Jul 9, 2016

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Chasing the Dream

Today, I have fulfilled a long time dream of mine; I am now living in downtown Helsinki, close to the in-city amusement park, Linnanmäki. There was a time when I would have thought today beyond even my wildest dreams, which makes the view I’m looking at over my laptop screen all the more precious. But since the actual move only happened yesterday, I’m still shifting boxes. Which means that I haven’t really had time to process this thing that keeps making me happy enough to cheer periodically. Instead, I’m just going to ask you, dear reader; what have you done today, or are planning to do today (depending on your time zone) to make your dreams come true?

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Jul 2, 2016

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Clutter of life

Today, I am at Finncon in Tampere talking about fairy tales (except I’m not; I’m at home with bronchitis, kicking myself for having missed this). Back home my partner is getting ready to move house. We’ve been working hard at reducing the amount of stuff we have in order to have as little to move as possible. In the process we’ve been assessing the things that we want to keep in our lives. And also thinking about the people we are today versus the people we have been over our lives.

I am, unfortunately, a person who likes my things. I’ve been fairly poor at one point in my life and that has left me with some mild issues about getting rid of stuff. Mild in the sense that I, my partner, or our dog are none of us at danger of being killed under a pile of stuff. I’ve been fairly well off for just over ten years now and yet, even now, every time something breaks, my first instinct is that I should be able to fix it. Hole in my jeans? I can fix that. Zipper broke on a sweater cheaper than the new zipper would be? I can just sew a new one in there when I magically manage to get rid of the need to sleep 8 hours a day. Clothes that haven’t fit me since I was a teenager? I might be able to fit into them again some day, despite the fact that I was still growing, underweight and several cup sizes smaller in the chest area. I have a whole huge vacuum bag filled with clothes that no longer fit me, that I’ve barely even looked at since the last time we moved, seven years ago. Last weekend, we singled out some 700 movies to get rid of before we move because it’s either unlikely that we’ll ever watch them again or won’t be sorry if we can’t stream them.

This is what's staying behind for us to move. #hoardertendencies

Kuva, jonka Nina Niskanen (@nina.niskanen) julkaisi

So saying I have a problem with getting rid of stuff that isn’t explicitly broken beyond repair would be stating it mildly. I’m well aware that there’s nothing rational about it. But the thing is, I’m not cut out to be a minimalist, no matter how much I try. I can’t help it. I need a bit of clutter around the place to make the place feel lived in and like home. As life goes on, I’m becoming more and more okay with this fact of myself. The trick is in figuring out what part of the clutter is necessary and wanted and which part of it is being kept just as a remnant of me being afraid of never being able to afford a thing again. The trick is in keeping down the amount of clutter in the house to a level so that it won’t turn into full on hoarder mode and consume our entire existence. Which, to be honest, I’m not that great at.

What about you? Do you share my hoarder tendencies or are you one of those lucky minimalists?

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Jun 25, 2016

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Finncon schedule

A week from now, Finncon is happening in Tampere, Finland. I am on the programming on Saturday 2.7!

My solo thing 11:00- 12:00 in hall D10a:

Beyond Once Upon a Time

From princesses to evil fairies to a whole host of the well-known fairy tale characters, we’ve seen them all on the big screen and the smaller one. Sometimes without entirely realizing that’s what we’re seeing. As we watch, the stories are changing to suit the audience and the culture, in ways that the Brothers Grimm could hardly foresee. Nina Niskanen will take you on a tour of fairy tales adapted to TV and movies over the years, focusing on the last 30 years in an effort to discover changing trends. Trigger Warning: the talk will discuss sexual assault.

I’m also moderating a panel with Guests of Honor Anne Leinonen and Catherynne M. Valente 16:00-17:00 in hall D10a:

Sex, drugs and Puss ‘n Boots
Beneath the sweet, Disney exterior of fairy tales often lies a roiling underbelly of lust, abuse and unfulfilled desire. Modern reincarnations often put the subtext of the originals out for anyone to see. In a panel moderated by Nina Niskanen, Anne Leinonen and Catherynne Valente discuss the topic of sex in the context of fairy tales. CW: may contain discussion of sexual abuse.
Do come see me if you’re nearby! Attendance is free!

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Jun 18, 2016

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Non-compliant

My grandmother wanted me to be the perfect picture of womanhood. She wanted me to cook and clean and bear children and stay silent while men did the speaking. She wanted me to do all this without complaint. Needless to say we never really did see eye to eye on that front. But on the other hand while we were butting heads on just what I was meant to do with my life she also in many ways showed me that she wasn’t herself a perfect picture of womanhood. At least not the kind we saw in movies and television shows. She was hardheaded with a dark sense of humor and when shit needed doing she just did it. No matter what she said she wasn’t the type to just cringe in the background while some hero took care of her business. In other words, while telling me to comply she showed me what it meant to be non-compliant.

