Monday, January 18, 2021

Boskone: February 12-14, 2021

Arisia may be over for the year, but Boskone is now on the horizon! I'm on panels for it as well:

Creating Across Media

12 Feb 2021, Friday 17:00 - 18:00, Carlton - (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

Versatility is an author's greatest tool in today's publishing market. Whether it's books, blogging, comics, drama, film, gaming, graphic novels, non-fiction, short fiction, social media, or TV there is a story to be told. When switching from one to the other, what do you need to keep in mind? What are some of the key tips and tricks to creating compelling content no matter which medium you are writing in at the moment?

Christopher Golden, Walter Jon Williams (Word Domination), Scott Edelman (M), Gillian Daniels, Mur Lafferty

Female Character Evolution in Speculative Fiction

13 Feb 2021, Saturday 13:00 - 14:00, Burroughs (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

Is there more to life than virgin-mother-crone? Let's look at how physical and psychological change in women is portrayed in fiction today. We've talked about how the representation of women in fiction has changed, but we'll talk here about how a woman actual changes through time and experience within today's works. How does SF/F/H approach the physical changes, from childhood to womanhood or the later changes in life? How do print and screen differ in this regard? 

Nancy Holder, Gillian Daniels (M), Maura McHugh, Connie Willis, Tamora Pierce (Tamora Pierce LLC)


Horror Comics: The Art of Graphic Terror

14 Feb 2021, Sunday 11:30 - 12:30, Burroughs (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

From comics to graphic novels, these artists and authors don't pull their punches. Instead they excel at steadily building the narrative dread through a combination of disconcerting story elements that happen both in the panel and off the page as they push old tropes into unknown territory. From body horror to creepypasta, zombies, noirish superheroes, organ farmers, demonic ice cream men, and fairies dwelling inside the rotting corpse of, well, never mind, why do we read them? Is it the sheer inventive fun of titles like Afterlife With Archie; Killadelphia; Die; Crawl to Me; or Gyo: The Death-Stench Creeps? Maybe it’s the sequential-storytelling skills of writers like Joe Hill, Cullen Bunn, Gail Simone, Victor Lavalle, or Carmen Maria Machado? Or maybe there’s just something wrong with us?

Jack Haringa (Worcester Academy), Cat Scully, Maura McHugh, Gillian Daniels (M), Joe Hill


The Representation of LGBTQ+ in Popular Culture

14 Feb 2021, Sunday 14:30 - 15:30, Carlton - (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

LGBTQ+ characters are no longer invisible on the screen. While there has been an obvious shift in popular culture, we still have a long way to go in the fight for appropriate representation in film, television, and fiction. The surge in LGBTQ+ representation has brought with it a surge of creators exploiting our desire to see a more realistic representation of diverse stories, often writing characters who are either caricatures or characters in relationships without being fleshed out appropriately. We'll discuss good and bad examples of LGBTQ+ characters. How do they help or hurt popular conception, including self perception, of gays and lesbians?

Jennifer Williams (Circlet Press), Sara Megibow (KT Literary), Gillian Daniels, Julia Rios (Mermaids Monthly) (M)


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Arisia 2021: Online! Because of a Plague!

Guess what's next weekend? Arisia 2021! And I'm on programming! Which you can see from the vantage point of Zoom!

Here's my schedule:

Hold Your Enthusiasm: Problematic Things - Communities, Panel - 55min - Zoom Room 1, 5:30pm Friday
In recent years, J.K. Rowling made clear her transphobia. This year, The Flash fired its Ralph Dibney, actor Hartley Sawyer, after several racist, mysoginist, and homophobic tweets resurfaced. Knowing that these people and many others have said and will continue to say incredibly problematic and harmful things, can we continue to enjoy their work? Or is everything they’ve ever done cancelled? If we do continue to enjoy these works, how can we do so in a way that doesn’t harm others?

