Monthly Archives: October 2011

Some Assembly Required

It’s one week until Halloween, and almost a month since my last update, so here’s what my chainmail armour looks like right now:

Obviously it isn’t done, but it’s pretty damned far along if I do say so myself. I’ll be attaching the pieces together very soon, but my head goes in the giant space in the middle, and the right and left of the picture will be the chest and back of it. Once the long strips falling down from the shoulder are attached to the front and back pieces I’ll just have to close up the sides and otherwise fill it in where it looks like it needs it. One thing the picture above doesn’t give is a sense of scale but I’m too lazy to take another one right now so it’ll have to wait until the next post.

My initial estimate was that it would take between twelve and fourteen thousand rings to make the shirt (just down to the waist and without sleeves), and the combined total of rings in the picture above is 8817. It will take me another 120 or so just to knit the pieces all together, and I’m estimating that I’ll need about another 1200-1500 to close off the sides. Given that I’d never done anything on this scale before and that it’s going to be a touch smaller than anticipated due to time constraints, I’d say that my initial guess was pretty damned good. Making it to the size I’d hoped to do would probably come very close to that initial lower estimate.

Now, I’ve got exactly one week to finish this sucker up…

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New Toy

My laptop’s been having a lot of issues lately, so I went out and got myself a new toy today.

It’s a Netbook, specifically an Acer Aspire One AOD257. I picked it because at the lowish price point, it still has 250GB of disk space and it’s got a dual core processor (Intel Atom N570), which none of the less-expensive ones have. My only concern is that it maxes out at its current 1GB of RAM, but with the running software trimmed down that shouldn’t be a big deal.

My laptop at home is dying. I think the heat sink has come off the graphics chip, at the very least, and the fan doesn’t sound like it’s doing much of anything, so it runs pretty hot and I’ve needed to keep it on a fan tray whenever I use it. It works as well as it ever has, but it isn’t as portable as it used to be, and the battery life is what you’d expect from a 3+ year old machine. Given its age I’m more inclined to let it go gracefully into oblivion than to spend money on keeping it going. Since the laptop works fine when I’m at home, what I really needed was something I could write with on the go. This netbook is light, it’s small, it supposedly has 8 hours of battery life (I’ll be putting it to the test tomorrow), and it runs the only two things I expect to ever really need it for: a web browser, and Scrivener.

When my laptop well and truly dies I’ll replace it, but in the meantime, and without shelling out four or five times the money for a halfway-decent laptop, this little thing gives me some peace of mind that I won’t be screwed during Nanowrimo if I have a catastrophic laptop failure mid-November.


Webcomics

One of the topics I found myself discussing often last weekend at ConCept was webcomics. Not on panels, just randomly with people in the halls. In a lot of ways, people seem to have stopped reading the comics page in the newspaper and started getting their funny fix online.

The world of webcomics is massive. I don’t even know how many regular series are running but it’s almost certainly more than 10,000. That’s a tough thing to slog through, so it was nice to get some direct recommendations of things worth following, aside from the dozen or so I already subscribe to.

I’d found a while ago that Wikipedia has a list of notable webcomics, though what passes for “notable” isn’t clearly defined. Certainly some of the ones I keep an eye on are listed, but nerdy/geeky comics are extremely well represented, so probably the list is skewed towards “notable among people with a penchant towards updating an online encyclopedia listing of webcomics”. Read: nerds.

One site I was pointed to is the Belfry Webcomics Index. It lets you sort comics by how frequently they update, which is important for continuity. Webcomics that update on a regular basis are a good sign that the creator is taking the work seriously, which is a good sign in any field. It also has a list of which comics are most-subscribed by its user base, which  makes me hopeful about finding new stuff of interest. The thing I wish it did was sort comics by topic (fantasy/sci-fi, computer culture, gaming, etc.)

Another site that does seem to sort by subject is The Webcomic List, though the search interface is absolutely maddening. It alphabetically shows you ten results per page, never telling you how many results in total there are, or how many pages of results, and not letting you navigate other than to the previous page or next page. If your never-before-seen-favourite-webcomic starts with a “z”, you’re pretty fucked.

What all of this tells me is that somebody (not me) needs to go and make a usable interface for finding the webcomics you want. In this day and age I find it hard to believe that there’s something I thought of that doesn’t already exist on the Internet, but this seems to be it. Can it really be that we’ve regressed to having to interact with other human beings in order to obtain information? There’s gotta be a way to make a few bucks on a site that saves people the indignity…


ConCept 2011

ConCept. It feels like I was there just yesterday (which I was), and yet it feels like something that happened months ago. This is probably fair considering that when I was there I had simultaneous feelings of it lasting forever and of it going by faster than it should. I haven’t been to many conventions but they’ve all given me the same feeling that they exist somewhat out of time. Probably it’s a combination of having your schedule messed right up, and in some cases having people whose schedules are not just messed up but who have actually changed time zones to be there. It’s easy to be a zombie when you’re surrounded by zombies.

