Simon Bisson: Friends' Entries

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1st June 2016

wcg @ 12:01am: Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Happy Kalends of Junius! Hail Juno! Today is the festival of Juno Moneta, goddess of good council.

This entry was originally posted at You may comment here using your Livejournal account; or comment there using OpenID or your Dreamwidth account.

31st May 2016

rfmcdpei @ 11:46pm: [AH] On different Anglo-American relationships in the 19th century
This morning's photo post about Fort York, and tangentially the War of 1812 and the wider theme of Anglo-American relations, made me think about the different ways relations between the United States and the British Empire have been depicted in alternative history.

Sometimes scenarios are imagined in which the Thirteen Colonies never break away from the Empire, producing a range of results as variable as these colonies becoming the powerhouses of a superpower tranatlantic commonwealth to North America becoming a restive continent-sized Ireland. Other times, scenarios are imagined where the British Empire and the United States end up becoming committed enemies, the established power and the rising one fighting over borders and spheres of influence, with or without allies. I think it might be relatively rare that the two polities are shown as having a peaceful relationship from the start. Perhaps it's because peace isn't as interesting?

What I find fascinating about the War of 1812 is that it represents a point at which Anglo-American relations could have tipped into one pattern or the other. Had there been more adroit diplomats in both countries, the war could have been avoided altogether, and Anglo-American relations would have been much warmer earlier. Had one side or both pushed more, we could have had different boundaries. Had the war started earlier and lasted longer, been more a North American theatre of the Napoleonic Wars, the long-term consequences would be incalculable. The Toronto I live in and love certainly wouldn't be the same city, whether under American jurisdiction or alternatively as part of a polity extending even deeper into the Midwest or as something else entirely. Relatively minor changes could have ballooned into huge things.

(I suppose this, this demonstration of the butterfly effect writ large, is why I like alternate history so much. Small things matter, have import. What greater reassurance can anyone have than this?)
kevin_standlee @ 7:12pm: Keeping the Rails Safe
Last week while I was in the Bay Area, Lisa got to see a Sperry Rail Services truck come through inspecting the rails through Fernley for flaws.

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This afternoon, a continuous welded rail train came through, but I did not get any pictures of it. It looks like we're getting more maintenance on the Nevada Sub, which is good, because we have a lot of heavy, fast trains running through here on the "Overland Route."
Current Mood: pleased
desperance @ 5:53pm: I may be a genius of cocktails
It's a hot day hereabouts, and I was mixing myself a standard Dark & Stormy, according to the Jeannie recipe - rum, lime juice, ginger beer over ice - when it occurred to me that I would shortly be gathering mint from the garden for dinner; and I thought, "Oh, wait a minute..."

In case you've ever wondered? Yes. A sprig of mint, muddled in the bottom of a Dark & Stormy, is a really attractive addition, if that's the sort of thing you like.

And in other news, speaking of dinner, yesterday's dinner: big shrimp peeled [sidebar: I have never understood this fetish for leaving on the tail of the shell. If it's going to be fingerfood, leave the whole damn shell on to contain the juicy flavours; if you're going to be using silverware for everything else on the plate, peel the damn thing properly, for the love of napkins] and marinated in olive oil and chilli flakes, then broiled [UK grilled] on a baking sheet under a hot flame for not very long at all; asparagus poached in barely-simmering water for a couple of minutes until tender-crisp, then tossed into a pan of mushrooms and garlic sizzling in butter; potato salad half-and-half lemon dressed and mustard dressed. Summer cooking, people. I am learning it.
rfmcdpei @ 8:24pm: [WRITING] On queer content and fan fiction and representation generally
The title for Rae Binstock's lkatest entry at Slate's Outward, "Why Do Queer People Write Fan Fiction? To See Themselves in Mainstream Culture.", is admittedly clickbaity. The content, which examines why people write so much slash fan fiction, deserves something subtler. The desire for better queer representation remains an ongoing issue that these fan fiction writers try to fill.

One writer of slash fan fiction, who wished to remain anonymous—professing, like many I interviewed for this article, to being “ashamed” of her involvement with the fan fiction community—pointed to the double standard between onscreen romances for straight and queer couples. “The sort of love stories I like are totally reflected and visible in [mainstream media’s] canon straight romances,” she said. “Professionally produced media doesn’t give me that sort of well-written, emotionally devastating love story with LGBT+ characters.” The eroticism, the passion, the high stakes—in most cases, these are all reserved for straight characters. It’s up to the queer fans to claim them for themselves.

Take, for instance, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the superpowered members of the Avengers are mostly male, toned as hell, and love to banter: Right out of the gate, fans were eagerly exploring the possibilities of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, becoming lovers. On Ao3, there are almost 10,000 stories pairing the two romantically; that’s 3,000 more than the next most popular pairing, which also features two male characters in a queer relationship (Agent Coulson and Hawkeye). Parks and Recreation, one of television’s most beloved sitcoms, has more stories that romantically pair protagonist Leslie Knope with her female best friend, Ann Perkins, than with her husband, Ben Wyatt. And in case you were wondering, Shakespeare fan fiction does exist, and yes, Henry IV’s Prince Hal does fall in love with his childhood friend Ned.

This re-pairing of characters can be written off as unsatisfied fans indulging in wish fulfillment and the occasional erotic daydream. Outsiders who have ventured into the world of fan fiction—including Slate’s David Plotz and Laura Miller—have struggled to remain neutral while describing the genre, referring to an “obsession with emotional intensity” that has “spawned slash” or raising eyebrows at “romances, often torrid, between ostensibly straight male characters.” But when you are a member of the product’s original target audience—when you identify with characters whose sexualities are socially approved and unthreatening—you are much less likely to understand how empowered one can feel when writing queer romance into straight stories. There is power in giving Harry Potter a crush on Draco Malfoy, or creating a world in which Scandal’s Olivia and Mellie leave Fitz for each other; there is power in creating a means by which those in the mainstream might see from your sidelined point of view. It’s easy to trivialize, but the fact is that fan fiction is one of the few outlets that an increasingly frustrated queer audience has to engage with material that refuses to engage with them.

