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Delia Derbyshire, Overlooked Musician and Composer

Delia Derbyshire wrote some of, and played all of, one of the most famous—and earliest widely-known—pieces of electronic music ever. Not only that, she did so before the advent of the first commercially-available synthesizer.

(Brian Hodgson composed the tardis sound.)

She was a kid in Coventry during WW2, hearing all the weird and haunting sounds of air raids and all-clear signals.

Decca Records told her that they did not employ women in their recording studios. So she joined the BBC. Delia said, “I was told in no uncertain terms that the BBC does not employ composers.”

Seeing the footage about her contributions to the Doctor Who theme was really the highlight of the Doctor Who Experience. As a Torchwood fan (and not really a Doctor Who fan), I felt left out for the most part.

There’s a great page about the history of the theme song.

On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: “Did I really write this?” he asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.

Yet, even though Grainer wanted Derbyshire to receive credit and a share of the royalties, it didn’t happen that way due to BBC red tape (no doubt assisted by the fact that Delia was female). Thus, she became uncredited and without royalties for something that has been heard by millions of people.

Bitter, she left the industry, became an alcoholic, and later developed breast cancer. Though she did get back into electronic music in the 90s, toward the end of her life, she died of kidney failure in 2001.

I find it curious that the BBC created an exhibit for her in the Doctor Who Experience—but still never managed to correct the credits or royalty situation.

If you’d like to learn more about her, here’s a bunch of YouTube links, but you probably want to start with Sculptress of Sound

Her name was Delia Derbyshire, and she loved listening to thunderstorms.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Optical Illusion Problems and Font Design Solutions

This post, clickbaitingly called Know If a Font Sucks actually has some fascinating tidbits about compensating for our eyes tricking us.

Hat tip to Janet Jia-Ee Chui.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Hotel Convention Bookings: A Cautionary Tale

tl;dr: Inadvertent double booking due to intermediaries (and missing that there were two bookings) resulted in attempts to overcharge us by £1350 (~$2250) for a five-night stay.

  1. On August 30, 2013, I booked a room for Loncon3 through Starwood’s reservation system for the Aloft London Excel (a Starwood hotel) at £279/night (not at the much lower convention rate). I book through Starwood so seldom that I’ve never bothered with the paperwork to change my surname with them; it’s still my pre-married name of Saoirse. I didn’t add a second guest name to this booking.</p>
  2. On January 2, 2014, because my Aloft room wasn’t at the £120 convention rate, I booked one at the Premier Inn to hold something at the convention rate.

  3. On January 2, 2014, I contacted Loncon3 staff to see about moving my Aloft reservation into the convention’s Aloft block so I could be at the hotel directly attached to the convention center (less walking).

    I don’t need an accessible room. I just need less total walking during the day and the ability to easily duck out for a nap during the con to recharge. Staying at the Aloft would be of significant benefit to me.

    Rick Moen and I will share, so we’d prefer a queen or (haha) a king if available.

    Membership number: 172

    Existing booking # 2…7 (Premier Inn London Docklands Excel)

    This will free up a disabled room.

    (followup)

    FYI, I already have an existing Aloft reservation, 7…0, which could just be moved into block if that’s easier.

  4. Loncon3 staff respond:

    Thanks. We’ve received your lottery request and will send an update once we have more info.

  5. I respond back:

    Well, either way I have an Aloft reservation, since I made one before the contract was finalised.
    Ideally, I’d like it moved into block without having to go through the lottery.

  6. They respond:

    The room blocks have no financial impact on the convention, unlike in the U.S. Since you already have a reservation in the Aloft, I suggest you just keep that one and cancel the Premier.

  7. I respond:

    I was hoping for the con room rate though. £279 a night is the rate I’m holding.
    So it may not have a financial impact for you, but it does for me (and thus my holding two reservations at present).

  8. On January 3, I cancel the reservation at the Premier Inn.</p>
  9. On January 4, Rick and I depart for Chile; we didn’t return to the US for 22 days. For most of that time, we’re in some of the remotest places on earth with zero Internet.

  10. On January 17, an email is sent reminding of the lottery closing, but I have no ability to receive or respond to that email.

