Solar Eclipse 2017: In the Moon’s Shadow

One More Month!

Solar Eclipse 2017 path image from NASA.gov

It seems we have been waiting a lifetime for this moment. I know I had. In thirty more days, the moon will cover the sun. Yes, indeed! A total solar eclipse. I cannot be any more excited for it. Total solar eclipses seems like something that happens elsewhere in the planet, usually in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean. However, it is happening. Soon. Here in the USA. Unbelievable.

I’d never seen one in my lifetime. Not ever. I saw a lunar eclipse once in Puerto Rico (where the moon shows all his phases at once) but never a solar eclipse. To actually watch the skies darken and daylight become night for a short period seems like science fiction or magic to me despite being a common occurrence. The earth experiences several solar and lunar eclipses yearly. Just never here in the continental USA. Hence, this is a big deal.

Are You Ready?

Back when I listed the top reasons 2017 will be awesome, the total solar eclipse made the list at number one. There may be plenty of things for 2017 to be unforgettable but they can’t compete with Mother Nature and the wonders of space. After all our scientific advances and new planetary discoveries, the universe still has the power to inspire and astonish us. Solar eclipses, despite their frequency and normality, are one of the most breathtaking astronomical spectacles. They have fascinated humanity since ancient times.

Are you ready to watch the moon’s umbra cover the sun? After all, August 21st is only a month away. NASA has prepared an incredibly informative and helpful webpage (click here). Just remember, never look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse. There are ways to circumvent this. If you use a telescope or binoculars, make sure to put a solar filter before watching it.

Don’t Miss this Opportunity

Total Solar Eclipse image from Space.com

The eclipse will not happen in Philadelphia. It will run in a curve from Oregon to South Carolina. If you live in the path of the eclipse or driving distance, you cannot miss this unique opportunity. Or watch it on television, but trust me, it won’t be the same.

Eclipses, whether solar or lunar, are astronomical events that humbly remind us of our place in the Universe. They are reminders of the wonders of space and how our planet fits in the cosmos. Also, for those few who believe the Earth is flat (what? some idiots still believe that?) what more proof than the shadow of the Earth during a lunar eclipse.

I love stargazing. Who doesn’t love stargazing in a clear night. Sometimes we forget (despite the title of a popular young adult novel) that the sun is also a star. I cannot wait when the moon, our faithful satellite, covers our star and everything goes dark. Prepare to be amaze. And inspire as well.

Are you excited about the solar eclipse? Are you ready? Will you be watching live? Share in the comments section.

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Quit Your Day Job! (Not Yet!)

Should I Quit My Day Job?

Thoughtful or stressful businessman at work from El Heraldo

As you know, this blog launched one year ago, and the very first blog post was, unsurprisingly, about work. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps the idea of blogging while also having a 8:30 to 5:00 job schedule (on top of the martial arts training, the writing competitions and the actual writing and everything else) was on my mind at the time. Despite arguing against quitting your day job back them, who doesn’t dream about it?

I have heard other bloggers make comments like “quit your day job but do not quit your dream.” Those words sound so vaguely beautiful and meaningful. However, the bills won’t pay themselves unless you happen to win the lottery. There are many benefits for writers having a job. Consequently, there are many disadvantages. I can’t deny how jealous I am of my unemployed friends, some of them who write two or three self-published books a year. Lucky bastards.

Admittedly, this is not the path I have envisioned for myself.

When Should You Quit Your Day Job?

Work is not glamorous, or sexy, or stress-free. Work is hard; it can be boring; and has an ability to kill creativity with dullness and repetition. If you are a writer, particularly a beginner writer still struggling to learn the ropes and hungry to be published, you crave freedom and creativity. You wish you were not a slave for 40 hours a week or more. Despite my wish for both, my advice from a year ago stands. Do not quit your job… Yet.

Granted, how many words, chapters, research and revision can you get done if only you have those 40 plus hours a week? Can you imagine? I could be the next Bruce Sterling if work didn’t keep me so busy. On the other hand, how could I afford the costumes, the conventions, the writer’s conferences and workshops, the writing webinars and all those books I love to read. Besides, I guess paying the rent and the bills are important too.

What I am trying to get at are three things:

 

  •  It is perfectly normal to feel the temptation to quit your job.

 

  •  Quitting your job would not make you a better writer.

 

  •  Don’t quit your job unless your income from writing exceeds your income from employment.

 

Follow Your Passion

Writing is not a hobby. Writing is not a choice either. For us, whether we are beginners or established authors, writing is a passion. I am not going to ask you to quit your day job. That would be irresponsible. I could never ask you to quit your dreams either. That would be cruel. Life is full of haters and naysayers. And granted, as easy it is to hate and be jealous of those authors who don’t have to work for a living and get to write all day and sleep late (because they don’t have a day job), who says they got it easier than us? No, everyone’s path is different.

My advice is a simpler one. Follow your passion. Don’t talk about it. Be about it. Writers write. Constantly, daily and rewrite some more. Write down those stories. Forget about the rejections; forget the negativity. Persevere despite all odds. Writing should be a calling. Do work on improving your craft. Keep writing. Keep on learning. Yes, keep submitting. If you follow your passion, one day you will find success. And you can kick your day job to the curb.

 

 

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Happy Anniversary Speculative Tertulia!

First Year Blogging!

First Year Anniversary!

Wow! Time really flies when you are having fun. I cannot believe it has been one year. Technically, the website went live on July 4th when I took advantage of the long holiday weekend to start this adventure despite my little to nothing knowledge in creating a website. But the first real post was published on July 17th, 2016.Indeed, this is my first year blogging.

Hence, exactly one year ago I started this blog with several different purposes. Mainly to educate, to inspire, to promote anything related to speculative fiction. Fantasy, horror and science fiction (my favorite!) as well as cyberpunk and steampunk (two genres I adore) as well as many other. I have also discussed comic books, anime, and manga. I had reviewed books, movies, talk popular culture and trends.

Another goal was to start a conversation. I am not sure I have accomplished that goal. However, I will keep trying. A tertulia is a gathering and friendly debate among like-minded individuals.

This is our space. For us, geeks and fans. Welcome.

Why Blog? Has it Been Worthy?

I started blogging after two and a half years of literary rejections since most people advised writers to have a platform. After some consideration, I said why not? As a matter of fact, Social Media for Writers by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (two of my favorite steampunk authors) was the book that convinced me to start a blog. So, if you don’t like this blog, you can blame them (please don’t, they are awesome and fun loving people, as well as great writers). And if you enjoy this blog a little bit, you can thank them by reading their amazing Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels and rave about them.

Has it been worthy? Yes and no. In a way, it has helped me to engage with writing on a weekly basis. On the other hand, blogging takes a lot of time. More than I imagined. At least if you are trying to do it right and look professional. I apologized for typos and other mistakes. I worked hard. When I discover them, I tried to correct them. I have nothing to sell or promote. However, that was never my intention. It has been three years going into four, and I remain unpublished.

Blogging has allowed me to put my thoughts in order, to experiment, to start a debate, to explore new things. Most importantly, blogging has helped me to find my voice as an author (something it is still developing). Sharing my experiences in this journey helps somehow.

Actually, the biggest complaint I heard from friends is that I do not show enough of my personality. Something to take into consideration and work on.

Some Statistics

My very first blog post was about work, and I argued about not quitting your day job yet. I haven’t, but there are many days I want to. Perhaps it is time for a follow up a year later. Looking back at those first blog post, I can feel how amateurish, short and crude they feel, but I hope you can also feel the love, the passion, and care.

There were many days I did not feel like blogging, but I persevere. I started blogging twice a week, then changed to every other day (way too much) then switched to the current format of three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) with an extra blog post if needed due to a special circumstance.

Sometimes I wonder why I do it. I just finished taking a look a some statistics. Here is what I learned: 159 post in the past year; 2,566 total views; 6 comments; and 49 subscribers (thank you for reading). The record of most views in one day is 62. April 2017 was the month with most views with 366 views. Not high numbers, but not bad for a beginner blogger. All I can hope is to keep improving as I keep doing it.

Most Popular Posts

Which were the most popular posts? The anime and manga related ones, with Yuri On Ice, Death Note, and Orange taking the top spots with Attack on Titan a close fourth. Both the ABCs lists (Speculative Fiction and Anime) and the top ten lists were popular, with the Top Ten Kung Fu styles been the most read one. The Hugo Recommendations, Tokyo Ghoul and the Plot Versus Character blog entries were popular. My post on crossplay was searched a lot for some reason. Other popular ones were the one I posted on election day urging people to vote, the Fairy Tales post, the Christmas one, Erotic Horror, Romantic Fantasy, and my post about the Anthropocene age got lots of views.

