Back from Iceland

I don’t have any words to describe the beauty of Iceland. Beautiful, amazing, spectacular, awesome and all their synonyms don’t quite cut it. “Otherworldly” is the closest I can get, I think.

10 days wasn’t enough to take it all in, not when you need to pull the car over every five minutes to look at something incredible that’s completely different from what you pulled over to look at the last time. The variety of landscapes on that tiny island is staggering.

With its volcanoes and glaciers, it’s truly the land of ice and fire and it’s no wonder that Icelanders have so many sagas and that so many fantasy authors and filmmakers have drawn inspiration from this place.

Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien’s “nanny” was Icelandic and told the young man all about Iceland and its sagas? Did you know that Gandalf is a dwarf in Norse mythology?

Balticon 50 Recap

I’m always terribly sad when Balticon is over. Those four days during Memorial Day weekend are a welcome break from work, the blues of the news and the nastiness of this election cycle, and the grimness of life in general.

For those four days, it’s nothing but good feelings. It’s non-stop science fiction and fantasy. It’s a chance to meet cool people and geek out over stuff you’d dare never bring up in your day-to-day life. This is a place where you can attend presentations about dinosaurs and Pluto by paleontologists and scientists who actually work on the New Horizons probe. It’s a place where you can have drunken late night conversations with philosophy professors and bioethicists about your favorite Doctor. A place where you can see science fiction grand master Larry Niven walking the hallways in the middle of the night on his way to a filk concert. A place where you’ll be forced to get up in front of a crowded room and read from “The Eye of Argon” until you mess up and are cheered for messing up. A place where you can attend a live podcast where two people wearing luchador masks engage in a rap battle to determine the fate of earth.

In other words, it’s a magical place.

This was the fourth year I’d gone and every year has been better than the last. This year was particularly insane with the Guest of Honor George R.R. Martin who is, despite all of the fame and acclaim, a very down-to-earth, nice and generous man, and a true fan. Every talk he gave was full of tweetable nuggets of wisdom mixed with interesting stories from his life, from the inspirational role comics played in his early and impoverished life to the memories of attending past Balticons as a fan.

He had nothing but nice things to say about Balticon and he made a very good distinction between fan-run, all-volunteer conventions like Balticon and for-profit conventions that mostly feature actors – you purchase a “membership” to Balticon and you purchase a “ticket” to these other conventions. It’s fandom versus profit and it’s a big part of what makes Balticon special.

Other cool stuff:

  • Connie Willis, one of the most awarded science fiction and fantasy writers of all time, dropping some serious knowledge on the craft of writing at an 8am panel.
  • Writer and all around hero Kim Stanley Robinson signing my copy of 2312 and giving good advice and encouragement to a new writer.
  • The volunteers who run the ship. They’re amazing!

ksr-2312 signed asoiaf meeting-grrm

What I Read in 2015

What I read in 2015

  1. Wool by Hugh Howey
  2. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Ernest H. Shepard
  3. Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
  4. Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
  5. Original Sin by Jason Aaron
  6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  7. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  9. Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  10. Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison
  11. Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul by Grant Morrison
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  13. The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1) by Glen Cook
  14. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
  15. Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg
  16. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
  17. Avengers vs. X-Men (Avengers vs. X-Men) by Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker
  18. Spider-Man: Spider-Island
  19. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
  20. Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
  21. Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way by Fred Rogers
  22. The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers
  23. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  24. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  25. The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
  26. The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman
  27. The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
  28. The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman