Aug 19, 2017

It Can't Happen Here

But it did.

Last night a man brutally stabbed ten people in the center of Turku, killing two and sending eight to hospital. His motives are still unknown, but it appears he chose his victims at random. The investigation is still ongoing, but terrorism hasn't been ruled out.

My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones. The central market square is a place I visit regularly. This could have happened to me or any of my friends or family. I'm incredibly relieved they're safe.

When something like this happens in your home town, it gets under your skin, but that doesn't mean you should let it fester. This kind of thing is almost impossible to prevent, but we have to remember that the police stopped a terrorist attack on the Temppeliaukio church in the spring and are doing everything they can to keep us all safe.

Here are a few things about last night that make me proud to be Finnish:

First of all, the police response yesterday was very efficient: the call came at 4:02 p.m. and the police had stopped and captured the man at 4:05. You can't ask for a better response time than that. They shot the man but caught him alive (because in Finland the police shoot to stop not to kill, and even then as a last resort), which may help us understand why he did what he did and if there are ways to stop such tragedies in the future. If he's mentally ill, he'll get treatment, if he's a terrorist, he'll answer for his crimes.

Second, the authorities flat out refused to jump to the conclusion of terror attack before the matter had been thoroughly investigated, even though the manner of the attack fit and the fact that the perpetrator "appears to not be of native Finnish descent," but took immediate precautions in case it was. Our political leaders have condemned the attack and the President traveled to Turku last night to take part in a church service held to comfort people and help them grieve. The Turku University Hospital and the EMTs took the situation in hand, treating the victims and offering trauma counselling.

Third, many people risked their lives to help the victims. Swedish tourist Hassan Zubier rushed to help a woman bleeding out and got stabbed, as did Finnish entrepreneur Hasan Alazawi. A doctor stayed to perform CPR, and a woman tried to comfort the small child of the victim and helped contact the child's father. A bunch of bystanders grabbed makeshift weapons and chased the man with the knife away from the market square, screaming warnings to those in his path, probably saving many lives. It could have been much worse.

Yes, there are monsters out there. But there are heroes too.

I take comfort in that.

 

Aug 15, 2017

Worldcon 75



Yay, I made it through Worldcon in one piece! I'm probably the only pregnant woman ever to be totally okay with missing my due date... All in all, I'm glad I took the chance; the baby seemed happy to stay where she was and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. According to the organisers, this year's con turned out to be the second largest Worldcon ever, with 10,516 members and day passes and 7,119 people on site. 

On Wednesday the con site was very crowded and a lot of people missed the panels they wanted to attend, including me. I didn't get into the opening ceremonies or the Tea and Jeopardy podcast afterwards, but as both can be viewed/listened to online, that wasn't the end of the world. Not that much could have dampened my spirits anyway; I was just so happy that I could attend the con after being sure it would be impossible for me to go because of the baby. 

I caught a panel on fashion in science fiction, but unfortunately they had technical difficulties and didn't get much discussion in. By then I had wised up about the queues and turned up an hour early for the next panel I wanted to see: Creating Effective Dialogue with Elizabeth Bear, Nalo Hopkinson, Nina Niskanen, and Ran Zhang. Most of the things they talked about were familiar to me from writing books, but the panelists did have an interesting discussion about incorporating dialect in dialogue and also about how writing dialogue is different in different languages. Hopkinson and Bear had taught Niskanen at Clarion, and both seemed like they'd be great teachers, not scary at all. If I have a chance to attend a workshop with one of them, I definitely will. This time I didn't sign up for any workshops because I didn't want to take up a spot and then have to skip it if I started to have contractions or felt ill. I'd have liked to see a few more panels, but the ones I wanted were full, so I decided to check out the art show and the Hugo awards on display. Nice, huh?


Hugo awards through the ages.

On Thursday the organisers had limited the sale of day passes, closed down the sale of memberships, and negotiated with the venue to get a few larger rooms. It made all the difference! The first two panels I attended, In Defence of The Unlikeable Heroine and Appeal of The Bland Protagonist, were both interesting. I missed Nalo Hopkinson's GoH interview though, because I didn't want to lose my seat. (My friends later told me that there had been plenty of room, but you can't have it all.) I especially liked the unlikeable heroine panel and the way the panelists pointed out the double standard happening with unlikeable male and female protagonists. Have you noticed that most unlikeable female protags are conventionally attractive to compensate being so unlikeable? And how readers will forgive a male protagonist a multitude of sins while condemning a female protagonist for something relatively minor? (Case in point: Jaime Lannister vs. Catelyn Stark. One throws a child out the window, the other one dislikes her husband's bastard. Who do the readers turn on? You guessed it...)