At any rate, this was my second time at ConCept, my fourth convention overall, and the first one at which I was a panelist. I was worried at first, strangely less so towards the convention itself, and fine after my first panel. I don’t consider myself an expert on much of anything, but that’s okay because for the most part these discussion panels feel just like normal discussions. You don’t have to know everything about everything, you just need to know enough to take part and from that point it’s basically just a group of people having a (mostly) friendly discussion. What’s better, at a small convention like ConCept it’s extremely easy for the audience to join in that discussion if they want to. It felt less like being alone in front of a classroom and exactly like showing up at a pub and finding that a bunch of people are already there talking about something that interests you. Another thing which helped was that one of my co-panelists for the first one was Nancy Kilpatrick (the editor of the Evolve Two anthology which contains my short story – Six Underground). For all that she calls herself a grump sometimes, she’s an absolute pleasure to be around.

The convention felt quieter than it was last year. They moved some of the panels to a different floor and added a fan lounge, all of which may have resulted in less of the hallway traffic I remembered. I could be wrong. I just got the impression that the rooms were emptier.

A fun weekend overall, and I’m looking forward to next year’s edition.


ConCept Schedule

This coming weekend is ConCept, Montreal’s local fan-run sci-fi & fantasy convention. I’ll be participating in a few panels, and here’s my schedule for anyone who’s interested:

Sat 14:00 St-Francois: Is Humanity’s Love Affair With the Supernatural Over? (Nancy Kilpatrick, Karen Dales, Michael Lorenson, Keith Braithwaite)
Sat 16:00 Terrasse: You’ve Got My Werewolves in My Vampires and My Vampires in My Zombies (Karen Dales, Nancy Kilpatrick, Rob St-Martin, Michael Lorenson)
Sat 17:00 Terrasse: The Death of Copyright, the Future of Media (Eric Flint, Peter Cohen, Mark Shainblum, Michael Lorenson)
Sun 13:00 Terrasse: We’re Not Authors, We’re “Content Providers” (Eric Flint, Mark Shainblum, Michael Lorenson, Eric Falardeau)

Lots of overlap in the panel participants, but I know some of them and it should make for some very interesting and informed discussion.

ConCept runs from 6pm on Friday, October 14th, and continues through to the evening of Sunday, October 16th.


Why Write Short Stories?

Saw a post by Sandra Wickham today, which you can read here.

In the post, she asks “Why Write Short Stories?”, citing three writers who tossed the question around at a panel at this last World Horror Convention. One writer says short stories help her build a platform – a name that people will recognize. One writer says short stories are a good way to learn to make deadlines. The third writer says short stories are a way to learn the skills you’ll need to write a longer novel.

For me, I write short stories because they’re easy.

Don’t get angry yet, and don’t misunderstand!

Let me qualify that statement by saying that no writing is ever easy. I will, however, cite another author from a different panel. It was Jo Walton, and I think it was at Con*Cept last year. On a panel on writing she said that she felt that every author had their natural length at which it was easier for them to work, be it short, novella, novel, or some other category. In practice, following other writers blogs, I can see this in effect. Brandon Sanderson writes thousand-page epics at a pace that makes me angry and has admitted that short stories have never really interested him. A local writer friend, Patricia Flewwelling, can write a novel in a few days. I’ve seen her write three novels in less than half a month. That’s just how those writers are. Nobody will say that writing a novel is easy, but for people like Brandon and Patricia, it’s seems that it’s easier than writing a short story. Not so for me.

Other writers, many other writers, spend a long time writing short stories before they feel comfortable tackling something of a greater length. I’m one of those. I have a really hard time seeing the whole novel as a single thing to be done, but I’ve also learned that I’m an outliner and that if I don’t see the whole novel’s shape in front of me then I can’t start on it. That’s the hardest part, not the putting down of word after word until the novel is done, but the thinking in terms of what needs to be done over the length of a whole novel. More than that, I really like writing short stories. I can see the beginning, I can see the end, I know what the story needs to do and then I get to see how deep I can take the reader into one character’s mind in a few thousand words. Very often when I have an idea I really want to write about, it will reveal itself as something that wants to be written as a short story. I have to stretch myself to think of any idea in terms of a novel because it doesn’t seem that my brain is wired that way.

So that’s pretty much it. When an idea strikes me, my instinct is to turn it into a short story, and that’s why I write short stories. With any luck, the writers on that panel are right and writing short stories will help me develop the skills, techniques, and platform that I can translate into success in other forms, but for now I’m happy writing short because it’s something I have a lot of fun doing.