Rogue One : I Have All the Thoughts

*Spoilers Ahoy*

Two awesome things happened in 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was released and I made my way into this world screaming and naked.

We’ve had this amazing relationship throughout these soon to be forty years. Together, we’ve ridden that proverbial roller coaster, have both had our triumphs and our failures, and managed to still have people love us. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I took my first breath and I would consider myself a pretty  big fan.

I’ve gone to most opening nights when new movies have come out, save for the first two where I was still in diapers and toddling around the house getting into trouble.  Yet, science fiction was like food for the soul in my house and my father made sure we saw them when we could understand what was going on. I fell in love. I wanted to be Princess Leia.

In 1999, I researched Phantom Menace despite the secrecy and dressed up as Queen Amidala for the premiere. Now, I know you’ll scream about pictures and it doesn’t really count if there aren’t any, but there aren’t. Sorry.

I remember the intensity of that night. News crews were there interviewing die hard fans. The mood was electric. We grabbed our popcorn and cheered at the iconic scroll.  We all know how that evening ended.  Check that–we all know how that whole series ended. <insert sad face>

Opening Night at The Force Awakens
Opening Night at The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens premiere had a very similar atmosphere. This was my chance to introduce a new era  of this space opera to my own kids. I prayed to the cinema gods that we would see something amazing.  We left that theater pumped up. I loved it. My girls loved it. We had all sorts of theories on Rey’s lineage. We were in shock over Han’s death. We can’t wait for Episode 8. For an excellent distillation of this movie, see this video of Movies with Mikey.

Star Wars has had a profound effect in my life. It’s the kind of saga that makes you question a lot of things in both the crafting of said universe, and how those things may apply to your own.

So naturally, when the previews came out for Rogue One, it was a definite “must see.” I had booked our vacation before the release date, but we happened to be sailing to the Bahamas CbSolKMWcAAGEdAon the Disney cruise line on opening day. We sat on the slightly rocky Dream, at 11PM  in a full Walt Disney Theater, and waited for the credits to roll. The audience went wild.

And from the first few scenes, we knew we weren’t watching a typical Star Wars story. It was gritty, relentless, and depressing.

Yes, some may argue that Empire Strikes Back was depressing, or hell, episodes 1,2,3 were soul crushing in their own way, but this was a different kind of depressing. One that shakes you to your core, because you know this movie isn’t speaking about the characters on the screen, but right at you. It holds a different kind of weight.

I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate it for all the technical and storytelling reasons. I checked my watch to see just how much time was left. I silently cursed at the rapid jumps from planet to planet and wondered just what had been cut. There were scenes that were obviously  missing from the previews. Saw Gerrera’s story was superfluous in this version and I wanted to love Jyn Erso, but couldn’t. I also didn’t care for the CGI’d Tarkin or Leia as it pulled me right out of the movie, but in the end, those things didn’t really matter. I could pick at the details forever. I want to talk about the overall theme here:

Rogue One couldn’t have come at a better time. Coupled with all the fear and angst invading many a psyche, the message is simple and very powerful. Hope is essential. Hope can be rekindled from even the smallest, dying ember. Hope should be fought for and is worth the ultimate sacrifice.

One by one, we watch as each of the characters pay the price to keep hope alive in an untenable situation. They do it because at some point, keeping that ember burning for others transcends the self. It becomes essential for the greater good.

“I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” is not only a mantra for self discipline, but speaks to the bigger picture of what the Force actually represents. It is everything–life, death, happiness, sadness, love, and hate, despair, and that much repeated word, hope. It is all of the things that make us who we are. With hints in episode seven that perhaps this light side/dark side thing isn’t so black and white, I think Rogue One gives us a real look on what it takes to maintain the balance.

Despite Rogue One’s problems, I think the movie ultimately succeeds in showingCwHBcGmXgAA3eUQ that there are many ways to fight for something. From standing up to a bully threatening to destroy her family, Lyra Erso holds firm with a blaster and still shoots, even though she is woefully outgunned. Galen Erso literally fights from inside the belly of the beast and forges the hope in the form of an Achilles heel. Cassian Andor kills his contact when to the best of his knowledge, the message keeping hope alive is in peril. Chirrut Imwe crosses a field in one of the truly beautiful moments of this movie, to throw a switch, knowing he will pay the ultimate price, but does it anyway. Scores put their lives on the line and die, passing on plans to stop this horrific Goliath as it carves its destructive path through the universe.

The payoff? Watching the camera pan in on Darth Vader and knowing that even through that mask, he was rattled. Watching the Empire destroy a planet which held unique copies of pretty much everything because they knew they could be beaten. Watching how the smallest group of people willing to stand up, put their foot down and shout no, had mighty results.

