kerfuffling. All the cool kids are doing it.

by dichroic in books

Here’s the thing that’s bugging me about the current kerfuffle around the Hugo awards and the Sad Puppy slate:

Maia Drazhar.

That requires some explanation. You know how a lot of science fiction and fantasy fen go to cons, find their people and live geekily ever after? For one reason or another that never worked out for me. Thus, while SFF is very important to me, my interest in that world is all about the books, not the community (and it is mostly the books, much more than the novellas, novellettes, short stories or movies, though there has been stuff I care about in all of those categories). My interest in the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards is about what won, not who won. I like to see good books get the attention they deserve.

For that reason, of course I’m not happy about people who right-out-loud are admitting to creating an award slate based on who wrote what rather than what got written. I know the creators of that slate claim that they’re only reacting in kind to what others have been doing for years, but 1) the moral failures of your enemies are no guide for how a civilized person ought to behave (I’m pretty sure Maia himself would second me on that) and 2) bullshit. I see people fighting all the time for more inclusivity and fairer treatment within SF; some of those people are friends of mine. I see the same people talking about their craft and honing it; I’m sure there are exceptions because there always are, but the people I know and respect don’t want social justice to serve as an excuse for bad writing because that would completely miss the point. Nobody is going to get into the head of a character unlike him- or herself and be enriched thereby unless that character is as well-developed and as human as the author can possibly make it.

On the other hand I’ve seen a lot of posts about how the Hugos are completely devalued this year, with stress on the No Award option. I understand that people are hurt and want to hit back, but I’m hoping that no one goes around voting No Awards on a wholesale basis – and that’s where Maia Drazhar comes in. He’s the eponymous hero of Katherine Addison’s book The Goblin Emperor (Amazon | Powells), and he spends a whole long book trying to do what’s right in difficult and confusing circumstances. It’s a fantastic book; I think it deserves to win the Hugo and Nebula this year, and would be a winner or at least a strong contender in any year. It’s that good. I’d like to see it win an award and I’d like that award not to be tainted.

I’m sure it’s not the only deserving thing there; I haven’t read anything in the other written genres but it ought to be interesting to see how the Lego Movie, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy match up.

I’m not saying that no one should vote No Award at all – I understand that it can be used surgically, that you can say “this story should win so I’m listing it first, that one was decent so it’s second, this other story doesn’t really succeed but it attempts some very interesting stuff so I’m putting it third, and the rest of these are crap so No Award No Award No Award”. That makes sense to me.

I’d been sort of thinking about attending WorldCon this year – Spokane isn’t so far from here. But I was of divided mind and none of this is making it more appealing. I’ll probably just stick with reading books, talking about ones I like and cheering from the sidelines. And with luck maybe Goblin Emperor will win a Nebula.

boots and stories

by dichroic in clothing and style

I have a really ridiculous number of boots (well, okay, at least they’re in pairs – I suppose really ridiculous would be an odd number of them, assuming a two-legged wearer). I was just realizing this morning that it makes me slightly sad that the one I’m wearing today don’t have any story; like my earrings, most of my boots do have a story. (Actually, my earrings come in two kinds: ones I’ve made, and ones with a story attached. Some are both at once.)

There’s the high-heeled Doc Martens I bought in the Netherlands – I actually tried on a tall (I mean, comes further up the leg) version of those at a street market in Amsterdam, but decided they were probably impractical – and being sold on the street, might well be counterfeit. So back home in Eindhoven I bought the ankle-high version, something like these. They’re surprisingly comfortable; mine have more of a platform in front so the heels don’t feel as high as they look.

There are the boots I bought during shopping sprees in the US, during the years I lived abroad (in Europe, clothes and shoes cost more; in Taiwan, things tend to be either cheap and shoddy or designer and expensive). There are three pair of those: the tall brown boots, which I hurriedly replaced with nearly identical ones last year on a lunchtime run to DSW, after the original ones sprang a pinpoint leak in the sole that let water in; the tan cowboy boots I bought in a farm coop in southern Oregon, on the theory that as an American abroad, cowboy boots are my birthright even though I’m actually an East-Coast girl; and the black cowboy boots I bought the next year because I liked the tan ones so much. (Unfortunately, that last pair are much less comfortable than the tan ones, even though they’re the same size in the same brand.)

