Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CSFFBT: "Merlin's Nightmare" by Robert Treskillard (III)

What day is it? Huh, huh, huh? What? What is it?

That's right, HUMP DAY!  And day three of another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book tour.  This is the wrap up for  Robert Treskillard's novel Merlin's Nightmare.

The first day I talked about technical aspects and yesterday I discussed the Fantasy elements. Today, as (hopefully) a sort of capstone, I'll talk about how the work affected me as a Christian piece.

And now, boys and girls, we jump! Hold hands!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CSFFBT: "Merlin's Nightmare" by Robert Treskillard (II)

Day two of another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book tour.  Today I will continue my discussion of   Robert Treskillard's novel Merlin's Nightmare.

Yesterday I talked about technical aspects and today I'll hit on the Fantasy elements. Tomorrow, the last day of the tour, I'll deal with the book as a Christian piece.

And now we jump to save white space on the internets:

Monday, August 25, 2014

CSFFBT: "Merlin's Nightmare" by Robert Treskillard (I)

 Woot!  for another Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Book tour.  This month, the group is reviewing and talking about an Arthur-cycle interpretation by Robert TreskillardMerlin's Nightmare is the third in the series.

My preference for these is to talk each day about a somewhat different theme - first day on technical aspects, second day on the Fantasy or SF elements and on the final day to deal with the book as a Christian piece.

And now we jump to save white space on the internets:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting things done, enjoying things

A couple of time management tools:

The Pickle Jar Theory of Time Management (pdf) - an oldie but still a goodie.  There are a million versions of this floating around the internets.  This one is that doesn't forget that the little things count too.

Pick your big rocks carefully - you can only fit in so many.

And so a couple tools for picking the right rocks:

How to Spend The First Ten Minutes of Your Day (h/t Passive Voice) - a technique for getting focused on the right stuff, so one is not milling about spinning wheels.

Recognizing Wealth (h/t Megan McArdle) - a mom inventories her kitchen.

And to bring it back around to SFF:

Larry Correia went to GenCon and had a blast

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughts on Kindle Worlds & vars-n-sund

A post on Passive Voice -

- which has turned out to be quite interesting, if only because the volume of posts pretty much guaranties that there will be something of interest daily -

- touched on Kindle Worlds -

- which I knew to be a thing, and whilst I was interested in it, I hadn't heard that it was worth the following.  PV's linked post, quoting GigaOm supports that position -

"In the month of June, authors contributed 46 Pretty Little Liars works to Kindle Worlds, which sounds like a fair number — unless you compare it to the more than 6,000 such works that appeared during this time on two other fan fiction sites."

The article goes on to point out a number of cultural & economic reasons why KW is struggling upstream against the torrent that is Fandom-as-we-know-it: restrictions on language, plot, & most especially sexual content, paying for content, and "quality" checks.  (For 'xample, I looked up the restrictions for GI Joe, and found them to be more or less as I might have guess, with a couple addendums that made me chortle.)

What Tushnet (the lawyer who wrote the original referenced article: All This Has Happened Before And All This Will Happen Again: Innovation In Copyright Licensing) says is true - putting quality restrictions, encouraging longer length stories, requiring readers to pay for reading, and most especially limiting sexual content - is going to limit Fandom participation in a huge way.

Fandom thrives on the adhoc, on the piecemeal, and on-the-fly prioritization of time & effort. Anything resembling a restriction - ie SPELL CHECK YOUR @#$# FIC BEFORE YOU POST IT - is going to reduce fannish fic participation.  Content limits - esp touching on the porn which makes up a huge portion of fic - is going to reduce it even more.  (Although, seeing as (aka the pit of voles) is still going strong, after all these years, it's important to note that those restrictions do have limits on their impact.)  Most significant, I think, is the current limited variety of 'fandoms' - source canon - represented by KW.  Fandom, as I said, has the attention span of an AHHD mayfly.  Readers need a new shiny, and twenty canons isn't going to cut it.

In some ways, I think that Fandom's way is better. It's not like God puts grammar and content restrictions on prayers - not while please God let me not @#$% this up remains one of the most popular prayers in any language - and it's not like we don't live our lives in this moment, doing the best we can in the moment to hand.

But there is something to be said for standards, for polished preparation, for attention to detail, and for years spent improving a craft, a piece of art, a life.

For me, I think that KW has a lot to offer in terms of what I value - preparation, a story beyond simple porn, knowledge of the original author's approval/permission, and a chance to support the canon that I want more of.  But it would be a mistake to assume that these things are needful in order to produce a high-quality, stirring, impactful story.  I've seen it done.  Not as frequently as Sturgeon would have you think, but still.

