• Reading

    2017 Reading Summary

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    But if 2017 was a weak writing year, it was a strong one for reading. Paper, electronic, audio, I consumed a lot of written words this year.

    Without going into a lot of detail, because there will be plenty when the 2017 Reading Journey file is done, my category break outs are mostly pretty favourable.

    Historical Award Winners: 17, and 4 DNFs

    Last Year’s Award Winners: 6, and 1 DNF

    Spec Fic Breadth: 7

    Other Fiction: 40, and 2 DNFs

    Martial Arts: 4

    Non Fiction: 16

    Which I make a total of 90 books. Add to that several hundred pieces of short fiction (including almost a million words of slush pile reading as a Publishing Assistant for Bards and Sages), and hundreds of comic books, and I read a lot this year.

    I hope to match or beat it in 2018.

    As far as things go, I gave exactly three 5-star ratings to book-length works this year, to:

    The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett – the last Discworld book, and it’s entirely possible that the fifth star was due to my sadness in never getting another new story in this world again.

    Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse #3) by James S. A. Corey – loving this series. Of all the works in this universe so far, only a couple of the novellas have gone below four stars. But now I’m almost caught up. One novella and one novel, and I’ll have to wait on new work with everyone else.

    So, Anyway by John Cleese – I very much enjoyed Mr. Cleese’s biography, only disappointed by the fact that it left off just as Monty Python began. Hoping for a sequel.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Writing

    2017 Writing Summary

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    Let’s face it, 2017 was a rather weak writing year for me.

    The year came with some major life adjustments, including, in particular, a much-increased set of responsibilities at work, some family health issues, and dealing with my oldest child moving out on his own to go to school.

    Less an excuse and more a set of facts, but it comes down to me only writing 42,000 words of new fiction this year. Now, there was more than 103,000 words of non-fiction, including blog posts and reviews, and I took three novels to final draft complete status, as well as detailed plots for three more, and another to a second draft complete. Short fiction was weaker on the new wordage front, but did all right under the heading of editing, as well, with every story slotted for the Undead collection at least at second draft status and some of them all the way to final.

    Non-fiction fared a little better, with lots of review done, 70 or so blog posts, and the 2015 and 2016 Reading Journeys formatted and put into PDF files for easier access by people who aren’t me who have an interest.

    I know that’s less of a detailed review than I usually do, but we’re into the next year now and I’m setting my sights on some pretty significant goals, which I’ll discuss another day. And, to steal a line, “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.”

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    CanCon 2017

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    Two weekends ago, I went to CanCon 2017, which is a mid-sized genre fiction literary convention that happens in Ottawa every autumn.

    I went to some great panels, including a very entertaining talk by Robert J Sawyer on pitfalls to avoid in the writing life, and a fairly intense panel on mental health, neurodiversity, and creativity. I didn’t get to all of the panels I want to do, but I didn’t expect to. I had a teenager with me who has some anxiety issues, and the venue was just a little too claustrophobic for her to be able to handle for long periods. For those who lack such issues, cozy might be a better word, some of the panel rooms, especially. I’m personally lucky enough to be able to bank some stress relief or relieve it later by spending a little green time outdoors, preferably by myself. It’s a fairly common reaction for me being with too many people in a short time span. Not everyone woks that way. We all need to adjust and adapt to our own mental situation. I have my own, different issues. Most of us do.

    But here is a list of panels that I actually got to:

    • Laksa Media Presents: The Making of an Anthology
    • Politics of Canadian SF
    • The Art of the Mosaic
    • Mental Health, Neurodiversity, and Creativity
    • Robert J. Sawyer: The Writing Life

    I made audio recordings of most of them, but I won’t be sharing those. The convention policy on recording is that, unless you have permission from the specific individuals involved, video and audio recording are acceptable only for personal archival purposes. What that means is that I got to enjoy the experience of being there more, take fewer notes, and be able to go back and take more notes whenever I want. There were several book references I missed in one panel, things I want to make sure I got in Robert Sawyer’s talk, and many additional notes I might have made in the neurodiversity panel.

    It was a good con, and I had fun, and we visited my parents in the evenings. But next time, I think that we should have a room in the convention hotel, or at least on the same block, so that there is easy space for any of us who are attending to go and destress, relax, away from the crowds.

    I think it’s worth the extra money.

