a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
1 July 2016 00:24 - Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!
wcg: (Default)

Happy Kalends of Quintilis!
1 July 2016 00:14 - update
I am nowhere near caught up on LJ/DW because of silly issues in transition between browsers and programs that I need to use for work (and quasi-work like making dragon game festivals happen). However, a lot is happening. The most important things are:

(1) Shiny new baby ball python.

just in case of phobias )

(2) Shiny new trauma diagnosis.

(Secondhand. Usually happens to therapists, so writings thereupon are not terribly useful for my situation.)

Therapist: So I think this is what's going on.

Me: But lots of people have much worse bad things actually happen to them directly, I should be fine.

Therapist: Well, now you sound like a trauma survivor.

Me: >.>

Dragon game festival is going swimmingly, though people are a little less awestruck by our entire book than I was hoping. Managed to goad a friend into writing fanfic of it already, though. :D
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
It was too hot last night. I slept badly and had a nightmare of the sticky, clinging kind, where an hour after waking it still feels like something that really, unpleasantly happened. I can't blame it on my bedtime reading, because I loved Barbara Hambly's A Free Man of Color (1997) and am cheerfully planning to depress myself with Fever Season (1998) when I get a chance. Today the breeze smells like the sea at the end of summer; it's making me homesick. I think today is catch-up movie day. [edit] It is not catch-up movie day because the first attempted sketch ran away into a rant. [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel asked me if I had ever panned a film for my Patreon and I allowed that usually I write about things I actually like. I will get around to Robert Aldrich's The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956). Sometimes you just have to yell about bad movies on the internet.

Santa Fe Trail (1940) is a bad movie. I am almost tempted to say it's an evil one. How else would you define a retelling of Bleeding Kansas and John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry where the abolitionists are the blatant villains of the piece? The heroes are J.E.B. Stuart (Errol Flynn) and George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan1), here recent graduates of West Point deployed to Fort Leavenworth as peacekeepers for Kansas; since their mission entails repelling Brown's raids, breaking his supply chains, and disrupting his support of the Underground Railroad, the presence of the U.S. Army in the contested territory not so tacitly equals the upholding of slavery. I don't argue with that as a historical truth. I just object to being bludgeoned toward the opinion that I should endorse it.

To a man—and they are all men; I think the only women with speaking roles in this film are Olivia de Havilland and a mammy stereotype—the abolitionists of Santa Fe Trail are passionately misguided at best, violent opportunists at worst. Raymond Massey plays Brown with considerable force and charisma, but the character remains a dangerous fanatic, a Bible-belting domestic terrorist who believes it's God's work he's doing when he murders decent, ordinary folk who just happen to own slaves; our heroes know better and know too that he must be stopped for the good of the nation he's driving into needless, bloody conflict: "To the Devil with the Union! We've got to fight sometime and it might as well be now!" Certainly there's room in Hollywood for a thoughtful exploration of the effectiveness of Brown's methods versus the righteousness of his cause, but it's not this movie. The fact that he opposes the ownership of other human beings is not only not given the moral weight I would expect of the issue, but actively undermined at almost every turn of the story. Outside of Brown's wild-eyed thundering sermons, most of the script's anti-slavery arguments are voiced by Van Heflin's Carl Rader, a disgraced former cadet with a murderous chip on his shoulder for Stuart who got him expelled from West Point for distributing abolitionist literature. Ideologically, he's absolutely in the right. Personally, he's a sneering cynic who first disparages Stuart's slave-holding background when the other cadet calls him on the incompetent roughness with which he was handling his horse. If the coming apocalypse of the Civil War appears as a religious duty to John Brown, to Rader it's an opportunity for settling scores: "You get this from me, Stuart—and all you other Mason-Dixon plutocrats—the time is coming when the rest of us are going to wipe you and your kind off the face of the earth!" Neither Stuart nor Custer is terribly surprised to find their sometime classmate riding with Brown's raiders in Kansas, playing the turncoat with a casual, capable malice that makes him much more interesting to watch than either of the leads, but later dialogue will reveal that he's doing it for money, not morality: "I signed up because you promised to pay me. Trained this rabble gang of yours into a solid, fast-moving unit of fighters. Taught them how to use these new rifles, how to follow orders and take a town Army fashion. But I haven't received a red cent in three months . . . You hired me as a military expert at a set price and I'm only asking what's rightly due me." Ultimately he will betray Brown as unscrupulously as he did his country and take a bullet for his troubles. Even the tentatively sympathetic statements offered by de Havilland's Kit Holliday as she tends to one of Brown's sons—"His reasons may be right, Jason"—are ferociously repudiated by the disillusioned boy now dying of wounds sustained in a botched attempt to intercept a shipment of Beecher's Bibles. As the action shifts to Brown and his men, a scene-setting caption sums up the script's attitude: "The town of Palmyra, cancer of Kansas and the western end of the underground railroad for slaves." So much for the abolitionists.

