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Baycon Schedule

I'll be a guest at Baycon in San Jose May 22-25. So far, I'm scheduled only for Friday and Saturday. If you attend, please come up and say hello...or stay for a panel or reading!

Inspiring the Next Generation of Science Fiction Writers on Friday at 12:00 PM (with Juliette Wade, Colin Fisk, The Winner Twins) If hard science fiction is literature about the future, what is the future of hard science fiction? Where will the next generation of hard SF writers come from, if what young people are reading now is stories about wizards, vampires, and mutant superpowers? How do we entice and encourage them to think seriously about life in the future, and to write about what they imagine?

Transgender Issues in SF&F on Friday at 1:30 PM (with Jacob Fisk, Jean Batt) LGBT speculative fiction stories almost always focus on just the "L" and the "G", ignoring the many other gender identities. Some people even consider "LGBT" to be too limiting, and use "QUILTBAG" instead (for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer). What issues do people who identify as transgender, transsexual, or intersex face in real life? Can representations of these identities in SF/F literature and media, such as in the movie "Predestination" (based on Heinlein's "--All You Zombies--") help them be accepted by mainstream society?

Pink Hockey Sticks: Raising a gender neutral child in a highly gendered world on Friday at 4:30 PM (with Susie Rodriguez, Jean Batt, Kay Tracy, Alison Stern) How do you roll with it when your long awaited and imagined little princess wants to wear Batman shoes with her tiara and thinks ballet class is a good place to practice her hockey skills? How to raising a tiny Woman of Wonder and the challenges of doing it in our society and in general.

Themed Reading: Mythical Creatures on Saturday at 11:30 AM (with Marie Brennan, Cassie Alexander, Sinead Toolis) Dragons. Unicorns. Centaurs. All different, yet all are creatures from the genus Mythical. Hear authors give their spin on tales about mythical creatures (also known as "cryptids").

Constructing Fictional Cultures: Sex Without Shame on Saturday at 1:00 PM (with Boston Blake, Diana L. Paxson, Lance Moore) A fundamental aspect of any culture is its attitude towards sex. An unspoken but common attitude present in many people in modern-day culture is that sex is shameful. This is shown through common behaviors such as married people who don't talk with their spouses about their sexual desires or sexual dissatisfaction, women who don't report having been raped because of the shame that they feel, and women who don't carry condoms because they are afraid of slut-shaming from their sex partners. How would a society that felt no shame about sex be different from ours? What would be the advantages and disadvantages? Would a modern-day reader with a traditional upbringing find it too difficult to relate to fictional characters that lived in such a culture?

On the Size of Ears

Do you ever think about what your ears look like?

Some people agonize over the size and shape of their ears. Babies don't care, but kids who have unusually shaped ears or ears that stick out can (and are!) made to feel self-conscious about them. People even have surgery to flatten ears against the skull, or I assume their parents do. I never thought about ears -- my own or those of my friends -- when I was a kid.

So it came as a surprise to me when I was an adult that my mother was self-conscious about the size of her ears. The outer ear is mostly cartilage, which continues to grow -- albeit slowly -- throughout your life. Older folks generally have bigger ears than youngsters. I suppose the self-consciousness came from "my ears show my age," but I never asked her. I just observed the lengths she went to in styling her hair in order to cover part of her ears.

It also came as surprise to me as I achieved senior citizen status myself that my own ears were not as I remembered them. They looked like my mother's ears. They're neither pretty nor ugly. They're bigger than when I was a child (I think -- I'm relying on old photos here) and somewhat longer top to bottom. There's a funny crease in the skin of the lobes that I assume is due to decades of wearing pierced earrings. But maybe not. It might have done that, anyway.

Mostly I think it's cool that my ears look like my mother's when she was my age. Sometimes it's puzzling that a body part up and changes itself, but that seems to be happening to more than my ears. Every once in a while, though, it bothers me. I have discovered a solution:

I don't look in the mirror.

