In Which Our Heroine Gets To Be All Dieselpunky Wench-With-A-Wrench Mechanic Girl

This weekend I spent helping our volunteer AME (aircraft mechanical engineer), Jim Aitken work on the Cessna 150, C-FLUG that I wrote about previously. There’s a lot of work to be done on the plane, and They’ve already done tons of work so far. It’s not yet legal to take into Class C airspace – we need a mode C transponder (a transponder to make us display with a code on the radar for ATC, and an encoder to transmit our altitude for ATC on their screens).

But they’ve got a radio in there now. One that works properly, and where you can make out what people are saying.

Anyway, they’ve asked us girls to come out and help with the work that needs to be done. There’s tons of jobs that are simple to do, that require an AME to sign off on them, but that we can do the heavy lifting. And things like putting on weather stripping. And jobs that just take two people – one to hold things from one side and one to tighten the nuts.

So I helped with lots of things. Removing and re-installing the compass so it could be painted (bare metal parts reflect the sun in the pilot’s eyes.) Installed a block heater, and a new sensor for the fuel gauge.

The volt meter I did the better part of the hands on installation because it required getting behind the instrument panel, and I’m small and flexible. Jim gave me instructions and I attached things where he told me. There were here-touch-this-wire-to-this-copper-bit-*sparks-fly* moments, but I managed to succeed in not electrocuting myself. It made me think of work, where I walk people through connecting cables in the right ports, and as I looked at all the wires back there going every which way, though my head went the thousand times I’ve had a customer tell me “I don’t know anything about any of these wires.” Only with customers, all the wires mostly only fit in one port, and the ports are labeled, usually with specific colours.

These wires were not colour coded. The ends didn’t fit in ports. The ends didn’t even have terminations…Jim was crimping the terminations on them as we went along connecting them. I have a sense of how data signals work, but I don’t know electricity. I know only enough to not want to mess around with it. I don’t know enough to know what’s safe and what’s not, so I don’t touch it. I will plug in a power cord, and I stop there.

The weird thing was with all of that, I didn’t feel out of my element. It was nice that Jim doesn’t coddle us – he assumes we’re smart people and competent. I’ve always been handy around the house – I grew up with my Dad after all. My Dad built the house I grew up in. He likes inventing machinery to use with his beekeeping, or modifying things made for something else to work for him with the bees. I grew up with him building things, welding new pieces on things according to what he needed, fixing things. I guess I just grew up with him doing so many of the sort of things people hire someone to do, and not assuming one had to be something special to do that. Grew up thinking everybody’s dad could build a house. Just normal stuff for me.

I think that’s why I gravitate toward the dieselpunk subgenre. Not because of any nostalgia for the architecture or fascination with design. It’s just a setting I can imagine clearly. It’s familiar and comfortable for me.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed it, and look forward to doing it again – I want to see the transponder installed, if I get the chance.

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This Guy Gets Dieselpunk

A friend directed me to a post today, and you all have to read it. 

Or anyway, if you like dieselpunk, you should read it.

Aside from my knee-jerk need to point out that steam is not a fuel, the fuel what is burned to heat the steam, and there were, ironically enough, steam engines that ran on diesel fuel, this guy really gets the spirit of the difference between dieselpunk and steampunk. “Steampunk heroes are engineers and tinkerers. Dieselpunk heroes are drivers and pilots.” In a steampunk book, the main character would build an aeroplane from scratch, maybe the first aeroplane ever, and it probably just barely flies. In a dieselpunk story, the main character flies the coolest, most advanced aeroplane their civilization has ever built, and a team of engineers to keep it running.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy his book.

The Randomly Special Ones

There’s a story motif that’s really popular in YA fiction, where certain individuals, usually ones who are underdogs in the beginning of the story. Their story kicks off the moment they find out they are somehow special, or chosen, have special powers. Harry Potter finds out he’s a wizard. Talia of the Valdemar books is chosen by the head companion magical white horse to be a Herald. They form a telepathic bond with a dragon, or some other animal, and become part of some order. A million other examples.

They discover they’re part of a special world and get taken away, and though there are bullies and selfish people just like everywhere else, they’re still special and get to do all these wonderful things. It’s a story structure that’s quite popular and successful, especially in YA fiction.

And I hate it.

It’s not that those books aren’t good, or even that I didn’t enjoy at least some of them. It’s just that, it seems a cop-out to make certain people randomly special, to pull them into the story. And I always think, what about the muggles? What about the one’s left behind? Do they get to do amazing things? What happened to the stories where a character wants to do something so badly, they will fight through anything? But if a Muggle wanted to do magic, they’d just kind of be screwed.

Anyway, I had this neat idea for a premise that I thought would be good for my next nanowrimo novel. It would be set in a world where people are bound to the earth in a magical way, so that if they go too far off the ground, they get sick. People wouldn’t live on second stories of buildings, or build towers. If a person was ill, the village doctor would prescribe a few nights sleeping on the bare grass. But every once is a while, there’s a person who isn’t earth-bound. In fact there’s an order of them, who fly aeroplanes. And of course, my main character wants nothing so badly as to fly, so of course it would turn out that she’s sky-bound. I had a fairly simple, standard YA novel plot to play with – nothing so complicated as usual, though, and I was looking over it for some twist to up the ante and make the plot got bang somewhere.

