August writing round-up

Previously in monthly round-ups…

Total new words for July: 12,890

My goal for August was a fairly complete vomit draft of the fanfic project, which I knew would be around 25k. So, er, you can probably guess my goal did not get met. I also admitted that I’d be surprised if I did meet that goal, so I guess this isn’t a shocker. And I probably did better than it feels, baring in mind how busy I was in August. Between prep for my trip and my trip, I only had a few normal days this month. So getting nearly 13k words with all of that going on was pretty incredible, really.

Goals for September

Only one, again: finish the fanfic project and get a start on edits.

I’m not throwing any word goals at that, although I estimate that it will be at least 10k to get a vomit draft done. This time, I’m feeling semi-confident that I’ll make my goals happen. I’m starting to hit all the big action and coming-together-of-plots stage in the fic, and my writing always speeds up when I reach that point. I’m out of the sticky middle of doom.

My dad is coming to visit for three weeks this month, but there will be a week in that time when he and my mum are away exploring the north of the province, and I should have plenty of time to get some writing done. More than usual, if it’s just me and the cats in the house!

So this is me: I will finish this fanfic project and get a healthy start on the edits by the end of September. Watch me put my determined face on and do this thing!

Convention survival tips

In a couple of days, I leave for my annual trip to England, where I will visit family and do sightseeing touristy things and, most importantly, attend a convention. It’s Nine Worlds Geekfest again. I went last year and had a fantastic time, so I’m excited about being there again this year.

As convention season is now in full swing, and my brain is mostly consumed by packing lists and schedule checking, a quick primer on good convention survival tips seems appropriate. After all, you can never have too many tips, right?

Eat, drink, sleep, and be merry!

Add shower to that list. Very important.

Many people will give ratios for the sleep-meals-shower plan, usually in the vicinity of 6-2-1. It’s all about self-care, so the ratios don’t work for everyone. Aim for whatever is your personal minimum for enough sleep to be functional and cheerful for several days of high-intensity braining and socialising. If that’s six, go for it. If that’s eight, don’t accept anything less. It may seem fine to have two hours sleep on the first night of the convention, but you’ll be sagging (and possibly bad-tempered) by the end if you do. To enjoy the con fully, SLEEP.

And remember to eat and hydrate. Breakfast is key: take full advantage of whatever breakfast your hotel provides (or buy something substantial if you have to go out) and think of that as your base for the day. If the con gets really busy, you may not have time for three big meals, so make sure you start the day well. Carry granola/cereal bars with you. Stock your room with some snacks you like. Try to stop for another decent meal through the day, but if you don’t, make sure you breakfast well and snack plenty.

And drink tons of water. That’ll help even more than the food. Carry a water bottle and refill it whenever you pass a fountain. Trust me, you’ll be grateful you did that.

At least one shower a day is key, for everyone at the convention. Including you. It keeps the air smelling fresh(ish) for everyone, and a shower when you get up can help a lot if the sleeping thing goes awry. A second shower later in the day is also a great pick-me-up if you’re flagging. I❤ showers at conventions.

Take a couple of extra t-shirts with you. If you’re tired and sweaty and want to have a freshening up shower, a clean t-shirt to pull on after will feel *amazing*.

Check the schedule before the con

If you’re on any panels, make sure you know the time and location. I always put them in my phone calendar, so if everything fails and I lose my programme and my badge doesn’t list them and there’s no WiFi to check the schedule online, I still get to my programme items on time. Helpfully, putting them into your calendar should also remind you about your programme item if you’ve got alerts set up. (Please do that.) Go to the room your panel(s) will be in early in the con, so you know how to get there and don’t get lost on the way.  Your fellow panellists will be rolling eyes and silently judging if you show up fifteen minutes late, trust me.

Also check the schedule for anything you really, really, really have to see. I wing it a bit when I’m at a con, because people talk me into unexpectedly interesting things, but I make sure I’ve highlighted/calendared/whatevered the stuff I most want to see before I even get to the con. It’s disappointing to realise that talk on dragon biology you really wanted to do was two hours ago and you’d forgotten about it or your mental note had the wrong time.

Socialise! (Which is not networking, nope)

I understand that, for some people, the social aspect of a convention is awful due to anxiety and horrible shyness. If that’s you, ignore this part. Do what you need to do to make the convention enjoyable for you. Conventions with a good accessibility policy have quiet rooms, which are designed for people who need time out to decompress from all the noise and crowds. They’re for you, so don’t be afraid to use them. And don’t be scared to stick to your room when you’re not in programme items. That’s also an A-okay valid choice. You’re supposed to enjoy a convention, and that means doing what you’re comfortable with.

