Lunacon is next weekend

March 10, 2014

I’ve been going to the Lunacon SF convention for quite a few years now (okay, I missed a few at one point), but I’ve never actually participated before. I’d leave that to Jim, while I’d hang out, sit in on a few panels, and just take it easy.

Not this year. This year — unless things change, since as I understand it, the schedule hasn’t been set in stone yet — I’m doing five, count ‘em, five panels, and a reading.

So for all you East Coasters who think they might come — I’d recommend it, it sounds like there will be some very interesting stuff going on. Lunacon is happening this weekend, March 14 – 16, at the Westchester Hilton in Rye Brook, NY.

Here’s my schedule. Come on by and say hello.

Friday

7 pm
Gender Parity
Bartell
Participants: Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), James Daniel Ross, Sarah Avery, Felicia Herman, Catt Kingsgrave
What is wrong with our literature and media? What’s right? There is an ongoing global change and acceptance, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. So what can we do about it?

Saturday

5:30pm
Reading
Seymour Boton
Currently, I plan to read an unpublished short story called “Sophia’s Legacy” that fits into what’s developing into a cycle of stories involving two Jewish-American families.

7 pm
What IS it about we people
Elijah Budd
Participants: Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), James Daniel Ross, James Cambias, Richard Herr,Walter H. Hunt
What are humans portrayed in stories as intuititive, resourceful and ultimately successful? Are we really like that, or is it just a crappy plot device? Take a look at our history, and all the mistakes… especially when dealing with other populations Who are we really, and what will we be like when we interact with other civilizations?

8:30 pm
Post-Binary Gender
Bartell
Participants: Barbara Krasnoff (moderator), Jared R. Lopatin, David Sklar, Ariel Cinii
Post-binary gender in SF is the acknowledgement that gender is more complex than the Western cultural norm of two genders (female and male): that there are more genders than two, that gender can be fluid, that gender exists in many forms.

Sunday

11 am
The Resurgence of the Short(er) Story
Poplar
Participants: Ken Altabef, Alex Shvartsman, Sheila Williams, Barbara Krasnoff, James Chambers
So many collections, print and online magazines and other outlets — Is this a fad? Or, do readers really like short fiction again?

1:30 pm
Geek Job Hunter’s Meet-up
Westchester Ballroom A3
Lynn E. Cohen Koehler (moderator), William Freedman, Laura Soule, Edward X Young,Barbara Krasnoff
Looking for a job? Any job? Trying to break into the publishing business? We’ll talk tips, strategies and perhaps a few leads… Be sure to bring your resume


The Electric Velocipede Memorial Party is this Friday!

February 24, 2014

The 27th — and final — issue of Electric Velocipede is hitting the virtual stands, and this Friday is the party celebrating this marvelous specfic publication. If you’re going to be in the NYC area, why not come and celebrate with us?

There will be readings by a bunch of EV alumni, including Richard Bowes, K. Tempest Bradford, Nancy Hightower, Robert J. Howe, Matthew Kressel, Sam J. Miller, Mercurio D. Riveria, William Shunn, Jonathan Wood and myself — and since we will only have time for five minutes each, there will also be an e-collection of all the stories for sale. I also understand there will be a raffle.

Here are the particulars. See you there?

WHEREBluestockings Bookstore 172 Allen Street, New York, New York 10002

WHEN: Friday February 28 @ 7:00p

WHAT: Issue 27 Release Party & Memorial Service

WHO: Readings from Richard Bowes, K. Tempest Bradford, Nancy Hightower, Robert J. Howe, Barbara Krasnoff, Matthew Kressel, Sam J. Miller, Mercurio D. Riveria, William Shunn, and Jonathan Wood

RSVPEvent page on Facebook


Thoughts on a series: Faith (or The Great Doctor)

February 8, 2014

Faith2012-posterI’ve never been one for soap operas or outright romances – science fiction or mysteries with a touch of romance as icing have always been my preferred escape mechanisms. However, I found myself fascinated by a Korean drama series recently that makes no logical sense, has plot holes you could drive a snow plow through and doesn’t have many surprises — but which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Spoilers (if they matter) follow.

