Archive for January, 2012


Science fiction and fantasy novels are among the most popular genre selections in today’s market. More people hear about conventions related to sf/’fantasy than any other genre, and it’s created an entirely new world called “fandom.” What is fandom and how did it come about?

 

Fandom is made up of people who all love the books, movies, games and graphic novels inspired by the authors and their imaginations. We’re fans, and we love to gather together at conventions- be it ComicCon, WorldCon– hosted by a different sf/fantasy club/city every year -Arisia, World Fantasy ConventionBoskone or ShevaCon, where my friends from Baen traditionally spend 1 day at the shooting range. Many of us know each other from online groups, such as the Lois McMaster Bujold Mailing List or Baen’s Bar– a multiplicity of forums where each author has their own forum as well as  a Feelings group, where we can discuss things that hurt us, excited over some situation as well as Baen Appetite, for those of us who love to cook. Many times, we meet each other at the conventions, often making lifelong friends by connecting in the ConSuite. Members dress up as their favorite characters, winning costume awards while wandering the halls, and kaffeeklasches & literary beers allow fans to spend time with their favorite authors.

 

When I was growing up in the late 1970’s & ’80’s, Dungeons & Dragons became very popular- I remember a lot of the boys in my school getting together at lunchtime to roleplay instead of talking over lunch or playing on the playground. I never understood the lure of gaming for myself, but I know that a lot of people live, breathe & thrive either playing D&D, Dominion or  Agricola, etc.  My fellow NESFAns come in every Wednesday night, where Dominion eventually comes up, and games can be fast or slow, depending on which rules they decide upon, using the many game expansions NESFA gets as they come out.

 

Of course, the most important part of fandom are- for most of us -the books we read, allowing us to be transported across the universe of our minds where anything can happen- from here on Earth all the way to other galaxies depending on the book you’re reading. My introduction to sf/fantasy was Anne McCaffrey‘s “Dragonsinger,” a wonderful story about a girl who didn’t fit in her Hold, and escaped, Impressing 9 fire lizards. I felt for Menolly, mainly because I was an outcast, but, after reading Dragonsinger, I was hooked on sf/fantasy! Getting my first computer, reading Lois’ books, then making friends with everyone on Mailing list, which led me to Baen’s Bar and conventions. I loved Baen’s Free Library, courtesy of Eric Flint, because he was tired of the e-piracy argument- he went to authors published by Baen, whose books were in ereader format and asked them if they minded his putting those books into a Free Library. Not a problem for the authors, and  being able to meet the authors of my favorite books, and having conversations with them was awesome, and I was finally in my element! I met Tamora Pierce at Balticon in 2004- where I told her my sister & I had been reading her books since I was in fifth grade. Tammy’s reaction? “Thank you for not telling me what year that was!”

 

Baen’s Bar is a wonderful collection of fans and authors who actually take the word Fandom & turn it into Famdon because we take care of each other, and if one person needs help, we help them. I have personal reasons to be thankful for this, as the Barfly Battalion mobilized to help me move from Western Mass to Boston, including money to get to job interviews and look at apartments. When Jim Baen had a stroke & ending up in a coma, we all got together, sent goodies to Baen’s offices in North Carolina, as well as put money together so Toni Weisskopf, then Editor-in-Chief of Baen, now Publisher-in-Chief, and Jim’s daughter Jessica could go to restaurants near the hospital. Baen also contributes entire libraries to carriers & military bases all over the world. The Battalion also mobilized when fellow ‘flies were stationed in the Middle East needed care packages, so Operation Baen Bulk went into action, getting disposable razors, wet wipes, goodies, etc. to not only our ‘flies, but their entire platoons.

 

To me, sf/fantasy isn’t just a genre, it’s a family, and my friends online and those met at conventions have brought a whole new dimension to my life. It’s led me from books, to new friends and a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s also led me into different friends via Facebook, especially the MasterKoda.com group, where we’re friends, help each other with our writing, networking and turning Berger Proofreading & Copyediting to a whole new level, where I’m learning more than I thought I could ever imagine. Fandom started me with just sf/fantasy, but it’s also led me into other friendships and helping me grow as a professional proofreader & copyeditor. Most of that credit goes to Tasha Turner & Kim Mutch Emerson, and they’ve become awesome friends, and I know I still have more to learn, and see where Fandom is going to lead me in the future.

