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Only 11 days until Hugo Nominations are due, and I'm still sorting through my list of titles, deciding what I'm going to nominate, figuring out what authors I read compulsively had titles out in 2013, etc., etc. I'm used to nominating for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, which require a single-book nomination to stand alone, so entries in the "Kate Daniels" series or the "Kitty the Werewolf" series aren't eligible. Not so with the Hugos! The stand-alone quality is not a judge of merit. (Notably, I'm behind on the Kitty books, which is why I haven't listed one below. I've no doubt that the two published in 2013 are awesome and worthy of consideration!)

Taking into account what a "typical WorldCon voter" is expected to be like (see Jim Hines on Larry Correia on Alex Dally MacFarlane; my comment is, of course, tongue in cheek), here are some of the pieces and people currently on my whittling-down list:

Campbell eligible:
Max Gladstone
Shawna Mlawski
Mark H. Williams
Brian McClellan

Short stories:
"Drona's Death" Max Gladstone, xoxo Orpheus
"The Best We Can" Carrie Vaughn,
"Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy" Jim Hines, Unidentified Funny Objects 2
“The Life Expectancy of Cockroaches” by Michelle Muenzler, Crossed Genres
"Galatea Odysseus" Madeline Miller, xoxo Orpheus
"The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun," Ben Loory, xoxo Orpheus

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
Sleepless Knights by Mark H. Williams
Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest
Codex Born by Jim Hines
Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
Cold Copper by Devon Monk
Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
Hammer of Witches by Shawna Mlawski

Graphic novels:
RASL by Jeff Smith
Saga vol 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Hawkeye vol 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Moshe Feder
Marco Palmieri
Stacy Whitman
Erika Tsang

Dramatic Long Form:
Choice of the Deathless by Max Gladstone -- notably, this is an interactive novel game app, which may mean this isn't technically the category for it, but there's some buzz this year about nominating games for this category, and I'm all for that.

I'm still poking around the Internet to make sure I haven't miscategorized 2013 titles in my head as belonging to other years. What books and stories are appearing in your nominations lists (if you're voting), or which would you pick (if you're not)?
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We've been going through a lot of kids' movies from the library here at Casa Abbott, as Bug enjoys a little bit of screen-time to settle down when she's getting sleepy. It typically takes three or four days to make it through a regular cartoon movie (unless I finish it after she's gone to bed), since we watch it in spurts, which is not an optimal viewing experience for me -- but it does give me the excuse to catch up on the cartoon movies I've missed over the past few years. I'd missed Disney's Meet the Robinsons, for example, which I think was pretty poorly branded and misrepresented by the trailers. (I ended up thinking it was pretty cute.) We've seen Tangled (which I loved), Ratatouille, and we're in the middle of The Tigger Movie now. We also picked up Megamind, which I decided was not really a kids' movie after all, and so finished on my own.

If you're not familiar with the story (and it's a familiar one), Megamind is one of two aliens that get sent off in small space pods from their dying worlds to live on earth. Metro Man has all the super powers you'd expect, while Megamind has a big blue head, a minion that's a fish, and can make crazy mad science inventions (but otherwise doesn't seem too inherently bright). He also ends up being very good at escaping from jail. They go to the same school as children, where Metro Man is the popular one, and Megamind is always picked last for everything. Naturally, they become rivals, with Metro Man as the hero and Megamind as the villain. The story ends up having this great feel of the hero and the villain completing each other in a fluffy bunnies version of the Batman/Joker relationship, but it takes awhile to get to that realization.

In the mean time, I started wondering just what has happened to heroes lately.

I admit that I'm behind on some of the great super-stories that have come out lately, so I can't speak to the trend in its entirety. (I even own Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge and haven't read it yet; I'm super excited to get a hold of Carrie Vaughn's After the Golden Age as well.) But here's what I've noticed based on a few recent samplings of the spin-the-super-story genre. The hero? Not really the good guy. Megamind is a prime example of this: despite the fact that Megamind is all about being the villain, he ends up being the character the audience really identifies with -- and, no real spoiler here, he ends up turning a new leaf by the end of the story. (Thus, it may actually be a kids' movie after all.) Better still: Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Metro Man ends up having some redeeming qualities; Captain Hammer's only redeeming quality is that he's played my Nathan Fillion -- otherwise, he's a complete jerk. Even in Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, the villain, who is a mastermind (also the common thread here), is extremely compelling as a sympathetic figure.

