The Wizard of Oz and the 8th Canaversary

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Last night we all went to see Burnaby Mountain Secondary School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Primarily, we were there because Middle Weasel was in the booth, working as Sound Tech for the show. It’s been a little surprising but very rewarding to see how she has thrown herself into the production, and the long hours she has put in with the rest of the cast and crew – all of which paid off last night in a great show to a packed Michael J Fox Theatre.

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Photo by Jennifer Gauthier of the Burnaby Now

But we were also there to celebrate our eighth anniversary of arriving in Canada. Famously, Dorothy finds her way back to Kansas and Auntie Em by clicking her heels and reciting “There’s no place like home!”. When we told people we were moving to Canada, they were often worried that we would miss “home”, but years of RAF life had meant we were used to the idea of home being each other, not the building we lived in. When Dorothy has her revelation about home, she’s not misty-eyed about the farmhouse or the fields of corn, it’s her aunt, uncle and the farmhands that she thinks of. Her journey through Oz gives her experience of all kinds of things – danger, excitement, friendship, adulation and wonder, but all of this only serves to show her how much she had back at home.* Eight years in Canada have changed many things, but we still eat evening meals together more often than not, we still take time to hear about one another’s day, and even if we moan about it, we’ll gather for a family meeting to discuss major issues.

There was an element, that day at Heathrow, of “We’re off to see the Wizard!” We didn’t know, really, what we were going to find in Canada, only that we hoped it would be good for all of us. Like Dorothy, we’ve made plenty of new friends on the journey, and we’ve found out that there really is no place like home, whatever you believe your home to be.

*It doesn’t, of course, offer any solution to the problem she actually ran away from in the first place – Mrs Gulch using her corrupt influence over the Sheriff to get a legal order to euthanize Toto. Lucky for Dorothy, when she gets back she finds out Mrs Gulch has been struck by a falling telegraph pole and has broken her leg! Hooray! A senior citizen living by herself has suffered a terrible injury! What a relief!

Buy “The Great Canadian Adventure” ebook on:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

The Stars are Legion- Book review

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There are many sub-genres of Sci-Fi ; military sci-fi, Cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, dystopian and so on and so on. But there’s another view – there are only TWO types of Sci-fi.

The first type takes you by the hand and says “Here’s a different world. This is how it works.” The characters in the story don’t stop to explain exactly how their ship travels faster than light, I mean, with diagrams and equations and so on, but they do drop the crucial explanations that help the story make sense.*

The other type of Sci-Fi can be summed up by this picture from Onyxcarmine of Deviantart

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“The Stars are Legion” fits firmly into the second category of Sci Fi. Hurley’s story is set on living planets, a group of living planets so close together that characters get from one to another by some kind of semi-sentient space bike. They shoot at each other with cephalopod guns… Guns that shoot out cephalopods. There’s no tedious opening explaining the origin of the Legion, as the collection of planets are known. There’s no omniscient narrator describing the scene for you to imagine. There’s just the story, told chapter by chapter from the point of view of two of the central characters. Since one of them has recently lost her memory for the umpteenth time, she can’t help you understand how things work, because she either can’t remember or is having muscle memory make things work for her without any understanding. The other character freely admits to having lied, to currently lying to other people and to planning things she won’t admit, even to her co-conspirators. Talk about your unreliable narrator!

Tales that leap into the action and rush you along can be tricky to follow, and that’s when we’re talking near-future or straight forward stories. Hurley has imagined an entire ecosystem, no, a SOLAR system that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. These planets open and close, and have multiple internal levels. A single family rules a planet, or maybe several planets, and harvests organic material to repair the home planet. Yes, it can be confusing, and it’s exactly the kind of story that I usually shrink from. Often, the author of such a story is not explaining because they know and love their material so well, they’ve forgotten that we, the readers, don’t know it that way. But Hurley is telling a story, and the amnesia of the one character and duplicity of the other is part of that story, part of the engine of the story. If you surrender to the flow of the story, all your questions are either answered or proved irrelevant. I read the whole thing in three days, and it would have been two except I deliberately put the book down the second night. I was two chapters from the end and I wanted to read it with my mind fresh and awake – the final part of the book happens at a tremendous pace, and there’s a lot to take in.

Hurley sets a high bar here. This book is going to be very successful, and so there will be a lot of people rushing out their own versions of the “Jump on the hover dog” genre. But it’s not easy to do it this well, and it’s very easy to do it badly. If you’re not going to be there to hold your reader’s hand and explain things, then you need to know, not only how everything works, but also what’s important for the story.

 

*However, if any character talking to another starts their speech with “As you know…”, put the book down AT ONCE and walk away. It’s a bad one.

LAUNCH DAY! More Cosplay Disasters

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Yes! It’s finally launch day for my new e-book, “More Cosplay Disasters”!

In this follow-up volume to “My Cosplay Disasters”, I lay out the method I failed to develop properly to build another four helmets. This time I ruined:

A Captain Rex Clone Trooper Mod

A First Order Stormtrooper Helmet from “The Force Awakens”

Handles the Cyberman Head from Doctor Who

A Deathtrooper helmet from “Rogue One”

Each disaster is neatly laid out (which is more than can be said for my workshop) with accompanying photographs and a detailed account of where I went wrong (often, simply starting the project.)

There are many authors and makers out there who are keen to tell you how to do things right, but I’m pretty much the only person showing you how I do things wrong, thus proving that YOU could do a better job than me if you put your mind to it. Also, that I should have a different hobby.

The e-book is available exclusively on Amazon:

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCF665N

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCF665N

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XCF665N

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And anyone else, check your local Amazon variant!

“More Cosplay Disasters” being launched soon!

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It’s been a quiet start to the year, with no new plays to announce, and while there are performances of many TLC scripts ongoing around the world, there haven’t been any local to me, or any that supplied pictures for me to publish.

However, this week sees the completion of my new e-book, the sequel to the extraordinarily successful* “My Cosplay Disasters”. This new book, brilliantly titled “More Cosplay Disasters”, will take unlucky readers through the process of construction used for the latest four helmets I built. As always, it skates merrily by the reason for building helmets at all, because who has time for psychological analysis?

Anyway, the e-book will hit Amazon stores in your region around the 1st of March, for the very reasonable price of $2.99 Canadian. If you don’t want a copy (which is understandable) then it makes a great gift, particularly for people you don’t like, or who have expressed a desire to make cheap cosplay helmets.

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If you don’t fancy the idea of this book, check out my Amazon page for my other boks, which are worse.

 

*Sold more than one copy.

A country is not a business

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Wandering around Twitter of late, it’s interesting to see who ISN’T supposed to have a political opinion: Actors, artists, singers, authors – they’re all castigated at one time or another for saying what they think about the state of politics in the world.

That argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. I may not agree with my favourite authors when it comes to politics, but I don’t see why they can’t voice their opinion on it. I mean, when something happens, reporters actually go out into the streets and ask regular people what they think – there’s no checking for credentials first. As for the argument that someone who’s famous might influence others, well, so what? My experience of “discussing” politics online is that you can’t change people’s minds about what they think, and I don’t think it’s different if you’re JK Rowling or Sting. If I heard JK was in favour of firing kittens into space from a giant catapult, it would change my opinion of her, not of the act of kitten-flinging.*

So, I think Mr Trump is a bad choice as US President. I’m no expert on politics, but then again, neither is he. I’d make a bad president too, precisely because I’m no expert in politics. Politics is part of the job – hence the title “politician”. Some people said he’d be good because he’s a good businessman. Again, perhaps that might be the case, but I hear he’s NOT such a good businessman. Nobody drinks Trump Vodka, or eats Trump steaks, because those parts of his business failed. His mortgage company folded. He has gone bankrupt several times, and let’s not forget that he had to settle that fraud case over the Trump University thing.

But let’s say he WAS a good businessman. Would that make him a good president? Here’s the point: I don’t think a country is like a business. Some people think it is, but those people are mostly concerned with making money. They think the country ought to have a booming economy above all else, because that’s likely to help their business be a success. In other words, my country is doing well if it’s making me rich.

A company takes seed money, and it produces something, or provides a service. But that’s not what we measure the success by. We measure success of a company by profitability. Imagine you’re running a company making Flimbarts. Someone says “How’s your company doing?” and you say “We made and sold two million Flimbarts last year!” That person will be impressed and likely say “Wow, you must be raking in the cash, huh?”

If you reply “Nope, we’re just breaking even.” they will be less impressed. You’re making lots of Flimbarts, and selling all of them, but you’re not successful, because you’re not turning a big profit.

A country is not a system for producing money. What a country really produces, is citizens. Through their work and taxes, they contribute to the financial stability of the country, but I would argue that it’s the condition of the population that is the measure of the country’s success, not the size of the economy. Look at it this way – if a country wants to attract foreign investment, it could offer cheap labour. The best way to ensure cheap labour is to remove safety restrictions, labour unions and age laws on working. Pay people peanuts to work in factories that aren’t hemmed in with costly safety measures, and it’ll cost foreign firms less to get their products made. More firms will use your country and your country will have a robust economy. But you’ll have miserable citizens, and unless you restrict their education and communication with the outside world, you’ll have rebellion and worker organization and riots.

