Sep 22, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge

There’s a thing I keep meaning to do every October, mostly because the time of the year has a tendency to get to me. I have a deep love of horror movies, although I’m not a huge fan of splatterpunk. Which is why October, when the night are already longer than the days and getting longer all the time and it’s not NaNoWriMo time yet is a perfect time for horror movies. I’m already in the mood anyway, since Halloween is fast approaching. And since especially lately I seem to only be able to do things that I plan in advance, this is my plan; I’m going to watch a horror movie every day in October and try to talk about each in turn. Below is a list of new friends, old friends, and best friends. And since no plan survives contact with the enemy, I’m adding a list of possibles to replace any of the movies on the main list.

  1. Fire in the Sky
  2. Little Evil
  3. Lights Out
  4. Split
  5. Dead Girl
  6. Get Out
  7. Resident Evil
  8. Cabin in the Woods
  9. It Follows
  10. Ouija 2
  11. Silent Hill
  12. Hush/Shhh
  13. Death Note
  14. He Never Died
  15. Crimson Peak
  16. Let the right one in
  17. Descent
  18. Mist
  19. Shining
  20. Babadook
  21. 1922
  22. Don’t Breathe
  23. Neon Demon
  24. Green Room
  25. Evil Dead (2013)
  26. Life
  27. The Invitation
  28. Event Horizon
  29. Alien
  30. Aliens
  31. Alien 3

Just in case I can’t get something from the list above through streaming services or from my own collection:

  1. It
  2. Dawn of The Dead
  3. Martyrs
  4. The Exorcist
  5. 1408
  6. The Thing
  7. Nightmare on Elmstreet
  8. Shaun of the Dead
  9. Jacob’s Ladder

How are you going to count down the days before Halloween? Join me in #FrightNightChallenge for horror movie good times.

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Sep 8, 2017

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To Boldly Go

51 years ago today the first episode of Star Trek: The Original Series aired in the US. It’s not exactly a secret that Star Trek has inspired many a dream, whether they be in science fiction, engineering or exploration. And I’m one of those. I grew up watching reruns of The Next Generation that morphed into actual episodes of Voyager. I wasn’t a super fan, nor would I categorize myself so now, but Star Trek nonetheless left an indelible mark on me. And it’s sort of interesting to see that the themes that Star Trek, in general, are also the kinds of themes that show up in my fiction, time and again. But that’s a post for another time.

To me, Star Trek still remains something I come back to regularly. You could make an argument about nonsensical plot lines, tropey situations and poor characterizations as well as bad acting. And you’d be wrong. Not totally wrong, mind you, but wrong nonetheless. Star Trek is so much more than the sum of its parts. Like any good science fiction, it explores what it means to be human but beyond that, I love the exploration of empathy. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good space battle and the various aliens the various crew encounter are always fun. But the thing that gets me coming back over and over again is the hope and empathy inherent in the series.

There’s this episode in Voyager, Faces. where B’Elanna Torres, the ship’s half human – half Klingon mechanic gets split into her component parts, one fully human and one fully Klingon. And it’s hard to describe the profound sense of loss that happens when the fully human part shows up. With the Klingon part, you’re concerned about the dire situation and the non-consensual medical experiments, but with the human portion, even while recognizing how much better Torres’ life might be without her more impulsive Klingon half that ït’s a massive loss to just suddenly not have part of you there anymore. There’s an element of self-love there as well, acknowledging that sometimes, we’re the harshest judges on ourselves.

Captain out.

What do you love about Star Trek?

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Sep 3, 2017

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Lazy Sundays

This is an accurate representation of my Sunday.

How is yours going?

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Sep 2, 2017

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The little things – The Expanse book vs series

This post contains all the spoilers for the first two books and the first season of The Expanse. All of them. Consider yourself warned.

Season 2 of Expanse is about to land next Friday and I’m getting ready for it by rewatching the first season. I watched the first season before I read the books and felt frankly ambivalent of the series. It pressed too many of the same buttons that Game of Thrones does for me and I’m not a huge fan. I just don’t want to spend huge amounts of emotional energy watching the bad guys win. But that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, one of my roommates at Clarion, the excellent Karen Osborne, is a huge fan of James S.A. Corey so I decided to read the first couple of books out of curiosity. And what a difference that makes! Holden, who mostly felt like a petulant child to me in the TV series, has an actual moral code and intelligence behind decisions that seem like rash, emotional outbursts on the screen that put everyone on his ship in danger. I hate that they made Ade into another white girl, like that teeny, tiny part couldn’t possibly be played by a badass black woman. I hate that they turned Chrisjen Avasarala into an apologetic warmonger. Essentially, it all happens on the page like it happens in the series (except that Crisjen doesn’t show up until the second book and the series is still firmly in the events of the first one) but they changed all the little things. And it seems like the little things are a lot more important to me than I thought.