By contrast, Flynn's Stuart is a very gentleman of Southern reason, proffering apologias like the equivocating "It isn't our job to decide who's right or wrong about slavery any more than it is John Brown's" and the wholly ahistorical "The people of Virginia have long considered a resolution to abolish slavery . . . All they ask is time." The Northerners and the rabble-rousing activists are importunate, pushing where they should be patient; it is they who endanger the stability of their nation, threatening to fracture an otherwise untroubled whole. If the U.S. government has to send troops to enforce the brutal survival of slavery, it's justified in the name of the national good. The commencement speaker for West Point's Class of 1854 echoes this sentiment in his parting words to the graduating cadets: "We are not yet a wealthy nation, except in spirit, and that unity of spirit is our greatest strength . . . With your unswerving loyalty and the grace of God, our nation shall have no fears for the future, and your lives will have been spent in the noblest of all causes—the defense of the rights of man." This is Jefferson Davis (Erville Anderson), promoting the solidarity of the nation in his capacity as Secretary of War without a hint from the script of his future position as first and only President of the Confederate States of America. When he speaks of "the rights of man," a modern audience may correctly insert an automatic "white" before that last noun. But of course it's only white people we're talking about here. We are a decade and a half ahead of the civil rights movement. Do not get me started on the near-complete absence of black characters from the narrative unless someone is either rescuing or recapturing them. When they do feature as more than silent background bodies, it's only to ventriloquize the worst stereotypes of the happy plantation—the supposedly emancipated black couple who greet the sound of Stuart's voice with an enthusiastic "We's coming, boss!" and lament afterward that "Old John Brown said he was going to give us freedom, but shuckins—if this here Kansas is freedom, then I ain't got no use for it. No, sir!"–"Me, neither! I just want to get back home to Texas and sit till Kingdom Come." Considering some of the jaw-droppingly racist jokes I have seen come out of the '30's and '40's, I suppose this sort of thing is part and parcel of the background radiation of racism at the time, but taken with the rest of Santa Fe Trail's politics it plays even more appallingly. I'm not even sure how to approach the character of the Native woman at Fort Leavenworth who tells the fortunes of Stuart and Custer and their West Point friends only in slant oracular terms of the Civil War.2 By the time the plot had shot Carl Rader, hanged John Brown, and resolved the thoroughly predictable love triangle with Kit Holliday in favor of Stuart—Custer gets the consolation prize of Jefferson Davis' daughter, which thanks to the fact that in real life he was married to Elizabeth Bacon I didn't see coming—I didn't even care anymore.

The movie runs 110 minutes and everything after about minute three is mind-boggling. I am used to Hollywood playing fast and loose with history in order to make a better story, but rarely to Hollywood reversing the course of history entirely. Even Gone with the Wind (1939), generally the poster child for the romanticization of the antebellum South, didn't leave me staring at the screen with the same dissonance as Santa Fe Trail.3 This wasn't some white supremacist fringe production; it was a reasonably budgeted Warner Bros. A-picture directed by Michael Curtiz, who I don't exactly associate with fascist filmmaking. Screenwriter Robert Buckner came from Virginia, but I'd like to think that's not the full explanation. If you were to tell me that the tropes of the U.S. Army Western and the anti-demagoguery rhetoric of America on the brink of World War II converged in a perfect storm of unexamined racism, I'd believe it, but I'd still be sad. I know the United States was hella isolationist in 1940, but Jesus. Whatever the cause, the existence of movies like Santa Fe Trail and the imprint they leave in the popular consciousness are exactly the reasons we need movies like Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation (2016) or television like Misha Green and Joe Pokaski's Underground (2016–). I finished watching this movie and shouted at [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks about it until we could have a more or less coherent conversation about Bleeding Kansas and the Missouri Compromise and the Western campaigns of the Civil War. My husband gave me very patient feedback on further shouting over the course of today. This anti-history brought to you by my disapproving backers at Patreon.

1. If his work in Santa Fe Trail is representative of his talents, then I understand the appeal of Reagan as an actor even less than I understand his success as a politician. He's youthful and he's probably good-looking if you like the all-American stereotype and he can say all of his lines in the right order, but so could any number of second-string male leads of his generation. Some of them turned into interesting actors; some of them dropped off the map. I look at Reagan and think that he would have been utterly forgettable if he hadn't gone into politics. I wish he had been forgotten.

2. Look, I understand that outside of a revisionist Western she wasn't going to look into the fire for Reagan's Custer and then laugh her head off, but I would really have appreciated it.

3. I'm not even docking the script points for minor historical inaccuracies like the fact that Stuart and Custer were never classmates at West Point—Stuart graduated in 1854 as depicted, but Custer didn't even matriculate until 1857, where he famously finished dead last in his class with a bad-conduct record that still stands today—or the fact that Cyrus K. Holliday's Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway wasn't chartered until 1859 and the track-laying didn't begin until 1868—which would have made it rather difficult for Stuart and Kit to celebrate their wedding on the maiden run of her father's new train, especially since the historical Jeb Stuart died at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864 and was incidentally married to someone completely different—and, you know, there's not caring about history and then there's lighting it on fire, leaving it on your neighbor's doorstep, ringing the bell, and running away.
30 June 2016 20:46 - Fallen London: Cider Party!
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Hey FL players: Seeking Mr Eaten's Name is back, it's complete, and it allows you to render your character permanently unplayable. I'm planning to do that, but before I do:

Cider party!

I am going to be playing this month and last month's Exceptional Friendship stories and then going RL-traveling starting July 5, and from what I understand the next steps of Seeking are a good place to be when you're playing in little bits on the road, but also put you out of reach for social actions. Therefore:

I will send you a sip of Hesperidean Cider if you send a social action of your choosing to an_ocelot THROUGH JULY 4, with a note that it's for Cider.

Taking a sip of someone else's Cider will drop your Wounds slightly and give you 1 x A Taste of the Garden. That unlocks opportunity cards that will drop Wounds somewhat more, slightly increase Nightmares, provide an Extraordinary Implication, and consume 1 x A Taste of the Garden.

I will respond to everyone's requests, though if you send me more than one I will send one to start and then leave the rest for later. Make sure you stay in the Fifth City until you get your sip, because once I leave the Fifth City you won't be able to accept my social actions. I'm hoping to leave on July 5, as I said, but I'll keep y'all posted.

(There's a early-stages guide to Seeking here; note that new Seeking has no required social component (you can buy Midnight Matriarchs to betray instead of inviting other players, and you can speed your progress a little by receiving an action from someone else) and can be pursued less expensively but very very slowly through opportunity cards--you'll still need considerable resources, though, as there are mandatory sacrifices. But since the endgame is rendering your character permanently unplayable, well, what difference does it make? For a discursive and far more spoiler-filled history of Seeking itself (though still not completely spoilery, as FBG politely requests not sharing the very end content), see this 14k epic by the same author.)

(Also, I wrote all my Rome trip notes on the plane back and I'm waiting to have time (hah! *cries*) to annotate the pictures I could only upload at home.)
30 June 2016 18:23 - Household gods
wcg: (Default)

Back in old Rome, every household had its own household gods. Lares and Penates looked over the family home and the people who lived in it, and were represented by little figurines.

