Category Archives: Life Log

21 Aug

Twitter Vacation Until October 15th

A long while ago, I read some very good articles about the impact of news.

See, news works on us by making us anxious. Six things under your sink could be killing you! Turn it at eleven. You won’t believe this horrible thing that happened that could have been to someone like you! If it bleeds it leads.

I’d seen the effect that had on people who consumed heavy media diets. My stepdad’s grandmother in Florida, once she was unable to get out of her house much (and in pre-Fox News times) consumed so much news. When I, a geeky underweight nerd, traveled with family to Florida I found that she kept leaving the room whenever I walked in. Turns out that since the only thing she’d seen about ‘teenagers’ was them robbing or beating up people that she was terrified of me.

A diet of constant alarm and fear puts you into a state of fight or flight. I drastically curtailed news shows, media, and such and began to engage with news extremely carefully and mindfully. Began focusing on deeper dives into topics if I was curious.

I do dearly love the water cooler aspect of twitter, and I learned a great deal from so many people linking and explaining important experiences to twitter over the last years. However, the media part of social media means that bleeding leads. I’m not going to bang on about ‘outrage’ culture, that’s not what I’m getting at. I love twitter. It’s a tool. I’ve been on it since 2008. It’s not about that. This is a problem that’s as old as any media. What I’m getting at is that we click and pass on stuff that scares or horrifies us much more than other items. It’s simple human nature, just like more of us turn in to scary news than happy news. We focus on bleeding for leading, always have. And because of the social aspect of social media, it’s been delivering things that I used to engage with more mindfully in a way that is a bit of a firehose.

Right now, I have a tight deadline, and a larger than normal amount of freelance work to do. I’m noticing that social media is fine when I have a lot of emotional energy to handle and negotiate my media intake, but when I’m stressed and overworked my ability to handle it goes down. And when that happens, I’m over flooded with horrible news that’s important, but since social media has so many vectors and ways to deliver fearful news to me, it generally takes away energy that I need for doing my own important work because I have to engage, think about how to react, dig deeper, or move, which often doesn’t work because I then have guilt about either not signal boosting or grappling with something.

This isn’t about people sending me things on twitter or disagreeing with me or anything, it’s just about constant heart-breaking stories being linked that take energy out of me.

So, out of simple self preservation, I’m taking a cleansing break. I’ll be taking it until the middle of October.

The bonus? I will be blogging. And my blog posts will auto post to twitter.

I will not be reading @ replies or twitter. DMs will come to my email, however I won’t be getting on twitter to DM back, I’ll likely just email. You can always email me on the site!

Twitter has been uninstalled from my phone, bookmark deleted from my computer for now.

Ironically, I’ll be using more dead media to make sure I’m not uninformed, and doing more reading during this period. Just in a carefully controlled way so that I’m able to keep a balance going that does not lead to me feeling drained, and figuring out where I can invest my energy best.

As a result, I may even end even up blogging a bit more.

07 May

Bocas Lit Fest 2015: a brief recap with pics

I was invited to be a guest at Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad, which is where I headed off to last week.

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The folks at Bocas put together a whole Future Friday segment, featuring Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Lord, me, and RSA Garcia. Karen and I did an all day workshop for writers interested in spec fic from the region.

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Here we are during lunch break (photo via Bocas Facebook Photostream page):

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And this is what it looks like when I murder a roti quickly at lunch before returning to the workshop (photo via Karen Lord’s Tumblr):

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Later that night the Chilean Embassy hosted a reception. Highlight of that was getting to meet and shake Derek Walcott’s hand and gush a little about his work. I tweeted about it, but a dearth of response on twitter made me realize that most of twitter feed needs a brief recap of why that was epic for someone working from the Caribbean perspective.

Derek Walcott, via wikipedia:

Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC (born 23 January 1930) is a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.[1] He is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex. His works include the Homeric epic poem Omeros (1990), which many critics view “as Walcott’s major achievement.”[2][3] In addition to having won the Nobel, Walcott has won many literary awards over the course of his career, including an Obie Award in 1971 for his play Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, the inaugural OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature[4] and the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book of poetry White Egrets

Here’s a photo of Mr. Walcott from later in the week:

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One of the other highlights of the reception was getting to meet Naomi Jackson, a NYC-based writer with deep Caribbean roots. Her first novel is coming out soon:

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The attache for Suriname spent a lot of time trying to convince me to explore the Dutch Caribbean a whole lot more.

Here’s a random shot of the view of Trinidad I saw from breakfast at my hotel each morning:

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Oh damn, the food y’all. The south Caribbean, down-island, is responsible for the first 10 years of impressions of my life. Down island food and culture is so home.

I got to eat roti, beef patties, plums, and real calalloo (the green stuff below):

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Childhood comfort food, all of it.

