Monday, August 29, 2011

ArmadilloCon After Report

Now it's over and done, this is the last I'll post on ArmadilloCon for a while. 

First off, the Writers' Workshop went very well.  I'm very happy to be a part of it.  My group of students (with Julie Kenner and Rosemary Clement-Moore) were all fantastic, and did a very good job taking critique and giving it to each other. Not to mention listening to my rambling with cheer and good grace.  Stina Leicht, the Workshop Coordinator did an amazing job and is an amazing person.  And if the excerpt she read from her second book is any indication, it's going to be astounding.  If you haven't read Of Blood and Honey yet, what are you waiting for?

Some other high points:
  • Seeing people I hadn't seen in a while (like Kimberly Frost) and meeting some fantastic people for the first time (like Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear).  I may have gotten a bit fanboy around Scott. But only because Lies of Locke Lamora is just that good.  And his reading from upcoming Republic of Thieves has me very excited for that one.
  • Lou Anders of Pyr Books, the editor special guest of the con, was brilliant and informative and very personable with everyone who came up to him.  And he spoke at length praising and promoting my fellow Onyxhawke-represented author James Enge.  I think a lot of people left the Con with him on their to-read list.
  • Paolo Bacigalupi, the Guest of Honor of the con, is totally hysterical. Especially when he's sitting next to Lou Anders. If those two had a podcast, it would be the best thing ever.
  • My panels were a lot of fun.  The Food one was a hoot, especially given that it was at 10PM Friday night.  I talked at length about food and worldbuilding and culture and exotic fruits and okra.  No one made me shut up.  The one on Class in SF/F was very cool, and a packed room, but that was since it was me with Joe Lansdale, Will Shetterly and Scott Lynch.  The Singularity panel was fascinating, especially since Bruce Sterling was a surprise late addition to the panel.  I'd like to think I didn't totally embarrass myself on that panel, though I'm probably wrong.
  • On that note, a public apology to Elze Hamilton.  I claimed a certain story was an Asimov story, insisting even after she said it was Greg Egan. I dug through my books last night and found out I was in error. So: I was completely wrong, she was completely right.  I'm very sorry, Elze.
And I pretty much fell into a mini-coma after getting home.  So now: back to work.  Plenty to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scrounging around at the last minute

If you've been reading my blog with any regularity, you know that ArmadilloCon is tomorrow, so I'm handling all the various personal last-minute details-- household organization and such-- before things kick off.

One of those things involved doing a bit of work cleaning up the garden, pulling out plants that are a waste of time and water, trimming away dead leaves, etc.  And then this question-- in connection to the Food in SF/F panel I'll be on tomorrow night-- crossed my brain.

Are there any fantasy books* where people eat okra?

I can't think of any.  Plenty use a basic British/Western Europe template for their cuisine.  Some lean towards Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Asian... but using American Deep South as inspiration?  I can't think of any.


*- By which I mean secondary-world fantasy.  I'm sure various urban fantasy books have it.  I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse books but I'd be shocked if there wasn't okra in those.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Worldbuilding: Everything Is Research

I've just come back from a lovely trip to Akumal, Mexico.  I'm now home and a little behind in all things, as is to be expected when one takes a trip.  Plus ArmadilloCon starts on Friday, so the crunch to get stuff done is on.

But it was a lovely trip: pristine beaches, Mayan ruins, a boat trip and snorkeling.  All amazing experiences.  And every bit of it, as far as I'm concerned, is worldbuilding research.  I've mentioned the idea of doing something set in an Atlantis-like setting, and snorkeling and diving have given some fuel to those ideas.  We'll see where it goes.

Back to work now.  I'll leave you with a video of a sea turtle.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NPR's Top 100, final list.

NPR has now put out it's final list, based on the votes put in.  Of my 10, seven made it in, with Lies of Locke Lamora and the Octavia Butler books off the list.  Lies not making it doesn't surprise me, it's a young book.

