Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lord of the Rings : Fellowship of the Read - Book 1, Chapter 4

Our hobbits wake rested and refreshed, with no sign of the elves except breakfast (clearly the elves are not only fantastic hosts but know hobbits).

This is a rather thoughtful bunch of hobbits.  What with Frodo ruminating over things (thinking during breakfast, of all things), Sam reflecting on the elves, and Pippin's rather astute observations about the whole situation.  I actually think that Sam and Pippin have a better handle on what's going on than Frodo, be it that the Ring is sewing confusion in his mind or he's dealing with the weight of ring bearer and realization of how dire the situation may be.  Pippin nails it with his comment about the importance of the rider's sniffing, and Sam feels he has to go, he knows they have a long way to go and will face danger, but that he has "something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire."

The reflections on the elves is perhaps the most telling of elven interactions so far (including The Hobbit).  This meeting started out with jest and a playful mien on the part of the high elves, one that was only broken by Pippin's mention of the black rider.  The visiting and feasting was all told from Frodo's point of view, now we get the thoughts and musings of the others.  As Sam puts it, the elves are "a bit above my likes and dislikes."  And maybe Gildor would have proved evasive when asked about the "sniffing," but then Frodo was rather evasive himself.

Sam's proclamations of accompaniment and protection does seem quaint and amusing in the current light.  As far as heroes and saviors go, Sam is even more unlikely than Frodo (or Bilbo, and he was quite unlikely).  However, as could be considered a refrain even this early on in The Lord of the Rings, "Courage is found in unexpected places."

Wisely, they continue their journey through the woods, with a distance road sighting of a black rider reinforcing their choice.  Their meanderings take them onto the land of a Farmer Maggot, which beyond being a somewhat awkward family name, stands out in Frodo's memory as something of a terror.  As it turns out, the fear was well earned and deserved, what with Frodo making a nuisance of himself stealing mushrooms from the farm.  "I recollect the time when young Frodo Baggins was one of the worst young rascals of Buckland," but that Farmer Maggot is a rather delightful family man who's insular hobbit nature serves them all well in the face of encounters with a black rider.  His comment about the strangeness of Hobbiton folk did crack me up some, with what Hobbiton folks say about everyone else.

What does make Farmer Maggot stand out is his pointed lack of interest in their activities.  A good bit of this is enlightened self-interest, since what he doesn't know he can't be dragged into.  However, he does Frodo and company a great kindness in transporting them discreetly down the the road, and as it happened to be right into the company of Merry Brandybuck.

The gift of mushrooms was a nice touch.

Most of this chapter does not appear in the film (scene title regardless).  But this is where our quartet meets up, and the fear of Farmer Maggot's (and his dogs') retribution for stealing appears.  We also get the "sniffing" black rider, and Frodo's overwhelming compulsion to don the ring from the previous chapter.  Extra flourishes were added (like the drawing out of insects and an almost hallucinatory visual effect) that really ramp up the tension of the encounter.

The trimming and compressing of plot for the most part works for me.  These are dense chapters, and the plot doesn't overall suffer from these changes.  What really stands out in difference is the establishment of Merry and Pippin as the troublemakers, stealing from Farmer Maggot and getting them all chased off the lands.  To this point in the book, Merry and Pippin have been incredibly steadfast and helpful to Frodo, even respecting his need for privacy without digging deeply.  While it does make Merry and Pippin into the official comic relief, and Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan embody their roles fantastically, but I think in the long run it proves detrimental to Frodo's character with some of his depth stripped away.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Link Smorgasbord, January 2016

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2016? Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1959 
A general reminder and very informative.

Lawrence Lessig: Laws that strangle creativity
Really good video

Lifting the Veil on the New York Public Library’s Erotica Collection
On the cultural importance of erotic materials when looking on society.

Library of Congress Anoints Graphic Novelist as Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

'Diary of Anne Frank' Published Online as Copyright Expires
This whole copyright case was interesting to follow, and obviously one with a lot of emotional charge.

The Force Awakens RPG Madness
Hahahaha, so much yes.  I went to see The Force Awakens with my Star Wars group, and we spent a lot of the film thinking "that's something Team Stupid would do... oh I think we DID do that one..."