The 2012 television series is called Faith or The Great Doctor (according to Wikipedia, the title in Korean can mean either). It is about a rather flippant plastic surgeon named Yoo Eun-soo (she became a plastic surgeon because she wasn’t earning enough as a surgeon) who is kidnapped by a warrior from 900 years in the past; he is named Choi Young and looks like a rather serious-faced pop star. He is there because the new queen of Goryeo (later to become Korea) has just been seriously wounded, and Choi Young is told that if he passes through a magical portal, he can bring back a doctor from the heavens to save the queen’s life.

After a good deal of resistance, Eun-soo is finally told that if she saves the queen’s life, she’ll be escorted back through the gate. Unfortunately, the king, a rather insecure young man named Gongmin, decides that having a doctor from heaven is too handy to let go, and orders Young to hold on to her until the gate closes. So she’s stuck. And through 24 one-hour episodes, Eun-soo and Young go through a variety of trials and tribulations while slowly falling in love.

The series can’t seem to decide whether it’s science fiction or fantasy. On the one hand, Eun-soo spends a good deal of time regretting the lack of any kind of modern equipment and researching equivalents, and the “gate to the heavens” can be explained away as some sort of science fictiony time portal.

But then there are the bad guys: the leader, a rich and powerful lord who can kill through some sort of magical touch; his brother, who has long white hair, abnormally acute hearing and the ability to kill by playing his flute (on purpose; he’s really not that bad a musician); and a sexy sister who can burn with her hands or create small fireballs. Everybody else seems to take their abilities as just a part of life, even though nobody else seems to be able to match them.

In the end, you just have to sort of shrug and let it go.

And there are the historical aspects: King Gongmin, Queen Noguk and General Choi Young were real people, and the storyline is careful not to violate the historical record. Which means we know what’s going to happen to them — as does Eun-soo, who spends most of the series trying to avoid changing history (and then, near the end, decides she doesn’t care any more).

All that being said, I found it a delicious fish-out-of-water saga. Eun-soo is a bit irritating in the beginning — compared to the people of Goryeo, who are dealing with life-and-death issues, she seems selfish and a bit silly. However, as the story goes on, and as she begins to understand more of what’s at stake, she becomes more of a player and less of a pawn. (And her breezy nonchalance about the privileges of rank in an extremely class-conscious society is a very funny.)

Choi Young, in the meantime, starts as a humorless warrior who hates his job and and doesn’t care much about his new king, and wants to run away to anonymity as soon as he can. We know (at least, those who’ve studied the history of Korea know) that’s not going to happen, but it’s fun to watch his frustration and slow self-discovery as he deals with Eun-soo’s 21st-century attitudes.

In the end, Faith/The Great Doctor (which is available on Netflix) was addicting, often touching, and simply a huge amount of fun to watch.

One note: The English captions are not the best translations I’ve ever seen, sometimes resulting in rather funny combinations of formal and informal  (as in “Those punks are the ones who attacked the Queen!”). But once you get used to it, the meanings seem clear.


A new story at Crossed Genres: Symbiosis

February 3, 2014

So it’s February, the weather is really lousy, I’ve got family stuff to take care of, I’m heading for omigawd is it THAT birthday? angst, and I’m trying to put together a short story collection with some kind of coherence to it. So in the middle of all that, something nice: My story “Symbiosis” has just appeared in the latest issue of Crossed Genres Magazine.

It’s a rather straightforward urban fantasy/romance that sat around in my virtual drawer long enough so that the hardware that one of the characters is working with was (when I first wrote it) the latest thing —  and is now what is called “legacy tech.” The story was tweaked, and rewritten, and tweaked again over the years until it finally became decent enough for the nice folks at Crossed Genres to accept it.

And for you — if you’d like — to read it.


