Posted by: Matt Y | 06/19/2017

Shouting into the void

It’s been a while since I last blogged.  A long while.  And I plan on returning to shouting into the human collective subconsciousness that is the internet.

Had a job for a  year which meant anything from 10-14 hour days with being on call 24/7.  That proved to be too much of a pain in the ass, no amount of pay is really worth putting your life on hold.  So I stopped.  Which I’m glad I did because the thing I missed was telling myself stories.  I don’t know about other writers but the stuff I write down are things that float around in the back of my head and usually when I’m bored present themself as a ‘what if’ scenario that I visualize.  I stopped doing that when I spent most of my time working, and aside from making my cat overlords unhappy and my wife concerned I also lost telling myself stories which makes life all that more interesting.

So I plan on sharing some of that.  Plus I’ve been lurking and commenting on File770 and while video game news goes up there I keep wanting for there to be more elaboration about the intersection of SFF and video games.  Then I realized I could wait for it or I could write it, since I’ve written a lot on video games for over a decade.  Which means my goal for the next month is to write some about the various SFF influences on one of my favorite past times.

And if it comes up I might share short stories I write along the way like this one

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Posted by: Matt Y | 10/15/2016

Nerdcon: Stories

It’s been over a year since I used my blog about writing, which makes sense because with a job promotion I’ve been working insane hours (to me) and, well, not writing.  That hasn’t been all that healthy for me and when I came across a Nerdcon: Stories mention in a File770 Scroll my wife immediately said that I needed to go to that.

As with many things, she was so right.

Thank you to all the people who attended Nerdcon: Stories, from the organizers to the guests to the audience.  There were so many great panels that all the time that I was constantly split between being happy over the one I chose to go to while wishing I was in another.  This may be the only convention I’ve ever been to where I felt like every hour of my time I learned and grew or was in awe of an artist.

That’s the TL;DR version of what I want to say.  Here’s the rest:

Recently I read a book called Infomocracy, a book whose title I stumble over when I try to say out loud.  In it there’s a character who is described as having a condition called narrative disorder.  The character takes various facts and starts forming those into a narrative which makes her good at her job.  I read that and thought like I do when I read WebMD; oh shit I think I have that.

If it was a real condition than Nerdcon: Stories was a gathering of the afflicted.  A mix of celebration of stories, their influence on culture and how they’re told, but also of those who might be mildly obsessed or possessed by the desire to consume and create more stories.  There were readings, sharing stories, craft advice, puppet shows, interactive games, and more, all about the geekery of the art of narrative in various mediums.  All of it more fun than a bunch of hyper-intellegent bees in a man suit.

I’ve never been to a convention where every panel I’ve gone to has been both so insightful and entertaining.  I went alone, and as a socially awkward person surrounded by others who felt the same there was an enjoyable bond that connected everyone.  Like how quickly the audience made a hand symbol for soup for Mary Robinette Kowal in Superfight.  There was a shared sense of happiness for being a part of what was happening.

The guests and panelist were all fantastic as well and easily connected with the audience and instead of talking to us it really felt like they were talking with us.  That’s a pretty big difference.  I might have a weird fan crush on Mary Robinette Kowal now just for how amazing she was in everything she was a part of.

All over I heard conversations from people who were worried that  this might be the last and that it might never come again.  In almost every one of those situations the people talking were also trying to figure out what they could do or offer to keep it going because they felt it was so important to keep it going, whether that was kickstarter or otherwise.

It takes something truly special that people who’ve already paid for that year are trying to figure out how they might be able to donate more for future years to continue something so amazing.  Frankly the sessions on craft and the various panels make me think they could turn it into a longer weird hybrid of convention and writer’s camp.  I’d pay.

It was humbling seeing so many great creative panelists and attendees who are so filled with talent add similar devotion to the gods of narrative, to know that I am one among many, and yet such a great feeling to see so many creators and know that there will always be more amazing things being made every moment.  Like being an alcoholic on a brewery tour knowing I’ll never get to drink it all.

Stories are powerful.  Stories are magic.  Nerdcon: Stories showed the magic we can make together when we try.  Writing is a solitary art form and yet I never felt a part of larger community.  It felt good again to be immersed in something I care so much about.

Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Posted by: Matt Y | 09/20/2015

The Troll 2

Part 2

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Posted by: Matt Y | 09/20/2015

The Troll

Part of my short story collection

Part One

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Posted by: Matt Y | 09/02/2015

Short Story

I wrote a short story for a contest for Amazing Stories magazine but didn’t make it as a finalist.  Bad news for me but it also means I can put it up on here now.

Not Alone Read More…

Posted by: Matt Y | 08/23/2015

Hugo Fallout

The Hugos are come and gone and you might think I’d be happy about the result given the fact that I was less than impressed by the quality of stories from what was nominated. But I’m not. I didn’t cheer when No Award happened in many categories because it’s depressing. The idea that the people who created the slates are trying to view this as a victory condition, as though fans were supposed to lie back and just ignore that they took over several categories and to do otherwise was an ideological attack, is fucking dumb. It’s a response to the idea that the Puppies told Fandom that they didn’t really know good work and were voting not because they liked different stories but because off affirmative action, and then told them here’s some good work (that coincidentally were also colleagues and friends wink wink) to vote on and you’d better vote for one of them or else!

Yeah, they tried to blackmail fans into voting for their friends, and when that didn’t work now they’re trying to claim that was the intent all along and now WorldCon is exposed! Instead of accepting that voters don’t like being told they were voting on the wrong things and being told what to vote on.

So sadly instead of the people who likely earned and deserved awards, No Award won several categories to express this disdain. Also because many of the nominated works were poorly edited and often subpar in quality to add insult to injury. It’s still sad to not give out an award instead of giving it to those who should’ve been nominated had this been a normal year.

No one won. At best it was fans expressing that they wouldn’t be held to the whims of pouty right fringe outrage culture warriors. The presenters did a phenomenal job with a rough year. As someone who loved 3 Body Problem I’m happy it won. I did pretty well with my own votes.

But this wasn’t a victory for anyone other than some assholes who wanted attention and to be able to have their friends promote that they are Hugo nominees. They got that attention for better or worse. Supporting memberships were high and the No Award votes were in the thousands while Puppies were in the hundreds. The fact that those memberships carry over until next year and that EPH and 4/6 passed hopefully means that we might only have another year where we have to face the potential of not having deserving nominees win awards.

Until then it’s just reading and getting nomination lists ready. There’s a lot of good stuff out this year too, so even if the award process is stuck in shitty culture war BS, the genre ha a lot of amazing voices to read. As a fan and reader that’s the biggest award of them all, to have more awesome stuff to read than I could ever be able to manage.

Posted by: Matt Y | 08/13/2015

Review

For the zero people who read this, I reviewed a friend’s book here: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/08/10/book-review-thanksgiving-for-werewolves/

It has a huge disclaimer on it because I might be biased towards it.  I don’t know, I’d like to think that I wouldn’t want to recommended a bad story, much less read one over and over again through the editing process, but it’s worth mentioning.  It scratches my pop culture, pro-rasslin’, obscure reference, mythological creatures fighting itch.  If you’ve got that itch this’ll scratch it.

Also see a doctor.

Posted by: Matt Y | 07/28/2015

Remainder of the Hugo stuff

This has been a busy month with a writing contest, wedding prep, how busy work has been and trying to contribute to Camp NaNo.

So I’m going to just quickly rush through my thoughts on all the remaining works.

John C Wright’s Nominated Works packet:  One Bright Star To Guide Them opens with a drunk guy picking up a cat and listing off his long past history with a similar looking cat from when he was a kid in one of the strangest bits of dialogue I’ve ever read.  But hey it turns out the exposition he drunkenly vomited all over the cat makes sense as it is the same cat and he has a magic key that they used to go on magical adventures with.  Then we get the scene where he tries to convince another childhood friend that they’re needed again and they their own CS Lewis adventures from childhood were real.  At that point the friend asks if what they did was real than nothing they did as adults would matter at all.  That’s a great line and could’ve lead to an interesting story that delved deeper into what it means to be an adult after having saved magic kingdoms as a child, and what it would mean as an adult to try and face those same dangers again with a more complex moral structure than seeing everything as black and white.

