It’s Hard to Convey The Rapture That is Wis Con

Wis Con was pretty glorious this year.  I mean, I had a severe head cold and bronchitis, while back at home my beloved was suffering through a kidney stone–which cranked my guilt factor tremendously high–but I went anyway and had an incredible and amazing time.

Head cold 0 — WisCon 3. I love these guys. Elijah and J Dubb.

The panels were full of chewy speculative fiction goodness. The rainbow of genders inspires me. There’s so much to love: I see people at Wis Con that I adore.  We hug whenever we meet.   The work that panelists do in envisioning what a POC positive, disability-inclusive society could look like makes me verklempt. People are friendly, and yet very cool–a challenging mix, in my experience.

I really like Madison as well–esp. vegan-friendly places like Monty’s Diner.

Vegan chocolate-peanut butter-banana shake! Just sayin’.

And there were moments that I thought were really funny.

FIRST GLORIOUS MOMENT AT WIS-CON: This year I was in a reading called EVEN LONELIER MONSTERS.  Karen Joy Fowler came.  But I didn’t know that.  And I’m glad I didn’t know until after the reading, cause my involuntary reaction was like: 

RISK TAKING AT WIS-CON: I was on a panel at Wis Con about sex in fairytales.  I happened to have two princess crowns on me (a friend was going to throw them out) when I decided to see if the panelists for the fairy-tale panel would want to wear them at the panel.

But would they? This is Wis-Con–You could get punched in the nose offering someone a princess crown.

So we all met, and I said, “Um, I happen to have….these…crowns…if you–” They totally snatched them up. Gimme those crowns. Like that.  And they looked FABULOUS in them of course.

Ariela Housman & Emily Cataneo rocking the princess crowns at our “Wait This is about Sex?” panel at Wis Con.

ANOTHER FUN MOMENT AT WISCON:

Friday night, the night before our fairy tale panel, Nisi Shawl had a party where people could make decorative crowns for their head. So I made myself one and wore it the next morning at our panel. The panel was at 8:30 am on Saturday morning (I know) and by 10:00pm on Saturday night I was talking this guy at a party who had been to the panel that morning. He’s going on and on about how interesting and great it was, (!) but then started telling me all the questions I asked and topics blow-by-blow.  I finally had to say, You know I moderated that panel, right? Turns out he hadn’t recognized me — without the crown.

Not man-spaining.  Just a totally iconic look.  #hippyearthgoddess ; >

FINAL FUNNY MOMENT AT WISCON:

The Concourse Hotel is great–love the lobby, love the con rooms and my hotel room.  One of the hotel maids named Anne and I had a deep discussion on the first day about tipping and after that I exchanged fun little notes with the maid Pam who cleaned my room every day. I think she must have known I had a bad cold from all the sudafed packets lying about and the tissues in the waste basket.  She left me two extra boxes of tissues. (!)

Meanwhile, at the end of Wis-Con there’s a Sunday night dessert awards ceremony.  As usual the Honorary Guests  give speeches while we all eat fancy desserts.  (I cried through a few speeches last year.) But the line for the dessert ceremony is looooong.  So while my Wis-Con besties and I were hanging out in a clutch I asked this guy in line behind me if he could take a picture of us all with my phone. He wasn’t enthusiastic to say the least, but on the other hand he didn’t say no.  He quickly took two pictures of us all together and handed me back my phone.  Which was great. Except…

Something’s missing from this group shot of us all…hmmmm.

I asked if he could take the picture again. He frowned like he didn’t get why. I explained I wanted to be in the picture. With my friends. Sorry if I hadn’t made that part clear before. My fault. It’s not like he rolled his eyes at me–but yeah, he was totally rolling his eyes.  Anyway, he was very kind and took another picture.  ; >

Please Sir, may I be in the picture? Jenni Moody, Jeremy Sim, Alisa Alering, Kodiak Julian, and me.

And, that about wraps it up.  I came away inspired by people on the panels, got to deepen some friendships, and maybe for the first time ever in my life went to four parties in a row–a miracle in itself–and actually enjoyed each and every one of them.

On the way home, I had an airport layover in Atlanta.  I was walking by a cafe stand and this woman who worked there said, “You don’t look too good, hon. Come here.” I told her I had a cold and this beautiful woman just gave me a giant disposable cup full of herbal tea–for free.  She said it was called ‘medicine ball’ and all the employees came to her for it when they were sick and had to work. I have no idea what was in it, but I would just like to thank you, dear airport lady, because that tea made me sweat a little just like you said it would, and made me feel SO much better on the flight home.  I feel very touched by these people in the service industry who take care of us all when we travel. Very grateful, too.  I tip like mad everywhere I go, because I know how poorly they’re paid for backbreaking work, and I know how much your feet ache after standing for hours and hours.

