Convergence programming schedule

Convergence — our ENORMOUS local summer con — is this weekend, and as usual, I’m going and will be on some panels. Should you wish to find me, here’s where to look:

Thursday, July 3rd

5 p.m. Sci-Fi Mirror

How does the sci-fi of an era reflect society’s concerns, hopes, dreams, and politics? Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Naomi Kritzer, Haddayr Copley-Woods, Ozgur K. Sahin, Kenneth Konkol. Atrium 4.

10 p.m. Ultimate Evil Overlord 101

An interactive guide to becoming the ultimate evil overlord – with audience participation. Panelists: Naomi Kritzer, Brian Salisbury, Craig Cormick, Laura Thurston, Christoforo Pasquarette. Atrium 6.

Friday, July 4th

8:30 p.m. Tell Me That Again

Most stories have been told before! What folktales, myths, and legends did Shakespeare tell in his plays? What classic stories are being retold in episodes of Star Trek, the Avengers, or the Big Bang Theory? Panelists: Naomi Kritzer, Sarah Prentice, Joseph Erickson, Tex Thompson, Aimee Kuzenski. Atrium 7.

Saturday, July 5th

I have nothing scheduled but might do the Steam Century mystery. Molly, having played the mystery LARP for years and years now with great enthusiasm, has now joined the cast. Ed is predicting that I will lose miserably because Molly will conscientiously refuse to tell me ANYTHING.

Then again, if the weather’s nice, I may try to lure my friends into coming and hanging out with me on the patio (last year the RadishTree had a lovely, lovely patio off the back end of the hotel, with comfortable furniture and fresh-grilled food for reasonable prices. There was even a bar out there. Smokers were all off in their special corral where their fumes would not irritate anyone else.)

Sunday, July 6th

2 p.m. Women in Genre Not Talking about Women in Genre

Panelists talk about everything EXCEPT what it’s like to be a woman working in genre! Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? What YA series will be made into a TV show next? Audience questions will be drawn randomly and answered by the panelists. Panelists: Martha Wells, Damarra Atkins, Lynne M. Thomas, Danielle Indovino, Naomi Kritzer. Edina Room.

3:30 p.m. Urban Legends: Myths, Facts, and Half-Truths

From alligators in the sewer to clowns in the attic, urban legends walk the line between total absurdity and being just so outrageous that they might be true. Where do these stories come from, and why do they capture our imaginations so effectively? Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Anne Sauer, Naomi Kritzer, Bug Girl, Shawn van Briesen. Atrium 6.

In the try-on room at the thrift shop

1. How did I not notice the enormous stain on this item when I took it off the rack? Oh, AND it’s ripped. Excellent.

2. When it won’t even go on over my hips, that makes it easy.

3. This makes me look fat. Ginormous, in fact.

4. What on earth happened with this seam? Skirts should flow down over your hip, not stick out at a right angle. Was this an intentional design or some sort of sewing mistake?

5. I can envision a woman of my exact size and shape who would totally ROCK this item of clothing. And I sort of wish I were that woman, but I think I need to just accept the fact that I’m not.

6. This doesn’t even REMOTELY come CLOSE to fitting….oh, that would be because it’s a children’s item that got hung with the adult women’s clothes by mistake…

7. What was I even thinking when I took this one off the rack and put it in my cart?

8. It fits me and feels good, but I wanted pockets and a different color. I’d be sold if it were $5, but it’s $10.

9. Wait, this item I grabbed impulsively actually looks AWESOME on me! …naturally, it’s one of the $14 items instead of one of the $7 items.

MarsCon Schedule

I’ll be at MarsCon this coming weekend, March 7th – 9th.  If you’re hoping to see me there, here’s my schedule:

Getting into the mind of a religious fanatic
Saturday 11:00 a.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
Uber villain or bit player, what are they like? Are there any useful generalizations? Are they likely to be suicidal and does that depend on the religion or the person? How can they make for interesting novels and stories without being stereotyped and one dimensional? 
With: Naomi Kritzer, mod.; P M F Johnson, Lyda Morehouse, G. David Nordley, David E. Romm, Ozgur K. Sahin

The Press vs. Science
Saturday 1 p.m., Atrium 2 (Re(a)d Mars)
What are some of the greatest howlers in science coverage? What’s the most common kind of reportorial error? What happens when scientists try to write their own press releases? What happens when institutional PR departments do it?
With: Rob Callahan, mod.; Dr. Tom Gardner, Naomi Kritzer, G. David Nordley

