June 5th, 2011

MLP: Pinkie is watching you

Oh, child.

We're purging books! (Hallelujah!) A big part of this has been Elayna going through her shelves and pulling things that she has moved beyond or things she never liked. In some cases, things she has inherited from me.

Me: "Oh, this was mine when I was little!"
Elayna: "Yeah I know. I can tell because it's about ballet."
Me, surveying the books: "...huh."
Elayna: "Ballet and horses."

She tries to put Gypsy and Nimblefoot in the donation pile, and I seize it from her.

Me: "This is the first book that made me cry!"
Elayna: "Seriously, though, what is it with the all the horse books? 'Oh, I'm a preteen coming of age! I need to figure out who I really am! I'll go ride a horse!'"

I glared. But she's pretty much right.
Typewriter - tell me about it

Emerging America Festival

We are in the stage of drastic housecleaning that looks like the house was turned upside down and shaken vigorously. At present, we are at an Adam Has To Do Stuff point, so I'll recap the Emerging America Festival so's to get these programs off my desk.

Bellona, Destroyer of Cities
to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out for the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.

Bellona begins where Dhalgren ends. Or maybe it does. Which is about right for anything based on Dhalgren (and if you haven't read it, go now, do it now). Delany's novel is a swirling circular metafictional text - it's not a thing you can read in a straightforward manner. To read Dhalgren is to surrender to the text.

By necessity, Scheib's play must be more straightforward.

It's pitched not as an adaptation of Dhalgren, but a loosely based reimagining. I can see it both ways. As I said, it begins how Dhalgren ends, a bit, with Kid leaving town and a woman entering; in the play, however, the woman becomes Kid, rediscovers his notebook, lives his story, even though we see Kid leaving. Time is fluid; events referred to in the beginning of the play occur toward the end. There is always a Kid, there is always a murder, there is always a fire. Gender is also fluid, especially Kid's; the actress is coded as male or female changing from scene to scene.

The set is spare: two rooms, a bar and an apartment, and the space in between, which has a long screen through the middle of it. The screen displays live video from both of the rooms, from various places within and some out of view - so you get reaction shots from characters whose backs are turned, or who are offstage altogether. We were not quite sure how this was going to work, but we loved it.

The bulk of the play focused on the third section of Dhalgren, "The House of the Ax" - the narrative about the fracturing of the Richards family. Bits of the first chapters are woven through, as well, but none of the parts after, really, save Kid leaving... and passing the gun (not an orchid) given to her by the previous Kid to that selfsame Kid, returning, with no memory of having been there before. In between is an almost hallucinatory experience of Bellona, the city caught in a never-ending loop of self-destruction.

But I still hear them walking in the trees: not speaking.
Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of
the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland into the
hills, I have come to

The Un-Official Guide to Audience Watching Performance

"Three windmills," Raphael Xavier says, then executes them slowly. Again and again, he tells us what he's going to do, performs that single move. Until at the end the music starts, and he executes a perfect breakdance routine to it - he has shown us the entirety of the construction of it, piece by piece. Audience watching performance.

He started with "Let me introduce myself!" in a booming voice - then proceeded to do so, meandering the room, shaking hands, clearly delighted. "Let me introduce myself," he said conversationally. "I like to."

There was a dance crew. There was spoken word, all about breaking down not just how Xavier performs but how he decides what to perform, how our reactions inform how he performs. There was a guest poet, too, who wasn't as good - but Xavier charmed me. I think he could've gone farther into the meta - this felt like something he was just starting to explore. I'd come back next year if he does, to see where he's taken it.

Grand Theft Ovid
Characters from World of Warcraft, Halo Reach, and Grand Theft Auto 4 perform tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Middle and high school students turn into digital “puppeteers” when they operate projected images of their favorite games.

This is what it sounds like. And it was hilarious and fascinating. This started out as a school project, and it's a fantastic way to get kids into mythology!