In my home, this role has been assumed by Christmas decorations. Some are quite beautiful, like the Victorian Saint Nicholas with his long red robe and his holly. Some are quite silly, like Mark the Moose, and the Energizer Bunny. Each carries special memories that associate it with wherever we got it, and what it came to mean to us.

I always wait until the 21st of December to put up the tree and the decorations, coming as I do from a family that kept to old traditions. Normally I'd take them down after 12th Night, but in recent years -- since my mother died in early December of 2010 -- it's gotten harder for me to pack them away.

This afternoon I finally put them away for this year. Even after six months, it was still emotionally wrenching to lay them in their little containers once again. A few I put into the china cabinet, which will serve as my household lararium until the winter solstice, when they will once again come out to adorn the little tree.
30 June 2016 01:40 - Obscurity Knocks
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Nomad et.al. were not at our tightest during rehearsal. Like I said before, I probably should not have had that bourbon, but it was also that I let the looseness slide because didn’t want to ride people that hard. This was a refresher course, just to get everyone–me especially–reoriented to the material and reattuned to each other. I figured with a bunch of pros like this it’d all come together during the actual show as long as we had a run-through and the rest of the band felt the same.

The next day we had a soundcheck that was pretty good and then I finally met the band opening for us on the next leg, a rootsy jam band called Happy Occident. The lead singer was a well-tattooed white guy with short blond dreadlocks and I suddenly realized as we were shaking hands that I knew him.

Read the rest of this entry » )
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
This evening's mail delivered my contributor's copy of Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, edited by Lynne Jamneck. It's a beautiful trade paperback with full-page illustrations and it includes my novelette "All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts."

I've written a little about this story before: my fish people will be intersectional or they will be bullshit. I put a lot of my sea-longing into it. A lot of my sea-bitterness, too: I jumped into the winter sea when I was fourteen or fifteen months old, but I didn't change then or any time after. I suppose I keep hoping. Some of the characters feel the same way.

I haven't yet been to the sea this summer. Thank you for the reminder, universe.
pantryslut: (Default)
But don't expect it to last, b/c next week I will be in Hawaii (!).

Still reading Detroit City, which is still a fine book. I should be finished with it soon. As far as chapter books with the kids go, I'm currently reading them a charming little YA mystery called Enchantment Lake.: A Northwoods Mystery. (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/enchantment-lake) It's set in a small lakeside community in northern Minnesota, one that can only be reached by boat and only intermittently possesses electricity and is full of aging, eccentric residents. But the demographics are changing, someone's building a road and maybe a golf course, and suddenly a lot of "accidents" are claiming the lives of the older generation. Francie, an aspiring actress who briefly played a teenage detective on TV, comes back to help her elderly aunts discover what's really going on.

Published by University of Minnesota Press, this was written by someone who, you can tell, is intimately familiar with the northern Midwestern landscape. I've never been up to northern Minnesota, but my family used to have a house on a lake in southern Michigan (near Cassopolis). Not a vacation house; my own elderly relations lived there year-round -- the whole Filley family, whom the Selkes intermarried with, had 3-4 houses all next to each other, if I recall correctly, and the local access road is still named after them -- and we'd go to visit on weekends. So all the little details keep making me shiver with delight. (The peat bog! The midnight fishing for walleye, using leeches as bait! Jigsaw puzzles you've done so many times before that you try it without the reference photo to make it more challenging! Birch trees!) I am not entirely sure the kids are as entertained as I am, but they seem to enjoy Francie and her dotty aunts (are they sisters? a couple? does it matter?), and the writing is sprightly enough to keep their attention. It's too bad this book didn't get more attention -- I plucked it from the returns cart at work -- because it's really quite well-crafted and more satisfying than the usual YA mystery fluff. At least so far.

Meanwhile, I wrote about Prince again: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/28/earworm-weekly-lets-pretend-were-married-by-prince
29 June 2016 14:28 - Where to Find CMV at Finncon!
catvalente: (pic#941394)

This weekend, CMV is at Finncon 2016 in Tampere, Finland! The convention runs from Friday, July 1st, to Sunday, July 3rd. If you are attending, read on – we’ve put together a “Where’s Cat at Finncon?” list of appearances for you. And, remember! If you want to join the Kaffeeklatch with Cat on Sunday, be sure to sign up early – space is limited.


16:00 at Luentosali A1: On Writing
Guests of Honor Catherynne M. Valente, Jasper Fforde and Anne Leinonen talk about their work, inspiration and methods. Chair: Saara Henriksson.


10:00 at Juhlasali: Opening Ceremonies
Welcome to Finncon 2016! The convention and our Guests of Honor are introduced.

12:00 at Juhlasali: Guest of Honor interview: Catherynne M. Valente

13:00 at Signeeraukset: Signing
Guest of Honor Catherynne M. Valente signs her works at the main lobby.

16:00 at Luentosali D10a: Sex, drugs and Puss ‘n’ Boots
Beneath the sweet, Disney exterior of fairy tales often lies a roiling underbelly of lust, abuse and unfulfilled desire. Modern reincarnations often put the subtext of the originals out for anyone to see. In a panel moderated by Nina Niskanen, Anne Leinonen and Catherynne M. Valente discuss the topic of sex in the context of fairy tales. CW: may contain discussion of sexual abuse.


11:00 at Kaffeeklatch: Catherynne M. Valente
Come have a drink and chat with the GoH. Limited number of participants, sign up at the info!

13:00 at Juhlasali: Guest of Honor Reading: Catherynne M. Valente
Cat Valente will read from a new, unpublished work.

14:00 at Luentosali A3: Music in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Bowie & Prince
The music panel is back, and with good reason. 2016 is the year in which David Bowie and Prince left us, and returned to their homes among the stars. Our panel looks back on their work and influence. There may be tears.