Writing in the Age of COVID - Writing, Panel - 55min - Zoom Room 1, 7:00pm Friday

Speculative fiction writers have imagined all manner of plagues, pandemics, and post-apocalyptic scenarios. Having lived with COVID-19 for the better part of a year, how did speculative fiction writers do? What did they get right and what did they get wrong? This panel will discuss how writers can draw from this collective disaster to make plague fiction more relevant or realistic in the future.

The Octavia Butler future is now - Literature, Panel - 55min - Zoom Room 1, 4:00pm Saturday
In her Earthseed series, Octavia Butler gave us a vision of the 2020s that is disturbingly close to our reality, including storms, and droughts brought on by climate change; escapism through addictive pharmaceuticals and games, and perhaps most chillingly a far-right US President backed by extremist evangelical Christians. This panel will review the highlights of these books and discuss the influences on Butler’s writing as well as the influence these novels have had since their publication.
Gillian Daniels (m), Bunnificent, Rob Cameron, Andrea Hairston, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Sam Schreiber 

Go Team Venture! (and close the door behind you) - Media, Panel - 55min - Zoom Room 2, 11:30am Sunday
Growing quickly from its start as a spoof of 60s Hanna-Barbera action cartoons, The Venture Bros. built a full universe populated by complex characters with intertwined story arcs that kept us coming back for 7 seasons released over the span of 16 years. Many hearts broke when it was abruptly announced the show was not getting a season 8. Why did we love this show so much, how did it change over the long term, and what might have happened with The Monarch and Dr. Venture next?
Gillian Daniels (m), Lyndsay Ely, Eve Leonard, David G. Shaw, Hildy Silverman

Sunday Afternoon Readings 1 - Literature, Reading - 55min - Zoom Room 4, 4:00pm Sunday
Join some of Arisia’s wonderful authors, while they read from their own work.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

20 Favorite Books of 2020

Five star grades, top ten lists, "must-read" books--the moving parts of a story are so subjective, I find it really difficult to "grade" them. What sticks with me isn't the sum total of a book, either, but individual scenes, a character impressive in strength and vulnerability, or a moment that shocks me awake into a different sense of reality.

Now, I made a post the other day that summarized my year doing the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, but realized I should probably make a list of books that stuck with me the most this year.

So, here's my favorite books I read this year, placed in a somewhat arbitrary but, I hope, organized list:

 The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories (2018) by Yukiko Motoya

The ability to leaven quirkiness with self-reflection is a gift. Motoya proves she has it in spades with this surreal short story collection. In the titular piece, an isolated housewife decides to pick up bodybuilding, which, despite her physical changes, her husband doesn't seem to notice. "An Exotic Marriage" has a woman realize she and her husband are beginning to look alike, and that he may not be as human as he seems. The stories here often center on marriage, bodily changes, and how connections between people are always in flux.

My favorite story, however, is "Fitting Room." The main character is a shop assistant in a women's clothing store, dealing with a customer whose face is obscured by being the very fitting room she's slipped into while our innocent employee wasn't looking. The shop assistant does her job and devotes herself to helping this possibly-nonhuman-entity find the perfect dress.

It's a wild collection. I was intrigued when I saw it was an Otherwise Award nominee. I'm looking forward to reading more of their nominees.

19. Harleen (2020) by 
's work for his series, Sunstoneoften feels overwritten and repetitive, under the editorship of DC Comics, he writes a tight reiteration of Harley Quinn's origin. This character is close to my heart and began as a Joker "hench-wench" in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), which I watched in my formative years far too much. Harley Quinn was made distinct by voice actress Arleen Sorkin's sparkling charm and notably Jewish vaudevillian affectation. She was later given a back story in the 1993 Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love.

 takes that backstory and remixes it with his well-known attention to character detail. Harleen isn't just a love struck neophyte therapist when she meets the Joker (here illustrated to look a lot like the late David Bowie), but going through her own difficulties with isolation. An ill-advised affair with her graduate school professor, alluded to as a visual gag in Mad Love, has left her shunned by her peers. Her support network in violent, antisocial Gotham is non-existent. She's slipping into a depression and, after she starts her stressful job at Arkham Asylum, courting alcoholism. When the chance to prove her thesis and treat the Joker appears, she grabs onto him like a lifeline.

