Tag Archives: steampunk

My Excellent Birthday Adventure

steampunk, the Drive, Vancouver, East Van

Steampunk often involves gears, bolts and brass. From: http://www.bloodyloud.com/steampunk-jewellery-jm-gates/

Last week, it was my birthday. I’ve lived in Vancouver for years, and in the same neighborhood, yet there are many places on Commercial Drive, or The Drive, that I have never visited. I decided this year that I would choose to wander The Drive and try to hit five places I have yet to enter. I was going to start at noon and have friends join me as they could.

My first stop was the Time Travelers’ Bazaar at the Britannia School. Being no more than a five-minute walk from my place, I thought I knew where it was. However, Britannia is a huge complex that includes the school, daycare, library, skating rink, pool, courts and other buildings. Even if you know your way around it’s not easy to find the right spot. I went toward the cafeteria but all the doors were locked. I ended up picking up three other souls wandering as lost as me. Luckily one of my friends had come from another direction and found his way in.

The Bazaar was just for the day and everything from Steampunk jewellery to hats and bonnets, guns, masks, fascinators, fabric and sundries. I wandered in there fro about a half hour but with three friends trying to find me and coming from various directions, I headed to the Drive and told them which corner I’d be on. We went north for a couple of blocks and found the Windjammer Restaurant. I said they’d only been there a couple of years and someone said no since the 70s. I do know my hood well enough to notice when something goes in. It turns out the cafe has been around since the 70s but used to be on Main until about three years ago. Eight of us didn’t fill it up but definitely gave them a Sunday boost. Fish and chips are the specialty with choices in cod, halibut and salmon, plus poutine and a few other dishes. The special was two moderate pieces of cod, with fries and cole slaw for $6. The meal filled us and tasted fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever had stellar fish and chips. but the ones in England last year were better. These were fine and worth the price but nothing to write home about.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver cafes, food, burgers

Cannibal Cafe specializes in meat and is one of the newest restaurants on the Drive.

We crossed the street at Venables and then moved south along the Drive, wandering in and out of shops I’ve been in before. But part of the adventure was for my friends as well. Some people left, others joined and we continued along the way. The second place I wandered into that I’ve never really noticed much before was the Mr. Pets. It’s a large pet store across from Mark’s Pet Stop near 3rd and Commercial. I tend to support the little guy and usually stop in Mark’s but I was looking for special kitty kibble to help my cat who doesn’t jump too well. The shop has everything from cats to canaries (supplies) though I could hear a few birds. I actually didn’t explore the full store but bought the kitty treats.

Having eaten late and feeling still full we just stopped for a drink at the Cannibal Cafe with decorations above the prep area of plastic knives and cutting instruments covered in fake blood. They have beer and cider on tap and specialize in hand-ground meaty burgers plus smoked meat, salmon and turkey, and of course poutine. While we only drank, a friend says the burgers are good. Prices look reasonable and I’ll come back some night for a bite.

head shop, bongs, Smokers Corner, the Drive

This creature is for smoking. Found at the Smoker’s Corner

We were now into late afternoon. We stopped in front of a store’s window display that held strange blown-glass fish monsters. It turned out these were bongs for smoking your favorite substance. The head shop is called The Smoker’s Corner and only one friend and I were brave enough to wander in and look at all the artistic glass pipes. The weirdest gadgets were gas masks with long, clear green or pink tubes. I guess it meant you could get stoned and get your fetish on at the same time. None of us smoke but it was an adventure in weird pipes, to say the least.

