Doing epic laundry now. Spain was awesome. My favorite bit was the week I spent with friends on a boat, just lazing around, swimming, and having communal dinners in the cockpit, but I really glad Mike and I stayed longer to do sightseeing too. Al-Hambra was magnificent, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is the only massive cathedral I've ever seen that I found aesthetically appealing, and live flamenco dancing in the caves of Andalucia was inspiring. Some pictures are public on facebook for folks who have my wallet name account friended; I'll get some more up somewhere I can link from LJ/DW soonish.
Anyway, my real reason for posting today is a poll (sorry LJers; this post is public though so you can vote on DW if you want. Or just reply in comments.) Salong Betong, a famous tattoo parlor in Sweden, now has a shop inside the security zone in Stockholm airport. I'm really considering making sure that the next time I travel to Europe or Asia, my flight goes through Stockholm so I can get a tattoo in an airport.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Just the Poll Creator, participants: 1
Is this the most ridiculous idea I've ever had?
If you answered no above, what is the most ridiculous idea I've ever had?
I have to start generating draft post link dumps as I post things to G+.
You should be reading Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his movie criticism, regardless of whether you want to see the movies he's writing about. Here he is about the truly appalling Ted 2:
For people of color, some aspect of friendship with white people involves an awareness that you could be dropped through a trapdoor of racism at any moment, by a slip of the tongue, or at a campus party, or in a legislative campaign. But it’s not always anticipated. You don’t expect the young white man who’s been seated alongside you in a house of worship to take your life because you’re black. Nor do you expect that a movie about an obscene teddy bear would invoke a sexual stereotype forced upon you the way Kunta Kinte was forced to become “Toby” [in Roots].
And as a palate cleanser, his review of Magic Mike XXL.
The AV Club's Random Roles series is almost always great. Here's Diana Riggs, who I've never even seen on screen and who I now want to be when I grow up.
I also love their Expert Witness series; here's a recent one on being a second-unit director on Hollywood blockbusters and one I somehow missed on from a camera operator on the Puppy Bowl.
I don't watch Penny Dreadful but glvalentine's recaps of it are worthy of live-blogging on their own. The one about the most recent episode contains such gems as "Somehow opting not to just go full Gothic and have sex in front of the corpse" and "(He had so much trouble just facing his mother’s death that he made three more people. Then he had sex with at least one of them. The man is troubled.)"
I also don't watch Parks and Recreation (though I'm considering it), but I suspect fans of it would like this vid by such_heights.
This review of For Such a Time by Kate Breslin makes you wonder how on Earth anyone could possibly think that it was a good idea. (Content notes: Holocaust, dubcon.)
Palate cleanser: absolutely hilarious Imperial Radch AU by Rachel Swirsky.
@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment, an interesting look at the growth of that Twitter account and what the academic behind it decided to do with the social capital it had.
Yakhchāls: "By 400 BCE, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of storing ice in the middle of summer in the desert."
A Mostly Accurate Norse God Family Tree, in comic form, with research notes. A.K.A., "TIL that Odin's grandparent was a cow."
The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction, an interview with someone whose work was appropriated by Supernatural fandom.
Did my boyfriend just get married? on AskMetaFilter; search the poster's username for updates.
What This Cruel War Was Over, the meaning of the Confederate flag in the plain words of those who bore it.
I'm excited, except for the bit where it's already nearly here, ugh, where does the time go?
I don't have my Safety Committee schedule yet, so I can't make plans to see people, but if you're going and I don't already know, please tell me!
Friday July 10 - 2:00 PM - ENL - The Parental Undertones of Fannishness.
Toni Kelner, Kate Nepveu, Jennifer Pelland, Diane Weinstein (leader).
After the first Peter Capaldi episode of Doctor Who aired, Jet Cuthbertson (@Jet_Heather) tweeted, "Hard to sum up my feelings towards #DrWho- at once completely critical, but protective & adoring. Condemning, but desperate for another fix." This summarizes the conflicting urges that drive many fans to create fanfiction and fan art with the goal of improving a book or show that they find simultaneously appealing and insufficient. But it also sounds like a description of parenting: protective and loving, eager to see achievement that matches potential, critical of shortcomings, concerned about conflicts between the parent's goals for the child and the child's own ambitions. What leads fans to take on this parental role with the works they love? Is it appropriate and respectful, or literally paternalistic? How does it mesh with the parental feelings that creators often have for their own works? And what can fans learn from the struggles and successes of parents?
Friday July 10 - 7:00 PM - ENL - Recent Fiction Book Club: Persona.
Victoria Janssen, Kate Nepveu (leader), Fran Wilde.
In a world where diplomacy has become celebrity, a young ambassador survives an assassination attempt and must join with an undercover paparazzo in a race to save her life, spin the story, and secure the future of her young country in this near-future political thriller. For author Genevieve Valentine, restraint is a mode of composition, both in the beautifully understated sparsity of her prose and in her protagonists' taut, tense stillness. In Persona, where the degree to which one has or has not smiled reveals or conceals a wealth of information, restraint is crucial to a Face's survival. Persona brings up questions of identity and celebrity, managing to be a tense, carefully wrought thriller while still nodding and winking at the camera. You'll never look at a red carpet the same way again.
Saturday July 11 - 10:00 AM - F - Successfully Writing About Horrible Things.
Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Shira Lipkin, Kate Nepveu (leader), Patty Templeton.
If you're not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who's been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that's lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters' suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?
Sunday July 12 - 12:00 PM - ENL - Fandom and Rebellion.
Gemma Files, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), A. J. Odasso, Ann Tonsor Zeddies.
ifeelbetterer on Tumblr writes, "No one is more critical of art than fandom. No one is more capable of investigating the nuances of expression than fandom—because it's a vast multitude pooling resources and ideas. Fandom is about correcting the flaws and vices of the original. It's about protest and rebellion, essentially.... Fandom is not worshipping at the alter of canon. Fandom is re-building it because they can do better." Our panel of creators and fans will dig into the notion of when, why, how, and whether fan works and remixes are "better" than the original, especially when they come from a place of protest and challenge.