When I read the books, I was excited to find the intertextual conversation about freedom of information vs stability of society that Holden represents. This is what science fiction does so well! Rewatching the series, this is the change that made me want to stop watching the show. I was excited to see the diverse cast, most of which is whittled down to white people in the show (see Ade abowe). The character I was most disappointed about, however, was Chrisjen Avasarala. In the book, she’s a calculating, unapologetic woman in power who’ll do anything and everything to preserve the human race. Yes, she’s an Earther, but she still doesn’t see Belters or Mars people as less than human. She’ll cuss out her immediate superior and calls her boss’s boss a “bobblehead”. To his face. She’s disrespectful to everyone and she gets away with it because she’s just that good at her job. I didn’t see any of the stuff that makes me adore her as a character in the series. And that makes me sad.

All of this said I’m excited about the second season in a way I didn’t expect to be when the first season ended.

You’re a tough guy, but I’m a nightmare wrapped in the apocalypse.

I can’t wait for Bobbie to enter the screen.

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Sep 1, 2017

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Falling down and getting up


So, that happened. I went to Clarion, wrote some things, met some people, spent a lot of time in the sun, read a lot. It was beyond amazing but almost a month later I’m still recovering. Usually, I try to sleep at least 7-8 hours a night but during Clarion, my average fell to 5-6 hours per night, even during the weekends. Everyone warned me this would happen, it’s called the Clarion slump. I don’t think I’m depressed as such, just really tired all the time, which, now that I think of it, is one of the symptoms of clinical depression. Just not the only one, which is the significant point here.

Creatively, this month has been pretty much dead. I was tired enough after Worldcon that my immune system just crashed and I spent a week in bed, sleeping. I was beyond exhausted and maybe it wasn’t the best idea to book a lot of speaking gigs, including my first Worldcon moderations (all of which went surprisingly well!). I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea by now. It’s not the fall that kills you but the endless todo-list.

Now I’m a sucker for 80’s and 90’s action movies. So I’m just going to go ahead and quote Rocky:

It ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how you can get hit and keep moving forward.

So I’m gonna keep moving forward. I’ve gotten into the habit of scheduling my days in my BuJo and I’m still working on making that schedule into something I can actually follow, instead of vegging out in front of the screen for the entire night. I’m scheduling activities for myself that will help me refill my creative well. Tomorrow, my partner and I are heading to Linnanmäki, a Helsinki amusement park and I’ve gotten myself a museum card which provides access to a slew of museums and, more importantly, art museums all around Finland.

And I’m going to try to get back to blogging. It was something Cory Doctorow talked about during his week as an instructor; he told us that he blogs as an effort to process things for himself. It seems so obvious but that’s not at all how I’ve been using my blog and I think that kind of approach could be really good for me. And, as you can probably imagine, I’ve got a lot of processing to do.

I have a plan, now I just need to get up and execute it. Cause I’m a contender.

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Mar 26, 2017

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I am, at heart, a city girl. Don’t get me wrong, I know my way around a cow and can hoe a field as much as the next girl but cities are where I really come alive. And for me, there is no city like Helsinki. Yes, there are more glamorous cities, and some may argue that Helsinki is too provincial to be a city at all. But my love affair with Helsinki started when I was just a little girl growing up in Espoo, dreaming about life in the “big city”. Growing up in Espoo is kind of like living somewhere down the Hudson line in New York State; you’re close enough that you know full well that everything really cool happens in the city.

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For me, Helsinki will always be a city of possibilities. It is ever-changing while also preserving the things that make it unique. Just like a good city ought. The downtown area is still littered with cobblestones that have tram tracks fitted in between them. Blocks with buildings dating back to the era of Swedish rule right next to Soviet era monstrosities or nestled next to ultramodern buildings from the 21st century. All of them flanked on all sides by the sea or nature of other description. Which is one of the things that I love about Helsinki. No matter where you go within its borders you are never far from a park. Whether that be the need and tended warns of Esplanad Park, the near natural state swampyness of Lammassaari, or something in between, in the form of the many allotment gardens around the city, or even one of the city’s beautiful cemeteries.

While the people who designed the grid of Helsinki should have used several lessons in logistics and formal logic, the grid they laid out means that you can never escape the wind. There are some places where it’s worse, the bridge connecting the two sides of Pasila and the shore come to mind, the closeness of the sea and the straight lines that wherever you go it will be windy. In the winter this poses a great excuse to pop in to a café for hot chocolate or coffee – something that Finns as a nation seem to do more than anyone. In the summer the wind is a constant companion, a guarantee that you will never boil as you may in other cities.

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Beyond the surface there is a solemn kind of quirkiness to Helsinki that other cities lack, in my opinion at least. Whether that be in the form of Linnanmäki, an amusement park in the heart of the city, or the concrete roadblocks shaped like turtles, hippos, or best of all, jaunty pigs painted in a riot of colors. The Finnish word for concrete roadblocks being betonipossu, or concrete pig. This is a serious city that tries very hard not to take itself too seriously.

There are a lot of people do not like Helsinki, many of them for good reasons. But for me it is home, much more so than any other place has ever been, or is likely to ever be. Large to be interesting, and yet small enough to ever feel too crowded. It is, in a word, perfect. Or as close to it as anything real has a right to be.