I also popped into the long-running Dr. Vigari Gallery. It’s not new to me but the location is so it counts as half a bonus point. The last place on the Drive that was new to me was the Mediterranean Specialty Foods. The Drive is known for its Italian flavor, sporting many coffee shops, the Portuguese Club, old Italian restaurants now revamped, stores specializing in pasta, olives and salamis and El Sureno, another ethnic food store. I’ve been in all the others and somehow missed this one. It was a treasure chest, with bottles of different oils and vinegars, olives and peppers, pasta and spices lining the shelves like a caravan of goods. Definitely a cornucopia for the foodie. I’ll be going back here the next time I’m shopping. There are more oil than all the other shops put together. I also have some friends who like to play with their food so this place will be great for gift shopping.

food, olives, oils, the Drive, Commercial Drive, foodies

Mediterranean Specialty Foods. Owner Jack Elmasu. From Montecristo Magazine

That was the last official stop and since it was Sunday all of the shops were closing. What else to do on a birthday tour? Why, stop somewhere else to get a drink. We stopped at the Dime Roadhouse, a remade restaurant where one of the old pasta restaurants lived for years. I’ve only been there twice before and the sound was so loud you had to scream. For whatever reason; perhaps the better than expected good weather, being a Sunday, everyone was hungover…the noise was at a lower level and we could actually talk at normal level. A few more friends joined as others left. We ate dinner there. The Dime’s food runs no more that $4.95 for a dish. You don’t get massive portions but I had butternut squash risotto with goat cheese and it was enough and fairly tasty. You can’t go too wrong. Another friend had nachos for one; again, a good enough size. And if it’s not enough, order something else. Since I had been at the Dime before, it doesn’t count, but I’d not been to the bathroom there before. :)

For a Sunday Birthday adventure I got to show some of my friends more of my hood and after a very long time of living there I found new places. It was low key and great day out.

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Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17 Part III

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 will be out in October, with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

I’m sorry that I’ve been so busy that I’ve had little time to write. In about a month I’ll be on my way to Europe and before that, Tesseracts 17 will be released. We’ll be doing a promo interview session on Bitten by Books so stay tuned for more information there. Plus, a reading is scheduled at Bakka Books in Toronto on Oct. 19 and David Jon Fuller, one of our authors will be reading at the Chi Reading Series in Winnipeg on Oct. 9.

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time working out the demographics of Tesseracts 17, mostly because I was curious. Should I edit another anthology I would track from the beginning. Here I’ve tried to map the genres of the submissions. This is the most subjective list of all. One, I didn’t track all of the stories  so I may not remember what the story is about from the title and the notes. On top of that, every reader and writer will see a story differently. Is a zombie story a horror story, a science fiction story or fantasy? In fact, it can be any of those and sometimes more than one. And I don’t remember all of the stories that well, so the table has an added inaccuracy.

I found as I was starting to list the stories that I couldn’t just say “fantasy.” That’s far too broad a genre umbrella, so I started to list what type of fantasy.  Some of these are tropes more than genres. Was it fairies or mind control or shape shifting?  What about the steampunk wendigo story? Fantasy and SF or just fantasy? And yes there were a few themes that showed up more than once. While the wendigo stories could fit under the subgenre of mythic creatures, they are a specific type of beast, like zombies and vampires, and because there was more than one, they deserved their own heading. Interesting to note, of the three specifically Canadian mythic beasties (wendigo, sasquatch, ogopogo–and there may be more I don’t know about. Maybe Steve can fill in others from the opposite coast) only wendigo appeared in the submissions. ,You, dear reader, can add up the numbers yourself, because yes, I’ve probably spent over a dozen hours on all of the demographics.

This table could have been bigger or smaller. For instance, tales involving gods got shoved under mythic beings/other creatures. I didn’t single out the three tales that involved wine though you’ll read Claude Lalumiere’s tale of wine in the anthology. There were Western flavored tales and hillbilly talk, several brutish husbands with chickenshit wives (these were too cliche), cartoons, historical/alternative histories, Jewish and Asian fantasies, dragons, winged cats, chickens and cows. Yes, even vengeful cows. We do have a historical fantasy with Patricia Robertson’s beautiful tale, and a couple end of the world stories. If anyone is interested I will break down the stories in the anthology into the genres I think they are. It would be interesting to see how Steve would classify them.

