Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Absolutely worth the drive.

I took a half-day off work Friday, May 11, so I could drive to Columbus for dinner.

I had toyed around with the idea for a day or two, and was still waffling about it Thursday night, and then Jenn pointed out that if I went, and it was awkward and no fun, I’d forget about it soon enough, but if I didn’t go at all, I would undoubtedly wish I had.

Big surprise: My wife was totally right.

I’ve been a fan of Jay Lake‘s writing for a few years now, and while we exchanged a few emails around the time I was reading The Specific Gravity of Grief, I had never met him at a convention or spoken with him. And though I have thought it would be kind of cool to visit Portland for “JayCon, ” his annual open-invite birthday party, that hasn’t been a viable option of late. So when he announced on his blog that he’d be in Columbus for a brief business trip and would be at the Northstar Cafe at Easton for an open dinner, I figured, Why Not?

Hey, look, here’s me, having just  eaten dinner with Jay Lake:

Jay Lake, Columbus, OH

I’m really glad Jenn encouraged me to go: Two other guests, Kris and Scott, were also there, and the four of us spent about two hours just hanging out and sharing stories and talking about science fiction and writers and movies and even a little sports. (Jay shared a great perspective on appreciating a sporting event from a storytelling point of view: I know he credited someone else with pointing it out to him, but the gist of it was that unlike stories told through books, television or movies, the ending of a game remains undetermined and unknown until it actually unfolds, and the resulting tension and drama can hold great power.)

Good food too: I had a tasty turkey sandwich and a surprisingly unique rice salad, and then we all shared a gigantic, gooey, eyeball-vibratingly good chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie.

Everyone was easygoing and fun to be around, and I felt really comfortable from the moment I sat down.

The sun was just setting when I headed back north on the interstate, incredibly glad that I’d made the drive.

May 12, 2012 Posted by | Books, Food and Drink, geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | , , , , | Leave a comment

2010 in Books

When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.

So, here’s what I read in 2010:

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. My first daughter-recommended science fiction reads. Proud parenting moment.

The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.

Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.

Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)

The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.

Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend

Mainspring – Jay Lake

Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II

The Sagan Diary – John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.

PvP Levels Up – Scott Kurtz. Bought from the man himself at PAX East, signed & Scratch Fury-ed.

Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.

The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010’s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.

FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend

Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend

Quixote: A Novel – Bryan J.L. Glass. Adam introduced me to Bryan at the Pittsburgh Comicon in April. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for tilting at windmills and all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt

The Specific Gravity of Grief – Jay Lake. Reviewed this one for GeekDad, though I would have read it regardless.

Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines

Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.

Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories – Mary Robinette Kowal. The only thing I didn’t like about this book? Too damned short. And I wish it could have included “Evil Robot Monkey”.

Red Hood’s Revenge – Jim C. Hines. The subject of another GeekDad review, and my favorite in his Princess series so far.

Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.

Dreadnought – Cherie Priest

Clementine – Cherie Priest. Both of these are set in the world Priest created for Boneshaker, though neither is really a sequel in the strict sense. I like this universe.

The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.

Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen

A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.

Little Fuzzy – H. Beam Piper. A classic of which I had no knowledge until Scalzi announced his upcoming take on the book.

Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley

Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children – Trace Beaulieu (Illustrated by Len Peralta)

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I can see for miles and miles and miles.

It’s been a really odd day, mentally and emotionally. Lots of lacking of focus, lots of randomly dispersed energy, not so much on the productivity side, and all of a sudden it’s past 6 p.m.

I went out this morning to pick up the stuff in that picture. There’s a big ol’ road trip in my very near future, and I’m tremendously psyched and hyperexcited and yet more than a bit nervous and still questioning my own sanity. Sitting across from the woman at the AAA and looking at the U.S. highway map beneath the glass on her desk and then walking out with all these books and guides in hand brought a weight and a reality to this trip that have had those gut butterflies coming and going all day long. (And yes, I’ll be writing more about it as it nears. But not today.)

So I get home and see that writer Jay Lake has mentioned my GeekDad review of The Specific Gravity of Grief, and for some reason, this moves me – I mean, yes, it’s the “writerly” thing to do: Someone says positive things about your book, and you turn around and share it, of course, but I mean, the guy clearly had other things to think about.