Now, take a look back at the uber-superhero: Superman. Apparently he can sort of be a jerk in some of the early comics, too -- but not at the expense of a nerdy rival. No, Supe's secret identity *is* the nerdy guy. Originally created by a couple of pretty nerdy guys, Supe was a fantasy that bought into the whole Charles Atlas mentality of self-improvement: even nerds could have awesome body-builder style strength. (Of course, Superman was even more awesome than just a strong man -- but still, he's a fantasy that nerds were supposed to identify with, rather than despise.)

And Clark Kent isn't the only super-nerd. Let's wander into the Marvel-verse. Take Spiderman. Peter Parker: total nerd to start with. Reed Richards? Actually makes a name for himself as a nerd -- who cares that he can go all bendy as Mr. Fantastic when we need his super brain? Even Tony Stark has some serious nerd cred (though, granted, he never really embraces the nerd lifestyle, and no one ever gives him crap for being smart, unlike the other heroes I've mentioned).

So, nerd has always equalled good in the comics world -- but strong has not always equalled jerk. I'm wondering if this trend of the super-strong hero-as-villain trend has to do with embracing geeks-as-overlords. (That's mostly tongue in cheek -- but, as Alec Hardison on Leverage says: "Age of the geek, baby. We rule the world.") The thing is -- I get the geek-as-hero trend (see: Chuck as an example). But this geek-as-villain thing? Is this a subversive, refusing to work for the man thing? Is it supporting the idea that we who were picked on for our nerdiness as kids are out for revenge (rather than being willing to save our tormentors)? Clearly, Doctor Horrible doesn't end up happy with his career choice, and Megamind converts to the side of good... but still. What is going on right now to make the supervillain nerd anti-hero a popular trope?

I would love to hear thoughts on this that don't come from inside my own head. :) In good news, the whole thought process inspired a quick short story, which I drafted in one day and Max Gladstone has already gotten me crits for. Hooray for creative contemplation resulting in actual word count!

Odd Lots

Jul. 15th, 2010 10:10 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Well, I've written a couple of book reviews and an essay, and I've done a lot of copyediting. Obviously, I've not done a lot of blogging. I'm brainstorming a new short story, which is exciting. And I'm thinking about the fiction I set aside for the past year, and I'm sort of wondering if, when you leave a story alone that long, is it yours any more? Is it the story you're meant to tell if you can set it down and walk away from it for a full year? I'm not sure, and I wonder if it means I need to start somewhere else in the story.

But mostly pondering and not a lot of action. I do have linky goodness, however, so here's what I've been reading online this week:

  • Friend of the blog Carrie Vaughn has a great post on the rise of urban fantasy at
  • From [ profile] jeff_duntemann, DIRIGIBLES!
  • QuestionRiot by [ profile] dcopulsky has an interview up with a graduate student in video game production.
  • Lastly, a PW article on how the format falling most as the ebook rises is actually the mass market. It shouldn't surprise me that this is the case, given the similarity in pricing between the two formats, and yet, it sort of did. I didn't expect to see mass markets take a hit.