The table is read from the left column first. So if I thought a story was predominantly bizarre or metaphorical with a dollop of descent into madness, it went in the left-hand spot for bizarre. If I thought it was descent into madness with a dollop of bizarre it would go into the left-hand spot for madness. Rhea Rose’s story fits in that second category. I’ve colored the table to differentiate the categories: yellow=SF, green=fantasy, blue=horror. So Rhea’s story is colored horror.

WordPress is not easy for inserting tables and spredsheets,  so I’ve attached it. Click on  Genre chart and you’ll be able to see the list. Remember, the numbers won’t match the original demographics because I didn’t include the poems, nor about 35 stories where I couldn’t remember if they were SF, horror or fantasy.

I’m done with the demographics and will be starting to put in short interviews with the authors that will probably span the next few months. I’d like to say I’ll get two in a week but it all depends on time. So in the meantime, enjoy the demographics and look for Tesseracts 17 in October.

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Fluevog Shoes: The Good, the Bad, the Dangerous?

slingback, pump, shoe, designer shoes, Fluevog, fashion, footwear

An early Fluevog shoe with the square heel similar to the witch boots.

John Fluevog is a local name in Vancouver. He began designing shoes in the early 70s and has gone on to international fame for avant garde designs. I used to own an early pair (80s) of Fluevog boots that I bought second hand. I called them my witch boots. They had a heel that sloped out to a square, a squared off pointy toe, a turnover cuff, and a big silver buckle on the front. Made of black suede with a thin, hard plastic sole, they weren’t the most comfortable or well made boots, and were actually a size too big but they were fun. I eventually passed them on. I also had (and still have) some Peter Fox shoes, and originally Fox and Fluevog was the name of the shoe store the two men opened up.

I’ve often gone by the Fluevog store and looked at the crazy designs. Sometimes they don’t appeal, sometimes they do but they’re not cheap shoes. You’re looking at an average price of over $200 for a shoe. I would say  a “basic shoe” but there is no such thing in Fluevogs. From sandals to boots, there are dressy and casual but always unique. I needed a new pair of boots last fall so I checked out Fluevog. Boots are never cheap and because I have large calves not easy to find ones that go above the ankle, and I hate boots that stop at the ankle.

I have bought lace up boots for years and Fluevog had a range. Unfortunately many are just too narrow for my calves. I covet tall boots but they’re rare to find. I’ve been thinking of getting into steampunk too and tried on the Monday boot. The looked great. At $299 they couldn’t be less so I bought them.

I have problem feet. They are extremely wide and I need orthotics, which never work that well. Although I have dress shoe orthotics I gave up on getting them to ever work in boots. So I wanted something that would be comfortable for a reasonable length of time. The soles on these boots are leather, with not a lot of extra padding but fairly thick as it is. The top is brushed suede with decorative silver stitching. The lower boot is of a matte style leather, slightly rough, a bit shiny.

I started wearing the boots right away and within two months the laces were being chewed to pieces by the grommet holes on the boot. While metal grommets will wear on laces eventually, these were rough enough to destroy the lace rather quickly. On top of that, putting on the boot one day, there was something bunching around the toe. The leather insole that covers the nails and stitching had come loose. Fluevog fixed this as there is an 8-month warranty, but I was still surprised it happened. On top of that, the moment you polish the boot that rough matte look tamps down to shiny black. As well, the heel has a hard plastic bottom. I have found when walking on an incline of wet pavement that this slips. I haven’t fallen yet but I have to walk carefully, putting my foot down firmly so I don’t slide. That is dangerous.

boots, lace up boots, shoe, designer shoes, John Fluevog, fashion

Made of suede and leather, the inside says “Another Day with Hope.”

The good thing about these boots is that they are extremely comfortable, even more than I expected for feet that get sore. I haven’t had any boot or shoe in years that is so well balanced that the weight is distributed along the entire foot. The weight doesn’t rest on the ball of the foot alone (the cause of my orthotics) but is carried also by the heel. This is why stilettos can be very hard to wear. Tiny pencil heels and a small sole area increase the pounds-per-square-inch pressure that your feet carry. So kudos to Fluevog for being the only shoe designer out there who seems to get it.