For everyone who does like a bit of social time, don’t get yourself so over-scheduled with programme items you *must* see that you miss out on the social side of a convention. You can make friendships that last for years at a con, because everyone is there to geek out about the same stuff together. My regular con roommate is someone I met at my very first convention and we always have a blast together. If you’re an aspiring pro, don’t look at every bar and con social as a networking event. Everyone sees what you’re doing, believe me. Socialise. It’s not the same. The people you’ll meet may or may not be useful to your career, but that’s not what matters. Conventions are about joining a community of fans. Networking comes after.

Most conventions have some kind of social event on the last night. Dead Dog Party, or farewell picnic, or something. It’s worth sticking around for the last night, instead of going home after the closing ceremony, because sometimes this is when the best conversations of the weekend happen.

If you’re new to conventions and don’t know anyone, don’t panic! Most cons have sessions early in the schedule for new people to meet and socialise. I highly recommend checking them out.

My other tip for meeting people: volunteer. Check out what positions are needed, match your skills to them, and volunteer. Gopher, tech, and registration are all great positions for newbies to conventions. You’ll meet people, you’ll bond with your fellow volunteers and be introduced to other people, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you helped the con to happen.

Follow the convention Twitter feed and hashtag

Don’t be glued to your phone, but do check the con’s Twitter feed every now and again and take a peek at the hashtag. Theoretically, any changes or announcements should be posted on pieces of paper somewhere around the convention. It’s a good theory. It doesn’t always work, and announcements like “I lost my blue water bottle! Has anyone seen it?” rarely make it to the boards. So, take a quick gander at the Twitters when you have a couple of minutes, just to see what’s going on around the con.

Be respectful

Read the convention’s code of conduct or similar policy. Respect it. If you think you’ll have trouble following it…I don’t know what to say to you. Because it’s not actually *that difficult*.

Don’t be the person who ruins someone else’s day with a thoughtlessly cruel remark or a cosplay that takes cultural appropriate to the max and then some. If you wouldn’t say it or do it around your friends, family, and work colleagues, think about whether it’s appropriate to say or do at a con.

Lastly…have fun!

I’m not sure I need to explain how to this, do I?

Weekly reading, 3 August 2016

Last book finished: Rise by Mira Grant. I’ve already squeed a fair bit about this, but it’s worth squeeing again. The Newsflesh books are great–fun, intelligent books about the post-zombie apocalypse rather than the actual zombie apocalypse. Rise is a collection of short stories set in that world, and they’re terrific gap-fillers. The stories set during the Rising are amazing–heart-wrenching and real, in a way I didn’t expect because they’re about ordinary people rather than the superheroes. Or about ordinary people and the way they become heroes. Grant examines the mythology of a hero in most of these stories, which is fascinating to me.

Many of the other stories examine the recovery process and the ways having zombies as a constant threat changes society. The story that breaks my heart every time is “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell”, because it’s about schools, and somehow, that cuts even deeper than the story of the final San Diego Comic Con. It’s not a story for the fainthearted, and you won’t be able to sleep easily after reading it, but it’s important for too many reasons to count. Reading all those stories in one swoop, instead of bit by bit as they were released, made the breadth of what Grant has done really stand out.

There are two never-published-before stories in this collection, too, and they’re both terrific. Oddly, it was the story about the elder Masons that caught me the most. I expected it to be the story about Georgie and Shaun, the protagonists from the original trilogy, which really got me, but no. It was Michael and Stacy Mason, recovering from everything they’d had to do to survive Berkley during the Rising. They’d been characters I actively disliked in the original books and although this story doesn’t make them nicer, better people, it makes me understand them and feel sympathy for them. That’s an impressive feat and may be why I took more out of “All The Pretty Little Horses” than I did from “Coming to You Live”. Not that Georgia and Shaun’s story was bad or weak–far from it–but I didn’t feel I learned anything new about them, while I did with Michael and Stacy Mason.

This is definitely a book where you need to read the original trilogy first, but I highly recommend it, which means you probably need to get onto the Newsflesh books if you haven’t already.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m setting myself a deadline: must finish it before I go to England next month. Argh, only a week to go!

