Oct 28 2014

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

I received this book as a reward for supporting the kickstarter project that made it possible. “Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center,” the editors wrote in the project description. “People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins.”

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History provides alternative narratives, presenting the stories of people that the history books usually ignore. A wide ranging variety of voices populate this excellent collection of stories, offered alongside an individual black and white illustrations, also in a variety of styles. The stories are anchored in time and place, with the date and setting noted at the top of each one, this connection with real-world history makes these stories of the fantastic more believable. There was not a single one in this collection that I didn’t like and, for me, the stories ranged from good to utterly fantastic. Below are a few of my personal favorites.

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Oct 27 2014

Ahhh! Zombies run!

Zombies and survivors ran together during the Running with Zombies 5K fun run event in San Jose, which I participated in with my sister, both of us shambling out of bed bright and early Saturday, donned decaying flesh, and set out to run our brains out.

Despite some confusion as to where to park (the online directions were wrong), my sister and I had a rotting good time at the race. It kicked off with an air raid siren. The sky was grey and bleak with a slight mist, matching the tone of the event as we ran along the quite, closed off streets of San Jose, making it feel as though the city was a dead zone. The terrain then carried us through winding trails of a park where scattered zombies snarled at runners (some caged behind a chain link fence), past a abandoned and dilapidated building, and down a dirt, vacant feeling path where slow shuffling zombies wandered (one dragging the plastic corpse of a half eaten pig).

It was fun to see all the people who came, from young kids to wizened adults, many of whom came as zombies. Some got fairly creative with their costumes, including a zombie Star Trek officer.

As I haven’t been actively training as much as I would like, I felt a wee slow during the three-mile run and was definitely below my usual pace. But, hey, I was undead at the time, so I have an excuse and it was a shotgun blast of fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (if I had one). I think I’ll rise to the occasion again next year.

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Survivors and zombies assemble before the the race start line.

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Me and my undead sister.

zombies in a cage

Caged!


Oct 23 2014

Book Review: Contact by Carl Sagan

“In the scant few decades in which humans have pursued radio astronomy, there has never been a real signal from the depths of space, something manufactured, something artificial, something contrived by an alien mind.

And yet the origin of life now seemed to be so easy — and there were so many billions of years available for biological evolution — that it was hard to believe the Galaxy was not teeming with life and intelligence.”

– from Contact by Carl Sagan

Contact by Carl Sagan
So many alien contact stories, especially those presented in movies, show a hostile force invading the Earth, forcing the human race to rally together in order to fight back. This is perspective is often driven by humanity’s history of violence and colonization, as well as human paranoia, such as with 1950s alien invasion movies as a metaphor for Cold War fears.

While I’ve enjoyed many an alien invasion stories (most recently, Falling Skies), I find myself drawn to and prefer first contact stories that are more positive or, at least, more ambiguous.

I think that is part of what made me love the movie Contact so much, when it was released in 1997, that story of ambiguous first contact with alien life based in scientific plausibility. It was a story not wholly built on paranoia and allowed for interesting perspectives to come through — How would people and government and religious groups react if an alien signal arrived from space? Plus it featured a complicated woman, heading the scientific investigation, played by the amazing Jodie Foster. I still get chills just rewatching the movie trailer.

“I’ll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it’s just us… seems like an awful waste of space.”
— from Contact (movie version)

It’s taken me a long time to get around to reading the novel, but it’s been on my to-read list ever since I’ve seen the movie. I’m so glad I did.

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Oct 22 2014

All Hail the Great Pumpkin

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October is my favorite time of year, or at least that’s what I’ve decided just now. The crisp, cold mornings allowing me to pull out my collection of scarves, the hope of future storms and rain so desperately needed after the long, dry California summer, and the coming of my favorite holiday, Halloween.

So, it was a delight to see that Monster, my niece who just turned two this summer, is delighted with the season as we walked around the pumpkin patch with her parents and her baby brother.  Monster held shoulders back with an expression of smiling, princessy pride as she rode the pony. She sat (mostly) still as Minnie Mouse was painted on her cheek with glitter that made everything from her baby brother to my tee-shirt where she rested her head sparkle. She scampered through the pumpkins in her Minnie Mouse dress, pointing to each one and calling out, “Ha’oween!” All pumpkins are Halloweens to her.

I know she’ll love dressing up as Tinkerbell (though, honestly, she’d wear a sparkly dress every day of the week, if she could) and going out Trick or Treating (she’s already started practicing).

I’m so proud and happy to be an Aunty. Halloween this year is going to be so much fun.


Oct 18 2014

Germany Wanderings

1.

The sun is setting in Quedlinburg as I step out of my hotel in search of an ATM and food. The ATM is easy. I have a clearly marked map and even in the fading light, the streets are easy to follow.

I turn toward where I think the city center is an start walking, figuring I find somewhere to eat along the way. It’s a tiny town after all.

A shouting, laugh conglomeration of teenagers ambles down the street. Two ride rattling skateboards on the sidewalk.

A man sags past alone and lonely.

Then, a family of three generations, grand parents, youths, children rolling forward in strollers.

Other than these few encounters, the streets are quiet. Empty. The cobblestone are black and shiny with reflected streetlights. I am beginning to think every shop and restaurant is closed in the entire tiny town, when the image of Frida Kahlo in a window stops me. I adore Frida and feel a warm glow at the sight of her.

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