Jul 282016
 

Who owns our memories and what happens when we lose them? Our guest today, Aurora Award winner and fellow SF Canada member, Robert Runte, explores the loss of memory in some of its many forms.


Increasingly, I’ve had to cope with memory loss.

Robert Runte memory loss

Well, yes, that, but not just that.

Everyone has had the experience of forgetting where they left their keys…. As we age, we tend to blame our failing memories on aging, but the truth is I have always been absent minded: I just used to blame forgetting on being too busy or too tired from trying to cram too much into two few hours. Objectively, my memory today probably isn’t noticeably worse than it ever was, except maybe for the slower retrieval of proper nouns. I think that kind of memory pause was becoming noticeable to my students:

“Which brings us to . . . that guy . . . mid-1800s, big white beard? Wrote that book? With that other guy. . .? Big hit in Russia. Anybody?  . . . . Marx! Karl Marx!”

When you end up shouting every proper noun in triumph, students start to catch on that you are maybe losing it.

But one can learn to cope with that sort of memory breakdown. I write “to do” lists; I leave objects I’m supposed to take with me by the door; my lesson plans have evolved into lesson scripts; I turn on the GPS in the car if I am going anywhere other than work, so that I don’t start day dreaming and end up at work anyway. Though that’s more lack of paying attention than memory loss, per se.

No, the real loss of memory is something very different. It’s when I am trying to recall some detail of my past, some perhaps trivial fact about a personal anecdote I’m about to relate, or some particular aspect of my childhood that I would have been too young to know in the first place—let alone remember 60 some odd years later—and I think, “I’ll have to ask Mom about that.” And then I’ll suddenly remember that she’s gone. And for half a second I’ll think, “I’ll ask Doug, then . . . or Ron” and then remember they’re dead too. Everyone from my birth family is gone. . . and gone with them is that memory.

We usually think of memory as something that’s part of us, that we have; or that we lose as we forget. But it’s also, and perhaps more importantly, something that others hold for us. The people who know who we are, because they knew us and remember. The people to whom we can say, “Do you remember when…” and they can say “yes”, because they were there and remember it too. Maybe their memory of it is ever so slightly different, a variant perspective, as if seen from an angle to where we thought we remembered standing, but still recognizable as the same moment. All the moments that were ours, that define/d who we are today, that exist in our heads…are infinitely outnumbered by those held in trust by these others, who remember those same moments and could reflect them back to us if asked.

If who we are at this moment is the culmination of all of our memories to this point, then what happens when those others are gone? What happens to us when they leave, and in leaving, take some portion of our memories with them?

Robert Runte with wife and daughters on his mother's 100th birthday

Me, my wife and daughters, with Mom on her 100th birthday

My mother was two days short of 101 when she passed, shrunken to a doll-like husk, her memories vanished with her peers as they had one by one gone ahead of her, until there was more of her on the other side than remained here.

The Last Cup of Tea

Mother Part ii

Mother Part iii

Robert Runte author

Robert Runté is Senior Editor at Five Rivers Publishing, an Associate Professor, critic, and reviewer. He has edited over 140 fanzines and SF newsletters, and won three Aurora Awards for his SF criticism; two of the novels he has edited for Five Rivers have also been short listed for the Aurora. He is a freelance development editor / writing coach at SFeditor.ca.

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Jul 222016
 

Today’s guest has been an online friend of mine for several years. Charlie Hersman and his late partner Randy were two of our first Warpworld cheerleaders, and always a source of good cheer and inspiration. There really is no introduction I can pen that would capture Charlie’s journey, so I’ll step aside with much love and my humble thanks to my friend for sharing.


Climbing tree Charlie Hersman

It seems like we can never quite recapture the shameless abandon of childhood once we become adults. Somehow, between the expectations of those around us and the insistence of conformity thrust upon us by society, we lose the ability to state with full candor who we are to the world and what we expect from it.

I have experienced many varieties of loss, but I remember the moment I lost my childhood fearlessness. I was born female and was a huge tomboy as a child. I was also an avid tree-climber. I climbed the highest and the fastest and no one could tell me otherwise. When I was twelve, we visited some friends in another state and they had a grove of trees near the edge of a cliff that was an absolute climber’s paradise. They had prime hand and footholds and I scaled them with an experience that my scabby knees could attest to.

I paused at the top to revel in my conquest before starting the descent – and then I froze. I was stuck. I had been stuck many times before, but this was different. I started shaking. I had never experienced a fear of heights, but as my knees locked and my stomach fell, I recognized it. I can’t remember how I got out of the tree, but I never climbed again. I developed a crippling fear of heights that lasted for years after.

While I matured my fears did as well, spreading their fingers into multiple areas of my life and evolving into self-doubt, body issues, depression, anxiety, and a general mistrust of everyone around me. I wanted to be a part of everything. As a child, I loved the spotlight and longed to perform, but I was repeatedly told to stop bringing attention to myself—that no one appreciates a show-off— and after a while I began to reflect it. I spent much of my young adult life hiding from the outside world, believing that I had nothing to offer and no one wanted to hear what I had to say.