The librarians are coming to party
Wish I was able to attend ALA Midwinter this year, especially as is it's so close.  I love how the article starts though.  :D

The long goodbye to Internet Explorer

NYPL: Public Domain Collections
Over 180,000 items in their Digital Collections in the public domain.  Really awesome stuff here.

I Can Haz Copyright Infringement? Internet Memes And Intellectual Property Risks
Great to read, and important.

3D Systems abandons its Cube printers, but DRM means you can't buy filament from anyone else
DRM, 3D printing, and obsolescence.

Cosplay, Copyright and Fair Use
Pretty much exactly what the title implies, as related to a recent court case.

[Book Review] The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road

The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road / Abby Bernstein (Powell's Books)

I've always had a weird relationship with the Mad Max franchise.  It always struck me as something powerful, but it also never made ANY sense to me.  I've seen Road Warrior a number of times and it's not a particularly complicated story line and has pretty straightforward action and I'm always going "what is going on here?"  Of course, some of that might actually be part of the point...

As I've gotten older (plus experienced some emotional trauma), I've also gained a level of squeamishness that adds a layer of difficulty in watching at least the first two films.  This left me largely adoring Mad Max in theory or from afar.

Yet I was excited about Fury Road.  Maybe it has something to do with my love of cars?  The Fast and Furious films are certainly a guilty pleasure for me (particularly as they push the bounds of how few fucks they have to give and go more and more over the top).  Maybe it was the over-the-top post-apocalyptic punk glamour?  It wasn't particularly Tom Hardy, nothing against him, but he's never been an actor that I've had strong associations with regardless of wonderful performances in many movies.   Actually, I do have a strong association with Tom Hardy, I always thing "did he write a whole bunch of classic novels?"  In this case, I attribute that to me being horrible with names and not necessarily just because I tend towards bookish (I mean, I have to struggle to keep Les Paul and Les Claypool straight).

Then I saw Fury Road in the theaters and was floored.  I know it's basically a two hour car chase through the desert, I don't care.  The layers, the story, the acting, the action, the stunts, the cars... beautiful.  I didn't expect the film to be beautiful.  The fact that it also has a strong feminist message, passes the Bechdel test, has layered female characters, and a positive representation of disability (Furiosia doesn't need two hands to beat you) was all just icing on the delicious cake for me.  Though fantastic icing, I have to say.

Every time I learn more about the making of the film I'm blown away.  I've had close to a year at this point to learn about the reliance on practical effects, snippets of character backstory, the stunt work, the building of the cars, and this The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road was still worth reading.

The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road is full of stills, photographs, and concept art.  It tells of the journey of making Fury Road and shares about the individual characters themselves.  There are a few flaws, some bad placement and coloring of text over images making it hard to read, but by and large a very rich and easy to follow book.

Monday, February 1, 2016

[Book Display] Book Display

November is NaNoWriMo, which makes for as good of a theme inspiration as any.  Books concerning authors, writing, librarians, libraries, and books.  And I realize that I very well could also include Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on this list, but considering the past three displays featured a Harry Potter title, I'm leaving it off here.

I also then failed to post this for months, for reasons involving failing to transfer the photograph to a computer whenever I thought of it, and then finally deciding the display was not nearly exciting enough visually to deserve a photo.  When I get to posting the also lamentably late Dec display there will likely be a photo because it's a prettier than normal, and the Feb display will get one as well.  Beyond that, we'll see.

I did make use of this comic though:

