CONvergence Conversation

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I’ve been jonesing for some con-goodness, and I’m about to scratch that itch in a big way! This Thursday I fly away to the southern climes* of Minnesota for CONvergence. I’ve never been before, but I’m pretty excited! It’s not as big a con as Dragon*Con (which I’ve attended twice) or SDCC (which I’ve never attended), but it’s much larger than the Doctor Who conventions I frequent. It’s in the neighborhood of 7,000 people, so it’s roughly twice the size of my beloved Gally.

One thing it has in common with Gally: CONvergence is a fan-run convention. That’s a huge part of the reason I’m so excited to go. I enjoy the big media conventions as well, but there’s something about the atmosphere at a fan-run con that you just don’t get anywhere else. They’re built from the ground up on love–love for stories, books, movies, TV, comics, science, history, and a zillion other things. The amount of work that goes into running a convention is downright staggering. So many people donate their time (and money) to make a con happen, it blows my mind. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for those who do it.

I’ve heard from many folks that CONvergence is a jewel among conventions. I keep hearing about how warm and enthusiastic the atmosphere is. I can’t wait to find out for myself! As it’s my first time, a warm, inviting atmosphere is just what I need. (Though I also like that it’s a big enough con that I can just wander and be faceless and blend into the crowd if I need to do that for a while.)

In addition to soaking up the atmosphere, I’ll be on a few panels! If you’re going to be at the con, please come and say hello! (Seriously. I’m going spouseless this time, and I only know a few people there.) Check out my fancy online schedule to see what I’ll be up to! One thing I want to call out specifically is the Space Unicorn Dance Party! Some of the Uncanny Magazine staff will be at the con to celebrate our editors-in-chief/publishers’ 15th wedding anniversary. I’m hoping tons of people join us to dance the night away! Michael and Lynne are two people who make me very happy, and I thank my lucky stars that I met them. I thank my lucky Space Unicorn that I get to work with them every month on Uncanny.

If you won’t be there, please wish me luck. Attending a new con is always a little nerve-wracking. I expect I’ll meet a lot of new people (including the three folks I’m sharing a hotel room with!), and I hope to make a good impression. Imposter syndrome begone! Fun times, to me!

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*I get to say that now. #smugEdmontonian

Listing Towards OCD

I’ve talked before about some of my coping mechanisms for dealing with mental health issues: how I remind myself depression lies, how I use jigsaw puzzles to calm my anxious mind, how I focus on the good stuff. One other thing I do is try to harness my mental weirdness and use it for good when I can. I have more than a touch of obsessive-compulsiveness. Happily, it’s not enough to interfere much with my daily life. In fact, I’ve found a way to trick my compulsive brain into working for me instead of against me.

The key is randomness.

No. There are two keys: randomness and dice.

When I have a lot to do, and it seems so overwhelming I don’t know where to start, a great big part of me wants to just curl up on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Quite often, that part wins, and I get nothing done. But sometimes I remember this great brain-hack that works (on me) like a charm. First, I make a list of all the things I need to get done. Then I grab a die that has at least as many sides as I have tasks on my list.

I made this 20-item to-do list the weekend before last (in preparation for my birthday visit from my parents).

I bet you see where this is going. There’s something about the randomness of rolling the die that I find irresistible.* I’m not big into gambling, and I should probably keep it that way, because I can see how it could easily suck me in. The excitement of seeing what the next roll will bring is intoxicating—so much so that it spurs me on to complete one task so I can see what’s next.

This brings me to an important part of this process. There must be at least one “fun” thing on the list (more for longer lists). Part of what’s so exciting about rolling that die is the thought that I might get to spend the next 20 minutes reading a book or vegging out in front of the tube or coloring or jigsaw-puzzling. If it’s all must-do tasks, the enthusiasm might wane sooner rather than later.

And of course, because I’m a huge nerd who loves rules and structure, I added some additional complications I as I went.

Obviously, once I completed the first task, I no longer had 20, and as 19-sided dice aren’t exactly common, I had to come up with a way to accommodate that completed slot. There were several options, including making it a “free” slot so I could do whatever I chose. That would’ve given me way too much freedom. I feared I’d lose track of my tasks altogether. So I decided I’d just wrap around the list. If I rolled a 20, I’d jump back to task number one. That way I got to keep rolling the d20. <3

When I whittled the tasks down to an even dozen, I switched over to a d12, the most under-used die of them all, in my experience. (I’ve never been much for wielding great axes.) Had I progressed down to 10, I’d’ve switched to that noble, White Wolf-tastic die.

I must admit, I didn’t complete my mammoth list before my parents arrived (thus no d10, d6, or d4 for me). Last night I decided to chip away at it again. Sort of. I had a few things to do that were much more high-priority than most of the items on that list. And not all of them even appeared on the main list in the first place. So here’s what I did:

I created a second list** that had only the important tasks on it. But there was also one item on the main list that needed to get done! What to do? I added a little dot next to it on the main list to indicate it was now also part of the shorter list. This gave me 5 items—not quite enough to use a classic d6. I could have done the list-wrapping thing I described above, but that didn’t feel right for starting out my evening of tasking. Instead I added an arrow at the bottom of the short list. It pointed at the big list—meaning, if I rolled a 6 on the first try, I’d then do one random task from the larger list, even if it was less important. Lists within lists! It’s randomness all the way down, baby.

Yes, that’s a lot of foofaraw to get one little list, but it’s the ridiculousness of the structure and labyrinthine rules that make it appealing to my odd mind—those and the randomness, of course. There’s something incredibly comforting about putting my short-term fate in the roll of a polyhedron. It’s no longer my decision. I just do what I’m “told”.