There's a few things I'd like to engage with here. The first is whether or not queer authors have a responsibility to represent queer realities in whatever form they can. Another is the extent to which this representation has to be plausible and artistically compelling: In Deep Space Nine, for instance, I find an O'Brien/Bashir pairing much less plausible and interesting than a Garak/Bashir pairing. As well, is this something that will change over time, as things continue to improve? Will more explicit queer content, and characters, and representation lead to a decline of slash?
james_nicoll @ 8:18pm: even on valium
Rufus does not approve of me.
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Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
jennycrusie @ 11:31pm: Book Done Yet? The Conflict Box Is A Magical Thing

So after staring into space (along with the fifty other things that had to be done this week) and then losing my computer (I had to run after the dogs and I forgot where I dropped it, so I kept searching the living room which wasn’t a help since it was in the guest room), and getting stung on the bottom of my foot by a wasp (don’t ask), I ended up with an ice pack back in bed, thinking about the antagonist.

At that point, I came to two realizations:

1. Nita and Nick have different antagonists (Nita owns the main plot and Nick gets the subplot).

2. I needed a Conflict Box to figure them out.

The lovely thing about the conflict box is that it’s simple. If my conflict doesn’t fit in that box, I haven’t thought it through, so to make a box, I have to think of my conflict in the starkest terms: What do they want, and how are they crossing each other?

So here’s what I’ve got (details redacted for spoilers):

Conflict Redacted

Nita’s turned out to be pretty simple: Somebody’s killing demons and she’s going to stop them, and that makes the demon killer include her as a target to stop her from interfering. Nita can’t stop going after the killer, it’s her job and her job is her life, and the killer can’t stop killing and trying to kill Nita. Nice simple conflict lock.

Nick’s is trickier. It obviously has to be somebody who wants to be the next Devil, or somebody who wants Nick impeached or deposed so he or she could be the next Devil now. The problem was, the struggle’s taking place on the island which seemed odd. Why not fight him in Hell?

But then I realized that was a smart move. Take him out of the place where he’s the most powerful and then subvert and destroy him while he’s out of his element. So then B’s only problem is how to get him to the island, and that’s where the hellgate comes in: B reports an illegal hellgate and then takes out the first two demons that Nick sends to deal with it, knowing that as a responsible administrator, he’ll come himself the third time.

That gives me two different struggles which is not good because I want a unified book. But if Nick’s antagonist B joins forces with A, that solves that. Then the problem is, Why? Why would an insurgent candidate for Devil join forces with a demon assassin? (I know: They fight crime!) They’d have to have a mutual agreement. I can see why antagonist A would do it: if B would promise to remove the demons from the island once in power, that would be a good partnership. But what good is A to B? That is, how does a demon assassin help a Devil usurper? Gotta be the assassination, right?

That’s a little weak, so I’m cogitating.

But really, conflict boxes. HUGE HELP. (Want one? It’s yours. Drag and drop the image below.)

Untitled copy

The post Book Done Yet? The Conflict Box Is A Magical Thing appeared first on Argh Ink.

rfmcdpei @ 6:54pm: [URBAN NOTE] "How Toronto Can Expand Bike Parking"
Torontoist's Emily Macrae looks at how Toronto can learn from Strasbourg's approach to bikes, to bike parking in particular.

Cycling is a big deal in France’s seventh largest city. Strasbourg boasts 560 kilometres of bike lanes and 19,000 bike parking posts for a population of just over 275,000 in the city itself and around 768,000 in the metropolitan area. By comparison, Toronto has slightly more than 400 kilometres of bike lanes (including both protected cycle tracks and off-road trails) and 17,000 “post and ring” parking stands on sidewalks and boulevards.

One of these is not like the other.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In Toronto, the City’s Transportation Services Division is responsible for sidewalk bike parking as well as other short- and long-term bike parking facilities. Although Toronto is not yet home to automated underground bike storage, Transportation Services manages several other solutions that allow for a higher volume of bike parking and a greater level of security.

Much more there.
rfmcdpei @ 6:52pm: [URBAN NOTE] "Bike-lane violators easy to find on ride-along"
The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr writes about the Toronto police's apparently continued pursuit of bike-lane violators.

Cyclists aren’t shy about giving David Armstrong advice on how to do his job.

“Give him the ticket, man!” shouted one rider on Monday afternoon, as Armstrong, a shift supervisor for Toronto Parking Enforcement, wrote up a driver for parking in a bicycle lane. “This is bulls--t!” the cyclist added before he pedalled away.

Monday marked first day of “Right 2 Bike,” a weeklong enforcement blitz targeting illegal parking in bicycle lanes.

To the many frustrated cyclists who complain about being forced into traffic by inconsiderate motorists, the blitz, which coincided with the annual Bike to Work Day, was long overdue.

But despite photos frequently circulated on social media that show cars invading Torontos’ bike lanes with seeming impunity, Armstrong is adamant that the parking enforcement unit takes the issue very seriously. According to the police, officers have issued over 23,000 tickets to drivers parked in bike lanes or separated cycle tracks since 2013.
rfmcdpei @ 6:48pm: [URBAN NOTE] "TTC letter warns homeowners their houses might be expropriated for Scarborough subway"
San Grewal's Toronto Star article isn't surprising. Scarborough may well want a subway to symbolize its inclusion in a greater Toronto, but there will be costs. The expropriation of property is just the start: the transformation of entire neighbourhoods is in the offing.

Residents on a quiet Scarborough street, some who have lived there for four decades, have received letters from the TTC warning them their houses might be expropriated to make room for the new subway extension.

