking undead (oh look, I'm plugging the book I haven't finished yet!). I did plug Paul Barber's indispensable Vampires, Burial and Death, and read a few paragraphs from Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood!
Several people took down both titles, as well they should.
VCon's art show was terrific this year, far better than the show at Worldcon. It was disappointing how few bids there were. So I bought art.
I bought a Melissa Duncan print (okay technically I have this on credit, but she knows where I live). Terri, you should check out this lady's art! (I thought I'd seen a more extensive website of her work, but can't find it now)
And two small pieces by Valeria de Rege, lovely quirky little paintings on wood blocks, some with text taken from sf novels.
I restricted myself to only one of Danielle Stephens's brilliant little papercraft shadowboxes. She does not have a website, so I'll have to take a photo and post it to show you what they're like.
Pauline Walsh doesn't have a website either, so I'll have to do the same to show you the charming little femo Hermit Thing that I got.
The VCon hotel (Marriott Pinnacle) had a whole set of Stupid Policies that made it a questionable choice for a con. Food had to be consumed in the room where it was purchased (so the Dealers Room theoretically had no food for those manning tables). No costumes in the lobby, the pool, or the (overpriced) restaurant--'costume' being undefined. No weapons, again undefined, anywhere. No groups of four or more people in the lobby--think about that one.
The staff I dealt with were all pleasant and professional, but they were stuck with enforcing nebulous and discriminatory policies. The elevators from one public level to another stopped running at midnight, forcing one lady (filksinger?) with mobility problems to use the shiny slippery stairs. Another woman, who had changed out of her costume into street clothes, was asked to leave the restaurant because she didn't match the (unposted?) dress code, although her companion was diabetic and needed to eat. They walked to a McDonalds.
Like most high-end hotels, they overcharged for internet, $16 day and I'm not sure they had wireless. The bottle of water in the room cost $4.50. No fridge, only a cooler with a broken door.
Beds were comfy though, and it was possible to turn the a/c and heat off and not be woken in the night by roaring.
Actually it was just as well that we couldn't get internet at the hotel. It meant I finished revisions, instead of browsing the web.
What else? I did a couple of shifts on the SF-Canada table, and hand-sold at least one more copy of Eileen Kernaghan's The Snow Queen, which is a terrific treatment of the fairy tale. And bought a couple more books for myself.
*I did go and check whether the perceived need for dancing bears was one of the varieties of insanity known to affect authors. Fortunately it isn't.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Okay, in 3 days.
Yes, last weekend was the 3-Day Novel Contest! With my desktop computer being much deaded, and connectivity downstairs being kind of spotty, I didn't have much luck posting regular progress reports. So this is my roundup:
Initial plot-like object was the idea of a woman scholar who is a fairly high-profile prisoner of conscience, refusing to recant the anthropology studies of her youth (published) which establish the distinct culture and language of a nomadic ethnic minority that she'd lived and travelled with. Interspersed with the folktales and legends of the nomads, and other random folktales as appropriate--because in litfic it's perfectly reasonable to drop the story as such and throw in bits of letters or encyclopedia articles or ballads or conversations that took place decades ago. Anyway, she suddenly 'births' (in the Zeus's brow, warrior's thigh way) a culture-hero. And then, um, stuff happens. Some of it rather gross in a bodily-secretions way, because there are all these great folktale motifs of children born from blood clots and mucus, and generally they do not get much love in the Folktales-of-the-World way.
Inspiration and ready-ref was the Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, 1236 pages.
Supplies included black tea, ginger beer, coffee (made by Supportive Husband); cold pizza, frozen meat pies, corn chips, bag of veggies, dried apples, dried plums, sugared ginger, Cap'n Crunch cereal.
Distractions included ripe blackberries and dropping plums; telephone calls from cheerful relatives and distraught friends; library books left in plain sight by Supportive Husband.
Saturday started off well at 6 am, with 2428 words before an early lunch break. Return was delayed by filling the dehydrator with a load of plums, and picking enough blackberries for a pie. Because obviously those things Could Not Wait. At dinner break I had only 4045, and determined to hit 7k before bed. Unfortunately by 11:45 I was falling asleep sitting up and had only hit 6600. Still, that was better than both previous years.
The story was chugging along, with Nima (yeah, perhaps such an easily mis-typed name was not the best choice for a story written at widely varying levels of alertness?) resigned to her captivity and amusing herself by thwarting her jailers in various minor ways, then dealing with the supernatural events that decided to make her their agent. I was having fun playing mix'n'match with motifs.
Sunday was slogging. Didn't get started until 8 am, and had only brought the total to 7513 by lunchtime. The 2pm slump hit me hard, and Mark suggested walking into Oak Bay with him for some air and exercise. That helped a bit, as did the pre-dinner nap, but I was still lingering too much over word choice and bending myself out of shape over whether I was keeping the 'voice'. I broke 10k after dinner, and was just under 12k when I called it a night at a quarter past twelve. What really helped me pick up speed was adding another viewpoint character, Rasa, a young girl of the nomads living in a reserve / prison camp, who witnesses the 'birth' of another culture hero, from the tears & mucus of her outcast mother. I also got the ending down, so I'd just have to fill in the middle on Monday!
Monday, split the difference and started at 7 am. 13625 words at lunchtime (again, very early lunch). From there on, a pretty steady 400-700 words an hour. Supportive Husband made a big pot of strong coffee and went to bed, leaving me to it.
The last couple of scenes before the climax were badly scanted, because I was getting right down to the wire for time, and needed to have the two halves of the tunnel at least touch in the middle. So Nima being injured (proves fatal) while releasing the oxen from the barn was barely there, but, well, triage.
Final wordprocessor count, at 11:55 Monday night was 18768 words, barely above the last 2 years. That may be my natural length for a 3 day push.
It was fun. I was sorry I had to skimp on the latter middle, but it's a bit facile to say 'ah, you should have done more on Sunday' because on Sunday I still didn't know what was going to happen in the middle of the book. This one, of all my 3-Days so far, is open for rewrite and expansion--in fact I'm eager to fill it out, though as usual I can't think of a market for it.
This is the third story set in the alt-Europe that I used for Fold. I'm enjoying expanding that setting, exploring different views of the societies. Maybe I can take those three and turn them into a decent-sized collection to print through Lulu.
And now to bed, for I have sleep still to catch up on.