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Posts from the ‘Housekeeping’ Category

Thoughts on the Past Year and the New


Every new year is a natural inflection point, a pin stuck into our lives, that makes a good opportunity for retrospection and resolution. The blogosphere is – of course – lousy with such retrospectives and resolutions, and self-indulgent though it may be, I will do the same.

My 2014 in Review

The past year was a very difficult one for me. The same could be said for the year before that, but at this point on some measures I seem to be clawing my way back into some semblance of normalcy. Two themes dominated my 2014: Work, and Family Life.

On the work front, I started a new job at the start of 2014. And unfortunately, that job has more-or-less eaten my life. In addition to having to travel internationally about 30% of the time, I find myself working 15 – 20 hour days typically about six days per week. There are a variety of reasons for that which I won’t get into here, but obviously such a pace is not to be maintained long-term. It means having less time for family (which had its own share of challenges in 2014), and unfortunately much less time for blogging or writing. My life-and-soul-consuming dayjob was the single dominant feature of my 2014, which is neither healthy nor sustainable. The good news, is that improvement on this front is (hopefully) coming soon.

When it comes to family, 2014 was also difficult. For one thing, we moved (again), into a fixer-upper which (as the name suggests) is in need of some TLC. Another move would have been hectic and distracting enough, but we had to move ourselves and move my (octogenarian) parents at the exact same time. And now, we find ourselves supporting my parents financially, logistically, and emotionally as they begin to be Really Old. Then there were a number of deaths in the family, followed by serious hospitalizations for some of the surviving family members.

In other words, I’m really glad to be seeing the back of 2014.

For all of the hard bits, I shouldn’t complain: While my professional life is hard, incredibly stressful, and often frustrating, we are objectively in a much better place now than we were a year ago. More secure, more stable, and with better prospects. But all of that added security comes with a cost that can be measured in time and energy.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t been blogging near as much as I should be. In the past year, I’ve written only one substantive blog post (my retrospective on the works of Gene Wolfe which was published at Aidan Moher’s Hugo-award-winning A Dribble of Ink). All of the work and family issues I’ve been dealing with haven’t really left a lot of time or energy for the thinking or in-depth critical analysis that I love, which is a shame. And it is something that I would like to rectify in 2015.

In a similar fashion, I have largely dropped off of the genre community’s social media circles. Yesterday was the first day when I went onto Twitter in a meaningful fashion in at least two months. Most of my social interaction with the field has actually been the old-fashioned in-person kind: at Readercon, at Worldcon, at the SFWA Mill-and-Swill, or while working as staff at Viable Paradise. It’s funny, but while I tend to be a fairly social person, when the going gets tough I find that being a social person in-person actually becomes easier than maintaining affability in the online world. I find that to be somewhat counter-intuitive, and actually quite surprising. But there it is.

In terms of my fiction writing, this has been a year of fits-and-starts. Because of all of the time and creative energy that my work requires, I spent 2014 writing fiction in bursts. There would be a dry-spell that would last a month, or six weeks. And then I would churn out anywhere from two thousand to six thousand words in one sitting. I find that’s a very frustrating way to write, in that it makes building up a rhythm or maintaining momentum quite difficult. But throughout 2014 that was the only way I could make any kind of forward progress, slow and intermittent as it was.

But that was all 2014, and I am hoping (and resolving, and intending, and planning, and praying) that 2015 will be easier.

Looking Forward to 2015

The biggest challenge in 2014 was the way in which my dayjob ate my life and crushed my soul. The good news here is that we reached an inflection point right around Christmas time in the dayjob, one which will hopefully let me re-gain some modicum of control over my work schedule, work pace, and the hours that I need to put in to do my job well. I might not be able to get to that point starting tomorrow, but the pace I worked in 2014 cannot continue in 2015. It just won’t be physically sustainable. Which means that something will have to give, in one fashion or another.