“I’m not going, they’re going to kill me to take me out of here,” Scott Cole said Monday, after receiving a letter on May 25 from the “Toronto Transit Commission” informing him that the bungalow he’s lived in on Stanwell Dr. for 26 years might be subject to a “Property Acquisition Process.”

There has been no official approval of the subway alignment — running north-south under McCowan Rd., which the homes back onto — that would affect these homeowners, but they’re now convinced it’s a done deal.

The letter says this particular alignment will be presented at a public meeting Tuesday, the first in a series of meetings planned over the next three weeks. However, the letter, received by at least a dozen neighbours, says no decision has yet been made by council, and the recommendation has not even been seen by the City of Toronto’s executive committee.
rfmcdpei @ 6:42pm: [URBAN NOTE] On the continued detention of Toronto 18 leader Fahim Ahmad
The National Post's Stewart Bell reports on the decision to deny the leader of the Toronto 18 release. This isn't something I necessarily have a problem with given the scale of what the group planned, which included multiple truck bombs in Toronto and the planned decapitation of the prime minister in Ottawa. The lack of effective rehabilitation programs is a concern, as I mentioned yesterday.

A decade after his arrest, the leader of the Toronto 18 terrorist group has made “insufficient change” to warrant release from prison, the Parole Board of Canada has ruled.

Following a hearing, the Board said in a seven-page decision that while Fahim Ahmad had recently “entered a process of change,” he still did not appreciate the seriousness of his crimes.

The 31-year-old, who organized training camps to prepare recruits for attacks in Ontario, has “no viable release plan” and continues to exhibit concerning behaviors, the Board wrote.

[. . .]

Ahmad, a Canadian born in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to terrorism offences in 2010. He was scheduled for statutory release in August 2015 but the Board decided he wasn’t ready.
nihilistic_kid @ 3:32pm: THE LAST WEEKEND cosplay
sabotabby represents!


Join her, won't you?
andrewducker @ 11:31pm: The weirdest thing I have learned about the brain in some time

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
brendacooper @ 8:42pm: Win Free Books!

Spear of Light_cover (1)It’s one week before Spear of Light shows up in bookstores.  There are now three ways I know of to win books….

Head on over to My Life My Books My Escape (how cool is that name?) for a chance to win a free copy of Spear of Light.  They’ve also got one of the first reviews of the book posted so far.  They’re calling this work a “Must Read Sci-fi Series!”

There’s even more chances to win a copy of Spear of Light  at Goodreads!  Can you help me get to more than 500 entries!

Remember that you can read the first chapter of Spear of Light for free at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

And if you haven’t started the now-complete two-book series yet, you can win a copy of Edge of Dark by joining my mailing list (or simply emailing me for an entry — see the post for details!).

Thanks so much, and Good Luck!

The post Win Free Books! appeared first on Brenda Cooper.

rosefox @ 5:24pm: "Let's see what's in the box!"
The Con or Bust auction is going on right now, and you can bid on a tea-and-advice date with me!

There are only two bids up there right now, and the top four bids win, so bid early and often. :) And if we're not going to be in the same geographical location anytime soon, we can have a Skype-and-advice date instead.

Con or Bust is a fantastic organization that gives people of color financial support and free memberships to attend SF/F conventions. They've helped hundreds of fans and do amazing work. I'm thrilled to be supporting them by donating my time, and I hope you will support them too by bidding (there are lots of other delicious things up for auction, including jewelry and signed first editions), donating to a future auction, and/or spreading the word. Fan-run fan-supporting organizations like Con or Bust are part of what make the SF/F community so great--please help them keep doing their amazing work!

You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.
Current Mood: helpful
sayuri2023, posting in lj_photophile @ 10:25pm: Spring Flowers

kevinwmoor @ 10:16pm: My tweets
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supergee @ 2:22pm: Extended release gummy meth
FDA approves candy-flavored amphetamines for kids.
ffutures @ 7:07pm: Forgotten futures refunds sent
I've just sent refunds to everyone who didn't reply to my email re the end of Forgotten Futures. It'll be interesting to see what happens - I sent out 31 payments, I'm willing to bet at least 3 or 4 will be problematic.

and 20 minutes later one person has declined the payment and told me he wants the money to go to charity - apparently an earlier email to me vanished somewhow...
theweaselking @ 1:43pm: On the unique profanity of Quebec.
jimhines @ 1:38pm: SF/F Being Awesome: Con or Bust

In 2009, a LiveJournal post called “The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-in” in the Deadbrowalking community asked people who “identify as a POC/nonwhite person and … read or watch scifi or fantasy” to check in. There are more than 1000 comments on that post. And yet, I still run into people who believe people of color aren’t into science fiction and fantasy.

Looking at those 1000+ comments, it seems less that PoC don’t like SF/F, and more like the SF/F community as a whole has been less than welcoming to fans of color.

Con or Bust LogoIt’s one thing to say we want our community to be more welcoming and inclusive. It’s another to do something about it. Enter Con or Bust, an organization dedicated to helping people of color to attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. I spoke with Kate Nepveu, the secretary and treasurer of Con or Bust.

“Con or Bust was born out of RaceFail ’09, when some people of color I knew said, ‘We should help each other attend WisCon, so we can meet in person and be awesome together.’ I volunteered to organize a fundraiser in the fannish tradition of online LiveJournal auctions (such as livelongnmarry) because WisCon wasn’t in the cards for me that year, meaning there was no conflict of interest, and because I’d recently run a small-scale private fundraiser and so thought I could handle the work. We were doing this on extremely short notice — I announced the fundraiser on March 10, and WisCon is at the end of May — but we managed to raise enough money to send nine people, or everyone who’d requested assistance, to WisCon.

In late 2009, the Carl Brandon Society began acting as Con or Bust’s fiscal agent. That lasted through early 2016, when Con or Bust became a separate tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation.