Also, for those interested, there’s a paper on Cat’s Fairyland series being presented on Finncon’s academic track. You can see Fodor András present his paper “The Nature of Heroism in Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland Series” at 10:00 in Luentosali D11 on Sunday.

Enjoy Finncon, everyone!


Mirrored from cmv.com. Also appearing on @LJ and @DW. Read anywhere, comment anywhere.

ceciliatan: (default)

And… it’s live! That’s right, the latest volume in my gay coming of age series, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, is live in all ebook stores! It’s 99 cents for TODAY ONLY and then the price will be jumping to full price. So now’s your chance to grab it cheap!

Amazon Kindle | Kobo | Barnes & Noble Nook | Apple iBooks | Smashwords | or direct from Daron’s Guitar Chronicles home website

dgc_ebook_9_cover_final_400The year is 1991 and Daron Marks stands at a crucial crossroads in his career. He’s on tour with Nomad and his mentor Remo Cutler, but Ziggy wants him…as musical director, and more. Ziggy always wants more…
Collects chapters 637 through 708 of the web serial.

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

28 June 2016 19:37 - Bundle of Laundry!
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Agent! Our fellowship of Her Majesty's Occult Service has resurrected, through unholy (but authorized) methods, our March 2015 Bundle of Laundry, featuring the licensed Laundry tabletop roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 Entertainment. The Laundry RPG is based on The Laundry Files novels and stories by Charles Stross about a modern counter-occult espionage agency. Laundry agents fight Cthulhu Mythos horrors and bureaucratic supervisors. They can save the world, but they have to get a receipt.
The stars are right for this revival, because Charles Stross has just published his new Laundry novel, The Nightmare Stacks (Amazon Kindle edition), and last year's The Annihilation Score is out in paperback (and you can still get its Kindle edition). The Laundry RPG is a great introduction to this ever-sprawling bureaucracy. This collection has everything you need to protect humanity from higher-dimensional apocalypse while following correct paperwork protocols.
Our Starter Collection (US$8.95, retail value $40) includes the complete Laundry rulebook and the Agent's Handbook for players. And if you pay more than the current threshold price ($24.18), you'll regain Sanity and also get all five supplements in our Bonus Collection (retail value $75):
Black Bag Jobs (retail $15): Six self-contained missions ranging from the war-torn hillsides of Afghanistan to the corridors of power in Whitehall, from yoga lessons in Devon to the end of the world.
Cultists Under the Bed (retail $15): Eight of the nastiest, most tenacious foes of the Laundry, plus dozens of minor ones.
God Game Black (retail $15): Expands on the revelations of The Apocalypse Codex novel to send your games hurtling towards Armageddon.
License to Summon (retail $15): The dark side of Computational Demonology and arcane science in the Laundry, as well as the magic of other agencies -- and other entities. New spells, new gadgets, new ways to end the world!
The Mythos Dossiers (retail $15): Dozens of reports, handouts, eyewitness accounts and deranged speculations from the murkier reaches of the Laundry's archives.
yhlee: a plush raven on a plush fox (hxx Cheris Jedao)
Hexarch Shuos Mikodez.

Full-res version for printing out and coloring [hosted at my website].

For the curious, you can also find coloring pages for Captain Kel Cheris, General Shuos Jedao (scroll down a bit), and Hexarch Nirai Kujen.
sovay: (Rotwang)
Still sick. Brain AWOL. Sleep a joke. I ran half an hour's worth of errands on foot yesterday afternoon—post office, bank, library—and it wiped me out until the evening. Long after it had gotten light out, the temperature finally started to drop and I dreamed of introducing a recently restored film from the early 1930's, a pre-Code proto-noir adapted from a now totally obscure mystery novel whose importance to film history was the unusual combination of a female author, a female screenwriter, and a female director who must have been fictional because she wasn't Dorothy Arzner. I can't remember anything about the cast. The plot had something to do with stolen jewels and phony jewels and at least one body, of course. By the end of the dream, it had bled through its own metafiction until I was in the position of the director, introducing the film at its premiere. On waking, I had to double-check with the internet that there really was no such novel as The Ten-Cent Emerald and no such film as—I was really surprised by this one—Nobody's Lady. I appreciate that some part of my brain still understands how creativity works, but I wish it were the one that operates while I'm awake.

I know this article is basically reassuring, but any time public transit is found to be less gross than the human body, I feel it is less of a victory for public transit than a rather serious statement about the human body: "Boston's subway cars hold fewer harmful microbes than our guts."
28 June 2016 13:22 - Power and the Passion
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Both the Musician and Rolling Stone interviews were awkward because both writers clearly seemed to smell a scoop and wanted to dig into all kinds of questions about Star*Gaze and Jordan’s involvement and they couldn’t help but ask me stuff about Ziggy’s upcoming tour. And I just kept trying to steer them back to talking about Nomad and Remo. Like, seriously, if they wanted to grill me solo they could’ve said.

Except now that I think about it I probably would’ve refused and they probably knew that. I don’t know. I found it flattering on the one hand, like I know it’s important to talk to the media and I know it’s a really good sign when they want to know all kinds of stuff because it means they’re actually interested and buzz is building. The worst is to be ignored and nobody cares. But what I was in Miami to do was a different job and them using Nomad’s press contact as a way to get to me seemed underhanded and weird (even though Jonathan later assured me it wasn’t).

Plus I was there on Remo’s dime.

Read the rest of this entry » )
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Getting ready for a conversation with my editor about the SF trilogy I’m working on. (Apparently they want this first book to have a title. Sheesh. So demanding…)

In the meantime, here’s an interview I did with Amazing Stories about the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop.

So, um … anyone have any brilliant title ideas they’re not using?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
I haven't done a music post in ages. The common thread here is: songs that have been stuck in my head recently. One is a cover that I discovered before its original, the rest are by the people they say. I have no idea what, if anything, this selection signifies. If I played them on repeat for a day or more, onto this list they go.

