Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rather Tenuous Name-dropping

So here's my very slight connection to the former President Ford. Well, first I grew up in West Michigan, so there was a highway named for him and a museum. I remember going on a school field trip to the museum. It was not the most exciting museum for whatever age I was--far too young to appreciate it.

But then a slightly different connection. As my profile says, some years ago I was hired to write a history of Camp Roger. The current organization began in 1941 when a group of business men bought it to create a summer children's camp, but prior to that it was a choir camp of the episcopal church in Grand Rapids. It originally had only a director, who was also the choir director, but in the Depression the director felt overwhelmed with the work, and the church appointed a board of governors to assist him. And who was on this first board? Gerald R. Ford. Senior (the president's adopted father). So that was one of the little tidbits I uncovered in my research. I really wanted to discover that the president himself had been a camper, and we didn't have complete lists of every camper...but I'm afraid it was unlikely. The choir director kept clippings about and correspondance with his former campers and would surely have had that on Gerald Ford if that had been the case. But the archives at St. Mark's church had no such clippings.

Nevertheless, just based on the bit we'd learned about Ford Sr.'s connection with the camp, the directors contacted the former president a few years ago, and he agreed to be an honorary member of the capital campaign board (which the book had been a part of the groundwork for the capital campaign). So potential donors received letters from a group of people that included President Gerald R. Ford. I always thought that was fun :)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A couple memorable stories from Strange Horizons

I've been a pretty faithful reader of Strange Horizons this past year. Every Monday I check out the new content--a new story, often a poem, an article or essay, and the first of the week's reviews. Then each of the next few days I go back to read the next review that's posted (and often to finish the story, which I seldom take the time to read all the way through on Monday). I don't always like their stories--some I don't even finish--but when I like them...wow. While there's more prestige in getting published in one of the established print magazines like F&SF, I'd be equally proud to have a story appear in Strange Horizons.

Since this week there's no new issue, I decided to put links to what I consider the most memorable stories of the past year. I'm not saying they're the best (I'd have to reread them all to make such a claim), but these are the ones I remember best and would definitely be in the running for best of the year if I was creating an anthology. If I remember right, both stories received good-but-not-great reviews from Tangent, but recommended or highly recommended from Lois Tilton of Internet Review of Science Fiction (speaking of which, I should I add a link to them over on my sidebar--I'll do that soon).

So here they are: Draco Campestris by Sarah Monette. If you demand a straight-forward plot, this may not be for you, but I found the museum world with all its politics and interactions wonderfully evocative.

And The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons by David J. Schwartz. Hauntingly beautiful prose without turning purple. It's what some of my stories dream of becoming when they grow up. It's the story of a poet who creates the weather of each of the seasons by crafting different types of poetry.

So, if you get a chance this week (if you, like I, will be going through Strange Horizons withdrawal), check them out, and feel free to mention any other stories from there that really stand out for you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Which Science Fiction Writer are you?
(Courtesy of Vanderworld)

I am:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Perhaps the most admired writing talent in the science fiction field.


Which science fiction writer are you?

I'm pleased with that result. It definitely fits where I'd like to be considered within the field. More or less--obviously not all my views and interests will be identical to hers. I think the main thing that put me in her camp was the answer to which branch of science interests me most. I put sociology and anthropology. Biology and genetics also interests me, and when I retook the test with that selected (and a couple others that I'd been debating between switched), I got Samuel Delany, and switching that answer to psychology and neurology brought back James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow storm

Well, we'd planned to go up into the mountains today and spend a couple nights in a cabin, but with the large snow storm moving through, we're stuck here in our house. I love snow, and every last bit we get in the winter will help us next summer when it's so dry...but the timing really isn't ideal. We're not able to get a refund for our cabin, though they are sending us a gift certificate if we can find a chance to get out there sometime before May. I think we've had 6 inches of snow so far, and they predict up to a couple feet--in Estes where the cabin is, they might be getting up to 3 feet. Hmmm, I wonder if it'll actually stay long enough for me to go find a good place to cross country ski...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Training my son early...