In my late twenties I slowly began to branch outside of myself. I made myself promise to avoid turning down opportunities as they presented themselves. I joined an art guild and later took on an officer position within it. I volunteered as often as I had the chance. I accepted public speaking invitations. Slowly the shell I’d built around myself began to fall away.

The weekend of my thirty-first birthday, my partner began to experience the symptoms of what would eventually be diagnosed as brain cancer. For two years I cared for him, and in everything that shattered during the painfully long amount of time death took to arrive, the most important was fear.

Loss has a way of shearing away those things that simply don’t matter. I began to stand up for myself in a toxic work environment because I no longer had the patience to deal with inappropriate behavior in the light of losing my partner. I came to a realization of the short time I would have here and how I wanted to spend it. I packed up my life, selling my house and everything else I could do without, and moved several states away to start over.

And on May 20, 2016, I came out as openly transgender.

Even as I write these words, I subconsciously worry about what they will do to my loved ones. Many of the people of my childhood do not agree with my life. I worry about hurting them, but I can no longer fear it.

There’s a new feeling inside me that’s so familiar, an old fire that can no longer be contained. The fear isn’t gone. It’s shifted. I fear living a life without ever really knowing what I could have done with it. I fear keeping my silence when so many around me are suffering alone. Rather than living a life cowering in fear, I will use it to propel me into action.

Loss tore me down, exposing the bone. It forced me to examine every part of my life, without the trimmings of polite society. Grief is raw and bitter, but it is honest. It will never lie to you, and it will not tolerate you lying to yourself. Losing my partner was the worst thing I have ever been through, but I am not convinced that anything less painful would have the edge to cut through the years of fiction so carefully crafted.

Loss took everything I had, and gave me back my courage.

 

Charlie HersmanCharlie Hersman recently relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he is currently in the servitude of a Pembroke Corgi and a cat. When he’s not paying the bills, he loves writing, photography, painting, singing, and has delusions of one day working as an actor. He is an active member of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and plans to continue expanding his involvement in the LGBT community in the Portland area.

You can find him on Twitter @CharHersman. Charlie’s photography is here and he blogs (he says infrequently) at Odd Crayon.

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Jul 202016
 

“You’ve got to meet this woman, you’ll love her.” Those were the words of my friend, author Griffin Barber, as he extolled the virtues of our first guest. I did meet her–online and then face-to-face at the Creative Ink Festival–and, what can I say? Griffin was right. 

Does writing have a role to play in coping with loss? Warrior poet Setsu Uzume thinks so.


bigstock--134192621

If anyone tells you not to use writing as therapy, kick them in the shin.

Felt good to think about that, didn’t it?

At BayCon 2016, I was asked to be on a panel about death, how we deal with loss, and (to a small degree) the relationship death has with fiction. I was extremely nervous about this panel, and whether or not my experiences with loss would be relatable, or maudlin and self-indulgent. At a suite party the night before, somewhere between the absinthe and applejack, I realized that every short story I’ve ever written is a goodbye.

On its surface, For Honor, For Waste is about kick ass women over 50 in a fantasy milieu. At its core, however, it’s about friendship. When I wrote that story, my friends were drifting apart.

Career changes, family changes, and disagreements had changed the landscape I had played in for so many years. I wanted to say goodbye. I wanted to say, “I still love you,” even though the warmth between us was gone. I wanted to say that no matter what, I would still have their back if they needed me. For honor, for movie night, for babysitting. I told that story because I needed to get those feelings out, but didn’t want to step on their toes in the real world.

On its surface, Burying the Coin is a coming-of-age story for a swashbuckling teenager. When I wrote that story, I was questioning why the adult, novel-version of that character was so cavalier. I realized that when I put on that face, it’s because I don’t want to feel anything.

That story, and the mentor/student relationship, was a way to deal with separation from my favorite martial arts school. I had gone from intense discipline, rigorous structure, and feelings of rebellion; to suddenly being free and completely lost. I loved that place. I am grateful every day for who and what it shaped me into; but, at the time, I resented the grueling external and internal training and restrictive lifestyle. I pushed it away, hard, and as a result lost some of the most precious adopted family I’ve ever had.

It goes on and on like this. For all my unpublished short fiction, I can pinpoint where I was when I wrote the story and who I wrote it for. The names and places change. They’re overlaid with magic and technology, separated by eons of time and lightyears of space; but the feelings never change. Lost love still hurts. Lost family cannot be replaced. Choices cannot be unmade and death cannot be undone. When someone or something I love disappears, and there are thousands of words left unsaid, I have to put them somewhere.

The tricky part is where craft comes in. Memoir and personal essay have their place. In terms of a science fiction or fantasy story, symbolic language is one of the greatest tools a writer can use. It has been my sword and shield. Any feeling, once embodied and named, can be hunted, destroyed, resurrected, and embraced. Riding through the emotional process – the story – is the best way for me to negotiate through those situations and individuals that inspired the symbols in my stories. Maybe they’ll resonate with someone who went through what I went through. Maybe it’ll help.

Loss is inevitable, from the last cupcake to your last great love. Any way you deal with that is the right way.

For me, writing as therapy is the epitome of “write what you know.” The best way I can face my fear is to give it a face.

And maybe a body.

 With shins.

