Apology and Penanance, Plus David Tennant and a Robot Turtle

Some of you may have just gotten an email that promised you Jeeves and Wooster today.  No, you cannot have Jeeves and Wooster today!  It was all a lie!  Actually a typo when I set the date!  But you will get Jeeves and Wooster in January.

As penance for my clumsy formatting, I offer you this:

This, in case you are wondering, is a clip from dolphin documentary narrated by David Tennant.  But wait!  There’s more! The filmmakers study the dolphins by means of a hidden camera in a robot turtle!  I swear this is a thing!  And in the full documentary, dolphins are observed getting stoned by sniffing puffer fish!  But kids, JUST SAY NO!

This is so much weirder than anything I could ever, ever make up.

Self-Promotion: Notes from Convolution 2013

photoIf one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your ideas and products out into the world, then you might find my notes from the self-promotion panel at Convolution to be helpful.  Here’s my notes!

Self Promotion for Everyone: Ric Bretschiener, Surya O’Shea, Chad Peterman, moderated by M. Todd Gallowglass

One of the panels I attended at Convolution was “Self Promotion”.  The panelists were Ric Bretchneider (a software designer), Surya O’Shea (a visual artist), and Chad Peterman (radio production assistant).  The panel was moderated by the author M. Todd Gallowglass (author).  So – lot’s of perspectives, and lots of points!  My notes seem to fall into two categories:  stuff on social media, and stuff on the importance of generosity.  Here’s some highlights:

Social Media

A lot of the conversation involved how to use social media effectively.  All the speakers emphasized the need to be honest, and be yourself.  They also pointed out that “there is no privacy on the Internet”.  Many harrowing tales were told about people who either intentionally or accidentally vented their ire at someone online and lost credibility and customers because of it.

So how can you be yourself if you shouldn’t be negative when you’re upset?  First of all, the panelists weren’t saying that you should never be negative.  Rather, they were saying that you should be judicious.  Don’t be a whiner, and don’t vent about someone without thinking it through.  That’s different from calling attention to a problem that you truly think should be public – and anything you say online can become public.   When it comes to venting irritation, M. Todd Gallowglass pointed to Wil Wheaton’s technique.  Whenever Wil Wheaton is annoyed or upset, he posts something about unicorns and rainbows.  His followers know that’s code for him having a sucky time, but it’s not specific.

M. Todd Gallowglass also said that it’s important to use Twitter and Facebook to tell your story and to invite dialogue.  “Be a person, not a linkbot”.  He also reminded the audience that “The ‘share’  button (not ‘like’, but ‘share’) is the most important button in social media.

On Being Generous

Much was said about being generous – with advice (when you are asked for it), with resources, and with pointing people elsewhere if they need something from you and you know that someone else can do a better job of filling that need.  M. Todd Gallowglass talked about science fiction and fantasy as being a very open, supportive community, and pointed out that not every genre of writing is typified y this kind of openness.  He encouraged writers to help each other, because “People who see everyone else as competition don’t grow”.

M. Todd Gallowglass also talked about the Law of reciprocity.  This law states that people respond to kind or positive actions with kindness and positivity.  Not everyone is like that – M. Todd Gallowglass pointed out that some people will take advantage of the Law.  But, he said, “in general, if you do cool things for people, you get a reputation of doing cool things for people – which makes you cool.”

Author Interview: Jay Hartlove

694a091478ff0ad8976f87.L._V398090269_SX200_Jay Hartlove is the author of the Isis Rising Trilogy.  He is currently working on Mermaid Steel, a romance which he is publishing in serial format – one new chapter is posed online a week.  Jay answered some questions of mine over email so I could share his writing journey with you!

What is Mermaid Steel about?

