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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Arisia 2015 Panel Schedule

I'm excited and happy to have been accepted as a program participant for the upcoming Arisia conference. This is a large, annual science fiction/fan/lifestyle convention that takes place in Boston, at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

This is, I think, my sixth year as a panelist. Every year is so different in terms of the panels you get placed on. A few years ago I was on three gender-related panels. Two years ago I was very zombie-heavy. Another year I had several religion and spirituality-related panels. Last year I has two science panels, and a few very cool literature panels. My schedule this is year is very eclectic--one writing panel, a fan interest, gender, and science.

I'll also be participating in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, where I *think* I'll be reading from my current novel-in-progress, a contemporary fantasy novel. That takes place Sunday at 11:30 am. I hope you'll come listen! The conference itself runs from Friday, Jan. 16 to Monday the 19th.

Without further ado...

Do We Need Science Fiction? — Science, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 1 (2E)
The BBC's Business section recently asked whether or not we need science fiction to encourage the development of new technologies. What technologies have been inspired by SF? Would they have happened without SF? What devices in SF do you think are likely to be the next new technologies? As we enter the future described in SF books and movies, are our expectations changing?
James L. Cambias (m), B. Diane MartinSuzanne Reynolds-AlpertJeff WarnerStephen R Wilk

Face Off: The Best Reality Show for Geeks — Media, Panel — 1hr 15min — Marina 4 (2E)
Plenty of geek-oriented reality shows have sprung up in recent years, but few have found the success of SyFy's Face Off, about to head into its eighth season. With its parade of Oscar and Emmy-award winners as judges and guest judges, some truly entertaining challenges, and incredible insight into the world of make-up and practical f/x, it's become a huge hit. Join us as we discuss what makes the show work creatively and how it's changed the way we view special effects.
Mark L AmidonToni "Leigh Perry" KelnerResa NelsonKate Nepveu (m), Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Shame on Slut-Shaming — Communities, Panel — 1hr 15min — Douglas (3W)
Slut-shaming is the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in sexual behaviors that deviate from the norm, failing to uphold gender expectations, dressing in sexually provocative ways, requiring access to birth control, or even for being sexually assaulted or raped. What are the psychological and sociological causes of slut-shaming? What can be done to change people's attitudes?
Terry Franklin (m), Megan S. MarklandMichael McAfeeMelissa Perreira-AndrewsSuzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading — Writing, Reading — 1hr 30min — Douglas (3W)
Broad Universe is an international organization of women and men dedicated to celebrating and promoting the work of women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Come listen to dramatic live readings from works of members of the Broad Universe organization. Participants are members of the Broad Universe writers' group.
Terri BruceAnna ErishkigalLisa J. EvansJustine GraykinElektra HammondElaine IsaakJennifer Allis ProvostSuzanne Reynolds-AlpertMorven WestfieldTrisha Wooldridge (m)

Worldbuilding with the Soft Sciences — Writing, Panel — 1hr 15min — Hale (3W)
Let's skip past geology and cosmology and go straight to the sciences that study culture: linguistics, psychology, cultural anthropology, and the like. How does knowledge in these areas inform (or laughably fail to inform) speculative fictions' world building? How can we use insights from these disciplines to build worlds with a realistic diversity in their cultures?
Vikki CiaffoneAlexander Feinman (m), James MeickleSuzanne Reynolds-AlpertW. B. J. Williams

Monday, December 1, 2014

NANOWRIMO: The Aftermath and Lessons Learned

Well, NANOWRIMO was not exactly what I'd hoped it would be. As usual, life happened and I was beset by health issues and sick kids.

I did get about 6,000 words into the novel (fantasy) I was writing. I also began a new short story this past month (horror/scifi), and have about 4,000 words, and I will need another 1,000 to finish it off, which I hope to do this week. 

This may be the most I've written in any month. Pretty good for me!

This is only the second time I've attempted NANO. I will not do it again. The reasons are:
  • I learned much of what I needed to learn--for example, yes, I can write every day (at least a little!) for two weeks in a row. (That's where my streak ended when I was sidelined with back and neck pain.)
  • I learned that when you DO write more frequently, it is easier to keep up your enthusiasm, and easier to see yourself improving.
  • I learned that the NANO forums and particularly the Facebook page were a colossal time waste. The messages coming through to the FB page were mostly inane. My local forum was not at all user friendly.
I will continue to write more frequently. I will continue to foster relationships with other serious writers. 

I will get the short story draft done this week, and run it past my critique group. Then, I have a market I may submit it to if it passes muster.

Then back to the novel.

I'll do my best to stay focused, and get these projects done.

And know that life is always going to happen. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting Ready for NANOWRIMO

NANOWRIMO, for those of you who don't know, is short for "National Novel Writing Month." That's right--November is reserved for millions of insane people who decide they are going to give up sleep, television, socializing, and other vestiges of humanity for an entire month--all so that they can write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel..

For the math challenged, that is an average of 1,666 words per day.

Of course, even if (and that's a BIG if) I get to 50,000 words by Dec.1, I'll have just that. A big pile of words. You're not supposed to edit as you go, so it will be the draftiest draft that ever was. And December will be the beginning of editing the morass.

