(no subject)

Jun. 21st, 2017 07:36 pm
skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
[personal profile] skygiants
I recently reread Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. It remains an onslaught of a book, although being somewhat braced for the barrage of ANGER INJUSTICE GENOCIDE GONNA DESTROY A WHOLE CITY NOW does allow a little more time to, uh, stop and appreciate the occasional non-fraught thing that happens along the way? Onyesonwu makes friends with a camel at one point! That's nice!

(...for the record, my review from 2010 seems to indicate that at the time I understood and appreciated what happened at the end. Well, good job, past self, because my present self has no idea. Spoilers ))

Anyway! Rereading Who Fears Death got me thinking about the kind of books that are constructed around an ancient lore or a knowledge of the world that turns out to be fundamentally wrong, cultures constructed around poisoned lies. The Fifth Season is the other immediate example that springs to mind of a book like this -- not that there aren't other parallels between The Fifth Season and Who Fears Death. It seems to me that I ought to be able to think of more, but since I can't I'm sure you guys can.

When I mentioned this to [personal profile] genarti, she immediately said "YA dystopia! Fallout!" and that's true, a lot of dystopias are built around a Fundamentally Flawed Premise that has been imposed upon the innocent population by a dictatorial government. Those feel a little different to me, though, maybe just because that sort of dystopia very clearly grows out of our own world. We know from the beginning how to judge truth and lies, we're WAY AHEAD of our naive heroine who believes the color blue is evil because the government put an inexplicable ban on it. But Who Fears Death, while it may be set in our future, is in a future so distant from our own that there's no particular tracing back from it, and The Fifth Season is another world altogether, and we don't have any home court advantage over the protagonists as they figure out where the lies are except a belief that something that poisonous has to be wrong; maybe that's the difference.

FMK #15: LGBT& Content

Jun. 20th, 2017 11:03 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Last week's F winner was Journey to the Center of the Earth! K was Malevil, which means another giant tome I no longer have to shelve, yay.

I am still behind on reviewing stuff because I had Six Wakes and All Systems Red and A Close and Common Orbit all in at the library, plus All The Sedoretu, and sometimes you just have to priortize?

But in honor of the Tiptree anthology I picked up for the sedoretu story in it (and Pride), this week's theme is LGBT& content! (Most of these are Tiptree or Gaylactic Spectrum finalists, in fact.)
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! Bear, Chabon, Doran, Gerrold, Lackey, Monette, Orlando & Rebelka, Scott, St. Clair )

more sedoretu

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:02 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
So instead of an FMK review this week you get more talking about sedoretu (not the moiety post yet, that's coming. Probably.)

The opinions on the poll about bookmarking were interestingly split - pretty consistently 2-1 in favor of bookmarking, but the anti-bookmarking people seem to feel more strongly about it. I guess the only solution is for more people to start adding stuff to that collection so mine don't stand out as much!

I also finally read Another Story, or, a Fisherman of the Inland Sea, which is the first and longest of Le Guin's O stories. Or possibly I had already read it and then blocked it out. I am... not sure how I feel about it? It is definitely the most SF-based of them, with quantum physics and interplanetary travel and so on (and probably the most useful for people who want to think about sedoretu in the context of a much larger and more cosmopolitan society than we see in either "Mountain Ways" or "Unchosen Love".)

blehhhhh )

Anyway, I still really really like the worldbuilding!

I have managed to narrow it down to ten prompts in the Sedoretu fest that I probably *could* write. (As opposed to the ones I most want to see written, which includes many that I am definitely not the person to write.) They all have pros and cons, which I shall now ramble about here:

Discworld, HP, Sagas, O, LM, Nimona, SW:TFA, Barrayar )

...this is weirdly stressful compared to a prompt meme community where I can just blather on in comments without committing to anything until somebody else either writes the thing or I know exactly what I am doing

(no subject)

Jun. 19th, 2017 09:12 am
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
I knew I probably should have written up A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet before I read the sequel, because I loved A Closed and Common Orbit SO MUCH that now there is no way I can do justice to the first book.

