Saturday, November 23, 2013

My DarkoverCon Schedule

Next weekend (November 29 - December 1) I'll be attending my first (and likely only, what with that whole upcoming West Coast dealie) DarkoverCon at the Crowne Plaza Baltimore hotel in Timonium, MD! Below are the panels I'll be speaking on:

5:00 – 6:00PM: Comics & Graphic Novels vs. "Literary" F&SF - Compare and contrast F&SF comics and graphic novels with short stories and novels. Do they approach F&SF differently? Are there different strategies or goals? Whiteley (M), Sarah Pinsker, Timothy Liebe, Erica Satifka, Rob McMonigal (yes, the very same).
1:00 – 2:00PM: Different Medium - Different Message? - Artists discuss how working in different media affects their craft. For example: two-dimensional art vs. ceramics or woodwork, hand-drawn art vs. computer-generated art, fiber arts vs. costuming, etc. Different design strategies for different media, different representational goals, etc. Vonnie Winslow Crist (M),  Erica Satifka, Alexander, Pyracantha, Halla.
3:00 – 4:00PM: Writing Workshop – Held in Steampunk (Greenspring Ballroom 1) -- I will be assisting with Meriah Crawford on this.
5:00 PM – Broad Universe Reading (Held inside Programming 2: Chesapeake 3-5): Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Margaret Carter, Meriah Crawford, Elektra Hammond, Kelly A. Harmon, Erica Satifka, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Leona Wisoker, Sarah Pinsker (M)

2:00 – 3:00PM: Q&A for Authors - Is there something you've really wanted to ask one of the attending authors but haven't had a chance to ask yet? Well, here's your chance to ask! Heise (M), Rosemary Edghill, Don Sakers, Warren Rochelle, Melissa Scott, Leona Wisoker, D.H. Aire, Scott MacMillan, Stephanie Dray, Morland, Satifka, Tamora Pierce, Katherine Kurtz, C.S. Friedman, Meriah Crawford, Heather Rose Jones, Sarah Pinsker.

It's easily accessible to Baltimore folks via light rail, so you have no excuse!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Erica's Infrequent Book Reviews Presents: LOVE IS THE LAW by Nick Mamatas

Love Is the Law by Nick Mamatas
Dark Horse
Buy at Powell's or Amazon.

"Golden" Dawn Seliger is the only genius on Long Island. A punk, a Communist, and a follower of the occult works of Aleister Crowley, Dawn's world is overturned with the death of her mentor Bernstein, an apparent suicide. But Dawn knows better, and in Nick Mamatas' first crime novel, she intends to get to the bottom of it like a counter-cultural Harriet the Spy.

I first heard about this novel on Twitter, when Nick was having some fun with the Nanowrimo folks by throwing together random motley elements as his "Nano novel." I remember reading the tweet, laughing because it sounded so awesome but also really ridiculous, then forgot about it. A few months later he started blogging about how he was writing the thing. Whoa, really? I looked forward to reading it because I tend to like Nick's writing a lot, but of course part of me was wondering if a book generated from a throwaway comment on Twitter would work, even in a good writer's hands.

Well, it definitely works! This is a confident genre-fuck of a book, equal parts mystery and magickal fantasy. As Dawn seeks j______ for Bernstein, she finds herself caught up in conspiracy after conspiracy, aided by (not that it's their choice) a rich Marxist lawyer and a burnout from her former high school, among others. There are some of the usual mystery/noir tropes: the search for clues, interrogations, chasing down leads, the final reveal. But this is in no way a standard mystery, as the conclusion Dawn is inexorably drawn to comes from a definite otherworldly place, and Dawn is certainly no ordinary detective. In another writer's hands, there might have been a point where Dawn lost her tough exterior and learned to cooperate with her male companions and tie up all the loose ends with a ribbon and a moral, perhaps falling in love with one of them along the way. No. Love Is the Law never once loses its brutal edge, down to the haunting final sentence.

A book this short (and oh, rare is the modern writer who can tell us a story in exactly as many words as needed and no more) would be "spoiled" by saying too much about the plot but I can tell you that the Marxism and the Thelema totally come together. In one of his blog posts, Nick says that he considers Salinger one of his literary models, and I definitely saw that in the dialogue: true to life, a little bit "off," hyper-realistic. Everything is filtered so well through Dawn's cynical perspective that you don't realize that while you're going along with the mystery aspect of the plot, you're also learning things: about magick, yes, but also about the system that keeps us all chained down, even people as iconoclastic as Dawn. I guess in parts it's a bit of a polemic, but I like that kind of thing (and do that kind of thing), so it totally worked for me.

My favorite aspect of the book, though, might be its setting. While I've never been to Long Island and probably never will be, it comes alive in Love Is the Law. Nick perfectly captures what it's like to feel trapped in a small, class-divided town that's so close yet so far from a major city (yeah, that hits close to home... though Pittsburgh isn't quite NYC). It is indeed a Looooong Island, and the varied cast of supporting characters paints a picture of barely concealed class strife and cultural diversity without ever once "telling" (I think the whole tell/show dichotomy is over-simplified but go with it) you a thing. He also has a strong sense of time, as the book is set at the end of the Cold War and the characters, with their disparate Marxist views, act and react accordingly.

I can guarantee you that this is the best novel about a Marxist Thelemite punk rock girl detective that you'll ever read. If this is what Nick's interpretation of a crime novel is, then keep them coming!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's Hard to Hold a Candle in the Cold November Rain

This is a picture of a cheeseburger between two grilled cheeses. Your argument is invalid.

So I was going to post a lot more about our Portland trip but then I realized that probably nobody cares and also it's been over a month since we got back so not topical anymore, you know? I have to be honest, I've been pretty upset since we returned. Anyone who knows me even a little (which is probably most of the people who read this journal?) knows that I haven't been fond of this Baltimore place since approximately two weeks after I got here. Going to a city like Portland, where everyone is so friendly and the streets mostly don't smell of pee and despair, just reminded me that even though in some ways I've "made it" here, that I have friends and a job and my writing, I am really not happy. Yeah, I know, most people aren't happy, suck it up. But it's getting to the point where I'm emotionally wrecked whenever I leave Baltimore, because I have to come back, and this is something that can't continue indefinitely. So yeah, changes are coming even if they're not coming as fast as I would like.

Anyway, in writing news, my #fullcommunism story "The Afternoon Revolution" was accepted for the Bundoran Press political SF anthology Strange Bedfellows, along with original stories by Eugie Foster, Ian Creasey, Craig DeLancey, Alter Reiss, and many more. So look for that in April 2014, yay!

Rob and I attended Capclave in October, go read his exhaustive recap on The Book Stew. This was the con that killed our car, but good riddance. It was great to see all my east coast SF writer friends, and I hope we can meet up with everyone at least one last time before going wherever it is we're going.

Lastly, although I am not doing Nanowrimo, I am currently in the process of turning out a long-form November-centric writing project. After spending the past few years exclusively focused on short stories, writing something with more word length is weird. You mean I can add elements, not subtract them? You mean I can/should put in character moments and world-building that has nothing to do with the central idea? It's really weird to me, and I'm not sure I like working long like this, but it's an experiment to say the least. But don't worry, short fiction, you'll always be first in my heart.