All total, Con or Bust has raised almost $90,000 and helped fans of color attend conventions 329 times.

This year’s auction is going on through June 5, at 4 p.m. Eastern. According to their spreadsheet, the auction has more than 170 items up for bidding. This includes autographed books, critiques, clothes, art prints, character naming rights for various stories, and more. The spreadsheet includes direct links to each auction item, or you can look at the 2016 auction tags.

Requests for assistance are being accepted through the end of the day on Monday, June 6.


Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Do you have a suggestion for a SF/F group, individual, or event to be featured on the blog for general awesomeness? Email me at jchines -at-, or through my Contact Form.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

rfmcdpei @ 1:09pm: [NEWS] Some Tuesday links

  • The BBC notes an attack on a vegan restaurant in Tbilisi by meat-eating nationalists.

  • Bloomberg notes a slur by a German populist against a non-white soccer player, reports on Sweden's economic boom, Looks at rail investment in India, and notes Southeast Asia is beating out China as a destination for Japanese investment.

  • Bloomberg View looks at reform in Tunisia's Islamist movement and notes the lack of private foreign investment in Greece.

  • The CBC notes anti-gentrification sentiment in the Montréal neighbourhood of St. Henri, resulting in the looting of a gourmet grocery store.

  • MacLean's interviews Sebastian Junger on his theory that PTSD is rooted in the problems of modern individualism.

  • The National Post looks at an anthropologist's discovery of ancient hobo graffiti.

  • Open Democracy notes the Europeanization of Estonia's Russophones.

  • The Toronto Star contrasts the responses of the NDP and the Conservatives to their election defeats, and notes how older Chinese couples are now using fertility treatments to have their second child.

rfmcdpei @ 1:00pm: [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a study suggesting lithium-rich giant stars have recently eaten their lithium-rich planets.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes Russia's opposition to the US-China position on global warming and carbon emissions.

  • Joe. My. God. reports from the Sao Paulo Pride.

  • Language Hat notes the Chinese of Wuhan, apparently marked by a willingness to swear.

  • Language Log notes a Chinese brewer who has been arrested for commemorating Tiananmen Square on the bottles of his liquor.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the bad arguments of left-wingers who ignore the salience of race.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the grim kill ratio of the Mexican military in the drug war.

  • Torontoist notes the problems that people with disabilities have in accessing the TTC.

  • Understanding Society notes Bourdieu's thoughts on post-modern biography.

  • Window on Eurasia warns of the impending collapse of post-Soviet regimes and argues Russia has long had a great power mindset.

rfmcdpei @ 12:17pm: [PHOTO] Eleven photos from Fort York, Toronto on Doors Open
My first stop at Doors Open was Fort York, a National Historic Site. The geography around Fort York has changed hugely: Once an outpost on the western fringes of Toronto, on the shore of Lake Ontario by the mouth of Garrison Creek, the fort is now at least two hundred metres inland. Even when I first moved to Toronto in 2004, it seemed as if all there was down here were vast fields of mud. Now, the old fort is surrounded by condo towers.

After taking the 63 Ossington southbound to Strachan Avenue, I ended up entering Fort York from that street, on its western edge. I spent the next few minutes walking through parkland, until I came to the Fort proper.

Into Fort York from Strachan #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #trees #fortyork

The stone-lined ramparts are inauthentic, product of the fort's reconstruction in the 1930s.

Stone wall #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #stone #wall

The officers' quarters, on the northwestern corner of the fort, spoke of the relative comfort and style enjoyed by the commanders at the base. (The common soldiers enjoyed rather less.)

Barracks #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #barracks

Officer"s kitchen #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork

Officers" table #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #formals

Looking east towards the other buildings on the fort, Toronto's skyline--specifically, the CN Tower and the condo towers of Harbourfront--stands out.

Looking east, Fort York #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #condos #cntower

This cannon is facing what is now the rail line, perhaps defending against oncoming GO trains.

Cannon #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #cannon

In 1934, American and Canadian/Commonwealth groups put up plaques in memory of the dead of the Battle of York, now on display to visitors inside.

In grateful memory of the American dead #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #warof1812

In grateful memory of the British dead #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork #warof1812

The Brick Magazine lies at the far eastern end of the Fort complex.

Brick magazine and beyond #toronto #doorsopen #blogtodot16 #fortyork

Looking west from Bathurst Street, Fort York barely appears visible from behind the ramparts.

Fort York from the east #toronto #fortyork #doorsopen #blogtodot16
nwhyte @ 6:30pm: May books
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coth @ 5:24pm: Future of Eastercon - last update here

This will be my last report on this blog on the activities of the Future of Eastercons group. Future updates will be published on our Wordpress and Facebook pages - links are below.

We are changing the way we work as we split into three groups to do three different things. Emails will be going out shortly to people who have previously volunteered to see what they might like to get involved with. If you were thinking of joining in over the next year or so, now would be a good time to get in touch.

The Future of Eastercon group will continue meeting, and will be responsible for reporting on what we do via the internet and at future Eastercons.

The Eastercon Support group will research and discuss options for setting up an organisation to support Eastercons. Note: We do not assume that an organisation is necessary or desirable, and options will include 'do nothing and let Eastercon committees get on with it'. We expect this group to be busy from July until shortly after Eastercon 2017, but it will be a one-off project.

The group is taking responsibility for the existing wiki as a permanent resource for UK fandom.

Our new Future of Eastercons Facebook page is at: – if you are a Facebook user please go and ‘Like’ this to be kept informed or get in touch. It's starting off pretty basic but I expect we will improve it bye-and-bye.