...to like fantasy. My son is 2 (and a couple months), but he already enjoys books that are much longer than you'd expect for his age. Not surprising when you consider how much both his parents like to read. So I'm getting him hooked on fantasy et al as well as I can. For a while, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was one of his favorite books--it also remains one of my favorite children's books, so that was good. I haven't read that to him in a while, but he does enjoy The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book, both of which I'd consider speculative fiction of a sort (and also among my favorites). But with his last selection from the library, he's gone fully into the genre. He found a Narnia book. OK, he's not quite to the point I can read him the actual Narnia books, but there was a picture book of Prince Caspian that really does go through the entire plot of the book (what does that say about the book?) in a standard picture book length. So now he can say "Narnia" and has even been saying "To battle!" at random times. Hmmm, is that a good thing?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Resurrecting a dead language

I just read this article on MSN about resurrecting a lost language from Virginian Indians. Pretty cool stuff, and I'm sure the story could have been expanded into a even more engaging and in-depth feature. I'm always fascinated with language in general. Probably me biggest regret of my current life is that I have little chance to use my Spanish, and I'd love to add some lesser known languages to those I speak or understand. In college I taught myself a bit of Catalan, and got to use that in Spain, though valenciano in Denia is a bit different from official Catalan. I briefly tried teaching myself Welsh, I think it was--I don't even remember, so clearly I didn't get far. Old English would be fun too, and I've memorized bits at times (Faeder ure, thu the aert on heofonum as well as lines of Beowulf that I forget now), but not much. And though I'd love to understand Tolkien's languages and have toyed around with books and websites, I never reached that level of fanaticism.

Some time ago I was interested in an organization that promoted endangered languages, and one of the interesting ideas they promoted was comparing linguistic diversity to biological diversity. It's a topic well worth a far more detailed exploration than I'm ready to give this morning on my blog...but as it combines my interest in language with my interest in preserving the environment, it's easy to how it would appeal to me. It always saddens me to see the people of a distinct ethnic group that no longer know the language their grandparents spoke...but by that token I guess I ought to go out and learn Frisian.

Ah, here's the organization, after following links from other sites: Terralingua. Check it out!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas tree and all that jive

I just wanted to use the word jive. I don't know when I've used that last. According to my dictionary, it comes from jibe, which comes from the Dutch gijben to shift over (a sail), to gasp for air. What do I take from this? Nothing right now (except that like me it comes from a Dutch background). But I'll store it away, and someday it might bubble up in a story and surprise me.

Anyway, I'd been meaning to write a bit about the tree we put up last week. We bought an artificial one. A younger me would have been appalled. We always bought real trees when I was growing up, and I loved the smell of a fresh tree in the house. I also worked for a couple summers as well as occasional after-school and weekend shifts trimming and loading and selling Christmas trees. Even now, while looking at my artificial tree, my hand longs to grab a machete--I can't say I enjoyed the job as a whole, but there was something enjoyable about it in small doses. Maybe I should plant a pine tree (or Colorado spruce, since I'm in Colorado!) and get myself a machete and trim it through the years ahead.

So why'd we get an artificial tree? Partly convenience--we're not surrounded by tree farms here like I was in Michigan. Partly the feeling that cutting down a tree to put it in my house for a few weeks seems like a bad environmental idead. Is it ultimately? I'm not sure. If I'm not buying as many trees, what happens to those acres of tree farms? Are the trees left to keep growing? And are new trees planted in the same numbers? If not, what happens to that land, and is the new use ultimately worse for the environment? I don't know. I'm sure it's an interesting thing to explore, and probably someone already has.

But regardless, we have an artificial tree, and it's a nice one. Our son likes it--we didn't have a tree at all last year because we'd moved 6 months earlier, so all our decorations and such were in a storage unit, and we were already preparing to move a few weeks after Christmas. So this year we get to actually make our house look a bit Christmas-y, though nothing like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

So I hope you enjoy the holiday season--both those you celebrate and those you don't. Peace out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Steam Magnate

Well, I've been researching a variety of publishers, partly because I haven't heard back from the one that has Darkness (not even responding to my follow-up queries) and partly for future things. So one I've been intrigued by ever since I learned that they're publishing Zoran Zivkovic, is Aio. A few weeks ago, one of their authors, Dana Copithorne, recently guest blogged for a week on Jeff VanderMeer's blog, so I decided to check out her book The Steam Magnate.

I finished it last night, and I thought I'd jot down a couple reactions. Does the fact that I'm interested in submitting to the publisher make me more charitable to it than I otherwise would be? It's possible, but I think I can be fair.

First, the book itself as a physical object. It's wonderful. On their webiste, Aio talks of producing books that will be treasured for more than just the story they tell, and they succeed. Before I picked this up, I wasn't sure exactly how much that would affect me--a book is a book, right? But the quality of the paper and just the feel of the book...it's like it has weight that your typical paperbacks don't. I liked to just carry it around even when I wasn't going to have the chance to read it. The book also contains illustrations painted by the author, which adds a nice touch.