I’m in kind of a fluffy phase right now, and simultaneously reading two books by the same author: Class and Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan. Hugely enjoying both of them.

And like the rest of the world, I’m also clued to The Cursed Child, which I was lucky enough to score from the library on release day. I’m going to need my own copy…

Next read: I have Imprudence by Gail Carriger sitting on my coffee table. As soon as my current library read is done, it’s mine!

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

July writing round-up

Previously in monthly round-ups…

Total new words for July: 26,654

My only goal for July was 25k new words on the big fanfic project. That was it. And look at that! I got 26.6k!

I should confess–almost 3k of that was actually on the first chapter of a new book. Woops. But I still got a huge number of words on the big fanfic project and it felt good to really get into it at last.

The new book? I’m loving it and itching to focus on it, which should provide the motivation I need to get my arse in gear and finish the big fanfic project by the end of this month, so it can be my sole project for a while.

Getting new words out is the part of writing I love best (I can hear so many other writers cringing because they love editing, but I’m sorry, I’m a new words girl), and after months in edits, the chance to just let fly and *write* has been glorious. July was a resounding success, one I didn’t expect to get because I had so much going on at the same time.

I’m crediting part of my word glut to Scrivener for iOS. It’s already making that much of a difference to my workflow–I can see it in my day-to-day metrics, where there’s a sudden jump in productivity since I installed it. Hopefully that’s not a temporary bump!

August goals

My goals this month are simple: write the big fanfic project and have a vomit draft pretty much done by the end of the month. That means this is another 25k goal month. If I’m on track with that, I’m allowed to goof off a bit every now and again with the next couple of chapters of my book, because I need to let myself have a treat🙂

The potential roadblock is my upcoming trip: I leave next Wednesday for England, where I will spent several days at Nine Worlds Geekfest in London (such fun!) and then a couple of days with a friend in Jersey, before spending my remaining time until August 27th at my dad’s house. Based on previous experience, I may not get much writing done at the convention. And even my dad’s house may not be uninterrupted writing time: I’ve got family to visit, a Prom concert to attend, a day trips to Oxford and London planned, and a day at the Harry Potter studio tour.

So while my goal is 25k and a completed vomit draft, I’m going to be kind of stunned if I achieve it. Make that, incredibly stunned. Cross your fingers for me?

Camp NaNoWriMo Winner!

CampNaNo_Winner_555-1

I’ll do a proper monthly round-up for July on Monday, but last night I hit the 25k mark (my goal) and this morning I validated it, and I have officially won Camp NaNoWriMo😀

Now, how many more words can I achieve between now and tomorrow night? Hmm…

Hacking the writing process

One of the things most writers learn early on is how they work best. What environment they need and how they need to approach a story to make progress on it. It’s something we learn through trial and error as we go, developing our process as we develop our skills at plotting, pacing, world building, and characterisation. When you read a lot of writing books, they talk about the importance of finding your process and sticking to it. They’ll advocate particular processes and extol the virtues, sometimes explaining (in detail) why their process is the only way to work.

Plotter. Pantser. Distraction-free environment. Free-writing. Coffee shop writing. Group writing. Solo writing. Detailed research. Research on the fly. Placeholders to do the research later. MICE quotient. Structure. No structure. Scene-sequel.

There are so many parts of the process we develop, and when we find one that works, we stick to it. Sometimes to a degree that’s ultimately unhelpful. Kameron Hurley talks about hacking her process on her blog: being unafraid to change it up and try something new. We can get stuck in a rut of “this is how we should write, because it’s what we do and it’s what has previously worked” and that can hold us back. It’s important to try new things, even try things we can’t imagine working, because it might lead us to something that works even better than what we were doing.

And ruts are usually a bad place to be, right?

I’ve always been a pantser. I’ll go in with, at most, the milestones on the way worked out and that’s it. The idea of outlining has always made me nervous because it hasn’t worked with me–I’ll write the outline and then I feel satisfied because I know how the story goes, and I can’t actually write the story. I’m starting to suspect this is a holdover from writing fanfic: you’re writing about characters you know so well already, often in settings you know (unless you’re writing an AU), and if you know them, the arcs they’ll take, and the detailed plot, what is left to discover? You need need to have something new to find as you write, or it becomes mechanical and passionless.

