If you write near-future SF, you should care about “Design and Construction Week”

Every year I check out what’s new from Design and Construction Week, a home building expo that’s like the mid-20th century’s “House of the Future”, expos except the most of the exhibits focus on products made and used in houses now. A lot of the “luxury” items–same as with personal tech like cutting-edge phones and computers–are too expensive for the average person now but will be affordable in 5 or 10 years. The construction materials will be phased into building over the next 5-20 years, as people build new or renovate. So, if you’re writing a story set 10, 20, or 30 years into the future, the innovations that were featured in this year’s show will probably be “everyday” to the characters in your story.

It’s got two parts: International Building Materials, and Kitchen & Bath; if you missed it when the show was running, HGTV does a recap, and you can find individual exhibitors by doing a quick Google search. There’s YouTube videos, too. Plus, KBIS (the interior portion of the exhibition) has a gallery of recent products here.

Some new items I might use in future stories include:

FUTRUS Patient Room 2020 In Corian®

Dupont’s Corian series is taking durable/low maintenance countertops in new directions, literally. Their online gallery is here; be sure to check out their “commercial” looks for more inspiration, as well as the rest of their site. Things to keep in mind: Curving walls, seamless waterfall counters, built in cubbies and racks, wireless charging stations hidden under a surface that looks like marble, granite, or wood.

Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS Bedroom and Home Office of the Future is all about smart tech and multi-use small spaces. It uses RFID tech to track your clothes, so you always know what’s available to wear, has movable walls to adapt your living space to varying needs, interactive surfaces to create a home office from nothing more than a hi-tech table… Things to keep in mind: your voice commands everything in the space, and all surfaces are available for work/entertainment uses (imagine a TV in the ceiling, the wall is a computer, the floor can weigh you).

LT-2D3D Laser Templator brings precise laser measuring to home construction, which means it’s one step closer to being affordable for a wide array of uses. Imagine every crime scene investigator could push a button and have an immediate, accurate, scan of each object (and body?) in a room. Criminals create instant scans of buildings they’re casing. Museums digitize not just exhibits but the placement of those exhibits within the museum space, so distant viewers can experience the entire scene just as local visitors would… Right now, this technology is too expensive for every day use, but some day soon, it won’t be.

(Click on the images to see larger versions.)

Are you 62+ and live in the US? Get a National Parks pass now!

Image courtesy of the Sacramento Bee.

Dear US friends age 62 and over: Do you already have a National Parks pass? If not, now’s the time to get one! It gives you access to 2,000+ national parks for the rest of your life. (The lifetime pass will not need to be renewed.)

August 28 2017, the price goes up to $80, but right now it’s still only $10 if you can get it onsite, or $20 if you do it online/by mail.

This is a list of all the sites, so you can see if there’s one close to you: https://store.usgs.gov/s…/default/files/PassIssuanceList.pdf

And here’s where to order it online: https://yourpassnow.com/Park…/…/senior/SeniorPassInfoCollect

The pass admits you and everyone in your car (or 3 other adults) so you can use it with your friends, grandkids, etc. This is one of those things where you might not use it right away, but it’s better to have and not spend another $70 later.

El Capitan in spring by Chris Migeon, via http://www.yosemite.com

Please tell your friends! Our National Parks are a tremendous resource, which our current administration is trying to dismantle and sell off to private companies. The more we use these parks, and show our support for public spaces, the better chance we have to protect at least some of them. I grew up near Yosemite, CA, and made some of my best memories there. I want everyone else to have that same opportunity.

Have you read my short fiction collection, WOMEN AND OTHER CONSTRUCTS? It’s free!

Published in 2013, Women and Other Constructs includes six previously published tales, plus two new ones, and–just for fun–a sonnet about a murderous robot. The “Introduction” talks about the broader themes behind the book, and “About the Stories” gives a quick look at what inspired each of them. I assembled the books myself: print layout, ebook creation, and designing the cover. It’s not long, just over 20,000 words, but it best represents my work to that point, and though I’ve evolved a bit as a writer since, I still love these pieces.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”
  • “Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish”
  • “Annabelle Tree”
  • “A Cage, Her Arms”
  • “Call Center Blues”
  • “Mitch’s Girl”
  • “All The Right Words”
  • “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere”
  • “About the Mirror and its Pieces”
  • About the Stories

You can see what other folks thought at the Goodreads page for the book. (Liked it? Please leave me a review.)

