The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 3

We resume the tale of the WXR Baltic cruise on Tuesday, August 1st, day four.

I woke up at ridiculous o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I dealt with the morning’s email, social media, and blog reading, got up and dressed for the day, and went out onto the balcony with my lap top to work on my revisions.

We were approaching Stockholm, having sailed all night, and I was struck by the landscape. It looked just like northern Ontario. I could have been on Georgian Bay or in the Nipissing Narrows. So, of course, I took some pictures 🙂

JustLikeHome

It was the second of four consecutive port tour days and the early rising was a good thing as I had to get ready for my day in Stockholm.

StGeorgeandtheDragon

Our tour took us into the old town (every major city in Europe has one, apparently) for a walking tour. We saw the parliament and a couple of old churches, had the opportunity to get some souvenirs, and then we were off to Skansen.

DragonWaterspoutCoolDoor

Skansen is basically a Viking pioneer village. We toured some of the old farms there, saw a windmill, church, and old pillory (the pole they chained miscreants to for public punishment—like stocks). While we didn’t have time to see them, they had heritage craftspeople, and reindeer, which a group ran off to see—and were almost too late to catch the bus to our next destination (!)

Skansen

We then went to the Vasa museum. The Vasa was an enormous war ship, commissioned by the then king of Sweden. Against the advice and better judgement of his shipbuilders, he ordered a third deck of gun ports. This severely overbalanced the ship and the gun ports were too close to water level.

VASA

The Vasa’s maiden voyage lasted 15 minutes and she sank in the silty harbour where she sat for 300 years until salvage crews were able to raise her. The ship was remarkably preserved by the silt and the Vasa museum has been built around the salvaged ship to tell the tragic tale of one king’s hubris.

We got back to the Fantasia a little late and, after dropping my goodies off at my stateroom, I ran down to catch most of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s presentation on maintaining a writer’s life. It was about setting and tracking writerly goals, not word count goals, but career goals.

First, he said to blue sky a goal. His included a house on the French Riviera 🙂 Then, you scale down to five years, then one, and finally break your year up into monthly goals. The important thing is to assess your progress.

At the end of each day, review what you accomplished, and what you didn’t, without judgement. Adjust your goals accordingly. Unexpected things are always going to happen. The point is to adjust course in a way that will facilitate success. Always take the positive view.

Thomas’s presentation appealed to an organized, goal-oriented person like me. I didn’t dive in and create a plan immediately, but I think I’m going to work on one for next year, taking account for how my experiments of the past couple of years have gone.

At dinner that night, I sat at Dan Wells’ table, and again, I enjoyed getting to know one of our hosts, more of my fellow participants, and the conversations we had about our work and goals.

After dinner, I went to the upper deck to take a picture of the sunset as we travelled to Estonia.

SunsetDay4

The next day was our tour of Tallinn, which I think was one of the port cities I enjoyed the most. We started with the amphitheatre where the annual song festival takes place. Apparently choirs from all over the world perform there, as well as many popular music bands.

We drove around the harbour to walk on the shore, saw a war memorial, and an old abbey which was being restored.

The centrepiece of the tour was the old city. In the case of Tallinn, the old city is completely surrounded by a wall, which still stands. It’s a place you have to walk through to appreciate. All the old buildings, the narrow, winding, and ascending laneways, the churches, the old merchant houses, the excavated headstones of Estonian notables.

And the market square. After the walking tour of the old town was complete, we were given thirty minutes to wander and shop. I bought most of the gifts I brought back for family and friends there and a few things for myself.

TallinnWall1TallinnWall3

Back on the ship, I attended Ken Liu’s presentation on how to work with your translator.

That night’s dinner was dubbed the elegant night. I sat with a table of other participants, most of whom I hadn’t yet met, and had another enjoyable night of camaraderie and conversation.

Once more, I took a picture of the sunset.

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The next day was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia … which I’ll save for my fourth and final instalment of my WXR cruise adventure 🙂

I hope everyone in Florida is safe, tonight.

Until next time, be kind, be well, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

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WorldCon 2016: Political worldbuilding in 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.

PoliticalWB

Panellists: Bennett Coles, Christopher Kastensmidt (moderator), Ken Liu, Ada Palmer, Mari Kotani

Joined in progress …

KL: I’d recommend Malka Older’s Infomocracy.

AP: Historically, monarchy is attempted repeatedly. Even after the French Revolution there have been two monarchies. There have also been failed attempts at democracy. There was a Polish city that became a haven for heretics. All of this successive change creates layers of symbology.