Sunday July 12 1:00 PM - CO - A Visit from the Context Fairy.
Kythryne Aisling, Stacey Friedberg, Gwynne Garfinkle, Kate Nepveu, Sonya Taaffe.
In a blog post at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith writes about the opposite of visits from the "Suck Fairy": going back to a book you disliked and finding that the "Win Fairy" (to coin a term) improved it when you weren't looking. Are the Suck Fairy and the Win Fairy really two faces of a unified Context Fairy? If context is so crucial to loving or hating a work, how does acknowledging that affect the way a reader approaches reading, or a writer approaches writing? How does one's hope for or dread of the Context Fairy influence decisions to reread, rewrite, revise or otherwise revisit a written work?
Thoughts on these? Comment, do, I always find it helpful and interesting!
Note to self: when books feel like they're somehow too much, too intense or daunting or demanding, you might just be struggling with the idea that you get to have leisure time. You do. Don't fixate too much on the idea of reading, or of choosing exactly the right book, and turn it into something big and complicated. It isn't. Just pick up any good book--the house is full of them, your hard drive is full of them--and let yourself fall into it. It's not a commitment or a chore; it's a pleasure.
Don't do this at 2 a.m., though, or you'll be up far too late reading.
"I need a detective, Lew. A good one."
"I don't do that anymore. Hell, I never did it very much. I sat in bars and drank, and eventually guys I was looking for would stumble by and trip over my feet. I'm a teacher now."
"And a writer."
"Yeah, well, that too. Once you've lost your pride, it gets easier, you know: you'll do almost any damned thing. You start off small, a piece for the local paper, or maybe this tiny little story about growing up, something like that. That's how they hook you. Then before you know it, you're writing a series for them."
--James Sallis, Moth
He's rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary crime writers.
If you ever want to relive the days of dial-up modems, I suggest driving to the northern edge of the U.P., then piggybacking your laptop onto your phone’s data signal.
But with today being the 4th of July, I figured I should share a few of the fireworks from last night’s display. I’m particularly fond of the way #1 and #4 turned out, like giant flaming dandelions.
Hope you’re having a great weekend!
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
The blog will be relatively quiet for a week or so. I have very important “research” to do up north for the next book.
It’s hard work being a writer, ya know?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
But if it *was* the same story, it would be called "East End Story." I will let you imagine the rest, choreography and all.
I'll be at Readercon
next week, and on four panels (which is just the right amount -- programming at Readercon is more intense than at any other con I've been to, especially since it's one where panelists really do have to do some advance planning). Here are my panels, along with their awesome descriptions (note that I actually challenge the description of "Ghostbusting Lovecraft" a bit, and noted this in my response when I expressed interest in it.) The letters represent room names (possibly confusing, since both my Friday panels are in "F"). It's a wonderfully small con -- if you attend, you won't have a problem finding these panels, and if you're someone I know online, you should say, "hi." I'm an introvert, but do like chatting with folks at cons (and when I don't, I'm adept at making that clear).
Friday July 11
11:00 AM F Mystery and Speculative Crossovers. Meriah Crawford, Chris Gerwel, Greer Gilman, Nicholas Kaufmann, Adam Lipkin. There are many books that draw from both the speculative fiction and mystery toolboxes, in both macro ways (China Miéville's The City & the City and Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road are catalyzed by hard-boiled murder investigations) and micro ways (urban fantasy was initially defined by its relationship to noir, now often more evident in tone than in plot). Where is this crossover most satisfying? How do magic and advanced technology open up new avenues of investigation or methods of befuddling the detectives? How have trends, tropes, and developments in each genre influenced crossover works?
7:00 PM F The Plausible Normal in Future Societies. Chesya Burke, John Chu, Sarah Langan, Adam Lipkin, Scott Lynch.
According to author Charles Stross, "If you're not doing [far-future extrapolation] to the cultural normals as well as the setting and technology, you're doing it wrong." Many far-future SF stories are set in a universe with an interstellar polity, advanced transportation technologies, and familiar political structures. The planetary civilizations they tend to portray, however, are middle-class white suburbias that barely exist now. Where are the far-future stories that explore novel and radical gender politics, religious frameworks, ideologies, fashions, and cultural attitudes? What are some tools authors can use to get out of their here-and-now mindsets and imagine a truly transformed future?
Sunday July 13
10:00 AM CO Ghostbusting Lovecraft. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, John Langan, Adam Lipkin, James Morrow. In Max Gladstone's blog post "Ghostbusting Lovecraft," he writes: "Ghostbusters is obviously taking the piss out of horror in general. But while the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist–cum–art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian." Unlike typical Lovecraftian protagonists, however, the Ghostbusters prevail over the eldritch horrors by exploiting the power structures and emotional connections that exist between people. Is the Ghostbusters story arc an alternative to the standard horror tropes, one that replaces fear with humor, defiance, and camaraderie? How else does it subvert our expectations of the conflict between humans and horrors?
1:00 PM G Transformative Works and the Law and You. Max Gladstone, Toni Kelner, Adam Lipkin, Sarah Smith. Let's discuss the state of transformative works today. Copyright law and case law in this area is changing rapidly, as is the way big publishing treats transformative works. Remix culture is the cutting edge of 21st-century creativity, and we are all postmodernists. Is the law finally catching up with that, or lagging far behind? Will the fate of copyright and transformative works ultimately be decided by the whims of corporations and powerful literary estates?
