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Greek Gifts

THE SMILING MUSE

This has become a day of excellence!

My current Work In Progress, a YA tale involving Bad Fairies and Naked Feet, has just barely, crossed the 40K mark. This means two things:

1) It can now officially be classified as a novel.

and,

2) Since 40K is far too short for a novel these days, my real triumph, is that I have crossed the halfway mark. And while I can't see the finish line yet, I can see the point from which the finish line will be visible. *cough*


OTHER GREEK GIFTS

I'm reading Christian Cameron's various historical fictions set in the time of ancient Greece. Basically, these tend to be the stories of boys and sometimes girls, kicking ass all over the Mediterranean in heavy Bronze armour while quoting extensively to each other from the Illiad.

I know next to nothing about this time period, but what I love about his Worldbuilding here, is just how dynamic his Greek culture is. It's not some static thing, fixed forever in time like Keats' Grecian Urn. Everything in this culture is constantly churning and progressing, with new ideas and innovations making their mark before falling away again.

Nor is the Greek World ever presented as a monolith, but rather, it's a realistic stew of related societies, all of whom have their own dialects as well as religious, dietary, architectural and legal quirks.

I don't always believe the guy's action or his heroes, but this world is beautiful and thoroughly absorbing.

Fantasy writers: please take note.


The Return of TitanCon

Rumours of TitanCon's demise appear to have been exaggerated.

Anybody who loves the Game of Thrones TV series. Or Science Fiction in general. Or Belfast. Or food and karaoke and costumes and chat and chocolate and mead. Or any combination or subset of the above... is really, really missing out if they don't do TitanCon.

It's not the most profitable of conventions: every cent raised, and sometimes a few more, gets spent on giving the attendees the time of their lives. So, for a while there, the poor thing lay quietly in its box and nobody knew if it were dead or alive.

But it appears now, that all is well. If you're going to be anywhere on the island of Ireland come October*, or if you would like to be... Swoop down on TitanCon and make some new friends.

*Final dates yet to be determined.

Awesome Irish Advert

I don't do a lot of politics here, but nor do I hide my opinions... much. But basically, in case it wasn't blazingly obvious, I'm pro-European, I'm pro-Green, and I'm liberal in the old-fashioned sense of thinking people should do whatever they want so long as they aren't hurting others.

So, although I don't intend to use this journal for proselytizing... much, I'm sure you can guess which way I'll be voting when the time comes for Ireland to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages.

However, whatever your opinion on the subject happens to be, nobody can doubt that the advert below is simply brilliant.

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Reading, Snowing, Watching

I'm just back from the fabulous, storm-wracked Boskone and I will post about it when the jet-lag leaves me be. For now, let me just say that I finally understand why nobody cycles in America.

snow_bike


It's been a VERY long time since I've posted what I've been reading and watching and writing and chewing. And that's a shame, because in the last six months or so, I've had some delightful experiences in every area. But here are some very recent sources of fun...

READING

I have just completed Adrian Tchaikovsky's rather excellent Guns of the Dawn. It's a devil-bastard child of Pride and Prejudice and All Quiet on the Western Front, and recounts the story of a war so devastating, that eventually, even the women-folk of a Regency era type country, are called up to defend their homeland.

The action scenes are great, mostly occurring in the second-half of the book. But the best part for me -- other than the moving journey of Emily, the lead character -- is the way Tchaikovsky slowly builds layers of complication into the politics and the psychology of the two warring nations.

Peadar recommends this one.


A few weeks ago, I reread James Clavell's Shogun. What a fantastic book! A real "boy" adventure of clashing cultures, complete with Samurai, Ninjas and vast armies of secondary characters. I must set a reminder to myself to return to it when another 30 years have passed. By then, I might just be starting my first reread of Joe Abercrombie's Half a World -- yet another fine adventure from him, although this one has actual (as opposed to subverted)... romance.

WATCHING

I am currently addicted to The Good Wife. It took quite some time for me to fully grasp what all the fuss was about, but here I am, completely on-board and agog.

