Oct 29, 2016

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In which I regale you with pictures…

because I am incapable of language. Traveling has been amazing and what’s even greater is that tomorrow I start heading for home and I will finally get to sleep in my own bed.

First, I went to Viable Paradise Reunion where I met with many people who I mostly knew from the internet.

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Dinner with reunion folks at Martha’s Vineyard

Julie and I drove for hours and hours through four different states and were both exhausted by the time we got to New York. I found my Jay and collapsed.

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The Jay

After which I spent most of the week simply sick and sleeping. But I was surrounded by Hamilton thematics so that was fine. I finally made it to Manhattan on Monday a week after getting to New Jersey, two days before I left. At which point I found a yarn store and got myself Fluevogged.

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The Fluevogs

After which I came to Columbus for the World Fantasy Convention. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people here, some old and some new acquaintances and on the whole it has been amazing. I even got recognized by my voice for my work on Mad Writers Union which more or less made my day. But I’m also very happy to be going home tomorrow.

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Me and my copy of The Starlit Wood, which I got signed by so many people <3

Tonight I get to have dinner with friends, go to a party with more friends and all in all hopefully have a good time. And did I mention that I’m going home tomorrow?

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Oct 22, 2016

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In which Nina forgets it is Saturday

I’ve been very good lately about actually putting my butt down to write a blog post to be published every Saturday. Today I am still traveling but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to stop. Except that I forgot that today’s Saturday. I’m neck deep in writing work, trying to translate back the changes I made during the editing of my recently published short story (I’m not sure I’ll ever actually tire of saying that), writing/editing a new short story for a Viable Paradise alumni thing with the prompt “Snail Rodeo”, trying to figure out what my novel needs to say next etc.

So instead of agonizing about trying to come up with a cool post, I’m just going to make a list of things that are making me happy today.

Cute dreamer boy playing with a cardboard airplane. Childhood. Fantasy, imagination. Retro style.

  • My knitting. I’m making an Aibrean sweater out of Madelinetosh Pashmina yarn in the color Flashdance. The pattern is easy to just knit while doing anything, the yarn is soft and pliable and lovely, not to mention that the color warms every cold cockle of my heart and it’s starting to look like I’ll have the sweater done and ready to wear by the time I get back to Finland.
  • Eat. Sleep. Knit. Yarnathon. Eat. Sleep. Knit. is one of my favorite yarnstores, if not the favorite and it’s largely because of the Yarnathon they’ve been running at least as long as I’ve been a customer there. Basically, the idea is that every contestant buys a marathon’s worth of yards in yarn and you get various prizes (extra skeins, store credit, that kind of stuff) at specific intervals so you get nice things even if you don’t actually finish the marathon. I especially love it this year because everything is space-themed. The levels are the planets of the solar system, the teams have mascots inside flying saucers (GO RABBITEERS!), several dyers have special space-themed colorways etc. I would probably buy a lot of yarn at ESK even if they didn’t have the Yarnathon, mostly because they carry wide selections of all my favorite dyers (Madelinetosh, Nerd Girl Yarns and Dream in Color for the curious) but the Yarntahon is just a bit of silly added on top that makes me happy.Magic Book with super powers - 3D Artwork
  • Tom of Finland coffee. What can I say? I like my coffee bold. Also, it’s a taste of Finland in my extended American escape.
  • Hanging out in the same room with my friend Jay, introverting/working. There’s a fair number of people who will not believe that I’m an introvert, mostly because they’ve more or less only seen me in circumstances where I’ve been making an extra effort to not appear introverted. But the fact is, I am introverted. So while I’m happy to hang out in groups of people, being loud and even bombastic, it also really makes me happy to just be in a room with someone I love, all of us silently doing our own things on whichever medium we’re working in. Today is the latter kind of day and it makes me happy.
  • The bath I’m going to have later. For all that I keep complaining that Americans do not understand how showers work, I actually sometimes like taking baths. Especially when it’s a proper bath instead of a half-bath where you can barely get your waist underwater without some serious acrobatics. And, dear reader, Jay has a proper bath. I am armed with a Lush Bath Bomb (Frozen, I think) which I’ve always wanted to try but never got the opportunity before now. I’m very much looking forward to it. Now I just need to choose the audiobook that is going to accompany me.

What’s making you happy today?