I also made it to a panel on working with editors and one on military science fiction by women authors. By then it was almost five o'clock and I was so tired I went back to my hotel to rest.  



On Friday I made it to astronaut Kjell Lindgren's space medicine lecture and learned some fascinating facts, like how they have to be extra careful on the ISS about looking for things in small compartments (the CO2 builds up and makes you sick) and that all the calluses slough off the soles of the feet in zero gravity.  Can't wait to use all this stuff in a story! Turns out space medicine is mostly about prevention: they pick the healthiest candidates to go up, have them do regular exercise and eat specially designed food to keep them healthy, and take lots of test to catch any problems early. If something unexpected happens, they'd rather send the patient down to Earth than try to treat him or her on the station. 

This is how they sleep on the station. Notice the puffiness of the face caused by fluid redistribution in the absence of gravity.

Another highlight was the Military SF: Pro-War or Anti-War panel with Joe Haldeman, a living legend. I also made it to Nalo Hopkinson's GoH presentation where she read excerpts from unpublished work. Intriguing. Can't wait to read more of her work. I also checked out a panel on monsters, which was fun. 


And of course I attended the Hugo awards. Extremely cool. 

On Saturday I made it to the Legacy of Buffy panel, a lot of fun and very nostalgic. The panel was so full that not everyone got in, so I guess Buffy is still going strong. Then I went for the Finnish Weird panel and a panel where authors talked about their cats. (Yes, really.) Again, I missed out on the extremely popular world-building panel with George R. R. Martin, but was first in line for the Joe Abercrombie interview, so that turned out okay. Abercrombie is a very entertaining speaker, so definitely go see him if you get a chance.


After the interview I hooked up with my Finnish critique group for some writing talk over smoothies and then headed to my last panel, Does Familiarity Breed Contempt in Horror?, before the Masquerade. 

My husband and I had decided to skip Sunday's program earlier, and it was nice to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before catching the train home. There's one good thing about being very pregnant when attending a con: I did almost no shopping despite all the glorious steampunky goodness on display at the trade hall. The idea of having to carry anything extra around with you while dealing with backache and joint pain etc. is a good deterrent. 

All in all, a great experience. I'm definitely happy I went, even though I caught a cold somewhere along the way. (The infamous con crud, maybe?) Hopefully it'll pass before the baby decides to make an appearance. The next Worldcon is in San Jose, but it'll be held in Dublin in 2019. Here's hoping I'll get to attend that one too.  





Aug 8, 2017

Worldcon in Helsinki!

It's almost Worldcon time! The con is held at the Messukeskus convention center in Pasila from tomorrow through Sunday. The registration opens at nine a.m. and the program begins at noon, but there's plenty to see in the evening too. Guests of Honor include Johanna Sinisalo, Nalo Hopkinson, and Walter Jon Williams, but many more authors will be participating in panel discussions, signings, and workshops.

Check out the program here: http://www.worldcon.fi/guide/

Don't have a pass yet? No problem! You can still buy a full membership or opt for a day pass sold at the door.



Aug 7, 2017

Giants and Uncertain Atmospheres at the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum



Gas Giant by Jacob Hashimoto 

The Wäinö Aaltonen Art Museum is having a really good year. Their exhibitions tend to go for the more "out there" stuff, some of which is amazing and some just going for the shock value; the shock value stuff tends to leave me cold, but art is subjective, of course. Fortunately, the current exhibition, Jacob Hashimoto's Giants and Uncertain Atmospheres, soars right into the "amazing" category.

Hashimoto's work is colourful, fun, and inspired by science fiction and video games, so it's right up my alley. He uses a lot of kites in his work, like the installation pictured above. A photo can't do it justice. You need to experience the scale of it to really get a feel for how beautiful it is. 


Super-Robots and Celestial Mechanics


I liked the mix of Japanese minimalism and playfulness. Kids would love this exhibition. Some of the pieces reminded me of fractals and vintage video games, and I loved the use of science fiction elements, like references to wormholes and spaceships.
   This one has the feel of '50s science fiction cover art.