There are the really ornate boots I bought last month in Wyoming – yes I have three pair of cowboy boots – because they just straddle the line between fabulous and ridiculous, and were on sale for half price. They’ll remind me of that ski trip whenever I wear them, plus they’re just fun to wear.

There are the duck boots I bought after spending the day at a regatta where it was pouring down rain all day and the gaps between parts of the dock resulted in me going ankle-deep in water – not that it made me much wetter, by that point. I wore them to work, too, one day last winter when we got a snowstorm that mostly shut this city down.

And there are the ones I think of as THE boots, my Rossi Endura boots. I’ve been wearing them since I bought them in 2009 in Tasmania on our second trip to Australia, and they have years left in them. I wanted to buy a pair of Blundstone boots, after seeing a guide on our first trip to Australia hike all over the Outback in great comfort in them, but the guy in the shoestore in Hobart didn’t want to sell them to me. They’d recently moved production from Tasmania to Korea, so he talked me into getting a pair of Rossis because they were at least made in Australia (not Tassie, though). I’ve been glad ever since, because they’re the best boots ever – I can walk for miles in them, off-trail or on any surface, they’re waterproof, yet they’re still nice enough for work even with dress slacks. (Granted it might help if I ever polished or waxed them.)

I’ve also got the dusty-red low boots I was wearing when I began this entry, a pair of gray ones in the same style (both Born Raisa; some light hikers from Merrell, I think; some black Teva waterproof tall boots. But it’s never as much fun wearing boots that don’t come with a story attached.

I love it when I stumble over a book

by dichroic in books

Huh. A while back I wrote A Girl Called Alice, a crossover fic combining two of E. Nesbit’s sets of characters, the Bastables and the Psammead from Five Children and It, set during WWI. Nesbit’s children were just the right age to end up in the trenches or supporting those who are).

No way of knowing if she ever saw it, but Kate Saunders (whose book Beswitched I liked, because it reads like a cross between Nesbit and Angela Brazil) has written Five Children on the Western Front – the original children who met the Psammead grown up and in WWI. Sadly, it currently seems to be out only in England and not in e-book format (though it can be ordered from US resellers). The Guardian seems to like it a lot. I think I’m going to have to buy a hard copy – I wouldn’t be surprised if this one never does get issued in the US.

Come to think of it, I’ve been encountering Nesbitiana a few places lately – I know I recently saw those same kids (Squirrel, Anthea, Cyril and Jane) somewhere or other, but I don’t remember where at the moment. And there’s an unmistakeable allusion to The Railway Children and to Nesbit herself in Pratchett’s latest book, Raising Steam. I first found Nesbit because Edward Eager was always having his characters praise her, so it’s nice to see more recent books mentioning her.

Oh – and while writing about books, I should mentioned that The Penderwicks in Spring came out last week, and is every bit as good as earlier Penderwicks books. Some time has past, but this book focuses on Batty, who was about 4 in previous books and is now coming up on 11 so it’s aimed at the same demographic of readers as the earlier books. I’ve read that there will be another gap between this and the last book, but there’s a new sister, Lydia, who’s just a toddler here so I’d guess it will center on her. Ben, who was two in earlier books, has grown into an engaging second grader who is very much his own person and easily distinguished from any of his siblings. It’s clearer than ever that the Penderwicks are lucky enough to have a very understanding set of adults; I was thinking about that, because it’s not very common in kids’ books. Normally for the kids to be able to have adventures, the adults have to be removed either in the literal sense, by death or absence, or by their own remoteness. Or less often (but more realistically for me) the parents are just find but don’t really understand the kids or what they’re thinking and doing. If I try to think of parents as understanding as the Penderwicks I keep going back to Little Women and Alcott’s other books (and I don’t think the March parents were nearly as good as Jo and her sisters think they were, though I understand why Louisa May needed to tell herself that story. But Rose’s uncle seems better, as do Polly’s offstage parents). With the addition of two new siblings, the Penderwicks don’t mirror the Marches as closely as they did in previous books anyway – though one plot development is hinted at here that’s all too close to Little Women, so I’m hoping that doesn’t materialize.

religious differences

by dichroic in musing

Some days I’m amazed at how much Christians and Jews differ in their approach to theology. Some Christians, anyway.