Daedalus and Icarus, performed on World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto
Orpheus and Eurydice, performed on Call of Duty: Black Ops and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Midas, performed on World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and Guitar Hero 5
Daphne and Apollo, performed on World of Warcraft
Niobe, performed on Halo Reach

As someone unfamiliar with most of the games, I was constantly surprised and delighted with how well things fit - Niobe in particular. So cool! All of the gameplay was live, but WoW had the bonus of being live and online, so we had other players being goofy all over the narrative. :)

The Momentum
Adam saw this one without me. He says: The concept was a three-person show that felt like it was both a tribute to and a parody of the self-help, self-actualization, and support group movements. In many ways, it was just the three cast members delivering extended monologues of the kind one might see when watching a ________ Anonymous group on a TV show. Individually, many of the speeches were very well done, with a just-shy-of-cult-look-of-happiness on the actors' faces, which worked very well. However, the play, in the end, lacked the cohesion to make it anything more than an interesting experiment.

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage
Oh my word. This? This was the centerpiece of the whole damn festival. Punk-rock lit-crit. Smack talk. Thumb-wrestling. Dragons. THIS SHOW HAS IT ALL. I could keep listing things, and it would sound like a Stefon club recommendation from SNL. STEFON WOULD LOVE THIS SHOW.

So wow. Okay. What is this? It's an analysis of Beowulf, including dissection of the historical period and the themes of masculinity and femininity. It's a love story to the epic. It's a brilliant skewering of the epic. Beowulf is a hero, a thug, a warrior, a jackass. Grendel's mother lights the stage on fire - metaphorically, though with this troupe, one ought not to be surprised if she does so literally. Their battle uses fishtanks held above their heads. This makes sense in context. It all does.

Also it's a musical.


The narrators start out through an academic lens, but as the play goes on, they become Grendel, his mother, the dragon - they can't keep their distance from the narrative. To love the poem is to inhabit the poem. One can't help but engage. Especially when Beowulf is stealing your drink. (Warning: Beowulf will steal your drink.)

You just have to see this. Promise me that you will see this, when it comes to your town. Then come back to me and you will be like DUDE and I will be like I KNOW. I KNOW.
MLP: Pinkie bounce

Wiscon recap: Saturday

Started my Saturday with a run through the Dealer's Room (oh hai new Laurie Toby Edison ring!) and the Art Show. So much great stuff! And I know more people in the art show every year. Gives me warm fuzzies, that does. I love knowing talented people. :) I could've bought a ton in the art show - but what I couldn't resist was this.

Those of you who know my daughter already know why. catvalente actually gasped upon seeing it Monday: "Oh my god, it's baby Elayna!" And it is. Elayna's preferred hair color and clothing style - her face, manga-ized - and the ravens! And the treasure! Seriously, I turned the corner and there was my daughter. So of course I had to buy it. And of course Elayna fell in love with it. I also bought a manga-style Labyrinth piece, which is sadly not up on the artist's site.

From there, a too-brief stop at the Journeyman Writers' Meeting (oh hai vylar_kaftan!) - I had to leave early to help set up for the Traveling Fates show.

Which was tremendous. Because of course it was. And it hit at a very emotionally resonant time - like I said, I was doing a lot of processing Thursday-Saturday. And the song choices, plus some additional other-people's-stuff background - I spent chunks of the concert, when not shimmying subtly behind the merch table, very internally focused and a bit overwhelmed over how the songs were almost like a Tarot reading. Talk about the right show on the right day. My goodness. s00j was phenomenal as always, and Bekah Kelso and Ginger Doss were great too - this was my first experience of them, and I snapped up all their music! And dark_blade danced. <3

Also during the concert? We got to surprise the epic-fantastic birthday boy, omnisti! We'd stealthily established a fund for the new fire staff he'd been wanting. Ha! We = s00j, I think Bekah & Ginger, vixyish, catvalente, and me - and maybe others? I'm not sure? Miz Vix, I gave him an extra hug for you! (Also I'd surprised him at a little past midnight Friday with a bright orange Baktus, because that's how I roll.)

And after the show, I needed a break. Note to self: standing through three hours of the Gathering on Friday and two hours-plus of concert prep and concert on Saturday is REALLY BAD FOR YOUR LEGS, ow ow ow. Also ow. Owwww.

Then a panel I regarded as a must: How To Describe Nonwhite Characters Sans Fail.

Oh. No.

