"WEIRD 70S GOTHICS PLEASE," I said, and Jo duly carried out her commission so well that I don't know if anybody's ever going to top it:
Portrait in Jig-Saw is apparently so obscure it doesn't even have a Goodreads page, which, having read it, I can honestly now say is kind of a shame.
Our Heroine's name is Alixander David Somerlaid MacDonald (I KNOW), otherwise known as Alisdair; she is a Strictly Sheltered Heiress who has been raised in a Freezing Castle in Complete Isolation and Solitude with only occasional visits from her father until she comes of age on her 21st birthday.
...for the record, the year is 1973.
( My legit favorite part about these spoilers is that the entire plot relies on an alternate universe where the world's most famous postmodern novelist is a Thai princess, I want to live in THAT universe! )
and, now in progress:
Enjoy. (I will update this post as needed, to have everything in one place.)
For example, the woman who was working on my hair kept exclaiming about how much I have -- it's both long and dense -- and how far it extends down my nape, which she noticed because I maintain a severe undercut. She also called my hairline 'crazy', but in an affectionate way; it definitely make it a challenge to overdye my temples, which are almost completely silver now if I don't dye my hair. Also, she's probably the first student there who didn't blink when I said I wanted my undercut at zero. It'll be back by Friday, and shaving it to the skin only makes sense in our near-100F weather. It was nice to meet someone who trusted that I knew my own hair.
I do wish I had a job where I had no chance of encountering clients -- I really want to dye my hair burgundy again. It was an awesome color on me.
K winner was the Callahan. I am going to keep Callahan's Crosstime Saloon but this may be the nudge I needed to just drop the rest.
Anyway, this week's FMK theme is SF by Anglophone Writers of Color. We will pretend the reason it was tough to get a set of ten together for this is that when I get one of these it doesn't linger as long on the to-read pile. (Actually, it was tougher than I expected because finding out race for a lot of SF writers - especially older and more obscure ones - is not simple. There does not seem to be an easily accessible and accurate masterlist of SF Writers of Color out there. And at some point, for some of then, I found myself thinking that if they aren't interested in making their ancestry part of their public bio, I need to not be looking this hard. I never did figure out if Philip Jose Farmer is actually in any way Hispanic.)
How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.
I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.
Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)
( Poll: Butler, Delany, Hamilton, Hurston, Martinez, Mosley, Reynolds, Takei, White, Wilson )
It was fun! I enjoyed it! The characters were great! Much like the other McGuire I have read, I felt like the more I thought about it, the less there there was there! (I can't think of a single piece of internal evidence other than Verity's word that it took place in Manhattan instead of, like, Columbus, Ohio. The Price-vs.-Covenant thing really doesn't work with the logistics that are set up in the book. Verity's main character note is that ballroom dance is the most important thing to her, she tells us this at least every fifth page, and yet at no point does she ballroom dance, even as practice. Etc.)
And I did really like the variety of cryptids and the cryptid community, but the "cryptozoologist" thing still bothers me, in that a cryptozoologist is a very specific thing situated in a very specific time and culture - it is not something like "witch" that has enough meanings with enough history you can basically go with whatever - and I would really really love to read an urban fantasy about cryptozoologists - and Verity Price is really really not one. (I mean, you could make a cool backstory about how the Prices and allies adopted the terminology ironically in the 60s to further distinguish themselves from the Covenant - or that Sanderson got himself in WAY over his head with a Price girl at some point and came out very confused, which is a fanfic I would definitely read - but she does not seem to be doing that.)
But! It is a urban fantasy in which ALL OF THE SEX IS UNAMBIGUOUSLY AND EXPLICITLY CONSENSUAL, and I didn't even know that was a thing that existed, so I will forgive it A LOT for being that. (I would also enjoy the fanfic about how Price family sex education includes a unit about how part of their mission is to introduce the urban fantasy community to the idea of "affirmative consent" which it had previously lacked entirely.)
I have Down Among The Sticks and Bones on its way from the library, but I have learned it is NOT about the Skeleton Girl (with that title how is it not about the Skeleton Girl?) so I find I am not that excited about it coming.
