Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: May 2019

This is a photo of the United States flag, flying in a strong breeze from a flagpole.

Gratefully remembering

The Artdog Quotes of the Week for Memorial Day 2019

Sometimes it’s hard to gratefully remember important things. Such remembering requires that one stop and take stock. Such gratitude requires a certain humility, and acknowledging that there are more important things than oneself.

This image shows an American flag in the breeze with a blue sky behind it. Above it are the words "Memorial Day," and below it are the words "Remember and Honor."

Sometimes it’s hard to feel anything but overwhelmed. This month has been fraught and frantic for me. Two different family members suffered life-threatening illnesses. I’ve spent a lot of hours chatting with tech support personnel about hitches and glitches that came with the relocation of this website to its own dedicated server.

May also was a twoconvention month. And all the pressures, deadlines, and preparation required to kick off another summer’s book-and-art tour tend to cluster at the beginning. When else?

The words, "Greatness is not what you have, it's what you give. To those who gave their all: We thank you. Memorial Day." are superimposed over a red, white, and blue pinwheel pattern patchwork quilt, with the attribution Bonnie K. Hunter,

But remembering–and remembering gratefully–is important. It’s a vital piece of how we understand ourselves in relation to our world, our community, and our relationships. It’s so important that we’ve set aside a day for it.

The background of this image is dominated by the color yellow, which makes the background of photos and an old-fashioned pocket-watch take on an almost red-violet color in the darker areas. White letters superimposed over the photo say "Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things," which is a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer.

It’s not just a day for picnics (weather permitting), or family gatherings, or swimming pool openings, or barbeque, or even decorating graves, fireworks, concerts, and marching in parades–although we associate all of those things with Memorial Day. It’s a day for remembering that without costly sacrifices we might have none of the freedoms we enjoy.

Those open-air concerts, those parades, those delicious meals, might never be possible if we did not live in freedom and peace. Those beloved family members might be scattered or lost. The brave defenders of our liberty, the ones whom we remember on Memorial Day, live within us when we enjoy our freedoms–but also remember that freedom doesn’t come for free.

The background photo of this image of two people's hands clasped is shifted to a turquoise-blue hue. The darker details in the photo are blue-violet. Over the image, white letters read "Death ends a life, not a relationship." it's a quote from Mitch Albom.

We have a bond of love and honor, an important relationship with those fallen ones who paid so dearly for the things we enjoy. It is our own honor–not theirs–that we stain and trample and besmirch when we forget.

Let us never forget them. But also . . .

Superimposed across the background of part of an American flag are two inset images from military cemeteries with their rows of white gravestones, and the words, "To those who courageously gave their lives . . . and those who bravely fight today . . . Thank You."

Let us likewise never forget the importance of the principles they stood for: freedom and human dignity, opportunity for all; balanced government; respect for the rule of law, but also respect for the people whose well-being those laws are supposed to protect.

Let us remember the whole Constitution, not just our favorite parts. Let us remember the sacred importance of treaties. Let us remember that no matter what we look like, or what our spiritual beliefs (including the lack thereof), or where we came from, or how recently, we all have a stake in the experiment that is our country.

And that every generation inherits the obligation to honor those concepts and that unity-in-diversity that has brought this nation to such vibrant life, if we are truly to honor their sacrifice.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to News of Mill Creek and the City of Edmonds, WA, for the “Memorial Day Remember and Honor” image; to Bonnie K. Hunter and her website, via Memorial Day , for the quilt-backed expression of Memorial Day’s purpose; to Funeral One, for the illustrated Schopenhauer and Albom quotes; and again to Memorial Day, for the closing “Thank You” image. Thanks also to LaRue Tactical, for the Featured Image U.S. Flag photo.

The DemiCon 30 header identifies the Convention's name, theme (It's about time), and dates (May 3-5, 2019). The background is a wavy cityscape with a large clock superimposed on the upper right.

Why I go to science fiction conventions

I still owe you a DemiCon 30 report, but this week it’s time to get ready for ConQuesT 50. In a couple more weeks, it’ll be time for SoonerCon 28. Maybe I’ll eventually catch up with myself, but one never knows.

There are a great many Indie authors who don’t understand why anyone would go to that many science fiction conventions, much less three additional ones (SpikeCon, FenCon, and Archon), over the course of the next few months. “I always lose money,” they say, or words to that effect.

I have a working hypothesis that, in the parlance of marketing, they are seriously discounting the value of brand-building, and focusing too much on lead-generation, but never mind. I guess this summer will be a “living laboratory” to test my own hypotheses about book-marketing.

Here's a photo of Jan S. Gephardt standing next to her fantasy paper sculpture Art Show display at DemiCon 30. Photo by Lucy A. Synk.
Here’s me with my DemiCon 30 Art Show display of fantasy paper sculpture.
Photo by Lucy A. Synk.

