June 4, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:21 pm by vrtrakowski

Thursday morning, I put off work to go purchase the new Lego Saturn V rocket, since the employee I talked to thought it might sell out before the end of the day.  It’s a meter high when assembled, with just under 2000 pieces and an instruction book that has almost 200 pages.  The interior is a Lego equivalent of what was actually inside the rocket.

Today, I gave it to my godson as a birthday present.

Six hours later:

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He had to get technical help once, and physical help a few times (his fingers weren’t strong enough).  Aside from that, he put it together by himself, steady and busy and often standing on one leg like a stork.

He’s nine.

It’s almost as tall as he is.  It’s a set designed for adults, that took two grown men four hours to put together in tandem.

His fingers will hurt tomorrow.  My brain hurts now.

His verdict?  “The best Lego set ever.”

April 19, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 pm by vrtrakowski

180A7937-AD25-4EC2-88AE-6895EE01348D

So, today I got one of these things.  

I spent an interesting few minutes torn between my inner nine-year-old and my mature this-is-silly self, and almost didn’t give into the marketing, in large part because it would have been embarrassing to go in and ask for it.

But the more I thought about it, the more that attitude seemed to be misogynistic–because it was brightly colored with pink, and fantastical and frivolous, it was therefore not worth my attention?  Pah.  And it looked kind of fun.

(I avoided the embarrassment factor neatly by doing a mobile order.  First time, too.)

Plus, I grew up in the ‘80s, when unicorns were a Thing.  I always preferred pegasi, because they can fly, but unicorns were close behind.  I never really believed in fairies or trolls, but unicorns…well.  Can you prove that they don’t?

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(Look, it matches my shoes!)

It brightened my day a little.  And I thought–I need to chase unicorns more often.  Not necessarily bright pink-and-blue drinks, but the small elusive moments that make me laugh.  Rare, beautiful, whimsical.  Bumblebees.  Nifty clouds.  Terrific book covers.  Exquisite puns.  You know.

I realize that sounds like a dippity-doo inspirational Pinterest article, but who cares.  They’re my unicorns to chase.

January 29, 2017

What squeak, mouse?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by vrtrakowski

Once upon a time, about twenty-five years ago…

Let’s call it autumn of 1991; that was always my compromise, because it had to be sophomore year.  Nice mild night, and the stars were magnificent.  I was outside the dorm, don’t remember why, and was watching them, and he came by.  

We started talking that night, beginning with the stars–we both had an interest in astronomy, though he knew far more than I.  We talked for at least an hour, standing at the gate in darkness and looking up, and we had so much to say.  

Then one of us went inside, and we didn’t speak to each other again for about a year.  Not until the dorm won the campus Olympics and had a pool party.  He had a nifty–and chilling–trick of exhaling until he could sink to the bottom of the pool.  

He was reclusive, and had a rep for being difficult, but I thought he was interesting.  So a day or two later I went down to his room and knocked and asked him up for tea.  And he came.    

Thus began a friendship.

We’ve been friends through a lot, starting with growing up, even if we were almost legal adults when we met.  We helped each other with depression, and he helped me pass Pre-Calc; I watched my mother take him in, and wept when he discovered he was gay, because I knew it would be so very hard for him.  

He always said our friendship was unequal, but he could see through me like no one else, and he helped me through some dark times just by being there.  Maybe I was the more stable one, but no two people are exactly the same, are they?  

Our relationship ebbed and grew, as time and life and other relationships came and went.  Sometimes things weren’t easy, but few things are easy all the time.  

And now, it’s over.  

He doesn’t want to be friends any longer.  And he has the absolute right to end things.  

Nothing lasts forever, even friendships.  That’s a lesson it took me a long time to learn.  So I’m prying my fingers loose.  Gonna be a grownup this time.  

It’s not the end of the world, but I’ll be sad for a while.  There will be reminders–images of palm trees and hot blue seas, a particular strain of music, and always the stars.  

My life is richer because of him.  It always will be.  

I’ll keep looking up.  

 

January 8, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:18 pm by vrtrakowski

This is very interesting!  http://unuttered-questions.tumblr.com/post/155605282181/gingersnapwolves-transcthulhu-dabe-strudel

As a (white, straight) writer, I’ve found myself becoming more aware of my characters and how I create them over the years–due in no small part to Tumblr and its like (never let it be said that online activism doesn’t have an effect).  And I’ve found it goes both ways for me.

For instance, I’ve got a original/non-fanfic story going where I started out with two white main characters.  And when it finally dawned on me that there was no reason they had to be white, I took another look at them both.