Cut to the last week of June. I ordered two packages that were scheduled to be delivered on Thursday, and I paid for evening delivery. As has happened several times in the past, the packages never showed up as being on the truck to be delivered. So around 7pm or so I called customer service and started a paper trail, as well as started livetweeting the whole story on Twitter.
FedEx managed to get in touch with the local facility, who told them the package was out for delivery. The driver just hadn't scanned it when he left. ("Uh-huh," I told the poor customer service rep with more than a little skepticism.) ( This gets a bit long, but it's honestly a rather amusing story. In retrospect, at least. It wasn't so amusing at the time. )
... and that's why I will never again order from any company that only offers FedEx as a shipping option.
I noticed - flitting past me on Twitter the other day - somebody eyerolling at, if not codfishing, some bloke's plaint that watching Dunkirk had made him realise that The Modern Man does not have these Manly Challenges To Rise To -
And being a historian, I thought that, actually, there have been long generations, at least in my country, where most men were not being called upon to take arms and fight, and the general attitude to the soldiery was summed up by Kipling in Tommy.
And that thing about Challenges to Rise To always tends to be seen in a context which leads to e.g. the Battle of the Somme, rather than to being a despised Conscientious Objector, a decision which history may read entirely differently -
Which possibly links on to that thing I also saw flit past me on Twitter apropos of alt-history narratives which allow the viewer to believe that they would be The Resistance, which reminded me of that nasty piece of work Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger going 'where are the good brave causes?', and really, one can think of a few relevant to the 1950s, not to mention, we do not, ourselves, envisage J Porter going off to Spain in the 30s.
And the whole notion of Heroic Actions and somehow, not here, not now.
And I thought, did not my beloved Dame Rebecca say somewhat to this point in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and while this has the rhetorical universalisation and generalisation to which she was (alas) prone, it does seem relevant to this notion of some kind of masculine Rite de Passage:
All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.
As opposed to, persistently beavering away at the moderately disagreeable in the hopes that it might become a little more agreeable.
ANYWAY, before all that excitement, when I first called up my rec tag shortlist, I realized I had over a dozen that were either Avengers/Captain America or Wonder Woman related (or, in one case, both), so I decided to run with those and give them their own list. These are heavy on the Steve, Bucky, and Diana, not surprisingly, along with two from Antiope's POV. They also feature significant appearances by Peggy, Tony, Pepper, Pietro, Wanda, Steve [Trevor], Donna Noble, and Bruce Wayne. Mostly fics as usual but one exceptional vid and a serendipitous art experiment also made their way in. There's 14 recs all together and the rec notes were written in order but you can, of course, pick and choose as you like. <3
ETA: The first couple of recs had a missing div coding error so they looked like one rec with the wrong title/link/author. That's been fixed now. :)
( Onward to the Recs! )
1. Steely Dan. I know, I know, Bard College. But the main singer's voice irritates the crap out of me. It's so...whiny. It feels like it is scraping every nerve. The twangy stuff in the background exacerbates the effect.
2. Elvis Costello. His voice is so-so to me, but also, an ex-boyfriend loved his stuff.
3. Florence and the Machine. I should like this band, but all their songs sound too similar to me, and there's not enough change within the songs, either with the style or within the singer's voice. Maybe if it was more Metal? Because I am okay with the repetitive nature of a lot of Metal, and Industrial. Regardless, the singer's voice always sounds a bit strained to me as well, so I guess there's subconscious discomfort with that.
4. Frank Sinatra. I have never liked his voice. I have no idea why. He gives me the creeps like knowing some man is following you down a dark street.
5. Kenny G. No, no, no. *cries*
What about ya'll?
Read Ann Leckie's Provenance (in ARC. It's coming out on the 26th of September.) Spider mech, spider mech, does whatever a spider mech does. (Disconcert people, mainly.) This is in the same universe as the Radch trilogy, but in a different region and with different characters, voice, and tone. I have some friends who couldn't get into Ancillary Justice, wanted to like it but found it too hard going, and I would be curious if this one worked better as an entry point for them.