I mean, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is certainly a lot of fun! It feels a bit more like a season of television than a novel -- very much out of that genre of beloved, relatively lighthearted crew-is-family space TV, full of aliens and semi-incidental interstellar politics, with approximately one episode dedicated to each crew member's interesting alien culture or surprise dramatic backstory as well as episodes where Everyone Just Goes On A Shopping Trip. There is a Noble Captain, a Friendly Polyamorous Lizard Alien Second-in-Command, an Earnest Financial Assistant, a Manic Mechanic, a Caring Chef Who Feeds Other Species To Compensate For The Embarrassing Genocidal Tendencies Of His Own -- ok, some of the archetypes are more archetypal than others. In the dramatic season finale, our plucky band of space truckers reaches their long-haul destination at last and becomes involved in a major diplomatic incident, the outcome of which is the one thing in the book that rubbed me slightly the wrong way ) Anyway, if you like this sort of thing, you will almost certainly like this particular thing.

I like this sort of thing all right but the things A Closed and Common Orbit is doing appeal to my id MUCH more. A Closed and Common Orbit focuses on two characters who appear relatively briefly in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: Sidra, an AI who, due to compelling personal circumstances but counter to interstellar law, has been installed in a designed-to-be-instinguishable-from-human artificial body; and Pepper, the mechanic who has volunteered to take on responsibility for her.

The main present-day thread of the story involves Sidra's attempts to figure out whether she can comfortably inhabit a body that she was never designed to inhabit - not just whether she can live permanently as something like an independent intelligent biological life-form without giving herself away, but whether she wants to do so. The plot is mostly comprised of small slice-of-life events like Sidra Makes A New Friend or Sidra Considers Getting A Tattoo, all interwoven into a really compelling and thoughtful examination of artificial intelligence, self-determination, and free will.

The other half the book delves into Pepper's backstory as an artificially created human being, designed to be cheap disposable labor. As a child, "Jane 23" mostly-accidentally escapes the factory where she labors, and is subsequently raised by an abandoned ship's AI in a junkyard. The backstory plot does a couple of things: a.) serves as an excellent example of the always-compellingly-readable 'half-feral child must make home in dangerous environment, survives with ingenuity and a box of scraps' genre; b.) works in dialogue with Sidra's main plotline to complicate ideas of 'human' and 'artificial' and 'purpose' and 'free will'; c.) gives me FIVE MILLION FEELINGS ABOUT AI MOMS WHO LOVE YOU. Sometimes a family is an AI mom, her genetically engineered daughter, the daughter's boyfriend, their AI roommate, and the roommate's alien friend who honestly didn't even particularly want to be there that day! AND THAT'S BEAUTIFUL.

Dungeons and Dragons and Vividcon

Jun. 18th, 2017 04:02 pm
jetpack_monkey: (Weiss - Partay!)
[personal profile] jetpack_monkey
Hello fellow Vividcon attendees! Would you like to fight monsters, dodge traps, and solve puzzles? Of course you would! I can help! I'll be running a one-shot Dungeons and Dragons adventure at least one night of the con for 4-6 players. No experience required! I'll provide the dungeon mastering, rules knowledge and some pre-generated characters for you to pick from. You provide imagination! The whole thing should take a few hours at most.

The current plan is to run a session after Premieres on Friday. If there's enough interest, I may also run a game Sunday night with a different module.

Let me know if you're interested in the comments (and let me know your general level of experience with D&D or roleplaying games -- experienced players may get roped into helping less experienced ones sort out the system).

