Gone Home

So, this weekend I'm visiting with my parents. (Mom needed some help with her garage sale.) We stayed up late sorting through things and then I got up at 6:30am because the sale was supposed to start at 8am. Only my mom overslept and hey... we didn't have things in order until 9am. [shrug] Everything went well anyway. And then we walked to the garage sale down the street and I met my new sofa. Isn't it pretty? It's perfect for reading.



One of the other things that happened is that Mom gave me a copy of an old obituary for my couple-of-greats grandfather on my mother's side that she'd brought back from the trip to Missouri for Grandma's funeral. Apparently, the quarter of the family that I thought was very, very English (Branson) is, in fact... [drum roll please] Irish. LOL. Yeah. So... after telling everyone that I had no Irish lineage this whole time... as it turns out, I er... lied. And there you are.

Tonight will be frozen yogert and tomorrow I'll return home to be with my sweetie... wherein I predict that I'll have to defend the new/old sofa until it's safely arranged and settled in the livingroom, and he sees how marvelous it is.

 

Maps

It has occurred to me that I might have to draw a map for my new Epic Flintlock Fantasy. I confess, I've been kind of avoiding it for a couple of reasons. You see, I played a great deal of D&D back in the day--Hell, I still play. And well, I got into the map-making aspects of things pretty heavily. We're talking artificial aging with lemon juice, crumpling/smoothing, and setting the edges on fire. Then one day my perfectionist streak went even farther, and I came to understand that I wouldn't be happy unless the land masses, river systems, and mountain ranges made geological sense. I took one look down the looooooooooong hallway of madness and said, "Nope." I admit it. I can be a perfectionist when it comes to worldbuilding sometimes, but I draw the line at geology. I'm not even sure there's a "I know enough to create a good basic map." It takes me forever to draw maps, and I'm never really sure I've done a good job. Plus, it takes so much time away from writing. All over something that people will probably glance at for 15 seconds, mutter a "that's pretty" and then dive into the important stuff which is, let's face it, the STORY. I'm a little conflicted about fantasy maps, clearly. I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I've had maps of Middle Earth plastered on my walls for ages. I've spent hours upon hour pouring over those things. I love them. But I haven't done the same with any other series no matter how much I've enjoyed it. I don't know why for the most part. I can sense the ones that are just thrown together for the sake of having something at the front of the book. Those I don't tend to give much thought to. Every once in a while there's a pretty one, but largely, I'm not that into it. I don't think I've even referred to a map while reading the story. You'd think I'd want to get my bearings where country A is in relation to country B and C--not so much. I understand this is unusual. I suspect more epic fantasy readers use the maps than don't.

Fantasy maps certainly have a following. Sometimes I wonder why? Does it make the setting more real? But my philosophy is that it is up to the writer's prose to make the setting believable--not the art. And if the reader is actually lost, then you're not doing your job as a writer well enough. (I'm very hard on myself that way.) Still, maps are pretty. I like them, and I was thrilled to death to find out that my publisher is hiring a cartographer for the final version of the map. I can't tell you how excited I am about that. It's just sooo cool. [bounce] But I have to do the main layout--so everyone knows what goes where and such. Thus, yesterday was spent drawing lakes and man-made canals. I haven't gotten to the land-masses themselves yet. (The lake system is where all the main trade routes are. The oceans are ruled by a single group of merchant-nations.) I don't know why my brain wants to work out where the water goes first... it just does. So, I'm going there first. If I screw up geographically, I'm confident the cartographer will help me fix it. That's just so... freeing, you know?

The Politics of Work

Today, Charlie Stross posted a thoughtful piece titled A nation of slaves. I highly recommend it. He brings up quite a few great points regarding workforce trends within the tech sector reflecting that of pre-industrial age agriculture as it moved into the industrial age as well as the factory industry as we've transitioned into the information age. One of the things I definitely agree with is the idea that there needs to be an attitude change about work. I like what he says about two aspects of jobs being that they are a)beneficial to the worker and b)beneficial to the community as whole. I, like Charlie, am among the privileged few in that my work is something I'd do even if I were paid a couple of million via the lottery or whathaveyou. Most people aren't lucky enough to have jobs that do both. Anyway, I posted a reply, and I want to re-post it here. Understand, it may make more sense if you read Charlie's post first.

Here's my reply:

"We need a guaranteed basic income scheme. We need it now. Otherwise the wheels are going to fall off, and the results will be extraordinarily ugly."

