For Your Amusement

A trio of links, from the useful to the odd.

Table Scraps — a food history blog, with more blog links in the sidebar.  (Including one to Pass the Garum!, a blog about Roman cookery.)

Three-Panel Book Reviews, a webcomic that says entirely truthful and funny things about works of literature.  I especially liked the one about Jonathan Franzen, but they’re all good.

And finally, a performance of “Lord Barnard and Little Musgrave” (as “Little Matty Groves” was known before it crossed the Atlantic) sung in Esperanto.

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Now I’ve Heard Everything

Among the other things I did over the past weekend, in addition to having a lovely time at the Arisia sf/fantasy convention,* was to purchase a tablet to replace my color Nook. Why? (Other than sheer neophilia, that is.)  To make a long story short – Intuit finally came out with a mobile Quicken app to sync with the desktop version, which is something I’ve been missing ever since Intuit yanked the license to make Pocket Quicken away from Landware.  And my husband/co-author was on board with the idea because it would mean that I could use the tablet’s camera to take videos of him doing stage magic.

So I picked up a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7-incher from NewEgg, and then I went looking on line for a cover.

And that’s when I discovered that none of the online dealers in mobile accessories are talking about artificial or fake leather any more.

No – their products are made of “vegan leather.”

* The guy who usually cosplays on stilts was in fine form this year . . . he came as Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy.



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Convention, Upcoming

To wit, the Arisia sf/fantasy convention in Boston, where it’s reliably at least ten degrees warmer than it is here, and where the hotel rooms have almost too much heat in them, and where the showers have good water pressure and plenty of hot water to pressure with.

(I’m trying not to look forward to all of this too much, so as not to give the Fates a chance to laugh at me.)

Anyhow – Madhouse Manor’s Arisia schedules for this year:

Dr. Doyle’s Arisia Sked

Religions, Holidays, and Rituals in Your Fiction

Sat 10:00 AM     Hale

Our panelists discuss religions, holidays, and rituals across the genres (fantasy, horror, SF) and their creation. What are the differences in belief systems associated with traditional holidays of our world’s different cultures as compared to those in genre fiction?

Focus: From Solo Narrative to Sprawling Empire 

Sat 8:30 PM Marina 2

    Literature gives us great freedom to explore; one of the interesting choices available to writers is how to focus their narrative. Some writers give us massive epics with dozens of POV characters. Some give us two people in a locked room. Both, and everything in between, provide varied opportunities. We’ll talk about how some of our favorite writers have chosen to use broad or narrow focus to tell their stories, and how a change in focus changes the story completely.

The Many Paths to Perdition

Sun 10:00 AM  Hale
How does a villain become a villain? Is it a single traumatic event? A lifetime of adversity and desperation? Often a villain doesn’t see themselves as a villain. Is this due to a differing point of view, delusion, or denial? Our panelists discuss the many roads to ruination a character can take.

Saving the World vs. Changing the World

Sun 4:00 PM  Marina 2

    We like vast scope and terrible conflict, where the world is in jeopardy. As the narratives roll, we’re bound to see aspects of the setting that probably need to be destroyed or, at least, to change. Sometimes, the world is changed by the end of the story (as in each book in the Inheritance Trilogy) and sometimes it is merely saved (as with the Harry Potter series). We’ll talk about stories that changed their settings forever and ones where the status quo is restored.

Jim Macdonald’s Arisia Sked: 

Fairy Tales on Film and TV 

Fri 10:00 PM  Marina 1

    Between *Once Upon a Time* and *Grimm* on television, and movies like *Maleficent* and *Frozen*, it’s a good time for fans of entertainment based on fairy tales. What makes these works so effective at translating these classics into other media? Why aren’t we seeing more works based on fairy tales and folklore from other cultures? What other works are coming up that deserve to be highlighted?   

Taverns, Bars and Saloons

Sat 8:30 PM  Alcott

    Whether as the traditional location for assembling the party in RPGs, or as a venue for exposition and moving the plot along in too many SF/F novels and stories to name, taverns, pubs, and other like establishments are a fundamental aspect of literature in general and genre literature in particular. In what saloons and taverns would you most like to hang out after a long day at Arisia? What is it about pubs and bars that so links them to the conventions of SF literature?

Se7en and the Ragged Thriller

Sat 10:00 PM  Marina 1

    David Fincher’s Seven, launched 20 years ago, wasn’t the first thriller to shift from glorified police procedurals and cheap erotic suspense, but it took the dark, off-the-rails story to a more prominent level. Debuting just as the cast were hitting their popular and critical strides, it helped lay groundwork for films like Red Eye, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Fincher’s own Panic Room. We’ll discuss why Seven worked so well, its influence, and maybe even discuss the history of the thriller.

So You Think You Can Write a Fight?