That couples with a resolution to make more (and more consistent) progress in writing both non-fiction and fiction. In terms of fiction, over the past months I have been decreasing the interval between my fiction writing sessions and increasing the word-count in each one. Slowly, I am attempting to regain the kind of rhythm and momentum that I had a couple of years ago.

At the same time, I’m going to make an effort to blog more. And to help with that, the Professor and I have made a deal. In 2015, I plan to go to three cons: ICFA, Readercon 26, and World Fantasy. But to justify the expense and time away from home (which is on top of my 1 – 2 weeks of work travel per month), I will need to maintain a blogging pace of one post every month. Of course, that’s far off of my previous weekly schedule. But small steps, as I try to wrest control of my life and writing output back to a more natural place.

Of course, fixing dayjob troubles and getting my fiction and non-fiction writing rhythm back won’t change the fact that family will still bring its challenges. That is not something that will change soon, and considering the work that needs to be done to our new house, and my parents’ age and condition, I expect family life will get worse before it (eventually) gets better. But that’s just the way it goes, and that is the one area of my life where I have the least explicit control. Dayjob I can influence and shape: dealing with the vicissitudes of care, health, and loved ones is just something that has to be done.

So that’s how things stand, looking back on the last year and looking forward to the next. I hope I’m able to wrest more of a life away from my job, and that I’m able to regain better momentum in my writing. And I hope that by doing so, 2015 will let me speak with you more here, on Twitter, and at those three cons I mentioned.

My Loncon 3 Schedule


Two weeks from today – August 14 – will mark the start of Loncon 3: The 72nd Annual World Science Fiction Convention (which, since that’s a mouthful, is more commonly known as either Loncon 3 or Worldcon). This Worldcon is particularly exciting for me for three simple reasons:

My First Ever Worldcon!

It’s hard to be engaged with the science fiction and fantasy genres and not hear about Worldcon. It’s a storied event, not least because of its awarding the Hugo Awards. While I’m relatively new to con-going fandom, this will be my first time attending a Worldcon and given everything I’ve heard – I’m looking forward to it!

Reflected Hugo Gloss

This is also the first Worldcon where a project I’m (somewhat) involved with is up for a Hugo Award. Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary is nominated for Best Related Work. Jared Shurin (of Pornokitsch) and Justin Landon (of Staffer’s Book Review) deserve all the credit for editing this excellent collection of thought-provoking commentary about the genre, the field, and fandom. I’m honored to have my work sharing a TOC with the other authors, and I’m looking forward to cheering Jared and Justin on at the Hugo ceremony (though, to be fair, I’m likely to be cheering all of the nominees in Best Related Work: It’s a really tough slate this year, even if I do have my favorite).

If you’re a member of Loncon 3, don’t forget: Today (Thursday, July 31) is your last day to vote for the Hugo Awards. Regardless of which works you vote for, please do your part: The Hugos are only meaningful because of our engagement with them.

Loncon 3 Programming

And last but certainly not least, there’s programming. I’m slated to be on the following panels at Loncon 3, and I hope to see you there:

Friday, 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)
The Role of Fandom in Contemporary Culture
Fandom influences culture. Fan activism appeared in Thailand with the Hunger Games salute while the Harry Potter Alliance organise fair trade chocolate and gay marriage campaigns. Films and television shows change because of fans, thereby indirectly influencing non-fannish audiences. “Published fanfiction” is becoming ever more lucrative a business. Meanwhile, fan materials are widely used as educational tools, including at museums (fan vids were part of an exhibition at the New York Museum of Moving Image), but also at schools and universities. Internal changes within fandom also impact upon contemporary culture, such as the impact of fanfiction on the culture of reading or fan communities as modes of challenging conservative social and political viewpoints. In this session we try to unravel the role of fandom in contemporary culture, work out its impact in different parts of the public and private sphere and predict where we might be heading in the future.
  • Chris Gerwel
    (Moderating)
  • Jean Lorrah
  • Emily January
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Laurie Penny

