Monday, February 17, 2014

Conferences and Conventions and Human Contact, Oh Boy!

Merry Monday, Internetizens!  The world is an especially bright and lovely place today (as it tends to be when you are backed by industrial-strength doses of ibuprofen and a healthy rage to live.) 

Three con-ish things:

1.  I've just now uploaded the preliminary schedule and class descriptions for DFWcon 2014 (scroll down there on the main page - you'll see three links).  If you are a writer who might be able to make it out to our neck of the woods in May, please check it out - this conference is my first love, and the literal foundation of all my success to date, and I can't recommend it highly enough.  You will hear me gushing more about it soon.

2.  A quick word to my fellow white people - more specifically, my fellow con-going, SFF-loving white people.  You know how at conventions, there tends to be a whole lot of ... you know, us?  Does it ever make you feel kinda weird to live in a city that is fully 50% non-white (as I do here in Dallas), and yet walking into the local convention hall is like entering a melanin clean-room? 

"Maybe", you might say, "but this isn't the first time I've heard about it, and I'm kind of tired of having to feel bad because I happen to turn pink in the bathtub."

 Well, *I* would submit that there is no need to feel anything but powerful, enthusiastic, and motivated - because we-the-converted are the carriers of the torch, the keepers of the faith.  We veteran con-goers KNOW how fun and cool and awesome a good con can be - and so we are uniquely equipped to help bring that joy to people who might otherwise miss out.  And (here's the part that's got me jazzed this morning): you can help diversify the con-going world just by doing what you normally would anyway.

"What?" you may ask.  "Which part?  Curating my collection of autographed Timothy Zahn novels?  Filling my life-sized TARDIS with handcrafted plush tribbles for my Dr. Who / Star Trek fanfic re-enaction group?"

Basically, yes!  Con or Bust is an organization dedicated to helping fans of color attend conventions - and all you have to do to support them is to buy from their auctions.  They have some amazing primo stuff, too - books, crafts, jewelry - autographed, limited-edition, out-of-print - and writers, sit up and pay attention!  They're auctioning off critiques from Tor editors, Hugo winners, serious heavy-hitting industry pros.  So if you want to score some amazing goods AND help bring new fans into the fold, get over there and shop your heart out.  (But do it fast - it's ending this Sunday the 23rd!)

3.  Okay, I guess that second thing was not as quick as I thought.  I'll make this third one brief:  I'm going to ConDFW this weekend, and it would be my life's delight to see you there!

We have many different beliefs, but today we must put them aside and unite. Gryffindor and Slytherin! Jedi and Sith! Jack Nicholson Joker and Heath Ledger Joker! This is our time to take what's ours... for tonight we dine in hell!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Long, Dark Night of the Teeth

It started on Wednesday, with an achy, not-too-bad kind of pain on the left side of my upper jaw.  I thought it might be a sinus issue.

It got worse yesterday, and I was lucky enough to get an on-the-spot appointment with my dentist, who confirmed that no, actually, the root canal I had a few years back has gotten re-infected.  Better handle up on that ASAP.

Tomorrow (today), I have a 9:00 appointment with an endodontist to re-do the root canal.  But in the meantime, I'm up and blogging in the middle of the night, nursing a pain that the drugs can't even touch.

So here is a thought.  Wouldn't it be a different world if we could actually feel other people's pain?  Like, on an individual level, how many of the people that today will be dismissed by their doctors for "psychosomatic" (read: imaginary) distress would get real help?  And on a societal level, how much more quickly could we progress if we could actually feel the mental anguish of our fellow sapiens?  How fast would bigotry crumble if the average person KNEW the kind of pain that comes from having to live in a body that doesn't match your gender, or trying to suppress a sexuality that will get you shamed, fired, hurt, or killed? 

Maybe it would be a utopia of compassion and understanding.  But then you have to think about how that would change our manners.  Like, it's already bad form to go into the office when you're sick, because somebody else might catch what you've got.  How much worse would it be if you showed up KNOWING you'd inflict your pain on your co-workers as soon as you walked in the door?  And does the person who walks onto a crowded subway on the verge of a nervous breakdown become a commuter, or a terrorist? 

