Tuesday, 31 May 2011


It was a lovely day today and I spent most of it in the garden. I took my netbook, a big cup of coffee, a good book and my work out to the lawn.


It turns out the ants that like our veggie beds so much also like the lawn so I moved to the chair after a couple of hours and several ant bites.

I hope everyone else is enjoying nice weather.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

“We Think Therefore We Am”

Not so long ago I got into an argument about the validity of genre fiction in terms of intellectual and philosophical standings. I decided to create a list of quotations proving that SFF can deliver profound statements. Then I asked to see if anyone had any great quotations I should add to the list. This is the list so far. It will probably keep growing.

"The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head."
Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

“I never understood the injunction not to regret anything, couldn’t see how that wasn’t cowardice”
China MiƩville, Embassytown

"If it is only after that we understand what has come before, then we understand nothing. Thus we shall define the soul as follows: that which precedes everything."
R. Scott Bakker The Darkness That Comes Before

"Son. Everyone dies alone. That's what it is. It's a door. It's one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn't mean you've got to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren't alone on the other side."
Jim Butcher, Dead Beat

"Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more." Terry Pratchett, Pyramids

"There is something profoundly cynical, my friends, in the notion of paradise after death. The lure is evasion. The promise is excusative. One need not accept responsibility for the world as it is, and by extension, one need do nothing about it. To strive for change, for true goodness in this mortal world, one must acknowledge and accept, within one's own soul, that this mortal reality has purpose in itself, that its greatest value is not for us, but for our children and their children. To view life as but a quick passage alone a foul, tortured path...is to excuse all manner of misery and depravity, and to exact cruel punishment upon the innocent lives to come."
Steven Erikson, The Bonehunters

"I hope, or I could not live."
H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau

"There are only two worlds - your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. these worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters."  
Neil Gaiman
, The Books of Magic

"Fantasy, if it's really convincing, can't become dated, for the simple reason that it represents a flight into a dimension that lies beyond the reach of time."
Walt Disney Company

"Who would you be but who you are?"   
Terry Brooks, The Black Unicorn

"All things pass in time. We are far less significant than we imagine ourselves to be. All that we are, all that we have wrought, is but a shadow, no matter how durable it may seem. One day, when the last man has breathed his last breath, the sun will shine, the mountains will stand, the rain will fall, the streams will whisper—and they will not miss him." 
Jim Butcher, Princeps Fury

"It could not be happening because this sort of thing did not happen. Any contradictory evidence could be safely ignored."
Terry Pratchett, Jingo

"Life has always been a matter of putting one's feet down carefully"  
Isobelle Carmody
, The Farseekers

"Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope."  Dr. Seuss

"People were always sorry. Sorry they had done what they had done, sorry they were doing what they were doing, sorry they were going to do what they were going to do; but they still did whatever it is. The sorrow never stopped them; it just made them feel better. And so the sorrow never stopped."
Iain M. Banks, Against a Dark Background

"Life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all."
William Goldman, The Princess Bride
"Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some."
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

"We all can be only who we are, no more, no less."  
Terry Goodkind
, Stone of Tears

"The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

"There are no happy endings... There are no endings, happy or otherwise. We all have our own stories which are just part of the one Story that binds both this world and Faerie. Sometimes we step into each other’s stories - perhaps just for a few minutes, perhaps for years - and then we step out of them again. But all the while, the Story just goes on."
Charles de Lint
, Dreams Underfoot

 "That was when I found out that the best way in the world to make yourself feel better when you have hit bottom is to try to get somebody else to feel better. There are certain things in life that are truly worth knowing, and that is one of the big ones."
Gene Wolfe
, Pirate Freedom
"Let others determine your worth and you're already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves."
Peter V. Brett
, The Painted Man

"As for courage and will - we cannot measure how much of each lies within us, we can only trust there will be sufficient to carry through trials which may lie ahead."
Andre Norton

"Nothing is done entirely for nothing. Nothing is wasted. You are older, and you have made decisions, and you are not the fox you were yesterday. Take what you have learned, and move on."
Neil Gaiman
, The Sandman