I think what it is is that Jay’s book has put Dad and his cancer in my thoughts this week, and even though it’s been more than a decade and a half since he died, I still have days where I’m saddened by the way I acted at the time and by my almost-total failure to be there for him and my mom and my brothers.

I don’t get that chance back, I know. But when I read this on Jay’s blog –

I have a long term ambition for this book, which is to have copies make their way into oncologist’s offices and infusion centers around the country. I don’t feel a need to make any money off that process, which will push the price down, or possibly lead to some fund-raising as well to place copies very cheaply.

However, for any of that to happen, we need to sell through the 250-unit limited edition printing that Fairwood Press has put out. The wired.com review will help, as will forthcoming reviews. But one of the best things you could do for me and my cancer is spread the word, so people who are interested know about the book and can consider purchasing it.

– it reminded me that chances lost don’t mean you stop trying to do good, even the tiniest bit at a time: Here’s the Fairwood Press order page for The Specific Gravity of Grief.

June 5, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Weblogs, writing | , , | Leave a comment

Jay Lake’s “The Specific Gravity of Grief”

Being a fan of Jay Lake’s writing, I knew I was going to want to read his fictional cancer memoir (the description makes sense, trust me) The Specific Gravity of Grief since his first mentions of it.

Thanks to Patrick Swenson at Fairwood Press, who shared an ARC so I could write this review for GeekDad.

Jay continues to write stuff that knocks me out in ever-changing ways.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, geek, Weblogs, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

A sound road ahead

I have extremely fond memories of family drives to Florida when I was a kid, sitting in the back of our van with a friend, each of us wearing Princess Leia hair bun-sized headphones which we plugged into boom boxes, in and out of which we shuffled tape after tape after tape which we’d bought at the local Camelot or Quonset Hut or blanks that we’d filled with songs recorded from the radio or MTV.

And while I do loves me some driving around and singing horrifically off-key, for the long road trips, I have spent most of the last 20 years preferring non-musical audio accompaniment for the journey. Not surprisingly, I can easily trace this back to the early 1990s, when the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back radio dramas were released on cassette and I fell in love with them immediately.

Then I started checking out old horror, mystery and science fiction radio broadcasts like Dimension X and Suspense! and The Shadow.

Not long after Jenn and Kelsey and I moved to Ohio and I took a job an hour from home which required a drive through East Rural NoRadioLand, I got hooked on audiobooks. And I mean really hooked: I had a library request in for the cassette edition of Green Mars well before the book’s release date, and as I listened to these,  I even started checking out titles based almost as much on the performer – George Guidall in particular – as the author.

Today, I’m packing up the mp3 files for the drive to PAX East.

The Star Wars dramas are still a favorite, and they’re great for the longest trips, lasting close to 15 hours if you include the much later Return of the Jedi addition to the series. But I can only listen to them once, maybe twice a year, really, and since Star Wars Celebration V is coming up in August, I’m holding off on them for now.

Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives audiobook would seem an obvious pre-convention psyche-up, and it’s a favorite, too, but my daughter and I just finished listening to it together within the last couple weeks, so I’m not ready to enjoy it again quite yet. Instead, I’ve grabbed a few Radio Free Burritos.

Being a fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe, I’ve also downloaded The Sagan Diary, which I’ve never read, and which comes with the bonus of being performed by some remarkably talented women, including Mary Robinette Kowal, whose own short story Evil Robot Monkey will also be making the road trip with me. Other pieces include an old Tor.com podcast and a reading of Jay Lake’s Metatropolis chapter, both of which I downloaded awhile back and never got around to listening to.

Finally, I’ve piled on some podcasts from The Retroist – I’ve already listened to the shows on E.T., New Coke, Asteroids, Vectrex and Tales of the Gold Monkey and as a former 1980s kid, every single one of them has been a blast.

Among those I selected for this trip is the episode about Thundarr the Barbarian, which means I can appropriately close this entry with: “Ariel! Ookla! We ride!”

March 24, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unabashed Fanboy is Unabashed: Go Read Jay Lake Now.