So last night derspatchel
and I finished watching the BBC's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
(2015), of which I believe the first three episodes have aired so far in the U.S. I have thoughts about it. They are all under the cut. Spoilers, obviously, although mostly for the book.( You're in the North now. )
Well, that was a thousand words longer than I intended. In conclusion, I have loved Eddie Marsan since discovering him in an accidental double feature of depressing movies in 2008 and I hope his work as Gilbert Norrell nets him a breakaway fandom and at least one award, the first of which Tumblr appears to indicate is happening already. I mean, I just found a gifset dedicated to Norrell's wig. Pages upon pages of Enzo Cilenti's Childermass, I was expecting after the first episode and the internet has not disappointed me. Equal levels of affection for a difficult character and his dreadful Georgian style? I am delighted. Don't say I didn't warn you
Still working on Get in Trouble. I am also reading a lot of stuff as research for some stories I am working on, so I'm now the happy owner of one of those old dual editions of "Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story" that you had to read in high school, plus an old Pulphouse short story paperback edition of "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper." (Different stories. I promise.) Also some critical studies, because that's how I roll.
In bedtime story land, we are at the final! climactic! conclusion! of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which, like Girl at the Bottom of the Sea is basically just one long flashback in the middle, isn't it? But with more philosophy, I think. Like, there are serious moral issues being weighed by the rats here! And although the story does eventually weigh in on which choice is better via plot device, it doesn't feel too heavy-handed (although as a writer I still regret that Jenner doesn't get to make a go of it on his own, on his own terms).
My sf short story "Snakes"
[Clarkesworld] is now available to read online. Black holes, soldier-sisters, and the Poincaré recurrence theorem
[ETA: Wikipedia; Joe alerted me to this apparently based on some cosmologist's mention of it at some conference].
Hilariously, this is the story where Joe and I both
managed to forget about the critical importance of Hawking radiation at the timescales we were dealing with. My excuse is that I'm
not the one with a Ph.D in astrophysics...what's his excuse? =) (More seriously, though, I couldn't have written this without his help.) My other beta was my sister.
This might possibly be my take on Orpheus and Eurydice.
Also, for a grown man, Orpheus sucked more at following directions than I did as a 2nd grader. Just sayin'.
- thinking about:
You know, another thing about Fury Road:
The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.
- Niels Bohr
When Nux is discovered on the war rig, Furiosa roars with anger and lunges to shank him. But she can't; the Wives won't let her. They agreed, Splendid reminds her: no unnecessary killing! They throw him out of the rig instead. And Furiosa's not wrong. He was there to stab her in the back and return the Wives to a life of slavery and rape. They throw him out; and he goes back to Immortan Joe, helps his army find the war rig, and comes back re-armed to try again.
But the Wives aren't wrong, either. It would be quite easy for the movie to endorse the opinion that the Wives are being foolishly sentimental, wanting to avoid killing, because they're not hardened to the necessities of the post-apocalyptic land like Furiosa and the Vuvalini are. Furiosa says it: oh, you got shot, boo hoo, out here everything hurts. The Keeper of the Seeds cheerfully tells the Dag, "Killed everyone I ever met out here." And when the Dag says, "Thought somehow you girls were above all that," how much do I love the Keeper's wry smile, her head tilt that says silently and eloquently that if they were above all that they'd be six feet under all that by now. She doesn't have to say it. I can't get over this movie's parsimonious elegance; it's clear, no words wasted.
But what the characters say isn't necessarily what the movie says. And it's also clear that while the movie supports the Vuvalini in their casual murder; it also supports the Wives in their mercy, in their humanity, in their goal
to be above all that. Because what the movie tells us is that the Wives were quite right to spare Nux. Nux is the one who gets the war rig unstuck out of the mud. Nux gives everything in the end to stop Joe's raging son and blow the rig and block pursuit and give them the chance to get home free. Generosity and mercy directly make our heroines' triumph possible.
Furiosa deals violence and death to rescue and protect the Wives. But then Angharad protects her with the physical fact of her vulnerability: she puts her body between Furiosa and a gun, she literally saves Furiosa with the power of life. The power of death and the power of life are explicitly opposed: the Dag says that Angharad used to call bullets "antiseed"; Cheedo explains, "Plant one and watch something die." So, Furiosa and Max plant bullets and watch the flowering of explosions. And without that, none of our heroines would survive. But the future is going to be the seeds planted by the Dag.
The Vuvalini, who live by violence, die by violence. The Keeper of the Seeds has never been able to successfully plant her seeds. The Dag, who rejects killing, is the one who can finally take the seeds to the place where they will grow. There is a generational thing going on here!
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
- John Adams
Furiosa's politics and war make it possible for the Wives to move forward with philosophy and agriculture. Neither of them are wrong. And how much do I love this movie about generations of women disagreeing with each other and caring for each other? My god, compare the way Charlize Theron's character feels about younger women in this movie vs. Snow White and the Huntsman
. Why can't we see a million more stories like this one?
No, instead, of course, they made a comic book prequel
and got rid of every single goddamn good thing about the movie
. I knew they would. There's going to be a tie-in game
and I bet there's no playable female characters in it. Let us never speak of these things again. Let's just enjoy every beautiful facet of the film itself
I HATE zombies. And body horror creeps me out. And child-in-danger stories are usually annoying and manipulative. So I can’t believe I am actually recommending a child-in-danger zombie novel that is chock-full of disturbing body horror… but this one is really good.
It opens with a heartbreakingly charming narration by Melanie, a bright little girl who adores her teacher, who secretly slips her a book of Greek myths. Melanie loves the story of Pandora, the girl with all the gifts. But she doesn’t understand why her beloved teacher often seems so sad, or why she and the other kids have to be tied to chairs to attend school. Why is almost immediately clear to readers – it’s after the zombie apocalypse, and she’s the rare intelligent zombie that scientists are experimenting on in the hope of finding a vaccine or cure – but there are many other mysteries that are less obvious.
The first section and denouement of the novel are the best parts; the first because of Melanie’s narration, the last because it’s an absolutely perfect climax, satisfying on the all levels. In between is a more standard but well-done zombie novel. In particular, the mechanism of the zombie apocalypse is pleasingly clever and well-worked out. But the beginning and the end really make the book.