I find myself thinking about my grandmother whenever I read Bitch Planet. We disagreed on so many things but in the end we were both non-compliant and both of us would’ve found ourselves on Bitch Planet, incarcerated for different crimes.

If you’ve never heard of it, Bitch Planet is a recurring comic, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, about a world very much like ours except that they have colonized the another planet and turned it into a prison for women. The reason they need a whole planet as a prison is that the society back on Earth has turned being a female non-compliant into a crime. And there are so many ways of being female and non-compliant, just like there are now. There’s the dutiful wife whose husband cheats on her and she gets angry enough to threaten him. She gets sent to Bitch Planet so that the husband can start his new life with the younger, more compliant mistress. The overweight girl, too angry by half for the society that wants its women silent and fading into the background. That’s a particularly nasty touch of world building that took me several re-reads to see; the fashions of the society have evolved so that most fashionable women wear fabric-based versions of a Scold’s Bridle when out in society functions.

Finland is fairly egalitarian as countries go and yet I have found myself being stopped on the street by men, and it’s always men, just so they could berate me for being overweight, just so they could tell me to smile. As if my body or the way I presented myself was any concern of theirs while they were passing me by never to be seen again. Most often the ones who berate me on being overweight are not only overweight themselves but usually also possess some questionable hygienic habits, to say the least. It seemed so unfairly hypocritical to me until I started reading Bitch Planet.

bitchplanet_1The concept of the Bitch Planet is all about making women prioritize other people. Their comfort as well as  The implication in that being, of course, that women aren’t real people. You don’t have to spend a long time watching the news to see how we could find ourselves in that situation. We’re not there, thankfully. And most years we keep making progress away from that place. But sometimes… Sometimes it also seems inevitable.

And those times? Those are the times I take my keyboard and start writing non-compliant women. We exist. We always have and always will. The internet allows us to use our voices in ways unprecedented in history. And amazing creators show us both the road to revolution as well as the possible dystopic future that many today would consider their own, personal utopia. We can either comply or we can rise up. I know which I would rather do.

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Jun 11, 2016

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The year of the first hustle

City Metro Rail,motion blur

We’re nearly at the halfway point of 2016. It seems surreal and also tremendously unfair. Like just yesterday it was January and suddenly we are closing in on Midsummer. Many of you reading this will know by now that I went to Viable Paradise in the autumn getting in and actually going has had a huge impact on the way I view my writing career, or rather my aspirations of a writing career. Instead of seeing it as a someday maybe proposition I have come to realize that in a very real way it is happening right now. As a result I started to hustle in a way I never did before.

Since the start of the year I written eight new short stories, released a new podcast episode more or less every other week, worked on outlines for two different novels, completed round after round of edits for my first short story sale, started seriously looking into starting in Etsy shop for knitted goods that I’m making anyway, and somehow found myself on the social media team of Worldcon 75. Listed one after another like that it seems like I’ve been working on a lot of things. In the moment it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I’ve been spending a lot of time watching TV shows and movies, and trawling Facebook. And what I’m beginning to realize is that this is the first year I’ve had to hustle for myself. Probably ever.

There are a lot of ways in which talent matters, but not all that surprisingly hard work matters more. I’ve been seeing some things come to me that I didn’t expect. For example, I’m moderating a panel with guests of honor Anne Leinonen and Catherynne M Valente at this year’s Finncon because I signed up for programming. I have publication coming up because of a blog post that I wrote and because the editors had the fortitude to work with me through my atrocious grammar and the weird mix of Finnish and English that always seems to come up when I try to write Finnish.

Universal Mind series. Visually pleasing composition of human head and fractal clouds to serve as background in works on mind dreams thinking consciousness and imagination

These are tiny little victories in the grand scheme of things but they are victories nonetheless. They give hope of bigger victories to come. Which makes it that much easier to hustle more. It’s part of the reason why I have this blog, even though I am, essentially, a nobody. Part of it is connecting with people who may or may not become readers of mine in the fullness of time, part of it is learning to put together a compelling essay/blog post one post at a time, and still another part of it is working to form my own thoughts into coherent and hopefully entertaining or useful bits of online content.

I have come to realize that though this year may be a year of hustle, it is to be the first of many of what will hopefully be a long and successful writing career. Whatever that means. But the definition of success is another post entirely.