One of the most fascinating things about this retelling is how it works as an inverted romance novel. Harleen is eventually convinced she's "taming the beast" and changing herself into an empowered person in the process. Rather than come to see her as an equal, however, the Joker seduces her into a volatile relationship and recreates her as a "hench-wench," another tool for his arsenal. My hope is that  is allowed to write more of the character and her eventual break-up with the Joker as well as her more functional relationship with Poison Ivy, as he did in fan comics before DC took notice of his work.

18. Freshwater (2018) by Akwaeke Emezi

After the 2019 Otherwise Award winner was announced, I decided to give it a read. I was not prepared for the emotional experience. 

In form and content, this is a work that crosses borders and laughs at boundaries. It's simultaneously a work of fantasy and a creative memoir, a discussion of mental illness and how it intersects with faith, a Nigerian's troubled childhood and eventual move to the United States, and a story that switches deftly between third and first person. Also, it's deeply queer.

Ada is born with many selves inside of her. The selves are gods, multiple personalities, and facets of her mind. They're beautiful and, as she goes through traumatic events, sharply dangerous. 

This is the sort of dark fantasy and deeply personal storytelling I crave. It's a strange, lovely work, less a single story and more a homemade creation assembled with peculiar, vulnerable, trembling pieces.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Read Harder: 2020 As Seen Through Book Riot's Challenge

This year, I read 209 books (and counting). Though a number of these choices were "quick" reads because they were single issue comics and audiobooks, the pandemic was my biggest influence in reading more this year than I have any year before. I feel stupidly smug about it, but, to be honest, it was mostly because my social life has evaporated. I'm bored and listless and reading has helped stave off the worst of my anxiety. I know others have had a great deal of difficulty focusing without a social life, work commute, or stability. Per the refrain across social media, 2020 has been an awful year.

So, I plan to tell it through the medium of books I read for Book Riot's Read Harder 2020 Challenge. Here's what I read and what was happening at the time:

Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Finished: 1/3/2020)

I found this enormously amusing. It combines my favorite things about period romances (saturnine love interests, mostly) and detective stories (COMPETENCE). I immediately read the sequel, which I didn't like quite as much, but am now considering reading the third book in the series anyway.

At this point in the year, I knew COVID-19 was a thing that existed! I knew it was scary, but hey, so was SARS and ebola. And they didn't impact my life, personally, I said to myself! But then, we had a minimally competent federal government that acted quickly to keep epidemics contained, so I suppose my expectations were skewed.

So, much like the characters in this book, I felt terribly clever and satisfied. I was starting the year strong, I said to myself!

I read two other books that fulfilled this challenge. The first was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, the first book of hers I've read all the way through (finished December 17th), and then Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1) by Dorothy L. Sayers, which is ALSO my first completed Sayers (finished December 21st). I was in a mystery mood! The former was fine and I see why people love it, but Poirot's methods felt increasingly preposterous. I kept expecting him to reveal he was a telepath or something! The latter is much more peculiar and fun. Also, it manages to have Jewish characters that don't lean into the very worst stereotypes, so, hurray, I suppose! Also also, Lord Wimsey is a charming man to follow around, like if P.G. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster had the logic of Sherlock Holmes pumped directly into his brain.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Grinchmas!

I was recently featured on a podcast by Julia Rios, who has edited my work in such places as Strange Horizons and Fireside Magazine, and Geoffrey Pelton. This is Why We're Like This is a childhood nostalgia comedy podcast where guests revisit media from their youth. As someone who invested a lot of time in watching television as a kid and loves talking about media these days, I was deeply pleased to be a part of two episodes of this podcast!