Mermaid Steel is a romantic fantasy adventure about a human man named Sten and a mermaid woman named Chielle who fall in love despite a generations old distrust and hatred that divides their two villages. Humans have advanced with the development of steel, but since steel cannot be smelted underwater, the mermaids have been left with human castoffs. The humans have come to think of the mermaids as thieves while the mermaids have come to see the humans as arrogant and greedy, especially for how the humans encroach on fishing grounds designated by treaty for the mermaids. The two villages differ in culture, music, and religion, with the humans believing in a divine right to excel as the inheritors of a mythical perfect human predecessor called Atlan, and the mermaids believing in cooperation with nature and the sea, who they call Rorra.

Mermaid picture

What draws this couple together?  Why should we root for them?  And what is keeping them apart?

Sten is a blacksmith and Chielle is a weaver. Sten has justice issues due to an earlier run in with the law. Chielle stalks him to learn more about his blacksmithing, and is on hand when he almost accidentally drowns. In talking to her, he learns the depth of the division between the villages and the injustice the mermaids suffer. When he starts to stand up for the mermaids, Chielle is attracted to him for his heroism. He is initially attracted to her because she is so exotic, but then he is taken in by her curiosity and her drive for change. If they can overcome their differences, these two might be able to bridge the gap between the villages and build peace. At the start of this story, tensions have built up to where violence has broken out so there is a lot of bridge building. As they get to know each other better, they start to adopt some of each other’s thinking, Chielle becomes more assertive and Sten becomes more patient.

mermaid art

What prompted you to write a romance novel in general, and this one specifically?

I’ve been writing a series of thrillers called the Isis Rising Trilogy. I have finished the first two, The Chosen and Daughter Cell, and they are out. I am working on the third and final book, Isis Rising, and I wanted to take a break, to take a step back and make sure it is everything I want to wrap up the series. I’ve been wanting to do an inter-species love story for a while, and this was a golden opportunity. It’s an adventure story, and it has a big spiritual component, which two things can be said of just about everything I’ve ever written. Whereas my thrillers hinge on people always being in danger, this story always comes back to the love Sten and Chielle have for each other. In part, I took it on as a challenge. I Method Act my characters, so I had to really get in touch with my feminine side to figure out what would make Sten attractive to Chielle, in spite of all that body hair she finds so strange.

7692

Do you feel that being a male romance author gives you a different perspective on the genre or the characters?  Do you feel that as a male writer of romance you are treated or perceived differently?

I feel like I’m taking a chance in the way I am telling this story. I am telling it every bit as much from Sten’s perspective as from Chielle’s. So the reader will see what both are thinking and feeling and how each of them changes and falls in love. I have not read that many pure romances, so I don’t know how unusual this approach is, but it is something I feel strongly about doing in this story. I admire stories with characters who all have believable motivations, fully rendered back stories, and who make the best decisions they can with the information they have. I can care about people like that. I want my female readers to fall in love with Sten and also understand why the male readers are falling in love with Chielle.

1369940723_30192_044_mermaids-467

Talk a little about the publishing method – where can I find chapters (and why did you decide to publish it serially?)  Will there be a finished book for sale? 

This whole project is a self challenge. I plot extensively before I write prose, so I wanted to put that to the test in addition to exploring a new genre. So when I finish a chapter, I post it online. If I paint myself into a corner, then I will have to get out of it with everyone watching. I publish the chapters on my blog www.jayhartlove.WordPress.com and on Facebook www.Facebook.com/mermaid steel. According to the site counters, there are about 150 people reading the chapters at this point. There will come a point in the story where I will have to only post on my blog and link back to Facebook, given the nature of the material and Facebook’s content bans. But we’re not up to that point in the story yet. Yes, when it is all done, I plan on getting the whole book published, probably after some serious editing, and putting it up for sale. I’m going through some changes in my personal life, so I cannot say when the book will be done. I can promise I will not let the story languish. I love the story far too much to allow too great a delay.

 

An Overlooked Christmas Gem: “The Gift”, by Ray Bradbury

r-is-for-rocket-by-ray-bradburyThis Christmas Eve, treat yourself to this short story by Ray Bradbury, “The Gift”  It’s from his superlative collection, R is for Rocket.

