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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.

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 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).

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 World Geekfest 2015 – My Saturday Writeup

This post is a follow-on to the previous one, in which I covered the Friday of Nine Worlds 2015.  Saturday continued along similar lines, with sketchnotes along the way.

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Recently, an old friend gave me back something I’d lost…

If you know me in real life, you’ll know that a had some health trouble a while back.  This post isn’t about that, but it gives some context, so I’ll fill start there.

One of the symptoms of that trouble was an even-less-reliable-than-usual short term memory.  Short term memory isn’t “the past few days”.  It’s not even hours or minutes – it’s seconds.  Short term memory isn’t your ability to remember what you did ten minutes ago – it’s your sense of now.

It was a scary time in general, but I found it particularly unpleasant  as it caused me to lose something valuable to me – my ability to read books.

I could read the words and they made sense, but more often than not, they’d be gone a few seconds later.  I’d have to go back and reread a sentence over and over to give it a chance of sticking. Or, because I had no sense of now, I’d keep reading, with no reason to realise I’d forgotten anything.  It was only when I stopped briefly that I’d realise I had no recollection of anything I’d just read.  It stayed long enough for me to parse it and be conscious that I had read it… and then went out of my mind entirely, as if it had never been there at all.

So I stopped reading.

After a few false starts, nearly a year later, I decided I was better.  Except for the whole reading thing.  That wasn’t coming back.  I managed to read a book here and there, if it was one I’d really been waiting for.  In some cases, I need to go back and read them again, because I’m fairly sure I’ve got massive gaps in my recollection of them.

But, when I’d started to be able to read books again (albeit slowly and painfully) I decided to invite an old friend back into my life.  One I’d not seen for a fair while, because we’d become a bit too close and decided we needed to see other people for a while.  Not a flesh and blood kind of friend, you understand, but one of the paper kind.

I decided to re-read the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy by bestselling author and crazy person Tad Williams.  We used to hang out a lot, those books and I.  In my youth, we’d get together at least once a year for over a decade, and we’d hang around in the same circles a lot.  In particular there was the Lyst, which I had been around for a great many years, often in the background as a moderator, but from time to time as an active participant as well.

Over time we’d drifted apart.  Many new books had come into my life since we parted ways.  There was A Song of Ice and Fire.  There were The Dresden Files.  There were the Fencer, Scavenger and Engineer trilogies.  There were the collected works of Alastair Reynolds and the works of Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow.  That’s just a small sampling, too.  My eyeballs got around a bit, if I’m honest.

Then, as explained above, something horrible ate my brain.  In a strictly metaphorical sense, of course.

But when we met up, the old familiarity was still there.  Not enough for me to regret reaching out, but enough for me to re-adjust to this whole “reading books” thing.  I spent a couple of weeks with The Dragonbone Chair, and the bond between us was still there.  It took time, but over the course of a couple of weeks we became re-acquainted.

I don’t think it’s fair to take all the credit for that.  I was struggling a bit at first.  There were moments where my brain panicked and decided I needed to stop reading in case it all went horribly wrong.  It sounds daft, but anybody who’s had clinical anxiety will know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you just have a fight, flight or freeze reaction to the most mundane of things.

(As you might have guessed, clinical anxiety was another aspect of my health problems.  My doctor and I are both pretty sure it was a secondary condition rather than the root cause, but as with all such things, you never really get to know what came first because something horrible was eating your brain at the time.)

But anyway, The Dragonbone Chair helped me through all that.  The fact that we could fall into an old and well remembered pattern made it all so much easier.  I got to know Simon Mooncalf again, and his first interactions with Malachias and the scattercat.  I refreshed my acquaintance with Dr Morgenes Ercestres and his works.  I felt once again the unlooked for conflict between two royal brothers, rekindled by the death of their father.

I saw the Uduntree and the blood of Igjarjuk.

Given that our time together in the past had, on occasion, taken place in the space of a single sitting, our re-acquaintance was slow, but it was pleasant, and the pace quickened over time.

So much in fact, that I had something of a wild fling with The Stone of Farewell.  In some ways, I feel that I hurried all the players to get together at Sesuad’ra faster than was wise.  But I was hungry for things to move along.  Hungry to see Jao e-Tinukai’i again, and hungry to visit the house of Shent.

Shent is a game that, even now, appeals to me because it’s a game where playing competitively is missing the point, whilst exploring possibilities and experiencing different flows of the game is paramount.  My kind of game, and my kind of gameplay.

I slowed down a little for To Green Angel Tower, not out of any shame or second thoughts… but because my hardback copy was too titanic to read on the train.  Seriously.  If I were to hit you with that hardback, you would die.  Your neighbours would die too, from the ensuing shockwave.  So I had to read my paperbacks, one of which is not in fantastic condition so required some care to avoid breaking the binding.

So I learned again the story of the Storm King, and I learned his reasons.  I re-learned the deepest secrets of Osten Ard’s greatest knight, and I re-learned of the sorrowful events that had happened long in the past to bring it all to pass.

Since then, I’ve been reading books consistently and comfortably.  I’ve been ploughing through them at a fair rate, if I’m honest.  Sometimes two at a time – I know, I’m shameless.

So, thank you, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, for helping me get back something I’d lost.  Thank you, Tad Williams, for writing those books, all those years ago… and for being around to talk to a bunch of internet geeks about them (and other things) when many other authors still hadn’t worked out that computers were more than fancy typewriters and that the internet might actually be a “thing”.  I still wonder if I should be taking pineapples with me to SF cons, just to see who understands.

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