So, it's been rather a while since my last post. Basically I moved my home life and my business at the same time, and all of my routines and schedules promptly fell over, and things that didn't actually have direct consequences like not being able to pay the bills fell off the todo list and rolled under the chair. *ahem* Attempts at regular service will now resume.
I've seen this going around on facebook a little, but my writing friend E. Markham listed her own ten most memorable books and I felt inspired to add my own. The brief is:
Just pick 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. They don’t have to be classics, they don’t even have to be that good. They just have to have made an impression on you.
So, my own ten books, in the order that they came to mind:
Dune, Frank Herbert
This is the first science fiction book I ever remember reading; aged eight at my grandmother's house, because my brother had suggested it to me. The complexities of the political aspect impressed me as a child, as did the sheer scale of the stories of the houses behind the scenes, and the notion of religion being seeded into populaces on a galactic scale for the sole benefit of the members of a group that may need to use it, centuries later. I've studied parts of it later, and despite its many flaws, it still remains one of my most beloved books.
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
This was my introduction into Atwood, recommended by a friend. I loved her world and characters, the clear difference in character between Snowman and his younger self. The first time I read it, in my late teens, I absolutely had to know all the secrets right now. I had to know how it all happened.
And while I know she hates this distinction, Atwood was my introduction to the idea that you could write literary science fiction. Science fiction that dealt with ethics and big questions and humanity in ways that command respect. Up until that point, I had seen a clear distinction between "literature" which was worth reading, and "genre" which was nothing but cheap escapism. She showed me that I could thumb my nose at all the English teachers and literature professors who would sneer at me for my love of the fantastic.
Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
I studied this as part of my honours thesis, looking at unreliable narrators. I love Alex's use of language and the way you can clearly see both his 'real' narrative, and the narrative as he would want you to believe it. While at times I found it tiresome, that Alex was so hung up on other people's opinions and things that I thought to be of no consequence, it stayed with me as a powerful example of telling two stories at once with the same language.
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel, DeFoe
I studied this in my enhancement literature class in year 12, and I have a strange relationship with it. Because some parts of it are undeniably boring and dull. They really are. And yet I love the book. I think it's the isolation; when I'm feeling the pressure of people far too often, this is an isolation pill in book-form. I have always loved the notion of self-sufficiency; I used to love the mental exercises we'd play in grade school about what you would take (to survive) to a deserted island, how you would solve various problems with what you had. It's often a mental exercise for me, to imagine such a scenario, so reliving it in such detail is a pleasure of mine.
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
I have a strange relationship with the stories in this book. Bradbury wrote them long before we had any good idea of what the surface of Mars was actually like, and before we really understood the science of it, as well. But also, he wrote it without the idea that any of that mattered. It's science fantasy; it doesn't care if there isn't oxygen on Mars or if that's not how rockets work or gravity or any of that. I love it for two reasons: the distant-but-clear interconnectedness of the stories. This was not originally written as an anthology, but rather an anthology collected after they'd been published elsewhere. So some of the stories have clear connections, and some are far more distant to the point of having no points of contact (other than the planet), but that weaves together to give the uneven feeling you get from history; where the world was only being recorded when someone was watching.
The other reason is the beauty of the stories themselves. They're just such a pleasurable read, such wonderful ideas. The book also contains one of my favourite stories, where the actual story takes place entirely in one moment of realisation, where you work out what has happened, and therefore what this poor character (who is not the main character of the story) has gone through. You can clearly see, laid out, the decisions he's made, the pain that he's dealt with, all in one moment. And there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's beautifully bittersweet.
The Handmaiden's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Another Atwood, but I have to mention this, because this book is what gave me a ten-year love-affair with ambiguous endings. I practically needed a twelve-step program to stop trying to write ambiguous endings to every damn thing, because I loved the perfect, knife-edge balance of Atwood's. Everything leads to that point, and that single moment encapsulates the whole of the book, it's masterful.
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
I loved this as a child. I always loved miniature things, and creating things, so the idea of miniature people created things out of other things just stuck with me. Somehow I got the impression that, were I that size, I would do quite well surviving for myself. I imagined the world from that size quite vividly.