  11. On January 24, with no further input from me except for what happened above, I receive a confirmation from Infotel, the booking service used by Loncon3 for convention-rate hotel bookings, for the dates of my existing Aloft booking, guaranteed to the same credit card, with a room rate of £120 per night. The second guest in the room is listed as “Rick Moen.” This is how you can tell I didn’t make the booking. No cover note or anything, so all the information I have is in that email. Because we’re still traveling, I only give the email a cursory glance.

    Note: at this point, I’d assumed Infotel had taken over my existing Aloft booking. Also important: I was never, not once, given a cancellation or no-show penalty for this reservation. For my prior Infotel booking, the no-show or late cancellation penalty was a one-night stay. Except for ultra luxury or boutique hotels, this is pretty standard.

    Also: the URL given to manage my booking began: http://localhost:50861/ —invalid for anyone except Infotel.

  12. Whenever I logged into either Infotel or Starwood Preferred Guest, I saw a single booking. For that reason, I believed there was a single reservation. Oops. There’s a reason for this: my Starwood number wasn’t added to the Infotel booking because my surname on that booking (Saoirse Moen) is different from the surname (Saoirse) attached to my Starwood account.

  13. After Rick and I sort out our plans (a couple of weeks before the convention), I make a ToDo list. One of those items was to shorten our hotel stay by one night. I fail to get this done.

  14. We check in on August 13th, remembering to shorten our stay to the 18th. I add Rick’s name to the booking sheet using his legal name. We use Rick’s credit card to check in.

  15. On August 14th, at 3:37 am local time, I get an email that says the Aloft tried to charge £600 to the card I used to hold the booking. I found this curious given that we’d just checked in. Stupidly, I assumed they tried to authorize to my card rather than the one they’d swiped when we checked in. (This has happened before on other occasions when there wasn’t any problem, so I didn’t think anything of it except that it was odd.)

    Despite having two bookings with the same starting part of the surname, we were not advised of that. Naturally, they check us into the booking that’s £279 per night with no included breakfast rather than the booking that’s £120 per night with included breakfast for two.

    The other odd thing: Why £600? Why not £720, which was the full six nights of the booking? Why not £120 for the cancellation fee?

  16. On August 14th in the afternoon, Rick gets a voice mail in the room to “Rick Moen”—asking him if he was also intending to shorten his stay to the 18th. We’re both puzzled by the use of his nickname.

  17. I had breakfast with Peggy Rae and John Sapienza one morning, and they said their hotel room came with breakfast. Ours hadn’t, I said, but I didn’t think to check and see if something was wrong.

  18. We start the checkout process on the 18th, then discover the £279 rate, then I pull up the email reservation. It’s only at this point that I realize there must have been two reservations all along, and we checked into the wrong one. When we get to the third or fourth person who finally cares to try to do something about the issue (srsly), it takes them the better part of an hour to fix the reservation. Basically, they deleted the breakfast line items and credited us with £750, which isn’t exactly the right solution (and made both of us nitpicky types unhappy with the solution), but it’s functional.

    They also tell us that they can’t change the number of days on the £120/night stay, so we’ve essentially got the room through to the 19th—except that we’re leaving for Cardiff. We get hotel keys for our room and put our luggage back there, then head off to the convention.

Overall

First, no one at the hotel really seemed to care about the business of running the hotel. They all seemed like they were phoning it in. There were things like: being open until 11pm for dinner, but telling people they couldn’t take any more diners at 9:30 pm. Having to wait 20 minutes, on average, for gluten-free bread every morning because it took that long to find some waitstaff to get it for me.

Additionally, despite asking for a hamburger with no bun and sautéed potatoes instead of chips, I was brought out a hamburger on a regular bun with chips. I didn’t explicitly say “gluten free,” but that shouldn’t matter.

After going several rounds with the night manager, who made it sound like he was doing me a big fucking favor, he confirmed that chips aren’t gluten free (fried in the same fryer with gluten-coated items). On a different occasion, when I specified I needed gluten free more clearly, I was still brought black pudding (not gluten free, generally) and another non-gluten free item.

I loved the look of the hotel, but the entire experience left a bad taste. I was really glad to move on to Cardiff—and to a different hotel.

The Hotel’s Honesty

The woman checking us in wasn’t particularly experienced, so I don’t think it was dishonesty on her part that checked us into the wrong reservation.

However, the hotel knew all along that there were two reservations. Remember that message for Rick Moen? If we were checked into the reservation with no second party, where I’d handwritten in Rick’s legal name, then why call and ask for him in the name of “Rick Moen” if they didn’t have the other reservation right in front of them?