The Air Smelled of Subversion and Boundaries, All Glitter with Bright, Sourceless Light


This piece showcases Hashimoto's interesting technique. Are the shadows cast by the piece part of the piece, or just coincidental? Could one construct a story based on the visual representation here? And don't you love that title? 


The exhibition is open until September 24th, if you want to check it out. 




Aug 5, 2017

Finnish Ingenuity


The news are so depressing these days, all doom and gloom about North Korea's missile trials, the latest stages of the Trumpocalypse, and how climate change and overpopulation will kill us all. Sometimes it feels like nobody is doing anything to solve these problems, but that's not true either.

Here's a few bits of news that won't make you want to curl up with a bottle of tequila:

Finnish scientists have found a way to make protein out of thin air and electricity. Are we on our way to eliminating world hunger? The process is powered by solar energy and it's ten times more efficient than photosynthesis-based methods, like growing soybeans, for example. On top of that, it should work in arid areas where farming is impossible, it doesn't use pesticides, and it doesn't produce greenhouse gases. Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it? The scientists speculate that the technology should reach commercial capacity in ten years. And hey, could this be used in space, too?

You can read more here: https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finnish_breakthrough_making_protein_out_of_thin_air_and_electricity/9736360 

The Finns are also working on how to use the moisture in the air to create renewable electricity that could be used to charge cell phones, for example. It has to do with zirconium dioxide-based nanocomposites and the build-up and discharge of electricity on water droplets in the atmosphere.  

Here's the article in Finnish:https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9738088

The research is done at the Lappeenranta University of Technology in collaboration with partners from Europe and the US, and you can read more about it here in English:

https://www.lut.fi/web/en/-/harnessing-the-energy-in-air-humidity

Maybe we're not doomed after all?



Jul 31, 2017

Reading The Classics: Madame Bovary


Madame Bovary 1857 (hi-res).jpg
Image from Wikipedia.org

Gustave Flaubert's 1857 novel Madame Bovary is considered one of the first novels to represent the style of literary realism (as opposed to romanticism). It tells the story of Emma Bovary, a 19th century desperate housewife who tries to escape her mundane existence by having affairs and buying things she doesn't need and can't afford. Spoilers ahead, beware!

I have to say, Emma Bovary is one of the most unlikeable women characters I've come across in literature so far. She's selfish, callous, mean to her husband and daughter, materialistic, vain, and a total drama queen. Not that there are many likeable characters to be found here; maybe Charles Bovary, the kind but dull husband, or the daughter, Berthe? The rest are a deplorable bunch. There's Rodolphe, the serial womaniser who seduces Emma and then casts her aside, Leon, the clerk with whom Emma has her second affair, Homais, the town pharmacist and frenemy to Charles, and Monsieur Lheureux, who sells Emma goods for credit and manipulates her to buy more and more things while at the same time offering credit to her husband until the Bovarys are completely ruined.

Emma is easy to despise because she makes so many stupid decisions during the story. She's never content, always yearning for something more. She doesn't appreciate her husband or enjoy watching her daughter grow up and is always fawning after the fripperies of wealth and totally unrealistic romantic expectations that her illicit lovers can't hope to live up to. There's a feeling of being stifled and trapped about her, mentally and physically. At first she's happy at the prospect of marrying Charles and escaping her father's humble farmhouse, but then the realities of marriage set in. Her extramarital affairs help her feel alive for a moment, but then they, too, start to feel as dull as married life. Then she tries to fill the void in her soul with materialistic things. In the end she takes her own life and is at peace in her final moments, having at last escaped.

I have to wonder, would things have been different if Emma had lived in the present? Perhaps she'd be a career woman sleeping around to fill the emptiness within, or a young stay-at-home mom trying to keep up with the Kardashians by ordering designer bags and clothes on the internet with money she doesn't have? There's something about Emma's ennui, dissatisfaction, and materialism that feel very contemporary. How many of us are really satisfied with our lives? We, too, escape into fantasies and use shopping to lift our spirits when we're feeling low. Many spend over their means and are up to their ears in credit card debt. But it is true that women have other options than being a mother and wife these days. Would Emma have found a career that gave her life purpose? Could she have been truly happy?    