"Imagine a man who stands before a mirror; a stone strikes it, and it falls to ruin all in an instant. And the man learns that he is himself, and not the mirrored man he had believed himself to be."  
Gene Wolfe
, The Urth of the New Sun
With thanks to everyone who contributed both via email and on the comments section of the original blog post. I’m assuming that people who emailed me didn’t just leave a comment so it was anonymous so I’ll just link to the people who left comments. I'm guessing this topic isn't going anywhere seeing as people keep saying silly things about genre fiction and so others will keep standing up for its honour. If anyone has links to other good articles please drop me a line so I can pop them up here, and read them myself of course!


p.s. the title is taken from Small Gods by Sir Terry Pratchett.
p.p.s. all photographs were taken nearby in NW Leics and South Derbys/Notts because I had no idea what to use in here! 

p.p.p.s it's really confusing living on the border of three counties...

Friday, 20 May 2011


I'm still collecting great genre quotations over here but here's something a little different for today!
This week I've mainly been working on consignment and wholesale packs. This is a whole new world to me. For those not in the know wholesale is when an artist/crafter sells a large amount of work to a retailer for a reduced price. Consignment works on a sale-or-return basis where you draw up a contract and the retailer sells your work and both the shop and the artist take a percentage of the price paid.

Sounds simple, right? Nah of course not. I'm terrified that I've missed something out of the packs or have come across as too flighty and artistic or on the other hand too businessy and therefore cold.
I've read so many articles this past week on the best way to approach shops, what you must and must not do, what each pack needs to have and my head is spinning. 
My consignment pack currently consists of a page of colour photographs of six examples of my cards, an artist CV, a page of information about my cards, my wholesale/consignment policies, my pricing list, environmental policies and my contact details. This is all presented in a clear folder so that it is protected if it is kept on file for later reconsideration.

It's a lot like submitting a manuscript (see examples of plays at the top of the page!) because you only get one shot to make your first impression and if you mess it up then it's unlikely that the shop will be interested in you again. No pressure then! I've spent a lot of time trying to get the balance of everything right, picking the right pictures to represent my work and enough information that people feel that they know enough about my work and my concept. At the same time I am trying to build up a bigger stock of cards both for consignment and also for the Etsy shop. So it's been a full-on week in the world of cards.

The next step is to find as many shops as possible and then research them to find the ones that are the perfect fit for what I am doing. Sometimes I forget how much I still need to learn and then I start doing something like this - it's scary but also exciting and a great way of learning by diving in head-first!


Monday, 16 May 2011

Thinking Deep Thoughts

Not so long ago Kate Elliot wrote this great article about women in SFF and highlighted something that I completely relate to:

"Even now, when I announce that I am an avid fantasy reader, I often find myself on the receiving end of comments from my non-genre counterparts along the lines of, ‘oh, like elves and stuff?’ and the explanation of why this is a ridiculous way of understanding the genre usually takes more time than we have ."

This is very close to a conversation/argument which I have had several times in the past few weeks. One particular comment was especially annoying and went along the lines of 'but I always thought you read really deep, important books not these fluffy entertaining genre things.' Yeah, I'm making that sound worse than the original comment but it was the gist of it.

I am currently compiling a list of quotations/sections of books that I can point at to prove my point. My point? That genre books can in fact be intellectually stimulating. Fantasy can be a wonderful lens through which we can more accuately see reality. There has been a lot of talk of genre and genre-bashing recently and I'm not getting into it. One simple reason for that, I don't know enough. If you want a genre argument, google it, there's plenty by people who know much more than I do. I read the classics of children's fantasy when I was a kid but I only really got into it four or five years ago. All I am trying to do here is undo a little of the snobbery because it shocked me that people really couldn't see how amazing all literature is.

So I have a request for all of my genre-based friends, if you have any especially good examples of philosophical, deep or just plain amazing sections of genre books please let me know - either in the comments section here or by email (vclinde@gmail.com). For my non-genre friends hopefully I'll soon have a list of things for you to pore over and decide where you're going to start reading.

I used to use quotes from literature to open my essays in University. Partly because I really was an English student trapped in the body of a Politics student and partly because I thought it would put my tutors in a good mood before reading (and more to the point, marking) my essay. They were always relevant and quite often from genre novels. My favourite was an essay on democracy in the Middle East where I used this quote from Witches Abroad by Sir Terry Pratchett:

"You can't go around building a better world for people. Only people can build a better world for people. Otherwise it's just a cage. "

And now I'm off to start making a list to prove that I am right, because some people still aren't clued in to the fact that I'm right most of the time.