That’s not what we get though.  Instead the friend has already been corrupted by the evil bad guys and the good guy has to flee.  The book comes back to the character along the way as he continues his battles against evil forces, often explaining the nebulous time in between parts in great detail and recapping action that’s all held offstage, which is a shame because all of it sounds far more interesting than anything that happens during the present tense parts of the story and are robbed of any tension by explaining it as a thing that happened already.  It all wraps up in a clunky way full of over exposition and poor explanations.

And that was the best of his novellas.  The Plural of Helen of Troy is a mess.  It takes place in a city out of time run and has historical figures who’ve been pulled out of time as part of its population.  Oddly this also appears to include completely fictional characters as a character from Moby Dick is in there as a side kick to the private eye the story centers around.  There are small problems everywhere, like the main character worried that a character is holding a flintlock pistol wrong, only he knows a page later that the pistol has been adapted to be an automatic pistol.  Which makes his earlier concern pointless.  Helen in this story is an archetype and not the real Helen of Troy, she’s actually Marilyn Monroe.  Only at one point she cites something that happened in the battle for Troy like she was actually there.  The entire story revolves around a current JFK trying to prevent an older JFK from coming back in time and raping a young Marilyn Monroe.  Current JFK can’t stop future JFK from raping Monroe even though he loves Monroe, doesn’t want to hurt her, knows it’ll lead to his future death and so on because future JFK is obsessed with raping or something.  Like One Bright Star it ends with an awkward explanation to the protagonist about a higher order than what they know.

Pale Realms of Shade is another attempt at a noir detective story mired in an avalanche of prose and nonsense.  It opens with the protagonist who is a ghost whose former wife is trying to get him to convince the police that he was murdered when he was shot seven times in the chest instead of it being a suicide.  It’s not address how a person might commit suicide in this why, why the police would ever consider it a suicide or why they’d take the word of his ghost for it(assuming spiritual testimony is valid in whatever world this is supposed to be).  The ghost must still have some hormones running through it because there are long graphical descriptions of how hot his wife is.  The ghost is angry because it turns out his wife was the one that killed him and was cheating on him, only she can’t remember it because every time she cheated on him and after she shot him she’d drink elf juice of forgetfulness (so would her lover and the ghost’s partner at his private eye agency).  Then the ghost almost goes all poltergeist because he can’t get over the fact that his former wife and partner are together after he sees how well their doing together and damnitall his former wife is his property.  So he almost allows an evil spirit to help him kill his former partner, but then sees his partner tip his hat to an old lady and knows that his partner is a good man now and can’t go through with it.  Then he goes off to try and find redemption.

All of these feel like rough drafts of work that might be alright with polishing, but not nominees for best of the year.

Flow by Arlan Andrew I thought was okay but it didn’t really have much of a plot or a point aside from world building.  Much like Journeyman: In The Stone House this felt like a middle portion of a longer tale that we don’t get to see the beginning or end of and doesn’t really work well as a self contained narrative.  It didn’t feel like this built towards anything and when I got to the end I was left thinking, what, that was it?  I thought it was perfectly acceptable writing, if a bit forgettable.  Nothing I’d consider in contention for best of the year however.

Of the novels The Dark Between The Stars was mediocre and I like some of Anderson’s work.  Skin Game by Butcher was fun but not among the best Dresden Files books, much less best of the year.  It excelled at what Butcher does best, provide an entertaining read within his worlds.  Then again I’m more critical of the more recent DF books as it has built to a ridiculous level of gods and world-in-danger schemes when I preferred it when it was more personal or on a smaller scale.  3 Body Problem I thought was fantastic and stuck in my head in the way the best Sci-Fi books do, with puzzling over different ideas and themes presented that I enjoyed just thinking about.  The complaints I’ve seen about I understand as well though, one of the characters barely exists even though they’re a major character in the book for example.  But I thought the ideas presented through the story made up for any faults in the structure of it.  The Goblin Emperor was a complete 180 to the type of story 3BP was.  The main character isn’t a cipher, we’re right inside of his skull through then entire ride.  The story goes in a different direction than many others would, and made day to day court politics interesting somehow.  Where I connected with the ideas and theme of 3BP, I connected with the character and story more here.  I consider them both fantastic books and I’d be happy to see either win.  Ancillary Sword is the sequel to Ancillary Justice and while I know many love the books, I didn’t enjoy the first and had a hard time connected to the sequel because of it.  Unlike others who felt AJ was stronger, I think AS is the better of the two as it has a more clever plot that doesn’t rely so heavily on deus ex machina.  That’s just like my opinion man.  It was interesting in the themes and ideas presented though so I’m throwing it into 3rd.

