Wiscon Day 2: Designing a Magic System Panel

Panelists: Gregory Rihn, Alex Bledsoe, Kater Cheek, Catherine Krahe, Elizabeth Bear

One liner: Writers and readers talk about what they like and don’t like regarding magical design.

The panel began with examples of magic systems that didn’t work for the panelists. Several authors were mentioned, among them J.K. Rowling, Mercedes Lackey, George Lucas, and Gary Gygax. A particularly entertaining moment was Alex Bledsoe’s description of the Force from mystic belief to scientific nanotech.

Kater was an advocate of magic needing to cost something. The panelists went back and forth on this. There was also some discussion on how magic affects the society around you, the relationships you have, and the consequences of magic in every society.

Kater preferred explanations of how a magical system worked. Cassie thought you could still have rational magic without explanation. Bear added that gaming magic has to be fair, but fictional magic does not.

Magic was broken down into several possible subsets:

Magic as a skill.
Magic as energy.
Magic from the gods.
Magic as technology.

Some discussion ensured about magic thwarting physics, or magic and the technological divide. An example was used of a match as technology not working in a magical world, and how that violated thermodynamics, which would then cause all sorts of trouble in the universe. The panelists had no problem mashing magic vresus technology.

Alex raised the issue of the role of the magician in the society. Cassie asked what is magic used for in the society. Kater pointed out that in some books magic isn’t the same in all parts of a country. Also, what do the gods get out of magic, if anything?

Some other vital questions:

Does magic slow the development of technology?
If you are learning magic, what are you not learning?
How does the introduction of a new magic change a society?
Is magic aristocratic or hierarchical? Who is magic for?

Suggestions of trying to make magic different from the stream or conduit paradigm were encouraged.

Your Feminist Avengers Post 2: The Wasp

You gotta give Stan Lee credit for his progressive feminist writing. /sarcasm

Okay, so the Wasp did not have the most auspicious of beginnings. She was the socialite girlfriend of scientist Hank Pym, and the two of them were imported into the Avengers as a unit. Without Hank, you don’t really have an entry point for Jan.

However, like any good scientist boyfriend, Hank decided that what every rich girl wants is her own flying suit, shrinking ability, and wasp stingers. A lot of guys would just buy jewelry, but Jan became the Wasp. Let’s take a look at that early incarnation, shall we?

I don’t care what you might think. Antennae are cool.

Continue reading “Your Feminist Avengers Post 2: The Wasp”

Wiscon Day One: Governor’s Club and Stuff

As usual, most of Day One was spent in travel from Iowa to Wisconsin. This year, Dan, Lisa, and I were joined by my friend Yolanda, who traveled up from Texas for the convention. When we arrived at the hotel, we hunted down Yolanda, registered for the convention, and headed for lunch.

But, before lunch, let’s talk about the Governor’s Club. This year, we three had decided to stay at the Governor’s Club because we’d never done it. I had heard that the floors were lined with gold, and that you received a personal assistant during the time of your stay. Imagine my disappointment when the hallway was carpeted like usual.

Still, if you are a curious attendee, and you wonder if this option is for you, well, I’m going to give you the skinny.

Continue reading “Wiscon Day One: Governor’s Club and Stuff”

Your Feminist Avengers Post 1: The Black Widow

I feel kind of like this today:

Then again, this is pretty much every day. 😉


An interesting choice was made when the Black Widow was chosen to represent women in The Avengers. I cannot deny that the Black Widow has a long and distinguished Marvel history. Well, a long history, anyway. Would you recognize the Black Widow if she looked like this?

Because originally she did. She was conceived as a femme fatale working for a certain Eastern European government. Back in those days, Hawkeye was her dupe, and the two of them attempted to wrest information out of Iron Man.

Thanks to the phenomena of Steed and Peel’s Avengers, however, Natasha received a makeover.

Continue reading “Your Feminist Avengers Post 1: The Black Widow”

The Return

I’m back at work after Wiscon. It was a great time, and as usual there will be some posting about a variety of panels, commentaries, etc, etc, etc. This is the part where I let you know how bushwhacked I am.

This year’s Wiscon seemed to be one long day punctuated by naps. And sometimes the naps worked, and sometimes the naps didn’t do much. I ate too much, drank more than I usually do, didn’t sleep or hydrate enough, and these things take their toll. I felt like an undergrad.

That said, I felt like an undergrad. 🙂

I think the take home message of this particular version of Wiscon was time with friends. Everything I did this year seemed to have an interpersonal dimension. My usual pilgrimage buddies, Dan and Lisa, seemed particularly attentive and pleasant this year. Not that they aren’t usually, but this year was above and beyond. That was kind of cool. Yolanda came out from Dallas to be my roommate, so that was also some particularly good friendship time.

I had a lot of one-on-one conversations, or softer moments with groups. Caroline, her friend Charlotte, Yo and I went for yak. Leslie chatted with me about bones and economies; Lettie about her book at a publisher. Lisa Cohen introduces Dan, Lisa, Yo, and I to a great tapas place. Julia Rios and I had breakfast together twice. Margot, an old friend from the Sugar Quill, turned up as an adult librarian, 10 years after I knew her as a college undergrad.

I’ll go into all of this in greater detail. Usually cons are sort of a social blur, I have obligation, and I don’t get to spend much time in quality conversations. This was not like that at all.

But that’s for tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the new look of the site, which is thanks to Mark McKibben. Please note that Links will get you to the general links page, and then there’s a menu that will take you to specialized links that shows up when you highlight links (so, 4 pages!). Similarly, Your Host has my bio and a two page menu to the side (so, 3 pages!). You probably have figured that out, but indulge me. My brain does indexes differently.