Friday, 13 May 2011

St. John's Church

I recently went to Chester and was very disappointed with the way that the Roman sites there had been looked after - they had been far too altered for my taste. However I did get to see St. John's Church which was wonderful.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Manchester Visiting

This was posted a little while ago but got lost in the Blogger hiccup...so, here we go again!

Over one of the stupidly long weekends we had recently I went to visit my darling Ali in Manchester. We met the first week of classes at Uni and have been joined by a love of coffee and bitching about people ever since. It's no small coincidence that the places I am looking to move to when I am finally ready to move house are all close to Manchester. I've been through the city before but never spent much time there and we had a fantastic day. I will be visiting much, much more although I think it will be driving rather than relying on Sunday train services in future.

Essentially the day went coffee - gossip - library - coffee - bitching - shopping - art gallery - gossip - shopping - hugs. Like I said, will be in Manchester a lot more from now on!


Friday, 6 May 2011

Green - Emerald - Jade - Chartreuse

There are many things that I like about making collages, as well as a few I don't. I can't remember the last time my nails looked even half-way to respectable or when I didn't have glue all over me. It is wonderful finding images, text, and other assorted oddments to turn into a completely new piece of art or a brand new card
I didn't start making collages just because they are an environmentally responsible way of crafting but it was a pretty big part of it. I love the combination of recycling and upcycling that goes into what I do.
I am going to link through to this blog-post from my Etsy shop so that anyone who wants to check out my green credentials will be able to see what I do.

I'll start by saying that I am an Ecocentric greenie. I am not now, nor ever have been anthropocentric. I have no doubt that if we damage the Earth enough then she will bite back and hard enough to finish us off and then heal herself. This is fine by me. I'm all for existing but I also think that a new ice age would fix a lot of things. I also have a bit of a Cornucopian buried inside me, but that's a debate for another time. I do love debates on Environmental Politics, to the point at which I think even my lecturer at Uni got used to me playing Devil's advocate. (This is one of his works on Green Politics if anyone's interested)

All of my collage materials are recycled.
The books are pre-read at least once and a lot of thought goes into which books I choose. Obviously they need to be out of copyright, not precious enough to me that I can't bear to cut them up, have nice text that will be visually pleasing and have enough of a pull that if someone wants to read the words they will be interesting.

The stamps which I use are from when I was a little girl and collected them. I mainly collected them because they were pretty rather than because I wanted a huge stamp collection. The ones that didn't make it into an album are now being used in collages. I am running a bit low and will need to restock soon but I won't be using new stamps but old ones that I will them upcycle into art.

The images that I use are taken from so many varied places that it would be silly to try and list them but all of them are recycled and repurposed. Magazines, photographs I have taken, postcards, newspapers, pictures, comics etc. All beautiful, colourful and with a brand new purpose in my collages.

Sometimes I do have to use backing paper for the base-layer of my collages (although this is clearly not the case with cards!) and I always try to make sure that this is made from recycled materials. I know there are a lot of 'try' in this and I wish I could guarantee that everything is 100% recycled but I just can't. I do promise to do my best though.
Postage and packaging is also a hot topic for Etsy recyclers. Wherever possible I will use recycled materials. I also often reuse packages for sending things. However, my main concern when sending either art or cards is that the item gets to a buyer in one piece. If someone is buying an item for a friend and wants it to arrive looking all shiny and new then I will very happily use a brand new bubble-lined package. If not I will sometimes use one that I've had things sent to me in. I buy *a lot* of books and it would be churlish of me not to re-use the packages when I am trying to be careful about my impact on the environment. Also it is another way that I can help to keep my shipping costs down for everyone!

I'm pretty sure there are more things that I will think of that I either do which are considered 'green' and I hope that I will keep finding new ways of making my little business a little more environmentally friendly. Because I like the Earth very much - just as she is.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Old Habits

I've tried so hard to stay out of politics recently. It's not because I don't care, it's not even because I want to go back into Politics and need to keep my mouth shut and be impartial. It's the rage. I get politics rage. I'm 24 and I shouldn't be as cynical and rage-filled as I am but there we go.
I lasted quite well but it's election day and I can't stomach the rubbish I keep hearing any longer. So here's my take on electoral reform.

