Traveling

Two posts this time around, mostly to cover a long silence. On May 21st I married.

Andrija and Lisa

And about a week later, we went on our honeymoon to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic. I’m still working on processing the 1.5K photos I took of all three cities. Aside from giving me time with my wife to explore new places (and, in the case of Dubrovnik, introduce her to a city which dominated my psyche since I first saw it thirty years ago) it reminded me of the importance of travel.

Let me illustrate:

 

This is one (one!) of the lounges in the Grand Alchymist hotel in Prague. Created from two residences and a convent, it is absolutely unique. I’m still at a lost to describe the wide variety of Baroque decorations. Even one of the simple rooms (which we had) was a marvel. This place was unique, from the first time we stepped in to the last moments there, we marveled at every little detail.

I never would have experienced it had I not traveled. I never would have had a conversation with Michael, one of our porters, on coming to Roosevelt Island or walking along the George Washington Parkway in DC, were I not there. I never would have seen an old, battered android seated in the Alchymist’s courtyard with a cup of tea in its hand.

We cannot stay static. I’m lucky; I’ve gotten to get well away from my home and see different parts of the world. Not everyone has that chance, but there are other ways to travel, even if it’s just hopping the bus into a different neighborhood.

Talk to people. Look outside your world. Go places where you can hear different languages being spoken. Explore. Experience is the best way to feed the creative part of you.

Who is this Biomechanoid?

“Who are you?”

This isn’t just one of the great existential questions permeating our existence. For folks who’ve followed me since I began this on-line venture, it’s a legitimate question. “Who is this guy? What does he think he’s doing? What’s with the book chapters?”   Although some of this is covered in the About page, I wanted to dig a little deeper.

Now, I could write something like this:

“Author. Visionary. Dreamweaver. Andrija Popovic’s literary powers have stunned the community into silence. The publishing world is unable to comprehend the sheer primal nature of his antediluvian brilliance. But here, today, at this moment, you can experience him via the shared consciousness within…. the internet!”

But really, it would be an excuse to post this photo again while making an oblique reference to Garth Marenghi. No, the truth is much more mundane.

I was born in one of the nicer parts of the DC metro area. Both my parents are immigrants – one from Serbia and one from Venezuela – so I’ve never quite had a normal relationship with the world around me. I felt both American, and alien, all at once. This solidified when I was very young, and saw my first episode of Cosmos. The episode was “The Life and Death of Stars” and, at the very end, I watched Carl Sagan describe a galaxy rising on the shores of a distant planet.

Over the end credits the pinwheel of the milky way rose over a deep blue-green ocean. Hints of a fiery sunset touched the tops of the waves. My jaw literally dropped and, for the first time in my life, I wept for joy. Every time before, in my memory, I wept out of shame, pain and humiliation – usually at the end of an intense spanking. Not this time.

I wanted to be on that planet. I wanted to see that sunrise. I wanted to feel the sand under my feet. Would it be the same sand? Would it feel different? How would the breeze feel?

Most of the kids around me didn’t think like this. They were focused on the Redskins, or rough-housing during the play periods. I was weird. Football didn’t interest me. Weird places and unusual ideas did. I started writing then. Writing, and later photography, would keep me going through very rough times. They were secret joys, hidden from the demands of family or money. My hobbies, my secret forays into the arts, kept me sane.

But in the last few years, something turned. For the longest time, I was writing, but not for myself entirely. I wrote as a vent, or a way of getting the attention of selected folks.  The point wasn’t to tell my stories, but to tell stories I thought others wanted. But as I wrote my way through short stories which went nowhere, and what would become my first novel, I started writing more and more about the stories I wanted to read, and wanted to tell.

“Well, what stories do you want to read? Which ones do you want to tell?”

I’m still discovering this. Like many things, I’m late to the party but trying to catch up as best I can. This journal, focused on my writing, my convention experiences, thoughts on genre, is one way I’m trying to answer those questions. It my be the long-way around. But it’s how I learn and grow. But as you can probably tell from this entry, memories and the ripples pact acts have on the future interest me quite a bit. As does identity.

“Who are you?” I’m a work in progress. I’m both the same person who started this blog three years ago, and yet not the same person in the least. I am a biomechanoid under constant construction. And this is where you can see the work in progress.

2015: The Year They Return

The time is now. After five long years, the Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov will return from its voyage to Jupiter. This harrowing journey across a vastly altered solar system marks the half-way point in a decade which changed us all.

Er, no, wait. Wrong world. Sorry.

But I can think about the future, even if it lacks interplanetary spacecraft for human use. And to do so, I need to look at the past.

Last year, I set down a few goals. They could be summarized this way: “Complete novel, Ivre. I have about 32,000 remaining. This year, I’m going to focus on the short story market and try to submit several stories. My goals will be commensurate with those efforts.”

Well, I have completed Ivre. After giving it a bit of rest, in November I broke down the long “scroll” of a manuscript into individual scenes, chapters and parts. I’ve begun reading through and making general notes on what to trim & change. Keep forgetting how dialog heavy I can become – dangers of learning writing via screenplays.