One of the biggest brain-problems I have when I get even the teeniest bit anxious or depressed is with my ability to make decisions. I get caught—sometimes physically frozen—trying to decide whether I should wear the blue shirt or the green one, or whether I should wash dishes first or vacuum. These lists are my way of side-stepping that paralyzation. And it works!***

This has been way more of a close-up look into my noggin than anyone probably needed, but hey, there might be a couple of you out there who can benefit from this madness, so I feel it was worth the over-sharing. I hope you do too.

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*I’m a D&D girl from way back, so anything involving dice automatically puts its hooks into me.

**Why didn’t I just add to the main list, you ask? Well, I wanted to keep last night’s tasks separate. And I’d run out of space. I don’t like 2-column lists. (Though yes, you could argue that’s exactly what I ended up with. Now hush.)

***Of course, sometimes I go too far relying on randomness and end up randomizing every little decision. That’s no good either, and it’s a balancing act I’m working on mastering.

Webcomics – Of Questionable Content

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I recently stumbled across my notes from an Incomparable episode we recorded way back in 2014. I thought I’d pull them together and flesh them out to make a series of blog posts because web comics are cool goshdarnit! And know there are more out there than these. (The other comics we talked about in The Incomparable #220 are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure!) Let me know what your favorites are in the comments!

Questionable Content

Sluggy may have been my first, but Questionable Content is my favorite web comic. Of all the comics I read, has the most realistic characters. They’re quirky and odd, and sometimes act in unexpected ways, but they still manage to stay realistic. Doing that 5-year catch-up felt like reconnecting with a bunch of old friends. And best of all while my life had changed and I’d grown while I was away, they’d been evolving too. Continue reading

Webcomics – Are They Not Nifty?

Sluggy Freelance - Is It Not Nifty

I just stumbled across my notes from an Incomparable episode we recorded way back in 2014. I thought I’d pull them together and flesh them out to make a series of blog posts because web comics are cool goshdarnit! And know there are more out there than these. (The other comics we talked about in The Incomparable #220 are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure!) Let me know what your favorites are in the comments!

I go through webcomic cycles. I’ll read some religiously for a couple years, and then something lifey happens. I lose track of them for a year (or a few). Eventually I remember to catch up on what I’ve missed and stay current for a year or two. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The last time I was heavy into web comics was about five years ago. I was reading about six strips regularly, which for some of them meant every day. Then I got a new job and the losing-track-of-them phase started up again. I spent the few weeks leading up to the Incomparable ep reading about 5 years’ worth of a couple of my favorites, which was really fun! Sadly, I haven’t read any since that binge. The lost-track phase crept up on me once again. Maybe these posts will prompt me to get back into the swing of things.

Sluggy Freelance

You never forget your first web comic love, and Sluggy Freelance was that for me. I’ve read most of it twice (and some of it more than that). Pete Abrams started this daily strip in August of 1997, so that’s a lot of comics. I mean, a LOT of comics. Continue reading

Cool People Doing Cool Things – Part Three

It’s been A Week.* So you know what that means? It’s time to focus on some good stuff! In this case, it’s good stuff created by other people. Yep, more cool people doing cool things! If you’re just joining us, do check out the first and second posts in this series.


 Cool Person: Tansy Rayner Roberts

My Verity! cohost Tansy has one of the most prodigious blogs in fandom!** Not only does she write about general geekery, feminisim, and fandom, but she does regular features on comic books, Robotech, and fun links (most) every Friday! She’s also a novelist, and she cohosts two podcasts: the aforementioned Verity! and Galactic Suburbia, a relaxed, rambly Australian podcast about speculative fiction news with a decidedly feminist viewpoint.  So yeah. Lots of cool stuff, but the one I want to highlight here is this:

Cool Thing: Musketeer Space

Tansy Musketeer Space

Among all the other great stuff she’s writing about, Tansy has been publishing a novel in weekly web-serialized form. And not just any novel! This is a gender-swapped space-opera version of The Three Musketeers. Continue reading

The Truth About Empathy

My cousin Jack* is in his senior year of high school, and as an end-of-the-year project, he has to interview people from different stages of life. The topic is one simple (or not-so-simple) question. I rather enjoyed creating my response, so I decided to share it with all of you here. I’m also curious about your thoughts, good readers. Please feel free to share in the comments. I suspect answers to such a question will vary wildly. And maybe it’ll get Jack extra credit. ;)

What do you know to be true about empathy?

Empathy is my superpower. It’s my secret weapon. It’s how I get through the day, the month, the year.

I’ve always lived toward the strong end of the empathy spectrum. It’s a mixed blessing, but I do believe it’s a blessing. As I see it, at its heart, empathy is the ability to understand what other people feel and even experience an echo of that feeling (sometimes a rather loud echo). I’m quite proficient at this, and it’s served me well.

It plays a role in each personal interaction I have every single day. Everything from saying good morning to my spouse, to conferencing with a coworker, to ordering a burger at a fast food place, I’m experiencing, and using, empathy. Continue reading

Focusing on the Good Stuff

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Your focus determines your reality. – Qui-Gon Jinn

Say what you will about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (I’ve already said my piece), but that line is a killer. It may not be entirely accurate in a literal sense, but there’s some serious and deep truth there.

When I’m having a rough time or a bad day,* I try to meditate on the wisdom of Qui-Gon Jinn. I don’t always remember to do this, but the more times I do remember, the easier it gets. I suppose it’s like building any other habit. You have to practice.

So anyway, how do I put this into practice? Continue reading