Monthly Archives: March 2013

Miniature Books!

This weekend at the festival of the book, I saw an exhibition about miniature books. The exhibition is a traveling show from the University of Akron including about 80 small or odd books. At the exhibition, Molly Schwartzburg, the curator of the miniature books collection at the University of Virginia, gave a talk about the exhibition and about mini books in general. The university has a collection of several thousand miniature books, which by their definition means no bigger than 3″ in any dimension when closed. Some of the mini books are made for artistic purposes, and others for practical purposes. The Knights of Columbus used to send miniature books containing short stories to soldiers during WW1, packing the tiny books with cigarettes. The Akron exhibit didn’t adhere to the 3″ limit, but all of the books were eccentric.

Below are a few pics from the collection.

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This does fold flat- “Solar Terms” by Ling Luo

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“Altar of Transformation” by Cathie Bleck

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A bunch of accordion style mini books.

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“Pig, hog, bacon” by S. V. Medaris, showing the life cycle of a pig on one side and bacon on the other.

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“I went to the mountains, but they were not there” by Rachel Mausier- a really cool combo of book arts and something more like origami.

 

Learning about Graphic Novels and Publishing from Barbara Slate

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I attended a talk by comic book writer Barbara Slate (at the VA Book Fest). She was one of the first female comic book writers, and has since branched out to her own graphic novels. After her talk I picked up one of them, “Getting Married and Other Mistakes“. It looks like a lot of fun, and like Slate herself, seems to have a nice sense of humor. She also has a book about how to write graphic novels.

She also spoke about the process of getting “Getting Married” published. She said that she was rejected about 60 times. I didn’t pay attention to that detail much that day. I wrote Monday about my own excitement, that I perhaps had a publisher interested in Zish and Argo. After further research, it looks like one of those pay-to-self-publish rackets, dressed up. I felt so duped! I was so excited, and they misled me. Fortunately, I figured it out quickly and for free. I channeled my frustration to overcome my fear of sending the manuscript off; on Monday after my realization I sent the manuscript to 5 places. Afterwards it occurred to me–if a woman like Slate who is familiar with the industry, knows publishing and knows people takes 60 rejections to place her book– then people aren’t going to be jumping out of bushes to publish me. It will take sober, dull work for me to get published, just like her. As it likely will for all of us. Please, may some eager publisher fall from the sky and praise me, but it’s not something I can expect or even take at face value. So last night I thought up a new story for Zish and Argo, and I will continue the slow marathon towards my goals.

Meeting goals at the Virginia Book Festival

Between attending the book festival and playing a water polo tournament, I had a very busy (but wonderful) weekend.

I went to several of the book festival sessions, which I will write about at greater length later in the week:

But the most exciting day was Saturday. I played a polo game in the morning. Then, reeking of chlorine, I went to the book fair to talk to publishers about Vironevaeh and Zish and Argo. One publisher seemed particularly interested, and I will post updates as I learn more about that. Then I popped back to the pool for some more water polo. The goal of this website and much of my work the last several months has been to get out there and try to publish something, to talk to a wider group of people and engage in a field I’ve cautiously eyed since middle school at least. So this weekend was a big step forward and I’m still high on it all.

Vironevaeh: Hiroshige Influence

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the paintings of Japanese artist Hiroshige. So I got inspired and tried my hand at something along those lines, something like a science fiction Hiroshige. The drawings are set in the world of Vironevaeh: Science Fiction Fairy Tales (which, btw, is free on iPad =) ).

The first, done in watercolor, shows the city of Vironevaeh on the North Bay with Mt. Viro-Vit in the background. The second is a tweaked version done in markers. The third is the linework for another, depicting a Vironevaehn holiday called Digurtian Day. The Digurtian Day celebration is labeled in Vironevaehn. Many of the Hiroshige paintings are labeled in Japanese, so it felt fun to channel that spirit.

Happy Friday! I’m off to the Virginia Festival of the Book!

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Website changes and Zish!

As you may see, I have been doing some house-keeping on the blog. Most especially this includes a new banner. I’ve been doing so many posts about science and artists that a banner about book-binding seemed awfully limiting. So now the tagline is “sci-fi, art, and science”. I have also updated the about page and streamlined the pages bar at the top of the screen.

I hope this makes the blog easier to view. Plus, I think the new banner is super cute, which is tough for a picture that includes a rocket ship, a robot and a squid. Any feedback is very welcome.

In other progress news, I am making headway on Zish & Argo book II. In book II, Zish and Argo travel to a planet where the native species has a very unusual kind of pet. More to come!