So—they knew, they knew to our detriment, and they did nothing about it. For that reason, I consider the hotel essentially dishonest, especially after attempting to charge so much for the “no show” penalty.

Lessons for Convention Runners

  1. There really should be a way for the mobility impaired to get hotel rooms close to the convention facilities at convention rates without having to compete with the able-bodied, especially when rooms sell out very quickly for things like Worldcon.

  2. There needs to be a way for that to happen without using up a lot of people points.

  3. Clearer communication about what was done (i.e.., was an existing reservation modified, or was a new reservation created) would be stellar.

  4. Very few things use up people points like attempts to overcharge by £1350.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Optical Illusion Problems and Font Design Solutions

This post, clickbaitingly called Know If a Font Sucks actually has some fascinating tidbits about compensating for our eyes tricking us.

Hat tip to Janet Jia-Ee Chui.

Originally published at desamo.staging.wpengine.com. You can comment here or there.


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Reading Audiobooks

Note: for those reading on Tumblr, LiveJournal, or Dreamwidth, the deirdre.net version of this post has the WordPress-fu that expands the Twitter links.

Mary Robinette notes some good things for the future of audio-first books:

Last year, she was disqualified for Best Novelette in last year’s Hugos because it was audio first and the posted story on her blog had some small staging directions. Thus, the administrators ruled it would qualify in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Sadly, it lacked the number of votes to make the nominating cutoff in that particular category.

This year, it was published on Tor.com and won Best Novelette.

A few months ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with Colter Reed. He said he’d “read” an audiobook, and the usage stuck out to me.

Audiobooks are really taking off, and a lot of people read them. (See what I did there?)

I’ve moved away from them myself, for various reasons, mostly that I tend to remember books better when I read them by eye rather than ear.

I’m very aware, as my very literate father’s eyesight has degraded, that reading a book with one’s eyes is a privilege not everyone has.

Some people prefer audiobooks for other reasons, like making a long commute easier.

Still, it’s a book—or a story—and we “read” those.

Accordingly, my usage of the term “read” has changed.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Hugo Awards, 2014 Edition

First, congratulations to all the winners!

Wow, what a rush.

None of my four outlier recommendations made the ballot. Except one of them won in a different category, and I could just do jumping jacks about that.

Campbell Award

I’m entirely unsurprised that Sofia Samatar won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I remember vascillating between her and Ramez Naam, my own two personal favorites out of the five.

Best Fan Artist

Sarah Webb is someone I should have known would win eventually.

The first of my recommendations, Randall Munroe, came in 9th.

Best Fan Writer

Kameron Hurley takes it! Her acceptance speech. She likely mostly won for the post that also won “Best Related Work” (below), but my personal favorite is When to Persist… and When to Quit.

Best Fancast

SF Signal. Which I should totally listen to more often. Interesting quirk: No Award had the highest number of first-place votes in this category.

Best Fanzine

Aiden Moher’s beautiful A Dribble of Ink.

Best Semiprozine

Lightspeed Magazine. Given their recent success in Kickstarter campaigns, this surprises exactly no one.

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon becomes the first woman to win the Hugo for Best Professional Artist as a solo artist. (Diane Dillon co-won with her husband in 1971.)

Best Editor, Long Form

Ace’s retiring editor Ginjer Buchanan won, though she didn’t have the largest number of first-place votes. Baen’s Toni Weisskopf did, but she also had less support in other places, and also had more people rank No Award higher.

Best Editor, Short Form

Ellen. Datlow.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

I was really hoping for Orphan Black, but Game of Thrones won for “The Rains of Castamere.” I’m peeved that Sharknado wasn’t on either the long list for either the long or short form ballot. It was robbed!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Gravity. So, so, so happy about this.

Best Graphic Story

Randall Munroe, XKCD, Time.

In 2011, I first suggested Randall Munroe for Best Fan Artist. As a result of my lobbying, he got on the ballot that year (and the next), but he didn’t win.

Randall’s acceptance speech.

And Cory Doctorow accepting, dressed as an XKCD character (also a later XKCD):

Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe's "Time.". Photo by Jim C. Hines

Cory Doctorow accepting the Best Graphic Story Hugo Award for Randall Munroe’s “Time.”. Photo by Jim C. Hines

My work here is done.

