Thursday, May 18, 2006

Norwegian Independence Fandom Smush. In a Tux.

Browsing Flickr for photos of syttende mai celebrations, I came upon this reveler:

This may be the greatest photo ever. Makes me feel all patriotic for the ancestral homeland.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Syttende mai

Today is syttende mai. Literally translated, that means "the seventeenth of May," so you may be forgiven for thinking, "So what?" Ah, but you see, syttende mai is a Norwegian holiday. It celebrates the signing of the Norwegian constitution back in 1814; previous to that Norway was the weaker cousin in a union with Denmark. Denmark-Norway had gotten itself onto the wrong side of the Napoleonic wars (to be fair, England attacked them first), and as part of the peace settlement Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden, with whom Norway was linked until 1905. It had its own constitution, however, and most of its own governmental institutions.

In 1945, the Germans (who were occupying Norway) surrendered there on May 8. Rather than establishing a separate holiday for the liberation, a greater significance was accrued to syttende mai. Nowadays it's a day of parades, most particularly children's parades, but also the rampaging russ (a term for graduating high schoolers, who spend the first weeks of May in a traditional period of hedonism that's pretty out of hand by American standards--kind of like Spring Break, but it takes place everywhere, and is typified by groups of teens driving around in fancied-up vans that barely run and, well, just go read the Wiki article I linked to there).

Some Norwegian-American communities make a big deal out of the holiday, though I confess I've never been a part of any such celebrations. I do wish I could be in Bergen today, though. Hell, I wish I could be in Bergen pretty much any day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Evil Genius

I thought y'all might like to know that, now that I'm out of school, I have made plans. Life plans. Not like my writing goals; those are separate. No, I'm talking about actually making some effort to steer my destiny in the larger sense. Up until now I've more or less been a roll-with-the-universe's-punches type of guy. But no longer! Now I shall take the Apis bull by the horns! Witness my three-year plan:

Year One: Get a Job.

Year Two: Get a Dog.

Year Three: Get a House.

It's the perfect plan, I tell you.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Like Feet Wrapped in Leathery Burnt Bacon

Aimee Poynter has nice things to say about The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons over at Tangent Online:

"Schwartz's use of poetic tropes creates the perfect world, ethereal enough to encompass the personifications of the seasons, yet still have a place for the more mundane aspects of the water-poet's life. I especially liked the dual natures of the items exchanged between the seasons and the water-poet. All in all, a beautifully written story."

Kristin's got the cover for Rabid Transit 5: Long Voyages, Great Lies up at her blog as well as some words of warning for those of us who enjoy cons without actually doing any of the work of putting them on (I'm looking at myself, here).

This video is all kinds of awesome. Don't want to say much, but it fills in some blanks between "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

I'm not 100% on when our WisCon reading is going to be yet, but it's either Sunday morning at 10 or Sunday afternoon at 1:

Empathy, Lust, and Destruction: two boys, three girls (Reading Group) (Readings)
Five storytellers enter. One leaves.
Alice Kim, Jason Erik Lundberg, Meghan McCarron, Haddayr Copley-Woods, David J. Schwartz

It's going to be awesome, and it's going to be over at Michelangelo's. Come on over and have a cappafrappamochalattayerbadillyicious drink and listen to some stories.

My only panel is on Sunday afternoon at 2:30:

Make Shit Up (Writing SF&F: The Craft)
So many of us get caught up in thinking too hard about what to write, or considering what we "should" write—for money, or career, or just because it would look cool—that we forget that joy often drives us. Joy powers the creative urge. So why don't we just, y’know, make shit up and have a blast? Let's all take turns in standing up and just...making something up. Just talking. Just imagining the beginning of a book and speaking it out loud.
Ellen Klages, David J. Schwartz, Barth Anderson, Douglas L. Hulick, Jay Lake, Jennifer Stevenson, Nicola Griffith

Looks like an exemplary group of shit-maker-uppers. Should be fun!

Midnighters, Book Three: Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld

Since I've actually met Scott Westerfeld, I don't hold with those theories. You know, the ones where he's just the figurehead of a production studio of writers cranking out prose á la Alexandre Dumas or a made-up person like J.K. Rowling. (Trust me, that woman's real name is Madge Montgomery, and she's just a front for a litter of creative but distractable Shih Tzus. I have it on good authority.) Still, Westerfeld turns out a lot of books (something like ten in the past couple of years) and he could perhaps be forgiven if they sucked. But they don't.

Case in point, my fave of his efforts: the Midnighters series.


Way back in Book One (The Secret Hour), Jessica Day moved with her family to Bixby, Texas and found out that she--by virtue of having been born at midnight exactly--was able to slip into a hidden time. Every time midnight comes around in Bixby, the world goes blue, and everyone not born within a second of midnight freezes for an hour. Rain doesn't fall, birds freeze in mid-air, and suspicious parents can't see or hear what their kids are doing. What's more, technology (Westerfeld refers to it more than once as "human cleverness") doesn't work--fire doesn't even burn.