Many have complained about Flaubert's long and meticulous descriptions, but I quite enjoyed them. Unfortunately my French isn't good enough to read the book in the original language, but as I've studied French it's easier to see that some parts that feel overly sentimental have to do with the translation. I did have a hard time seeing why this book is considered to represent realism, though. The plot is full of melodrama and the ending is almost Shakespearean: pretty much everyone dies/is cast into destitution. Maybe the descriptions of club foot surgery and life in a small town in France in the 1800s are the reason. And Emma is certainly not a romantic heroine.

I wonder what Flaubert really wanted to accomplish with this story. Is it a cautionary tale to scare women into being meek and faithful little housewives, or was Flaubert trying to show how narrow the role of women was at the time and what it could lead to? Somehow I suspect the former. Apparently he also despised the bourgeoisie with their yearning for social climbing and making money, and while he was at it, he also made fun of the silly romantic novels they read by making those one of the causes Emma acted like she did.

On the writerly front, what did I learn? I felt the descriptions were worth studying, even if they're probably too long for the modern reader. And there's a fine line between drama and melodrama. Drama goes over better. I also felt the opening and ending were weird: the story opens with Charles as a boy, but he's not the main character, and it takes quite a while for Emma to appear on the scene. Is this the best way to proceed? Is Flaubert trying to make the reader feel more sympathy towards Charles by introducing him first? The ending, on the other hand, drags on after Emma's death with long passages about Homais and his business affairs while stating the fate of Charles, Charles' mother, and little Berthe in a very clunky and callous way that feels like "Hey, look, here's the moral of the story." Nobody likes being lectured to.

Once again, not a book I enjoyed or would read again, but I can see why it's considered a classic.

Classics read: 31/100



                                                               

Jul 23, 2017

Coffee and Cake: The Qwensel House Café



The Qwensel House Café is located in the inner courtyard of the Pharmacy museum near the center of Turku. The museum is only open in the summer (from May to the end of August) and at Christmastime, but now is the best time to visit, I think. 



The café is located in a 1700s house that survived the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, a rare occurrence for a wooden house of the time. Maybe the house's proximity to the River Aura had something to do with it? The house is named after Wilhelm Johan Qwensel, who bought the house in 1695 when he moved to Turku from Stockholm to work in the court of appeal.   


The café serves homemade cakes, pies, and pastries along with coffee and tea. 


I tried a savoury cheese-and-tomato pie this time, which turned out to be a good choice, although the sweet treats my friends had looked really good too.


Definitely a café to visit as much for the atmosphere as the food. I'm thinking it would be a great place to write some steampunk or historical fiction, but bringing a laptop here would be sacrilege; this is clearly notebook-and-pen territory. If you have the time, do check out the museum, too.






Jul 14, 2017

Tournament at Turku Castle



Wondering what to do this weekend? If you're anywhere near Turku and a fan of historical combat, do check out the tournament at Turku Castle. They've got everything from jousting to archery, and there's lots to do in the castle, too: special tours, activities for children, and a fair in the castle courtyard. Attendance is free, except for the museum activities.

Here's the program: http://www.tournament.fi





Jul 9, 2017

Woohoo!

I got some good news yesterday. My short story "Waiting for the Dawn" earned a silver honourable mention in the Writers of the Future contest, 2nd quarter!

The silver honourable mention apparently falls somewhere between honourable mention and semifinalist, not too shabby for someone speaking English as a second language :) I'll definitely send something in for the 4th quarter.

Jul 8, 2017

Varjojen lumo, coming soon!

Here's some info on the anthology of Gothic stories I've been talking about. We're in the last round of edits now, and the anthology will be coming out in September. My contribution is called "Kun nokkoset kukkivat" ("When Nettles Bloom" in English). As the anthology is in Finnish, so is the announcement, sorry. 

Here's a link to the publisher's website: http://www.vaskikirjat.fi/varjojenlumo.html if you want to check it out. 