There is one major problem with changing elections - if a party/government has been elected by an existing system they are not going to want to change it because it clearly works for them. So if there is a proposal for electoral change I start pestering friends and contacts for internal polling data. Once politicians are in power most of them want to stay there. 'Overly cynical? Me? No, and of course Chicago is only called 'the Windy City' because of the weather...'
The other big issue has been that newly introduced systems lead to lower turnout because people are confused by the new system - of course this is (hopefully) short-term. A slightly more minor issue is that the first election held under a new system almost always gets messed up, again hopefully short term.

AV itself is not my cup of tea (and neither is FPTP) but it is at least a straight forward system. I am sure that everyone in the UK now understands it but according to Blogger about 85% of my readers are in the USA so in case anyone's missed it...
Alternative Vote is a single member voting system where voters rank the candidates in order of preference. To win the seat a candidate needs to have 50% +1 of the votes cast. If no single person has achieved this through the number 1 rank the lowest ranked candidate's votes are taken out and their voters second choices are given to the remaining candidates. This continues until someone has over 50% of the votes. Simple. For a better explanation please click here for a link to the Electoral Reform UK site.
It's used in Australia (for the House of Representatives) and works well enough. I should add that in Australia it is illegal not to vote. I like this a lot.

I could quite easily type up a pros vs. cons list about Alternative Vote. Really, very easily because I memorised when I was seventeen. That's not the point. What is bothering me about this election is that whichever camp people fall into they are just not listening to each other. It feels that people have decided on their point of view and are simply shouting at each other. I like debates where people change their minds and are not ashamed or embarrassed to have done so.

I disagree with a lot of people on politics. I am non-partisan and I vote for people over parties at elections. I like to talk about issues because I do think things matter. Talking to some people can be like hitting your head against a brick wall though and that is such a miserable feeling because debate should be fun and engaging. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and it would be rubbish if they did, but I do expect people to accept that I disagree and not try to force me to change my mind. It's entirely possible that I have a different outlook on the world - that doesn't mean I am wrong or need to be educated and changed. Outlining the facts is good - deciding what this means to another person is not.

This goes for politics, religion and what I'm having for lunch. Just because I disagree does not mean I don't understand and the more someone bashes me over the head with an argument the less likely I am to listen. I do apologise for sounding grumpy but today I've had one too many people trying to convince me that one view is better than two.
And I had a bacon and avocado sandwich on spelt bread for lunch, in case anyone is wondering.


Monday, 2 May 2011

A Pale Horse

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. (Revelation 6:8)

When I was much younger, still in high-school in fact, we studied war. We looked at just causes of war, pacificm, conscientious objection, fighting, capital punishment and non-just causes of war.

My problem was always that I couldn't see an end point. War begets war. Fighting begets fighting. Death begets Death; "and Hell followed with him".

I didn't sleep much over the weekend and yet for some reason I woke up at 4am this morning. I think my old-political brain wakes me up whenever there is news going on in the world. Possibly not, but it felt like it whilst listening to the announcements coming out of the White House about the death of Osama bin Laden.

Very quickly many things seemed wrong. There was a sense of jubilation which felt disturbing to me. There was a clear shift in the division of responses from the initial comments to those as people around the world woke up. Maybe it is just the old idea of the British stiff-upper-lip but the impression was one of sadness at overall loss than either joy or relief. I feel deeply uneasy about seeing anyone rejoicing in the death of any person.

This made me wonder how the politics of death colours our view of things. More specifically, whether the use of the death penalty inherently changes opinions of justice in members of the public who are exposed to that system. It feels that there is a link drawn between justice and death when capital punishment is acceptable where that connection is not made otherwise. To my mind at least death and justice are just about as far removed from one another as it's possible to be.

Having said that, this thought process was going on at 5am and I never did get back to sleep so I might not be making a lot of sense. In other news I have been reading a couple of excellent books and plan to spend the rest of the day continuing to do so in between making some more greetings cards!

And just one more quote – one that is possibly even more appropriate, from Ivanhoe, which is a favourite book of mine.

For he that does good, having the unlimited power to do evil, deserves praise not only for the good which he performs, but for the evil which he forbears.”