That's it for today. Maybe I'll get back up to having a guest blog tomorrow -- I'm reading the Charlotte Guest Mabinogion on my nook (among other e-books, like a good chunk of the library of [ profile] sartorias's titles, which I've acquired a number of), and her introduction had some words of interest on myth that, if I can track them down again, were worth sharing.
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Some of you may have caught the two columns I wrote for Flames Rising (with the intention of writing several more) about the differences in the types of paranormal romances and urban fantasies that make up the scale of books inside the boundaries of the genre (or expanding them). After a conversation with my library boss, I decided to start putting together a big ol' list and synopsis of sub groupings for her, since it's what I read, and I recommend a lot of titles to our patrons. Just because someone digs vampires in Sookie and Anita Blake doesn't necessarily mean it's the vampires they're after -- in fact, the last person I was giving recommendations to started out from those two series and ended with, "Actually I'd like to have something a little more light hearted and funny," and so I sent her in the direction of [ profile] shanna_s's Enchanted Inc. So in my list, I'm trying to suss out the qualities that might attract someone to a novel -- maybe they are vampire crazy, but maybe they're looking for something snarky with a Sex and the City vibe (in which case they need Happy Hour of the Damned by [ profile] mdhenry). Maybe what they loved about Jim Butcher's Dresden Files was actually the private investigator angle, in which case you could go with [ profile] devonmonk's Allie Beckstrom books, the Connor Grey series by Marc del Franco, of [ profile] blackaire's Nocturne City series. (There are actually scads of PIs in urban fantasy -- I've just named a few.) Do they want an urban fantasy series with a con artist? Try the WVMP novels by Jeri Smith-Ready. And from there, if they love the radio angle, try Carrie Vaughn's Kitty the Werewolf books or [ profile] stacia_kane's Megan Chase series. Maybe they totally dug the government agency aspect of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. in the comics, in which case, they should be reading [ profile] antonstrout's Simon Canderous series. I could keep on this thread for some time -- the point is, while some people are vampire nuts, a lot of UF and Paranormal Romance readers might get a kick out of different aspects of the novels than just vampires vs. werewolves -- which is sort of a non-UF reader way to boil it down.

So, I thought it was hilarious today when Jackie Kessler posted a parody song about urban fantasy (using the tune for "Popular" from the musical Wicked). Did I make sure to include everyone on that list in my list? Who of those famed urban fantasists have I yet to read?

(Of course, I disagree with his looking down on Paranormal Romance, but that could be a whole other entry.)
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Picking the novels to come along with me as international travelers this year was a challenge. I packed course books and extra resources and had to hem and haw over which novels I would take along for this project. I also have a tendency to buy books while I'm abroad, so along with the large number of books in my bag, I knew I'd come home with more. Such is the way of traveling readers!

Books on the road! )

So that's this year's tour. Now back to uploading more of my photos for the students!
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I just have to say: you livejournal people are far too interesting and difficult to keep up with. I had far more concrete writing plans for today, but spent a good chunk of the day reading other people's ljs instead.

Note: I am still not entirely caught up. But I think I'm as close as I'm going to get.

Today is a link day, in part because there's contests that require linking (and I'm a sucker for that) and in part because there were some fun Joss Whedon articles that got tossed around on my mailing lists, and dutiful Browncoat that I am, I must share them.

So, first, the Whedon:

WGA magazine has an article about Joss as a writer (and mammoth-drawer, were he a Cro-magnon) and about the Dr. Horrible phenomenon.

[ profile] caitrin posted news about Joss's movie, Cabin in the Woods, which will apparently star Bradley Whitford. I didn't know anything about this project, so it's a nice head's up. (It's not Goners, though, which is somewhat disappointing.)

For contest number one, the Urban Fantasy Land Readers Choice Awards need your votes! There are so many good books up for awards that it's tough to narrow it down: [ profile] devonmonk, [ profile] blue_succubus, [ profile] antonstrout, [ profile] mdhenry, [ profile] rkvincent, [ profile] frost_light, [ profile] blackaire, [ profile] melissa_writing, [ profile] stacia_kane, [ profile] katatomic, [ profile] ilona_andrews, Jes Battis, and Carrie Vaughn are among the nominees. The polls close on the 30th, and if you also link to the blog, you're entered for a $25 amazon gift card. Who doesn't need one of those?

And finally, the Deadline Dames (including [ profile] devonmonk and [ profile] rkvincent) are hosting a number of contests on the new blog, which launched on the 19th. Devon's involves setting goals--and one of mine is to post on livejournal at least twice a week. (The unreasonable expectation? Every day.) So, we'll see how I do!
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We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

But 2009 is looking pretty exciting for a number of reasons. Here's some of what's coming up:

1) Substrate. This is my new, semi-local writing group! Since we're based out of New Haven, it's very local to me, but some of the writers will be coming from Boston and D.C., so it'll be a trek. Luckily, New Haven is an old stomping ground for everyone but me (as the person who has spent the least amount of time living here on Connecticut's shoreline, or so I believe), so the writing group meetings can be combined with other events as well. Like, say, D&D games.