I guess one of the things I’ve realised is that I’m a discovery writer more than a true pantser. As I edited the book I finished earlier this year, I found that most of the big structural issues it had would have been caught and fixed before I ever began if I’d outlined it first. I went in with some research–characters sheets, some world-building, a really highlights-only idea of the plot direction–and I ended up with a mess. Most of the edits were dealing with the huge structural issues, the plot problems, and the missing character arcs–most of which could have been cut off at the pass with an outline.

My newest project (er, the one I’m tinkering with when I have spare time after my NaNo words) is different. The idea happened, I developed it, and I ended up with a one-page outline that felt fairly complete. All the major and minor plot points, right there on the page. I worked on it a bit more, added more details. When I set up the Scriv project, I set up chapter folders and added more details to the outline as I sketched in the chapter descriptions. I caught a few issues, found places that needed more thought and worked on them, and now I’ve got an outline that feels pretty solid. The main characters have arcs, the plot isn’t filled with logical inconsistencies or impossibilities. It’s an outline that, hopefully, won’t leave me with the level of mess I’ve been cleaning up for three months in my other book.

I’ll probably expand it as I go. Some of the chapters I outlined feel too full, so they’ll probably be turned into multiple chapters. An outline isn’t a line-by-line recipe, after all.

What I’ve learned is that for this book, with this outline, I’m still discovering it as I write. I’ve just finished the opening chapter, and I already feel like I’m finding out new things with each new scene. The outline is there, but it’s the details I’m discovering, so I’m still excited to find out what happens next.

Perhaps my old pantser ways only really work for the way I write fanfic, and my process for original fiction had to change. I’ll know better when I finish this book and see how it turns out. Hopefully it will be less fundamentally flawed and messy.

The other part of my process I’ve been playing with is environment. I’ve never been very particular about where I write–sometimes I’m at my desk, sometimes I’m on my iPad elsewhere in the house, or in a coffee shop, or in the lunchroom at work. It’s the reason Scriv for iOS has been so good–it’s fitting in with my habits really well. But for years, I’ve been writing in silence. No music. Having someone else’s words in my head made it impossible to hear my own words.

I’m also really easily distracted and I’ve been finding it difficult to get myself into the word space, which impacts on productivity. If I’m writing 50 words, checking twitter, writing 100, checking email, writing 25, checking twitter…you can see how that’s not really working, can’t you?

So I decided to try something. One evening, I downloaded a ton of classical stuff on Spotify and plugged in, and it’s working. No words, just orchestral–mainly violin or cello concertos, or symphonies–and suddenly, I’m actually getting a fair amount done each time I sit down. I get into the right wording zone and everything zooms along. At a certain stage, I stop hearing the music, but it’s okay because it’s become a background hum helping me to concentrate. It was the one part of my process I refused to consider changing for years, and it’s made a huge difference.

Finding a process that works for our writing is important, but so is trying new things. Sometimes, we need to hack our process and find a new way of working. It might not always work, a change you try might even sound counter-intuitive to everything we’re told by ‘experts’, but we should be open to experimenting.

You never know what you might learn and yourself and your writing.

Weekly reading, 27 July 2016

Last book finished: Hounded by Kevin Hearne. It’s the first part in his Iron Druid series and I found it a lot of fun. Not the best book I’ve read this year, but definitely entertaining and with enough promise to add the next one to my wishlist. Actually, it was a character introduced late in the book that really got me interested in continuing, but that’s because she grabbed me in a way the viewpoint character hasn’t (yet). I’d say it’s a fun distraction for an afternoon, particularly if you like your urban fantasy with some Celtic influences, but don’t go in expecting huge universal insights into humanity. This is strictly a magic and adventure book.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m setting myself a deadline: must finish it before I go to England next month.

I’m onto the never-seen-before short stories in Rise, by Mira Grant, and OMG SQUEE. A story about Michael and Stacey Mason and suddenly they make so much more sense. I’m loving this. I also finally started Justice Calling by Annie Bellet, which was free a while ago and has been sitting on my Kindle ever since. It’s another fun distraction, on the short end for a novel, and I’m enjoying it more than I expected. If you’re an RPGer, particularly DnD, I suspect this book will be even more entertaining.

Next read: I have Imprudence by Gail Carriger sitting on my coffee table. My Hugo reading is almost done and I’ll have done my vote by the weekend. Yeah, I’m diving into steampunk joy next.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Scrivener for iOS: initial impressions

I’ve been waiting for this ever since I was converted to the Scrivener way a couple of years ago, so the last couple of days have been pretty damned exciting. If you somehow missed it, Scrivener for iOS was released yesterday morning, after a wait that has felt interminable to many.

