L. Lambert Lawson

Writer. Reader. RPCV. Professor.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 2 Reaction

I got excited when the episode began with the close-up on Arya. Given the title of the episode, The House of Black and White, I expected her to play a major role in the episode. Unfortunately, she didn’t, but what we got of her I enjoyed.

This entire episode, to me, was about putting the pieces into position on the chess board. That’s fine. There’s so much to cover, some episodes are going to feel rushed and feel like the foundation for some bad-ass shit later in the season.

There was a lot that I was excited about in this episode, though–most of all the reveal of several plot points that are not in the books (because The Winds of Winter has not been published yet). I have been waiting in fear of these points in the show because of how I didn’t want the books to be spoiled for me.

But once Brienne confronted Littlefinger and Sansa in the inn, I realized that I really have no idea how much the new show plotlines are hewing to the books to come. I can’t take any new information (like how Sansa and Brienne finally converge) as any sort of fact, and that is comforting. (Also, the fact that the result of that meeting at the inn wasn’t hard too divine makes the ‘spoiler’ less damaging; when they finally meet in the books, Sansa will indeed say “no.”)

i finally believe Brian Cogman: the Game of Thrones universe is actually different than the Song of Ice and Fire universe. What happens here can be, and likely is, far different than what happens in the books–at least in terms of the smaller set pieces. That is to say, while the destination is likely the same for, say, book Tyrion and show Tyrion, the journey for each is different, and both are valuable in their own ways.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and more book spoilers.

Also, I’m looking forward to the new adventure-comedy-escapade-that-wasn’t-in-the-books with Bronn and Jaime. That was not an unpleasant surprise. To Dorne? Really? WOW!

Summer Plans

The semester is winding down, and it’s interesting to note, again, that the last three weeks are akin to pouring 10 gallons of water into a five-gallon bucket: there’s so much to cover, review, and prepare for, and there’s never enough time. That feeling pervades all parts of the semester, in fact, but it’s certainly more keenly felt in the final fourth of the semester.

These final three weeks are especially jam-packed for me because I’m officially taking the summer off and have a lot to wrap up before I go. I haven’t taken the summer off since I began in this position–either preferring to teach a class in the summer or falling into the orbit of a project that requires summer work. However, I’m in need of a break now to recharge my batteries. I’m lucky to have a job, my dream job, that includes a summer break. It’s not a paid break, mind you. I’m a 10-month employee, which means 10 paychecks a year, but I have elected to spread those 10 checks out over 12 months. Thus, I’m able to pay the bills despite the respite.

This summer I’ll be traveling, reading, writing, cartooning, and playing a few video games. The big news is that we’re off to four weddings and the World Cup in Canada. It’ll be our first trip to Canada, so we’re stoked. I haven’t left the country since 2010, so I’m excited to dust off my passport and be somewhere new.

I’ve got a few writing projects I’m excited to start on, too. More news on those later, surely.

Until then: grading, grading, and grading. I’ve had a great group of students this semester, and I’m ready to see what they do next.

Why I got a #kindle when I already have (and love) a #nook

My wife is a minimalist. She rarely buys “stuff” and wishes that I bought fewer “things.” I read minimalist literature, and I definitely feel the need for less clutter in our house. But, I love “things” that add value to my life.

Four years ago, I bought my first eReader. I opted for the nook because it had SD-card support. (If you’re unfamiliar with that feature, that means that I was able to load books onto my nook using a small SD card.) Because of this feature, I could download a plethora of books from Project Gutenberg, or other sites that had .epub versions of public domain texts, and read them on my nook. As well, when I ran Kazka Press, I created .epub files of my works and my authors’ works, saved them to the SD card, and loaded them onto my nook for easy, mobile reading. I did the final proofread of Bronies: For the Love of Ponies that way, using the highlight feature to track down typos. The SD card was an essential feature for me, and the Kindle didn’t offer it.

A few years after I first bought the nook, I bought my Mom a nook simple touch, and she’s nearly worn the thing out. (Her yearly Goodreads target is consistently north of 150 books whereas mine hovers around 50.) I grew up watching her read, and I believe that’s why I’m a reader now.

Recently, I decided to upgrade my Mom’s nook. Her simple touch is slowing down in its old age, and she’s been complaining about the light she uses to read. So, I decided I’d upgrade her to an eReader with a backlight.

Barnes & Noble has a new GlowLight, which sounds like an improvement over their first-generation GlowLight. When I looked over the specs, I discovered that the company had taken out the SD card feature. I was shocked–the one feature that had tied me to the nook was stripped from their recent model. I couldn’t upgrade my Mom’s nook because she’d lose access to the books on her SD card, and I realized that I couldn’t upgrade mine for the same reason. (I assume Barnes & Noble is fighting piracy with this decision?)

Since the new nook GlowLight lacked the one feature that always set it apart from the Kindle for me, I decided to check out the Kindle side of the eReader frontier. I’d heard great things about the Paperwhite and its backlight.

