WorldCon 2016: Class and equality in fantasy and science fiction

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Jennie Goloboy, Jennie J.R. Johansson (moderator), Eleanor Arnason, William Hayashi

Note: Terra LeMay was scheduled to participate in this panel, but could not make it. Agent Jennie Goloboy graciously agreed to participate.

classandequality

Joined in progress.

EA: Barbara Jenson said that economy and society cannot be separated.

WH: It’s useful to use familiar tropes to reach your readers, but be wary of stereotypes.

JG: The cultural pressure to categorize people opposes the personal feeling that it’s wrong.

JRJ: You have to question it, though. It’s a useful tension to explore.

WH: Look at how other authors have addressed the issue. Young adult novels turned movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Frank Herbert’s Dune. Asimov’s Foundation.

EA: Melissa Scott writes about marginalized characters. Science fiction under-represents the working and middle classes.

JRJ: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites explores issues of class.

JG: What do class and equality look like in the future?  If we extrapolate from current trends, there will be more automation, shorter attention spans, but more independence.

WH: Robert Heinlein pitted the working class against the upper class. It’s a common trope, but it’s realistic. The 1% versus everyone else. Where does hope come from? In Snowpiercer, society at its worst is contained in a train. They’re the last survivors. It’s a microcosm.

JG: Young adult science fiction has focused on the dystopia. What about utopias? Utopias contain the seeds of dystopia and vice versa. But it’s not so simple.

WH: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is hopeful.

JG: There are the working, middle, and upper classes. Are there any others to explore?

WH: Why not transcend class? It’s a spectrum.

JRJ: It’s easier to look at issues in another society, a fictional society, rather than to look at our own.

JG: A reader might say, “I identify with Katniss, so I must be a good person.”

WH: Why do we focus so much on dytopias?

And that was time.

Next week: It will be my December next chapter update and my 2016 year in review post.

Happy New Year (calendrically speaking), everyone!

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 18-24, 2016

The holiday edition of thoughty Thursday will help get your mental corn a-poppin’ after your turkey coma wears off 😉

Was Hildegard of Bingen right about the herbal cures she proposed? Medievalists.net

Sarah Sloat reports on how evolution made really smart people long to be loners. Inverse

Lady Gaga opens up about her PTSD. Good Is

Anna Lovind: avoid the bad and you’ll miss out on the good.

The first female doctor in Britain spent 56 years disguised as a man. Lauren Young for Atlas Obscura.

Nicolas DiDomizio introduces us to the Purple-Red Scale, a new way to understand the sexuality spectrum. Mic

Mike Murphy reports on the world’s first solar panel paved road. Quartz

Las Vegas is now powered entirely by renewable energy. Avery Thompson for Popular Mechanics.

Apparently, there’s a massive metal dragon hiding inside the Earth’s outer core. IFLS

Bob MacDonald reports on climate change, as seen from space. CBC

Phil Plait wishes us a happy solstice with this video of 24 hours of light. Slate

And, for the non-science-y among you, here is the magical history of Yule, the winter solstice celebration.

Enjoy this lovely video by Angie Pickman: the longest night.

I must commend the Welsh for having some of the strangest traditions. A rhyming, skeletal horse comes a-knocking? Allison Meier shares the tale on Hyperallergic.

Hudson, a pup nailed to a rail road tie and abandoned, gets a prosthetic paw.

 

And just to end on a light note, here’s a golden retriever pup playing with a door stop.

 

Come on back on Saturday for my last post of the year. It’s all about class and equality in fantasy and science fiction. Yes, it’s another WordlCon 2016 report 🙂

Be well, be kind, and be loved. Virtual hugs!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 18-24, 2016

It’s a week full of informal writerly learnings. My seasonal gift to you, dear reader 🙂

K.M. Weiland offers us the number one way to write intense story conflict. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jamie Raintree wonders, what lights your creative fire? Writers in the Storm

James Preston guest posts on Writers in the Storm: believe in your work—it’s more important than you think.

Laura Drake offers some advanced craft tips on Writers in the Storm.