Most Shared Posts

Post views do not necessarily measure engagement. Which posts people shared the most? The surprising list: Top Ten Monsters in Speculative Fiction came first with 11 shares. My blog post about Astronaut Day came second with ten shares. My first post about pen names came third with eight shares. My post about my unfulfilled childhood dream came fourth with seven shares. My poem “Who Would Remember Us?” came fifth with six shares. My post about the meaning of fandom came sixth with four shares, tied with the Robot Revolution review.

Going Forward

Thank You for This First Year!

I am still new to blogging. I am still learning. Surprisingly, I have yet to run out of ideas or things to post (which was my biggest fear when I started). I will keep taking webinars, attending workshops and writer’s conferences. I will keep blogging and learning and read more. I will keep subscribing and read other people’s blogs and learn from them.

Let’s hope speculative tertulia keeps growing. But if it doesn’t, to my few readers and followers, I will give you the best of myself. Thank you for being part of my first year. Here is my promise for a better second year.

And remember fans, let’s grok each other!

 

 

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My Hugo Nominee Recommendations

One More Day to Vote!

Worldcon 75 poster

July 15th at 11:59 PM (Pacific Daylight Time) is the deadline to vote for Hugo Awards. I urged everyone to vote. We are fans, we demand quality, and we love to reward quality. Here are my random thoughts and recommendations. First, this year’s group of nominees is a strong one (with few exceptions). Some categories are stronger than others and made it hard to pick one winner over the other. Also, some stories did not work for me because of how they end. Endings are important for us readers. We invested time and money; we want to be rewarded with a satisfying and surprising ending.

Novels

There were no weak entries, but neither one spoke to me and made me fall in love. I have changed my vote three times in the past week and probably will again before the deadline. It is a close race between Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (which should win the John Campbell award for best new writer); Ninefox Gambit by Yoo Ha Lee; and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.

Too Like the Lightning takes a long time to get going but once it does it is amazing. World-building utopian future with a strong Renaissance flavor.  However, I felt like the story does not start after the last 100 pages or so. All the Birds in the Sky was the opposite. I loved the beginning better than the last part. Sometimes I felt it did not know what it was (fantasy?, YA?, science fiction?, ecological disaster? romance?). The romance part felt forced. Ninefox Gambit has an amazing concept (calendrical battles in space by different political factions!; a living weapon in the form of an undefeated and uncontrollable deceased general!) but, again, the ending could have been more epic. Hard to pick.

Novellas

In my opinion, the strongest category. I picked The Ballad of Black Tom as my first choice, but the incredibly creepily endearing Every Heart a Doorway was a close second. As a matter of fact, A Taste of Honey was lovely and engrossing; Penric and the Shaman is a study in contrast between two dissimilar magic systems, and This Census-Taker is weird and creepy in that ‘can’t-stop-reading’ Mielville way. What a strong category!

Novelettes

Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary was a lesson in economical world building with not a wasted sentence and a satisfying ending. Ursula Vernon’s The Tomato Thief has the most likable and interesting main character of the bunch in Grandma Harken. However, my vote goes to Carolyn Ives Gilman’s Touring with the Alien which is a study in two of my favorite concepts: the meaning of humanity and consciousness. The idea of being a tour guide for an alien being (a truly weird alien life form) by proxy (through a human translator).

Short Stories

Like with the novels, I have changed my vote three times. Unlike the novels, it is because I like them all equally. As of right now, it is a close vote between “That Game We Played During the War” (poignant and hopeful), “An Unimaginable Light” (twist ending I did not see coming) and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” (beautiful and empowering fairy tale- like story).

Other Nominees

A close fight between Rogue One, Arrival and Stranger Things, but Stranger Things feels like the more novel concept. Black Mirror: San Junipero I cannot still take off my mind. Best short dramatic presentation in a solid field. Best Editor, after much consideration, should go to Neil Clark. Clarkesworld published many of my favorite in the past year. The best graphic novel is a close fight between Monstress and Paper Girls with my vote going to Monstress due to the beautiful artwork being the tiebreaker. Still going back and forth between Strange Horizons and Uncanny Magazine for best fanzine. Ada Palmer for best new writer. Best series for to The Expanse.

Go Out and Vote, There is still Time

Of course, these are my personal preferences. You may have different ones. Support your favorites. Go out and vote! Let’s have a conversation. Share your favorites.