About an hour after I was back at home and on my couch the medicine ball wore off and I was sick as a dog for the next few days. I’m still thinking I shouldn’t have gone with my sweetie in such pain — but, seriously, because it was Wis Con, it was worth it.

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Books Almost Devoured My House: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Books You Want To Read One Day = Books You Never Will Read.

So goes the harsh philosophy of Marie Kondo who declares that we should only keep those objects that bring us joy.

Joy is a pretty high bar, but as I was reading her book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING-UP before Xmas and I found myself a convert of her simple aesthetic.  Though in the past I took great joy in our books arrayed on our two floor-to-ceiling book shelves, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that joy. Books are packed and stacked in the shelves, under them, around them–and on every other surface in the house.  Let’s face it: I’ve got a ton of books I’ve yet to read.

I was curious to find out how many there actually were, so I attacked them.  I put every book I haven’t read together.

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It’s like I’ve just discovered a hidden book store lurking in my house.  Seriously.

Well.  Something had to be done.  The first part, I told myself, was just sorting. No need to panic, because I wasn’t giving anything away yet. Just sorting.  Easy-peasy.  Meanwhile, it really is like a book store.

Sections in which I have at least fifteen or more unread books:

  • mystery
  • literature
  • non-fiction
  • literary
  • literary short stories collections
  • speculative fiction short story collections
  • genre (SFF)
  • romance
  • a very, very large speculative fiction section

Other topics in our home library include:

  • running
  • home-repair
  • manners
  • children’s books
  • YA
  • art
  • philosophy
  • plays
  • how-to
  • cooking/baking

I blame our local library sale for this abundance where I turn into a hoarder at least once a year.

THREE BAGS FULL:  I’m still just sorting. Still no need to panic. Those three bags of books sitting by the door almost happened by themselves. But we’ve reached the tricky part.  Within each category I’m sorting all the books into what you might call Joy Piles:

  • Those I got in the last few months that I’m *most* excited to read
  • Those I’m kinda excited to read…even though they’ve been around for a bit
  • Those that (sigh) I guess I really should read or might possibly want to read some day.

And then there are the two chairs full of book I set aside that radiate guilty feelings when I’m around them.  Books friends gave me. Books someone recommended but I never finished it.  “Important” books I’d never finished.  Books with handsome covers that looked brand new–but I just couldn’t get into them. Books like PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN that I didn’t really care for in high school, but I’m older now–so maybe I should give it another shot?  Anyway, I’m girding myself up to give all the guilty books away and all the rest of the joy-less books as well.

LATEST UPDATE: Even sorting books has turned out to be a perilous undertaking.  There is so much dust on these books, that this morning I’m having a kind of mini-asthma attack and need to take an antihistamine.  This afternoon I’ll go back to the stacks, this time armed with the vacuum cleaner.  I think once I put all the unread books that give me joy together I’ll see that it’ll take me at least a year or more to chew through them. Then I’ll be able to let the rest go.  I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping…and Portrait of an Artist will always be in the library if I need it.

ABOUT ORGANIZING: I am a big believer in being organized.  Call me slightly OCD, but it feels good to be organized.  I feel light and happy when everything is in it’s place. I can think more clearly, too. I’d rather use the end of the old year to prepare for the new one by getting organized that I would partying through the night.

Though tackling my books has been a mighty struggle–and it’s not over yet–overall I highly affirm the principles in THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP. I’ll never fold in the same way again.

Another book that I’ve found useful is ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, by Julie Morgenstern. Julie advocates for organizing your space like a great kindergarten classroom: everything has a home, and it fits in that space in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing and makes handling that item–taking it out-and putting it away–a joy.  Julie Morgenstern also has a book called TIME MANAGEMENT FROM THE INSIDE OUT where she posits that if we think of time as space we can more clearly define its limit and create a regular ‘home’ for important activities–like writing–in our schedules.

Being organized keeps me relaxed and unencumbered.  The only downside I’ve found to being so tidy and organized is that now if I lose something it’s like it disappeared into a parallel universe.  I have no idea where it could be.  It doesn’t happen often, of course, but when it does it’s quite perplexing.