Aside from that I read Fan Writer and Related and I’m a-ok No Awarding both.  Fan Writer appears mostly connected to Sci-Fi/Fantasy through a fictional battle with poorly constructed enemies referred to as SJWs or Glittery Hoo-Ha’s.  There’s a sliver of Sci-Fi/Fantasy material outside of the culture war rhetoric, victim blaming and poor use of both analogy and math.  Related has some basic work along with Transhuman and Subhuman, a collection of essays by JCW that I could go on about pointlessly.  I’ll just say that he and I are in complete agreement about The Hobbit movies.  Everything else in his essays though I felt was poorly reasoned and his definition of what he consider Sci-Fi/Fantasy to be I find shallow and narrow-minded, though it really does give a better understanding to his novellas.  It makes sense to me more why I bounced off his stories, he and I have a completely different view of the genre, what it means and what the purpose of it is.  This category also has Wisdom From My Internet, a poorly formatted series of out of context tweets.  I don’t know if the title is meant to be parody or if this was meant to be serious.  If there’s Wisdom hiding in there it’s doing a better job than Waldo because I didn’t see any.

All the movies are ones I enjoyed.  Of those Captain America: The Winter Soldier was my favorite.  I liked all of the comics aside from the tediously derivative Zombie Nation.  I did not have enough time to check out the podcasts or fanzines or the TV episodes.

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I’ve been reading and writing a bunch so haven’t been as focused on the Hugos as I’ve already dropped in my vote.

Big Boys Don’t Cry on the surface is one of the more interesting tales in the slated works.  In essence it is both the literal and figurative deconstruction of an archetypical soldier.  This soldier just happens to be a war tank AI called Magnolia, or Maggie for short.

The story begins with the AI tank as it has some moments of self pity for having an incompetent commander, along with sadness for how her human soldiers used to ride inside of her but were replaced by drones, and how no one cares for Ratha class tanks anymore.  It’s a weird way of starting a MilSF story but the novelty of it made me interested.

Throughout the story there were a lot of immersion breaking moments for me.  First would be the random interjections into the story by the University of Woomalloo.  The name makes me wonder if there is an inside joke the author is referencing.  Sometimes these parts contribute to the story being told and other times these are just random bits of information that seemed like the author was making dumb political jabs at the expense of story momentum.

For some never explained reason the tank AIs are programmed to designate their gender.  In that battle one tank is pointed out for not having done so, and is ostracized by the other tanks because it is genderless.  I don’t even get why the tank AIs choose any gender or have that in their programming, much less why they have personalities.  I mean you might be able to write a fun story about a gun that’s programmed with an AI that decides it is now a pacifist, but there are no good reasons in this story as to why a battle tank is given a personality.  As far as gender goes that a tank chose not decide gender makes that the smartest tank AI in the book because it realizes it’s a goddamn tank.

Big Boys Don’t Cry instead has the genderless tank be socially shunned by other tanks because they think this is weird (I mean seriously a tank is shunned by other tanks because it decides not to assign itself a gender!) and in the first battle of the book that tank runs off like a coward.  Considering how that battle turned out that tank might be the only rational character in the book.

To pile on top of that Maggie gets hurt, like in pain hurt, and I couldn’t get why she was programmed to feel pain.  Later as she’s being scrapped but still conscious she feels all of it, and then the main character also questions why they allow her to feel pain.  It’s never addressed in the story.  Don’t know how the editor missed that the author pointed out a plot hole that the whole story revolves around.

