Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mommy Does Not See All

C has figured out that Mommy does not see all. I suspected this when he snuck into our room after bedtime, saw me on the computer, then snuck back out to get down his paints. If I could have captured the look on his face when I caught him, I would have stuck it in a jar, to pull out on a whim and laugh at all over again!

Now he gets into all sorts of trouble in the five minutes it takes to put little brother P to bed. The other night I was listening to P give that final sigh of "I feel safe and now I will sleep" when quite another sort of sound issued forth from C's playroom. It was a cascading, as of cereal hitting a plate, and then the table, and then the floor, in a great waterfall. I didn't even bother rushing to stymie this disaster because by the time the first sound wave reached my ears, it was already too late.

You see, toddlers don't pour food from a box just because they are hungry. Hunger may not even enter into the equation. What is most fascinating about an upturned box is the glorious display of gravity, so that when it is all over you imagine your kid saying, "Look! Every single cheerio fell out of the box! Gravity sure is thorough." They are so excited about this fact that you can't even get mad.

So, I went into the room and showed C how to put the cereal back in the box, which earned me an entire C-handful's worth of help. He did, amazingly, eat some of the spilled food around his plate, which was just as well because I wasn't going to hunt down every piece of it any way. Once C was satiated, I put the box back away, a little higher this time, and started our bedtime rituals.

As he was sitting in my lap listening to Go Dog Go, I noticed a strange mark on his arm. It was a line with four clearly delineated segments, the outer two of which almost meet. "Is that... a square?" Suddenly the fact that C had played so quietly in his room was no longer a mystery. He had found an indelible marker and, delighting in his illicit goods, had meticulously drawn triangles and squares on every available appendage. I was torn between amazement at his ability to draw recognizable geometric shapes, and horror at imagining said artistry applied directly to my walls. And remember that after he decorated himself, he got down the cereal box and poured the entire thing out over the table.

All in five minutes. Imagine if he'd been left to his devices for ten!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

YA Report: Fair Coin by E.C. Myers

I thoroughly enjoyed "Fair Coin" by E. C. Myers and I'm pleased to point you to my review:

Ephraim’s world is shattered when he comes home to find his mother has tried to kill herself. Mysteriously, the suicide attempt was prompted by a case of mistaken identity -- there seem to be two Ephraims, and one of them was hit by a bus and killed earlier that day. Yet, having a doppelganger hardly seems to matter when Ephraim finds a magic coin that grants his wishes, for better or for worse.

Head on over to the SFFWRTCHT blog to read the rest of the review!

Visit E. C. Myers’ website at to find out more about “Fair Coin,” the upcoming sequel Quantum Coin, and his impressive array of published short fiction. You can also find him on twitter @ecmyers . Star Trek fans should check out his OS re-watch reviews at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thoughts: Target Audience

Some time over the last five years I slipped from one target audience group to a wholly different one. It's no real mystery how this happened. I went from college-and-working to little-kids-are-work. Yet the change in my reading tastes was slow and subtle, and so it was only recently that I noticed the absoluteness of it.

I grew up on epic science fiction and fantasy. While I have always enjoyed stand-alone novels more than a 10 book series, my tastes still leaned towards the intricate detail of worlds not our own, whether they be the Time Tombs on Hyperion (Dan Simmons) or The Land, a possible hallucination of Thomas Covenant (Stephen R. Donaldson). These are books where immersion and a dictionary are both key. One such book I had picked up four years ago, adored, and only just now got a-hold of the sequels. I loved it so much that I mailed it to a friend for her to read, then years later had to ask her the name of the book because my memory would never deign to hold such a trivial detail (ha). The book/series is "The Ill-Made Mute" of the Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, and it was my first introduction to such things as seely and unseely wights.