I will refer you to kate_nepveu's excellent recap. There is really nothing I can add to that, save that I think at least angelsscream was entertained by my eyes going huge and me pressing my hand to my mouth in a cartoony "oh noooooo." Just wow. I'll note that an actual apology has occurred. But at the time, just oh nooooo. Went out to dinner from there with ktempest, sairaali, and a bunch of other wonderful and appalled panel attendees (I do not know everyone's LJname). Additional note to self: When in Wisconsin, order Indian food extra spicy.

I never make it to the Tiptree auction. Next year? I hope?

After dinner, I believe, is when I holed up in the hotel room frantically typing all of the last three days' developments to sindrian. This was a common occurrence during the con: I HAVE TEN MINUTES AND MUST SPEND ALL TEN TYPING.

I meant to make it to more parties, but I only made it to the Fairyland launch party. Well, there was a s00j! And a stealthcello! And later a Bekah and Ginger! And lounging about with the delectable grntserendipity, omnisti, pattytempleton, csecooney, thegreenyear, LJless Will Alexander and John O'Neill, And Many More. How could I have budged? I ask you!

Oh! And right before that? A breakthrough!

I was telling Patty, Claire, and O'Neill about why I have the "no at-con hookups" rule. Namely, I've had two that became toxic year-long relationships. In a row. Not doing it again. But ah, Claire!

csecooney: "So both of those times, you were living it Atlanta, and they were in Boston?"
Me: "Yes!"
csecooney: "Well, clearly your real love affair was with Boston!"
Me: "*blink*

It is true, I think! Oh, the ridiculous lengths I went to. It was Boston I was in love with all along! And now I am in a healthy long-term relationship with Boston! W00t! So, y'know. We'll see about con sex. We'll see.

I remained at the Fairyland party until I developed the thousand-yard stare; then I was off to bed. Sunday was to be my busiest day, after all.
MLP: Pinkie Oh Hai!

Wiscon Sunday/Monday

Sunday's when I had almost all my panels. Yaaaaay.

Return of the Rape Panel
Sexual assault and rape frequently get used as symbolic plot devices, with no consideration of how sexual violence actually affects survivors and the people around them. Some have said that feminists shouldn't write science fiction and fantasy dealing with rape; others felt that not writing about rape doesn't negate the reality that rape is both an actual crime and a political and personal means of attack. This year, we hope to discuss how to write about sexual violence in a way that shows the repercussions not just for survivors, but for their communities—and in a way that informs the entire story and isn't just used as a plot coupon or shortcut to character development.

I dragged grntserendipity up on this panel. Partly because I was Deeply Concerned about some of the off-topic and extremely triggery and really inappropriate stuff one of my fellow panelists was insistent about talking about, until I brought the programming chairs into it, at which point she backed down completely. Yes, that's why I wrote this. I won't go into detail, but I will say that the potential for fail was HUGE and I am glad grntserendipity was there in case I had to go off. Found out at dinner on Saturday, however, that that panelist is known for trying to bully mods into giving her her way. Which was so not going to happen with me. And as predicted, she didn't cause trouble, having been informed that programming had their eyes on her.

Given that, it went really well! We got to focus more on rape as a weapon of war, with a special focus on fellow panelist Nnedi Okorafor's highly recommended Who Fears Death. And we got to revisit a bunch of stuff from previous years, as well as some new topics and books (and TV shows). I was thrilled to get a bunch of recommendations from the audience, and altogether the panel and the audience had a great, constructive conversation on rape in fiction, rape culture, why it's important to portray the diversity of sexual violence, and much more.

One of the things I love at cons is getting props for being really smart on panels. Which I got all weekend. So yay. And at Wiscon in particular, I get those compliments from people who are themselves really freakin' smart, so bonus!

I got out just in time to intercept beloved omnisti, stealthcello, and s00j on their way out. Final hugs! I will miss them terribly, but see them in November at PhilCon.

From there, I attempted lunch. Note that I said attempted. Not enough time between panels to get a group together and quest for food. Just enough time to get something at the hotel restaurant - or there would've been if they didn't take 20 minutes just to send a waiter over. Said waiter promptly disappeared for another 20 minutes or so when told about my celiac. And then did not have complete or accurate info when he resurfaced. And then he disappeared again. So lunch was a Lunabar in the green room. Because next:

Living with Invisible Disabilities
Not all disabilities are visible. How much do you tell and explain to whom? What unexpected barriers do you encounter? How can others be better allies? How are characters who have disabilities that are not readily apparent treated in SF?