Setsu Uzume authorSetsu Uzume is member of Codex and SFWA. Find her on Twitter @KatanaPen

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Jul 192016
 

Empty Nest

“You go on. You just go on. There’s nothing more to it, and there’s no trick to make it easier. You just go on.” ~ Lois McMaster Bujold, Memory

When we think of loss, we usually think of death—“Sorry for your loss”. But loss can be the end of a friendship, moving away from home, divorce, illness, changing schools, growing older, losing a job, even something as simple as losing our innocence and naivety. Sometimes loss carves a hole in our lives and marks us with the absence of something we love but it can also create a space for growth and enlightenment. Bittersweet, tragic, humorous, loss takes endless and constantly evolving forms.

In one of life’s moments of verisimilitude, about half way through the first draft of the fourth book in the Warpworld series, in which so many of our characters experience loss, I found myself coping first with the deaths of my sister and father, and then moving away from Nelson, BC, my base camp since 2009.  The parallel journey of loss—in real life and on the page—has been surreal and Josh has been along as friend, supporter, and co-worker for the entire crazy ride.

As Josh and I enter the home stretch to publication for the penultimate book in our saga (almost there, I promise!), we decided to once more host a blog series about the overriding theme of this installment. We invited our guests to discuss any aspect of loss that shaped their lives or, in the case of authors, their fiction. The submissions we received are poignant, comical, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking.

In a world that at times feels obsessed with having more, more, more, it is intriguing to see how much we gain when something is taken away, pulled from us against our will. The characters in the Warpworld series lose their freedom, their beliefs, their privilege, their homes, their families, and yet somehow, as Lois McMaster Bujold so beautifully expresses in her novel Memory, they “go on”.  In the weeks to come, we’ll introduce you to some amazing real life people who have found their own way through loss, their own way to “go on”.

Our first guest post will be up tomorrow morning, written by SFF author, martial artist, and all around kick-ass human, Setsu Uzume. Should authors use writing as therapy? Tune in and find out!

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Apr 202016
 

Spring is here and the annual author migration from dark writing cave to fun-filled festival has begun!

Yes, once again I will be making the trek to the big city to take part in the amazing Creative Ink Festival in beautiful Burnaby, BC, Canada. If you didn’t make it to the sneak preview last year, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! There, there, you can still catch all the fun this year. Writers, readers, and artists, you do not want to miss this event. If nothing else, you will have the opportunity to watch me and a panel of lovable goofballs make up crazy stories with the help of audience suggestions on the Improv Storytelling panel–worth the cost of membership all on its own.

To learn more about the festival, here’s an interview with its creator Sandra Wickham, and here’s more words about the Real Life Superwomen panel, which is the kick-assiest panel I’ve ever had the privilege to sit on.

And here’s when and where to find me May 6-8, 2016…

Saturday May 7

1pm – Presentation: Creative Coupling on the Page

Sunday May 8

12pm – Panel: Improv Storytelling

1pm – Panel: Real Life Superwomen

2pm – Panel: Imposter Syndrome

As you can see, you’ll want to stick around right to the end on Sunday! I will also be manning the co-op author table at some point, where you can buy copies of Warpworld for all your friends, harass one half of the authors about when the fourth book will be out, and maybe even indulge in some free chocolate. As usual, look for the goofy grin, it’s hard to miss.

That’s the when and where, now here’s the what…

Creative Coupling on the Page with Kristene Perron
Kristene Perron, co-author of the award-winning Warpworld series, discusses the ups and downs of artistic collaboration for writers. She’ll take you behind the scenes of plotting, writing, editing and publishing novels with a partner (or partners) and explain how to keep the creative fire burning between friends without getting burned.

Imposter Syndrome (and the benefits of being terrified)

Lisa Voisin (M), Galen Dara, Aviva Bel’Harold, Rachel Greenway, Kristene Perron

If you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough to create art, that you’re just playing at being talented, then you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome. Join panelists as they discuss why it happens, what you can do about it and how to make it work for you, not against you.

Improv Storytelling

Kristene Perron (M), Adam Dreece, TG Shepherd, Mark Teppo, Bevan Thomas
Audience members participate in this live, improvised story time by submitting words for the panelists to incorporate into their on the spot tales. Panelists will tell a story, round robin style, using the audience suggestions. No one knows what will happen, though laughter is guaranteed!

Real Life Superwomen

Kristene Perron (M) Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume
What do you get when you put an MMA fighter, a pro fitness competitor, a mounted combat expert, a warrior poet and a stuntwoman together on one panel? A rousing discussion about the realities of being a “strong woman” and how that compares with their portrayal in fiction. Join authors Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume and Kristene Perron as they KAPOW the stereotypes and share the truth about the lives of superwomen.


There are so many other fantastic presentations and panels, it’s absolutely mind-blowing.

Hope to see you there!

Blood for water,

Kristene

 

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Mar 042016
 

You’ve been so patient, waiting for us to complete the fourth Warpworld novel, that Josh and I figured it’s time to release a new shadow story to say thanks.

Have you read Ghost World? Ever wondered how Mother, Majed, Gelsh and the Others came to find their home in the wasteland? Well, Place of Others has all the juicy–and sometimes bloody–details!