    We are planning to go to ad Astra in the spring, sorry, I guess that one has moved to July now. And maybe to CanCon again next year. I enjoy the focus on literature at these conventions, and writing and related activities. Not to mention there’s the opportunity to run into a few old friends here and there, and maybe even meet one of my favorite authors once in a while. So we’re planning at least those two, and we’ll go from there.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Philosophy

    Year of Celebration: October 2017

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    I realized, putting this one together, that I didn’t actually write a post in this vein for September. I’ll put the days celebrated at the bottom of this post, with less commentary (probably none).

     

    01 October 2017: World Vegetarian Day

    And the first day of Vegetarian Awareness Month, bringing awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. Done preaching.

    It’s also Change a Light Day. Got a burnt bulb you’ve been ignoring? Maybe one you’d like to upgrade from incandescent (who still has those) to fluorescent or even LED?

    02 October 2017: Name Your Car Day

    In my case, the Personal Shuttlecraft, NCC 1701-5.

    03 October 2017: Virus Appreciation Day

    And if you’re not interested in that, remember that a virus was the first vaccine and helped rid us of Small Pox.

    04 October 2017: World Animal Day

    A day to think about the important roles animals play in our lives and to act to decrease some of the suffering some of them experience as a result.

    05 October 2017: World Teachers Day

    Have a teacher in your life? Maybe one in your past that was a huge influence on you? If not, you’re probably not looking hard enough. Or didn’t listen in school.

    06 October 2017: Mad Hatter Day

    “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

    Also, it’s Noodle Day. Celebrate the humble noodle in all its forms.

    07 October 2017: Random Acts of Poetry Day

    Have you ever written any poetry? Today is a good day to give it a try. And don’t be afraid to post or share.

    08 October 2017: World Octopus Day

    These are neat creatures, for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to pick out that they’re neat because they’re likely one of the smartest animals on the planet, with the ability to learn new skills and solve problems. I don’t think we should be worried about competition, but maybe we should encourage them just a little.

    09 October 2017: Moldy Cheese Day

    Danish Blue, Roquefort, Stilton… mmm, moldy cheese.

    On my side of the border, it’s also Thanksgiving. Hope everyone has a good one with friends and family, as they choose.

    10 October 2017: Metric Day

    Celebrate a system of measurements that actually makes sense.

    And it’s World Mental Health Day. Believe it or not, most of us have some kind of mental issue, and they’re just as important to take care of as physical ones. Some of us have a harder time and may need a little extra support, so remember to be understanding.

    11 October 2017: Coming Out Day

    Whatever some folks might think, gender and sexuality are both on a spectrum (most things are) and not necessarily on the same one. Whatever some folks might tell you, it’s okay not to fit their definition of normal. Whatever some folks might shout, diversity is a strength. A good day to remember that and just be inclusive.

    It’s also Pet Obesity Awareness Day. We have two we’re working on right now, both cats. One came to us that way and one who ballooned after moving in with us having been a stray for most of his life and experiencing a lot of food scarcity. Both of them are happy, but rounder than they need to be. It’s a slow process.

    12 October 2017: International Moment Of Frustration Scream Day

    How publicly you want to exercise this is up to you. It’s more about catharsis than shocking people, though.

    13 October 2017: International Skeptics Day

    Having an attitude of doubt is a good thing. Somewhere out there, someone wants you to believe something ridiculous to generate fear, amuse themselves, or sucker money out of you. Demand evidence and be open to it. Question statements of fact that don’t have any attached. Be understanding of your friends who believe weird stuff, but don’t be afraid to talk to them about that weirdness, or of trying to talk them out of it.

    14 October 2017: Bald and Free Day

    Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street. It’s a solar panel for a sex machine. Insert your favourite line here. Really, though, I don’t know how you people with hair do it; I’m uncomfortably warm about half a second after I put on a hat unless it’s below freezing.

    15 October 2017: National Grouch Day

    Whether we’re talking about Oscar or that guy down the street who wants to make sure you stay off his lawn, don’t stress too hard about the grouches in your life. Smile and wish them a grouchy day.

    16 October 2017: Dictionary Day

    You’ve been on social media. You know how many people need a dictionary and a spell checker. ‘Nuff said.

