The Unified Doyle and Macdonald Arisia Schedule

Or, where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing this coming weekend, while we’re attending the Arisia Science Fiction Convention at the Boston Park Plaza.

My Panels:

The Sidekick Lounge

Cambridge     Sat 11:30 AM

Where would our protagonist be without a trusty sidekick? Sidekicks are an invaluable part of storytelling, serving as everything from an audience stand-in to comedic relief. Let’s talk about the roles sidekicks can play, why they’re important to protagonists, and clever inversions of common sidekick tropes.

Giving Characters Big Damn Hero Moments

Beacon Hill      Sat 5:30PM

Achilles in front of the gates of Troy. Hurin in the Battle of Innumerable Tears. Daenerys and “Dracarys!” Speculative literature often includes moments of mind-blowing awesomeness where a character uses combat, skill, or persuasion to save the day. Panelists discuss favorite moments in literature with Big Damn Hero moments, but also techniques to bring these moments to their full epic potential.

Siblings in SFF

Winthrop   Sun 8:30 AM

Let’s explore fantastical siblings! Join the panelists as they talk about everyone from the general harmony of the Weasleys to the conflicts of Ender, Peter, and Valentine Wiggin. We’ll discuss our favorite sibling rivalries, sibling bonds, and when it’s obvious that the author writing a story was an only child.

Writing About a Future That’s Already Here

Cabot      Sun 10:00 AM

Has enough attention been paid to the way our world has changed in the past decade? How has the ubiquity of cell phones, social media, and on-demand manufacturing already made standard tropes of speculative fiction obsolete? Panelists will consider which technologies writers need to be aware of and how they impact characters and plots.

The Past in Present Tense: Escaping Flashbacks

Cabot    Sun 2:30 PM

Whether through flashbacks, exposition, or time travel, speculative fiction often needs to travel backward before it can go forward. How have authors handled the question of backstory besides writing a flashback? What are the advantages and disadvantages of introducing elements of the past through other means (fragments of written records, fever dreams, reality gem illusions, etc.)?

Jim Macdonald’s Panels:

Freddy, Friday the 13th, and Fangoria

Franklin      Fri 8:30 PM

In the 80s and 90s, nerd culture was less about superheroes or space wizards, and more about invincible masked murderers hunting and killing large numbers of teenagers through increasingly ornate and unlikely means. These were the glory days of Fangoria, a magazine that covered and celebrated the world of horror on film for decades, and was due to make a triumphant return in 2018, its 40th year. We’ll look back on the slasher genre, and the way Fangoria helped build a culture around it.
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100th Anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood
Whittier     Sat 5:30 PM

On January 15, 1919, the Purity Distilling Co’s molasses tank burst, sending a flood of molasses that killed 21 people, injured 150, and killed a large number of horses as well. What were the scientific and engineering reasons that caused it? And why has it (thankfully) not happened since?

Writing Fights That Matter
Newbury    Sun 1:00 PM

Fight scenes take many forms in speculative fiction–space battles with improbable physics, wizard duels, and your classic bar scene dust-up, but at heart, a fight is an argument fought without words. This panel will focus on convincing readers that no matter what form your battle takes, the stakes are clear, enormous, and compelling. How can a writer make every fight not just plausible, but memorable?

Kitchen Archaeology; or, The Return of the Lost Recipe

In our current quest to organize the kitchen, the other day I ordered a baker’s rack from Amazon†, and today we moved it into place. This involved relocating the bookshelf full of cookbooks about a foot and a half to the right, which in turn involved first taking all of the cookery books and magazines off of the shelf.

In the course of the relocation, we found the old black-and-white composition book that I first started recording recipes in, right after Jim Macdonald and I set up housekeeping. To our delight, among the recipes was the caramel apple recipe of Macdonald’s childhood, which I had carefully copied into the notebook from the index card I got it on.  We eventually lost the index card, to our sorrow, and after that there were no more caramel apples any more, because the black-and-white composition book was buried under a decade or more of other cookbooks and cooking magazines.

But now we have the recipe again, and I have entered it into my computer’s recipe folder and passed it along to all of our offspring, and now I’m passing it along to you.

Caramel Apples

(from Sister Mary Rose of Our Lady of Good Counsel, via Mrs. W. D. Macdonald)

Combine in sauce pan:
1 and 1/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Stir constantly until 234 degrees F over medium heat, or until mixture forms soft ball when dropped into very cold water.

Remove from heat and stir in:
1 T butter
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla

Dip apples; does 8 medium apples. If mixture thickens too fast, place sauce pan over hot water. Be sure apples are washed — a waxy coating makes the caramel slip off sometimes.

(Blogger’s note: skewer the apples on thick wooden skewers or popsicle sticks before dipping them.)

