Friday, November 11, 2016

Mini Movie Review: The Commitments

The Commitments (1991)

This movie is essentially "That Thing You Do" only it's set in present-day Ireland, has more characters, more foul language, and everyone seems intent on sabotaging their own lives.

✓✓✓ (∅)
3 out of 5 (not sorry I saw it, but I won't remember seeing it either)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mini Movie Review: Perfect Stranger

Perfect Stranger (2007)

This would have been an average film if it weren't for the efforts of the writers and director trying (and failing) to be clever.

☠☠ (☹)
2 out of 5 (I'll remember seeing it, but not for any good reasons)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Workplace Poem #3

"This should be a short meeting"
the Project Manager opened the same way
every single meeting he called.

He takes attendance even though
it's automatically recorded
and then says "I'll just go through the task list."

Twenty-three participants in seven cities
and three time zones, all with headsets on mute
except for one anonymous attendee
whose breathing sounds like Darth Vader.

On the shared screen is a spreadsheet
with hundreds of lines - one for every perceived possible problem
almost all of which are
the Project Manager's responsibility.
He reads each entry
commenting on what he thinks about it,
maybe adding an inconsequential note,
and then moving on to the next.

No one else speaks.

I should be listening
just on the odd chance he asks a question
(though I suppose I could claim I was on mute)
but my mind wanders.

In the late 1800s urban planners
wanted to make small round cities with
greenspaces at the center - Garden Cities.
They remind me of the metropolises
in old sci-fi novels,
and I wonder if the idea could be used
for random cities in games.

I Google it and try to pull up a link
only to be defeated by the corporate firewall.

Then suddenly "Ok, that should be it for this week,"
and the meeting is over.

Like a stone skipping over a lake, it disturbed the surface
but didn't really change anything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Like Longfellow's Arrow

Back around 2004, I put a silly little sketch of a language up online. It was based on a line about cows having a language in one of David Letterman's top-ten lists. Like a lot of the stuff I drop on the web, I meant it to be a bit of fun and really didn't expect anything to come of it.

... even Dave had no idea where it would end up.

Flash-forward to me sorting through and moving files from (now retired) to my current website and coming across the page titled Bovine Linguistics. I was curious if anyone else on the web was using that particular combination of words, so I checked. There were a lot more hits than I expected, but the one that actually referred to my web page surprised me.

It was a 2007 post on a religious blog run by Episcopalian priests.

The author of the post was looking up the word "kine", found my page by accident, and was apparently amused. If that were all of the story I'd tell myself I've lightened someone's day a little and all was good, but then I started reading the comments.

Not only have I created a language for cattle, but against all odds it is being used by Episcopalian priests. Even funnier, they're using it to make somewhat pointed religious commentary. The surreality of it exceeds all expectations. My purpose on this earth is complete.

Humor is sweet grass, indeed!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mini Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

A well-written Star Trek movie (they're not all good) that had a great mix of action, emotion, and humor. Good Star Trek films always make me so much more hopeful about the future.

✭✭ (☺)
4 out of 5 (I really liked it and will definitely watch it again)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Coming soon to Dayton Metro Libraries!

I've got two appearances lined up as part of the Dayton Metro Library Summer of Learning and Fun. One next Tuesday and another a week later. Here's the description:

Every story needs to have its own flavor! Author and medieval food historian Daniel Myers talks about short stories, genre fiction, cookbooks, networking, and recent changes in the publishing industry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 7-8 PM
Huber Heights Branch
6160 Chambersburg Rd.
Huber Heights, Ohio

Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 7-8 PM
Miami Township Branch
2718 Lyons Rd.
Miamisburg, Ohio 45342

I've never done one of these before, so it'll be a learning experience for everyone!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Contemplating the fruit of the poisonous tree

A fried of mine (Hi Jordan!) has been recently reading some of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and his comments about some of the issues he has with the stories have once again brought a dilemma to mind, and one that I can't quite resolve.

While Lovecraft is widely considered to have been one of the most influential writers of horror fiction in the 20th century, the issue of racism has tarnished his legacy. Some argue that his beliefs and actions were common for the time, but others point to evidence suggesting it was more than that.

The works of H.P. Lovecraft
(Ok, it's actually a type of nightshade)
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I'm not here to argue that matter one way or another.

Nor am I hear to discuss whether it was right or wrong for people to call for the boycott of the 2013 movie Ender's Game in protest of Orson Scott Card's views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The questions I have are more along the lines of "What do I do with their books?" and "Am I a bad person if I like something they've written?"

These questions are related to a philosophical dilemma of whether something good can come from something bad. Aspects of it can be seen in the legal concept of "the fruit of the poisonous tree" and the logical fallacy "poisoning the well". Really what we're asking is "Do the sins of the artist lessen the art?"

I can imagine that the perceived quality of the work could affect the answer, as well as how much objectionable material managed to make its way into the work. For example, there are loads of old cartoons that I know I thought were fantastic as a child, but when I go back and watch them now I'm horrified by the racist and sexist content. Maybe I was too young and stupid to notice before. Maybe my beliefs have changed since then along with society. Either way, it's an easy decision to not waste my time watching them and not to bother showing them to my children. I can easily let them go into the dustbin of history.