Right from the start, Melanie is explicitly compared to Pandora, so it's clear that in some way, she will unleash horrors upon humanity, but also hope. And all through the book, she does, in ways that change as she changes, learning more about the world and herself. It's beautifully done.
I don’t often like horror. When I do enjoy something marketed as horror, it’s often despite rather than because of the genre. For instance, I love the author’s voice (Stephen King) or prose style (Tanith Lee) or psychological insight (Melanie Tem) enough to get me past that horror is a genre of emotional atmosphere, and the specific emotions of horror – fear, dread, horror, disgust – aren’t ones I usually enjoy.
But there’s another emotional state that horror can evoke, which is something akin to Aristotle’s idea of catharsis. It’s horror as transcendence, where terror and horror are also beautiful and awe-inspiring. It’s probably not coincidental that the authors I mentioned above hit that mark for me – not always, and not in everything they write, but sometimes. C. L. Moore’s stories “Black God’s Kiss” and “Shambleau” are like that, too: creepy and disturbing, but also seductive and full of sense of wonder. The Girl With All the Gifts
hits that mark, off and on, until coming to a conclusion that’s viscerally horrifying but also beautiful and transcendent. The characters other than Melanie are sketched in, plausible types rather than three-dimensional characters, and a late reveal about the teacher’s past is reductionist rather than revelatory. But the beginning is brilliant, the middle is solid, and the ending is haunting in the very best way. The Girl With All the Gifts
I’ll be at Westercon this weekend, and around a fair bit for programming. I may not have a huge amount of time to socialize outside of scheduled items, though, because I also have a copy-edited manuscript that’s due back on a very tight timeline, and the only way to get it done is to bring it with me to the con.
The Urban Supernatural: Open vs Hidden (Thu 7/2 4:00 PM)
Most urban fantasy assumes a hidden underworld of paranormal beings, but in some works the general populous [sic] knows about the supernaturals. How do these two assumptions play out differently in the storylines?
Bring Me That Horizon: Exploration as Fantasy and Science Fiction (Fri 7/3 12 Noon)
Sometimes the goal is not to bring down an enemy or win a war. Sometimes it is to voyage into the unknown to see what you find, to explore uncharted territories for wealth or country or even for knowledge.
Etiquette for Gamers (Sat 7/4 12 Noon)
A lot of the problems of RPG groups may actually be problems in etiquette. Panelists will talk about situations they’ve encountered and ways of solving them. Are there rules for good gaming manners?
Adapting Victorian Science (Sat 7/4 3:00 PM)
What are some of the more interesting Victorian scientific concepts and potential technologies that can be adapted for Steampunk?
Readers as Detectives-Invented Worlds as Mysteries (Sat 7/4 5:00 PM)
Since the canned lecture went out of style in science fiction, readers have had to figure out its imaginary settings from clues and hints. How much information is too little or too much? How do you make sure your readers will figure things out, without hitting them over the head?
Narrative and Dramatic Structure of Role Playing Games (Sun 7/5 11:00 AM)
Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.
Rabbit, rabbit. I want to write about several things today, but I don't think they all belong in the same post. First up, my Readercon
schedule! It is very small this year, but promising.Friday July 101:00 PM
Winter Is Coming: Feminist SF and the Frozen Tundra Buddy Trek.
Gwendolyn Clare, Malinda Lo, Caitlyn Paxson, Sarah Pinsker (leader), Sonya Taaffe.During the
Ancillary Justice book discussion at Readercon 25, it was brought up that many favorite feminist SF novels feature pairs of characters slogging through an inhospitable landscape: Nicola Griffith's
Ammonite, Maureen McHugh's
Mission Child, Ann Leckie's
Ancillary Justice, and of course Ursula K. Le Guin's
The Left Hand of Darkness. Having a pair of characters traveling together generally leads to opportunities for trust and relationship building, but what is it about the tundra trek (or equivalent) that lends itself so well to feminist SF stories in particular?2:00 PM
Where the Goblins Go: A Tour of Hells and Underworlds.
C.S.E. Cooney, Greer Gilman, Jack Haringa (moderator), Faye Ringel, Sonya Taaffe.Many types of underworlds feature prominently in religion, folklore, horror, and fantasy. We will discuss the varied roles of hells and netherworlds in world mythology and how authors from Dante to Valente have explored (and exploited) these concepts in fiction.6:30 PM
Reading: Sonya Taaffe.
Sonya Taaffe.Sonya Taaffe reads poetry from her new collection (
Ghost Signs) and an excerpt from a forthcoming novella.Saturday July 119:00 AM
Gillian Daniels, A. J. Odasso, Sonya Taaffe.Group reading of
Strange Horizons affiliates.1:00 PM
Jeanne Cavelos, Daryl Gregory, Elaine Isaak, Scott Lynch, Sonya Taaffe.The more well-rounded and realistic a character is, the less they seem like a traditional hero. Is it possible to have both heroism and realism, or does the introduction of multiple character flaws automatically make that character an antihero? How do shifting and competing definitions of heroism influence this discussion?Sunday July 121:00 PM
A Visit from the Context Fairy.
Kythryne Aisling, Stacey Friedberg, Gwynne Garfinkle, Kate Nepveu, Sonya Taaffe.In a blog post at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith writes about the opposite of visits from the "Suck Fairy": going back to a book you disliked and finding that the "Win Fairy" (to coin a term) improved it when you weren't looking. Are the Suck Fairy and the Win Fairy really two faces of a unified Context Fairy? If context is so crucial to loving or hating a work, how does acknowledging that affect the way a reader approaches reading, or a writer approaches writing? How does one's hope for or dread of the Context Fairy influence decisions to reread, rewrite, revise or otherwise revisit a written work?
I expect to participate as well in the Readercon Miscellany, about which I will announce more further when it's been decided. I have no programming on Thursday night, but I'll be around. Who should I look to meet up with this year?