But the Butler not making it-- NO book by Octavia Butler making the list-- I find that kind of appalling.  She's possibly one of the finest voices in the genre, and it's a shame she isn't more "popular".


As another note, for the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop, my group is Team Octavia, named for Ms. Butler.  I'm quite pleased with that.  I'm also pleased to be working with Julie Kenner and Rosemary Clement-Moore, two writers I greatly respect and admire.  So that's pretty cool.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pre-ArmadilloCon, Part Two: Panels I’ll be attending

In addition to the panels I’ll be on, there are plenty of other panels I’m excited about. (Though possibly the one I’m most excited about, “The Second Book is the Hardest” with Scott Lynch, Amanda Downum and Stina Leicht, conflicts with one of mine, so I won’t be going.)
Friday, 8:00 pm
Building a Fictional Society from the Ground Up
P. Bacigalupi, E. Bear*, A. Latner, A. Marmell, J. Reisman, M. Wells
Worldbuilding, one of my favorite topics.  I’m sure I put in to be on this one, but plenty of writers probably would.  I’m quite interested.

Friday, 9:00 pm
Imagining the Future: World Politics, Global Economies and More
M. Cardin, K. Hoover*, C. Mills, A. Simmons, W. Siros, S. White
More worldbuilding stuff, though as it applies to SF-future building. 

Saturday, 10:00 am
Game of Thrones: Comparing the Book to the Series
M. Bey, A. de Orive*, S. Leicht, G. Oliver, J. Rountree
I’m definitely interested here.  I didn’t try and get on this one, since I knew I wasn’t expert enough in the books to add much.

Saturday, 1:00 pm
Pyr Presentation
L. Anders
What is Lou Anders presenting?  I’m not entirely sure.  But I want to find out.

Saturday, 2:00 pm
Writing a Strong Female Protagonist
A. Allston, E. Bull, A. Downum*, J. Kenner, T. Mallory, M. Wells
I think I did a good job on this with Maradaine Constabulary, but I always want to learn more.

Saturday, 4:00 pm
Learning from Others' Mistakes: Writing Errors to Avoid
R. Bennett, M. Dimond, J. Kenner*, W. Spencer, M. Wells
This just sounds like a smart thing to listen to. 

Saturday, 8:00 pm
Wiscon and Elizabeth Moon: What Happened and What Can We Learn from It?
E. Bull*, S. Leicht, S. Lynch, L. Person, C. Rambo, L. Thomas
Definitely potentially intriguing.

Sunday, noon
Superhero Movies
B. Hale, R. Kelley, A. Martinez, J. Perez, L. Person, R. Rogers*
One of my favorite subjects.

Sunday, 1:00 pm
The Return of Sword and Sorcery
L. Anders*, L. Donahue, J. Hall, R. Rose, W. Siros
This, obviously, would be of interest.

Sunday, 2:00 pm
Writing from a Viewpoint Other than Your Own
A. Allston, J. Lansdale, S. Leicht, A. Martinez*, P. Roberts, W. Shetterly
Like the strong female protagonist panel, certainly something I can learn from.

Of course, plans like this are just plans.  They don’t always survive contact with reality.  Especially if there turns out to be a really interesting conversation in the bar.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pre-ArmadilloCon, Part One: My ArmadilloCon Schedule