But there are films and novels that are still dear to me. In spite of portions that make me wince, they contain images or passages or even just themes that are beautiful and aren't to be found anywhere else. These are the troublemakers. Sometimes the offensive material can be excised, but that raises issues of censorship and whitewashing that I'm even less comfortable with.

As a writer I'm faced with an even more pressing problem. Just about all of the authors I grew up reading have some kind of skeleton in their closet. The most common example is the blatant sexism of folks like Heinlein and Burroughs. Is there a beam in my own eye that I haven't noticed? As cultures shift some beliefs and behaviors become unacceptable. Am I unconsciously putting any expressions of such beliefs into my work?

I don't have a good answer for any of this. I suspect the closest thing to an answer is to stay aware of how both society and my own beliefs change and let history do its thing.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Origins 2016 Schedule

June 15-19, 2015
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, Ohio, 43215, USA

Origins is just a couple of weeks away! As with the past four years I'll be selling books as part of The Library and taking part in a bunch of cool panels. Here’s my schedule for seminars this year:


Making Magic 101 (Hilton - Elijah A, 10:00 a.m.) - The believablilty of your magic system can make or break your story. Let our panelists tell you how to craft magic so well readers will think it could exist.  [with Aaron Rosenberg, John Helfers, Dylan Birtolo, and Robyn L. King
Creating Religion 101  (Hilton - Elijah A, 2:00 p.m.) - Great speculative fiction makes us think abour our own world, and how better to do that than with religion? Our panelists tell you how to make create believable religions.  [with Gregory A. Wilson and Jaym Gates]  
Creating Medieval Cuisines  (Hilton - Elijah B, 5:00 p.m.) - In Fantasy, food is usually in the background. Sometimes though, it seems to take on a life of its own and can even become the center of the plot. This panel will help make sure your cuisine is authentic for your setting.  

Incorporating History in Fiction  (Hilton - Elijah A, 2:00 p.m.) - It might make sense for you to create a detailed backstory to help you put the current events of your novel in context. Or perhaps you want to scratch the serial numbers off a real event so you can use it in your story. The authors on this panel will tell you how to get it done.  [with Tracy Chowdhury, Dylan Birtolo, Richard C. White, and Bryan Young]

Dressing Your Characters  (Hilton - Elijah A, 4:00 p.m.) - If you're writing alternate history, epic fantasy, or even contemporary urban fantasy, Your characters need to dress the part. These panelists will talk about the importance of research and knowing when to say "that's enough!".  [with Kelly Swails, Sheryl Nantus, and Tracy Chowdhury

Kinship and Sexism in Fantasy Worlds  (Hilton - Elijah B, 12:00 p.m.) - Families and gender roles can become prominent as you craft your story. Our panelists discuss how family hierarchies dictate who performs what work and how those duties determine power structures.  [with Robyn L. King, Addie J. King, and Jaym Gates

Origins is my favorite convention - while it's huge and pretty much has something for everyone, it somehow still seems small enough to get into those deep, one-on-one conversations. I'm really looking forward to it this year, especially the panel on Kinship and Sexism. There's so much to talk about and think about and learn!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Space

Flyin' out the airlock
With the vacuum in my hair
Clock says it's time to die but don't cry
It'll freeze up in your eye
Before it can boil away
Down at three degrees K

While the ears can still hear screamin'
Icy brains will keep on dreamin'
Driftin' far from the star
Where my people are
Just a missile with no payload
Through the cometary halo

I'll be like that golden record
Or the thing that merged with Decker
Ever goin' never slowin'
Like helium II flowin'
When the main line's growin' old
I'm still thinkin' damn it's cold

Friday, April 8, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Schedule

Gen Con Indy 2016,  August 4 - 7

I've just heard back from Gen Con that my seminars are now active and viewable by the public, so I thought I should do a quick post about them. I'm not part of the Writer’s Symposium this year but I'll likely be in the audience for several of their panels.

For my own events for Blackspoon Press and Medieval Cookery, I've scaled it back to just two this year.

SEM1686243 – Creating Medieval Fantasy Cuisines  A subterranean culture probably wouldn't eat roast beef and an arboreal one wouldn't eat sushi. A fantasy world should have a cuisine that takes into account the resources and technology of the people that inhabit it. This seminar demonstrates how to make up a consistent, believable cuisine using a simple template.  08/04/2016 (Thursday), 8:00 PM, Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Ballroom A 
SEM1686244 – Fictional Languages & the Name of this Seminar  Ever have a story or game ruined simply by the choice of a name? This seminar looks at language creation in general along with the pitfalls inherent in creating names. 08/05/2016 (Friday), 8:00 PM, Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Ballroom A 

For the Fantasy cuisine seminar I'm trying something different in that I intend to create - with the help of the audience - a fully functional cuisine. That seems a bit ambitious for a two hour seminar, but I think it's doable and should at the very least be entertaining.

The Language seminar is an offshoot of the one I've done before. Bad names in fantasy and science-fiction drive me nuts, and most of the time they're pretty easily avoided.