I began using Scrivener on my desktop a couple of years ago, for a NaNoWriMo. Friends had been extolling it for years, but I’d been stubbornly clinging to Word. “I write linearly,” I’d say. “What use is Scrivener to a writer like me?”

I tried it for that NaNo, only really planning to use it for planning rather than writing, but somehow ended up using it for everything that year and haven’t looked back. Having all my notes on characters and locations, evolving outlines and research, all in one place for easy reference is wonderful. Being able to version each scene using snapshots, rather saving the entire document as a new version each time I make a change, makes my heart happy during editing. (It’s the day job software developer in me, I swear.) Using colours in labels to, for example, display which POV a scene or chapter is from really helps in a quick visual assessment of the balance in a story.

The only problem has been that I often use my iPad for writing. In coffee shops, when I’m travelling, or even just because I’m too lazy to boot up the desktop of an evening, I have a keyboard and I can churn out the words wherever I am. Without Scriv, though, I’ve been typing into Word and copying into Scriv later. Which is as exactly as frustrating and fiddly as it sounds, so finally getting Scrivener on my iPad is going to be a huge timesaver.

Now I’ve been using it for a couple of days, what do I think so far?

When Scrivener announced the iOS version was finally going to be a reality, I concluded these were the absolute, must-have, deal-breaker features that I needed for it to be functional:

  • Ability to open existing Scrivener projects and add new folders and text documents to the manuscript section of the binder.
  • Ability to add new words and edit in new and existing text documents.
  • Access to the research/character/location folders in a project, even if read-only.
  • Ability to assign labels and statuses.

That was it. My bare-bones list of deal-breakers. If I had those really basic features, it would already be better than my Word-copy-paste routine. I also had a list of features that I really hoped for, because it would make working much easier, but wouldn’t stop me buying if they were missing:

  • Dropbox syncing so the iPad didn’t have to be physically connected to a computer for file transfers.
  • Word count tracking.
  • Compile/export functionality into Word documents.
  • Corkboard view.
  • Ability to move text boxes and chapters around to reorder.
  • Write access to the research folders for making notes on the move.

So, how did Scrivener do?

Well, first up, I got my bare-bones and nice to have features. All of them, which I didn’t expect. Even the compile functionality–it’s bare-bones, no custom templates and no ePub files, but it outputs a Word or PDF file, and that’s enough to be perfectly usable for what I need. There will be an occasion this summer when I’ll be travelling and I need to email a draft of the story I’m working on, thanks to deadlines, and this will do it. YAY.

I got word count tracking for both the manuscript and the session. Corkboard. Moving folders and text boxes around. Creating new research folders and adding text and images to them. Creating new text documents and folders in the manuscript and editing existing ones. Updating labels and statuses–and being able to use labels to colour-code cards in the corkboard and folder entries in the binder, which was more than I expected!

Dropbox syncing that actually works. No, it doesn’t sync as I go the way the desktop does. You need to manually invoke a sync, but this is actually great: I can work offline with ease (and without any of the demands to turn off airplane mode Word gives me) and sync when I’m online again. And it won’t throw up a thousand errors when my wifi signal cuts out for a moment (Word, AGAIN) while I have the project open.

I can even create new Scrivener projects and throw them onto Dropbox, which was another thing I didn’t expect. It’s a really basic project, just the manuscript folder and a research folder, so all the fancy settings and front/back matter in the templates I’ve created aren’t there and will need setting up when I’m at my desktop. But again, for working on the go, being able to create a new project is huge. I can start building my research folders and making notes if an amazing idea hits that needs to be noted down before I forget all the details.

The only error I found so far is this, and it’s not really an error. More of a minor miscommunication issue. There were updates to the Windows and Mac versions of Scrivener earlier this week to upgrade them to be compatible with the iOS version. Specifically, you needed to apply the update and then open the projects you’ll be using in the iOS version to upgrade their format. I did that for one project I’m working and then plugged away at some new words before saving and closing. I had another project that I’d barely started (just an outline that I also have in Word and some brief character notes), so I opened that one to upgrade and closed it without having made any changes. In that second project, because I hadn’t made and saved any changes, the format upgrade didn’t stick and it wouldn’t open in iOS. The first project was fine. So my only tip would be to make sure you make a minor change (even just adding a comma) to your project on the desktop after upgrading it and save it, otherwise iOS won’t be able to open it. After that, everything should work.