When I bought the boots I had tried on some not so flattering shoes and some, like the Wonder Ayers, were very cute. They came in black and olive green. I could not afford two pairs of Fluevogs and the boots were more a necessity. But I thought of the shoes for two months and when I took the boots in to be fixed they had this pinky purple color. One thing my friends know about me is that I love color. I’d just finished a freelance job and couldn’t resist. Three hundred dollars later, I had the Ayers shoe, which was not too tall in the heel and turned up at the toe. I love ankle straps and this pair has two. How could I lose? They’re also well balanced at distributing the weight and centering it along the foot.

Wonder Ayers shoe, Fluevogs, shoes, fashion, designer shoes, leather

The Wonder Ayers, fun and stylish

I didn’t wear these for the first month as it was too cold and rainy. I wore them a bit at a time to break them in and stretch them. In the first month I slipped twice on linoleum floors and went down so fast I couldn’t break the fall. Luckily my heel slipped sideways and I went down along my leg and knee, bruising the knee one time. The same material is on this heel, and the side of the plastic is actually edged to a corner halfway up the side. This is the plastic piece on the heel that protects the shoe itself from wear.

I started to get scuffs on the toes because of the style and while that’s expected I found out Fluevog does not carry the polish to match these shoes, so I’m stuck. Even the polish they gave the shoes when I took them in for repairs doesn’t quite match the original color, not to mention it would be hard to polish around the white stitching. Neither of these are the biggest problems with this shoe. At less than three months old, with less than two months of wear I noticed the leather sole pulling away from the shoe, and then I saw the leather was ripping along the inner side at the top where the shoe bends. When I took them in Fluevog should have given me a new pair, considering price and age, but they sent them off for repair. The leather soles have been replaced with Topy soles and they’ve put a fairly invisible patch on the inside of the shoe to stop the tearing.  But I’m not happy.

For comfort and style and innovation, Fluevog gets a 9-10. For customer service, a 7–each time they’ve said, oh this hasn’t happened before, so am I buying the only bad pairs out there? For materials and support items (polish) they get a 5. The colors are good, the stitching well done, the leather feels good, but rough grommet holes, hard plastic heels that are dangerous, soles the pull away and leather that splits brings Fluevog’s score down. While the materials are better than those early pair, Fluevog still has room for improvement, especially when the shoes are so pricey.  That’s 72% for shoes that should be 85% and above.

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Writing Update: January 2012

publishing, speculative fiction, anthologies, poetry, fiction, stories

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

It’s been a while since I did much in the writing department. Last fall slowed down for various reasons. So here’s a recap of last year. First I have several works from last year eligible for this year’s Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative writing awards. If you’re Canadian (current, expat or living abroad) you are both eligible for works published and able to nominate or vote. I believe the $10 fee now covers both nominating and voting. A list of works by Canadians is viewable at the Canadian SF Works Database. My eligible works for last year are:

Short Fiction

Poems

  • A Good Catch.” Polu Texni. Dawn Albright, ed. April, 2011. (can be read online)
  • Darkside.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. May, 2011.
  • Shadow Relams.” Witches & Pagans #23. Anne Newkirk Niven, ed. BBI Media. Aug. 2011.
  • Sundance.” Chizine. Sandra Kasturi, ed. June, 2011.

There were a few other things published last year but they were reprints. You can nominate me or any other Canadian writer until March 31st and you can vote starting on April 16th. Along that line there is a short review of the Mirror Shards anthology, and Des Lewis has gathered all the reviews for the Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies.

In the world of new, some time this year my poem “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” should be coming out in Bull Spec. “Gingerbread People” in Chilling Tales 2 has now been postponed until 2013. :( And my poem “Queen of Heaven and Earth” will be coming out in the spring issue of Eternal Haunted Summer.