Katri Alatalo (toim.): Varjojen lumo - suomalaisia goottinovelleja

ILMESTYY SYYSKUUSSA!
Mielen salaperäisimmät ja synkimmät piirteet ovat aina kiehtoneet ihmisiä. Goottilaisia tarinoita on julkaistu 1700-luvulta alkaen, ja niistä löytyvät myös kauhukirjallisuuden juuret. Nykyisin gotiikan kuvastolla on merkittävä osa kirjallisuudessa ja populaarikulttuurissa.
Varjojen lumo kokoaa ensimmäistä kertaa yhteen suomalaisten kirjoittajien goottinovelleja. Antologia sisältää 12 aiemmin julkaisematonta tarinaa, joissa suku on pahin ja vanhojen, hämyisten talojen kellareihin sekä ullakoille on kätketty synkkiä salaisuuksia. Novelleissa liikutaan eri maissa ja aikakausissa, ja ihmisten keskuudessa vaanii yliluonnollisia olentoja. Keskeisiksi hahmoiksi nousevat myös jylhät, rappeutuneet rakennukset, kuten linnat, kartanot, sairaalat ja maatilat.
Luvassa on tummia sävyjä ja jännittäviä mysteerejä - kauhulla ja romantiikalla maustettuna.
Jos jotain kirjoitatte, kirjoittakaa rakkaudesta.
- Milka Hakkarainen: Reaktorirakkautta

Antologian on toimittanut Katri Alatalo, ja se sisältää seuraavat novellit:
Marko Järvinen: Talo nummien keskellä
Henna Sinisalo: Salaisuus vahassa
Samu Kaarna: Luutnantti Mielfeldin viimeinen matka
Minerva Piha: Toiset kädet
Inkeri Kontro: Neiti Fridenstenin päiväkirja
M. G. Soikkeli: Verivelvolliset
Susanna Hynynen: Tulevan suven morsian
Artemis Kelosaari: Se mistä ei voi puhua
Marika Riikonen: Ei aina käy kuin elävissä kuvissa
Edith Arkko: Karannut sielu
Anna Salonen: Kun nokkoset kukkivat
Milka Hakkarainen: Reaktorirakkautta

Kirjassa on myös Markku Soikkelin kirjoittama esipuhe Gotiikka tyylinä ja perinteenä.

Jun 21, 2017

Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out at Heureka



The blog's been kind of quiet in the last few months, sorry. I wish I could say it'll get better, but this pregnancy thing's hitting me hard. Turns out you lose a lot of your productivity when your haemoglobin drops by twenty points. Add to that all the normal aches and pains that pregnancy brings and the need to keep active and pay attention to my diet, there's not much room for anything else in my schedule, especially with the constant napping that borders on the ridiculous. I also want to spend time with my friends and family before the baby comes.  With this in mind, my father and I headed to Heureka science park with my nephew to check out the Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit.   


As you probably know, the original Body Worlds is an exhibition of dissected human bodies preserved by a process called plastination, which replaces the body's fat and water with liquid plastics to stop decay. Specimen preserved in this way retain most of the properties of the original. The material for Human Body Worlds comes from peopled donating their bodies to science with full consent and knowledge of the project, and the animals in this exhibition have been donated by zoos, university veterinary medicine programmes, and animal welfare associations, so no animals were harmed to create the exhibit. The idea is to educate people about animal anatomy and to promote the efforts to protect endangered species.

I found the exhibition interesting and informative, but if you're squeamish, this might not be the exhibition for you. I was a bit worried about how my nephew would react, but he was fine. As nearby schools visit the exhibition and the science center is meant for children, I felt confident that it wouldn't be too scary. There's no age limit, but maybe take a look at the website first if you're going with smaller children. The exhibition is running until October 29th if you want to go. Heureka is located in Vantaa, so it's not far from the airport or Helsinki city center.


There's other cool stuff too, as you can see.


You can do experiments on your own, and children can take part in a laboratory class with the staff twice a day for the price of the ticket. If you like Mythbusters, you'll love these. There are also activities like driving simulators, educational games, and building your own circuit boards, for example.


And rats playing basketball! (Only positive reinforcement is used in their training.)


You can even make your own coin at the Heureka mint. (It involves taking a photo and green lasers. Very cool.)

When you're done, you can visit the gift shop for all kind of fun gadgets and games. We tried out some astronaut ice cream, which is super weird. (And apparently a myth. Who knew?)

All in all, a fun day out. More info about the science center and upcoming exhibitions here: www.heureka.fi






Jun 5, 2017

Cutest Geeky Onesies



I promise this blog won't turn into all babies all the time, but I couldn't resist showing you guys a few of my favourite baby clothes so far. Being a responsible person, I got most of the baby stuff we need second hand, but I did get a couple of fun onesies in assorted sizes. 