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Book Review: Downbelow Station (C.J. Cherryh 1981)

Note: I avoid spoilers in this review. Any plot details I mention occur early in the book.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I’ve had Downbelow Station on my shelf for a while. It’s 526 pages, so a little on the long side. I’d seen the book on a few “best of” lists, but no one I know has ever mentioned it. It was the 1982 Hugo award winner. So finally I bucked up and read it, and it was excellent.

Although I see “Downbelow Station” described as a hard science fiction book, the technological aspects of the book do not occupy the foreground. The interactions and desires of the characters do that; in some ways it’s a  high-class space opera. I found the style of the book most similar to Vernor Vinge in books like “A Fire Upon the Deep” with a little more militarism. I wonder how much the post Vietnam era affected the portrayal of militarism; the warring elements do not come off positively in this book. Cherryh does a good job developing culture; we can see the cultural differences between Union, Company, Pell, and the Downers. If you like sweeping science fiction, this is a highly worthy read.

Most of the action takes place on Pell Station, a space station orbiting a habitable planet with natives called “Downers” in the year 2352. Humans have expanded into space, one station after the next. At some point in history, humans developed faster than light “jump” technology, so they can spread further yet, into the “Beyond”. The humans in the Beyond have become disassociated with Earth; likewise Earth is somewhat detached from the stations. Pell finds itself between the forces of the Beyond and the renegade forces of Earth. The first 20 pages or so lay down this background; it’s a lot of exposition and it’s confusing and not totally engaging. The beginning is the weak point of this book. Once the ground work is laid, the story takes off.

We arrive at Pell when the Company ships of Earth force the station to take on a bunch of refugees from another station which has been destroyed in the conflict between the Company and the Union of the Beyond. These unregistered people are housed in quarantine, or Q, which is lawless and places a great deal of strain on the station’s resources. Over the course of the book, we watch people from Q, from Pell station, from Union, and from the Company as they vie for the strategically valuable Pell. The people of Pell station I found especially interesting, and their interactions with the Downers.

There are several other books in Cherryh’s Union-Company universe that I look forward to reading. Check out my Top 20 science fiction novels for more science fiction recommendation.

Why you should join the bone marrow registry

Tomorrow my brother Brian would have turned 31. When he was 25, he died of leukemia. I was his bone marrow donor.

He was a quiet and smart person. He was working on his doctorate in computer engineering when he got his diagnosis. He liked computer gaming and anime and was a complete geek without caring at all about the designation. He first introduced me to chaos when I was in high school by showing me the logistic map. “That’s nice,” I said, and went on to other things, only to take up research in the field after his death. He played racquetball somewhat poorly; he was too laid back and unaggressive to play as boldly as the game required. He wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts year round. He liked to be different and to ignore the puzzlement of others. He once had a bad review as a TA because he failed to button his shirt. He was 6’5″ and looked like a viking.

When he got sick he lost his hair and his burliness. He didn’t complain. I donated marrow stem cells once, and some other cell in a similar procedure another time. I complained a lot. He kept trying to work on his research. His greatest vexations in the hospital were getting switched rooms constantly and the poor quality of internet access. When things went bad he entered hospice, again, without drama. His gums would bleed, he was covered with bruises and he hallucinated often. It never broke his spirit. He kept watching anime and kept playing computer games and didn’t complain. He was obviously often upset; once when they made him switch rooms he was so frazzled he cried. But he didn’t complain and he did his best to be helpful to the nurses and document his medication well. Leukemia does not define my memories of my brother but it certainly curtailed them.

Not everyone has the luck to have a bone marrow donor when they need one.  When I was matched with my brother, I was told there is only a 25% likelihood of matching for each pair of siblings. The odds of matching go down significantly beyond sibling relationships. A little less than 50% of marrow donations in 2006 came from a non family member. Matches can be especially hard to find for minorities. We need more donors.

So join the bone marrow registry at marrow.org. It is totally free to join, and you are eligible if you are between 18 and 60 (I tried to look if this extends beyond the US; it should, but I couldn’t find it on their website). They will send you a free kit with several q-tips. You swab your cheeks with the q-tips and then send them back.

There is a 1 in 540 chance you will be selected to donate, but even then, you are not required to do so. When you donate, they sometimes still draw marrow from the hip like you may have seen in TV shows. More often, the donor is given a drug for several days that causes marrow stem cells to circulate in the blood stream. Then they draw blood and separate out those stem cells, and put the rest back. It’s a lot like giving blood except the procedure takes a few hours. If you have more questions, marrow.org has a lot of helpful information. Please join, and thanks!