Then I realized what I’d done, and I hated it.

And I thought, well, what about the people who want just as badly to fly, but they’re earth-bound?

That was when I had my story.

I will be having some fun kicking around some tropes this November.

Finished Edits – And Title Change!

This has taken longer than it would have if I were just working, rather than working and flying, but my planned revisions on the novel I had been calling The Eyelet Dove are done. I’m pretty happy with it overall, though revisions have a tendency to take the shine off of things.

I’ve been considering changing the title for quite some time though, despite The Eyelet Dove being a phrase that nicely rolls off the tongue. The thing is, it makes it sound more like a novel aimed at female readers, and it’s really not. Not at all. I mean, there’s female characters, but they like to blow a lot of shit up, you know? Which is not to say women won’t enjoy it – I just want to make sure it doesn’t sound like something that only women would enjoy.

At the time I came up with the title, I hadn’t come up with a call sign for the character Michel. When I finally realized that I had subconsciously cannibalized my very first novel (practice novel – will never see the light of day – I can’t even look at it without cringing) for a lot of the themes in this one, I decided I might as well use the same theme for call signs as I had for code names in that old novel. Which was songbirds, and Michel’s call sign became “Redwing.”

Redwing makes a much better title, I think. The feel of it reflects the type of story it actually is, so I’m going with that.

Anyway, I’ve revised my query letter, and I’ve sent out a couple queries. And I’m done that in time for NaNoWriMo to start. Those who know me know I do that every year. I don’t know how well I’ll do this year – I’ve made it to 50k the last four years, but not the three years before that when I was going to school while working. Now I’m in school again, so that has to come first, but I’m hoping I’m prepared enough to be able to make it again. After all, I have a 20 chapter outline already. But I’ll post more about the next project closer to November.

In other news, I’ve posted a review of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer on the Punkettes Blog – go check it out – the book was everything I was promised and more. I think I’d call it the best steampunk related work I’ve ever read. Book two just came out yesterday, so I’m off to go pick up an e-pub copy.

Safe landings, all!

Flight School Update – Post-Solo Thoughts

Since I did my first solo last week, I’ve built up about 5 hours of solo flight now. Previous to that, my instructor mentioned several times when she took me up in more questionable weather, that I’ll need to start thinking about what my personal limits will be – what I’m confident I can handle with regards to winds and crosswinds, and what I might not be able to land the plane safely in.

Post-solo, having flown a bunch on my own, I’ve noticed it really does change the way I think about that. The safety net is gone, but not only that. For the last ten years, I’ve been working in a call centre environment, and that’s an environment where, despite what management will try to push you to believe, the completion of whatever task you perform is dependent on the performance of so many other individuals, that it’s very difficult to excel, and sometimes indeed, to even complete the task assigned at all. You’re either waiting on someone else to complete something, or transferring to another department, or waiting for a tech to arrive and finish the repair that couldn’t be done over the phone, or trying to pick up where another rep left off and they left incomplete notes because they were rushed because of limits on time provided to leave notes, or maybe they just didn’t care enough, or you’re dealing with a customer that someone else made angry, etc. It’s a grinder that you beat your head against the wall and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get ahead or on top of things because that would mean that everyone else in the entire company would have to be on top of things, and everything the company does reflects on you as far as the customer is concerned, and as far as management is concerned, your entire department’s performance is a reflection of your performance.

In the air though, it’s different. In that plane, it’s all on you.

At which point I think how on earth have I not managed to kill myself by now?

And one of the instructors replies “Ha. I think if you don’t feel that way at least once in a while, they make you hand back your license.”

That was Chuck – he’s a fun guy. I flew with him today because my main instructor had to go home. I also flew with Thiea today, and she’s the main flight test examiner, so it was nice to get to know her a bit. I won’t be so scared of her when I go to take my flight test, and Sandra keeps reminding me that’s going to be coming up fast.

Anyway, this week was mostly solo time building, practicing soft field and short field landings (I’m getting good enough at landings now to do different kinds rather than just hoping I can make the runway without having to overshoot :P) and then a couple of flights doing unusual attitudes under the hood (you wear this hood thing so you can’t see out the windows, but you can still see the instrument panels, and you have to fly using just the instruments) and some forced and precautionary landing approaches, which I’m doing much better on than I was. Not that I’ve had much practice at them – I’ve done maybe three or four forced landings, a couple more approaches, and about three precautionary approaches, including the two from today. With precautionaries, you fly a low pass over the field  to check the field conditions before landing, and that can be tricky because you want to fly low and slow enough to be able to see the field, but not so low and slow that you have to pay too close attention to flying the plane, or you don’t get the look at the field you wanted to get. The trick there is to get it set up in level flight before you reach the field, then you just have to hold it there. Anyway, I think I got that down.

