Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Go to Hell


"Oh, God bless you."

"Ah. Ah, go to Hell."


"Go to Hell. What's wrong with that? Hell's the absence of God, and God's not real, so we're already there. It's a meaningless saying, like 'God bless you.'"

"Oh, go fuck yourself."

"Now that's rude."

"Not really. You clearly enjoy masturbatory nonsense, so I'm pretty much telling you to do what you're already doing. Peace be with you."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Death Becomes They

People have died for as long as imagination has existed. Death is a franchise that services every religion and spirituality, but it's more of a commerce thing. When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died, he became a set of box seats at an undisclosed opera house. When Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup died, he became a song – I can't tell you which because of afterlife copyright issues, but it's a good one. Underrated, actually.

Many artists become works. Ella Fitzgerald became a tune that homeless children in Hudson, New York used to entertain each other, while Rodney Dangerfield became a Yo Mama joke. It's hard to become your own eulogy, and thus it's a prized afterlife.

But it's not the only option. William Penn became a doorstop, which seems blasphemous to some, unless you were privy to some of the conversations he let drafts into.

Albert Einstein became an equation, and not the one you'd expect. He became "2 + 2 = ?" on the first test that a young boy was taking. That boy is a physicist now. There's a bureau looking into whether that's permissible.

Lao Tzu became a road, but one that cannot be walked.

You don't have to be famous for your death to mean something. I'm fairly certain the telegraph, electric battery and iPad were built out of people you've never heard of. A funny kid who never did more than sketch clouds became the kite Benjamin Franklin flew to test his theory of lightning – or he turned into the folk tale about it. I'll have to look that up.

Often the living do the dead wrong. A river of starvation victims became an ocean of grain – though because there is no reincarnation, live people must harvest and deliver that grain in this life. They must or they dishonor what the dead become.

Many people die angry or hurt, which is why there are so many bullets in the world. Every modern war has been a thunderstorm of the deceased yelling about their unfair shake. Anyone would rather become vengeance, but you can't become an intangible. That's just not possible. Your physicality begets a physicality, and it's your lot to become a bullet fired at the wrong person. The living don't even know how unhappy murder makes the world.

You can make the dead sing in sowing a better world from their contributions, or you can make them regret they ever existed. It is all in how you use their memory.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Rescuing Pacific Rim

Dear Stacker Pentecost,

I notice that you are devoting your life to fighting the giant enemies of civilization. As a mechanical being that has not only spent its entire existence in this service, but was actually built for it, I am deeply sympathetic to your cause and wish your organization the best of luck.

I actually wish you more than luck for, as someone built to help in this struggle, it's often been an issue that I was not built larger. Like my creators, you seem to have constructed robot armors at approximately the same height and mass as the monsters you face. Unlike my creators, though, you seem to have at least four times the resources, given that you have four machines, where there is only one of me. I know, also, that you have several outdated machines of similar dimensions, and all of these are also similar to the titanic crabs, pterodactyls and whatever the glowing squidy thing was.

Have you ever considered taking all the material for several machines and making one that was much bigger than the giant monsters you face? Given that your plan of attack is always fisticuffs (my favorite professional approach, as well), punching the things to death would be considerably easier if they were much smaller than you. Many have been the days on which I wished I hadn't been built to the specifications, down to the meter, of the monster I had to pursue. If only I was as much bigger than him as he was than my creators, then the fight would have been over very quickly, perhaps leaving you time to get that nice Asian lady some psychotherapy.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ReaderCon 2013 Recap

I attended my first ReaderCon this weekend. ReaderCon is a lovely Speculative Fiction convention in Massachusetts, this year held on the ground floor of its host hotel. The Marriott was under construction, which meant no bar, no Irish pub and fairly jammed hallways. However, the hundreds of visitors were remarkably polite and maybe the best crowd I've ever seen when it comes to not stopping two paces in front of a door. Other cons take note: it's not that hard to walk out of the flow of traffic before pausing to check your iPhone.

