Filling in the blanks

Today has been a bit of an adventure already; I got up early, ran some errands, and met the marvelous Richelle Mead and Kat Richardson for Indian food over in Fremont.  Then we wandered over to the University district and lovingly harassed Duane — the speculative fiction master at the university bookstore.  Duane’s the man who arranges all the signings and sorts out all the incoming visitors, making anyone with a pen and a novel sign everything pertinent within reach.  He’s good people, that Duane.

Anyway, following the chatting up of Duane, we ran a few more errands, nabbed some beverages, and called it an afternoon.  My husband has a birthday tomorrow and I had some things to pick up before he gets home from work; and also, I have an eye doctor’s appointment later this afternoon.  It’s a bit of a prickly eye doctor’s event, really.  Without going into too much detail, I’m having problems with my left retina, and today I’m going to find out both the nature and extent of those problems — so all fingers are crossed for a total lack of excitement.  If there’s one thing I don’t need right now, it’s lasers poking around inside my eyeballs. I’m just sayin’.

But in other news, here’s a handful of links for entertainment purposes only:

*  Rose Fox from Publishers Weekly interviews me over at Genreville. It’s a quick little chat about my upcoming novel Fathom, and where it came from, and what it’s about, and why people might be charmed enough to buy it.  And yes, this is the part where I rather shamelessly ask you to consider preordering it, because this is my first wide-release hardback novel, and I’m intensely excited, nervous, and insecure about it.

*  If you’re hunting for free, weird, bewildering, fascinating, appalling, delightful internet reading, I’d like to direct your attention to Ectoplasmosis. And speaking of that fine blog, one of the proprietors is on the very cusp of an art show in Berekley, California. Details available here, and you should absolutely take the time to go visit her work in person, if you get the chance.

* Via Irene Gallo at Tor, take a peek inside John Jude Palencar’s art studio.  I have a biased and vested interest in Mr. Palencar, whose artwork adorns my first three novels. He’s an outstanding artist; and anywhere, anytime he finds himself in my company — that man shall drink for free.

*  In the category of Other Awesome Stuff You Should Look At, kindly take a gander at the free webcomic produced by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield every Friday.  FreakAngels is lovely and tragic, with everything you could possibly want from a post-apocalyptic water-world steampunk story; and now, if you’d rather catch it on the page instead of on the screen, you can do so.  FreakAngels Vol I collects the first 24 episodes into one fine volume, and you can order it right here, right now.

And that’s all I’ve got for now, folks.  I need to take off my eye makeup and rustle up some supper before heading off to the eye doctor. Happy reading, and I’ll catch you tomorrow, hopefully with both eyes working just dandy, thank you very much.

While I’m thinking about it

Over at the Apex Book Company, my old buddy Jason Sizemore is running a fund-raising raffle during the month of November.  Right now, he’s hoping to raise enough cash to meet two main goals: (1). to keep Apex Digest free for all readers, and (2). to continue to pay writers a professional rate.  Furthermore, 10% of all proceeds goes to The Imagination Library, a reading program that mails free books to children on a monthly basis.

So if you’re interested in maybe picking up some cool science fiction and horror schwag via raffle or treachery, click here to go see what’s being offered.  You can win signed books, critiques of your own work from professional writers, and a whole kettle of other stuff too; or if raffles rub you the wrong way, check out the Apex Book Company catalog and see if anything strikes your fancy.

Everyone else is doing it

I believe the record will reflect that I dearly love dirigibles — and have loved them for longer than they’ve been a fixture of a certain branch of speculative fiction.  Submitted by way of example, this partial scan of a piece of paper I found sleeved and preserved at a vintage paper goods store:

This lovely image came from the supplemental to the New Yorker in 1922. The headliner text, which is regrettably cut off from this image due to the inadequate size of my scanner, reads thusly: “R34, the First Dirigible to Cross the Atlantic. Bullet prow of the R-34, which created a sensation in 1919 when it crossed the Atlantic from Scotland to the United States, covering a distance of 3,200 miles.  The time consumed was only a few minutes more than 108 hours.  The crew met with bad weather, including at one point a fifty-mile gale, and the crew were in danger of exhaustion in the struggle with the storms in the cruise from the old to the new world.”

Yes, it’s just a page from an oversized magazine, but it charms me.  I had to climb over a toddler eating ice cream, stare down a seeing eye dog, and plunk down twenty bucks to take it home — but I did it, and I did it with joy.  That’s how much I loved it, and one of these days I’m going to get it properly framed.

