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Nine Worlds 2017 in sketchnotes – Part 3 – Sunday

Limits of Horror

I had mistakenly included this in my Saturday sketchnotes before.  I’ve moved it from there and placed it here instead, so if it looks familiar, that would be why!

I confess this is one of my less readable sketchnotes.  But I like it because I picked a thematic layout and managed to largely stick with it all the way through.

Ed (a friend and the moderator of this panel) gently prodded the panellists enough that they could have a discussion in which he was also a participant without taking over… feeding in a few examples or cues along the way to keep things rolling, and also being a walking encyclopedia of film – always useful on this kind of panel!

Unsurprisingly, the general opinion of the panel seemed to be that there isn’t really a hard line between Horror and Thriller… and a lot of where that fuzzy line sits doesn’t come down to the majority of the work, but instead to how much it leaves hanging.

Scanned Sketchnotes from The Limits of Horror

Sketchnotes from The Limits of Horror

3D Printing Gets Smart

I nearly didn’t go to this panel, as I’ve heard a lot of talk about 3d printing over the years and it’s all got rather repetitive…  but I ended up attending due to either a gap or a full panel elsewhere (I forget which). I’m glad I did, as it managed to cover new ground whilst remaining grounded in reality. I’m not able to add much beyond what’s in the sketchnotes, so here they are!

Scanned sketchnotes from 3D Printing Gets Smart

Sketchnotes from 3D Printing Gets Smart (1 of 2)

Scanned sketchnotes from 3D Printing Gets Smart

Sketchnotes from 3D Printing Gets Smart (2 of 2)

Watching a Galaxy Far, Far away

I wasn’t sure what to go to after the 3d printing session either.  I’d halfway assumed that anything star-wars focussed would be packed out (it often is) and that it might be a bit of slow or tedious listen – being a single-person presentation about that person’s personal experience of star wars.  But I wanted to go to something in this slot, and in the end, this was the least unlikely looking for me (the others didn’t look bad, to be clear, just not for me at that point in time, or involving a speaker or moderator I’d decided I’d heard enough of for the time being).

How wrong could I be!

Heartfelt, personal and loaded with interesting bits and pieces about both the star wars films and the times and culture the speaker grew up in – I think I’d say this was one of my high points of the con.  It’s certainly stuck with me more than some of the panel discussions did – and they were generally to a pretty high standard.

So, Marta Maria Casetti, well done!

It’s also stuck in my head pretty well as I planned to do a single page of notes, and so settled on a layout and theme with that in mind… and then had to repeat it in a hurry as the notes flew out onto the pages!  In fact, I was too slow with the pen to get a fourth page set in time to cover Rogue One – which was also discussed in the same manner.

Scanned sketchnotes from "Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away"

Sketchnotes from “Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away” (1 of 3)

Scanned sketchnotes from "Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away"

Sketchnotes from “Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away” (2 of 3)

Scanned sketchnotes from "Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away"

Sketchnotes from “Watching a Galaxy Far Far Away” (3 of 3)

Making Horror – Hacking the Player’s Brain

A panel on techniques for making players experience horror in computer games, LARPs and beyond?  It’s like they saw me coming!

I’m going to let the sketchnotes speak for themselves here…

Scanned sketchnotes from "Making Horror"

Sketchnotes from Making Horror (1 of 2)

Scanned sketchnotes from "Making Horror"

Sketchnotes from Making Horror (2 of 2)

End of the Con

At that point, there were more things we could have gone to, but Katrina and I were both tired and had both just come out of panels we really enjoyed… so we decided to say a few goodbyes to folk around the con and start our journey home.

Going out on a high note was a better plan than trying to cling on the to the very end, especially as the next slot looked slightly sparse for both of us.  We’d both have been able to find something to hold our attention in the remaining few slots, but felt it was better to call it a day and brave public transport whilst still able to function.

Thus ended Nine Worlds 2017 for us. We’re already looking forward to Nine Worlds 2018, even if it makes the mooted move to Birmingham!

