Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Page Numbers … How Quaint

I was visiting my old pal [Name Redacted To Protect Privacy aka Nrp] tonight, and she happened to have copies of One Sunny Night and Retrograde Horizon, imagine that. She brought up a curious fact – my books lack page numbers.

Frankly, this whole business of numbering pages hadn’t occurred to me because I’ve been reading books at percentages for the last few years.

So if you have a paper copy of any of my books, you can tell it’s a first edition by the lack of page numbering. I’ll put out a second edition in June or July sometime and fix that.

It reminded me that the original draft was going to be exactly 360 pages. Twelve thirty-page chapters. It has since expanded to approximately twice that size.

Given the absolute lack of page numbering, I hereby decree that readers may highlight, annotate and turn over corners to their heart's content. They may use any found object as an impromptu bookmark. If they find any pages objectionable, they may rip them right out of the book and write better ones and staple them in.  As the author, I have authority to authorize this.  

It was cool hanging out with Nrp by the way. I think she is the awesomest singer in San Francisco. Yes, I know there are a lot of singers in San Francisco. I once played bass in a band with Nrp and her then-bf Mike (rest in peace), and while it never achieved epic status, it was lots of fun.  

One of the things we were talking about was reading books that formerly belonged to dead friends. Sometimes you'll find a little note, or an underlining, or a cartoon ripped out of a magazine, or an old boarding pass, or some other little touch that makes you think about the book's former owner reading those same exact words that are now passing through your own brain. So yeah, leave little clues in your books to let everyone know you passed through. Pristine is probably an unachievable ideal anyway.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm not finished with regard to the subject of wandering stars

Hugo Reviews: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

This is a love story between two men, set in a Mediterranean fantasy kingdom, where men fight wars and women stay out of the way. One is a soldier, the other is a beast tamer. There’s a bit of social intrigue and a twisty ending, and not much violence. The fantasy elements are incidental to the relationships.

This story sits right at neutral on my dial. I liked it immediately after I finished it but now it’s a day later and most of it has drained right out of my brain. The characters were well drawn and seemed realistic, but I probably wouldn’t get along with them. They lived in a fascinating city, but I wouldn’t want to live there. There was plenty of sex, but I found none of it erotic. I would recommend this, but only to people that I think would enjoy a gay Persian-style romance. My voting feelings for it are relational at this point, totally depending on whether I love/hate the other novellae.

I have wishlisted the two expensive novellae by writers whose corporate publishers think they're more awesome than Stephen King.  If these works drop to a reasonable rate before voting closes, I'll buy and review and vote on them. If not ... the idea is to jack up the price after you win the award for excellence. Not while you're still bumbling around in a pre-excellent state. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Packing for BayCon

I don’t think I’ve ever been to BayCon, but I might have attended one or more back in the eighties. At that time I lived in San Jose, and I spent my time with the RPG-fannish, nascent computer nerd population. There was some overlap with the science fiction fannish East Bay including the SCA and the neopagans and hippies and so on. I stayed around the fringes until the early part of this century, at which point I sort of gave up on the subculture(s).

Ironically, over issues they’re furiously trying to rectify now – sexual harassment. I’ve hopefully aged out of getting harassed myself. My last straw happened while comforting people who had been subjected to sexual predation, and yeah, at one time the community was full of it. Maybe I’ll write about that some day.

It left me with a residual sense of social distrust. These days I am a confirmed loner, aside from my cat and a handful of friends I’ve known for a long time. While I love socializing with the other nerds, and filking, and discovering mutual obsessions, and dissolving into a froth of bad puns, obscure references and congenial laughter, I’m not too inclined to enter into any social bonding that’s likely to earn me subpoenas in the future.

I’m kind of socially warped myself. My dad had this weird thing about constantly moving to new houses, and never having social friends. I’m not sure if there was a deep dark story behind that, or if he was just trying to encourage familial closeness inside his delusional bubble, but I was the kind of kid who could cheerfully spend a weekend alone in my room so I took the isolation a step further. Then when I left home in my teens I spent a few years being very social – in nerdish circles, where many awkward tendencies were forgiven, especially for young blondes, because we had our own way of interacting that was very different from how the "mundanes" (or whatever fond nickname you gave them) did it, with nerdish references rather than discussions of TV and sports. 

Socializing with non-nerds is something I try to avoid whenever possible, because I don't speak their language at all. Even socializing with nerds can sometimes set off anxiety attacks, so I always make sure I have an escape route. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to accommodate my tendencies and still do PR, so it’s kind of a learning phase.

Maybe I’ll spend most of Baycon lurking in my hotel room reading books on my kindle. Maybe I’ll get my extroversion mojo working in time. Maybe the french toast will be delicious.  Crossing my fingers.

Arabella of Mars Wins Nebula Award!

Major congrats to my favorite YA novel this year, Arabella of Mars, for winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What Does The Title "Retrograde Horizon" Mean?

The title-drop happens in the middle of Chapter Six. Sonny is looking at video filmed from underwater (by a sea cow) and asks about the horizon indicator.

One kind of horizon indicator is the artificial horizon used in airplanes
Sonny wouldn’t know about these because airplanes no longer exist in his world; the decrease of oceanic oxygen has led to massive turbulence, for one thing, and materials degrade a lot faster in the changed atmosphere.  Sonny does know a thing or two about maritime navigation, but he has always used an interface with a top-down view and no need for a horizon. 

Kai explains it’s a horizon indicator. Mention is made of Venus, visible above the horizon. Kai remarks Venus is retrograde, and Kayliss explains “retrograde” means the planet appears to be going backwards from the earth’s perspective.

Sonny then jokes his horizon is retrograde, by which he means he keeps going forward without ever getting anywhere. Contrast with Kayliss’ quote from Alice in Wonderland toward the end of the story, which has a very similar meaning. 

