On Worldcon

Communities are fascinating. Wherever people exist you'll find them gathered together, grouped by cooperation, mutual interests, or simple survival.

These days, you can have communities without the people involved even needing to be present. The internet is a tool that lets people from all over the world interact through forums, email, and social media. And like anywhere else, really,  these interactions will sometimes be unpleasant.

It's all over and done with now, but for the last year or so there's been a lot of online drama about science fiction and fantasy. Specifically, about an annual award convention award called the Hugo. I won't go into the full details of it all, but Wired has what I feel is a pretty decent summary up here, and even better, author Eric Flint has been keeping notes of the whole affair here. The basic jist, is that two online groups (calling themselves the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies) felt that Worldcon's Hugo awards were only being awarded to people of a more liberal attitude by a conspiracy that didn't actually exist. That Worldcon had evolved into an elitist event running on cronyism and exclusivity.

So, I attended this year's convention. Just under a month ago. Partially because the con was being held in my own backyard, and partially because of the chance for delicious schadenfreude.

And when I arrived in Spokane, Washington this last august, I noticed something interesting. One; everything seemed to be on fire. Literally. Two; that the elitist Worldcon that everyone was worried about didn't seem to exist. I had many pleasant interactions out of the blue with con-goers both new and old.

Worldcon is a community. Without a permanent home or even permanent members, it still attracts a group of people solely united by a shared love of science fiction and fantasy and all manner of geekery. They get together once a year, drink and attend panels, celebrate what they believe are the most important efforts over the last year, and then disperse.

At the end of the day, it struck me that the Sad Puppes had spent so much time looking for a community which didn't even exist, that they missed the one right in front of them, one that anyone can join, and that's been going strong since 1939.

(Note: I thought about not posting this, but well, I was there, the event happened, and a large number of people were involved. Everything's over and done with now, and I've already moved on.) 

Carnivore, Interrupted

There are two subjects that I've never quite gotten along with; fashion and dieting. The former I've waged war against for as far back as I can remember. It's a conflict born out of mutual mistrust and misunderstanding. I mean, the shoes I have right now are perfectly comfortable, and I like Hawaiian shirts. Who cares if its November outside?

I'm more cognizant of my difficulties with dieting, however. They come from the awareness that I simply don't have that rocklike discipline needed to stay on track with a diet after I've hit whatever (probably arbitrary) goals I would set for myself. I see my potential future played out by other people, their weight oscillating as they try Paleo, Adkins, and everything else in a desperate attempt to keep off the pounds.

Also, I am very fond of food.

All of that aside, I am a curious person. I'm (mostly) willing to give something a go, especially in a culinary sense. So I decided to try being vegetarian for a month. Now this isn't something I did lightly, but it is summer, I need to blog more, and I'm feeling the urge to try new things. Also, I'm slowly turning into a seriously fat bastard, so losing a few pounds wouldn't have been an unwelcome development.

The rule I set for myself was simple: don't eat meat. That's it. I wasn't going vegan, and I didn't end up changing my diet any more radically than I needed to. Eggs were fine, and so was dairy (that I'm not fond of either is a secondary consideration). There are plenty of people who could point out the all the problems for my little plan, or why it wasn't a good idea. But at the end of the day, it proved important not to over-think the whole project, or it would have died off entirely.

As I write this, I'm at the end of my little experiment. I went one month, successfully avoiding any kind of meat or meat-based products like chicken broth. Huzzah! I'd planned to write this post as a week-to-week in-process kind of thing, but I'd gotten distracted by the post-production stuff for my last Kickstarter (which always takes precedence). Also, if you can't tell, I'm really bad at blogging.

So what happened?

Well, I learned a few things. The most important was that just because you stop eating meat, doesn't mean you aren't eating garbage. I didn't lose a single goddamned pound. That was an unwelcome lesson. Want to know what's largely available to eat once you stop eating meat-based protein? Carbohydrates. They're EVERYWHERE.

Secondly, that bean patties are terrible. Just awful.

Third, that non-meat, non-soy, non-tofu Chik'N brand chicken nuggets don't taste half bad. They're pretty much like any kind of bake-'em-in-the-oven nugget you'd get in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store. Which is to say, salted breading and ketchup. The texture was fine. A corollary; Portobello Mushrooms as a hamburger replacement are FREAKING AMAZING. Seriously. So good. A shout out to Aimee Stewart for the suggestion.

Fourth, there's a lot of things that you can put in Ramen. But at the end of the day, it's still Ramen.

Fifth lesson; It's super-easy to be vegetarian in Portland, Oregon. In the surrounding suburbs like Beaverton and Vancouver? Not so much. Kind of rather difficult, actually. Downtown, it seems like every restaurant has a vegetarian option, and there are whole food carts dedicated to the concept (the Whole Bowl is especially tasty, and I heartily recommend it).

Sixth and most important of all: The enemy of good eating is time.

This is something I already knew, but I'll expound a bit upon it. The old saw is that in our society you can have something quickly, cheaply, or well-made; pick any two. It's doubly true in the case of food. What SHOULD I have been doing, during this month long ordeal? That's an easy one. I should have been carefully shopping for my groceries every few days, then spending the time necessary to cook them up in the evenings while also preparing my lunches going forward. It isn't rocket science.

But that's easy to say when you're not getting up at ungodly hours and home again after nightfall. When you don't have kids or a (giant) pet that needs attention and food and cleaning. When you don't have important projects to tend to, or all those little things demanding your attention each day so that your life doesn't grind to a halt.

So you do what you can, or you compromise and get something cheap and easy.

Ah well. Enough pontificating. It's June now, and I'm having fried chicken.

                                                         Courtesy of one Mr. Sanders.

                                                         Courtesy of one Mr. Sanders.

A New Site...

...a new blog, and a new chapter in my writerly life.

I'll get around to importing the previous blog's contents...someday. Let's face it, I'm a terrible blogger.

In any event, if you're new to my work, hello! And if you're an old friend, thanks for following me here, and keeping tabs on what I'm up to. 2014 was a quiet year, compared to the hustle and bustle of 2013. Still, I accomplished quite a bit, and there's more to come.

This next weekend I'll be at Storycon here in the Portland Metro area (see storyconvention.com for info). Come down and say hello. I'll be running the "On the Shoulders of Giants" panel, which is all about helping readers to find something good to devour, and not just my own fiction.

Before I log off, please consider signing up for the newsletter above. It's how I'll be communicating largely going forth, concerning new projects, new fiction, or what I'm up to. Don't worry-I promise to keep it relatively infrequent.

 

-J

New Beginnings

Hello world! Part the second.

(This is a test post, and I'm leaving it here for posterity's sake. I'm sure it'll sit, awkward and visible, for months to come.)