“The Gift” is such a short story that this review, or, more accurately, this glowing recommendation, will be short too.  “The Gift”  tells of a man and a woman who are taking their first space flight with their little boy on Christmas Eve.  He had hoped for a tree and presents, and his parents got him a tiny tree – but the gift exceeds the family’s weight allowance and the tree is not approved, so they have to leave tree and gift behind.

The rest of the story is the father’s solution to how he can give his son a Christmas Tree in space.  I dare say no more.  If you don’t get choked up at least a little then your soul is dead.  Not that I’m judging you.

“The Gift” is a beautiful example of how a writer can accomplish a great deal in just a few words.  Every word counts – so we care about the family, we have some idea of what their world is like, and the story has visual and emotional impact.

As a tree-hugging atheist, I find the solstice holidays to be meaningful because I’m drawn to the reoccurring themes of renewal of light, celebration of nature, and giving to others that appear across so many cultures.  I can’t think of a much more pagan way to celebrate solstice than to bring a tree inside and decorate it, hang lights all over the house, and celebrate re-birth.  And I have to confess that I’m pretty into that gift thing, too.

“The Gift” gives the reader a deep sense of veneration and wonder without being specifically religious (other than references to the holiday as “Christmas”).  And it gives a deep sense of generosity and kindness, in showing how the other passengers participate in trying to create a special experience for the child.  It’s a beautiful story and an exquisite example of writing craft.  And it’s so short you can read it in less than five minutes – handy for when the holidays are not so much a time of wonder and veneration but a time of busy, busy madness.  It’s a little hit of serenity and joy.

A Blogger’s Week Before Xmas

santa at computerHere’s a repost of a poem I wrote in December 2013. Written by me, with copious assistance from Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote the original “Night Before Christmas” back in 1823.  Hope you enjoy this silly fun!

T’was the week before Xmas, and here at our blog,

We’d all hunkered down for a holiday slog.

With so many deadlines and so much to do.

We had no ideas for our blog – sad but true.

The child was nestled all snug in her bed,

While visions of toy robots danced in her head.

And I in my PJ’s, with a latte night cap,

Was typing and wishing for just one more nap.

The lights shining up from my laptop so bright,

Brightened my screen on this cold winter’s night,

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a strange little gif of six tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so full of good news,

I knew in a moment it must be my muse!

More rapid than eagles the genres they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now, Steampunk! Now, Romance!  Now, Noir Mystery!

Now, Science!  Now, YA!  Now, High Fantasy!”

To the top of the bookshelf!  To the top of the wall!

Now pile them up, stack them up, and read them all!”

And there, in a twinkling, I saw on my shelf,

Books about robots and pirates and elves.

Huge dictionaries to fix all my spelling,

Books about cooking and fixing my dwelling.

So many authors inspired my heart!

I flew to my keyboard!  Quick!  Where to start!

My fingers they flew, as my thoughts ran apace,

As I learned about oceans and atoms and space.

He sprang to the screen, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, as he blinked out of sight,

“Happy writing to all!  And to all a good night!”

Wednesday Videos: Pride, Prejudice and Harry Potter

WednesdayVideoFirst of all, I am so excited because my book, Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn:  TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre, is being released on January 6!  It’s currently available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Check out the cover!

Pride_PopcornCover_final

In honor of all this excitement, I present you with my new favorite Pride and Prejudice mash up.  Enjoy:

Book Review: Dead Set, By Richard Kadrey

Cover of Dead SetEarlier in 2013 I reviewed the first book in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series.  I liked it, but I mentioned that it had a problem with overusing the “women in refrigerators trope”.  The book was full of interesting women, but I couldn’t tell if future books would let them take more central roles, or continue to kill them off to further the hero’s journey.

So, I was excited to learn that Richard Kadrey just wrote a new book, Dead Set, with a female protagonist, and having read the book I can tell you that both the book and the protagonist are great.

