Apr 24, 2017

5 Very Science Fiction-y Things About Pregnancy

You might have noticed the blog's been a bit quieter than usual lately. There's a reason for that: I'm busy with the next generation. Being pregnant is supremely weird, especially when it's your first time. Sometimes I feel like I woke up in a science fiction (or horror) movie, so here's a list of weird stuff about pregnancy. I'm only about halfway through, so any veteran mommies out there, feel free to add to the list in the comments.

So, here's my list:

1. Cool new superpowers, like a heightened sense of smell and taste. At about six weeks or so I developed Witcher senses. Just like Geralt's, except I doubt he has to step into the bushes to throw up every time he smells coffee. Or maybe Sapkowski just left that part out. As a bonus, most healthy foods start to taste like poison. Well, I guess it's good to expand your palate. (This, thankfully, went away in the second trimester. I doubt you can grow a baby on ice-cream and folic acid supplements alone.)

2. Playing host to a strange little alien that moves around in your tummy. It's weird. The first kicks leave you feeling both elated and supremely creeped out at the same time. And that first ultrasound; It's like something out of Alien.

3. The vivid dreams. Virtual reality has nothing on these. Even though I've mostly been too sick to write, I've got enough material to last me a couple of years.

4. The hormones make you act very strangely, from getting overly emotional over pictures of kittens to eating peculiar things like sun-dried tomatoes with soygurt. (Yummy!) Suddenly your body has a mind of its own and you're no longer in control. I also turned into a morning person overnight. Seriously, I never thought I'd be getting up at 6 a.m. voluntarily. Very Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

5. The rampant paranoia. Your house is suddenly a deathtrap, and you worry about the baby getting eaten by squirrels while sleeping in the stroller and similar totally rational and likely scenarios.

P.S. Don't let these freak you out if you're planning on having kids. There's good stuff too. Mass Effect onesies and Death Star pregnancy shirts, for example.

Apr 17, 2017

Easter Break

Easter was supposed to be a four-day mini-vacation for me, but I actually ended up working most of it. Due to the winter vomiting bug going around, I had to do an extra shift on Saturday, which of course I found out about fifteen minutes before leaving work on Thursday. Thanks a lot, norovirus. I also missed out on board game night on Friday because I was so tired that I needed to rest up to make it through Saturday's shift. Not exactly what I had in mind.

The rest of this weekend's work was a lot more fun: edits for Mrs Rochester's Attic and the Finnish Gothic anthology! You learn so much from working with an editor, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with solutions to the issues that emerge. Sometimes it feels like a story is unfixable and editing is like wading through molasses, but then something clicks or you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, and off you go again. When you finish and the next draft is miles better than what you started with, it's a great feeling.

 I also decided to finally finish reading The Scarlet Letter, which I've been reading for a ridiculously long time considering its length. The archaic language and the subject matter is just not doing it for me, but there's only about fifty pages left, so time to power through. I can't believe they make kids (teens?) read this for school in the US. Post coming up soon, though. This won't go on my list of favourites, I can tell you that right now.

Well, time to salvage what's left of the holiday. I'm thinking bubble bath, honeydew melon slices, and an Anne McCaffrey novel, possibly something in the Talent saga. (Not very Eastery, I know . . . Maybe if I add a few chocolate eggs?)

Oh, and did you see the first episode of Doctor Who's new season? I liked the new companion, Bill, but for me something's been missing since the Tennant days. It feels like the show is just steadily okay now instead of every episode being awesome. (Wham-episodes we used to call them back in the day.) I never really warmed up to Capaldi's Doctor. Apparently Kris Marshall is taking over. I was kind of hoping for a female Doctor this time around, but you can't have everything. Moffat is also leaving after season 10, so the show will be very different after that. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens?

Hope you had a nice holiday if you celebrate Easter where you live. There is something very satisfying about not having to go to work on Monday, anyway.  

Apr 10, 2017

Mass Effect: In Full Colour!

Have I mentioned I love Mass Effect? And how much? THIS MUCH!!! (Note that it's an ADULT colouring book. Totally valid excuse to buy one.)  

The illustrations are pretty cool too. Check out Wrex here, for example. And you get a fun quote for every image.


But Garrus is my favourite, so I had to start with him. The thing is, it's really hard to remember which bit of the armour is which colour. Luckily, I came up with a solution.  

Work it, baby! Blue Steel! 

Totally worth the money. 

(I got mine on Amazon, but it looks like these are pretty widely available. Oh, and Dragon Age has one too! Looks like they're going for about ten bucks right now.)

Apr 5, 2017

2017 Hugo Awards Finalists Announced!

Hey, did you see the list of Hugo and Campbell award finalists yet? Lots of fun stuff to read. Check out the list here.

Apr 3, 2017

Science Fiction Classics: Lest Darkness Fall by L Sprague de Camp

Lest darkness fall holt.jpg
Image from Wikipedia.org

Lest Darkness Fall, a 1939 alternative history novel by L. Sprague de Camp, tells the story of American archaeologist Martin Padway's accidental journey to 535 AD Rome. The idea feels very familiar to anyone who's read more than one or two science fiction books, but this was one of the first alternative history novels and has helped to shape the whole subgenre, something that needs to be taken into account when reading the classics. Spoilers ahead, beware!

The opening of the book is a bit strange, almost a science lecture on how people could get transported through time, and then that exact thing happens. Poor Padway is trying to take shelter from a thunderstorm in the Pantheon. Lightning cracks, and suddenly he finds himself in ancient Rome. I guess de Camp's foreshadowing works, because instead of contemplating the plausibility of a lightning strike being able to do something like that, I concentrated on Padway's fate instead. I actually think this is something many science fiction fans do: we're willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story, but only up to a point. Most of the facts need to be right, or we get antsy. Fortunately, even if the science part of science fiction isn't that evident in the fantastical way Padway ends up in Rome, the rest of the novel feels meticulously researched and historically accurate; from Padway's struggle to get a craftsman to make copper piping for distilling alcohol (he wants to sell brandy to the Romans) to building a working telegraph system, every undertaking is described in detail and the issues well thought out. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the way the Romans and Goths talked in colloquial English, supposedly translated from the Latin Padway quickly masters. 

Padway as a character is quite likeable: he's resourceful and doesn't wallow in his unfortunate circumstances, but gets straight to work instead. The novel is very entertaining and de Camp's clear and plain writing style helps to sell the story. My attention wandered a bit at the end with all the fighting, but all in all, I enjoyed the book. One thing that I especially liked was that de Camp didn't take the easy way out and return Padway to modern Italy at the end of the novel, as is customary in many alternative history stories. Padway's adventure continues far beyond the last page. 

The name of the novel of course alludes to the fall of the Roman empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Imagine where we'd be if we had skipped those? An interesting idea. The morality of changing the future doesn't figure into Padway's thinking that much, but as he isn't going back to the future, does it really matter? The original future will remain as an alternate timeline, according to the opening lecture bit.

Writing-wise, there aren't too many writer tricks to find here, but the advantages of clear prose and doing your research if you want to write alternative history are some obvious take-home points here. 

A fascinating book. If you like alternative history, do give it a go.