Mar 23 2016

FOGcon Recap 2016

A couple of weekends ago — has it been that long? — I traveled up to exotic Walnut Creek to gather with fellow readers and writers to talk about genre books, movies, and other bits of geekery at FOGcon. As always it was a fun event, which included tons of coffee and a little booze and karaoke and other such things.

Honored Guests were Jo Walton, Ted Chiang, and Donna Haraway, with Octavia Butler services as Honored Ghost.

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Panels

Lots of great thinky things at the panels this year to mentally chew on. Nom, nom. The panels tended to be more focused on science discussions that reading and writing discussions, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines looked at how AI is perceived in fiction and films as a self-aware being compared to how intelligent technology in the real world today is being used to provide better ways to solve problems. The intelligent machines of today are incredibly advanced in how they have been programed to serve human needs. But, as the panelists noted, these computers and machines are limited to their programming — they will do what they are programmed to do. So the concern is not so much about machines suddenly becoming self aware and taking over the world, but who is running the machines and to what purposes are they setting them to.

And even if a machine were to become self aware, it would be questionable as to whether human beings would recognize the moment when it occurred. It’s assumed (in movies and fiction) that AIs would think in the same ways that we do, however, that is not necessarily the case. Someone from the audience stated that the singularity is now, bringing up the game of Go (apparently more complex than chess) taking place between a computer and Go champion that evening (which the computer won).

The From Caterpillar to Butterfly panel delved into the weirdness of nature, from parthenogenesis to penis fencing flatworms to interesting mistakes in biology. We discussed the adorable tardigrade, or water bearer, an adorable micro-animal that is the only creature known to be able to survive in hard vacuum; a multitude of amazing plants (such as a vine that can change its leaves to match the tree they’re on); and animals that can change their gender (such as the clown fish, all of which are male, except for the biggest and baddest, which becomes the only female). The lesson, for me, was that in designing alien or strange species of animals with interesting biology and social structure, a writer can definitely turn to the natural world for inspiration of many kinds. Recommended Reading: The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins and Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson.

Other great panels (which I’m going to go into less detail on, because time):

The Ethics of Magic discussed how the rules of magic are presented in stories. For example, the rules of Star Wars present the Jedi as the “good guys” despite some deeply troubling and morally ambiguous aspects to their order. Recommended Reading: Wildseed by Octavia Butler.

Are 72 Letters Enough? In Search of a Perfect Language tried to define what was meant by “perfect.” For some this was a language that was unabiguous and complete, able to portray every thing in existence accurately. The discussion lead into how often the concept of the “true name” for things comes up in fiction, among many other things. Recommended Reading:  The Search for a Perfect Language by Umberto Eco and “TAP” by Greg Egan.

Homo Sapiens Tekhne: Assistive Devices and Body Modification in Science Fiction and Fantasy looked at the past and present of human body modifications, from tatoos and piercings to assistive devices and cell phones, as well as looking at how body modification is handled in stories. Recommended Reading: Runtime by S.B. Divya.

And finally, Domestic Fantasy: Transforming the Domestic looked at how the domestic scene, family and home, are portrayed in fantasy stories. Recommended Reading: Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick and Little, Big by John Crowley.

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The Book Haul

FOGcon book haul

I went rather light on the book haul this year, as I was trying to keep my bookshelves from topping down and crushing me beneath a ginormous pile of books. My grabs:

  • Rolling in the Deep by Seanan McGuire – a limited edition, signed copy, which I didn’t realize at the time
  • Trafalgar by Angelica Gorodischer
  • The Neat Sheats, poetry by James Tiptree, Jr.
  • The Fantod Pack by Edward Gorey
  • and three editions of Fantasy & Science Fiction

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*sleepy, happy sigh*

FOGcon is one of my favorite events of the year, and already I’m looking forward to 2017. The theme next year will be Interstitial Spaces (intermediate spaces between one thing and another), which is a topic I find fascinating.


Sep 7 2015

SF Zine Fest book haul

Winner! I am pleased to announce that Skylar L. is the winner of The Walls Around Us giveaway! I’ll be sending out your copy this week.

On Sunday, I journeyed up to the city to check out the SF Zine Fest. It was a free event that housed two rooms packed full of independent and small press makers and creators of zines, chapbooks, art, and comics. It’s a very cool event (although there were so many people it was almost overwhelming) and I grabbed lots of goodies (spending more money than I probably should have).

SF Zine Fest 2015`

I was also happy to be there to support friend and amazing human being, Allie Marini, who has two new chapbooks out from Nomadic Press. While at the Nomadic booth, checking out all the 2015 poetry chapbooks on the table, each with its own gorgeous cover, I couldn’t help but swipe up the entire lot.

