a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
miss_s_b: (Default)
28 April 2017 02:41 - recent reading
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack.

Okay, so I was as surprised as anybody when Archie Comics reinvented themselves as well-written, groundbreaking, genuinely quality comics for the twenty-first century, and the whole thing still feels vaguely surreal and as though at any moment the comics will vanish back into some kind of reality warp, but this? Is a goddamn delight, if you like horror comics at all. I grew up watching the Melissa Joan Hart TV series of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which adds another layer of frisson and piss-take to this book as a reading experience, but I don't think you need that to enjoy this, and I don't think you need to have read any Sabrina comics either. Basically, this just takes the premise of Sabrina the Teenage Witch-- witches live among us, desperately trying to keep their magic secret, bound by their own laws and customs, caught between two worlds-- and, instead of playing it for comedy, smashes it into the mass of genuinely creepy witch-based folklore out there and goes for the gusto.

Not to say that there aren't funny moments. Zelda and Hilda, Sabrina's aunts, have changed from the kind of dotty aunt who appears in sitcoms to a more Arsenic and Old Lace kind of vibe, now that they're supplementing the family larder by scavenging the town's cemeteries. Sabrina does, at one point, wonder whether she should attend her own dark baptism and consecration to Satan in the autumnal forest, or whether she should go to the pep rally and the game with Harvey Kinkle. Sabrina's talking cat remains a source of endless entertainment (when asked how he got turned into a cat, he mutters "This is what happens when you try to enact the Book of Revelations," and does a quick fade).

But mostly this is straight-up horror, aiming both at the occasional gross-out and at impressive psychological creepiness, and it's extremely well-written, with three-dimensional characters, cohesive (and unnerving) worldbuilding, and carefully researched folk magic. The art is gorgeous and expressive, and things like the (correctly icky) redesign of the 1940s Archie villain Madame Satan are labors of love (and footnoted for you at the back of the book). Literally the only complaint I have about this series is that it comes out so slowly, because I want more right away. This is both some of the best comics and some of the best horror of any genre I've read in quite a while, and yes, it will never stop being weird to find myself saying that.


Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys.

I shouldn't say too much about this because I beta-read it and am therefore pretty darn biased, but it's neo-Lovecraftiana for people who aren't racist sexist homophobic Other-haters, and it's out now, and it's great, and you should totally read it, especially if you find the Deep Ones and/or the Yith at all interesting. I am also told it works if you haven't read Lovecraft.


Within the Sanctuary of Wings, Marie Brennan.

So this is the fifth of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, who is an alt-Victorian naturalist who studies dragons, and it's the last one. You shouldn't start here-- you should start with the first, or possibly the second, as IMO they get better as they go-- but I thought I should mention that this is a five-volume series which comes to a tidy, pre-planned, and well-foreshadowed end without dragging on forever in endless not-written-yet limbo, and I am... trying to remember the last time I saw that happen ever, actually. M. L. N. Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter, I guess, a few years back, though that's urban fantasy, where I think finished series are somewhat more likely. Anyhow, it's a rare and precious thing. Also, there are many species of dragons in these novels, and they are interestingly differentiated and beautifully illustrated (literally, these illos are very cool).

I could wish the plot were a little less predictable, on both a volume-by-volume and an overall level, but by the time we get to book five the predictability has settled down into the kind of thing where you know pretty much what has to happen, but not how, and not necessarily why, and the details turn out to be fascinating. These are not spectacular books, but they are pleasant and down-to-earth and charming and comforting and should be read by persons who also like the Amelia Peabody series.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] spatch sent me this tweet from the artist of My Life as a Background Slytherin which basically describes my relationship to the news at the moment. I have nevetheless a couple of items that I like:

DNA analysis of horse sacrifices from Scythian burial mounds proves that in addition to being serious riders, archers, metalworkers and tattoo artists, the Scythians were serious horse breeders. "Many, although not all, of the horses possessed genes associated with racing speed that are found in today's thoroughbreds. The genes also showed a variety of colorings—cream, black, spotted, bay and chestnut." It is notable that the Scythian horses were not at all inbred; somehow despite reading an inordinate amount of Marguerite Henry as a child, I had missed the degree to which modern horses are. I look forward to the follow-up paper on genetic diversity.

DNA analysis of bone and teeth fragments from the disastrous Franklin expedition suggests that some of the crew of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were genetically female, "which is surprising since the crew was reported as all male." They might still have been, of course, however they were assigned at birth. Or they might not. Either way, I wish I knew those stories. With any luck, someone will work to write them.

So, yeah. Science.

I spent most of the afternoon cleaning the apartment, in which endeavor I was joined by Rob. For one brief shining moment, not everything is covered in cat hair. (Hestia and Autolycus are already doing their best to reassert the status quo.) We got out of the house in the evening, walked to Davis, had dinner at Punjabi Grill, ran errands, walked circuitously home. I ate ice cream. I am thinking of watching a movie. The fact that I am not already collapsed and/or asleep suggests I might be getting better. Fingers crossed!
27 April 2017 22:54
yhlee: Avatar: The Last Airbender: "fight like a girl" (A:tLA fight like a girl)
Joe and I did not realize that the anime Fate/Zero was a prequel to Fate/stay night, thus leading to a brief WTF??? when we hit the ending of the former. Can anyone who's familiar with both tell us without being too spoilery, in general terms, whether Fate/stay night is as, um, traumatic and Nightmare Fuel-laden as Fate/Zero?

P.S. We also did not realize it was an Urobutcher show when we completely randomly picked it to watch. HA HA HA HA HA the more fool us.
hrj: (Mother of Souls)
 So here's the thing: I can't be the only author who had a book released in November (or December, or January...) who felt too gobsmacked by political events to feel comfortable going all out on book promotion. (Heck, it took me most of November to get out of panic attack mode.) So I'm giving myself permission to do a 6-month anniversary book release re-boot. And to feel a bit less self-conscious about it, I'm going to make a general offer. If you had a book released last November, hit me up with the basic info about it and I'll pick one or two book every day in May to cross-promote along with my own. If anyone else wants to joint the bandwagon, be my guest! Comment here, or e-mail me or tweet me or whatever works for you.
27 April 2017 13:56 - Hearthammer
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

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

Ziggy got up on the stage and clapped his hands for attention–a move that by then I realized he’d picked up from Josie, who’d no doubt learned it from some other dance teacher or choreographer or theater person, carrying on back through generations. Anyway, it worked.

Read the rest of this entry » )
27 April 2017 11:06 - The Accidental Mr. Thomas Wilker
swan_tower: (natural history)

I’ve got a post up at Tor.com about what it feels like to say goodbye to Isabella, and there’s an interview with me at Goldilox. Continuing on from yesterday’s post (and this time basically sans spoilers), there’s someone else I’d like to talk about . . .

***

Tom Wilker is the best accidental character I’ve had in a while. Maybe ever.