This LOTR one is from Nerd Girl Tees


For the little Star Wars fan. (CutieButtsBoutique)


What would Baby Shepard wear? (Rocket Baby Clothing)


I pretty much want this in every size... (CutieButtsBoutique))


Labyrinth onesie! (CutieButtsBoutique))






May 29, 2017

Loot Crate: Investigate



April's Loot Crate, kind of late, I know. 


A Stranger Things T-shirt. I loved Stranger Things, but this shirt is just too loud for me. (Yes, yes, I know, they're going for that '80s look, but still...) If it were black-and-white, maybe. Too bad. 


This Jessica Jones fig I did like. I wonder when we're getting a second series? 


X Files pencils! 


The Loot Pin.


My favourite item this month: a Batman mug that changes colour when you pour hot liquid into it. Hubby seems to have taken a liking to it too, because I have yet to give it a try :)




May 24, 2017

Mrs Rochester's Attic Out Now!



Here's the text from the back cover:

"What can Father Divine do when a nun confesses a disturbing secret?
Bill has always lived in his parent’s basement. Nothing

odd about that... is there?
How can Eleanor bear watching her old love Paul, hidden as she is at the bottom of his garden?
How can Sarah’s suddenly bottomless bag be full of bees?
What can forgotten gods do? Go clubbing obviously.
The stories in this book explore secrets, doomed relationships, and madness, inspired by the sad fate of the first Mrs Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Deranged and hidden away by her husband, Mrs Rochester haunts the corridors of Thornfield Hall, and eventually destroys it.
The authors were not required to write directly about Mrs Rochester, Jane Eyre or the Brontës, but all the stories had to contain a deep, dark secret, insanity or ill-fated love.
And what a wild mix they came up with. Some of the stories in this book are fantastical and some are realistic. Some are set in the past and others are contemporary. There’s a wide mix of genres. But they all have a hint of the gothic and a tinge of strangeness.

 
Just the thing to read while hidden away in your own attic..."



Interested? You can order the anthology from a bookstore near you or get the kindle or paperback version from amazon, for example. 




May 22, 2017

A Geeky Baby Box for Dad



In Finland, when you're having a baby, the government grants you a baby box full of all kinds of things the baby needs in his or her first year: onesies, a sleeping bag, toys, hygiene products, a snowsuit etc., and the box it comes in can be used as the baby's first bed. You can see the contents of this year's box here. The only problem is, it's still called 'The Maternity Package,' which can make the future daddy feel a bit left out, so I decided to make Hubby a Daddy Box of his very own. 


I repurposed one of the Loot Crate boxes for this project. The note on top (and most of the other baby stuff) was from a webshop called www.mussukat.fi. It says: 'You have been granted a paternity package in the form of a baby box. It has been personally designed for you and executed with love. We hope the box will bring joy to your time with the baby.'


And what did I put inside? A geeky onesie, of course. This one is LOTR themed and has all the meals Hobbits like to enjoy during the day printed on it. 


I also included a polar bear bib scarf, a 'mute button' pacifier, and earplugs, of course!


Some baby toys. I'm partial to owls.


The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting
Tips, and Advice on First Year Maintenance by Louis and Joe Borgenicht. (Hey, they have it in English, too!)


Something to mop up all the stuff that keeps coming out of both ends. 

I wanted to add a chocolate cigar, but unfortunately they don't sell those in Finland. Coffee or an energy drink would have fit in quite well too, but I ran out of room after this stuff.

Have you made a Baby Box for your significant other? What did you put inside?












May 16, 2017

Mrs Rochester's Attic Cover Reveal!


Remember that anthology I was talking about before, Mrs Rochester's Attic from Mantle Lane Press? Here's what the cover will look like:



Pretty cool, right? 

I'll be posting details about availability when I get them, but the anthology will be available soon.  





May 15, 2017

Freedom!




Friday was my last day of work for a while. I knew it was coming, of course, but somehow it hasn't really sunk in yet: I don't have to go to work today, I can get up when I want and do what I want, and I'm not bound to anyone else's schedule; pretty cool, actually. I haven't been feeling too great for the last few months and I had some vacation time coming, so I decided to take my summer vacation a bit early this year. Best decision ever, especially now that I'm feeling better (yay for iron supplements!) and I can actually enjoy it.