Here’s a few quick highlights with regard to why I think this is such a great book in terms of gender:

  • There’s no romance.  I love romance.  Most of what I read is romance.  But I always find it refreshing to encounter a story about a woman that doesn’t involve romance, and it’s especially refreshing in a YA.  There are only so many love triangles I can handle, and I think it’s quite feminist to suggest that a young woman might possibly be thinking about things other than romantic love.
  • There’s a gay best friend whose sexuality is not an issue.  When the wonderful Absynthe kisses Zoe, Zoe isn’t shocked or amused or appalled – she’s just the wrong orientation.  There’s no angst about it and the girls seem to move quite comfortably into platonic friendship.
  • There’s a great mix of mundane and supernatural horrors.  I liked it that the things that cause Zoe the most problems are mundane.  Her father’s death is due to natural causes.  I was sure that the problems with the insurance were part of supernatural events, but they seem to be due to good old-fashioned bureaucracy.  This makes it even more powerful when the supernatural is involved – it feels more grounded and more scary.
  • Zoe is not a damsel in distress.  Well, sometimes she is.  But most what she does involves saving men who are in distress.
  • Zoe’s body takes a lot of punishment, but she is not sexually threatened, and in a literary world in which rape or the threat of rape is constantly employed as an easy way to show peril, this was unbelievably refreshing.  Zoe is in peril because she’s a living person in search of the dead, not because she’s a girl.
  • There are lots of women.  Zoe’s mother is a strong character in her own right – a person with her own problems and her own past.  The villain is a woman.  Zoe has friendships with women.  The Bechdel test is passed over and over again!
  • Zoe doesn’t have superpowers.  she tough, she’s determined, and she’s smart except for when she has hopes of seeing or helping her loved ones – that tends to bring out the naive idiot in her.

I got to meet Richard Kadrey at ConVolution 2013.  I had read Sandman Slim beforehand specifically so that if I met him I wouldn’t sound like a moron.  Naturally, when I met him, I sounded like a moron anyway.  I have a serious star-struck problem when I meet authors I admire and I practically drool on their shoes.  It’s embarrassing.  But he was very patient with me and told me all about how he had various women and teenagers help him find Zoe’s voice.  His research shows – the book is told from the first-person perspective and Zoe is very convincing.  The plot is exciting and creative, and the imagery is suitably horrifying for a book about what is essentially Hell.  This is a standalone book and although it’s nice not to have to commit to a full series, I’ll miss Zoe now that the book is over.  Obviously I’m focusing on the feminist aspects of the book – I found them to be truly a breath of fresh air.  But it’s also a good, solid, compelling, scary story, gender politics aside!

Superheroes Say: Give Blood for the Holidays!

Christmas-Ad-07-PinterestThis is a short post, because I donated blood recently and now I have to take a nap.  See how great it is to be a blood donor?  You get cookies!  You are instructed to “eat a hearty meal”!  You are instructed to avoid strenuous activity!  Interpreting this generously means the family gets pizza tonight and I don’t have to do any dishes and I’m napping.  Whee!

Why is it so important to donate during the holidays?  During the holidays, the need for blood often increases as more people travel and there are more accidents.  Meanwhile, illnesses and traumas that cause people to need blood continue at a steady pace. But fewer people donate during the holidays.  People get  busy and people get sick.  Here’s a few reasons to make time to donate blood during your holiday schedule:

1.  You can save up to three lives with your donations (one adult, three babies).  Not bad work for a lunch hour.

2.  You can save these lives while lying down and drinking juice, which is surely the easiest and most comfortable way to save a life possible.

3.  The life you save may be your own.  I had several blood transfusions as a child.  My aunt, my father-in-law, and my cousin have all had blood transfusions.  I can personally attest to what a huge difference blood donors make to the world.