Assorted books, across genres, styles, and audiences:
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library / Chris Grabenstein
  • The Book of Speculation / Erika Swyler 
  • The Library at Mount Char / Scott Hawkins
  • Mr.Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore / Robin Sloan
  • Library Mouse / Daniel Kirk
  • On writing : a memoir of the craft / Stephen King
  • Bird by bird : some instructions on writing and life / Anne Lamott
  • Handling the truth : on the writing of memoir / Beth Kephart
  • Blood on the forehead : what I know about writing / M. E. Kerr
  • Writing and enjoying haiku : a hands-on guide / Jane Reichhold
  • Careers for writers & others who have a way with words / Robert W. Bly
  • Basket Case / Carl Hiassen
  • Inventing Mark Twain : the lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemins / Andrey Jay Hoffman
  • How to write your life story : the complete guide to creating your personal memoir / Karen Ulrich
  • A slip of the keyboard : collected nonfiction / Terry Pratchett
  • Follies of God : Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog / James Grissom
  • Naked Heat (Nikki Heat) / Richard Castle
  • Little Red Writing / Joan Holub & Melissa Sweet
  • A beginning, a muddle, and the end : the right way to write writing / Avi
  • Writing romances : a handbook by the Romance Writers of America / Rita Gallagher & Rita Clay Estrada
  • D.W.'s library card / Marc Tolon Brown
  • Rocket writes a story / Tad Hills
  • The geometry of love / Jessica Levine
  • I, Librarian (Rex Libris) / James Turner
  • Abhorsen (Old Kingdom/Abhorsen) / Garth Nix
  • Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman) / Neil Gaiman
  • First among sequels (Thursday Next) / Jasper Fforde
  • The woman who died a lot (Thursday Next) / Jasper Fforde
  • Inkheart (Inkheart) / Cornelia Caroline Funke
  • Mr. Putter & Tabby write the book / Cynthia Rylant
  • Start your own freelance writing business and more : copywriter, proofreader, copy editor, journalist / George Sheldon 
  • Picture writing : a new approach to writing for kids and teens / Anastasia Suen
  • Bliss : writing to find your true self / Katherine M. Ramsland
  • A guide for the writing of local history / John Cumming
  • Worlds of wonder : how to write science fiction and fantasy / David Gerrold
  • Escaping into the open : the art of writing true / Elizabeth Berg
  • The Wishing Spell (The land of stories) / Chris Colfer
  • Julie & Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen / Julie Powell
  • Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel / Judith Morgan & Neil Morgan
  • The storied life of A. J. Fikry / Gabrielle Zevin
  • A widow for one year / John Irving
  • The last hero / Terry Pratchett
  • Off the page / Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
  • Angelheaded hipster : a life of Jack Kerouac / Steve Turner
  • The book thief / Markus Zusak
  • Fahrenheit 451 / Ray Bradbury
  • Wonderbook : the illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction / Jeff VanderMeer & Jeremy Zerfoss
  • Killer librarian / Mary Lou Kirwin
  • The bookstore / Deborah Meyler
  • My bookstore : writers celebrate their favorite places to browse, read, and shop / Ronald Rice (ed) & Leif Parsons (ill)
  • Shelf life : romance, mystery, drama, and other page-turning adventures from a year in a bookstore / Suzanne Strempek Shea
  • An arsonist's guide to writers' homes in New England / Brock Clarke
  • Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell
  • The word exchange / Alena Graedon
  • The public library : a photographic essay by Robert Dawson / Robert Dawson
  • 1001 books you must read before you die / Peter Boxall (ed)
  • The rover (The rover) / Mel Odom
  • When memory speaks : reflections on autobiography / Jill Ker Conway
  • The night bookmobile / Audrey Niffenegger
  • Smoke Screen (A Dido Hoare mystery) / Marianne Macdonald
  • Booked to die (Cliff Janeway) / John Dunning
  • The angel's game / Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n
  • A window opens / Elisabeth Egan
A few movies made it on to the display (sadly, we don't have Buffy in our collection):
  • The Mummy
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Princess Bride
Some additional books that would have also worked:
  • Libriomancer (series) / Jim C. Hines
  • Un Lun Dun / China Mieville
  • Snowcrash / Neil Stephenson
  • The Library Dragon / Carmen Agra Deedy & Michael P. White
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter) / J. K. Rowling
  • Nursery Crime (series) / Jasper Fforde

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lord of the Rings : Fellowship of the Read - Book 1, Chapter 3

Sometimes the first steps are the hardest, and that certainly seems to describe Frodo's dilemma.  Now that the conclusion has been drawn that he must take the ring away from the Shire, he drags his feet in making plans and preparations.  After several weeks Gandalf pushes Frodo to make solid plans, with an agreed on leaving date on his 50th birthday, several months away.  Turns out I made a mistake in chapter two, I read it as his 50th birthday had passed, not that it was still approaching.  While Gandalf accepts the date, he is quite adamant that Frodo and Samwise leave no later than September 22nd.  Taking care to not cause gossip is important, but they are now running against the clock.