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Mar 19, 2017

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On good news and the privilege of getting them

First: I got into Clarion UCSD from the waitlist this week. If you’ll indulge me for just a moment while I do a Kermit flail around the apartment.

*ahem* Now, with that caveat in mind, let me just say that absolutely no one NEEDS to go to these workshops to be a real writer. In this past week I’ve heard about some noxiously toxic shit being flung at my friends who for one reason or another cannot go to these things. Now, granted, I have not yet gone to Clarion and there are any number of reasons why, having gotten in, I might not be able to go. But I have gone to Viable Paradise which is, from everything I’ve heard, a shorter version of the same (with jellyfishies!).

The thing about workshops is at they are ultimately a speeded up version of building your writing toolbox. On top of that, and I would argue much more importantly, you will inadvertently create a network of writer friends. These are both things that you can absolutely do from the comfort of your own home. It will most likely take longer than it does in the concentrated burst that is a workshop, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

Not going to a workshop is never about a lack of commitment to the craft. I am immensely privileged in having a situation that allows me to do these things. I live in Finland and have a steady job, which means I don’t really pay for my healthcare and have five weeks of paid vacation every year. I have an aptitude and manage to find joy in a profession that pays well enough that I have the disposable income to travel and pay thousands of Euro for a workshop, with a partner similarly situated. Granted, going to Clarion will eat up a huge chunk of our savings and neither of us will likely take a traveling vacation for a couple of years after, but me going to Clarion will not bankrupt us. Which is more than can be said for a lot of folks who deserve to go just as much or more than I do.

There’s this tendency to pretend that Western societies are meritocracies where your level of fame and fortune is solely dependent on your willingness to work hard for your goals. To some extent that may be true. I’ve been poor. One of John Scalzi’s most popular blog posts of all time is about is about the experience of poverty. Cat Valente and Seanan McGuire both have been very open about their own histories with poverty. But these stories are the exception rather than the rule. After I went through the Finnish system, politicians have made changes to it that make it harder for the people coming behind me to do the same thing. Not because of me, you understand, but because of the economy.

And this is the sadness of privilege. Imagine the talent the world may be losing because the talent is inside people who, for mostly structural reasons, are not able to flourish, despite every effort or sacrifice made. For my part, I’m going to give my all, aware of the fact that so many others can’t do the things, and keep donating to things that help those talented people reach.

If you want to help:

If you know other similar targets for donations, please feel free to share in the comments.

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Mar 4, 2017

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Why didn’t you keep it up?

I had two versions of roughly the same conversation about my writing career this past week that left me confused for a good while after. They both went more or less like this:

Me: I did a thing
Them: Great! Why did you stop?
Me: Bwuh?

Both times I found myself wondering if we were even speaking the same language or whether I’d fallen asleep at some point in the middle of the conversation and missed parts of it. Eventually, after an embarrassing amount of thinking about it, I realized that it was a matter of the public and the private as well as expectations.

The public and the private

I’ve been writing most days since September 2009. For at least the first year I don’t think I told anyone but my spouse and my sister. Then, slowly, I started taking classes online and at the local adult education center. About the same time, I started talking about it on social media and sending my stuff out to magazines. My rejection slips say this was in late 2011. Since then I have amassed at least 56 short story rejections and half again as many novel rejections. I’ve written two novels and some 20 or so short stories. And I’ve had one publication. And here’s the thing: most of this is not visible to people who aren’t writer friends. Yes, I mention writing once in a while on social media and I blog about writing quite a lot. But unless you’re a regular reader here on the blog or you’re one of my writing friends, you probably won’t see the amount of work I am and have been putting into the thing that can eventually be called a writing career. It is, frankly, enough that quitting after one publication doesn’t feel in any way rational. Not to me at least. It’s not anything that I’ve even really considered.


The second thing that I think is behind the confusion is the expectation of an author career. I have one publication, therefore I must have the option of going full-time and still having a day-job must mean that I’ve given up on the dream. Don’t mind that noise, it’s just a horde of writers a lot further along their career laughing their asses off at the thought of being able to quit their day jobs. Freelancing is not a hugely stable form of making money under the best of circumstances. And writing, especially, comes with a learning curve. So what you end up doing, is spending a lot of time on the front end learning to do the job. There are ways of getting paid while you do so but even those are insecure and the money you get paid may not actually cover your expenses. And even once you get started, the money you make one year may be a lot more than you make the next. And waiting months for the check to arrive is hardly unheard of. So the daily life of the rank-and-file authorship is nowhere near the world of Richard Castle or Catherine Tramell or any of the other fictional authors presented on TV or movies. Anyone who’s spent any time trying to get their work seen by readers knows that never the twain shall meet, or as close to never as makes no difference. But the Stephen Kings and J.K Rowlings of the world seem to justify the expectation to people with no connection to the publishing industry.

Well are you keeping it up?

Hell to the yeah! I’ve been at this for a while and I’m only now starting to see the return on my investments of time and money. I have more ideas than I really know what to do with and I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself if I stopped writing. To borrow the words of Kameron Hurley, this is  a long con. And I’ve only just gotten started.

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