Tanks can also earn medals which means that they’re treated as individual soldiers who are honored for service instead of property.  However they’re scrapped like property and the medals are stripped off without a second thought.  Not sure why they even award or have a ceremony to award tanks medals if they are shown to be meaningless.  To appease the ego of the tanks?  It’s a poorly explained plot device used to have Maggie have context for her flashbacks.
Then there’s the really weird part at the end where that shows how these AI brains are constructed in such a way that they are programmed with a completely innocent personality that requires the military to brain wash out of them by literally giving the AI brain orgasms as a reward response to killing and pain to trim away responses they don’t care for.  Again I don’t get why they are programmed with personalities in the first place, and now I don’t understand why the AI aren’t just programmed with the preferred responses in the beginning?  All I can tell is that the military in this story are a bunch of moronic assholes who like to create pointless things, give them pain, put them in danger, and then pull them apart when no longer needed.  Maybe that’s the point.

This is such a goofy book.

Maggie is the only developed character in the story, but you know what compared to the other slated work she’s a character who is easy to empathize with, her identity is the major conflict in the story, and most of the book is her dawning realization about how bad she has been used.

The pacing is all over the place, this tale stop needs a sticker that says Careful This Plot Makes Sudden Stops.  Aside from the occasional swerve away from the action to go into details about weapons that are given a lot of page space yet are functionally just story props, the story halts forward progress to tell us about other events in the universe that never seem relevant.  At first these university papers talk about the tanks, then it goes into rambles about bleeding hearts that fell for a call to peace by hostile aliens that the tanks aren’t really involved.  Much of the battle took place in space and even the razing of towns was done by the ships.  There’s a part about burkas that’s so transparent it reads like poorly done satire.

The end goes for the cheap satisfaction of revenge, which works with how it was built up though her actions don’t really get back at anyone significant and she never considered that those she is acting against might be in a similar position she was just in, brainwashed into doing their duty and poorly treated.  While satisfying in that she went down fighting it also rings hollow on who and how she enacts revenge against.

Personally I thought the story would’ve could’ve delivered a good gut punch reaction if she knew she could not do anything at all about her fate.  Or if it ended with scraps of her being shown to go to the construction of a fresh new tank who wasn’t aware of where her parts came from or the indoctrination and harsh life ahead of it.

While I am highly critical of the story I did enjoy it more than many of the other works.  The core idea of the literal and metaphorical deconstruction of a soldier is one I like a lot, and while I think it kind of went to waste in this story it was like watching a Uwe Boll movie or the 4th Twilight book in that it is so bad that it’s entertaining to see what else it has up its sleeve.  As someone who watches a lot of low rent horror movies I don’t often come across so-bad-it’s-enjoyable books.

Posted by: Matt Y | 07/03/2015

Stuff

I was reviewing the Hugo categories and aside from Graphic Novel I’ve caught up on all of them. But Fan Writing and Related were the roughest parts of the damn thing to the point where I took a break and read a bunch of books. I’ve been going through prior years Hugo Award winners and nominees to catch up recent years, like The Wind Up Girl, 2312 and Among Others, but also Paradise Sky, Finders Keepers, Nemesis Games, etc. I initially meant to start reading these as a palette cleanser of sorts and then I got so caught up in reading that I avoided reviewing this Hugo nonsense. Frankly reading good books is more entertaining to me than talking about shitty stories.

This is also Camp NaNoWriMo month, and while I’m mixed on the idea of NaNo in general the idea of a casual summer program to encourage fiction writing and to get some writing projects done is also more interesting to me than talking at length about hypocritical bullshit.

Not that I wont finish what I started, I just needed to step away from it. The Fan Writing category was filled with bitter bullshit and the Trans and Subhuman essays made me swear so much I felt like a new curse word needed to be invented to summarize my feelings towards it. At least the fiction sections were somewhat interesting instead of being a garbage heap. Then again I liked Wright’s stupid hammer description of The Hobbit 2. I felt that hammer heavily when watching Jurassic World.

So over the weekend I’m going to just dump my general feelings of the rest and be done with it.

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