    It’s also Feral Cat Day. Every stray may be looking for a home, but ferals are a little different, and if they don’t necessarily have the instincts to become a house cat (some do, some don’t), they do have a role in our society, whether most of us realize it or not. They keep the rodent population down to levels we poor humans can tolerate or even fail to notice. The problem is more about unrestricted breeding, and that’s something that can be worked on with some aware humans.

    17 October 2017: Spreadsheet Day

    Is there anything more beautiful than a well-designed spreadsheet?

    18 October 2017: Chocolate Cupcake Day

    Mmm. Chocolate cupcakes. I can probably stop at one…

    Also, it’s No Beard Day. The days of the lumber-sexual are, thankfully, in the past. Even hipsters are trimming back. Believe it or not, you’ll look younger if you get rid of it, and people you kiss will be less likely to complain about how scratchy and itchy you are.

    19 October 2017: Evaluate Your Life Day

    Is your life where you want it to be? Do you have dreams you’re not working towards? Think about them. Find a path. Take the first step.

    20 October 2017: Information Overload Day

    Yes, we’re constantly bombarded, drowning in a sea of information. Take today and turn a few of the streams off. Breathe deep. Smell the pizza. It will all still be there tomorrow.

    21 October 2017: Reptile Awareness Day

    Some of the coolest critters on the planet are reptiles. We’ve shared our house with a couple of them, and one, a 1.5-metre long corn snake by the name of Sonic, still lives with us, and probably will for a decade or so yet. They’re not slimy, they’re not icky, and most of them aren’t dangerous. Some of them are even affectionate with a little handling. Or maybe they just want to stay warm and you’re a good source of heat.

    22 October 2017: CAPS LOCK DAY

    WHY IS THIS CELEBRATED TWICE A YEAR? WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? THIS DRIVES ME ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!

    23 October 2017: Mole Day

    Avogadro’s number, 6.02 x 1023. 10 to the 23. 10-23. Get it? The number of atoms of something that gives you its atomic weight in grams. But you didn’t come here for a chemistry lesson, even if everything is made of chemicals.

    24 October 2017: United Nations Day

    Anniversary of the UN charter. First steps along the path to giving all nations and peoples a voice and a place to speak. Still not very far along that path, are we?

    25 October 2017: Karate Day

    For those of you who study some flavour of an Okinawan or Japanese art that falls under the umbrella of karate, or one of its descendants, take a moment and remember. Then do a few kata.

    26 October 2017: Howl at the Moon Day

    And then maybe wonder why it’s taken us so long to get back there.

    27 October 2017: Black Cat Day

    Cats haven’t always had the best reputation in Western society. For some, black cats still have some kind of stigma attached as a witch’s familiar, the devil’s helper (and I wish I wasn’t being serious on those two) or just being bringers of bad luck when they walk in front of you. But a black cat is just a cat that happens to be black. They’re just as varied and loveable as the rest of our domesticated felines. Makes me wonder a bit what the problem is.

    28 October 2017: Animation Day

    How to celebrate? Well, watch a cartoon, whether it’s traditional animation or some of that new fangled CGI stuff. Pick a favourite and remember why love the medium.

    29 October 2017: Hermit Day

    Spend some time alone today. We all need it. Go somewhere you can enjoy the quiet without interruption.

    And directly opposite that, it’s also Internet Day, the anniversary of the very first transmission on the network that would someday grow into the internet. The world wide web came much later, and started simple. Check out the first web page ever. http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

    30 October 2017: Checklist Day

    Make a list. Check it twice. Then start checking things off it. Feels good, no?

    31 October 2017: Halloween

    Does Halloween really need any explanation? It’s all about fun and candy. Have some of each.

     

    So that’s what I’m thinking about in terms of celebrations in October. Have any you like better?

    Be well, everyone.

