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glvalentine August 22 2014, 13:46

Stuff I've Badmouthed Recently

A few things I've badmouthed (or otherwise) recently:

Over at io9, I talk about some things Universal can keep in mind when adapting those fourteen Anne Rice vampire books they just bought. (I didn't realize I had any feelings about it, but then suddenly I was thirteen and buying a copy of Premiere magazine I still own with a huge behind-the-scenes article that fascinated me as much as the movie did.) Surely for something that ambitious they have a game plan, but if they haven't already considered the toxic-aristocrats angle of enormously rich vampires who literally feed off the lower classes AND the angle where they eat hearts and stomp around in huge immortal snits, then now's the time to consider them, is all I'm saying.

At Philly Weekly, I talked a little about Frank, a dark comedy I really enjoyed, even though I will probably never again sit through the scene in which Domhnall Gleeson "casually" mentions he can write songs and then has to trot out four or five banal non-starters under the withering stares of the rest of the band. A magnificent scene, of which one viewing was likely enough.

Over at AV Club, I reviewed Happy Valley, which is a very tense, often bleak story of crime in a small town and the officer who ends up investigating half by accident. The performances are all pitch-perfect and the depth of its lead role – a policewoman in the twilight of her forties with a complicated home life and career setbacks – is fantastic. It helps that the miniseries manages to avoid the worst cliches of either, and left some interesting ambiguities (among a few things that felt a little easy). Let me stress that while I found it totally absorbing, I was not kidding about the "grueling" part either; the first Sally Wainwright thing I ever saw was Sparkhouse, the Wuthering Heights modern retelling with bonus genderflip (and a tiny baby Holliday Grainger), so I was prepared for hours of bleakness with tiny glimpses of hope. That turned out to be for the best.

AV Club is also celebrating its 1994 week. In the midst of preparing a pitch about Hackers for 1995, because I will never not want to talk about that movie, I participated in an inventory of pop-culture notables from '94, including The Crow, the beginning of Turner Classic Movies, and four Chinese art-house flicks that made their mark. And in other things that remind me of decades past, I'll start recapping the so-X-Files-you-can't-imagine The Intruders this weekend!

In life stuff, I went to the Met with a friend, and found these two statues of women and their monsters.

On the left, Domenico Guidi's "Andromeda and the Sea Monster," moments before the rescue (one hopes). On the right, a 15th century statue of St. Margaret of Antioch, who was swallowed by a dragon but secured her release by making the sign of the cross, at which she burst forth whole from its body.
sartorias August 21 2014, 20:45

Stranger, twice

SFWA is hosting readings for local authors around the country. I will be reading with rachelmanija from our YA Stranger (first in The Change Series), at Redondo Beach Public Library, North Branch (2000 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach, CA) at 2:00 p.m. on August 30th. There will be a couple of other authors there, and should be good eats as well as book talk, if any locals have a couple spare hours free and would like to make the scene.

Stranger got a *starred review* from Kirkus, ending, A first-rate page turner that leaves its own compelling afterimage. Though the next review could proclaim we're a couple of incompetents having turned out a snore fest, wow, does that one make me feel good. Kirkus. Star!
athenais August 20 2014, 22:31

London, York, Cambridge, London

Much to some people's surprise, we have not ventured very far afield on our vacation. We are not going to the Continent. We are not staying for Eurocon in Dublin. We are having a fairly relaxed vacation where we don't run around madly, although a 24-hour trip to York definitely counts as running around madly, but that was the exception.

Okay, let's try some chronology.

Day 1, land at Heathrow, journey endlessly across town to Custom House, check into hotel, check in to the Worldcon. Spend that evening seeing All The Friends Except Alun Harries Who Was Inexplicably Hard To Find. Delighted to meet up with Ove Jonsson who I met in Stockholm at his first sf con; this was his first Worldcon. I seem to collect tech people and engineers as friends, I can't understand it since I'm such a nitwit about that stuff myself. But I love science, so there's that.