Becca Puglisi helps us find the sweet spot in which to start. Writers Helping Writers

Dave King dives into writer’s block. Writer Unboxed

Lance Schaubert shares some tips on how to find your working title. Writer Unboxed

Kathleen McCleary guides us back to our story. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb discovers the power of stepping out, stepping in, and bringing the light. Writer Unboxed

Dan Blank encourages you to be more like yourself. Writer Unboxed

Marcy Kennedy explores how our characters’ apologetic language creates and resolves tension.

Chris Winkle shares some tips on depicting child characters. Mythcreants

Constance Renfrow explains how to streamline your editing experience. DIYMFA

Kristen Lamb tells us the hard truth about publishing.

Chuck Wendig: the key is always hope. Terribleminds

Kameron Hurley speculates about Christmas and the future.

Are those speculative fiction titles on the 2017 Canada Reads Longlist? Oh, yes. They are! CBC

Octavia Butler tried to warn us about politicians who “want to make America great again.” Wired

When David Brin shared this, I thought … woah, Nausica! And these paintings by Jakub Rozalski really do evoke that aesthetic. He’s a little bit steampunk, and a little bit Akira? Design you can trust

Jeff LaSala resolves the eagle conundrum in Lord of the Rings. Tor.com

Remember that piece I shared last week about the Swinton/Cho email exchange? Well, Gene Demby unpacks the kerfuffle for NPR.

Jeanette Ng introduces us to Imagined Cities/Ice Fantasy, the Chinese take on western epic fantasy. Medium

Ooh! And here’s an early look at Blade Runner 2049. Wired

Lynette Rice has an Outlander sneak peek to help see you through droughtlander. Entertainment Weekly

Be well until Thursday, when you can come on back for your weekly dose of thoughty!

tipsday2016

WorldCon 2016: Beyond—fantasy creation for the bold

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Kate Elliot and Ken Liu

kateelliottkenliu

My apologies for the picture, Kate. this was actually the better of the two I took 😦

Joined in progress …

KE: People who live in the tropics tend to have darker skin. Those in northern countries are pale. It’s a specific adaptation to their environment.

KL: My book is not an Asian epic fantasy. It’s a reinterpretation of the Han Dynasty. I defined what it means to be Chinese in my world and purposefully varied the appearance of my characters. What does it mean to be a Han Chinese? Ultimately culture is how they define themselves, not by appearance. That’s [definition by appearance] a western-centric notion.

KE: The Mali from my spiritwalker series has eight or nine ethnic groups. They identify by where they live. Ethnicity is fluid. As writers, we have to think about our choices.

KL: The shape of the eye is not a defining feature.

KE: In any culture, you’re going to have sub-cultures develop. A static culture is a dead culture. Every empire is made up of many ethnicities interacting with the dynamics of assimilation, resistance, centre/periphery. These are character and plot dynamics.

KL: Cultural change is good for building a plot. All cultures are not equal. People adapt differently to their circumstances. Build a richer world. Show the dominant culture being challenged by another.

KE: Writers bring their ideas of what cultural changes matter. The Silk Road wasn’t an actual road. It was a chain of stops on a trade route.

KL: Transformative ideas are themselves transformed in the process of their transmission from culture to culture. Christianity in South America is different than the European tradition. Buddhism is different in India, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea. Religion interacts with political power.

KE: The way they infiltrate through social strata is also different. Ptolemaic Egypt was actually more influenced by Macedonia and Greece. The native Egyptians were marginalized and had their own traditions. One of the best ways to research a historical time period is through art history.

KL: “We have not changed” is a common cultural narrative. Why do they need to insist on that cultural story?

KE: The centre of an empire will have one narrative and peripheral societies will have other narratives unique to them. Look at the Aztecs. The conquerors write history. Find stories on the peripheries.

KL: When writing an epic fantasy based on an historical culture, respect the intellect of the people of the past. The Ancient Romans were as cynical as we are.

KE: People don’t believe the same things in the same ways.

KL: The western bias is that cultures that lacked science must have been stupid.

KE: The history of technology is fascinating. Look at the geographical impact. Where do they live? Whether the society was coastal or land-locked makes a difference in what might otherwise be common myths and legends, like flood stories.

KL: Consider you narrative space and language as a part of worldbuilding. There are two layers of understanding, the linguistic, and the folk/colloquial. Power and self-image are parts of contextual identity.

KE: Language sticks around like an artefact. European place names that were derived from the Celtic tribes remained even though the culture was marginalized.

