Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Porg Lanyards for Sale!

Reposting this from my Facebook Solar Unicorn Stitching page. I'm not ready for Etsy or Shopify yet, since I have so many other demands on my time. And no, Pilot Porg (the model) isn't for sale!

Porgs are friends, not food. And friends do favors for you, like help you keep track of your keys, badges, or flash drives. These porg lanyards are made out of four layers of fabric and are about 18" long. They come with either gold (13 available) or silver (7 available) hooks. $10 includes shipping in U.S. paypal.me/smua70 Please either message me your shipping address or include it with your Paypal payment, along with your hook color preference.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Signal Boost: Writers of the Future "Firewall"

One of the most famous contests for science fiction writers is the Writers of the Future contest. It was started by L. Ron Hubbard, who also founded the Church of Scientology. The church continues to run this contest, though there is supposed to be a "firewall" between the two. However, as Writers of the Future winner J.W. Alden discusses on his blog, contest winners may find themselves in for more than they bargained for. The link to this blog entry was posted in a public Facebook group, so I'm boosting the signal here. I think I did apply to this contest a couple of times when I was starting out, but I'm glad now that I didn't advance. You're welcome to comment either here on on Alden's original post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Hope Never Dies and Real Person Fan Fiction

First of all, I'd like to wish my husband, Eugene, a very happy birthday today! You'll always be my knight in shining armor.

If you loved all the Obama-Biden memes (particularly the ones after the 2016 election such as this one), then you might like Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, by Andrew Shaffer. I read about this book a few weeks ago and immediately put it on hold at my library. I finally had a chance to read it last week. Basically, after an Amtrak conductor dies in what everyone else assumes to be a suicide or accident, Obama and Biden team up to discover the truth. Biden is the first-person narrator. I've never gotten closer to either man than through the voting machines, so I don't know how accurately they're portrayed. Certainly some of their escapades seem a bit unreal, and other reviews I've read say Obama comes across as more remote than he actually is. Still, the pair do make a fun Holmes-Watson couple.

Since I used to write Beatles fan fiction, I was interested in the real-person fan fiction aspect of this book. In the New York Times article I read about Hope Never Dies, the author relates how he met Biden but didn't tell him about this project. The standard disclaimer at the beginning of the book says that "All characters--including those based on real people, living or dead...are used fictitiously." Celebrities do give up some of their rights to privacy, and we live in an age where YouTube can make someone a celebrity (notorious or not) overnight. I still don't think I'd be too comfortable using a living person as a character. Even if I was inspired by a certain aspect of their personality, I'd rather remix with other traits and disguise them. While I may have been able to get away with using John Lennon as a character in Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes, he might have drawn attention from the main characters. If I ever get past the block I have with the next installments of the Catalyst Chronicles, then the story will go in a different direction anyway.

How do you feel about using real people in fiction? Does it matter if they're contemporary or historical? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, August 06, 2018

The Woman Who Smashed Codes

If you enjoy reading about spies and secret codes, you'll love the biography The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone.

Elizebeth (yes, that is the real spelling) Smith Friedman was a former schoolteacher who was hired by a rich man to help verify secret messages left by Bacon in Shakespeare's plays. (Spoiler alert: There aren't any.) While she stayed at his estate in Illinois (not too far from where I live), she met a geneticist named William who also worked for the millionaire. Elizebeth and William gradually worked out a scientific approach to codebreaking, fell in love, and got married. The couple both became highly sought after codebreakers during World War I and served the country through World War II. They wrote volumes about the science of cryptography and trained others in the techniques. They learned how to break book ciphers (where a cipher key is taken from a book) without ever seeing the text and even learned how to crack Enigma machines manually. Some of their projects were so secret they couldn't discuss them with each other. During Prohibition, Elizebeth worked for the Coast Guard deciphering messages from smugglers. She gained fame as a codebreaker, but she promoted her husband's work in front of her own.

All of this codebreaking served as a warmup to Elizebeth's work during World War II. She was assigned to decrypt radio messages sent by Nazi spies in South America. The spies hoped to promote fascism in the region with the ultimate goal of using the continent to target the United States. Elizebeth broke multiple codes used by the spies, including those using Enigma machines, and passed the information along to authorities (including Hoover and the FBI). They had to be careful how they used the information she gleamed from the spies, for fear if the spies learned their codes were no longer secret, they would change them. Eventually, the English were able to kidnap a low-ranking German spy and "extract" information from him. From that point, the FBI worked with local police to break up the spy ring. Hoover got the credit, and Elizebeth was told never to discuss her World War II work with anyone. Fortunately, records of her work were saved. This unsung heroine passed away in 1980 at the age of eighty-eight, but she's been rediscovered.

Do you admire any little-known historical figures? Are you interested in codes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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