This was a fantastic panel! We had a nice variety of invisible disabilities represented on the panel itself and in the audience, and I think all of us learned a lot, panel and audience. My one regret: the conversation was flowing so well on invisible disabilities in real life that we didn't get to discuss the question of SF characters with disabilities. Another time for my analysis of Miles Vorkosigan's seizure disorder! But it was a great panel of the sort that I attend Wiscon for, that we need to see more of at other cons.

I wish I'd been able to linger longer afterward, but I had to dash off to my reading!

Goblin Girls and Bedlam Boys
C.S.E. Cooney writes mantic, manic prose, using rancid goblin fruit for compost. Patty Templeton writes hellpunk in a hand-basket, full of ghosts, freaks, and fools. Shira Lipkin will bring you to the home you never knew you'd lost. Shveta Thakrar writes about the monsters and the magic in the corners of her culture. Together, they fight crime!


And we did. csecooney read a rollicking bit of Jack O' The Hills, a gleefully vicious fairy tale! pattytempleton followed that up with the hony-tonk stomp of "Killbox Road Trip", which I need the complete text of RIGHT NOW PLZ. shveta_thakrar ushered us into an alternate India with her luscious tale from Steam-Powered 2. And I brought up the rear with a reading from Cicatrix, fundamentally the same as what I read at Arisia... and, having extra time at the end, I provided a small unicorn chaser in the form of "And to my Wife...", which got the laughs as always. :) I have so much fun reading with these amazing people and I want to do so always! We had a great crowd for our reading, too! Love!

I stuck around for the tithenai, Benjamin Rosenbaum, and assorted others' reading, which was great - and included Geoff Ryman's excellently written and performed tale of secondary trauma. I joined a few others in an impromptu "have you ever considered trigger warnings?" consciousness-raising.

After that? Dinner! Tutto Pasta once again, with the soon-departing csecooney, pattytempleton, Katie, and John O'Neill, and not-leaving-yet Nivair, tithenai, and shveta_thakrar. I was well into I LOVE EVERYONE mode at this point. So very. My one regret here: we were having so much fun that we missed pretty much all of the Dessert Salon! Ah well. At least I got some solo tithenai time after bidding farewell to the Chicago contingent. Solo tithenai time is a rare honor, you know.

I did get to a few parties that night! Because the Genderfloomp Dance Party was late starting. Also got bonus hangout time with cabell and her husband, vylar_kaftan, and many more. There's a lot of "and many more" at this con.

So Genderfloomp. At Wiscon, dance parties have a reading list! Oh yes. I considered presenting more masculine for this, but I defaulted to uberfemme because that's actually easier to pack for - I was determined to fit everything into a small rolly bag. AND I DID. Five days, a bunch of dressy dresses, and I even fit my ten ARCs from the Gathering in for the way back. PACKING NINJA.

Not that kind of packing. Maybe next year.

So dance! You guys. This was so much fun and it needs to happen at every Wiscon ever! I was mostly dancing with grntserendipity, tanyad, angelsscream, sophy, and a few others, but had my moments of flitting about with other people and having gigglefits in the hall and petting people heavily (by invitation!), and the dance-off between Ben Rosenbaum and Keffy Kehrli was A WONDER TO BEHOLD. Also, daaaaaaaaaaang I did not know tithenai could dance like that. I really can't capture the magnificent silliness of Genderfloomp without having an entire post dedicated to it. Suffice to say it was one of the highlights of the con for me and I want it to happen every year forever. I'm already planning my ensemble for next year.

I retired far too late, but far before the party was over. 10am panel on Monday, after all. Fie upon responsibility.


Is Science Fiction the New Reality?
Star Trek offers a vision of the future that includes personal, networked communicators, talking, intelligent computers, and the tricorder, a portable, hand-held networked computing device. Today we have cellphones, IBM's Watson,and the iPad. Are we already living in the science-fiction future? What does this mean for writers of speculative fiction?

My answer: yes. There, we're done! :) In all seriousness, though, great and far-ranging panel moderated well by ktempest, and if you have ever wondered whether it's fun to politely and firmly disagree with James Frenkel, I tell you now that it is. Also I got to do that thing that makes people go ooooh, where people *koffFRENKELkoff* ramble on about a thing for five minutes and I sum it up in five words. I am succinct. I'm not even any taller than I need to be, y0.