 

Nine Worlds 2017 in sketchnotes – Part 2 – Saturday

The Power of Playlists

Did they really put Kieron Gillen on a panel first thing in the morning on the second day of the con? Was that wise? Even worse… it was in one of the rooms requiring complex investigative skills to find. Thankfully, the rest of the panel were also interesting folks – Megan Leigh, Lucy Hounsom and Charlotte Bond… aka The “Breaking The Glass Slipper” Podcast. Based on that panel, I will probably be checking out the podcast, too.

The general gist of this session was the four panellists talking a bit about how they use playlists in their writing process, and in particular, to help them get into moods, locations or characters.

Different creators leaned different ways, some preferring whole albums to track-by-track playlists…  some creating playlists for characters or locations, some who heard songs and just knew “I’m writing this now”.

Sometimes it starts with random associations, sometimes it starts with specific lyrics or specific moments. Much like the way I make associations between characters and music in gaming, only writ large and much more widely expressed.

There’s also a reminder to myself that I need to put together a playlist for a tabletop RPG I run… ran? Will run again? It’s been a while, but I want to get back to it!

For reference:

scanned sketchnotes - "The Power of Playlists" panel

Sketchnotes from the “The Power of Playlists” panel (1 of 2)

a second page of scanned sketchnotes

The Power of Playlists – Sketchnotes (2/2)

Access No Areas: Access Issues in Entertainment and Fandom

The sketchnotes here are largely a list of the problems mentioned. I will immediately apologise for any accessibility issues with this website – I do know better than to leave them there, but I fix web accessibility issues so much for the day job that I largely leave it to WordPress and their themes and UI here. This is my downtime activity, and I need to not be spending my whole life doing it.  I only have so much brain-space.  So, if this site has accessibility issues, please do let me know, but you’re more likely to have success by contacting WordPress.

Given the subject matter, here’s a bit more of a text summary of the content of the image:

  • Events like uniform seating, which doesn’t always work.
    My understanding of this one is that there’s a misguided idea that it’s required for fire regulations.  As far as I can tell, that’s not entirely true, although fire safety can be a concern with more freeform layouts.  It doesn’t mean they’re not possible, but it does mean it has to become somebody’s job to care, and they need to know what they’re doing…  which means you need to pay them for that knowledge.
  • Booking services are frequently actively hostile – if you can get through to one at all.  In my experience, they’re pretty hostile to anyone who uses them – not just those with particular requirements – but that doesn’t make it okay.
  • Strobes.  Just strobes.
    Interestingly, walking into this very room (albeit for a different session, I think) I spoke to Tech and pointed out an overhead light with a dodgy starter or bubble which was flashing at more than three times a second. This is particularly bad as that’s right in the “sweet spot” for photosensitive epilepsy and a bundle of other issues. The next time I was in the same room that light was dark. Nine Worlds has good tech crew.
  • Often a need for sustained assistance means you can’t do things.
    Sometimes, just having somebody help you into a space to do a thing isn’t enough – they need to stay with you in that space and be around you whilst you do that thing.
  • Often an ability to get by with only occasional assistance means you’re not disabled enough
    Venue staff have been known to spit out their dummy because somebody stands up from a wheelchair. “Miracle!”, they cry, “You are cured!”. Many wheelchair users can get up and walk – just not for sustained periods or in all situations. They are not “faking” just because they stand up.
  • Often venues have some accessibility support front-of-house, but none whatsoever backstage or on-stage
    I can second this.  In my past life as a techie, I have fallen down unmarked holes backstage, I have been hit in the head by invisible beams and I have been almost garrotted in the dark by neck-height dangling loops of cable.
  • Venue policies of “no more than two wheelchair users at once”
    I can see reasons.  They’re mostly bullshit reasons.
  • Less visible problems exist too!
    Not every disability is highlighted for your convenience.