I am not even talking about Indiana’s recent “religious freedom law” now (I’m embarrassed to see in the Indy Star that people present at the private signing of that bill include Orthodox Jews as well as Catholic monks and nuns, conservative lobbyists, and so on.)

Yesterday, I received a postcard from a local church advertising their Easter service, talking about how they offer a “fresh message”. That’s the part I don’t get. First of all, if you’re going to be a Christian at all, how could any new message be more powerful than the age-old “He is Risen?” Second, isn’t some of the power of that precisely because it isn’t fresh at all but because people have been celebrating that same message for the last two thousand years? This confuses me, but maybe that’s because the whole point of Passover is to repeat the same story we’ve been telling for a few thousand years.

(Said church also mentioned their “authentic worship”. I take that to mean “we really mean the words we’re saying – we’re not just repeating set prayers”. This is also different from Jewish tradition where it’s important to say the words in community, even if they get mumbled more as a mantra than a literal prayer, but that discussion probably needs a better theologian than me.)

Jackson Hole

by dichroic in daily updates, photos, travel

My birthday gift this year was a long weekend skiing in Jackson Hole. (In 2011 Ted planned a trip to Venice for my birthday -0 that is, he surprised me with the plans and tickets on my birthday, then we actually went a week later. That was such a success that we have since been to Lisbon (2012) and Seattle (2014) for my birthday weekend. In 2013 we had just moved to Oregon, so we did local things and adopted our cats that weekend, instead.) It was great – not a good year for snow there, by their standards, but that still left us enough for pretty decent skiing.

I had forgotten how tiring skiing is – not the skiing itself, so much, but the walking around in skiboots, from the lodge to the lift, down stairs to the restrooms, and so on. Also we hadn’t been on skis in about a decade, and one thing I do remember is that the better you get, the more you let gravity do the work. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling confident enough to go very fast, so I was using lots of muscle to turn and slow down a lot. We didn’t get lessons because we only had two days on the slopes but next time I definitely will. Also I will do more endurance-training workouts before hand – I was pretty exhausted hiking up a mountain two weeks ago, too, so at least some of this weekend’s fatigue was just about conditioning, I think. (Or maybe I really do need those thyroid pills I’m taking – still too soon for them to have had any effect.)

But it was beautiful there, and it was good being outside on the snow. The weather was surprisingly warm (unfortunatley this made for wet heavy snow on Sunday, though Saturday was better). It definitely left me wanting to go again, a lot sooner than 10 years from now.

Only airport inside a national park:
jackson airport

Me at the top of the gondola and then looking out over the slopes:


And now, with this and the Venice trip, I can say I’ve ridden both kinds of gondola on my birthday trips (though technically the previous pics were at the top of the gondola, and these are of the tram, which goes even higher):


Also, good shopping in the town of Jackson. These hover perilously on the line between fabulous and ridiculous, but I finally caved and bought them (50% off! and very comfortable). I’m wearing them today under boot-cut jeans but I think they’ll be cute with short dresses too.:

feminism, and also a farewell

by dichroic in daily updates

A woman I know posted on her Facebook the other day something like, “A married woman never has to worry about being childless, as long as her husband is around.” This is someone I’d consider wise, but the best of us have our weak spots. (She s married once, but only briefly.) I married a grown-up, and I’m grateful for that amazingly often.

I also married a feminist. The other day he mentioned that he was trying to figure out how to approach his local HR person to register a complaint: apparently, she’d been asking only the women who work for him to help plan social doings, never the men. He didn’t think that was fair. (He did go talk to her; apparently she was surprised and said she’d never realized she was doing that, which sounds awfully disingenuous to me. But possible, I suppose.)

Then yesterday, my car showed a CHANGE OIL SOON message. I called the dealer, since we’d just had it in there to have the oil changed. They told me “Oh, yeah, we must have forgotten to reset it. Just bring the car in any time and we can do that for you.” When I told my husband, he said, “That happened before on the truck, and they just told me how to reset it myself. I bet they’d have done that this time if a guy had called.” So I googled it, and sure enough, resetting the sensor (timer? mile-counter?) is a trivial thing.