Another post off PV led me to this passage from  a Gawker article:

"Pish posh," you might say. "You're one to talk. Your grammar is wronged, your metaphors are blunt bricks, and your similes are like a hot needle to the eyeball. Your infinitives are split, your participles are dangling, your spelling is eroneous, your cliches are old as time, your sentences are repetitive, and your sentences are repetitive. Your concepts appear to have been plucked from thin air with no foresight, hindsight, or insight. If anyone is in need of a good editor it is you. And you are ugly."  

 The Gawker family of websites (including IO9) is on my list these days for annoying ad content, and Gawker in particular strikes me as one of the less edifying members.  But I keep getting reminded that blanket biases - like absolutes in science - are wrong.


Saw Guardians of the Galaxy.  Great fun.  Much explosion.  Between Snowpiercer, Edge of Tomorrow, and the rest, it's a good year to be a geek.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hugo Ballot 2014: Novels

Continuing on with talking about how I voted this year:

Nominees: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie / Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross / Parasite by Mira Grant / Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia / The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 

I've posted before about my deep irritation with Orbit's decision to not release the whole novel for the three novels that it published.  This is...very bad play on their part, imo.  Particularly when for the other two nominees, one got the entire series of novels.  Fortunately, through the magic of inter-library loans, I was able to get all three of the works missing from the Hugo packet in hand well before the voting deadline.

Further thunks below the cut:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Things I learned this year re: Hugos

Hugo ballots are all in.  Hugo awards are to be announced 17 August 2014, in Lundin, UK.

This was my first year voting for Hugos.  Over all I am quite pleased, but also a tad humbled.

Things I have learnt, or re-learnt...

1) omg there is a lot of good sf out there.

The $40 for a World Con supporting membership was an *awesome* deal, in terms of fiction per dollar.  Getting to vote for top stories? A great bonus.  Plus, I was exposed to a lot of sff I would not have explored otherwise.

2) The so-called problems with divisions & cliches and dilution of "real sff" or "righteous sff" or "sff of the people" are, imo, not as great as some think.

The stories that I read were all of decent-to-good quality.  Further more, the future of the genre is neither doomed to devolve into endless rounds of needlepoint nor of hopeless gazing into the round black barrel of violence-philic facism.  My people can still encompass all possibilities.

3) There are, however, significant issues with repetative themes, narrative styles, and foci among SFF as a whole.

This was most noticable to me in the Short Story and the Novel category, where female first person natitives and an strong hint of persecution flavored a majority of stories.  I don't want to exclude stories that rely on these tools from SFF.  Nor do I want every. single. story. to use them.  Specialization is for insects.  Nichification is for extinction-philes.

4) There was more out there than I could read (or watch) comfortably in two months.

I ended up not voting at all in several categories.  I still have a lot of the mid-length fiction to read.  I essentially gave up on the podcasts, the fanzines, the prozines, and the related writing. I never seriously considered voting for editor, on the grounds of not knowing what to use to judge the candidates.

Other thoughts:

I am still really, *really* annoyed at Orbitz for not including their works in the package.  This was a serious issue in not allowing an even look at all candidates for the awards in question.

Correia, et al, have a point about the "sameness" and narrow scope of the "non-Sad Puppies" ballot entries.  While I do not agree that all Sad Puppy Ballot nominations were better than the "traditional" ones - I do think that the SP ballot entries represented quality fiction of a type that wasn't being represented elsewise.  As a fan, I like to think that all SFF fans are welcome to put their favorites forward.

Speaking of that...

I was very, very tempted to use "no award" liberally through one particular categoy - that of Fan Writer.  So many of the writers listed were narrow minded, bigoted, and actively supported bias against particular works based on the gender, race, and/or political opinions of the author.  Not. On.  Seriously, kids, grow up.  In the end, the thought of dealing with that kind of anger - theirs and mine - turned me off voting for that category all together.

Specifically regarding serials: 

Short dramatic works: Dr Who, WTF?  One, yes, of course. Two, okay, I'm not going to insist that one outstanding episode mean that no others from that work be considered.  But four DW works?

Okay, fine, just take that as a long drawn out wail that I am never going to get caught up.

And if DW had gathered in fewer noms, then I would have had even more series to never get caught up with.  But. Still.