Car Seat Headrest, "Something Soon"

I was referring to the present in past tense
It was the only way that I could survive it

Dana Falconberry and Medicine Bow, "Alamogordo"

But if my bones are made
Of sand from which they came
Then I will keep locked in your gaze
I will not be afraid

Elvis Perkins, "I Came for Fire"

I hear the choirs from inside the curtain
I came for fire
If I go, I know I come back again

Jerry's Diner, "Break Under Pressure"

Will you see me giving up, giving up?

Johnny Flynn, "Sweet William, Pt. 2"

For the world has begun with the birth of the sun
And its death the very same day

The Kills, "Future Starts Slow"

You can blow what's left of my right mind
I don't mind

The Magnetic Fields, "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side (feat. Dudley Klute)"

'Cause I've got wheels and you want to go for a ride

Ought, "Men for Miles"

If we're being honest, who would want to live here?
Fourteen clocks and half as many walls

Parquet Courts, "Berlin Got Blurry"

You can't crop yourself out of the picture
Out of focus, but still framed inside

Twice as Much, "Play with Fire"

But you'd better watch your step, girl
Or start living with your mother
27 June 2016 20:35 - by the way
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Juno there's an American space probe arriving at Jupiter on July 4th?
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

(191?) Bridgeport Bridge, Bridgeport, Ontario Postcard. P000354. Waterloo Historical Society Collection

"The ABBA edition" of Rye & Ginger.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
I am mostly concluding this review to point you to the comments in the DW version of the previous post on this book, in which Rydra Wong recommends a truly amazing set of books and articles, most of which I had never even heard of, by thoughtful athletes in unusual sports who write about why they do what they do and what it feels like. I am very interested in mind-body issues, and these sorts of books are an excellent source of writing on it that is actually good and not just an annoying stew of vagueness, fifth-hand Zen, and blaming the reader for sundry failures of body and mind.

The second half of Cox's book has her pursuing her US/Soviet swim, a darkly humorous endeavor in which she is spied on by some seriously incompetent FBI agents, repeatedly bangs her nose against the Iron Curtain, and ends up with the CIA and KGB simultaneously tapping her phone. No one can quite believe that she really is doing this because she wants to, and primarily because it's the most challenging thing she can think of, rather than for some dark political purpose in which she is merely the cover. (She does, in fact, have a political purpose, but it's secondary and personal: she hopes her swim might have a sort of butterfly effect on US-Soviet relations, showing both sides that they are human beings, not the Evil Other.)

However, the same persistence that makes her a great swimmer enables the swim to happen - she keeps banging down doors until both governments, rather bewilderedly, decide that maybe they can make political hay of it. She makes the swim, and the butterfly effect actually does seem to happen. So for a while Cox does a number of other swims intended to both challenge herself and act as gestures of goodwill between countries. These are all vividly described, as she faces off with sharks, ice bergs, sea snakes, ice sharp enough to slice a boat's hull in half, and her own cold and exhaustion.

But eventually, she can't resist the ultimate swim: Antarctica. This is in water so cold that no one is sure it is even survivable. Once again, she returns to the researchers and their rectal thermometers. This time technology has improved and they want her to swallow a mini-thermometer and data-gatherer, emphasizing that it's very expensive and they need to get it back, both to download the data and because it's re-usable - "Just use a plastic bag!" Cox, suspicious: "Am I the first person to swallow this thing?" The researcher assures her that she is, while accidentally also making it clear that she won't be the last.

The reason I read this book was a brief article on Cox's swim which noted that before the swim, her teeth had to be specially sealed and some of her fillings removed and replaced, because otherwise they would shatter from the cold. That, I thought, was hardcore. At the end of the book, she notes offhandedly that the nerve damage she sustained from the cold (which she only barely mentions otherwise) is repairing itself, and she's resting while looking forward to the next thing.

Once again, highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
I don't think I'm actually running a fever, but I feel like it: skin-ache, bone-ache, overall sensation of recent collision with a cement truck. It is very distracting. I couldn't fall back asleep, so I made notes on the internet.

1. I wish Free State of Jones (2016) were getting better reviews; the real history of Newt Knight and Jones County is fascinating. To my knowledge, the only other movie to draw on the story of the Free State of Jones is the very loosely inspired Tap Roots (1948), which is where I first heard of it. I can't speak to the 1942 source novel by James H. Street, but I bailed on the film despite its glancing brush with history and the novelty of Van Heflin and Boris Karloff in the same movie (and Arthur Shields in a bit part, speaking of character actors). Heflin has a mustache, proving that Universal learned no lessons from MGM's Green Dolphin Street (1947), and Karloff is playing a Choctaw character, albeit one who gets to show off his beautifully modulated British accent, and there was too much antebellum melodrama and then when we got to the bellum the melodrama didn't let up and I had better things to do with my time, like brushing the cat. Possibly I am just setting myself up for more of the same if I try out Free State of Jones for the sake of Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but I'm still considering it.

2. Three poems I'd been meaning to link for some time: Eloise Klein Healy's "The Lyric in a Time of War," Chris Emslie's "Prayer for Anything but Prayer," and Harry Giles' "Piercings." I found this one yesterday, but I was right that I'd want the collection it came from: Owen Sheers' "Mametz Wood." It's very strange to read someone whose way of thinking about the war dead of the Western Front is so close in language to mine, even if we did different things with the imagery; I want to look for the common ancestor. I wonder if I can blame David Jones. He's not mentioned in the notes for "Last Letters," but he is the nameless poet with the terrible arcana: "praise for the action proper to chemicals . . . candle-light, fire-light, Cups, Wands and Swords, to choose at random."

3. Internet, I wasn't looking for a photo of Elisha Cook, Jr. at the time of his military service, but I'll take it. The weird thing is, from that angle he looks like someone I knew in college. The obituary photo of Harry Rabinowitz really looks like someone I knew in college, give or take fifteen years and a pinstriped suit. It is extremely jarring to see that sort of thing in a sidebar.

Back to bed.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

I met Ambelin Kwaymullina in 2014 at Continuum. Later that year, I read and talked about the first two books in her young adult Tribe series. At the time, only the first book was available in the U.S.

As of today, the second book is out in the U.S. as well, but the third is only available through the Australian publisher, as far as I can tell. Fortunately, I have connections down under, and was able to get my hands on the final volume of the trilogy 🙂

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf Cover The Disappearance of Ember Crow Cover The Foretelling of Georgie Spider Cover

Kwaymullina describes the series as:

…a three-book dystopian series set on a future earth where the world was ripped apart by an environmental cataclysm known as ‘the Reckoning’. The survivors of the Reckoning live in an ecotopia where they strive to protect the Balance of the world, the inherent harmony between all life. But anyone born with an ability – Firestarters who control fire, Rumblers who can cause quakes, Boomers who make things explode – is viewed as a threat to the Balance. Any child or teenager found to have such a power is labeled an ‘Illegal’ and locked away in detention centres by the government.

Except for the ones who run.

Sixteen year old Ashala Wolf leads a band of rebels who she names her Tribe. Sheltered by the mighty tuart trees of the Firstwood and the legendary saurs who inhabit the grasslands at the forest’s edge, the Tribe has been left alone – until now. A new detention centre is being built near the forest, and when The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf begins, Ashala has been captured by the government and is on her way to interrogation…

I really enjoyed these books, set in a world of powers and politics and love and cruelty. Georgie Spider was a particularly good PoV character for the final book. She’s trying so hard to understand the various futures she sees, searching so hard for the best path that she sometimes loses herself. She’s so dedicated, and you just want to give her a hug and take her out for ice cream and tell her it’s going to be okay, but they don’t actually need you to do that because they have each other. The family bond connecting the Tribe is so powerful, and so wonderful…even though the events that made the Tribe necessary are so horrible.

This book does a nice job of bringing things to a head. We learn more about the history of various characters and what happened after the Reckoning. A lot of powerful people want to reshape the world, but Ashala Wolf is the only one with the power to do literally that. Which means a lot of people want her dead, and Georgie is desperately trying to keep her alive.

I appreciate the parallels to the real world. Kwaymullina talks about this a bit in the author’s note to book three:

The Citizenship Accords … are based upon legislation that applied to Aboriginal people here in Australia, and particularly on the Western Australian Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944 (which was finally repealed in 1971. This legislation offered a strange kind of citizenship, if it could be called that, because what it did was exempt Aboriginal people who obtained a citizenship certificate from the discriminatory restrictions which only applied to them in the first place because they were Aboriginal. These restrictions included being unable to marry without the government’s permission, or even to move around the State. Citizenship could be easily lost, for example, by associating with Aboriginal friends or relatives who did not have citizenship. Many Aboriginal people referred to citizenship papers as dog licenses or dog tags — a license to be Australian in the land that Aboriginal people had occupied for over sixty thousand years.

She also talks about the connection between the conflicts of the books and the battles of today. Battles between fear and hope, between hate and acceptance, between greed and balance.

They’re good books, and I recommend them. If you’re in the U.S., you can use the following links:

I’m really hoping the U.S. publisher will pick up the third book soon…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

sovay: (Claude Rains)
I dreamed last night that TCM was running a film festival of character actors from the early days of film to the present day. I think my brain is trying to cheer me up. Unlike most of the art I dream about, this is the kind of thing that could actually happen. I can't do much about the actors who don't exist in waking life, sadly.

I had no idea there was an opera of David Jones' In Parenthesis (1937). For years it has been one of my favorite bewilderingly obscure works of art; I am glad to see that's changing. Also, I get the impression I should read Owen Sheers.

I think I have come down sick. My entire body hurts, I slept almost eight hours, and I feel worse than I did when I went to bed. That always feels particularly unfair.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Seen on tor.com
Rewatcher’s note: Back in 1987, one of the best reference works of its kind, Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, was published, and it is one beloved by many Star Trek fans. Its author, Shane Johnson, has since transitioned and is now Lora Johnson, and she’s having some major medical issues relating to a heart defect, and needs help. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her with the massive medical bills. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Lora's Medical and Surgery Fund
25 June 2016 11:55 - Yay!
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I am permitted to leave my tag on my hanger at Humanities Theatre for the fall season.
25 June 2016 01:41 - "When I am a driver"
rosefox: My feet on a pebbly beach. (travel)
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.

Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.

Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.

Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.

After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.

While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.

Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.

I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.

I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.

I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
rachelmanija: (Default)
I'm only halfway through this memoir of a world-record cold-water swimmer, which I am greatly enjoying, but I had to share a few excerpts.

Memoirs by athletes who are famous in non-famous sports are often very interesting: they're not about being famous and meeting other famous people and (often) getting addicted to drugs/fame/sex, they're about what it actually feels like to do their sport. (Also, they're way more likely to be written by the athlete rather than a ghost writer.)

The best ones are usually by people whose sports involve a lot of endurance and are at least somewhat solo (rather than team sports; you're competing as much against yourself as against others.) I am very interested in physicality, people's relationships to their bodies, the mind-body connection, and pushing the limits of the mind and body, so I like that sort of thing. Especially when interesting locales are involved. People who get seriously into things like rock climbing, long-distance swimming, mountaineering, etc, tend to have mindsets that would not be out of place in a Zen temple.

Cox discovered an aptitude for cold-water, long-distance swimming as a child; she was rather hilariously inept at all other sports, and had a three-year battle with a PE teacher who hated her and kept refusing to excuse her from volleyball to do stuff like train to set the world record swimming the English Channel at age fourteen. Cox was completely self-motivated; her family supported but did not push her.

At this point she is looking for new frontiers. This is all swimming in oceans, not pools. While stymied in her hope of swimming from Alaska to the Soviet Union by 1) everyone telling her that the water is so cold that she would die in ten minutes, 2) her only landing point being a Soviet SPY BASE which they understandably did not want to let an American on to, she joins a study on cold water swimming led by Dr. William McCafferty and Dr. Barbara Drinkwater (seriously), partly to pass the time and partly in the hope that she'll learn something that will enable her to swim in water that normally kills people.

