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A Very Musical June

By way of introduction…

I should start by saying that this blog post comes with a soundtrack, thanks to the magic of Spotify playlists.

Where I’ve been able to find the right songs or identify what was played in any way I’ve included them here.

(This is where I look sideways at Black Moth Super Rainbow – if anybody knows what their setlist was, please enlighten me somehow, as I’d like to include them in this playlist too.)

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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.

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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Why Yesterday Sucked, by ME, aged 40½

I was a grumpy bugger yesterday.

I have reasons.

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The Hugo Awards

So, the hugo awards are done for another year.

This year, there were two somewhat unpleasant voting slates, one of which I feel a little (but not very) sorry for, and the other I feel a sort of delightful glee at its whiny little head having been stomped on. There are certainly authors and creators I feel sorry for, as they found themselves caught up in it when they could have been on the hugo nominations without the slate, and have suffered as a result of being there.

I didn’t vote, partly because a) I’ve not read enough of the nominees and b) my arse was firmly in neutral, and I couldn’t find the clutch to get it into gear.

But mostly, I’m pretty happy with how things have come out.

The Two Slates

The Sad Puppy slate’s stated goals include a promotion of more blue collar, action oriented SF.  I can see where they’re coming from with that.  I don’t agree with it, but I can see their point from where I’m standing. There has been a lot more “worthy” than “wonder” in some of the recent lineups. I personally don’t see that as a problem, but it is a trend that’ll alienate some folks.

The Rabid Puppy slate’s stated goals were to take down the hugos because RAR! I AM SHOUTY ANGRY PSEUDO-RELIGIOUS RACIST MISOGYNISTIC DICKBAG! EVERYTHING NOT WHITE, MALE AND SIMPLE IS A SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR! THIS CHAIR IS A SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR AS IT SUPPORTS BROWN PEOPLE AS MUCH AS WHITE PEOPLE! PURIFY IT WITH FIRE!

The Awards

BEST NOVEL – The Three Body Problem

Cixin Liu (Translated by Ken Liu)

I’ve not read this one.  I tried, but my brain chemistry decided to be obstructive and awkward.  I’ll give it another go when my brain is cooperating again. However,  Katrina has read it – it wasn’t to her taste, having too much of the feel of classic-era American SF.  It wasn’t to her taste, but was declared to be totally hugo-worthy all the same.

What I managed to get through before my brain chemistry decided to throw its toys out of the pram again backed that up.

The Sad Puppies who want a return to SF like Asimov or Clark would probably have loved it.  The Rabid Puppies… not so much.

The only thing I think was unfair in this category was Jim Butcher’s SKIN GAME coming in below no award as a reaction to the slate. It’s a good book. I don’t think it should have won, but I think it firmly deserved the nomination and was beaten by no-award as a result of having ended up on the sad puppy slate rather than on its merits.

BEST NOVELLA – No Award

The Sad and Rabid puppies had taken over this category. I tried reading some of them.  They were bloody awful.  Not even in terms of content – in terms of writing standard.  They read like early 1990s schoolboys writing Warhammer 40,000 or Aliens fanfic… badly.

BEST NOVELETTE –  The Day the World Turned Upside Down

Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt (Lightspeed, 04-2014)

Haven’t read.  I have it somewhere in my Lightspeed back issues, but I’m pretty  sure I didn’t read it. If I did, I don’t remember it.  Not going to comment beyond that.

BEST SHORT STORY – No Award

I’ve not read them, so won’t comment further.  Generally I’ve found the authors nominated to be firmly not to my taste.

BEST RELATED WORK – No Award

See “Best Short Story”.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY – Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)

This is totally and utterly deserving.  So were the other nominations, and I think this one may have pipped it on the grounds of having a non-traditional protagonist in Kamala Khan – a teenage pakistani-american.

It’s also action oriented and a hell of a lot of fun.  It ticks the sad puppies boxes quite nicely – I think, if their stated goals are taken at face value, they’d love it.

The Rabid Puppies… not so much.

In terms of what it beat:

  • Saga Volume 3 – Saga is excellent, and has a raft of believable characters, all of whom are relateable in some way.  It also has action, adventure, sex, love, violence, people of all shapes, configurations, colours…  It’s what I’d have picked to win, but am not disappointed that it was beaten.
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics) – Rat Queens is great, but I wouldn’t peg it for hugo-ish-ness – mostly because the flow didn’t quite work for me and a lot of it felt a bit superficial.  Not badly so, and it’s ahead of a lot of other comics, but enough to put it behind Saga and Ms Marvel in my mind.
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics) – Sex Criminals is weird and fun.  I’m glad it got a nomination.
  • No Award
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation) – not read it. I’m not going to discount it based on slates, but I’ve had my fill of zombie stuff for a fair while.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM – Guardians of the Galaxy

Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)

This was actually a sad puppy slate item which won anyway.  Because it was good enough to deserve it, and was clearly going to get nominated anyway.

I don’t think it was the best of the nominees (I’d put that as Edge of Tomorrow, followed by a tie between this and The Lego Movie), but it’s far from undeserving.