Initially, I was put off by the formula, which is the usual American TV staple of "Issue of the Week" + "Over-Arching Plot". Especially, I disjoyed the manner in which so many of the "Issue of the Week" problems were resolved.

However, I have grown to appreciate the cleverness of the conundrums themselves and that fact that a huge number of the court-cases reflect very real situations going on in the world right now. In addition, the show seems to pride itself on giving all sides to a problem a fair hearing.

I also love the subtle way that some of the characters are handled, leaving us to work out for ourselves how somebody is feeling without battering us about the ears with it.

And finally, there is Alicia herself, who, over a number of series goes from a nervous amateur of the Law, to somebody who will confidentally tell an interviewer, "I'm good at my job" with complete assurance, but without arrogance.

However, my true TV love right now, has to be BBC's stunning adaptation of Wolf Hall. Yes, it moves with all the hurry of a glacier on its tea-break, but the characters are amazing, mezmerising, fascinating. Apparently, the real Thomas Cromwell was the Taleban of his day, but what do I care? The fellow on TV is a complex stew of hidden emotions and is always twelve moves ahead of everybody else, but is not without his wounds.

I think the first episode was particularly fine, but I'd be curious to hear what everybody else thinks.

WRITING

I'm working right now on a book that might one day be entitled "The Call". Or "Year 5". Or... "TBD". I gave a reading from it to a small group of friends and paid flunkies at Boskone, which I enjoyed, and I can't wait to get back to it!

But for now, however, it's goodbye! Goodbye!

The Beauties of Boskone -- My Schedule

Happy New Year to one and all!

I haven't posted in a while, which is a shame, because I've had quite a bit to post about -- mostly aches and pains. Washing dishes. The type of thing you all love to read. But soon, this idyll will be stolen from me and I'll be dragged kicking and screaming to Boskone...

For those who don't know, the Friday events at Boskone are all free of charge! A great idea in my opinion.

My schedule is below. Be there or beware.


Beauty and the Beast
Friday 15:00 - 15:50, Lewis (Westin)
Disney adapted "Beauty and the Beast" into an animated film 25 years ago, but where did this age-old romantic story begin? What other stories of mythic love and romance have survived the ages? Are these old fairytales and myths derived from tales of "Cupid and Psyche" or "East of the Sun/West of the Moon?"
Growing Up in "Game of Thrones"
Friday 17:00 - 17:50, Harbor I (Westin)
The consequences of their parents’ plots sit squarely upon the shoulders of the Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen children. Their childhoods are gone, and they must come quickly into their own strengths if they hope to live through the great Game of Thrones. But have the adults underestimated the youngsters’ value — and valor — as players? How will they evolve? Who will survive? Who will gain power? Who will surprise them all?
The Do's and Don'ts of Do-Overs: The Art of Fairytale Retellings
Saturday 13:00 - 13:50, Harbor II (Westin)
The mainstream and science fiction communities seem to think they invented retellings and have christened them "reboots," but the retelling of fairytales is a time-honored tradition. Think about the rainbow of Fairy Books to start with, and Robin McKinley has rebooted Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and her namesake, Robin Hood. Or consider radical retellings like Gregory Maguire's Wicked. What can you change for an acceptable retelling? What must you change? What makes a good retelling of a fairytale?

Reading: Peadar Ó Guilín
Saturday 14:00 - 14:25, Griffin (Westin)
Peadar Ó Guilín(peadarog@gmail.com)
Are Geeks Fans? Are Fans Geeks?
Saturday 17:00 - 17:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Sometimes the two terms seem to be used interchangeably. And, it's true that traditionally skiffy images and interests have come to dominate popular culture. But - is it right to think of "fan" and "geek" as synonymous? Why, or why not?
YADN: Yet Another Dystopic Novel
Sunday 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Why are dystopias so popular in fiction? With the ever-increasing number of dystopic novels, the circumstances of the characters' lives, the world they inhabit, and the struggles they face often have a repetitive quality. Yet readers consume them like comfort food. What’s comforting about coming catastrophes? How do authors keep their stories feeling fresh and new when their worlds are so grim and austere? How long can this futuristic feel-bad boom last?
Writers on Writing: Worldbuilding from the Ground Up
Sunday 12:00 - 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)
Some spectacular stories take place in worlds very different from our own: from life on (or in) a gas giant to a civilization that lives on a world-tree as big as the Himalayas. But there are perils associated with venturing far beyond human experience. An inconsistent or poorly described worldscape can furnish a confusing story, or challenge a reader's ability to suspend disbelief. Hear from writers who have created fully realized worlds that their readers can almost see, touch, and smell.