You can find our new story at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Scribd. Best of all? It’s only .99 cents USD, (sorry, Canuck readers, we have to shell out an extra .30 cents, stupid economy). And once the story is up on our website there will be a free PDF version for those of you without e-readers.

Now I really must get back to work, so I’ll leave you with a teaser…

From monsters they came, and monsters they became.

Hidden in the Deathlands, a tiny band of escaped slaves battles for survival. Cannibal tribes, toxic water, savage predators, and the unnatural Storm threaten the Others’ fragile safety but the biggest danger comes from within.

Amid the swirling sands and lifeless wastes, Cur-Vijka tests her hope and good intentions against injustice and brutality. As the tribe of the Others grows, a deadly alliance forces Vijka to decide how far she is willing to go for freedom.

Place of Others Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson Warpworld

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Nov 262015
 

Please Stand by sign

I wish this was the post where I joyfully share the news that Warpworld Volume 4 is with an editor and we are hard at work on the next installment. This is not that post.

Instead, this is the post where I thank all you readers for your patience as we continue to make Seg and Ama’s next adventure as perfect as possible. So…thank you.

2015 was a difficult year. As some of you may know, my sister and my father died within six weeks of each other. I spent a good portion of this year traveling back and forth between Nelson and Vancouver for hospital visits, and then another good portion between Nelson and Vancouver Island to deal with The Arrangements. At the end of September, I also moved from Nelson to Campbell River, BC, which was another massive upheaval.

You may have noticed that this blog has been quiet. With a dearth of writing time, I chose to focus on the current Warpworld manuscript and let this space sit and rest. The Comms likely won’t get much busier for a few more months but if anything thrilling happens you can be sure I’ll let you know.

Through all this, Josh and I have maintained as much of a routine as was humanly possible. And here I stop to thank my co-author for his patience and support.

Thanks, Josh, you’re the best.

There is some good news, though. We do have a shadow story for Ghost World that will be coming out in early 2016. If you’re curious about the Place of Others and want to know how everyone got there and how Mother seized power, you’re going to love this one!

And if you’re looking for something to read while you wait for us to finish volume 4, I have some suggestions.

Fire With Fire, by Charles E. Gannon is an edge-of-your-seat SF political thriller. Twists and turns abound and there’s no shortage of adventure and intrigue…and aliens.

For fans of the strange, Heart of Veridon, by Tim Akers will surely please. I’m not sure I would call this strictly steam punk but it’s got that vibe and then some. (This is not a new book but it was new to me.)

If you like your SF hard, climate change focused, and mixed in with action and demon polar bears, then definitely check out Reversal by Jennifer Ellis (this book is part of the Apocalypse Weird universe). Jennifer also has a YA series for the science-loving young folks in your family this holiday season…hint hint!

Noir SFF lovers must read The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson (I hear the sequel is in progress!). Most unexpected plot twist ever, in this author’s humble opinion.

I have not yet read Updraft by Fran Wilde but I’ve heard great things about, it and it’s next on my list. If you beat me to it, NO SPOILERS!

Finally, I will be attending and presenting at the Creative Ink Festival in 2016. This is going to be a kick-ass event and I’m stoked about the Real Life Superwomen panel I’ll be on with Lisa Gemino, Setsu Uzume, Sandra Wickham, and JM Landels. Read the description and tell me this isn’t going to be the coolest discussion ever…

What do you get when you put an MMA fighter, a pro fitness competitor, a mounted combat expert, a warrior poet and a stuntwoman together on one panel? A rousing discussion about the realities of being a “strong woman” and how that compares with their portrayal in fiction. Join authors Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume and Kristene Perron as they KAPOW the stereotypes and share the truth about the lives of superwomen.

You do not want to miss that!

Thanks again for the patience everyone. Here’s hoping for a 2016 that is joyful, and only chaotic on the written page.

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Aug 262015
 

sasquan_2015-300x281

My second WorldCon has come and gone, leaving me excited for the next opportunity to hang out with my tribe. This con was a bit different from others I have attended as it was more about an escape from reality than any kind of networking or business opportunity. Because of the recent loss of my father and my sister, I had decided not to attend the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention but, thankfully, the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons intervened and sent me on my way.

I was a bit sad that some of my favourite people were not able to attend. Andy Rogers, Sandra Wickham, Amy Sundberg, John Klima, and Chuck Gannon among them. I missed all of you! Ah well, next year perhaps?

This was the first time a big con was within an easy driving distance for me—and probably the last time too—and so I headed off to Spokane, Washington on Wednesday morning, eager for the festivities to begin. Just after noon, I arrived… at the wrong hotel. Who knew there were so many Davenports?

My terrible sense of direction would feature heavily through the entire con and I was grateful to make a new friend, Tanis O’Connor, who I latched onto as my human GPS whenever possible. I would like to blame the thick smoke blanketing Spokane for my problem but I managed to get lost both inside and outside the convention center sooooooo…thank you, Tanis!

It would take pages to give you the full WorldCon experience but I’ll share some of the day-by-day highlights.