As an American, I very much agree with this statement. I'd like to make a quick distinction because there seems to be a lot of confusion on this point during these sorts of discussions. Capitalism is not a system of government. It's an economic system. What we have in the United States is a Democracy. In my opinion, Democracy hasn't so much "failed" but corporations and the billionaire few have successfully hacked it. The more and more corporations gain rights as individuals, the more trouble we're in. As a result, we're in a race against time to prevent the total destruction of our democracy. (Some would say we've already lost, but I don't view it that way as long as we have the vote and free speech via the internet.) That said, Capitalism is not how you run a country for the majority's well being--let alone those at the bottom. It runs against the American Dream and everything I've been taught to believe in regarding the American way of life. (I believe in equal opportunity, regardless of wealth, gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation.) Capitalism is how you run a country for the super rich which, ultimately in the end, isn't that much different from Feudalism--as your post points out. It's where we're headed. In my experience, Americans work longer hours than workers in the UK. Although some would argue that the reports state otherwise, I'd like to point to an article about McDonald's. (I'd like to also point out that this behavior is ILLEGAL.) This was my experince at a multi-national high tech firm. In fact, I left my "temporary" job because my boss expected me to work overtime without overtime pay on a regular basis. (She wanted me to work at 3am with people on the other side of the world and keep my daylight office hours.) She also expected me to work those hours for free. This was framed in a "do it for the team" way, but it was implied that I wouldn't retain my job if I refused. For the record, she regularly worked about 60 hours a week, sometimes more, and she was salaried. This is why I believe the reports are incorrect. The actual hours Americans are pressured into working aren't being recorded. In addition, with the introduction of the new Healthcare Act (which in my opinion doesn't go anything like far enough) some employers are attempting to pull back recorded hours even more in order to avoid paying for employee benefits. In retail, more and more employers are forcing workers into part-time "on call" schedules which makes it impossible to hold down a second job--let alone raise a family.

Ugly is already here.

Let's Get This Party Started

On Saturday, Dane and I forced a friend of ours to sit through a late night viewing of Cabin in the Woods. (Do NOT watch this video if you haven't seen the movie. It contains spoilers.)



It wasn't the first time I've watched that film. It wasn't the third or fourth time either. There's a reason for that. The story has all sorts of thought-provoking layers to it that I enjoy spotting, and every time I watch I get something new from it. This time was no different. It's no secret that I'm a fan of knight-in-shining-armor-good guy-types. There are none of those in this film, and that's what's so unusual for me. Mind you, I love 1970s era-esque anti-heros when they're done well. (See Mel Gibson in Payback.)



Actually, when I think about it Porter is a paladin-type--a really pissed off abanding-the-entire-concept-of-Mr.-Nice-Guy paladin-type. You can tell because he still has his personal rules. Clearly, he could ask for more money. Everyone in the Syndicate expects him to steal everything not nailed down, but for him it's about one specific thing. He gets what he wants, he's done. Which makes him (in D&D alignment standards) hovering somewhere around Lawful Evil or Lawful Neutral. (I can never keep those two straight.)

Anyway, because I was raised by a pack of wild martyrs I have a (let's just say) interesting relationship with self-sacrifice. Therefore, the end of Cabin in the Woods (note: I'm not specifically stating what that is) has always bothered me a bit. as I've said before my brain is the place where all sorts of things tend to mish-mash--things I'm reading, things I hear about on the news, things people say... It's great for inspiration. I've been reading quite a bit of American Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Era research and have been keeping up with current American politics from my liberal perspective.[1] Also, because I like YA I carry around the "OMG! Why are teens so obsessed with dystopias?! Save the children!" "Well, did you think that maybe--just maybe the reason why is because America has sold their future to the highest bidder--that they're the ones being sacrificed on the altar of Capitalism™, and they damned well know it?" Which brings me to the ending of Cabin in the Woods. Suddenly, I get it.
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[1] Dane keeps up with both sides of the fence. I can't read Red State. That bullshit raises my blood pressure levels so high that I can't concentrate.

Tuesday = "To the Pain"

I had an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon this morning. He imaged it and everything. It's officially Frozen Shoulder. And so it happened that I got TWO cortisone shots in my shoulder and not just one as advertised. That sucked. A lot. But he used a sonogram machine to place the needles and that was really cool to watch. Medicine. It's all science fictional now. Soooo cool. Seriously. It's hurting  a lot right now, but I've been reassured the sucker will stop screaming soon and then my mutant healing factor will kick in. Right, body? RIGHT?!!