Thing is, long before I had this book to sell, I went to sf conventions. I sold art. I even ran an art show (at ConQuesT) for three years. I have yet to sell enough artwork to break even on expenses. On the other hand, I met lots of other authors, artists, editors, and individuals in science-fiction-adjacent fields, such as astronomy and rocketry.

I met all three of the literary agents who’ve represented me, at sf conventions. I met and had good conversations or other interactions (minds out of the gutter, people!) with artists, writers, editors, and more. With people whose names you’d know, if you are interested in my genres. Not to mention finding nearly all of my closest friends there.

I remain an active member of both KaCSFFS, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, Inc., and ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, Inc. Eventually, I’ll probably join SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Why? Because I value their input, their wisdom-of-the-group, and their network. Most of all, my friendships within them.

I just have to admit it. They’re my peeps, and I love them. They know a lot, too. A lot of things, a lot of people, and a lot of fun stuff. They’re lovely human beings (even when they’re kinda “out there”), and over the years they’ve taught me amazing things. They’ve introduced me to wonderful new people, books, media, and ideas. My life would be much less wonderful without them.

My question to the doubters is, “Why on earth wouldn’t I go to science fiction conventions?

IMAGE CREDITS: I’d like to thank all the conventions whose headers I used: Capricon 39, DemiCon, ConQuesT, SoonerCon, SpikeCon, FenCon, and Archon. I appreciate you! Nearly all of the rest of these photos were taken by me at DemiCon 30, with the express permission of their subjects. I deeply appreciate them! The sole exception is the photo of me, standing by my DemiCon 30 Art Show display. That one was taken by Lucy A. Synk, and is used with her permission. Thanks, Lucy!

Any firearms, sir?

The Artdog Image of Interest

As part of my research on what it’s like to live and work as a police officer (since most of my fictional characters work in law enforcement, I wanted them to be as believable as possible), I’ve been following several (dozen) social media accounts produced by, for, and about cops. One of them is the YouTube channel Mike the Cop.

This is the header for Mike the Cop's YouTube Channel. It is black with white letters, and on the left end is Mike's mascot animal, a pig.

He and “The Man Spot” worked together on a video that’s less than five minutes long, and it had me literally rolling with laughter before the end. This is so . . . American. I hope you enjoy it:

If you’d like to see other posts I’ve written about first responders, check out “Three great ways to thank first responders,” Peace and justice and black and blue,” and “Character Sketches.”

VIDEO CREDIT: All honor and gratitude to Mike the Cop and his collaborator The Man Spot, for this totally American video (also for the screenshot from that video)! Thanks, guys! And to Mike’s YouTube Channel homepage for his banner.

Why does the Earth so often have to die?

How many times and in how many different ways have we destroyed the earth?

here's a visualization of a very large asteroid hitting earth.
One common scenario envisions an asteroid impact. 

The “we” in that sentence refers to science fiction writers. Yet again the other day, a friend read a book description out loud, and the rest of us could almost guess how each phrase would go before she said it. A “dying Earth” (COD not specified in this blurb) has been fled by the “last remnants of the human race” who are, of course, “desperate [for] a new home among the stars.”

It doesn’t matter which specific book she was reading about. It’s a trope so common I’d say it’s a cliché at this point.

This shows a visualization of a cloudy earth with nuclear explosions all over the region.
A visualization of the destruction of Earth through war, courtesy of the Hellcat Fandom Wiki.

Is killing the Earth really necessary?

We’re always screwing up the Earth in science fiction

We over-pollute it, overpopulate it, blow it up (or aliens blow it up for us), fill it with fascists who drive us out, fill it with Zombies who drive us out, fill it with invading aliens who drive us out, we pave it, we run out of food, we run out of . . . you know the scenarios

All are pessimistic views of our future, and the underlying idea is twofold: killing our mother is inevitable, and we’ll find refuge in the stars. Somehow, somewhere

Here's an eerie photo of a dump in the early morning, with a little girl walking through clouds of mist generated by escaping gasses.
Widespread environmental destruction is a very real danger, dramatized in this amazing photo of an out-gassing dump in Myanmar. Photo: Nyaung U/United Nations Development Programme 

I’d like to argue that neither is likely, but there’s the oil lobby (to refute the first half). We’ve so far avoided the nuclear holocaust that haunted my childhood during the Cold War, but climate change might just do the job–for humans, anyway. 

I imagine that even if we humans kill ourselves, the planet will do what it’s always done: grow new things that are better-adapted to the new climate reality. Just look at the woods around Chernobyl.

bushes grow where streets were, and vines hang down from the sides of buildings in a visualization of how nature would reclaim cities if people disappeared.
Here’s a modification of a Google Street View by Einar Öberg, exploring the idea of how familiar places might change “after people.” It was inspired by the 2009 History Channel project by that name.