One of the truly amazing things about this event was all the Caribbean spec fic writers in one place. At breakfast, Jacqueline Stallworth of the Lit Blog The Big Sea took a photo of Karen, Nalo, me, and Tiphanie Yanique (photo from her blog):

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That’s the first time Tiphanie and I’ve seen each other since high school. We both went to All Saints Cathedral School together, same class. Now here we are so many years later, both working novelists at Bocas Lit Fest.

Life is wild!

Tiphanie’s work has a strong sense of the fantastic (Nalo asked her if she minded being tagged as Caribbean Speculative Fiction, and Tiphanie pointed out many American reviewers seem to ignore/pass over the magic in her stories, but that sense of the fantastic is an integral part of a lot of Caribbean literature [something I keep pointing out to folks in the US who seem to think it’s some kind of discovery for Caribbean writers to be interested in the fantastic. No: it’s been there for as long as long can be])

Future Friday kicked off with a panel by RSA Garcia, Karen Lord, me, and Nalo Hopkinson where we talked about the above. The history of Caribbean fantastic traditions, our own work. Shivanee Ramlochan, a Trinidadian poet and critic, who interviewed us (and me earlier for the Spaces/UWI podcast) was an amazing moderator, and had done so much prep work before meeting us that the panel was amazing.

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After the general panel we each did readings and q&as, RSA Garcia and I had Lisa Allen-Agostini moderating ours. Again, her questions raised the panel to a fantastic level. Not the usual ‘where do you get your ideas?’ sort of thing, but detailed questions about the nature of our work and how the region influenced them.

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Karen and Nalo reading and panel with Shivanee:

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The Bocas Lit Fest streamed photos were all taken by Marlon James. No, not the Jamaican author of that name, but the photographer. Some of the photos were amazing, so later on in the week Karen Lord and I ended up doing an impromptu shoot with him as we thought it was too amazing a chance to pass up.

Here’s Karen in front of the lens:

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Hopefully I’ll get the permission to post the photos Marlon took of me, as I want to use them for the PR section of my site. They’re really cool.

I also attended a reading by Naomi Jackson (aforementioned) and Tiphanie Yanique, and later got the chance to go out to a rum shack with Marlon and many of us writers of the fantastic. It was fascinating to catch up to Tiphanie, if not a little intimidating as she remembers the utterly quiet, withdrawn me of high school who was quite unsocialized. It’s the closest thing to a high school reunion I’ve ever had. But way cooler, as Tiphanie is doing work that is awesome and it’s fascinating to see that we both got into the arts, even if via very different directions.

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Karen Lord and I took the opportunity to head out for dinner and skipped some of the programming later on as I was too exhausted and wanted to be able to turn in early (a rarity for me, but being on deadline ahead of this event and meeting so many new people and doing so much meant I got overtired rapidly).

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It was great to sign some books for some new readers. Even cooler to sign books for long time readers who were excited I came to the island, like this guy:

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Books Lit Fest culminated with a poetry slam with a TT $20,000 (about $4,000 USD) prize. That was epic.

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Pretty soon it was heading back home, exhausted. Nalo and I were on the same plane, and said our good byes in Houston.

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I came home with a bottle of El Dorado (Guyanese Rum) 15, and a bottle of Mt. Gay (Barbados) 1703 Extra Old. And books, of course:

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And then I shaved my winter beard. Because:

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I have a million emails and to dos. So that’s my recap. Thank you to Bocas Lit Fest for bringing me down. I met so many people working on great things, and promoting Caribbean literature. I was welcomed and encouraged, which is always meaningful. Any time I get to read my own work on Caribbean soil it’s emotional. And I’m not an emotional guy. But it means something. And the readers there get a lot of references and things I’m doing in my work that reviewers in the US don’t. So to hear people ‘getting’ it, laughing in all the right places, or gushing about things that I worked hard to slip in, that refuels the tank.

Thank you.

11 Apr

I Now Have a Pair of 6 Year Olds

Six months old in the green editing chair in my office:

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Six years old in the green editing chair, about to be taken out to the curb on the morning of their 6th birthday.

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Man those five and a half years went by quickly.

If I were super hip, I’d keep the green chair and keep taking pictures of them in it every year until they were thirty, and post it, and it’d go viral.

But the chair needs to go to the curb. We got it free somehow, and it’s served its purpose as my office editing chair well, but I have a way more comfortable one now.

Also, their birthday cakes, for the win:

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The young lady who did the cakes got all excited about making sure Thalia’s had some graphics b/c there was no already-existing vampire stuff for kid’s cakes like there were for Hello Kitty, so she spent extra time doing this. Everyone was curious to hear about the story of the vampire birthday cake for the young girl at the grocery store.

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27 Feb

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. Your portrayal of a mixed race person had a big impact on me.