And that was time.

Next week: We’ll delve into class and equality in fantasy and science fiction for my final WorldCon report of the year. I’ll continue them in January, after my next chapter update for December and my year-end wrap up. And of course, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will continue 🙂

Hope you’re enjoying time with your family and friends, whatever holiday you celebrate.

Be well!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 11-17, 2016

If your brain’s already gone on holiday, have some thoughty fun with these offerings 🙂

Saw last week that Alan Thicke has passed away, too. It’s been such a sad year for performers and artists 😦 And political unrest. And Syria . . . Take heart. Here are 99 reasons 2016 was a great year. Medium

Christopher Dickey shares the tale of angels of the resistance (and one serial killer) in Nazi-occupied Paris. The Daily Beast

UN Women takes a stand against gender-based violence.

 

Eugene Soltes explores the psychology of white-collar criminals. The Atlantic

Matt Blitz tells the real story behind the myth of Area 51. Popular Mechanics

Annalee Newitz investigates the lost city of Cahokia under the St. Louis suburbs. Ars Technica

Amanda Gefter interviews Donald D. Hoffman: the case against reality. One of my favourite bits: “… we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion …” The Atlantic

Peter Dockrill: cellular reprogramming has been used to reverse the aging process in animals. Science Alert

Simon Oxenham explains why bees could be the secret to superhuman intelligence. BBC

Peter Brannen examines a possible break in one of evolution’s biggest mysteries. The Atlantic

Chris Jones reports on Sara Seager, the woman who might find us another Earth. The New York Times Magazine

Watch this cool BBC video about how one woman with Parkinson’s regained the ability to write and draw.

 

Robby Berman reports on filmmaker Adam Rosenberg’s hilarious video in which he shares some of his nocturnal musings. It’s called Somniloquist and you have to watch it. Nearly peed myself laughing. Slate

Olga Khazan explains how magic mushrooms help patients with severe anxiety and depression. The Atlantic

Lauren Vinopal lists the 18 best houseplants for cleaning the air, according to NASA. Fatherly

Julia Shaw: I’m a scientist, and I don’t believe in facts. Scientific American

George Dvorsky reports on what the brightest supernova ever seen really was. Gizmodo

Natalie Wolchover: quantum gravity research could reveal the true nature of time. Wired

‘Tis the season, so here’s sommat from Grimfrost on Vikings, Santa, and Christmas 🙂

 

Honest to Paws introduces us to the Akhal-Teke, the most beautiful horse in the world.

Hope your mental corn’s a-poppin’ fit to see you through the holiday frenzy 🙂

Have a good one, everyone!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 11-17, 2016

Holy cannoli, your informal writerly learnings are back on track this week 🙂

K.M. Weiland shares another way to look at scene structure. Helping Writers Become Authors

Wordplayer Liberty Speidel guest posts on Kate’s blog later in the week: five steps to a thorough book edit.

Jami Gold is now a writing coach on Writers Helping Writers! The revision circle: does my story have too many problems?

Chris Winkle helps us master evocative telling. Mythcreants

Alex Limberg guest posts on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Finish that novel: tips to help you go the distance.

Angela Ackerman explains how to use symbolism to elevate your storytelling. Writers in the Storm

Piper Bayard offers some guidance about what to do after NaNoWriMo. Writers in the Storm

Chuck Wendig, as always, has thoughts on how to create art and make cool stuff in times of trouble. Terribleminds

Andrea Phillips guest posts on Terribleminds: the high goddamned responsibility of fiction.

Orly Konig-Lopez shares her thoughts on Writers in the Storm: why it’s not always about the writing.

Janice Hardy offers five tips to fight your end-of-year writer’s fatigue. Fiction University

Sara Letourneau examines fate versus free will as a literary theme. DIYMFA

Now y’all know, if you’ve been following me for a while, what I think about resolutions, but Bess Cozby shares five strategies you can implement to rock your resolutions in 2017. DIYMFA

Oren Ashkenazi reviews five failed animal companions in science fiction and fantasy. Mythcreants

Devon Murphy interviews Madeleine Thien about her process. Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

The Globe and Mail interviews A.M. Dellamonica on occasion of the publication of her latest novel.

