Swan Tower

May. 27th, 2015

12:17 pm - My Hugo Reading Rules (and a good proposal)

Now that I’m back from tour, I’m downloading the Hugo Voters Packet and embarking upon a read of its contents.

. . . some of them, anyway. I’ve laid down a set of rules to guide me in deciding where to spend my time and energy. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m listing them here — but please do not take this as anything other than my rules for the process. Nobody is obligated to copy my example. In fact, the only universal rule for Hugo-Packet Reading I would support is one that says, read it any damn way you want. I spent a while this weekend reassuring somebody who had been told repeatedly that she absolutely had to read everything in the packet, no matter what, which simply is. not. true. As you will see from my own rules:

  1. I will at least look at everything that was not on a slate. (Time permitting.)
  2. I will not look at anything published by Castalia House. I am not obligated to give Theodore Beale and his cronies any real estate in my brain.
  3. Ditto the piece from Patriarchy Press. The name, coupled with everything I’ve heard about the work in question, tells me enough to make that decision right now.
  4. Other slate-based nominees may get a look from me, depending on how much time I have to spare.
  5. If any nominated work, from a slate or not, doesn’t hook me, then I’m not obligated to finish it. If I have to use the leverage of “but it was nominated for a Hugo!” to motivate myself to read the whole thing, then clearly I don’t like it enough to rank it very highly anyway.

Since I’ve said it in a few places, I should add: my own way of handling the problem of slate-based nominees who might have gotten there under their own steam is to keep an eye on them for next year. My supporting membership gives me the right to nominate for 2016; if I like a slate candidate’s work here, I’ll give them high consideration for a nomination next time around. It’s the best balance I can personally find between not rewarding slate tactics, and not punishing those who didn’t sign on for this train wreck.

And where countering slate tactics is concerned: there is quite a good proposal here for altering the Hugo nomination process in a way that will counteract that problem, without too much in the way of negative consequences. Scroll down for the plain-language version and the FAQ — that’s the post where they’re trying to work out the official language — but the short form is, it’s a way to make nominations work kind of like voting does right now. Nominate as many works as you like; as the lowest-ranking candidates are eliminated, their support gets reallocated to other works on the nominator’s ballot. It minimizes the power of bloc voting, without punishing works or individuals who also have strong support outside of the bloc, and it does all of this without disenfranchising anybody — which is the major flaw of many proposals, e.g. the ones that say you should have to buy a full attending membership to nominate or vote. I haven’t followed the entire technical discussion of voting systems that led to them choosing this one, because that discussion is enormous and full of math I can’t follow . . . but it looks good to me. I hope it can get enough support to pass.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have some stuff to read.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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May. 25th, 2015

02:13 pm - CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 5 Kickstarter is nearly there . . . .

We’re down to the last couple of days, and CP5 is within striking distance of its goal. This is the anthology series that previously brought you “A Mask of Flesh,” “Once a Goddess,” “The Gospel of Nachash,” and “What Still Abides” — along with, of course, a host of stories from other writers, ranging from newcomers to Tanith Lee.

There’s an AMA underway on Reddit, where you can (as the name indicates) ask editor Mike Allen anything. Check that out, check out the Kickstarter, and let’s get this over the line!

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May. 22nd, 2015

08:57 am - most adorable fan art ever, Y/Y?

So yesterday I’m on my way to Borderlands Books for the last reading/signing event with Mary (the tour isn’t quite over, as I have BayCon yet to go, but I’m almost there), and I see that somebody has mentioned me on Twitter.

That someone is Victoria Ying, an artist at Sony Pictures Animation, who has worked on a couple of films you might have heard of: Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 (OH MY GOD HOW MUCH DID I LOVE THAT MOVIE). She has apparently read A Natural History of Dragons . . . and this is the result.