There is more, but I can’t quite work out how to sum it up. Basically, if venues and organisers start thinking about some of this stuff, a lot of it is easy to deal with just by actually bothering to think about it!

Scanned sketchnotes from "Access No Areas" panel

Sketchnotes from “Access No Areas”

Lunch & Pop-up Market

These are both things which happened.  I can’t entirely remember what we did, and I skillfully resisted buying more RPGs that I would never find time to play. Although I was tempted!

I do wish I could find a way to make gaming fit in my life a bit better.

Redemption in Sci-Fi – From Vader to Teal’c to Aeryn Sun

Another of those “we’ve got an idea for a panel, but we’re not entirely sure how to make it work” panels. Interesting, but a bit all over the place. Reading the panel description wouldn’t quite have been a stand-in for attending the panel itself, but it’d be close!

The one bit that wasn’t in the panel description, and which made it worthwhile for me, was a discussion of the gender differences in redemption arcs – there are remarkably few female characters with redemption arcs in their stories. They tend to die instead.

It was pointed out that that’s not uncommon for male characters either – redemption closely followed by a sacrificial death at a pivotal moment is a common trope…  but for female characters, it seems to be rarer.  More often, they stick to being evil to the end.

Scanned sketchnotes for Redemption in SF

Redemption in SF (1 of 2)

Creating Characterization in LARP

I went into this one worried that I wouldn’t get much useful advice… but I shouldn’t have.  More accurately, I was worried it wouldn’t provide me with new advice and would instead just talk about stuff I already know, but which goes out the window the moment I get to a game because anxiety is a git.

I shouldn’t have worried – it had plenty. Sure, it had plenty I had already thought of, but it had more too and was a fun panel along the way.

 

[EDIT – Moved some notes to Sunday]

It appears my notes were a little astray – and I had previously included “Limits of Horror” in my Saturday notes when it was actually on Sunday.  I’ve moved it accordingly.

A Word on Panel Moderation…

I’m not going to name names on the internet, but this was the day that made me start looking for certain people in panel descriptions and just not bother going to their panels unless I know there’s a really good moderator.

If they are the moderator then I’m just going to skip it, too. I’m pretty sure they don’t mean to, but they have a tendency to speak over and interrupt the rest of the panellists.  If they’re delivering a solo slot, I suspect they’d be fine.  If they’re on a panel with a good moderator, they’d be a great contributor…  but otherwise? Nobody else gets to finish a sentence, which not only scuppers my enjoyment of the panel but also clearly troubles the other panellists.

I’m putting it down to them having a style that doesn’t work for me, rather than anything else… and I know moderating is hard – especially when you have opinions.  I know this feeling well – I do contextual enquiry interviews in my day job. Sometimes in those, I have to sit there biting my tongue while the person I’m interviewing is being wrong about something I designed, or while they’re missing a plainly obvious thing that’s right in front of my face.

But still.

(No, Ed, I’m not referring to you!)

Thus ends Day Two – Saturday.  I’ll get to Sunday at a later date.

Nine Worlds 2017 in Sketchnotes – Part 1 – Friday

It’s that time of year again.  Nine Worlds, aka London Geekfest has just concluded, so I fire up the scanner and scan in all my scribbled sketchnotes… whilst also using them as a prosthetic memory to help me blog about this event.

I’ve been trying a slightly different style this year, which is slower at chewing through sketchbook pages, and more useful for me as an aide-memoire… but, as it turns out, looks slightly less cool when scanned in.  Ah well.  I’m learning this new style as I go.

About Sketchnotes…

Throughout the convention I had several people say “I wish I could do that” .  To which, in almost all cases, I have to say “you can”.

I’m far from the best at sketchnoting, and I’m largely making it up as I go along. If you look at my notes, you’ll see that I’m not especially skilled as an artist – particularly not when I’m powering through scribbling whilst trying to keep up with people’s speech.

