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Arisia 2019: Wrap Report

Arisia 2019 is over!

It’s back to the real world this week after an entire weekend in Arisia 2019. I go to this convention every year, but this one will definitely be special to me. For one thing, this is the year that felt, at least for a moment, like it wasn’t going to happen. If the debacle with the e-board wasn’t enough, there was the strike at the Westin. The convention felt slimmer this year for sure. A lot of people self-selected to not come this year and honestly with the smaller, more confined venue of the Boston Park Plaza, that was a decision enormously beneficial to my enjoyment of this con.
I had a blast. I was more invested in the panels this year because I wrote a portion of them. It’s one thing to go to a panel and listen for reading suggestions, or new ideas, or people to follow on social media, but it’s quite another to put together a panel of people to create a very specific conversation and then get to sit back to see how the discussion plays out. I loved that aspect…
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All Words Are Made Up

The title of this post (and the panel I’m participating in for Arisia 2019) come from a random exchange between Thor and Drax in last year’s “Infinity War” movie. It’s what Thor replies when to Drax when the always literal-minded hero doubts the existence of Niðavellir its forge. It’s a funny throw-away line and the title of this post because I think there’s always been a bit of defensiveness on my part when I add some invented vocabulary to a story of mine.

The art and craft of inventing new languages has a surprisingly long history. A 12th century nun by the Saint Hildegard is credited with one of the first (sadly incompletely recorded) constructed language. There was also a period during the Enlightenment when the creation of ‘philosophical languages,’ meant to resolve age-old problems and reshape society, were the vogue. Gottfried Leibniz, for example, tried to a create a language that was logically self-consistent. The task proved too much for him, but that drive to bring the peop…

Thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Anything that persists for an entire decade as a recurring entertainment event begins to mean more than simple entertainment. It’s inevitable that once a franchise like the MCU has continued for long enough that its overall significance has to be factored in. I don’t think fans quite appreciate what genre movies like these used to be like before MCU.

It’s really not the special effects or effective mix of humor, action, and character development. It’s the fact that all three of things happen within the persistent universe. Because no Marvel movie is the last Marvel movie, and there’s always another one to develop the characters, fans have a different relationship to this franchise.

It’s more like what comic books are, obviously, where no matter what crazy stuff goes on in a crossover event, you have a reasonable expectation that your favorite character will be back the next month or the month after that.

There have been good MCU movies, mediocre movies, and one that I’m pretty sure quali…

Alive in 2018

I originally called this last of my year-end posts “Alive in…” because honestly I couldn’t think of a more general or truthful way to labeling the intention of these posts: “I was alive in 20XX and here’s what I saw.” That’s the way it’s seemed to me in the past.
I had a tough year in 2018 but I survived. There are many, many things that happened that made this year difficult but I’m still alive and I hope for a better 2019.

I guess I’ll start at the top. As many of you already know, I’m getting divorced early next year. Lauren and I have gone through rough patches before but at some point this year it became apparent to both of us that we were trying very hard to keep something going that was making us both miserable.

So, in the next few months I will be: selling my house, filing a lot paperwork, transitioning to some other living situation, and figuring out where to go next. In part, although this has been incredibly difficult and I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, the hard pa…

What I Read in 2018

For my third year-end wrap-up blogpost, I’m going to share the things I’m most glad I read this year. In previous editions to this post, I’ve focused on novels and short stories I read that were published in that calendar year. I’m going to have to have to do something a little different this time.

In years past, one of the motivating factors pushing me to read current writing was my own desire to update and broaden my own writing skills. I wanted to see what was out there and who was writing stuff I wanted to read.

This year I have been involved in this longer project which has changed my focus to a lot of mythology and non-fiction books. I’ve read some books released this year but rather than rank them separately I’ll fold them into what left a mark - literary-wise - this year.

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander. A couple years back Uncanny Magazine published Bolander’s “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” which was one of the most savage and funny take-downs of a sub-genre …

What I Saw in 2018

To continue my year-end best-of list, I’ll next move to movies that I really enjoyed this year. As usual, this is not a list meant to be what I think had the highest artistic merit of all movies released this year. I watch a lot of movies but I don’t watch nearly enough to be able to make a statement that sweeping. These are movies I liked a lot and I continued to think about for the rest of the year (however long that might be at this point).
#5: Annihilation. I honestly didn’t think this was going to wind up so far down my list (number-wise). I loved the book this movie is loosely based upon by Jeff Vandermeer, and think that in terms of capturing the mood and translating the basic idea of the story for a wider audience this movie does an incredible job. It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring cerebral science fiction and damn unsettling to boot. It’s not at the top of this list because ultimately it didn’t seize my imagination or hit me with a hammer blow of feelings like some of the other…

What I Heard in 2018

It’s about that time of year again. Today I’m going to list my favorite five albums I heard this year. In terms of music, I wasn’t blown-away by much released this year. Most of what I bought were albums released ten or even twenty years ago. I wouldn’t classify this as nostalgia because what I was listening to wasn’t really what I was listening to at that time. Nevertheless it was a shift from last year which I thought was an excellent year for new music. That said my favorite release this year is one of my favorite albums in quite some time.
#5) Be the Cowboy by Mitski: Propulsive, poignant electro-pop with a lead singer who seems to narrating, moment by moment the day she realized she had the ability to survive everything weighing her down. Survive, that is, if she did everything exactly the way she needed to. This is album composed of highly danceable anthems to self-possession and there’s not a single track that doesn’t contain some moment of cataclysmic heart-break set to a memor…