bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
Aight, here goes . . .





Theoretically, to meet my resolutions, I need to write 167 words per day.
bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
One of my New Year's resolutions this year is to write 10,000 words per month.






The ideal breakdown here is one thousand words per day for the first ten days of every month, and the last twenty or so days off to outline, plan, revise, cogitate, or do other things entirely. We'll see how that goes.
bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
Last weekend I went to Readercon, the speculative fiction literary convention in Burlington, MA. (No, not Burlington, Vermont.) I went to this convention last year, when I was very new to both BSpec and to the whole idea of paying attention to the current literary scene in general. This time I went in knowing—and knowing about—a hell of a lot more people, but I still met many awesome new ones.

This time, the hotel lobby and bar were also open (last year they were under construction). The bar was fairly snazzy in a This Is A Fancy Corporate Executive Bar sort of way, and the lobby was very spacious but only had like two couches so that there could be more modern-looking white space. Also, they renamed all the non-letter salons from states’ names to inspirational buzzwords like Enliven and Enlighten and Creative and I think one of them was actually Inspire and you get the idea.

Due to starting a new (more exciting, better paid, back in the city, sadly temporary) new job, I was unable to attend most of Friday. Robert (who I’d given a ride to) and I arrived at about seven, which was precisely the time when our posse (it is actually Gillian’s posse) went out to dinner. The end result of this is that, while I had a lovely dinner with many lovely people in our gorgeous air-conditioned hotel room, I only got to attend ONE panel on Friday. This was a bit of a bummer since Friday honestly looked like the best panels day.

On the upside, the one panel I did attend was The Gothic in Nineteenth-Century Science Fiction, a presentation by Jess Nevins, a dude I had never heard of before but who is now on my A+ list, partly because he had the grace to put the entire paper he presented online (http://jessnevins.com/blog/?p=234). Since I am a giantly giant fan of all forms of Gothic nonsense, it was somewhat inevitable that I would enjoy this talk, but whether I would learn new things was something more in question. I did, in fact, learn fun new things, particularly since I have heard the terms “male Gothic” and “female Gothic” a few times before but had never really read much that explained what they meant and tried to take a good critical look at how they function. I strongly recommend reading the entire paper, if only so you will fully appreciate the facepalm when I tell you that during the Q&A at the end, somebody asked “What do ‘male’ and ‘female’ Gothic mean?” BUT BESIDES THAT it was pretty great. If you asked me if I preferred this talk or last year’s The Fainting Narrator talk I would be hard pressed to pick one. (I thiiink I saw the guy who presented The Fainting Narrator at the bar and I almost went and fangirled at him but he was talking to people and also my drink was ready.)

After that it was party time! The Meet the Prose party is an attempt to force awkward introverted people to talk to each other by putting a bar in Ballroom F/G and giving all the authors stickers with lines from their work on them and everyone else pieces of wax paper. The object is to collect all the stickers, or, for authors, to get rid of all your stickers, or possibly the object is to have as many conversations as possible, or maybe it is to practice your ninja pickpocket skills and collect the most stickers without having any conversations. I’m not sure; the rules weren’t posted anywhere that I saw. But it was fun, and I got to talk to cool people like Neil Clarke, cyborg overlord of Clarkesworld Magazine, and Sofia Samatar, whose collection of scarves I am most envious of. Then we attended a super secret midnight speakeasy. How secret? So secret that people were yelling about its location in the hallways! That’s my kinda secret. Bo Bolander read a fragment of a piece that consisted about 50% of the word “fuck” and was pulpy and awesome. I sadly had to leave the speakeasy early because I hit the Wall and had to go to bed.

Saturday began with a visit to the dealer’s room, where all my virtuous thoughts of I Should Save Money Because I Am Young And Broke and But I Have Access To A Library and I Totally Have A System For What I Will Decide To Buy Today melted away into a sort of avariciously bibliophilic fugue state, and between ten and eleven o’clock in the morning I acquired the following:


In totally unrelated news, if anyone knows where I could grab another bookshelf for cheap, comments are open.

At noon I did start going to panels, beginning with Writing and the Visual Arts, where I learned that Greer Gilman once took a Historical Art Techniques class and it was awesome. I also learned that Shira Lipkin knits to figure out story structure and texture and otherwise un-knot her writing, which sounds so incredibly useful that it made me wish I could knit. (I cannot knit.) The people on the panel are involved in poetry, music, painting, drawing, handicrafts, cinema, basically the whole run of the arts. They are also, it seems, to a person, typography nerds, with strong feelings about paper and typeface and binding, and preferences for which fonts to work with under what circumstances. This led to a really interesting discussion of the state of the art of printing, including the rise of ebooks with their customizable fonts and letter sizes, and the physical book as an art object.

After a lunch break I went to Portrayals of Code-Switching, partly because I am all interested in language and linguistics and stuff and partly because Daniel José Older was on the panel and I remember him as being a really insightful and entertaining panelist. He did not disappoint, and neither did any of the other panelists, none of whom I was familiar with. The panel discussed a number of forms of code-switching: the moderator, Chesya Burke, brought up the idea that not all code-switching is entirely done through language; things like posture and dress are forms of code-switching, too. There was also some talk of bi- or multilingual code-switching versus code-switching within a language (register-switching). Then we got into the really fun stuff: writing and representing different codes in writing, and especially the questions of “translating” or italicizing words that aren’t SWE in a text that’s going out into an English-language market. Older gave as an example that Spanglish conversations usually do not take the sharp turn in accent and inflection between Standard American Broadcast English and perfectly correct Spanish (I do not know my Spanishes, sorry) that would be implied by putting all the English in roman type and all the Spanish in italics. (It was funnier and more illustrative when he said it with examples.) I had a thought during this panel that I wasn’t quite able to congeal into a coherent question, so I’ll burble it out here: on several occasions the panelists brought up the idea of not translating things because people from similar cultural backgrounds as the author would know what it meant and feel alienated having it explained, but people who weren’t from that cultural background can just go look it up like anything else you find in a story that you don’t know about, and that they’re OK making their readers do that tiny bit of work on their own. This made me think of a thing I ran into when studying big fat monstrous nineteenth century novels, which is the idea that Back In Ye Day, audiences couldn’t easily look shit up, and partly read fiction in order to learn more about nonfictional stuff, which is where you get those books with entire fucking essays sandwiched between the chapters (eff you, Moby-Dick), and so if, for example, you have a character who is a street kid, you follow up the introduction of this character with five chapters about the daily lives of street kids, including three about their argot, and a long essay in defense of argot as an interesting and imaginative part of culture, and then we get to poor Gavroche actually fucking doing anything (eff you too, Les Misérables). But so anyway now I have some vague and not-well-worded wonderings about the role of communications technology in the development of stories that allow larger audiences access to very culturally specific things without having to homogenize everybody or dumb stuff down the way that happens when you have solely top-down broadcasting kind of mass communication, and to allow more people to talk to each other without everyone having to give up their local culture and go totally Standard American. I’ve got a vague idea of “It sounds like the Internet has made this easier and more awesome” but I also squish other people’s text into SWE for a living so what do I know.

After that I went to Dark Fantasy and Horror, an interesting if occasionally confused discussion about what “dark fantasy” and “horror” are and how (and if) they differ from each other and the collapse of the oversaturated horror market in the eighties. Sadly I did not take too many notes on this panel! I do remember one of the speakers making the excellent point that one of the reasons genre labels like “horror” can be so tricky to suss out and apply is because we name genres after different things—so “horror” is an emotion that the text is trying to evoke, but “western” is a setting and “mystery” is a plot type. While this panel was going on, there was a panel in the salon next door about butts, and apparently it was VERY entertaining.

Then there was two hours of drinking: one in the room and one in the bar!

This meant I was ever-so-slightly tipsy for the Works of Mary Shelley panel, where I forgot to take notes because I had to put all of my brain into listening. It made me very glad I had bought The Mortal Immortal at the dealer’s room that morning, though, after I saw Adrienne Odasso with it at breakfast! The panel focused a bit more heavily on Frankenstein than I expected, although all the Frankenstein stuff was very interesting, and they did talk about the myriad other writing she’d done—I knew she’d written another novel and did a bunch of editing/curating of Percy Shelley’s work, but I didn’t realize just how much other stuff she had written and published because Frankenstein is really the most talked-about thing.