What do I mean by “accidental”? I mean that I did not, at the outset, plan for him at all. I don’t think he was even in the first thirty thousand words I wrote, before I set the book aside for a few years; I think I added him in when I came back to the story, because I realized Lord Hilford would of course have some kind of assistant or protégé along for the Vystrani expedition. Jacob was too new of an acquaintance to occupy that role; therefore I invented Mr. Thomas Wilker.

Read the rest of this entry  )

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

tgstonebutch: (Default)
 So, as you likely know, I am facing homelessness, and have launched a crowdfunding campaign

You can also help me another way. My amazing publisher, Go Deeper Press, has generously promised to give me 100% of royalties of ebook sales for my queer kink erotica collection Show Yourself To Me!

Buy the ebook here, and I get 100% royalties! This goes from now until May 19 or until my YouCaring campaign goal has been reached, so if you have been considering buying the book, now is a wonderful time to do it. 

I am so incredibly moved by the good folks at Go Deeper Press for deciding to do this. The erotica community is amazing, and Jacob and Lana are two of my favorite people in it. 

I have included some advance praise for the collection below. Check out what reviewers had to say here. 

 

“Xan West’s work is fierce and absolutely fearless.” –Simon Sheppard

“Xan West’s Show Yourself To Me proves that the most important sex organ is the brain. Smart, hot, intense stories that are some of the finest erotic fiction around. Xan West’s erotic short stories are so visceral and reach into you so deep they imprint like a new lover. They’ll give you flashbacks to kinks you didn’t know you had.” –Cecilia Tan, writer and editor

“At last! An entire collection of radically queer, deeply transformative erotica by Xan West! No one chronicles queer kinkiness with more passion, skill, courage and talent.”  –Barbara Carrellas, author of Urban Tantra and Ecstasy is Necessary

“In Show Yourself To Me, you will read erotica about characters that are queer, trans, POC, fat, some with chronic pain and/or various dis/abilities (and more). Where has that happened before? Reading erotica that reflects so much of who I am and who my partner(s) are is pretty mind blowing and not something I’ve ever seen published.”  –Wyatt Riot, sex educator

“I love this collection. It’s wonderfully intense in the best possible way. I adored the content warnings in the front. What a great idea!” –Alisha Rai, author of Serving PleasureBedroom Games and A Gentleman in the Street

“Xan West’s work sends shock waves through the imagination that will send any reader over the edge into total sexual oblivion. A writer to watch, love and to be enticed by.” –Shane Allison, editor of Backdraft: Fireman EroticaIn Plain View: Gay Public Sexand Black Fire: Gay African American Erotica

“Stunning stories of power, transformation, and real queers from one of the most talented erotica writers, period.”  –Sinclair Sexsmith, Sugarbutch.net

“Xan West’s gorgeous stories breathe new life into the literary milieu of classic bdsm erotica. They are at turns frightening and earnest, but always true to form and completely hot. Show Yourself to Me is a veritable sexy switch of a collection, and is sure to become well-loved and worn-out by queer leather lovers of every size, gender, and genre.” – Lyric Seal

For more about Show Yourself To Me:

sartorias: (JRRT)
Kicking off The Two Towers is mostly action, with great character moments, and of course plenty of blasts back to the past. These two chapters concern meetings between people who know their legends, without being aware that they are embarking on becoming legends themselves.

This is one of the aspects of the coolness factor, the seduction of competence and striving for a sense of right that has always sparked for me.

Not that there won't be questions. But that's coming.

For now:

When Aragorn finds the dying Boromir, the latter confesses, and Aragorn tries to give him peace. When Gimli and Legolas catch up, they find him grieving over Boromir, and over his own failure to keep the company together and safe on their perilous road.

He’s not just grieving but weeping, and I do want to talk about tears, but later. There’s a passage I’ve always remembered where I think it’s important. Meanwhile, the three search the Orcs, but don’t think about decent burial for them as they do Boromir, who gets sent over the falls, Aragorn making a poem and commenting that in Minas Tirith they endure the East wind, but don’t look to it for news.

After finding clues of the hobbits—and of two separate orc forces—they take off in pursuit. Aragorn regrets bitterly turning away from the south, but duty calls, and they start running northwards.

In chapter two, they encounter the remains of dead orcs, also unburied. More about that later: as a kid reader I was not bothered, but later on, I was.

They reach the plains of Rohan, where Aragorn finds Pippin’s brooch lying a little ways off the trail—evidence, I think, that Pippin has quick wits, though he’s still a kid.

They camp, then Legolas gives the ground a listen, after Aragorn comments that the earth must groan under the orcs’ hated feet. They push on, then comes an interesting passage. Aragorn says he’s tired:

"There is something strange at work in this land. I distrust the silence. I distrust even the pale moon. The stars are faint; and I am weary as I have seldom been before, weary as Ranger should not be with a clear trail to follow. A weariness that is in the heart more than in the limb."

"Truly!" said Legolas. “ That I have known since first we came down from the Emyn Muil. For the will is not behind us but before us."


Saruman’s magic seems to reach out beyond anyone being able to hear his voice. Right? I want to discuss Saruman's magic, but later.

On they go, until they meet the Riders of Rohan, who nearly go past them until Aragorn asks them for news.

It doesn’t start out well: when Aragorn says that they had recently come through Lothlorien, Eomer infuriates Gimli by commenting about Galadriel, “Few escape her nets, they say.”

It’s Aragorn the peace maker who comes between Eomer and the other two, who are ready to do battle on the spot. He explains their quest, but then he reveals who he is, and demands that Eomer choose swiftly.

Then comes one of those cool moments that thrilled me chitlins as a kid reader, when Eomer says, “These are indeed strange days. Dreams and legends spring out of the grass.”

I’ve always loved larger than life characters, especially when they live up to the promise.

Anyway, they find out that the orc band that took the hobbits is toast, but no sign of the two prisoners. The Rohan knights are skeptical about hobbits, and when Eomer comments, “Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?” Aragorn comes back with, “A man may do both.”

Zing, more coolness factor. They exchange news—all pretty bad—and Eomer insists that Rohan does not pay tribute to Mordor, nor would they sell black horses to Mordor, for they are put to evil use.

This demand for specifically black horses passed me by when I was young, but it caught my attention this round. But I think that will belong to the discussion of black and white, light and darkness.

They discuss Gandalf, and then what to do. Eomer for the third time comments on the strangeness of these days, but when he wonders how he is to judge what to do, Aragorn says:

"As he ever has judged," said Aragorn. "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among elves and dwarves and another among men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house."

They decide to go on, though Gimli feels about horses the way Sam feels about boats. They reach Fangorn, where the trees act oddly, Aragorn saying that Fangorn holds some secret of his own. What it is he doesn’t know.

To which Gimli replies with heartfelt truth, “And I do not wish to know! Let nothing that dwells in Fangorn be troubled on my account!”

Gimli gets the first watch—and their camp is disturbed by an old man. Who vanishes, along with their horses. Aragorn comments that he had a hat, not a hood . . . and they wait out the night.