Of course, it's not just a matter of leaving, but having a place to go, and to where else but Rivendell?  Now there's a location both Frodo and Sam can look forward to visiting, and one that serves Gandalf's purposes well.  I think it's particularly interesting that Gandalf comments on the growing peril of the journey.  True, in The Hobbit, Bilbo and company encounter the trolls, but that was considered an oddity, and on the journey home there were no dangers between Rivendell and the Shire.  Now the journey through civilization to the Last Homely House is marked as dangerous enough to make note of it.

None of them want gossip about Frodo leaving, at least leaving the Shire.  With an enemy at large seeking the ring, the last thing they want to do is to bring attention to their journey.  That being said, they definitely create quite a stir about Frodo's relocation within the Shire.  The selling of Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins probably caused nearly as much gossip as Bilbo's return from presumed death regardless of the rather sensible reason of moving to a smaller home out near his extended family.

If you're only familiar with the film, much of this chapter is going to seem completely out of left field.  For the most part, this chapter is completely excised from the movie.  Honestly, as someone who has read the books several times many of the details slip through my memory.  More than anything the plot involving Frodo moving to Crickhollow, accompanied by Sam as a gardner, serves to show quite how large the Shire is, something that I've never gotten from either the movies or The Hobbit.

Several months after Gandalf has left, with no word despite his promises to return, Frodo turns fifty and walks from Hobbiton to Bucklebury Ferry with Samwise and Pippin.  The excuse of being tired of nosy neighbors works well, as Frodo has reason to feel that beyond the Ring.  The arrival of a mysterious black cloaked rider questioning the Gaffer about a Mr. Baggins just makes the caution all the more called for.

The journey isn't all darkness and hinted at dread.  A little aside concerning a fox most puzzled and amused by the camping hobbits makes for a moment of levity up against the dreadful and compelling encounters with the black rider along the road.  And something is certainly in the air, with the same song coming to Frodo as did to Bilbo, about the journey on the road.  Perhaps this lends credence to Gandalf's belief that there are forces beyond that of the Ring and Sauron at work in the matter at hand.

Their meeting with the elves also hints at forces beyond that of simple chance.  Not just any elves, but high elves by their singing of Elbereth, their silver light and silver voices banishing the black rider as if it never was.  In fact their mien is one of teasing, similar to the music of the elves at Rivendell in The Hobbit, until Pippin's mention of the black rider catches them off guard and sombers their mood.

Gildor knows something of what lies ahead of Frodo, even if he does not know in full what Frodo bears with him that very moment.  It's hard to tell exactly what he knows and does not, with the games that elves play to hide their knowledge.  We do know that news of Gandalf's absence was unknown to them before, and upsetting to learn now, and while he will not share fully, we know that certain terror lies ahead.

The elves provide more than just respite.  They help us connect our starting story to the world and history at large.
"But it is not your own Shire," said Gildor.  "Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more.  The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out."
The Hobbit involved events with wider impact, but the focus was narrow.  The scope of The Lord of the Rings is drastically wider.

"Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill."
I like this reflection on advice, it's a good piece to reflect on.  Of course, even with that and without knowing the full details Gildor does give advice to Frodo.  Advice that closely mirrors the words of Gandalf, both in general and in reflection of hobbits.  "Courage is found in unlikely places."

For the most part very little of this chapter makes it into the movie.  Gandalf starts Frodo and Sam on the road immediately, with no time set aside dawdling, let alone selling Bag End and making a show of moving across the Shire.  Pippin (and Merry) won't come into play until later on, and the elves are completely absent.  We will get the black rider, sniffing for the Ring, and Frodo's overwhelming compulsion to put the Ring on, but again, not until later.  I like how they do it, but it won't be slotted in until further in their journey.