Leckie's repeatedly cited Cherryh as an influence, and if you think of the universe the Ancillary books are set in as like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, a big canvas covering a lot of territory in time as well as space, then this book in relation to its universe is a bit like a railway junction. It opens some new routes, introduces some new important players, but the most important universe-scale historical events (as opposed to system-scale or planet-scale or individuals) are offstage.
To say more about voice and tone: the Radch books are in first person, and that person is Breq, who is... Breq. Over two thousand years old, and even if you consider the destruction of Justice of Toren as a kind of rebirth, by the point we meet her she's a hypercompetent badass who's been surviving on her own in her single body for nineteen years. Also she's not a human, so there's that.
Ingray isn't Breq. She's very much human (and has an entirely reasonable terror of AIs,) a lot younger (I don't think her exact age is stated, but early twenties would be my guess,) and infinitely less sure of herself. She's also spent her entire life to date having her head messed with by her shitty family. My first two impressions, right from the first three chapters of this book, were: one, you can really tell the author was spending a lot of time in airports when she wrote this; and two, Ingray has the sort of family life where the closer your geographic proximity to your relatives, the more difficulty you have with being a decent person. The rest of this book bore this out (I mean the family, although there were definitely more airport-equivalent scenes too.)
If you're one of the people who disliked Breq because she was "too perfect" (I disagree with you about her being perfect, but) you might find Ingray and her smaller scale problems (compared to entire empires and species) more relatable.
If the Radch trilogy is about personhood and the fight to be recognised as a person when you don't fit a society's definition of who counts as a person, then Provenance about growing into oneself not as a person (that was never in question for Ingray) but as an adult (a coming of age that, by contrast, Breq never had the luxury of needing.) And if the Radch trilogy is about resisting societal/systemic forces, Provenance is about resisting social, personal pressures (family and peers.)
Finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns. And after this and Provenance I'd like a short break from books about difficult family situations, please! I liked this better than The House of Shattered Wings, but the tone was still bleaker than I usually go for. Characters I particularly liked: Madeleine, back from the previous book; Thuan the dragon prince, and Berith and Francoise the Fallen/human couple trying to manage outside the Houses. Grandmother Olympe, the elder of the community where Berith and Francoise live, was also pretty great. And I warmed more to Asmodeus than I did in the first book.
Unfortunately, I think I'm the wrong audience for this. The things The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns do well (decayed elegance, gothicism, Paris, fallen angels), they do really well, but they're not things I particularly love (I don't dislike them, they're just not my catnip.) So, like, I can't actually rave about these books, but I do want to wave them really hard at people who do love those things.
Some zines I ordered from Rooster Tails's Etsy store showed up, and he kind of threw in a bunch of queer fanart glossy note cards (maybe to make up for a delay, idk, I'm not complaining!) and they're so beautiful and I didn't know I needed a picture of Daria holding Jane's hand and saying "I hate you the least," or adorably cartoony Finn smooching Poe, or cartoony Gabrielle climbing Xena like a tree, but I definitely did need those things. Now I'm trying to decide whether to keep or send to people.
The zines are #my gender is..., three tiny A6 cardbound volumes made in response to answers people gave the author when he asked people to fill in the blank.
Mainlined 17776, which is web based multimedia rather than comics, but I'm putting it in this category because what everyone's comparing it to is Homestuck. It's about satellites watching football in an unimaginably future, but also post-scarcity/post-singularity anxiety and Millennialism (as in epochs, as well as as in snake people) and play as the ultimate point of human existance, and it's funny and elegiac and cool and reminds me of David Foster Wallace in some ways.
That said, it is worth talking about who's at the centre of this narrative. No, not robots. No, not humans. Americans. White, suburban, minivan-driving, 80s-and-90s-born Americans. So conflated with the essential nature of humanity that they don't even notice they're doing it. Even the probes are two American probes and one European (but not Russian) one. I mean, Mangalyan does exist, you know? And so does Chang'e 2 and Kirari. And Libertad I and Fajr and... I mean, not all of those are still in space, or left Earth's orbit, but they could. Not to mention that it's science fiction and at the present date JUICE is still in development, why not a future Ghanaian or Iranian satellite mission? Which is not even my point, my point is that the regressive fantasy that the humans fall back into when faced with the crushing boredom of their eternal lives is... the 1960s and 1970s but without the race riots or Stonewall or Watergate.