Overall, I’m incredibly impressed. I got the first scene of a new project written yesterday–created a new project after I couldn’t open the original in iOS and it didn’t take me long to get labels and statuses set up and start working. I even added the outline to my research folder and set up a new character folder. Today I went back to the project I’m supposed to be working on (er, oops) and added some new words. It was a doddle, much smoother than working in Word, and the MS and session words tracked for both project perfectly.

The text editor defaults to only using around 2/3s of the screen width, so the binder can still be displayed down the left, but it can be expanded to a full screen view. Typewriter scrolling is easy to toggle on and off. All the features I rely on day-to-day are right there, and the workflow is similar enough to the desktop version that the learning curve is easy. It’s probably not as intuitive to anyone completely new to Scrivener, but that doesn’t surprise me: desktop Scrivener had a steep learning curve for me and the iOS version is modelled as closely on that as it can be.

There are tutorials built into the app, though, to help new users to work out how to use Scrivener, so you’re not left flailing in the dark. And the Scrivener forums are an endless source of useful information, too. I’d definitely say that it’s good to have the desktop version, too, because there are features in it that the iOS version can’t replicate. Specifically, the compile settings are very basic, and you’ll want the desktop version to do anything fancy on those lines. I have a bunch of custom compile settings and I’ll only be using the iOS compile when I need to compile a rough draft for backups or sending to first readers.

And backups is the other thing iOS doesn’t have. In the desktop version, there’s a button to create a zipped backup of every file in a project, and iOS doesn’t have that. Compiling and exporting your manuscript is the best you’ll be able to do, and that won’t include any of the research notes. It may due to the limitations of iOS, but if the zipped backups are doable, I hope Scrivener will have them on their to-do list for a future iteration. That’s a feature a lot of people would love, because backups are vital to writer sanity and paranoia.

In the meantime, I’m compiling my project before I hit sync, due to that writerly paranoia!

In summary, Scrivener for iOS is everything I’d hoped for and more. It’s already making me more productive, because I’m organising as I write instead of having to do a lot of organising and tidying later, and it’s going to make my summer of travelling and writing so much easier. If you were on the fence on whether Scrivener for iOS is worth it, then I can report that it absolutely is. The hype didn’t lie: this is the app we’ve all been waiting for to make writing on an iPad not just workable, but enjoyable and incredibly productive.

Weekly reading, 20 July 2016

I know, I didn’t post a report last week. It was a weird, busy week, and blogging slipped by me. I’m claiming the Hugo progress report the week before as that week’s weekly reading post, too. So this is the first “proper” report since…uh…June. Shockingly, I only seem to have finished one book since my Hugo binge. At least it was a good one!

Last book finished: Trade Me by Courtney Milan. I’m a big fan of her historical romances, but this is the first (and so far, only) contemporary she’s written, which may be why it sat unread for so long. I’ll pick a historical over a contemp every day, but I did finally get started on it (because it’s Courtney Milan)…and consumed it very fast as soon as I did. Milan’s trademarks are all here: fun, witty writing, protagonists who don’t fall into stereotypes, and a plot that isn’t just about their relationship. She did it in a modern setting, though, and she did it really well. Tina Chen is a wonderful heroine, clearly drawn from some of Milan’s own background, and I instantly liked her. Blake Reynolds was harder to like initially, but I began to have sympathy for him very quickly and could absolutely see why Tina fell for him. One thing I particularly liked is that for both of them, their issues stem from their parents and it would be very easy to have drawn their parents as unrelenting bad guys. It’s a popular trope. Milan examines those issues and relationships more closely, though, and I ended the book really liking all the characters even though I could also see how they had led to so many of the problems Tina and Blake have.

And speaking of problems, this is a book that deals with mental health issues and eating disorders. Not the ones you’re thinking, though. It’s Blake dealing with an eating disorder, and Milan writes it sensitively and beautifully. Tina can’t heal him on her own, any more than Blake can fix Tina’s problems, and I always appreciate a romance where sex isn’t the magical heal-all. This is a book that’s a lot of fun, a bit painful at times, and completely compelling. I stayed up way too late a couple of times because I couldn’t put it down, which shows how much I loved it.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I read a page, though. An entire page. Maybe if I reach for it instead of my Kindle during my sessions of pacing around to relieve back pain…

I’m reading Rise by Mira Grant, but I’ve learned that zombies are definitely not good bedtime reading, so progress has been a little slow. I’m also most of the way through Hunted by Kevin Hearne. He’s coming to my local comic con in November, so it was clearly time to dig this out and read it. So far, it’s fun. Not the height of brilliance, but entertaining with a lot of promise, so I’ll probably be checking out more in the series.