Day 1 was spent reuniting with Breakfast Squad members Griffin Barber, Alistair Kimble, Rob Hicks, and Clint Lohse and drinking too many martinis and snort laughing. There was a LOT of laughing. If anything characterized this con for me it was the volume of much-needed, pants-peeing, soul-soothing laughter. I didn’t even know how much I needed that simple tonic until I was drunk on it.

Though I still don’t think my wallet is that funny. Velcro is practical!

Practical, timeless...velcro.

Practical, timeless…velcro

Oh, and Alistair brought his wife Tara along this time, so I was finally able to meet my fellow Facebook cat-aholic in person. By the way, if you look up the word “elegance” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Tara. I am dead serious!

We ended the night with a tour of all the room parties being hosted by cities bidding for the 2017 WorldCon. I had already decided to vote for Helsinki but, hey, a party is a party.

If you’re wondering, Helsinki won. What can I say? I have excellent taste! Congratulations to my friend Nina Niskanen and all the hardworking members of the Helsinki bid crew. Now I have to start saving for 2017.

Day 2 began in the best way, when I ran into one of my very favourite people, Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Writing Excuses fame. By the way, if you’re a new or aspiring writer, then you need to start listening to the Writing Excuses podcast stat! After breakfast, I actually got around to attending some panels and talks, albeit with a slightly fuzzy head. The Writing for TV panel was fun, especially since I had worked on a few of the shows that the panelists had written for and it was cool to hear from Guest of Honor, David Gerrold, who wrote the famous Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”.

The biggest highlight, however, was artist John Picacio’s slide show. He discussed his process and shared some of his work and work-in-progress with the crowd. Stunningly beautiful doesn’t begin to cover it! Picacio is re-imagining the famous Mexican game Lotería, with a set of cards that is each worthy of being framed and hung on a wall. Clint and I went halfers on his first set of 11 cards and Picacio signed each of our favourites.

This was mine.

El Pescado by John Picacio

El Pescado by John Picacio

I know, a fish, big surprise, eh?

Clint enjoys his "Minty Clint", made with Old Southern Predator

Clint enjoys his “Minty Clint”, made with Old Southern Predator

We ended the second day with a wonderful dinner at Steelhead, inventing a new cocktail, an animated group discussion about movies, and with more martinis for yours truly.

Day 3 was a mixed day for me. I was definitely feeling the effects of those martinis and despite my gregarious nature I am still an introvert and my batteries were in dire need of recharging. I attended a few panels. The panel on The Future of Government was noteworthy both for the quality of the discussion (thought provoking!) and for the gentleman seated next to me picking at his ankle skin and eating it (eeeewwwww!). I made it as far as dinner and then crashed early—did I mention I also started my trip with a cold? Boo!

Sadly, my early evening meant that I missed the Fairwood Press party, hosted by my friend Patrick Swenson with friend Tod McCoy also in attendance, but they know I love them. Right? RIGHT?!

00-00-01-54-17-20-1541720_578339The high point of this day was not at the con but at the nearby Boo Radley store, which Clint, Tanis and I stumbled into quite by chance. There were repeated cries of “Look at this!” followed by guffaws as we found one hilarious item after another. The three of us decided the Boo Radley store was our favourite panel.

I bounced back on Day 4 and this was the best day of all for programming because of Super Science Saturday. Along with some science exhibits and demos in the main area, there was also a series of talks given by experts in a variety of fields. My favourite was the macro-evolution talk, which was fun, enlightening, and made several references to the movie Avatar!

Note to SFF con organizers: more Super Science Saturday style talks, please!!!

We shall not discuss the Spintonics talk, which, though fascinating, was far far above my level of comprehension.

Tara is horrified by Mark's story, as were we all.

Tara is horrified by Mark’s story, as were we all.

I missed lunch with the gang, including the effervescent Jennie Faeries, but caught up to them in time to share our worst airplane stories. Though Mark Van Name’s story won, hands down, I will not repeat it lest you all wake up screaming in the middle of the night.

I attended the Writing About Controversy panel with some trepidation. Given the recent brouhaha in the SFF community, would this turn into a mudslinging competition? It did not and it was refreshing to see a civilized and thoughtful discussion for a change. Would that they could all be so.

Directly related, this was also the day that the Hugo Awards happened with all the attendant drama. My goal for this event was to be happy, so I kept a wide distance from all things Hugo. I will only say that I am sad for those that could and should have won awards and for SFF fandom in general.

I passed the not-attending-the-Hugos time with friends, including Mark Teppo and Lisa Gemino, discussing the plot for Breakfast Squad’s soon-to-be-best-selling novel about the blonde mafia. (You #totes don’t want to miss this one! #Iknowright?)

Kristene Perron at the Baen party at Worldcon

Back off! This is my party chair!

Post Hugos, I was welcomed to the Baen party, which was FANTASTIC! The room was, well, roomy, and Baen put out a great spread. I met some new and interesting people, found the best chair of the entire party, and may have enjoyed one or two more martinis.

On Day 5 I had to pack up and get ready for the smoky drive home. That left just enough time for one last laugh-filled breakfast and several goodbye hugs.