That was pretty much the end of the official intellectual programming that I went to on Saturday; a big group of us went out to dinner, including Jay, who brought a friend of his that the rest of us had never met before, and who surprised us all by paying for dinner for the whole group of us (there were like ten people at this dinner) and said it was no problem since he could write it off as a Business Expense. Turns out Jay’s friend,Warren Lapine, is actually a well-known figure in the small-press sci-fi publishing world and taking writery types out to dinner really is a business expense! (A publisher bought me dinner! I should probably go write stuff.) Then there were a bunch of parties, including one that I don’t know who was hosting but the entire back third of the room was all dudes with beards drinking scotch, which made me really happy even though I am not a dude with a beard and scotch is actually my least favorite drink in the whiskey family, but it was good socializing. Then we went to more room parties, and then we went to a sort of impromptu party in the middle of a hallway where I met Kate Baker, and then we got kicked out of the hallway so we all sat around in the lobby drinking some very, very sweet German honey liqueur out of bottles provided by this one dude (Marco something?) who just seemed to have an endless supply of it. This went until about two o’clock in the morning, which I was fairly certain I was going to regret the next morning.

Sunday morning was really not all that bad; I drank a lot of water and then was able to go to three panels and get a bunch of books signed. The 10 am panel I went to was Variations on Unreliable Narrators, which I admit I mostly went to because Theodora Goss was moderating and she is a delightful fairy princess, but unreliable narrators are also fun (except for The Turn of the Screw). We got a good basic grounding in the more “official” definitions and examples of this trope and then the conversation turned to people’s favorites, the panelists’ thoughts on the unreliability of narrative and point of view generally, and all that sort of analytical stuff that is why nerds like me go to Readercon. Adrienne Odasso talked about unreliable narrators in medieval poetry, even!

Then I went back to the dealer’s room and was very good and didn’t spend any more money, but I did get autographs from Theodora Goss and Sofia Samatar. A weird thing happened where, every time I have heard Theodora Goss say anything about her upcoming novel, I feel like she is writing it just for me, and so when I got my book signed I told her I was particularly excited about her upcoming novel, and she looks me and Lura and Andrea straight in the face and says, “I’m writing this novel for you.” So that was odd! I also got my copy of Greer Gilman’s Cry Murder! In a Small Voice signed, right after she won a Shirley Jackson award for it.

The Horror for Diverse Audiences panel was a good but I didn’t end up taking many notes on it, just that Shira Lipkin (who I was apparently stalking around all Sunday; she was on all three of the panels I attended) said she tries to create “horror through empathy,” and one of the other panelists whose name I did not write down mentioned that horror is—or should be—ultimately universal because it’s rooted in fear of death, which everyone has; it’s the specifics that get tricky.

The last panel I attended was Long Live the Queen, which was a great panel to end the con on, particularly because I was exhausted by this point and couldn’t have handled anything other than a truly fabulous panel about my particular interests. This panel was basically about portrayals of the Victorian era in speculative fiction, particularly steampunk. We got a lot of book recommendations about history and clothes and stuff, all of which I will have to check out at some point. The panel discussed Victorian medievalism and its effects on how we view both the medieval and Victorian periods, as well as Victorian medievalism as a forerunner to the modern fantasy genre; Victorian Arthuriana; Victorian volatility and social anxiety as opposed to the current popular view of the Victorian genre as being somehow ordered and idyllic (apparently there are a lot of wildly historically ignorant people involved in steampunk??); Victorian ideas about “culture” (singular) and their habit of plundering the entire globe for history, stories, and STUFF (Dora Goss mentioned the British Museum and ho boy do I have opinions on that place); the ways in which the Victorian British Empire was deliberately and calculatedly modeled off the Roman Empire; and Victorian progressivism. Dracula was argued to be a technological romance (a couple panels I was at actually pointed out the role of technology in Dracula, which is not something I’ve heard much about, and I’ve heard a lot of stuff about Dracula). Someone brought up that he was surprised at the Victorians’ popularity because thirty years ago they were definitely known for being a repressive, stuffy, judgmental time period with bad art. I am  always surprised to hear this because, while I am well acquainted with the Victorian’s history of being repressive, conformist prigs, I had sort of assumed that if people overlook this it is because they are bamboozled by how undeniably pretty it all is, as it is self-evident that Victorians stuff is pretty. I’m always surprised when I am reminded that a few decades ago people thought all that ruffly Victorian stuff was in terrible taste, but then I remember that a few decades ago it was the seventies and eighties, and I'm like, you’re one to talk, seventies and eighties people! I suppose I already knew that the seventies and eighties hated pretty things, but I still manage to forget. We also got into the most fun part of talking about Victorians, which is the ludicrously deadly standards of beauty (when I am participating in one of these sorts of conversations I will almost always bring up “arsenic face cream”)—in addition to a wonderful lesson about crinoline fires, there was the mandatory discussion about corsets, and we all learned that an 1840s Sears catalog once listed a device called an “organ stopper” which was basically a thing you put into the lower end of yourself so that when your corset squished all your internal organs downwards they didn’t actually prolapse and fall out of you. (My organs hurt just thinking about it.)

As that was the best possible note one could end a convention on, we then cleared out, got lunch, went home, and I promptly napped like I was getting paid for it, and also threw out half my clothes.

SO THAT WAS READERCON. I AM GOING EVERY YEAR UNTIL I DIE. In the meantime, I will endeavor to review all of the million books I bought over at my review blog, [livejournal.com profile] bloodygranuaile
bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
So, I have seen a bunch of commentary lately about the term "Mary Sue," and how it has turned into a generic term for "any female character ever who I dislike, probably because she did something or was good at something or didn't get hit by a bus on Page 1 and I think this is terribly unrealistic (because we all know that real girls are never good at anything ever), and also, I detect some hint of wish fulfillment somewhere, which is self-evidently bad."

Many people smarter than I have discussed the massive, massive problems with the first parts of this definition, including such awesome ladies as Holly Black and Seanan McGuire.

But I also want to mention something that keeps cropping up about "wish-fulfillment characters," and that is: When the flying fucksticks did "wish fulfillment" become a dirty word? Especially in FANTASY? Ask nearly goddamn anybody who reads about the stories that inspired them and stuck with them and meant something to them as children and they will, at some point, mention some aspect of the story that they wished they could have in their own lives. Using storytelling to imagine fulfilling one's various wishes is a very, very old and, apparently until quite recently, fairly well respected part of the whole stories thing.

And I know that GRIMDARK and UBER GRITTY and ALL THE READERLY PAIN is very in right now, which I adore, particularly when it is done well, but even the edgiest and grittiest and grimdarkiest of stories that you can actually manage to get through and read have at least one part that makes you go "I wish I had that!" or "I wish I could do that!" Even A Song of Ice and Fire is full of food that you want to eat until you get sick (and now you can!), and witty one-liners from Tyrion that you wish you were clever enough to have thought of, and Brienne kicking so much ass and having so much strength and discipline that you only wish you could ever be that badass except you can't even get off Tumblr and go to the gym. Wish fulfillment can work perfectly well in a story and be all sorts of fun, particularly if it's supposed to be a more or less fun or fluffy story to begin with, and especially particularly if the author's wishes that they are fulfilling are similar to yours.

If they are not similar to yours, then just don't read the book/watch the movie/cosplay the lead from the TV show. Even some kinds of stories that have literally nothing what the fuck ever at all even a little bit to them except wish fulfillment can still be deep and meaningful to the people with those particular wishes. Example: Spiderman. Spiderman has, no joke, been a very important and formative and inspiring and hopeful story to legions of awkward nerdy dudes who like science and do not feel they have enough awesome to attract their sexy lamp of choice and do not feel particularly special or like they have the power to fix any of the various things in this world that need fixing. Spiderman makes these dudes feel that they can be special and powerful and fix things and acquire their preferred female-shaped life accessory. If Spiderman is not the fulfillment to your particular wishes, however, it is possibly one of the dumbest and most vacuous stories ever told. Particularly the movie version that my ex made me watch. (Watching it caused me to actually lose a lot of respect for that particular ex. He strongly believed that he was not stupid and did not like stupid things, because only stupid people like stupid things (this ex did not really believe in fun, as you can probably tell already), therefore, everything he liked was smart and objectively good, because he was a smart person with objectively good taste. So you can imagine how surprised I was that Spiderman turned out to be the most across-the-board straight up fucking stupid movie I had seen in about ten years at that point--literally nothing about it was "good" in any way outside of the wish fulfillment. It did not have clever dialogue, or a surprising plot, or good acting, or pretty costumes, or any understanding of basic physics, or ANYTHING.) The utter lack of anything whatsoever going on with Spiderman outside of the "It would be cool to be Spiderman!" aspect has not stopped it from becoming a well-beloved classic superhero and a household name. And do you know what? THAT'S OKAY. That has always been okay.

