Science Feature: Space and Vacuum

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Part two of what sf/f means to me will be next week. Today will be a science feature, thanks to Emily who pestered me for more of my SF novel (been focused on my fantasies for the past few months). I didn't get much added to it yet, but I did read through what I had. Since the plan is to leave this open enough to make a possible series, I made some notes on what I plan to accomplish in this book and the gist of what is to happen in later books.

Since this story is predominantly set in space with spaceships, space stations, and ship yards, I did some research on space and its effects on living tissue. No falling back on what I've seen done in other sf stories. Good thing since some of that is wrong. For instance, there is no near-instant freezing of the body. Survival of unprotected exposure to space is in terms of minutes rather than seconds. Granted, you won't have consciousness for more than about 10 seconds, but that is because of oxygen deprivation, rather than freezing.

Here are some of the links I've collected so far. Some of the information is duplicated in various articles, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. And some of the links can lead you to additional questions you may think up.

From NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center: How an unprotected body would be affected by space

From a similar question with a different movie reference

From Geoffrey A. Landis, an SF writer and NASA scientist (as of 2000): Explosive decompression and vacuum exposure

From D*** Interesting (that's me asterisking the word, by the way, the article is too interesting not to share just because of the site name): Outer Space Exposure

The third and fourth ones are my favorites. Have fun researching!

Filk Friday: Carla Ulbrich songs

Friday, June 25, 2010

This song cracks me up. Carla Ulbrich writes some funny stuff. While this isn't exactly a filk song like most of them, it's still a modern folk song. And I think she's great, so I'm sharing it anyway. This video was taken at Windycon 34 on November 10, 2007. I seem to have many videos in my bookmark list from Windycon. Sounds like a convention I need to make it to at some point.

Tell me what you think of her tongue-in-cheek response to the question of "how old are you?"

And just because I was thinking about what therapy might have done for me back in elementary school, here is Carla's song "Therapy Works." Different reason for therapy, but it works for writers. Makes me chuckle. Hope it makes you chuckle, too.

What science fiction and fantasy means to me: pt 1

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I've always been a reader. Before I entered school, my mom had already started teaching me how to read. We had a wide assortment of books at home, plus the frequent trips to the library offered even more choices. Mom encouraged us to read on our own, while Dad did most of the reading aloud. My favorite one to have him read us was The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook, because he'd do the voices. Grover and the Count were two of his best.

Some of the earliest books I can remember were fantasy oriented. We grew up on the Serendipity books with stories about animals and fantasy creatures dealing some sort of life lesson like cleanliness, telling a grownup when someone is bullying you, and unique is special. Fantasy has a way of softening a message to make it both memorable and palatable. I loved those books. Since my mom still does, too, I have to go build my own collection for my son.

Fantasy plays a strong role in many picture books. Other books I grew up on included the Little Monster books by Mercer Mayer, Busy Town books by Richard Scarry, and the Berenstain Bears by Stan & Jan Berenstain. The Bike Lesson and Bears On Wheels were a couple more books my siblings and I often requested for Dad to read us. Back then I didn't think about these books being fantasy. I just picked books with enticing pictures and fun stories.

In time I moved into chapter books. Even though I was still reading, I don't remember any books in particular until I entered fifth grade. My family moved, taking me from a school where a quiet girl like me could have friends, even a best friend, to a school with consolidated cliques. I was shut out by the nicer girls, since I lacked the outgoingness to just join in, and picked on by the other girls. Not over my hair or my clothes or what I believed in. The first two I could have changed, and the last would have made me like the early believers of my Faith. But I was simply different and an outsider. I became the girl who was likeliest to cry, whether they caused my tears or I got frustrated over something I was learning.

But that school wasn't all bad. My fifth grade teacher taught me the basics of writing. We had regular writing time every week with the writing process printed on a giant poster. I want to say it had been broken down into five or six steps, but it taught me to write, revise, and edit, with some sort of prewriting type step at the beginning. My sixth grade teacher never saw the harrassment happening (girls can be very subtle, and that kind of bullying was less well-known back then), but she'd offer a kind word when she saw me looking sad. She made me feel special and recommended books, even loaning me ones from her personal collection.