This and That

Jun. 17th, 2017 10:03 am
calvinahobbes: comic drawing of woman on couch. text: maybe i'll go outside today (hyperbole outside)
[personal profile] calvinahobbes
I had to go to Copenhagen for a couple of days for work, and [personal profile] lysanatt very graciously put up Fluffy and me. I was hoping to stay until Saturday, but then Fluffy got a tick-related rash on Thursday and I felt like I had to get it checked out before the weekend. So after finishing up early yesterday, we drove back home and went to the vet. Thankfully [personal profile] lysanatt and [personal profile] oneiriad had a date to go to a concert on Thursday, and we managed to eat sushi/pizza with [personal profile] blnchflr before they went off. Blnchflr and I took Fluffy for a walk before she left, but poor pupper was so tired from catching Pokemon with Lýsa that he just had to be carried home... I'm sad I didn't get to stay and hang out, especially considering how I missed all the fun last weekend with [personal profile] dancing_serpent, but I'm glad we at least got to hang out. And it was so nice to have Lýsa to defrief with after work every day.

The vet visit was okay. I tried to get J to come with us, but she had a reception to go to, so we ended up going alone. The nurse had booked us into a double slot, which meant technically there wasn't any time, but she wanted to make sure the vet saw us before the weekend - which was so nice of her! Fluffy does not like the vet's office by now - he has been poked with sharp needles far too many times - so I went in alone to ask about the wait time, leaving him in the car. He took that surprisingly well (maybe his thought process was, "Oh good, it's mom who has to be tortured this time, I'll just wait here"), and the nurse in the reception suggested we wait in their grass enclosure behind the building. I had been prescient enough to bring toys, and we ended up waiting for half an hour, but Fluffy was having the best time playing fetch. The vet came outside himself to get us, and I literally just put Fluffy on his leash and ran him inside and then scooped him up and put him on the exam table before he realized what was happening XD The vet cleaned the tick bite and put him on a short course of penicillin, and we were out again in 7 minutes where the nurse had chicken treats which Fluffy actually deigned to eat (usually he will not eat any treats in the vet's office). Also it ended up being only ~700DKR! I had been joking it would be 1k for the rush, but no! Also while in there the vet said that based on the tiny size of Fluffy's nads, the chemical castration is still in effect - 13 months after the injection, which was said to last only 6! Value for my money!

I was so tired last night, though. Luckily I found some food in the freezer, and then I crashed for over an hour and woke up super grumpy without any candy in the house. So after walking Fluffy for the night, I felt like such a grease-bag as I literally took the car to the supermarket and bought soda, icecream, Pringles and chocolate (and milk for my morning coffee). I totally deserved it! But I was also deeply grateful for the self-checkout >_> I came home and ended up watching Mrs. Doubtfire on Netflix.

I am so glad Mrs. Doubtfire is on Netflix and that I got to watch it yet again. It's such an odd movie, but I love it. I don't love all the horrible slap-stick and embarrassment humor, but I just love that Mrs. Doubtfire is so awesome at everything? I love that she is much better at organising and being authoritative than Daniel is. I remember watching this movie dozens of times as a kid, and of course the fascination was the gender aspects even before I understood much about that. I love how Daniel's brother is gay, and although his relationship with his husband is as despairingly sexless as you'd expect of a 90s movie (they literally hip bump when they ought to kiss), I still think one of the best lines is when Daniel shows up at his house and says, "Can you make me a woman?" and his make-up artist brother just goes "Oh, honey, I'm so happy!" I know everything is played for laughs, and that it's supposed to be grotesque and maybe I've just watched it too young to pick up on all the awful, but I never think any of it is overly judgmental? I love how Mrs. Doubtfire is so admired by the busdriver! I love how she plays soccer in heels, and how she does a sexy dance when she is vacuuming all alone.

While driving home yesterday I also finished The Golden Compass. This is the third time I read this book. In the past it has always been a slow read, but this time I think it went fast. I switched between listening to the audiobook version and reading the Everyman's Library omnibus edition. The audiobook is made with a full cast and narrated by Philip Pullmann, which he does impressively well - he is just as good as any professional narrator, but then it's probably easier for him because he doesn't have to do the voices! I enjoyed it as much as the last two times around, but I'm still left with a feeling like I don't quite get the ending, Lord Asriel's explanation of Dust/experience/sin/Tree of Knowledge and the conversation between Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter (and the seemingly very contradictory behavior of their daemons?). Still, the world building is amazing, and Lyra is one of the strongest characters in any work of fiction I've read. I wasn't expecting it to go this fast, but since it's going so well, I might as well continue with The Subtle Knife and just see how far I get.