Gandalf does go missing, leaving to meet with Saruman immediately after setting the two hobbits on their journey.  For the most part I'm going to leave this passage aside, as I think we'll partially come back to it later on.  But I really like what they did in terms of lighting and set design here.  The strong contrasts make for some visually stunning moments with Saruman throughout the film, one of the things that stuck with me after the theater all those years ago.  Putting Gandalf's conflict here makes sense, removing the need for exposition later on to explain his absence, in addition to ramping up the overall tension.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Lord of the Rings : Fellowship of the Read - Book 1, Chapter 2

Bilbo's leaving has ripples within the Shire far beyond a year's worth of gossip and bother.

Among other things, along with Frodo's behavior following Bilbo's leaving, there's pretty much a permanent black mark on that branch of of the Baggins family.  Bilbo dismisses the expected disturbance as a matter of gossip for "a year and a day," but people talk about it so long that it morphs into the Legend of Mad Baggins, confabulating his adventures into an urban legend about a hobbit who disappears in a flash of light only to return with treasure.  Outside the realm of urban legend, the general consensus is that Bilbo finally went completely off the rails, came to some sort of unfortunate end after running off, and that Gandalf is all generally to blame.  Not that they are entirely wrong, Gandalf is generally to blame, and the ring did mess with Bilbo's mental state.

Frodo steps right up into Bilbo's shoes as the local eccentric rather than settling down and developing some "hobbit-sense."  There's not settling down and starting a family for Frodo, rather he stays living alone and keeps an active social life, particularly among the younger (and more Tookish) hobbits.  Rather than mourning Bilbo, Frodo continues on Bilbo's birthday party tradition for so long that the Shire stopped even questioning it.  What really marks Frodo as eccentric is his predilection for wandering, sometimes with Merry and Pippin, who suspect that on his own Frodo visits with the elves.

In many ways Frodo's life is in a holding pattern for some 20 years. The regret of staying behind never leaves him, yet he's never quite ready to follow in Bilbo's footsteps.  A certain restlessness pervades his life, as well as a curiosity about the world at large.  I can't help but wonder how much of the tug-and-pull on his life is the influence of the Ring, and on that unnameless other power that Gandalf sees in Bilbo rather than an orc finding the Ring.

Regardless of the insularity of the Shire, rumors of strange, and sometimes dark, happenings at the world at large do creep in.  Even rumors of ents are heard by hobbits who would avoid any news of far away lands.  Elves passing westward to the sea and not returning, dwarfs on the road in unusual numbers, and other strangers briefly infringing on the boundaries of the Shire as roads wind on.  Perhaps Frodo alone seeks out these travelers and the news that they carry.

Tolkien drops a lot of knowledge and foreshadowing on us in this interim.  We learn about Mordor and the growing power there that was once in the Mirkwood, the elves leaving Middle-Earth, the appearance of intelligent orcs and trolls, and that there are worse creatures yet to be named.  We even learn about the ents, though not by name (regardless of their mention earlier in this post), a bit of lore almost as forgotten as that of the hobbits.  All of these rumors come to play significantly in the story to come, even if the initial significance is lost on a new reader.

Gandalf's final return is a signal of change, a catalyst for our story.  We now know that the rumors are more than just idle chatter, the Ring is fully revealed as a major player in its own right, and exactly how close the Ring was to gaining control of Bilbo.  The importance of free will is introduced as well, the willing and voluntary surrendering of power.  And while not said, the importance of free will in accepting power, free will that Gollum never knew enough to properly exercise, and free will that will come in to play with Frodo later on.

The poem of the rings of power itself is one of those enduring pieces of literature, with a strong meter, though I am always left wondering when the translation from another language retains its meter and rhyme.  Of interest in the following history lesson is that the rings of power distributed among the races were not of Sauron's making, that he exerted his power over them and corrupted them as they fell to his touch.  The rings of the Elf-lords were held out of Sauron's reach, but even those are at risk should Sauron regain control of the Master Ring.