Congratulations, Randall!

Best Related Work

“We Have Always Fought”: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley on A Dribble of Ink. Very much worth reading. In a related note, here’s how the lemming myth was perpetuated.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for Writing Excuses as I’ll be on an upcoming episode.

Best Short Story

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu published by Tor.com.

Best Novelette

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal also published by Tor.com. I loved the audio version last year, and love the text version as well.

This was the category that Vox Day was also in, so I note that he lost fifth place (of five) to “No Award.”

Best Novella

“Equoid” by Charles Stross also published by Tor.com. I love Stross’s work. Though I preferred his Best Novel entry to this one, I’m glad he won in a category.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This book won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Clarke Award, and the Locus Award, as well as tying for the BSFA Award. That is a very rare combo, especially for a debut novel.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson came in 4th, and, Warbound by Larry Correia (of the voting slate) came in last, somewhat above “No Award.”

Overall

Wow, a lot of women won! (Dramatic sigh re: Orphan Black not being among them.)

The two nominations I was most excited by won. w00t!

Tor.com really did a great job.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Falling Back in Love With One’s Own Book

Photo by Lizzy Gadd

Photo by Lizzy Gadd

While I’m guilty of most of the classic bad writerly habits save for drugs and alcohol, none of those bad habits per se are the cause of my greatest problems with word count.

No, for things like spending too much time on Twitter, that typically means I’ll write fewer words (unless I’m on Twitter for a word war, at which point it’s productive).

What causes the single greatest loss for me are the days on end where I’ve lost belief in my book. It happens every book. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to plan for these side trips into the doldrums, but no. I haven’t.

So here are some of the ways I work out of these issues.

But X Has a More Famous Book on a Similar Topic

This will always be true, right? Even though every book is unique, the mind can always find ways in which X’s book or Y’s screenplay or Z’s book is similar to one’s own.

Here’s my exercises for this stage of writerly despair:

  1. Name ten things your book has that X’s does not. They can be small things, e.g., you feature a coffee shop throughout your novel, and X’s does not. You love coffee.
  2. Name one person (whom you’re not related to) who you think would be more interested in the book you’re writing than X’s, and why you think that’s so. Pro tip: this can be your barista.
  3. Identify one thing you hope a reader will get out of your book that they won’t get out of X’s.

Why Am I Writing This?

At some point, my answer usually boils down to: because you started it. That’s reason enough for some people, but sadly it’s not reason enough for me.

  1. List ten things you think are cool about the book.
  2. Name three things you learned while writing or researching the book.
  3. Is there anything you found “too cool not to use” that you haven’t used yet?

Write Ten Words (or Write One Paragraph)

Instead of writing a day’s quota, I’ll challenge myself to only write a ridiculously small amount of words. Then quit.

Repeat as needed. It’s better than not writing at all. At some point, you’ll realize you’ve gone over that quota and are back in the groove. For me, this usually takes a few days.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Worldcon: Day 1

We arrived in London on Wednesday afternoon, and our shared ride to the Aloft hotel took 2-1/2 hours due to road closures in central London for an event.

It’s our first stay at an Aloft hotel, which is trendy and hipsterish without being too much so. The convention rate makes it affordable for a London hotel.

We got to dinner late on Wednesday after napping for several hours, and I slept very well that night.

Thursday, I only went to one panel: The Joy of Sex, which featured Artist Guest of Honor Chris Foss, one of the original illustrators of the book The Joy of Sex. The panel also included Meg Barker, who is currently researching sex manuals, and Bethan Jones a sexualities researcher.

Chris was a complete hoot.

I missed two koffeeklatsches. One I was on the alternate list for, and the other was after the panel, and I was simply too tired by that point. Pity, as I would really have loved to have gone.

Apart from that, I did a fair amount of talking to people before needing to bail for a nap in the late afternoon.

One of Rick’s relatives who lives in London came to dinner with us, and it was great to see him again.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Problematic Topics and Catharsis

Photo by Björn Simon

Photo by Björn Simon


In many ways, I’m a classic liberal: I don’t believe in censorship, even of works I feel are reprehensible. I think fiction, and well-written non-fiction, can be cathartic, and that catharsis is a good thing.

Most of us have some sort of negative desire: something that, if fulfilled, would harm us or others. For most people, I suspect these are far more ordinary bad things.