Because of her, I discovered Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising. Those books and the Narnia series were my first steps into a full fledged love affair with fantasy. Narnia was a new world, while Will Stanton's world was our own with the great conflict of Dark and Light going on beyond our awareness.

I learned how to step out of myself into the shoes of the main characters of my favorite books. Nowadays, we'd probably call that deep reading, but at the time, all I cared about was to forget me and become someone else for awhile. Even though the characters often faced worse situations than my own, their troubles made more sense, the issues clearer. I studied how the characters handled their problems, a quest to discover the magical answer for solving my own. I never found one, but I did learn I was not alone. I learned that even the downtrodden could find happiness.

I learned hope.

Summer Schedule

Monday, June 21, 2010

Now that school has let out, my summer job is giving me many more hours than I expected (close to 35 instead of 14-21), so I'm not going to be able to post as often. I'm planning to continue posting on Wednesdays, since that's coming off my weekend.

I'm not sure whether to maintain Filk Fridays. They're easy enough for me to do, but I haven't been getting much of a response from them. A few of you chime in each Friday to say you liked the week's song, but for the most part, all I hear is the band of crickets playing their fiddles outside my window. I'd been hoping to get more than just a few people saying "I like it." I'd like to know what the songs make you think about, what your favorite lines are (if you have one), and if there's anything you hope to see in the future. I thought that Dream Rider at least would bring a bigger response with its lively measures and uplifting message.

I'd like to hear from you. Tell me what you think about Filk Fridays specifically and my blog in general. Is there anything you'd like to see more of, anything new you'd like me to add, what you like, what you think I could do better with (dodges overripe tomato), and any other comments. I'm up for covering most anything on this blog as long as it relates to spec fic somehow. After all, I'm a generalist: knowledgeable in many areas, expert in none.

Check in this Wednesday for my thoughts on spec fic and what it means to me. I'll be looking forward to hearing about what it means to all of you as well. (That's why I'm telling you now, so you can start thinking about it.) Lengthy responses are just as welcome as brief ones. Both now and in the future.

Filk Friday: Dream Rider

Friday, June 18, 2010

This is a lovely inspirational song written by Mercedes Lackey and sung by Heather Alexander. The video is a montage of young adults enjoying life, sets off the song rather well, actually.

Coming soon: Eight Against Reality

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


On Monday, I mentioned reading my first ARC. I was given the opportunity to read and review Eight Against Reality by one of the authors, Juliette Wade, who sent me it to me as a pdf file. She'd stopped by my blog and enjoyed her visit. Because she liked how I've been writing my reviews, calling them "thoughtful," she wanted to know if I'd be interested in sharing my opinion of the book with all of you.

Since TalkToYoUniverse is one of my reading staples, I was thrilled to be asked. Her blog is full of informative articles utilizing her expertise with language and culture to help writers enliven their fictional worlds, and she is responsive to her readers with charm, grace, and a sincere desire to help. (I'm sure she's blushing now, but it's all true.) She is an inspiration.

Even though I was very excited to be doing this, I was also nervous. What if I didn't like the stories? She was risking my opinion to help promote her writing group's work. Well, I can now say, that while I didn't personally enjoy every story, this is a book worth buying when it's released on July 15th.

Her story, The Eminence's Match, illustrates many of the topics she's written about on TTYU, from hiding information in plain sight to considering how another culture may do things differently. Throughout the story, I had the sense of, "So this is what she's been talking about."

Eminence Nekantor is obsessed with perfection. Every flaw he perceives must be corrected, even the tiniest things such as which of the two buttons on his jacket is to be buttoned first. Xinta is a senior Service Academy student who can't maintain the required calm of the Imbati, personal body-servants to the noble caste. Calm is crucial for keeping their master's secrets and being alert to their slightest whim. Play sessions are fraught with torment from noble youths intent on making him cry, and therefore, fail. Will these two destroy each other, or can they find the peace they both desperately crave?