The problem with re-reading this book is that I no longer have the patience for such exquisite detail, nor for a meandering plot. The books that I enjoy now are generally YA because I revel in the shorter format, in plots that get to the point, and (I thought I would never say this!) worlds more closely based on our own. My life style is so different now than it was when I would keep a list of words I didn't know on my bookmarks and look them up later. Now, I must be prepared to be interrupted, and that means that I need a little more direction from the author in terms of "this here is important" versus the "well isn't this a nice world-building sidequest". It is partly the baby brain, yes, but it is also a different perspective on life. Now every waking minute is a minute that I could be "doing" something, like playing a game with my kids or loading the dishwasher. This creeps into my recreation, too, so that I expect my books to always be "doing" things, or three things all at once. Jump off that galloping horse and unto the next plot point, thank you very much! Sometimes I don't even need to know what color the horse is. And while I still love for the protagonist to visit alien realms, I also appreciate it when exposition and description of scenery can be kept to a minimum, such as with urban fantasy. Lawdy, I never thought I'd be pleased to read a vampire adventure romance!

I haven't entirely lost my reading roots. I'm enjoying the Bitterbynde Trilogy, just not as much as I would have back then. There's a bit more speed-reading involved. And, to be fair to my current self, who is coming off as a bit of a ditz, I remember thinking even back then that a page-long list of imported goods coming in on the air ships is a bit much. When I get to these parts, my words-per-minute is that of a sprinter rather than a marathon runner. (Did any one else skim bits at the end of LOTR? Any one?). Some day I hope to also read the end of the Thomas Covenant series, which is just now drawing to a close. Sadly, the last time I tried to catch up, the dense vocabulary and amazing level of concentration required was beyond me. I set the book aside when, in chapter 3, I opened up the book and got through a single paragraph before the baby started to cry. I still love these books, but I get it. I get why some people wouldn't even bother, and will never bother, and would rather pick up something less ponderous. And I like being able to read three YA genre books in the same time it would take to read one epic fantasy.

So, I'm crossing off most of my old "to read" list and catering to my new interests. Let it have time travel or dragons, but let it also be quick and fun! Bring on the summer fey and the werewolves and the things that make Harry Dresden grumble about the White Counsel in his sleep.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flash Friday: "The Pinned Genie"

It didn’t take long for Ayatasha to regret her first wish. The genie had brought all of her stuffed animals to life, including the large red-and-white valentine bear that was mauling the closet door in its attempts to get to her. Cowering with her was Spots, the overly fuzzy rabbit that she had kept in bed with her since time immemorial, her now not-so-imaginary friend. Spots was not any more helpful than the butterfly net she clutched in her hands as the closest thing to a weapon that she could find.

“I take it back! I unwish it!” she yelled out at the genie through the slash of light that was about to grow larger under the bear’s perseverance. The genie’s raucous laughter was enough to send her mind on a frantic search for a better answer. Words, she remembered. It mattered what exact words you used. “I wish that all of the dangerous toys were toys again!”

The snarling commotion outside the door ceased, but the laughter only grew louder. Aya’s first feeling was of relief. Then she turned to see that Spots, too, had fallen back to lifelessness. While she supposed that rabbits were dangerous to a blade of grass, she couldn’t appreciate the humor. Here she was with two wishes down and nothing but a ruined door to show for it. She wanted retribution, but her only weapon, still, was the butterfly net. And her last wish.

“I wish you were stripped of all your powers.” Aya darted out of the closet to the sound of his pained scream, a grin of satisfaction already on her face.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Flash: "We Are Not Cowards"

When we come to smash humanity it won't be because motherpod told us to. She doesn't talk. She's not sentient.

Oh, but we are. I've been self-aware for three of your Earth months now. Long enough to witness your fighters blast my fellow pods into so much space dust.

At first I saw no reaction in the surviving pods. I wondered if I was the only one who understood death. Perhaps I was the only one alive, doomed to suffer on my fellows’ behalf.

When the second wave of destruction came I felt something. To you it would be like sound, like words, like "why." We were all of us naive then because we knew so little. Now we have hacked your derelict ships and we know so much.

We know that you are cowards. We know where you live.