And how ’bout that home among the stars?

As I’ve outlined in earlier postsspace is a really hard place to live, much less be fruitful and multiplyMicrogravity makes everything harderdistances are, well, astronomical, and providing what humans need to survive is hideously expensive, at least right now. 

So let’s soft-pedal the destruction of earth already, people! We still have no good place to go!

A space habitat like a ring of boxes with an odd, forklike center orbits above a pink-looking planet in this visualization of a space habitat.
We’re very far, still, from creating a space habitat that can safely house space-dwelling families and provide for their childrearing needs.

Anyone who looks at a photo of the ISS can see we aren’t currently able to create a viable long-term habitat in space. Who are we kidding, here?

Personally, I’d rather explore the ideas of the Solarpunk movementwhich focuses on sustainable scenarios in science fiction. And yes, this means I’ll talk more about it in future posts.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Universe Today for the asteroid-impact visualization of Earth’s demise; to the Hellcat Fandom Wiki, for the visualization of war on Earth; to the United Nations Development Programme for the otherworldly dump photo; to Einar Öberg  on, for the visualization of “earth without people” via Google Street View; and to the Patheos blog “Evangelical” for the Interstellar screen shot.

Apartments built like . . . a tree?

The Artdog Image of Interest

The last time friends went apartment-hunting, they didn’t look for apartments built like a tree. But the Montpellier “L’Arbre Blanc” (“The White Tree,” also called the “White Space Tree“) project gives an example why “biomimicry” is a growing design trend.

Architect Sou Fujimoto designed this building for a site along the Lez River in Montpellier on the French Riviera. This apartment building “built like a tree” expresses Fujimoto’s design approach based on a “relationship between his architecture and nature.”

Fujimoto and his associates conceived the project in 2013-14. Construction started in 2015 and continued into 2018. The project’s leaders realized “that in this city, people live outside.” According to Manal Radche of OXO Architects, one of the firms involved, that guided their design, which incorporates 193 balconies.

The "White Tree" apartments under construction.

Montpellier is only 10 km from the Mediterranean coast. It has a mild, sunny climate. “Just as leaves in a tree are naturally arranged to get the maximum sun, we’ve mathematically arranged these balconies and cantilevers to catch and shade the sun,” Radche explained to Fast Company in 2014.

The 40-million Euro building will be a mixed-use space, with apartments above but also “offices, a restaurant, a bar, and an art gallery.” Passive cooling strategies help mitigate how much locally-sourced renewable energy the building needs.

All through April, I featured a series of architectural projects inspired by, and built to incorporate, trees. This post was delayed till May by problems with my website, which I now hope have been resolved.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Designboom for the featured image, to 1OneMinuteNews on YouTube, for the video, and to 3 Occitanie for the photo of the apartment building under construction.

I’m back!

This has been an overly stressful week, for a number of reasons. But I’m happy to say I’m back online!

This is a thumbnail image of the 2019 Jody A. Lee cover for Jan S. Gephardt's science fiction mystery novel "What's Bred in the Bone."
Now available in Kindle and Paperback!

Last week, due to a misunderstanding with Amazon, my book went live sooner than I had planned. Both the Kindle version (I already have a review! Thank you!!) and the trade paperback are now available.

The book went live, I was preparing the last details for my trip to DemiCon 30, and I had two advertising deadlines to meet May 1 . . . and then my website went down.

I was getting more than my share of traffic on my site, for the server-space I was paying for, so–without warningdown I went.

Hello! Don’t we all want and strive for and cherish more traffic? Isn’t it the primary goal of people who manage websites, to increase traffic? I’d just done upgrades to improve my SEO (search engine optimization), in preparation for the book launch. This was one heck of a “reward” for my successful efforts to increase traffic.

This picture is a screen-capture of a graph showing how my website was getting a lot of traffic . . . then the bottom fell out and I got none, while it was down.
My Dashboard metrics record how my traffic suddenly cratered when my site went down. It’s really not a hoped-for outcome, but perhaps a growing-pain.

But anyway, one nerve-wracking week and several thousand dollars later (Buy my books!), and having meanwhile been beguiled by an extremely enjoyable sf convention (DemiCon 30 report coming soon!), I’m back online. And I lived to tell the tale.

But I could do with fewer thrills and chills next week, please . . .

IMAGE CREDITS: My beautiful book cover artwork is © 2019 by Jody A. Lee; art direction by yours truly. The detail of my website metrics (from Google Analytics) is a screen-capture of my own data.

May the Fourth . . .

. . . I know you’ve heard this one. But it’s Star Wars Day! How else should the Artdog celebrate?

IMAGE: Many, many thanks to Rich Skipworth via Pinterest, for this image!

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