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Jun 4, 2016

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I’m ready to stop punching myself in the face

beautiful sun rising sky with asphalt highways road in rural scene use land transport and traveling backgroundbackdropThis week Kameron Hurley’s enthusiastically awaited essay collection Geek Feminist Revolution came out. It’s an awesome read and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone. But it’s not exactly what I want to write about today. After reading it, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life and my writing. And I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’m ready to stop punching myself in the face. Or at least stop going to places in which I know I’ll get punched in the face. If you cannot parse those sentences, go read Ann Leckie’s excellent post It’s not a real heart, it’s a real artificial heart. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Done? Good.

 

I haven’t really been able to get excited about a movie since I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve been slightly sad about that, being ridiculously enthusiastic about things has long been a defining character trait of mine and I love movies enough that my wedding was movie themed. But ever since Fury Road, movies have been kind of a “well, if I have to” -type of experience. There have been a few that I’ve actually gotten enthusiastic about after the fact (Crimson Peak and Deadpool spring to mind). There have been some movies positioned as blockbusters that I flat out decided aren’t worth my time. I doubt I’ll ever see Gods of Egypt or Batman vs Superman. This never used to happen before. I mean, I’m one of the people who went to see Sucker Punch in the theater the first week it opened for goodness sake.

Drought landThen I went to see X-Men: Apocalypse. I still wish I had walked out when the metaphorical face punching started. But I was still hoping that at least they were going to tell a story that was something more than cardboard characters with a villain whose motivations would have made silent film makers say he was far too flat to be on screen. While I was watching I thought about all the amazing people writing non-face punchy bullshit getting their voices silenced. I thought about this third installment of a series whose makers have stellar careers making at best mediocre movies and shows like Agent Carter getting cancelled. I thought about Hunger Games nearly not getting made because it had a female lead. I thought about all the movies with female leads making more or less the same bank as similar movies and getting reported as failures and proof that women can’t lead while male actors and directors can be involved in spectacular failures of both story and box-office take-home and still go on to have careers. And I got tired. Weary to the bone of the double think and the double standards that are involved in creating and maintaining the status quo.

Just over a week after that Geek Feminist Revolution came out. I started thinking about all the time I was spending taking myself to places where I already knew I was very likely going to get punched in the face. I thought about what else I could be doing with that time. I started noticing all the bullshit micro-aggressions I encounter on a daily basis. The guy who feels it necessary to explain to a science fiction writer the existence of one of the most celebrated works of science fiction. The guy who deliberately misreads an article to make the point that women are not angels. The guy who, out of sheer lack of a clue decides that women are going to the gynecologist to get a routine examination without so much as bothering to ask women about their lived experience. The guy who decides that a woman having a crisis about turning thirty absolutely needs to be reassured by him that she’s still hot. It’s a deluge out there and frankly, not very likely to get better any time soon.

Portrait of a female vampire over black backgroundSo why do I feel the need to not only spend hours on but also to pay for getting punched in the face? Just because everyone else is enjoying it? Some things are part of our cultural consciousness. Stuff like Star Wars and superhero movies. Some things deserve the spot and others… don’t. I’ve read Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and Songs of Ice and Fire and Wheel of Time because they are a part of the cultural consciousness. For whatever reason they reach a point of popularity that leaves an imprint on this moment in time. So I’ve read them in an effort to understand. Our society, our moment in time, my own sensibilities. Well I’m done. At this point I’m just perpetuating the cycle. I’m done with the women getting killed or depowered to motivate a male character into action. I’m done with gratuitous plot point rapes. I’m done with the narratives of women being trophies given to the male lead, even though he’s an asshole and not fit to lick her shoes clean, just because he got to the end of the movie. Fuck those. I have better things to do with my time. Like write stories where women are actually people in charge of their own destinies.

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May 7, 2016

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Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Yes, it’s another blog post inspired by Hamilton. It’s probably not going to be the kind of post you expect.

City Metro Rail,motion blur

I’ve been resistant about getting into Hamilton because frankly I couldn’t see the attraction. I get that the Founding Fathers are revered, almost mythologized, figures in American history but for an outsider they’re just another set of historical characters. I’m generally a fan of the Rock Opera genre and I’ve been growing more and more curious about just why exactly it’s such a huge success among all my American friends. But it took Melanie Meadors’s post What the Geek Is Up With Hamilton: An American Musical? to actually move me to listen to it. Two hours and twenty two minutes later I was a weeping mess. The hours and twenty three minutes later I started over. That minute in between was getting another bag of tissues (we don’t use boxes for tissues in Finland) and a hug from my partner. I’ve been obsessed about it ever since.