It's still a good story/multimedia work/thing, and I still enjoyed it. I just... that particular nostalgic fantasy makes me very tired sometimes. And no, not tired in a way that makes me want to give up on the weary work of human endeavour/struggle/progress to take refuge in looking back down at the things that are really important to us/humanity, i.e. a sport which people in my country don't play.
TV and Movies
Watched the first episode of Black Sails. Was unimpressed. I hear it gets better, though. Flint's fury at the stolen log page reminded me of this.
Gave my sister the Hamilton soundtrack for Christmas last year or her birthday this year (I forget which -- my gift-giving punctuality standards are seriously slipping at the moment.) Success: she's hooked. Very hooked.
Third week of hexarchate_rpg. So far haven't panicked and run away yet (me, not my character) so that's good.
Still playing Binding of Isaac. In one especially good run, I met Isaac's mother for the first time, and defeated her! Which meant that, next time I got to that level, defeating her led to having to climb into her womb and fight more monsters there. Which... is definitely a narrative choice a person could make.
Started playing Hexcells, a puzzle game; not to be confused with Hexels, a different puzzle game. The latter is like 2048 but in three directions not two; the former is kind of like a griddler/nonogram, but in three directions and its own specific language of clues. Played all the way through Hexcells, then started Hexcells Plus. Got the Perfectionist achievement for the original Hexcells. Then Hexcells Plus. Then started Hexcells Infinite, and am at 90% of that.
The problem with me and Hexcells is not the logic. I'm not super great at the logic, but with time and effort and occasional appeals to online walkthroughs I can succeed (usually by speaking the chain of logic out loud over and over because I can't hold the branches in my head long enough otherwise.) The problem is that that one of the achievements is to do all the games with zero (or only one) mistakes, and the way my brain works (or the way my working memory doesn't work) it's very easy for me to make one stupid error too many and ruin an hour of work. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. At least Hexcells Infinite lets you save your progress. The first two games didn't, so if you need a break before finishing the level, you have to leave the app open.
The compost bin is full. That took about three months to fill a 220L bin. I had to look up what one does once the bin's full. Leave it to cure for a month or so while starting a new bin, apparently. Or alternatively, lift the bin off the compost (it doesn't have a bottom) and set it down next to the compost, shovel whatever still looks like vegetable peelings and cat litter back into the bin, and use whatever just looks like soil to grow things. (But not herbs and vegetables, because this is cat litter compost, so it's contaminated with toxoplasmosis. This compost can nourish pretty flowers and Native Plants To Encourage Local Species.)
Baked scones. Also tried out a couple of recipes from my long backlog of bookmarked Recipes To Try Someday:
- Jack Monroe's Queen of Hearts jam tarts recipe. Not too bad given how seldom I make pastry. If you have fifty grams of butter and a scant cup of plain flour and some jam, this is an okay thing to do with those ingredients, but the scones were better.
- AoM Bratwurst Sandwich. This contains one thing I eat normally (mustard), one thing I've had decades ago but haven't cooked with (bratwurst), and two things I hadn't had before (sauerkraut, pumpernickel.) The bratwurst and mustard and sauerkraut were good. The pumpernickel... yeah, no, next time I make this I'll just use a dark rye.
I could have adapted to the flavour, but its lack of structural integrity meant that according to the Earl of Sandwich litmus test this is not even a sandwich. (i.e. "I pretend I am the original Earl of Sandwich. I have asked for non-bread foods to be brought to me inside bread, that I might more easily consume them one-handed while gambling. This does not enable my wretched regency habits. This is not what I asked for. I do not deign to grace it with the name of my house.")
This would fall apart in his hand, scattering boiled rye grains all over his elaborate necktie and playing cards.
Admittedly, the degree of difficulty was higher for me since I had to eat it one-handed while fending off a very interested black and white cat with the other hand.