Boskone Delights That Await the Weary

Home from work today, smashed by flu. 24 hours ago I was in the office and all I wanted to do was lie down on my desk and go to sleep. So, I knew this was coming but I'm a bit disappointed, beause I *almost* made it through 12 months without catching anything.

Oh well, there's good news too, oh yes!

Boskone has inched closer and to prove it, the organizers of this festival of excellence have put up two mini-interviews: one from the incredible GOH, Steven Brust, and one from the fabulous author of this very post, Peadar Ó Guilín.

You can read them here.

Meanwhile, I'm going back to doing nothing. In the past few months I have read and watched a metric ton of amazing material. I'll post about it as soon as I'm feeling better. Thus will you be able to measure the length of my infirmity...

Reading, Watching, Bum Scratching

READING

You know, I can remember the very first time I heard the phrase "long time, no see". I was about 12, sitting at the edge of a football pitch in Letterkenny with a friend of mine -- and no, I can't remember who the friend was, because memory is tricksy that way.

A stranger came past and my forgotten companion said "long time, no see" and I thought, "Wow! That is so original of you to think that up..."

None of the above is relevant to anything, except, well, long time, no see, dear diary!

I didn't mean to abandon you, but I've been busy. Writing, you know? Anyway, while we were going our separate ways and not talking, a lot of books have crossed my path, many of which I am not allowed to discuss. But... but here's a REALLY good one...

I'm half-way through Gordon Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. Yes, you're right! I'm following the trend. I always read the cool and hip-of-the-moment book and, I'm always disappointed.

But somehow that isn't the case this time. City of Stairs is blowing my mind in a way that happens, maybe, once a year. As with 2013's Ancillary Justice, we have an intriguing story that casts light on real world issues, that in turn, deepen the intriguing story. It's going to win all of the awards. It's going to have statues built to it. It is an object lesson in how fantasy world-building can be every bit as thought-provoking as the best that Science Fiction has to offer.

All this, and I'm still only at 45%...

WATCHING

My current pleasure is the bleakest crime drama around: Gomorra. The whole thing is in "Italian" in the same way The Wire was in "English". I like to think I speak both of these languages pretty well, but I can understand maybe 20% of the filth that passes for dialog. So, hurrah for subtitles!

Anyway, everything depicted is horrific enough that my feelings after each episode are: a) bring back hanging, but b) even that would be too good for them. The whole thing is creepy and seedy. I can't put my finger on why it's so brilliant, but after the three episodes it took to snag my interest, I was suddenly a binge-watcher.

Join me! Who needs faith in humanity?



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Some Positive Thoughts on Winter

There I was off cycling today, and I was thinking to myself I could keep running the bike into the middle of October maybe. After that, the only exercise would be ever more miserable football under the floodlights. Freezing our tits off. Crying for our mammies until the tears themselves turned to frost and--

But, no. I've decided that this is going to be a positive post. Looking at the pros more so than the cons of winter.

I want to talk about roaring fires, with no mention of the leaping shadows behind or the sinister, hollow stare of the piggy bank on the mantlepiece. You'll hear no complaints from me that I have run out of Cons to go to, or any talk of the pit in my heart where daily, devils squat to fill it with their ordure.

No. I want you to share with you, wise readers, what chilly joys are possible. A long, long list of pleasures unlikely to result in too many doctors' appointments. A veritable cornucopia of... "delights" may be too strong a word... but you will at least read here about several not-bads that can be associated with the darker months of the year in this, the most northerly hemisphere on the entire planet.