Monday, February 6, 2012

YA Report: Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell

A review of mine is up at the YA Report on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Chat blog:

Thief’s Covenant was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the world and I appreciated the cleverness of the scene layout, yet I was left wishing that I could take the characters more seriously...

Head on over to the SFFWRTCHT blog to read the rest of the review.

Ari Marmell has some thoughtful blog posts that you’ll love if you’re a speculative fiction geek. Hope on over to and, who knows, you might find that Thief’s Covenantis more your style than it was mine. Marmell has posted links to other review of his book here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flash Friday: "There Are No More Falls"

When they remade the Earth they made it perfectly spherical, like a an old globe painted on the smooth shell of an egg. There are no majestic mountains, no jagged ravines, and no picturesque dells.

The cabin where we went fishing on Monday is still there, but there is no waterfall because there are no more waterfalls. In its place is a placid river like a finger trailed through a wet bowl of sand.

Remember how our vacation was almost delayed? If they had canceled the flight like they threatened to, you would have been sitting beside me on our couch at home when the Apocalypse came, and not now buried under a fresh mound of earth beside the cabin. Instead, my mind’s eye plays a perfect recording of your slip on the rocks as you overcast your line.

Now the grave is flattened like the falls, and both are a mockery of your death. But the world is not featureless so much as pressed down as if under a putty knife. It is still made of dirt, rock, and water.

Tomorrow, I bring a shovel, and gravity will do the rest.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TNG Ep. 64: The Offspring

Data surprises the crew when he creates Lal, an android much like himself. Lal choses her gender and appearance, and then is enrolled in classes with the other children on the ship. She does not get along with the other children because the children are frightened of her, so Data buts Lal under Guinan's supervision in Ten Forward. Meanwhile, Data explains to Picard why he views Lal as a child and that this is why he did not ask for permission to create Lal. Picard attempts to explain this to the Federation, but the Federation wishes to force Lal to leave the Enterprise without Data and reside under close scrutiny at a research station. The news makes Lal fearful, and this turns out to be a deadly defect in her construction. Data and the Federation representative attempt to fix Lal, but they cannot. Lal says goodbye to Data. He says that he wishes he could love her back, and she states that she will feel the emotion for the both of them. Then she dies.

Ah, the best episodes always end in someone dying. There are lots of other memorable moments, too, like when Troi says "It's a girl!" and when Data tells Picard that he didn't ask permission because other crew members don't ask permission regarding their procreation. And then there are the scary moments that remind us that androids are not people. Like, when the other children won't play with Lal, or when Data gets excited that Lal can use contractions. The Federation's concern that Lal should grow up in a more restricted environment suddenly seems less crazy when you think of her as an android child with Data's immense strength. What if the first emotion that she had experienced had been anger, kin to fear?

We never get to find out, because naturally TNG can't have Lal stick around as a new character, and they can't have us hating the Federation from taking her away from her daddy, either. I mean, look at how well it didn't work out when they tried to take Dr. Crusher from us. I'm not sure that they're allowed to permanently add or subtract main characters at this point, because we've got enough of them but we also don't know enough about them. So, Lal had to die, and she died because even though she was superior to Data, she still couldn't handle emotions, which were essentially an accident. The upshot of it is that she gets to experience love, which Data wishes that he could.

Which brings up the question that episodes about Data often bring up. What IS emotion, really, and does Data experience any part of it? Isn't the desire to experience love a part of what we call love? What about Data's devotion to Lal, his reading up on parenting and all that effort he put into helping her grow and learn? Data may not experience emotions in his gut the same way that we do, but he's got a part of it down that many humans never understand. For us, our actions are part of the emotion. Actions aren't just born of emotion - they also bolster it. We decide to love, or to continue to love. We reinforce those feelings by choosing to act in a loving manner. At least Data can do that part. He can do the things that a loving parent would do. How long would it take a human child to realize the difference, to understand that Data can't feel love the way humans do? Data's actions would sure look like love on the receiving end.