From the inside, my ears feel just fine. And then I think of the images of the Buddha with long, long ears. And I giggle.

The Tajji Diaries: Pet Insurance


When we adopted Tajji, she was just under 10 years old. The life expectancy for her breed, German Shepherd Dog, is 9 to 12 years, although we’ve known dogs that made it to 13 or 14. Fifteen would be a far outlier. Our last GSD, Oka, made it to 12 ½, the last half year under treatment for lymphoma. We agonized over that treatment, since he was otherwise healthy and there was a good chance it would buy him another year of life. He tolerated the chemo well, as dogs often do, and until about 48 hours before he died (from leukemia, which lymphoma sometimes turns into), he was romping with his favorite blue horse ball. The thing is, we didn’t have pet insurance for him, and of course once he’d been diagnosed with lymphoma, that made it a pre-existing condition, which made it impossible. Our budget, already shaky, took a major hit.

Fast forward now to Tajji. Healthy, strongly built…but geriatric. Could we even get insurance for her and if we could, would it break the bank? After some looking we found a company* that allowed us to choose the deductible and percentage covered. I think there was an extra package that covered maintenance care, vaccinations, and the like, but what we wanted was catastrophic coverage. We’d gone the route of hoping for the best and then having to deal with a financial as well as a medical emergency. Now we made the assumption that in the few years we’d have Tajji something would go wrong.

This happened sooner than we imagined. Read more...Collapse )

In Which Deborah Learns A New Word

Normally, this is a politics-lite zone. Growing up in the '50s with the McCarthy nuts breathing down my family's neck has not endeared me to rancorous public discourse. I have, however, been following PuppyGate because I know some of the folks who withdrew their stories from the Hugo ballot and/or Puppy slate. The online debate has at times been pretty vile.

One of the few delightful things to come out of this mess is a new word: Puppysplaining. Akin to mansplaining, it refers to "Explaining to you how you really have no idea how completely wrong you are about your own lived experiences." It comes to me from Gamer Ghazi. If it follows you home, you have my permission to keep it.

I have a new collection of short fantasy fiction, just out from Book View Cafe. And am quietly, quiveringly proud of it. I hope you'll enjoy it, too. You can download a free sample from the BVC site.

Here's the skinny:

The vampire has known only evil since he was made, until an unlikely friendship reconnects him with life… Two women mourning two dead mothers tread the boundaries between grief and obsession… A ghoulish spirit haunts a refugee in Renaissance Venice… A healer discovers a dying man with the heart of a dragon on her doorstep… Two boys travel back in time to discover the true nature of Tyrannosaurus rex… A mother vampire, struggling to raise two vampire children in Hollywood, encounters her biggest challenge yet: the PTA.

From the ancient Indus Valley to post-apocalyptic California come fourteen tales of love, redemption, and hope…and occasional humor.

Originally posted by jimhines at It’s Alive!

Hugo Awards: I started up a #HugoProposal tag on Twitter the other day, trying to create a bit of humor in the midst of this mess. Here’s one of my favorites:

Three Hugos for Mil-SF and their space marines;

Seven for the grimdark-lords in their halls of blood;

Nine for mortal fans doomed to blog;

One for Neil Gaiman on his dark throne

In the Land of Worldcon where the Shadows lie.

Thanks to Jim for allowing me to repost this marvelous bit of perspective.

A Word of Warning About Pirate Sites

Google Alerts has informed me of a spate of pirate sites containing my work. Obviously, as an author I would much prefer my readers to obtain my books through legitimate sources. I like to be paid, like everyone else. But these sites pose hazards for the unsuspecting visitor. They can be laden with viruses and malware. Some require a credit card number in order to register, which means they are actually not pirated book sites but credit card number harvesters.

I do my best to price my self-published work in a way that is fair but affordable. (Alas, I have no control over what my publishers charge.) I participate in Book View Cafe sales that occur a couple of times a year. I want to make my stories available to everyone who wants to read them. Many are available at your library, either in paper editions or through one of the library ebook vendors that Book View Cafe contracts with. I donate autographed copies, usually of hardback editions, for various fundraisers. For the last two winters, I have offered free copies as holiday gifts. And finally, I do my best to arrange for review copies to be made available.