In the past week, fires have started at seven churches in the American South
, most of which have predominantly Black congregations. At least three of the fires have been determined to be arson--which is to say, acts of domestic terrorism. Media coverage on this has been scant, and most of the reports that do appear say things like "the events did not appear to be linked"; what they mean is that no single organization or individual appears to be behind all or most of the fires, but that phrasing rather appallingly elides the part where a specific community is being targeted in the context of other recent bias crimes.
An Episcopal church in St. Louis has started a collaborative effort to fund rebuilding the damaged churches. In addition to soliciting donations from individuals, they're asking congregations of all kinds to take up special collections for the cause. Info is here:http://www.icontact-archive.com/M5YFYDA07SZXyilTdrSHc_yzvu9vHEAs?w=1https://cccathedralstl.dntly.com/campaign/2571#/
(Thanks to mactavish
for the links.)
Please donate if you can, and spread the word, especially to community leaders who can organize larger collection efforts.
If you regularly read or watch the news, and you haven't seen any coverage of these events, write letters to your favorite news organizations and ask them to cover the fires (ideally using the words "arson" and "terrorism") and to signal-boost the fundraiser. Make sure to mention that you're a subscriber or frequent reader/viewer.
It’s been a bit over three years since I was officially diagnosed with depression and started with therapy and medication. I can say without hesitation that overall, my life is much improved over 3+ years ago.
I can say with equal certainty that I haven’t been “cured” of depression, any more than insulin and regular visits to the endocrinologist cured my diabetes.
I mentioned Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory over on Twitter earlier today. Spoon theory is an analogy about living with chronic sickness or disability. I know the analogy doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found it helpful in understanding and talking about and explaining some things.
“I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of ‘spoons’. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many ‘spoons’ you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting.”
What I’ve been finding in recent months is that I don’t actually know how many spoons I’ve got when I wake up in the morning. On any given day, I might be able to deal with the pressure of a looming book deadline, a crisis at work, a puppy destroying something important, an unexpected bill, a family argument, and whatever else comes my way. On another day with similar troubles, I could end up burning out like Biggs Darklighter over the Death Star.
I’ve gotten a bit better at recognizing when it’s happening. Just like I can generally feel when my blood sugar starts to drop too low, I can feel when I’m all out of cope.
It’s not a pleasant feeling, mind you. It’s a cold, congealed soup of anger and despair and exhaustion and shame. And recognizing it doesn’t necessarily mean I can do anything to fix it.
My wife took me out for dinner and Jurassic World on Sunday. This was a good thing. I needed to get away, to relax and recharge and just enjoy myself for a few hours. It’s self-care, and as such, it’s something I wouldn’t necessarily have done on my own.
Medication is one thing. I’m pretty good at remembering to pop a pill every night, checking my blood sugar regularly and doing the math to match insulin to carb counts. But self-care is a murkier kind of medicine, one that takes more time and effort than programming an insulin pump. It’s also one I’m more likely to assume I can blow off.
Oh sure, I haven’t been getting enough sleep, but I’ll catch up on the weekend. I’ve missed some exercise, but I had other important things to do. I haven’t socialized much, but I’ll get to that as soon as the book is turned in.
How do you quantify self-care? How do you prescribe a given dose to be taken daily? (Those questions are rhetorical, by the way — I’m not asking for advice right now.)
And of course, there’s that other voice arguing that your self-care isn’t as important as those other people’s needs. It’s not as important as Doing All the Things.
I know self-care is important. As Morpheus said, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. But here comes Red Riding Hood to remind you that walking the path is all well and good, but it’s even harder to stay on that path once you’ve started.
I remember growing up without email. I think email is an amazing tool, one that’s made my life so much better and simpler in so many ways. I remember getting my first email account as a college student, and how amazing it was to reconnect with a friend who’d moved to MIT.
I also hate email. I hate the neverending inbox, and that nibbling sense of failure that comes with every message that sits there waiting too long for a response. I hate that it takes spoons to answer some fucking emails, and knowing if I don’t, people will feel disappointed or hurt, or will wonder why I answered one email but not the next, and will start to second-guess whether they did something wrong when it’s just me trying to juggle a bunch of damn spoons without dropping any.
We’re going on vacation soon. That will be a good thing. It won’t be 100% stress-free, but the stresses will be different, and hopefully fewer.
I’m also looking at some potentially big changes later this year. Stressful and anxiety-making, but potentially very good in the long term.
In the meantime, I was Guest of Honor at a convention last weekend, did a radio interview last night, was part of a Baen podcast recording today, and am getting ready for my 11th novel to come out in just over a month. All wonderful, amazing things I only dreamed about when I was younger.
Good things can use up spoons too.
It’s easy to take progress for granted.
I’m not fine. I am, however, doing a hell of a lot better than I was three years ago.
I just need to remember that it took a lot of work to get here, and that if I want to stay here — which I do — I need to keep doing the work.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Full disclosure: I’m not going to pretend I’m anything like objective here. Alyc Helms and I have been friends for fifteen years; we met at an archaeological field school in Wales, the same field school where I wrote a sizable chunk of Doppelganger. She’s one of about half a dozen people who read the original draft of the book that eventually became Lies and Prophecy, way back in the day. She crits most of my short stories; when I’m working on a novel and my plot runs headfirst into a wall, she’s the one I fling the manuscript wailing at her to hellllllllp meeeeeeeeeeee. I critiqued this book in an earlier draft — heck, I was a player in the game where Missy Masters first got created — and so when I tell you to go read it, I am very, very far from being an impartial judge.
You should still go read it anyway. :-)
Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather. She also got his preternatural control of shadows and his enduring legacy as the legendary vigilante superhero, Mr Mystic. After a little work the costume fits OK, but Missy is far from experienced at fighting crime, so she journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather. She becomes embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the allegedly mythical nine dragon-guardians of all creation. When Lung Di – Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy – raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier. It’s a superhero novel, a pulp fantasy novel, with lashings of kung fu, immense kick-ass dragons and an unfailingly sympathetic heroine – yes, it’s another wonderful Angry Robot title.