Oh and somewhere in all this I managed to exchange quick hellos with Dave Bara, Katrina Archer and Ron Friedman. WorldCon is just so damned big that it’s easy to end up not having enough time to spend with everyone you would like to spend time with. It was also a pleasure to meet Eric Flint for the first time. Eric is the founding father of the “Ring of Fire” universe, which begins with the alternate history novel 1632 and ripples outward from there.

The Biggest Thank You Of All Time…

Despite all the Hugo conflict and negativity that surrounded this year’s WorldCon, it will go down in history as one of my favourite cons. I say again: I did not know how desperately I needed this little vacation from reality—thankfully my friends did. I am forever indebted to the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons, who paid for my entire trip–MY ENTIRE TRIP!– including a loaner car with a full tank of gas, (thanks, Helen!), and/or provided alternate offers of assistance. I still can’t believe they did that for me. *shakes head*

So, from the deepest depths of my heart and beyond I offer my forever thanks to my friends, family, peers, and fellow artists who made WorldCon 2015 a reality for me and returned a gigantic smile to a very sad face.

Griffin Barber, frequent purveyor of much-needed smiles

Griffin Barber, frequent purveyor of much-needed smiles

Thanks and galaxies of love to*:

Wendy Kelly, Anthony Sanna, Deryn Collier, Helen and Darcey Lutz, Nina Niskanen, Dana Romanick, Jonnie Broi, Deb O’Keeffe, Tim and Carrie Thurston, Jason Draginda, Partick Swenson, Lynn Krauss, Michael F Stewart, Tim and Becky Rippel, Erika Conrad, Lucas Myers, Laura Radrich, Jennifer Craig, Anne De Grace, Jane Byers, Verna Relkoff, Vangie Bergum, Rita Moir, Sarah Butler, Muse, Rae Greenaway, Glen Allison, Jasmine Georget, Reva Dawn Schmidt, Becky Perron, Nate Green, Amy and Derek Marcoux, and of course my fellow Breakfast Squad mates, who kept me grinning, even from afar…Griffin Barber, Alistair Kimble, Andy Rogers, Rob Hicks, and Clint Lohse.

*Apologies if I overlooked anyone, you know I love you right?

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Apr 172015
 

From 2007 to 2009, I lived on Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands, and had the pleasure and challenge of experiencing a culture very different from my own. Hannah Williams is the daughter of one of the dear friends I made during that time. She has her own unique perspective on the two cultures she has inherited and the struggles of living in both those worlds.


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My own experiences with clashes of cultures started before I was even born, when my New Zealand born father made a fateful trip to the Cook Islands in 1989, where he met my Cook Island born mother. Ever since birth I have lived as a happy mixture of my parents Pacific (Cook Islands) and European heritage. I have also lived with the resultant stigma, stereotypes and conflict of my mixed heritage. The most common and pervasive of these conflicts is the eternal question: “But what are you, really?” Everyone loves boxes, we don’t admit but it is in our nature to compartmentalize, to analyse and to compare. I often find I am consistently affronted with being forced to choose an ethnicity, a culture and an identity on the spot by family, friends and even strangers. In a melting pot society such as we have here in New Zealand, it is even more important to those around you that you identify yourself, and early. This is not so easy for me, I am not “really” any one ethnicity or culture. Additionally, I’m a stickler for details and hate giving one-dimensional answers. In any case, how does one answer questions like “But what are you, really?”

Reality is a sphere we all inhabit. Reality is a spatio-temporal space that, for myself, I define using particular questions. I like to think of these questions as the great ‘Who-What-When-Where and Why’.

Who am I? What do I do? When am I? Where am I? Why am I? Who am I, really?

These questions help me to shape my reality; being of mixed heritage in an environment that always favours homogeny this has become increasingly necessary, as I’ve grown up. These ambiguous questions I ask myself act as a compass for my life and my ever-expanding capacity to self-define. The ambiguity of my form of self-definition actually provides me with stability and a propensity for growth that I cultivate and relish. My agency and capacity to self-define is a right that I defend and cherish constantly. Self-definition has long been necessary for me. I am ambiguity in one of its most conspicuous forms: an ethnically diverse, educated female born in a country far flung from the origins of both sides of my family.

People have always had an obsession with who and what I am. I apparently don’t sound, act or think like how I look. I have dark skin, hair and eyes but not the stereotypical accent or mannerisms of those who like me. I have the childhood, education and background of someone who wouldn’t typically look like I do. The clash of cultures that started when my parents met continues through my every action and interaction. It’s insufferable.

Stereotypes and generalisations have always run amok around me. It often leads to people remarking ignorantly “Oh, you’re not even as [insert generalization] as I thought you were/would be/should be!” People are consistently socialized into thinking homogenously, unilaterally and comparatively about others. We measure each other up, we use broad terminology and fixate on minutiae. This is even more complex and disturbing when you are, as I am, a half-caste. There exists an obsession over how much of this you are and how much of that you are. There exists constant checklist of how you measure up against each standard or stereotype which may be applied to you. Every person you meet may have different standards or stereotypes which they may wield at any given time, usually during polite conversation. I have been bombarded with accusations such as “where did you learn such good English?”, “how come you grew up where white people live?”, “how come your only half Cook Island?”. These are all consistent battles in the clash of cultures for those of mixed heritage.