So, I've now received my schedule for ArmadilloCon.  As this is my first time being on the panel side of things (as well as teaching in the Writers' Workshop), I'm really ridiculously excited.
Fantastical Feast: Food in SF/F
Fri 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Trinity
S. Allen, C. Rambo, L. Donahue*, K. Frost, J. Mandala, M. Maresca
I have to admit, having my first panel being right in my wheelhouse is a good way for me to start.  Talk about food, and how it's used in Sci-fi and Fantasy?  Oh, yeah, I can do that.  Plus I'll be up there with Kimberley Frost, who is one of my favorite people.
Class Issues in SF/F
Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Sabine
J. Lansdale, S. Lynch, M. Maresca, C. Richerson, W. Shetterly*
This should be fun.  I certainly use class issues (and class as it relates to neighborhood) in all the various Maradaine books.  Plus I'll be up there with Scott Lynch.  Scott Lynch is cool.
How Much Interaction Should Writers Have with Their Readers?
Sat 5:00 PM-6:00 PM San Marcos
E. Burton, K. Holt*, M. Maresca, J. Nevins, R. Rose
A bit of a strange panel for me, but I can roll.  I've been online for a long time, and I've seen plenty of author/reader interactions, seen how fandom interacts, seen some of the explosions and pitfalls.  I've seen the evolution of those interactions.  So I'm intrigued.
Is the Singularity Possible?
Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM San Antonio
J. Gibbons*, A. Latner, M. Maresca, A. Simmons, K. Stauber
I have to admit, this is one I'm going to have to do a bit more research for.  Not exactly my specialty.  But that's good.  I like a challenge.
New Directions in Space Opera
Sun 10:00 AM-11:00 AM San Marcos
A. Allston, S. Bobo, W. Ledbetter, M. Maresca*, F. Stanton, T. Wagner
Space opera.  Ah, back to my comfort zone.  Which is good, since I'm also moderating this panel.  Plus I'm familiar enough with Aaron Allston, William Ledbetter, Thomas Wagner and Fred Stanton to know that I won't have to prod them too much to get them talking. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

And now some things I didn't vote for

Last week I talked about what I voted on for NPR's top 100 SF/F novels of all time.  Voting is now closed, but the winners haven't been announced yet.

So I thought I'd talk about some specific things I didn't vote for.  Of course, books that I never read I wouldn't count.  This is stuff that I've read and strongly felt shouldn't be on such a list.

The Incarnations Of Immortality Series, by Piers Anthony: I was shocked to see this on the voting.  I mean, the first book of the series, On a Pale Horse, is solid and interesting.  But each subsequent book falls further and further apart, to the point that the "crucial choice" Luna will make that is hinted at in the first book turns out to be a vote in the US Senate declaring that God is Dead.  Because what the Senate votes on has actual, binding affects on the Almighty in this series. Add in the level of virginity-fetish Anthony has with most of his female characters and a bit where statutory rape is justified with time travel ("We've moved four years into the future, so legally you're nineteen now!") and the interesting things early out are pretty well sullied.

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: As often as I've complained about Stephenson's failure to end many of his books well, this one takes the cake as being the worst, at least for me. Mostly because it seemed to be moving towards accomplishing a certain goal, and then at the end the actual thing the characters were trying to achieve turned out to be completely different for no reason.  Plus there's the random attack from a well-forgotten character from early in the book.  One comparison I saw (I can't take credit for this) which I thought was apt: "It was as if Lord of the Rings ended with Frodo climbing up Mount Doom to be suddenly attacked by one of the Sacksville-Bagginses, and after Frodo kills him, he blows up Mount Doom. The End."

Time Enough For Love, by Robert Heinlein: After being nigh-immortal for a couple thousand years, Lazarus Long decides he really has done it all, and it's time to let himself lie down and die.  Until he realizes he hasn't done it all, since at least two things were missing: A. clone teenage female versions of himself, and have sex with them, and B. travel back in time to his youth so he can have sex with his mom.  I AM NOT MAKING THESE THINGS UP.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Sci-fi and Fantasy Novels of All-time

Right now (until August 12th) you can vote on NPR's list for the 100 top Sci-fi and Fantasy novels of all time.  I've put mine in, and while there are several deserving candidates that I didn't vote for (like Tolkein won't make the list if I don't vote for him), these are my choices.  I didn't vote for cultural significance.  I voted for things that spiked across my brain in the right way, and have mattered to me.