So, all kinds of setup for later payoff.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
TFW you calculate that the Venus Equilateral Relay Station probably had decades if not more than a century's worth of breathable air for the 3000 people on board.
lagilman: Does Not Play Well With Stupid People (stupid people)
Facebook Poster: “Well, nobody else thinks X is problematic, so…"

Me: *takes 1 minute to pulls up 5 citations over the past 6 years from 5 different sources to establish that X has been known to be problematic for at least that long*

Me: "Bitch, don’t even.”
miss_s_b: (Default)
sovay: (Claude Rains)
In all of the tributes to Jonathan Demme I've seen so far, nobody compiling the best-of lists has mentioned one of my favorite movies of his. I can't tell if that's because it was a television production or because it's just that obscure or maybe I'm the only person who loves it that much, but either way I'm just going to leave this here: American Playhouse's Who Am I This Time? (1982). Christopher Walken as Harry, Susan Sarandon as Helene, score by John Cale; it's a showcase for its two stars and a beautiful exploration of the way that other people's words can be the truest way to speak for yourself. It's still not streaming anywhere that I can find [edit: it's on Vudu], but it is available from Netflix and libraries on DVD and it's worth tracking down. It goes one better than Vonnegut and I don't say that about many things. I am not pleased that the person who directed it is dead. Some theater around here had better show Stop Making Sense (1984) soon.

[edit] David Byrne wrote for his memory.
serpentine: Never ask me the odds. I don't want to know. And neither do you. (Text - Young Wizards Odds)
There's a small part of me that is glad that I tend to favor DC Comics more than Marvel, but there's an even bigger part of me that is extremely pissed at Marvel and wish I knew what I could do regarding their Nazi problem. I mean, they seem to have decided that their decreased sales is due to people not liking diversity and not the fact that THEY ARE LITERALLY DESTROYING THEIR CHARACTERS. And I'm upset because I know that these characters /mean a lot to people I care for/.

(And I'm also upset because this feels like it's a bigger trend in society to allow shits like this a platform and I just am so goddamn angry about this development in general, especially since shits like this like to infest my religious spaces and "worship" my gods and tell me that I don't deserve to live.)

----

In less ranty news, my cat has been very cuddly as of late. I suspect it has to do with the fact that it's rainy and cooler. She is also a very soft kitty so I don't mind too much.

I've also decided to start working on my language learning again, especially as I had a minor bit of angst that if I had worked on my German harder, I could've applied for a translation job that I came across while job searching. Also I've discovered an app that covers learning Cyrillic better than Duolingo in their Russian course, though I am going to use it in conjunction with Duolingo because I still like the format for Duolingo much better.
26 April 2017 19:26 - Writing and depression
yhlee: I am a cilantro writer (cilantro photo) (cilantro writer)
I don't think I have anything new to say about writing and depression, but I'm struggling with it right now and trying to reboot myself out of it, so I thought I'd talk about that.

For anyone who's new here: I have bipolar I, which means that I spend significant periods of time depressed. I also cycle very quickly sometimes, so I can go from elated to suicidal within a single day or the course of hours. Needless to say, besides sucking in its own right, it makes writing, which I think of as a somewhat neurosis-inducing career [1], an additional challenge.

[1] I am pretty sure there are non-neurotic writers out there! But I am literally, professionally diagnosed crazy, and I have spent time in the psych ward for suicide attempts, so...

When writing gets hard, it comes down to routines. Writing is easy when it's a fire in the mind and the words blaze to be let down on paper (or typed into the computer, or whatever--I write both longhand and on a computer depending on my mood or the particular project). But inspiration is completely unreliable, especially when depression comes calling.

My routine goes something like this. Note that I don't claim that this works for everyone! Just this is what I do, and it more or less works for me. Sometimes better than others.

1. Get out of bed. Sometimes this is the hardest step.

2. Get food into myself. I have this rule that no writing happens until I have eaten something, even an oatmeal packet. Bodies are weird (or anyway, mine is! maybe yours is perfectly fine :p). If my blood sugar drops, I turn into a depressed suicidal wreck. I find this completely maddening considering that I'm overweight so you'd think that I could survive for a couple extra hours off fat reserves, but nope! Not so lucky. So I try to remember to eat at intervals. Even so, there's this period in the late afternoon/early evening where I usually have to take a break from writing no matter when I started because my blood sugar is too low for me to concentrate. (This is usually because I'm trying to time dinner to be convenient for my husband and daughter. If it were just me, I would eat smaller meals every four hours and that might work better.)

3. Get exercise. Sometimes I skip this, but I read somewhere that you should try to do the most important things first in your daily routine. I figure exercise is more essential than writing, or anyway, it should be higher priority. Also, I sort of cheat in that right now I'm mostly doing the world's wimpiest exercise biking, on a bike that has a built-in desk, and I use that time either to do reading (right now I'm beta reading for someone, for instance), or write fanfic. I could even use that time to do work-writing rather than fanfic-writing. It all depends.

4. Get shower. Because I am so wimpy, even wimpy exercise-biking leaves me drenched in sweat.

5. Make tea. I allow myself one cup of caffeinated tea a day. Right now that's a Republic of Tea black tea flavored with almond, which honestly I don't like all that much--I tried it out of curiosity and discovered the almond flavor didn't agree with me. So when the tin runs out I'll switch it for some other black tea. After that runs out, I start making herbal teas instead. Too much caffeine can trigger mania or hypomania, or just generally screw with my sleep (and screwing with sleep can mess with bipolar cycling--it's a whole Thing), so I try to not to overdo it.

6. Settle in to write. I turn on iTunes, set the whole thing to Shuffle, and attempt to write at least one sentence/song. Most songs are pop/rock songs of 3-4 minutes. This is not a recipe for blazing fast writing. What it is, is conditioning. My brain gets the idea that every time we switch to a new song, I should get back in gear and get writing. My philosophy is that slow and steady wins the race. I don't produce words particularly fast--I know there are fast writers out there, but I'm never going to be one of them. But I do believe that accumulating words a little at a time consistently will also work.

One of my problems is low morale, and a related problem is being intimidated by high goals. So I set low goals. One sentence during a song of that length is eminently doable. In fact, spurred by one thought, I usually end up writing more than one sentence. And that's good! Likewise, when I am at my most depressed--when I can barely string two thoughts together, or when I feel like everything I have ever written is completely worthless, I set my goals very low. As in 250 words/day low. These days I have novels to write so I can't do that forever, but even 250 words/day is better, in terms of sustaining momentum, than 0 words/day. It's simple mathematics. If you write 250 words/day, you can eventually write a novel, even if it takes you a while. Whereas with 0 words/day? You'll never get there.

This is not to say that you should never take a break! I have 0-word days. Weekends are usually dead time because I have family obligations. Sometimes the depression is just too much to deal with. But there is a difference between occasionally taking a break, and never writing. The latter is what I seek to avoid.