Dr. Drinkwater explains that men have less body fat, and so tend to sink. Women have more, and so tend to float. But… "You're different. You have neutral buoyancy. That means your body density is exactly the same as seawater. Your proportion of fat to muscle is perfectly balanced so you don't float or sink in the water; you're at one with the water. We've never seen anything like this before."

Cox is fascinated by this finding, which meshes with both her abilities and her sense that she is, in fact, one with sea water. But they want to see how she reacts in a natural environment, not in a lab, so Dr. McCafferty and his wife walk their dog on the beach while she does her daily workout in the ocean.

Before and after these workouts, I'd hide behind a bush and take my core temperature using a rectal thermometer, the only way to get an accurate reading after an immersion in cold water. I always made a point of telling Dr. McCafferty my temperature just as joggers were passing; they'd give him quizzical looks, since it appeared to them that he was talking to the bushes.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer
24 June 2016 16:30
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Dear everyone I know in Britain and/or who is British: I am so incredibly fucking sorry. Maybe we can all just agree to rewind 2016 to, like, somewhere in February or March and try it again from the top.
ceciliatan: (default)

The cover of the paperback leaked to Amazon a couple of weeks ago, but I’m psyched to share both the paperback and the super-sexy ebook only cover for HARD RHYTHM, the third book in the Secrets of a Rock Star series!

This time I get to tell Chino the drummer’s story! HARD RHYTHM can be pre-ordered right now at most bookstores and online retailers: IndieBound (local independent bookstores) | Amazon | Publisher website | Walmart (!) | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Images under the cut!

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
I saw the news about the UK and the EU right before I went to bed. I am so sorry that Donald Trump has any reason to approve the results of the referendum.

I think my dreams last night were intended for either [personal profile] skygiants or [livejournal.com profile] strange_selkie: a ghost train constantly pulling through the walls of a subway station on a curve of track that was torn up years ago, two girls disembarking in shirtwaists and skirts, one of them carrying a valise and both of them talking twenty to the dozen. Their names were Leye and Malke and I am bad at ages even in my own dreams, but I think they were on the farther end of college-age, nineteen or twenty, though neither of them was in school. I would lose track of them each time as they walked up the stairs to street-level, then the train would come swinging in again. There were other passengers, but I could never see them as clearly and I couldn't hear them at all. The girls' voices sounded like they were composed of the clack and rattle and rush of the subway car—which did not look like an antique—jolting through the dark, but I had no problem with the Yiddish. Leye wanted to be a pilot. I knew she had been, too, though I couldn't have told you her last name. Maybe they were on their way to an air show. Maybe it was my brain saying something about immigrants.

There are some rather neat promo images now available for The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom, the anthology edited by Joanne Merriam which reprints my flash story "And Black Unfathomable Lakes" (Not One of Us #50) and is coming out in July. A couple of them could be icons if I were that kind of author. The story's about different kinds of monster.
24 June 2016 08:57
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
UK folks: y'all have my sympathies. :]
swan_tower: (*writing)

Jim Hines has been doing a thing on his blog where he genderswaps character descriptions to look at how women and men get depicted. He did it first with classic SF/F novels, then with more recent titles — including his own.

It’s an interesting enough exercise that I decided to go through my own books and see what happens when I genderswap the descriptions. Results are below. I skipped over the Doppelganger books because quite frankly, describing people has never been a thing I do a lot of, and back then I did basically none of it, so this starts with Midnight Never Come.


Read the rest of this entry � )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

23 June 2016 23:42 - reading and listening
pantryslut: (Default)
Detroit City: I had forgotten how colorful Coleman Young was. "Swearing is an art form. You can express yourself much more exactly, much more succinctly, with properly used curse words."


Queen: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/14/earworm-weekly-we-will-rock-you-by-queen

Katy Perry: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/06/21/earworm-weekly-firework-by-katy-perry
yhlee: Drop Ships from Race for the Galaxy (RTFG)
Writing Question of the Day is back with a question from my daughter the dragon! (She is visiting her grandparents in upstate NY, but we email each other.) She had asked about a specific tactical situation and I pointed her at a page on the Battle of Cannae. [1] This was her response (and please don't make fun, she's twelve):

[1] I only glanced over it, so it may not be the most accurate resource, but I just wanted her to have tactical diagrams to refer to so she could visualize the basic tactics.

Anyhow, onto Rome vs. Hannibal. At first I was very confused by the Battle of Cannae tactical diagrams, thinking the blue guys to be led by Hannibal, ha ha. So, basically, Hannibal trapped the Romans through the illusion that they were winning, then encircled them and won the war (after killing/capturing people, along with those who might have escaped? I kinda doubt many escaped, though. It's pretty cool (and bloody.) You must do a lot of research. Can I ask you how you put these into perspective when thinking on a battlefield in space? Of course, aside from the obvious fact of space physics and advanced weaponry and calendars and weaponry and... um, yeah. There are a lot of considerations coming into effect due to the variety of variables, and I'm wondering how you put/write/imagine that so you can put into your books. [2]



Have a writing question? Feel free to leave it in comments! Remember, NO QUESTION IS TOO SILLY.
sovay: (Rotwang)
Way too much of my life has become a sleep journal. I slept for the solstice, so I spent a lot of time basking in the afternoon sun and wrote extensively about Joseph Losey's scathing and highly recommended noir The Prowler (1951). I spent the following day working and did not sleep that night because I needed to get up early in order to catch a train to Providence, as a result of which I arrived at South Station half an hour ahead of schedule and spent my spare time discovering and reading Donald E. Westlake's Somebody Owes Me Money (1969) from Barbara's Bestsellers. Last night in Providence, with Hubero crouching on the clothes chest beside the inflatable mattress and Selwyn the curly-tailed monster cat bolting intermittently through the living room, I slept enough to dream, although not to recall the specifics.

