ConCarolinas 2014, Part 1

Copyright 2014 by Paula S. Jordan

I’m starting off a pair of posts on ConCarolinas with photos and brief peaks at some of this year’s outstanding guests, performers, and panelists:

25 - George R. R. Martin 2George R.R. Martin signed autographs, discussed his Wild Card series, read from his new novel Winds of Winter and answered 77 - David Weber 3questions for what often seemed like mile-long lines of patient devotees, and occasionally held court in the hotel’s University Cafe.  David Webber also signed and read for large numbers of fans, discussed his famed Honor Harrington series, and contributed comments, answers, insights, and stories on warfare and the military.

07 - Danny Birt Filk Concert 3Danny Birt provided informal evening filk singing as well as concerts and panel appearances on musical matters.  Jonah Knight performed his own musical brand of creepy and/or steam punk and/or fantasy sub-genres in concerts throughout the weekend.

31 - Jonah Knight 3






Panels discussed a wide variety of SF/F/science/writing and related topics, including this one titled “Breakfast and Books” with, with Samule Montgomery-Blinn, Tera Fulbright, Janine K. Spendlove, Stuart Jaffe and Amy H. Sturgis.

48 - Breakfast and Books 4

In a few days,  ConCarolinas 2014 Part 2, much more on fascinating tidbits of science, writing, and genre interest heard in panels and other discussions over the weekend. Plus a full report om Balticon 2014.

Photography courtesy of Judith W. Ross.

Excerpts From a Con: CapClave 2013

Copyright 2013 by Paula S. Jordan

CapclaveOne reason (of many) that I go to SF&F conventions is to get my brains stirred up and my writing reinvigorated. CapClave did that beautifully this year, thanks to inspired programming and a host of inspiring guests.

Here are a few of their fascinating insights into science, fantasy, fiction and the universe in general.

On the History of Dragons:

“More than likely, St. George actually fought a really big (30 foot) crocodile.”

“Dinosaur remains are still being exported from China as dragon bones.”

Dragon: “… the name given to every big thing that goes bump in the night ..,” or to “… 1arge dead beasties washed up on the beach.”

On Science In Fiction:

“Story comes first, but bad science detracts from the story.

“Human-based sciences are the hard ones. Sub-atomic particles behave the same day in and day out. That’s easy.”

“We need our best thinkers doing science instead of law.”

Inge Heyer, on Planets of Other Suns:

Inge Heyer Astronomer

Inge Heyer

“998 planets have now been found, and more every day … hot Jupiters and icy Jupiters, hot Dwarfs and icy Dwarfs, Lucifer Planets and orphaned planets and pulsar planets. Some, even large ones, are so close to their stars they have 3-minute days. Astronomers thought planets wouldn’t be possible in double star systems; to date we’ve found planets in three of them.”

Advice to Writers:

“When you’re having a down day, go to Amazon and read all the one-star reviews of classic books.”

“Use all the class, gender and ethnic assumptions you want to, but make the characters more complex than the stereotypes.”

“Even good guys can be hard to live with.”

Howard Waldrop, on his 1998 story Mr Goober’s Show:

howard23d“A science fiction view of the world in which the first science fiction was being written.

(More on Howard next week.)

Sharyn November, on Young Adult Fiction:

“All the books are true, I just don’t know the people.”

Sharyn November, Firebird Press

Sharyn November, Firebird Press

“Not everyone will grow up to read Tolstoy, but I can keep on slipping them some of the good stuff.”

Quoting Jane Yolen, “Young adult literature is the front line in the fight for first amendment rights.”

Scientist John Ashmead,on improving invisibility:

“A sufficiently advanced science can be even better than magic.”

George R. R . Martin

George R. R . Martin

And last but far from least, the two giant pleasures of the weekend: George RR Martin and Howard Waldrop reading their own work.

My thanks to all concerned.