Broke my daily meditation streak at 219 days. Very pissed off about it, in a not zen at all way. The last time this happened it was at 149 days. Forming habits is hard for me. (This is not a request for reassurance or advice. Especially not advice.) Took four days off meditating out of pique.
Have been fighting a lot these last few days. At first I thought Beatrice was the main instigator, but last night while she was aggressively licking Dorian, I saw him nip her.
He hasn't learned to lift the toilet lid yet, but it's hard for me to remember to leave it down since my already established habit was to close the door but leave the lid up.
--I had these notions of finishing a fic for this round of smallfandomfest, but it wraps up at the end of this month, so...ha ha ha no. ^^; But hey, I got it started and made some actual progress during nanodownunder, and unfilled smallfandomfest prompts remain available for claiming past the round when they're prompted, so it's not like I won't have another chance. I just liked the idea of doing it now.
--I haven't taken pictures yet, but when we were out watering the garden a couple of days ago, there were the beginnings of blossoms on one of the two clematis plants!
--Amidst all the political awfulness, personal stuff, cute gifs, and book-blogger chat, my Twitter feed has been full of people being gleeful about "Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator"--enough so that I briefly pretended I don't have something like 100 unplayed games and can't remember the last time I played anything and went to check it out. I was saved by an impulse buy by the fact that the game's currently Windows- and Mac-only; I do still have a Windows partition for games, but realistically, I also can't remember the last time I booted into it for anything but StarCraft. (And that wasn't terribly recently. I did buy at least the first of the SCII Nova mission packs, but I don't remember how far I got.) (Separate parenthetical: I've preordered the remastered original StarCraft, so for that, booting into Windows will undoubtedly happen. Unless it magically runs under WINE.)
--I need to keep reminding myself that Rogue One is on Netflix until I finally watch it (having literally slept through most of it in the theatre, which was not the movie's fault!). I should also rewatch TFA sometime in the next few months.
--It turns out Black Sails is shorter than I'd been thinking in two ways: I'd somehow had the impression it's five seasons, not four, and I also hadn't realized the seasons are so short (eight to ten episodes each, I think?). All of a sudden bumping it up to basically the top of my to-watch list (which seems to be a good plan, judging from how many people I know are in love with the show) is a way less daunting prospect.
Via sgamadison, an update on Stargate Origins: be aware that the new digital episodes are only going to be ten minutes each.
"A Woman, Explaining Things". [Sarah Gailey on the casting of the thirteenth Doctor]
"Towards a Definition of “Fanfiction”: 3,564 people took our survey. Here’s what we learned". [Fansplaining]
"Does God exist in the Marvel Universe?" [Salon]
"Akiko Higashimura's Princess Jellyfish Manga Ends on August 25". [ANN]
"Radical Cartography" is...hard for me to describe. Very cool things with maps...and stuff...?
"All of my work on the “Irish slaves” meme (2015–’16)". In case you ever need to debunk the "but the Irish were slaves too!" crap that some flavors of racists like to whip out.
"Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings".
"My Father Spent 30 Years In Prison. Now He's Out". This is lovely and heartbreaking.
"Updated Syllabus for Journalism 101". [McSweeney's]
"This Is How Tough It Can Actually Be To Follow High School Prom Dress Codes". [Buzzfeed]
Via bell, "When Your Teacher Keeps Saying You Can’t Draw Cats, But Your Paintings Are Photorealistic".
"Make a Magical Carpet Cat Hammock With an Old Towel".
"This Guy Spent A Year Exploring The Subculture Of Competitive Punning".
"How to Fall Down". [Lifehacker]
"Sapphic Stories || Around the world". "Sapphic Stories – Around the world does not intend to be a rec list that is ultimate and finalized, but just the beginning of a search for more pluralized stories. There are many other stories out there that we need to look for. Still, I believe that this post could be a nice start so that people can recognize these stories set in the places they grew up in or to know more about what it means to be sapphic in other places. This list contains F/F fiction books, books that have at least one women who feel romantic/sexual attraction to women, short stories, anthologies, and nonfiction about how it is to be LGBT+ in some places of the world."
"tim walker photographs all black cast for alice in wonderland themed pirelli calendar".