(no subject)

Jun. 16th, 2017 02:12 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
You can still add prompts to the Sedoretu fic fest! Well, I can't, because I might have hit the prompting limit already, but you can!

If you're new here and have never heard of Sedoretu, it's a concept from stories by Ursula le Guin set on the planet O. Marriages there are four people: two men and two women; with four sexual relationships: two m/f, one m/m, and one f/f; and two non-sexual ships, the other m/f pairs. (There is more to it than that in canon, but that's what makes it really fun to play with as a fandom poly AU concept.)

There are currently 132 prompts in 75 fandoms for the fest, plus several for "any fandom"/"original work", so there is probably at least something you know, and if not you should add it. (Or 137 fandoms if you count all of the Old Norse sagas as their own fandoms, and can I say that I feel like the fact that Old Norse Sagas are the now third most popular fandom in the fest is a dagger aimed directly at me? It's not my fault that Njal's Saga is basically set on O already! I was only trying to taunt the mod a little bit!)

(In other news, we watched the documentary Hvellir last night, about people trying to stop dams on the Laxá,and it is very good, and quotes Njal's Saga, and also only in Iceland would a bunch of protesters trying to destroy a dam just go grab the dynamite that the dam developers had left in small unattended caches all over the protesters' land. And not consider this a particularly noteworthy part of the story.)

So I keep wanting to kudos prompts and accidentally almost claiming them, argh, I wish there was a way to feedback prompts without having to go on and write the darn things. :/ Unfortunately, writing any of the many ones I really want to read would require a ton of canon review that I don't want to commit to. (Although, tbf, anything other than "one of my recent fmk reads" would require a ton of canon review at this point...) Let's face it I will probably just end up writing for Gisli's Saga since at least it's relatively short (and also basically set on O already, fair.)

(I feel like there is probably a reason Le Guin decided to set her stories about four-person marriages and complicated kin relationships among sheep farmers and fishermen in decentralized farmsteads on marginal land.)

(although I want to make the post about the real life basis of moiety a separate post.)

So instead of reviewing canon I have just been reading all the sedoretu stories in fandoms I am at least somewhat interested in. And I have been rec-bookmarking a lot of them to the sedoretu collection linked to the fest. But I am running up against the fact that some of them... are not the quality that I would normally put my rec-heart on, even by my relatively lax standards. So here is a poll for the room: if somebody is going through and bookmarking all of the stories on ::theme:: to a collection,

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 27


Is it better (by whatever definition of 'better') to:

View Answers

Bookmark the less-good ones to the collection but as Not A Rec
18 (66.7%)

Don't bookmark them at all
9 (33.3%)

(no subject)

Jun. 13th, 2017 10:32 pm
skygiants: the Phantom of the Opera, reaching out (creeper of the opera)
[personal profile] skygiants
Catching a chunk of the Tony Awards the other night (bless Bette Midler, who WILL NOT BE SILENCED) reminded me that I never wrote up Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, a nonfiction account of (primarily) the Shubert Organization, Broadway's largest theater-owning company, with stopovers into the offices of other leading Broadway financiers along the way.

The book starts out with Broadway ticket-scalping scandals, jumps back to a overview of the lives of the original Shubert brothers, and lays out the drama of various generations of hard-partying Shuberts eventually being ousted by Responsible, Respectable Lawyers Jerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs.

Then Michael Bennett, legendary choreographer of A Chorus Line, enters the picture and the whole book gets sort of carried off by him for a while. A great deal of page space is devoted to the psychodramatic relationship between Bennett and Jacobs -- as recounted in this book, a wildly unhealthy pseudo-father-son dynamic in which Jacobs constantly attempted to ensure Bennett's emotional and financial dependence on Jacobs while Bennett was constantly attempting to break away and BE A PRODUCER ON HIS OWN, DAD. An excerpt featuring further Michael Bennett drama, including one of history's most melodramatic Tony Awards, is up in Vanity Fair for the curious.