But suddenly now it is so not okay that people aren't even bothering to argue WHY it's not okay; they just say "Wish fulfillment" and everyone gravely nods that yes, truly, that is a terrible, terrible thing that shouldn't be happening anywhere near storytelling of any kind. (I suspect the not-okayness of wish fulfillment may have something to do with the increased visibility of stories wherein it is ladies' wishes that are being fulfilled, and if our wishes are fulfilled in fiction, maybe we will want them to be fulfilled in real life next, and then we might turn into feminists or something! Quelle horreur!)

I would like to posit that there is actually only one wish that is incompatible with good storytelling, although it is, sadly, a common one: The wish that everything be easy and free of conflict.

This is a problem because conflict is the basis of all stories. Non-completely-shitty English classes will teach you this somewhere around fourth grade.

This was also one of the major problems with Mary Sues back in the day when Mary Sue was a term only used in fanfiction to describe author self-insert characters who fulfilled all of the author's wishes at once, including the one to just have a nice time farting around in the fandom-land of choice and not having to go through the stress and mess of actually having the adventures. The problem with Mary Sue wasn't that she had powers, it was that she had such awesome and outsize powers that she was able to instantly neutralize the entire plot. And while I sympathize with the wish to be able to clean shit up quickly and not spend a lot of time fighting and worrying and being miserable, that is also fucking boring to read. Back before the flood of specifically female self-inserts by young writers into largely male-populated fandoms (I am looking at you, all the LotR Tenth Walker fics) gave us reason to come up with a speshul name that implied this was some sort of ladies-only thing, this was called "immature writing" or simply "bad writing," as it is an extremely common mistake of young writers to make their heroes super awesome but their villians/plots/marine-life-filled-tornados really wimpy, so the hero beats them too easily and there is no tension and basically a weak or nonexistent plot. I have read quite a few dude-authored original fiction pieces by teens where the hero was too awesome to get or stay in enough trouble to make any kind of story, particularly in my time as a school literary magazine editor. I rejected them all for being boring.

So, as Holly Black points out, there are some major issues with applying the term "Mary Sue" to any non-fanfiction character, but if we're going to do so, I wouldn't ask "Does this character have power/talent/the ability to get out of bed in the morning without concussing herself?" or "Does this character have anything going on that would be fun to have going on myself?", but "Is this character's power so disproportionate to everything else in the universe that it cuts the plot off at the knees?" because that is basically where any of this "wish fulfillment" or "has powers" or "is special" stuff becomes a problem.

I do think the last Twilight book runs close to Mary Sue-ness not just because it's hip to bash on Twilight or even because, as [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda says, Bella Swan Vampires Better Than You, but because the plot is resolved pretty much by the main characters being so awesome that their mere existence causes their enemies to stop being their enemies anymore, because nobody can resist their total awesomness, and that shit was boring. I remember when Breaking Dawn came out there was a pretty big outcry of disappointment from the fanbase because it was so anticlimactic; like, the whole book was gearing up for a big showdown, and the fight just never happened because they were too awesome for anyone to fight them, and the only reason the book was as long as it was was apparently because it takes the Volturi forever to get their immortal asses to Seattle.

In contrast, I have heard some people complain that Daine from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals Quartet is "a bit of a Mary-Sue," by which they mean that they think the rare and exceptionally strong magical powers and divine background are a bit much. However, I think this is rather bogus, because Daine is far from the only absurdly super-powered entity running around the Tortallverse. Her big antagonist through the series, Emperor Ozorne, is a well-matched adversary in terms of absurd superpoweredness: he is one of the most powerful mages in the world in his own right, AND he is the emperor of a very large and wealthy empire, meaning he has large numbers of other powerful mages at his disposal, plus money, armies, ships, etc. And he never gives up on making everybody else's lives hard. If Daine had showed up in Carthak at the beginning of Emperor Mage and just been like "Ozorne, sweetie, could you stop being a power-mad murderer and just, like, abdicate your throne to a democratic parliament and go play with your birds?" and Ozorne said "Of course! You're so amazingly persuasive, and the purity and goodness that shines out of your face has caused me to repent my villianous ways, and also I would do anything to make you happy because you've been here for thirty whole seconds and that is just more awesomeness than I can take"... well, that would be some bullshit Mary-Sue-ness. (And one of the things people forget when calling published characters Mary-Sues is that the fanfics that inspired this term REALLY WERE THAT BAD, because writing is hard, and therefore a lot of the young and inexperienced writers mucking about in fanfiction are veeeeeeeeeeery bad at it, and that is okay, in the same way that it is okay that the picture frame you made out of popsicle sticks for your mom in third grade is of inferior woodworking quality to the beautiful, useful, and sturdy dryhutch that my adult uncle with the carpentry hobby made twenty-five years ago and that I am still using as furniture.) But instead, we get two ridiculously high-powered characters who never give up on trying to defeat each other, and Ozorne keeps managing to put Daine into shitty situations that she actually has to work to get out of, like when she thinks he killed her best friend and teacher and she goes on a destructive rampage with her army of resurrected dinosaur skeletons, which, on the one hand, is conflict-ful and unpleasant for Daine because she is REALLY UPSET ABOUT NUMAIR in that scene; I hope to not have to be that upset about anything anytime soon!, but on the other hand, I challenge anyone to look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that they do not wish to be able to command an army of rampaging dinosaur skeletons.  Rampaging dinosaur skeletons ARE AWESOME, and their awesomeness should not be a complaint, unless you are straight up allergic to fun.

So I say, BRING ON THE WISH FULFILLMENT! Just don't leave out the plot while you're at it, and mix it up with plenty of readerly pain.
bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
Last weekend I went to Readercon, the speculative fiction convention in Burlington, MA. This was my first literary convention, and only the second con I’ve ever attended (the other was Wicked Faire, which I am pretty sure counts as a con). I went with a couple of the people from my writing/critique group. Gillian and Lura and I split a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night. (I was unable to attend the Thursday night opening remarks/panels as I had to work late to make up for taking Friday off.)

Friday morning I got up entirely too early out of sheer excitement, then spent four hours impatiently cleaning the house, visiting death and destruction upon carpenter ants, drinking iced coffee (this is a great idea when you’re already keyed up and impatient!), going to the liquor store (priorities, I haz them), and other mundane acts of not being at Readercon yet. Finally it was time to pick up Gillian, head down to South Station to pick up Tim and Mark (one of Gillian’s Clarion friends and his husband), head to Burlington, and check in. We got to the Marriot a little before noon, so it was already full of people in their best non-costume nerd finery (I met C.S.E. Cooney, who was definitely pushing the boundaries of “non-costume,” but as a former wearer of Renaissance skirts and hooker boots to school, I wholeheartedly approve). We got our badges and Gillian introduced me to like twenty people because apparently she knows everybody. Then the real fun began!

We got in about halfway through the 12:00 “Of Gods and Goddesses” panel. Coming in mid-conversation always means that it takes a little bit to figure out what’s going on, but we did catch some very interesting conversations about making up (or trying to make up) new gods and goddesses versus using deities from existing pantheons, the relationship between Christian mythology and pagan mythologies in fantasy stories and some of the worst trends therein, and religious traditions that are underrepresented and under-reimagined in fantasy. Patricia McKillip admitted to having been complimented on a fantasy pantheon that she had completely forgotten she'd written. My recommendation notes for this panel were N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and Patricia McKillip's The Sorceress and the Cygnet.

After that we kicked around exploring and being social for another hour, and I met the two other B-spec members who would be around for the whole con, Lura and Emily. (I am fairly new to my writing group so there are several members I haven't met yet.)

At two we attended the panel on "Expressions of Disability in Speculative Fiction," which discussed common shitty tropes about disability and why they are shitty, mostly focusing on the "culture of cure" and the particularly common trope of using technology or magic to get rid of disability. They also vetted the portrayals of some disabled characters in popular SF/F (Bran: awesome, Hodor: not so awesome). One of the panelists pointed out that technological advances were likely to have their own issues with disability--interacting with them poorly, changing the expectations for "fully abled," etc--and that access to disability-aid technologies is not automatically going to be equally accessible in the future. There was also a short discussion of ageing in fiction towards the end of the panel.