4.  Donating blood is a geeky thing!  Here’s some trivia for you:

  • Spock had T-negative blood
  • According to Batman:  The Animated Series, Mr. Freeze’s wife and Batgirl have the same blood type (as seen in “Batman and Mr. Freeze:  Sub Zero”)
  • The first appearance of “Superwoman” in comics was when Lois Lane gained superpowers after receiving a blood transfusion from superman.  But it turned out to be a dream.
  • She-Hulk got her powers after getting a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner
  • Deadpool got his powers from Wolverine’s blood
  • And of course who can forget the healing powers of Harrison’s blood in Star Trek:  Into Darkness!

Book Review: All about Emily, by Connie Willis

51ZSKYABRCLAll About Emily is a delightful holiday confection by Connie Willis.  You can read it on your phone while you wait in line at the mall.  You can read it during a quick break between wrapping presents, or in the airport, or while hiding in the back room during a family get together NOT THAT I’VE EVER DONE THAT.  It’s a quick, light read that has unexpected twists and is moving without being saccharine.

In All About Emily, an actress, Claire, who is rapidly reaching “a certain age” is asked to meet with a young woman (the niece of a famous scientist) for a publicity shoot.  This woman, Eve, is a huge fan of Claire’s.  But Eve has a secret – and it’s not that she wants to take over Claire’s career.  I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll keep this vague, but it involves dreams and humanity and what we will do to attain them and to help others attain them.

I love this novella because it doesn’t feel cut off, like many novellas do.  It tells a whole story.  And I relax reading it, because it’s short.  December is not a month in which I want to tackle, say, all the books in the Game of Thrones series.  I’m busy.   But I still need to read every spare second, because, well, reading is what I do.  So this story keeps me happy and entertained and refreshed without feeling like a burden.  Like Connie Willis’s other comedic stories, this one is fun, as trope-savvy Claire tries to figure out which story she might be in (she thinks at first that it’s All About Eve, but our Eve has no desire to be an actress).  There’s a rich feeling of the theatrical world, and fun allusions to it being slightly futuristic.

Above all, the story is deeply optimistic.  It’s a story about people at their best.  It would have been so easy to make this story tragic or cynical, and at points it looks like that’s where we’re headed.  But ultimately people come together in a not too sappy, but very touching, Christmas miracle.  It’s not a super miracle.  It doesn’t fix everything.  But it gives hope that people can be decent and that we all have dreams and hopes and will help each other achieve them.

An Evening With Peter S. Beagle

PeterBerkley3Our local art house theater just had a screening of The Last Unicorn.  Peter S. Beagle himself was there to sign books and he did a Q&A session before the meeting.  I was so thrilled to share this movie and this story with my daughter.  Peter S. Beagle signed my battered copy that I had when I was my daughter’s age and a new copy for her.  The legacy continues.

You guys, I have to tell you that I was so excited to meet Peter S. Beagle that when I finally got to meet him I became completely incoherent.  He actually had to say to me, “Can I sign that for you, dear?”

Here’s just a few highlights from the Q&A:

What does The Last Unicorn mean to you now that it didn’t when you wrote it?

The only person who predicted what would happen to this book, which I was so desperate to get finished, was the writer Robert Nathan…who told me, “This is going to be the book that everyone knows you wrote, even if they don’t know you wrote anything else…I’m coming to realize on this tour, and over the last several years, that the book means things to people that I never imagined it would.  When enough people have come up to you to say, “Thank you for my childhood”, you start to feel like Schmendrick, the first time in the outlaw camp, when he actually makes something happen, and he picks himself up slowly, and says, “I wonder what I did?  I did something!”

What inspired you to write The Last Unicorn?

It had nothing to do with inspiration.  It came from sharing a cabin with an artist friend.  We had grown up together, and he was always the artist, and I was always the writer.  We decided to share this cabin for the summer as a working vacation…he would go out everyday and paint, and I would think of something to write.  I couldn’t think of what to write.  And finally, out of pure desperation, I came up with the image of the unicorn going somewhere with a companion.  And I wrote the line, “The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone”.  OK, now what?”  Apart from the first draft, which is totally different from what you know, I was pretty much making it up as I went along.

