Saturday, October 29, 2016

A little of this, a little of that

The con began entirely too early for me today, because I was on a ten a.m. panel.  To my pleasant surprise, several dozen people joined us at that unreasonably early Saturday hour to discuss the use of the other in horror fiction.  The conversation stayed interesting, and everyone seemed happy to have attended the panel.

After some work and lunch, I spent time in the dealers' room and the art show but ultimately bought nothing.  I then did a reading, at which a half dozen folks, almost all of whom are friends, heard an unpublished mainstream story I have shared only one time before.

More work, some conversation, and then it was time for a World Fantasy Con tradition of mine:  dinner with a group of friends in publishing.

I spent time afterward listening to one panel and chatting with friends.

All in all, another very reasonable con day.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Giving Columbus its due

When I was growing up in Florida, I figured a good way to know which states were least desirable was to see how many of their license plates turned up in tourist-attraction parking lots.  If a lot of your people came to Florida, you probably didn't like it where you were--or so my reasoning went.  Based on that line of thinking, I grew up convinced that the least desirable states were New Jersey and Ohio.

Yes, my thinking was flawed, but I was a kid.

Having shared these thoughts with others over the years, I feel obliged to say that Columbus--or, more precisely, the small parts of it I've explored while here--is a pretty nice place.  The restaurants have been uniformly decent or better, the variety is wide, the ice cream (Jeni's) is (of course) extraordinary, and all in all it's been a fine place to visit.

I particularly like the North Market complex, which mixes food stalls with some specialized grocers and other vendors.  It's hip enough to have the hot chicken I mentioned in an earlier entry,

Click an image to see a larger version.

a nifty looking pretzel shop,

and a surprisingly good barbecue stall.

I had to sample all three key meats--brisket, sausage, and pork--and all three were pretty darn good.  I haven't had sausage or brisket as good in Raleigh.  In fact, both were up there with comparable offerings from low-end Austin barbecue joints.  (High-end barbecue places in Austin still rule.)

The people have been busy but friendly enough, the weather brisk but decent, and the place fun to walk.

I'm happy to have to revise my opinion of (at least this part of) Ohio.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A solid con day

I slept later than usual, which was quite a treat.  After an hour-long work phone meeting and some email catch-up, I headed to North Market for lunch.

After surveying the many wonderful food stalls there, I stuck with my original intention and grabbed a plate from Hot Chicken Takeover.  I was curious to see what the hot chicken fuss was about.  Though this was only one sample, it was basically just fried chicken with spicy skin.  I enjoyed it, but it was in no way as exciting as some reports have made it sound.  Perhaps I need to try other places.

While wandering the shops there, I stopped and asked a florist for the identity of the strange green plant of my photo yesterday.  It was an Oscar, a member of the milkweed family.  Inside the green balls are black seeds, so it really is a sort of alien-looking pod flower.

After a tour of the art show and some more work, it was time for my first panel.  Titled "When to stop," it was all about how to decide when to stop a long-running series.  Of course, we inevitably ranged over all sorts of topics related to series fiction, but the panelists were all fun, intelligent, and entertaining.  They made my job as moderator rather easy.  The audience seemed interested and happy to have attended, and various folks asked interesting questions.

Next up was a dinner courtesy of my publisher, Baen Books.  Senior Editor (I think that's his title) Jim Minz was an entertaining and fun host--as always.  I enjoyed the meal and the company.

After some time talking with friends in the sort of perpetual bar party that is every WFC, I headed up to work and then to crash.

A solid day at a con.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When you think of me going to the World Fantasy Convention

in Columbus, Ohio, I know the first thought that springs to mind:  did I take any plant photos?

Thanks for asking.  I did indeed.  Two.

Outside the Subway where we stopped for lunch today stood this lovely tree.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I love the way the wind has stripped the leaves off most but not all of the sections of the tree.

Enjoying a small cup of ice cream at a Jeni's shop here, I couldn't help but notice this weird green plant in this jar of flowers.

I'm sorry to have to say it, but they do not look healthy, not at all.

Tomorrow, the con cranks up!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Heading out to Columbus

I'm keeping this short because I have to head in the morning to Columbus, Ohio for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention.  I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to the nearly eight-hour drive, but most of the plane flights between here and there consume as much time as the drive, so driving it is.

I hope to write more later about what I'll be doing at the con, but the short form is that in addition to attending and talking with friends, I'm moderating one panel, participating in another, doing a reading, and holding down a chair during the Friday night mass autographing.