Scott Dadich announces Wired science fiction dedicated issue 🙂

The changing faces of science fiction and fantasy. The New Inquiry

Sheila Liming shares her memories of Octavia Butler, neighbour. Public Books

Martin Shaw shares his midwinter night’s dream. Medium

Maria Alexander introduces us to the witches of winter. Tor.com

James Whitbrook has this breaking news: David Tennant is the voice of Scrooge McDuck in the rebooted Ducktales. i09

Tilda Swinton sent Jezebel the unedited email exchange between her and Margaret Cho about Doctor Strange, diversity, and whitewashing. Rich Juzwiak reports.

Evan Narcisse: the Sense8 Christmas special says, “happy fucking New Year.” Phil and I are FURIOUSLY HAPPY! i09

Happy holidays to everyone!

We’ll see you back here, next week, for more writerly goodness 🙂

tipsday2016

WorldCon 2016: Oceans, the wettest frontier

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Christopher Weuve (moderator), Patricia MacEwen, James Cambias, Alyx Dellamonica, Laurel Anne Hill

oceans

Yeah, I know this was supposed to be up yesterday, but yesterday, I finished off my Christmas shopping and then went to a friend’s party (at which I got hammed—don’t worry, it’s a rare occurrence; I think I just had to get some post-shopping/renovation celebration in 😉 ) so I didn’t get much writing done at all.

Life happens.

CW: There’s more space-based science fiction out there than water-based science fiction.

JC: But there are more people who will know if you get it wrong under water than in space.

CW: What, or who, was your inspiration? Frederick Pohl was one of mine.

PM: Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

AD: Alan Dean Foster. Peter Watts’ Starfish.

LAH: Starfish impressed me with this sentiment: the underwater world is so compelling that even if it scares you, you can’t wait to go back.

JC: There was a boom in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I didn’t enjoy most of it. The contemporary non-fiction on the topic was fascinating, though.

PM: Jacques Cousteau’s grandson has a new book out.

LAH: I met Jacques Cousteau. He was my idol. Few women dove in those days.

CW: James, what was it that left you wanting in the fiction?

JC: The inherent contradiction that the solution to overpopulation was to exploit the continental shelf.

PM: They weren’t talking about the future health of the oceans, or the extinctions that were already happening.

AD: I’m working on a series in which the crisis is the deoxygenation of the oceans.

PM: Canfield makes dire predictions about the future of the oceans.

LAH: Stung!, by Lisa-Ann Gershwin is about the jellyfish overpopulation and what it’s doing to the oceans.

AD: I’ve never had a distaste for ocean-based science fiction. I grew up in the prairies and then moved to Vancouver. I was captivated. The ocean is the connective tissue of planetary economy.

PM: I had no trouble buying into the ocean-based science fiction I’ve seen, but there are things missing. Other sensory systems are a fascinating area. If there’s life on Europa and it has magnetic sensing organs, they’d feel god [Jupiter] passing by every 36 hours. There wouldn’t be a single atheist among them.

CW: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a seminal influence.

LAH: It was impressive. There was a 1945 movie made from the novel.

PM: Verne based it on a real French submarine. It was even called the Nautilus. In the 1800’s they had one they called the turtle. It was intended to scuttle ships, but couldn’t drill through the steel hulls.

CW: there’s no physical evidence that the turtle ever existed, though.

JC: The drive design in The Hunt for Red October, the caterpillar, was more plausible.

AD: I’m as interested in sailing, in the romance of rigging and sail, as I am in the underwater aspect.

JC: The translations of Verne’s work left out the technical aspects of submarines, how they worked.

LAH: His Majesty’s Dragon from the Temeraire series has some good naval battles.

AD: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series.

PM: One of the things people tend to gloss over is that when you’re living on board a ship, you’re living in cramped quarters.

AD: It’s a great opportunity for character development and conflict.

JC: The Last Ship is a current attempt at ocean-based science fiction.

PM: Stephen Baxter’s Flood and Brin’s Uplift.

[Very sorry. Not sure who said the following. The ideas were coming fast and furious, but they were interesting ideas, so I had to get some of them down.]

  • Alternate means of communication underwater. Hand signals make sense, but chromatophors would be better.
  • Sub-harmonic or sonic communication.
  • Phosphorescence.
  • Infrared.
  • Plastic garbage is killing off the plankton, which is the basis of the oceanic food chain. They’re developing bacteria that eat plastic. They’re also looking at harvesters that collect plastic and convert it to diesel fuel.

