amelia beamer

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Was anyone hurt?

Posted 29 May 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

So I found a metal spring in the lasagna I’d made. The only way it could have gotten there was via the pasta sauce.

I called the phone number on the side of the jar: you know where it says on the label that they want your feedback? The guy who answers the phone, after I’ve managed to communicate that I found metal in my food, he asks: “Was anyone hurt?”

“Only my trust in your products,” I say.

The irony doesn’t really register. He asks for my address, so that he can send me an envelope, postpaid, for me to send in the offending metal. “And we’ll send you some reimbursement,” he adds.

I picture a check, and wonder how much it’d be. It’s unlikely, given that they clearly have a prepared response for when people find non-food objects in their food.

Sure enough, the envelope arrives, with a letter saying: “We are genuinely concerned when a consumer reports finding anything unexpected in one of our products.” Also four $3 coupons for more sauce.

I understand that there are a lot of moving parts in the system that allows for me to have food. And that despite people’s best efforts, things happen. Sooner or later, you encounter this firsthand, and if it wasn’t this company, it’d be another.

But coupons? Really?

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Shopping cart bike lock

Posted 29 May 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This is actually a very smart idea, locking up your shopping cart so that nobody can steal it.

bike lock shopping cart

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Deafness is not a choice, but language is

Posted 21 May 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | No Comments

I’ve been doing research for a new project, and am fascinated by the very different ways in which Americans perceive and handle deafness. There are lots of culturally and linguistically self-identified Deaf people who were raised with American Sign Language and understand themselves to be members of a minority group with a cultural depth and heritage just as valid as any other group (including the capital-D Deaf — the same way you’d capitalize African American). This Youtube vlog, by the CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Brothers, uses ASL and voice to illustrate the ASL-centric point of view — watch out for the ironically loud screaming in the intro:

On the other end of the spectrum, there are lots of hearing parents of deaf infants and children who opt for cochlear implants (surgery which requires drilling into the skull and inserting an electrode into the ear) and oral training, in order to teach their children to hear and speak:

Everyone should have the right to language and culture: the question that hearing parents of a child with hearing loss have to answer is what kind of language and culture. What’s possible, what’s feasible, and what’s best for all concerned? I don’t have an easy answer.

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SF Signal Mind Meld: Favorite Genre Crossovers

Posted 08 April 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I was asked by John DeNardo to weigh in on the forum Mind Meld, hosted by SF Signal. The topic? Favorite Genre Crossovers. Part of the fun is that I don’t know who else will weigh in, or what they’ll say. Here’s what I said:

When a novel or a movie is marketed as horror, or as science fiction, or any other recognizable genre, you expect that it’ll do what it says on the tin. You know how a romantic comedy will end: if it’s being billed as a “date movie,” whatever else happens, the romance will resolve happily. But if a work is trying to appeal to kids AND adults, or men AND women, or people who like strongly-plotted genre fiction AND people who like deeply meaningful, atmospheric literary fiction, there’s a real possibility that the work is going to run into interference. Because most people know what they DON’T like — and they stay out of the children’s section of the bookstore or library, or the romance section, or the science-fiction section.

Here’s a few works that manage to do more than one thing at a time:

WHITE SANDS, RED MENACE by Ellen Klages (Viking) is a sophisticated, award-winning historical novel about friendship and being different and the relationships between kids and parents; it’s about science and growing up and the morality of war. And while it isn’t directly a science fiction novel, it’s a novel ABOUT science fiction, steeped in science fiction’s concern for the future, and sprinkled with Easter egg references to pulp science fiction stories. It’s also accessible to nine-year-olds.

Shaun Tan’s TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA (Scholastic) is a short story collection and an art book and a fantasy book. It’s marketed for ages 12 and up, and the NY Times Book Review said (about Tan’s picture book THE ARRIVAL) that readers will be motivated to “seek out any future graphic novels from Shaun Tan, regardless of where they might be shelved.” (The subtext of this is that normal adults shouldn’t be dinking around in the children’s section, or wherever Tan is shelved, but that they can make an exception here.)

Disney’s WALL-E was utterly brilliant until the people came along, and then it was still pretty darn good. It’s meant to appeal to all ages, with robots, show tunes, adventure, mystery, romance, some complicated emotional truths about loneliness and love, if-this-goes-on cultural commentary, and a happy, redemptive ending.

The secret, I think, to the successful crossover work is that it manages to appeal to multiple audiences WITHOUT the multiple conflicting genre markers chasing people away. When family and friends tell me they like my first novel — even though it’s got zombies — it’s a compliment and an unintentional ding at the same time: kind of like saying, “You look GREAT for your age.” There is a real joy, though, in surprising people with something they had already decided they didn’t like.

Check out the full discussion: SF Signal Mind Meld: Favorite Genre Crossovers

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The International Conference on the Fantastic

Posted 04 April 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Still catching up with travel photos: ICFA was great, as ever. Meetings and meals with friends including James Patrick Kelly, Gary K. Wolfe, Peter Straub, Andy & Sydney Duncan, John Kessel & Kij Johnson, Ellen Klages, Brett Cox & Jeanne Beckwith, Mark R. Kelly, Russell Letson, Nalo Hopkinson & David Findlay, Ted Chiang, Joe & Gay Haldeman, Rusty Hevelin, and Farah Mendlesohn. Nalo’s Guest of Honor speech was powerful and angry and funny and brilliant. A full conference report with photos will be in the May issue of Locus.