So for this reason, rather than be consumed by everyone else’s questions about myself I have long chosen to instead ask my own.

  • Who am I? I am a young, female, atheist, New Zealand-born Cook Islander who has spent the better part of a decade studying evolutionary biology at the University of Auckland. I am a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a niece. I am a friend. I am a reflection of my family and their values and experiences.
  • What do I do? I look after myself, I pay my own bills, I love and care for my family members, I defend my people, I support and celebrate my friends, I feed my cats, I love my boyfriend.
  • When am I? I am every day that my family has lived in New Zealand, I am every day that my family lived in the Cook Islands, I am every day that my parents lived in unison, I am every day since they parted ways, I am every day ahead of me and every night as well.
  • Where am I? I’m everywhere that someone I love has gone to, I am everywhere that my actions speak loudly, I am everywhere my two feet can take me. I am wherever my family is. I am wherever someone needs me. I am everywhere I can be at once.
  • Why am I? I don’t know, but I hope one day I won’t need to ask.

The list of things that I am not is shorter than that. I am not a reflection on you. I am not the embodiment of some aspect of society that you are upset with. I am not an example. I am not an excuse. I am not a referential point on a continuum. I am not plastic, not-real, not really x, disconnected, a fake or a phony. I am not a poor representation of [this] or [that].

My reality is shaped by questions I ask myself as I know I am the only who can answer them. I am the only person who defines me because I’m the only person with all the facts and all the tools that are required. I am the only person who is allowed to discuss Who I Am, What I Am and Why. That is my agency, the only thing that makes me different from

I have a lot of experience with people not understanding this. I think I know why; I do not fit clearly into pre-cut boxes. I require custom-made boxes. The reality here is that we all do. No one is the same as any other person. That is a simple fact; it is undeniable, cold, and clear. Where it becomes murkiest is when one of my custom-made boxes is similar to one of your custom-made boxes. That’s when people start getting animalistic and peeing around their version of their box. “You can’t be [x] because I am [x] and you’re not like me.”

That is ridiculous. The person who creates your custom-made box is you (and whoever you allow to help you). Even if our boxes seem similar, they are not. Even if they look, feel, smell, sound and taste the same, they at least mean different things to us.

At this point I should clarify my motivation for this post, and if anyone has made it this far down then you are no doubt tiring of my unfocused diatribe. I am referring to my experiences with being labelled as a ‘plastic’ Pacific islander. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to people who are of Pacific island descent that are seen (by others) to not fulfil an intangible ideal of what this ethnicity entails. ‘Plastic’ is specifically used to accuse Pacific people, who do not know their native language or do not follow traditional customs, as being unworthy of identifying as Pacific people. It is used most prominently by Pacific people to attack other Pacific people. It is commonly used to insult or offend afakasi (half-caste) Pacific people. It is not a light-hearted term of endearment as is often touted, it is mean-spirited and a reflection only of the user and never of the receiver.

I have often been labelled as a ‘plastic’ Pacific person. This no doubt stems from my inability to speak and understand Cook Island Maori (Maori Kuki Airani), my rejection of the Christian church, my non-Pacific heritage and my various mannerisms that show my relationship with my Pacific culture as being atypical. I have no apologies to be made for any of these characteristics. I view them all as being effects of my upbringing, family and life which, as my fingerprints, are unique to me. Furthermore, as I discussed earlier, I choose to define myself by the myriad of things that I am and not by things that I am I choose to value and define myself by my Pacific heritage – it is an aspect of myself that is undeniable both physically and emotionally. I am connected to my native land through my memories, my experiences and most importantly my family. I have a rich and fulfilling appreciation for my own brand of Pasifika culture, which feels very real to me. This is my reality. It is not plastic. I am, by self-definition, not plastic.

Any attempt to rob me of my self-definition is an attempt to rob me of my agency and capacity as an individual. Any attempt to label me as ‘plastic’ is an insult to the experiences and struggles of my family members, Pacific and not, who toiled to make my life a reality. Use of the word ‘plastic’ to injure, degrade or assert oneself over another is a blight on all Pacific culture and indigeneity as a whole. It is sad that I am consistently affronted with ‘plastic’ accusations, and it is almost sadder that I am almost so desensitised that I usually say nothing.

The most ironic and ridiculous part of this for me is that I commonly experience similar accusations from papa’a (European) communities also, upon my assertion that I am also of European descent. I am usually met with… “but you can’t be, you’re so [insert extremely awkward silence] tanned.” The awkwardness of my apparent ambiguity is a perpetual headache, as all mixed-race, bi-cultural people will understand.

This brings me full circle to the beginning of this post, my reliance on my own brand of self-definition. It dawned on me early in life that it is left to little-old-me to take control and dictate the terms of my definition. If I had listened to everyone I ever spoke to I would identify as neither Pacific nor European but as some unwanted middle-ground to be dealt with later. That isn’t right, or fair. And so I reject it, I reject the notion that I need to be evaluated by someone else. I instead choose to trust myself to ask the hard questions, Who am I, What am I, Where am I, When am I and Why? I encourage you to do the same, what you will find is something no one can take away.

That’s what is real.