So naturally, when I began to formulate my steampunk world setting for The Clockwork Century, I was forced to investigate dirigibles and their wimpier cousins, the people-moving balloons in use during the 19th century.  And naturally, this required some research, because when I started this series you could’ve fit what I knew about hot air balloons into the pit of an olive.  So thank heavens for random coups of synchronicity, for now I must give mad props to War of the Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning in the Civil War — a copy of which I found on a back shelf in a used book store.  Yes, well.  Sometimes the Research Methods of Bibliography gods are with me, and sometimes the Lucky Bitch fairies are along for the ride.

But I digress.*  A more recent shot of dirigible hilarity was spawned by the lovely and talented Meredith Yayanos, following a LOLCAT-worthy typo.  Ergo, I give you — via the exceptional magazine COILHOUSE — the wild and wonderful world of DRGBLZ.  And I ain’t gonna lie. There’s some silly stuff beneath that-there link, so be prepared.

While I’m on the subject, if you aren’t reading COILHOUSE you really ought to be.  The self-described “love-letter to alternative culture” is chock full of strange beauty, weird technology, social awareness, cheerful fandom, and good humor.  It’s available both online and in print (as of rather recently), and if you’d like to get your hands on the Too Naughty for Barnes & Noble limited edition of Issue #1, you could do so right here.  Issue #2 will be out by the end of the year.

_________________________________________________________

* I suppose. It’s not as if I had a clear direction for this entry in the first place, other than, “Ooh, I really like the big rounded flying jobbies!”

Speaking of Steampunk …

Someone sent me a link to this, the other day: Fuel for the Boiler: A Steampunk Cookbook.  I don’t know if Jeff’s mentioned it over here before or not; but I find the whole idea frankly charming, if a bit out-of-left-field, so to speak.  I confess that I do not own this particular volume and I do not know what it contains, but I’m using it as a cheap and feeble transition to discuss what’s going on in my own kitchen right this moment.

Fall is here, and while fall is a great time for all things steampunk — not least of all layers upon layers of clothing (look! I’m staying on-theme!) — it’s also a fine time for autumn-harvest-type foods such as the one suggested by my friend Libby.  She calls her masterpiece SPICY AUTUMN APPLE AND PEAR CRISP THING, and you can get the full recipe plus some nom-inspiring photos on her webpage, right here.

I’m making it right now.  My apartment smells positively divine.

The only adjustment I made to the recipe is that I didn’t have any cloves handy, so I used a buttload (her word-choice) of pumpkin pie spice instead.  At this time, having licked a dizzying amount of goo off my fingers, I am prepared to vouch for it as a suitable substitution.

Guest-Blogging: My first time. Be gentle.

When Jeff approached me a couple of months ago, asking if I’d be game to guest-blog for him around the middle of November, the first thing I did was engage in a little dance of hand-flappy joy.  I mean, he and his wife are only the present alpha cat-herders of all things steampunk — and steampunk is a bandwagon I’ve flagged down and flung myself in front of, then threatened the driver with a rusty screwdriver, and lashed myself into a seat with an old bicycle lock.  So it’s not as if I could say “no,” even if I wanted to.  And I didn’t.

However, I’ve never guest-blogged for anyone before, and now that the date has arrived, I find myself riddled with performance anxiety.  What on earth am I going to talk about for five days?  I should say something smart and pithy, shouldn’t I?  At the very least, I should find links to smart and pithy things other people have said, right?  I can’t just hang out in Jeff’s cool blog-space and post pictures of my cat … except that now, fully three people have dared me to do so, so here you go for form’s sake:

Let it not be said that I ever shied away from a silly dare.

When it comes to serious content, I’m not always the first blogger who comes to mind.  Hard to believe, I know.  Mostly I bide my internet time posting ridiculous movie reviews, slapping IMPACT words on photos of my feline companion, grousing about my work-in-progress word counts, and rounding up links to things I’d like to remember later on.

So this is my self-introduction, less formal and concise than the very kind one Jeff left posted for me yesterday.  My name is Cherie Priest. I have a fondness for Victoriana in all its forms, speculative fiction that smells slightly of academic seasoning, zombies, arguing fiercely over things most people find wholly unimportant, owls, long walks on the beach (no seriously, I’m from Florida), cheap red wine, ghost hunting in unlikely places, urban and rural exploration of the “dangerous trespassing” variety, and collecting old things.  I dislike large adult sloths, unfinished ceramics, nasal congestion, bad HTML, and black licorice because it’s gross.