It also supports the Sad Puppies stated goals whilst remaining good, so I can see why they backed it. I’m glad it didn’t get the same treatment Jim Butcher got in best novel, but also sad that he got blocked when this got a pass.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM – Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)

Totally and utterly deserving.

Everything else on the ballot also made me say “meh” – although I don’t know if I’ve seen the specific Grimm episode nominated.  It’d need to be a step up from Grimm’s business-as-usual episodes to match Orphan Black, though.

BEST SEMIPROZINE – Lightspeed Magazine

edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant

I have a subscription. I am rubbish at actually reading what comes in from that subscription.  When I do, I see a lot of good, but not much that’s my taste right now.

Deserving, in my book, as evidenced by the fact I have a subscription.

I have no idea about the others in the field.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST, EDITOR (short form), EDITOR (long form), FANZINE, FANCAST, FAN WRITER

I am clueless in these fields. I lack enough knowledge to judge.  No further comment.

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER – Wesley Chu

The Lives of Tao and the Deaths of Tao are great fun. Action. Adventure. Aliens. Conspiracies. Car chases. Fights (both kung-fu and gun). Helicopters (I think I remember helicopters). Pizza. Spies. Sex.

If the Sad Puppies stand up for their stated goals, they should love this book. If they’re Rabid puppies in disguise, not so much.

I’m glad Wesley Chu got it. The only other name I knew on the list of was Eric S. Raymond, who I largely know of as a software / linux person rather than a writer.

The upshot

The upshot of all of this is a wholesale rejection of the Sad & Rabid Puppies. Which is good, for the most part.  I think there may have been a baby or two in the bathwater (Jim Butcher, most notably), but a positive result from a sucky situation.

So, what’s my take on the whole mess

Do I think the process needs changing to prevent this being repeated next time? Sure.  Do I think both of the nasty slates are 100% wrong in their stated purposes?  Actually, no.

I think that the organisers of this year’s Sad Puppy slate were dangerously close to a valid point, even if that point clearly wasn’t the goal of the majority of their supporters.  I don’t think they’ve done a good job of articulating it, or a good job of advocating it.  Pretty terrible on both fronts, actually.

I’m also not convinced that their stated goal and their actual goal matched up – I think that for a lot of the supporters, the stated goal was the acceptable face of something much nastier. But the fact that the acceptable face was a smokescreen doesn’t make it irrelevant.

In the written fiction categories, there has been a trend towards the highbrow and the worthy. Towards the deadly serious and the “dealing with serious concerns”.  There’s not been much escapism or fun. There’s also been a tendency towards much more overt social commentary.

Except, this year, that’s not the case… and I think some of the sad puppies might be missing that because people keep telling them that the fun stuff isn’t good, or because they see that a lot of the good stuff isn’t fun.

So, I think that if they can get past the rhetoric, this year’s Hugos are great for anybody who seriously wanted what Sad Puppies purported to be about.

You’ve got fun, action and rip-roaring action in spades.

 

The “So you’re a dejected sad puppy” advice list

If you really wanted what you said wasn’t there, take another look at the winners and the other nominees:

You’ve got big-ideas meets aliens invade, humans fight back with SCIENCE and ACTION with “The Three Body Problem” getting best novel.

You’ve got a pile of fistfights and gunfights, mind controlling aliens, spies and high-tech in Wesley Chu’s Tao books. They remind me a lot of shows like Chuck or Alias, but with aliens in!

You’ve got entertaining action, blue-collar characters, teen-friendly themes, accessible coming-of-age, sense-of-wonder and entertaining fist-fights in Ms. Marvel – No Normal. Hell, you’d probably get a kick from Saga, too – that’s even got a strong “boy meets girl, they have kids and fight to protect their family” vibe going on. As well as some pretty kick-ass action.

You loved most of the films & TV anyway – go you.

Try some of those out.  I think you might be surprised…

 

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015 – Friday

I’ve recently returned from the thoroughly enjoyable “Nine Worlds Geekfest” – a friendly, highly inclusive, mixed media / mixed genre geek/fan convention.

Whilst I was there, I spent many of the panels I attended scribbling some sketchnotes.  For me, sketchnotes are a way to force what I hear in panels to go through different bits of my brain, and to stay in my head better than they would if I just listened.

This post is going to be a con report, but unlike any other con reports I’ve written, I’m going to include scans of my sketchbook pages. So you have some context…  my sketchbook pages are roughly 12.5cm wide by about 17.5cm tall.  If things look a bit fuzzy on bigger screens, it’s because they’ve been blown up a bit in scanning.

So – on to the programme items for Friday – Saturday & Sunday will follow.

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An annual games convention in the offing?

Over-The-Hill-CON

A few days ago, I was at “Over-The-Hill-CON” – a local mini gaming convention arranged (largely by my fiancé, Katrina) as a slightly late birthday celebration. We’d been far too jetlagged to organise it around my actual birthday, having just got back from 3 weeks trailing around New Zealand… so it was about a month later instead.

As an event, it was a huge success.  I also thoroughly enjoyed running one of the RPGs and facilitating another. We had roughly 35 people across two rooms, with one room purely RPGs, the other mostly tabletop gaming with a bit of RPGing.

What follows is a bit of a roundup of the day from my perspective… and some thoughts around the idea of making it a regular event.

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