There’s very little technical skill involved.  I mostly do it as it helps me stay focused on what’s being said, and helps me remember it afterwards far more than just writing down words does. Treating words and scribbles as pictures probably shoves it through some different bit of my brain, and doing that helps me remember it all.

I’m not going to say that your first few sketchnotes will look any good. Many of mine look pretty awful – and I’m fine with that.  They still serve their purpose, and I share them because people seem interested in them. I do sometimes “forget” to share the really bad ones, but mostly I even put up the ones which didn’t work out.  Sometimes with some edits.

That said, I did go to a half-day workshop on doing this a few years ago. So I did get some advice and was given some confidence.  I’ve forgotten most of it, and I’m yet to try using some of the advice I got from it.  I’m still learning as I go.

So – if you wish you could do sketchnotes… my advice is to start doing sketchnotes.  It’s not the most helpful advice, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Maybe I should run a sketchnoting workshop sometime, or at least write a post about the things I pay attention to while doing it.

Meanwhile, on to the con report and sketchnotes…

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Recent Reading – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet & A Closed and Common Orbit

It’s actually been a while since I read these books – my time has been eaten by a pile of other things, including but not limited to: Christmas, birthdays (not mine), holidays, moderately punishing work schedules and getting married on two continents (one wedding, to the same person, but with one half of the wedding in the UK, the other in New Zealand) and having a supporting role at a friend’s wedding.

This means that I’m going to struggle to say much – partly because of time and partly because of spoilers.  But I’ll say what I can.  There will be some spoilers, though – particularly for the second book.

I’m going to start with “The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet” and then move on to “A Closed And Common Orbit”, both by Becky Chambers.

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Recent Viewing – Arrival

Stepping away from writing about my recent reading, I’m going to talk about some recent viewing.

Arrival.  Based on a short story by Ted Chiang (“The Story of Your Life”), this is a film built around the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis – which I’ll summarise as the idea that languages you learn shape the way you think and perceive the world.

The film focuses on a first-contact situation in which a number of alien vessels arrive on earth, and the efforts made by both us and the aliens to both understand and be understood.

Those efforts are made more complex by some differences in perception which are not apparent at the start of the film, but gradually become so as things progress.

Amy Adams does a fantastic job of portraying somebody who is struggling to understand and come to terms with grief, whilst also working to understand a literally alien language… a written language which is changing her perception as she learns to understand it and use it to interact with those who use it as their sole meaningful medium of communication.

It’s a slow paced, cerebral science fiction film. Whilst is has aliens (two onscreen), gunfire and explosions (well… explosion), it’s about as far from Independence Day as it’s possible to get. If you go in expecting an action-fest, you’re not going to come out with that expectation fulfilled.

This film has a small but strong core cast (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker) who all do a fantastic job of being who they’re meant to be, but it’s Adams who really shines in a role that needs to display a more complex emotional state than is immediately apparent at the start of the film.

It also has some well thought out production design.  The alien-ness interior of the extraterrestrial vessel is cleverly portrayed, and the way that the story moves between the vessel and the research camp built up around it helps keep things tight and a little claustrophobic whilst also injecting a bit of comprehension and decompression time into the film.

If you like smart, earth-based, first-contact SF then you should absolutely go and see this at your first opportunity. Avoid plot summaries. Hopefully my description above is vague enough to avoid being too spoiler heavy.

If I had to give a rating, I’d give this a full-on 10/10, with a note that I want to see it again to see how my perception changes.  I suspect I may find it rewarding.

Recent Reading – Illuminae & Gemina

After my recent(ish) post about Ninefox Gambit, I mentioned I’d be back to write about some other books. It’s taken a while to actually get back to the “add new post” screen of my blog, but I’m here now.

Slightly awkwardly, before I had a chance to write about Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, they squeezed the sequel out of their brains and into mine via the publishing industry.  So I’m going to write about Illuminae and Gemina at the same time.

Illuminae Cover Art Gemina cover art

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Recent Reading – Ninefox Gambit

I’ve not posted here for ages, it seems.  Probably because my efforts have been going elsewhere, but I thought I might post something now.

A while back I posted about books and reading; what they mean to me and how I’d had some problems but was getting past them.  I’m still not reading anywhere near as much as I did before my brain chemistry decided to go onto a long, drawn out spin-cycle…  but I am reading a lot more than I was when I first started to recover.

So I thought I might start to write a bit about a few things I’ve read recently.

I’ll start with Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, which might be a challenge. It’s a book I liked, but I’m going to really struggle to explain the book itself or why I liked it.  But I’ll give it a go.

It’s a military SF space opera where the weapons are ideas and the armour is convention and consensus. Essentially, the story is based around an insurrection against a rigid and dogmatic understanding of what reality is and the time in which is happens… by a slightly different rigid and dogmatic understanding of the same.  It’s about how the powers that be go about trying to stop it without being tainted by it – how to fight against a differing perspective and a different understanding without acknowledging to society that it’s even possible for it to exist.

Our view into this story is via Kel Cheris – a name which is one part person, and one part role or caste.  Cheris is the individual, whilst Kel is the role she inhabits.

As a Kel, she’s essentially disposable infantry, trained to act on formation instinct – which is basically programming to follow orders and behave according to certain pre-defined formations which prioritise tactical results over personal safety or comfort.  For the Kel, combat is all about using well established techniques en-masse to achieve set goals for the collective rather than to ensure personal safety.

Having a slightly unusual history for a Kel, Cheris displays a bit more free and individual thought than expected… and is highly (and unexpectedly) successful in battle as a result.  Which results in her being benched pending a reprimand, but also noticed as being effective.

So when the aforementioned insurrection begins she is asked, along with a few others, to put forward a plan to stamp it out with the minimum collateral damage and the minimum resource expenditure.

Her plan involves freeing Shuos Jedao – a disgraced, brilliant, insane and (more importantly) undefeated general from… well, essentially from death.  It’s worth noting that if Kel means something between “infantry specialist” and “disposable meat shield”, then Shuos Means something between “strategist” and “two-faced sneaky bugger”.

She plans on using his strategic mind to win the battle, and then putting him back into the library of available resources afterwards. It’s a plan which only involves one extra resource and a bunch of disposable Kel, but less than some of the other plans proposed as they’re going to be lead by the infamous Jedao.

What she didn’t quite plan for was for his revival to involve her mind and his mind getting joint custody of her body for the duration of the misson…

Needless to say, things don’t go 100% to plan. If I’m totally honest… I’m not sure I could give a blow-by-blow of the plot, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here anyway. This book requires the reader to be able to do a couple of things to be able to get along with it:  First, you need to be able to just accept and read on – when the characters are operating on what feels like a fundamentally different understanding of reality… you need to be able to accept that reality and run with it. Second, you need to be able to cope with the idea of two personalities sharing a body, and how those two personalities can have different perceptions of the same events.

Throw in some artful plans-within-plans, a dash of dire machinations and a bucketload of things going completely off the rails when things come to a head… and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s a challenging but fun read, if slightly arcane and obtuse every once in a while.

If I had to pin it down as being similar to anything else, I’d say it’s what happens if something like The Forever War were to get down and do the dirty with an Iain M. Banks novel… after a) reading a library full of fairly esoteric physics & psychology books and b) trying to understand timecube (which is apparently gone, alas…  but the wayback machine has it).

To sum up: I loved it, but can’t really explain it.

It’s well written. It’s well paced, with compelling characters in a compelling culture in a compelling universe. The way the whole thing fits together works, even if it frequently leaves your brain just saying “wait a minute – run that by me again, please?”. If you pick it up, expect to wait for explanations for concepts that, if they come at all, don’t really help… but fundamentally don’t matter if you just accept them and keep reading.

Next up:

If I manage to keep up posting, I’ll also be writing about Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and 14 by Peter Clines (if I can work out how to write about the last without spoiling it utterly – which so far, I can’t).