Graphic Novels: The inclusion of Saga was not a great burden on me, as I already had the first two volumes.  That another entry was at episode 13? aaaaggggg

Novel: On the one hand, each of the non-initial serials involved was included in the Hugo packet. On the other hand...WoT? As one novel?  Give over already, man.

Fifth and finally:

I really miss the Gardner Dozois Year's Best Science Fiction collections.  And by "miss" I mean "need to get back into the habit of reading".

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hugo Ballot 2014: Short Stories

Nominees: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”/“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”/“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”/“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”
Unlike some other voters, I did find some SF/fantasy elements in these stories and won't reject most of them for lack of being sff.  However, all of them took Campbell's "assume your tech marvel and then tell a story" a bit TOO literally.
I did find it frustrating that all the stories fit a particular subtype within the broader SFF universe.  There is nothing in this category for people who like exploding spaceships, or hetero action heroes. I don't have to prefer one type of story to recognize that others do.  That all of the nominated stories fit this same pattern is a problem, imo.

Snowpiercer (2013 movie)

Go see this.  If you like post-apopoc movies, this is sort of thing you will love.


Brief non-spoilerly comments below the jump.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hugo Awards 2014 Pro Artist

(See my notes on judging art here.)

Nominees: Galen Dara / Julie Dillon /Daniel Dos Santos / John Harris / John Picacio / Fiona Staples

Note: Six nominees because of a tie for fifth.  Fiona Staples was the only artist whose work was not included in the Hugo packet.  Fortunately, I already had a copy of Saga Vol 2 (also nominated for Graphic Novel) so I felt I was familiar with her work.

More below the cut:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tannhäuser (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

Some of this will be hard reading. It was not easy writing.

There is too much.

The short version: All of fandom has been plunged into war navelgazing over recent articles which highlighted what some already knew: the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, icon of SF feminism, SCA cosplay, and a multi-award winning author, had been complicit in covering up the sexual abuse of minors by her late husband Walter Breen.  Others suspected Bradley of committing some abuse herself.

And now the long version, below the cut.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cutie Mark of the Beast

The cutie mark of the beast.

I never got into MLP in any form, but the idea that somehow it makes everything it touches evil is just...

Well, at any rate, it appears that the font of the number of the beast is Snap ITC, Ravie, and Magneto.  Because why pick just one?

Short discussion of santity and sanctity of mocking of 'mark of the beast' and other devil related material below:

Hugo Ballot 2014: Fan Artists

Nominees: Brad W. Foster / Mandie Manzano / Spring Schoenhuth / Steve Stiles / Sarah Webb

My art preferences and thoughts on the Hugo art ballot in general are here.

Of these, Foster, Stiles and Webb had art in the packet. (Stiles was added late, but was up by a week after the download went live.)  Manzano’s work can be seen here:.  Her work appears to be flat/digital, so I am not clear on why it has not made the packet (yet).  Given the subject matter, I suspect interference from the House of the Mouse, but that is merely libelous rumor mongering.

Schoenhuth’s is best seen on her Springtime Creations facebook page (select 2013 from the timeline to see works created last year.) She is an artist in the round, specializing in jewelry and other wearables. 

My thoughts on each:

On Hugo-related Artwork (2014)

What kind of jelly I like on my PBJ:

I refer art that is original, realistic and displays the use of technical skill over derived/interpreted works, abstract, and…errr…accidental works.  I can and have been persuaded/moved by works that are highly abstract, clearly representational, and make us of chance/unplanned circumstances to good effect. I marginally prefer flat art to sculpture.  I regard art for display more highly than art for use or wear.  (I don’t use books as doorstops, stereo proppers, or bug smashers, either.) (Edit: Yes, I like illustrated book covers more than plain ones.  Yes, even Baen covers. No, I don't have space in my house for all the book covers I like.  No, it's not logical. Hush and let me finish. End edit.) I like realism and grit but not gore.  I have definite color preferences, and pinks and oranges aren’t them. I prefer art that I can hang/place in my living/work space over art that I can only stand to look at for half an hour at a time.  

More preferences:

A word about Hugo 2014 slate reviews

So I broke down and purchased a WorldCon  supporting membership. Which means that I get to vote for Hugos!   And I might as well try to share as I work through the ballot.

(Lots more Hugo related nathering below the cut.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parable of the Rich Family In Church

Trying to keep my temper and my attitude pointed in the right directions. Craziness going on (internets and elsewhere) is not helping.


Also trying to avoid procrasting in an unhelpful manner. Yet here it is, already after 1 pm.

A tale, a fable, a parable...