This is the first time since childhood that I have a whole summer  all to myself. The baby's not due till August, so I plan to take full advantage of the summer months and get as much writing done as possible, because I have a feeling that writing time will be extremely limited in the baby's first year. I'm planning to write new stuff for a few hours in the mornings and do an hour or two of editing in the afternoon, so nothing too strenuous, because pregnancy does take its toll. And I did sign up for that University of Iowa MOOC that's starting this week.

In addition to writing, there's all kinds of baby-related errands to do from finishing the nursery to getting everything we need to keep the kid warm and fed and reasonably happy when it gets here, not to mention doctor's appointments etc. (Who knew babies come with a mountain of stuff? And where do we put all of our stuff to make room for the baby stuff?) I also have to watch what I eat and take time for regular exercise as long as I can. Hopefully spring will finally prevail and the sleet and snow will stop falling before the indoor swimming pools close at the end of May.

But all that can wait until tomorrow. Now I'm going to have some fruit and yogurt and a huge cup of tea and watch some bad TV, because first day of summer vacation!








May 8, 2017

Coffee and Cake: Tiirikkala



For our monthly coffee and cake meetup last week, we chose Tiirikkala, a café/restaurant on the bank of the river Aura, only a few blocks from the center of Turku. I'd never been there before, but I'll definitely go again. In addition to awesome cakes and pastries, Tiirikkala serves delicious, trendy lunches and dinners, including vegetarian fare, and there's live music of Fridays and Saturdays.



Here's what I had. So pretty, and tasted good, too.


Tiirikkala had a nice, relaxed vibe and it would be a great place to hang out with friends or do some writing. I'd definitely recommend it.

Here's the link to their website: http://www.tiirikkala.fi/eng

May 1, 2017

Reading the Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Title page for The Scarlet Letter.jpg
Image from wikipedia.org
                                                         
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel about sin, guilt, and judgement in a 17th century Puritan colony, is not an easy read. Hawthorne's attempt at imitating how people (presumably) spoke in the 1600s combined with a very 1800s tendency for long and complicated sentences makes this novel heavy going, not to mention unintentionally humorous at times, especially when little Pearl is speaking, and the plodding plot and heavy-handed imagery don't help things.

The novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, who has an affair and gives birth to an illegitimate daughter, Pearl. Living in Puritan Massachusetts, this doesn't go over well with the society at large, especially as she refuses to divulge the name of the child's father. As punishment, Hester is forced to wear the letter A on her breast as a sign of her crime.

Personally, I didn't find much to like about this novel, but Hester as a character was an exception. I admired her strength and how she got on with things despite being ostracised by society, and the rebellious way she embroidered the scarlet letter so it was almost more an adornment than a symbol of shame. Because of Hester's skill as a seamstress, she was offered work despite being in disgrace, which made it possible for her to support herself and her daughter, just one example of Puritan hypocrisy.

The daughter, Pearl, is continuously referred to as a fairy child and unnatural in some way, and even Hester seems afraid of her a times. A lot of the time Hawthorne uses her to spell out uncomfortable truths, which at times reduces her to more of a symbol than a character. (Not that this happens only with Pearl.)

Of the other characters, the villain of the piece, if you can even call him that, is Hester's long-lost husband who takes the name Roger Chillingworth and swears to discover the father of the child while working as the town physician. The father, the town minister Arthur Dimmesdale, is a weakling who lets Hester suffer alone while his guilt eats at him from the inside.

The novel examines the nature of sin and the injustice of Hester's punishment and questions the rules of the intensely religious Puritan society that wreck the lives of everyone involved. Hester does find a sort of redemption in the end, even if she never quite shrugs off the weight of the scarlet letter, while Dimmesdale's guilt destroys him. In Dimmesdale's case, I doubt even the Puritan legal system would have been harder on him than he was on himself.

Concerning writer tricks, Hawthorne is famous for his use of metaphor in the novel, but I found him quite heavy-handed. Every time he does something particularly clever, he seems to have a need to point it out to the reader in a very unsubtle hey-look-what-I-did-there way. For examples of this, see the bit where he compares Pearl to the roses on the prison wall to the scarlet letter and the scene where the scarlet letter appears in the sky. I did like the use of colour and light and darkness in the novel. For me, this novel also served as a reminder of what not to do: even if you're writing a historical novel, it doesn't mean you need to make the prose so archaic that it takes away from the reader's experience.

So all in all, not exactly the book for me. But hey, I did learn you can use the word "pillory" as a verb!

Classics read: 30/100



 


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.


Thane!

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.)