The history of the Ring is one of betrayal and corruption, the death of kings the cost of its emancipation from Sauron's hand.  Then the betrayal of it's next bearer, slipping from Isildur's finger as he escapes from orcs.  I feel that while the Ring corrupts, it does so best when the seeds already lie there.  Isildur came from a line of great kings, known for their selflessness and wisdom, he had no need for greater power or wealth.  Smeagol's fall to me is indicative of the sprouting of characteristics already present, a twisting of his existing curiosity and strength.  That his first act is to kill for ownership of the Ring, at a time when it's power has lain largely dormant for time unknown, must give the ring a stronger measure of control over him, and his actions afterward do not serve to benefit him but contribute to the spread of strife and discord until Smeagol is driven away.  As Gandalf remarks, Bilbo was rewarded for demonstrating pity and mercy rather than striking Gollum down.

That Gandalf tortures the truth of of Gollum stands out as a particularly dark detail, even when left at the vague "I put the fear of fire on him."  While Gandalf makes shows of power, by and large that is not his primary method of navigation through the world, generally relying on subtly and study.  Though Gandalf demonstrates his normal foreknowledge in predicting that Gollum will have some significant part to play in the fate of the Ring.

Ultimately, Frodo must resolve to leave the Shire, for himself and for the life that he knows.
"I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants to stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them.  But I don't feel like that now.  I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable."
There's a definite emphasis on the importance of home, of a place of sanctuary and peace.  In some ways this is a very hobbitish feeling, but it's also something that transcends race and is one of the reflective ideas that Tolkien has included in his fiction.

The chapter is presented to us here out of order in the film, opening with scenes of Barad-dur, Gollum's torture by agents unknown, and riders heading out.  It's extrapolation to say that Sauron's minions tortured Gollum, but considering the general demeanor of the parties, it's a reasonable assumption, and more palatable to the audiences than seeing Gandalf torturing him.  Our footage of Gandalf in this is of research, sharing with us the finding of the ring of power and further history of Middle Earth.

There's a general compression of about 20 years here, cutting the story rather neatly and concisely.  In having watched the full trilogy of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, this neat trimming is almost shocking in retrospect.  In this case I think the trimming is to the actual passage of time, not just exposition.  In terms of overall story-line, this only gets squirrely when looking at the specifics of ages and dates, with some potential to effectively shrink the size distances traveled by significantly downplaying the time passed.

Once back at the Shire we're treated to a happy night out with a foreboding return to Bag-End.  Gandalf here is one possessed with concern bordering on fear, a fear that is infectious.  The mood of the scene is clearly communicated through tight focus and dark lighting.

We don't get the full "birth" of Gollum, here, but just enough to remind us of his connection to the Ring.  We will get this done beautifully at the beginning of The Return of the King, with Andy Serkis embodying Smeagol just as well as he did as the motion-capture basis for Gollum.  I like the full filming of the discovery of the ring, rather than relegating it to pure exposition. especially as Gollum becomes such a dynamic character through the films.

The discovery of Samwise is a break in the mood, with a misunderstanding on the meaning of "eavesdropping" and a plea to not be turned into anything "unnatural."  We do lose Samwise's joy at the opportunity to meet elves, and instead only Sam's dread and Frodo's relief at the companionship in his journey.  From here we jump immediately to Gandalf leading Frodo and Samwise on a day-time journey, instructing them to be wary of spies and to leave the name Baggins behind, before leaving them for tasks of his own.  This jumps a little ahead of the book, but is consistent with the pressing urgency of the story as portrayed through the film.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Arisia 2016

Like always, Arisia was chaotic and awesome.  For the past few years I've attended primarily in the capacity of staff which takes up a good chunk of my time, and this year we had to truncate our attendance due to work on Friday and Monday.  I also took part in three panels this year over the two days we were in attendance, so fun times.  Next year we're going out early Friday and coming back Monday evening... it really does make a difference.

I only had a brief time in which to check out the art-show, after the auction closed Sunday night.  The one frustration I've regularly had with Arisia is the hours things are open.  I'm used to late opening vendor rooms, but usually hand-in-hand with a vendor room opening at 10am or later, is that it stays open until maybe 8 or 9 (or later).  Maybe the few fandom conventions that I'm used to are the exception to the rule.  I was excited that the vendor room was open later than normal, which meant until 7PM instead of 6.  Programming starts somewhere around 8 am and goes until midnight (not including the movie rooms and LARPs).  On the flip side, this does allow vendors to attend evening programs with more ease.  So no purchases were made this year, even my annual re-stock of Tea & Absinthe blends.