I write stuff.  Mostly I write books, but sometimes I write short stories — and I’m particularly proud of one that can be found right this moment, live and free, here in Subterranean Magazine. That story is called “Tanglefoot,” and it’s the very first bit of fiction appearing anywhere that takes place within my steampunk universe The Clockwork Century — which is introduced briefly at the beginning of the tale.  Next year, two novels set in this world are scheduled to appear: Boneshaker from Tor, and The Clementine from Subterranean.

I’m proud and excited to be here, and I thank Jeff most heartily for having me. I will try not to make myself look like an ass.

Cherie Priest–Guest-blogging on Ecstatic Days Nov. 10-14

I’m very pleased to welcome Cherie Priest as this week’s guest blogger. Cherie Priest is the author of Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, and Not Flesh Nor Feathers from Tor Books, plus two titles for Subterranean Press–Dreadful Skin and Those Who Went Remain There Still (forthcoming). She has three more novels in the works, a gothic fantasy called Fathom (Tor, winter 2008) and two steampunk novels, Boneshaker (Tor, 2009) and Clementine (Subterranean, 2009).

Ta!

Hello, Jukka Halme here for the last time (*sniff*)

I’d like to thank Jeff for this opportunity to spout my agenda of Finnish speculative fiction, frivolity and chamber opera. Which went great, by the way, thanks for asking! I was able to remember my lines and even extend my limbs in such way, that some of the attendance actually thought I was “performing”! I wish Jeff had been there, for since he is a great fan of weird instruments, there was one that would’ve met his high criteria for uniqueness. I give you… DeLaval Original Liners! Which is such an unfortunate name, as the same thing is in Finnish as “alkuperäisnännikumit“. As in “original nipple rubbers”. These are the rubber parts of milking machines that attach directly to cows udder. And we had a performer tonight that played music with said rubbers!!! How cool is that?

I will now go back to that world in which I can sleep for more than four hours a night, read books and spend some quality time with my lovely wife, Sari. As someone wise once said: “This has been an interesting week, writing about these things and talking with you about them in the comments”. Much appreciated.

But before that, I want to share a personal memento. Tero wrote about a friend of ours, who had suffered a stroke. The moment I heard about this incident, I knew that fandom would do something really cool and worthwhile. How do I knew that? Well, you see, they did it for me, too.

Some five years ago, just a few days prior to Finncon 2003 in fact, I got an early diagnose of sarcoma. I was scared, bewildered and more than a bit apprehensive about future. I went to the con and did my thing, with a swelling feeling within, that this might be the last time I have this opportunity to enjoy fandom fully.

My diagnosis was altered however from sarcoma to aggressive Non-Hodkings Lymphoma. While this was good news, it was still more that a bit daunting. I went into this heavy-duty treatment of three days of chemo every two weeks, followed by some failed radiation therapy and eventual surgery, where I was releieved of more than a kilo’s worth of dead cells in a tumor.

During this time, I had a birthday and since at the time I was already well on my way to recovery, we decided to have a birthday party for me. And of all the presents ever, EVER, in the world, old and new, this one takes  the biscuit. The wonderful fandom ladies (and two swell guys) had been knitting, crocheting, weaving, looming, felting and conspiring all this time, in order to make me a quilt.

(OK, it isn’t technically a quilt, but I’m using the word anyway, as I see it most fitting for this. They called it a “Peittoprojekti” (Operation Blanket), but – dash it! – want to call it quilt, so there.)

This “blanket” is humongous and covers a fine looking gentleman like me from top to bottom. It is a work of sublime artistry and such love that I don’t really know whether I’m ever able to give back to the people responsible. I love you all.

The QUILT of Speedy Recovery

The QUILT of Speedy Recovery

There are more pictures here. “Peiton kokomista” means “Assembling the blanket” and “Valmis peitto” stands for “Finished blanket“. “Melkein valmis” is “Almost done“. And yes, it says “Live longer and prosper”. BTW, I’m now fully recovered, so hooray for socialised medicine!

Thank you one more time: Johanna V-U, Elli, Mervi, Inkeri, Petra, Ninni, Hannele K, Kanerva, Satu, Sari L, Katariina, Maria, Eija, Susanna, Hannele P, Tarja, Merja, Saija, Juho, Johanna S, Anna, Eeva-Liisa, Ylva, Mia, Kaisa, Terhi, Leena, Ilana, Liisa, Päivi, Arja, Marja, Irma, Minna, Maija, Paula, Maarit, Lotta, Tuomas, Senja, Onerva, Hanna, Marianna and the love of my life, Sari.