I hope you're ready for this! I hope--

Wait! That's the door. It's just a masked man. I'll be right back.

TitanCon: A Wholly Impartial Review

Name Drops Keep Falling on My Head

The crazy beast that is TitanCon, has, after four days, found me indigestible and spat me out again. Away from the gentle acids of its tummy, my disorientation is total. Did I really have dinner with a pack of superstars such as Pat Cadigan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, D.J. McCune, Ian McDonald, Elio Garcia, Mutha Hydra?  Did I learn to play conspiracy games with the brilliant volunteers of the con? I think I must have. Those memories have a gentle glow about them, whereas others, such as some kind of quiz related wardrobe failure, are made of the very stuff of nightmare.

There Started a Beginning

As always, events kicked off with an author reading in front of a kind audience, gently sliding towards a state of happy inebriation. Afterwards, art was committed, and the first of the many, many conversations that make this particular con so special.

Day followed night. More guests appeared. I was privileged to be allowed torment a variety of VIPs, including authors such as Ken Gregory and Laurence Donaghy, as well as some excellent acting talent from the GoT TV series, including Aimee Richardson, Kerry Ingram, Eugene Simon and the very bearded Ian Beattie.

Later in the day, Elio Garcia, one of the co-writers for the imminent and beautiful The World of Ice and Fire, allowed himself to be poked, prodded and quizzed about the book and his contributions to it.

There Came More Stuff

You know the general gist of the rest. Food in good company. A... a quiz with a dazzlingly beautiful assistant. More glorious conversations. Free hugs, and not just from Pebbles! A karaoke of epic awesomeness with genteel waltzing couples crazy dancing. A morning that felt like death.

And Still More

Sunday was the bus tour and dire wolves and castles and feasting and coach singing. Yes, it was magnificent. Night-time was all about games I had never heard of and obscene songs gleefully translated into everything from Gadhlig to Klingon. And yes, I do know the Welsh word for "sausage", which turned out to be disturbingly useful.

Please don't ask.

And it Ends. All of it.

Monday did its usual fun-murdering. The remainders gathered for breakfast and leavetaking at the Wellington Park Hotel. Our bodies didn't have enough fluids left for tears. We squeezed in a few more chats, practiced our hugging some more and laid bets as to who would be first to come down with con crud over the next few days.

We've had a few years of TitanCon now, and every year, I slowly get to know the crew that little bit better, while new people turn up at the edges oozing brilliance and enthusiasm. It's always a sweet experience, but year by year, my affection for it, and those who run it, only grows stronger.

With that in mind, I want to give a special thanks, as always to Phil Lowles, who is head honcho, and yet, everybody's slave. May he toil forever!

I'll come right out and say it now: I would love to see an independent Scotland. In addition, I would love all of our neighboring island to stay with us in the European Union. But I won't try to persuade you to my point of view, however, because it's none of my business what the people of Scotland vote for. So, rest easy, this won't be a political post.

I have been following the debate across the water quite a bit -- it's hard to avoid if you spend time on twitter -- and I keep seeing pro-EU people arguing for Scottish independence, and anti-EU people desperately calling for a retention of the UK as it currently stands. And everybody involved, surely knows that when the day eventually comes for the UK, or England+Wales+NI to vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU, a great many people on both sides are going to be using the very same arguments that are being used against them now to "prove" their points in the next referendum.

Yes, it's obvious. But you gotta find it interesting, whatever your point of view.

READING

I seem to be having a good run of books at the moment. I was given an arc of The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet, which isn't a trilogy at all, but a very amusing satirical pummelling of fantasy authors and YA authors and the book industry in general. Yes, I laughed, but the bloody thing won't be out until November or thereabouts.

I also picked up a YA SF short story collection at LonCon. I've read only 4 of the tales from Futuredaze:Reprise so far, but I'm finding it very refreshing indeed after the painful Hugo Shortlists. One of the editors, Erin Underwood, seems to be becoming a friend, so I'll put that disclaimer out there, but, I'm really looking forward to seeing what else lies in store.



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