Day 2-3, Worldcon. Attended Jeanne Gomoll's Fan Guest of Honor interview. Heard John Chu and Kari Sperring read. Roamed the Dealer Zone thoroughly. Never got to the Art Show or any other programming. Met Flickr friend Johan Kocur and had a splendid time with him. Bought myself a gorgeous little brooch from Gaukler Medieval Wares as a birthday present. Found Alun at the Ramada bar along with several other fans "ghosting" the convention. Birthday was celebrated.

Met approximately all the Swedish and Finnish fans, possible some exceptions, but it was pretty easy to find them at the Finland in 2017 booth. Signed up for Archipelicon, the supersize version of Åcon, being held in Mariehamn, Finland next June.

Day 4, Greenwich. By now we are alternating 12 hours of sleep and 4 hours of sleep and it is not fun at all, but that's the way jet lag goes sometimes. We arrive at the Cutty Sark just as the skies open up. It gets nice again later on. We see the sights at the Royal Observatory, take our photos on the prime meridian, enjoy a performance of "Nevil Maskelyne" and "Mary Edwards" in costume, see the special Longitude exhibit at the Maritime Museum plus most of the museum, buy presents for family and self.

Spend the evening at the hospitality area enjoying beer, Kansas City barbecue (they won the 2016 bid, but I won't be going) and being glittery. Well, that was me, John just wore a t-shirt and jeans. Cheered madly when fellow VPX-er John Chu won Best Short Story Hugo. Many selfies, many happy meetings, many promises to meet again soon. End of con for us.

Day 5, York. Check out, take train, curse B&B website that promised six minute walk when it was a solid twenty with our rolling suitcases. Room very nice. Dinner at Raj, a bit boring but perfectly edible. In bed early and no, the creepy Victorian painting of a little girl did not come to life, thank you very much. But York is really promoting its ghosts, I see.

Day 5, York, Cambridge. Walk, walk, walk. Jorvik Viking Centre nowhere near as good as when it was newish (I saw it in 1988). Not enough Vikings, basically. Found a lovely 13th century church called Holy Trinity and took many photos. Found the Cat Shoppe. Found delicious carrot and ginger soup in a half-timbered inn somewhere in the Shambles. Photographed the Minster from the outside as the queue to get in was crazy long. Found the ruins of a Benedictine abbey, happily situated next to University of York King's Manor, both picturesque in their own ways.

Train to Cambridge. Man from John Lewis was very chatty to me sitting on the benches waiting at Peterborough. Met by Kari Sperring and spent the evening with her, old friend Anne Wilson and partner Michael Abbott. Chinese takeaway, book talk, red wine, gossip, made extra charming by the presence of Horus, Ish and Telzey who distributed themselves on laps at will and wandered around investigating the leftovers. Slept like proverbial logs.

Day 6, Cambridge, London. Late rising, good coffee and bread for breakfast, visited Phil Nansen's forge in the back garden, ride to station, sorry Cambridge, but we saw nothing of you. A social visit was much more to my taste than dutiful touring around, though I would like to come back and actually see the area sometime. Checked in to Ashburn Hotel and was pleased with my choice. Dinner at Byron Proper Hamburgers: good burger according to John, great Cobb salad according to me, liked the cheerful quick service. Checked bank balance. Still have money, rah. Bought Adele the Quality Street chocolates she said she missed from living in London. Bought Trish faboo nail polish. Gifts: sorted.

Tomorrow, over to Tower Hill to see the Tower of London and the poppy display, then a trip to Bishop's Stortford for lunch with Carolyn, Nina and Ray. Will pop my head into her office to say hello to old friend Susanne if that's not intrusive to her boss. Then back to London in time for some walking around and dinner with John. Friday, we fly home.

General thoughts: the magic has gone out of London for me. That's not to say I'm not enjoying myself enormously, for I am. But I remember how foreign and curious and imbued with magic London once was. Now it's just another city I know well enough to consider familiar even though there are large parts of it that are no such thing. I don't think I'm sad about that. I just notice that not once have I thought with that interior sense of wonder, "I'm in London."

