Wednesday, May 30, 2018

MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation Kickstarter

Today is a very important day: my son's eleventh birthday! Happy Birthday, Alex, and many more birthdays to come! (And no, you can't drive my car--at least, not yet.)

And now for something completely different: MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation. This is the anthology (by Otter Libris) that will include my short story "Henry's Harness," and it's live on Kickstarter! Pledges start at $2, ebook rewards at $6 (available in multiple formats), and paper copies at $20. Higher tiers offer multiple copies of this book in multiple formats, and you can add on custom dice and other books by Otter Libris. This project only needs $1,500 to proceed, and with over $1,100 already pledged after the first week, it's likely to meet goal. If the project reaches $2,000, it'll unlock a secret stretch goal. There are still almost four weeks left to back this project. Back it today, and you can read "Henry's Harness," along with many other intriguing stories, this August.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Some Thoughts on Solo:: A Star Wars Story

I have to admit Han Solo never appealed to me much, so my expectations for Solo: A Star Wars Story weren't high. It turned out to be an OK movie, though I liked The Last Jedi better.

Solo starts with Han already a teenager/young adult, part of a street gang and in love with another member, Qi'ra. When Han manages to steal a small amount of a precious fuel, he uses the opportunity to get off planet. Unfortunately, Qi'ra is forced to remain behind at the last moment, leaving Han determined both to become the best pilot in the galaxy and to go back for her. To meet these goals, he first joins Imperial forces (we don't get to see much of that part of the story, even though he's enlisted for three years), he deserts to pull off caper after caper.

The pacing of the movie was pretty good. Some of the opening shots were quite dark, but otherwise the visuals and effects were also good. I particularly liked the droid L3, who is female, quite opinionated, and has a too-brief appearance in the movie. Lando was also well-done, matching what we see of him in The Empire Strikes Back.

 Han gets the surname "Solo" when he enlists in the Imperial forces. (It's odd that he mentions his father later on in the movie but doesn't want to acknowledge belonging to anyone.) Although belonging and betrayal are themes in the movie, I may have missed some of the dialogue developing those themes. I'm sure I'll get a chance to listen to the dialogue when we return to the theater for multiple viewings.

If you saw the movie this weekend, what did you think of it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Conventions and the Indie Writer

Normally I would be posting my WisCon schedule this time of May, but for multiple reasons, I'm not attending this year. (I could theoretically get a one-day pass for Sunday at the door, but there's only one panel that afternoon I'd want to attend, and I'd miss the Guest of Honor speeches anyway.) I'll miss seeing my friends and visiting the Farmer's Market Saturday morning, but I admit it is nice saving money on the hotel and not juggling convention plans along with a birthday party for my son.

When I first started attending WisCon twenty years ago, I wanted to break into professional publishing. I was super excited about meeting not just authors, but agents and editors. I participated in writing workshops and learned "money flows to the author." I participated in panels and Broad Universe readings to get my name out there. How useful are these activities to an indie author? Well, I feel improving my writing craft is a lifelong journey, but these days I work on it mostly by reading books on writing and working on different projects. It's always nice meeting other authors, and I may want to hire another editor at some point for developmental or copy editing, but I'm no longer interested in acquiring an agent (or letting one acquire me). I've never sold enough books at WisCon to justify the expenses, and there are local comic cons and literary festivals I can participate in for little or no cost.

WisCon's emphasis on intersectional feminism makes it unique, and I love the excuse to return to my favorite city in the springtime. Hopefully next year I'll be able to attend. (At least there won't be any Star Wars movies opening Memorial Day weekend.) In the meantime, I have a comic con at my local library to prepare for in September.

Do you go to conventions? If so, do you find them helpful for writers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kindle Organization

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed my announcement last week that I appear to have run out of storage on my primary Kindle. Of course, all of my books and samples are stored in the cloud, so I can download them and delete them at will. The problem is that when I first started my Kindle library, I was able to sort my items into collections by genre and read/unread status. I probably have thousands of items now, which makes it impractical to keep my collection sorted. (I discovered recently that you can put items into collections through the Amazon website, which is easier to use than the Kindle. However, since you still have to assign items to collections individually, and the status isn't immediately apparent, it's tedious work.) So I keep unread items on my Kindle and delete them as I read them. However, I still add items to my library faster than even I can read them, so at some point, I may have to delete unread items from the Kindle, which means I'll forget about them.

Any recommendations on how to better organize my collection? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Future of Humanity (and a Group Giveaway)

Michio Kako interviewed both scientists and science fiction authors for his recent book The Future of Humanity. If you want to think about the long-term future of the human race, this is a book worth reading. Kako lays out in an orderly fashion how we can establish a settlement on the moon; then gradually work our way to Mars and moons in the outer solar system; and leave the solar system, the Milky Way, and possibly even our universe. Of course, there is the slight problem of overcoming the current obstacles we face first. Besides colonizing space, Kako also suggests that we may overcome death (I wonder if I'll live long enough to see that) and will adapt ourselves to new planets while still retaining our basic humanity. I guess it's up to the science fiction writers to fill in more details about that.