Timing and Pacing
Sunday 11 a.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
What does timing have to do with writing? How do you know where to put your action/dialogue/sex scene? How can you tell if you have it in the wrong place? How does this differ between novels and shorter works? What horrible things can go wrong? Why do writers’ groups have trouble gauging pacing in novels? Is there such a thing as too fast in pacing?
With: S.N. Arly, mod.; Naomi Kritzer, Lyda Morehouse

Finding the Key to Your Imagination
Sunday 1 p.m., Exec Lounge (Krushenko’s)
What is imagination? Where does it come from? Some of us are blessed (or cursed) with an excess, and others have very little. Most folks think it’s okay for kids to engage in imaginary play and exercise their imaginations, but a lot of folks think it’s odd of grownups to do the same. Does our culture hinder and damage creative impulses? How do you find your imagination if it’s gone missing? How do you keep it engaged and strong? Is it a use it or lose it proposition?
With: Esther Friesner, S.N. Arly, mod.; Haddayr Copley-Woods, Stryder Dancewolffe, Naomi Kritzer

I will also be around, possibly with kids in tow (I apologize in advance if someone wants to chat with me and I get dragged off by a demanding ten-year-old).

Ravenclaw Kiera, Gryffindor Molly

An old photo of the girls dressed in costumes.

Stories Published in 2013 (that you can nominate for awards, should you feel moved)

This is an Award Awareness Post, where I’m going to tell you, “Here’s what I published last year! In case you want to nominate it for shiny prizes!”)  I will note in my defense that when nominating stories, I appreciate being able to find out easily whether things I liked were Short Stories or Novelettes and precisely where they got published in which month (since you always have to write that stuff down).  So.  In case you think I’m awesome, are nominating for one of the genre awards (or non-genre! heck, feel free to nominate my penis story for the arty-est most thoroughly literary award out there, if you’re on the nominating committee) and want to know what all I published last year so you can nominate for me for ALL THE THINGS… here you go!

Novelette

“Solidarity,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2013.  This is a seastead story, with the same setting and characters as “Liberty’s Daughter” and “High Stakes” (which were published in F&SF in May/June 2012 and Nov/Dec 2012.)

Short Story

“The Wall,” Asimov’s Science Fiction, April/May 2013. This is my time-travel-Berlin-Wall story, in which a college student in 1989 is approached by a woman claiming to be her, from the future, and trying to persuade her to go to Berlin to see the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Bits, Clarkesworld, October. This is the penis story. It’s online and it’s free, so you could go read it right now if you haven’t already. I realized the other week that if you look me up on the Internet, it’s currently the third hit. So this means that the lady I was chatting with at the parent coffee at school, who found out I was an author and wrote down my name: if she googled me, she’s probably now read it.  

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

BitsClarkesworld, October. There’s an audio version!  Read by Kate Baker.

Otherwise, perhaps I can interest you in a lovely picture of one of my cats:

Cat Picture
Blogs are for cat pictures.

 

Yuletide Fanfic

For years, I’ve enjoyed reading Yuletide stories.  Yuletide, for those who are not aware of it, is an annual fanfic exchange.  When you sign up, you request a story (you actually have to give multiple possible options) and you also offer to write one (ditto). You volunteer and request based on “fandoms,” which in the context of Yuletide can sometimes be as narrow as a single blog post or a TV commercial.  Yuletide does require that the fandoms be small, or at least smallish — you can’t request or offer Harry Potter-based stories, Avengers, anything that has a huge amount of fanfic already.

Stories have to be turned in by late Christmas Eve, and everyone gets their story on Christmas Day.  Authors remain secret until January 1st. All the stories are in an archive and can be sorted by fandom, so you can poke through and read all the stuff that appeals to you.  (A Little Princess?  Allstate’s “Mayhem” commercials? Georgette Heyer’s Venetia?  They’re all in there.)

This year I decided I wanted to play. I was assigned to write for someone who wanted Code Name Verity fanfic, and wrote a story called Damask Roses (it’s also Rose Under Fire fanfic) and I wrote a Treat (an unassigned story I wrote because I looked at a bunch of prompts and felt inspired) about Disney Princesses at a college called Four Things That Weren’t Adequately Covered in Mulan’s RA Training.

The story I received was Addams Family (the movie) fanfic called College First.  It’s perfect — filled with spot-on bits of deadpan dialog.