Forgot to post the final painting from my "A Natural History of Dragons" @swan_tower Isabella and Greenie! pic.twitter.com/dDRqAYtZDG

— Victoria Ying (@victoriaying) May 22, 2015

. . . it’s wee!Isabella. With a jar of vinegar. And Greenie pickling away in it.

<melts on account of adorableness>

Seeing that, and then reading to a packed crowd at Borderlands (it’s always a good sign when they run out of chairs), and then meeting this lady, who showed up with a dragon on her shoulder:

Honeyseeker at Borderlands Books

It’s a good way to (almost) end the tour.

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May. 20th, 2015

08:00 am - The Story Revealed

Final guesses on the novella I finished last week included “Haitian loa” and “kitsune” — both incorrect. But then two people guessed correctly! So when I get home, tooth_and_claw and sarcastibich, I’ll send you a list of what books I have on hand, and you can tell me which ones you want signed and mailed to you.

This was actually even harder of a question than I thought, because it turns out that one of the giveaway details has never been mentioned on this incarnation of my LJ. If you conducted a search (which wshaffer almost did), you would have had to do so on my old blog, the one I was using up until 2006. The number of people who have been following me since all the way back then is quite small . . . hence admitting this was a difficult challenge, one I didn’t necessarily expect anybody to get. The best chance for the rest of you was to have a good enough memory to remember that I linked to one of those songs last year — in fact, precisely one year to the day before I posted it again as part of this series. That, I believe, was the last time I said anything on here about Ree Varekai.

I mentioned her before and during my tour last year, because music had put her back into my head, and I found that the core of the concept still held a lot of power for me. Enough power that I started poking at it . . . and coming up with a cosmology where she could exist without copy-pasting the game world she came from . . . and then working out a plot for a novella that I really need a title for, so I can stop thinking of it as the “proof of concept” story where I’m test-driving my idea to see if it works. And then during this tour I decided to buckle down and try, and now I have a draft of the novella and this is a thing that might actually happen.

So what were the clues? Well, that fourth song was from the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai — that’s why it wound up on Ree’s game soundtrack, because of her name. (I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted her full name since the old journal. Mea culpa.) The third one, as I said, I linked to precisely one year previously; it’s also from her soundtrack, and stood for the moment when she hit utter rock bottom, just before the transformation that made her whole once more. The other two are recent additions to her score: “Bad Moon Rising” for the way her fatalist aspect is linked to the lunar cycle, and “I Will Not Bow” just because it fits. That’s what she sounds like when her fatalist aspect is dominant over her survivor aspect, when a pragmatic understanding of the obstacles has become “fuck everything; I’ll just take you all down with me.”

If you didn’t guess, don’t feel bad — you basically have to know Ree to guess most of those songs are pointing at her. (Both of the people who did guess were players in that game.) But hey: the bright side is, now I have all kinds of other things that apparently you all think I should write about! :-)

As for the novella, I don’t know what will happen with it. I need to revise it, and then see about trying to sell it somewhere. News on that when I have any to share.

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May. 19th, 2015

09:01 am - My BayCon Schedule

I’ll be at BayCon this upcoming weekend; here’s where to find me!

1. Themed Reading: Women’s Work on Friday at 3:00 PM in Stevens Creek
(with Laurel Anne Hill , Amy Sterling Casil, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff)

In honor of the Bicentennial of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, hear authors read from stories about women that have jobs in a STEM (science, technical, engineering, and math) field.

[I will probably be reading the Lady Trent short story I wrote last weekend for this one.]

2. Themed Reading: Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 11:30 AM in Alameda
(with Cassie Alexander, Deborah J. Ross, Sinead Toolis)

Dragons. Unicorns. Centaurs. All different, yet all are creatures from the genus Mythical. Hear authors give their spin on tales about mythical creatures (also known as “cryptids”).

[Not sure precisely what I’m reading yet. Could be a bit from one of the Memoirs, but I may pick a short story instead.]