Thanks, everyone, for making this Wiscon a good one.

The Wanting Game

I am, alas, going to sound a bit pedantic here. Forgive me. I think that the farther up the ladder you are, I’m also going to sound kind of amateurish. So, please forgive that.

Are you ready then? Here we go.


Let’s go back to your childhood. Do you remember when you started taking lessons in _____? Because you thought it’d be cool to _____? Do you remember how awful you were at first? I come from a musically inclined family. I played the baritone. I started in sixth grade. There were a lot of squeaks and blats, and lots of tone deaf renditions of Mary’s Little Lamb. I did get better.

Let’s go back to a class that really challenged you in high school or college. My first philosophy test was a C. It was a boring recap of the contents of the articles I read, and my first experience that college teachers want your own thoughts and extrapolations in philosophy. I finished with an A-. I got better.

How’s about that first day on the job? Let’s…not talk about my first year of high school teaching. It took that long to get hazed by the kids, to learn about the patriarchal environment of a small town school, and how to work within that system. The second year was better, and although I chose not to stay in high school education, I got better at the job.


Writing then. Remember your first story? Your first book? Your first “good” rejection? Your first request for a partial manuscript? A full? Several fulls? An almost offer of representation? It’s great if we get farther and farther along the trail. How frustrating to not get there.

Two things:

1. It takes a while to learn to do anything well. To master a craft. It takes a while to write something that is good enough. Gotta live with that. Got no choice there.

2. It only takes one yes. One message in a bottle. One short straw. One number picked between one and ten.

The first point is a question of skill. Work and wait. Try not to be demoralized while you work and wait. You will be, of course. Even when you’ve published books, you’ll probably still play these I’m not good enough games. And you aren’t. 🙂 But you should keep writing anyway.

The second point is the role of luck or subjective preference. And you can’t do anything about whether someone is going to pluck you out from all the other straws, from all the other numbers. Stop worrying about that, because you can’t do nothing about that.

In closing, go out and buy a teddy bear so you can have free hugs when you’re feeling down. I got nothin’ else. Get to work.

Updatery and the Green Glass Sea

My computer comes home tonight. The good news: new hard drive, systems operation is updated. The bad news: No data retrieved from old hard drive, all programs will have to be reloaded, all the novels in process will need to be imported again to Scrivener. Well, better to have the computer back. That saves money. The rest will just take time.


Off to…Wiscon! So, you will be getting the barrage of Wiscon reports as usual. I have not forgotten about the Black Widow, and have been thinking about my feminism in The Avengers write up, so that’s still coming.


Yesterday on my daycation I didn’t do much of anything. I had an awesome spa treatment, got my hair done and styled and read. I finished Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis (as expected, good!) and 3 volumes of Love and Rockets.

The evening before I finished Ellen Klages’ The Green Glass Sea.

All right. So it’s not a fantasy. It’s a book about the Los Alamos development site for the nuclear bomb, and the experiences of two young girls who live at the project with their parents. There’s a lot of the 1940s in it. The girls are very interesting characters, and their interactions are natural and evolving. Coloring everything in the background is what you know, and what the scientists don’t, about our nuclear future. It’s a stunner. It’s the first book where I’ve cried reading a character scene in quite a while. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially if you like reading, or you’re working on, character development and relationships.

One more post today, and then I’ve got to get down to some hard core computer program chasing.


Paradise Icon

One of the things that I do here in Iowa is I help out with an organization called Mindbridge, which runs three conventions in Eastern Iowa : Gamicon, AnimeIowa, and Icon.

Icon is our local literary convention. It’s going into its 37th year, and it’s undergoing a bit of revitalization. We’ve decided to try to add another interesting piece to Icon–a journeyman’s writer workshop.

Icon has a great tradition of attending authors and a strong beginning writer’s workshop hosted by Mickey Zucker Reichart. We’d like to continue that tradition by adding a second tier.

One of the requirements of applying to the workshop is journeyman status. The cost of $100 includes admission to the convention and the workshop, as well as a reception Saturday evening. Friday will be a day of critiquing and workshopping. Saturday will be a day of seminars, readings, and participation in panels. Membership will be capped at 18 writers.

Our information will evolve, but you can read the basics here. Click the Projects Menu, and then highlight Paradise Icon. A side menu will show up with a variety of details.

Hope to see some of you there!

Viable Paradise–Apply Now

Hey, I remembered that other thing!

Viable Paradise applications close June 15th. That’s close, peoples.

And you know how I feel about Viable Paradise? You don’t? Click here, and find out. You can also see what some other wonderful people thought as well.

If you want to take your writing up to another level, meet some awe-inspiring fellow writers, get treated LIKE A WRITER FOR REELZ, and receive some good instruction, this is for you.

Or you could just stay home and miss the day glo jelly fish, Mac’s excellent cooking, and Beer with Billy. It’s your call.

I will happily answer any questions I can. But if you have been considering a writing workshop, and you’re like me, writer with a serious day job, this is a great way to go.

Unextreme Makeover: Stop Staring! and Mode Merr

It’s been a while since I’ve added new links to the vintage page, so here are a couple for you.

I’ve been meaning to add Stop Staring! for a while. Stop Staring! has one of the best selections of vintage styles on the web. You’ll find their dresses available at other sites, but this is the place to find them all. The sizes are right too–I can get clothes that fit and flatter at Stop Staring, all the way up to 3X. Skip through their collection of little black dresses. Come on, you know you want to. I should really get around to buying this beauty.

Mode Merr: Mode Merr has some wonderful outfits, but what really captured my interest were their very attractive office ready skirts and shirts.

Check these sites out and enjoy the gorgeous retro-reproductions!