Food and Drink in the North Country

Things you can have if you travel up this way.  Possibly #1 in an ongoing series, depending upon how much I get out of this house before winter comes back around.  (The Starks of Winterfell could have a summer home up here, I suspect, and nobody would even notice because they’d fit right in.  “Winter is coming.”  “Ayup.  Got your wood in yet?”)

Anyhow.  Here’s a photo of that pHtea Jim Macdonald blogged about in his post about the Vermont RennFaire:

PhTea

That’s white tea, chamomile tea, and yerba mate in the photo; the black tea had already been consumed by me the night before.

And here is breakfast at the North Country Family Restaurant in Groveton, New Hampshire, where they make their own corned beef hash.  (As does any diner in northern New England with a shred of self-respect.)

Hash and Eggs at the NorthCountry Restaurant

That’s two eggs sunny-side up over corned beef hash, with homemade toast and a side of hash browns.  (Well, up here they call them hash browns.  As a transplanted Texan, I feel obliged to point out that they are actually country fries, because proper hash browns are shredded, not cubed.  Nomenclature aside, though, they’re done well, and come with or without onions at the diner’s preference.)

The other breakfast, in the background, is a fried egg sandwich made with French toast.  I have it on good authority that it tastes just fine.

Albacon, Upcoming

Himself and I will be at Albacon in Albany NY this weekend — it’s at the western edge of our traveling periphery, and it’s a small, low-key convention that we’ve always enjoyed whenever we’ve been able to make it. All too often, it used to coincide with the Viable Paradise workshop, but now it’s moved back to the spring — which is tougher on our pocketbook but easier on our schedule.

Right now — such are the joys of the freelance life — it’s still up in the air as to whether we’ll be doing the con in shoestring mode or have a bit of leeway for nonessentials. (At least the con hotel’s complimentary full American breakfast takes care of two meals for the weekend, which helps to stretch out the shoestring.)

But if you’re in Albany NY this weekend in a congoing mood, you could always drop by and listen to Himself do his presentation on “100 Years of Dead Magicians” on Saturday night.

I Think It’s a Rule

If you’re driving into Boston from out of town, you have to get lost at least once on Massachusetts Avenue.

Normally, our GPS navigator saves us from this, but the rules caught up with us this trip, because the navigator went toes-up on us shortly before departure.  Fortunately, we were able to access Google Maps via my phone — not by using the phone’s web feature, because it doesn’t really have one, but by calling our younger son back in Colebrook and having him find the necessary directions and relay them to us.

After that mini-adventure, we made it safely to the Westin hotel, and our first programming item is a signing at 2 PM in the Galleria.  We’re signing alongside Ken MacLeod and Charlie Stross, so if you’ve got a book (or a short story in an anthology, or a bookplate, or whatever), feel free to bring it in and we’ll happily sign it for you.

And if you’re one of the people who mostly own our stuff in electronic format . . . if you can figure out how to get us to sign that, we’ll happily do that as well.

(Surely somebody, somewhere, has invented an app for getting author signatures on e-books.  Heaven knows, they’ve got apps for everything else.)

The Unified Doyle & Macdonald Boskone Schedule

Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
Autographing
Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Galleria

(We’ll be autographing alongside Ken MacLeod and Charles Stross, a couple of overseas guests from the UK, so if you’ve got anything by us you’d like to have signed, feel free to bring it in so we won’t let New Hampshire down.)

Debra Doyle
Design Your Own Mythology:
Saturday 15:00 – 16:00, Harbor III

What goes into mythmaking? Panelists share their experiences in creating mythologies and pantheons — offering up dos and don’ts, tips on resources, and things to think about as you try creating a coherent mythology of your own.

James D. Macdonald
From Rapiers to Ray Guns
Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, Marina 1

From epic fantasy to space war, speculative fiction is rife with useful tools and weapons that can be used in battle. How much does a writer or reader really need to know about these weapons for fictional frays to feel real? What weapons work best for close-quarters or downrange combat in specific settings?

Debra Doyle
A Muddle of Mad Scientists
Saturday 20:00 – 21:00, Burroughs

From Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Faustus, Mrs. Coulter to Dr. Horrible, genre fiction is filled with a long list of the crazily creative geniuses known as mad scientists. Why do we love them? What makes the mad scientist character so appealing in horror, comedy, and everything in between? Join us for a mad, mad discussion featuring some of our favorite screwy scientists/inventors from the past, present, and future.

James D. Macdonald
Abracadabra! Making Magic Real
Sunday 12:00 – 13:00, Marina 1

In writing fantasies — from epic to urban– how do you keep your story’s magic feeling fresh and new? It’s a challenge. Rules and boundaries can help, but how do you make the “science” of the supernatural seem, well, natural? Panelists discuss the perils and potentials of using magic in fiction.

Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
Reading Sunday 13:00 – 13:30, Griffin

It’s January, Which Means Arisia Is on the Horizon

Doyle’s Arisia Sked

What Lies Beneath: Adding Subtext to Your Story Alcott Fri 8:30 PM

    In real life and in storytelling, what -isn’t- being said is often more gripping than the actual dialogue between your characters. How can you use subtext to develop your characters and boost suspense? What dialogue tricks, body language, and setting communicate there’s a story which isn’t being told? Our panelists will teach you how to make your characters lie, dodge, and evade the thing they don’t want to face, all while foreshadowing the existence of inner demons.

Reading: Doyle, Ronald, Macdonald Hale Sat 10:00 AM

Expecto Patronum: Animal Symbolism in SFF Marina 1 Sat 5:30 PM

Symbolic and magical connections to animals are a standard trope in fantasy. But they are also prevalent in science fiction. From Black Panther to the Mockingjay, characters’ connections to particular animals can say a lot about them, especially in the context of the culture that produced them. What do animals mean in SFF, and how have they changed as we learn more about biodiversity and the changing natural world?

The 100 Year Old Barbed Wire: The Great War & SF Marina 2 Sun 1:00 PM

We are in the midst of the centenary of World War I. The US was not hit badly by it compared to Europe, and in 2017 the centenary of US involvement (6 April 1917) is coming up. How did the war and its aftermath change society and our idea of the future. Could “Brave New World” or “Things to Come” or other early classics of speculative fiction been written without the war’s impact? Why do so many alternate histories use earlier or later events as a changing point rather than this one?

Macdonald’s Arisia Sked:

Reading: Doyle, Ronald, Macdonald     Hale     Writing     Sat 10:00 AM   

Just the Facts: Vaccines     Alcott         Sat 8:30 PM

Why do we need a flu shot every year? Why do more people have to get vaccinated when the vaccine is less effective? What kind of harm _can_ they cause? And why is the U.S. having measles outbreaks again when Pakistan and India are eliminating polio? Come hear the science, the anti-science, and the ongoing discussions of immunology and epidemiology.
       
Pew-Pew-Pew! How to Write a Sci-Fantasy Gunfight     Hale         Sun 1:00 PM

Whether you write steampunk, gritty urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction or futuristic sci-fi, chances are you’ll need to write a gunfight. What kind of firearm (gun, pulse cannon or ray-gun) should your characters use? How should they secure and store their weapon? What are their weapon’s limitations? What materials will provide cover when the enemy fires at them? Don’t let your gunfights be like the Stormtroopers who always miss!!!

Going Viral: How Pathogens Spread     Faneuil     Sun 8:30 PM

Zombies don’t really work, but viruses do. This is a look at fast versus slow pathogens and how they can spread. Maybe it’s time to buy that house in Madagascar?

Where We’ll be Tomorrow

Jim Macdonald and I will be on a road trip down to Peterborough, NH, where we’ll be part of the group book-signing for the Conspiracy! anthology at the Toadstool Bookshop.

Our audiobook for the drive down and back is The Count of Monte Cristo.  Nineteenth-century doorstop novels make great road books, especially if you stick to the blood-and-thunder end of the spectrum.  We’ve already gone through Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and The Woman in White, both of which I can heartily recommend – among other things, Collins has a lot fewer female characters whom I want to slap silly than, say, Dickens does.  I don’t think we’ll be trying anything by Hardy, or by Henry James, though; the blind malice of the universe and the delicate delineation of interior states aren’t exactly the best antidotes for highway hypnosis.

(Or maybe for some people they are.  Everybody’s reaction to a work of literature is different, and is their own.)

Next up, after we’re done with Edmond Dantès and the gang, will be a handful of Welcome to Night Vale podcasts.  After that . . . who knows?  Maybe The Three Musketeers.

Not Your Usual Job Opportunity

Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire, is looking for a new Wolfman for the 2016 summer season.

Clark’s Trading Post is one of the first dedicated “roadside attractions” in New England, having originally been established in 1928 as “Ed Clark’s Eskimo Sled Dog Ranch.”  Tourists could view the sled dog teams and purchase souvenirs and maple candy.  In 1931, the first of the trained bears was added to the show, which differed from most trained-bear acts of the time because it used what would now be referred to as “positive reinforcement,” which Ed Clark adapted from the methods he used to train his dog teams.

(As it turned out, the bears really liked ice cream, and it remains their reward to this day – or at least that was what they were still using the last time I saw the show.)

The Unified Doyle-Macdonald Arisia Schedule

The Arisia Science Fiction Convention is being held this coming weekend at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, and (barring unforeseen disasters) Jim Macdonald and I are planning to be there.  Our schedule for the convention:

5:30 PM Friday  (Three bells of the First Dog Watch)

Thrown with Great Force:Classics We Won’t Finish – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min- Marina 2 (2E)
This is a panel for all of you who didn’t finish LotR; everyone who needed to self medicate through Infinite Jest, exiled Frankenstein to the frozen wastes, or wanted to flush the Foundation. What did you fail to finish, which ones do you feel guilty about not finishing, and which ones do not make you feel any twinge of guilt at all?