Sun 10:00 AM Faneuil

    Come find out how viable your fight scene really is. An experienced panel of talented authors, martial artists, and maybe one hapless would-be victim will take your quick fight scene and act it out while our esteemed panelists help you work out the physical and literary kinks. Please no epic wave battles.

Disaster Preparedness for Fans

Sun 1:00 PM Marina 1

    In this Arisia favorite, we’ll discuss ways to protect what’s important to you from random acts of disaster, including yourself. How do I protect my books from flooding? What should I put in a disaster kit? Is renters insurance worth buying? Come learn how to prepare yourself for when the alien cyborg zombies invade!

Chantey Sing

Sun 2:30 PM   Griffin

Songs of sailing in all forms, with an emphasis on work songs from the age of sail. Open sing. Fun for all!

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A Position Statement, of Sorts

In the wake of the Paris attacks, there’s been much earnest discussion going on, in those quarters of the internet where earnest discussion always hangs out, over whether Charlie Hebdo‘s political satires were, in fact, racist, anti-Muslim, and so forth, or whether they were part of a long-standing tradition in French political expression (Daumier keeps getting brought up, for example, and pre-Revolutionary cartoons about Marie Antoinette), and about whether Charlie Hebdo was punching up, or down, or sideways. These are arguments I’m not going to get into, because, one, there are few things more impenetrable to the outside observer than another country’s political humor, and two, from where I stand as a free-speech absolutist, it shouldn’t matter whether Charlie Hebdo was punching in the right direction, punching in the wrong direction, or spinning madly around in all directions like a punching top . . . shooting up a bunch of people because of something they said, or wrote, or drew is just plain wrong.

Shooting up a bunch of unarmed people is wrong to start with, for heaven’s sake. And doing it because they were saying, or writing, or drawing something that the shooter wanted to silence is a heaping big plate of wrongness with wrong sauce poured over it and a maraschino cherry of wrong on top.

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It’s January

Which means that applications are now open for Viable Paradise XIX, being held this year on 18-23 October at the Island Inn on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Come for the workshop; stay for the lighthouses, the luminescent jellyfish, and the really excellent seafood.

Also:  I’m currently putting together the January issue of my newly-inaugurated newsletter.  If you’re interested in receiving what should be a monthly e-mailing, you can sign up via the link in the sidebar, or click on it here.

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Four Ways Not to Compliment a Writer

Writers as a group appreciate having their egos stroked, and if you genuinely like a writer’s work it’s a kindness to tell them so.  But there are some compliments which can backfire on the giver, no matter how well-meant the delivery.  Most writers, most of the time, will accept a dubious or awkward compliment with a smile and confine themselves to an inward wince or possibly a private gripe session later among friends, but even the nicest writers can have the sort of bad day when the lid comes off of everything, and some writers . . . well, much as it pains me to admit it, writers – even good writers – are as likely to be jerks as anyone else in the general population.

Accordingly, here are a quartet of comments from the top of the Best If  Avoided list:

“I loved your book!  I’ve loaned it to all my friends!”

The savvy writer accepts such a compliment graciously, because word-of-mouth is still the best advertising, and because making an enemy of a reader is a bad move for a lot of reasons . . . but there’s no escaping the inward wince on behalf of all of the copies that could have been purchased if the bestower-of-compliments had confined themself to making enthusiastic recommendations at the bookstore instead.

“I love all your books!  I can’t wait until the library/the used bookstore/my buddy who lends me her copies gets the next one!”

Once again, most writers will take this compliment with a smile, because most writers can remember being young and/or impecunious themselves, and it would be hypocritical for them to complain about somebody else taking advantage of the same shifts and expedients that sustained them once upon a time.  But there’s still that inner wince, and the wistful contemplation of sales that might have been.

“I’ve loved your books ever since I was in fifth grade/high school/college!”

Again, the kind-hearted writer has no choice but to smile – and in fact, it’s nice to know that one was a formative or encouraging influence upon somebody in their youth.  But there’s no denying the fact that praise of this sort has a corresponding tendency to make the recipient of the compliment feel older than they did in the moment before it was uttered.  “I’ve always loved your books!” or “I’ve loved your books for ages!” are words less likely to send the writer in question off into a spell of broody melancholia.

“I don’t usually go for this genre/this trope/this style, but you made me like it!”

This compliment is especially tricky because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Some writers like the idea of doing such a good job of a thing that they succeed in overcoming a reader’s ingrained prejudices.  (I confess to being a member of that camp myself.)  Others, though, will take offense at the implication that their chosen genre or trope or style has something wrong with it that needs to be dressed up and made palatable to the general public.  Unless you know how the recipient is likely to react, this compliment is best deployed with caution.

What do you say to a writer, then, if you want to compliment them?

Well, an unadorned but sincerely-meant “I love your books!” is always good.

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Christmas Eve

And a Merry Christmas tomorrow for all who celebrate it, and the very best of whatever seasonal cheer you most desire for all of those who celebrate other things, or at other seasons, or not at all.

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