And then? Then I hugged a lot of people, and packed, and nommed Corn Chex in the hotel room (if cannot pack, eat), and lingered in the lobby, and I caught the airport shuttle with too-seldom-seen jnanacandra, rachel_swirsky and her partner, Ay-Leen the Peacemaker and Lucretia Dearfour, and - say it with me - many more! I parted ways with jnanacandra at MSN, but got to hang out with the others until the flight to MKE, and stayed with Ay-Leen and Lucretia until my 7:00 flight to BOS. The Wiscon party does not stop until everyone's on separate flights, y'all.

I knitted, I napped, I listened to my new mix CDs from pattytempleton; I got home 'round midnight. And then Wiscon was over.

Until next year. When it will be EVEN BETTER.

If I did not mention you, it's not because I didn't have an awesome time with you! It's just my brain is overfull. You are all fantastic and I adore the lot of you, so there, and I cannot wait to see you again.
Welcome home

king solomon's mines/exit 75/i'm still alive

(This is a tiny offshoot of "The Angel of Fremont Street" and "Fortune", posted because, well. Today is today. Also, just this week I think I've come to know what the third and hypothetically last story in this cycle is.)

Her friends have learned to leave her alone on this day, this anniversary, when she makes a sort of pilgrimage to her point of origin. She walks where her progenitor walked. She stands where she stood. She looks out at the empty lot, out toward where she went, and feels hollow - like the girl was ripped out of her, and not the other way around.

But this year, Hal's suddenly blocking her. He stands on the corner, right beneath the street light, pack slung over one shoulder and a grin on his face, and he reaches a hand out to her. Come with me, he says.

She shakes her head. No. It's - today is -

I know what today is.

I have to do this.

No, he says, voice and eyes soft. You don't. And I have something to show you.

She studies him. Her most constant friend, before and after they were discarded.

She takes his hand, and he grins.

They set off walking, Hal keeping a brisk pace, Elizabeth stealing looks over at him. What is this that you have to show me?

Another discard.

Why today?

You'll see.

You're maddening.

He grins and tousles her hair. That is one of my finer qualities. And here we are.

She looks up, looks around, and gasps.

They are surrounded by enormous neon signs, a riot of color and shapes, diamonds and high-heeled shoes, all jumbled around. Hal's right. These are discards. This is the old Las Vegas. This is Binion's Horseshoe and the Golden Nugget, the Silver Slipper and the Cheesecake Revue. Elizabeth's been living in the ghost of Fremont Street, but this is even older - mobster old.

These are ghosts she's never met.

Behind her, Hal has set down his pack and pulled out a bottle of wine, two cups. Say hello, he says.

She walks up to the Silver Slipper, touches one old bulb. Hello, she whispers.

And to her surprise and delight, it answers. They all answer.

It starts as a stirring of light in that one bulb, and spreads, hundreds of will o' wisps kindling hundreds of lights, color suffusing the air - and then the music rises behind it, and she can almost hear the laughter of the gamblers of so many years ago.

Hal takes her hand and asks, his voice unusually serious, Angel of Fremont Street - may I have this dance? The light plays in his dark eyes, and for the first time, she wonders why her progenitor was not in love with his - wonders how she could not have been in love with his. And she moves into his arms as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and perhaps it is. They waltz, and he holds her close, and he whispers, I know what day this is. Do you? This is the day you began to exist, Elizabeth. This should not be a day of mourning for you. This day gave you life.

She closes her eyes, resting her head on his shoulder, and remembers. Not the event that threw her into this world, but all of the things she's done since, and all of the discards she's come to know. You send them to me, she says, half to herself. You send them to find the Angel of Fremont Street. I'm not an angel, Hal.

She feels him smile. Maybe this is how angels are made.

He pulls back just a little, and she looks up at him, a question in her eyes. Happy birthday, he says, and he kisses her - and they may just be discards, shed bits of soul and hope and fear, but this kiss feels real. Everything feels real. Hal waltzing her in the Neon Boneyard. This being her birthday.

She'd asked Venus once if she thought there was life after death, and Venus just shrugged, and said I don't know if there's life after death, baby. But maybe there's love after death. And maybe there is.
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