What was your experience of writing the screenplay for the movie?

My 100% contribution was that I wrote the script.  And, for the most part, they filmed it exactly as I wrote it.  Beyond that, my major contribution was that just almost all of the actors involved knew the book and loved it.  No one had to be asked twice to be in the cast.  And some, like Rene Aberjonois, forced there way in, by insisting that if he was not given a part, any part, he would be on the producer’s doorstep every day and make a nuisance of himself.  So I was complemented enormously, and felt valuable.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while working on the novel?

Well, finishing it, for one.  And figuring out..I didn’t have a plan.  I didn’t have any idea where the unicorns where for a big part of the book.  and I certainly didn’t know what Schemndrick was going to do to rescue the unicorn from The Bull.  Another major challenge was realizing that I was writing a novel that was both a fairytale and a spoof of fairytales.  Which is very difficult.  I can only think of a few books like that, the major one being The Princess Bride.  The other part was making it look as though I knew what the hell I was doing all along.

Is there any part of the movie that you don’t like?

I’m really not crazy about the over-buxom tree.  The dialogue was actually pretty much the same as it was in the book.  But I always squirm a little bit, I have to admit.

Last_unicorn

The Screening

The Last Unicorn Tour is happening all across the country and it was not only thrilling to meet Peter S. Beagle and hear the Q&A session, but it was also thrilling to see the movie on the big screen.  And it had that excited, communal experience that fan experiences tend to have.  In the lobby we met this cosplayed, who is online as Cspranklerun – isn’t she gorgeous as Lady Amalthea?

IMG_0560

If you’re curious about the movie from a kid’s point of view, here’s a capsule review from my ten year old consultant:  “It’s really exciting and fun.  I really like the animation of the Red Bull and the Unicorn.  I didn’t like the animation at the credits but the rest was good.  The storyline is really good and lastly I really love how it talks about the unicorn as this beautiful, wonderful; precious thing.  Last but not least, I like the butterfly!”

Double Book Review: Adaptation, and Inheritance, by Malinda Lo

cover of adaptationAdaptation and Inheritance are the two books that make up a Young Adult sci-fi duology by Malinda Lo.  Adaptation is a stronger book than Inheritance, as it sets up a possible government conspiracy, with aliens, by using creepy imagery in a unique way.  Inheritance is supposed to be the payoff book, but it fails to satisfy because the characters never become very proactive.  But both books are interesting in their portrayal of a teen who is struggling to resolve a love triangle between herself, another girl, and a boy.  The gender issues are well done, but they need a stronger story to fit into.

Adaptation starts off with two teenagers, Reese and David, trying to get home from a debate tournament.  Their plane is grounded because planes all across the country are crashing, apparently due to large flocks of birds flying into the engines.  Reese and David and their coach try to drive home, but they face an increasingly dystopian, terrifying landscape, with tanks blocking exits and forcing them to take multi-hour detours.  Ultimately, there is a car crash, and Resse wakes up in strange hospital in Nevada, with scars that seem to heal almost instantly, strange new mental powers, and no memory of what she’s told has been several weeks in the hospital.

Cover of Inheritance

Inheritance picks up precisely where the last sentence of Adaptation leaves off.  I won’t discuss the plot much, because it’s all a spoiler for Adaptation.  David and Reese continue to try to deal with their new powers as well as the conspiracies that surround them.  They also have to deal with their relationship, which is complicated by the fact that Reese loves David but also falls in love with a mysterious teen she meets at home in San Francisco, named Amber.

The strength of the first book is in its creation of an atmosphere of dread.  Reese’s realization that the airport is running out of food, the tanks that line the highways, and the horrifying stop for gas are masterfully done.  The fact that all this is triggered by birds that seem to fall from the sky adds a surreal, creepy element.  The hospital scenes add body horror and paranoia.