Daggerspell, Katherine Kerr
For her interweaving, redefining-of-the-word-epic narratives, I'm kinda cheating and including the whole Devery series in here. I devoured these books as a young teen, absolutely obsessed with the way she wove different timelines of the same people together, showing their various progressions through learning the things their souls had to learn.
The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula Le Guin
A great deal of Le Guin is still on my Shelf of Shame, unread, but this is one of my favourites, and the SF book I most commonly recommend to people. Its concept is simple, but I love Le Guin's exploration of the ramifications of it, and I love that there are no evil people in this book. This is just what happens when normal people get unprecedented secret power, and use it with the best intentions.
The Ivory And the Horn, Charles de Lint
I read Charles de Lint around my university years (and made my lecturers despair with my obsession with fantasy, until I explained it away as 'magic realism', which was perfectly alright back then, thank you Gabriel Marquez). This grabbed me about three stories in, when I realised that the stories were connected all peripherally: not to the same person (though there are several connections to Jill, who connects most of his Onion Girl collected works) but to different people here and there from other stories, like tiny easter eggs. I adored making those connections as I read, and the feeling I got of the book-world being so much the larger for it. It's something I've wanted to emulate in my own work for some time.Write comment (0 Comments)
Yes, no blog posts for rather longer than intended, I'm sorry. I moved house, and then Telstra decided to demonstrate their spectacular incompetence, in not only completely losing my relocation order, but adding in a bunch of orders into my account that made no sense whatsoever (We need to remove a landline that doesn't exist, and then add it in, and then delete your cable connected and give you 200Gb of data allowance for a non-existent connection) and stuffing up my account so much that the technicians wanted to just cancel the whole account more than once.
It's still not fixed, but thankfully they've so far left my mobile alone. Touch wood. Everyone look the other way in case they realise I have a mobile account with them...
Honestly, I've not had much to say the past few weeks anyway, my brain cells have entirely realigned into car-tetris calculators, to the point where when talking with some friends, it proudly announced to me that it had worked out how to get all my friends into one box, though it hadn't the foggiest clue what they'd said.
Also, the movers broke my fridge and have so far been unbelievable bad at getting a technician to come look at it. Said technician's car even apparently broke down on the way to my house. I borrow my brother's teensy six-litre fridge to tide me over, got it home to discover it doesn't work, either.
I don't know what deity I pissed off, but I wish I knew how to appease it.
BUT the point of this post is that there is a convention this weekend, from Friday to Monday, called Continuum. It's a speculative fiction writer's convention, has some good panels and things going on, and in one of those panels on Friday afternoon, yours truly will be talking about intensive writing workshops--what they're like, what the deal is, the good, the bad, the insane. The full programme is available here, tickets are available at the door.Write comment (0 Comments)
... because I'm moving house. Well, I'm packing, I'm not moving right now. And if whatever weird secret embargo that's preventing any moving company from calling back with a quote doesn't lift soon, I might not be moving at all.
Before I'm packing, I'm culling my stuff, because I've had a three bedroom house to myself for years, now, and I have a lot of hobbies (not to mention a home gym) that now have to fit in a two-bedroom apartment. This is a difficult process, because the "but you might need this someday" mentality is well-ingrained in my family, along with a loathing of 'wasting' things. Because it's not at all wasted if it's sitting in a cupboard somewhere never to be used.
Though it will be well worth it to have somewhere where the walls don't move if you lean against them and the carpet doesn't disintegrate if a vacuum so much as looks at it and you can't smell the refuse dump on damp afternoons.
I did discover I seem to have an entire cupboard devoted to storing candles, musical novelty mugs, and plastic bags. This is what happens when you have too much room; you keep crap you really don't need.
I also discovered that, even after living in a three-bedroom house for years, 80% of what I own still comes down to books and things that store books. Today I learned that if you use every breath of space in a 2005 Corolla sedan... you can still only move about 60% of my library at once.Write comment (0 Comments)
Did I miss a week? I may've missed a week, my schedule's gone a little haywire. I've decided to move further into the city, and Easter week is when everyone and their dog has their open-for-inspections, plus I've been trying to cull my belongings so I can fit my three-bedroom-existence in a two-bedroom apartment. Which is largely refreshing; it's amazing how much crap you accumulate just because you have the room. I have an entire cupboard that's pretty much full of nothing but plastic shopping bags. Just because I had somewhere to put them.