Our web page is at: - find background and history of this discussion there

The Eastercon wiki is at: – this provides a wealth of information about the history and practice of Eastercons

68th Eastercon 2017 - Innominate - website: - next year’s British National Science Fiction Convention, in Birmingham

69th Eastercon 2018 - Follycon - website: - the 2018 British National Science Fiction Convention, in Harrogate

People reading this may also be interested in Conrunner, the convention for people who run UK SF conventions, in Nottingham next February:

I’ve enjoyed doing these updates. Thanks to everyone who read and took an interest, and shared or retweeted to help keep people informed. Hoping to see you again on Facebook and/or our web page.

theweaselking @ 12:07pm: Important questions.
 photo comic460_zps9azarvat.png
I love Awkward Zombie sometimes.
realthog @ 12:02pm: My tweets
ann_leckie @ 10:52am: A couple things I’ve read

When I was a child, I had several Dream Jobs. I wanted to be an astronaut, of course, and I also considered careers in paleontology and archaeology. But high, very high on my list was “any job where people will pay me to read, or failing that, give me lots of free books.”

Reader, it turns out that I now have such a job. And in some ways it is exactly as awesome as I had dreamed. More awesome! And yet. Now that I get books sent to me for free on a regular basis (nothing like Scalzi gets, but still, it’s a couple a week in my email or in my PO box), I do not have time to read them all.

I do try to read them! Because, I mean. It’s just, it takes me a while, because I have so much other job-related reading to do.

Anyway. I get books. And I read them, if slowly. And sometimes I enjoy them quite a bit! Like for instance.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker. This is I think what the kids call urban fantasy. Which mostly isn’t my sort of thing–I’ve got nothing against it, but it usually doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not its target audience. But I enjoyed Borderline quite a lot. And this is the part where I should say why I enjoyed it, but I am remarkably bad at doing that. I can talk about things that caught my eye–the protagonist has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is treated pretty matter-of-factly, without romanticizing or demonizing the character or her illness. The other characters were nicely drawn as well, I thought, and I enjoyed the Hollywood setting (though to be honest, Hollywood might as well be Faery itself as far as I’m concerned). If you enjoy urban fantasy, you should check this out. If you aren’t a UF reader, well, maybe check it out anyway, because it’s a lot of fun.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If you’ve read any of Yoon’s short fiction, you know he’s fabulous. I confess myself partial to “The Winged City,” which I bought for GigaNotoSaurus several years ago. Now he’s got a novel coming out, and it’s (unsurprisingly) excellent. It’s out June 14, but I got an ARC and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a blurb I found at the Amazon listing:

“I love Yoon’s work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon’s excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon’s work for the first time.”

Every word of that is true. I know because I wrote that blurb myself.  Honestly, you should read this as soon as you can. And you should check out Yoon’s short fiction as well.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

james_nicoll @ 11:14am: Mars
Taken with my phone's camera. Turned out much better than I expected, given the camera didn't want to snap a shot at all when it was aimed at the sky.
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Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
james_nicoll @ 11:08am: May 2016 in Review
23 books reviewed. 12 by women, 11 by men. F/T = 0.52

4 books by POC, or 17%

Year to date

105 books read. 63 by women (0.6), 40 by men (0.38), 2 by authors who identifies as neither (0.02). 25 by POC (0.24).

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
greygirlbeast @ 10:56am: "Gonna tear the world up until I have my revenge."
Note: Yesterday, I wrote "On this day in 1989, twenty-seven years ago, at about 4:30 p.m. EST, I began HRT." Actually, I began HRT on the 31st of May, not the 30th.

Current Mood: headachy
james_nicoll @ 10:40am: Baccano! The Rolling Bootlegs by Ryohgo Narita

Baccano! The Rolling Bootlegs by Ryohgo Narita

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
theferrett @ 10:36am: Unpopular Opinions On Bernie And Hillary

Look, Bernie supporters: you’re not only losing, but you sound terrifyingly like Republicans arguing not to pull out of Iraq.

You’re ignoring the math to leap to a conclusion you want to be true instead of looking at what’s actually happening.

You’re yelling about the unfair process of getting nominated as though the establishment somehow sprung these complicated rules upon Bernie midway through the process, as opposed the path to nomination being mostly known when he started his campaign.

You’re claiming “The media was against us!” exactly like the Republicans did with Iraq, as if the newspapers owed you popularity.  The media always has a storyline it’s spinning; your challenge is to come up with a better story that they buy into, not to yell and froth.

And worst of all, too many of you are pulling the sad Republican bullshit that anyone who doesn’t support you in this endeavor are not real Americans, or at the very least to be side-eyed thoroughly because somehow they hate real change.  You’re pulling the sad Republican bullshit that if people don’t support Bernie, it’s because they’re idiots who don’t know any better.

Look, guys. I’m a Bernie fan, and judging from this season’s political donations, I’m at least $240 more for Bernie ($20 a month for a year) than I am for Hillary (an ice-cold zero).  If you want to change the process?  That’s awesome.

But the Democratic party should be the alternative to the Republican party’s math-blinkered nature, and you do that by acknowledging facts.  Black voters didn’t go for Bernie?  Rather than yelling at them that HEY BERNIE’S GREAT at random POC, why not investigate their fears and work to counteract them?  Or learn from the ways that Bernie bobbled the black vote this year (as was my fear he’d do way back in July of last year) and figure out how to build better grass roots the next time?

And y’all terrify me when you’re like, “Bernie’s the better candidate!”   Well, he’s gotten less votes almost everywhere that counts- though unlike Hillary, he’s improved in his results as time’s gone on.  In terms of sheer numbers, it’s Hillary by a landslide.

Y’all terrify me when you say, “Hillary’s been so mean to Bernie!”  God, have you ever watched one fucking Republican attack ad?  Hillary’s gone after Bernie with lily-white gloves on.  She has not exposed one knuckle.  Wanna see what the nastiness will look like?  Here, read the nasty stuff that nobody’s unloaded on him yet because the Republicans have been secretly hoping he’ll be the candidate.

That’s what a hatchet job would look like.