Via dine, "Superb Cut Paper Artworks by Pippa Dyrlaga".
Did a little FFC shopping, for 100% cotton shirting so that I know what I'm getting. Wanted to get silk crepe de chine to make a slip that fits me better, but frankly I know I am not at the level where it makes sense to spend ~$40+ on lingerie fabric ... cotton voile will do for now. I was planning to use VeraVenus's free (1930s?) slip pattern, but that seems like a nightmare to fit to my body, so now I'm sucked into an Etsy whirlwind of vintage patterns, weighing better prices against closer sizing.
It was wonderfully cold and rainy, just like October. Something* smells musty in my apartment, and that's bad, but at the same time the smell means it isn't hot and I love that.
* I'm 95% sure it's the bolt of muslin I got from Sue, because it came out of her mother's storage/attic
As I mentioned recently, I’ve been wanting to talk about Agile software development methodologies and how they relate to permaculture – Agile permaculture for short – for yearsandyearsandyears, and it finally seems like time to do so. Over on Making Permaculture Stronger, Dan is making an inquiry into permaculture design processes, and how much design […]
I finally was able to start playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and have fallen back in love with the whole ME universe. I know a lot of people didn't like ME:A, but I really loved it. It's not my favorite game (that's still ME2), but I do think it might have moved to the #2 spot on my list. Could it have been better? Sure. But that doesn't mean I don't love it (and the characters) any less.
On a somewhat related note, I still love Dragon Age. I haven't been playing it as much lately, since ME has been taking up so much of my time, but I've gone back to working on fic. Which is a good thing, because DA is one of those rare fandoms that makes me want to write longfic. Even though I kind of suck at writing longfic and take forever to finish stories that are more than 5000 words.
I've also continued with my Critical Role obsession, to the surprise of nobody. The current storyline is slowly drawing to a close, and I'm expecting Vox Machina's tale to come to a close by the end of the year. Which makes me sad, since I love the characters. But on the other hand, a new story! With new characters! My chances of convincing people to start watching will greatly increase when they don't have 400+ hours to watch in order to get caught up.
Speaking of which, Dungeons & Dragons continues to eat a lot of my free time. I have two weekly games that I play in online via Roll20, one on Friday nights and one on Sunday nights. Then I have another Roll20 game on Saturday nights where I'm the DM. And then, because I have no sense of self-preservation, every other Sunday afternoon I walk over to the gaming store near my apartment to play in another campaign.
So, basically, every other week? I play four D&D games in a little over 48 hours. And even when I'm not cramming four games in, I'm still playing three. Which isn't much better.
Um, let's see. What other fannish things should I talk about?
Geek and Sundry and Alpha are behind most of the webseries that I'm watching nowadays. There's Critical Role, of course, which I've already mentioned. Then there's Eric's TBD RPG, an awesome Doctor Who RPG that just recently came to an end and was replaced with Shield of Tomorrow, a Star Trek RPG. Oh, and Sagas of Sundry which is just... gods, it's hard to describe. It's creepy and amazing and I highly recommend it.
I'm not watching Vast yet (another one of their RPGs), but I've heard good things about it. It's definitely on my list, whenever I have free time again. (I also watch The Wednesday Club, but it's a bunch of geeks sitting around and talking about comics for two hours each week rather someone I'm particularly fannish about. It's a lot of fun if you like comics, though.)
Based on the recent Doctor Who casting news, I'm cautiously optimistic that I might be able to start watching regularly again. I managed to watch some of the episodes from this most recent series but not all of them. Still, the ones that I was able to watch reminded me just how much I miss this show. I really hope that, once Moffat is gone, it will feel more like Doctor Who to me again.
The upcoming fourth and final season of Star Wars: Rebels has me both excited and terrified. I want to see what happens, but at the same time... well, it's Star Wars. I know going in that there was a good chance a lot of the characters wouldn't actually live through the show. The question is this: who and how?
I really need to start thinking about Yuletide and what fandoms I want to nominate this year, since it's coming up fast. This might be the first time in years that I haven't even started thinking about it yet, though. That will deserve its own post in a few weeks, when I try to start brainstorming.