2) Baeg Tobar. I've gotten involved with BT again, and am very excited to be working with Scott and Jeremy and Daniel and the BT crew. There are some amazing things in store for the site this year, including serial fiction, short stories, and a regularly updating web comic.

3) England. I've been invited to be the TA/driver/chaperon for the Simon's Rock England Trip in May of this year. The last time I was in England was 2003, when my sister and I went on our (now infamous, I'm sure) Isle of Man trip, where we were attacked by gulls and almost fell into the Chasms. (I exaggerate only slightly.) We'd begun the trip in England, and we stayed in Glastonbury for a good chunk of it. I am very excited to return, and hope to become reacquainted with Geoffrey and Pat Ashe. I've fallen out of touch with the Arthurian scholar and his wife in recent years, and am looking forward to seeing them again.

4) Getting past 1st level. My Mythic Greece players, with the exception of the one who is currently nannying in England (and so hasn't made the past few sessions) are all second level. Also, I got a GM medal at Worlds Apart for running sessions there. (They were shocked with how excited I was with a little virtual medal, but I am constantly in awe of how well we're treated there. They are good people, and if you're near Pioneer Valley and in need of a game store, they should be your go-to point.)

5) Since it's up on the site, I think it's fair to announce that my LFR module, "Head above Water," is premiering at DDXP this year. I won't be going to Fort Wayne to usher it into the world, but I'm really excited to have it given such an excellent spot to begin play!

6) Dogs in the Vineyard. The old Dogs game is coming to a close, and the new Dogs game is ramping up. There are fun times waiting to happen.

7) Another Shoreline summer. There will be sailing, there will be beach cook outs, there will probably be grill outs in our new back yard. (We moved in December.) I may be dreaming in advance about sunshine, but man am I looking forward to beach weather!

8) A million things to read. Moving made me consolidate my TBR pile--the ones I've actually *purchased* and not just added to the list in my head. I'd take a picture, but it's a bit embarrassing. Add to that the number of awesome authors with books coming out this year (or just released): [ profile] frost_light, [ profile] melissa_writing, [ profile] ilona_andrews, [ profile] sartorias, [ profile] jimhines, Carrie Vaughn, [ profile] rkvincent, [ profile] blue_succubus, [ profile] antonstrout, [ profile] amanda_marrone, [ profile] jenlyn_b, [ profile] m_stiefvater, [ profile] mdhenry, [ profile] nalini_singh... all of them on my Must Be Read list. (And that's just with what I know from livejournals or can back up with Amazon research. Heck, that's mostly for the first six months of this year.)

So, yes, 2009 is looking up. I know, I'm probably one of the few people in the world who is sad to see 2008 go, but it was a good year for me, as far as my short stories getting published, and I'm pretty pleased with it on retrospect. But, as they say, onward and upward!
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I wrote a blog entry back when I read Kitty Takes a Holiday about my fascination with how Carrie Vaughn used the "skinwalkers" mythology from Navajo culture in the novel. She's very kindly continued that dialogue here. Carrie is the author of four books in her Kitty series, featuring Kitty the werewolf and disc jockey, changing the world one call (and book) at a time. Along with the Kitty books, Carrie has written several short stories, many of which are available from her website. Her latest novel, Kitty and the Silver Bullet, is available at your local bookstore. Thanks, Carrie, for contributing to the blog!


Folklore and Kitty
Carrie Vaughn

At some point, most speculative fiction writers come to the realization that nothing they can dredge from their imaginations will ever be as strange as what reality can produce. That's why, when you're trying to come up with some wild and bizarre idea, reality can be your best friend. A Filipina friend of mine passes along stories that her mother tells about manananggal, vampires who leave their legs behind to fly through the air and suck out fetuses through the navels of pregnant women. Children in the Philippines are told that if they come across legs lacking a body, they should sprinkle salt on them because that will prevent the body from returning, and destroy the vampire.

As soon as I figure out how to work it in, you can bet that's going in a story. The trouble is, no one will ever buy it. It's too weird.