My heroine, the focus of my story–she was easy to change.  Her characterization was very fixed in my head, but I could alter her race without issue (helped along, certainly, by the fact that it’s a fantasy world and she doesn’t have to be a minority as such).

My hero–not so much.  For whatever reason, my brain simply would not let me alter him.  He was short, white, and blond, and the moment I tried to change that, it killed the story dead.

I have no idea why.

So I changed the heroine and her city and her culture, and probably improved the story thereby.

The same thing happened a few years ago during NaNoWriMo; I changed one character’s appearance–not even his race, just his height and hair–and the story was dead in the water.  It’s weird. My brain is a mysterious place.

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May 18, 2016

Prey

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 10:01 pm by vrtrakowski

Okay, to follow up yesterday’s post…Prey used to be available unofficially on YouTube, but I can’t find it any longer.  It was never, as far as I know, released in any commercial form.

The idea was that the next step in human evolution had taken place, and that the new version was operating on the principle that no two species can occupy the same ecological niche.  It starred Debra Messing, Adam Storke, Vincent Ventresca, and other people you’d probably recognize.  And it’s one reason I can’t watch Will and Grace–too painful after seeing Ms. Messing portray a brilliant scientist.

The science was interesting; some of it was accurate, some of it wasn’t, and some of it has since been disproved.  As often happens with sci-fi, too, something that was done on the show later became reality–excavating graves from the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic to obtain the virus.

The writing was a little choppy, and many questions remained unanswered, but the acting was superior and the concepts were intriguing.  If you want to watch it, you can find it here.  I think that’ll work; let me know if it doesn’t.

Be warned–as I said, the show ended on the second-worst cliffhanger I’ve ever seen.  Hence, fic.

*raises glass to Larry Drake*

May 17, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:54 pm by vrtrakowski

Sixteen years ago, give or take a day or so, I posted my first fanfic.

Fandom’s really always been a part of the Internet, but in 2000 it wasn’t as organized online as it is now.  Fanfiction.net existed, but it wasn’t yet the go-to source for fic; stories were mainly hosted on individual fan-run sites, and bulletin boards were the order of the day.

I’d been a fan long before I knew what fandom was, but my venture into Prey was only my second attempt at online fandom as a social thing.  I’d read stories for Space: Above and Beyond and sought out factoids about the show, but I didn’t participate in the community, as such.  In the Prey fandom I found a small but welcoming community willing to speculate endlessly about the universe of the show and how the plotline might be resolved (second-worst cliffhanger ending ever, I swear).

And there were writers.  Not many, because even in its heyday Prey never had a huge following, but there was fic.

I’d been writing fanfic for years for my own pleasure, but for the first time I really wrote a story, or the beginning of one, rather than isolated scenes.  And I took my heart in my hands, and gave it over to be posted (thank you, Joxer!).

I don’t remember, any more, exactly what I expected.  I don’t think I hoped for anything more than a lukewarm response–it was my first attempt in the fandom, after all.

Sixteen years ago exactly, I got my first review.  And then another, and another.  And I was stunned.

They loved it.

It was alchemy.  It was magic.  It quite literally changed my life.

Because of the Prey fandom, I had the courage to write for U.C. Undercover, and then Firefly and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.  And then I hit CSI and GSR, and never looked back.

The Prey fandom presence online faded away, as so many do, and the message board has gone the way of most such outmoded sites.  But I remember.  J.K., I have no idea where you are now, but yours was the first e-mail I got, and I have it still.  Every so often I re-read it, to remember the thrill and the joy of knowing I got it right.

In honor of this, and to remember, I’m reposting that story.  It was online for a while, but then I took it down when it was turned into a hard-copy ‘zine.  Apparently the press that published is no longer active (the site’s still up, but nobody’s home?) so I doubt anyone will object.  Skein is now up at AO3 and will be posted at FF.net as soon as I can get the latter to behave is finally up at FF.net argh.

If you choose to read it, and I don’t suggest you do so unless you saw the show, please be kind.  I do like to think my writing’s improved over the years, and I had to seriously resist the impulse to spruce it up in places.

Thank you, Prey fandom.  You showed me that my work had value; more, you proved to me that I did actually have a gift.  1.5 million words later, I am a writer.

(Also, I have a thing for emotionally damaged half-aliens and the women who save them, but we knew that already…)

May 10, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:48 pm by vrtrakowski

Carnivals are liminal places.  

 

I was going to say, except for the people who work there, but perhaps not, given their transitory nature–moving from place to place, expanding and collapsing like a night-blooming flower.  