I’ve been trying to finish my German steampunk story but still cannot come up with a good resolution, though it’s mostly done. I’m working on a tale about skin and psychopaths for another anthology if I can work out the structure. It’s being elusive. And still chipping at the novel. I also made January submission month and sent out quite a few poems and stories. Now I have to buckle down and get more

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My Other Creative Brain

Mermaid's Dream pin

Creativity comes first, then creating in a specific field second. While I write and that is my main creative venture, I have also acted, I bellydance and I create jewellery. Sometimes when my brain stalls on the writing front, working with my hands loosens the thinking muscle. After a while I was making so much jewellery and not wearing it that I had to do something with it.

Clay, bone, vintage wood beads, glass

So, today, I’ll just post a few pictures of that side, since I’m preparing to do a craft fair in a few weeks and it’s the only side of my brain getting any exercise. I do beading and try to make unique designs, something slightly unusual. These are one-of-a-kind,  and I use a mixture of vintage beads, glass, crystal, wood, bone and crystal. I don’t use plastic unless there is a particularly unique bead and I just try to think on the nonclassic lines. There are enough high-end semi-precious stone and silver necklaces out there, which are beautiful but why glut the market.

If you’re in Vancouver on Dec. 3 or 4, stop by the Imaginarius Fantasticusat Tinseltown, where my goods will be on sale, under the name of Haul of the Mountain King. The theme is fantasy, fairies, goth, steampunk or renaissance.

Three tier turquoise & purple

Under the Sea bracelet

Lampwork or vintage glass and silver/pewter.

Hematite, glass, pewter, triple tier necklace

Lampwork beads, silver, pewter

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Writing Update

writing, publishing, poetry, fiction, stories, horror, dark fiction, magazines, anthology

Creative Commons

It’s time to do another update on the writing front. Right now everything is happening quickly and I’m very busy so I can’t even keep up with myself. A new poem, “Sundance,” is up at Chizine, actually it went up last week, as part of the mega-issue, which is being done to raise donations to keep the magazine free. Chizine, as a magazine, has been going for ten years and had a sponsor who left the magazine high and dry last year when they didn’t pay promised fees. This has meant many of us have continued to work for free or nearly nothing so that the writers could get paid. If you want to read some stellar fiction and poetry there are thirteen weeks’ worth with over a dozen pieces in each week. “Darkside” was published about a month ago on  Chizine as well.

Besides Sundance, my poem “Shadow Realms” is coming out soon in Witches & Pagans #23. The poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” was published last year and is nominated for an Aurora Award. A third poem, “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” will be coming out in Bull Spec but I don’t know what issue yet. These last two magazines are print only. As well, the reprint of the poem “Obsessions” should be coming out soon in gothic anthology Candle in the Attic Window from Innsmouth Press. While these poems could all be considered speculative, “Kore’s Innocence” and “Leda’s Lament” are part of a Greek revisioning series.

On the fiction front, my story “It’s Only Words” specifically written for The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, will be the opening story in the anthology. It’s going to print as we speak and is edited Des Lewis. “Tasty Morsels” should be out sometime this summer in Polluto #8. They call themselves a magazine of anti-pop culture. These two publications are out of England. “A Book By Its Cover” was also bought for the Mirror Shards anthology, which is a collection of horror stories about augmented reality.

I’m also on a steampunk kick and sent one story, about blimps, off into the submission world. I’ve just finished a second, which I wrote specifically for an anthology but no idea if it will be accepted. It would be considered horror or at least dark. The third, “Nightingale,” is still in the works as I have to figure out how my protagonist breaks out of the antagonist’s trap. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor and the Nightingale” but very different. I still keep meaning to get back to my novel and really need to do so soon. I just have to get the brain to stop churning out other ideas. I think I’ll get this last story out of the way and backburner the rest so that I can get back to the novel in July. My goal is to have the novel completed by next year so I do have to get going.