Sunday, 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)
Fandom at the Speed of Thought
The story of fandom and the SF field in the twenty-first century is the story of the internet: more voices, fewer gatekeepers. How are authors, reviewers, editors and readers navigating this shifting terrain? In what ways has the movement of SF culture online affected the way books are written, presented, and received — and how has it affected the way readers identify and engage with authors and books? Do the old truisms — never respond to a review! — still hold sway, or are author-reader shared spaces possible, even desireable?
  • Chris Gerwel
    (Moderating)
  • David Hebblethwaite
  • Kevin McVeigh
  • Aishwarya Subramanian
  • Leticia Lara

Monday, 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)
The Internet and the Evolution of Fan Communities
Fanzines, fan clubs, conventions and local fan groups drove fan communities from their beginnings, with contact being made via post or sporadically in person by those who were not fortunate enough to live near fellow fans. While the decades between the beginnings of SF/F fandom and the emergence of the internet saw new technologies helping fandoms evolve and adapt, little has acted as a catalyst for change as much as the internet. With the development of the internet fans were able to create and join communities anywhere. The diverse nature of these online spaces, with their varying longevity (in terms of existence and how they archived their material), access requirements, and moderating practices has been instrumental in diversifying, strengthening and fracturing communities. In this session we discuss the impact of the internet fan communities including how it functions within different sorts of fandoms.
  • Deborah Christie
    (Moderating)
  • Monika Drzewiecka
  • Chris Gerwel
  • PR K
  • Gavia Baker Whitelaw

Sorry, Running Late


Sorry, I’m afraid that with everything else I’m now running a little late with today’s blog post. With any luck, I’ll have it up tomorrow (Wednesday).

Watch this space! 🙂

End of the Blogging Vacation & Design Changes Coming


So about two months ago, I mentioned that I was going to be taking a bit of a vacation from blogging here. Well, what was originally going to last about a month has turned into two. To be fair, during that long vacation I wrote some of the most discussed entries in the history of this blog, but nevertheless, I have been taking it easy here while dealing with a ton of real-life stuff. In the offline world, we sold our house and moved about 20 minutes closer to New York City, so it’s been a rather busy month.

But now that we’re all settled into our new abode, now that the books are unpacked (still unorganized, but at least they’re not in boxes any longer), I’m going to be back here on my regular weekly schedule. Also, don’t be surprised (or too concerned) if the look of this blog changes a little in the coming days and weeks, since there are bunch of design tweaks I’ve been meaning to get to. If I break something in my design experiments, rest assured I’ll be around to fix it shortly!

Forthcoming design changes notwithstanding, as of this Tuesday (July 30th) I’ll be back to posting an essay every Tuesday as per usual. I hope you’ll join me!

PSA: Fourth Street Fantasy 2013


I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for the past year. Why? Because this weekend is the annual Fourth Street Fantasy convention. I first went last year, and found it to be a weekend full of fascinating genre discussions, in-depth literary conversation, great music, and wonderful fun. I got to see old friends and make new ones, and it was also the first SF/F con at which I got to be on on some panels.

I had such a good time last year, how could I possibly stay away? Here are the details for this year’s 4th Street:

What: Fourth Street Fantasy
When: June 21 – 23, 2013
Where: Minneapolis, MN
(at the Spring Hill Suites Marriott, 5901 Wayzata Blvd, St. Louis Park, MN)
Program: (link)
Web Site: www.4thstreetfantasy.com

This year’s 4th Street looks to be as awesome as last year’s (if not more so). This year’s program is full of thought-provoking topics ranging from fantasy of discovery, to syncretism, to the heroine’s journey, and more. You can check out the whole program here. This year, I’ll be on one panel and moderating another.

