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My top sf anime of 2018 and other thoughts are here. There really was no competition once Megalobox showed up. It's probably the only anime going on my Hugo ballot this year. Everyone watch that one, please.

It's hard to say how I line up with the critical consensus this year because there isn't one. Megalobox shows up on almost everyone's list, but doesn't take a majority of the top spots. Same for Devilman Crybaby (distributed by Netflix, so outside my beat) and Planet With. Including non-sf shows, A Place Further Than the Universe, Golden Kamuy, and Aggretsuko are in much the same situation.
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The latest stack of Endeavour books brings me part 3 of an ongoing series I haven't read any of. This often means a struggle to figure out the backstory and relationships between characters because the author assumes the reader has read parts 1 and 2 and retains them perfectly regardless of how long ago they were published.

Well, no worries about being able to follow the story in this case, as it begins the main character being interrogated about key events from the last book. It also takes care to introduce all characters by their full name, give their position in the hierarchy, and explain a bit about what that means.

The one thing missing is the descriptions. I have no idea what any of these people look like. Or what their world and ships look like, smell like, sound like. I just have a bunch of names and ranks floating in midair.

Now, it's common enough for authors who fail to re-introduce characters to also fail to describe them. But this is military sf, and it reminds me that this weird sensory deprivation is something I've run into with even non-sequel military sf a lot.

If the author leaves something out, one should assume that it's not important to them or the intended audience. That's the blinding flash of the obvious that has just struck me. The reader of typical US military sf only requires that the author provide the function of the person or thing. If the characters retire to the wardroom (as they will, because typical US military sf is only interested in the officer class), it is only necessary to know that they are in the wardroom, to set reader expectations about what sort of interaction should happen in that scene. It is not necessary to describe the elaborate inlays of exotic wood, or the sturdy and functional nano-plastic tables that always smell vaguely of disinfectant, unless it is absolutely vital to send the reader a signal about whether the officers are part of a decadent, decaying empire or the scrappy, upright consitutional monarchy which is going to fight the good fight and kick the empire's butt. (Typical US military sf is also suprisingly unenthusiastic about democracy.)

I wouldn't go so far as to call this an insight into the military mind, since so many military sf authors and readers have never actually been in the military. But it helps to illuminate why a book like Ancillary Justice or Ninefox Gambit, which have a military setting but a very different style, leave fans of typical military sf so cold. From this functional viewpoint, information is communicated in too roundabout a way, and even when the right information is stated directly, it's being drowned in useless detail.
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Happy New Year! One of my resolutions is to shift to using Dreamwidth more, so let's start with this.

8:01 am: Dude, that is not how you use a piano.

8:06 am: Announcers note all the volunteers involved in making this event possible. I wonder how many volunteers they're down this year because they're working extra hours at JPL for the Ultima Thule flyby.

8:08 am: First float of the day: Honda has managed some spectacular ones in the past but is phoning it in with this one.

8:09 am: First band of the day has gone for "sexy superheroes" with its majorettes.

8:12 am: Okay, can't comment on every single thing. They're really moving it along this year.

8:16 am: Street reporter doing a fairly good job of explaining laminar flow.

8:17 am: ...but the much-ballyhooed water feature doesn't appear to have worked. Cal Poly float still looks terrific with astronauts and aliens rocking out.

8:18 am: They don't get any college credit for this? Outrage!

8:22 am: Most Oustanding Float Design given to a float advocating organ design with an amazing rendering of traditional African woodcraft. ...Slightly awkward that it's covered with white people.

8:29: Farmer's Insurance has won an award for best use of roses on its float inspired by interesting disasters it has paid claims for. Announcers struggle to identify all the animals involved.

8:34: The first out Rose Parade queen. Also the first Jewish one and the first to wear glasses, in case you were thinking the Rose Parade has a history of being progressive.

8:37: A look at the job of driving floats, which despite modern technology still consists of "squint out a tiny window and follow that line painted down the street".

8:43: I do agree that steampunk could use some more color but I think the Trader Joe's entry has gone too far. Much too far.

8:45: "Celebration" is one of those songs you'll hear every year at some point in this parade but not usually because someone has put Kool & the Gang on a float to perform it live.

8:47: Appropriately followed by a band arrangement of "Get Ready for This" (that thing they play at sporting events everywhere and no one knows the name of).

8:54: My team! My team! Quit talking, street reporter, and pay attention to that float behind you! (Someone close to me grew up working on the La CaƱada Flintridge float.)