Today is April Fools Day in the US. Yeah... I'm generally not big on pranks. It stems from being bullied as a kid. But today is another gorgeous Texas spring day. Perfect for porch writing. Norwescon is right around the corner. I'll post my panels tomorrow. (It's a pretty great collection of topics, I have to say. And I'm even moderating a couple. I do love to moderate.) Sooo looking forward to seeing folks. I love Seattle so much, and I hated to miss last year. Oh! I understand that the MST3K/RiffTracks folks are taking over the National Geographic Channel tonight. Oh, April Fools Day highjinx! Tonight is D&D night. So, we're recording those suckers.

In other news... I bought an iPad Air and a Zagg keyboard with book money. OMG, I love that thing. I've only just started using it, and I'm a little slow at exploring electronics when it's just for me. So, I've a lot to learn, yet, but so far it's sweeeet! I wrote 800 words on a new short story in addition to almost finishing the older one I've been rewriting. I really, really wish there was a version of Scrivner for the iPad, and I understand it should be arriving soon. (I can hardly wait.) Meanwhile, I'm going to buy a stylus for it so I can sketch with it too. We'll see how that works out. I also understand iPad is perfect for reading comics. Maybe I'll finally get through the entire Hellblazer run now? (I only got through the first chunk of collection-issues.) And I really kind of can't wait to see what Sandman looks like back-lit. (Gorgeous, I'm sure.)

Feminist Monday

In literary/entertainment...
The new SFWA Bulletin is blowing my mind. Yep. I got my copy on Saturday, and you know what? I'm good with keeping it on my coffee table. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. [dance, dance, dance] Thanks, SFWA! It was painful, but the effort for change was well worth it. Here's A Male Writer's Perspective. And this is why I do my best avoid the standard "female writer" bullshit and use the longer phrase "writer who happens to be female." Because there is absolutely no reason that 'writer' should be a gendered noun. Sameface Syndrome and other stories. Because all women look alike if they're pretty, right?

In general news...
JPMC doctors no longer allowed to prescribe birth control Let me repeat this: corporations have no business practicing religion. Corporations are founded to Remove Direct Legal Responsibility from the Individuals who Own Them. When you start having corporations with the power to embrace religious practices you are immediately destroying the purpose behind forming a corporation. The end. In addition, do they have the same policy with men and Viagra? Because there could certainly be a case made in the same extact vein. And do you really want your employer policing your life? That edges into a catagory of ick that (frankly) no one wants. Do you really want your employer making life decisions for you? Are we adults or children? If you're going to go there, you should consider the whole picture. And here's some more information: Women Justices Rock the Hobby Loggy Argument and And Why shouldn't the government force corporations to cover abortion? Nerdy Feminist makes a great point about that FB image floating around She's Someone vs. Narcissistic Fatherhood. Rick Perry: Talking about equal pay is 'nonsense.' Gee. Thanks, Governor Hair. Here's something to play with--the UN database allows you to compare the percentage of governmental representation for women in countries all over the world. Do you want to hear something depressing? There are a whole host of third world countries with more equitable representation than the US. I'm not making this up. Ours is a paltry 17.8%. Afghanistan is 27.7, and they're infamous for shooting girls in the head for wanting an education. What does that say? See for yourself. Kansas Moves to Defund Planned Parenthood and Force Doctors to Report Every Miscarriage. Yeah, that can't possibly go in a bad direction. Nope. Little girl taken out of Christian school after told she's too much like a boy. Just... argggh. And 'I'm grateful to the Tory who said feminists need a good slap.'

In the trigger warning section...
#RapeCultureIsWhen, Man Convicted Of Domestic Violence Can’t Possess A Gun, Supreme Court Rules That's a big step in the right direction. Why? "For women in particular, domestic violence is one of the biggest risks associated with gun ownership." And The “Divergent” Rape Scene: Here’s Why It Matters. I wasn't going to see that movie. Now, I think I have to.

Yesterday...