It’s much harder to notice prejudice when you’re on the privilege end of it; he’s doing a good job these days.

And because I can’t not mention the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, here’s a great article about him by Neil Gaiman. I think this is some of why his books are so much more than just funny; his best characters (in my opinion, Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, and Tiffany Aching) all have that same righteous rage in them.

Wish he could keep writing so we could get his views on what happens on the other side of Death’s house.

the tea setup

by dichroic in photos

Yay, I have a tea container! I was storing it in the plastic bags it comes in (I can buy loose tea in bulk at the local supermarket) and they aren’t all that sturdy so I finally broke down and bought a canister. I really love that red TeaVana mug; the infuser that fits into it makes brewing loose tea more convenient (it has its own little lid to sit on and it doesn’t leak leaves into the tea cup, two very minor annoyance factors that can otherwise make tea bags less trouble to use). Nore importantly if you click the lid shut, it doesn’t leak. Like ever – you can throw it up and catch it or turn it over and there will be zero tea escaping. And somehow even though it can keep tea hot for hours (literally, 2-3 hours if closed) it cools it at first so I almost never burn my mouth.

In the background of the picture is my little kettle, which is so adorable that the office manager bought two just like it for general use. Personally I bought it because T-fal usually seems to be reliable and my previous low-end-brand kettle stopped working after a few months, but apparently for her looks are more important. So far, it’s been managing to succeed in both form and function.


by dichroic in daily updates, knitting, photos

It’s not even my birthday (that’s next week) so I don’t think this is supposed to be happening yet – but apparently nobody told them:
Tomorrow is the Rose City Yarn Crawl. My local yarn shop organized a group going in a limo, starting on the far side of town, so there will be lots of riding. (I mean, we’ll meetout here but our first stop is way over in Gresham.) I’ve got knitting to take; I cast on a cowl just for this, on the theory that I want it for skiing next week and my other current projects aren’t ideal for car knitting. I’m just having trouble to decide what to wear, since there’s a 30-degree F difference between tomorrow’s forecasted highs and lows, and what to take for lunch. I think I’ve settled on a sleeveless gray top and navy cords as a base, then layered over that a shawl (probably this one or this one, a denim jacket and possibly another jacket if it feels cold when I leave. For lunch, I might take summer sausage, cheesesticks and gorp so I can just nibble.

Apparently we are going to be visiting 11 different shops. I feel like I might need to buy yarn at the first one and leave a clew behind me, like Jason in the Minotaur’s maze. If I don’t make it back, lock my credit cards and send help.

doing Oregon things

by dichroic in daily updates

What a great weekend. We did the sort of thing we used to do a lot back when we moved to Arizona, before they filled up the lake there and rowing took over our lives. I miss things like hiking and rock climbing; I also miss going out to restaurants even if my own cooking has leveled up a bit. This weekend we did both.

We started out Saturday morning at Longbottom coffee for breakfast; they may market themselves as mostly a coffee and tea shop, but they actually had a fiarly diverse breakfast menu, and they were happy to make my breakfast burrito without eggs. (I don’t have food intolerances, just don’t like them). Ted had an egg strata thingy that he also seemed to like. I actually didn’t like the coffee quite as much as the food – my decaf latte was OK, but Ted’s regular decaf tasted burnt – not dark roasted, but kind of burnt. But a) I’m not really a coffee person and b) we both had decaf, as mentioned, so take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, it as pretty decent, just not stellar. We’ve been disappointed with the breakfast places around here, since they tend toard being either greasy or limited of menu, so this was a nice find.

Since we’d decided to go out for dinner too, I wisely ate only have of my breakfast and got a box for the rest (the potatoes that came with my burrito were definitely worth saving! and the burrito itself held up for today’s lunch.)

We went grocery shopping, erged, and did some errands, then went to the Chart House for dinner. The view was spectacular – we could see downtown, the river, Mt Hood and Mt. St. Helens. The food was good; my beet salad with goat cheese, arugula, and “prosciutto crisps” (aka fancy bacon bits!) was probably the high point for me, though Ted’s salmon and my mixed seafood grill, with salmon, shrimp scampi, and crab cake were also tasty (except the crab cake, but I think I just don’t like those). The one disappointment was the winelist – nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but even though the restaurant is a chain, when it’s in a wine region as rich as this one I’d expect something more regionally slanted. I suspect this means the menu is standard across the chain, too.