Next week will be a big week. We’ve got my first an second dual cross country trip booked. First one is too Lac Du Bonnet, then to Steinbach, and then back to St. Andrews. And I have to do up the flight plan and all that crazy stuff. It has math. And I got this awesome doohicky – a flight computer, also known as an E-6B or a whiz-wheel. I think it’s the coolest thing in the world, because these puppies have been around since World War II, with little or no design change. There are computers that do this now, of course, but hey, if your electrics go down, how are you going to calculate flight time and fuel burn now, sucker? Plus, they’re awesomely retro – dieselpunkish even.

In other news, mid week, I got hit with a shiny new idea, writing wise, and I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to be writing for NaNoWriMo this year. It will be YA this time, and guess what it’s going to be about! (Three guesses, first two don’t count :P)

Thoughts On Women In Geekdom, Cosplay, And Steampunk (and Dieselpunk) As A Response

Ok, so a dickhead made a dick move the other day, and made a dick post on facebook.

Ok, I don’t need to reiterate everything that’s being said all over the internet, but John Scalzi had some great snarky tweets about it. He’s awesome for defending women in geekdom and women in general. My husband has the same feelings, and it’s one of the many reasons I love him, of course. And anyway, the internet is kinda coming down on this poor dipshit’s head anyway, so I don’t think I even need to. The internet’s good that way.

But it got me thinking about women, and how women are wedging their way into the world of geekdom that has traditionally been a haven for white males. I recall friends in my D&D group walking into 7-11 with PHBs in their bags and one of the other customers going “Hey, you guys play D&D? You should come play with us, we have a girl in our group.” And my friends, who are a bit more mature than the typical geek crowd, perhaps, going, “Good for you, we have three of them.”

I’ve never been in cosplay. I love dressing up in costumes, but never saw myself as a character in a book, or comic or movie. So when I started going to cons, I made costumes like a medieval princess, and when I wore my wedding dress with the white cloak, I called myself The Snow Queen.

Last week I went to Comic con for the first time ever. Won’t go again – lineups were far too long, and it was far to crowded for me to enjoy it. But there were some awesome costumes, and yeah, there were some attractive girls dressed in some revealing stuff. Those are the brave ones who are comfortable enough with their bodies to do that.

But there was also something else, that I wasn’t expecting. There were multiple women dressed as Batman. Women dressed as Robin. Women dressed as Superman. I didn’t see one single Princess Leia in her metal bikini, I swear to all the gods, but I did see one woman dressed as Han Solo.

A few months ago, I discovered that one of my cousins, who I live too far away from to know very well, is into cosplay. She has an amazing FFVII cosplay costume. She cosplays Cloud.

I think what this is saying is that we women are trying to tell the comic book and gaming industry that we’re not happy with the female characters they’re creating. We don’t want to dress up like sluts in order to conform to your fantasies, but look what you’re giving us to work with.

Then there’s Steampunk. There were a couple of Steampunk tables, and they were dressed up. But with Steampunk, there isn’t as much material where there’s definite images of the characters to cosplay. And within the Steampunk community, it seems to be more the norm to make up your own character or alter ego. Which results in something far, far more friendly to women. A woman going Steampunk can go anywhere from a corset an bustle, to a lab coat and safety goggles, to a geisha kimono with a clockwork fan, to coveralls, flight jacket and flight goggles. And none of it needs to look slutty. In fact, the victorian and edwardian times that the look intends to anachronize (if that’s not a word, it is now), is all about the prim and proper, girl’s-got-to-protect-her-reputation sort of feel.

That and the Steampunk and Dieselpunk communities have never, to my knowledge, been the exclusively male community that geekdom at large has been. There’s never been that attitude that we have to keep the girls from taking over what he have here.

I’ve seen lots of women into Steampunk these days, but it’s not a girl’s thing either. I’m not sure what the numbers would be, but I’d bet the involvement rates of both genders to be fairly close to 50/50, and that’s something you don’t see in a lot of communities.

Which is really cool.

Punkettes Blog Launch Today!

Come one, come all! The Punkettes blog officially launches today, so come tune in, follow the blog if you’re so inclined, to win prizes, and check out what we’ll be posting and reviewing. There’s already 50 people following the blog, and tons more on the Facebook page, so this is great so far.

The Early Bird prize has been drawn, but there’s tons more, books, art and accessories.

I don’t know if there’s anyplace before this to go to find reviews on just Steampunk books – maybe there is, and I just haven’t seen it. But I think the balance of the three of us is going to make it a very eclectic combination. I love my social upheaval, intrigue and adventure, but romance is always a hard sell for me, but we’ll have the other two for that. Plus it’s not just Steampunk – we have the Clockpunk and Dieselpunk going on too, so quite a bit of variety, considering we’re trying to focus on a small set of niche sub-genres.

So, for authors looking to have your book reviewed, we should be able to find one of the three of us who would enjoy your book, be it romance, adventure, or what have you. (As long as it’s either Steampunk, Clockpunk, or Dieselpunk, of course.) Just contact any one of us with a review copy, and we’ll figure out who to review it.