I decided we should come in the first place because it was clear to me our friends were aging and it might well be the last time we saw some of them. I was, in fact, greatly sobered to note how many people were using canes or scooters at the convention and how poorly some of them were. My people are not generally fitness and health nuts. It's showing now. But of course some are as trim as when they were 25 and not everyone has white or grey hair. I am fairly spry myself, though fat. As I thought, once we all adjusted for the decade or more since we'd last seen one another it was just like old times. Less dramatic, quieter, but still so good to see everyone.

Finally, this vacation really has gone the way I hoped it would. I've been living in the moment, frequently offline, taking lots of photos, enjoying John's company, seeing interesting things. It was the best Worldcon I've been to since 1984 and that's saying a lot. Worth every penny. I only wish you could have been here, too.
glvalentine August 20 2014, 16:38

Catwoman #36 Cover and Interview

The cover for Catwoman 36 has been released! I missed the Mary Sue exclusive reveal last week, but am glad to see people seem to be into Jae Lee's cover art. I'm so excited about this pared-down cover style, which we revealed in the initial announcement and I voted one million percent to carry over when it came up. I'm double excited about Selina's deconstructed-tux uniform while she's out of the Catsuit (I am, to no one's surprise, deeply invested in what everyone in this comic is wearing, which we'll get into once the comics come out). And though it's definitely a stark image, and I can't talk about specifics because of spoilers, I'm hypothetically invested in the symbolic Doppelganger aspect of Selina facing off against Catwoman...and possibly losing.

I tried equally hard to avoid specifics in this interview with Dynamic Forces, which was a lot of fun. It includes some thoughts about how Selina plays power games with herself, what she's willing to do for the sake of Gotham, and the phrase "sexy, sexy impasse." (Yes, it's about That Relationship.)

Catwoman #36 is due to hit shelves in November! I will have given in and started talking about the clothes long before then.
sartorias August 20 2014, 13:28

Wednesday Reading

If you like gritty fantasy, Blair MacGregor has released a second fantasy in her Velshaan world, Sand of Bone. The ruling family, the Velshaan, hope to regain the powers they once had. Raskah, who can be regarded as a young prince, is confident that if he mates with his sister Syrina, they can together regain access to phenomenal powers.

But Syrina, so close to him until their teens, flat refuses--and so is sent in exile to the nastiest place possible, Salt Hold, where troublemakers not put to death outright are sent to drudge salt in return for minimal--very minimal--supplies.

Syrina makes tentative friends, well, an alliance, with Pyrius, the Blade Commander sent to Salt Hold. Syrina in exile is studying desperately, parallel to her brother, to gain access to those powers. When she understands that her brother is coming for her, she makes a desperate decision in order to survive.

The book opens with Raskah demonstrating in unflinchingly vivid detail, exactly why Syrina has turned from love to hate. And fear.

Like the previous book, there is a whole lot of violence here. Desert survival breeds toughness, and ruling tough people shapes attitudes toward hardness and harshness. But this is not completely a grimdark book--or I would not have been able to finish reading it. I am not the audience for unrelenting grimdark. When one can predict the grue and grim coming, and it comes, I lose interest. When there is no humor I lose interest. If there is no glimpse of wonder, I'm gone.

MacGregor almost loses me in the second half, but she doesn't because the characters are so complex, the moral dilemmas so interesting, and the moments of the numinous so breathtaking that I kept reading way, way too late into the night.

Though this book can be read independently of the first, it does set up for a sequel. The high stakes are set up, and everyone is moving toward . . . what? I'll be interested to find out.
sartorias August 19 2014, 00:44


rachelmanija and I were asked to do an interview for a blog site, for our forthcoming book. I know, whoop-dee-do. The thing is, they asked for a photo. I don't have a recent photo. I hate photos of me. I always look awful in photos. But they asked, and today I went to the Huntington Gardens with some friends, and with the photo threat, er, need in mind, asked a friend to snap me a couple of times. I *think* they are okay--as good as I will ever get--they don't even show the buckets of sweat from the ferocious heat.

So anyone who hasn't fallen asleep from flagrant writer ego making a big deal over a minuscule subject, can you help me pick which is the least crappy?

After the cut.
Collapse )


Me at Huntington


Me 2 at Huntington
sartorias August 17 2014, 01:53

Russian Swashbuckle!

Black Lightning trailer here), a Russian sf adventure film about a flying car.