In the meantime: what helps you when you're dealing with doubt or depression? Tell me one thing you like about your own writing, if you like. :)
26 April 2017 15:51 - Perseids Watch 2017
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)


Come watch the Perseid Meteor shower in rural darkness near New Dundee. This year, the often spectacular Perseids peak from late Saturday, August 12 to early Sunday, August 13, which is to say “conveniently on the weekend instead of the middle of a work-week.”
Read more... )
26 April 2017 10:11 - Concerning “Lord Trent”
swan_tower: (Default)

More than six years ago, in January of 2011, I sent my agent the pitch for the Memoirs of Lady Trent. It consisted of thirty thousand words from the first book and a document approximately three thousand words long describing the setting and the plots of the various novels. Because I am crap at outlining, while those latter synopses bear some resemblance to the final story, it’s very obvious in hindsight that I was just waving my hands in an attempt to make it look like I knew where was going . . . and nowhere is that clearer than in the figure of “Lord Trent,” i.e. Isabella’s husband.

Here there be spoilers. (Up through In the Labyrinth of Drakes, though I’d say the only really bad spoiler is for A Natural History of Dragons. If you haven’t yet read Within the Sanctuary of Wings, you’re in the clear.)

Read the rest of this entry  )

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

miss_s_b: (Politics: FU)
Comment below with your seat predictions for the general election, in the following format, where x is your prediction:
Alliance 0 > x
Conservative 330 > x
DUP 8 > x
Green 1 > x
Independent 4 > x
Labour 229 > x
Liberal Democrat 9 > x
Official Monster Raving Loony 0 > x
Plaid Cymru 3 > x
Sinn Fein 4 > x
SDLP 3 > x
SNP 54 > x
Speaker 1 > x
UKIP 1 > x
UUP 2 > x
Others 0 > x

Total 649* > 650
The winner gets nothing but boasting rights and glory. Sorry; I'm both skint and disorganised, so arranging actual physical prizes is beyond my capabilities at the mo. And yes, I'm going to put my pixels where my mouth is. my prediction under the cut )



* NB: total is currently 649 because of the death of Gerald Kaufman.
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Yorkshire)
The Grauniad is loudly trumpeting "Farron Sacks David Ward".

I suspect that what actually happened is that there was a phone call to Yorkshire regional candidates' chair, who in her turn made a phone call to the chair of City of Bradford Liberal Democrats, who in her turn made a phone call to David telling him that the situation was untenable... But the narrative of Tim making swift and decisive action won't hurt us in the press, even if constitutionally it's a bit suspect.

I'm not going to comment one way or the other on the justice of this outcome in the particular case of David Ward. He has undoubtedly made some indefensible comments at various times. However, I don't like to see procedures circumvented, whether actually or only apparently. I can't help it, I've got legal training. Equally, I can see that there's a strong argument that the party's internal disciplinary procedures are crap and toothless, or if they have teeth, that the teeth are carefully muzzled in any situation whether they might actually have to put the bite on someone. The party's internal disciplinary procedures are, however, also currently under process of review.

I am supremely uncomfortable about the idea of being in a party where one can be summarily dismissed at the whim of the leader without some form of due process in place. I fear that because that is what the media expects, not to say bays for, we are creeping ever closer to it. I wish we had more robust and transparent disciplinary procedures. I hope and expect that once the governance review is fully completed, we will have more robust and transparent disciplinary procedures.

Still.

I wonder what we'll be smacked in the chops with tomorrow?
miss_s_b: (Default)
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
All right. In hindsight of the continuing exodus from LJ, the third of April feels a bit like an international day of social media mourning, but I regret nothing about my decision to cope on the night by self-medicating with Leslie Howard. [personal profile] skygiants had sent me the link years ago for a propaganda short called From the Four Corners (1941) which I had never gotten around to watching despite it being a grand total of fifteen minutes long. It was directed by Anthony Havelock-Allan and produced by the Ministry of Information; there are no writing credits per se, but we are told that "[t]he incident originated with Leslie Howard and A. G. Macdonell," one of the co-writers of Pimpernel Smith (1941). With a title like that, you might as well brace yourself for Empire, especially when it opens by quoting the title music from the Kordas' The Four Feathers (1939). Like Howard's wartime features, though, it's subtler and stranger than simple flag-waving and it set off a thoroughly unexpected chain reaction in my head.

The story sounds like the set-up for a joke: three soldiers from the Dominions all meet at Nelson's Column, where two of them are looking for a pub and the third is sightseeing. Specifically, he is taking a picture of what he dryly terms "Typical scene of London air-raid panic"—four Londoners on a park bench in different attitudes of total unconcern. Embarrassed by the effusive patriotism of a woman who rushes up to praise them for "coming all those thousands of miles to answer the Motherland's call to arms . . . splendid fellows!" the soldiers are rescued by the drawling interruption of one of the park-bench Londoners, the one who was smoking with his hands in his pockets and his hat knocked over his eyes. He is credited as "A Passer-By"; he is Leslie Howard and he knows where to find a pub.1 Over pints all round, he quizzes the soldiers on their reasons for joining up, each of which furnishes a miniature flashback. Corporal W. Atkinson of the Australian Imperial Force co-owned a bicycle shop in Sydney; he made his decision after catching his business partner in a newsreel, marching to the troopship with the rest of the new recruits. Private J. Johnston of the Black Watch of Canada hails from a farm outside of Vancouver; his father was killed at Vimy Ridge and he not entirely jokes that he ought to finish his job. Private R. Gilbert of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force was a law student in Auckland, finishing up his degree when he wondered suddenly if common law would mean anything in the event of an Axis victory; he walked right out of his exams and into the recruiting office next door. They may be standing in for their respective countries, but they are also real-life servicemen playing versions of themselves, and they bridle when Howard professes himself unsatisfied with their answers. "Kick[ing] Hitler in the pants" may be an admirable goal, but what makes it so? What are they really fighting for? If not the Empire ("That's a lot of hooey!"), what have they left their homes and families to defend?

Like the academic he so often played, Howard takes it on himself to answer his own question. He brings the three soldiers up to the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral—itself already a vivid symbol of national resistance—and gives them a bird's-eye crash tour of London, pointing out its landmarks and sites of interest, tying each to a resonant moment of English history. Kingston, where the coronation stone of the Saxon kings still stands in the market square. Runnymede, the signing of the Magna Carta which formed the heart of all the Commonwealth's laws. For the Canadian Johnston, he points out St. Peter's Church in Petersham where Captain George Vancouver is buried. For Oceanians Gilbert and Atkinson, Greenwich Hospital because "Captain Cook had a job there once." When he shows them Bankside, he stresses that the audiences of Shakespeare's plays would have included far-flung soldiers on leave just like themselves. "And that's where your fathers and my fathers stood when we were threatened with the Armada and invasion," though most of Howard's forefathers in 1588 would have been somewhere quite different from Tilbury.2 Finishing up at the House of Commons allows him to (optimistically, in June 1941) include the Americans among the inheritors and defenders of their shared ideals. "Well, it's all yours," he concludes, "all part of London and part of ourselves . . . Yes, it's all there—British city, Roman city, Saxon, Dane, Norman—English." All the while he was talking, I was thinking that I had heard something very like it before, the visionary, scholarly, slightly laughing and slightly otherworldly voice layering time through itself and rooting it in the present day, spellbinding its listeners and waking them up to their history and inheritance, and the moment I made the connection I was seized with a desperate and conflicted longing because Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale (1944) is the reason I love Eric Portman, but I would love too to know what the movie would have been like with Leslie Howard as Thomas Colpeper, JP.