Insert analogy for how your story gets stuff full of things if you don't respect appropriate word counts...
But onto the actual post: a friend of mine sent this to me: a historical thesaurus. It's a nifty little site when you're looking for historically appropriate words for things. For example, all the different words that women-who-served-tables-in-inns-and-taverns have been called, at various points in history. For the historical (and historical-based fantasy) writers out there, it could come in very handy, not to mention just being interesting in and of itself.Write comment (0 Comments)
I am especially happy that CComment (which I switched to for the lightweight Ajax design and the fact that it didn't clutter up the bottom of my page with GIANT COMMENT WIDGET HERE) seems to have picked up the comments from JComments (my old comment extension, which had to be retired when its useless captcha permitted so much spam it rendered my comment feature untenable) all by itself, without even asking, so it turns out I haven't lost old comments. How nice!
The site rebuild / redesign is slowly happening, one teensy tiny feature at a time as I slowly get to them, a lot of them behind the scenes. I've been nailing down a simpler, more light-weight and mobile-friendly design that I want to use (much as I still love my layers-over-smoke-spirals thing, it's very heavy especially on mobiles and I think it's time for something new) and investigating which of the zillions of Joomla extensions both serve my purpose and won't block my upgrade to Joomla 3 down the path, and looking at some ways I can achieve some things I want to do that aren't currently served by existing extensions.
For the curious, next up on the list will be subscription options (newsletters, RSS--if there's another way you'd like to receive posts without having to navigate here, please do use the brand new comment system below and tell me! I'm still an RSS girl myself, but I'm happy to provide!) and social media sharing, the CSS redesign and a rather dull addition of necessary content (I am now running a techwriting business, after all. There should be more actual techwriting stuff here).
Then I have to figure out how I want to do an idea I'm really excited about, which involves posting free fiction and having fun. I don't want to say too much, because I haven't quite ironed out how it's all going to work, but it's my carrot at the end of a long-and-annoying upgrade process.Write comment (0 Comments)
So I had to have an MRI of my brain and eyeballs for Reasons. The MRI itself was uneventful. I changed into a giant purple cloth-paper bag, and they asked me if I've I'd ever had a pacemaker or brain surgery so many times that I started to doubt my own answers and wonder if I was, in fact, there for Alzheimer's. Then they put a cannula in my arm for the contrast dye they needed for one of the scans, and put me in the MRI.
It pretty much looks like it does on TV, except the rest of the room is not so gorgeous and glamourous as House MD's MRI room. There's also no way in hell you can understand more than about three words in a sentence when they speak to you, and I now laugh at all the mid-MRI conversations the doctors were having with patients. Nor is there, as far as I could see, a camera inside, though they do put a little mirror on top of your catcher's-mask skull-cage so you can see down your body and who's coming into the room.
It's not as claustrophobic as they make it look on TV. I'm fairly tiny as a person, and also not claustrophobic, but while the skull-cage is right in front of your face, there's plenty of room in the MRI itself.
Nor does it sound like it does on TV. Far from the classy "kerrrTHUNKTHUNKTHUNKTHUNK", it varies with the scan being performed, from a jack-hammer or machine gun, through a casino slot-machine, a number of seriously perturbed dot-matrix printers, a broken massage chair, and sounds that came straight out of a 90's rave or a crashed 80's game.
For the large part, it's mostly rather dull. Noisy, but dull. They give you headphones, which provides some entertainment in trying to guess what song is playing from what you can hear through the noise while the scan is running. But largely it's half an hour of lying very still to loud noises, rather like a hangover but without the fun beforehand.
But the cool thing? The really cool thing? The thing that had me completely geeking out about this? You get to take the scans home, and the scans are freakishly awesome, and awesomely freakish. And, for the truly squeamish, below the cut:Write comment (0 Comments)