Download a bundle of all 3 ebook formats, here, or individually: ePubMobi, or PDF. You’ll have to “check out” but there’s no charge, and no financial information required.

What I’ve Been Reading: Lynda Barry’s CRUDDY

Some books about children are for children; Lynda Barry’s Cruddy is definitely not.

First, a warning: this book contains themes, sometimes graphic descriptions, of subjects and events which might be triggering to readers, including suicide, murder, child abuse, child sexual assault, racism, sexism, ableism, mistreatment of people with special needs, drug use, runaways, institutionalization, and animal abuse.

If you still want to give Cruddy a try after all of that… you should. It’s probably the best-written depiction of a troubled child’s life that I’ve ever read. It’s perfect in a lot of ways. It’s hard to read, because it unflinchingly flays open some of the worst things a child can go through, but it’s easy to read, too, because Barry writes clean. Her tone is even throughout; there are no missteps, no awkwardly written passages. You meet Roberta, the 16-year-old narrator, on the first page, and until the book closes, there’s nothing to kick you off the ride.

It’s a hell of a trip, though. Nothing about Roberta’s life is easy or comforting, and even what seems positive for a moment is only in comparison to how crushingly terrible everything else is. But that’s the thing about a life in desolation — little moments of joy that other people, happier people, with more good in their lives, that might never be noticed, instead take on a monumental property. A shared moment can be enough to pin a life on.

Barry makes sense of the little moments and the big ones, weaving them all together so well you barely notice which is which.

I wasn’t surprised by any of it, but I suspect that’s because my childhood was not very different from Roberta’s. Better in some ways, worse in others, with some parts in common, and other parts that didn’t have to be shared because the overall feeling of growing up unwanted, unliked, outside of everyone else: that, I recognize. For other readers, it might be too hard to keep turning the page. That’s okay. But if you can get through it, Cruddy is a masterclass in writing about survival, PTSD, self-harm, suicidal ideation, from the perspective of a child whose parents (and their lack of parenting) made her a perpetual victim.  The story, Robert’as voice, feels real. It’s possible, probable, and tangible, even though we wish it couldn’t be.

Read it because you want to know what life is like for people with worse luck than your own. Read it because you want to know how to write terrible, unimaginable, darkness without losing a grip on the light. Read it because it is beautifully written, in a way that makes it appear simpler than it is, to make even those dark parts easier to digest.

Read it because though almost everything Roberta tells you about her life is bad, Cruddy is perfectly, solidly, good.

Art History Resources For Writers: Vintage Sewing Patterns (20th century)

Standard 1108; ©1899; Men’s and Boys’ Military Shirt.

If you’re writing about at people who lived in America (or at least, a parallel version of the United States with a similar fashion sense), in a generation or region different from your own, you might not have a clear vision of how your characters dressed. Vintage sewing patterns can tell you what the average person was wearing at the time. Different eras relied more or less on home-sewn clothes, but every generation has worn the styles depicted in sewing patterns, whether they bought off the rack or not.

Peerless 9590W; ca. 1920; Ladies’ & Misses’ Drawers.

Mass market clothing has always been inspired by the high fashion of a couple years prior, and that filters down into the everyday looks worn “today”. It used to be that finding old patterns meant scouring garage sales, or — if you’re lucky — diving deep into your local library’s collection of ephemera. Thanks to the internet, you can now find a lot of these rare pieces on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.

Hollywood 1090; ca. 1932; One-piece evening frock and short fitted jacket.

Like any other public wiki, this one is updated and maintained by a group of people who may or may not be historians, so double check whatever you glean from their archives, but with sewing patterns, it’s pretty easy to get information about the date and region right there on the package.

Butterick 4133; late 1940s; Misses’ Hostess Gown: Scalloped Midriff.

This site includes both patterns uploaded individually by folks who owned a copy, and some  Vintage Pattern Vendors who allowed their patterns to be used; the site’s About section warns against uploading copyright images.

McCall’s 3616; ©1956; Misses’ Bathing Suit and Beach Robe with or without Sleeves

Vogue 7497; ca. 1968/69; Misses Caftan.

Click on any of the images to see a larger version. All are currently available on the Vintage Sewing Pattern Wikia.