In addition to panels I also managed to attend the Scalzi reading on Saturday, and get my copy of Lock In signed on Sunday.  The reading was phenomenal, and while we were asked not to talk about the specific details, the book he has coming out I think this summer sounds amazing from the excerpt we were treated to. Cannot wait for it to come out (well, I obviously I am waiting, but very very eagerly).  He also read to us a incredible blog post he wrote last year after being asked about raising strong women, and a hilarious piece about the gossip of smart appliances about their owners.  The Q&A after the reading had some great moments, including a discussion on "punching up" vs. "punching down" in comedy and why he strives for "punching up" when he's in the privileged position where "punching down" would be easier, and then at the end someone asked him about the differences between raising cats vs. children.

I also got to chat briefly with Max Gladstone, who's totally awesome and humored me when he heard some random lady (me) make a comment in the elevator about an author in the wild.  I recommend reading his books.

As for the panels, I had fun taking part, but totally wish I had the time to attend some.

Lovecraftian Intimacy: Body Horror & Mind Melds
Can you have noneuclidean love triangles? In this panel, we'll discuss telepathic bonds & body horror & how they play upon themes of separation, alienation & intimacy. These two tropes present with very different connotations and judgments placed upon them. Telepathic bonds are often portrayed in positive terms, where body horror has its connotation in its name. Are there instances where the horror of telepathy comes forward or where change and melding of the physical body are seen as positive?
With Alexander Jablokov (mod), Gabriel Squailia, Jeanne Cavelos, Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein, and myself

This panel was loads of fun, and ranged all over the place.  It also involved explaining "the tentacle thing" and "one person's squick is another's squee."  In explaining the latter I gave an example of needles/injections being something that deeply unsettle me, complete with involuntary shiver, at which point the panest next to me said "See that shiver?  That's a what a squick feels like!"

It was not, as one might suspect, a panel about naughty tentacles, those they did come up.  Sex, fetish, eroticism, and taboo are clearly a part of this topic in both modern and historical settings.  In case you were wondering, erotic paintings of tentacally women is not a modern phenomenon.  If you weren't aware of this existing at all, I do not recommend doing an image search without SafeSearch on, unless you really want an eyeful.  

One of the more interesting directions I think the panel took was to talk about pregnancy in regards to body horror.  That was utterly fascinating, and not a direction I expected the discussion to go, even as someone who had something to add to the topic.  Another topic that came up was body-horror as a positive force in relation to trans and non-binary gender identities.  After all, what is more horrifying than being trapped in the wrong body?

The idea of inflicted wrongness of body and loss of control were a big part of all the discussions of body horror and mind melds, and nearly all of our discussion of mind-melds was in the context of horror.  Maybe mind-melds are often presented in a more positive context per the panel's description, but there's plenty of mind and body horror fodder available.

The Drowning World
From The Water Knife to Hurricane Fever, how are science fiction and fantasy taking on climate change, and what second order consequences are we missing?
With Alexander Jablokov (mod), Terry Franklin, Ken Gale, and myself

Small turn out for this one.  I guess 8:30 on Saturday night people are looking for parties or the racier panels.  We had some really neat input on the part of one of the panelists who's been hosting a environmentalist radio show for over a decade.  Overall, I'd have liked a bigger pool of titles for us to pull on in conversation than we were able to provide, but there was some great knowledge of early climate change fiction.  I introduced some of the folks to the term "cli-fi" which I've been coming across as a label for climate change science fiction.  Really good questions and talking points from the audience, though some were asking questions for which we have no answers (and that scientists themselves are trying to answer).