It’s not often that I am struck by the passing of a celebrity. I don’t often feel I need to weigh in. I certainly don’t feel like I had any special connection to that person. Certainly when celebrities that are in the common consciousness who are my age pass, I feel the shiver of mortality, but that’s usually it.

But the news today that Leonard Nimoy had passed had an impact.

I wasn’t a devoted trekker, or trekkie, or what have you. But Spock was one of the first times I saw a living example of a pro-science, pro-rational point of view in a character on a screen who wasn’t the evil scientist.

It was the first time in my life I’d seen a protagonist, a hero, be like that. Spock had a huge impact on my nascent scientific world view, giving me permission to explore a scientific worldview. It took a long time for me to go all in on that, but he was the first that made if feel it was safe.

I’m probably not alone in geek-dom there.

But where Spock really hit me in the feels was when I encountered more about him in occasional re-runs and some of the books.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Humans took one look at him and ‘saw’ Vulcan, and coded as such. And Vulcans ‘knew’ he wasn’t really Vulcan because of his invisible human-ness.

Spock was bi-racial. But he didn’t look like a half-human half Vulcan. He coded as Vulcan.

For someone who looked white, but was bi-racial, that had a huge impact on me. Spock was the closest thing I had ever seen in my life, even to this day, to a role model. As a kid, it blew my mind. There was Spock and that was it as far as ‘light not white’ me.

Spock struggling with trying to be accepted by Vulcans and humans, both sides of which kind of pushed him away a bit. That hit me in all the feels. Spock finding his own path, being just awesome as himself. Crewing with a bunch of people who all looked different than him and being down with it. Putting up with being teased for being too rational with calm and equanimity.

Yeah it was all fiction. Cardboard props and bullshit.

But telling a story about a possible path helps.

When I was a kid I was smart enough to be clever. And as John Scalzi famously noted, the failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ I fell into some of that. Wanting to be the Dr. House mode of smart, dismissive of stupidity and willing to push through solutions because of your own smarts. And I apologize to all those I hurt while trying to be clever.

As I got older, I realized I wanted to be more like Spock. Smart, but hard-working smart and with genuine warmth. Yes, he’s cold rational. But he’s not rational in the ‘toss you out the airlock’ way. He’s rational in the ‘dies to save the crew even though they’re not as smart as him’ way. He used his intelligence as a tool to try and create a universe that they could all be in. He made friends out of a diverse crew on the bridge. He was even close friends with the womanizing asshole of a captain that ran the ship and who had to often bail out of trouble, because even Kirk had good qualities and challenged Spock to broaden his experiences and grow as thinking creature, to see other modes and solutions, adding to his abilities.

He chose not to reject either side of his identity, but embrace them and synthesize something new out of them (yeah, I know not all the media were perfect about handling this aspect, but seeing it exist at all, when people like myself were/still are invisible, was water in the desert for me).

So, thank you Leonard Nimoy for playing Spock. And for bringing that person to life. Thank you for a great life lived, and continuing to engaged with all the people that loved this thing.

I will do my best to live long and prosper, and to try and always be a friend. There are worse things to try and live up to.

Addendum: I was pointed out this amazing article where Mr. Nimoy writes a letter to a dispirited bi-racial woman in the 1960s who was struggling, and found common ground with Spock.

Now I have double the feels knowing that he was aware of this and wrote letters like this.

03 Feb

Travel report: St. Mary’s College and Chattacon!

I did a poor job reminding everyone on the blog and online that I was about to do some public speaking and signing in the Bay Area. Please keep in mind, I’d been dealing with sick kids on vacation, then was sick for a couple weeks, and recovering, then catching up on a month of lost work. Then I hopped on a plane to head West!

Fortunately, thanks to the magic of Seat Guru, I scored awesome seats on the way out:

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I was invited to St. Mary’s College California, at the invitation of professors Dana R. Herrera of the Department of Anthropology and András Margitay-Becht of the Economics Department.

It was weird to walk around campus and see posters up with my own goofy face.

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We had a great turn out for the lecture, and a spirited Q&A session (including a gentleman who asserted that the Caribbean was the most racist place he’d ever visited because everyone there noticed the color of your skin. It was hard to unpack the assertion that seeing skin color is not the same as being racist and talk about colonial attitudes that *do* leave vestiges of power to lighter skin at the same time while also rejecting the assertion that the Caribbean is more or less racist when that’s such a simplistic framing of the question as well, but I tried to push back in the small amount of time I had [the gentleman’s experience was also 30+ years old]. One could do an entire semester on that, really).

I also got to sneak out to the fancy fancy mall near the hotel I was staying at and visit a Tesla dealership for the first time.

Oh yeah. I’d say this would be my next car, but I’d have to sell way more books than I am these days to snag one of these. I did, however, touch it:

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In addition to the big lecture, I chatted with the class on SF and sociology that Dana and András have been teaching, and also chatted about the business of writing at another session. Dana and András were a lot of fun to chat with as well, as they’re both very familiar with all my work.