Lucifer Cast to Earth

Lucifer, as depicted in John Milton’s well-known derivative work, “Paradise Lost.”

I’ve written derivative work before — in fact, I’ve sold it, as you can totally do if you’re deriving from something in the public domain.  “In the Witch’s Garden” (published in Realms of Fantasy in October 2002, available now in Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories) is loosely based on “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.  “The Golem” (published in Realms of Fantasy in October 2000, available now in Comrade Grandmother and Other Stories) draws on the Jewish legend of the golem created by Rabbi Loew.

I’ve also written straight-up fanfic, but not on AO3 and not in Yuletide, so that was really a new experience.

“Four Things” … was really popular.  And here’s the thing about fanfic — no one’s writing it for money, obviously, so there’s this whole culture surrounding it where people are rewarded for their writing and encouraged to write more with compliments. You do get compliments with pro writing; I’ve gotten some really lovely e-mails over the year, and my most recent published story, Bits, has a comments section with eight comments. By contrast, “Four Things” has 353 kudos (basically like a Facebook “like,” only more specifically adulatory) and 40-some comments, all of them saying things like, “you are SO AWESOME.”

You just do not ever get that sort of feedback in pro writing normally. Unless you are so famous that you are also getting stalkers. It’s a funny thing.

And the weird flip side of this is that with pro writing I also always feel slightly embarrassed and awkward about compliments. (I avoid reviews, even good ones; they tend to paralyze me. The bad ones make me think, “oh my god, she’s totally right: I DO suck.” The good ones make me think, “oh my god, I’m totally going to let this person down.” This is totally neurotic, and yet I know a lot of other writers with this same problem — it’s not just me.) Whereas with the fanfic I read every comment and let everyone’s opinion of my brilliance buoy me up. It felt good.

Anyway. Yuletide was fun. Whether I do it next year will once again depend on whether I remember to sign up, though.

Election 2014 already

Apparently it’s election season again ALREADY.

Over on my old blog, I conscientiously and obsessively blogged about the Minneapolis mayoral race.  (It was an interesting year.)  The election came and went, they counted (which took a few days) and I hung up my political-blogging hat thinking, “done with THAT for a while.”

Picture of the Minnesota State Capitol dome.

Minnesota State Capitol. (From http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/)

But…it turns out that here in my new district in St. Paul, our State Rep, Michael Paymar, is retiring.  (He’s represented this district since 1996. So — for a while, although our State Senator, Dick Cohen, has been representing District 64 since 1986.)  The caucuses are in February (February 4th, I think; I wrote it down on the calendar) and the Senate District Convention is in March (late March, thank goodness! it shouldn’t interfere with MarsCon). And if things in this district run like things in my old district, odds are excellent that it’s the Senate District Convention that will effectively pick our next State Rep.

I mean, officially there is a primary, and there’s an election.  But the DFL endorsement holds an awful lot of weight in these races, and the DFL-endorsed candidate has a definite edge in the primary. And come the general election, well, I expect that a Republican will run, but I would be pretty shocked if they won.

(DFL = “Democratic-Farmer-Labor.”  It’s just the Minnesota name for the Democratic Party.)

Anyway. I feel much less well-informed in St. Paul, mostly because I have less of a sense of who the jerks are.  In Minneapolis, there are certain endorsements that people will put in their materials that will cause me to write them off unless they are also endorsed by the people I know I like, to balance them out.  I’m sure St. Paul has a similar crowd of People I Would Hate, If I Knew Who They Were, but I don’t know who they are yet.  (Does that mean I pay more attention to who you know, than what you believe?  Well, not exactly.  It’s more that I pay more attention to who your buddies are, than I pay to what you say you believe.)

This is all preamble to note that I got a phone call this evening from Matt Freeman, a candidate to replace Michael Paymar.  He gets points for being the first candidate to call me, although mid-December is honestly a point at which even I do not really want to be thinking about elections.  We chatted a little (I told him I’d moved last year from Jim Davnie’s district; he wanted to know why I moved, and it wasn’t until I was telling him my answer that it occurred to me that I might be tipping my hand about how best he could craft his pitch.  I don’t think he did, though.)  I wrote down the caucus date and his name and then told him to go ahead and give me his pitch.

The two big issues he talked about were (1) raising the minimum wage, and (2) improving the opportunity gap with Early Childhood education.