On to skinwalkers. Hollywood has taken to using this as a shorthand term for "Native American werewolf." (When they don't use the term in a whacked out literal sense. I'm looking at you, Dresden Files.) This isn't technically correct, and only tangentially descriptive. The real, living folkloric source for the term skinwalker is so much more interesting. I made it my mission to not take the shortcut but to use the term the way it was meant to be used (in Kitty Takes a Holiday). First, because the shorthand pisses me off. (Why does a Native American werewolf need a special term other than werewolf?) And second because I think it makes a much more interesting, creepy story. As I said, I can't make up anything stranger than what's already out there.

The "real" skinwalker is a kind of witch, a magic user specific to Navajo culture. Very evil. These are not good people, because of what they do to get their power. Namely, they must sacrifice a family member. This is usually accomplished using a ground-up powder made from corpses that works like a poison. Once they have the power, skinwalkers can transform into any creature they wish by donning that creature's skin. This is serious death magic, and those with the slightest suspicion of being involved with it are shunned. There is still word of communities where a person could be forgiven for murder, if the murder victim is believed to be a skinwalker.

The interesting thing is trying to find anything about this firsthand. No one from this culture wants to talk about skinwalkers, because demonstrating the least bit of knowledge can bring suspicion onto you, which in turn can bring discrimination and violence. So the real interesting question becomes, what kind of person would risk it? What kind of person would want that power so much that all the sacrifice and death is worth it? It's the question that every culture asks in one form or another: what is evil?

These things--symbols, stories, magic--have meaning to their cultures. Our stories are richer if we let that meaning show through. Suddenly, they feel real, because they're taking place in a real world (someone's real world, at least) and not Hollywood. Something that happened while I was writing the second Kitty book (Kitty Goes to Washington), I realized there were no limits. Once you establish a world where vampires and werewolves are real, anything can be real. Any kind of magic, mythology, and supernatural belief is fair game. There are no limits. But to explain these things in the real world, they have to seem real, and I think that means staying true to the roots. Which is okay, because like I said--those "true" stories are pretty much creepier than anything I could come up with.
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My deadlines have reared their ugly heads. They pace back and forth, watching as I scramble, my fingers raging against the keyboard, brow dampened with sweat, stomach twisted with anxiety. Also, we had two super cloudy days, which sapped all my motivation--this only adds to the anxiety when I manage to come back to myself out of the gloom. Add to this that before I got the contract from MWP I'd planned my social life for the month (yes, lots of D&D, as that's pretty dominantly how I socialize), and you can imagine that I'm going a little nuts trying to fit it all in. So, my poor journal has gotten left behind!

To give you the quick update (if you're not already listening to Secret Identity Podcast, where I guest host the gaming segment Action Point Counter Point with evil mastermind Max Saltonstall of Anonycon and Secret Identity super star Brian LeTendre, and which just had its 100th episode--congrats, guys!), I have one week to get a draft done of my Serenity adventure. The working community over at MWP is just awesome: they have community boards that aren't quite the same as forums, where you can upload all of your progress and edit joint documents. Thus far, I've suggested art-work to be featured in the adventure and have posted my original pitch. Tomorrow I'll start inputting my actual work into the template and hope that my progress goes quickly!

The reason I haven't gotten further on that is that I've also got three assignments for reference projects due this month. One is technically due in March, but since I'll be at DDXP over the deadline, it needs to be finished before I go. Which means you're probably not going to hear much from me the rest of the month, except in short spurts.

Since I do have guest blogs ready to go, however, you may start seeing those this month as planned. Writers in the line-up include Melanie Nilles ([ profile] amsaph), the founder of [ profile] fantastic_realm; Mark Vecchio, faculty at Simon's Rock College and mythology expert; Lora Innes of The Dreamer, who is one of my comic buddies from over at; and Carrie Vaughn, author of the "Kitty the Werewolf" series. So stay tuned! Good things are happening, even though I'm vaguely in absentia.

And don't forget to keep up with Cowboys and Aliens II, as exciting things are happening over there, as well. I can promise you some real action coming up--hand to hand, even! We also appreciate all the folks who vote for us on Buzz Comix and Top Web Comics, as the more attention we get, the happier we (and our publisher) are. :)


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Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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