Next read: I got a lot of Hugo reading done, but I still have a few short stories to dig into. Must get to those this week.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Thoughts on *that* Star Trek spoiler

I’m pretty sure there are dozens of think pieces out there already, but I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I have to write something down to stop it buzzing around my head.

Mostly, it’s about George Takei’s reaction to it. When the news crossed my Twitter feed yesterday, I was delighted. It’s never made sense to me that Star Trek, of all the SF shows out there, didn’t have a main character who was gay. I understood TOS not having one–that interracial kiss and the presence of two non-white characters on the bridge were ground-breaking enough–but the later shows having no LGBT representation was disappointing.

DS9 did give us mirror versions of some characters who were gay or bi, which was progressive for their time, but that’s not the same as permanent main characters being out.

George Takei usually delights me. His activism is inspiring, his love for the character of Sulu is wonderful, and I’d thought he would be more pleased than anyone. It was incredibly disappointing to read his reaction. Simon Pegg’s reaction and explanation for his choice put some of my thoughts into words beautifully.

If they introduced a new character who is LGBT, that’s what they would be known for. They would be “the gay character”; that would be the defining characteristic everyone would know. Any other aspects to their character would be irrelevant to many people, because they would be The LGBT Representative (TM).

More than that, writing in a new character specifically to be The LGBT Representative (TM) makes it too easy to dismiss or forget their presence. We remember the core, canon characters from each series. They’re the ones everyone recognises. New characters, bit parts, can be dismissed and washed away by fans because they’re not the core group.

And how would that even work? We rarely know much about the characters outside their role on the ship. Only the core characters are ever shown to have other parts to their lives, and that’s rare, so the new character would have to either make a really big point of saying “Hello, I am gay” (otherwise the audience won’t notice – everyone is assumed to be straight until stated otherwise, remember) or we’d need to see a big scene of their life and partner beyond the ship, which will also be about as subtle as a slap with a wet fish when we don’t see that for other, bigger characters.

From what John Cho and Simon Pegg have said, the reveal is small. It’s subtle. It’s clear that he’s Sulu’s partner and co-parent, not his BFF, but it’s also deliberately not A Big Teachable Moment (TM), which is what it would be with a new character. That’s what has made so many people so happy about this. It’s something Star Trek should have done a long time ago, they’re redressing the balance now, and they’re trying to do it without turning it into a Lifetime movie kind of thing.

As for the argument that Sulu has always been straight…um, not necessarily. Society defaults to assume that everyone is straight unless stated otherwise. And given how little we see of these character outside their work on the Enterprise, many of them could have entire worlds and families we’ve never seen. The core three got their flirt (and more) on during the course of some adventures, but Sulu? Chekov? Scotty? Uhura? Not so much. A good argument can be made that Sulu wasn’t closeted, it’s just never been something that came up on screen, because we never saw any of their home lives. He has a daughter, but the gender of his partner was never specified onscreen. Sulu doesn’t code as specifically straight to me, he never has. Finding out about this new dimension to the character, one we never saw before due to conservative networks and never seeing their lives at home, hasn’t fundamentally rewritten him for me. It’s made concrete something they never had the possibility of stating before, but was always a possibility.

(There’s also the argument that bisexuality exists, and thus, even Kirk’s history with women doesn’t necessarily mean he’s 100% straight. Just putting that out there to watch heads explode.)

All of that is why Takei’s comments were disappointing to me, because it shows he’s stuck, to some degree, in an outdated minds-set about this. And it’s why I’m choosing to ignore his disappointment.

If Gene Roddenberry were alive now, I think he’d be fuming that it took them so long to do this. It’s been possible to show that main characters on TV and film are gay for a long time. It’s not illegal any more. Star Trek had a record for pushing boundaries, and it ended up behind the times on this. I think Gene would be delighted that they’re finally getting there, and he’d be agitating for the new TV show to push some more boundaries. How about having a trans main character, for example?

After all, this show’s tagline is “To boldly go where no one/man has gone before”, and that’s what it needs to keep doing. Sulu being gay is the catch-up step. The next step should, and must, go somewhere further and bolder.