Was THE BEST!!! I started the day with an early breakfast with a BFF who'd snuck into town (very briefly) on business. The Omletry was still open at its original location. (They're moving, I understand.) Then we went for a walk around the neighborhood, and I showed her my favorite Craftsman houses in the area. In the process, one of the owners overheard me tell her how much I liked his house as he walked up to his place. "Thank you so much!" Turns out, he's an architect who does nothing but old house renovations. (And he does it right too.) I took her by the Hobbit house. (It's actually very Frank Lloyd Wright... but the colors and the round stones and such remind me of a Hobbit's hole.) Then we went to the Toy Garden house to see the toy arrangement of the day.[1] The lady that owns it (and does the toy arrangements) was outside, gardening. She too heard me talk about how it was the coolest place in the neighborhood, thanked me, and then invited us to take a tour of the inside of her garden. Seriously. What a gift! The rock walls are artfully collaged with natural stone, broken garden statues, broken stoneware pottery, mosaic tiles, wine bottles and so on. It's gorgeous. I've been dying to see the other side of the wall for years. After that, Dane and I focused on cleaning up the house for a small birthday gathering/cook out. One of my friends, Jack, brought over his new Tesla. (I do <3 the fast cars.) Imagine Disney shows up at your house with a free E Ticket ride just for you. It was amazingingly amazing. (The *stereo* actually goes up to 11.) Jack rally races. So, when I say he took me out for a drive... [cough] My friend Matt looked at the power consumption chart and said, "See those spikes? Basically, every one of those was a Stina-squee." He wasn't lying. Heh. I got to pick the soundtrack--New Cadillac by The Clash (of course) followed by some Undertones. There was a little kids party across the street with a bouncy castle. Folks were saying how I should've gotten one. But you know what? I got to ride in a Tesla. I WIN! And then... Dane gave me the latest version of RockSmith. (I've been ever so patiently waiting for noon to come so I can crank up the guitar.) [sigh]

Great birthday. The best.
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[1] I've taken pictures. Thing like a little sign saying, "It's dinosaur race day!" and rows of plastic dinosaurs 'racing.' "Take some plastic beads and have a great day!" Sometimes it's "Take a toy, leave a toy." It's really cool and creative.

Birthday Ramble

The birthday fairy is showing up tomorrow (er... I guess 45 minutes from now) to smack me on the head with her magic wand. Poof! Another year older. I tend to take stock of things--it's what I do, and you know what? I'm really happy this year, and I've been so for four years now. Mind you, everything isn't perfect. There's always something. That's just Life. And like you do, every once in a while I wonder if I'd ever want to be twenty-something again, and you know what? I don't.[1] Twenty-something came with a load of crap I never want to live through again. I'm happy I survived it. I'm thankful for the lessons learned, but I like this version of me a hell of a lot more than I ever did younger me. Twenty-something me had no confidence, was desperately unhappy, and had far too much baggage. In some ways, I saved up all the good stuff until now. I like to say I'm lucky in that I'm young enough to still have fun causing trouble, and yet, I'm old enough to have a healthy sense of mortality. That's kind of my plan here on out, really. I have plans re: writing, but I have achieved some things. That's a great place to be. And today it occurred to me that I've more ideas for novels and stories than I've ever had in my life. That too makes me happy. As for my marriage... well, as Bud said the other day at lunch... I'm a flaming monogamist, and I'm very good with that. Dane is a wonderful man. He makes me happy. He understands me. When my grandmother died he came home and waited until I was ready to talk. He actually made a point of staying put. Me? I was running around the house for this or that distracting myself until I could face the real work of talking it out. He's my rock. He just gets me--sometimes more than I do myself. (My hope is that everyone on the planet is so lucky to have people who love them and understand them. It's pretty marvelous.) My shoulder is slowly healing. I'm confident it'll get better and be normal again. It already doesn't hurt as much. Oh, I need to get rid of a few pounds, and I should get with some sort of exercise thing. And yeah, I need to get involved in some sort of art thing. At the same time... I'm actually learning guitar. I never thought I'd ever be able to do that. Of course, there are a lot of things I've done that I didn't think I'd ever do. That kind of kicks ass. Anyway, I wish this kind of birthday on all of y'all. May you be happy. Because it's far more fun to share that shit.

I guess that's kind of boring to read about, but it's where I am.
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[1] Unless I could go back, knowing everything I know now. I really would be Hell on Wheels.

Race and Race in Science Fiction/Fantasy

So, yesterday I listened to the Coode Street podcast. Specifically, Episode 182: Steven Erikson and Ian McDonald. There were quite a few interesting points discussed--not that this is unusual with Coode Street, but they were relevant to things I'm working on at the moment. Steven and Ian right away talk about genocide, Imperialism, and cultural appropriation.[1] Ian says that cultural appropriation is what fiction writers do. There's no way around it. And I have to say that's kind of a relief to hear. Mind you, I still believe there are better ways of going about it--like actually studying[2] and having some respect for your subject. But at the end of the day... yeah. It pretty much is what we do. Let's admit it. There are a lot of thoughtful points made. I'm giving the episode a second listen because it is an important discussion. Also, there are good points made about Fantasy worlds being stagnant. This has been one of my own complaints about a lot of Epic Fantasy. But then, I'm interested in anthropology and archeology, and my approach to Fantasy is that one should make it as realistic as possible. Because (for me) making the world as realistic as possible is what make the read fun and interesting. It allows the reader (and myself) to become more immersed in the story. Mind you, not everyone enjoys that sort of Fantasy, and that's why there's not (and never should be) only one way to write Fantasy. Another thing I enjoyed hearing was Erikson criticize the concept of brain size being used to determine intellegence in ancient peoples while at the same time we reject the idea of Phrenology (as applied to modern humanity) as racist. I've seen this kind of prejudice in authoritative, nonfiction texts discussing religion. (For example: Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas has a distinctly Christian slant. Christianity is treated as an exception and all other belief-systems are discussed with barely controlled disdain. I couldn't get past the first few pages.)