But I’m not going to write another analysis of Hamilton, there have already been enough of those and I’m not nearly smart enough to top the people who’ve written them. Instead, what I want to talk about is the end. This is where it gets spoilery for the people people who might be concerned about the thing. But since it’s based in history, I don’t have a problem saying that Hamilton dies at 49, shot in a duel. The following number (and don’t worry, I’m not going into details) asks the things that so utterly destroyed me:

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?

Let’s face it, we’re none of us getting out of here alive and I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t at least want to be thought of kindly after they pass. I don’t know about you (I can guess, though) but I want to leave a legacy of some sort before I die. And holy fuck does that sound pompous as all get out but there’s really no other way to put it. I will never have children so my legacy will have to be in the things I create during my all-too brief time on this Earth.


I wake up at five on weekdays because that’s the only way for me to write with my day job. A lot of people tell me that I’m mad for doing that. And I don’t begrudge them that. I would have told myself that I’m mad for doing that only a year or two ago. I am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person. I don’t think that’s likely to ever change. Whenever I get the chance, I stay up till 2 or 3 AM then sleep at least until noon. If I have breakfast by 3 PM, I consider the day a win.

But the thing is, my clock is ticking. I turned 35 this year. The current life expectation for women in Finland is 83 years. Given the fact that there’s been a lot of cancer in my general family tree, I’m unlikely to live even that long. But let’s say I live till 83. That leaves me 48 years to create something worth remembering. And that sounds like such a long time. But lately it’s not just the days that keep flying by, it’s weeks and even months. It takes me about a year at this point to write a novel. So, optimistically speaking, that’d be 46 books in my lifetime, publishing is a slow machinery after all. And maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. I hope so.

I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up
Wise up. Eyes up

I don’t know who’ll tell my story. But at the end of the day, I’d like to have a story worth telling.

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Apr 3, 2016

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Just do it

Runner

Runner by Garry Knight

Earlier this week I did something that is either a humongous mistake or one of the best decisions I’ve made my in my entire life. The sad thing is there’s really not much wiggle room between them. I signed up for my first 10 km run. September. The thing that might make it a humongous mistake is the fact that I am massively overweight and very possibly in the worst shape of my entire life. This is not an exaggeration, this is knowing the fact that I can’t even walk for more than 30 minutes straight. Let alone finish an entire 10 km by foot or even by crawling.

But I have also started training. I’ve done a whole two sets of walking for 25 minutes. Right now my pace is such that it will take me just over two hours and ten minutes to finish the entire 10k. If I could keep the pace up for the entire time. Which I can’t. The goal is to be able to run, or more likely walk, the entire 10k in 80 minutes by September.

I’m going to at least try to be smart about this. I’ve looked up various workout plan. Most of the couch to 10k type training starts with the assumption that you are able to walk briskly for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. This is not my idea of “couch”, by the way. So I swallowed my pride and started looking for training programs for obese people. And I actually found one that seems like it would work.

I have this bad habit of deciding every spring that this is the year that I’m going to get in shape, this is the year that I start running again. I always start with one of these training programs that claim to help you get from flab to fab in a sensible way. And every year I inevitably injure myself. I pull a muscle or get a stress fracture or just plain overwork myself, trying to keep up with the program. As embarrassing as it is to even think about, I’m going to have to accept the fact that I need to train myself before I can even think about starting one of these training programs. I’m actually planning to finish this race. And I don’t want to injure myself doing it.

This is me, leaving for my first training session. The very epitome of your typical runner, eh?

This is me, leaving for my first training session. The very epitome of your typical runner, eh?

I started working for a new company in October. My current employer is very invested in workers feeling good in general. There’s lots of social activity for everyone and that includes exercise. On Tuesday, after lunch, we all got an email informing us, that the company is once more sponsoring people wanting to sign up for Helsinki Midnight Run. It arrived at a weak moment when I was already considering doing something along those lines. And I somehow found myself signing up for it.

I look nothing like a runner, and maybe I never will. That doesn’t stop me from doing it, though. I’m using RunKeeper to track my progress, mostly because I like their interface, but also a little bit because my friend Steve works at RunKeeper and I’m biased toward anything my friends are working on. I even got a month of their subscription service to see if there’s some benefit to that. Right now the app doesn’t have enough data for me to say one way or the other. At some point, I’ll most likely getting back to Zombies, Run! just to keep myself entertained. I’ve recently also gotten into using Dragon Naturally Speaking and they have a pretty good app for dictating while out and about, so no doubt quite a few blog posts and possibly some stories will get dictated while I’m doing the thing. In fact, most of this post was dictated while walking.

I’m doing this thing. Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing? What’s stopping you?

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