Kip, Running by Genevieve Williams is another story with a fascinating world. Kip's sub-culture takes cross-country running to a whole new level: on maglev trains, across moving sidewalks, and over smart buildings, despite that the way runners do so is illegal in normal society. The rules are simple: you run or freeride--no driving or paying fares. No interference of other runners. The first to reach the finish point wins. I had fun following Kip's path to the finish line and how she'd been drawn into this thrill-seeking sport.

The Lonely Heart by Aliette de Bodard was one of the ones I couldn't get into but only because of the subject matter. It was very well written. I'm just not into horror type stories, especially ones involving sexual exploitation. (I have trouble sitting through most episodes of Law and Order: SVU. Just to give you an idea.) This one takes us to China's Three Gorges Dam region. Chen sells trinkets to tourists while her husband works in another part of the city to scrape together the money for a proper flat. But a chance encounter with a sinister man and his girl-toy threatens more than just the plan to move to legal housing.

The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script by Doug Sharp wasn't to my taste either but for different reasons. It's more of my husband's kind of story, the sort of thing he laughs at before waving me over to read when he finds them online, and I just pat his shoulder and go, "That's nice, dear," before going back to what I prefer. I'd rate this story as "R" for raunchy--comic book style, minus the pictures. There's several guys I know who'd get a kick out of this space romp.

Commandrix Den Dron loathes aliens and crashes the BattleRocket Trigon into the planet Zondor, home to a race of flying squid, while her libido battles her gag reflex. I can just imagine hordes of guys chortling, "Need...power...steering," and "Look out! Pink gas attack!" (Ok, so I laughed, too. But it's not my kind of story. Really.)

Spoiling Veena by Keyan Bowes grabbed my interest from the first line with an unlikely simile that propelled me into this story of genetic manipulation set in India. Shalini and her husband spent a fortune and hours in front of genetic spreadsheets to design the perfect daughter. Now on her twelfth birthday, Veena tells her parents that she'd rather be a boy named Vikrum.

Man's Best Enemy is written by Janice Hardy, another great blogger. This story of survival in a devastated world was just as good as I expected from the author of The Shifter. (Blue Fire is due out in October; I can hardly wait.) Shawna, apprentice medic, longs to be one of the hunters. It's a dangerous occupation. With such a small population, only one person per family is permitted to join their ranks, and Shawna's brother is already one of them. But when Deeke's teammate is killed by an attack from a wild dog and he gets quarantined after becoming ill from a potential new strain of the Bug, Shawna is grudgingly allowed to take his place.

Love, Blood, and Octli by T. L. Morganfield plays on South American legends. The gods have many gifts for mankind, but not all of them are beneficial. Ayomichi becomes the priestess of Ehecatl, the Wind God bearing the form of a feathered serpent. She passes his gifts to her people, but the ones from his sinister form cause grief, even heartbreak. Can her belief in the goodness of the original Ehecatl be enough to save her people?

Dancing By the Numbers by Dario Ciriello confused me at first. There are multiple Lyra's, all written in first person, but once I got the hang of the shifts, helped along by headers indicating which Lyra was speaking, I followed along just fine. A fascinating story of reaching across parallel dimensions and what might happen if you connect with your other-selves.

I am grateful to Juliette for considering me to be part of this book's promotion. If you think any of these stories sound intriguing, I highly recommend you head to your nearest favorite book seller to get your own copy on July 15th. Even though I have one on pdf, I may have to buy a paper version, just to have something to pass around to my friends and co-workers. (And for collecting signatures if/when I get the chance to meet any of the authors in person.)

Panverse is going to be a publisher to watch when they can offer this level of quality to their readers despite their fledgling status in the business world. I look forward to what they will release next.

Fun Videos for Monday

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm halfway through reading my first ARC (advanced reader copy), so there will be no review today. Check back on Wednesday to hear about Eight Against Reality.

While you wait for me to finish it, here's a few more Harry Potter videos. They aren't filk, just existing songs put to use by HP fans.

