So I actually got to several panels today (ageing in fandom, slush piles, women characters in sff) which were interesting in various ways even if I didn't feel moved to contribute with questions etc.
Also had the usual lunch with long-time Wiscon friend who is not on DW/LJ.
OMG somebody who heard my reading yesterday has Told All Her Friends - aaargh.
Decided at dinner time this evening that as I didn't have a specific arrangement with anybody, and didn't particularly want to tag along to a random group - feeling up for 1-3 people I know but not large group of strangers/semi-strangers. Found a rather nice place on Capitol Square that I spotted yesterday but remembered as on the wrong side of the square, so walked three-quarters of the way round it before I got there. Nice nosh, superb bread.
Daresay I shall get to the GoH speeches and Tiptree Award ceremony.
And in updated Vom Fass news, I have now been shown their fruit balsamic vinegars, ALL of which are tagged as 'in store only'. AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH. Not that I have much optimism about any online ordering system they might have.
Only four of the best short story finalists are reviewed here. the omitted piece was to the best of my knowledge written and nominated for the sole purpose of mocking other authors and their work; as I find this contrary to the spirit of the Hugos, I'm not dignifying it with my time or consideration.
Turning to the other finalists, the cream of this otherwise stunted crop is Naomi Kritzer's short story "Cat Pictures Please,"  which was added to the ballot to replace Thomas A. Hays' withdrawn piece "The Commuter." This story was on my shortlist though it was not one of my nominations - but this was a year in which It seemed a great many superlative short stories were published. I'm very happy to see it on the list of finalists. I reviewed it earlier in the year, but I will add that I find that I keep coming back to the essential question - is it better to have full autonomy even if one screws up royally, or to live, all unknowing, under the control of a beneficent force - and pondering various aspects of it. An excellent piece of work.
S. R. Algernon's very short piece "Asymmetrical Warfare" is all about alien invasion gone wrong, from the perspective of a mission commander who makes too many assumptions based on their own culture and experience. Told as a series of journal entries by the leader of a fleet invading Earth, this wry piece (even the title is a pun) details the confusion of the star-shaped aliens as they discover that the enemy whose weapons they have been destroying are not the radiates of the ocean but the bipeds on land. Sadly, the outcome for humanity looks rather grim regardless of the misapprehensions of the invaders. A slight piece, but fun.
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao, from the anthology There Will Be War Volume X, is a vicious little piece of work, a short shockfic with racial overtones and no subtlety - and indeed, almost no story. China, engaged in the economic colonisation of sub-Saharan Africa, finds the indigenous population unsuited to their needs - too violent, too lazy - and designs a genetic virus to annihilate all Africans. An American scientist who discovers the plan is blackmailed into silence. The end. It's a nasty scenario, proposed and then left hanging.
Thanks to the appearance of "Space Raptor Butt Invasion" on the list of Hugo finalists for Best Short Story, I have finally read something by the famed (or is that infamous?) Chuck Tingle. While I prefer my erotica to be somewhat more literary in style, I must admit that I found the story to be quite a hoot. Not sure whether I'll sample any more of Dr. Tingle's output, so to speak, but the writing was competent and the story had a good build-up, consistent characterisation, plenty of action (of the kind one would expect, of course), and a satisfying conclusion - making it a rather better effort than some other recent finalists I could mention, though not in my opinion a work of sufficient calibre to merit a Hugo award.
 my comments on "Cat Pictures Please" can be found here: http://bibliogramma.dreamwidth.org/1492
I am beginning to think of Aliette de Bodard as one of those authors whose every work is a "must have" for me - I have been delighted, transported and entranced by everything I've read from her so far, and have started searching for older works I've missed.
One such work is the 2013 Hugo-nominated novella On A Red Station, Drifting, which is Set in her Xuya universe, in a future space empire heavily influenced by Chinese and Vietnamese cultures and notable for its human/AI Minds that manage both starships and space stations.
On A Red Station, Drifting takes place during a period of internal strife when lords opposed to the Emperor are in open rebellion. Fleeing war on the planet she was sent to as magistrate, Lê Thi Linh seeks refuge on Prosper Station, managed by a branch of her family. But all is not well on Prosper. There are divisions within the family and troubling malfunctions in the Mind that runs the station. Nor has Linh been fully honest about her reasons for flight.
Beautifully written, with a close focus on both the interpersonal and the political relationships that drive the events of the story. It's the depth of the characters, and the honesty of their portrayals (there are no heroes, no villains, only people doing what they feel they should, or must) that kept me enveloped in the story.
The worst kind of failure mode for this book would be 'you're writing about the normal kids instead of the foreground stuff, and it turns out the normal kids are just boring.' This is a hurdle that in my opinion Ness easily clears! Mikey occasionally drives me up a wall with his teen jealousy issues, but he and his friends are not boring and I finished the book largely in a sitting.