A few photos:

Amelia Beamer signing her very first ARC, for James Patrick Kelly [photo by Gay Haldeman] small 2010

Above: Signing my very first ARC, for James Patrick Kelly (photo by Gay Haldeman)

Amelia Beamer and Ellen Klages (photo by Andy Duncan)

Ellen Klages and I jump into the pool without swimsuits, per ICFA tradition (photo by Andy Duncan)

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Photos from NYC

Posted 29 March 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Finally got a minute and two brain cells to rub together. Here are a few shots from my recent trip to NYC, of my good-looking friends and me, plus an advertisement I just had to photograph.

Peter Straub, Amelia Beamer, Jeremy Lassen

Above: Peter Straub, Amelia Beamer, Jeremy Lassen (photo by Gary K. Wolfe)

Joe Monti, Jeremy Lassen, Amelia Beamer

Above: Joe Monti, Jeremy Lassen, Amelia Beamer (photo by Ellen Datlow)

Poster of a zombie with caption "Still eating brains?"

“Still eating brains? We can help.”

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Would you recommend AT&T?

Posted 28 March 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Thumbs down/thumbs up with iPhoneI just had an astonishingly friendly and non-invasive customer service experience — except for one question. “Would you recommend AT&T to your family and friends?”

(I had finally decided to buy a smart phone. Not that I don’t love my dumb phone, but that it was time to move on.)

After close to an hour or so of intelligent, honest conversation and show-and-tell — wherein my customer service rep Mark asked me if I’d ever worked for AT&T, and then invited me to apply — I buy the phone. Then Mark tells me, “There’s a question on the survey AT&T will send you, asking you if you’ll recommend AT&T to family and friends. What it actually means is, how well did I, Mark, do? If you put less than five stars out of five, my manager takes me aside and wants to know why. So please, if you’re going to put less than five stars, tell me now what I should do differently.”

I am struck by this move by AT&T which is brilliant in a terrible way. “So you’re actually guilt-tripping me,” I tell Mark. “You’re obligated to guilt-trip me.”

Mark gives me a look of gratitude. He brings his manager (who’s half his age) over, and the manager gives me the same explanation about what the question really means, and I ask the manager if there’s a way to get AT&T to change the question. Because I don’t respond well to guilt trips in general, but what’s brilliant about this question is that AT&T can apply whatever interpretation they want to that question. As far as the board members and stockholders are concerned, we all WOULD recommend AT&T to friends and family, because, hell, we SAID we would.

We have the attention of several employees by now. They’re all asking me to tell AT&T, since they, the employees, don’t have the power to, and every one of these employees are obligated to guilt-trip their customers.

I’ve been with AT&T since I got a cell phone, and it’s mostly been good to me. But would I recommend it? The question remains.

Thanks again to Mark and the whole crew at AT&T on Lakeshore!

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Politics and SF

Posted 28 March 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | No Comments
photo of John Shirley, Lisa Goldstein, Amelia Beamer, Terry Bisson

John Shirley, Lisa Goldstein, Amelia Beamer, Terry Bisson

I was pleased to be invited to appear on a panel about politics and science fiction at CounterPULSE, a non-profit art/theater/community space in San Francisco, on March 24, sponsored by PM Press. Terry Bisson was moderator, and Lisa Goldstein, John Shirley, Terry and I talked to and with a large group of very well-read people (who came out on a school night!) asking intelligent questions about, say, how the field transitioned between the New Wave and Cyberpunk. Politics is a big enough topic (as is science fiction) that there is room to go in all sorts of directions, and while it is traditional when talking about SF to bemoan the imminent end of books, the depth of reading displayed by the audience was a great reassurance that there are still readers. A podcast is being prepared through CounterPULSE.

Photo by Jim Dunn, here.

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Free Tim Pratt novel serialized

Posted 07 March 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | No Comments

My friend and Locus coworker Tim Pratt is serializing the new Marla Mason novel BROKEN MIRRORS, starting Monday March 8th. Check out BROKEN MIRRORS or subscribe via RSS and if you like it, Paypal him some love at

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Hello, blog.

Posted 22 February 2010 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This is the computer upon which I wrote my first novel, The Loving Dead. Note the cooling rack intended for cookies, which I appropriated because this laptop is too hot for its fan, and the homebrewed wood setup. Also note the busted-off keys — because, really, how often do I use the keys for the euro and the pound?

I’m in Manhattan at the moment; just visited the Tor office to say hi and put some faces to names I know through Locus. Yesterday I met my agent Joe Monti for the first time and hashed out the plot of a new project: Joe puts the Joy in New Jersey. Also saw Liz Gorinsky, Jim Minz, Peter and Susan Straub, Gary Wolfe, Cecelia Holland; more meetings coming up.

I’ve been putting off this blogging thing for way too long. "Lap"-top