Unfortunately, after Reese leaves the hospital, the story dials back down and never regains that urgent, visceral sense of creepiness.  No one seems terribly upset about martial law.  There’s no apocalypse, just earlier bedtimes.  Even in the second book, nothing seems terribly urgent.  Important, but not urgent.  You don’t get a sense of deadlines, or of high stakes.  It seems like whatever happens, Reese and Amber and David will continue hanging out and being angsty and going to school etc.  Towards the end of the second book, there’s an attempted rape that is clearly supposed to fill the reader with terror and disgust, but it’s a terribly clichéd and ham-handed attempt to convey our heroes’ helplessness.  In my view, that was so profoundly communicated by Reese’s earlier mandatory hospital exam (one in which she is forced to strip with no sexual text or subtext) that I lost all remaining interest in the story.

quote from inheritance

Art by Malinda Lo

Where the story shines in being uncompromisingly, unapologetically positive in its depictions of characters who are variously multi-cultural, multi-racial, gay, straight, bisexual, and polyamorous.  Reese’s confusion about her relationship with Amber and her reluctance to identify as bisexual is realistically portrayed.  This is also a rare case in which a polyamorous relationship is discussed in positive terms.  Reese attempts to be ethical and honest with Amber and with David, although sometimes it’s hard for her to be honest with herself.

The problem with the romance angle is that, as well-intentioned and refreshing as it is, there’s nothing to convince the reader that either Amber or David would actually want to be with Reese.  She’s nice enough, but she’s an unrelentingly bland character, which is especially problematic given that she is the book’s first person narrator.  Reese is the ultimate Mary Sue – she has no flaws other than being boring, and everything and everyone revolves around keeping her safe and happy even when the people trying to do so are in as much danger as she is.

Quote fron Inheritance

Art by Malinda Lo

The final problem with the series with that Reese never takes charge of her own story.  It’s perfectly realitic that a teenaged girl would not be able to act decisively and effectively against a government and alien conspiracy, but it’s not much fun to read about someone shuffling around helplessly for two books.  Every now and then Reese makes a grand gesture, but the gesture involved telling everyone everything she knows, and then going back to her room while the major players return to taking control of the narrative.

I thought the first half of Adaptation was remarkable in it’s depiction of surreal violence and paranoia, and I loved seeing the positive portrayal of LGBT characters.  But ultimately this duology lacks punch.

The One Thing You Should Buy For the Holidays

Cover---Year-of-the-Poser-not-signedOK everyone, I know the holidays are a stressful time, but all your shopping worries are over.  Behold the glory that is the 2014 Year of the Poser Calendar!  Which you can buy at The Tinker’s Packs!

Jim C. Hines is a science fiction and fantasy author.  What possessed him to make a calendar of himself baring his abs?  Here’s the story, as told by Jim C. Hines himself:

In 2012, Jim wanted to start a discussion about science fiction and fantasy cover art, particularly the ways women were portrayed. To do this, he attempted to contort himself into the poses of various cover art heroines, leading to many discussions about sexism and objectification, the purpose of cover art, and who could do the better Christmas-themed cover pose, Jim Hines or John Scalzi. (Spoiler: it was totally Jim!)

Toward the end of the year, Jim launched another round of poses, this time to raise money for the Aicardi Syndrome Foundation. He offered rewards for various fundraising goals, including a cover pose calendar if the fundraiser brought in more than $15,000. Jim figured that was an absurdly high goal, and that he’d be safe. He figured wrong… and thus a calendar was born!

This calendar is funny, thought-provoking, and benefits charity.  It’s even signed.  Jim C. Hines braved some serious back pain to demonstrate how men and women are portrayed on book covers and he made us laugh while doing it.  Here’s a couple of examples:

4-April---Sm

1-January---Sm

You can find out more about why Jim C. Hines took this project on, and what it taught him about gender and sexism in publishing, at jimchines.com.  Here you can find all his cover poses, and some funny, interesting, challenging essays about them.  This project is a great example of “show, don’t tell” and of using humor to make a point.  And oh yeah, Hines is right – insulin pumps are cool.