If you provide education and healthcare and solid infrastructure, you have happy citizens. Healthy citizens. Bright citizens. You get innovations, industry, development. You get education tourism, where people flock to your schools because you’ve invested in them. You are at the forefront of new technologies because your educated citizens are at the forefront of the sciences that develop them. Their energies are focused on the future, not the misery of the present.

An acquaintance of mine on G+ has been patiently explaining to me that Trump is not a bad person. That his policies and executive orders are both legal and sensible. That most of them were Obama’s ideas anyway, or are overturning illegal ideas of Obama’s. He hasn’t answered my question about Bannon being appointed to the National Security Council, or the provable lies that Trump and his administration have been trotting out since…well, since the beginning of his campaign, but still… I feel it’s important to know that there are people who don’t view Trump as the insane choice. There are people out there who go beyond “Let’s give him a chance” and actually TRUST him.

All this American politics is relevant because I heard a conversation the other day at work. Someone was advocating Kevin O’Leary’s bid for the premiership on the grounds that “If America has Trump, we need someone who can deal with him.” From my point of view, that’s a Kindergarten teacher. Someone who can handle tantrums and outrageous fibs should have no trouble getting Donald under control. What we don’t need is another person viewing a country as a money-machine. I never understood what the American Dream was, but I think I see what Canada is – it’s not a place, but a collection of people from many, many different cultures, living and working together for each other and for the next generation.

*As far as I know, JK Rowling has NEVER advocated the flinging of kittens anywhere, by catapult or any other means. And even if she had, how would that change whether or not her writing is any good? I don’t agree with Orson Card’s views on marriage, but I still like “Ender’s Game”. Confusing the writer with the work is a mistake, I feel.

10 reasons why I’m not a REAL writer

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  1. I don’t write every day
  2. I don’t have “protected” writing time.
  3. Household tasks often get prioritized over writing.
  4. I don’t like literary fiction. I keep trying it, and I still find it pretentious.
  5. If asked, I’m more likely to say I work part-time in the library than I am to say “I’m a writer”.
  6. It’s unlikely you’ve read, bought or even seen anything I’ve written.
  7. I don’t write consistently within a single genre.
  8. I don’t have an agent or an editor.
  9. I don’t have elevator pitches for any of my work. Even the one I’m writing now.
  10. I struggle to publicise my own work without being self-deprecating or self-sabotaging.

Escaping to Fan Expo Vancouver

There’s little doubt that 2016 has been a grim year. We’ve lost folk heroes, rock stars, and a little bit of belief in the fundamental goodness of regular folks. But yesterday we set aside our fears and doubts, and dressed up as someone else for a day. We went to Fan Expo Vancouver 2016.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know we try to go every year. I always intend to dress up, and I never do. Time and again, the Weasels have outshone me with their brilliant outfits, and been photographed over and over.

This year, I was ready. Having spent only a short period of time building s Doctor Strange outfit for Halloween, I had spruced up the Shakespearean Vader suit that I built so long ago. I shortened the cloak so I didn’t trip on it. I added extra bling. I was ready.

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We didn’t rush in this year – there would be no queuing! Eldest Weasel had booked a photo shoot with her personal Doctor Who idol, Alex Kingston, and that wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we had a leisurely drive in to downtown, and then we gathered outside the convention centre while Mrs Dim figured out how to exchange our tickets for the wristbands that would get us inside.

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Eldest Weasel’s friend came along as Kaylee from Firefly, while Eldest herself had really gone to town on improving her Time Lord Headdress.

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Middle Weasel was Quicksilver (somewhat ironic, given her tendency to avoid moving whenever possible) and Tiny Weasel was Frisk from Undertale. You know, Undertale? the Game? No, me neither.

Attending Fan Expo in costume was wildly different from going in regular clothes. For one thing, I was stopped quite often so people could take photos of or with me. For another, I couldn’t actually see very much. My breath fogged up the eyepieces after about four minutes, and Mrs Dim had to guide me through the halls. I was glad she’d chosen a white jacket for the day, as it was easy to follow the white blur. Only once did it turn out to be the WRONG white blur….

From an atmosphere of fear and hate (through the internet news and the reactions of friends and family) we found ourselves in a place of acceptance and encouragement. Fans can be sticklers for details, vocally critical of the film industry when details are altered for a movie, or when a beloved character is treated badly for plot purposes. But I heard no criticisms of any of the costumed characters at the Expo. There was open admiration, compliments, applause, and , of course, photographs. Prominently displayed in the convention centre and the nearby hotel were signboards with the “Cosplay is not consent” policy clearly laid out. Some female characters wear skimpy outfits, and those that chose to dress as those characters could have no fear that they would risk assault for that choice.

Respect. Inclusion. Honest fun. Pursuit of interests for the joy they bring, not the financial gain.

It was a delight to step into this world, and imagine the one we live in coming back to these values one day.