And then this morning I came across a series of articles about the inadequate ways Science Fiction and Fantasy handle race. For example: Star Wars and the 4 Ways Science Fiction Handles Race, Whitewashing Defenders' Greatest Hits, and Don't Half-Ass Your Racism.[3] Mind you, I think that some points in the first article are stretched a bit too far to make the pattern fit. Nonetheless, they are points worth examination and thought. Of course, these sort of articles always lead me to ask the question, "Is there a 100% Right™ way to have a discussion about racism and/or Imperialism within Science Fiction and Fantasy? Personally? I don't think that's possible. The problems are far too complicated for such a simplistic idea. The best we can do is to keep striving for an equitable and constructive discussion. Perfection isn't an option. At the same time, is there a 100% wrong way to do so? Oh, Hell yes. And that's why I continue to read articles like the ones below. I'm educating myself. It's why I keep publishing the links and keep looking for more. I'm going to make mistakes. I'm just hoping I'll make smart mistakes and not the stupid ones.

Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind is an excellent read. Here's a great quote from the article: "There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are." Next, The post-racial rebolution will be televised. I have to say (again,) Bruce Lee was the entire reason I watched The Green Hornet when I was a kid. I didn't give a crap about the white guy. I wanted more Bruce Lee. I couldn't stop watching him. He was just amazing. It makes me sad and angry that he didn't get to play Kane in Kung Fu. That show would've been mind-blowingly good with Bruce as the lead. And THIS: "You're trying to hold a mirror up to society, and if that mirror is skewed in one direction, then it's not a true mirror," Guggenheim says. Then there's this: Yes, It Is About Race and Why For-Profit Prisons House More Inmates of Color.
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[1] Listen, if you have the time. It's well worth it.
[2] Not just lazily riffing off of what other outsiders have already done. You're highly likely to make a bad, bad mistake.
[3] I saw Priest and found myself hating it even though I wanted to like it. I didn't know why at the time, and now I do.

In Dreams

This is just one of the millions of reasons Holly Black rules: she has a secret library room hidden behind a bookcase. How kick ass is that? One day (when I'm a grown up writer--ha!) I'll have my own secret lair within to write while curled up next to a fireplace. Because. It's houses like that that make me want to move to the east coast or even Seattle. We have them in Texas, but largely you'd have to want to live in a small town a million miles from nowhere--or have lots and lots of movie money and spend it all on the house, maybe both. I don't want to live in a small Texas town. Given that my husband works for a game company and needs to stay in that industry, that isn't a possibility, even if I wanted. I love old houses. I always have. There's something about them. They have character. They feel alive and warm. I don't like new houses. They feel soulless. And we've just pegged the main reason Dane and I probably will never own a house. We're both creative types. We're lucky we can pay bills, meet the expenses required for our respective professions, and eat all at the same time. It's why we didn't have children too. Heh. We make choices, so we do. And you know what? I'm happy with ours. Very happy. But like Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, "It's always something." And now... house porn. Because.

I blame Charles Addams. I just... do.

Every house I've fallen in love with has been "haunted" or went through a period of being unloved. One of the reasons I first majored in Architecture was in order to refurbish old houses. For that, I blame It's a Wonderful Life and the tv show Thirty-Something.

And then came Practical Magic. This house is absolutely everything I adore--right down to the greenhouse/conservatory off the kitchen.

Yeah. I've a thing for towers, big staircases, porches, and gardens. I dream about this house in various forms pretty consistantly and have since I was a teen. Everytime I do, it's like visiting an old friend. I want so much for it to be mine and/or for it to be loved. The difference between my dreams then and my dreams of it now is that now I feel the house can be mine. I'm almost there. Whereas before it was totally out of reach. But there's still this sense of panic that it'll be torn down before I can own it. When I feel most successful is when I dream about that house and it's being just within reach. When you think about the dream symbology (that a house is the self) it makes perfect sense.

What about you? Do you dream of houses? If so, what style? Why?