Being a newcomer, I missed the controversies about sexual harassment at previous ReaderCons. They seem to have confronted this ardently by implementing a clear policy on prohibited behavior and greenlighting at least a dozen panels that critiqued various angles on privilege. There were two consecutive panels on "Writing Others" (after the second, John De Lucca joked that the room was hosting panels like this all the way to dinner),"Egalitarian Character Trauma," "The Gender of Reading Shame," "Agency and Gender," "Sociolinguistics in SF/F," and many more. Such topics fascinate and always worry me, and so I attended three on my first day. Part was for the pleasure of hearing so many smart critical thinkers weigh in, like Anil Menon, Rose Lemberg and Daniel Jose Older. And part was to keep challenging my notions of inclusion and compassion.

But the highlights of conventions are usually face-to-face exchanges. It was good to meet Neil Clarke and thank him for running such a fine venue as Clarkesworld. I met Scott Lynch three separate times; he's the author of The Lies of Locke Lamora, one of my all-time favorite debut novels, and a very sweet man. He was alerted that he'd been signed to do a reading five minutes before it started, and ran in to call it off when he saw the people outside.

"Are you guys here for me...?" he asked with an adorable pity. In a minute he convinced himself to grab his laptop and improvise a reading for the seven people who'd waited it out. In an amazing event of spiritual dissonance, he then settled in to read about a thief tyrant breaking the spirits of orphans. Then he stayed late to take questions.

I attended two "kaffeeklatches," which is German for "a dozen of your fans sit around drinking with you." One was with the brilliant short story writer Ken Liu, who went frank and deep into his anxieties over copyright law and transition into longer works like novels. I am a huge sucker for earnest shop talk. I gained an entire additional level of respect for Liu in how much he was willing to reveal about his personal projects and even reading habits. Many of the best parts of panels across ReaderCon had writers and editors similarly letting you in on their internal lives regarding why a social issue scares them or excites them to type faster. I probably saw more people talking like that than at any other convention I've yet hit. And there's always more to be learned from hitting intimate readings and studying how authors present themselves.

The capper on my weekend was a special dinner with all of the Viable Paradise students and alums in the area. We assembled at a nearby Thai restaraunt, and I got my first chance to meet my roommate and chat about kaiju fiction. We walked in just late enough to miss all 24 seats at the table and ate in the adjacent corner next to the giant VP conversation, which still seems to funny to me. Two VP alums, Kate and Fran, sat with us and dropped some knowledge about pacing and getting the most out of the workshop. I'm going to strive to take Fran's advice to rise early and go for dawn walks on the pebble beach.

Especially for its cramped space, ReaderCon did a wonderful job of feeling open and having plenty of events available. It's a convention I'm marking to try to hit again next year. The only thing I'd change is not commuting into the hotel every day. By the lunch drive on Saturday, I averaged 400 feet of road every fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Big Brother and his Faithful Five

Established in 1948 to defend our country from a world in stark peril, they are the First Family of National Security.

Big Brother: a born leader, Big Brother's skin is as invulnerable as his righteousness. Possessed of the superhuman strength to keep the nation aloft, he is on constant patrol to prevent his countrymen to prevent them from harm. Only those who do wrong have anything to fear.

The Unknown Soldier: he's been slain in every foreign war, he'll fall in every one to come, and he never ceases to inspire. Where is he buried? Where is his tomb? It is in all our hearts. He'll sacrifice for so long as we are at war – and we have always been at war against injustice!

Interrogirl: your safety is always on her mind – and so are you! The world's foremost telepath is constantly scanning brainwaves for signs of danger from her maximum security detention center.

The Prism: a technopath of the highest order, he knows what friends you'll add to that app before you've even downloaded it. Never forget to add him!

Together these five stand vigilant on every frontier of conflict. They're on distant shores, on our streets and in our homes, keeping the world exactly as it should be. They make justice count – to five!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Last Eight Books I Abandoned and The Psychology of Abandonment

Recently an interesting infographic has been circulating from Goodreads. Elizabeth K. Chandler tried to sort out why readers continue reading or give up on a book, peppered with interesting quotes from a few of the participants. It caused me to reflect on the books I've given up this year.

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