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Oct 15, 2016

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5 Ways I Deal With Home Sickness

Cute dreamer boy playing with a cardboard airplane. Childhood. Fantasy, imagination. Retro style. I’m traveling for pretty much all of the month. Last weekend the entire company I work for took a trip down to Visby, Sweden. Then Tuesday I left for Martha’s Vineyard and the Viable Paradise reunion. Today I’m at Jersey City and I’m heading to Columbus, Ohio at the end of the month. My partner and my dog are at home and I already miss them both terribly. While I have grand ambitions to travel the world, I am still basically a homebody at heart so anything I can do alleviate the inevitable homesickness is always a good thing. So here’s five things I do:

  1. Snuggle octopus
    Yes, I sleep with a stuffed cuddly octopus. It makes me happy. It’s something I always keep with to make sure I can sleep. I tried it during this past Worldcon with Moominpappa but he just wasn’t as good.
  2. Photos from home
    Lately, whenever I’m traveling, my husband has started sending me pictures of himself, and especially the dog. At first glance, this sounds like something that would make me even more homesick but for some strange reason, it really helps. Things are going fine even though I’m not there to do them or remind them to be done or anything like that.
  3. Finnish music
    I don’t listen to a lot of Finnish music. There’s no actual reason for this, it’s just not something I do often. But in Viable Paradise I started listening to bands singing in Finnish simply out of the need to hear Finnish words.
  4. Comfort food
    Yeah, it’s not healthy but sometimes, when you’re traveling, you just have to take some time out to spoil yourself and make the time away from home be a little bit nicer. Whether this takes the form of watching Mad Max: Fury Road, Alien or T2 for the thousandth time, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on continuous repeat or just plain old chocolate is anybody’s guess.
  5. Phone home
    Sometimes, it’s the simple solutions. And simply speaking, sometimes you have to make like ET. Although, given that my partner and I are both Finns, these calls tend to get boring very quickly after we’ve covered recent events.

What are your strategies for dealing with homesickness?

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Oct 8, 2016

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In Which Nina Is Cranky About Twitter

Human hand touching an android hand. Digital illustration.

I am a huge fan of Twitter. It’s my jam, although, granted, most often I’m more of a lurker than a talker. Which is why I get really cranky whenever someone messes with my enjoyment of it.

While Twitter can be good for marketing, it’s mostly supposed to be for connecting with people. Shouting “buy my book” is not connecting with people. I especially hate it when they seem like nice normal people when they follow you; no “hey go buy my book” filling their feeds or such. Then you follow them back and instantly you get a prewritten “hey go buy my book” direct message. I usually unfollow those people on sight of the message.

The most egregious example of this came in the past year with a person I’m not going to name. They followed me, I noted the lack of “hey go buy my book”-messages in their feed so I followed back. Immediate “hey go buy my book” direct message. But I had a group in common with them and some of my friends were following them so I figured I’d give them another chance. Boy howdy was that a stupid decision.

Later on, it might have been that same day or a later one we were at the same event and they came over as I was talking to my friend because they knew said friend. I recognized their name and told them so. They proceed to ignore me completely in favor of explaining to my friend that they do regular Twitter blasts in order to have a good pool of dupes following them when their next book comes out. It was among the rudest things I have ever experienced coming from someone who was completely sober at the time.

So many people seem to have entirely forgotten the social component of social media. I think that’s at least part of what’s behind the excoriations of social media and people being “addicted” to their smartphones, eschewing “real human contact” in favor of what’s on their screens. But here’s the thing; I have five best friends. Two of them live in Helsinki. One lives in Boston, another in New Jersey, another in Baltimore. If I don’t have the smartphone, I don’t talk to my best friends. Twitter is one of the ways I keep in touch with my friends, best and not so best. Don’t you dare sully that by trying to make it into a marketplace for spam.

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Oct 1, 2016

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Hope is a renewable resource

fantasy landscape with big moon in the forestI’m a tremendously excitable person. It’s just who I’ve always been despite the best efforts of various bullies in my childhood. So this past week, when I fell asleep during the final Q&A of the SpaceX Mars livecast, I expected to wake up to headlines talking about Musk’s vision of having people on Mars in the 2030’s. He has a plan, he has the funding, he’s close to having the technology. This is not a mad scheme. My dismay at finding zero news was great. So I started to enthuse about it to everyone who would listen. Fairly quickly after that, I started to realize the problem; we have all collectively lost hope.