Having listened to that amazing This American Life episode about free universal preschool as well as having read about studies, I’m on board with Early Childhood education funding as a potential panacea for the opportunity gap.  I’m also a fan of raising the minimum wage, although I was curious what he wanted to raise it to.   Matt said he thought $9.50 was achievable although he would prefer $10.50; he also wants to peg it to inflation and to work for mandatory sick leave and parental leave.  (Universal paid sick leave is one of those “everybody wins” sorts of ideas.  Totally aside from the fact that letting sick people stay home is the humane and reasonable thing to do, I do not want people with the stomach flu handling my food.)

I asked him about his stance on gun control (which has been one of Michael Paymar’s signature issues, not that he’s had much success with it.)  He talked about background checks and mental health screenings, which is actually a huge red flag for me because what exactly does that mean? Does this mean that people who seek help for mental illnesses are going to go into a database accessible to gun salespeople? Because no. I’m a big fan of medical privacy, particularly regarding mental health records.  He backpedaled when I asked for details and it was clear he hadn’t thought about this much.

One thing he had thought about was that we needed to work harder to figure out how to sell gun control to outstate Minnesotans.  And he’s right about that. Minnesota has a strong hunting culture in the rural parts of the state, and guns just have a different place in people’s lives when they live in the country as opposed to the city.

(My friend Elizabeth, who is a Quaker and a committed pacifist, bought a gun when she moved to the country, because they were raising chickens and were troubled with possums. In the city, if a possum moves into your garage, you can call Animal Control.  In the country, you have to deal with this stuff yourself, and that means either owning a gun, or having a neighbor with a gun.)

Anyway. He does not have a smooth, polished political pitch down yet, and I’m wondering now how long he’s been making these calls.  You would think people would start with the people who’ve been to caucuses in the past, but we haven’t been to a caucus in this district yet so presumably he got my number off the voter registration records and that suggests he’s cold-calling registered voters.  Seems impractical, but what do I know about this stuff?  (He was Chris Coleman’s campaign manager so I expect he knows what he’s doing.)

There are currently seven people running for this seat, I think. (All of them Democrats.) In looking for information, I discovered that someone else is already obsessively blogging about this race, relieving me of the responsibility: http://www.theracefor64b.com/  I’ll probably write about it anyway, though.

Same Song, Different Verse

There’s an Isaac Bashevis Singer collection for Hanukkah called The Power of Light, which my family owned when I was little.  It’s a collection of eight stories for Hanukkah. My favorite was probably the title story, about two Jewish teenagers trapped in the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto after the uprising.  Probably the best-known story in there is “A Parakeet Named Dreidel,” in which a parakeet shows up on the windowsill of the narrator’s New York City apartment.

The Power of Light Cover Illustration

The final story in the volume, “Hanukkah in the Poorhouse,” tells the story of a Jewish man from Belarus who was kidnapped from his family as a child, forced to live with a Russian family, and, on reaching adulthood, drafted into military service.  (“I had no choice but to eat unkosher food,” the narrator says.  “In the first days I spat out the pig meat, but how long can a boy fast? For hundreds of miles around there was not a single Jew.”)

I looked this up, tonight, thinking about this, because I was curious about the historical context.  The boys were called cantonists, and this system (which included some schooling) was originally started out as something for the orphaned sons of soldiers. The kidnapping and forced conscription was something done to Roma and Polish boys as well as Jews.

The news coming out of Russia, about journalist Masha Gessen’s fears for her family, and the very real threats from the Russian government against LGBT families — the threat that they are going to take away the children of loving parents because the parents are gay –this has all reminded me intensely of this story.

And, in fact, pretty much everything happening to gay people in Russia these days probably sounds pretty familiar, if you’re Jewish and grew up with stories about pogroms, ghettos, and Russian persecution of Jews.  It’s certainly sounded familiar to me, right down to my recollection of the historical theory that the Czars encouraged pogroms because scapegoating Jews was such an excellent distraction for people with legit grievances against, say, the Czar. (In Jewish children’s lit, at last back in the 1980s, “Cossacks” basically meant “the bad guys.” It turns out that the Cossacks were ALSO an oppressed ethnic minority — or, in some respects, a co-opted one.)

Anyway. I don’t really have a particular point here, other than that people should read Isaac Bashevis Singer (you can also find that story in his Stories for Children collection, although The Power of Light has absolutely stunning, gorgeous illustrations in it), boycott Russian vodka, and support asylum for any GLBTQ Russians who ask for it.