I “discovered” Jay Lake in early 2008, when I was really getting back into science fiction and I picked up Rocket Science at the Cleveland Public Library. And while his Mainspring universe trilogy has been on my to-read list for awhile – I’m actually picking up the first book in the series at the library tomorrow –  I think the only other Jay Lake story I’ve read is his contribution to Metatropolis, “In the Forests of the Night.”

So, yeah: I’ve read one novel and one short story by the guy, and you can find praise and awards for his fiction all over the place, but I will tell you this: Jay Lake is one of my absolute favorite writers on the freaking planet – wet-eyed embarrassingly, goosebumpingly, throat-lumpingly good – largely because of what he produces on his daily blog.

These days, that means reading a fair amount of seriously pull-no-punches stuff about his cancer and chemotherapy, and honestly, it amazes me and inspires me and puts the occasional invisible squeeze on my lungs.

But seriously – How can you take in something like his giggle-filled day of transformation from long-locked to big-dome-bald and not just be moved and want to holler joy? Or another one of my favorite bits of late: “Tweetsnarking David Lynch’s Dune” in which Lake, “stoned on chemo,” crafts an utterly hilarious Twitter-streamed reaction while watching the 1980s sci-fi epic.

His thoughts on everything from his dreams to politics  to writing to religion are just saturated with a ferocity and passion that often get my adrenaline going the way a really good song does when I’m out running. He makes me want to work harder at being a better writer,  and whether he realizes it or not, tells me to get off my ass and get it done already.

Even now, part of me is wondering whether I should post this, because it’s so ridiculously fanboy and gushing, but dammit, when someone’s work moves you and gutpunches you in the best sorts of ways, then you just want to thank them and to share it. Go Read Jay Lake Now.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Weblogs, writing | , | 1 Comment

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode I

Today marks the first of my scheduled 17 consecutive long-run Saturdays.

Seventeen. Not a big number, really. (Heck, it’s already been 12 Saturdays since I started my freelancing career.) Still, for now it remains hard to wrap my head around the notion that I’ll be spending Saturday No. 18 resting and hanging out at JediCon WV, then waking up the next morning and making a go at my first marathon.

So, being Week Number One of the Hal Higdon novice marathoner’s  training plan, six miles were on the calendar for today. I plotted a 6.17-mile loop, loaded some podcasts on my player, and hit the road a little after 7:15 a.m.

I’ve never run with headphones, at least outside: Most of the time I’m on fairly rural, semi-hilly roads and I like to really be aware of what’s going on around me. And even on a treadmill, listening to music can mess with my pacing, so I’ve generally only used it for shorter runs where I’m trying to keep the adrenaline up and running hard.

That said, I’m facing a lot of miles over awfully familiar ground over the next four-plus months, and as gorgeous as I find the place where I live, well, sometimes, as we learn from Wesley in The Princess Bride novel, you’ve got to be able to take your brain away. I had a couple short podcasts my buddy Ivan had emailed me which I hadn’t gotten to yet, so he kept me company for a bit, and then – since I didn’t really plan ahead on this one – I listened to the latest “Car Talk” episode  from NPR.

I only plugged in one earbud, so I could still hear the world around me, but the audio player did make the run seem to go by more quickly. I’m on the lookout for other podcasts and radio shows – the Totally Rad Show‘s usually a fun listen, and there are a ton of classic sci-fi broadcasts of Dimension X and similar shows, which I love – but I also realized I’ve got a chance here to take in quite a few audiobooks (And dammit, will someone tell me why NONE of the three biggest library systems in Northeast Ohio have the Metatropolis CD ?!? Yes, I know the print version comes out next month, but two of the authors live here in Ohio and it’s a Hugo nominee, for the love o’Pete. Sheesh.), which I haven’t done regularly in the better part of a decade.

So, to finish the tale of the pavement: I didn’t really push myself on this run. It’s been a month since I’ve done anything over the five-mile mark, so I took it easy – even all the way through the finish – and wound up averaging about 9:30 per mile, finishing in just under 59-and-a-half minutes.

Sixteen Saturdays to go.

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, Fiction, Ohio, running, science fiction, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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