Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Joy of Serendipity

Ah, Serendipity!

My nephews loaned me all five books of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I'm only a few chapters into The Lightning Thief, but so far, I'm enjoying it.

However, as it happened, I forgot to take the book to work this morning. Then when lunchtime came, I had nothing to read.

Well, I work in a library, so this wasn't really a problem. I checked the catalog to see if we had The Lightning Thief, and we did. So I went out to the shelves to get it, so I could keep reading where I'd left off.

However, it was missing from the shelf. In its place was a misshelved book. I took that book to reshelve it in its proper place, and there I spotted a stray book that fallen into the space between shelves. It likely would have been lost forever if I had not noticed it through the gap between the properly shelved books.

As I pulled it out the fallen book, intending to reshelve it properly, neither its bland blue cover nor its nondescript title Nine Fairy Tales caught my attention, but the author's name certainly did. Čapek. I thought, Now there's a good Czech name. I wonder if this is a Czech book? And indeed it is. It is written by Karel Čapek and illustrated by Josef Čapek (and translated into English by Dagmar Herrmann, which is good, because I can't read Czech).

Karel and Josef Čapek, you may know, are the authors of R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), the play which gave the word robot to the world.

So I took Nine Fairy Tales to the breakroom to read during my lunch break.

It is wonderful! It is filled with delight and charm, with a fair dose of that excellent Czech dry humor. The first chapter began with a clever old woman and her black cat, a disobedient princess, and an honorable king, then predictably ended with a rich old woman, a happy princess and cat, and a somewhat bemused king. In the second chapter, the cat met the palace dogs. I knew how I expected this chapter to progress, however, I was surprised by the turn of events. The third chapter brought more surprises. I think the predictable first chapter was only to lull the reader into a false sense of security. I am greatly looking forward to the next chapter, because I can't even imagine where this tale will go.

And I would never have even known it existed if not for an unlikely chain of events. It's little coincidences like these, too perfect to be random, that fill the world with mystery.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wish Me Luck!

Well, I finally did it. I submitted two short stories to a magazine. So either I will get published, or I will get my very first rejection letter. (Or, since I submitted two stories, possibly my first two rejection letters.) Either way, I have taken the next big step toward becoming a "real" writer.

I was very excited a couple of weeks ago, when a friend told me about Crossed Genres having an issue entirely devoted to LGBTQ. Of course, the stories must also have elements of fantasy or science fiction, which the majority of my stories do, so it just seemed like this opportunity was perfect in every way.

I read a few issues of Crossed Genres, to make sure I liked the kind of thing they published. All of the stories I read were good, several were excellent, and a couple were purely amazing. I look forward to reading the rest of the back issues when I have time. Plus, they had an interview with Phil and Kaja Foglio, of whom I've been a fan for years, so that was another point in their favor.

Lastly, there's the fact that they chose LGBTQ as the theme for the final issue of their first year of publication. A science fiction and fantasy magazine that not only welcomes but openly seeks LGBTQ content? How awesome is that?

I am confident that both of my stories are good. They've both been through the gauntlet of my critique group, and I've reread and revised repeatedly. The two stories are very different in tone and style, so I stand a better chance of having one of them fit the magazine's needs. Of course, I don't know how much competition I'm up against. They may have a large pool of superb submissions by now.

Even if I don't get accepted this time, I will probably try to submit other stories to future issues, because I think this is the kind of publication that I would like to be associated with.

Fingers crossed! Wish me luck!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Now This Just Ticks Me Off

Yes, they are now embedding tiny, ultra-thin video screens into print magazines. Why, you ask? In order to inflict noisy, flashy advertisements on us when we're trying to read. (Hat tip to Martyn Daniels' Brave New World blog, where I read about this.)

Imagine you are sitting in the breakroom at lunch, or in a library, or in a hospital waiting room, just flipping through a magazine. And you hit a page with one of these video ads. There are no volume controls. You can't turn it off except by turning the page. What if the one article you're actually interested in reading is on the same page? Now imagine five or six people around the hospital waiting room are all flipping through magazines, and different ads are playing loud enough for you to hear. It would drive everyone batty.

When people choose to watch videos in public places, for the most part they are considerate enough to use headphones. (At least in my experience.) With these ads, that's not an option. They'll just go off whether you want them to or not.

I tell you, nothing makes me get off a web page faster than an ad that has sound and annoying animation. If I really need to view the web page, I mute the volume and hold my hand over the offending ad so I don't have to look at it.

And now ads just like that will be appearing in paper magazines.

I am thoroughly disgusted.

I have nothing against the technology itself. What I object to is the increasingly intrusive advertising. (By the way, if you want a humorous vision of the future where such advertising is embedded in the dust and floats in the air, read The Sheriff of Yrnameer, by Michael Rubens.) Now, if someone were to embed videos into books, for example, to make animated children's books, that would be awesome. But using this technology for disposable ads is just plain awful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Day at the Zoo

Went to the zoo yesterday. Here are a few of the highlights.

There was a sprinkler watering a little flower garden just outside the okapi enclosure. The furthest bursts of spray made it inside the pen. This hornbill was sitting on the fence, washing himself in those intermittent bursts of spray. He turned this way and that, making sure to get every feather wet.

Meerkats and tigers and bears, oh my.

Peacock chicks huddled in their nest, no more than five feet from the sidewalk. Obviously neither they nor their parents were too worried about all the humans going by.

I've always been fond of vultures, and this guy looks particularly cool sunning his wings.

And then there was this weird fungus growing on a tree. It looked almost exactly like baked bread with drops of honey seeping out of it. I hope no one tries to eat it.

And bats, bats, bats! (Short-tailed fruit bats, to be specific.)