Are you one of those believers who subscribes to the belief that you can never have too many books and it’s close to sacrilegious to ever give them away? Do you organize your books, or is part of the fun in owning them that they are higgledy-piggledy everywhere though your living space?

Next blog: My Awesome Speculative Fiction Group

Alex + Ada & My Obession With Sex Bots

imgres-7Hello all!

An author named G.G. Andrews did a review of ALEX + ADA that got me really interested in it.

Since my latest WIP has a whole wired-up-for-lurv kind of motif, I thought I’d check it out.  And doing so has renewed my love for graphic novels.  Also the authors seem to live close to where I live–which just gave me extra tingles of awe.

ALEX + ADA is at once minimalist and complex.  It’s able to provide a sense of how empty the world seems to the perpetually lonely, and at the same time get right to the nitty gritty problems surrounding A.I. autonomy, adroids-as-persons, and other personhood issues when they come without human DNA, etc.

I’ve read Volume One and I’m zooming onto Volume Two.  Check it out.  And subscribe to my list because I’m giving Volume One to one of my lucky subscribers. 😉

Here’s what G.G. Andrews had to say from a post called “WHAT DO ROBOT WOMEN WANT”

I just finished the final volume of the comic Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, which is a futuristic love story between a human man and a female android. Since I started reading this fantastic comic, I’ve thought a lot about romances between robots and humans–specifically when comparing Alex + Adato the movie Ex Machina which came out last year and also features a female robot/male human pairing.

Drones aside, we’re not in a world of widespread advanced artificial intelligence. At least, I’m 86% sure none of my neighbors have robots. They’re certainly not having sex with any sentient ones, even if maybe they really want to. But in the world of Alex + Ada and Ex Machina, androids can talk and walk among us, wear cardigans, and kiss. They can be aware–and in each of these stories, female robots have a man interested in them, who sees beyond their machinery and wants them, body and mind.

But the question is, Do the robot women want them?

Tales of artificial intelligence are fascinating because they make us wonder what it means to be a person, not to mention the gifts and dangers of man creating life.

With stories of female robots, there’s an additional layer of meaning. I don’t have to remind anyone here that, historically, women have often been treated like robots to men: considered property, denied rights, asked to serve without question. These stories remind us of that reality along with the taboo-but-tantalizing idea of robot/human pairing.

alex-ada-headerAlex + Ada and Ex Machina present different worlds. In Alex + Ada, artificial intelligence is widespread, along with laws to govern its use, while in Ex Machina, this technology is still in its adolescence, with one man who has started to create androids in his isolated lab. But in both, there’s a female robot who becomes sentient while still trapped under oppression–caged or carted in a box, and in one case containing an on/off switch to be controlled by her owner.

They each present a small example of what it would mean to suddenly move from being confined to free as a woman–and what that would mean for how you felt about human relationships, love, and sex.

Both Ada and Ava in the film (played by Alicia Vikander) seem to fall for similar male types: kind, sensitive guys who treat them with respect. These guys, Alex in the comic and Caleb in Ex Machina (Domhnall Gleeson), are shown in stark contrast to other hypermasculine bro-dudes in their world. Alex’s neighbor tries to discuss having sex with androids with him like he’s comparing notes on the big football game. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Ava’s creator, is the polar opposite of the sweet programmer Caleb she befriends–brilliant but an overly aggressive, bearded and often shirtless drunk–almost more ape than man at times.

So maybe that’s the first thing robot women want: caring guys who will respect them. Who won’t just see them as things. And both guys do find themselves surprised to develop feelings for the female androids and eventually a desire to emancipate them…and more.

But is it enough?

It’s curious to think, as non-robot women, what choice we’d make in these situations. If you were treated as a thing, as property, and you suddenly gained a taste of freedom, would you want to be in a human man’s arms? Would you run from his touch or crave it? Would you enter into a relationship with someone who used to own you, or used to observe you on a monitor? And what would that relationship even look like?

As a gender flip, in the comic Alex’s grandmother has her own android, Daniel, whom she beds enthusiastically. A hilarious and sexual older woman, she’s a great character…although the question is raised as to whether Daniel would stay if he was allowed to be sentient.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to share spoilers to either of these stories. Let’s just say Ada and Ava take different paths, at varying times, answering the questions their characters raise. When they’re both given freedom, they make their own choices. What they do makes us think not only what it means to be a person, but a woman.