1. Watership Down, Richard Adams
      This is probably my favorite book of all time. Great adventure, vibrant characters, clever use of myth and storytelling within the story.  And you know what else it is?  It's a great heist/prison break story.  And an epic war story.  The fact that it's rabbits is almost incidental. 

2. Lillith's Brood, Octavia Butler
     This trilogy is really fantastic stuff. Humanity is saved from their own self-destruction by aliens-- aliens that turn out essentially be a kinder, gentler organic Borg who insist on "trading" DNA with the surviving humans-- and those humans are none too happy about it.  Told from the perspective of Lilith-- the first human awoken after the cataclysm, who is forced to accept the terrible reality of the future of the human race, and sell it to the rest of humanity.  Great stuff.

3. Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
   Octavia Butler is the only repeat on my list, which came to me as a bit of a surprise-- but it shouldn't be TOO surprising, because she was a fantastic writer.  The Parable duology (actual Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) is a frightening look at the near future.  Not dystopian, but close to it, as it shows an America falling slowly into anarchy as government gets weaker and weaker and gives more and more to privatization, and the middle class has completely crumbled.  Scary, prescient and fantastic.

4. Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
  Probably my favorite of the Heinlein, possibly because it it's solid, dynamic, and minimizes the somewhat creepy group-sex aspect that seeps into many of his works.  Especially his later works.  Moon, however, has little of that, and plenty of great worldbuilding and fun action.

5. Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
  Really fun caper, old school fantasy written in a modern voice.  I will admit a certain degree of over fondness for a book that's probably too new to really belong on an "all time" list... but I don't care.   It's fun.

6. A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
  Some serious old school to balance the previous recent work.  When it comes to old school, I'm a big fan of Verne over Wells.  Journey was one I read and re-read many times as a teenager.  My old copy is on my son's shelf, beat all to hell. 

7. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
 Yeah, like this one wasn't going to make my list. 

8. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  Or this.  Seriously, Asimov and Adams were a major part of my teenage reading. 

9. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
  Just about all of Stephenson's body of work is on the nominating list, save my personal favorite of his, which is Zodiac. But Anathem is a close second for me.  It's a solid, clever story that moves, and once you get into the groove of the made-up vocabulary, the worldbuilding really sings.  Plus it has an ending that's a proper ending.  I like that in my novels.

10. Belgariad, David Eddings
   Yeah, it's more sentiment than true value, but it's a series that has always been important to me.  So of course I'm going to include it.  And, like I said, it's not like Lord of the Rings needs my vote.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Working on a working space

I do most of my writing work on my laptop.  This is mostly out of practicality, in that I kind of need to be mobile and write when and where I get the chance.  Right now I'm in a bookstore, and once I finish this entry I'll do a bit on Way of the Shield before I have to go again.  I do know that I'm fortunate in that I can work just about anywhere.  In my briefcase I can easily carry my laptop, power cord, memory stick, headphones and notebooks and pens.  Boom, instant workspace anywhere I need.

Heck, I wrote a sizable chunk of Maradaine Constabulary in the car driving out to West Texas. (I was in the passenger seat riding; I didn't write and drive at the same time.) 

But getting really productive writing done takes getting into the mode, into the rhythm, and that is kind of challenging if one needs to move around. 

On the other hand, I have a desk with the desktop, and sometimes I find working there a bit stifling.  Possibly because it's in our guest bedroom, so in some ways it feels like the space isn't "mine".

On top of that, I just received the poster-sized maps of Maradaine, Druthal and the whole world they are a part of.  They're really pretty, if I do say so, though I recognize that I'm the only person dorkish enough to care about such a thing.  But part of my "workspace problem" is figuring out where I'm going to hand these things.


One side point: If you're thinking about going to ArmadilloCon and haven't firmly decided yet, the reduced convention rate for a hotel room expires on Thursday (August 4th) and 5PM Central Time.  You know it'll be a lot of fun, and you want to go.  Yes, you.