We are part of a community of readers and writers. Let's support one another and leave the pirates to sink under the weight of their own unscrupulous tactics!

The painting is by Howard Pyle, public domain.

[link] Charlaine Harris on blending genres

Over on the Gollancz site, Charlaine Harris offers a few characteristically charming observations on how to blend fantasy and mystery. Listen up, folks. She knows whereof she speaks. It's a short article, full of humor and wisdom.

My favorite bit:

I think it’s also a good idea to make sure the reader knows that being a supernatural creature of any sort does not mean you can live a life without problems. There are always bills to pay of one sort or another, groceries to shop for (even if you shop in a bar or cemetery), and taxes to pay. Yes, always taxes. You can’t swan around in a velvet cape looking mysterious and swoony. The electric bill must be covered, and the telephone bill, too.

I must have been channeling Harris when I wrote "Survival Skills" (Sisters of the Night) back in the mid '90s. Barbara Hambly had taken on the editing of an anthology of female vampire stories and, being much involved in my younger daughter's elementary school PTA, I wondered what it would take for a mother vampire to raise two kids in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time. My vampire's problems didn't involve paying taxes, but did center around managing all the ways our governmental structures look over your shoulder when you are a parent. It was easy enough to imagine a night school for families whose adults worked night shifts in the movie industry, but what about truant officers, PTA fund raisers, school lunches and sports ("don't play with your food"), and translating the skills learned from centuries of dealing with paper-based bureaucracies into computer-based hacking?

"Survival Skills" will appear in my upcoming collection, Transfusion and Other Tales of Hope, from Book View Cafe later this month. Stay tuned for the official announcement.

Horses regularly trained with ground work are more relaxed when ridden | Spellbound

I’m glad to learn research revealed ground work is good for horses. Horses with a low heart rate are relaxed and relaxed horses perform better and live longer. In this day and age of people starting horses under saddle in under an hour and increasing monetary rewards for the “young horse dressage program“, everything seems to be done in a hurry. The entire horse culture seems to privilege “getting up there and riding your horse”. But as one of my favorite writers and accomplished horsewoman, Teresa Tsimmu Martino writes, “In today’s horse culture there are clinics that brag about starting a colt in a day, as if the quickness of it was the miracle. But old horse people know it takes years to create art. Horses as great masterpieces are not created in a day. An artist does not need to rush.” We need more scientific studies like this one to encourage us to slow down and take our time with our horses.
Nathan Bransford asked this question. It made me smile, because I have a bunch of answers and they are all wonderful, inspiring moments. Here are a couple.

Very early in my writing career, Poul Anderson was Guest of Honor at a convention I attended. At the "meet the guests" reception, I spied him standing alone. I guess everyone else was too awed by him to say hello. I went up and said hello and how much I admired his work. We began chatting, and when he learned I was a writer -- I think I'd sold maybe 2 or 3 short stories then -- he looked at me and with absolute sincerity asked what I was working on now. I was a fellow writer, a colleague, or at least he thought I was. That moment of encouragement carried me through many rejections and discouraging times. I do my best to pass it on.

Meeting Octavia Butler for the second or third time and the two of us laughing that she remembered me but not my name. I came away with the understanding that I don't have to "be known by name" or to toot my own horn in order to have meaningful conversations. Just being present and listening carefully is a gift to the other person. I remind myself that my writing stands on its own

At World Fantasy a few years ago, standing out in the garden area for an evening reception and realizing, "I'm talking shop with Peter S. Beagle..." At that same convention, I had a lovely exchange with Charlaine Harris, in which I told her how I loved her Aurora Teagarden mysteries.A librarian detective plus layers of depth woven into a rocking good story. She replied, "That means a lot to me, coming from another writer."

I can go a long way on that.

What are your favorite memories?