 

And nights are the best time for them, oh yes, when all the lights are lit and moving.  They’re larger, then, the boundaries are harder to find in the shadows behind the colors.  

 

There’s a carnival across the street right now.  I can’t look at it and not feel the resonance of a thousand stories, the weight of nostalgia and breath of magic that haunts them even when they are utterly prosaic.  

 

I’m not going to visit it.  I’m the sort where the mystery is better if I just watch from a distance.  And besides, it’s loud.  

 

But I can look out my window at midnight, and see the colors wheeling against the sky, vivid and bold and beckoning and strange, and for just a little while there’s an extra fold in existence.    

April 6, 2016

Good home needed…

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 7:58 pm by vrtrakowski

Anyone in the DC metro area in need of a fine young marmalade tomcat?  He’s gone from a few weeks of shrub-lurking to deciding he wants to be domestic, if it involves scritches.  He’d need neutering/shots/checkup etc., as well as time to adjust, but if someone wants to come and meet him I’ll catch him for you.

No photos available at this time, but he’s a dark orange with white bits, and is probably not quite two years old.  Loud voice when he chooses to use it, seems to like other cats fine, and is very skinny but seems otherwise healthy (I suspect he’s got the usual tomcat attitude of GURLZ-before-food).

Come to that, there’s a female marmalade coming up on two years herself, and a marmalade ex-kitten whose gender is not yet determined, also relatively friendly.  The female is very much I’m-in-charge-here and uses her paws enough that she probably shouldn’t be around small kids.

[Disclaimer: I’d take ’em all in if I could, but I have two already and NO MORE ROOM, and no car to get to the cheap spay/neuter.]

February 18, 2016

Cloning

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:56 pm by vrtrakowski

I’m thinking of porting more of my stories from FF.net to AO3–not removing them from FF.net by any means, but AO3 is more user-friendly and I’ve had people ask in the past for a way to get multi-chapter stories all at once.  54 on AO3 versus 208 (good grief!) on FF.net–I’m not counting that last Advent trainwreck because I didn’t put those on FF.net.  But I don’t know as I’d move all of ‘em; some never got read as far as I know, and there’s a few I’d prefer to ignore (the first effort in any fandom can be embarrassing).

The trouble is what to choose–and how to do it.  AO3 has an import feature but FF.net won’t work for it, which means I’d have to do all 40 chapters of HttM, for instance, one at a time.  Now, it is a good opportunity to fix the little errors that do creep in, but it’s going to take time and fiddling, and I’m six months behind on my Website, and trying to write, and, and.

Maybe I can just do them very slowly.  It’ll confuse anyone following me on AO3, though.  And is it even worth it to do all that CSI stuff?  As far as I know, GSR was pretty much fading by the time AO3 really got off the ground.  I don’t think there’s much of a presence there.

February 16, 2016

International Fanworks Day

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:28 pm by vrtrakowski

I missed it.  😛  Blame a sleep hangover; three-day weekends always verstrudle* my sleep schedule.  But I’m putting up a few recs anyway.

the instinct to your charm by Sorrel–Jupiter Ascending, Jupiter/Caine.  A look at the movie through Caine’s eyes.  Not quite the usual characterization for him, and all the more delightful for it.  My favorite JA fic by far, and I wish she would write the sequel she was considering, though I think she’s moved on from the fandom (alas).

The Roger and Hyacinth series by Cincoflex–Harry Potter with OCs.  Two new students at Hogwarts post-Harry who become friends.  The HP world is so rich, and so open to in-depth exploration; it’s a pity this hasn’t got the attention it deserves.

The Original Naked Quidditch Match by Anya (Evilgoddss on FF.net)–Harry Potter again.  This thing is legendary, and hilarious; be warned, it was written before the series was completed, and is not what I’d call safe for work or small children.

Chicago Winter by Celli–UC: Undercover, and aren’t we hearking back with this!  Talk about small fandoms.  This is a quick, charming little piece that I think Donovan himself would have approved of.

Cardinality by Mossley–CSI: Las Vegas, GSR.  Mossley is a legend among GSR fans; she seems to have withdrawn from the grid, which is too bad, but her fic lives on.  Her casefiles were unmatched, and this is one of her best and still a favorite of mine.  Trigger warning for lots and lots of blood, though.  Heh, this story is how I knew what the docs were talking about when they put me on warfarin…

 

*This is probably spelled wrong, but my dad (from whom I got it) hasn’t given me a spelling I can find online.

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