Because the choice between love and freedom, passion and oppression, independence and closeness? That’s a question females have struggled with for centuries, robot women or not.

BTW, G.G. wrote this *excellent* and adorable NA romance called Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish herself. (Hint: the e-book version is FREE on Amazon.) It’s not paranormal, but if you like all things paranormal as I do, you’ll enjoy this novella.

Next up: I’ve been reading THE MAGICAL ART OF TIDYING UP and will assess the lack of joy my unread book pile brings me.  Tune in next Thursday if you want some vicarious horror at *all the unread books* trying to eat my house.

Lonely Monsters: 4 Reasons to Go to WisCon

Bitch Planet--read it? Me neither, but I'm gonna.

Bitch Planet–Have you read it? Me neither, but I’m gonna.

I went to WisCon last weekend ages ago and it was awesome!  The 40th feminist s/f conference in–you guessed it–Madison, Wisconsin, is chock full of amazing panels, really interesting writers, and lots o’ cool hair.

What is WisCon you ask? This woman tells it so much better than me. In fact, it takes her four blog posts to tell it all in glorious detail.  Start here and work your way backwards.

That said, I have six reasons why I’m glad I went this year:

#1. I Love the CLEVER READING TITLES people use.  My favorite this year:

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“Technically,” — oh, the tile sends me!

2.  I got to read with some some truly talented writers.  Our reading was called “LONELY MONSTERS”  Love the title–didn’t come up with it myself.  I was over the moon to be invited–a few of the writers I met and tumbled into adoring last year, while some I met and bonded with this year.  They were so inspiring!

Lonely Monsters? Well, more like *lovely* monsters.

Lonely Monsters? Well, more like *lovely* monsters.

Our  stories were about zombie boyfriends, an apartment that grew hair, a pregnant doppelganger on a greyhound bus–just to name a few.

Our adorable poster:13325529_849652998473050_3441533762667043638_n

#2. YOUR SUBLIME READING LIST STARTS HERE:

I go to WisCon not because it’s cheap, but because of the buzz.  So many book, TV show, and comics were getting attention at WisCon that I’d never heard of, but that sounded so interesting. I came back  with a vast long reading list that I shall now dive into and greedily chew upon until next spring. puP6Mc

The most surprising place to pick up great recs was THE TIPTREE PRIZE panel.  This is where Tiptree judges talk with each other for an hour and a half about what stories almost won the prize.  The panel really should have been called: Amazing Sh** We Can’t Forget.

While the judges for this prize loved the novella they picked this year (“The New Mother” By Eugene Fischer) and loved Eugene too–who sat there during the panel beaming with joy–there were several books, comics, and TV shows that gripped them by the scruff of the neck and wouldn’t let go.  They talked up these works and I definitely gleaned some excellent finds from that panel. Take a look:

Universe

Planet

3.  I LEARNED SH**: The joy and pain of WisCon is that many incredible panels are all at the same time. On top of that, really cool people you just met tempt you to sit and chat with them while panels are going on.  Choices, choices, choices.  I went to a panel on Sex Robots & Zombies that set me on fire.  (I’ve had a sex-robot-zombie story idea for forever.)

I went to an interesting panel on Genre Blending (something I lurv to do).  THE BIG TAKE AWAY: Do not start off your story/novel/whatever with the more conventional genre–unless you want to piss your readers off big time.

A really clear but bad example of this would be:

Write a horror story that has a romance development, not a romance that takes a surprise horror story plot twist half way.  

See what I mean? One style of genre-blending works, while the other is a bit daffy.

4. I DANCED ABOUT WITH ORGASMIC JOY: Well, almost.  Although there is a major dance party called FLOOP at WisCon, I did not attend it, because I am one of those half-introverted people who can talk for hours until I suddenly turn off like a light bulb.  Then I must retreat and hide.

Although I did not Floop with the majority of Con folk, I did flutter about feeling drugged with a spirit of joyful rapture in the midst of all these progressive, feminist spirits.  My people! If you like intellectual, thoughtful, arty types–many with absolutely incredible hair–you’ll love WisCon.13256238_849653045139712_7046932603597916010_n

I semi-wept my way through the big awards & dessert event Sunday night, I was just so moved by it all. JenniNMe

5. MADISON IS COOL: I was staying with Megan Milks and each morning I would run down near the lake.  I saw a river otter splashing in the lake one night at twilight. I mean, come on–that’s pretty cool, right? Meanwhile, here’s a young woman with mermaid hair at Monty’s, a local diner (so vegan friendly it hurts), where I relished some rhubarb pie.