I write this entry from [livejournal.com profile] greygirlbeast and [livejournal.com profile] humglum's front room. I have learned that the world contains both mermaid tights and—finally—a genderqueer mer-person T-shirt. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is playing their last Boston show tonight at the Middle East. If it's June 23rd, it's Alan Turing's hundred and fourth birthday. Please enjoy Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis' The Imitation Game (2014), which I have been coveting in print form since I spotted it in Hub Comics a week ago. Unlike the film of the same name, it also does a really good Joan Clarke.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Wow. A lot of great comments and other responses to yesterday’s blog post that genderswapped scenes from Heinlein, Asimov, and Anthony.

Some preliminary thoughts:

  • My goal was not to say or suggest these three authors were HORRIBLE HUMAN BEINGS and if you ever liked anything they wrote then YOU’RE A HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING TOO! Pretty much everything we love is problematic in at least some respect. (But please don’t take this to mean we should ignore or excuse sexism, etc. either.)
  • Yep, I started with older, classic/popular works. It would indeed be interesting to see how more recent and current bestsellers looked when put through the same genderswapping process. I’m hoping to get to that.
  • “What is seen cannot be unseen.” I hope so. One of the most powerful aspects of this kind of exercise, in my opinion, is that it helps us to see things we’ve gotten so used to we might not even notice it. Hopefully, that awareness continues beyond the immediate examples.

In a way, yesterday’s exercise grew out of an experience I had writing — and then rewriting — my story “Spell of the Sparrow,” which eventually appeared in Sword & Sorceress XXI. I’d originally drafted the story, a sequel to “Blade of the Bunny,” from the male character’s point of view. Then I saw the call for S&S, and I thought this story might be a good fit. But S&S stories have to be from female characters’ PoVs. So I rewrote it.

It was eye-opening. Sentences and phrases and individual words that had seemed completely neutral suddenly reared up like speed bumps, tripping me up as I read. It highlighted my own gender-based assumptions and threw them back in my face.

That’s a good thing.

I don’t think writing should ignore the realities and complexities of gender. I do think it’s good for us as writers — and as human beings — to be more aware of our own baggage and assumptions.

We’ve all got some. We live in a world that’s far from equal, and we’re immersed in stories and portrayals that perpetuate and normalize those inequalities. That doesn’t make us horrible, awful, evil people. It makes us human. What’s more important, I believe, is what you choose to do with that baggage. Do you double down and attack anyone who dares to suggest you’re anything but perfect? Or do you work to do better?

Here’s a genderswapped excerpt from Libriomancer, where I introduce Lena Greenwood for the first time.


When I saw who was standing there, my body went limp with relief. Lenny Greenwood was the least imposing hero you’d ever see. His appearance supposedly changed over time, but for as long as I’d known him, he’d been a twenty-four year old Indian man. He looked about as intimidating as a teddy bear. A damned sexy teddy bear, but not someone you’d expect to go toe-to-toe with your average monster.

Wisps of loose black hair framed dark eyes, a slender nose, and a cheerful smile, as if he had walked in on a surprise party. He wore a brown bomber jacket with a Snoopy patch on the right sleeve, and carried a pair of three foot long fighting sticks made of unstained oak.

I definitely don’t think that’s on the same level as yesterday’s excerpts, but even so, there are a few bits of description that feel more jarring. For a stronger example, let’s take a look at a bit from a little later in the book.

The sky outside was dark, and the clock said it was just past five in the morning. The red glow of the clock was just enough to make out Lenny sitting on the edge of my bed. I heard Smudge stirring in her tank. At night she slept in a twenty-gallon aquarium, lined with obsidian gravel and soil. A single cricket chirped. That was a mistake. A scurry of feet and a faint spark followed, and that was the end of the cricket.

“Mm.” Lenny studied me in the faint light. “Has anyone ever considered doing a topless librarian calendar?”

I grabbed a flannel bathrobe from the floor and pulled it on. “Hauling books is good exercise.”

“Very.” He stood and stepped toward the door, his fighting sticks in one hand. “I think I need to start spending more time in libraries.”

Okay, that scene just got creepy as hell, reminiscent of Twilight.

Now, it’s true that Lena’s character is problematic in a number of ways. That’s intentional. But the dynamics of this scene feel very different, and much more disturbing than before.


Ultimately, I think this sort of thing can be a really useful exercise for most of us, both to better see the sexism and imbalances in the stories and books we read and the world around us, and to better see it in our own writing. In our own minds and assumptions.

I’ll end this with a quick genderswapped scene from one of this year’s Hugo-nominated books, Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. Again, I think this comes out worlds ahead of yesterday’s examples…but the results are still fascinating and even powerful, at least to me.

I’ll be curious to hear other folks’ thoughts!


[The ISS] was then in earth’s shadow, on the night side of the planet, and so all was dark otherwise, except for white light spilling out from the little quartz window beside Dan’s workstation. This was barely large enough to frame his head. He had straw- colored hair cut short. He had never been especially appearance conscious; back at the minehead his sisters had mocked him to shame whenever he had experimented with clothes or cosmetics. When he’d been described as girlish in a school yearbook he had interpreted it as a sort of warning shot and had gone into a somewhat more manly phase that had run its course during his late teens and early twenties and ended when he had started to worry about being taken seriously in engineering meetings. Being on Izzy meant being on the Internet, doing everything from painstakingly scripted NASA Pr interviews to candid Facebook shots posted by fellow astronauts. He had grown tired of the pouffy floating hair of zero gravity and, after a few weeks of clamping it down with baseball caps, had figured out how to make this shorter cut work for him. The haircut had spawned terabytes of Internet commentary from women, and a few men, who apparently had nothing else to do with their time.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

23 June 2016 09:00 - Fight Like a Brave
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

I walked into the hospitality suite looking for Flip when it turned out I had, in fact, managed to not bring the charger for my pager. There I didn’t find Flip but I did find Waldo, Martin, and Charlie the flugelhorn player. Charlie’s iron-gray hair was slicked back against his head into a stubby pony tail but that only emphasized the kind of Ichabod Crane look to him: hooked nose, skinny limbs, long fingers.

“Where and when can we rehearse tomorrow?” I asked Waldo, thinking it was a no-brainer kind of question.

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