WorldCon Write-Up

It goes without saying that I’m just sort of sitting here trying to process everything that happened in the last few days. This is going to be a long post, so apologies in advance.

One of the more interesting things about Worldcon is that I wear a bunch of hats while I’m there.

Hat Number One: As Director of Operations for SFWA, I’m working with our events team and suite volunteers to make sure all services are up and running. I would be lost this year without the incredible help from Terra LeMay, Steven H Silver, Cat Greenberg and the many awesome volunteers who took time out of their convention schedules to lend a hand. I also participate in discussions during the SFWA Board and Business meetings and I am so thankful to be working with an amazing group of people filling those roles. SFWA is in very good hands right now and I’m so glad I get to be a part of that. For any members who are reading this and did not get to attend, when we post the minutes of those meetings, I would encourage you to seek them out. We’re doing great things.

Hat Number Two:  I’m the Podcast Director, Narrator, and Non-fiction Editor for Clarkesworld Magazine. This weekend, I got to partake in panels that not only spoke to the audio side of what I do, but the awesomeness that is this magazine under the stewardship of Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and the many people who’ve been a part of it. Clarkesworld Magazine has not only been around for ten years, but I’ve gotten to see it evolve into the badass Pokemon it is for a good majority of it.

Hat Number Three: As you can see on the masthead of the website, it does list writer in there. My writing sort of fell off when SFWA and Clarkesworld took over, but thanks to the gentle prodding and encouragement by a few people, mainly Terra LeMay, I am happy to say that I’m writing again. A goal of mine was to finish a story so I’d have something to offer at my reading at WorldCon, and I’m happy to say that I did. More on that later.

Hat Number Four: Fan. When I was about five, my father under the great disapproval from my mother (who to this day, still mentions it), showed me Alien. From then, every B movie to the classic Heinlein and Asimov stories and novels to the amazing things this community is producing now, WorldCon is still squee central. My work with both SFWA and CW allows me to still have some composure when I come upon people and things I truly love and admire, but you better believe that under the skin, I’m jumping up and down and screaming with joy. So to all those creators and individuals who make those amazing things happen, thank you.

In conversation, I often inquire about convention highlights and it seemed that in general, people had really wonderful things to say. While there were many, the few that have simultaneously energized and to a degree validated what I’m doing in the community were:

  1. Kaffeeklatch – I was intensely worried that I would be sitting at a table by myself. That was very much not the case. I was so happy to be joined by people, that I started the session asking each person around the table who they were and what they did to make the event even more intimate. If you’re taking the time to get to know me, I wanted to know about you. We had lovely discussions and all the while, I was sitting there practically jumping out of my seat because I could not believe it was happening. I work from home in all things, so while I do get feedback in the form of social media and email, actually experiencing interaction in a live environment is pretty surreal. When someone comes up and says they love my narration or the work I do, it takes me a minute to process that they are actually talking to me. Maybe it goes back to the impostor syndrome some of us experience, but regardless, I will always be thankful to each person who took time out of their schedules to come see me.
  2. Reading – As I mentioned above, Terra LeMay has been instrumental with her encouragement and guidance in getting my writing career back on track. While I wasn’t expecting a reading at WorldCon, the programming staff offered me one anyway. As soon as I found out, I wanted to share that space with Terra because I wouldn’t even have anything to read if she hadn’t suggested the accountability in the first place. Overwhelmed again that people showed up, I started reading from the new short story.  Unfortunately, emotion got the best of me and I started crying. I tried to catch it before I lost it, but I just couldn’t. I got a hug from Terra and Marguerite Kenner, and Steven H Silver got up and grabbed me some water and tissues. I took a deep breath and soldiered on. But the fact that people sat there and listened to me read, from my own work, was pretty friggen awesome.
  3. People – So many people I love. So brief a time to spend. A hug, a wave, a small conversation, old friends, new ones, drinks around a table — whatever it was, just know that I am so incredibly lucky to have met you and gotten to know you.

While in the Clarkesworld at Ten panel at this WorldCon I said, “It is an awesome time to be a writer and a reader.” I mean that. There will be people for whatever reason that will try to tell you otherwise, that your voice doesn’t matter or that the art you create isn’t worth anything. Please do not listen to them. Write. Create. Make Art. Edit. Publish.

It is important to be inclusive. It is important to validate the things you like and love. It is important not only to call out injustice, but to find and implement the solutions that fix it. It’s is important to continue to do those things despite the threatening and scary calls that come from limited worldviews where change is threatening and scary.