    Kate Nepveu (m), Mark L Amidon, Vikki Ciaffone, Debra Doyle, Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Ken Liu
10:00 PM Friday  (Four bells of the First Watch)

Trains and SF/F – Fan Interest, Panel – 1hr 15min – Faneuil (3W)
Perhaps the most iconic development of the Industrial Revolution was the steam locomotive, and science fiction and fantasy has made great use of locomotives and trains throughout its history. Whether the “lightning rail” of D&D’s Eberron setting or the popularity of locomotives in steampunk, SF/F is no stranger to the love affair and sense of wonder people have for trains. Come “all aboard” with Arisia ’16, as we explore this phenomenon in the realm of fantastic fiction!

 Dennis McCunney (m), James Macdonald, Daniel Miller
10:00 AM Saturday  (Four bells of the Forenoon Watch)

The Founding Mothers of SF/F – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 2 (2E)
As we know, women invented all our favorite stuff! Mary Shelley defined science fiction with Frankenstein; Baroness Emma Orczy invented the superhero with The Scarlet Pimpernel. Let’s discuss the founding mothers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Catherine Lundoff (m), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Victoria Janssen, JoSelleVanderhooft

10:00 AM Saturday (Four bells of the Forenoon Watch)

How to Write a Fight Scene – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Grand CD (1W)
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.

Keith R. A. DeCandido (m), Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, James Macdonald, Mark J. Millman
1:00 PM Saturday  (2 Bells of the Afternoon Watch )

Shifting the Language of SF – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 2 (2E)
Very few SF authors of the many who set stories in the far future ever speculate what language may sound like in following centuries and distant stars. Some formative works, like Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Orwell’s 1984 include this as a theme. Who else? What are the dangers of speculating vernacular? How might the language our descendants speak differ from ours? What works in SF imagine how the kids talk in the far future?

John Chu (m), Heather Albano, Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Lawrence M. Schoen

1:00 PM Saturday  (2 Bells of the Afternoon Watch)

Cinematic Writing and SF/F – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Burroughs (3E)
SF/F literature gets a lot of its fans from other media, especially visual media like TV and film. How has it affected the writing of spec fic? Can writing be truly cinematic? What does cinematic literature look like? What techniques in SF/F point back toward more visual techniques in other media?

James Macdonald (m), Marlin May, John Scalzi, Sarah Smith, Ian Randal Strock

Sometimes I Go to the Movies

Yes, I did see the new Star Wars movie, and yes, I liked it.  But I’d like to take a moment to talk about the other movie I saw recently, which didn’t get nearly as much media attention:  In the Heart of the Sea.  Jim Macdonald and I made a six-hour round trip (not counting the movie itself and a dinner afterward) down to Hanover NH and back in order to see it,  because it wasn’t showing anywhere closer and probably wasn’t ever going to be.  A based-on-a-nonfiction-book film about the fate of the whaleship Essex isn’t going to pull big audiences into the movie theatres at a season when they could be watching heartwarming dramas or the triumphant return of a major franchise, but if In the Heart of the Sea could be said to have a target audience, my husband/co-author and I are it.

It turned out to be a good movie, if not a movie to most people’s taste – very pretty to watch, with a haunting musical score, and it didn’t leave Macdonald muttering about nautical inaccuracies. (At one point near the beginning of the film, the sailors see a squall line approaching like a solid black wall on the horizon. “Does it really look like that?” I asked Macdonald in a whisper. “No,” he said. “It looks worse.” After which we get a truly impressive storm-at-sea sequence.)

I must confess that I, as a lit geek with a fondness for Moby-Dick, and a certain amount of awareness of its sources and analogues, did do a bit of muttering. For one thing, the whale that rammed and sank the whaleship Essex was not a white whale. That was a different whale, known in the sperm whale fisheries as Mocha (not Moby) Dick.  I’ll give the folks who did the CGI whale points, though, for depicting it as the actual Mocha Dick was supposed to look–not a solid white whale, but a mottled white-and-light-brown one, sort of a pinto effect. I expect that the CGI artists did their research in the same historical source material where Melville did his.

I did wince a bit, though, at the recurring “[N] days stranded” captions during the post-sinking portion of the film. Because you can’t be stranded in a small boat on the open sea. Being stranded requires being left or cast up on a strand — a seashore. (If somebody puts you there deliberately, you are marooned.) If you’re in a boat, you’re either adrift (if you aren’t at least attempting to make progress in some direction) or at sea (if you are, however desperately.)

Not that I’m picky about such things….