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I was moseying through the blogosphere looking for tips on proofreading, and I found a really good one by Shane Arthur on foolproof proofreading for bloggers (try saying *that* 5 times fast!). He proofreads blogs professionally for many professional bloggers, and I was both impressed & surprised by this blog, which you can see here: http://www.copyblogger.com/proofreading-tips/.

One of the reasons I’m impressed with his blog is that he explains, with one trick, how to proofread your own work before posting it, making sure that you understand all 14 points.

Number 1- assuming a proofreader mindset can be difficult for a writer who’s never had to proofread their own work before. I think one of the reasons we have so many problems proofreading our own work is that we trust our computer’s spellchecker  too much. I’m a sight speller, so that’s not much of a problem for me, but it takes work & a dictionary for the nonprofessional writers as well as a lot of concentration.

Number 2- write as if you were going to be publishing a book. His point is that if you do your proofreading more like someone preparing a book for publication, proofreading becomes much easier because it matters even more to make a good impression to the publishing employee who takes the first look at your work.

Number 3- read every day. The more you read, the fewer errors you make (in my opinion) because you’re looking at your material much more carefully.

Number 4- if you hate to read, write about what you hate to write, ditto with reading. For me, this can be difficult because my attention wanders off if I’m not really getting into the mood of what I’m working on or reading. Doesn’t matter- keep at it, and you’ll improve more and more as time goes on.

I’m not going to go through all 14 points because this would become something I dislike- they’re his words and my repeating everything is basically stealing Shane’s blog- my job is to get you to go to his blog and find out for yourself.

Proofreading is something I’ve done my entire life- my mother taught me and has become instinctive to the point where I can find every little error in the sf/fantasy & historical mystery novels I enjoy reading. I proofread papers for my classmates in college, evaluated e-slush for Baen Books and have taught myself to look at everything before handing my assignments, either in school or my commissions for authors and/or publishers. Take pride in your work, even if it’s “just” a blog- more people read your words than you might think.

Food in literature

One of the things I’ve noticed about books is that food is pretty much ubiquitous when it comes to books; cultures, historical novels, science fiction/fantasy, mysteries.  I enjoy reading historical (occasionally hysterical) mysteries, and  learned more about food in different eras than I ever did in college while majoring in History. For example- most people don’t know that carrots used to be purple, but orange carrots became more popular, so that’s what we’re used to seeing at the grocery store. I didn’t find actual purple carrots until I went to the Farmer’s Market at Copley Square here in Boston, MA, where they were offering *rainbow* carrots- orange, yellow, purple, white, and I just had to try them! I discovered that orange carrots are the sweetest, probably explaining their popularity, and purple carrots made for a prettier display even if they weren’t as sweet.

I learned about marrows in Agatha Christie mysteries, but didn’t really think about what they actually were until a few years ago. One of the reasons I finally decided to learn what they were is thanks to David Wishart’s Marcus Corvinus series where marrows were also mentioned, causing me to use precious work time when I worked for B&N in Hadley, MA to look them up in a food encyclopedia. Marrows are members of the cucumber family, Europe’s equivalent to squash as squash existed only in the New World. One of the things that really irritated me about A Vote for Murder was that he had a character eating pumpkin seeds, which wouldn’t arrive in Europe for at least 1,000 years. Now, I love his books, but, if he’s going to set his books in Ancient Rome, he needs to do a little more research.

Lindsay Davis, on the other hand, is much more elaborate in her research of food popular in Ancient Rome. Her protagonist, Marcus Didius Falco, ends up traveling all over for Vespasian, from Britain to Egypt, where there’s quite a difference in what the natives eat. In Britain, mussels and eels are common foodstuffs whereas Egypt has dates, melons, at one point, herb called Silphium, thought to have been extinct by the time Vespasian became Caesar.   At one point, Vespasian gifts Falco with a turbot, a fish restricted to the Caesar’s household. I’ve found Falco to be a well-fleshed character, character being the operative word, and Davis’ ability to bring him to life is remarkable. Falco notices everything, especially the kinds of food they eat as they travel.

End of part one, foodstuff in historical mysteries.