On Sunday we hiked up Saddle Mountain which is why I’m sore today. The weather was good and lots of people had the same idea, so the parking lot was pretty crowded. It’s a little over 2.5 miles, with a 1600′ elevation gain; apparently it had been longer than I’d realized since I’d done a hike like that. By the steepest bits near the top, I was not only huffing but having to stop for a minute after every little segment fo the trail. I’m in pretty good shape from rowing at the moment, but I find I get tired just as fast when I do other sports. The main place it helps is that I recover a lot faster than I would otherwise. The hike was well worth being tired then and sore today; once you get to the peak, you can see the ocean to the west and south, and Mountains Hood, Saint Helens, Adams and Ranier to the east and north. It was both pretty and comfortable hiking this time of year, too; cool enough for a light jacket but no more than that (meaning that half the Portlanders hiking past us were in shorts, the remainder wore tights or jeans, and the vast majority were in sneakers rather than hiking boots), and with long views all the way up that will be obscured by leaves in another month or two. Right now the branches are just putting out buds, so there were bits of green everywhere without covering up the view.

There were daffodils along the road on the drive there too, as well as the flowering trees I’m seeing everywhere (cherry or dogwood or probably both). Those wild daffodils are one of the things I love about spring here.

more good things

by dichroic in books

We’re going to the lake house this weekend – we haven’t been there for a few weeks, and after this we aren’t likely to go for another four more. There are good and bad sides to this: the good side is that we won’t make it down there (unless we go next weekend) because the weekend after next I will be doing fun Yarn Crawl stuff, doing the Crawl with a group in a limo on r and showing off my designs on Sunday, and the weekend after that we’re going skiing for the first time in very many years. The down side is that we’d hoped to race this year and that’s going to be a bit iffy if we don’t get some water time. I think I’m in pretty decent share for it, due to the rowing machine, but it isn’t quite the same. We should have good weather for rowing this week, at least.

I’ve found a new YA series I like enough to want to recommend; the first book is called The Eighth Day and it does something with the Arthurian myth cycle that’s sort of like what Rick Riordan did with the Ancient Greek myths, but different enough to be very much its own unique thing. (The hero is named Jaxon, so these books will feel a bit dated in fifteen years, but meanwhile I’ve recommended it to an acquaintance who has a son with that name.) Also, it’s turning the Chosen One trope – the kid who learns that he (most often he) was born with a special destiny – in a slightly new direction that I’ve seen a couple other times lately, notably in the (more mediocre) Jack Templar books. Yes, the hero is born to greatness yadda yadda and he doesn’t have to decide if he’s special, just what side he’s on – but he’s got friends who choose to join him, who have nothing special about them except their own will. It’s a good start; next I’d like to see it turned around to where the ordinary kid saves the day with the gifted one as sidekick.

And the biggest news: according to my publisher’s statement, apparently I’m going to get a royalty check! We’re not talking much money – we can share a pizza and have a beer each if we don’t go to a fancy brewpub – but this is my first one, and means the book has earned out its advance, so I’m pretty giddy.

On the down side, a minor annoyance: today I had a discussion with a coworker about how much time Real Authors actually spend with butt in chair typing. (It is worth noting that coworker writes but has never published – I don’t think she’s tried. She’s basing this on “all the authors she knows.”) It is totally true that writing while on “sabbatical”, as I did, is definitely the easy way to go; I have vast admiration for the people like Jim Hines or Merrie Haskell who get books finished while holding down day jobs. On the other hand, coworker claims that if I’d been under the gun to earn a living from my writing, I’d have spent much more time at the keyboard every day. I contend that if I’d spent ten hours in that chair instead of four, I’d have produced the same amount of usable writing and six hours worth of crap. I’m not saying this is true for all writers – Asimov apparently wrote for 8 hours a day, every day – but I’m pretty sure that for a lot of people, brain-growing-back time is part of the writing gig. I suppose it’s possible that you develop more endurance over time, though.