I read four posts the other day that are all, in their own ways, on related difficult subjects:

50 Shades of Non-Consent: Editing BDSM Erotica as a Queer Top

An editor of BDSM fiction talks about the effect it’s had on her love life. There are some cues here that someone not familiar with the culture of BDSM might miss, e.g., warning signs like, “You are what we call a natural sub.”

When 50 Shades of Grey exploded in 2012, I was editing erotic romance novels five days a week in a cramped pink building in South Austin. 50 Shades made “BDSM” the most marketable term in the romance/erotica industry, and it made my already uncomfortable job a living hell.

I’ve read some books that, frankly, seem more like grooming someone for conditioned violence, and Jennifer agrees:

And books like 50 Shades set a dangerous precedent for would-be subs: one where hyper-femininity is demanded and safe words are for the weak. I understand why, upon reading these books, some people become adamant that D/s is just an excuse for violence against women.

It depresses me. BDSM (which, for what it’s worth, isn’t my thing) is a very large umbrella that doesn’t necessarily involve bondage, discipline, sadism, or masochism. Yet the fiction in the genre tends to the farther end of the genre, and quite a bit of it, like 50 Shades, is abuse masquerading as BDSM. Another relevant post on this subject is Jenny Trout’s commentary about 50 Shades and abusive relationships.

The Marketing of Slave Fantasy: A Bridge Too Far?

Moving on to the second post, there are people who have rape fantasies and slave fantasies. There is fiction that caters to those market segements—but the marketing of same may well be problematic.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine non-problematic marketing for the content in question, but it doesn’t quite hit my squick button the way one particular category does: breeder stories.

You can take my rape fantasy when you non-consensually prise it from my kink dependent mind

Someone who enjoys same discusses it.

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

This fourth post might seem like an outlier—and, frankly, it is. However, it discusses a really important topic: what if people’s fantasies tend toward real non-consent (rather than fantasy non-consent), and yet the people who have said fantasies don’t want to harm anyone?

It turns out that we have little infrastructure in place for people who are pre-offenders.

Quoting Elizabeth Letourneau, founding director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins University.

We say we’re really concerned about sex offending and we really don’t want children to be sexually offended and we don’t want adults to be raped, but we don’t do anything to prevent it. We put most of our energy into criminal justice, which means that the offense has already happened and often many offenses have already happened.

That seems backwards, doesn’t it?

It’s important to have means of escape, means of dealing with difficult fantasies that are so integral to various people’s lives. It’s also important to provide necessary support to both would-be offenders and people who’ve been victims.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Coping With Depression

Robin Williams died, apparently of suicide. He’d been through a recent rehab program; he struggled with both addiction and depression.

For many years, I didn’t realize I struggled with depression. When I became involved in Scientology, the depression got worse, and the costs of admitting I had it rose. I left Scientology in 1989, but I didn’t seek help for my depression until 1997. To ask for “psych drugs” or traditional therapy was counter to all my programming.

At that point, I’d been widowed for a few months. I wasn’t suffering any obvious big-picture depression problems. I cried occasionally, but didn’t go on long crying jags.

I was waiting for my doctor, and read an article about depression. I had many of the secondary problems of depression: total inability to sleep at night (which has plagued me intermittently ever since) being the biggest one. As a secondary effect, my fibromyalgia raged on with the sleep irregularities and never went away.

My doctor prescribed me two antidepressants, one of which was amitriptyline. To this day, I’m still on nortriptyline to help regulate sleep (and thus pain), though I no longer feel depressed. Unless, of course, I go off of it, as I did for a few months. Big mistake.

My doctor told me that when he’d tell depressed people what drugs and/or therapy could do for them, they’d look at him like he was a Martian. My own example: I’d become convinced I’d never write again. It was too painful and too wrapped up in the identities both I and my late husband had.

I started to feel the emotional lift from one of the meds in a few days, and within two weeks I was starting to write again. Medication turned my life around and made it worth living again; I’m unhappy when I can’t write.

I’m thankful that I’ve only been suicidal during one very short period of my life, before my first marriage. I’ve known other people who’ve killed themselves (I tell one such story here), and I always feel sad for them and the people left behind.

Susan, I’m so sorry you lost your husband Robin.

If you’re reading this and struggling with depression: there are sources of help. What worked for me may not work for you, but please try to find something that helps, even if it doesn’t seem immediately effective.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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