And who can blame us? America is in the middle of a long hangover, climate change is getting worse and here at home a neo-nazi killed a man for disagreeing with him, in a public place, in the middle of the day and our country’s leaders are collectively failing to address that in any meaningful way. I get it, things are looking fairly bleak all around.

The thing is, these things go in cycles. And we, as a species keep getting better. Yes, we have done some horrifying things to each other and continue to do some horrifying things to others and ourselves but still, the number of wars fought by humanity at large is on a downward trend, and we as a species are remarkably inventive. We are capable of coming up with solutions to hard problems when we manage to find the political will to do the thing, whatever that thing is.

In the end, things are going to be alright. I basically have to believe in that. The hope will find its way back to us and we’ll do the things that will further empathy in the world and somehow find a way to divert the disastrous march of climate change. And someday, maybe, the hopey-changey stuff will maybe be a good thing again. Meanwhile, it’s a good idea for all to put their shoulders to the wheel to make a better future. For hope.

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Sep 24, 2016

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Fairy-tale girls and the women who love them

Snow White princess with the famous red apple.

Snow White princess with the famous red apple.

I adore fairy-tales. I especially love it when people take a fairy-tale and twist them to suit their own narrative kinks. I love the Snow Whites recently risen from their graves, their skins the white of Oleander flowers and their lips a bloody red. I love the darkness and the hope inherent in every one of them; in the end, they all live happily ever after. I am addicted to the villains. The horrible mothers and adulthood that comes a-calling.

As a storyteller myself, I love the potential inherent in all fairy-tales. They are stories we have been telling each other for centuries and still haven’t finished telling. Even something like The Little Mermaid, which is much younger than her compatriots Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella can find new facets again and again. Her dissolving into the foam of the sea seems like such a neat ending, doesn’t it? She’s spent her entire life in the water, you’d think she’d be a good swimmer, right? What if she went off and spent the remaining 300 or so years she has among the humans? What if she got over having a broken heart like the rest of us have done since the dawn of time and went off to have adventures? Would she still be the same girl that chose not to kill the new life she’d gained in order to return to the old? Would she choose differently after a couple of centuries of loving and losing?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders these things. Given the amount of fairy-tale based fiction I see coming every year, I am certain, I’m not. And from the amount of money Disney makes from remaking every fairy-tale they can get their hands on into pretty, safe, pre-packaged things every year, I’m pretty sure it’ll take the end of the world for me to be left alone with this particular proclivity.

Magic Book with super powers - 3D ArtworkThe thing that I love most about fairy-tales though, is the women. Often, the literal reading of a fairy-tale has the women becoming victims or sweet and submissive maidens to be rescued. But these are the stories adults used to tell each other around fires or women used to tell each other while they worked. With a subtext of sex and a young woman’s burgeoning womanhood, anyone can probably imagine the tone Little Red Riding Hood’s “Why Grandmother, what big… arms you have!” took on when a group of washerwomen was cackling over the story to keep their minds occupied during the boring manual labor they shared. We see Snow White as the girl who desperately ran into the woods, not the woman who walked out of them having remade them in her image. You have to wonder, how much work went into making Snow White the safe and submissive heroine instead of someone who came back from the dead on three separate occasions.

Meanwhile, I think I have a story or two to write.

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Sep 17, 2016

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Story and subtext

I’ve been trying very hard to improve myself as a storyteller and part of it is theme or subtext or what have you. I’m fairly rubbish at subtext. I will eventually see it when I think about the story enough but as a rule, it takes at least a second viewing and a lot of thinking about it before I see it. So needless to say, I’m very bad at putting it into my own stories.

Spielberg's Subtext – Mike Hill from Trojan Horse was a Unicorn on Vimeo.

In Viable Paradise, Uncle Jim (aka James D. Macdonald), talked to us about the quadriga, meaning the four levels of any good story. One of those levels is the numinous level. Numinous, meaning “arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a story that just straight up tells the story but sometimes the failure mode of clever is… well not good. And while I do want to be able to write the numinous into my stories, I also do want to avoid the other end.

The best part about this learning process though; the fact that I’m taking it as an excuse to watch movies.