I've got to get to outlining (because as usual, I've joined this party late) but for any of you who want to follow my progress, feel free to come here for periodic updates.

I can tell you this:

  • I'll be consuming vast amounts of coffee.
  • I'm writing a contemporary fantasy novel.
  • The working title is Fragments.
  • I plan to get up at 5 am every morning and spend an hour writing (I have to get up 6 am on weekdays for my kids.)
  • Coffee.
  • I plan to judiciously split my time between the paying the job and doing this (instead of letting the paying job creep in and spending more time on it than I need, which often happens.)
  • Giving up evening TV--except for the Walking Dead. Because The Walking Dead.
  • Coffee.
Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I've Updated Links to My Works...

... Because I was missing some stuff. On a related note, I am the worst promoter of myself ever.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

People Really Need to Reassess What's Enraging Them

The last two weeks have brought us additional unrest in the Middle East, the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, and unarmed black youth being gunned down in the street.

And the worst offender of all...

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Most of you should be familiar with this by now. I live in Massachusetts, a state where this ridiculous-looking trend really took off. So I was aware of it fairly early on. And I recall thinking, Why are people dumping ice water on heads? and likening it to a less-vile version of the "set yourself on fire" meme.

Several days later, I was passing by the TV, and NECN was covering the local angle. That's how I learned that dumping icy water on your head was more than just a trend--there was a cause behind it.

But curmudgeon that I am, I thought: Sure, people are dumping water on their heads. It's probably not raising any money. As if on cue, the talking heads on the magic TV box addressed that very question. The Ice Bucket Challenge was actually raising money. Donations were up by 200%.

And I was happy to hear that something appearing so idiotic was actually doing some good.

A few more days passed, and I began to see torrents of icy water splashing across my Facebook feed. Then... the unthinkable.

A high school friend nominated me.

Typically, I'm not a fan of trends. Because, you know, they're trendy. But knowing that this was actually raising money to help an incurable disease, I decided to go for it. Pour a large pan of ice-cold water on my head.

To the delight of my children.

During the week that followed, I noticed an interesting trend (at least on my Facebook feed.) The people participating in the Challenge were predominantly "sporty" people--and perhaps this is due, in part, to the fact that the Challenge has a sports-related origin. But I noticed a relative absence of the Challenge occurring among other loosely categorizeable groups. As someone who writes and loves scifi, for example (and has a general penchant for geekery), I noted that my nerdy compadres were staying dry.

And that's when I noticed the backlash.

Some of the "non-sporty" crowd were not only dissing the Challenge (and hey--that's right) but they were doing it vehemently. Angrily. And I found it completely bizarre.

These are some of the arguments against the challenge I came across:

  • "No one's going to tell me what to do!" (Sure.)
  • "It's stupid, and I'll bet donations aren't even affected." (Untrue.)
  • "No one's going to bully me." (Yes. I swear the word "bully" was used. Which really cheapens the word.)
  • "I can choose myself how and where I'm going to donate my money!" (Of course you can. And you know what? There is no ALS police monitoring Facebook to see who has and has not donated $100. Really. No one is going to rip you from your bed in the middle of the night.)
  • "There are more pressing issues and diseases than ALS." (I actually agree. But no one I know has ALS, either. Above, I mentioned several horrible things going on in the world right now. If you feel outraged that people are sending boatloads of cash for ALS research, send your own contribution to your cause of choice.)
  • "It's just another stupid viral campaign that ultimately will have no impact." (Again, I refer you to the facts. It has had a real impact. Granted, some viral marketing campaigns are pretty stupid, and don't have the impact this one has. [I'm looking at you, 'what color is your bra' Breast Cancer campaign. Which I was not a fan of, because of the way it adds to the public perception that breast cancer is a "female" disease.]
  • "I already gave money to this charity. Now I feel like I have to again!" (Um, if you feel that way, that's your choice. No one is "making" you feel anything.)
As I processed the backlash I saw come across my little corner of the Internet, the sporty/nonsporty divide again struck me. Maybe it's the sociology degree, but I couldn't help but view much of this criticism through a lens of high school. It's US versus THEM. If THEY are into something, then it's certainly not for US.

And I thought to myself, just wait until Neil Gaiman or Tom Hiddleston or Felicia Day or some other Geek God/Goddess gets in on this action. Then the tide will turn.

I present to you Exhibit A. And here's Exhibit B.--Nathan Fillion. BECAUSE NATHAN FILLION.

(I would like to point out, for the record, that, I mentioned Joss Whedon in my challenge. But I didn't actually tag him, because I was just being cute. But if he ends yup doing it, I'm still taking credit, y'all.)

So, I get it. We have our own subcultures, and the things we think are cool, partly because they are cool, and partly because other people think they're cool. And if you don't think something is a good idea for any reason, don't do it. But don't be so obnoxious about it. And try to have your facts straight.

And most of all, realize that these things are not zero-sum games. Just because the charity of your choice is not the one in the spotlight, it doesn't mean that the one in the spotlight is unworthy. I suggest turning your outrage into something useful, for something you agree with, instead of spouting anger across the Internet.

In the wise words of my ten-year old daughter, "Don't judge. Just love."

p.s. See how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started here