Alyc talked a while ago at Fantasy Faction about the trope of white protagonists going to the Far East for their training montage and coming home essentially unchanged. This is not that kind of book. Nor, for that matter, is it what I think of as the “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of book, where the exotic locale definitely changes the protagonist — because that’s its sole purpose in the story, to play catalyst for the outsider. Missy goes to China, yes, to learn from the dragon who trained her grandfather . . . but she gets caught up in his story, rather than the other way around. “It falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier” not because the Dragons of Heaven need a white person to save them, but because somebody has decided that Missy makes a useful pawn in their game. She’s not so much rescuing anybody as trying to fix the mess she inadvertently helped create.
Style-wise, it’s like a mashup of The Shadow with Big Trouble in Little China, with a narrative structure that goes back and forth between “then” (when Missy, realizing she didn’t have the skills necessary to operate as Mr. Mystic, went to find her grandfather’s teacher) and “now” (when the repercussions of that decision are playing out). It is available in many lovely formats, from many lovely retailers. It is a very fun book (actually, I believe my description that wound up on the front cover is “a hell of a lot of fun”), and I highly encourage you all to go check it out!
Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.
I slept almost ten hours last night. It was great. I'm exhausted anyway, but I hope to repeat the exploit tonight. I dreamed of being offered a job at a used book store that specialized in Lovecraftiana, but the interviewer kept trying to put his arm around my waist and other manifestly inappropriate displays of interest, so I finally turned the job down flat. I woke and related the dream to derspatchel
, who immediately responded, "Tentacles! Tentacles!" I've never had esprit de l'escalier about a dream before.
Since I've been thinking about it since my last film post
: briefly, Fritz Lang's Rancho Notorious
(1952). Rob and I caught it on TCM a few months ago because it starred Marlene Dietrich and we were hoping it would be better than Western Union
(1941). It very definitely was. It was also pretty strange.
I must warn you in advance that I cannot explain the singing narrator. In theory, I'm all for this device: shades of Brecht and Weill's Moritatensänger
, plus the thriving American folk tradition of murder ballads, of which Rancho Notorious
certainly qualifies as one. In practice, it works out a lot more like Gene Autry. But even the mellow baritone and the dramatically strumming guitar cannot cheapen the full-throttle tragedy of this surprisingly nasty Western—"the old, old story of hate, murder, and revenge."
The time is the 1870's; the starting place, Wyoming. Arthur Kennedy stars as a young ranch hand whose fiancée is raped and murdered during a robbery; he turns himself into an outlaw and a double agent to find the man who did it. Dietrich and Mel Ferrer fill out the other two points of the triangle as a wolf-couple, she a former dance hall girl turned bandit queen of the Southwest, he her hard-bitten, quixotically romantic gunslinger consort.1
She owns a horse ranch near the Mexican border, named "Chuck-a-Luck" after the roulette-like game of chance that she played once at a significant moment in her life; it's a legitimate business, but it's also a hideout for any outlaw willing to fork over ten percent of his loot to Dietrich's Altar Keane, a figure of almost outrageous legend. If you ever wanted your introductory sight of Dietrich to be while literally riding a guy like a horse across a barroom floor, this is the movie for you. Ferrer's roving pistoleer Frenchy is the only man she's ever loved rather than fucked or fucked over, but he's never quite sure if he's just getting a longer run alongside her than all the other rubes; for his part he's possessively devoted, so much so that he threatens to kill her if she leaves him and in the same breath can't imagine surviving her death. Kennedy's Vern Haskell makes himself seductively available to Altar in order to draw out the identity of his man among the current tenants of Chuck-a-Luck, but it's not love she feels for him so much as a kind of wistful recognition. Frenchy correctly perceives the younger man as a threat to his mutual reign with Altar, but mistakes him for an ordinary sexual rival rather than a cold-blooded mole with an agenda. When the rising tension finally explodes, it's with much more emotional violence than I was expecting. The body count is less stunning than the aftermath.
Lang directed three Westerns. I haven't seen The Return of Frank James
(1940) and I've made my feelings about Western Union
but Rancho Notorious
lands every one of its operatic punches in a fascinating blend of artifice and grit. I don't care if it was made entirely on studio sets, it gets an amazing claustrophobic evocation of the Western mythos curdling out of painted sunsets and adobe-washed walls. There are no gunfights in the conventional sense; the climactic duel is a verse in a ballad and Vern's quest for vengeance comes down to a man too cowardly to draw on an armed opponent (though he thought nothing of gut-shooting a girl he'd brutally raped3
). There's a fistfight that looks for all the world as though it were filmed with a handheld camera, in which case it's the earliest of its type that I've seen, and it is such a violent slugfest that the picture goes out of focus as the camera slews to follow the blows. Fair-haired, sharp-faced Kennedy has a look of James Cagney, whose brother he actually played in his 1940 film debut; onstage he originated four roles for Arthur Miller and I think he must have been a barnstorming John Proctor, because he has a disturbing, nervy energy that coils underneath Vern's quick smile. He looks like a wicked boy, but he's carved out more of his heart than even hardboiled Altar Keane. I have difficulty imagining the film in a later decade, because I can't imagine other actors in two of the three principal roles, but I didn't know that Westerns that deliberately anti-romantic—mythological, yes, but there's nothing remotely noble about any of the men crashing at Chuck-a-Luck—were being filmed as early as 1952. See it if you get the chance; I'm sure its Technicolor would benefit from a big screen. That was not exactly a brief description. This digression sponsored by my fantastic backers at Patreon
1. I don't blame Fritz Lang for this, but it was difficult for me not to view them as a kind of het remix of Chess and Rook from Gemma Files' Hexslinger series. If that's an incentive for you to check out Rancho Notorious, I say go for it.