Photo Credits:

Inge Heyer:

Howard Waldrop:

Sharyn November: David Shankbone

George R. R. Martin: Karolina Webb

New Book Loves of 2012

15922261This year held several new-to-me authors that I fell in love with. I already covered some of them over in a post about Loud Reading, but I couldn’t contain myself to a single book love post. What follows are more of my favorite reads of 2012.

As a scifi classic, I know I have had plenty of time and opportunity to read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. After reading this book, I can see why he has such a fan base, even with its few flaws (such as only 1 female main character). The plot, the narration of the audio version, and the lovable AI character made this a keeper on my shelf.

A pleasant surprise in this category was Shifted Perspective by J. Bridger. Were-cocker spaniels. Yep. I bet you weren’t expecting that. This book snuck up on me with it’s quiet way, a light snuffle, followed by a cold velvety nose to the armpit that made me sit up and take notice. I was turned into a cranky child, not wanting to put this book down and staying up far too late on a work night reading it.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is the first Arabic fantasy tale to save the world using flawed humans who enjoy cardamom tea. There’s ghuls, and shape shifters, and sword warriors, and magic, and bad folks who do really bad things.

The biologist in me was fascinated by the nonfiction Mushroom by Nicholas Money. This read was easily accessible, not too long, and left me with a deep respect for fungi – mostly because they can kill us in oh so many ways.

Now I know this series has been around for many years, and I even heard someone mention a tv series based on the books, but it was only lately that I stumbled across George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It’s nitty gritty, complex, and full of flawed characters faced with tough decisions. I definitely plan to continue on with the series; in fact I am on the library waiting list for Book 2.

Diane Setterfield entertained by greatly with her The 13th Tale. An eerie tale featuring twins, it was part historical fiction, part ghost story, and one very large part suspense. The audio version worked very well.

Hands down, one of the best origin stories I have ever had the pleasure to read was Zorro by Isabel Allende. Piece by piece, she drew together over a period of years all the bits that made Diego the man we know as Zorro, from his warrior mother, to his years spent in Europe, and his time as a pirate captive, to finally the conflicts as a young man that drove him to put on the mask. Excellent read.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was unlike any other book I have read. Part fantasy, part historical fiction, and part mystery, it was super intense. Oh, and the audio kept catching me off guard with an accentuated Spanish accent popping off such phrases as, ‘They are just a bunch of ass-lickers!’.

Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul was an intense modern-day fiction about a Turkish family of women and their ties to a young Armenian American who comes to visit. Some might call this magical realism, as there is a djinn at some point that no one thinks odd. I enjoyed it because it was different from what I normally read and because it opened the door a little wider for me on the Turkish culture.

Giraffe by J. M Ledgard is a historical fiction based on facts, almost a nonfiction. Basically it is about a group of giraffes brought to a Czechoslovakian zoo and how all these folks are affected by their presence. Let me just say that the ending was not sudden, not over quickly, and was immensely sad. In fact, my man refused to listen to this book because of how sad it made me – but that is a sign that the author got the point across in full color.


I am not well versed on the classics and through Darkcargo’s efforts to encourage reading of the classics, I tackled The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck this year. this book was so poignant and moving, especially the ending (which is definitely not shown in the black and white movie). Steinbeck didn’t hold back from showing the gritty parts of Depression Era USA and the affect on migrant workers.

Dracula by Bram Stoker has received so much hype over the years and so many versions of vampires now abound in our world, that I simply did not expect how good this book would be. The suspense is high all the way through, and then there was the description of the Romanian and Transylvanian food that inspired some cooking of my own.

Pico with my book.

Conn Iggulden provided me with many, many hours of entertainment via his Emperor series covering the life of Julius Caesar, a part of history that has fascinated me for decades. From a young Julius running around getting into scraps with other idiot children, to his days captured by pirates, on to Greece, and eventually a long stint in Gaul, and finally Egypt and the birth of his son, and then Rome and his death. The four books in the series are worth the read (The Gates of Rome, The Death of Kings, The Field of Swords, The Gods of War).