At three we attended the "Characters who Break the Binary" panel, which discussed the dearth of good portrayals of characters who were neither entirely gay nor straight, or who are not entirely cisgendered. This was the first of several panels I saw where Alaya Dawn Johnson was a panelist, and therefore the first in which I resolved that I have to read her entire backlist, stat. Steve Berman talked a bit about trends in the stories that come into Lethe Press (genderqueer is very big right now), and the way that nonbinary identities are named and framed at different places and points in time.

At four we attended "Race as a Social Construct in Speculative Fiction," a panel that Gillian had suggested (the story is that she suggested it at 3 am after an argument about racism with someone on Twitter, and was shocked that they actually used it). I say this in the interest of full disclosure, so you know I have some reason to be biased when I proclaim that this was a particularly excellent panel with especially smart and awesome speakers, including Alaya Dawn Johnson again, and John Chu, who is apparently a friend of Gillian's. This panel was led by Andrea Hairston, who is a Theater Person as well as an author, and you can tell, because she is super engaging and funny and has an amazing stage presence. (Also, she had an awesome hat.) The panelists dissected some of the failier ways in which some sci-fi/fantasy (mostly sci-fi) works have tried to depict allegorical or analogous stories about racism, often using what are markedly different species. They then moved on to the challenges of depicting characters of different races in their own works without being so blatant as to be weird and stereotypical but without being so subtle so that readers would miss it (I gathered that this is a bigger issue in shorter works but I don't think anyone explicitly claimed that at any point); they also discussed the related opposite problem of running into characters that are explicitly labeled as ethnic minorities but who are characterized in ways that seem to lack any sort of awareness of how that might actually lead to having experiences that would shape their characterization. (I believe someone--I want to say Daniel Jose Older--brought up Will Smith characters running at cops with guns, which no grown-up Black man in America would expect to get away with.) Most of the panel focused on science fiction; I would have been interested to hear more about the racial essentialism issues embedded in the Tolkien-derivative fantasy tradition but we ran out of time before I could figure out how to word that as a specific question.

I don’t remember what book was recommended at what panel but my rec notes for this block of sociological panels has: Ascension, by Jacqueline Koyanagi; The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson; and anything by Andrea Hairston.

This was enough seriousness for one afternoon, so then we went to a panel called “Writing (Hot and Heavy) Action,” which was about writing sex scenes and fight scenes. Predictably, the room was packed. I was mildly terrified of this panel, to be honest. The panel turned out to be great—both utterly hilarious and full of really good writing advice—but I am now mildly terrified of Margo Lanagan. There was also a hilarious line of discussion revealing that many science fiction writers used to make ends meet by writing letters for Penthouse. Who knew?

After this we went out for dinner, and we went to a sit-down restaurant, which was quite fun, but which I will remember not to do again for next year because it took two and a half hours (I do not know it managed to take quite that long) and therefore I missed the panel on clothing and fairy tales that I wanted to attend. Boo.

When we returned to the con we saw a performance by the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, which was just as awesome as their name. Some of the performance was music—there was a particularly good song in the style of a plaintive Irish ballad, except it involved airships—and some of it was spoken word storytelling. There was a very dramatic and exciting story about a bone shark, which would have had slightly more impact were this not the day after the Sharknado premiere.

After this it was party time! After having some Kraken rum in our room (apparently this is, like, the unofficial drink of Readercon or something; I didn’t even know, I just bought it because it’s awesome), we went to the Meet the Prose party. There was a game going on at this party where all the authors had sheets of stickers with the first line of one of their works on them. The goal was to collect all the stickers, thereby meeting all the authors. We did not do this game as we showed up a bit late, but we had a good time talking to all sorts of fancy people anyway. Theodora Goss told us a bit about her current WIP, a novel based on her short story “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter.” I also had a fascinating conversation with a woman who introduced herself only as Nightwing, who quit her job as a software engineer and now sells corsets (I started talking to her because she was wearing an awesome one). After several great conversations and a couple of drinks, it was time to go to bed, because the panels started at 9 am the next morning.

The Saturday 9 am panel that I attended was called “The Work-Work Balance” and it was about the costs of pursuing a career in the arts—basically how to not starve to death in the many years it takes to produce and sell enough stuff to live on, and without letting your day job take you away from writing. There was a lot of complaining and some very good advice. The advice I think I personally would find the most helpful is to schedule a specific block of time to write each week, so that the  back of your brain will sort of plan for it. I like this advice better than “write a little each day”, because I am bad at writing in small blocks.

A lot of the panel was also about managing finances: be okay with having a smaller house, etc. When you do have the opportunity to make money, set some of it aside for later. Most of this was stuff I already kind of knew, but it was good to remind myself of it since I have been rather spendy of late.

Then we took an hour to kick around the book fair, where my resolution to spend less money promptly died (it was a quick and painless death). Gillian introduced me to the chief editor of Clarkesworld, and I could not resist buying three magazines and also spending several minutes admiring the cover art. I bought a couple of books of short stories. I was in word nerd heaven.

11 o’clock was the panel “A Visit from the ‘Suck Fairy,’” about enjoying works with problematic elements. The general consensus was that it is okay to enjoy books that have some sort of faily thing going on as long as you own it, and don’t get all denial-y and try to pretend that Lovecraft was totally not racist, for example. They talked a bit about where they each draw the line on what they can and cannot stand to read or have in their house, and how frequently authors are excused as “products of their time” even when this is not actually true. Yoon Ha Lee talked a bit about how when he was younger, some of his favorite books included some classic sci-fi works (I cannot remember the author’s name) that dealt with gender-swapping in what he now recognizes as a hugely faily way, but at the time, was pretty much the closest thing to a representation of trans-ness as he could find in books.

At noon was the “Friendship is Magic” panel, which was about friendship in speculative fiction and in fiction in general, and, more importantly, about the lack of depictions of friendship, even considering that there’s clearly a market for it because some of the most successful story franchises ever have been buddy stories (Sam and Frodo, Holmes and Watson). Some of the panelists discussed how they represent friendships in their own works, particularly female friendships, which are even harder to find in mainstream works than male ones (although perhaps not quite as hard as cross-sex friendships). They also discussed the trope that villians never have friends, only minions—a particularly absurd notion considering that in the real world, assholes have friends all the time (frequently other assholes, but still). Most of the panel discussed the importance of friendship and community versus the American value of individualism and making your own way. In the only question I ventured for the entire con, I asked about friendship versus romance—the idea that romantic and sexual relationships are the only sort of relationships that “count,” which seems to be at least as much of a popular idea as not relying on other people.

At one o’clock I (by myself now) went to Romie Stott’s talk “Economic Systems Past, Present, and Future.” This had a little bit less to do with developing economic systems in writing than I sort of assumed it would; I forget sometimes that I actually do know a little more than nothing about economics and money, so I think the purpose of the talk was more like “Here the basic things you need to know about real money, so that you can avoid saying egregiously stupid things about it when building worlds.” An extensive part of the talk was about feudalism, possibly the most frequently-misunderstood-but-used-anyway system in fantasy; some of the rest of it addressed basic economic concepts like “What is money, actually?” and comparative advantage (a concept Robert Heinlein apparently did not understand).

After this Gillian and I were scheduled to give blood. The Heinlein Society/Red Cross folks were running a bit behind schedule; so I took another trip to the dealer’s room and bought a copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Giving blood took a while—we had to be given extra water since apparently it’s hard staying properly hydrated in the hot weather, even while stuck inside a freezing cold hotel—and somewhere around the two-minutes-before-the-end mark I started shivering uncontrollably. We fixed this with Chipotle and a nice quiet introvert’s dinner in the hotel room. Then I took a nap. Apparently I really need my blood in order to function.

At six I went back downstairs to attend the panel called “The Tropes of Tresses,” which was about hair in speculative fiction. Yes, there was a whole panel about hair. There was some talk of heroines with wacky-colored hair and how this has become a bit of a “Mary Sue” trope, but there are also some stories that pull it off well (Kristen Cashore’s Fire came up as an example). They also talked about scenes involving hairdressing as a bonding experience, and the various uses of changing one’s hair (usually cutting it off) as a symbol for big changes. They also talked a bit about men’s hair, including facial hair, and what it has meant in different cultures and in different types of stories (shoutout to Khal Drogo’s braid!). Then somebody brought up body hair, and the panel inevitably devolved into an entire room full of people shouting “merkin!” (I have found my people, and they are batshit crazy.)