2. That said, it interests me that both Western Union and Rancho Notorious can be described as films noirs—give Vern an underworld to navigate instead of a frontier and he'd make himself just as dreadfully at home—but the latter is not simply a noir redressed in Western style. It would not be possible for Altar and Frenchy to exist in New York or L.A. or Chicago, even if they could thrive as a mobster and her moll, because it is central to both their legends and their lives that they can disappear into the vast spaces of the land, not the snaky twists of a city. That's such a crucial, dangerous piece of the Western myth—the land where there's space for everyone, except the people who lived there first.
3. We learn very little about Gloria Henry's Beth Forbes in her few minutes onscreen before the refrigerator door swings open, but we know she fought: she marked her man. Lang's last sight of her trails from her closed eyes across her bruised shoulder, down her arm in its torn sleeve until the camera reaches her hand, loosely curled, bloodied nails still sticky and wet. The doctor says soberly, "She wasn't spared anything."
I'm spending a lot of time in libraries these days, places it's not practical to haul my desk top. love my phone for reading, browsing, posting and making notes but for certain aspects of creating reviews a small laptop would be better.
Basically this would be for writing and light browsing (so, unlike the behemoth I bought in '03) it needs to be WiFi capable (1). Ideally, light, durable, cheap.
Open to suggestions re which model I should be considering.
1: the behemoth runs Windows '95, possibly no longer cutting edge. And the screen is dead, not a plus.
Apollo wants to understand why Daphne would rather be a tree than have sex with him. Athena wants to find out what would happen if she took everyone throughout time who has ever prayed to her to let them live in Plato’s Republic
, gave them a doomed island, a bunch of robots, and children to raise as per Plato’s ideas, and told them to go for it. A young Victorian lady named Ethel renames herself Maia and devotes herself to the Just City. Two children, taken from the slave markets and given to the Just City, come to opposite conclusions about its worth.
Out of all of Jo Walton’s strange premises, this one takes the cake. Even more than “Framley Parsonage
, but everyone’s a dragon.” But I love that she thinks of ideas like this, has the chops to carry them out, and is supported by a publisher who will publish whatever bizarre book she chooses to write. The Just City
is a terrific book that I can’t imagine anyone else writing.
It’s a novel of ideas in the very best sense, full of complex and interesting questions with no easy answers, and populated by three-dimensional characters who care deeply about and are profoundly affected by the issues at play. (The issues include but aren’t limited to consent, free will, nature vs. nurture, whether the ends justify the means, and how idealistic movements and planned communities succeed and fail.) Since I grew up in a planned community, I found the book particularly interesting. It does not escape Walton that one of the most toxic issues in a planned community or progressive movement is the willingness to sacrifice vulnerable members for the supposed good of the whole, nor that the same community can be a utopia for one person and a dystopia for their neighbor.
This is the first of a trilogy, but comes to a conclusion that’s open-ended yet satisfying, shocking but inevitable in retrospect. I guessed where it was going in general, but was completely surprised by the details.
You don’t need to be familiar with or care about Plato’s Republic
to read this. The book explains everything you need to know. It’s much more about larger issues of utopia/dystopia than about the Republic
specifically, though the actual specifics are from the Republic.
Note that it contains rape, slavery, child harm, and other disturbing things, and also characters endorsing all sorts of terrible opinions. This is not a book to read if you want the voice of the author interjecting to assure you that terrible things are terrible. It’s very much a book where many opinions are presented and it’s left to the readers to draw their own conclusions.
If you intend to read this, avoid reviews. There’s several plot twists that will be more satisfying if you don’t know about them in advance. Spoilers are fine in comments.
The sequel, The Philosopher Kings
, is out now.The Just City
Thursday July 10
8:00 PM CO
The Games We Play.
Erik Amundsen, Yoon Ha Lee, Alex Shvartsman, Romie Stott (leader), Gregory Wilson.
Video games and tabletop games are an influential part of our imaginative lives. Are there times when you're reading a book and feel the game mechanics too clearly beneath the prose? Or do you enjoy imagining what a character's stats might look like? We'll look at tie-in books (like R.A. Salvatore's Chronicles of Drizzt and David Gaider's Dragon Age prequels), book-based games (like The Black Cauldron, Lord of the Rings, and the Mists of Avalon–influenced Conquests of Camelot), and the pleasure of reading gaming sourcebooks.
Friday July 11
11:30 AM ENV
7:00 PM CL
1. I made ten jars of strawberry jam tonight with schreibergasse
. We got the canning jars and the pectin from Tags
. The fruit was courtesy of Schreiber'—I missed the strawberry-picking this weekend, but I feel I made up for it by hulling almost all ten cups tonight. Technically we had slightly more than ten jars' worth, but we had only sterilized
ten jars, so the last ladleful was poured into a cold jar and refrigerated until I could take it home and put it in my refrigerator, where it reposes now. Also we ate some. Aside from the part where I accidentally snorted live steam while checking on the boiling strawberries (the acrid smell was something burning off the stovetop underneath the pot, not some horrible side effect of the pectin), it went really well.
has linked me a two-thousand-year-old shipwreck
. The cargo was terra-cotta roof tiles.
3. That looks like a legionary's helmet with a siren on it
(I'm genuinely not sure what this
is, but it's adorable.)
Three things make a post when you're tired. I spent most of my afternoon writing about film; I'm going to see if I can actually spend most of my night asleep.
[The following post was begun around two in the morning and then my brain hit a wall. I dreamed of a haunting that had something to do with subways and marigolds. A few days ago I saw a car crossing the Alewife Brook Parkway wreathed in yellow and orange flowers and wondered if it was for a wedding, but I don't think that was where it came from.]
I got six hours of sleep last night, so of course tonight I stayed awake for my second midnight movie in a row. I am nowhere near as articulate as I would like to be right now. On the bright side, I don't have to feel bad for Randolph Scott anymore. I last saw him in Fritz Lang's Western Union
(1941), a movie I truly cannot recommend to anyone except fans of embarrassing racist humor.1
On the recommendation of David the projectionist, I just watched Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country
(1962), Scott's last film and his favorite of a thirty-four-year career. He might have been on to something.