Let me be clear: I don't think the Archers could even have approached him for the part. He was already under the Bay of Biscay when shooting began in August of 1943, and in any case their first choice for the magistrate of Chillingbourne had been Roger Livesey, whom I will always thank for turning them down. He found the role "off-key." He wasn't wrong. Colpeper is a deeply peculiar character, as difficult to pin down to a single interpretation as his signature wrongheaded act. He has the vision of a poet and the blinders of a missionary, the superiority of a judge and the guilt of a penitent; he gives mesmerizing lectures on local history and keeps breaking the slide projector. He loves his country and its deep, distant past that to him is as immediate and tangible as the warmth of the sun and the smell of wild thyme and he does some very silly, very dangerous things to try to fix history right where it is, not yet understanding that the earthquake of modernity will not erase the echoes of his beloved Kentish village any more than the last two thousand years have washed the Roman road away.3 He's a crank and a trickster, a magician and a fool, and like the other characters he's trapped until he gets his miracle, which comes in the last form he expected and the first he should have known to watch out for. He's not unsympathetic. He's never quite safe. I'm not knocking Livesey as an actor—he made three films with Powell and Pressburger and in all of them he was exactly what the part required, a tragicomic English archetype in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), an unforeseen romantic alternative in I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), and an adroit and skeptical advocate for science and love in A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Someday I'll even see him in a film by some other director and I expect he will continue to be very good. But I think he was right to refuse Colpeper: he would not have been weird enough for him. Portman was. And as Howard had proved almost from the start of his stardom, he would have been, too.

That's the trouble. You believe in miracles. )

This is fantasy casting at its finest. If any practical link existed between Leslie Howard and A Canterbury Tale, given my interest in both of these things I can't imagine I wouldn't have run across it before now. I believe what I'm seeing is a case of parallel evolution, drawing on the same shared resonances of myth and literature and national archetype like a collective unconscious of the country, and I have neither the scope in this post nor the professional credentials to diagnose exactly what that is. I just can't believe I didn't see the fit before. Howard had even worked with the Archers once before, playing one of his disarming intellectuals for 49th Parallel. I'd love to know what either of them thought of Pimpernel Smith, since I stand by my assertion that it comes the closest of any other British war picture to the off-kilter numinous of their work in general and A Canterbury Tale in particular; I've found nothing in the two volumes by Powell that I own. I need to get a biography of Pressburger sometime. To get back to the short that started this whole megillah, From the Four Corners is not A Canterbury Tale or even Pimpernel Smith, but it served admirably as a celebration of Howard's hundred and twenty-fourth birthday and an antidote to a really depressing evening and you can watch it yourself thanks to the good offices of the Imperial War Museum. I apologize about the watermark. I got used to it after a few minutes of dialogue, but it interacts unfortunately with the opening titles. Anyway, it'll take you less time to watch than this post did to write. The version where I actually did all the research I thought about would have gone on for even longer and run the footnotes off the bottom of the screen. At least I didn't pour glue in anyone's hair. This monograph brought to you by my transcendent backers at Patreon.

1. Honestly, in a film of this era, I feel it may be safe to assume that any angular, pipe-smoking person looking especially careless in public is Leslie Howard. If he's wearing an overcoat and has a tendency to lecture about abstractions, that clinches it.

2. Although the character is explicitly identified as the actor himself—glossed for non-British viewers who might not recognize the name by Atkinson's description of the local weather as "too Pygmalion cold"—I found myself thinking of him as Howard's Passer-By, like Dante's Pilgrim. He can say the line about his fathers at Tilbury (our fathers of old) and mean it literally. He's autochthonous.

3. Powell and Pressburger use it for wonder rather than horror, but the way they conceive of history leaving its imprint on time is interestingly close to the idea of residual haunting that Nigel Kneale popularized with The Stone Tape (1972) or the endlessly reenacting myth of Alan Garner's The Owl Service (1967): once a thing has happened in a place, it is always on some level happening there, echoing forever in the land. Where it happened transcends when. "And when you see the bluebells in the spring and the wild thyme and the broom and the heather, you're only seeing what their eyes saw. You ford the same rivers, the same birds are singing. When you lie flat on your back and rest and watch the clouds sailing as I often do, you're so close to those other people that you can hear the thrumming of the hooves of their horses and the sound of the wheels on the road and their laughter and talk and the music of the instruments they carried."

4. It is completely not Howard's fault that I flashed on The Magician's Nephew (1955) when I hit the line "Most of you, I'm sure, will know what I mean when I speak of the curious elation which comes from sharing in a high and mysterious destiny," especially since he meant just about the opposite from Andrew Ketterley by it. It does kind of make me wonder if Lewis heard the broadcast. If so, I guess he wasn't impressed.

5. It took me an absurdly long time to realize that none of the blessings received by the four modern pilgrims of A Canterbury Tale has to do with things changing for the better: each has to do instead with seeing things as they truly are, not as the characters have feared or convinced themselves they were. They are revelations, realizations. They are like archaeology. Nothing of the beloved past has been lost, not a girlfriend, a fiancé, or a vocation; things believed not to exist have come as naturally to light as an old coin in a field, reminders that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. They prove the constancy of time.

6. There is a tangential question here which I am not sure I am qualified to engage with: the degree to which it is possible or useful to read Howard's intellectual heroes as neuroatypical as opposed to merely very smart, knowing there's a significant Venn diagram of the two in popular representations of intelligence. Certainly I feel as though a case could be made for several of the characters discussed here, but I've seen Howard in seventeen movies and IMDb gives him thirty-eight acting credits; I don't think I have enough data. I also feel this study should be conducted by someone with a better idea of what "normal" behavior looks like. When Atterbury Dodd says, "I don't like parties. I don't know what to say to people. I just sit in corners and wish I might go home," I mean, that was me and socializing for years. All that changed was I started getting invited to a better grade of party.