The Hussar Ballad, made in 1963. Full of adventure, romance, passion, elegance and war, with a cross-dressing heroine faking it as a Hussar, it's terrific entertainment--even if I can't understand a word. At least it's there on YouTube, which leads me to hope that someone might come along and redo it with subtitles. Hey, it happened with the superlative Russian historical drama 17 Moments of Spring.

I'm pretty sure it has to be based on The Cavalry Maiden, by Nadezhda Durova, one of the first published autobiographies in Russian. I wonder if Tolstoi used it as part of his research for the intensely detailed and resonately realistic battle of Borodino sequence in War and Peace. The film greatly romanticizes Durova's experiences, which she recounts with trenchant reality, even if she finesses stuff like her age and her lovers.

Watching this delightful film, it's weird to think of the height of the Cold War in the background. Makes me wonder if someone a hundred years hence is going to look at history during my own lifetime and think it the surreal dream of a dyspeptic entrepreneur. Give me my romance, please.
sartorias August 15 2014, 17:16

Double Pigeon Swarm

The news has been so very stressful (outside and family) that I was exceptionally grateful for a double pigeon swarm this morning, as I drove back from yoga.

Usually I get one. I tried to film it, but the industrial buildings, the car, the phone poles prevented me from getting much, and the pigeons are so tiny on the iPhone screen. They swoop and dive, and sometimes I pause and watch them, and listen to Dexter Britain's "Driving" over on SoundCloud.

Today two swarms waltzed and swung and wheeled around and around overhead, yin and yang, white and gray.
athenais August 13 2014, 01:19

Lauren Bacall

She was my favorite movie star when I was in high school and longing for the elegance of the 30s and 40s. She had that amazing face and the husky voice; you couldn't forget her or mix her up with anyone else. I read her biography when it came out and was not disappointed as sometimes one is when one's crushes are revealed as egotistical or petty. I saw as many of her movies as I could, not so easy in the early 70s but later fairly easy to find via the Classic Movie channels on tv.

Vale, Miss Bacall. You brought a lot of glamour to a glamorous business and didn't let it go to your head.


Lauren Bacall in Key Largo
lbmango August 12 2014, 13:44

Random linguistit thought

So if you think of any nationality/cultural group of people, we have a word for the common feature of the group, an adjective to describe something from the group (their food for example), and a word for a person from that group. (The first is a little vague, it's mostly just so that I can describe the group without using either of the other two words)

For example, People who come from America, we have "America", "American food" and "an American".

For some groups, the word for a person is a shortening: Judaism:Jewish food:a Jew. Denmark:Danish food:a Dane. Sweden:Swedish food:a Swede.

For some groups, the word for a person is a suffix: America:American food:an American. Germany:German food:a German. Italy:Italian food:an Italian. Norway:Norwegian food:a Norwegian [to show that there is no Scandinavian bias towards the 1st group]. Spain:Spanish food:a Spaniard [to  show that it's not always the adjective form, and to show that it doesn't always end in an 'n']

For some groups, we tack on "man": England:English food:an Englishman. France:French:Frenchman. Ireland:Irish food:Irishman. [Historically, we also had China:Chinese food:a Chinaman, but that's archaic/offensive now I think)

For other groups there is no word for the person, so we need a phrase: Japan:Japanese food: a Japanese person. Switzerland:Swiss food:a Swiss person [I suppose we could say a Switzerlander, but that doesn't sound like correct English]. The Netherlands:Dutch food: a Dutch person.

Some fall into several categories, like you can say a Scot, or a Scotsman.

I'm sure that most if not all of this is pure phonetics, that some sounds work well together, so get used and others don't. But I still think it's interesting.
sartorias August 11 2014, 23:19

Oz in SoCal

This past weekend I was a guest as the Winkie Con in San Diego, the first to be held there--and judging by the phenomenal success, will happen again, I hope. What a delight! Even the weather cooperated, being pleasantly warm instead of withering as it was all last month.

I was interviewed by J. B. Bell, a writer and historian who impressed the heck out of me with his questions. Not that I've been interviewed often, but mostly it's been by someone who nipped a biographical summary off the back of a book and then left me to yammer, no doubt heading out to do something more interesting, like count paperclips or vacuum cats.