The thing that makes Ride the High Country
difficult to describe is the way it changes over its runtime, as if we were watching the Western genre itself evolve in ninety-four minutes; it sets itself up like a simpler and much more familiar kind of movie than it closes as. Sometime in the first decade of the twentieth century, aging former lawman Steve Judd (Joel McCrea, unshowy and really good) is hired to safeguard a shipment of gold from the mining camp of Coarsegold to the town of Hornitos. It's comedown work from his heyday as a town-tamer, but it's better than he's had in years; he's still a tall man, still a strong man, but his hair is grey and his clothes are frayed and he needs to put on spectacles in private to examine the fine print of his contract with the bank. Riding amiably up the streets of Hornitos, he's all but run over by a newfangled motor car, the classic symbol of progress and modern speed. An aggrieved policeman shouting, "Can't you see you're in the way? Watch out, old-timer!" sounds like the film stating its thesis in the first thirty seconds. (Just in case we didn't get it, the president of the bank was expecting a much younger man. Steve responds gravely, "I used to be.") Steve's past achievements are unquestionable, but his future is dubious. The obvious direction for the film is an exploration of the changing face of the West as personified by one man's crisis. The four days into the high Sierras and back will be the crucible: will Steve still have what it takes to get the gold safely to Hornitos, and if he doesn't, what does that mean for the way of life which he embodies—strong, stoic, decent, hard-won?
But that's not it at all. Almost as soon as this pattern settles in the audience's mind, the film begins to bend away from it, almost aimlessly; it doesn't undermine its own clichés so much as lose interest in them. We can start with Scott, playing beautifully against type2
as Steve's former deputy Gil Westrum, these days a carnival con man passing himself off as the unbeatable "Oregon Kid" with a nickel-palming patter and false whiskers straight out of Buffalo Bill's Wild Central Casting. His lean good looks have weathered into a droll grey fox's face, rake-browed and curiously difficult to read for all his amiable disposition and cynical humor; he is not trustworthy and neither is he the villain of the piece, though for a while it looks like the story might be drifting that way, positioning the once-fast friends on opposite sides of the moral divide. Between the two of them falls Gil's young sidekick, cocky, callow Heck Longtree (Ron Starr), who races a mean camel but doesn't know how to rein in his own impulsive behaviors. Are we in for a psychomachia, then, with Steve and Gil playing good and bad angels to the undecided soul? By the time the party halts for the night at the farmhouse of repressively religious Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong) and his rebellious daughter Elsa (Mariette Hartley), there are Bible quotes flying quick and fast over the dinner table, but the man of God is even less of a role model than sly Gil, who follows up a compliment on Elsa's cooking with a straight-faced glance at her father: "Appetite, Chapter 1." And by the time Elsa is being married to her miner fiancé and his four lascivious brothers in a raucous, parodic ceremony that plays like the brutal takedown Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(1954) really had coming,3
we are very nearly in a different movie altogether, as jaggedly plotted as real life where curveballs have nothing to do with dramatic irony and violence is not something performed by firing blanks at twenty paces. The plot doesn't lose sight of its original threads. There's a showdown at the climax, and a resolution to the questions of Gil's honesty and Steve's steadfastness and Heck's uncertain maturity, and we even know by the end whether those eleven thousand dollars in gold will get back to Hornitos; this isn't the Western L'avventura
(1960). But the emotional tone is very different by then, and for that matter so is the cinematography, and Ride the High Country
transitions so reasonably from one style to another that only in hindsight does it become clear how much more complex a world the characters inhabit by the finale than they did at the outset. Against that wider backdrop, the ostensible goal is almost an afterthought.
I knew going in that Peckinpah had changed the original ending of the film. I didn't have any hints as to how. ( You just forgot it for a while, that's all. )
I might change my opinion when I've watched more widely in the genre, but I find myself thinking of Ride the High Country
as a half-revisionist Western—it's not a total deconstruction, but it's not uncritical, either. Its violence is not graphic, but it's deliberately not bloodless; it is sympathetic to its female character's restricted range of bad options; it does not romanticize its lawlessness. It's an autumnal movie, the landscape through which its characters ride shivering aspen-gold and wind-scoured blue skies. In his one moment of lucidity, the alcoholic judge who performs Elsa's wedding speaks touchingly of the hard work and rewards of a good marriage, which he likens to "a rare animal . . . You see, people change. That's important for you to know at the beginning. People change." So do stories, sometimes even while you're watching them. This meditation sponsored by my patient backers at Patreon
1. Seriously, I had to see Rancho Notorious (1952) before I stopped feeling uncomfortable about the concept of a Lang Western. Remind me to talk about that movie, too; it has an inexplicable theme song, but it's great.
2. He switched roles with McCrea.
3. With his clean-cut smile and his startled delight at Elsa's arrival, James Drury's Billy Hammond looks like the diamond in the rough of his unwashed, leering clan, but no amount of feminine influence is going to civilize any of them into chivalrous dancers. The grotesquerie of Elsa's wedding in Coarsegold tells her exactly what will be expected of her as Billy's wife—a bride-bed in the local brothel, a madam for a maid of honor and four prostitutes for flower girls, and four grinning brothers-in-law more than willing to supply the deflowering when her new-wedded husband drunkenly knocks himself out before he can do more than tear her dress and slap her around for trying to fight him off. I find Elsa a curiously opaque character for all that she's the catalyst for the second half of the film, but it's a point in the script's favor that we are not encouraged to despise her either for trying to escape her father by marrying or for trying to escape her marriage once its horrific nature becomes clear. It is the moral thing for Steve to take her with him when he leaves Coarsegold, never mind that she's bound legally to Billy and the miner's court found in her favor only thanks to some judicious strong-arming from Gil. It went some way toward amending the earlier scene where Heck gets way closer to date rape than makes me feel kindly toward a character and Elsa apologizes afterward for leading him on and derspatchel and I shouted at the screen.