7. I have appreciated for years that Howard, national treasure that he was, never had too much vanity to play against audience sympathy for as long as a script required. Smith may have some cold, abrasive moments on his way to rethinking the primacy of Aphrodite, but Higgins carries scientific detachment to the point of being a stupendous jerk; it is one of the reasons I suspect so many people, myself included, find the ending of the 1938 Pygmalion and its immediate descendant My Fair Lady more satisfying than the impervious curtain of the original play: he gets absolutely kicked in the ass by his own human susceptibility and he never sees it coming. Dodd is never deliberately insensitive, but he has to learn how to see people—including himself—as people, three-dimensional, fallible, worthwhile, not just numbers or functions. Even the narrator of The Gentle Sex, while he understands and appreciates intellectually that women will be part of the war effort, so repeatedly underestimates the extent and the impact of their contributions that by the film's end he's had to give up trying to predict what they'll do next and simply trust that it'll be all right. Alan Squier, let's face it, is a really charming trash fire.
26 April 2017 02:08 - Home from travels
baratron: (cn tower)
Home from travelling. Actually, I got in somewhere around 1 pm yesterday and proceeded to pass out for many hours. Woke up at 1 am and (much to my surprise) have been awake ever since. Husband has been snuggled. Boyfriend has been talked to on Skype. He looks very sad, poor thing, but it remains against the laws of physics for me to be in two places at once. Hoping we can have him visit in late June/early July for my birthday.

Super weirdly, I have been physically energetic enough to have emptied the laundry rack, folded the dry laundry, sorted all of the dirty laundry in my suitcase, put on a load of laundry, emptied the clean stuff out of the dishwasher and refilled it. I hope that I will not pay for this tomorrow, though I have A Theory. A theory which involves, of all things, vegan bacon and my ability to get it.

(Gods, I knew that Yves Veggie Bacon wasn't very fatty, but I didn't realise that 3 rashers had only 0.5 g of fat between the lot of them, along with 14 g of protein. Short of actually, y'know, BAKING my own tofu, I am unsure where to get tasty textured fake meat products which are low fat and high protein. Nasty-tasting, weird textured but low fat, I can do. Nice-tasting, well-textured and full of fat, I can do).

Continue to be Unimpressed with Aer Lingus. Will relate the full story later when spoons exist.
26 April 2017 07:51 - What I'm Reading Wednesday
moreteadk: A pile of opened books (Books)
Removing myself from LJ is something that it's becoming more and more clear to me is going to happen sooner rather than later. It's all beginning to feel a bit dragged out and in a weird sort of limbo, and I think it's time to start thinking about actually cutting the cord. Therefore, this is going to be my last cross-post and you may find me at Dreamwidth HERE. (Husband, yes you should, if you want to keep lurking.)


So, I have finished the Silly Marilly-on! Hooray! It only took about 2½ months, I think. Granted I was reading other things as well, but still. I'm glad I finally made it through that thing. I'm a bit Tolkien-ed out at the moment, though, but I want to see if I can get more or his LotR-verse stuff later on. Though not now. Later. Much later.

Last time I was uncertain about which direction I should proceed in, but [personal profile] just_ann_now tipped me over the edge by rooting for Shadows of the Apt (somewhat predictably), so Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky it is. Just over a 100 pages in at the moment. Without giving anything away, because I've read about half of this series before, I'm having a little problem with one of the characters, knowing what I know is going to happen to them later on. There are all sorts of foreboding little signs already in the first few chapters. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it, I don't know, but somehow on some level I sort of start thinking they always sort of knew they might be heading in that direction. Vague enough for you? I think [personal profile] just_ann_now might be able to guess which character I'm thinking about here.
siderea: (Default)
I just learned that Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, passed away on Monday, at the age of 88.

I've thought for a while that I should tell you about one of the more valuable things I got from ZAMM, which I refer to now as Pirsig's Pejorative Just, and now it seems like a fitting tribute to share the relevant passage:
[...] the English faculty at Bozeman, informed of their squareness, presented him with a reasonable question: "Does this undefined 'quality' of yours exist in things we observe?" they asked. "Or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?" It was a simple, normal enough question, and there was no hurry for an answer.

Hah. There was no need for hurry. It was a finisher-offer, a knockdown question, a haymaker, a Saturday-night special – the kind you don't recover from.

Because if Quality exists in the object then you must explain just why scientific instruments are unable to detect it [...] On the other hand, if Quality is subjective, existing only in the observer, then this Quality that you make so much of is just a fancy name for whatever you like. [...] If he accepted the premise that Quality was objective, he was impaled on one horn of the dilemma. If he accepted the other premise that Quality was subjective, he was impaled on the other horn.

[... regarding the first horn, the objective premise] This horn was the mean one. [...line of proposed reasoning...] This answer, if valid, certainly smashed the first horn of the dilemma, and for a while that excited him greatly.

But it turned out to be false. [...]

He turned his attention to the other horn of the dilemma, which showed more promise of refutation. He thought, So Quality is whatever you like? It angered him. The great artists of history – Raphael, Beethoven, Michelangelo – they were all just putting out what people liked. They had no goal other than to titillate the senses in a big way. Was that it? It was angering, and what was most angering about it was that he couldn't see any immediate way to cut it up logically. So he studied the statement carefully, in the same reflective way he always studied things before attacking them.

Then he saw it. He brought out the knife and excised the one word that created the entire angering effect of that sentence. The word was "just." Why should Quality be just what you like? Why should "what you like" be "just"? What did "just" mean in this case? When separated out like this for independent examination it became apparent that "just" in this case didn't mean a damn thing. It was a purely pejorative term, whose logical contribution to the sentence was nil. Now, with that word removed, the sentence became "Quality is what you like," and its meaning was entirely changed. It had become an innocuous truism.
Now, when I point to a "just" – or an "only", or a "mere", or a "simply", or "but" – and say, "That's a Pirsig's Pejorative Just", you'll know what I mean.

And, if this is the first time you've seen this, maybe now you'll be better prepared to notice them slinking by, in the wild, yourself.

ETA: I wrote a longish comment below, further discussing ZAMM and my criticisms of it, which may be of interest to my readers.
ceciliatan: (Default)
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole yesterday when I dug into -- don't laugh -- my archive of grad school poetry. Well, okay, laugh. I was so chipper and naive and the poems are so earnest and trying so hard. They're better than my junior high poetry but only in certain light. Some of them are actually good. Or they would be if they had been able to live and breathe within a matrix of expectations on equal footing with the literary canon.

My whole Twitter epiphany was graciously collected by Charles A. Tan (no relation) on Storify:



The gist of the thread is this: my grad school poetry professor couldn't see that there was a contradiction for those of us who weren't white, straight males when told that we had to write "universal" themes in our poems that could be understood implicitly without having to be "explained". In his view, if someone couldn't understand your implicit message it was because it was a bad poem, and if you had to make it too explicit that was also a bad poem. By extension the messages that could be received most implicitly were "literary" ones. In other words, if it was about a white man's alienation after an act of war (for example), the reader should "get" that even if war was never mentioned explicitly in the poem. The problem is that if the implicit message is something that is "universal" within a marginalized community--for example, internalized homophobia--those who have never experienced it won't "get" it. And rather than admit that there are things outside their experience, the literary establishment instead brands those topics as marginal, and only lauds their appearance when they make themselves accessible to the literary mainstream.

