Saturday, June 29, 2013

Buckle Down and Turn the Page

Whether it turns out to be one or not, this past week has felt like a pivot point. One of the potential changes deals with the way my day is structured and which family commitments I'll be able to keep in the coming months. As I was thinking about this, I went back to Lake Jackson to spend a few days with my parents. I had just finished reading Stina Leicht's of Blood and Honey and was reeling from that novel. Traffic on I59 was awful; the slower the traffic moved, the more present the novel was in my head. The story was less fantastic than I had expected and yet the layering of the fantastic and historical conflict keep me reading. I didn't really want to.

Having read all the "good for you" literature that I ever wanted to read as an English major, I gravitate toward stories that are lighter in tone. I don't understand why anyone would want to read about war and cruelty when it is too present in everyday news. There is an unsettled layer, a kind of emotional fault line, I possess that responds with absolute fury to cruelty or certain kinds of inevitable destruction. It takes time to come down from that. Not only was this story darker than I'm used to, it was also set in a time period in which I was living a calm, happy suburban childhood in Texas and I kept flashing back on that with each new chapter and date indication. It was this contrast that partially triggered the trip to LJ.

of Blood and Honey refused any escape. The fae heritage of the main character didn't take away the human concerns and decisions he made and it didn't make him a hero by some kind of magical genetic ethical absolution. And why should it?

When I got home, I had the opportunity to take a day trip with my dad. We argued about whether we'd taken a trip to an old plantation near West Columbia and whether I'd been old enough to remember it. Despite hours of reconstructing family vacations, the move to Lake Jackson, the birth of my younger brother, etc., I never did remember going to the planation as a child. What I did remember was that one of my favorite things was going on family trips and being in that outward-focused mode that let us elide any internal conflicts.

My approach to conflict is to dive into details of something else, something concrete and factual. It shows up in my stories, as the detail grows excessive while the conflict withers into implication and elision. Fantasy was a good place to hide.

I'm not sure whether it still is.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


So...this post is partially to keep from slapping my monitor after running into the political morass that Facebook tends to be when people are otherwise occupied. My monitor doesn't deserve the abuse.

Instead, let us focus on Apollocon 2013, which ended today but lingers for us until tomorrow morning, when we will be cleared out of our hotel room and back home with the dogs. Based on this year, neither of us is sure we're going to attend next year and I'm back in anxiety mode. This year, the primary hallway along which in previous years various clubs, self-pubbed authors, and crafters have set up tables mostly consisted of tables advertising other conventions. There were fewer authors in attendance and fewer new authors.

We attended interesting panels and had fun poking around in the dealer's room and daydreaming our way through the art show. For the first time in the years that we've been attending, the Sunday panels stole the show and weren't denuded of people due to early departures. The Friday panel (Cows in Space!!) was bloodier than expected but hasn't left my head in the days since. If we are considering leaving the planet, what will we take with us? What kind of biosphere will we pursue? This was reinforced by the sci-fi transportation panel in which the idea of increasingly sentient transportation was brought up. If horses were an important way to extend our perceptions and travel ability on earth, do we need similarly (or more advanced) sentience in our space vehicles? What about here on earth? Do we need intelligent transportation? Do we want it? What kind of cultural space will this create and how will we adapt? While I'm not enough of a sci-fi person to work on stories directly addressing these questions, they will inform the short stories that I'm currently working on and how I build the world of the new-ish novel I may or may not be drafting. On the whole, I was energized by the discussions.

This is the first year, however, that made me really feel as if books were over. For the first time, many panelists mentioned short stories rather than novels and e-books weren't mentioned at any of the panels I attended. It was almost as if we were attending a wake for all the physical culture that is dying as we move into the future. For a sci-fi based con, the potential of that future to be alienating was an oddly chilling component of the weekend. I never really felt that I was plugged in to the con, which seemed to be taking place for the exclusive amusement of the invited panelists.

On our way to breakfast this morning, the Pumpkin King & I were discussing the bad dreams we'd both had the previous night and I brought up the way that my dreams have for the past several years had a component of distorted space--stairs that lead to tiny crawlspace doors, giant stores that are barely navigable until they run out into small hallways, second story rooms that are barely large enough to stand in. I had assumed that this spatial distortion was just one of the components that everybody experience; however, the Pumpkin King assured me that it was just me. Or, at any rate, not him.

Perhaps, then, I just have a distorted perspective.

I do know that I'd like to attend Space City Con this August and see whether I feel the same.