     

    Oh, and things Celebrated in September

    01 September 2017: Ginger Cat Appreciation Day

    02 September 2017: Calendar Adjustment Day

    03 September 2017: Pet Rock Day

    04 September 2017: Wildlife Day

    05 September 2017: Voyager 1 Day

    06 September 2017: Read a Book Day, Star Trek in Canada Day

    07 September 2017: Buy a Book Day

    08 September 2017: Star Trek Day

    09 September 2017: Wonderful Weirdos Day

    10 September 2017: World Suicide Prevention Day

    11 September 2017: Make Your Bed Day

    12 September 2017: Battle of the Planets Day

    13 September 2017: Scooby Doo Day, Defy Superstition Day

    14 September 2017: Cream Filled Donut Day

    15 September 2017: Make a Hat Day

    16 September 2017: Eat an Apple Day

    17 September 2017: Battlestar Galactica Day

    18 September 2017: Respect Day

    19 September 2017: Talk Like a Pirate Day

    20 September 2017: Magellan Day

    21 September 2017: International Day of Peace

    22 September 2017: Equinox, Bilbo’s birthday

    23 September 2017: International Rabbit Day

    24 September 2017: Punctuation Day

    25 September 2017: Princess Bride Day, Comic Book Day

    26 September 2017: Batman Day

    27 September 2017: Ancestor Appreciation Day, Crush a Can Day

    28 September 2017: Confucius Day

    29 September 2017: Ask a Stupid Question Day

    30 September 2017: Blasphemy Rights Day

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  • Entertainment,  Television

    Earlier in 2017 in Serialized Genre TV

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    There has been plenty of other new genre work for the small screen this year, aside from the currently premiering fall stuff, and some of it may even be good.

     

    Legion, Season 1

    I remember reading about this not long before it first aired and then… nothing. Just rediscovered again recently and I have the first episode queued. I’m interested to see how this plays out, maybe. David Haller has been a pretty flexible character in the comics and they’ve done interesting, ridiculous, and just plain stupid things with him. With current FX available, this could be well done, or it could be a large steaming pile.

     

    The Expanse, Season 2

    Devoured. While there were parts of this that didn’t quite work as well for me as the first season did, that’s probably because I’ve been reading the books. Some of the divergences from the story aren’t making me happy even though they work pretty well on the screen. They’re blending one story into the next very well and the overall arc is picking up steam. Can’t wait for season 3, but I guess I have to.

     

    Iron Fist

    I loved Power Man and Iron Fist as a kid (yes, I’m that old), so the translation of both of these into serialized television should be right up my alley. And yet I’ve shied away from them. Still not quite sure why that is, but I do want to see it. I’ll get there.

     

    The Handmaid’s Tale

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJTonrzXTJs

    So is it so bad that I’m Canadian and not particularly a Margaret Atwood fan? I recognize that she’s a giant in Canadian literature, but her long profession that she doesn’t write SF when she clearly writes so much of it just irritates me. And I find her writing, well, too literary if that’s a thing. I don’t at all mind a higher brow in my SF, but the brow is a little high for me here, not to mention dark. Maybe it’s me, but I like a little more hope in my fiction. That said, this series is based on the one book of hers I’ve actually read in full and came close to enjoying, in spite of the darkness. Not enough to want to watch an entire series based on it, but I understand the attraction.

     

    Twin Peaks

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khwuhgxjoXU

    Wasn’t really my thing the first time around, all those years ago, so I find myself unable to get excited about the reboot/decades-later-sequel. Too many possible shows and too little time.

     

    Powerless

     

    A DC series I would probably enjoy. Sadly, the network didn’t let it make it through the full first season before cancelling it. I’ve flagged this one for watching anyway, because I rather like the concept of civilian self protection against superhero battles and collateral damage.

     

    Emerald City

     

    Let’s do yet another retelling of The Wizard of Oz, but lets drag it out, use every scrap of the original book the writing team likes, throw away all of the stuff they don’t and twist it to fit into our modern sensibilities.

    How many times have I lamented about Hollywood’s ability to tell new stories? Add one to that number.

     

    A Series of Unfortunate Events

    In direct contrast to my complaint about Emerald City, while this is technically a remake, it’s not something that should ever have been a single movie in the first place. How do you take a series of ten (short) books and turn it into a movie that lasts less than two hours? Answer: very, badly. But as a TV series, with each short book actually getting told across two episodes, you have a chance at doing the story justice, and this does. Looking forward to season 2.

     

    Time After Time

     

    H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper through time to our time. Sigh. I’m good, thanks.

     

    American Gods

    I want this to be good, having enjoyed the novel when it first came out. I’ve only read it the once, but then, it’s been a long time since I’ve done much in the way of rereads. This will either be really good or really bad. Reviews seem to mostly come down on the first one, but, as always, I’ll make my own judgement. This is in the queue.

     

    Anyone want to tell me something worked or didn’t?

    Be well, everyone.

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