And in that sense, sure Bernie’s beating Trump.  Because nobody’s gone after Bernie yet.  Maybe he can pull it off, maybe he can’t, but read that set of attack ads ready to go and see whether Bernie’s popularity has been truly tested; it hasn’t.

Be honest with yourselves and stop buying into your own goddamned hype.

And if you want to say, “Electing Trump would send a lesson to the Democratic party that they need to shape up!”, well, I want you to ask yourself a vital question first:

In 2000, Gore moved to the right to pick up votes, then Nader split the vote, and Bush got elected instead of Gore.  (Full disclosure: I voted for Nader, and I blame Gore for alienating voters.)

A lot of you are unhappy with Obama.  But Obama was literally the lesson that the Democrats learned from losing massively in 2000.

So do you honestly think electing Trump, someone massively unstable, is going to create someone notably better than Obama?

Bonus question, but not one you should ignore: Do you think “creating the better Democratic party” was worth the economic collapse and wars we got from eight years of George Bush?  Because that’s really your argument, isn’t it?  If we fuck over America, we’ll create a better and more resilient party!  And maybe you conclude that’s true.  But you should also ask yourselves whether that triumphant party will have to spend eight years picking up debris.

And if you’re frustrated by Bernie over Hillary, well… I am too.  Welcome to the long and stories Democratic tradition of “Picking the person they think is electable” over “The person who people actually like,” which leads to horrific fiascoes of Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry.  I too wish the Democrats would learn the lesson that they should nominate the person who gets folks the most riled up, as opposed to choosing the person who is least objectionable.

But they do.  Maybe you can change that.  Please.  Try.

That said, you Hillary supporters?

First off, if you’re saying “The Republicans shouldn’t cave to Trump!” and yelling for Bernie to step down at the same time, you’re hypocrites.  Bernie Sanders isn’t stepping down in part because he feels he’s not being heard in the Democratic party, and he knows darned well that the only way to force policy change is to swing enough power to get a seat at the table.  This is the sort of cold-eyed realism you’d probably cheer if it was Hillary using her leverage to make changes.

If he steps down too soon, he doesn’t get what he wants.  And he wants to be influential.  That’s what politicians do.  If Hillary wants his votes, she’s gonna have to make concessions to Bernie.

And the people who are all outraged that Bernie Sanders wanted to debate with Trump?  Every time I hear them speaking, they sound as though Bernie and Trump’s debate will be them getting together over beers and bitching affably about Hillary.  “Women, amiright?”

No.  Bernie and Trump are both outsider candidates, but Trump and Bernie are wildly at odds on all sorts of issues, particularly those of economic hardship.  The reason some Bernie bros can believe there’s no real difference between Bernie and Trump is because Bernie and Trump haven’t battled.  And Donald Trump is a big windy bag of lies, but I’m pretty sure when Bernie goes “We need to raise taxes on people like you,” Trump is not going to shrug and say, “Well, yeah, I need to have 90% of my income taken away, like all millionaires!”

Trump won’t debate Bernie because he knows he benefits from Bernie Bros conflating their policies.  (He also knows that being snide to Bernie, as he always is during debates, will alienate potential crossover votes from Bernie.)  If it did happen, suddenly it’d put the stark differences for the candidates into place and people wouldn’t be able to switch votes as easily.

It’d be a massive win for the Democratic party if it happened, which is why I’m 90% sure it won’t.  (Though this election season, I’m loathe to put firm bets on anything.)

Eventually, Bernie’s going to have to side with someone.  When he does, he’s going to bring voters with him.  And that guy, unless I’m radically misreading Bernie, is not going to be Trump.

(But again, hey, this election season, amiright?)

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
james_nicoll @ 10:04am: Breithaupt Park Happening (19 June 2016)
Come play with Alison Gothard in Breithaupt Park! Ali missed the first Happening so this time, Evelyn and I thought we'd bring the Happening to Ali! Or at least to a location convenient for her!

More details here (Facebook warning)

Read more...Collapse )

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.
theferrett @ 9:57am: Unpopular Opinions On Gorillas and Wayward Kids

So this weekend, a gorilla had to be shot because a four-year-old kid found its way into the gorilla’s enclosure.  (If you want details on “Why didn’t they tranquilize the gorilla instead of murdering it?”, read this Facebook note from a zookeeper; the upshot was that shooting darts into a gorilla is not an insta-knockout, and would probably piss off the kid-holding gorilla majorly before it passed out.)

And I have two thoughts on that one:

First off, there’s a lot of people calling for the parents’ heads on a stick – which I probably would have before I had kids.  I used to hear these tales of parents losing their kids at malls and sniff, “God, how did they lose track of their own children?”

Now I go, “My God, how do we not lose more kids?”

Kids have zero survival instincts.  They run away and don’t look back.  And in a vacuum, you could be a perfect guard to jail this irrational critter inside a cage of pure protection, but when you’re out and about you have to pay for the clothes you just bought or hold the elevator door for someone or even adjust your other kid’s diapers.

When you go to do that, sometimes the kid darts off into traffic because they saw a bug and Christ that is scary.

And I’m not saying that the parents weren’t negligent, because I don’t know all the facts about this, but it’s also possible the kid vanished and the parents were looking frantically for him while all this happened.

Maybe it is a case of stupid parents.  It could also equally easily be a case of “accidents happen with kids.”  And it sucks, but that’s the way the universe currently works: some parents have their kids squirm away into an elevator and are lucky enough to have a friendly face guiding the kid back to safety, other parents have their kids squirm away and fall into an open elevator shaft.

It’s possible these were slacker parents who raised an ill-disciplined kid; it’s equally possible the parents just had the worst possible outcome for the tragically common situation of Runaway Kid.

In the absence of better knowledge – and I’m sure news stories will fill in more details over the oncoming weeks – I’ll try to opt for kindness.

That said, an online friend of mine said, “I’m sorry, but I value the life of a four-year-old more than I do a gorilla.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t.