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Sep 4, 2016

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MidAmericon II

I’m still recovering from the jet lag and the introvert hangover but I’m also still sort of riding high on my con experience so I figure I’ll write up a confused sort of post-mortem and move on to getting ready for my October trip.

I may have said it before and I’ll definitely say it again but MidAmericon II aka MAC2 was the first con where I felt like I was an actual writer instead of just a wanna-be. I think there were two huge deciding factors; one was going to Viable Paradise and, by extension, my friendship with master networker K.M. Szpara and the second was the winning of the Helsinki bid for Worldcon aka Worldcon 75. A third factor was definitely having finally published something, even if it was in Finnish and thus unreadable for the majority of the con goers.

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Me, during a delayed layover at Newark.

At first, this was a con defined by absences and lateness. It seemed that everyone had their own horror story about getting there. Soon enough, though, everyone was focused on the business of having fun. International literary cons are often weird places. My first example of this came back in World Fantasy Convention in Brighton; everywhere you look, there seems to be another brilliant writer just around the corner. I’m starting to be at the point in my fledgling career that I know quite a few brilliant writers and they know me, at least enough to say hello, but I still get star struck. This year, my biggest fangirl moment came in the form of getting to meet Kate Baker, the voice and brain behind the Clarkesworld Podcast. After listening to the ever-elegant Mary Robinette Kowal recount her moment of fangirl squee at getting to meet a real life astronaut, I realized that it never really goes away. And I’m not sure I’d like it to.

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The view on my first panel, moderated by Steven H. Silver. Other panelists were Kristine Smith, Chris Phillips and Jared Shurin

As I mentioned ahead of time, I was on several panels which all turned out fairly swimmingly. No one came to yell at me, I was live-tweeted during one and after another people came to talk to me as if I knew what I was saying. It was all overwhelmingly cool and made me feel ever so professional. It’s funny just how little it takes for that to happen. All the panels were great, but two of them stand out as shining beacons; Extreme But Workable Societies and We Deserve Better: Lesbian and Bi Women for Change. They were both absolute favorites in different ways. The discussion on the first was interesting, and the second was entertaining if a bit filled with black humor. Both were very successful in their ways. I also got so many ideas for next year in terms of things to propose for next year’s Worldcon. Which I am already planning furiously, both as a Social Media minion as well as a writer planning to participate.

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VP XIX together again, in somewhat diminished numbers.

Hanging out with writers at cons is fucking amazing. I mean, my experience is that hanging out with writers in general, is great so it’s no huge leap to expect that they would be great to spend time with at cons. Last year, at Sasquan, I spent almost all my time with conrunners. The year before that, at LonCon 3, almost solely as a fan among fans. But this year I spent it among my people. I adore my conrunner friends but sometimes I have trouble understanding them fully. Although, it’s not like spending nights arguing the subtext and structural choices of Dune is everybody’s cup of tea. But the thing is, it is definitely my cup of tea. And coffee. Hot chocolate too.

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Together with a George R.R. Martin cosplayer.

Worldcons in general are strange places. There are very few places where you see a George R.R. Martin cosplayer walk down a hall and then a few minutes later, the very gentleman himself walking down another hall. Mary Robinette Kowal and David D. Levine getting up to costumed hijinks. Howard Tayler off in a table, drawing Schlock Mercernary. A bar filled to the brim with writers and fans having a good time, meeting both old and new friends.

This time, I even got my Cinderella evening. My dear friend Crystal Huff was invited to the Hugos, including the pre-ceremony and the after party. Frankly, it was everything I hoped it would be. There were all these glamorous people who were there to celebrate literature. After the pre-ceremony, I all but ran back to get the ever-fabulous Kelly Szpara at which point we went to a concert. The performers were Ryan Cabrera, Dream, O-Town and 98 Degrees. I got a GIANT cup of Angry Orchard to share with Kelly who was utterly adorable with excitement and we had a good time. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not my scene but it was still a good time. And later still, we both went to the so-called Hugo Losers Party, although not the one held by George R.R. Martin. The evening was every bit as magical as the fairy tale reference would suggest and it is definitely a memory I’ll treasure for a long time to come.

Space princess portrait

A sextet of space princesses!

Now it’s just a matter of getting to Worldcon 75. Finally, an international con without jet lag!

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