I mean, isn't this a story? Someone walks into a diner and there's a girl with mermaid hair.

Someone should write a story about the diner where the girl with mermaid hair hangs out.

6. BUT WAIT–THERE’S MORE! All that for a $50.00 registration fee including free food in the Con Room and a Dessert Awards Ceremony (yes, with lots of vegan desserts.)  I feel like I am failing to intelligently convey the awesomeness that is WisCon.  This is because I wrote a lot today and wrote well, and that has the effect of leaving me feeling like someone sucked my brain out of my nose with a straw by this time of night.  But if you go back and read that blog post I linked to above, you’ll find a much more articulate and thorough reflection of what I experienced.

That said, I think I just need to blog more…Will do a better job at posting weekly from now on. Look for me on Wednesday.  My writing goal for the week is to finish up a title story from my collection The Hag Expert.  The ending of this story has plagued me, and I’m a-l-m-o-s-t there.

See you next week.

Aside

Howdy West Virginia Book Festival!

Did you find this site by looking at one of these cards?

TheHagExpert2Final-FJM_Mid_Res_1000x1500

If you did, thank you so much for stopping by.  There’s a subscribe button down on your left, so you can subscribe to my newsletter.  (If you’re on a phone, you’ll want to press the cog wheel/star thingy to see the list of old blog posts, etc. Just scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

When you subscribe, you’ll get a password to unlock my short story, “WONDER WOMAN WALKS INTO A BAR”.  And that’s not all—-

—Not all you say? Stop the madness!

Once a month I’m giving away something to a random subscriber of KETTLE’S WEIRD NEWS.  Could be a new speculative fiction book, could be an old s/f classic, or a cool t-shirt, or some yummy food treat.  Given how wee tiny my new subscription list is, let’s just say your odds of being that random subscriber are pretty high if you sign up now.

Meanwhile, I wish I could be there at the festival because you all get to see Neil Gaiman in the flesh don’t you? Sigh, sigh, sigh.neil-gaiman

Finally I’m sending out big hearty thank you to Sue London, because she was the one who offered to hand out these cards at the festival at her booth.  You rock, Sue!

Wicked Lovely Things Going on at Wis Con

Oh Crow--We're going to Wis Con!

Who wouldn’t want a pet crow? The perfect fairy tale companion.

Hello kittens! I’m going to be at Wis Con this week.  Talking about fairy tales, Disney, and re-telling fairy tales in alternative universes.  (Think MALEFICENT, ENCHANTED, and fan fiction of all stripes.) What do you think of Maleficent? Do you enjoy a great alternative version of some favorite fairy tale? Where do you go to read the best of the best fan fic?

We’ll be exploring these questions and more at the panel on Sunday morning, but I’d love to hear comments from you down below.

The BIG news for the conference I’m uploading three of my completely twisted fairy-tales onto Wattpad. I’ll also release them for free on Amazon on June 10th.  (Waiting for a fab cover, hence the delay.)

What fairy tale mayhem am I putting out into the world? Well, there’s a point in the movie LABYRINTH where the Goblin King, (aka David Bowie) sez “Come be my Goblin Queen,” or something like that to our young heroine. In the movie she says no–what if she said yes?

Thinking about that scenario made me write THE GOBLIN QUEEN — my own little macabre tale of a Poor Young Thing who goes to the Goblin’s Castle and finds herself sucked into a tragic fate.

I have a story with a happy ending (rolling my eyes) to contrast with all the twisted perversity above. GOBLIN CHILD is about a lady in waiting who has a goblin child…and then another.  Can her good parenting skills help her progeny become less…goblin-y?

Finally, I also have a whack re-telling of a famous Russian folk tale.  THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN FEET is about a latch key kid in suburban 1970’s America who one day realizes that the angry witch raising her is actually Baba Yaga.

Oh you’re not going to the conference? Well, not to fret, you can read the first story THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN FEET on Wattpad right HERE.

 

 

Wis Con — My people!

I just registered for Wis Con — a feminist science fiction and fantasy conference in, you guessed it, Wisconsin.  Woot!

When they described this conference as one for people interested in speculative fiction that has a strong interest in feminism, race, class, and gender I about swooned.

That’s me! That’s me!

I cannot wait.  It’s May 22nd — and my hope is to come back with a cool reading list and a fistful of new social media friends.  I am stoked!