New Music: Rising

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling myself sink into depression. It’s been particularly bad this week as I’ve hovered between sadness and anger. I have been fiercely productive then paralyzed.

I needed to get ahead of this and driving home last night, I turned up the music. It was a hard-hitting drumline and moving melody and the higher I raised the volume, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning, needing to create. I’ll use this for intros to Clarkesworld podcasts, but I feel good about this one. Chillstep with a hint of defiance.

Like me. Enjoy.

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.

New Instrumental – Airset Alphabet

Started this while watching Allie in Karate. Think I’ll use it for Clarkesworld intros/outros in the future, or perhaps shorten it and put some lyrics to it.

Let me know what you think?

New Instrumental – “What it Should Have Been”

As we approach the new year, I like to refresh some of the music I use at the beginning and end of the Clarkesworld podcasts. Was playing around with some editing tools recently and finished this one.


Download

My friend James said it reminded him of old-school video game mixed with house music. I think I agree with that assessment.

Amy Pond

SFF Weekend Breakdown: Doctor Who

Doctor Who is bordering on an obsession for me. Oh hell, I can’t lie, there are only about three times where I’ve been this into a show or a movie. The first was Twin Peaks when I was in junior high. The second was the movie Titanic. Usually, this immersion consists of buying everything I can possibly get my hands on that reminds me of said obsession. I bought Laura Palmer’s diary, the Twin Peaks cookbook and the Dale Cooper tapes.

Titanic was a different monster. I wanted to know everything there was about the ill-fated ship. I researched both the history and what Cameron used in the film.

With Doctor Who this fun has spread throughout the family. The youngest in the family insists because she has red hair like Amelia, that we call her “Pond”. We were also walking through Target and came across a shirt that looked similar to what Amy wears in the season 6 opener. She insisted we buy it. We all own sonic screwdrivers, and the girls even bought me a USB Tardis for Christmas this year. I still want the Tom Bakker scarf and a remote control Dalek. My ten year old on the other hand could probably tell you how the Tardis works and sits rapt and loves every episode no matter what happens.

I wish I could be as forgiving. I both cursed and sang Moffat’s praises with the first two episodes of the season. I was terrified and wanted to crawl beneath the covers during parts. The Silence is probably the most disturbing enemy the Doctor has faced since the Weeping Angels and the episodes were cleverly written pulling in elements of season five.

My Top Five, err… Eight Matt Smith Episodes:

“Vincent and the Doctor”
“The 11th Doctor”
The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

So I’m cheating there. But those two parters were pretty amazing.

I find when the cast includes River Song, I tend to enjoy the episodes even more.

And this brings me to the third episode of series six, “The Curse of the Black Spot”. Again, the youngest daughter loved it, hiding her eyes behind her hands and peeking when the evil mermaid/AI/futuristic sickbay doctor came on screen. The 10 year old just sat and stared and loved every minute. “It.was.awesome!”

Unfortunately, I did not. Sometimes I hate myself for growing up. I can’t help but pick apart the issues with this filler episode. Everything from why the “siren” would physically attack people who got in her way or endangered her patients. Didn’t make much sense. I could have seen her placing them in an unbreakable cage instead. I also wondered why despite having the ability to move time/space and teleport the sick and injured to her sickbay, why she did not have the ability to fix them. Lots of unnecessary irony in this episode to build tension I guess.

Granted, I’m not saying Doctor Who is sound scientifically, but usually when the story sucks me in, I can forgive the little or rather large things that don’t seem quite right. There is something about Moffat’s writing that allows me to relax into the tale he’s weaving and emotionally invest myself. I hate to say it, but despite having pirates and some fun moments, there wasn’t any real emotional connection for me. Although to give some credit, I will say the last five minutes were extremely moving and despite knowing that Rory survives, I was worried for him. That right there is the strength of Matt Smith, Karen Gillian and Arthur Dorval.

Good news though – this episode isn’t my least favorite. I still think that goes to the Spitfires in space/Dalek third episode from last season. Too many WTF’s there.

Next week, one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman writes the episode. I hear from numerous sources that this is the gateway drug to get non-Whovians to believe. I hope so and I can’t wait.

Dear FRINGE – You Have Been Put On Notice

On Facebook, I posted brief thoughts on my initial WTF reaction to Fringe last Friday. The majority of the episode was entertaining, but the last five minutes of the show made me cringe.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I’ve read in various places that the show finally jumped the shark.  I don’t view it as such. Fringe is the type of show where if you have any intelligence what-so-ever, you realize the science behind the plots is pretty bad. Sure, there are stable concepts on which things are built, but you pretty much have to take anything with a grain of salt. If I wanted a show based on real science, I’d watch Discovery or the Science Channel. I don’t tune into Fringe for the educational value. I faithfully watch every episode because it’s fun. It’s a great story.