KL: Narratives of the past inform the future. The ideal of the Roman Republic is the basis of modern democracy but the reality of ancient Rome was nothing like the ideal.

MK: Godzilla is a political movie at heart. It grew out of the horror of Hiroshima. Now we have Fukushima.

CK: What about the process of political worldbuilding? What makes it effective?

BC: The vast majority of any worldbuilding will never appear on the page but you have to work it all out. Wars are started for reasons. Those reasons could be economic, religious, political, or ideological. Battlestar Galactica is such a political story. Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers from this question: what if our heroes are fighting on the wrong side?

KL: You have to explore and categorize the problems of your milieu. How does political technology, like lobby groups, solve some of those problems? What other problems do they bring to bear? Look to history. Coups d’états are not used in the west (why not?), but other countries elsewhere in the world have them all the time.

AP: Work out more political detail then you need. Compare the world two centuries ago to the world that exists now. The structure of a family has changed over time. The family used to be not just the extended family, but also the servants. Then the nuclear family became the dominant domestic arrangement. Extend that into the future. Sometimes not mentioning something is telling. If there is news from every country but America—what happened?

BC: You have to be consistent. You have to know your world well enough to accommodate creative change. Starship Troopers has fascist trappings.

MK: Shin Godzilla. Shin means this Godzilla is true or new. It’s a katagana character, not a hiragana character. Disaster in diaspora stimulates nationalism.

KL: In “Folding Beijing,” the city itself is a metaphor. There are three dimensions, one for each class. The largest class is the useless class. By journeying through the three dimensions, the protagonist gains a deeper understanding of the way things are. He finds hope without change.

AP: The Gundam series was a way to discuss WWII. Gundam Seed was the same for 9/11.

And that was time.

Next weekend, it’ll be April and time for another next chapter update.

Until next I blog, y’all be well, be kind, and stay strong.

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!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 3-9, 2016

Wahoo! Is it possible there’s even more writerly goodness in here then there was last week? Hella yeah!

More exciting local news: Sudbury is part of Reading Town 2016 (think Hockey Town with books) 🙂

 

Most common writing mistakes, part 50: Info dumps (and how to fix them). K.M. Weiland. Helping writers become authors.

Liz Bureman looks at parataxis and hypotaxis (and how Greek makes you a better writer). The Write Practice.

Sara Letourneau explores how to develop theme in your stories through symbolism. DIYMFA.

Donald Maass discusses relevance for Writer Unboxed.

Juliet Marillier writes about the different responses you can (and should) have to an editorial report. Writer Unboxed.

Roz Morris asks, must plot twists always be misfortunes or disasters? And, where does your story end? Nail you novel.

Daniel José Older offers twelve fundamentals of writing the other (and the self). Buzzfeed.

Marcy Kennedy explores how to read as a writer (part 1).

Real writers don’t self-publish, part two. Kristen Lamb shares her further thoughts on the issue.

Mike Shatzkin wonders what will happen to high-cost non-fiction in the evolving indie world.

C.S. Lakin points out the need for persistence in your writing journey. Live, write, thrive.

Janice Hardy shares her thoughts on challenging yourself, versus setting yourself up to fail. Fiction University.

Kameron Hurley writes about career milestones and prioritizing projects.

Catherine Ryan Howard recounts how the idea for her novel Distress Signals evolved.

How to create a better writing space (and other thoughts on writing). Avoiding Atrophy.

Jennie Nash shares her one page book planner on Kobo Writing Life.

Sarah Selecky shares more writing retreats for your wish list.

Speaking of writing retreats, my friend, Kim Fahner, has just spent the week in Banff with Lawrence Hill. Here are her posts on the experience: Making time to write, and Writing retreats and the friends you meet.

“Mad Men” creator, Matthew Weiner’s reassuring life advice for struggling artists. Fast Company.

Sword and Laser: Interview with Ken Liu.

 

The Writes of Women: a celebration of female writers and their work.

Stephen Greenblatt explores how Shakespeare lives now for The New York Review of Books.

A Shakespeare first folio was discovered on the Isle of Bute, just in time for the Bard’s 400th anniversary. The New York Times.

The history of typography. Ben Barrett-Forrest.

 

Christopher Zumski Finke discovers what Battlestar Galactica teaches us about the militarization of police. Yes! Magazine.

Rogue One teaser trailer.

 

Kate Spencer says, hey dudes, you should be watching Outlander. Esquire.

And that should keep you busy for a while (!)

See you on Thursday for a video heavy dose of thoughty edutainment 🙂

Tipsday