8:59: No TV time for the LCF float this year, at least not on ABC. Phooey. But there is some consolation in looking up the list of winners and seeing that they bagged the Founder's Trophy.

9:02: 24-Hour Fitness hopes to inspire you to get in shape with a huge semi-decayed zombie. No, wait, it's supposed to be a cutaway of a healthy athlete. No, it's definitely the centerpiece of some eldritch ritual.

9:04: I don't think I knew that Pop Warner is an actual person.

9:05: "Books Keep Us On Our Toes" is a theme I can make no sense of, but that truly is a spectacular ostrich. Well done, UPS.

9:12: China Airlines can aways be counted on for something beautiful. The techno mix of traditional music is a new spin.

9:19: Hawaii has produced easily the most colorful band in the parade.

9:20: Dole has chosen to enhance its plant-covered float with tiki torches. How could this possibly go wrong?

9:23: Most exhausting-looking job in the parade: those two guys on the Carnival float having to do trampoline acrobatics for the whole route.

9:29: Segment spotlighting a little-known problem of float design: Getting your theme to work with the parade theme. (Some floats are actually started being constructed before the parade theme is even chosen.)

9:31: Chipotle's solution was to fill the bed of its float tractor with musicians.

9:32: Next up is the All-Izumo Green Band, which is of course wearing blue and black.

9:33: Sierra Madre, a city of 11,000 people, has produced an amazing Japanese garden complete with simulated stonework and aged statues.

9:37: OMG Pern! No, it's Universal/Dreamworks advertising the next How to Train Your Dragon movie.

9:40: The Calgary Stampede Showband is, disappointingly, not stampeding.

9:43: The Cavalcade of Bands Honor band has the slowest, most mournful arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" I've ever heard.

9:45: To commemorate a project in which countless Chinese laborers were worked to death, the Chinese-American Heritage Association has assembled and decorated an entire float, which is usually the work of months, in two weeks.

9:48: I've been staring at this mochi since Christmas and it's finally time to eat some.



9:50: It is not entirely surprising that the float assembled in a mere two weeks has caught fire trying to make a corner.

9:54: Of course it's the biggest float in the parade that has broken down, necessitating bringing out the biggest tow truck in existence.

9:56: ABC gives up and starts rolling the credits.

May 2019 go slightly better than this.
petrea_mitchell: (Default)
It is often observed that stuff expands over the course of a trip, so that your perfectly packed suitcases somehow become unable to accomodate everything on the way back. I hardly even bought anything on my Worldcon trip and still experienced this. On reflection, though, I did still accumulate a fair amount of extra stuff...

Badges from Worldcon 76

Lots of people had a staff badge and a regular badge, but how many got two different spellings of their name, huh?

The one time I needed the early entry card, I didn't have it yet and got past the convention center person guarding the stairs with my staff badge and a hopeful look.

Ribbon notes in order of acquisition:


  1. Site Selection falls under the WSFS Division.

  2. From the Amazing Stories table in the dealers' room.

  3. Given out at the WSFS Business Meeting.

  4. From the fanzine lounge.

  5. From the Chengdu fan table.

  6. I saw several of these before encountering a person at Strolling With the Stars whose badge simply read, "Trouble". I asked if she was the one giving out those ribbons. The answer was one of those ribbons.

  7. From a guy who had a box full of all sorts of ribbons and really really wanted to give out one to everyone.



Worldcon 76 concession vouchers

Everyone on the Site Selection staff got some of these concession vouchers (or "groats", if you want the technical term) for each day we worked. I believe the EK refers to the chair's nickname of Evil Kevin. (I presume [personal profile] kevin_standlee is Good Kevin.)

Amazing Stories pin

As an Amazing Stories blog contributor, I was handed a copy of the new magazine and a copy of the David Gerrold/Trey Boyle comic A Doctor for the Enterprise, both of which seem to have gotten lost in the unpacking shuffle. Also this pin.

Flash drive

The Santa Clara County library system had a fan table, where they gave out assorted rewards for three-word book reviews. This was for Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin-- "Her funniest book."

A Wealth of Fable hardcover

There was a pile of these, free for the taking, in the fanzine lounge.

WOOF #43

Speaking of zines, I've finally checked "Contribute to an APA" off my bucket list. The World Order of Faneditors is compiled at Worldcon every year. This year's editor was Guy H. Lillian III. I contributed a page about the life, death, and resurrection of a hotel much beloved by Portland fandom.