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Writing: March Update

Creative Commons

Want to read one of my poems, besides the one listed here? Well you’ll be able to in a month or so at Polu Texni. http://www.polutexni.com/ “A Good Catch” about a mermaid gone awry will be published in this online magazine. The poem was an honorable mention in the Rannu competition (two honorable mentions are given and equivalent of second place).

I’ve also just sold a story “Tasty Morsels” to Polluto #8, a British magazine. http://www.polluto.com/ I think it will be out in late spring but I’m not sure yet.

As well, “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” published in Horror Library Vol. IV has made Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. Of course having a story selected for the anthology would have even been better but hey, it’s nice to be on that list again.

In other news I’m still judging the poems in the Rannu competition. I’ve done my second read-through and narrowed my list down. Now I’ll have to compare to the other judge’s and then we have to pick a winner and two honorable mentions. That should be done in the next month.

I’ve also finally finished my steampunk/blimp story and have it going through a few readers to catch those technical glitches. I’ve been up in a hot air balloon (the smallest possible airship) once but it was many years ago and the blimp (the next size up) in the 1800s has some different mechanisms that took getting my brain around it. It’s good to have someone who’s an ex-air force pilot and fan of airships look over it. I’ll work on the rewrite and hope to send that out in the next month.

Which means, my plate is cleared to work on another story. But I’ve also made a commitment to finish the languishing novel this year so it’s moving up the list. And slush, I still have slush to catch up on and gotta get going on that one. Maybe I’ll have plowed through enough slush before going to the World Horror Con in Austin at the end of April so that my conscience will be free. The pen never goes dry.

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The End is Only Just Beginning

I haven’t written in the last week, not so much because I was on holidays and gorging myself as I was busy. In fact, I didn’t gorge myself except for some wine imbibition. Otherwise, I was finishing up the rewrite of my novel The Fool’s Game. It’s languished for a long time and I always meant to rewrite it…again.

Then I read about the Terry Pratchett prize by the famous humor fantasy author in England. The contest was free to enter and it was for a manuscript that takes place on Earth in some way. My novel fit the bill and I’m of a Commonwealth country, one of the rules for entering. The prize is a publishing contract and 20,000 pounds. That would be lovely to get.

I used the deadline, today, to work on the novel over the past few months, getting down to the wire and the nitty gritty today. I had to rewrite and shorten the synopsis as well and that was a good thing. I also added nine thousand words to the novel, changed a few things and gave more description. Will I win? That would be nice but there could be hundreds, even thousands of entries. I’m a competent writer or understands the techniques of writing. That will give me a better chance than probably half of the entries, but then it will depend on the uniqueness of the story and how well it’s told. I won’t know until March so no point worrying about it now. It’s winging its way across the ether to the other side of the pond.

Other writing news includes that the Evolve anthology http://www.vampires-evolve.com/with my well-received story “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” is number five on the Barnes and Noble list of the top vampire books of the year. That’s great news. http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Explorations-The-BN-SciFi-and/The-Best-Vampire-Releases-of-2010/ba-p/767920

The Horror Library Vol. 4 story has not been receiving any reviews yet. I’ve only found two and “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” isn’t even mentioned which is disappointing. I’ve always said I’d prefer a bad review than no review so not being noticed sucks. The editors also had great hopes for this disturbing story, but the book hasn’t been out long so there is still hope for it. And the story did get good comments when I read it at Orycon. Besides those two stories, “A Taste For Treasure” also came out this year in Alison’s Wonderland, as well as two poems, “Of the Corn” in Witches & Pagans #21, and “Bones of the Earth” in the summer edition of Country Connection magazine. Not a bad year and “Lover’s Triangle” should have been out by December but should be out soon in New Vampire Tales.

That wraps up the writing year, but we’re only as good as our last written story. I will now have to catch up on some slush reading for ChiZine Publications, getting ready to judge poetry for the Rannu competition which closes as the end of January I believe, and then of course write other stories. I can now write the steampunk story placed just before the US Civil War and which is already plotted out. I just didn’t have time.