After this was the Speculative Fiction Open Mic, which was definitely in the “fun and different” camp for me; I don’t read a whole lot of poetry. But this was all fantasy and science fiction poetry! Gillian read her awesome poem “Please Do Not Eat the Children,” which was published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Catherynne Valente read “What the Dragon Said” and I tried not to freak out because Catherynne Valente is awesome and I did not know she was there as she was not on the author list and ahhh fangirling.

Eight o’clock for me was a panel on “The Xanatos Gambit,” which is a particular type of scheme where any of the multiple outcomes all benefit the schemer. The panel was hilarious, due in large part to sheer force of personality on the part of Scott Lynch. The slightly meandering discussion covered everything from the trope of the trickster as a cosmic balancing force versus the schemer as an individual self-interested douche, to famous gambits used in fiction, to how to write schemers non-stupidly. Scott Lynch brought up that a lot of older stories used to feature the character of “the rake,” which is a euphemism for a rapist that you’re trying to pass off as a fun character, and we don’t see as much of that anymore, for good reason. He also mentioned that it’s easy to make characters be smarter than their authors because of the time frame involved in writing and editing; the character and its author both have to come up with the solution to a problem, but the character can seem to come up with it in five seconds whereas in reality it takes the author seventeen months to think of something that cool. Scott Lynch is also of the opinion that hiding information is totally cheating; a good author of cons lays out all the information and the end reveals how they all tie together. (Scott Lynch had a lot of opinions for a one-hour panel; I was quite impressed. It’s hard to have that many opinions in such a short time frame without sounding like a jackass. As someone who likes having opinions, I must study his methods.)

After this it was party time again, woo! Brought the rest of our crack and rum Kraken Rum to a small room party hosted by either one of Gillian’s Clarion friends or a friend of Gillian’s Clarion friends; one of our hosts was an artist, so we ended up looking at a lot of very cool SF/F-themed linoleum-woodblock prints, because woodblock prints are awesome. We briefly attended another party outside the sixth floor elevators that dubbed itself “Occupy Hallway.” Our last and most illustrious party was Bracken MacLeod’s room party, where I met several fancy authors, and made the mistake of making an offhand comment about bras to Elizabeth Bear, which resulted in her making me and Catherynne Valente stand up so she could compare our boobs. It was a very strange evening.

Kicked off Sunday by attending a talk called “Reading the Fantastic” on the program; the full title turned out to be “Reading the Fantasic, or, The Fainting Narrator: A Meander and a Conclusion.” This talk was even more Relevant To My Interests than I thought it was going to be when I decided to attend. Henry Wessells kicked off by asking us how long it had been since we’d all read The Monk, and then basically rambled for an hour about The Monk, common framing devices used in Gothic fiction, delaying tactics used to build atmosphere (the main one being where the narrator faints at key moments), and H.P. Lovecraft. He also read several excerpts from a Gothic novel I haven’t read called The Wild Irish Girl, and some particularly Gothical passages of Lovecraft’s The Shunned House. I hope somebody got a recording or a transcript of the entire talk; it was solid Gothy fabulousness all the way through. I went a bit nuts trying to livetweet it so I would remember stuff.

My ten o’clock panel was “Workshopping as a Lifestyle,” which contained a lot of solid advice on how to determine what works for you in a critique group, stuff to keep in mind when being workshopped, different critique group models, some of the possible pitfalls of workshopping, and what can be gained from workshopping. One of the big takeaways for me was that critiquers go into your work looking for stuff to dislike (not out of malice, just so they can help), but readers generally go into a work wanting to like it.

The panel after this was “Framing the Fantastic,” which may have been one of the nerdiest panels of the entire con; it was about framing devices. I loved this panel, partly because it was full of very specific, technical advice on the craft aspects of storytelling, and partly because I am a dork who loves framing devices. On more than one occasion I have gotten very excited about coming up with cool framing devices before having a story to tell with them. There was also much exciting talk of footnotes (if you’ve ever read anything by Terry Pratchett, or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you will know that footnotes really can be awesome and this is not just dry ubernerd excitement going on here). I learned what a club story is; or, more precisely, I learned that the name for that particular framing is “club story.”

At noon I went to “Writing for Younger Readers,” which was about middle-grade and YA lit, both of which I still read a lot of. This was basically a fun panel about how children and teens are awesome, enthusiastic, no-bullshit readers, with a lot of discussion about what books affected each of the panelists as children. There was also some discussion of publishers’ expectations/editorial policies about what was allowed in what age level’s fiction, etc. Alaya Dawn Johnson had some particularly hilarious things to say about people’s reactions to some of the stuff she managed to keep in “The Summer Prince.”

After these four rockin’ panels in a row, I was (a) hungry, (b) freezing, and (c) feeling like my brain had run a marathon. I went and had lunch by myself in the hotel restaurant, then sat in the gazebo to thaw out and read before heading to the last panel of the con.

The last panel was “Teen Violence, Teen Sex,” which kicked off with all the authors expressing some form of disagreement with the hand-wringing tone of the panel description (this was validating to me, as I thought I’d imagined the sort of concern-trolly sex-positivity-gone-wrong subtext there due to my own issues). There was a lot of discussion about what “coming of age” actually means, what “sexual awakening” actually means, the problems with framing sexual awakening/the beginning of adulthood as dependent upon sex with another person, and the fact that sexual exploration and romance take up time and energy, which, in certain kinds of high-stakes action-adventure novels like SF/F tend to be (particularly the currently popular dystopian/post-apocalyptic stuff), protagonists may have limited time and energy for that sort of thing. They also discussed how a lot of YA novels do a better job of dealing with the implications of violence and the effects of committing violence than a lot of “adult” books do. All in all, a lot of substantive, thought-provoking stuff about what it means to grow up and find yourself. (Something I am still thinking a lot about, at 25. Maybe this is why I read so much YA.)

Now the con was over, so it was time to say goodbye to people in the hotel bar, head home, and collapse for the remainder of the afternoon.

Once I read the books and short stories I bought and intend to buy, I will be sure to review them at my half-assed reviewing-things LJ!
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How is it this weekend already? Last weekend, I had an epic weekend, and was all like "I should definitely write about my epic weekend so I don't forget about it," and boom, now it's THIS weekend already. Wow.

Anyway. Last Friday, I went out to Worcester, rather late in the evening, where I watched the second half of Mirrormask at Josh & Keen & co's apartment, which is the one right above Bones & Flowers, the awesome pink occult shop. Then I slept over at Liz and Emily's apartment. Spider, a.k.a. Captain Underfoot, did not seem to care. Saturday morning, Liz and Josh and I got up early (like, same-time-as-we-get-up-during-the-week early) to don our garb. I was thrilled for an excuse to wear my Bride of Dracula nightgown again, and my beautiful red leather corset with the Kevlar panel, and all my other fun stuff that I have spent a somewhat unjustifiable amount of money on over the years considering how little of it I can wear on a regular basis. (In high school, this sometimes didn't stop me wearing it anyway, but alas, I am a grown-up now with a strict Business Casual dress code most of the time.) I also had what was intended to be a medieval-timesy sort of manicure:



Apologies if it is le blurry; it's an iPhone pic.

We did the fun ritual of going to a normal people establishment for breakfast and getting funny looks, then Liz got in her Cube and Josh and I got in the Black Pearl (I let Josh drive because I still hate having passengers for long rides) and we drove to Ansonia, Connecticut, of all places. My dad's family is from that Valley. Some of the family still lives in that Valley, namely, the ones I haven't spoken to in the longest. So I was all like "Ahhh I'm weirded out" because of voluntarily spending time in southern Connecticut, and then we found out that Liz was also going all "Ahhh I'm weirded out" because she used to perform at the other Ren Faire (that has since closed, but was trying to shut down Midsummer Fantasy anyway, and whoa is THAT a funny story) that used to be at Warsaw Park, when she was part of Phoenix Swords like eight years ago.