Cliffdiving and And When She Tasted of Knowledge by Allie Marini
On Sunday, A Finch by Cassandra Dallett
A Heart with No Scars by Brennan “B Deep” DeFrisco
Collective Regeneration and Universal Love by Dan Shurley
Nueva Cuenta by Freddy Gutierrez
We Shoot Typewriters by Paul Corman-Roberts

Other poetry chapbooks I picked up in my meandering included Caffeinated Fairy Tales by Heather Boyd and Milk & Servitude by Noelle Zappia.

Among the art and comics, I picked up were:

Raising Dion, written by Dennis Liu and illustrated by Jason Piperberg, which I grabbed because it tells a superhero story from the point of view of the mother trying to raise her powerful son to be a hero.
The Gecko and the Tree Grave Robbers (as well as some awesome notecards) by Cheez Hayama
Mythology Anthology by the Nijimafia, a group of artists including Adual, Akaibelier, Elaine Nguyen, Giselle Sarmiento, Madeline Zuluaga, Stephanie Hueden

I also learned about an documentary in progress called Secret Identities, directed by Mike Phillips. The doc is about GLBT fans and creators in the comic book community. The aim is to give voice to under represented groups, which is very cool.

What I’m Reading

Plowed through Volumes 18-20 of Fables by Bill Willingham. Oh, the terrible things that happen to my beloved characters. I am almost afraid to read the final two volumes because I know more terrible things will happen.

My next read is Divine Scream by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, which is a dark YA fantasy novel about a boy and a banshee. Can’t wait.

What I’m Writing

I’ve started putting together what I think will be a chapbook of prose poems based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale — which is partially inspired by recent projects I’ve read by Jessie Carty (Shopping After the Apocalypse, soon to be published) and Kristen Marie Darling (Failure Lyric) — both are fantastic. One poem is completed and two more are getting close to completion. I have the rest of poems loosely planned out.

Due to my new Twelve Dancing Princesses project, I did not get around to looking at and reconsidering Sincerely Yours, my chapbook which is currently out on submission. It’s been rejected twice already and I’m waiting to hear from two more publishers. However, I have two poems that I could consider writing and adding to the collection, and may remove or reorder some of the other poems

In other writing news, I was contacted by Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash, who has requested to reprint “The Things I Own” — wow! What an honor and it’s a really cool market.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish two more poems in Twelve Dancing Princesses chapbook. Put together additional poems for KYSO Flash.

Linky Goodness

  • Zachary Wood writs on Cultivating Empathy and Open Mindedness — “To begin with, I think reading about the struggles of others helps us cultivate empathy. No matter what our experiences are, we can glimpse the challenges and crises our world faces every day on the news. Great literature offers us far more than can be captured in soundbites, news clips, and advertisements. Great literature gives us a platform from which we can explore all of what we see on the news in more depth.”
  • Michelle G. writes about empiricism, testing, and how differences in performance tends to be perceived as related to differences in math ability  — “It is true that men score higher on spatial reasoning tests, though you might have caught on that there’s a little bit more to this picture (why would a female MIT student publicize stereotypes that actively work against her?). If you’re now wondering whether I’m about to throw some kind of feminist rant at you, I’ll give you a “well, sort of,” because calling out factual misconception is just as important as promoting feminist ideals here, and because I think those two go hand in hand anyway. I’ll largely put the romance of egalitarianism aside, though, to talk about empiricism.”

Jun 30 2015

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


May 18 2015

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.

 
 

Me and the awesome.

 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.


Apr 2 2015

Nights of Words and Discourse

Meant to post this on Monday, but I got sick this week, which knocked me flat for several days. Since I’m starting to feel better, I’m posting it now.

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Last Thursday night I attended the fantastic Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, which featured the amazing folk duo Q&A and yours truly. I’ve been a fan of Q&A ever since I first heard them and so it was a great honor to have been paired with them for my first feature performance. I made a video of one of their new songs and hopefully I’ll be able to upload and share it soon.

Q&A includes Quynh and Alice

  

I also attended the Her Story to Call Her Own open mic, which was a wonderful grounding experience, full of many beautiful women singing or speaking many beautiful words.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, which was beautiful and not at all what I expected. 

 
Blue by George Elliott Clarke, which is a powerful collection of poetry. 

 Still enjoying my slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I made it halfway through a chapbook submission, which I’m starting to feel fairly solid about. I’ve got some more work to do on it, some cleaning up of some of the poems and than I should be able to send it out.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Amazing women and artists who live in this South Bay community and who open up their voices to share.

Linky Goodness

I think I’ll just leave you with From Tank Girl to Mad Max: The 10 Most Stylish Apocalypse Movies.