Now, I think I must be going. Ta.

Finncon

We’ve been talking about Finncon quite a lot during this visit here at casa Vandermeeria. The main reason for this is the sheer unadulterated joy and sense of proudness we feel for our national sf-convention. Finncon has been going strong for over twenty years now (quite a long run, if one considers that Finnish fandom was really born only during the 1970’s) and is looking likely to run for a long time coming.

I would’ve liked to have said that Finncon is looking stronger than ever, but I’m afraid that may not be the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. As you ought to remember from one of Tero’s earlier posts, Finncon has been arranged together with Animecon these past few years. The attendance figure has risen to almost ridiculous heights and we can only estimate how many young animefans were present this year. Thousands. Together with them Regular sf-fans and those that are into both Country AND Western, the numbers are staggering. Like Tero says, 10 000 people.

What this has brought, besides a LOT more colour, young people and interest, is the ever increasing problem of finding a proper venue and – surprise, surprise! – money. Money makes the world go round, no matter what one might want to think. And arranging a free social event for couple of thousand people with fairly varied fields of interest, all the way from origami to raygun workshop, William Shatner karaoke to sercon discussions of William Barton‘s use of working class imagery, from Serial Experiments Lain to Raumschiff Orion, not to mention the use of iambic pentameter in Lewis Carroll‘s Jabberwocky in regards to trochaic tetrameter of Kalevala!, is no picnic. You see, different strokes and all that.

Organising a joint convention can be problematic at times, but also a lot of fun. However, the inevitability of separating the two beasts will have to happen soon. As a matter of fact, next year’s Finncon/Animecon will be the last joint adventure, as we’ve come to know the two. Co-operation will continue and many of the organising team members are willing to continue helping to arrange both conventions. So, life goes on.

But this poses a really dire problem. If you were planning on coming to Finncon/Animecon, your only chance (for the foreseeable future) looks to be next year! You simply MUST come to Helsinki next July 10th to 12th. And even before, for even thought the convention proper will be a tree-day event, additional programming and various fan activities will take place prior to this. Or you could just hang around and meet the fandom. Or see the sights, for Helsinki seems to be one of the recent Hot and Happening cities of the world to visit.

Finncon 2009 looks to be a fun event, even if as one of the main organisers say so. We already have couple of great Guests of Honour (George R. R. Martin and Alastair Reynolds, not to mention Jari Lehtinen, Mr. Finnish Anime-fan) and we’re working on additional Guests. The venue is an old factory, with a main Hall that takes in more than 3000 people at the same time. Now, to you big convention center -wise blessed people of other countries, that may not be a huge deal, but here in Finland, there is a somewhat epidemic lack of good, moderately-priced venues for a convention this sized.

Tero explained a lot in his post, but I think a little breaking of numbers might be in order. Finncon is run by the fans, for the fans. It is free and has dual purpose of both educating new fans and general populace of things fantastical, but also to provide a safe, fun and engaging event for the more experienced group of sf/f-aficionados and hardcore-fandom. The revenue comes mainly from two sources: various grants, both governmental and municipal, are incredibly important, but nothing could be done without a substantial sum that comes from the dealers (space, advertising and sponsorship deals) and other sponsors. If we look at the situation with Helsinki, the biggest spending figure is the rent for the venue and accoutrements. That burden alone is worth about half of the budget.

But I’m getting all moody and misty-eyed here. Let’s cheer up a bit!

Finncon is FUN! If you don’t want to take my word for it, take Jeff‘s! There is always something going on in English (and at times, in Swedish, too!) and this time, we’ll guarantee a proper fannish lounge for all those that are ready, willing and especially interested in mingling with other fans in order to chat, drink beer and just hang around. The programming looks like a mix of everything and then some. We’re trying all kinds of new things this year, with longer program slots, more interactive programming, more lectures, more debates, more interaction between sf and anime communities, more frivolity and more than ever before seen science programming. It’s going to be interesting!

I believe that next year’s Finncon will be something we’re all going to talk about for a long time coming. And I sincerely hope that majority of that talk will be about all the positive things people experienced during it. I hope to see more foreigners at Finncon than ever before, so far the mere mentioning of GRRM has generated quite a lot of interest in neighbouring countries.