The first time it happened Jessica freaked, but she soon learned that she wasn't entirely alone. There are four other Midnighters in town: Rex, the Seer; Melissa, the Mindcaster; Dess, the Polymath; and Jonathan, the Acrobat. At first none of them can figure out what Jessica's talent is, and they seem to be spending a lot of time rescuing her from the Darklings, natives of the "blue time" which take the shapes of snakes and spiders and cat-like things. The Darklings don't fear anything but fresh steel christened with 13-letter names like "Demonstration"; numbers are Dess's game, obviously, and Westerfeld has a lot of fun coming up with power names for the weapons the Midnighters carry.

What works about all this is that the Midnighters all have their own issues, and some of them don't get along. Melissa's mind talents make her antisocial by day, manipulative by night. Rex is arrogant about his knowledge of the Darklings and the blue time. Jonathan is more interested in bouncing around all night (his Acrobat powers mean that his personal gravity field is much weaker than normal during the secret hour) than in actually helping fight the baddies. And nobody knows what to make of Jessica until they discover her talent, that of the Flame-Bringer, able to bring fire into the blue time and wield a flashlight as a deadly weapon against the Darklings. Westerfeld plays effectively on some of the tropes of teen superheroes such as Buffy or Spidey ("Um, actually, the world might end if you ground me.") and pits the cluelessness of the adult world against the best intentions of the Midnighters, who really are trying to keep the Slithers from acting against the waking world.

By Book Three, Blue Noon, these kids have been through a lot. They've discovered a hidden Mindcaster in Bixby, and through her Melissa has found a way to control her powers. They've fought humans aligned with the Darklings, and Rex has been kidnapped and briefly bonded to one of the monsters. Jessica and Jonathan, Rex and Melissa have become romantically involved. Things seem to be going fairly well--until the blue time comes in the middle of a sunny morning, and a young girl gets lost inside it, and Dess figures out that the territory of the Darklings is beginning to expand.

What happens from there is fraught with tension and delirious action, as the best-laid plans of Seer (that's sarcasm; Rex's plans are like the plans of Fred from Scooby-Doo, and never work out quite as planned) and Darkling collide. The dangers come both from within the Midnighters' circle and without, and it all culminates in a night of literal fireworks, with much of Bixby pulled into a midnight hour that threatens to last a day and more. Westerfeld is smart enough to know that happy endings don't work if they don't cost, and the price the Midnighters pay is a heavy one. This book is--all three of these books are--a whip-fast roller-coaster ride; scary, smart, and tightly plotted. My only regret about the series is that it's over.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Mother's Day message from the Church of Funk

A Sunday Meme

Blame Hannah; she tagged me.

RULES "Once you've been tagged, you have to write a blog with 8 facts/things/habits about yourself, saying who tagged you. In the end you need to choose the people to be tagged and list their names. No tag backs."

1. I still really like Scooby-Doo. When I was young I believed that the secrets of the universe were hidden in the adventures of Scoob and the gang. I'm thirty-five years old and I own a Scooby-Doo lamp, a Scooby-Doo remote control holder, Scooby-Doo air fresheners for my car, Scooby-Doo sleep pants, a Scooby-Doo mug and probably some other stuff I'm not remembering. Also my impulse to buy food items with the image of Scooby-Doo on them is Pavlovian. Because I love Scooby-Doo so much, I have a violent aversion to the appearance or mention of that abomination, Scrappy-Doo. Please do not speak of the Beast.

2. In general, I disapprove of belts. Suspenders are acceptable.

3. I've had one genuinely inexplicable psychic/paranormal-type experience, but it is so mundane that it's not even worth telling the story.

4. Um . . .

5. Sometimes I pretend that I'm being interviewed by Charlie Rose. Or Terry Gross. Is that weird?

6. When I'm with a girl I like, it's hard for me to say anything cool, or witty, or at all. I can usually make a few vowel sounds, and then I have to go away. It's that bad. I think girls are more interested in a boy who can talk. (I stole that speech, although the pronouns are reversed. Points for them what can tell me who my anima is where it's from.)

7. Comic books have been the cause of financial crises for me on more than one occasion. I pretty much quit buying them for a long while there, and I still won't venture back into X-land. As someone wittier than I once said, "That way lies madness. And back issues."

8. I have always been deeply bothered by the story of Paris and the apple. You know, where he had to choose who was the most beautiful of the goddesses? Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Hera offered him lands to rule, and Athena offered to give him all knowledge. I mean, never mind that it seems out of character for Athena to be so vain, and that I doubt Hera could reasonably compete with Aphrodite in the first place, but if he was going by the bribes offered? Why would you not take the knowledge? Once he had the knowledge he could have gotten power, if he wanted it. And, well, I'm still keeping the faith that women like smart dudes. (Who can talk.) So, really, Paris, you fail at life, considering you were already married for one thing, and you sure got a lot of people killed. Hope you're happy, dumbass.

If you want to be tagged, do the secret hand motions, and I will have one of my lackeys tag you. I'm too lazy to do it myself.