Here are the salient details from the official program line-up:

Saturday, 9:30am – 10:30am
Intertextuality and Originality
No book exists independent of the literary conversation, no matter how much its author may want it to. Elizabethan faeries are inevitably going to be compared to each other, just like dark lords, destined heroes, and vampire- werewolf-mortal love triangles will. Given that very little authors can do will seem novel to experienced readers, how should they approach topics that many readers have been conditioned to read in a certain light? How can works that aim to deconstruct clichés avoid being read as “just X from Y’s perspective”?
  • Lynne Thomas
    (Moderating)
  • Chris Gerwel
    (that’s me!)
  • Tappan King
  • Catherine Lundoff
  • Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Saturday, 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Narrative Conventions
…and how their pressures shape narrative into certain forms. Are we narrowing the stories we can tell by leaning on familiar story forms and Aristotelian notions of rising action, drama, conflict, and the like? To what extent are western narrative conventions culturally specific, and how much of our media (and media- influenced fiction) is being made to fit time-blocks and act structures in ways that aren’t necessarily healthy to export into other forms?
  • Chris Gerwel
    (Moderating)
  • Alec Austin
  • Emma Bull
  • Kit Gordon

If you’ll be anywhere in the vicinity and if you’re looking for some excellent and thought-provoking discussions, I hope you’ll join us! And if you do come, I hope you’ll say hello!

A Blogging Vacation


So over the weekend, I realized that I’ve been blogging just about every week for two and a half years. That adds up to one hundred eighty five blog posts (this one makes one hundred eighty six), which I estimate is a little over two hundred thousand words of non-fiction. When I did the back-of-the-envelope math to get to that estimate, my jaw fell open: that’s a big number, and actually adds up to the equivalent of two book-length works.

And with the (partial) exception of my honeymoon, I’ve never really taken a break from my blogging activities here. This month and next are already crazy for me in my offline life, and they’re likely to get even crazier. So here’s what I’ve decided to do: it is time for a blogging vacation!

To be clear, I’m not shutting down or going away. I love blogging too much to do that. Instead, I’m just going to be scaling back my posting schedule for the next several weeks. I’ll still be posting my weekly Crossroads essays over at Amazing Stories and of course pointing them out over here as well. And honestly? Judging by the last “vacation” I took, I’ll probably pop in here now and again to talk about something at greater length (in fact, I’ve already got some stuff scheduled). But in general, my normally scheduled Tuesday posts will be put on hold until…June 18th, 2013.

That’s a whole month off from blogging here, which for me is an unprecedented break. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay away that long, but it’ll be an interesting experiment.

Running a Little Late This Week


Hi Folks – My apologies, even though we’re only two days in, this has already become One of Those Weeks. As a result, I think I’m going to have skip this week’s post with a return to my regular Tuesday schedule next week. Sorry about this, but even this brief missive is up later than I would like, and everything else is just piling up behind it. With any luck, I’ll have some more interesting thoughts for you on Tuesday.

Until then, here’s a very thought-provoking essay I came across the other day: Foz Meadows on A Rule of Thumb for Escapism.

Sick


I’m afraid I’ve come down with a rather miserable cold, and I wasn’t feeling quite up to writing something today. With any luck, I’ll have something (and feel better) in a couple of days.

Speculative Fiction 2012 Contributors Announced!


Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary With this cold I’ve got, I’m a little late bringing you this exciting news (but better late than never…):

Over at The Staffer’s Book Review, Justin Landon and Jared Shurin (from Pornokitsch) have announced the lineup of contributors to Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary.

It looks like an awesome lineup, with essays from folks like Elizabeth Bear, Paul Kincaid, Christopher Priest, NK Jemisin, and plenty more. And to my shock and delight, I’m in there, too!

The anthology comes out a short month from now, on April 25th, 2013. And all profits from the book will be donated to Room to Read, an international charity dedicated to literacy and gender equality in education.

Running a Little Late


*sigh*

I’m afraid I’m running a little late this week. I’ll hopefully have a post up tomorrow (Wednesday).

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