1003713_10151737332817432_1503268261_nHannah Williams, is a 24-year-old New Zealand-born Cook Islander. She is a recovering student loan addict having just completed her Bachelor of Science, Postgraduate Diploma of Science and Master of Science (Biological Sciences) at the University of Auckland. She currently works for the Ministry of Social Development, in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Her brief stint of full-time employment will soon be terminated however as she will be heading for the U. S. of A to start an age-old kiwi rite-of-passage called the “Big O.E” (basically jetting off overseas and working dead-end service jobs in various countries).

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Apr 152015
 

It can be easy to see only the negative connotations of culture clash–fear, hatred, violence–but are there times when our cultural differences cease to matter? Times when our differences are beneficial? Today’s guest, author Alistair Kimble, has some answers to those questions and much more.


The Dirty Dozen cast

“I never went in for embroidery, just results.” ~ Major John Reisman, The Dirty Dozen

What I’m writing about today is culture clash. When I first received the topic, Boy George fronting The Clash cluttered my eyes and ears with discordant images and sounds. And while I don’t think Boy George and The Clash would have ever worked, the truth is, well, maybe they would have found a way if they had been forced to work together. Look at how successful the collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed was–uh, never mind. But if you’re a masochist, look it up some time, the project was called Lulu.

But I’d rather write about the positive side of culture clashes. So, onward and upward. I’ve worked many different jobs since I was 15 years old and now, looking back at them at the ripe old age of 45, I wouldn’t have changed a thing since it’s all been material for my fiction. All the good times, bad times, arguments, happy hours, work trips, and getting to know a vast number of people who are not at all like me have all provided a life time of storytelling material.

Working with others, whether it be a mom and pop shop or let’s say a military force, is often a clash of cultures. I enlisted in the United States Navy back in 1993 as a 23 year old with a couple years of college under his belt. What does that have to do with culture clash? Plenty.

I enlisted, which meant I was going to be joining others who also hadn’t completed college, or even started college, or perhaps had no desire to go to college. But here is the clash, which is actually something the military gets right–taking men and women from diverse backgrounds, shoving them together, and forcing them to become a functioning and successful unit before graduating from boot camp.

As a 23 year old, I wasn’t the oldest in my boot camp company, but was close. The age range in my company was 17 to 26, which is quite a gap, and that alone can be a culture clash. There were guys (and there were also entire companies of women, even back in 1993) from all over the country and from all sorts of backgrounds. Some joined to escape bad situations and others joined to finish their education, while some sought the Navy as a career and others simply as a job until they figured out what they really wanted to do with their lives.

The first couple of weeks locked up within the confines of the Navy base housing the boot camp were especially rough, and understandably so: When a bunch of mostly immature males are tossed together the only absolute result is chaos. The first week the barracks were a mess, as if a gym locker full of sweaty clothes exploded on a daily basis. We spent hours simply organizing and cleaning so when the company commander kicked opened the door we wouldn’t be marched and/or exercised to death. Natural leaders within the company emerged and eventually the barracks resembled a livable space.

I’m happy to say that there were no race issues, class issues, education level issues, etc. Don’t get me wrong, when that many young testosterone laden men are thrown together there are bound to be some scuffles, but they were few and those were motivated by stress, fatigue, and well, there are times you just don’t like a person. The first few days, maybe even the first couple of weeks had guys of similar backgrounds hanging out, but once past the veneer we all found that the cultural differences didn’t mean a whole lot, we all pretty much wanted the same things, but most of all, we all wanted to conquer boot camp.

Eventually the differences melted, and the company realized working together, identifying individual strengths, and leveraging those strengths would overcome the problems thrown at us by the company commanders. Problems like middle of the night inspections, random physical fitness drills, and staying up to the wee hours despite the lights off policy simply to make sure everyone in the company would pass the barracks inspection the next day. It reminded me of the old comedy starring Bill Murray, Stripes (oh man, just writing that made me feel old). Anyway, the group of misfits in Stripes had to come together to get out of boot camp, but with hilarious effect. And then there is The Dirty Dozen–a different group of misfits, but they too, overcome, but–oh yeah, most of them died in the process. Anyway…both of those films were quite opposite of my experience at boot camp. Moving away from the military for a moment, we can take a television show like The Office and that group of people is beyond culture clash, but still somehow manage to sell paper products.

I think if you toss any group of people together (face to face–not an internet group or Facebook thingie or whatever) and they need to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal they’ll put aside their differences and get it done. By the way, I don’t count politicians as a group of people you can toss together and expect anything great–that group is the exception to the toss together and work things out idea I’m putting forth here.

The bottom line is that there were 60 or so men in my company who did not know one another when we were marched from the processing center to the barracks, and it was scary and disorganized and messy. But a few months later we had transformed from 60 strangers all a unique culture of their own into a group of individuals who had learned how to work together.

author Alistair KimbleA long time ago Alistair Kimble enlisted in the Navy and performed search-and-rescue missions while dangling from a helicopter. He now works as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and somehow finds time to write. Iron Angels, an urban fantasy novel with police procedural bones, co-written with Eric Flint, will be published by Baen Books. His short fiction has appeared in the Fantastic Detectives Issue of the Fiction River Anthology series and Eric Flint’s Grantville Gazette

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