Wish I could say see you in Helsinki, but I am too poor. But if you go, share your experiences with the rest of us. Have fun. Support the Hugos. After all, they are our awards.

 

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Dinosaur Erotica: It is a Thing!

Say What?

Dinosaur porn!? For real???

I first heard about dinosaur erotica three years ago at a science fiction convention. One of the panelist mentioned it and said “it was a thing; it is very popular, google it!” Despite been intrigued, I did not. As I started reading for this year’s Hugo panel nominees, to which I gladly volunteered, I ran into it. Needless to say, I was shocked. I still am. Of course, I am talking about the novelette (by Stix Hiscock) ‘Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex’. Trying to keep an open mind, I read it. Come on, it is nominated for a Hugo, right. It has to be the best of the best from the previous year. There has to be some redeeming qualities (those are few and not worth mentioning). I am saving my thoughts on that story for this Friday’s Hugo Panel. However, this seems like a good opportunity to discuss dinosaur erotica.

First, let me say that dinosaur erotica is a thing and as subgenres go, pretty popular. Unsurprisingly, most the work is self-published. Second, this is not the first time an erotic story featuring dinosaurs is nominated. Last year, ‘Space Raptor Butt Invasion’ by Chuck Tingle was also nominated. As shocking as this sounds, it should not be. The Hugo awards are voted by the fans. Therefore, they are a reflection of what is popular and what people are actively reading. Consequently, there is also the “Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies” situation in which politically motivated fans voted against works by authors who do not fit their agenda. Sadly, the resulting nominees put forward were jokes. But enough about that.

What is the appeal of dinosaur erotica in particular and monster erotica in general?

Playing with Fire

Art by Shusei Moshisuki, image from kropolitos.blogspot.es

Back when I discussed paranormal romance and erotic horror, I stated that besides the sexploitation, there is a place for this form of fiction as long as it is done tastefully and obviously, the story is good. Paranormal romance is about finding love with a monster or a supernatural being. Erotic horror is about wild sex with those same monsters. Dinosaur erotica seems like a fad that takes the monster angle to its extremes.

However, a look at past civilizations show there is nothing new there. The Greco-Roman myths are full of stories of gods taking into animal forms, mythical beasts, and giants copulating with humans. Fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf hide sexual connotations if you read too much into them.

What they do share in common is the thrill of playing with fire and the forbidden. It is believed imagination is the largest sexual organ. When we read monster and dinosaur erotica we are letting our imaginations run to extremes that are unreal by definition. Granted, I fail to see the appeal and do not find it titillating. Then again, I am probably not the intended audience. On the other hand, I cannot deny the attraction of that whole “playing with fire”, forbidden and impossible elements.

Paleo Danger

We read terror to be scared. We read erotica to be aroused. Those are two very human emotions. Dinosaur erotica speaks to those two basic instincts. What does it say about our modern society? Without reading too much into it, it says we still have big imaginations and that there is nothing new under the sun.

All things considered, if you take a look at our current society, sex with dinosaurs should not surprise us so much. When films like Jurassic Park remain popular, when people are turning to “paleo diets” and we look to the Neolithic for answers to modern problems, it is easy to see a trend taken to its extremes. Dinosaurs have always fascinated us humans. They were real, they are extinct and they are not coming back. They were big, powerful and scary (the word dinosaur literally means terrible lizard).  Hence, it is safe to fantasy about them.

Myself? I’d rather read the regular thing. No dinosaurs and monsters allowed. Give me a good, cute, sexy human being. Thank you very much.

 

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Valerian and Laureline: Who Are They?

Who Are Valerian and Laureline?

Valerian and Laureline Comic Book image from Pinterest

In less than two weeks the movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will debut in the big screens. As a fan of the anime series, as well as a Fifth Element fan and Luc Besson fan, I’d been looking forward to this film. I even listed it as one of the top reasons to look forward to 2017. They are popular in their native France, Europe, Latin America and Japan (the anime was a French-Japanese co-production). However, they are not that well known in the United States despite their influence in several beloved science fiction franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek. And remember, the comic book came first, on 1967 by creators Pierre Cristin and Jean-Claud Mezieres.

First, the comic book came first, on 1967 by creators Pierre Cristin and Jean-Claud Mezieres. Then the graphic novels followed by 1969. The anime was more recent (2007). Let’s introduce them.