On A Rugrats Chanukah, talking about growing up Jewish in the American Midwest and the awfulness of Angelica Pickles!

Yesterday, they released the episode for How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). What was supposed to be a short episode grew into a buck wild conversation that touches on everything from WWII propaganda racism to the Onceler fandom. Content warning for, well, everything!

Enjoy! I certainly did!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Requiem for Spooky Season: A Mega Round-Up of Fiction, Theater, YouTube, Game Writing, and Things I've Been Doing

October is in the rearview mirror, now, but for me, spooky season is forever.

On November 24th, Wicked Women: An Anthology of New England Horror Writers dropped. It was edited by Trisha J. Wooldridge and Scott T. Goudsward with a cover by Lynne Hansen. The writers in it, among many, include Jane YolenHillary Monahan, and myself. I'm ecstatic to be in such company.

I wrote the short story that was accepted to the collection, "Eyes Like Silver Dollars," some years ago. It was wonderful to edit it under the guidance of Trisha Wooldridge. I spoke about it at length with her as well as fellow writers Lola J. Clemente and Christine Lajewski, and the cover artist, Lynne Hansen, for the Wicked Women panel we recorded for Salem Horror Fest 2020.

You can find the specific "Wicked Women" panel here and other programming here

Please take a look. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this online convention, especially during the isolation of the pandemic.

If that's not enough for you, I did a reading for the fest, as well! 

It's actually from the beginning of "Bobbie and Her Father," my other short story published this year.

This story has garnered some delightful praise, which you bet I'm linking here for my own edification:

The father in the thought-provoking “Bobbie and Her Father” by Gillian Daniels is a modern Victor Frankenstein, and Bobbie is his creation. [...] [O]ne is left pondering many of the themes of Mary Wollstonecraft’s original: the consequences of one’s actions, the ramifications of playing god and/or trying to conquer mortality, and the fact that monsters are not born monsters.
- Paula Guran, Locus Magazine

The story is by turns heartbreaking and frightening, and while it is not without its death and gore, at its heart, it is a story of monstrous loneliness rather than monstrous rage.
- A.C. Wise, Shiny Shorts: Monster Summer 

The horror here builds nicely.
- Sam Tomaino, SFRevu

Oh my gosh. THIS STORY. It is a wrenching, horror-ifically funny, and devastating take on Frankenstein, all set in modern-day suburbia, and featuring the regular kinds of people that probably maybe live on any given street. Daniels's story twists and turns through unsettling scifi, to horror and dark comedy, into something that is almost (but only almost) heartwarming.
- Maria Haskins, My Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Short Fiction Roundup - August 2020 
Thank you. I'm so moved. I was so nervous when The Dark Magazine agreed to publish this story, but I should have realized the audience for it was there and waiting.

Speaking of readings, the YouTube channel TheDevilsInterval did a reading of my short story, "Older Sister." It was originally published in The Dawnline RPG with Voidspiral Entertainment in 2018. 

The narration is amazing. You should totally check out his channel and the other stories he's read and produced.

Last but far from least, I wrote a piece of theater/teleplay which premiered in October. It's called, "Let Slip the Dogs of RAWR XD" for our Catalyze Open HouseIt was a crash course in learning how to edit video, too, which was enormous fun.

Sienna is Kitty Drexel, an actress and my editor over at The New England Theatre Geek. Shawn is played by the excellent Joshua Berkowitz-Geller and Baby, the dog, is the esteemed Jenny Gutbezahl.

I wrote this with Catalyze Playwriting Group, which we premiered in the Catalyze Open House which I helped design, another learning experience that was fascinating and rewarding. 

I absolutely recommend clicking through to find the many Easter eggs my fellow playwrights and I hid throughout. One is a Twine game I made in the basement!

This is all to say, I've been busy and doing my best to take care. 

I hope you're taking care, too.