Nine Worlds 2016

A few days ago, I returned from Nine Worlds 2016, aka: London Geekfest.

This was the third Nine Worlds convention I’ve been to, and true to form I enjoyed it a great deal.  That I enjoyed it in spite of a spot of sub-optimal health says a lot about the quality of the event.

Sketch-notes

As has become my habit at these things, I made some sketch-notes at pretty much every panel I went to.  I say “pretty much every…” because there were a couple that were either too dark or too crowded, and because I spent a couple of sessions lounging on beanbags watching…  well, I’ll come to that.

Some of the sketch-notes aren’t up to my usual standards.  In my defence, I wasn’t well and I was a bit out of practice.  But all the same, I’m uploading them here so you can see them.

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Mancunicon – Eastercon 2016

Manchester. Mostly it impinges on my consciousness as being one-town-over from where a bunch of my family live, but last weekend it also impinged as the location of the 2016 Eastercon – the British National SF Convention (not the only one these days, but that’s what it’s called).

Rather than doing a full, end-to-end con report, I’m going to instead post up some sketch-notes I took in some of the programme items I went to and make a couple of comments along the way.

This won’t cover everything I did, as some of the programme items were too dark for me to take notes, some didn’t support it, and I didn’t sketchnote the bar or any restaurants for practical reasons. I spent a fair bit of the con chatting to some lovely people outside the programme items, so those are also not sketched.

There was also a panel on SF Music, which, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know is one of my “things”. I didn’t take many sketchnotes there because I was too busy talking.  I may have slightly over-contributed to that one.  I feel no shame!

One thing to make clear: These are live sketchnotes.

Most of the examples you see online are drawn after the fact and so are a lot neater and prettier – if you take normal notes and translate them to sketchnotes later, you can get a lot more opportunity to be clever or tidy. Doing them live

Another thing to make clear: If you can’t read my writing, that just makes you human.

The faster I scribble, the worse the writing.  Live with it.

On to the sketches, in no particular order…

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Procedurally Generated Original SF Music? Yes Please!

If you pay attention here, or don’t run away fast enough when we talk in real life, you might have realised that I have an interest in SF.  You might also realise that as part of that, I have a bit of a niche interest – Original SF in Musical Form. That is, Speculative Fiction which first arrived in the world in the form of music.

Not SF that’s been set to music, or TV shows with musical episodes (although I quite like good examples of all of those, too).  SF that started as music.

I’ve written a little about it in the past, but here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor for something a little bit more.  You just need to be prepared to back a kickstarter that’s not exactly in need of more backers… having already reached 300% of it’s target.

I’m talking about Music to Die Alone In Space To.

From the blurb on kickstarter:

Music To Die Alone In Space To is a full-length LP electronic album by Spruke with a brand-new distribution paradigm that is unprecedented in digital music: every copy of the album is unique to that owner, re-recorded in full with new parts, new sounds, and a voiceover performance done by the user’s choice of performer of any gender, language, and cultural identity.

There’s a bit more detail to it than that, and some of the versions are a bit more unique than others (I’ve paid for a completely unique version, with my choices of voice actors and whatnot.  Otherwise, they’re generated by different bits of randomness, different parameters and settings in the sound.  Each backer version above the very basic level has different randomly generated stuff.

It’s not just the voice cast that’s different – the music behind it, whilst similar, has differences.

As for story, I’ll explain by once again pasting in a chunk of the kickstarter page:

It’s narrated by an astronaut who has been set adrift in space, cut from the cord tethering them to their spaceship by a rogue particle of space dust. Drifting away helplessly and endlessly according to the laws of inertia, they have an hour of air left to ponder the significance of what’s happening to them and all the heavens they can see in every direction.

So, if you like clever techy stuff, bleepy music and science fiction story themes… and you have the funds to back it, this looks worth the shot.

Back it here.

 

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