Valerian is a human from the 28th century, born and raised on Earth’s capital of Galaxity. He is time agent for the Spatio-Temporal Service. He is a good guy but can be reckless. He was trained to follow orders.

Laureline is an 11th-century farm girl who rescues Valerian and discovers he is a time traveler. He brings her back to the 28th Century and trains her to become a time agent. She is independent, impulsive and not afraid to use her sex appeal. She is also more likely to question authority than Valerian.

Time Jam

Time Jam anime image

The anime (titles Valerian and Laureline in some countries, Time Jam in others) is different from the comic books. First, the anime lasted only 40 episodes. Second, the anime changed up some of the themes and details. For example, in the anime, Valerian comes from the 24th century and Laureline from the 10th century. Also, in the anime, Valerian bringing Laureline to the future results on the Earth going missing. The anime follows their quest to find planet Earth which not only have disappeared but no one in the Galaxy has ever heard of.

I am a big fan of the anime. It is entertaining, full of action and big ideas. Their characterization and chemistry are visible, as well as their sexual tension/chemistry despite their denials. Their quest t stop the evil Vlagos from ruling the galaxy while undertaking several questionable jobs (they are bounty hunters) to make ends meet is different from the comics. You can watch the anime on Crunchyroll. I recommend it.

Liberal Humanism

You may be asking, what is so special about Valerian and Laureline? Is it the sci-fi/time travel elements? No, being done before and probably better (Doctor Who, anyone?). Is it the space opera elements? No, Star Wars and The Expanse cover that already. Is it their dynamic and chemistry? The X-Files did it perhaps better. Is it because of their influence in other films, comics, and series. Yes, but not on the way you are thinking. Valerian and Laureline were perhaps the first comic book series to have a liberal humanistic philosophical bent.

Humanism as a philosophy deals with empiricism, freedom, progress, and kindness. Their adventures were not about defeating the enemy. Moreover, they were about exploring, facing challenges, understanding the enemy and celebrating diversity. They also explore themes of environmentalism and feminism. Remember, this was the 1967, fifty years ago, different times. Women’s equality and protection of the environment and nature were not things people took for granted.

Are You Ready for Them?

Now that you know a little about Laureline and Valerian (how come he always get top billing?) I hope you are excited to see the movie. I know I will be there opening night and probably write a blog review about it. Now can someone explain, how dare they leave Laureline out of the title? Both in the comics and the anime she is just as important as him. Granted, he was created first, but it is their chemistry and friendship that pushes the narrative forward. They are a better team than Batman and Robin. But do not take my word. Watch the anime, read the comics and graphic novels. And watch the film when it opens on the 21st.

Are you excited for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? Have you seen the trailer? Are you ready for them?

 

 

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Summer in Philadelphia

Heat in the City

As you guys know, Philadelphia is the city I call home despite not being born or raised here. Summer just started on June 21st. It is getting hotter and hotter. Despite being a world class city, Philadelphia has two rivers but no beach. And it is beach season. What to do? Once upon a time I used to joke for everything fun Philadelphians go to New Jersey. Philadelphia summers are hot and humid. Besides going to the Jersey shore (or Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey) what is there to do in the city?

Festivals Galore

Philadelphia prides itself in been “America’s Birthplace” and its Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks kick with the Wawa Welcome America Festival on July 4th. There is the Pennypack Park Music Festival from June 7th to September 6th with different tribute bands. There is also the PECO Multicultural Festival Series all Summer long at Penn’s Landing. The Philadelphia Orchestra will play from July 19th to the 28th at the Mann Center. The 2nd Street Festival block Party in Northern Liberties is fun and besides food and music,  there is a beer garden! And let’s not forget the Made in America annual festival on Labor Day weekend in the Parkway.

If Music is Not Your Thing

Logan Square Park Fountain at Night

If music is not your thing or you do not feel like partying, there is still plenty to do in Philly. For example, my favorite thing perhaps is to go to a Phillies baseball game. There is hardly a bad seat at the stadium and despite their abysmal winning record, an evening at the Phillies is always fun.

Too hot to be outdoors? The city have several world class museums. From the Philadelphia Museum or Art, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Barnes Foundation, the Mutter Museum, the Rodin Museum, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Independence Hall, the Please Touch Museum (for the little ones), and The American Revolution Museum. Finally, there is  my personal favorite: The Franklin Institute.