Then I have another dark story to write about skin and power, and there is a backburnered sci-tech story waiting to be pushed along. And now that I’ve rewritten that novel it’s time to get going on the other novel which is under construction. I hope this coming year will be even more stellar for writing.

And to all of you who read my blog, may you have a fantastic year, achieve your goals and have fun and love. Happy New Year to all.

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Orycon 31 Wrap-Up

I just got home from a weekend at Orycon, Portland’s Science Fiction convention. Since I didn’t really attend Vcon I can say that this is the first fan con I’ve been to probably since Worldcon in Toronto. Orycon is a midsized convention I think, neither as large or Dragon Con or Worldcon  but not as small as Vcon.

I can only speak to my experiences from being there as a pro, in writing and editing. My early experience was with the committee in charge of organizing the panels. First, they found me through this blog as my email had changed since the last time I was down (probably a dozen years ago), and sent me an invitation to attend. They then sent out a list of possible panels and asked which ones I might like to be on. This form allowed for submitting a bio and a bio picture at the same time.

A couple times I needed to contact the committee to clarify some things (such as was the reading at midnight Saturday meaning midnight Friday because that’s technically Saturday) and they got back to me promptly. Thanks to Kami Miller and Rick Lindsley for all their help and organizing the panels well.

I did notice on site that there were no bios at all except for the guest of honor so I’m wondering why we needed to submit it. A bit disappointing that but the panels were listed in the large program book and the little pocket booklet. It would have been better to put some bios in the program book and left the panels to the booklet but then they needed room for describing them. I had offered (beforehand) to fill in on a couple more panels if needed but I never heard back and I did notice several panels only had two people on them. However, there were panels offered on art, editing, writing, costuming and other fan-oriented activities so that there were about five panels or more on at all times.

The booklet listed panels by room or by time and basically you could cross reference any way you wished. The kept all the readings off of the main listing though and had them separate which means many people missed them because they weren’t listed in the regular schedules. And I guess they were several hundred programs short in the printing.

I went to the art show, which was so spread out in a very large room that it look kind of empty. It might have been better to put the art panels closer together. The show ranged from the professionals like Lubov (the artist GoH), Alan Clark and a few others to the amateurs. There were fewer pictures of characters from Star Trek and other shows but it almost seems as if the unspoken theme was that of dragons.

That theme of dragons carried over into the dealers room, which was quite large. From what I could see I’m predicting Steampunk is on a huge rise and it will be flowing into mainstream fashion soon. There were many steampunk items from hats and goggles to other mysterious items and corsetry. There were very few books at all in the dealers room and the only presses selling their publications were Apex Book Company, Bizarro Fiction from Eraserhead Press,  and Talebones/Fairwood Press. I meant to go back and by one of the Bizarro books but forgot (and Apex too).  Darn. But the dealer’s room had gadgets, toys, comics, books, clothes, jewellery and all the goodies that people love to buy.

I missed taking a gander at the dance or masquerade and though there were few room parties they were fun and casual. The Pirates of the Columbia hosted one and I think they just do it for fun, plus there was the Radcon party, the hospitality suite and IRoSF, which my brain is blanking on right now.The costumes I did see were quite fun, from women in baroque dresses (complete with ship on the hair) to steampunk farmers and the Joker.

The hotel itself seemed fairly nice, and new from the Jantzen Beach hotel of previous Orycons. It was an extremely cold hotel though and they could have done with turning up the temperature a couple of degrees. I didn’t eat much but the food seemed all right and the hotel very apologetic when they screwed up our reservation. The rooms were quite spacious and nice with small balconies.