The Rich Family In Church


The Rich Family In Church
By Eddie Ogan

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Dear Blogspot: get a freaking clue and put in a cut command WITH A FREAKING END TAG. Thank you.


Learned how to pronounce (badly) molon labe today.  A cancelled appointment opened up a good four hours for studying. Sun is out and shining. Life is good.


Memory Is A Tricky Thing, #187: I read the Baen Fantasy Contest guidelines the other day, and could have sworn the line went “political drama where nothing happens” and not ( as it currently reads) “political drama without any action.”


'Go sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time.' - Napoleon

Thoughts on the movie Noah -

Short version: I saw, twice. I liked.  Thought it was fairly scripturally sound, and that the variation from Genius were more like the difference within the Synotic Gospels than the differences between those recitations and that of John. Wonderful special effects, thought the actors really brought out the humanity of the characters.

Long version:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Roof top shouting, and arguing with the other side

A very nice piece on the latest/on-going/this-is-the-way-of-the-world-now/SFFWA Hugo/politicsthingy by Brad Torgeson, whom I don’t think I had ever heard of before:

 I am in general agreement with most everything he has said, and am very impressed with the...maturity and evenhandedness of the saying.


Rule for Ranters: Recognize the Rant for what it is – an expression of one’s (someone’s, your, my) emotional reaction to something. It’s good for communicating irritation, anger, disgust, fury, etc, etc.

It’s important to express that kind of emotion in a way that fellow humans can understand – if one is really that upset, leaving fellow travelers ignorant of your reaction is not helpful. And everything all bottled up and fermenting without a proper functioning relief valve only leads to foam spraying all over the beer closet and that’s no good at all. (Alcohol abuse, doncha know…)

Rants can be good for emotional bonding amongst those who agree with one, as well – a mutual relief valve. I do emphasize here that the emotional expression has to be in a way that other people understand – chimp teeth barring grins, for example? Not happy things. Ranting needs to be done so that it is understood.

What Ranting is not, however, is an exercise in rational reasoning and logical persuasion.

Ranting is not a method for getting The Other Side’s assholes to agree with the Ranter. (They might agree with each other – that the Ranter is crazy – but not with the Ranter.)

 Ranting is not a way to understand The Other Side. (At all.) It’s a very lousy way to get The Other Side to understand one’s own view.

 Ranting can be used as a method of shutting down communication – or shutting up The Other Side. But silence is not assent, and forcing people to shut up is not the same as fostering agreement - or changing minds.

 Rants are also excellent at evoking emotional responses – with those who agree (as above) and with The Other Side – who rarely looks upon the Ranter with more respect, empathy, or positive energy after the Rant is over than they did before.

 Rants are very good tools for what they are designed to do. But a good tool user knows when to use a screwdriver and when to use a hammer. Posting a rant which any rational and adult wordsmith knows full well will have the effect of making the choir snicker in agreement and alienating The Other Side is the writing (or speaking) equivalent of opening a can of paint with the blunt end of a claw hammer.

 Yeah, the can’s gonna be open when you’re done, but you’re going to look like an idiot, feel worse, and there’s not anything you’re going to be able to do with the paint after that.

 A note on what appears to be a conflict between those who value work(s) done because it pays well and people like it and I enjoy doing it but mostly because money, dear boy, money and those who value work(s) done because it is a (holy) calling and an expression of ones immortal soul and may yet change the world - yes, there is a difference between the two. Between the works, between the people who value one over the other, and between the people who make them. Even when the same writer/artist/shootist/orator does some of both.

I get that some people see a difference between the two, I acknowledge the difference (even if I can’t always clearly define it) and I got no problem with there being a difference. What I don’t get, me, is acknowledging the difference, yet insisting that both be treated the same. Popular workmanship works get more money thrown at the author than does High Lit. *shrugs* High Lit gets people thinking and talking and generally sticks around longer. But it’s not as comfortable and isn’t as well loved. *shrugs* Want lots of accolades? Pick High Lit. Want lots of fans and dough? Pick popular works that are, well, popular.

It’s called Achilles’ Choice because it wasn’t Achilles’ Get-To-Have-It-Both-Ways-Deal. Granted - some people can manage to produce work with a high overlap between popular and quality. But even more of us can’t manage either one by itself. Better to pick one, do your best, evaluate, revise, lather, rinse, repeat until you get the popularity or quality you were aiming for. Floor sweeping, coffee grinding, book writing, fence fixing – it all works like that.

 Or so I get told.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

*blows off dust*

Let's give this thing another go, shall we?