Look, man.  These gorillas are endangered.   As the zookeeper in the Facebook says, you put these gorillas out into the wild and they get poached.  I’m told there’s not enough of these gorillas left to fill a 747, and the zoo’s one of the few places left that can hold them safely.

Either way this went down, kid or gorilla, it was going to be a tragedy where a living creature who didn’t understand what was happening got killed for reasons that weren’t its fault.  And even though I am a human, I’m cold-eyed enough to say, “While I spent the weekend with an adorable almost-four-year-old girl who I adore, there are literally millions of four-year-old humans – while we’re down to a handful of gorillas because, as a race, we’d rather strangle an entire species than risk one human.

“And while I love children, if it’s down to one kid against a dwindling species, I choose the species.”

I suspect that’s a really unpopular thing for me to say, but this is a Kobayashi Maru of dilemmas: you have to 100% kill an endangered gorilla, or risk killing a child (as the gorilla might have gotten bored dragging the kid around and let the child go).  It’s gonna be horrid either way.  And I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill mountain lions running lose in human territories, or let our daughters be dragged off by rabid dogs.  Human lives matter.

I’m just of the opinion that at this point, if some human gets into the enclosure with all the endangered animals, the priority should be saving the endangered animal.  Because it’s not the animal’s fault, either.  And what they need to protected from are dumbasses like us.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
chris_gerrib @ 8:31am: Out In The Wild Today
My substancially re-written and re-edited novel The Mars Run is out in the wild today. I have a few ecopies available for review.

Current Mood: pleased
lamentables @ 1:32pm: Fungus of the day
For reasons of scheduling and weather forecasts, I managed to do my daily walk early this morning and be back home before 8am. It's busy out there between 7:30-8am, dog-walkers on the footpaths, local builders and agricultural businesses on the roads.

Fungus #oftheday

The forecast rain didn't actually arrive until just before lunch, but it has been just as unremittingly cold, gloomy, and windy as it was all day yesterday. The Bank Holiday effect.

I managed to knock 1.5 days' work off my schedule this morning, which is good because I forgot to account for the bank holiday when I was doing the planning. I seem to have used up 1.5 days' enthusiasm though, and am now filled with the desire to bake, sew, watch TV, read, anything but work...

Comment here or comment there (where there are comment count unavailablecomments).
cherylmmorgan @ 5:18am: Terri Windling’s Tolkien Lecture

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

The good folks at Pembroke College videoed the whole of Terri Windling’s Tolkien Lecture, so you will be able to enjoy it yourselves soon. However, while you are waiting, here are a few thoughts from me. I should make clear at the start that I’m pulling a couple of key themes out of the lecture and following them up with my own interpretation. Terri may disagree (and hopefully will say so if she does).

Right at the beginning of the lecture Terri made the point that it is in the nature of fantasy to be unknowable. She went on to lament the absence of the numinous from much modern fantasy. I’m right with her there. I think there are two areas where this is so.

In epic fantasy I think we see too much of what I call “Dungeons and Dragons stories”. Back when I did a lot of GMing, there was a big rift among RPG players between those who saw the activity as “just games”, and who required clear and obvious rule systems so you could work out the optimal strategy, and those who saw the activity as more like communal improvised free-form story-telling. I was very much in the story-telling camp.

A lot of modern epic fantasy, however, seems to me to be more in the game playing camp, because writers design their worlds in such detail that it is obvious how everything works, even magic. There’s no room for the numinous in such a world. Indeed, a hard-core gamer would regard such a thing as “cheating”. Everything has to be capable of being explained within the rules.

As far as urban fantasy goes, much of what we see these days with such a tag is more crime or romance fiction with a few super-powered characters than fantasy. Some of it is very good crime and/or romance, but that doesn’t mean that it is good fantasy. Once again, the magic is not magical.

Terri also lamented the absence of sense of place from modern fantasy. Again I agree. There’s something about magic, I think, that is rooted in the land. With modern fantasy fiction we see too much of the generic castles and taverns of FantasyLand, and too much of the generic mean streets of a cookie-cutter modern city where every shopping mall contains the same chain stores.

This isn’t always the case. One of the reasons I love Emma Newman’s Split Worlds books is the way she uses locations such as Bath and Oxford to give a sense of the longevity of the fairy folk. Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police books were rightly mentioned by an audience member as an example of urban fantasy with a strong sense of place. Authors can and do get it right, but they have to put in the effort.

Something else that I think is often missing from modern fantasy, to its detriment, is music. I don’t mean the tendency of fantasy authors to fill their books with bad poetry passed off as song, I mean the sense that music is integral to the world and its magic. Whether it be high elven choral pieces, dwarvish drinking songs, tragic folk ballads, or orcish death metal, music has the ability to draw in that sense of the numinous whose absence Terri laments.

None of this should surprise us, of course. Publishers today are looking for product, not art. Terri mentioned that small presses are doing really good work still. I suspect that’s more the case in the US than in the UK because the bigger market makes it easier to take a punt on something different. However, distribution is much easier these days, especially if you are happy with ebooks, so a lot more of us can benefit. (And a nod of sympathy here to Charles Tan because I know there are parts of the world where buying online isn’t simple.)

Anyway, that’s my 2c worth. Juliet has a few thoughts here. And hopefully the video will be available soon.