Short version: "literary" is a worldview that centers academia, particularly white male upper middle class academia. At the time I just didn't have the perspective to see that. "Literary" equals "laudable" in MFA programs. It's a self-reinforcing system.

I quit writing poetry because for me to perform the same artistry would require my poems to exist in a context where the implicit things that didn't have to be "explained" were things like internalized homophobia, questioning cultural identity, and code switching. And that context didn't seem to exist. My poems were "meaningless" to the literary establishment, and I had plenty of things to write instead, in other contexts. (Come to think of it, founding the English language's only erotic science fiction publishing house in 1992 was me creating my own context for my fiction.)

This introspection was all brought on by the fact that Sheela Lambert of the Bi Writers Association -- the editor of Best Bisexual Short Stories (Circlet, Amazon) and the driving force behind the Bi Book Awards -- is editing a book of "bisexual poetry." (Call for submissions here.) I'm bisexual and I figured I would look and see if there was anything obviously "bisexual" about my poetry from back in the days when I wrote poetry. If. Ha. "If."

In fact, lo, I went back and saw that a ton of my angsty metaphor-laden poems from the early 1990s are now, in retrospect, quite obviously about internalized homophobia and/or about being caught between communities, even if not a single person in my poetry workshops (including me, sometimes) could articulate that. But I wonder if these poems will read "properly" if they were to be published in a book with a bisexual or queer context? I guess I will submit them and see.
25 April 2017 21:10 - Steering into the wind
hrj: (Default)
 We managed slightly better than a quorum for dragonboat practice today. For some reason, most people have gravitated away from Tuesday practices (which, for obscure and not necessarily relevant reasons, is my preferred day). A big factor is that our head coach doesn't come on Tuesdays and the people who are practicing all out for race season align their schedule with his.So Mondays get a boat and a half worth of people, but Tuesdays we occasionally don't even mange the five people (4 paddlers and a steersperson) that are pretty much the minimum for taking out the 10-person boat. (The regular boats are 20-person.) In deep winter, I do a lot of steering--often I'm the only qualified steersperson there on Tuesdays, but this time of year we can usually count on another of our regulars who doesn't mind steering because he gets his paddling time in earlier in a kayak. But today he waved at us from the sailboat he was helping take out--it looked like they were training up an inexperienced crew, from some of the maneuvers. So it was just me steering and five paddlers. A nice laid-back practice with the advantage of a stiffer than usual breeze so we could alternate resistance training and speed training.

I keep saying that one of these years I participate in the races again, but really I just like getting out on the water and getting in a good workout. I don't need the anxiety of race training.
sartorias: (JRRT)
Ch 9, “The Great River,” we’re getting set up for dynamic changes, and the introduction of Gollum, who will become one of the major characters of The Two Towers. Actually, I think Gollum is pivotal to the entire book.

But we can talk about Gollum later.

This is a good chapter for character moments as we see the last of the Company of the Fellowship. First, Legolas. So far, Legolas has been appreciative of wood, stone, field, and of course mallorns. We get a hint of Legolas’s prowess in this terrific bit:

Frodo looked up at the elf standing tall above him, as he gazed into the night, seeking a mark to shoot at. His head was dark, crowned with sharp white stars that glittered in the black pools of the sky behind. But now rising and sailing up from the south the great clouds advanced, sending out dark outriders into the starry fields. A sudden dread fell on the company.

. . . a dark shape, like a cloud and yet not a cloud, for it moved far more swiftly, came out of the blackness in the South, and sped towards the company, blotting out all light as it approached. Soon it appeared as a great winged creature, blacker than the pits in the night. . .

Suddenly the great bow of Lorien sang. Shrill went the arrow from the elven-string. Frodo looked up. Almost above him the winged shape swerved. There was a harsh croaking scream, as it fell out of the air, vanishing down into the gloom of the eastern shore. The sky was clean again. There was a tumult of many voices far away, cursing and wailing in the darkness, and then silence.


Later, he talks about how elves perceive the passage of time. That’s the final melancholy note, a coda to Lorien, before things start hotting up, first with Boromir trying to do his best to get the company—and the ring—heading for Gondor.

They proceed further down the river, Sam miserable as the boats whirl underneath the mighty sentinels of Numenor. Here, Aragorn briefly shows himself as the king who will return as he salutes the statues of Isildur and Anarion, but then he is Strider again as he ponders which way to go.

As it happens, that is decided for him, as The day came like fire and smoke. Aragorn turns to Frodo, who says he needs time to think.

Frodo is alone, but not for long. Boromir confronts him, in a terrific, tense scene—and just when I thought Boromir had turned evil, the influence of the ring passed, and

He rose and passed his hand over his eyes, dashing away the tears. “What have I said?” He cried. “What have I done? Frodo, Frodo!” he called. “Come back! A madness took me, but it has passed. Come back!”


Frodo runs off with the ring on his finger. Everywhere he looks he sees war. His gaze is inexorably drawn toward Barad-Dur, and he feels the Eye. And while he struggles within himself—a harbinger of what we’re going to see in Gollum, who was been struggling with his two natures for centuries—a third voice pierces his turmoil, Take it off! Take it off! Fool, take it off! Take off the Ring!

For years I thought that was a third inward voice of his, but now I believe that is Gandalf, who also could tell when Frodo had put on the ring. That sounds like Gandalf at his crustiest.

He pulls off the ring a heartbeat before Sauron finds him; the shadow passes overhead, searches westward, then fades.

And Frodo knows he has to go on alone, as the influence of the ring is increasing the dangers already besetting the company.

Aragorn briefly confronts Boromir, everyone scatters to search for Frodo, but it’s Sam who knows Frodo best, and who is so desperate, and so loyal, that he risks the hated water, and nearly drowns.

Frodo has to come back to find him—and so he is not alone after all. Which is just as well, because there are actually three hobbits on the final trek to Mt. Doom.
25 April 2017 22:09 - [ObMeme]
yhlee: (FMA:B Mustang Hellbound)
By way of [personal profile] likeadeuce:
Name one of my fandoms and I'll answer some questions!

1. the character I least understand
2. interactions I enjoyed the most
3. the character who scares me the most
4. the character who is mostly like me
5. hottest looks character
6. one thing I dislike about my fave character
7. one thing I like about my hated character
8. a quote or scene that haunts me
9. a character I wish died but didn’t
10. my ship that never sailed
25 April 2017 17:10
yhlee: Korean tomb art from Silla Dynasty: the Heavenly Horse (Cheonmachong). (Korea cheonmachong)
Rick Riordan Imprint Acquires First Three Titles:
Lee’s book, Dragon Pearl, a standalone middle grade novel, stars Min, a teenage fox spirit whose brother is missing and thought to have deserted the Thousand Worlds Space Forces in order to find the pearl of the title, an artifact that may have the power to save their struggling space colony. Lee says the toughest part of writing for a new audience was working with shorter chapters and a different vocabulary; the idea for the story itself came to him quickly. “I was pretty sure nobody else would come up with a space opera based on Korean mythology,” he said.