And I have completed 4 short stories which are almost ready for submission. That’s one a quarter. I just need to get them in manuscript format and start shopping them when everyone returns from the holiday. Time to see if my stories have any legs.

And I (still) have a massive number of photographs from the UK trip. Many are posted on Flickr. And they’ve gotten me some compliments from a professional photographer, so I think I did a good job capturing the sense of place. Still have to dig around and finish things.

You’ll note, I’m not going on about the things I failed to do. I focus on failure far too much, usually as an excuse to pummel myself. But contrary to years of programming, this is not an effective means of negative re-enforcement. It just drives me to be less ambitious, to try for less and hope for little more than crumbs off life’s table.

So what of next year? What will 2015 hold for me?

  • Focus on Photography: My creative joy this year, my highlight so far, was creating this photo for ChuckWendig’s Awkward Author photo contest. Spending the time with Lisa creating thescene & the photo was a wonder. Seeing the finished product go out into the world was a thrill. But, alas, I did not get as many photos taken as I’d like this year,dispite the travel. And certainly didn’t get as many photos of people as I’d like.So, I shall come up with one, maybe two, themes for photos and see if I can get folks to participate after I make a proof of concept image.
  • Ivre– The Revision!: Basically, in the first quarter of the year I want to completely revise my novel, chop it down, and get it to a readable place. I’m hoping an early year focus on this will help me get my revision skills up to snuff.
  • Short stories, flash fiction & revision: right now, I think learning to revise my work in a timely way needs to be my a core focus. I won’t stop creating new things – no one wants me that crazy – but the more I revise, the better my initial drafts will become.

So what is the final hope for 2015? For my creative projects, I’m going to try and follow the commandments in my 2nd place prize in the Awkward Author Photo contest.

Art Harder Motherfucker.

“Why, Hello There, Young Writer.”

On his blog, Chuck Wendig is holding an “Awkward Author Photo Contest.” How could this little hobbyist photographer resist? So, I submitted an entry, which I will now share with you:

For those wondering the basic Strobist information: This was shot on manual. F 5.3, 1/200th shutter speed, ISO 400 to try and get some of the background ambient light. On camera left I had an SB-900 with a beauty dish set for 1/8th power. Inside the lamp was a SB-910 at 1/8th. Both had tungsten gels for color matching. This was processed in Lightroom, where I added in some grain and softened the background.

Lisa and I had a blast making this. She’s an excellent costumer/set designer who helped me get all the pieces in place and took the photo itself. I was a fun way to spend an evening, and apparently folks like the result!

Given I’m in the contest I can’t vote, which is a shame because there are brilliant photos there. Go and vote for your favorites. We want to encourage this kind of insanity.

UPDATE: I sorta came in 2nd place with 42 votes.

And Thus Went London

In truth, I should say London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. But for this, my journal of things writerly and creative, I’m going to focus on two areas: Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, and LonCon3.

I’ve chosen to represent Edinburgh with this image taken from the Devil’s Advocate. Very nice pub hidden away in Devil’s Close. Love places like this – they’re designed to have small corners where you can hide away and talk, or write.

The main attraction, for us, at the Fringe Festival were performances of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” by the Neo-Futurists troupe of New York. You may know one of their members, Cecil Baldwin, as the voice of “Welcome to Night Vale.”  The performance consisted of a series of very short plays, arranged on a menu. A clock is started for 60 minutes. Everyone is encourage to yell out a number.

The troupe then grabs the appropriate play and performs it, trying to get all the plays completed in one hour. We were in the second performance where they managed to (almost) finish the plays, with the timer ringing half way through the last play. Each play was short, imaginative and unique. My favorites were “The Apollo Moon Landing,” “A Hot (Cis)gender Mess,” “Tet (Offensive),” and the brilliant “Anti-Mime.”

And then they would have a new menu for the next show. I can only imagine the time and effort it takes to write, practice, perform, and then update and rewrite this kind of show over and over again.

***

The train from Edinburgh to London gave me time to write. First class is worth it; I was showered in hot tea and pastys, and I finished a short story. The next one, “Bag of Doom” is proving difficult to gestate. I should just start ploinking away, but it’s personal so I may need more room.

***

London itself will take up a massive journal entry. I’m honestly hoping the photographs (which I need to process and upload) will speak for the trip. I’m going to focus on LonCon3.

Before anything else I want to thank the following folks:

  • Paul Cornell, for signing my copy of Timewyrm: Revelation and suggesting I may have one of the last intact copies.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal, for signing Shades of Milk & Honey, providing a very useful scented fan and pointing me to where one can find old handwriting tutorials
  • Cathrynne M. Valente, who signed Palimpsest and seemed intrigued when I said it made me dream of Dubrovink
  • Patrick Rothfuss, who signed and complimented me on the well preserved “Fabio” edition of Name of the Wind.
  • Jeff VanderMeer, who signed Wonderbook for me. I do hope he gets to record the conversations he’s had with musicians who’ve used it as a creative guide, and post it on the website.
  • Madeline Ashby, who signed vN who was very kind and signed the book between panel
  • Anne Leckie, who signed Ancillary Justice, seemed very happy I was rooting for her at the Hugos, and give me a ribbon.