My thanks as ever to the good folks at Pembroke for putting on a great show. As is often the case with universities, some of those involved are moving on having completed their studies. However, it looks like a committee is being put in place to ensure that the lecture series continues long into the future. Roll on next year.

wondermark @ 5:00am: #1227; In which a Uniform is irregular

Sometimes the missions of this organization are SO secret that you don"t even know where you were until you get home and they give you a slightly dusty 1954 Korean Service Medal.

feorag @ 12:00pm: My tweets
andrewducker @ 12:00pm: Interesting Links for 31-05-2016
Estonia's at the front of e-government - but their president still can't an iTunes song for his Latvian wife.
(tags: europe Technology internet government )
Can neuroscience revolutionise the way we punish criminals?
(tags: morality law punishment )
Pagan God From Bronze Age Caught By Unsuspecting Fisherman In Siberia (I think we know how this one ends)
(tags: prehistory russia archeology )
The creator of No Man’s Sky has been getting death threats for delaying the game
(tags: games abuse OhForFucksSake )
Star Wars to the Mission Impossible music works so well
(tags: music video StarWars )
The leader of the Lib-Dems reviews Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A
(tags: music usa history libdem race police )
Glory of the Monster: Transgender identity, the betrayal of the body, and “celebratory horror”
(tags: horror bodies lgbt image identity )
Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person
(tags: relationships )
When computers dream of Dark Souls (Neural Nets + Computer Games + Art)
(tags: art games ai )
How not to reclaim the internet
(tags: freespeech censorship privacy identity abuse internet surveillance )
We affect the gender of our children, and they affect us back
(tags: children )
How the sense of an ending shapes memory
(tags: psychology stories performance )

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
marypcb @ 12:00pm: My tweets
  • Mon, 21:05: RT @agouaillard: H264 SVC in Edge just landed.
  • Mon, 22:06: since I have a few new followers (hi folks!), if you're looking for a light holiday read, my tech fiction is here:
  • Mon, 22:07: VCs& vampires, Cassidy shooting down technical trouble from killer drones to swearing fountains, the VR of dreams...
  • Mon, 22:09: @VirginAtlantic�the email I tried to send thru the site to say the HP competition in the newsletter isn't on the website never sent, so...;)
  • Mon, 23:18: I don't want to Ignore once, I want to tell Word when it's getting grammar wrong!
  • Tue, 06:52: the feedback hub continues to be really unreliable for me; can't sign in to it in my current build...
  • Tue, 07:04: RT @kb_chirps: Using Azure Functions in PowerApps
  • Tue, 07:33: I never knew before about sushi burgers (um, nope) or bacon wedding cakes (HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THIS)
  • Tue, 07:52: even if you use another AV, you'll be able to run Defender "periodically" Ms suggesting not all AVs up to snuff?
  • Tue, 07:58: Malicious Software Removal Tool�scans�500mn+ PCs/month, finds & removes malware on 1-2 mn, even on those devices running antivirus software
Read more...Collapse )</lj-c
sbisson @ 12:00pm: My tweets
  • Mon, 18:45: RT @marypcbuk: two waitstaff at the restaurant; "tonight is like my Friday, I'm going home to play overwatch." "I'm going home to play slee…
  • Mon, 18:52: (I still call it SkyDrive.)
  • Mon, 21:07: So @instagram on Android's Twitter sharing integration is utterly broken: can't authenticate a Twitter account.
  • Mon, 21:23: Good grief. It's now more than 20 years since we launched UK Online from an old brewery in Shepton Mallet. #TimeFliesWhenYouBuildTheInternet
  • Mon, 21:31: Anyone got recommendations for GoPro extended batteries? Wanting to make my nightlapses better...
tamaranth @ 12:00pm: My tweets
irregular_comic @ 10:11am: Irregular Webcomic! #1379 Rerun

Comic #1379

The brief interlude in the ongoing adventures of Steve and Terry had nothing to do with the death of the (completely unrelated and in no way inspirational to this theme) Steve Irwin. I'd planned a short break to allow some other long-neglected themes to return some months ago. But now they're back, and ready for adventure!

2016-05-31 Rerun commentary: Steve may be using such reliable fact sources as Cryptid Wiki, Monster Wiki, and
supergee @ 6:14am: New Horizons in Offensiveness
Literary Yo Mama Jokes

Thanx to Metafilter
camies @ 11:10am: The trouble with using LiveJournal
is that for me it's associated with a very specific period of time*, the years after my Dad died and I moved to Kingston and got this house into a serviceable state and hung out with musicians and people who had afternoon tea together and I was made redundant by the Civil Service and fell off my bike in Richmond Park resulting in a month off the job I was about to leave anyway ... and went for lots of bike rides at other times out to the villages around here and went to pubs in Central London and in the end all that came to an end because I moved to Birmingham.
So it feels a bit odd to be back.

*edit: my first LJ post was on 27 May 2003. I was still living in Hammersmith but already planning to leave it; Dad was still alive (but my Aunt Mary was dying); I was still working for the Civil Service (but feeling increasingly unsettled and ostracised by the people I worked with).
supergee @ 5:54am: What we have to take seriously
James Fallows summarizes mass media reaction to the Republican candidate:
“Donald Trump said yesterday that two was a larger number than five. Let’s examine why this is not true….”
camies @ 10:52am: The moments that make up a wet day
At least the allotment will get a watering, though whether the bean pyramids will stay up is another matter. Here, I had to go out on the extension roof because the drainpipe had come adrift - it's slightly too short for the new roof and if properly attached (which it is now) doesn't quite reach although water does go into the gutter at least. Also finally got tired of the cooker being dirty and cleaned it - took some time. It would have been better if I'd done it while most recent AirBnB guest was still here but I didn't. She did after all have to put up with the house having scaffolding round it and the roof being replaced and there being builders about the place - although as she was out during most days that wasn't really an issue. Although the roof work has put a dent in my savings it isn't desperate - especially as I'm now working and also still getting AirBnB-ers in.
Until the weather turned nasty I was also getting some exercise, as in, riding the bike to work. That and having at least in theory a free pass to the splendid open air Hampton Pool. I've been trying to find a climbing wall near the new workplace but there doesn't seem to be a public one - I'll have to go to Fulham instead. Running? not really although I did say I'd do parkrun on any Saturday that I wasn't working. That didn't last, mainly as I don't like getting up early (i.e. before 8 am) on non-working days.
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