Books from Worldcon 76

Someone sent a series of boxes full of random books to the staff lounge with orders to help ourselves.

Dublin 2019 bag

Next year's Worldcon, Dublin 2019, had a program item where people could suggest program items for their con. I implored them to remember that morning people exist in fandom, and mentioned a few morning events that I've enjoyed, including Orycon's "Cereal and Cartoons", which got a surprisingly enthusiastic reaction from the audience. At the end, they gave out swag bags to people whose suggestions had gotten the most applause.

Dublin 2019 merchandise

Contents included a notebook and gel pen...

Dublin 2019 merchandise

...power brick and cord with a carrying pouch...

Dublin 2019 merchandise

...bookmarks, keychain, badge ribbon, mini-buttons, and stickers.

Beading kit

The last thing I went to before closing ceremonies was a beading workshop where we all got a nearly-complete beading kit. (The missing thing is a piece of felt or somesuch to lay unattached beads out on; the workshop had those but they were reclaimed at the end.) I clearly need lots more practice, but I feel like I've gained an actual skill!
petrea_mitchell: (Default)
After two days to read Salvation and another to mull it over, some miscellaneous neural firings:


  • As usual with Hamilton these days, there are more ideas by page 30 than most authors have in an entire series. And not just random stuff thrown at the wall, either; an early mention of life-extension technologies, for instance, sketches out a whole hierarchy of prejudices about the different options available.

  • The real technological star of the show, though, is portals that, constructed in pairs, allow you to pass from one point to another instantaneously. In fact, this book might as well have been called 101 Fun Things To Do With Portals Once You Can Manufacture Them At Scale.

  • Speaking of prejudices, capitalism vs. techno-utopian socialism have a running argument throughout the book. The author doesn't seem very excited about either of them.

  • Also as usual with Hamilton, characters may wander away from the main plotline for the duration of entire novellas. This is one of the things I love about his work. (This is also one of the things many people hate about his work.)

  • Yay, non-binary people! Not so yay, a society which decides to synthesize binary soldiers because they're "better". Although we do get a hint here and there that these are not exactly the genders we know ("Now that the girls had molted...") so I'll wait and see.

  • The book concludes with the revelation of a grand plan that cannot possibly work as stated. I will just say it made me think of a famous quote from classic Doctor Who: "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views." Yes, that's an awfully big fact that needs altering, but given enough time and sufficiently advanced technology...

petrea_mitchell: (Default)
Recently I got my first chance to play in a Pathfinder Society multi-table special. This involves characters of levels 1-11, divided into six tiers, multiple tables per tier, all playing simultaneously, with an overseer running a clock for each timed phase and relaying game-wide events. This one was played online, spread across three platforms (Roll20 for the tables, Discord for voice chat, a Twitch stream for the overseer) and heaven knows how many time zones (the overseer was on the East Coast somewhere, I'm on the West Coast, my GM was in France, at least one player at the same table was in Australia). It started late, the overseer had to also run a table because a GM didn't show up, it was at an awkward time for nearly everybody, it ran late, it was huge fun, and I can't wait to play another.

Near the end of the scenario, my party, all 1st-level characters, had to fight a very young white dragon. We survived, and, unconsciously assuming that was the boss monster, went to explore the surrounding cavern. Whereupon a second, larger, white dragon appeared and proceeded to nail us all with its breath weapon.

My skald, who was supposed to be the tank, was down to 3 hit points. The clock on Twitch was counting down the last few minutes. Players and GM likewise were getting tired. This was a moment which seemed to call for some kind of insane, desperate move. Something like... like...

GM: [Skald], it's your turn.

Me: I INTIMIDATE THE DRAGON

Rest of party: (frantic crosstalk about the dubiousness of this idea)

Me: I brandish my sword! "Look how easily we defeated your friend!"

GM: ...okay, go ahead and roll.

Me: (rolls fairly well, adds skald's excellent Intimidate bonus)

GM: Well... it's not running away, but it's definitely having second thoughts about this. [Oracle], your turn.

Oracle: I remove my mask [revealing his hideous countenance, which gives him a bonus on this spell] and cast Cause Fear.

GM: (fails the dragon's Will save)

So we got our extra victory just before the timer ran out.

The skald, of course, simplifies this story in the telling so that it's about how a chaotic evil dragon decided not to mess with her personally.

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