I’m notorious for not getting to panels at cons. Because I arrived at 6 I don’t think I attended a panel Friday except to do a reading at midnight in conjunction with Darklady Reed, Kal Cobalt and Tami Lindsley (hopefully I have those names right). Saturday I moderated the “Drowning in Slush” panel and attended one on Steampunk and on neural interfaces.  That’s a better average than usual. The Steampunk panel was quite interesting and well balanced. The neural interface panel was in jeopardy of being dominated about people talking about their disabilities but was save by the other panelists extrapolating into what’s being done and where it might go. And I managed to chat with the physicist so that I can worked out the logistics of a virtual environment story I’m working on.

Overall, I enjoyed the con and would consider going again. I also lucked out on driving weather, which was perfect. With stopping to visit friends, it was a pleasant (if long) drive.

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Machine Animals and Giants

Nantes, Machine de L'ile, machine animals, Jules Vernes

The Sea Diver is about 30 feet tall and was looking for his lost niece. Photo by misterstf flickr

I seriously want to go to Nantes. Where is that? Good question. I didn’t know until a few months ago but then I’m not the biggest brain on geography, especially if I haven’t been there. When I saw an article on a giant spider that was built there, it piqued my interest. Nantes (pronounced nont)  is a tiny place in France, well, relatively so with a population of about 800,000 and sits on the Loire River. It is famed for being an important historic city in Brittany and being the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Maybe Verne’s fertile bed of great imagination, he who was pretty much the father of science fiction, left a seed of creativity that continues to grow. For Nantes is a place of magic. Giants have been seen on the streets and enormous sea creatures are being born. In fact, these creatures have toured to other cities. Marionettes (first the Little Giantess and of late the Sea Diver) as tall as 9 meters have walked the streets. Elephants, spiders and squids of enormous sizes have also been seen.

These animals are like animatronics and marionettes and most of all, amazing works of art. Made of wood, with moving parts and very lifelike in proportions and expressions (except always larger) they are creations of Royal de Luxe and Les Machines de L’ile. The first is a theatrical group that does street theatre and was first conceived in 1979. The pictures of the giant awaking show the scope of the piece and the crew required to move the marionette through the streets. How does one manipulate the “strings” of a 30-foot puppet? By having scaffolding that is even higher.

These amazing pieces are made of wood for the main sculptural elements but various mechanisms and hydraulics are added for the functionality. The related company, Les Machines de L’ile is a factory in Nantes where the creatures are created. La Machine is the performance company that takes the shows on the road, such as in Japan or London where the giant 50-foot spider, La Princesse, crawled through the streets.

François Delarozière is the main designer of the pieces but it takes a large crew to fabricate each sculpture and of course many people to run it. Royal de Luxe’s people all dress in costume, adding to the out of time and place feel. Weighing in at over two tons for the giant or 40 some tons for the Sultan’s Elephant, these works are not cheap to make. They come in at millions of pounds (or Euros), moneys brought about through different cultural mandates, and free to the public. (Indeed one would have to close their eyes to miss seeing these grandiose creatures.)

Some would call these sculptures steampunk, that genre of science fiction that emulates an earlier period of the Industrial Revolution, often in Victorian times, where brass, levers, pneumatic tubes, punch cards, steam and alternative methods of locomotion are the norm. And indeed, there is an essence of otherworldly or of a bordering time that the pieces bring about. The diver harkens back to Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and is the star of the Estuary Festival, a big thing for Nantes, a long-time shipping port.

Although some critics consider these performance art affairs to be a waste of money I think they are an awesome statement of humankind’s imagination. If we were only to turn our minds to more events of this magnitude and less on how to maim, subjugate or denigrate others, then in truth we would live in a magical world. I would love to see such works as these performed in North America. Jules Verne began reaching into the great unknown of what-if in a different way. The artists of La Machine and Royal de Luxe keep that magic alive.

Royal de Luxe’s Giant in Nantes: http://www.socyberty.com/Folklore/A-Giant-Awakes-in-Nantes.763695

Les Machines de L’Ile: http://www.lesmachines-nantes.fr/english/

Le Princesse in Japan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACH3leVMFIU

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