If you're also going to the con, come by and say hi.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Keeping Up with the Joneses

is a movie with moments that are so intensely awkward that they were almost physically painful to watch.  I wanted to like it, and I did like many parts of it, but in the end I wished I had waited to watch it at home, where I could pause it and escape the awkwardness from time to time.

The basic plot is obvious from the trailer, so I won't review it, but it is enough to serve as the foundation for a movie.  Jon Hamm turns in exactly the performance you'd expect and is plenty good enough.  Gal Gadot is coldly radiant, again exactly what you want from her character.  Isla Fisher is better than I expected, though she cannot carry off being as plain as the filmmakers seem to want us to think she is; she manages to look less than stunning only when she's next to Gadot.

The problems are Zach Galifianakis and the filmmakers' decision to make his character the most important one in the movie.  He turns in the most toned-down performance I've yet seen from him, but it's still too much.  The script is probably more to blame than he is, but in scene after scene he is the weakest and most awkward actor on screen.

If you're a Gal Gadot completist, or if you don't mind awkward humor, check out Keeping Up with the Joneses.  Otherwise, give it a pass.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

#HoldOnToTheLight - Please keep fighting

I'm writing this entry as part of the #HoldOnToTheLight blog campaign (more on it at the end of this post), but I've discussed this topic on multiple occasions in the blog, because it's important to me.

If you're one of the many people having trouble simply making it through the day, if the trauma you suffered darkens your days or your nights, if the bees in your head make every little thing a struggle, if after all of this you're considering giving up and killing yourself, I'd like to ask you to do something I have no right to ask.

I'd like you to keep fighting.

I can't claim to understand what you're going through.  Each of us fights our own demons, and each battle is unique.

I can tell you, though, that I've been in my own dens of horrors, and that at one point I came close to killing myself.

I've written about that time in a few places, including in this blog and in my afterword to the Baen edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon.  Here's the short form.  I was eleven years old.  I was in a messed-up paramilitary youth group in which twice a week I was physically abused in more ways than I care to list--and when they weren't abusing me, they taught me things no child should learn.  I was also being beaten at least once daily at home, beaten by a woman who had been the victim of abuse and who knew how to beat you for a long time while leaving no visible marks.  (Large, flat surfaces are key; think shoes and frying pans and even spatulas, which sting after the first few whacks.)  I saw no end to this abuse, no way out except to grow older, and I wasn't sure I could take it anymore.

I ultimately decided not to kill myself and instead to stay alive so that one day I could stop the assholes who were hurting me each week and kill the woman who was beating me daily.  I took all of my anger and hurt and pain and turned this horrible rage into a glowing ball of power, a ball that I could hold onto when nothing else would work, that would get me through the cold, desperate nights of pain and powerlessness.

I never did stop those assholes.  I just quit the group when I could--though only after becoming its highest-ranking member.

I never did kill the woman.  I came closer than I should have, but I stopped myself, and she stopped beating me, my sister, and my brother.

I still have the ball of rage, though I like to think it's smaller now, much smaller, and I rely on it less and less.

A bad case of PTSD grabbed me and has never let go.

In the course of all of this, I gained a true and profound sorrow at the loss of each person who chooses suicide.  I respect their choice, but it saddens me.  I feel the loss.  I feel it like another beating, like when a DI ground my face into my own vomit.  I feel it as pain and powerlessness and rage at the world for the damage it does to us all.

Here's the thing:  if you kill yourself, you not only leave behind wreckage, you deprive yourself and the world of those good things, however few or many they may be, that you would have enjoyed and created.

Had I killed myself, I would have devastated at least my mother, sister, and brother.  If you read this blog, it's probably because you are a friend or someone who enjoys my fiction or my other writing (or maybe you're in both camps).  Had I killed myself, none of that would exist now.

I'm not vain enough to think that in the greater scheme of things I matter a lot, but in the here and now, in this life, I know I matter to some folks.

So do you.

Even if you don't think you matter to anyone, if I know you, you matter to me.  If I don't know you, feel free to email me (easy to do via my site), and then I'll know you, and you'll matter to me.

As I said at the start, even though I have no right to do so, I'm asking you to keep fighting.  Seek help--and don't be ashamed that you could use it.  Call on all the tricks you've used in the past.  Do not give up.

Keep fighting.  Please.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention, and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming, and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention, such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook


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