Amazon may be an Evil Empire, but at least it’s an evil empire that provides goods to the north country that would otherwise require a visit to a specialty store down below.

PseudoScience

Over at Jim Macdonald’s blog, there’s a book review that y’all might find interesting.

Madhouse Manor

The UniversityThe Pseudoscience Warsy of Chicago gives away free e-books.  Every month there’s a new one, and they’re all swell.  This month’s freebie, I think, is one that folks who follow my blog may really like: The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe by Michael B. Gordin.

I remember reading Velikovsky back when I was in fourth or fifth grade.  My dad had copies of Ages in Chaos, Earth in Upheaval (both in paperback) and Worlds in Collision in hardcover.  I loved those books.  They were Grand Theories of Everything, in engaging prose, and filled with footnotes to obscure sources.  Then something occurred to me: “Hey, wait a minute,” I said to myself. “This guy literally can’t tell the difference between a carbohydrate and a hydrocarbon.”  (I had a chemistry set and I knew how to use it.  Yes, I was the…

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2018 Is Drawing to a Close

And my annual holiday edit-and-critique sale has five more days to run.  From now through Twelfth Night (5 January 2019) , my usual rate for a standard-sized novel goes down from $1500 to $1000, and my $2000 rate for 100,000-words-plus doorstops goes down to $1500.

Twelfth Night around our house is also the official date on which the Christmas tree comes down — a rule I instituted after one year a couple of decades back when (for reasons that I no longer remember, except that it had been a particularly grey and dreary winter), the tree didn’t get hauled outside until almost Easter.

Questions I Have Asked My Cats, to No Avail

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of providing you with a perfectly cromulent catbox and high-quality kitty litter, do you nevertheless persist in using, instead, the floor directly adjacent to same?

Cat: Meow. (If you really understood me, you wouldn’t have to ask.)

Me: Why, O Cat, when I have gone to the trouble of acquiring for you a warm, high-sided, fleece-lined cat bed, which last winter pleased you entirely, do you this winter insist on once again ignoring it in favor of sleeping draped across my forearms while I’m trying to type?

Cat: Meow. (That was last year. Now it’s this year. Get with the program, human.)

Me: Why, O Cat, do you complain vociferously if you do not get your daily ration of wet cat food along with your dry, and then ignore it until it dries out from the winter cold?

Cat: Meow. (Have you considered microwaving it? You don’t eat your food cold, do you?)

And so it goes. I tell myself that they are transitioning from middle-aged cats to older cats, and getting crotchety in their later years.

(Seasonal) Thought for the Day

A word of warning to anybody contemplating the acquisition of offspring: Be aware that anything you do for Christmas just once instantly becomes a Hallowed Holiday Tradition, and you fail to do it again every year thereafter at your peril. By the time all your kids are teenagers heading for college, you will inevitably be dragging a whole sled-load of Tradition behind you as you head into the joyous season.

And a further, happier thought:  If you’re still stumped over what to give as a holiday present to the writer in your life (even if that writer is you), remember that my seasonal sale of editorial and critique services is ongoing through Twelfth Night (5 January 2019.)

In Honor of the Holiday Season

Xmas Promo

Because storytelling is a good thing to do at the turning of the year, whatever the tradition:

It’s time for my annual holiday gift sale!  From now through Twelfth Night, my usual rate of $1500 for a standard-sized novel drops down to $1000, and my rate of $2000 for a 100,000-word-plus door-stopper drops to $1500.

If you’re a writer, you can buy a gift certificate for yourself and redeem it when you’re ready; if you have a writer in your life you’d like to support and surprise, you can buy one for them.  (It comes with a personalized .pdf certificate, suitable for printing out and putting into an envelope and hanging from the tree/slipping into a stocking/presenting in your favored manner to your favored person.)

More info on formats, payment, and the like can be found on my about page.

Reposting for a Friend

Old-timers who remember SFF-Net may remember Robert W. Glaub, who was a regular poster there and later on Making Light.  He was also a long-time worker for the Federal government, which has — in accordance with unhallowed tradition — repaid him in his recent retirement by shafting him big-time.  The following message is reposted from his Facebook group at his request:

I need help. The government says they overpaid me and emptied out my bank account. I have no money for food or insulin. Plus since I declared bankruptcy my credit union will close down my account on Friday. So if you can send me what you can to my PayPal account by Thursday, that would be a big help. rwglaub@yahoo.com.

November Is National Novel Writing Month.

Which means that it’s once again time for me to point discreetly at the Editorial and Critique Services link in my blog header (and right here in this post, as well) and observe that finishing your first draft is only the start of the novel-writing process, and that if you’re looking for some professional assistance of the line-edit and critique variety, I’m here to help.