With all the talk of “special snowflakes,” the only other thing I will add is this — a snowflake forms when conditions are just right. Water droplets freeze onto particles of dust and form a myriad of unique shapes. That dust comes from you and I and all the things that make up this tiny blue dot. It comes from stars that once held planets of their own, long before we were ever here.

If being a special snowflake means I get to share this short time with both old friends and new, and my limited worldview expands with it, let us be a blizzard.


So to Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart, thank you for the conversation and the Flakes. I am often flabbergasted when we part, because you are both amazing. I hope to see you soon either in travel to the UK or if I can make it to WorldCon in Finland.

To Jeremy Tolbert, Beth Dawkins, Al Bogdan, Nick Mamatas, Gord Sellar, Desirina Boskovich, Christopher Kastensmidt, and newly met Molly Tanzer, thank you for a night of just “being.” I rarely get to do that at conventions lately, and I’m so grateful.

To David Steffen, thank you for coming to the Kaffeeklatsch, the reading, dinner, and for being a generally all around awesome person.

To Richard Man, who in requesting a second photograph session for his project gave the reason that the first didn’t quite capture all that I was, your work is brilliant and I can’t wait to see the finished pieces.

To Patrick Hester who has always been wonderful and kind and gives the best bear hugs, thank you for being a friend and still insisting on calling me, “the voice.”

To Cat Rambo, who not only is a kickass SFWA President, thank you for the conversation and advice. I’m very honored to call you friend.

To Naomi Kritzer for being one of my favorite writers, congratulations on the Hugo win and thank you for liking the narration. You didn’t have to mention it on the podium and you did, and I will never forget it. You are amazing and don’t ever forget that. (Also, send us more stories.)

To Kelly Robson and Alyx Dellamonica who both give the warmest hugs and the bestest of advices, I’m so incredibly grateful I got to spend some time chatting with you both before you headed home.

To Scott Andrews and Tina Connolly with whom I got to sit at the Hugo ceremony, I so enjoy your company and the evening was made all the better for getting to experience it with you.

To Todd McCaffrey for engaging conversation and drinks, thank you!

To the many fans of the Clarkeworld podcast who said hello and came up and asked for hugs, we would be nothing without your support.

To Fran Wilde, Steven Gould, Laura Mixon, John and Krissy Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lynne and Michael Thomas, Ellen Datlow, Francesca Myman, Rich Horton, Jonathan Strahan, Lily Yu, Terrence Miltner, Robert Reed, Marko Kloos, Jason Sanford, David Klecha, Mur Lafferty, Jim Kelly, Irene Gallo, Sheila Williams, Rachel Swirsky, Charlie Jane Anders, John Chu, Bud Sparhawk, Sarah Beth Durst, David Gallaher, Jason Heller, John O’Neill, Brenda Cooper, Ken Liu, Hao Jingfang, Rosemary Claire Smith, Laurie and Jim Mann, Eugene Fischer, and others that in post-con brain I’m so sorry for forgetting, although our time was but brief, you are all rock stars and I’m all the better for having met you.

To Neil Clarke — You are my best friend and I would not be the person I am today without your continued and unfailing belief in me.  Thank you for everything this weekend.  From one impostor to another, you my friend, are fucking amazing. (Oh, and I guess I can maybe include Sean in there somewhere too. *rolls eyes*)

Now,  I hope all of you recover soon and get back to creating wonderful things.

It’s Only a Play

I have always been a believer in fate. That sometimes, we need to hear or see or experience moments that put everything we’re dealing with into perspective. It might be the words from a dear friend at 3 AM in a strange city, who tells you that everything is going to be okay. Or ideas from a movie or song or story that help you work past a difficulty.  I believe we often find ourselves in the right place at the right time. Some of us see it. Some of us don’t. I know that on more than one occasion, I have muttered to myself that things couldn’t have happened any other way.

Ever since coming home from the hospital, I’ve been struggling with a lot of different issues. Slowly finding ways to cope with the major surgery and recovery. The bouts of emotional craziness that follows when you’ve been opened up and pieces of you are taken out. Fretting on the  night before surgery that should something happen, your kids who just came to visit and wish you luck, may never see you again. Writing emotional letters for them to find on your hard drive should your fears be substantiated. Realizing shortly after your surgery is over that you are powerless on your path. Neil Finn sums it up brilliantly in the song, “Anytime.” (I hope you can infer the subject of the song without having to look it up.)

These thoughts and feelings mess with you on a daily basis until you learn to accept them. Initially, I found myself angry at my inability to be normal. Intermixed with periods of depression and bouts of crying, I just desperately wanted to feel like me again. I didn’t want to give in to idea that something in me changed during those fourteen days.