"I Stand Alone" takes movie screenshots and fan-drawn artwork to reflect on the unrequited love between Snape and Lily. Some of the artwork is amazing.

"Be Prepared" puts the Lion King song to an alternate Harry Potter story with Snape as Scar. (Yep more Snape) The person who put this one together has the potential for a career in movie editing. Mouths match the words impressively close. And it's just plain hysterical.

Then the last song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" sung by Ruthie Henshall and John Barrowman is used to elaborate on the relationship between Ron and Hermione. It fits them soooooo well. I showed this video to my mother in law, and she was chuckling the whole time.

For some more fun, check out these videos and their related links. "Zero to Hero" with Harry as Hercules, "Man Out of You" with Snape as Captain Shang, and "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" showing what Snape might have been remembering at the end of Deathly Hallows (Don't watch if you haven't read it and don't want it spoiled.).

I love how fan vids keep using Snape. There's quite a bit of Snape-love out there. But then he was written so well to begin with. Every little bit Rowling revealed over the series about his past made him a deeper character. And DH made me cry for him. I may need a whole box of tissues when the movie comes out. Alan Rickman has played the character so well, that I hear his voice when I read Snape's dialogue in the books. (I think you can figure out by now that I have some of that Snape-love, too. What a fabulous tragic character.)

Filk Friday: Wrocking with Harry Potter

Friday, June 11, 2010

I admit it. I love Harry Potter. The series, that is.

Now I didn't jump in when it first came out. By the time I heard about HP, it was already a teen craze. I tend to avoid crazes. They're often just overhyped emptiness. But I caught my mom reading it, shortly after book two came out. A surprise since she's not much into crazes either.

She'd picked it up out of self-defense in order to know what all the kids were talking about when she subbed in their classrooms. Turned out she liked it. Since by this time I openly admitted to having a similar taste in books, I decided to give the Harry Potter series a try. I've been a fan ever since. Yes, I was one of those crazy people in line for the midnight releases for books 6 and 7. And I had to debate with my hubby who was going to read them first. (He ended up getting them first.)

The Harry Potter universe is the source of much ridicule as well as fan-produced hilarity. (And drivel, but I'm not going there.) Entire sites of fanfiction are devoted to HP. There is even a subdivision of filk music called Wizard Rock. I doubt that Wrockers consider themselves as filkers, but they are. The groups I listen to most are The Moaning Myrtles, Gred and Forge, Draco and the Malfoys, and The Parselmouths, but there are many more. Some of them do shows. If you get a chance to see them perform, go check them out. If you can't, look them up on iTunes.

Wizard Rock is my guilty pleasure, because some of it gets a bit raunchy ("Prefects Are Hot" and "And Then I Died") or not nice ("My Dad Is Rich," "Potions Yesterday," and "What Kind of Name Is Hermione"). But oh, I love them anyway. Some of these songs are very well done, musically speaking. Clever lyrics, too.

Anyway, here are a few I don't mind sharing more directly. I hope you enjoy them.

99 Death Eaters

Save the Quibbler

This last song isn't Wizard Rock, even though it's still about Harry Potter. Robert Lund pokes fun at the series and its fandom. But if you haven't read the books, you'll only get about half the references and jibes. Even though I do actually enjoy the Harry Potter series, this song cracks me up. It's one of my favorites with some of the best quotable lines. ("You put the 'emo' in Voldemort.") The man is a wizard with lyrics. Check out this parody of "Rockstar."

You've Got Hogwarts

Young Fliers

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm sure many of us have dreamed of flying. I know I have. My flying dreams were among my more lucid ones. I'd dip and soar, going pretty much anywhere I wanted. But it's been a long time since I've had a flying dream. Maybe it's from getting older. Or maybe I've found a new way to fly that doesn't require dreams, such as my writing. Change doesn't have to be something to fear or regret. That is what Newton and Vanessa discover in The Things With Wings by Gregory J. Helch.