And that was emblematic of the weekend. If you love Oz, this is the con for you. People love the books, or love the movie, or love both--there is no conflict between the different sets. Oz people are friendly, easy to talk to, enthusiastic. There was a display there of Judy Garland's actual gowns; there were rare editions of L.Frank Baum's works, and a tour going to Coronado where Baum had lived and worked right before WW I broke out. Oziana of all sorts, in short. And the program book was full of fascinating articles--usually I toss Program books, as they are mostly ads and burble, but this one I'm keeping.

Saturday was the writers' workshop, which was a lot of fun, as well as intense. Dedicated writers with interesting projects always make for a great workshop, and this was no different. With me as workshop guide was a sharp, well-read agent from The Dijkstra Agency.

Panels ranged from questions of gender identity in Baum and other literature to trivia contests. The costume contest was awesome, and there was a truly startling green Wicked Witch who swept through on the first night, cackling madly, and gave an interview.

Saturday night's highlight was a full stage performance of Baum's musical from 1913, The Tik Tock Man in Oz, which toured the country through 1914 and then pretty much languished. Some of the songs had that teens-era sound, others were quite clever. The story was almost nonexistent, mainly a flimsy structure hooking together the songs and the dancers, but the performers were so good that they infused it with charm and an otherworldly sense of fun.

On Sunday, William Stout and I told the story of our two Oz books, during the production of which every single horror story that can happen to writers and illustrators in publishing did happen, at the end of which, we were not paid, as the packager through whom the deal went died unexpectedly, having spent into the future. I love Bill's drawings, and it was such fun hearing his stories of travels to Antarctica and the Galapagos and volcanoes, and his enthusiasm for comics and film.

A terrific weekend--even worth the five hour snail home as every single vacation vehicle west of the Rockies was on the San Diego freeway, as always in summer.
sartorias August 11 2014, 19:31

For dog lovers

I am suspicious of a lot of fundraisers with heart-rending pleas but diffuse goals. I suspect the true goal is pocket lining. But my daughter looked into this one, which has a specific goal: easing the overcrowding in SoCal shelters by flying dogs that have homes waiting. They figure it's $88 per dog. Maybe it will even give other dogs a bit more of a chance, too.

Anyway, more here.
tithenai August 4 2014, 20:59

LonCon3 Schedule

My LonCon3 schedule, let me show you it! It's pretty packed. I'll note up front that in addition to panels I have an autographing session and a Kaffeeklatsch, so those are places where I am guaranteed to be in a way that you can at least tokenly converse with me if all other plans fall through!

I'll also be at Nine Worlds, but there are couple of things still being ironed out in that schedule, hopefully to be posted tomorrow, post-travel.

Better Worldbuilding Through Poetry
Thursday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

When you ask someone to think of poetry in SF and fantasy novels, they are liable to think first of the epic or pseudo-epic verse of Tolkien and his inheritors -- language used to elevate and mythologise the world and the events they create. But poetry can be put to many and varied uses within larger works, as evidenced by such recent books as Anne Carson's "Red Doc>" (a verse novel), Sofia Samatar's "A Stranger in Olondria" (which includes poetry as imagined literary history), or Kim Stanley Robinson's "2312" (prose-poems evoking AI consciousness). How do these and other SF and fantasy works use poetry to help create moods, worlds, or characters? What forms and what kinds of language are most common, and why? And to what extent is poetry contextual -- are there examples of writing that we accept as the next page of a novel, but would treat as a poem if published separately?

Catherynne M. Valente (M), Jenny Blackford, Amal El-Mohtar, Greer Gilman, Neil Williamson

Autographing 2 - Amal El-Mohtar
Friday 11:00 - 12:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)

Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes
Friday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

Sofia Samatar recently suggested that SF genre writers and readers have "a tendency to focus on content rather than form", even or especially when engaging with marginalised perspectives. Does our genre inevitably tend towards the form and structure of western, English-language stories, regardless of what cultural tradition(s) are reflected in the content? How can a non-western or non-Anglophone writer engage with science fiction and fantasy while also operating outside of the conventions of western-style storytelling? Is it possible for western writers to engage with non-western traditions in an authentic way and produce a story that a wider audience will recognize as science fiction or fantasy? What are some of the different forms offered by non-western cultures that need to be told?