Speaking of speculative fiction, I'm part of another group giveaway on Instafreebie. You can check it out at this link. The giveaway runs through the end of the month and includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I hope you find some interesting new books there!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bookshelf Maintenance

Recently, as I bought an eBook version of The Years of Rice and Salt to replace my paperback, I realized how little bookshelf maintenance I have to do these days. When I was younger, I lived in apartments with limited space for shelves. I also bought a lot more paperbacks than I do these days. Every so often, I'd have to organize my bookshelves. Each genre had a separate section, which was further organized by author surname and (if necessary) series. I preferred to get paperbacks because they took up the least space, but occasionally I'd find a random niche for hardcovers. Books didn't get shelved until they were read, so I'd usually have several books to place in the right locations, which would then bump other books to a different spot. Unfortunately, I'd also have to purge older books to make room for new ones.

These days, I seldom have to add books to my shelves, since it takes me much longer to make progress on my to-read stack. Instead, I tend to get rid of paperbacks once I have the eBook. While I still enjoy looking at my shelves and remembering what I've read, I'm not as attached to the physical books as I used to be. I have more space for things, but I want to declutter.

Do you keep paper books after you've read them? If so, do you have a special way of organizing your bookshelves? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Thanos' Motives and Actions (Infinity War Spoilers)

 I'm very much a newcomer to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), so I've only seen two of the previous movies (the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther) and a highlight video before watching Infinity War on Sunday. While I have enough background to follow the story, I'm sure there are a lot of nuances I missed. In particular, since this movie focused on Thanos, I feel like I need to learn more about his motivations to understand some of the actions he took (or didn't take).

For starters, it seemed to me that once Thanos obtained the Reality Stone, he could have eliminated his opponents anytime he liked. If he could turn their weapons into bubble guns, there are definitely plenty of other ways he could have made his path to the rest of the stones much smoother. Maybe I don't know enough about the stones' power to understand what, if any, limits they have. It does seem to me that their power increases exponentially as you acquire more of them.

Another question I have about Thanos' actions was inspired by a discussion I saw on someone else's Facebook feed. If Thanos wants to kill off half of the universe's population so everyone else has enough resources, why not double the amount of resources instead? Or why not set a cap on the sentient population of the universe to be below the total carrying capacity? There are plenty of other, more compassionate ways you can solve this problem without causing such a massive amount of genocide--though then you wouldn't have a cinematic-worthy conflict. I think I heard a line in the movie about a similar mass murder on Titan, so perhaps Thanos is just repeating something from his personal experience.

For me, part of the reason I'm obsessed with analyzing Thanos is because he's such a powerful antagonist. As a writer, it's important for me to develop the villain's motivations and actions as much as the hero's. The line between hero and villain can be very narrow at times. Just as the hero gets funneled down a particular pathway during the course of a story, the same must happen to a villain. Sometimes the only difference between a hero and a villain is what the character learns over the course of a story and how that influences her final choice.

If you saw the movie, what did you think about it? Did you feel Thanos made a good villain? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Science Fiction and Society

Last week, I got to be part of a project on science fiction. A friend of mine has a son who was preparing a report on the subject, and since he needed to interview a science fiction author, he asked me. His topic turned out to be how science fiction influences society. He already had examples of scientists who chose their discipline because of science fiction, so I gave him another angle: how science fiction affects politics and protests. Here are a few points I made during the interview:

  • Aliens can be a metaphor for the "Other," and how we view the aliens can reflect how we treat marginalized people in our own society
  • The first interracial kiss shown on TV was on Star Trek. (It might have been more acceptable in a science fiction context than in a mainstream one.)
  • Women have been dressing as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale at political protests
  • Dystopian novels like The Hunger Games, where a teenager challenges a corrupt system, had inspired teenagers with their own protests.
How else do you think science fiction affects society? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

IWSG: The Writing Season

Does it seem like May to you yet? It's hard to believe it's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter. The co-hosts for this month are JQ Rose, C. Lee McKenzie, Raimey Gallant, and E.M.A. Timar.

Here's our question for the month: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

The short answer is no. As much as springtime is my favorite time of year, that doesn't mean I find it more inspiring than other seasons. If you're familiar with my Season Avatar series, you know I've written about all four seasons. Spring itself turns out to be a short, busy time of year for me. Usually the weather in my area doesn't get spring-like until late April, and by June it can feel more like summer. May is a busy month, since I typically have to prepare for both WisCon and my son's birthday at the end of the month. (This year I'm not attending WisCon for various reasons.) When the weather is nice, I like to walk outside instead of exercising on the treadmill, so I end up reading less. I try to write all year around, and stories can be set in any season.

Do you have a favorite writing season? If so, feel free to share what it is in the comments.

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