In classical astrology, retrograde would scramble effects supposedly attributed to planets. A Venus retrograde might be accompanied by bitter wine, disagreeable women and discordant songs.  A Mercury retrograde might be associated with miscommunications and delays. Many moderns have reinterpreted retrogrades as being similar to some kind of universal bad transit or curse, attributing an even wider range of ill effects to them. Some people, in fact, state they are sensitive enough to feel a retrograde happening. 

Let’s get even deeper, because I enjoy that sort of thing. Here’s Wikipedia on the apparent retrograde motion of planets – what Kai means when he says Venus is retrograde (further note: Kai is a wayfinder, or a Polynesian style navigator, and he’s also an expert on general sailing and navigation from a variety of perspectives including European and Asian, so I would take his word for whether Venus is retrograde):

This apparent retrogradation puzzled ancient astronomers, and was one reason they named these bodies 'planets' in the first place: 'Planet' comes from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. In the geocentric model of the Solar System proposed by Apollonius in the third century BCE, retrograde motion was explained by having the planets travel in deferents and epicycles.[cite omitted] It was not understood to be an illusion until the time of Copernicus, although the Greek astronomer Aristarchus in 240 BCE proposed a heliocentric model for the Solar System.

As I mentioned briefly in passing before, my characters are all symbolic planets, and they bond over a common tendency to wander, and Sonny’s coming of age is associated with learning that he’s a wanderer too.  Sonny, however, is not a symbolic planet per se, he’s a solar symbol, because it all revolves around him, in heliocentric fashion. And he has just gained an understanding that apparent retrogradation is an illusion.

Moreover, the term “horizon” is astrological jargon for the ascendant/descendant.  Relative to this story, the ascendant is chapter one, and the descendant is chapter seven. Sonny is making his whining complaint about twenty pages from chapter seven.  He’s asking “are we there yet?” just shy of the halfway mark.

There’s also a boatload of foreshadowing in that particular passage, but I can’t really talk about that yet.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hugo Complications: No Freebies For Me

I am a member of Worldcons 74 and 76 but not 75, and therefore I don’t get a free Hugo voters packet of eligible books, even though I nominated and can vote. Yet another caltrops in my quest for free stuff.

Free stuff was 50% of the reason I got into this Hugo voting thing to begin with. The other 50% was to save the world from what I was told were wicked fascists, although most of them turned out to be plain old libertarians wearing scary masks, just like in Scooby Doo. The idea of getting a predigested pile of certified Good Science Fiction for the paltry cost of a $40 membership seemed like a good idea.

Alas, my free stuff packet my first year included all the Puppies’ greatest hits, including all the JCW I ever intend to read in this lifetime -- more, in fact. My second year wasn’t much better, since I had already read half the novels, although I did get a few worthies. I have now registered for 2018 in San Jose, which means I’m getting a speculative assortment of whatever we end up nomming next year, and if it sucks, maybe it’s time to get involved in some other award – like maybe a YA-centric one rather than one focused on sci fi.

This year, I bought two of the novels: Too Like The Lightning and Ninefox Gambit, both of which I reviewed. Of the rest, three of them are sections of series that I’ve already read parts of. I voted for Cixin Liu and N.K. Jemisen my two previous times, and I don’t find myself wanting to return to either fictional universe. As far as Charlie Jane Anders, nope.

So I think I’m going to vote for Lightning and then Ninefox and be done with novel.

I’m weird about spending money. This comes out when I go shopping at Amazon. Ooh, Stephen King, click instant-buy!  Hmm, this noob writer is charging seventeen bucks for their e-book, they can go stand in fire.  Membership for con over a year away, no problem! Membership for con I’m not going to, just so I can get something like $100 worth of media for $40?  But I’m not going to that con …

I’ve already burned through novelette and short story for free on the interwebs, so I went novella shopping on Amazon.  I purchased three novellae:

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
This was $3.99, and so far I’m enjoying it; a romance between two dudes, a soldier and some kind of beastmaster with a pet cheetah, in some fantasy kingdom.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson 
               Also $3.99. Write-up says Lovecraft.  Love me some Lovecraft.

Penric and the Shaman (Penric & Desdemona Book 2) by Lois McMaster Bujold
I’ve never been able to get into the Vorkosigans, probably because I have the attention span of a toddler with a sugar high. I did like the Penric story from last years noms, so I’m looking forward to this – and it was also $3.99, even though the author has awards and acclaim and fame and could charge $6.99 like Stephen King if she wanted.

I already own Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle ($3.99).  This leaves only two novellae:

This Census-Taker, by China MiƩville
Eleven dollars and ninety-nine cents. (More than a calzone!)
NPR’s blessing, many reputable awards. A story about a terrified kid. Nope.

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
               Nine dollars and ninety-nine cents. (More than a couple slices depending where you get them!)
               NPR’s blessing, many reputable awards. A story about a terrified kid. Nope.
               Oh, and it’s also some kind of parasitic … I mean, a postmodern deconstruction of books like Narnia, including Narnia, without really saying “yo, this here is some Narnia fanfic by a very negative angry fan” kind of like The Magician, and in fact this book is reminding me of The Magician, which is a book I can’t stand … nope.

Also, I could probably explore the terrified kid on a journey archetype a little further, but I’m giving that subject a broad and general nope because I’m working along similar themes, and don’t want to catch myself either stealing (lol, as if) or even worse, spinning my own story toward some kind of reactionary reply (definitely a likely scenario). The nopelist means ain’t gonna read/review/comment on/bother with until possibly later when I’m writing different stuff.

I reserve the right to cave and read items from my nopelist before it’s time to vote, but first I want to read all my shiny new $3.99 novellae and rank them accordingly.