3. The Biology of Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 2:30 PM in San Tomas
(with Emily Jiang, Kevin Andrew Murphy (M), Cassie Alexander, Kathleen Barthlomew , Tex Thompson, Seanan McGuire)

The storytellers who originally invented the mythical creatures of legend didn’t have an understanding of biology, genetics, or evolution. When writing a mythical creature into a new story for a modern audience, how far does a writer have to go in re-imagining the creature’s biological backstory? Does providing biological details add to the story, or does it throw off readers because those details clash with their expectations? What are some successful examples of mixing realistic biology with mythic animals?

4. Themed Reading: Historical Fantasy on Saturday at 4:00 PM in Saratoga
(with Tex Thompson, Diana L. Paxson)

It’s our world, in the past, and yet it’s not. Hear authors read from stories set in Earth’s history, but spiced with an extra element of the fantastic.

[I’ll be reading an Onyx Court short story about Ada Lovelace, one I haven’t yet shopped around.]

5. The Joy of “Vic Spec Fic” — Victorian Era Speculative Fiction on Sunday at 11:30 AM in Bayshore
(with Norm Sperling, Lillian Csernica, Jim Partridge, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Brad Lyau)

Even without any steampunk trappings, the Victorian Era (or a fantasy world’s equivalent), is a rich landscape for imaginative fiction. We know about life in this era through the writings of authors as widely different as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. In this period someone could still be both a student of art and a student of science, before specialization took those fields in separate directions, but at the same time enough advances in technology had been made that it could become the era of steam and of Charles Babbage. In this era women had many constraints, yet it still had the example set by Ada Lovelace, Babbage’s programmer. And it’s also an era of exploitation, colonization, and grinding Dickensian poverty, and the moral quandries that they raise. Hear authors and fans of historical settings discuss why the Victorian Era is such a great setting for science fiction and fantasy. With or without steampunk clockwork.

6. Celebrating A Woman of Wonder: Ada Lovelace’s Bicentennial on Sunday at 5:30 PM in Bayshore
(with Karen Brenchley (M), Edward Kukla)

Girls, do you think it would be hard to become a mathematician? Imagine how tough it would have been in the Victorian Era! This December will mark the 200th birthday of mathematician Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, whose work with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine has led to her being called the world’s first computer programmer. Usually referred to as Ada Lovelace, her Victorian Era career has inspired modern efforts like the creation of Ada Lovelace Day and the formation of the non-profit Ada Initiative. Learn more about why she is such an amazing role model and why people have been inspired by her example to work towards getting more girls into science, technical, engineering, and math careers.

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May. 18th, 2015

10:00 am - Guess That Story, Part 4

I’ve had two more guesses, one non-serious (but it made me think I should write a Medusa story someday); the other was “werewolves” — which is amply suggested by “Bad Moon Rising,” but alas, is not correct.

So: last shot! This is about as obvious as it’s possible for me to get — which means still not that obvious, but enough that there’s a fighting chance:

A change of pace from the three depressing songs I posted before. :-) It isn’t all grimdark over here at Swan Tower . . . .

Any takers? There’s a signed book in it for you, if you guess right . . . .

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May. 16th, 2015

10:00 am - Guess That Story, Part 3

I’ve had two more people take a stab at guessing, but no successes. One was in email, and wasn’t so much a guess as “I feel like I should know the answer based on X context” — which was, sadly, off-target — and the other was a tongue-in-cheek guess of “Lune,” made by someone who knows exactly what I’m writing about. :-P A third person said the songs would be appropriate to Supernatural, but they don’t think I’m writing fanfic; indeed I am not. This is a piece of original fiction, written in the hope of selling it, and not for an official tie-in anthology or anything like that.

Since nobody has nailed it yet, it’s time for a third hint! If you missed the first two, they are here and here.

