Alyx Dellamonica

My Ad Astra schedule…

Posted on April 27, 2016 by

photo by Kelly Robson

photo by Kelly Robson

The Ad Astra science fiction convention is happening this weekend, and there’s going to be a ton of great programming. Guests of Honor Include Tom Doherty, Jack Whyte, Sandra Kasturi, Brett Savory, and Catherine Asaro.

As for me, here’s when you can find me:

Saturday April 30

  • 1:00 p.m. Modern Anxieties and Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes.
  • 6:00 p.m. SF Reading with Derwin Mak, Madeline Ashby, and Kelly Robson.
  • 7:00 p.m. Loving the Villain .
Sunday May 1st
  • 1:00 p.m. Non-Fiction for the SF or Fantasy Writer .

I love meeting readers, writers, students and fans so do come on over, if you’re inclined, and say hello.

Writing the Fantastic is Open for Summer Registration!

Posted on April 26, 2016 by

SONY DSCWriting the Fantastic, my July course offering at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, is now open for registration. You can find the full course description and syllabus here, but here are the highlights:

This course expands the study of science fiction and fantasy writing to include both short and novel-length fiction. Infusing a narrative with originality and fantastic literature’s much-discussed “Sense of Wonder”–while at the same time preserving its clarity and heart–is a juggling act that can test a writer’s skills to the utmost. Writing the Fantastic places emphasis on meeting this challenge by merging the otherworldly content of speculative fiction with humane, emotionally powerful storytelling. Through exercises and readings, students deepen their understanding of the speculative subgenres: alternate history, time-travel, horror, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, sociological science fiction, and hard science fiction.

UCLA has tons of great classes and instructors if you’ve already taken this one. The popular stuff fills up fast, so browse now, browse often. My classes, especially my summer offerings, are intended to work as alternatives to something like Clarion or Clarion West, in case this isn’t the year when you can take six weeks off work, or preparation for same. WTF, as I like to call it, is one of the classes that qualifies you to take the Advanced SF Workshop that I also run, periodically, through the program.

What do you love about where you live?

Posted on April 25, 2016 by

Toronto, Day 1074. I am sitting on a bench in Nathan Phillips Square, a few weeks shy of our third anniversary of moving here. I’m looking at old City Hall and the new Toronto sign that was installed for the Pan-American games. This vast public square is a five minute walk from my door, and if the rooftop garden was open I would be sitting there instead.

Instead, I am watching a couple hundred people futz around in the early evening sun, waving selfie sticks, chasing pigeons, practicing synchronized dance moves, and climbing on the Henry Moore statue, The Archer, in front of the main entrance. There’s a young guy going from person to person asking them to take pictures of him making a “two thumbs up” gesture.

In another week or two, they’ll refill the fountain. Right now it has been cleared of its winter layer of skating ice, and is a bare concrete surface. People are taking advantage of the opportunity to get their loved ones inside the sign from a closer angle. There are kids and dogs and cyclists and seniors, single pedestrians, couples, families, tourists and packs of friends. It is Saturday night, and nobody’s in a hurry, and from this distance everyone seems to be at play, in a good mood.

The Square has two moods as far as I have seen. One is this – tourists and Torontonians chilling out. The other is thronging with some kind of organized activity, whether it is a farmers market, Nuit Blanche, a political rally, a big art show, or a formal parade. It’s not a park or in anyway green space, but it’s right next toOsgoode Hall, which has a law library, beautiful grounds and all the squirrels you could throw a nut at.

So there you have it: I love City Hall.