And that was time.

Next Saturday is Christmas Eve, but I’ll still attempt to get my post out on time. Here’s the title for a teaser: Beyond, fantasy creation for the bold.

Be well until next week!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 4-10, 2016

Time to get that mental corn a-poppin’!

Viola Desmond is chosen as the first Canadian woman on the ten dollar bill. CBC

Rossalyn Warren lists seventeen badass women that made a difference in 2016. Buzzfeed

Brene Brown on the importance of boundaries:

 

Recent grads share their college experiences on NPR.

David Amsden tells the tale of the gridiron gangster: how a vigilante gambler took down an alleged crime boss. Rolling Stone

Prince EA: Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

 

David Szondy reports on how diamonds can turn nuclear waste into nuclear batteries. New Atlas

Nicola Davis reports on the feathered dinosaur tail preserved in amber and what it’s taught us about evolution. The Guardian

Erin Ross: pets help people manage the pain of serious mental illness. NPR

With that in mind, here are some lazy cats:

 

Meet Radamenes, the caretaker cat:

 

Juniper Foxx befriends Moose, the dog:

 

And that’s your edutainment for the week 😉

See you Saturday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 4-10, 2016

Think I’m still in recovery from NaNoWriMo.

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 54: story events that don’t move the plot. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate shares her advice on what to do when your antagonist takes over your story.

Densie Webb shares her experience receiving (and addressing) the dreaded editorial letter. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass: putting your purpose on the page. Writer Unboxed

Lisa Cron explains why story is more important now than ever before. Writer Unboxed

Jamie Raintree reviews Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.

Susan Spann returns to Writers in the Storm with this post on finding your agent match.

Gabriela Pereira goes solo on this edition of DIYMFA radio: platform doesn’t have to be painful.

J.M. Frey writes about the terror of the mushy middle book. Fuse Literary

Judith B. Herman lists 25 words that are their own opposites. Mental Floss

Inderjeet Mani: when robots read books. Aeon

I hope you enjoyed your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

See you Thursday for some thoughty!

tipsday2016

WorldCon 2016: Mythology as the basis for speculative fiction

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

kclibrarypl

Panellists: Ada Palmer, Jeffrey Cook, Sheila Finch (moderator), David Farnell, Katie Daniels

SF: Joseph Campbell said that myth and metaphor are the language of dreams. How important is myth in speculative fiction?

JC: The basis of myth is exploration and explanation.

KD: Myth is what endures.

DF: Myth is the story. Science is the vehicle. Even hard science fiction follows mythic patterns.

SF: It’s easy to see the hero’s journey play out in fantasy.

AP: At one point in Jo Walton’s The Just City, a Platonist explains a spaceship to aliens. Myth helps us conceive of alien concepts and means of communication.

JC: Useful myths are universal. They allow us to understand other cultures.

KD: We may have to define most useful. Are we talking about Prometheus or Jason and the Argonauts?

AP: The most useful myths can invoke craftsmanship, finesse.

DF: Do tropes emerge from myths? If you’re writing about Japanese mythology, it’s helpful to dig into the literature and not restrict yourself to what you see in manga.

SF: Jung said that myth conveys a sense of the numinous. They say something different to each person.

DF: Here’s one Japanese myth: the weaver goddess and a cowbird fall in love and stop doing their respective jobs. The Emperor of Heaven separates them, but allows them to reunite in the rainy season. It’s very Romeo and Juliet.

Q: 2001 and Star Wars are myths in their own rights.

AP: Some myths are devoid of awe. Others are full of it. Myths are the metaphysical reality of a world.

Q: What are some of the main themes of myth?

DF: How to deal with death.

JC: A quest of favours. [Mel’s note: In order to achieve the story goal, the protagonist must provide each character who helps her with something they want or need. Things generally get more complicated, and more humorous, as the story progresses, and the series of favours can even be a chain, with the satisfying of one favour being dependent on all the others before. Sometimes the favours cannot be granted until the ultimate goal is accomplished, and then everything falls into place.]

AP: Look for the big questions. Why is there evil? What is death?

And that was time.

Next week: Oceans, the wettest frontier.