As I researched, I became impressed by the Paperwhite’s features: Goodreads integration, Audible Whispersync integration (I’m a huge Audible nerd), a vocabulary builder program that stores all the words I look up, and a clean backlight.

Ultimately, these features swayed me to buy a Kindle (for myself…I’m still deciding what to get Mom). I, too, wanted an eReader with a backlight, and I saw the Kindle as enough of a different machine than the nook that I could own both.

And, now, I’m glad I do.

With the nook, I have access to my large library of books (a hair over 1,800 digital tomes) and the SD card feature.

With the Kindle, I can listen to an audiobook on the go and, when I get to bed, I can pick right up where I left off on my Kindle (and read using the backlight). When I’m done reading for the night, I can tap an icon and share my reading progress (and thoughts on what I’m reading) with my Goodreads friends. And, once a week, I can go into the vocabulary builder program and study the new words I came across over the course of the week. These features are why I got a Kindle when i already have and love my nook.

I’m a gadget fiend who knows that most people don’t need a nook and a Kindle. But, for a bibliophile like myself, the two devices offer varied, engaging reading experiences. If that adds value to your reading life, consider taking a shot at owning both devices. I’m certainly glad I took the plunge.

[featured image for this post from Starry Raston via Flikr.]

#GameOfThrones Season 5, Episode 1 Reaction

Spoilers, all, so don’t read on unless you’re read up through book 5 of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Recently, many of the previews I’ve seen written by folks who have seen the first four episodes on the new season note that the series, as usual, is on a slow burn for the first few episodes. Every time I read that, I believe the writer (I feel like that very message is written about the first episodes of every season), and every time, after watching the first episode, I end up not agreeing.

I found the first episode to be snappy, engaging, and fairly faithful to the books. Where the writers focused their attention gives me a lot of information about where the books are going: a Lannister in Mereen.

We open with Cersei, as a young child, getting her fortune told. She’ll be queen until another, younger queen comes along, and she’ll have 3 children while her husband has 10, and her 3 children will have gold crowns and gold shrouds. The young woman they found to play young Cersei really nailed the part, channeling equal parts young Cersei from the novel and the actress Lena Headey’s interpretation of Cersei. When the scene snapped back to present-day Cersei standing with Jaime over their dead father, the undertone of the Rains of Castermere was haunting and tied the whole scene together.

I also enjoyed the scenes with Tyrion and Varys, though those weren’t in the book. The thread throughout the entire episode was Varys saying to Tyrion, “I saved you because I need you to help sort Westeros out.” Clearly, Tyrion’s headed toward the dragons, and, clearly, book readers are going to learn things from the show that they haven’t seen in the books yet (because The Winds of Winter hasn’t been published yet).

In the middle of the show, we find Brienne, with Podrick, standing and chatting as Sansa (the subject of the very OATH Brienne is looking to KEEP) and Littlefinger roll by in a carriage. That near-miss made me smile.

Then there was some good Stannis at the Wall pieces, and a nice interaction between Jon and Mance. At the end of the episode, as Mance burns, Jon puts an arrow into his heart to save the King Beyond the Wall from suffering, pretty much like the books.

And pretty much like the books, I’m sure that Mance isn’t really dead. Instead of having Mance magicked into Rattleshirt, I’m guessing they had him switch places with…Tormund? Nah…they wouldn’t burn Tormund. I dunno. Someone. I don’t think Mance is dead considering the work he has to do, later, in Winterfell. Then again, perhaps they’re condensing the storyline.

The storyline I’m really interested in watching in this season is Dany’s. I hated her plodding storyline in A Dance with Dragons as it really, truly spun in circles. They have to tighten it up for the show, and I’m looking forward to being made to care about it. She’s a great character, and a great actress, but GRRM killed my interest in her story in the last book. I’m looking to the show to rekindle my interest.

So, overall, I thought this was a significant episode that laid the groundwork for what’s to come but managed to be engaging in its own right. Too little screen time (or none at all) from some favorite characters is really the only thing that dragged it down.

#sadpuppies and discrimination

I’ve resurfaced into SFF fandom at a strange time–RH has been unmasked and declawed (somewhat…I’m sure she’s waiting to resurface as well) and groups known as the Sad and Rabid Puppies are causing a kerfuffle. GRRM has issues a few takedowns of the group’s complaints; in one post, he offered a fact by fact refutal of the Sad Puppy leader’s complaints. To me, that closes the argument.

What’s interesting to me is not the Sad Puppy leader’s thoughts. In many ways, as proven by his latest blog post, he was hurt that his nomination for best new SFF writer was summarily ignored because, as he states, he’s a right-wing fellow who owns a gun store. Rejection hurts, especially when it comes because of pieces of ourselves that are inherent to who we are.

Folks who have been (and are being) discriminated against by right-wing fellows, not unlike this Sad Puppy fellow, can commiserate. This guy didn’t win an award because he’s right-wing (though, as GRRM pointed out, many have won…OSC anyone?), but there are people in this country who can’t see their partner in the hospital because they’re gay, can’t live in a community without harassment (or fearing for their lives) because they’re black, and can’t have a voice in the gaming community and be free of harassment (or fearing for their lives) because they’re a women.