(IF THERE ARE OTHER KOREAN MYTHOLOGY SPACE OPERAS PLZ TELL ME I WANT TO READ THEM THE MORE THE MERRIER!!!)

The other two, which I am super looking forward to reading, are Roshani Chokshi's Aru Shah and the End of Time, first of a projected quartet about "a 12-year-old Indian-American girl who unwittingly frees a demon intent on awakening the God of Destruction," and Jennifer Cervantes's Storm Runner, "about a 13-year-old boy who must save the world by unraveling an ancient Mayan prophecy." I may have to fight my daughter over who gets to read them first. =D =D =D

Anyway, that's what I'm working on right now!
swan_tower: (Default)

medium-sized version of the cover for WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS

At long last, the series is complete.

This story has been living in my head for . . . about a decade, I think. I know I wrote the first third of A Natural History of Dragons in 2007 or thereabouts, before stalling out on the plot and setting it aside. I came back to it in late 2010, sold it in 2011, the first book came out in 2013, and now, my friends, the end of the story is in your hands. (Or will be, as soon as you run out and buy it.)

I’m going to be launching a new blog series, along the lines of John Scalzi’s THE BIG IDEA or Mary Robinette Kowal’s MY FAVORITE BIT, called SPARK OF LIFE: a place for authors to talk about those moments where the story seems to take on a life of its own, with a character doing something unexpected or the world unfolding a bit of depth you didn’t plan for. For me that mostly tends to happen in the depths of the tale, when I’ve built up enough momentum and detail for such things to spring forth. But in the case of this series, it happened less than a page in, because the spark of life?

That was Isabella.

Countless reviews have talked about how the narrator is one of the strongest features of the story. I’m here to tell you that, like Athena from the head of Zeus, she sprang out more or less fully-formed. The foreword got added a bit later, so it was in those opening paragraphs of Chapter One, where Isabella talks about finding a sparkling in the garden and it falling to dust in her hands, that she came to instant and vivid life. Part of the reason that initial crack stalled out in 2007 — or rather, the reason it got so far before stalling — was because I was having so much fun just following along in her wake, exploring her world and listening to her talk. The narrative voice has consistently been one of the greatest joys of writing this series. I have an upcoming article where I talk about how sad it is for me to be done with the story, because it feels like a good friend has moved away and I won’t get to see her regularly anymore. That’s how much she’s lived in my head, these past years.

Stay tuned on future Tuesdays for a glimpse at how other authors’ stories came to life. And stay tuned in upcoming days for some more behind-the-scenes stuff about my own characters!

***

In the meanwhile, the book is out, and so are the reviews. Here’s a spoiler-free one from BiblioSanctum, and two reviews on one page at Fantasy Literature; here is a SPOILER-TASTIC one at Tor.com. (Do NOT click unless you’ve read the book or are fine with having the big discovery of the entire series laid out in full. I’m serious.) (And while I’m at it, the same goes for that Gizmodo article that shows all the interior art for the book, because spoilers can come in visual form, too. Love ya, Gizmodo, but oof. Tor.com warned; you didn’t.)

Back in the land of no spoilers, you can read about my absolute favorite bit of Within the Sanctuary of Wings on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog. It’s . . . a wee bit topical, these days. And I’m on the Functional Nerds podcast, talking about all kinds of things that aren’t this book, because they like to give authors a chance to branch out and natter on about roleplaying games and things like that.

And finally, I’m currently running a giveaway on Twitter. Name your favorite female scientist in any field (there, or in comments here), and get a chance to win a signed book of your choice from my stash of author copies. It’s already a stiff competition; we’ve had dozens of women named. (If you were wondering why my Twitter stream has turned into a sea of retweeted names, that’s why.) You have until tomorrow!

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

25 April 2017 13:03 - Backups baaackuuups
xtina: (Default)
Note to self: Have you done a backup today? Of anything at all? To anywhere at all?
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Review copy provided by the author, who is a personal friend.

In the last decade or so I have met more people who are reluctant to begin a series that isn’t published in its entirety, with the objection that the author may drag it on forever or may die without finishing it. Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series has, with its fifth volume, reached its conclusion, so if you’re one of those people, please know that there is not just a stopping point but an ending here.

The series has followed–with lavish illustrations–the career of a lady naturalist specializing in dragons in a world that is not ours but has some very clear analogs. Her own country is not-Victorian-England, and in this book she travels to not-Tibet, following the trail of very rare and unusual dragon specimens. What results calls on all the skills she has spent the previous four books acquiring–in her own science but also in linguistics, archaeology, diplomacy.

If historical approaches to science are your jam–and they are mine–you will want this series. If you like adventure fantasy, there are plenty of death-defying feats and hairs-breadth escapes too. And it’s all told in the chatty tone of an elderly lady looking back on a life well-lived. Recommended.

Please consider using our link to buy Within the Sanctuary of Wings from Amazon. (Or if you’re just starting, A Natural History of Dragons.)

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24 April 2017 19:59 - Con or Bust auction reminder
sartorias: (Default)
Taking time out from the LOTR read to remind folks that this year's Con or Bust fundraiser has opened, and Rachel Manija Brown's and my entry is a personalized (any way you wish) copy of REBEL, which comes out next month.

There are also tons of other goodies, from books to food items! Take a look!
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
Still sick. This is so boring. A couple of writing-related things:

1. My poem "The Firebird's Revenge" is now available in the latest issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone. I wrote it last April for Rose Lemberg. It was an angry poem then. It's even more applicable now.

2. My short story "And All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts" has been reviewed along with the rest of Dreams from the Witch House (ed. Lynne Jamneck, 2016) in a recent episode of Steve Rosenstein and Rodney Turner's Microphones of Madness. I am afraid that I did not really work out Punnett squares for my ideas of Innsmouth genetics—my major departure from canon was in treating them as genetics at all when Lovecraft's universe plays by the supernatural one-drop rule—but I am delighted by the podcast's conclusion that there is real cosmic horror in the characters' awareness of the world they cannot live in, because I thought so, but then I've always wanted gills. The comparison to Ruthanna Emrys' "The Litany of Earth" is fair; I held off on reading that particular story until I had finished my own, but I am in no way going to disclaim the tons of other neo-Lovecraftian influence and I am not surprised that the genocide aspects of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" leap out at Jewish readers (I am aware that the opening lines about "the secrecy surrounding the disposal of the prisoners . . . vague statements about disease and concentration camps, and later about dispersal in various naval and military prisons" would not have carried quite the same historical weight when Lovecraft was writing in 1931 as they would acquire in hindsight of the next decade and a half, but I didn't read the story in 1931 or even 1936 and so here we are). Honestly, I wish I could get this story reprinted as an independent pamphlet or something just so I could use "Melancholy" as a blurb.

3. I read a story I really enjoyed—Jenn Grunigen's "Figs, Detached"—and saw afterward that I was name-checked in the Author Spotlight. Which was just a bonus.

I wish I did not feel so terrible. I don't see what the harm would be.
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