Fairmount Park is great in the Summer (make sure to visit the Japanese House). I love playing tennis at FDR Park. Rittenhouse Square or Washington Square parks are great to sit down and relax while eating water ice or ice cream.

Finally, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Liberty Bell and the Constitution Center remain popular destinations. And did I mention I love Penn’s Landing at night?

Welcome to Philadelphia

If you visit Philadelphia this Summer, enjoy yourself and try our bars and restaurants. There is plenty to do. The city shines with just the right mix of culture, fun, history, art and beauty. We Philadelphians are welcoming.

And if you are still not satisfy, remember this: the Jersey shore and Six Flags are only a short car ride away.

 

 

 

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Harry Potter’s Legacy

Twenty Years Ago

Harry Potter characters drawn anime style image from EcoDiario.es

June 26th, 1997, twenty years ago, an owl delivered an invitation to a young boy who lived in a cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive. It will be an understatement to say the world have not been the same afterwards. As a matter of fact, few literary words, particularly a middle age/young adult novel have the cultural impact of the Harry Potter series. Seven books , eight films, one successful play, one theme park attraction, millions of toys, games, shirts and other products, Harry Potter remains just as popular as when the first book and the last novel (2007) was published ten years ago.

What is about Harry Potter that has resonated throughout the world with millions of fans? What has make him a cultural icon? Is he still relevant after 20 years? What is the legacy of the series?

What is so Special about Harry Potter?

Harry Potter needs no introduction. We all know one way or another his story. But, what is so special about him? First, when we first meet him, he is an underdog despite his (yet unknown to him) magical gifts. Second, he has magical powers! Do we need to say more? If you are a child, pre-teen or young adult, what could it be cooler than bending the rules of physics with a spell? Third, he is the boy next door. Not really attractive or athletic, not really that smart or popular. Fourth, his friends (Hermione and Ron) are relatable and seem like people you know or go to school with. Fifth, his stories take place in a world not quite like our own, but yet different. Not quite high or low fantasy. More like a world within a world. Easy to relate but yet removed from the ordinary. Both coexisting and occasionally clashing with each other.

Despite all the things enumerated above, the true magic of Harry Potter and why it works as a character is something else in my opinion. Namely, his audience grew up with him. Indeed, when we first meet him he is about eleven years old. Since each novel follows a year of his life, we watch him grow up from pre-teen to teenager to young adult at 18 (and in the follow up spin off Harry Potter and the Cursed Child become a parent).  How many literary characters get to grow up at the same time as his/her audience? Coming of age story in real time.

Themes

J. K. Rowling herself has stated that the main theme of the novels is death. Other themes present in the series are friendship, tolerance, oppression, fitting in, abuse of power, love, loss, prejudice, free choice and survival, among others. These are universal themes anyone can identify with.

Perhaps there is a lesson there for me and other authors. My writing has themes like space exploration and the meaning of humanity that, although interesting for me, are not universal themes. Maybe I should stick to more universal themes.

The Harry Potter Legacy

Anime style Harry Potter from Pinterest

After twenty years, everyone’s favorite boy wizard remains as popular as when he first show up in 1997. Funny thing, years before Neil Gaiman published his Books of Magic comic books, starring a certain bespectacled boy wizard named Timothy Hunter and looking a whole lot like Harry Potter. Gaiman would find fame with The Sandman, American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, Anansi Boys, Good Omens and other works. However, his Books of Magic series would never reach Harry Potter’s level of success despite the obvious similarities. Timothy looks so much like Harry, they could be twins.

Harry Potter’s legacy is that it created a whole generation of fantasy readers who grew up, hopefully, to become adult readers. Hopefully, these will be adult readers who would demand quality fantasy and horror and also introduce their children and grandchildren into the series. After all, children need to read fantasy. Now, that is a legacy worth following.

How about you? Do you like Harry Potter? Did you grow up reading it? Which do you think is Harry Potter’s true legacy and cultural impact? Please share your opinions.

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Lessons Learned from A Themed Birthday Party

Themed Parties = Cosplaying for Adults

Group picture

When we think about cosplaying, we think it is for children or teenagers. However, cosplaying is for everyone. If you throw a themed party and request people to play dress-up, they will gladly do it. It does not even have to be Halloween. Even in the middle of the heat of Summer. For my friend’s fiftieth birthday party (indie author Gerard St George, if you are wondering) we asked the guests to dress up as their favorite fantasy character. Most of them did.