The Future of Disability in Literature
ST:TNG was famously critiqued for having a bald captain. "Won't the cure for baldness be discovered by then?" Roddenberry replied, "By the 24th century, no one will care." Most SF novels, if they include disabled characters at all, focus on a cure narrative. For the most part, the disabled seem not to exist. Let's talk about SF with universal access, visible disabled characters, and societies that don't force a cure and choose instead to accommodate everyone, regardless of disability.
With myself (mod), JoSelle Vanderhooft, Selkie, and Shira Lipkin

This one started out with a little bit of a shake-up.  For one thing it was preceded by a really fantastic panel that also happened to have amazing authors on it.  Also, FFS, how did I fail to realize that one of them was Daniel Jose Older?  Goddammit.  The short version is the panel went long, then many individuals in the audience (very understandably) wanted to talk one on one with the panelists (hell, I'd have been right there with them if I wasn't trying to get things set up for the panel I was moderating).  One of my panelists didn't show up, and another technically stepped out (but was in the audience offering fantastic contributions).  The latter tapped a really wonderful replacement as a surprise addition.  The listed names above are what was printed in the program, and doesn't reflect reality.

I came into this incredibly excited about the topic, to the point where I put together a slide-show with talking point highlights and some titles that fit within the scope of the presentation.  If you're curious it can be found here (please ignore the fantasy titles hidden at the end, the presentation was on SF).  Before I use this again, it definitely needs some tweaking.  I need to improve my attribution at various points, add several titles, expand the subjects, and rearrange or possibly even remove several titles.  Among other things, the representation of DID in Blindsight was considered rather offensive, so I have to figure out if it works better within "Speculative Disability" since it is full of deliberately created "disabilities" or if it should be removed completely.

I want to fold "disability as a metaphor" into the section on coding after some really stellar points brought up by the panelists and the audience, and I definitely have non-comic book examples of coding now.  The DaVinci Code isn't what I'd normally call SF, but the whole science & God thing, as well as the anti-matter bump it in that direction, and that gives me the "evil albino" stereotype.  The Giver was brought up as an absolutely horrifying book as read by a child with partial impairment and who was slowly losing their remaining sight, and blindness is often used as a metaphor for ignorance.

I'm also thinking about adding in a disclaimer at the start of the presentation if I do something like this again.  Something along the lines of "this list is flawed" and "polite suggestions and corrections are gladly received."  Because the list of books I included is flawed, regardless of the care taken in curation.  There are problematic titles here, and I'm super happy to learn about other titles that should be included.  Overall, even with the problems, the effort put into collecting the titles and the length of the list was appreciated.

One addition that needs to go in, or else I blank completely on it, is on the social vs. medical models of disability.  I took an absolutely fascinating class on bioethics last year, and I definitely wanted to pull on it more in this panel (Introduction to Bioethics).  Fortunately, I had panelists who were familiar with the social model of disability.

What I should have expected, but utterly didn't, was the sorts of inflammatory comments that might come from audience members.  The topic is one that is incredibly personal and complex to start with, then is further complicated by misunderstanding.  In particular someone tried to claim that sign language wasn't a full language and another made statements along the lines that mental illness diagnosis and pharmacy was largely a way of dismissing the "unwanted" parts of society.  The former was shut down immediately, the latter caused quite a bit of angry rebuttal from present individuals who needed medication for biochemical equilibrium.  I actually had to step in and bring the discussion away from personal diagnosis and experience stories back to literature.  This probably made for a more difficult than normal first time as moderator experience.  Now I no going in it expect issues, both accidental and deliberate, with opinions expressed.

SF Disability Representation Book List:
  • The Speed of Dark / Elizabeth Moon
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams
  • Postal (graphic novel) / Brian Hill & Matt Hawkins
  • Blindsight / Peter Watts 
  • Cinder / Marissa Meyer
  • Hawkeye vs. Deadpool (graphic novel) / Gerry Duggan
  • The Annihilation Score / Charles Stross
  • Nexus / Ramez Naam
  • Saturn's Children / Charles Stross
  • Empty Zone (graphic novel) / Jason Shawn Alexander
  • The Ship Who Sang (series) / Anne McCaffrey
  • Accessing the Future : A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction / Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad (eds)
  • Hammered (series) / Elizabeth Bear
  • Lock In / John Scalzi
I will be doing talks and panels similar to this in the future, though for those I intend to expand generally into speculative fiction, allowing me to pull in fantasy and likely horror.  I'm waiting to hear back about presenting at a conference next month on the subject, and at the very least I'll be applying to present at a local library conference.  This is a topic that is very close to my heart, and I likely have my mom to thank for that.  I want to expand my knowledge about the topic and see where I can go with it.