Telewitterings: Daredevil S2

Posted on April 11, 2016 by

In the normal course of things it might have taken Kelly and I upward of a couple of months to watch Daredevil S2, but: i) we came back from England and promptly caught colds; ii) the first eight or so episodes, with their un­flinching look at the ethics of vigilante action, were especially well-crafted and intriguing; iii) every little thing Foggy and Karen did was pure, unadulterated magic. Except maybe the gist of her think piece at the end. And hey, it’s her first feature, so I’m willing to forgive.
The end, though I enjoyed it, was fuzzy in a lot of ways. It felt crammed, with far too much shoehorned into it and a few missteps.
Where Daredevil excels, in my writerly opinion, is primarily in the non-supernatural drama, in the relationships between its three principals. It does other things very well too, of course: fight choreography, stunning graphic novel visuals, chewy moral quandaries, systemic corruption, and beating the crap out of Matt himself.
Where it falls down? In making Hell’s Kitchen seem less like 2016 New York, post Chitauri disaster or no, and more of a relic from the crimey, hard-nosed Eighties. It’ll reference Matt’s Catholic damage–Claire’s lecture about same was tiresomely on the nose–but it doesn’t drill down to give any kind of real sense of what that’s like. Most of all, the villain plans are thready. At the point in the story where we move from character exploration to OMG, gotta usher everyone to the bigtime battle scenes, the baddies’ machinations unravel. And not in an Oh, I see what you were trying to pull off there, Boyd Crowder, sucks to be you kind of way.
Fisk’s scheme, in S1, made a lot of sense… for a time. Raze the Kitchen, build towers for the well-heeled, divide up the inevitable neighborhood crime rackets and make billions on both the legal and illegal ends of the transaction. Okay! We understood who stood to gain and who would be hurt.
Still, his plan fell apart when he turned on his own syndicate.
The S2 baddie is on a quest, for religious reasons. They need their plot coupon-y spoiler spoiler plot thing, for their Holy War. A war with whom, really, besides Scott Glenn? And afterward they’re going to… do what, exactly, with Hell’s Kitchen? With Matt’s “My City,” out of which they should posthaste get? Are they gonna have that city? Slaughter whoever shows up? Forbid any sneaking around on the rooftops and in the cellars by non-ninja-individuals? I can’t think of a single Nelson & Murdock Avocados at Law client who’d truly be affected by total ninja domination of the Kitchen’s dark corners. None of the Hand stuff meshes particularly well with Frank’s story, which is about a failure of law enforcement and the system. Frank’s mess is at the heart of what Nelson Page Murdoch are struggling with.
I get that Matt needed a distraction so he could let down the team, I do. I get that the whole story couldn’t be Frank. But Frank works so well that Nobu & Co. feel grafted on.
As for Frank’s Boss Monster, that whole thing collapsed into a huge and disappointing coincidence.
Still, 90% of what I saw I loved. I liked where the characters ended up, I think Matt’s final choice was the right one, I’m super-curious about what Karen will do now, and I may well rewatch the whole shebang quite soon. And I’m hoping that S3 takes us into the vigilante piece they missed examining: Matt is an altruist vigilante, while Pun (as Wolverine always called him) is an agent of vengeance acting, at least in the beginning, on his own behalf.
What did you think?

Nom Nom Aurora Hunter

Posted on April 8, 2016 by

cover image for "The Nature of a Pirate," by Cynthia Sheppard

Cover image for “The Nature of a Pirate,” by Cynthia Sheppard

As I dictate these words, I am sitting on the Go train, headed to UTSC to pick up some things I left in the sessional office. Even though I am teaching in summer, too, they clean out everything between quarters… which makes sense, if they don’t want the shared office to become a cluttered den of crap. It’s a good task for what I hope will be my last day of reduced activity due to the cold.  An almost recreational commute, a quick errand, and then back home to see what else I can make of the day.

Next term I will be on campus Thursday afternoons and evenings for the next level of the same speculative fiction class. I am excited about being there, both for the sake of the teaching, which is delightful, but also to see what it is like there in the summer. Fewer icicle photos, more flowers, is my guess.

In other pleasing news, I am currently up for two awards: A Daughter of No Nation is nominated in the Best English Novel category for an Aurora Award, and I am in the running for something called the K.M. Hunter Artist Award. Kelly’s novella “Waters of Versailles,” meanwhile, is in the running for an Aurora too, in the Best English Short Fiction category. If the cool around our house runs any deeper, we will have to issue hip waders at the door.

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