It’s against that larger backdrop of discrimination in this country that this Sad Puppy fellow’s concerns are largely seen as #firstworldproblems. Sure, this fellow perhaps doesn’t discriminate against gays, blacks, and women in the way actors in the larger culture do, but he represents a tribe that does. He may (or may not) deny this, but one must only look at the comments on the followers of the Sad Puppy (and Rabid Puppy) movement to realize that what he denies (or not) is irrelevant. The proof is in the tapestry of hate and rage that he’s tapped into.

We see this in the political spectrum, we see this in the arts, we see this in games, and now we see this in one small corner of SFF fandom: white men (like me) aren’t 100% of the game in town any longer. White men are used to dominating the gaming culture, so when women come into the clubhouse and start to question why the rules of that space are so hostile to women, they get threatened over and over and over again. (No links here…you can find examples of what I mean in many places.)

When folks-other-than-white-men come into the SFF clubhouse, those who’ve always lived in the clubhouse have to give up some of their space, and they have to answer questions like why the rules of the space are hostile to women and minorities.

In all spaces in our culture, as our nation and white-male strongholds diversify, these types of questions are being asked. And in response, we get things like GamerGate. We get things like the Sad and Rabid Puppies. We get people who want to cling to the past with every tense strand of sinew. And we get some people who are just plain angry at the discrimination they are facing. (In a country with a rich history of discrimination, it’s inevitable that everyone gets a ride on that bronco, even if only a pale shadow of damaging discrimination folks face every day in this country.)

However, we also get people who have been maligned and threatened by people like RH for years. Her vitriol, and many people’s support (direct or indirect through silence) for her vitriol, made people ask what was happening in SFF, especially the fannish corners. If it was so inclusive, as the community likes to say it is, why was a hate-monger like RH given a pass? If her level of filth was spewed from the “other side,” we’d be in a fit. (Actually, that’s not a hypothetical…MRA and GamerGate vitriol is just as nasty, and we rally against it.) In my view, this Sad and Rabid Puppy vitriol is a direct reaction to the undercurrent of the RH vitriol that’s infected SFF for years. Natural systems seek balance, and, well, here we go.

The Sad Puppy leader’s ‘problem’ is that he’s tapped into the RH of the right (the GamerGate contingent that hasn’t had enough fun threatening (with death and rape and mutilation) women in the gaming space), and, for all talk of this being a movement to expose the Hugos for what they are (a cliquey plutocracy, which, he’s right, it was and is), it’s really about reasserting white men into a space they once 100% dominated and are now losing some ground in. To be clear, again, this might not be the Sad Puppy leader’s stated goal, but the voices of those who follow him and the Rabid contingent very much own that.

In the comings months, it’ll be something to see how the leaders of this movement handle their followers’ rage (which, it seems, eclipses their own by a healthy margin). This could end up a flashpoint that begins a good conversation in the SFF field or, like GamerGate, could be the beginning of a cancerous growth. The Sad Puppy leader (not the Rabid Puppy leader) seems to be a thoughtful, reflective person, so, perhaps, good can come of this. Here’s hoping.

awaking from slumber

I thought it had been years since I posted here, but it turns out it’s only been since last August–right when I started my Fall 2014 semester. I thought it’d be a less crazy semester, but I had guessed wrong. Spring, too, has been chock full of work and weekend visits to the wife full of comedy, baseball, eating, and games. In the midst, I’ve read some books, written no stories, and played a few video games.

I did make good on an idea I blogged about back in August: I started my very own, shiny web-comic. The art is fairly terrible, but I am excited about it. it chronicles, in a way, the conversations my wife and I (and our friends) have. It’s a way to document the life we’re living. I’m proud of the work I’m doing over there, and the routine of producing art has reminded me that I used to write all the time (I dropped off after the Clarion rejection…that really did a number on me). The level to which RH was supported by the SFF community also turned me off of the fan scene for a while. Her brand of hate speech, of which I had fallen victim, was being defended (or at least quite happily tolerated) by people I looked to as models for a career arc. [Learning she’d been unmasked and defanged (sort of) didn’t make me unhappy, and it made (y)our community better.]

That double-whammy, though, spun me, and I moved on to other interests.

But the web-comic reminded me why I love to create, and I’m climbing back in the saddle. Writing and submitting terrible stories that one day might become okay stories and decent stories.

Looking forward to trying again and sharing the journey.

a lifetime ago

a delta vibrates toward the horizon, a shelf of glass with its eyes closed. Atop, a boy in a rowboat


I call out from the shore, but the boy ignores the vibrations I send into the world. He’s concerned

only with those he creates.

I am a tree braying in the night. I am a rock moaning into the mud. And as the boy slips

over the horizon, I note the color of his silhouette draped against the purpling sky

and think that I know the color

deep down

I know the color.