Angel Falls holds a secret, something connected to the Emerald Rainbow butterflies that stay for a week every spring on their migration path. Newton is a newcomer in town. Growing up with actors and constantly moving, he's become fearful of change, a watcher rather than a do-er. Vanessa has lived here all her life, and she wishes her middle name was Adventure. She tells him when they meet that she has always wanted to fly, has dreamed about it. When they realize their classmates have gone missing, her inquisitive and friendly nature pulls him into the middle of the mystery. But who is the strange man who keeps following them?

Now Newton must learn to accept that change cannot be stopped, nor should it be feared. Sometimes dreams can take wing through it. No one ever said growing up was easy.

The ending of this book almost made me toss it aside, looking like one of those "Was it just a dream?" endings. I promise it isn't. I'm glad I had the patience to finish, because despite the sense of sadness, a half-forgotten moment from the middle of the story allows for closure and hope that all is not lost. That change can be sad and promising at the same time. A good thing for tweens to remember as they enter their own big changes.

Humans aren't the only ones to have dreams. In Troll King by John Vornholt, Rollo would love to be able to enjoy the daytime. He imagines smelling flowers, chasing dragonflies, and napping where it is warm and dry. But it is risky to be out in the sunshine. Ogre patrols punish trolls caught out in the sun without a good reason. The ones allowed to work in the daytime are heavily guarded. Rollo would love to get off bridge building but isn't sure daytime work is worth being hemmed in by their masters.

Changes come to the Dismal Swamp when Stygius Rex, the ancient sorcerer who rules over all the ogres, ghouls, and trolls living in the land of Bonespittle, decides he wants to expand his territory by making a bridge over the Great Chasm. He needs the trolls to build it for him. Rollo ends up an unintended volunteer and then a crew leader during their training. His team gets chosen to be the first trolls to be flown over Rawchill River, a major obstacle on the way to the Chasm. Even though it is the sorcerer's magic, Rollo discovers flying to be a fascinating as he imagined. Maybe they really can bridge the Chasm and make peaceful contact with the elves and fairies who live in the Bonny Woods!

Because of his ingenuity in training and leadership over his crew, the sorcerer picks Rollo to help him and General Drool scout the other side of the Chasm. Again the flying magic is used on him to get there. And he is learning control over it now. The magic is contagious.

When Stygius Rex and General Drool capture Clipper, the fairy Rollo has talked into considering peaceful terms, Rollo has to decide who he is going to help. That decision will fly him into big changes for himself and the other trolls.

Vornholt crafted functioning societies and vivid descriptions. Trolls are not quite what you'd expect. He plays with preconceptions and puts his own spin on them. Despite some of the lack-luster reviews on Amazon, I enjoyed it. And I am going to be looking for The Troll Queen and The Troll Treasure to find out what happens next in Rollo's adventures. The Troll King will probably have more appeal with boys, but girls who enjoy more than just pink, cute critters, and other "girly" stuff will have fun with this, too. I think I would have enjoyed this when I was a tween.

(For the record, I loathed pink back then, even though I did enjoy some of the girly stuff like My Little Ponies. I like pink better now, but I still prefer it in small doses and in specific hues. Not particularly relevant but it gives you an idea of my sort of taste: eclectic.)

A handful of children's fantasy

Monday, June 7, 2010

Instead of four individual posts, I am presenting these books together, two picture books and two chapter books. I thought they were all cute enough to share.

First the picture books.

The Toy Brother by William Steig is charming book about role reversal when the older brother accidentally shrinks himself while their parents are away for the week. My son picked out this book at the library, and we both enjoyed it. (Yes, I'm training him young to appreciate fantasy.)

Yours Truly, Goldilocks by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by Leslie Tryon has a more complex story, told through a series of letters. Each character uses a different type of paper and handwriting style, with the pictures filling details on setting, mood, and events. In addition to being a cute story, I think it would make a great visual aid to teaching letter writing. Each letter has header, greeting, body, closer, and signature.

Now the chapter books.

Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children is written by Conn Iggulden, author of The Dangerous Book for Boys, and illustrated by Lizzie Duncan. I loved it. From the book: "Tollins are not fairies. Though they both have wings, fairies are delicate creatures and much smaller. When he was young, Sparkler accidentally broke one and had to shove it behind a bush before its friends noticed. Tollins are also a lot less fragile than fairies. In fact, the word 'fragile' can't really be used about them at all. They are about as fragile as a housebrick!" Sparkler is an oddball. He finds humans and their science fascinating. Though it is against Tollin law, his scientific studies may be just what they all need to save them from human encroachment and Dark Tollin takeover. The three linked stories in this book, beginning with "How to Blow Up Tollins," made me chuckle the whole way through. The accompanying illustrations add to the whimsy. Duncan's style goes perfectly with the stories.

Though I've never picked up The Dangerous Book for Boys, I'm interested now to see if Iggulden's non fiction has any of the same style his fiction does. DBB might come in handy as my son gets older.

Harvey Angell by Diana Hendry is a middle grade story and winner of The Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award. Henry is an orphan living with his stingy Aunt Agatha. When their attic boarder leaves after a row with Aunt Agatha over her penny pinching ways (and banging his head once too often on the sloping ceiling), she interrogates new prospective boarders. Harvey Angell enchants her into accepting him with his small stature, lack of needing breakfast, and his sunbeam smile. Somehow, he begins to brighten the cheerless house. Henry just doesn't know whether to trust this "electrician" who wants to reconnect them to the circuit. Henry is determined to figure out what that means, because this strange man is up to something.

Fantasy really is for all ages. If you have children, you may want to consider these stories.

Filk Friday: Spoiler Alert

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Spoiler Alert" has me snickering every time I listen to it. I'm sure each of us has run into one of those people who can't help blabbing the details of the latest book or movie before you've had a chance to read/watch it. Well, this is sung from the point of view of the blabber.

Tom Smith is another one of those musical geniuses I want to meet someday. Here's Tom on the Funny Music Project. His CDs are also available at Tom Smith Online.

I love watching Tom perform, even though I've only seen him on YouTube. This recording is from Windycon 34 on November 10, 2007. Part of what makes it funny is his mannerisms. Watch his expressions, especially during the asides. However, I'm not going to spoil "Spoiler Alert" for you. Play the video for yourself.

(I recommend avoiding all drinks until the song comes to a complete finish. Thank you for flying with us on Comedy Airlines.)

And I hope you'll come check out my review of The World Next Door over at The Sharp Angle.

From Captain to Knight

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I love my friends who tag me onto cool news I might have missed.

Patrick Stewart, well known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise D, was just knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post. What a charming smile he has, holding up that medal. The Internet Movie Database has even already added in that he is "aka Sir Patrick Stewart."

He is an amazing actor even outside his role in ST:NG. I love how he fills the role of Sir Simon de Canterville in The Canterville Ghost. I don't care how different the movie is from Oscar Wilde's original story; the adaptation was/is special to me. Even though I was never the rebellious teen, I loved the interaction between Virginia and Sir Simon and how they changed and helped each other. Very heartwarming. It was also the first time I'd seen him doing any Shakespeare outside of ST, even though I knew he'd been doing Shakespeare long before he took on the role as Captain Picard.

If you want to see even more films he's been in, check out his listing on Oh heavens! I just spotted in his filmography that there is a fantasy-esque version of Romeo and Juliet (indoor gnomes vs outdoor gnomes) in post-production: Gnomeo and Juliet. Ahahahahahaha! No idea yet what character he'll be voicing, but so far the potential cast looks fantastic. (Dame Maggie Smith, woohoo!) I'll be watching for the preview on that.

In Memorium: Jeanne Robinson

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For those of you who hadn't already heard, Jeanne Robinson died on May 30 after a long bout with cancer. Spider Robinson's wife was a dancer, choreographer, and writer. She created the idea of zero-gravity dance for Stardance, a novel she co-wrote with Spider and is now a feature film in production. Here's the article from The Chronicle Herald about the news of her passing.

Jeanne, you will be missed. We'll think of you when we head into the stars, dancing all the way.