Having a particularly rough couple of days, tonight, I went and saw my son perform in “Our Town”. While I wanted to celebrate his success, I arrived and took my seat with the attitude that I was about to waste three hours of my life watching a bunch of high-school kids traipse around the stage and overact.

I was horribly wrong.

I don’t think they truly get it, these sixteen and seventeen year old children. How fleeting life is, how full of passion and anger and triumph and failure. As the third act started and the lump in my throat finally subsided as my son exited stage left, successful in his part, I finally understood the meaning of the show.

Death has taken Emily, one of our lead actresses in the play. We grow to know her in act one as a child. As quickly as the curtain rises in act two, so has she grown into a young woman in love. The whirlwind of life continues until shortly after we find out that a spot in the town cemetery has been saved for a woman who has recently passed away. The empty seat facing the audience has been held for our Emily.

In denial of her current predicament, she begs to go back and relive one, painless day in her life only to realize that she missed it all as it was happening. Full of regret and resignation, she returns to her plot and offers this revelation to those who’ve passed before her. Unsurprisingly, they all nod in agreement only after some of her new companions give up their own long-held self-resentments for their behavior while alive.

I am crying buckets by this point in the show and no matter how much I try to compose myself, I can’t.  Emily told me what I needed to hear — death is inevitable. Worrying about it only steals time from the people who matter most in our lives. We do not get to relive the happy and sad days after the curtain has closed. We are  doomed to only see the things we did not do, the people we didn’t appreciate, the places we never got to visit and lament the love we will never feel again.

I brought my two daughters to this show. As we walked back towards the exit, I asked Lexie to distill the meaning of what she saw. At the innocent age of twelve, she turned to me and said, “Don’t be afraid to live life to the fullest.”

The tears I thought I had under control surfaced again.

“It was only a play, mom.”

“And what about you, Allie?”, I asked my youngest, biting my tongue in protest of my rising emotion.

“The last part made me sad.”

“Me too, hon. Me too.”

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe each on their own, the seven, twelve, sixteen and seventeen year old kids do get it on some level. I’d like to think that as we mature, what was raw emotion experienced by a young child evolves into understanding and further grows into action. Perhaps one has to be in the right place at the right time to really understand what it is to truly live a life.

I can’t tell you how to spend the remainder of your days, short as they may be. Time passes in the blink of an eye, after all. The only thing I know is that I will be far more focused on the living part of life than the dying.

It is so much more than a play.

 

 

SFF Weekend Breakdown : FRINGE

I am so glad I don’t have a real social life. This allows me to indulge in science fiction and fantasy shows and for the last few weekends, it’s been heaven. Fringe Fridays, Doctor Who Saturdays and Game of Throne Sundays.

Unfortunately, this past Friday marked the end of the season for Fringe so I guess I’ll have to do something else that night now.

*****
Spoilers Ahead
*****

So lets start with the season finale of Fringe. From what I’ve read on the intarweebs, this was to be a series finale had it not been renewed for season four. Had it been the former, I would have broken all the glass items in my living room, including my TV. I’ve never been so upset with an ending since the Twin Peaks series or the false earth episode of BSG. Those two masterpieces illicited an amazing emotional response. Fringe was the same.

Losing Peter to an inter-dimensional abyss on the premise that he never existed made my blood boil. “He served his purpose.” What? I can possibly understand him disappearing after connecting the two worlds, but to never have existed doesn’t make any sense. It creates the ultimate paradox. Granted, I know it’s a TV show, but really, I spent my three years with this show only to be told the entire product was a lie? There was no payoff. If Peter had never been born, how did Walter start the events that lead them to where they are today? Is the season opener in September going to show Fauxlivia, Walternate, Walter and Olivia staring at each other witnessing the very first fringe event? If Peter never existed, how did Walternate start the machine if he and Fauxlivia’s baby never existed. Not to mention why bother having the observers prepare Walter to let go of a son he would never remember. It’s so messed up.

Stupid.

The only thing that could possibly make sense is a really interesting theory that states we create yet another world when we time travel. An off-shoot of the multiverse theory, every choice leads to a time line branch. No paradox is created because we start each world with a blank slate. So while Peter is erased from these two worlds, perhaps he exists in another.

What I would probably guess is that we’ll be spending a lot of time in the future with our cast, possibly with a Peter who still exists but who is not Peter. Hello, mind games. Regardless, I am very curious as to how they’ll solve this one.

