Thursday, May 17, 2007

More on the May Emails Subs

Since today is a rainy day in beautiful St. Kilda, I'm sending out my first responses.

Do expect one of the two headers in your email:

"REJECTION": "Your Story" when it's (obviously) rejected;

"HOLD": "Your Story" when I'm holding it for a second read.

At first sight, this might look cruel, but after some discussion on Nick Mamatas's LJ I agreed that being upfront from the get-go is better than unnecessarily maintaining any tension.

One thing that stands out in the slushpile so far is the unusual large amount of religious/God stories. Half of those are about how the Christian right in the USA has taken over power, and the way people rebel against it. Without exception, I found these stories boring. They just didn't tell me anything new or unusual.

Then there's more than the usual amount of stories where either an aloof God learns to become humane, or where missionaries to alien worlds have more success than they expected (the 'don't ask for it, because you might get it' cliche). I would strongly recommend that people doing a 'missionary to aliens' story to read Harry Harrison's "The Streets of Ashkelon" first (not online as far as I know, but widely reprinted, like in 50 in 50 or Stainless Steel Visions.

Although I'm an (agnostic) atheist, I'm not against religion per se. The point is that it is -- like many other themes, but especially with religion -- extremely difficult to come with something that hasn't been said about it before. If you want to capture my attention with a religion-themed story, then it either needs to have a very original angle, or the execution must be absolutely superb.

You have been informed/warned*

(* = delete as appropriate)

And three good ones, so far (of which one was *very* good, I think).

NB: and about a third of submitters don't single-space their submissions. It does take me about 10 seconds to do that myself, but it's annoying, especially when I'm doing it in an internet cafe where I pay by the hour. So do ignore your ingrained habits (I realise that standard submission format is still holy in a lot of places, even in the 21st Century), and single-space, as this makes *my* reading of *your* story easier on my PDA.


In St. Kilda

Where I had three days of beautiful weather (sunny, 23 degrees) and two days of rain (like today).

First and most importantly I caught up with my sister, as it had been over two years since I last saw her. Typically, I arrived Sunday evening around 20.00 hrs (PM), and my sister had to start on a new job the next morning.

This is actually a very good thing as she's been looking for a suitable job for years, and this one -- where she starts as an assistant to a production manager for a small film company (who mainly produce documentaries) -- might very well be the one.

She was hired for three days a week (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday), but it was so busy they asked if she could work Thursday, as well. I told her to do it, as nothing is as important on a new job as making a good impression on the first day, and the first week.

Then Murphy's Law struck again, as her car was broken into when she was parked near her work on her very first work day. It's like my bad luck (see previous post) jumped over to my sister.

But she got the smashed door windscreen replaced, had to buy a bottle of champagne (for celebrating the completion of one documentary. and the bottle was paid for by her company), and all ended well.

Then I had lunch with her -- my apartment is actually a ten minutes' walk from her new job place -- and she told me she brought some of the 'speculaas' -- typical Dutch cookies -- for her to her work, and announced that day was 'Special Dutch Cookie' day. It was very well received.

I have a good feeling about her new job, and I hope she can keep it for quite a while.

Tonight we're going to a play of a friend of her (Chris Wallace) in South Yarra, and tomorrow, when she has Friday off, we'll probably go to the 'Chinese Wall' exhibition in the Melbourne Museum (and might visit Federation Square in the process).

The forecast is rain, so no more beach weather. But I wasn't complaining when it was 23 degrees, which even according to Melburnians was quite warm for the time of year.

Ah, and I had dinner with Sean McMullen and his girlfriend Zoya (I hope I spelled that right!) in Elwood yesterday evening. A very nice evening, and Sean gave me an advance copy of his new YA novel " Before the Storm", which looked particularly good. I'll read it when I've finished the slush, which will be somewhere near the end of June.

I'm having quite a good time, and the only thing slightly bothering me is all the slush I have to read (originally, this trip was planned for April, so before the May Interzone email reading period. Then the job -- training a crew in Hobart -- got delayed by a month. Oh well.

Why Frequent Travellers Should Have Two Credit Cards..

...or more.

Last week, there was a news report in Holland that hackers had broken into a data account of a Dutch bank, getting hold of -- among other things -- the credit card numbers of several thousands of people. Specifically Visa and MasterCard holders. I think that was on Wednesday. Those whose credit card numbers had been hacked would be informed.

I heared nothing, until Friday afternoon, when I returned from work, and there was a message on my answering machine. It appeared that my Visa card number was amongst those hacked (well, the helpdesk man wouldn't admit it, but it's not coincidence, I tell you, as I've had this card for about twenty years with no problems whatsoever), so it was blocked. Well, my flight to Australia was the next day noon, so there was no possibility that I could get a new one before I left Holland.

It's exactly for these occurances of Murphy's Law that a frequent traveller needs a second credit card (also handy when the first is maxed out in expensive countries like Japan).

It was one of these things.

The second screwup happened en route to Australia: I had checked in for the flight, saw that the first boarding pass (to Kuala Lumpur, as I was flying with Malaysia Airlines) was fine, but I only glanced at the second one to Melbourne, assuming that it was OK, as well.

Never assume that.

In my new job as a trainer I only travel about 3 to 4 times a year (in contrast to almost constantly when I was a service engineer), and I'm losing some of my travel routines, such as *always* carefully checking *all* your boarding passes.

Just before the plane landed in Kuala Lumpur, I noticed that I didn't have a barding pass for the connecting flight to Melbourne of 4 hours later, as was booked and confirmed, but one for the evening flight 16 hours later (and the ground staff in Amsterdam failed to tell me this, as well. Probably didn't notice, either: just printed out the passes). So the next 3 and a half hours in Kuala Lumpur were spent getting myself on the correct flight, which barely worked out.

Still, I was finally relaxing when the plane took off on the last leg of the trip, and even more so when we landed in Melbourne and my sister picked me up.

But, as you can see, there's a reason why I stopped my previous job: I just got very weary of the constant travelling, and all the harassment it brings. And you have to pay attention to everything, otherwise an airline company stealthily tries to move you to another flight when they've overbooked their flights.

Even when you have a business class ticket.