So there'd have to be social coping mechanisms.  It might become polite to shut yourself in at home when you're miserable, so you don't wound every random stranger you pass in the street.  Certainly you'd be expected to medicate yourself.  The chronic, severe, and untreatable kinds of pain might even require you to kill yourself.  So in the longer, Darwinian run of things, the people who survive and prosper would be those who are the least prone to pain themselves - mental or physical - and those who are the least affected by the pain of others...aka the bullies.

On the balance, maybe it's best that we stay over here in Earth 616.  It's not perfect - not by a long shot - but I like the idea of living in a world aligned to the virtue of striving to understand other people's feelings, rather than the necessity of scrambling to escape them.  (And on a selfish, vocational note, a good story is basically empathy in a can anyhow.)

All right.  It's 7:00AM.  Two more hours to go.  I can make it.  But it's a really good thing that I don't know where to score drugs on lower Greenville.

Oh, I’m in pain! I think this is what pain feels like!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Slow and Squeezy, or, A Tale of Two Ponies

Sorry it's been so long, you guys.  I've been really squished lately.

Y'know, it feels pretty good to break into this whole semi-pro gig.  ("Pro" in that people are paying me to make with the fictional writings, "semi" in that such largesse isn't yet enough to live on.)  But one of the things that continues to bum me out is that I am




Like really.  An amazing pace for me is writing 300 words an hour.  If I have to stop and look things up or hit a hard part, that number goes way down.  It is hard to feel good about that when your Twitter feed is full of people belting out 800 or 1000 words in an hour and then skipping off to bake cookies.

So you start trying to justify it to yourself.  Well, I'm slow because I'm actually writing WELL, you see.  This is what it takes to get that masterpiece-osity that I got complimented on that one time.  It's a tortoise-and-hare scenario.  Slow and steady wins the publishing contract.  

But then you think about all the years you spent being the slowest one in gym class, too, and how you weren't actually running "better" or "deeper" than anyone else - you were just miserably crap at running.  And how a lot of the people who can write like gangbusters are actually turning out really excellent work.  And how the tortoise is completely screwed if the hare doesn't slack off.

So if speed has no reliable correlation to quality, then you either have to figure out how to pick up the pace somehow, or else accept that you just have a really god-awful slow mental metabolism, and will have to work twice as hard as the average person to get the same results.  Not an enticing prospect if you're as insecure and lazy as I am.

You know what's really cheered me up, though?


Specifically, these ponies:

I know, right!  They're like a dashing equestian barbership duet!

See, in the hallowed canon of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic don't you judge me, I swear to God, these guys are the Flim-Flam brothers.  They show up in an episode called "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000." Spoilers here follow.

Anyway, so these guys ride into town on the aforementioned Squeezy - a huge rolling contraption that automatically turns apples into tasty cider.  This does not bode well for the Apple family, whose homemade cider business is far too slow to keep up with local demand.

(You know you're in trouble when the Monsanto reps have their own catchy theme song.)

Things proceed as you might expect: a winner-take-all contest is set up, pitting the Flim-Flam brothers' super-modern machinery against the good old-fashioned methods of the Sweet Apple Acres team.  And of course, it's a kid's cartoon, so it follows a somewhat familiar plotline: the brothers actually win the contest, but the slop their machine turns out is so vile that they're run out of town on a rail, and goodness and decency and hat-waving old-timeyness carry the day. 

Here's what I like about it, though: the machine is superior in every measurable way.  It's not only enormously faster than old-fashioned horsepower, but also has a perfect quality-control sensor that weeds out rotten apples.  The Flim-Flam brothers lose not because their method is inferior, but because they turn off the quality control mechanism, turning rotten apples and garbage into cider in a last-ditch effort to produce more raw product and win the contest.

By now you see where I'm going with this.  At the end of the day, it's not about slow versus fast, or old versus new.  It's about whose integrity will buckle when the going gets rough, and whose won't.

And I can still win on that front.

So hopefully I can get back to regular blogging again in real short order (there is so much cool new stuff I am DYING to show you, believe me!)  But if I don't, it's because I'm still sorting the apples and turning the crank - hopefully with tasty-delicious results!

I have learned the meaning of self-loathing, and it is writing a sentence that you know is sloppy and starting another sentence.