Friday, August 31, 2007

This weekend is a big one for science fiction/fantasy fans in the Southeastern U.S. Labor Day weekend = Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is often refered to as THE Con. Taking over the Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton hotels in Atlanta, Georgia, it pulls in over 30,000 people every year, many in costume. It isn't uncommon to walk through the lobby of one of these large hotels and see storm troopers standing side by side with Captain Jack Sparrow and Gandolf. Vampires, zombies, hobbits, and jedi all populate a party that often spills out onto the surrounding streets.You have to love Dragon*Con. It is the one place on earth that no one can feel like a dork. No matter how weird you are, no matter how strange, there is no way possible to be the biggest dork in the place.

Day one for me was spent wandering back and forth between the three hotels. Up first was an hour long Q&A in the Buffyverse with James Marsters (Spike), Juliette Landaue (Drusilla) and Elizabeth Rohm (from Angel and Law and Order). I was surprised by Marsters. I'd heard negative things about him in the past in relationship to fans and these types of conventions. But I had to go see him. I love me some Spike! He was wonderful. Laughing, joking and very animated. He kept the audience rolling on the floor with stories and just a great sense of humor and self deprecation. He did seem a bit shocked when someone asked him about the slash being written in fanfiction and actually asked him who he thought Spike would be most likely to have a slash relationship with. He replied that he didn't know how women could kiss them. He said men are scruffy, whiskery, and he really felt for women having to put up with them.

The panel on Werewolves was fascinating as it contrasted the opinions of an expert on folklore and legend with the impressions of contemporary authors L.A. Banks and Carrie Vaughn.

The book signing had to be the best. Sherrilyn Kenyon is the sweetest person. I stood in line over an hour and watched her stop and talk, really talk, to each person who came up to her. Everyone was greeted warmly and respectfully. She listened to each reader as they spoke. When I told her that for me, she had made reading and writing fun again, she encouraged me to keep writing and keep trying. When I told her I'd already had some success, she seemed genuinely happy for me, high-fiving me twice and giving me a hug. She told me to email her when the book (Access Denied from Cerridwen Press) comes out next month. I was absolutely thrilled when I realized she'd signed my book including her congratulations. Kenyon's generosity and kindness were overwhelmingly apparent as she posed for photo after photo, even bringing along folks in role play gear to stand in for her characters Simi and Acheron. Yep, got my picture taken with Acheron. Very cool.

Sherrilyn Kenyon is a lesson to writers on how to treat readers. Standing in line I watched several disappointed readers be turned away from other authors' signings because the authors didn't show for their scheduled signings. When I left, over an hour after she'd begun signing, Kenyon had a long line and showed no signs of turning anyone away.

My favorite quote so far has to have come from author Peter David during a discussion of the legends of King Arthur. "Lancelot is the original Mary Sue." In fanfiction Mary Sue is a negative term used to describe the all too perfect character that is beautiful, talented, powerful and saves the day.

Oh, and to the ladies I met in Kenyon's line who assured me that one day people were going to line up and be all excited because it was me, and that they were going to say, "We know her. We met her when...." Thank you. I'd had a head ache when I stepped into line today, but your enthusiasm and acceptance helped ease it away.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go tells the story of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, three children attending what at first seems to be a fairly typical English boarding school. Differences are slowly and obscurely introduced leaving the reader a bit impatient after a while as the general plot isn’t hard to figure out in the first quarter of the book and the veiled references and secrecy at that point become annoying. As the story unfolds, the reader is able to see early and quickly that the children of Hailsham aren’t your average children. The talk of care givers and donations lead to the quick realization that the story is telling the tale of a system of clones who are created and raised up for the purpose of use as organ transplants. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are three of these clones.

The readers aren’t the only ones frustrated by the “I told you, but I didn’t” communication as the characters find out they’ve always known their purpose, they were always told of their future but yet no one ever “told” them. As the story unfolds we see them grow from childhood through adolescence, forming friendships and relationships. The ritualistic nature of childhood is drawn well along with the tendency of children to create fantastical rationale for things they don’t understand. The degree to which the children of Hailsham go and the length of time they cling to these fantasies and rumors is exaggerated but rightly so as they lack the intervention of adulthood to chip away at this tendency and shine the light of reality upon them.

The plot and general theme of this story is excellent. Ishiguro has an good story to tell, but the lack of emotion in the characters, the stiff coldness of the reactions of everyone around them (save Tommy and that is quickly worked out of him by the children themselves) is unsatisfying. The main character Kathy is so detached that it is hard to care about her. Even when Ruth finally admits that she has kept Kathy and Tommy apart for all those years when it should have been the two of them together, no one seems the slightest bit put out. In fact, it seems hard to believe any type of relationship could develop between Tommy and Kathy at that point, but the author pushes them through into one.

The end of the story, with it’s big reveal and the final ripping away of the last hope for avoiding the donations that will eventually end their lives, is as anticlimactic as soggy bread.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The End Of Summer

I know many people count the first of September as the end of summer, some wait until the official date on the calendar (Sept. 23rd this year) but for me the end of summer comes at 10pm tonight. Why this oddly arbitrary time? Because at 10pm tonight I have to make myself stop what I'm doing and go to bed. Why? So that I may haul my carcass out of bed at 5am tomorrow morning and return to the world of the working.

Yes, tomorrow is the first teacher's day back for my school district.Why a Friday you ask? Hell if I know! Probably so that they could feel less guilty about scheduling parent open house on Monday night? So with the usual day long faculty meeting on Friday and part of Monday, wanna guess how many staff members were at school these last couple of days trying to get rooms ready so they don't have to come in this weekend?

The answer is a lot. You see we have to strip down our rooms completely at the end of each year. Nothing can remain on walls, shelves, desks, floors, etc. So today I spent about 7 hours arranging desks, hot gluing posters to my cinderblock walls (our school is one of the old style "pod" middle schools which means none of us have any windows) and putting up the backdrop of my bulletin board.

Next Wednesday sees the arrival of my students. And the two weeks that follow will include daily reminders from the wonderful SO that no, I can't quit my job because I like living in doors and no, I don't really hate teaching and early adolescents, I just hate the first two weeks of school. Schedules are messed up. I once had 42 students in a single class. This is not a lecture hall or auditorium, it is a small classroom designed for 25 or so. It took 2 weeks to get fixed. We have to teach them how to use lockers. Yes, 12 year olds confronted with a combination lock on a locker for the first time and 4 minutes between classes often have meltdowns.

Tomorrow will be filled with the joyous duty of sitting on my backside for 7 hours while every personnel policy is read to me, while the procedures are reviewed (I've been there 8 years folks, I know 'em), and while everyone tries to get pumped up about the new year.Then, come Wednesday, I won't be able to sit down again for a month.

I love my job, I love my job, I love my job...just not until September.