Massive world-changing plot holes aside, John Noble needs an Oscar. I know, they don’t have Oscars for television, but he still deserves one. At the very least, he should get an Emmy and a Golden Globe for best ensemble cast. He plays what, six versions of himself now? The range of that man is incredible. We also saw very strong performances from Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv and Jasika Nicole. although, I will confess I was a bit taken aback at the aging. Joshua pulled off an older Peter, but the believability factor was just not there with Anna as almost 50 year old Olivia. Unless of course, there is just fantastic Oil of Olay products in 2021.

One of the more interesting questions the episode was whether or not I would procreate in the face of certain death. My initial answer was that if I knew the world was ending in my lifetime, I would not have children. It would weigh too heavily on my heart to know they would not have a full life and it would constantly be tinged with fear and imminent danger. Yet, this morning as I write this, I think my mind has changed.

A lot of the world complained we were offering so much media coverage of the Royal wedding a week ago. Even I rolled my eyes, but as I watched the union of two people who actually look as though they love each other, it softened the horrible things that have been plaguing the news headlines of late. It actually brought a happy tear to my eye. I’m not saying we should forget or push tragedy under the carpet, but its in those moments of happiness and joy that hope springs forth and propels us to continue.

Having children in the future world of Fringe would be a comfort and a continual driving force to try to change the future for their benefit. It also makes the strong point that as bad as we think this real world is right now, things can be exponentially worse. We create fear and are a fatalistic race of beasts. Imagine if there was certain proof that world was to actually end in our lifetimes.

Regardless, I will be tuning in come September to see where JJ and the crew decide to take me.

Help Me Choose My Name

As most of you have seen, I’ve sold my first short story. I’ve always had a question as to what I should call myself should I ever get published and now, I need your help in deciding.

I originally thought going with Kate Baker would be the best, only because I’ve been using that name over at Clarkesworld Magazine for all the podcasts I’ve done. However, and its a good point — more than one person has commented how close the name is to the late Kage Baker. The last thing I would want to do is create confusion or look like I’m attempting to ride on such a wonderful author’s reputation.

So below — I’ve created a poll. These are the names I’m considering.

Choice 1 – Kate Baker (Again — name I’ve been using for CW Podcasts but nothing writing related.)
Choice 2 – Kathryn E. Baker – This is the name I legally sign
Choice 3 – Kathryn Nerys Baker – A name I came up with to sound like a writer 😉
Choice 4 – Kathryn N. Baker – A variation of the writerly name
Choice 5 – Kathryn E. Wittmer – My maiden name
Choice 6 – Kathryn Baker (Suggested a few times, decided to add it)

If you have a choice that may sound better (serious names only, please) leave them in the comments.


A Little Redecorating – Dining Room Edition

Did you know you can paint in a chair? While I was sidelined with smashed ankle and couldn’t attend either

 LunaCon or PAXEast, I decided to give my living room a little makeover. With the generous help from dad and my son, we transformed my living room into something warm and inviting.

The picture to the right is how the walls looked when we first moved in about two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, those aren’t my couches, but the curtains stayed.

We left the room alone and felt bored with the whole thing. We stopped spending time in there. It was an “apartment” type feel. So we added a splash of color to the walls, brought up some lonely furniture from the basement and decorated with a few new things.

As we pulled down the curtains, we noticed gorgeous windows beneath. We decided against putting them back up.

Here’s the gallery of what now is the living room.

My Totally Awesome Day…

…consisted of two minor things.

We got a car wash. There is nothing quite like three kids in the back of a silver CR-V as the automatic machine went to town, set to the music of the opening sequence of Star Wars. We all totally hammed it up. What was even more fun, was when the dryer started, it looked like we were navigating a field of stars at warp speed.

The second most awesome thing was coming home from a Girl Scout meeting. Lexie, Allyson and I all practiced our “evil” laughs. Presumably to get people to buy more Girl Scout cookies.

Aw jea, peeps. It’s cookie time.

The small little segue aside, most times, I really love being a geek mom.

This Just Rocks

I’ve been on a mashup/remix kick a bit, I know. But I love how people experiment with music. It makes it all the more fun.

Have some “Celebrity Skin” by Hole

…and a more classic mash-up featuring The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Leona Lewis’, “Bleeding Love”.

Then way old-school with a little Aretha, The Beatles, and Elton John

Date My Avatar or Take My Alatar

Thought you might enjoy this one. Allyson put on her Tinkerbell Halloween costume and grabbed her microphone. I never realized how much I listened to this song, until she started grooving and singing!

On a related note, I put this up last Thursday. By Friday, it had over 10K hits on youtube and was rated five stars. Apparently, someone linked it to Felicia Day who then posted it on The Guild’s facebook page along with others.

If you’re not a fan of The Guild — it’s some funny stuff. Take it from a recovering WoW player.