Thoughts on a play: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

February 2, 2014

Most people who know, or at least have heard of, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, know it as a 1962 film starring Tom Courtenay, who played Colin Smith, a working class young man who escapes his bleak situation by long-distance running. The film started as a 1959 short story by Alan Sillitoe; its latest incarnation is an adaptation by Roy Williams that is playing at Atlantic Theater 2. It’s only playing until Feb. 9th, so if you get a chance, go.

The play has been tweaked to fit today’s issues: Colin is now the son of African immigrants dealing with the same problems of poverty, misunderstanding and disaffection that his previous incarnation suffered in the early 1960s. However, his problems stem less from the class issues that were still lingering in British society in the late 1950s/early 1960s  than modern racism; there are continual references to the London riots of August, 2011.

The cast is, I have to say, superb. Sheldon Best as Colin turns in a wonderfully nuanced performance in a very difficult role — he is onstage constantly, and makes many of his more important speeches while moving or jogging (much to admiration of much of the audience, judging from the conversation in the ladies room afterwards). Charles Isherwood of the New York Times expressed disappointment that Best didn’t turn in the moody, introverted performance that Courtenay was justly celebrated for, but this Colin comes from a different background and lives in different times, and his lively interpretation of an intelligent, confused and rebellious young man is as legitimate and searing.

The entire cast is excellent as well, including Zainab Jah as Colin’s exasperated mother, Joshua Nelson as his best friend, Jasmine Cephas Jones as his girlfriend, Patrick Murney in the double role of a prison bully and a tough policeman, and Todd Weeks as a paternalistic social worker. The director, Leah C. Gardiner, deserves kudos as well for assembling them into a very effective whole.

To tell you the truth, the movie version of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is one of those films where I recognized the high quality of the production without being touched emotionally. I can’t say the same about this production. It is both excellent and affecting.


Jenn Brissett at the NYRSF Readings

January 30, 2014

Jenn Brissett at the NYRSF Readings

Jenn Brissett read before a packed audience at the NYRSF Readings at the SoHo Gallery of Digital Art on Jan 7, 2014. She appeared with Sam Miller.


Pete Seeger: A brief memory

January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger has been part of my life ever since I was very young, and my parents played the Weavers singing “Good Night, Irene” to signal it was time for me to go to bed. I’ve been to a few of his concerts, but I only remember meeting him once.

Back around 1982, my attempt to be a full-time freelance writer was flagging badly, and I was in a training program to become a sign language interpreter. I volunteered to be an interpreter at the Clearwater Festival that year — but when I got there, I wasn’t in a very good mood. I had just failed my final exam (my interpreting skills were excellent, I was told, but my language skills didn’t make the grade), and I told the volunteer coordinator that I would prefer not to do any stage work, since my skills weren’t up to that. She promised that I could just do standby work at the medical tent and information booths.

Well, that didn’t last long — an hour or two later, I was informed that they were short-handed, and that I was going to have to interpret for at least one stage performance. “Don’t worry,” I was told. “It’s a bunch of banjo players; so you’ll just have to do introductions.”

Yeah, it was a bunch of banjo players — doing a workshop, so it was an hour of people talking about banjo technique. I tried to keep up, but was completely overwhelmed; the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that, at the same time, the National Theatre of the Deaf was doing a performance at another stage, so the chances that my services were actually needed were little to none. It didn’t help that, after the performance, a bunch of hearing people who obviously hadn’t a clue told me what a great job I had done. I felt completely useless.

That night I was camped out in the volunteer section and wondering how I’d make it through the weekend when Pete Seeger came by with a couple of other singers. They sat by the campfire and just sang two or three songs and then he told us all how valuable our contributions were, no matter what we were doing. I had grown up listening to his records and so he was something of a legend to me, but he spoke directly and sincerely. He believed it, and so did we.

After a while, he and the other singers moved on to the next area in the volunteer section. I stopped nursing my bruised ego, and started enjoying the festival and just doing the best I could under the circumstances.

Pete Seeger touched thousands of lives, and will continue to do so.


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