Pat let us in for free, since it is his Ren Faire and he can do that, so that was pretty awesome. And then pretty much the first thing that happened when we got inside the Faire was that I ran into Jacques ze Whippeur, whom I have not seen since we were in high school. Then we looked at all the shiny things the vendors were selling and starting spending unconscionable amounts of money, and ate unhealthy Faire food, and watched some (generally bawdy) performances, and were huge dorks, and general Ren Faire stuff. Jack's whip act has gotten a lot more sophisticated since MHS' talent show; it now involves fire. A bunch of other acts involved fire, too, and after the day Faire was over, all the fire-related acts got together and put on an evening show, which was an Improvisational Fire Show, which is one of the most unsafe things I have witnessed people do on stage (er, on chessboard?) in my life, but was also ten different kinds of AWESOME. (I counted.) Sadly, Liz had to leave before the improv fire show, but not before buying a chainmail thingy that goes around the shoulders but isn't a hauberk or a cowl (I can't remember the term). Josh bought a red-and-black leather pauldron with gorgeous ornate steel studding. Pat bought badass bracers from Lusty Leather, which is apparently his first step towards having real garb, which is weird since he owns a damn Renaissance Faire (which means he gets DISCOUNTS, the bastard). I bought... oh my goddess, I decided I wasn't going to buy any more articles of clothing, so I didn't; I just bought an ungodly amount of accessories--black and red, leather and iron, lots of skull patterns. A black and red leather beltpouch with skull-and-crossbones embossed into the leather. A Viking-style iron dragon ring and an iron dragon hairpiece to match my iron Thorshamar from Sweden (I also had a really awesome conversation with the blacksmith about Thorshamars [Thorshamaren?] and blacksmithing). A black-and-red-beribboned steel tiara with a skull pendant on it (to match my silver hair twist from the last Faire I went to). A boot dagger, now that I am a grown-up and no longer prohibited from spending my own money on pointy things. Between buying unnecessary shinies, food & drink, and tipping the entertainers (I tip generously to anyone willing to set themselves on fire for my amusement), I must have spent nearly two hundred dollars on Saturday. (I figure I can afford to do that... uhh... once every year or three.)

Speaking of drinks, I learned a new recipe at the pub. It's called a Beesting, and it's a shot of mead dropped in a glass of cider. It is hardcore delicious.

But perhaps the highlight of the day was the Crime & Punishment show, where I was accused of singing off-key and informed that I was to be put in the Iron Maiden until I confessed. The dungeonmaster (I honest to gods almost just wrote "dungeon maester") helpfully decided to show me how to properly get into the Iron Maiden by making the Sheriff demonstrate. Once the Sheriff was strapped down onto the one bed of nails and the other was laid on top of him, I was made to stand on top of the lot, so that I could understand exactly what was going to happen to me, but at that point the Sheriff retracted his accusation. (I suspect they picked me for this demonstration because I was one of the smaller people in the audience at that time. Sadly, I am still underweight, despite attempting to bulk up. The pictures Josh took at the Faire actually kind of worry me; I cannot tell if I have actually gotten that waifish or if the effect is exaggerated because Faire garb is so bulky, but I look like a twelve-year-old boy in my corset, and it's supposed to be a powerful corset.)

Anyway, here is an awesome picture of me standing on a dude in a portable Iron Maiden:



Yeah, so that was awesome.

Sunday I spent most of the afternoon proofreading, because I had taken work home due to the holiday, but it was actually pretty awesome, because I went down to the coffeeshop my new roomie Ellen works at and worked there while drinking chai lattes and feeling like a pretty hip artsy sort of hourly wage slave/pedantic punctuation minion, in my long black dress and iron jewelry. (I now feel compelled to wear ALL my iron jewelry ALL the time, because IRON JEWELRY.)

Monday was the 4th of July! I went back to Ellen's coffeeshop, where I actually got several pages of writing done for the story Liz and I outlined a while back, so that was productive. Then I hung out with a bunch of Ellen's friends and we ate hot dogs and drank gin and tonic before heading down to the river to see fireworks. We founds a good spot on a footbridge under the main bridge over the river by BU (sorry for the preposition overload). The rest of the group eventually split to try and find a better spot, but it's damn crowded by the river in Boston on the 4th of July before fireworks, so Ellen and I stayed where we were a drank more gin and tonic out of the tonic bottle ('cos we're classy). Fireworks didn't start til a ridiculously late 10:30 (what. the. HELL, Boston), so we ended up only staying for like the first twenty minutes, because tired and work in the morning.

Then it was back to regular work week. This week is apparently the busiest week of the year for real this time (as opposed to two weeks ago, which was also supposed to be the busiest week of the year), which is fine with me, because that means they bribe us to work overtime by giving us dinner.

I did do a very stupid thing this week, though: I ventured back onto the Internet long enough to learn that a large proportion of Like Totally Super Smart Rational Better-Than-Everybody Atheist Dudes (including, sadly, Richard Dawkins) cannot for the life of them figure out what could POSSIBLY be at all creepy or disrespectful about ignoring a woman for several hours of designated social time in a social space, waiting until she says that she is done socializing and is going to bed now, and then cornering her in a small windowless room whose doors only open at certain intervals at four in the morning and asking her back to your room for coffee. Seriously, what ISN'T creepy and disrespectful about that? Even if by coffee he actually meant coffee--can you simultaneously go back to your own hotel room and somebody else's? No. Can you simultaneously go to sleep and drink coffee? No. Ergo, SHE ALREADY ANSWERED THE QUESTION. People who continue to ask questions AFTER you've answered them are generally not my top choice of people to hold conversations with, since "able to follow speech" is my number one requirement for conversing, and I do not think I am alone in this. Anyway, apparently pointing out that this is not the #1 guaranteed Most Effective Strategy Ever for getting more girls to voluntarily decide to expend time, effort and money to attend your parties is HUGELY MEAN AND OPPRESSIVE AND IF I WANTED TO BE TOLD HOW TO TALK TO WOMEN I'D MOVE TO IRAN. (No, someone actually said that.) Like, dudes, pick a goal and stick with it. You have every legal right to be a raging douchebag. However, good fucking luck attracting anybody to your movement with "Atheism: It's Not Iran" as your fucking sales pitch. I grew up in the Catholic Church, which is one fucked-up institution, but it's not Iran EITHER. In fact, everyone who lives in the US is already living not-in-Iran! Richard Dawkins pulled some whiny "why-are-you-talking-about-X-when-Y-is-happening" concern troll move (and by the way, Mr. Super Brilliant Scientist, she was talking about this because THAT IS WHAT THEY ASKED HER TO TALK ABOUT, go bitch at the panel booker if you think it's not an appropriate topic) about how Western women should just shut up and be grateful--and, presumably, expend time and effort and energy and money actively physically attending atheist conferences and supporting the movement, since THAT WAS THE FUCKING TOPIC--because women in other countries have to suffer FGM. Of course, by that logic, I should ALSO shut up and be grateful and make sure I get my ass to Mass every single Sunday and donate to the collection plate at Church, because after all, the Catholic Church only told me I couldn't hold their most important job because I was a girl, they didn't actually mutilate me, which is the only thing that counts. But somehow, I do not think that is what Dawkins was advising me to do. Seriously, sometimes I wish I didn't have the Internet just so I didn't get sucked into hearing about this shit. (On the other hand, the Internet also provided me welcome brain and faith-in-humanity relief in the form of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which involves actual rationality and not just semimystical intonations of "SCIENCE! RATIONAL! BIOLOGY! GENETICS! EVOLUTION! SSSSSCCCCCCCIIIIIIIEEEEEEENNNNNNNCCCCCCCCCCCCCEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" like they're magic argument-winning incantations that will strike your enemies dumb and allow you to control their minds. If it doesn't work, chant louder!)

ANYWAY.

This weekend, I am going to relax and not spend hundred of dollars. My goals for this weekend are to get at least halfway through rereading A Feast for Crows, to go to the gym, and possibly to get some writing done.
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I am exhausted and working fifty hours a week and haven't hung out with anybody except my roommate in weeks, and I LIKE it.

Commute exhaustion seriously impairing my time/energy to go to the gym, though. Oops.

It really is amazing what liking my work will do, though. I read textbooks all day! And then 7 hours of it doesn't seem like enough "all day" for me (especially since it takes me forever to get there). I keep either staying late (last week I did an extra 5 hours in-office) or taking it home (this week I did an extra 6 hours out-of-office) and I would take more except I have to do ten hours of freelancing each week, too. And I love it. I have been not super great about my own writing projects (I will write for serious next week I SWEAR), but oh well.