It’s a show that relies on its viewers to suspend belief in reality, while still utilizing their core intelligence.  I admire it for that purpose. I wouldn’t know what the hell Walter was doing or saying if I wasn’t a well-read individual. Sure, it would look cool, but if I weren’t a fan of those basic and much expanded on theories of science, I would miss half of the show.

Where the writers ruined it for me was Bellivia. If you’ve watched last week’s episode, Walter is desperate to bring William Bell back. He feels stunted in his current role to help save his version of the universe. Long story short, William worked on a project called ‘soul magnets’.  According to the ‘conservation of energy’ theory, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Working upon those principles, Bell and Bishop theorize that human souls are made up of that same energy. Therefore, when you die, your soul remains somewhere in this universe. They then hypothesized that if there were some way to draw that energy back to an object, you could re-awaken the consciousness of said person, technically bringing them back from death.

See, the concept based on scientific principle and yet stretched for entertainment purposes. That’s what I love about the show.

Bishop rings a bell and he and Nina wait patiently for William to show up. Meanwhile in Olivia and Peter land, Olivia pauses as Bell’s consciousness is drawn into her body. Again, one of those, “He must have set this up when she was a child,” moments. I could have lived with this. I knew what was happening. I am not stupid. Yet, the writers felt they had to take it a step forward and have Anna Torv act out Leonard Nimoy’s voice as well, just so that the audience was sure it was his.

I could see this as a necessary step in a radio play. You don’t want to confuse the listener. However, Anna Torv is a pretty versatile actress. She could have pulled it off without resorting to vocal histrionics. My bullshit detector immediately went off. It was something I wasn’t willing to forgive. For everything that Fringe relies on me to believe, this was one thing I just couldn’t. Pulling in a floating consciousness would probably result in odd mannerisms, but the voice is part of the body. A body which no longer exists. Speech patters would definitely be there, but the voice really bugged the shit out of me.

Perhaps it comes down to one simple fact — Since Fringe relies on me to be intelligent to fully enjoy the show, why did the writers think I wasn’t smart enough to get that Olivia was instantly transformed into Bellivia? Please don’t lump me into the same demographic that finds Jersey Shore appealing.

Anyway, I usually give forms of entertainment a three strike policy. That episode for the reasons explained above was the first disappointment. Hopefully, it’s the last.

World Fantasy Convention Wrap-Up

This was my first World Fantasy Convention. I’ve never been to one, so I was a bit surprised at the lack of panels, however conversation with friends old and new made up for everything that was lacking. 

I got to meet some very wonderful people at this convention namely, the sweet Christie Yant, the wonderful Brenda Cooper, Functional Nerd Patrick Hester, SF Signal Guru John “Turturo” DeNardo and the Goddess otherwise known as Cat Valente. While there I chatted with the likes of Brent Bowen, John Anealio and Nick Mamatas. I met some of the rest of the super awesome Clarkesworld staff;   Nayad Monroe, Daniel Robichaud and Jamie Lackey were amazing.  Altered Fluid members, Matt Kressel, Paul Berger, David Mercurio Rivera and Raj Khanna were ever awesome in both their companionship and spirit.  I gave hugs to Sarah Goslee, Jeff Hentosz, and Jeremy Tolbert and talked quite awhile with a Ferrett. There are of course others, and I hate to name drop, but these were the people with whom I conversed the most.

The ever nice and born-to-give-me-hell Neil Clarke was there along with Sean and Jen Wallace. They happened to bring their newborn twins along and I was in heaven the few hours I got to spend rocking and holding. Unfortunately the rumor I tried to start that one of the girls was Neil Gaiman and my love child failed to take off, but more than one person congratulated Neil Clarke and I on our new twins as we tried to get the Wallace babies to sleep for their REAL parents.

Speaking of rumors, you might have heard that I record my narrations in one take, with no mistakes. This is absolutely true. More on that later, but I did enjoy coming home to these tweets:

  1. atfmb  FYI – @Kate_Baker Rocks. She is The Voice & The Legend. That is all.
  2. daemonrange @Kate_Baker And the legend of “one-take Kate” lives on … Glad we could contribute to the smoky voice. 🙂

Note to self – prepare a box to ship the bag o’books home that you receive at the convention. I was cursing myself that I hadn’t as I dragged what felt like 50 lbs around the airport on connections. Speaking of airports and airlines, the con got off to a rocky start when I arrived to Columbus to no checked bag. According to Delta, my bag was running up a bar tab in Detroit. After repeated calls, they finally delivered it to the hotel around midnight.

Despite my claims of being socially awkward, I did have a fantastic time and it was thanks to all those wonderful people mentioned above. Would I go again to a WFC? Absolutely. Maybe not San Diego next year, although my love child’s father is the GOH, but most definitely to Toronto.