Getting less subtle as we go along; if this doesn’t do it, I have one more I’ll post on Monday, that’s about as blatant as I can get (at least as far as musically-based hints go). Which still isn’t that blatant: you need a pretty good memory to recall the pertinent details and think “oh, so that’s what she’s writing.” But there are people reading this blog who might be able to pull it off — and besides, I’m entertaining myself posting these songs. And isn’t that what really matters? ^_^

Remember that I’ll give a signed book away to the first person (if any) who correctly guesses what I’m working on. You don’t need to guess the exact plot, just a general description of who or what I’m writing about.

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May. 14th, 2015

09:16 am - Guess That Story, Part 2

I finished a draft of the story in question last night. It’s officially a novella: 18,100 words. I need to add in a few bits, but I also need to tighten up other bits, so I expect the word count will stay in that general ballpark.

Someone on the previous post said that “I Will Not Bow” made them think of Julian, which was eye-opening for me: I firmly associate that song with a different character, but upon listening to it in that frame of mind, I can see where there’s a resemblance. But no, the story in question is not about Julian, which means you get a second musical hint!

This is less subtle than the first one, though still obscure enough that the list of people who could spot the connection is pretty short. (And several of the people on that list are disqualified on the grounds of too much insider knowledge.) I will say, though, that if anybody manages to guess what I’m working on before I run out of hints, I will send that person an autographed book of their choice out of my pile of author copies — subject to availability, of course.

If you still can’t guess, never fear — there are more hints to come . . . .

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May. 12th, 2015

03:05 pm - Let’s play “guess that story!”

While I’m on tour, I’m taking a crack at drafting something new. I’m pretty sure it’ll be either a novelette or a novella, but if this piece works, it might also be a launching-point for something bigger. And I figure, to keep you all entertained while I bounce from city to city, I’ll give you a chance to guess at what it is!

Here’s your first hint:

Ignore the visuals; it’s the song itself that’s the clue. It rather perfectly encapsulates the character this story is about. Mind you, it’s a bit of a long shot that anybody might guess this one; you kind of need insider knowledge to put it together with things I’ve said before and realize there’s a connection. But don’t worry; if nobody guesses it from this, I’ll provide another hint to make it easier.

(If you’re one of the people I’ve talked to in person about wanting to do this story, then you are disqualified from guessing, for obvious reasons.)

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May. 11th, 2015

03:59 pm - What I Did on My Summer Vacation I Mean My Book Tour

Lady-Victorian

Because Mary Robinette Kowal is a mad genius, one of the stops on our book tour was the Oregon Regency Society’s Topsails and Tea event. And of course, if you’re going to go on a tall ship . . . you’re going to do it in costume, right? (Here’s another shot that shows more of the ship.)

In fact, I got to go on board twice. After our reading and signing on Saturday afternoon, we partook of the Evening Sail, during which I may have pretended I was Lady Trent on my way to see dragons. >_> And then before we left for Portland on Sunday, we decided to go back for the Battle Sail.

And, well. I had this other costume sitting around my closet, left over from a one-shot LARP, that I’d thought I would never have an excuse to wear again . . . .

Lady-Lieutenant

Yeah, I hauled a naval lieutenant’s uniform — bicorn and all — to Oregon, just so I could wear it on board a tall ship while there were guns firing. :-D

There’s another twist to this story, too. I didn’t realize, before I got to Oregon, that the ships involved in the Topsails and Tea event were from the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority: the Hawaiian Chieftain and the Lady Washington. Many of you may know the Lady as the Interceptor from Pirates of the Caribbean; some of you may have heard me rave about their “Two Weeks Before the Mast” program, where for a remarkably small fee and a fortnight of your life, you can volunteer on board and learn to sail. I’m intending to do that next year, as research for the book I’ll be writing after the Memoirs of Lady Trent are done, so this was a little foretaste of what’s to come. Between that and the fact that I was in uniform, I really felt like I ought to be doing more than standing around . . . .

Lady-Line

Yep, they’ll let you pull on a line or two if you ask nicely. ^_^ But really, this is what I’m looking forward to:

Lady-Aloft

Next year, my friends. Next year.

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