Throwing a themed party was neither easy or stress-free. But thanks to the help of many people, it ran smooth, and we had fun.

These are a few of the things I learned from the experience.

  1. Keep the Theme General Enough and Give Your Guests Suggestions.

    For example, the invitation stated ‘urban fantasy attire, dress as your favorite character. Think True Blood, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, Buffy, etc.’ When you give your guest guidelines (not everyone is a nerd and or an otaku, they will understand).

  2. Decorations Made the Theme Come Alive.

    Having decorations throughout the house and the yard related to the fantasy theme added to the atmosphere of the party. As a matter of fact, it made it easier for the guests to engage and interact.

  3. The Food Menu, Drinks, and Cake Do Need to Reflect Your Theme.

    Again, we have Jello shots on syringes and beverages on blood bags, a vampire cake, and little details like spoons in the shape of shovels and stir sticks resembling magic wands. Put all those little details together, and you get several conversation pieces that add to the atmosphere.

  4. Do not forget the props.

    Vampires and stakes do not mix

    Remember when I said cosplay is all about the props. Props may not be mandatory, but it does make your costume more real. My steampunk costume was nice, but the goggles over the hat and the gentleman’s cane sure made it pop. Not to mention the pocket watch. Little details that add to the whole.

  5. Take Lots of Pictures.

    You are going to take lots of pictures and reminisce after. Making fun poses encouraged.

  6. Engage with Those who Did Not Dress Up.

    So, they are missing out on the fun? Perhaps they are shy or introverted? Or perhaps they did not have the time to come up with a costume. Who knows? But they are missing out. When I went to my first anime convention (an all weekend affair), I did not dress up the first day. Luckily I corrected the situation the next day. I did not want to feel left out. Pose and take pictures with those who are not in costume.

  7. Have a Narrative Ready to Tell.

    Again, not essential but it adds to the fun. You can be a generic vampire. Or you can be your favorite character from your favorite urban novel. I could have gone as a generic steampunk adventures. However, when people ask me who my character was, I had a ready-made answer: Wellington Books from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novels. That’s who I was portraying, and it made for a conversation starter.

In Summary

Fighting the werewolf

These are just a few things I learned from planning and participating in my friend’s party. You could say we have a quintuple F celebration: Fun, Fantastic Fantasy with Friends and Family.

Have you ever thrown a themed party? What was your experience? Would you do it again? What lessons did you learn? Share in the comments.

 

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Why I Love NASA?

They Put a Man on the Moon!

NASA logo at Kennedy Space Center

There are many reasons I love NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) but if I have to pick only one, this would be it: they put a man on the moon. They went where humankind has only dreamed of achieving and show us what is possible when we all work together. If there is one accomplishment the USA will be remembered centuries from now, I am 100% sure it would be that. Let me say it again: They put a man on the moon! How awesome is that?

Forget my love for science fiction. Forget the romantic idea of space travel and colonization. Forget all the benefits and technologies we have now thanks to NASA. They made real the impossible. For once, the eyes of the world were into us, and somehow, NASA’s success was all of us, not just Americans. The whole planet. In a post-World War II/Cold War environment, in which we witnessed the worst of humanity, the horror, and cruelty, NASA was like a beacon of hope and can-do optimism.

Their Goals are Ours

Indeed, NASA’s goals are our goals. As citizens of the world, as humans. Their goals are our goals. Just take a look at their current strategic goals:

  • Extend and sustain human activities across the solar system
  • Expand scientific understanding of the Earth and the Universe
  • Create innovative new space technologies
  • Advance aeronautics research
  • Enable program and institutional capabilities to conduct NASA’s space activities
  • Share NASA with the public, educators, and students to provide opportunities to participate

Honestly, those are goals any American can get behind. Even in these politically divided times.

We Need Inspiration, We Need NASA

Science fiction and fantasy are fiction about what could be. As readers and fans, we read to imagine what our futures can be. We love to be inspired and challenged. However, NASA has the best scientists and engineers and can make our craziest dreams and ideas become a reality.

In the past, I have declared my love for NASA as well as I had been critical of NASA and its lack of proper funding and vision. However, we as a nation and as citizens are better when NASA is stronger. I cannot wait to the time we start flying again. Isn’t it time to finally have a space elevator? To colonized the moon? To reach Mars? To mine asteroids? To keep exploring farther than our solar system?

Hence, we need inspiration. We need NASA. I love NASA. I hope it never goes away. How about you?

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