Next week I get to house/cat-sit for my Dad's cousin, which coincidentally cuts my commute in half, so I am planning to take a week to really see how the "single cat lady writer" lifestyle fits if I ever make it to the point where I can afford to live alone. You guys, I will be SO PRODUCTIVE. I WILL WRITE ALL THE THINGS. Please throw things at me if I do not.
bloodygranuaile: (quileute duh)
I had the bestest set of dreams last night and I'm already forgetting them, noooooo.

The first one was not so much a fun dream as one with a really awesome story (I think?) and I wish I could remember enough of it to hammer it out of weird dream-structure and into some sort of story, and also see if it's actually as awesome as I thought it was. It took place in some sort of oddly overdeveloped dystopian future (Brave New World style); the main features that I remember were that the only available foods were dessert foods because all food was only owned by one company, which from their name, which I don't quite remember anymore, used to be Cold Stone Creamery until they bought out every other food production company ever. Oddly enough I don't think this had anything to do with national public health issues or the obesity crisis or whatever; I think it was all marketing--you could get all the nutrients and stuff from any other kind of food from only eating dessert, because the marketers found out that Americans really like dessert, so they marketed EVERYTHING into dessert. At some point I was upset about this (I actually do not want to eat dessert foods all day!) and I was also cranky about something else that I can' remember what it was but was apparently very taboo to complain about, or something, I've totally lost that part of the dream by now, but it ended up with my family and myself basically pissing off everybody and having to run away and hide. We were additionally disliked because we were immigrants; you could tell because we had three children. (I think my subconscious has been reading too many development economics textbooks at work.) (I think I was even whiter in my dream than I am IRL, because I distinctly remember being blonde, but the Americans in my head were really xenophobic.) Also there were no noncommercial spaces--there were basically just malls and hotels. People didn't have homes, they just stayed in hotels that were in the malls, all the time.

My second dream was less story-ish but was fun, since it involved going to a lot of Blind Guardian concerts. I was part of the press and for some reason this meant that I had to change my clothes for every single concert, because there were always specific t-shirts and stuff that the people in charge wanted me to wear. Most of them were uncomfortable and looked terrible on me, but mostly I was just concerned that endlessly changing my clothes was distracting me from preparing for the interviews I was supposed to be taking. Make of that what you will.

I also swear to God I had dreams about the short story I am trying to rewrite. We will see if that affects my actual rewriting of it in any way. Maybe next week, I can have some freaking dreams about Tess and what the hell is supposed to happen between getting out of Faerie and getting to the capitol.



This be my motto self right now.
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This is a tripartite post!

Part the First: Stuff that is not actually happening in my life

This means this part of the post is about television.

Season 3 of Dexter was exponentially better than season 2, because Lila wasn't in it, also because Deb's taste in men gets somewhat better with each season (season 3 dude is a drug dealer, but is not a serial killer, or older than her dad, and she doesn't throw over anyone who is actually awesome to be with him). Despite the OMG Pregnancy And Marriage subplot, this season is not about le awesome power of romantic love, and is only about as much about le fucking-you-up power of family, but is very much a Power of Friendship season, which is a type of relationship that has really not had much show time in Dexter so far. Of course, Dexter's BFF winds up being just as frakked up as he is, but cuddly new cupcake-wielding LaGuerta definitely showcases the positive transformative power of having cuddly cupcake-wielding bestest friendses. Rita still awesome, in her soft-spoken cute-little-mommy way, and handles falling headfirst into A Pregnancy Plotline with maturity and grace. I give this season an A for massive personal growth on the part of everyone who doesn't die.

Dollhouse: I don't wanna spoil things for people who haven't seen this week's yet, or who did not know season 2 had started because Fox sucks and seems to be allergic to actually advertising the damn show, but: I think Joss Whedon is a Man on a Mission to get every single cast member of Battlestar Galactica on the show. Tahmoh Penikett's been on it since the beginning, obvs, and the weird cockney lawyer dude was on it sometime in season 1, and then Jamie Bamber was on last week, and this week has another Special BSG Guest. Here's to hoping Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff show up soon!

Also: last week's Dollhouse and this week's Castle totally both used the word "frenemies." Which I had previously heard, like, once, several years ago.

Castle: Last week's fantastic. Really exciting for the upcoming week's. This week was about models, but it was an episode of Castle, which means it'd be fabulous if it were any other cop show and I was thoroughly entertained by watching it, but the moment the mystery was solved I stopped caring about the main plot. Hopefully they won't subject us to multiple "because so-and-so was/I thought (s)he was cheating on me"-motivated murders in a row again, like the beginning of season 1, because even as non-predictable as those plots manage to be when they're still unfolding (this is Castle, after all) they always leave me feeling like That Was Totally Unoriginal, Sheesh.

On the movie front: Today I watched Soylent Green. Some bits of it were surprisingly good, especially compared with how bad some other bits of it were. Overall it was better than I expected.

Unfortunately I am not having much time for reading outside of school. Northanger Abbey awesome, as Austen usually is. Am about halfway through A Long Fatal Love Chase (the NEW Louisa May Alcott book!) and so far it is a hell of a lot better than the front or back covers would have you believe.

Part the Second: In Which I Annoy Everyone I've Ever Met By Being Really Cranky

Mega uber super crackdown on club sports procedure and paperwork this year. Like, they used to be like "handing in your med forms is nice, and here's the deadline for financial stuff" but now they have gotten utterly fascist about it. All forms must be in by Tuesday or they freeze the club! They are sending people to observe us, so that if anything is being done not by the book they will freeze the club! Tuesday we are still on motherfucking break, but the forms still need to be in by five o'clock or they will freeze the club! Grad students cannot practice with us, or they will freeze the club! I asked, what about the loopholes to the grad students policy me and Shay and Shihan discussed with Mike McKenna last year? If we jump through those hoops, can they stay? No answer. I asked, if people want to join and get me their health forms after Tuesday, can they still do that, since karate club often has people join at weird times in the semester? I was told... get all your forms in by Tuesday or we freeze the club! So I'm not sure if that's a yes or a no, but apparently it is very threatening to ask them complicated questions so they needed to threaten me back. Aaargh.

Part the Third: Why I Should Totes Not Be Writing This Entry

It is the holiday weekend and I have a ten-page novel synopsis due next Friday and I had very little plot development in my head, just the premise and ending. So now I am home, in a nice empty house (mom is out of town til tomorrow evening), so that I can actually figure out what the frak happens in my story.

I spent all of today worldbuilding, and outlining my plot mountain (yes, I plan stuff in on a visual of that 'plot mountain' shape they teach you about in sixth grade), and wrote the first page or so of the actual synopsis, in addition to going to the gym and drinking wine (Gnarly Head is on sale at Gary's, whee) and hunting centipedes (ew) and a few other things that were not actually writing. Oops. But I did get some stuff done.

Tomorrow needs to be more productive, though, so I's going to bed now.

Goodnight!
bloodygranuaile: (oh noez)
I just finished my last paper... now I've got one exam at 8 tomorrow morning, and then I am FREE.

And by "free," I mean I get to go to work.

Of course, now that I'm done writing shit I have to write, my first thought is to turn towards writing things I want to write. My hands are already on the keyboard and have been clacking away for hours, why not just keep going? Except I'm not sure what to work on. I can't do anything else to my movie or Kitty until I get feedback on the drafts I've got. I'm going to wait a bit to send Kitty to Tapply, because he's probably busy reading twenty other stories from people who managed to actually take his class this semester. Which is frustrating, because I feel lame enough that that's about the only thing I've worked on this whole semester, and I want to keep moving because I am a lamebot poor excuse for a writer if I don't actually *write*. And I've barely touched my movie since I finished it last spring semester, although that's partly because I haven't gotten any feedback from the people who said they'd read it. Which, granted, was only three people. But I seem to have dealt with that by getting too disheartened to ask anyone else to read it (after all, maybe they read it and they hated it and they just didn't want to tell me!) until someone actually tells me something, especially since it is a rather shameless genre mashup children's story to begin with, and I am fully aware that there is not really a single original thought in the whole thing.*

So I have three options now: start a new piece (this might require my brain rejuicing), look through other old crap I haven't thought about in ages and find something to work on (if I even have any of that up here), or go read Tamora Pierce and be creative later (y'know, because all the shit I do write doesn't have enough Tammy Pierce influence in it already). The third option looks nice and easy right about now.