And a very special thanks to:

  • Scott Lynch, for the very fun Literary Beer session and discussing the idea of a Scott Lynch/Jim Butcher black metal band.
  • Seanan McGuire, who held a great Literary Beer and organized an impromptu signing after her reading. I’ll treasure my copy of Sparrow Hill Road
  • Pat Cadigan – who was amazingly gracious and fun, signing my copy of Dirty Work, chatting at her Kaffeklatch about everything from how rough the tube is for anyone with a mobility issue to her position as a 2016 Toastmaster at MidAmeriCon (http://midamericon2.org/)

And now, the impressions:

Mind you, this is from my own little narrow perspective. I probably missed quite a bit which was right in front of me, but I saw a lot which surprised me. This was my first WorldCon and based on previous descriptions, I expected the SF convention equivalent of my family Slavas – the same old crowd, everyone knowing everyone else, gather together in a smoky room talking about the good old days and how things used to be back in Serbia.

LonCon3 was much larger and more expansive than I thought. Using an actual convention center had its boons (the fan village, where I crossed several family picnics and children playing with lightsabers), and its downsides (meeting space was relatively small compared to the sizes of the crowds. At several points, were were barred entry to panels because they’d reached fire code capacity.

That’s not to say there wasn’t enough programming – the schedule was packed with items. I was glad to see a wide variety of topics and attempts to introduce people to SFF from other countries and cultures. The programming team tried, at least on paper, to actually embrace the idea of a WorldCon.

And I was gladdened by the variety of ages throughout the con. There were families there. Young kids participating – even panels designed just for young fans. The non literary tracks didn’t feel tacked on. I almost squealed when a panelist on the Philosophical Mecha panel mentioned Armored Trooper VOTOMS.  So I got the sense the convention runners did want to reach out SFF fans of many different stripes.

The only time things really slipped is how narrow the world at WorldCon was – it felt like the crowd at a NATO meeting. North America, the EU, UK, Nordic countries, bits of Eastern Europe, etc. but I didn’t see any heavy presences from beyond there. Which was a contrast with London itself – I heard everything from Chinese to Italian to Farsi spoken on the streets as we walked around. Part of me wanted to see more of this, but it may be a bit much to ask.

Going to WorldCon was part of our two week vacation. We saved for a year to get everything settled. To someone on a smaller income – heck, to me, just ten years ago – this would be out of the question.   Maybe next year they can use some of the drones they were selling in the dealer’s room to help give people who can’t afford to attend a chance to participate in some way.  Maybe panelists Skyping in?

All in all, I did enjoy myself. There were times when the size was very isolating, and the fact I’m a terrible introvert did not help me. But I’ll still have my memories – how could anyone forget Patrick Rothfuss photobombing Scott Lynch’s literary beer? – and I’ll leave you with this image, which I think sums up the conference. At the info desk, one could see “Lost Tribble” notices… and cricket results.

Haiku Project

Remember training?
All three sessions of training?
No, you don’t.. do you…

My dayjob focuses on client services work. Alas, this means interacting with some unpleasant aspects of human behavior. The best way I had to deal with it was haiku and tanka, posted on my Twitter account. I’ve collected quite a few. Apparently, they are rather popular amongst folks who deal with similar issues.

Why yes I, the small
cog in our machine can totally
change legal language
in our standard renewals
I’m so godlike that way

As a lark, I thought “What if I made a book of the haiku and tanka? I could tie them into photos I took for each of these haiku. I should carve out some time to pick through my haiku, collect them, and see which ones will work best. I’ve got at least two friends who have offered layout skills to make an ebook.

This should be interesting.

Shadows Drift

 

Story updates first, before I get into the picture.  I finished the short story “Dreams in the Satan House” and am working on revising it. This month, I’ll be cutting up that story, and an earlier one, and trying to get initial readers. I’ve also got to start planning a few things out for future projects, and deciding on the next short story I’m going start writing.

Eventually, I need to start putting energy into the actual outline for Metaphysical Graffiti. And then there’s the other project still hiding in my head.

Ah, the photo. So, I’m feeling the itch to take pictures again. Not wanting to subject my friends or my girlfriend to being a target for my photography, I’m using myself and a soccer ball to test out lighting set-ups. The latter is appropriate given the World cup season. I want to use shots like this, or rim light but heavy shadow, to capture shapes.  But it also had me thinking of a long-term experiment…

 

Project: Everyday Film Noir

Concept: Everyday household events (washing dishes, doing laundry, bills, etc) are shot film noir style. The idea is to contrast the dramatic lighting with the mundane situation.

Look: Black & white, low-key photography. Gobos used to cast long, menacing shadows in the background.

Sets: Washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, cleaning bathroom, vacuuming & dusting, fixing bed sheets and at least one set of someone hard boiling an egg.

Pray I find amusement soon.