We hope to see you in Helsinki in 2009!

Finnish Fandom: Further Reading

I’ve been talking about the Finnish fandom a lot this week, and I thought I’d finish with a list of some resources where you can find additional information, should you want to know more about Finland and our sfnal activities.

Finncon is of course always worth mentioning when speaking of Finland and sf. If you want to see a fan-run convention in Europe with 10 000 attendees, Finncon 2009 may not be your only choice, but I don’t think there will be too many of those in the next few years. Run by a competent and experienced team, this will definitely be a convention worth seeing. You can find links to other past and future Finncons on the finncon.org page.

Ã…con is another convention I mentioned. If you want to meet Finnish (and Swedish) fandom and get to know them, there’s no better occasion than this. Plus, Mariehamn is a lovely place in the late spring (the next con is almost at the end of May, so the weather should be warm and sunny, perfect for sitting out on the hotel terrace chatting with people).

Jukka talked about Finnish fantastic fiction the other day. On finnishwriters.com you’ll find a couple of the authors presented in that post, plus a couple of others. The authors introduce themselves, and there are samples of their writing in English too. And more reading is available in the Usva International and Kosmoskynä English Special issues I mentioned in my fanzine post. And Hannu Rajaniemi has a few short fiction pieces posted on his site that are definitely worth a read (yes, he does live in Edinburgh, but we’re still claiming him as part of the Finnish sf scene).

If you want to read more good Finnish sf, I warmly recommend two books Jukka already mentioned: Troll: A Love Story (or Not Before Sundown in the UK) by Johanna Sinisalo and Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn. Krohn has a couple of English translations of her texts available on her web site, including the full text of Tainaron, if you want to take a look before buying the book. And then there is the Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, edited by Johanna Sinisalo, that I can also recommend.

If you want to read even more about the Finnish fandom, you could do worse than take a look at Pasi Karppanen’s extensive article about fandom. It lists the sf clubs and zines, and talks about fandom history more thoroughly than I’ve done here.

Many Finns blog, like everybody nowadays. There are some great blogs, but most are in Finnish. Jukka keeps a blog in English with his wife Sari, Eating Muffins in an Agitated Manner, which is always worth a read (even if there’s a danger you’ll be subjected to posts about ice hockey, figure skating, and Bollywood movies every now and then). And then there’s my blog, Partial Recall, where I write about the Finnish fandom—you’re welcome to stop by any time!

And if you want to see what we look like, there’s a photostream on Flickr tagged “findom” (short for “Finnish fandom”).

# # #

This is the end of my guestblogging stint here at Ecstatic Days. A big thank you to Jeff for making me do this having me over and letting me share my thoughts about things I care about with you. And thank you all for listening! Also thanks to Jukka for being here with me, couldn’t have done this with a nicer guy. This has been an interesting week, writing about these things and talking with you about them in the comments. I met my goal of producing something every day, which I’m happy about, but now I think I’ll go gladly back to occasionally updating my own blog and just reading what interesting things the next blogger comes up with. Thank you and good bye, Turku out!

The Joy of Fanzines

What is a fanzine? There are many definitions of what a real fanzine is (some of them contradicting) and many people are absolutely convinced their definition is the only correct one. Some people say a fanzine is only a fanzine if it is printed on paper and not distributed over the Internet. Some people say man should never have climbed down from the trees either, and look how much their opinion is respected. I think waiting for these people to come around is a bit like Galileo or Darwin waiting for the church to apologize: it might happen eventually, but probably won’t do you any good. Better just move on and leave them behind, where they seem content to be.

Then there are others who claim that you can’t have a proper fanzine without a letter column. I like letter columns—getting feedback is always great and watching other people change opinions over well thought out letters can be fascinating. I don’t put very much weight on the opinion that those are an absolute must, though. Not all fanzines are the type that elicits letters of comment from readers, but I don’t see any connection between that and the fannish quality of the writing in question. Some would restrict the content to be talking about other fans, or just writings from one fan per publication, or not having reviews of stuff. Talking about other fans is fun (if you can get away with it), reading one person’s opinions is very good, but as good is following a group of people who at best encourage each other to be better than any of them would be individually. And saying something must not be in a fanzine is just stupid, even more so when you try to say that giving your opinion (and arguments for it) of a work of sf is not good content for a fan magazine.

For the purpose of this post, I’m using the basic definition: Fanzine is a fan publication; a magazine published by one or more fans, to be read by other fans. Nothing more to it.

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