Somebody give me a prompt! If I open up Word now and just start typing, I will end up with a highly speculative dissertation on how The Woman In White was like the Twilight of the nineteenth-century except with plot (for serious). I am crap at cleaning my brain out and need new stuff constantly fed into it to crowd out the old stuff. (Special Agent Lundy recommends Chopin. Anyone have any Chopin? I'm cheap as well as lame.)

"Writing is hard. People for whom writing is not hard are robots and should go away. Thank you." -Laini Taylor, "Not for Robots," a blog for writers with crap discipline, that I do not read very often because I have extra-crap discipline. Also, Silksinger needs to come out already.

Anyway. I have an exam tomorrow, so maybe I shouldn't rush to get TWIW out of my head too quickly. When I am actually done with le finals thing, I'll go see what parts of my crappy corpus are Ocho-accessible.

And get drunk.

...Maybe at the same time!

Goodnight, y'all.

*So... anyone interested in readin mah manuscript? ;)
bloodygranuaile: (wilde untamed thing)
Hm, title prompt. Having a bit of trouble coming up with something at the moment, since my brain's been working in French all day. I have a half-hour Powerpoint/oral presentation on Monday, on immigration from the French Antilles to France since the sixties. Started it this morning. Had to cancel my plans for the evening but somehow managed to bang out the entire first draft tonight. Tomorrow, will see if I can actually present it so it fits all the requirements. You know you're busy when your "study break" is to try and do the homework for a different class.

Frankly, I don't feel all that stressed or upset, for once. Partly because I'm not feeling so sick anymore. Partly because I seem to have emotionally let go of my friends a little, and it no longer upsets me that I'm not seeing them. I wouldn't be good company these days, anyway. I just feel bad for my hausmates; they still have to see me and listen to me bitch when things are loud and dirty.

I do not like being stuck for writing. At all. I know something will come if I let things bounce off each other in my brain enough, but the time before I actually hit on something is always frustrating. There's an impatient part of my brain that goes "You say you're a writer, WRITE SOMETHING already!" and a paranoid part that's afraid I won't come up with something this time.

I may have to allow myself an episode of Battlestar Galactica or something and then sleep on it. Most of my better story ideas have come to me while I'm trying to sleep and can't.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
I probably don't have time to be LJing but I'm a little stuck for a story idea at the moment, which is putting a bit of a cramp in my homework-doing ability. Hopefully I'll realize that Hay Wait, This Is Due Like Tomorrow after dinner and will be able to come up with something. Nothing like looming deadlines to spur creativity. >.>

Instead of doing work this weekend, I did many other wonderful things: I went and saw Ghost Town, I watched the first five episodes of True Blood, I reread The Color of Magic and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (in honor of banned books week!)... and I got my car and brought it up to Worcester! (For reals this time. Car is in my driveway and keys are right here by my hand and I could actually go drive places right now if I wanted to.)

My car 1) is iPod-compatible and 2) needs a name.

Ghost Town, for the record, is hilarious, and I loved that the female lead is an Egyptologist who works at the Met, because Egyptology and the Met kick ass (I used to be the sort of Egyptology dork who went to museums and explained how hieroglyphs worked to the people who didn't feel like following a tour guide...). I also liked the Indian dentist even though I have no particular affinity for dentists.

I would talk about True Blood but [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda does it better, as always. I really think this vampire thing is becoming a problem... HELP!

Perks is even better the second time around, but I will not talk about that right now either as it makes me think a lot, like a lot a lot, and I have stuff to do.

*pokes writing prompt irritably*
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Yes, that's a Will & Grace quote from like a million years ago, when I watched Will & Grace.

At any rate, today was a good day. The story I wrote for Tapply's class, which I had generally been feeling Not Very Happy with, got workshopped and went over quite well. There are definitely issues in the story, which definitely got noticed, but I also got a lot of shiny compliments (and Tapply seemed to really like it), and since I am an insecure little attention whore, this quite made my afternoon.

In other news, I have a car, as of two days ago (I just have to go back to Jersey and get it). I was expecting to have to shell out quite a chunk of money to cover at part of the cost, but this afternoon my mother told me that the deal on the car was actually cheap enough that she's covering the whole thing. So that's an extra several hundred dollars I actually don't have to spend. That's the sort of good new you don't get every day.

It also leaves me with a more flexible budget for buying GIRL SCOUT COOKIES. Apparently it is that time of year again. I fucking love Girl Scout Cookies.

Fellow Clarkies, this is your cue to laugh at me: I had my first Moe's burrito today. Yes, I am a junior... yes, that means I have lived in Worcester for slightly upward of two years without ever going to Moe's... okay, that's enough, you can stop laughing now.

Oh, and karate club finally freaking started. Yay karate! Also, yay not being the least experienced person in the class by several years! It was nice to labor under the delusion that I actually know karate, if only for an hour and a half. (From now on, though: If I leave class and I am not sweaty and in pain, something is wrong.) I do seem to have lost my paperwork for the next belt level, though, but this is easy enough to fix.

"Girl, Interrupted" makes me happy. It makes me feel all normal an' stuff. On the other hand, being flat-out flailing-and-raving psycho just looks so liberating sometimes.
bloodygranuaile: (nosferatu)
Reading: The Fellowship of the Ring (almost done); Norse Mythology: Great Stories from the Eddas (Halfway through, which is almost done as is less than hundred-page book).
Writing: Three vampire stories. Yes, THREE. One I have been working on, on and off, for years. One I just started, and have only bits and pieces of ideas anyway. One I am writing with Kat; we wrote six pages of notes this weekend and she is starting the first draft of the first few chapters and will be sending it to me soon. This last one is going to be unabashedly absurd; it was inspired by The Fearless Vampire Killers.

The Fearless Vampire Killers (or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck) is a wonderful silly stupid movie. It should be more well-known.

Um, I feel kind of bad since I keep cancelling plans with people, and have no intention of making plans with other people that I had originally intended to hang out with before going back to school, and am generally being hermity and antisocial, and refusing to see people or talk to them if I don't absolutely have to. And one of these days this feeling of isolated literary-mindedness is going to wear off and I'm going to be bored and lonely, and I will look back on this time and get very angry with myself for ignoring the people insane enough to want to hang out with me, because by the time I feel like dealing with people again all the people will have gotten pissed off and will no longer want to deal with me. And then I will get all emo and mopey because I will know it is all my own fault for neglecting my friends. But still, for the moment, I'm still being all "I don't want to go have fun, I want to stay home by myself!" because if I DO go out and have fun with people, but I don't want to be doing so, then they will also be offended that I am tired and impatient and not sufficiently happy to be hanging out with them, so either way I am basically being intolerable and I will not be surprised if people soon stop tolerating me.

In the meantime, I read and write and pretend I am nine years old and enjoy my solitude. (And set things on fire.)

If you picked up a book in a bookstore and the first two pages was this, would you keep reading? )

I have so many things to read and write! Good-bye.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Um, I've written two slightly stalkerish poems in three days. I'm worrying me.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
-Terry Pratchett is awesome.
-Watching badly directed movies makes me want to become a director considerably more than watching well-directed movies.
-Terry Pratchett makes me want to be a director, but that's because my current Discworld novel of choice is "Moving Pictures".
-I. Need. Help. With. My. Writing. My "writing ability" in general is pretty decent, but I need help in learning how to construct a proper storyline, and I'm sick of not getting any because this is about the only part of working where "copying stuff you think works" is not always going to be the best way to learn.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Yay, it's snowing. ^.^ Finally. Pat and I drove around in the snow for a bit today (midday, when the roads were still somewhat passible) and drank coffee. 'Twas fun.

I really, really like being snowed in and having nearly no homework. I've got quite a bit of reading, writing and movie-watching to do. So far have edited "Matchstick" for Glyphs, waded through another few cantos of Dante's "Inferno", and re-watched "Grass" (so happy. You've no idea).

Also baked a cake for Mom this afternoon, as didn't get to bake a cake for "cake" with Ella.

Am getting a phone that works in Europe, just in case I need it. Although really the more important thing is that I'm getting a new damn phone.

I can't find the full text of "Repris de la Mort." Possibly 'cos I'm the only person in existence for whom the three lines randomly posted everywhere aren't enough. "Je fis de Macabre la danse..." I wouldn't be able to understand it anyway; I'd be less fluent in midieval French than I am in modern French or midieval English.

Bonne nuit.

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