The part where the book stumbles for me is in the genre commentary -- it just makes a number of choices that I wouldn't have made. I'm not entirely sure why Patrick Ness went with 'indie kids' to define 'people who are just kind of protagonist-y,' but trope-wise I don't really associate 'trendy kids with unusual names and a large friend-group who are just a little too cool for school' with 'standard teen protagonists'? Maybe I'm behind the times of recent fictional trends, but I feel like usually the protagonist-y kids in fiction are the shy insecure kids with intense backstory/family issues and perhaps a narratively convenient small tight friends-group, which ... honestly seems to describe Mikey & co. way more than it does Satchel, the alt!heroine of that other story where the protagonists are off protagonist-ing.
And OK, we don't know very much about Satchel & Co other than that Dramatic Things Are Happening to Them And Also There's A Love Triangle, but the thing is that Ness names like twenty different 'indie kids' who interact with Satchel at various points in the story. This means that the indie kids actually appear to have a social circle that way more resembles my high school reality, in which, for ex., I was best friends with A and B, A and B were also close with C and D and E who I got along fine with but only hung out with in a group, E was good friends with F who was also a good friend of mine although F didn't get along at all with A or B, G and H and J were all kind of part of the friends-group because they were collectively all in love with D, and then I also hung out separately with L and M who were neither of them part of this friends-group at all. And, like, I would in no way say that my high school experience was overwhelmingly typical, but I do think most kid's lives and social circles are much more complicated than you tend to see in high school fiction.
And of course I don't think any author is narratively obligated to try to describe this kind of 'more realistic' social structure -- there are good story-telling reasons for these 'tight group of three or four friends!' narrative conventions -- but in this particular case it did make me sort of uncertain about what Ness thinks are the distinctive markers of 'real' kids vs. 'protagonist' kids, and what exactly he means the book to say.
I guess basically I think it works as a story but not as meta-commentary, which is definitely less of a failure mode than the other way around, so.
I've been spending a lot of time on SparkPeople lately, working on my food/exercise program (a.k.a. diet, but not for weight-loss, because ew). It's working (i.e., my blood is no longer testing as prediabetic, and I'm reducing my heart meds a little at a time with doctor supervision), so it benefits me to make it as fun as possible, which means a fair bit of online socializing, which is the bulk of my social life and has been for, wow, almost 18 years now (I got online in mid-1998).
Wiscon folks are being chatty on Twitter and it sounds really great, but considering who my friends are, it makes me wonder how things are in the background and how my friends who aren't going any more are feeling today. I want to hug you all.
Work is decent. Without the old boss, things are much calmer in my area, except when I stick my foot in my mouth and cause myself anxiety, but usually, things are good. I'm really good at working. That's something I don't always give myself credit for. I kind of suck at the social end of it, but the customer service part, I rock at, and the paperwork part is my STAR THING.
Mom is still dealing with major major pain issues and there's not much that can be done for a variety of reasons, so we (meaning she, I, James) try to keep her distracted and happy as much as possible. I foresee a time not too long from now when she'll decide it's not worth it any more. I will cope with that as best I can if/when it comes. This paragraph doesn't lend itself to language. There is much unsaid.
I haven't been writing. I'm not sure why. When there's time, I play my game or hang out online, and I just have no desire to write. I don't even really feel bad about it, though I do seem to be happier when I'm producing at least poems. But lately, just can't be arsed.
Enjoying (if that is the right word) Top of the Lake, but I love Elizabeth Moss and the kind of gritty police drama it's shaping up to be (I'm on the second episode), so it is a natural for me.
James is still obsessed with home shows, and that led to his new obsession, our house. It was apparently built by an artist/architect who turns out to be kind of interesting, and the house itself was a marvel when he built it in 1948/9, so James has become Mr. Research Man, constantly finding new bits of information about the guy. If you're awesome at finding out stuff about dead people and want to join the puzzle, let me know and I'll shoot you the guy's name. Since he got a lot of press that included our address, I don't want to just say it here.
The kid finished her first semester of college!! She thinks she got mostly As and a B. Either way, she finished!! It's not something she loves, but she chose to do it, and she finished. Super proud!
Dad and I are still working on teachelectronics.com, and he retired yesterday from his in-person teaching job (he still teaches a bunch of online classes), so he'll have more time for it soon. And I'll have Fridays off starting next week, so we're going to work on it together. If you want to learn college-level electronics online for cheap, let me know and I'll hook you up with some free coupons for his courses.
Hm, what else. Sister is still in jail. Nephew is still lackadaisically looking for work and living off his dad and my mom. I still miss the Bay Area and my peeps there (especially Guy, of course). I'm reading a little, cooking a little, staring into space a lot. My pain and dizziness are bad enough to make me tired and sad, but not any worse than that. I get a lot of joy out of little things, and my entire life feels like it's in a holding pattern while we live this stage of our life as well and as usefully as we know how.
Oh, and Black Twitter is still one of my most favorite things in all the world. And Captain Awkward. And YoIsThisRacist. And my game (Two Dots).
Much love, my lovelies.
Morgan, wisely, had a tiny bite and then spat it out.
Meanwhile, I ate the whole slice, because why wouldn't one do that.
And now I know that eating a slice of raw horseradish root is not an experiment I particularly want to repeat. Yipe. Oops.
So now I need to figure out what to do with about three pounds of horseradish root.