Amal El-Mohtar (M), Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, JY Yang, Nick Wood

Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Next Generation
Friday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)

Alongside the much-discussed golden age of animated cinema, we're living in a golden age of animated TV. Shows such as Gravity Falls, Venture Brothers, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Adventure Time, and Avatar: The Last Airbender can be as clever, funny, politically challenging and emotionally sophisticated as any live-action show. This panel will discuss when and why the best of these shows work so well -- as well as the constraints they still face, and whether some of them fall short of their ideals.

Amal El-Mohtar, Abigail Nussbaum (M), Abigail Sutherland, Andrew Ferguson

Saturday 11:00 - 12:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Kaffeeklatsches and Literary Beers are small group discussions with authors, artists, editors, and other interesting personalities. Kaffeeklatsches are located in the London Suite, and Literary Beers in the bar area of the Fan Village.

Sessions are limited to nine attendees, and advance signup is required. Overbooking is not allowed. Sign-up sheets will be available at the Information Desk the day before each session. Morning slots (those starting 10AM-1PM) will be available from 9:30AM on the morning before, and afternoon slots (from 2PM onwards) will be available at 2PM the afternoon before. Each person in line may sign up for only one kaffeeklatsch per session, and only one person per kaffeeklatsch (although you may sign up for someone other than yourself). You must provide the attendee’s badge name and number to sign up. Three reserve places will be available in case an attendee cancels a booking or does not show up.

Unfortunately we can provide drinks only for session hosts, so please feel free to bring your own drink with you.

Race and British SF
Saturday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Four years ago, Tricia Sullivan threw a spotlight on the gender balance of SF authors published in the UK, leading to a continuing conversation that is -- perhaps -- finally having an effect. However, although other aspects of representation have been mentioned in the course of this conversation, they have rarely been the focus, and in particular it can be argued that UK fandom and publishing have not talked enough about race. To use the same barometer as Sullivan, only one writer of colour has ever won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and so far this century only three have been shortlisted. Yet the success of diversity-led events such as Nine Worlds suggests the audience is there. So what else should publishers and fannish institutions in the UK be doing to support writers of colour? Whose work should Loncon attendees rush to buy in the dealer's room? And whose novels and stories are we eagerly anticipating?

Amal El-Mohtar (M), Tajinder Hayer, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith, Dev Agarwal

Full-Spectrum Fantasy
Saturday 18:00 - 19:00, Capital Suite 8+11 (ExCeL)

Fantasy stories often rely on Kings and Queens, a merchant or two, and occasionally a guttersnipe on his way to the top. What does a fantasy world look like when it's shown from the point of view of people who aren't usually the focus: people of colour, women, anyone who isn't royalty (not even unwittingly)? Likewise, how often do we see engineers, union reps and factory workers in sf? Depicting multiple axes of human experience - a truly representative spectrum of gender, sexuality, race, class, and (dis)ability - honestly and with empathy can still be something of a radical progressive act in the world today. Which are the stories and series that attempt this, and how far do they succeed?

Mary Robinette Kowal (M), Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Jennifer Stevenson

Sindbad Sci-Fi presents The World at Worldcon: Arabic SF/F
Sunday 15:00 - 16:30, Capital Suite 8+11 (ExCeL)

Fantastical storytelling in Arabic doesn't begin and end with The Thousand and One Nights; in fact, there is a long history of speculative fiction in Arabic, stretching all the way back to medieval intellectuals like al-Farabi and Ibn al-Nafis. This panel will explore the past, present and future of Arab and Arabic science fiction narratives, including authors writing in Arabic - such as Ahmed Khaled Towfik and Noura al-Noman - and the work of members of the Arab diaspora, such as Amal El-Mohtar and Saladin Ahmed.

Yasmin Khan (M), Ibrahim Abbas, Noura al-Noman, Yasser Bahjatt, Amal El-Mohtar

Who else is going?

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