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Writing, Watching, Puppies

Wow! I've had one of those bizarrely productive days I read about on other people's blogs, but never quite believe are real. I've typed "The End" on the first draft of "The Fairy Killers" and am madly happy about how it turned out. I cooked, with wholly horrific results. I cycled. I cleaned. I bought vegan ice-cream. It's like I'm one of those super-persons that Netflix are making series about.

I've even found time in the last few weeks to watch everything under the sun. Far too much to blog about here, really, but a quick summary can't hurt too many people.

WATCHING

Yup, I've seen it all. I like Netflix's Better Call Saul, although some of the episodes grab me more than others. I particularly adored the one from last week, called Marco.

Other Netflixy stuff? There's quite a lot of it at the moment, isn't there? It's of very high quality, but it's not all good. Bloodline, in particular disappointed me, for all that the first ten minutes of episode one were gorgeous. But I just don't care about any of it, or any of them. I can't.

Daredevil is much more enjoyable, but nowhere near as brilliant as most of the internet appears to think. It always seems to me that people who like superhero stuff add 20% to their review scores and close their eyes to the most appalling clichés with the remark, "Well, what do you expect? That's superheros!" But yes, I'm up to episode 5 and will certainly watch the rest of the series, because, in spite of the clichés, it does the most important things right: an interesting and likeable lead character; an interesting villain. And violence.

What else?

I'm giving Orphan Black a second chance. I have made it up to episode 5 this time and am beginning to enjoy just how well the main actor portrays her many roles and how much fun she is having with them. The plot should grab me more than it's doing, but I'm not ready to quit just yet.


PUPPIES

The entire internet has given its opinion about the Sad Puppies Hugo controversy, so why not me?

I'm going to shock a lot of my friends by saying I have a lot of sympathy for their cause. I too, have found the Hugo shortlists awful these last few years. There are exceptions; some fabulous stories still make it through. But yes, I confess that when reading some of them over the last few years, I have thought that there was no way a particular work could have made it onto the ballot unless dozens of people were voting their friendships or their politics.

But that's a popular vote for you. Any popular vote. And all my sympathy comes to a screeching halt with the introduction of a voting slate. Two wrongs do not make a right, and this became crystal clear last year, because the stuff the puppies voted onto the 2014 ballot was even worse, a lot worse in some cases, than the normal dreck, which was at least well-written dreck, or ambitious dreck.

You know what my plan to fix the Hugos is? I'm going to read a crapton of fiction, and every time I come across something that excites me, I'm going to say so right here on this blog. If enough people do that, genuinely great stuff like Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs might not be shut out of the awards next time around... by a Slate.


All my opinions are just opinions. Except they're my opinions and therefore special.

Anyway, time for some of that ice-cream. Who wants some?



KDP and ME

Yes, I've been writing a lot lately, and how I thank you, sweet readers of the sparkling eyes for asking about it. I'm within a week of finishing the first draft of my new book, The Fairy Killers. That makes me so happy I hereby swear to refrain from murder and ice-cream at least until I have finally typed "The End".

In the meantime, my experiments in eBookery continue.

Every friend I have on this earth has already availed themselves of my short story collection, Forever in the Memory of God. I thank you. I kiss each of your toes with the appropriate reverence, because I love my friends.

I have put the book into Amazon's KDP (Kindle Select) program. This brings both good news and heart-breaking sorrow:
-From now on the book will cost a mere 99c plus taxes -- hurray!
-But it will only be available for the Kindle -- sob!

I apologize to the owners of ePub readers, as well as to the families that continue to support them in this time of woe. But since nobody has bought that particular book in several months, I feel the day has come to have some fun with it...

In the meantime, try to enjoy yourselves. I'll be sharpening my knives and watching each and every one of you...



LUXCON, TITANCON, How Conventional!

LUXCON: MANIFESTATIONS OF GREATNESS

That's two years running now, I've been to the Grand Duchy as a guest at LuxCon, and two years where they've treated me like the rare and precious orchid that I am. After 2014's shocking surfeit of sun, the organisers provided plenty of rain this time to keep my Irish skin from drying out. And they even supplied me with friends: writers like Adrian Tchaikovsky and Aliette de Bodard; actors, like the lethal Miltos Yerolemou; and of course, the constant travelling pack of buddies known as the Brotherhood Without Banners, who will never abandon you to sip coffee alone.


LuxCon continues to astound. It should be tiny, but it is vast and vibrant. Alive with CosPlayers and Collectors; gamers and artists and surprisingly multilingual children.


Should you go next year? Well, that depends on whether you prefer having a good time or weeping alone in your cold bedroom. I won't judge you.


TITANCON ACQUIRES SOME GUESTS

And holy crap! Have you seen the guest list for TitanCon? Joe Abercrombie, soon to be the bloody tyrant of all Ireland, will be attending his first Con on this side of the Shattered Sea. I spoke to him at WorldCon last year and hinted at how nice it would be if he could somehow get over his leprechaun phobia. And yes, it's a recognised condition. Seems that Phil must have "shown him the instruments" as they say*, and finally got him to give in.


It will also be great to share a table full of curry with last year's Queen of the Con, Pat Cadigan, as well as the witty and brilliant Sarah Pinborough.


And that's just the imported talent! The Belfast authors alone would promote outbreaks of hysterical swooning at any Con in the world. Look at Ian Mcdonald! On an island infested with famous writers, people ought to be building statues to him and sacrificing their children at his mighty marble feet.


Anyway, you should come. I mean it. I'd love to see you there. You'd love to see you there. Bring chocolate.



*Not a double-entendre. I swear it's a reference.


Reading, Writing, Watching... LuxCon!

Yes, my filthy chums, it's been a while, but I haven't forgotten you! Oh, no! I will have my revenge, and you, you will be the star...

But until then, oh future victims, let us share our entertainments.

READING

Yes, I've been doing a bit of that. Pick of the bunch lately has been Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It's a literary post-apocalyptic story. Lots of quiet musing about lost technology while stabbing brigands. I lapped it up and asked for more, but none was to be had.

I also spent quite a while on sample chapters of the Latest Fantasy Blockbusters, but none were to my jaded taste. So far, this year, the fantasies I enjoyed most were by authors I already knew: Adrian Tchaikovsky and Joe Abercrombie. More soon when I have it.

WATCHING

I got to the end of Wolf Hall eventually. Beautiful stuff. A stunning end to Anne Boleyn -- like a helpless little bird, when we used to fear her so much! Or despise her! And Netflix's Better Call Saul is an easy, quirky watch. But most of all, I am delighting in Adventure Time. A 10 minute per episode cartoon about a boy and his dog* that makes me feel... joy. No other word for it. When I watch it, I feel exactly how I imagine five year olds feel when they're lost in play. Give it a go! Give it a few gos until you lose yourselves in it!


WRITING

Holy crap! 60,000 words of what I am now sure will be called "The Fairy Killers". I'm having a great time with it, I really am. Except that I'm about to butcher my favourite character and that can't be right, can it?

CONS

LuxCon is just around the corner, so, if you love SF or gaming or CosPlay. If you have a pulse, get ye to Luxembourg go! It was an amazing experience last year. They had frites! And you could have some too. The website is here.



*No, not that boy. Or that dog.

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.

Tags:

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...

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