After that, it was back on a plane for Chattanooga. A year ago I was to be Guest of Honor at Chattacon, but I slipped on ice and hurt myself badly enough to end up unable to travel. The organizers were amazing enough to invite me down again for Chattacon 40, along with many other Guests of Honor.

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The event was held in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, an old rail terminal turned into a large hotel complex. About a thousand fans packed into this place and took it over.

I got to chat with Julie Czerneda, Kathleen Ann Goonan and Adam-Troy Castro. I also did a reading very early on morning. Not many people showed up, but that wasn’t a surprise because Chattacon is known for their con suite, which has beer on tap (delivered, I saw, because I got there a day early, by a giant beer truck).

This is the con suite, it used to be an ice rink and is now a place for traveling bands to perform in:

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I was well-treated by Chattacon and enjoyed getting to explore the city a little thanks to Cherie Priest, who took me on a brief tour. Here’s a view of the entire metro area from up on Lookout Mountain:

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While in transit, I revised an entire novella and worked on freelance work, so it was rather a hectic one. I’m a bit zonked, more than I realized, so I’m mostly catching up on paperwork that was waiting for me when I returned home and emails I ignored while bouncing around.

03 Feb

A note about RETR-O-RAMA appearance in Florida: Apparently I will not be attending

Last July I confirmed I’d be attending a Jacksonville, FL event called Retr-O-Rama, and a few Florida readers have contacted to ask about it. I was contacted July 16th by someone representing the event (I still have all the archived emails) and confirmed that I would attend back then. I requested details to hammer down the flight time in August, as I’d planned to go down early (and spend my own money on a hotel) to spend a number of days writing in the sun as it always doubles or triples my word count. Since August I’ve had no reply. January 7th I reached out again to the email that had confirmed my attendance and got nothing.

Since January 7th I’ve not been told the event has been rescinded or anything like that.

Seeing that other names have been added to the site and that I’m getting the silent treatment, and seeing that I was supposed to travel down on the 13th (I’d asked for earlier), and that there are mere days left and I haven’t seen any ticket information, I can safely assume that I am being dodged/ignored/forgotten or some combination thereof.

So, sadly, and alas, I will not be down in Florida to sign books.

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience if you were hoping or planning to come out to see me. I swear it was not my fault. I’ll be taking down the appearance listing, but I just wanted to pass on a notice.

I do have another speaking appearance that is being offered that will be at a Florida university, details to be announced later, which will be sometime next year.

Until then!

05 Jan

For Locus subscribers, I have a summary of the Bermuda workshop in the latest issue

I penned a few words about the awesome folks I got to meet in Bermuda for the latest issue of Locus.

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(Correction: Grace Jones = Grace Welch), I apologize for any confusion).

I’m hoping that with the ongoing workshop, and the stories, that soon editors in the field will start seeing submissions from them.

Or I’ll be giving them a long-distance side eye.

Because they were talented.

19 Dec

Confusion schedule

I’ll be a panelist at Confusion this January 16-18th. In addition to the panels and mass autograph session, I’m excited to be interviewing the GoH, Karen Lord, for anyone attending.

This’ll be great. I hope to see you all show up!

The schedule:

Friday 5pm: Gadgets and Apps for Writing
Scrivener, Evernote, writing books on phones and tablets!

Saturday 4pm: Mass Autograph Session

Sunday 10am: Post-Colonial SF
Can our world’s own colonization history help us write the stories of future colonizations? What were the pitfalls? And how can we avoid them? Or are we just doomed to repeat history…

Sunday 11am: Karen Lord interview
Best-selling author Tobias Buckell interviews our Author Guest of Honor Karen Lord

Sunday 12pm: Extreme Weather in Science Fiction
First the ice caps begin melting, and then we get Sharknado. How have real-world weather events influenced science fiction? Can we use science fictional ideas to solve our real-world environmental crises?

09 Dec

Authors reading one star reviews

Have you been paying attention to the Worldbuilders charity that Pat Rothfuss runs? It’s up to $574,508 raised for Heifer International. One of the stretch goals was just blown right past (450K), in which I and many other cool writers read one star reviews of our work.

You can help out Heifer International via Worldbuilders here by just buying great signed books, or other cool items, as well as entering a lottery.

The next stretch goal is getting Hank Green to perform an angry acoustic of “Shake it Off.”

What’s that you say? You want to make the world a better place while winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your lucky day.

Heifer International is our favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry all over the world.

They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.

(Are you ready? I’m so ready. Let’s do it.)

Pay attention now, you’ve got a couple different options for donating.

The Lottery

The Sure Thing

The Auctions

(Via How It Works | Worldbuilders.)