So what about the story? Two things jump out at me. First, it's beautifully told. The author clearly cares about language, isn't just throwing the words at the reader to get a meaning across. And the words themselves are working to evoke an entire, strange world that's unlike any other fantasy I've read. There's a poetic quality to the way we see Broken Glass City especially. The northern territories and the coast also rise from the page, but it's the city itself that stands out.

Which really gets into the second thing that drew me in--the setting and society. It's completely unlike typical speculative fiction--neither pseudo-medieval nor futuristic high-tech. Not steam punk, though steam power is important to the world. Certainly not ancient. In many ways it feels like a modern world, with telephones and trains (though no guns or planes), a high awareness of museums and works of art and nightclubs. But in other ways there's an archaic, mythic quality to it. This will unsettle some readers wanting to understand the world better, but it ends up being fun*. That's probably the strongest part of it--its uniqueness. The setting itself and also the story told--of a strange magic or contracts and electrical power, of a member of an insulated community within the Broken Glass City and his desire to step beyond expectations but not beyond his people--it's all unlike anything I've read. There's no hint of cliched storylines or characters or anything.

It's not perfect. I was a bit disappointed in the ending--some of it felt rushed with how it all came to a head (though since I just finished it last night, I may decide eventually that I liked how it worked). And I would have liked to see more of Jado and his ethnically insular community. There's also a hint of the characters re-enacting an ancient myth of another ethnic group, but this doesn't seem fully played out...though I believe a sequel is coming, which could develop that more.

In all, it's a very good book for those looking for something different.

And now I've read it, what are my thoughts about whether Aio will be interested in my novel? I am definitely still interested in submitting it. It's not a big press, but I'd be very proud to have my book produced so beautifully. Mine is--superficially at least--much closer to standard fantasy. It's still a ways off from that, but closer. When I started it (5 years ago now!), I consciously told myself I'd accept many of the trappings of fantasy, but anytime something felt like it was nearing a cliche, I'd veer away, sometimes actively subverting them. Still, the story does involve swords and battles, even if that's not the primary focus. So we shall see what happens. I'm currently tweaking the manuscript a bit, but I hope to send it out to them (or someone else, if I become convinced it'd do better elsewhere) fairly soon.

So wish me luck! And while you're at it, go check out The Steam Magnate.

*(and I'd love to see a map--but I just love maps in general, whether of the real world or any other)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tangent Online and Shantytown Anomaly

A few weeks ago, I had a story, "Treasure from the God," appear in The Sword Review. It's now been reviewed by Tangent Online. I was quite nervous how it would be received there, since it's the first story of mine they've reviewed, and they're quite willing to tell when they didn't like a story. So it was a relief to see that the review is really quite positive. (I'm actually looking into doing some reviewing for Tangent myself in the future, though of course I won't be able to review anything that has accepted my work, even for a different issue.)

I'm also able today to announce a new acceptance. My extremely short (100 words exactly) flash fiction, "The Bomb of Eden" will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Shantytown Anomaly. It's a print magazine of mostly poetry, though they accept flash fiction, and the issue this will appear in will apparently focus on fiction. The story is a playful twisting of the Adam and Eve story involving an atomic bomb.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Long time away

Not that I've really been away, just haven't felt the strong push to blog, I guess. I was sick for part of this time, and my son has been quite sick (and isn't completely better), so that could be part of it. We'll see if I get back into it now that December's here.

So what's been going on? Some things I'll probably save for future blog entries. But I recently had an editorial, Arnie's Eyes, published in The Sword Review. I wrote about a special needs camper I helped care for a number of years ago at Camp Roger and how he influences the way I see speculative fiction. And I see now, looking at Camp Roger's website, that they have a full-time, year-round position opening that would include teambuilding and ropes. How tempting that would be if my life was completely different! No, I don't really want a full-time job--it'd make it so much more difficult to find writing time, and I'd miss out on so many things with my son. But if I was to go for a non-writing job, it would be something like that. The nearest camps here are an hour away in good roads, which doesn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility, but it's mountain driving, so when the roads are bad...let's just say I wouldn't want to do it. CSU here does have a very good ropes program that I may do work for at some point, but for now it just makes most sense for me to stay home with my son.

I didn't mean to blog about that stuff at all (except the editorial). But there you go. I guess I'll save other news for another time.