And then it's Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber, alongside an in-depth discussion of the various political and financial campaigns that eventually led to the Disneyfication of Broadway after its days of 1970s sleaze, and that brings us about up to the present day.

It's an interesting, rather gossippy account of the money, organizational politics, and personal quirks that underlie the eventual decisions about what makes it onto a theater stage; I read the whole thing and then left it in the airbnb I was staying in when I finished it, because I felt I had taken what I wanted from it and couldn't really imagine wanting to read it again. It's certainly interesting to know how the sausage is made, but it's occasionally a bit depressing to look at Broadway largely from the perspective of the people for whom profit is the most important consideration.

FMK #14: SF in Translation

Jun. 13th, 2017 06:29 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Hi all! I am back. I did not get my birthday candle wish of having a different president when I got back to the USA, but at least Theresa May is in deep hot water now, so I guess you all did what you could.

The FMK #13 winner is Discount Armageddon, pulling ahead at the last minute in a very close race! The loser was Pawn of Prophecy, in a not-very-close race, although Man-Kzin Wars put up a good fight.

I brought Rocket Ship Galileo and Tarnsman of Gor with me on the trip as two K winners that I couldn't bear dumping without Having Read. I... am about 30% through Tarnsman of Gor; so far it is not bad enough to make me hate-read it or throw it at the wall, but also not particularly compelling a read. I still want to Have Read it though, I think.

Rocket Ship Galileo is going to be K for Keep, I am afraid. I tried! But Jews vs. Moon Nazis! )

Anyway, in honor of my international travel, today's theme is SF In Translation.

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: Allende, Chang, Chessex, Enjoe, Gakov, Hugo, Lem, Merle, Nomura, Ogawa, Strugatsky, Verne )

(no subject)

Jun. 10th, 2017 11:07 am
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I feel at this point that I'm sort of playing a long-term drinking game with Joan Aiken: every time an inexplicable Arthurian reference shows up out of nowhere in her fiction, immediately go to the nearest repository of alcohol and grab a bottle!

...although to be honest last night was just a really good night for drinking a beer and reading an entire [personal profile] rachelmanija-recommended Regency Gothic on the porch, and I didn't think of the drinking game angle until this morning. Also, the Arthurian references in The Five-Minute Marriage pretty much limit themselves to unusual naming conventions and are honestly the least weird I've ever encountered in Aiken. The Five-Minute Marriage overall is really only about as weird as, say, a particularly madcap Georgette Heyer. Not a murderous beehive, exploding can of soup, or immortal Queen Guinevere in sight!

Our Heroine is Philadelphia Elaine Carteret, an impoverished Regency music teacher struggling to maintain herself and her ailing, amiably confused mother, who of course happens to be a DISINHERITED DAUGHTER OF THE GREAT HOUSE OF PENISTONE.

Unfortunately, when Delphie turns up at Penistone Manor (it has a name, but I've forgotten it) to try and claim some financial support for her mother, she is met by a plot twist: there's already a Philadelphia Elaine Carteret in the family and the current lord has been supporting her for the past twenty years.

ARROGANT ALPHA HERO GARETH PENISTONE (current heir): However, imposter, you have turned up just in time! Because the current lord is DYING and he's going to disinherit both me and Elaine if we don't get married before he dies, which everyone expects to happen, like, right now, today.
FRIENDLY MORDRED PENISTONE (illegitimate relative, definitely not a villain, why would you think that?): It's OK! We'll get a FAKE bishop to write a FAKE marriage certificate and in exchange for this DEFINITELY FAKE MARRIAGE we'll slip your mother into the will. OK? OK.
DELPHIE: Every proper feeling is mortified by this offer! ... but it's true I could use the cash, and it's not like I ever actually want to see any of you again.

So Delphie and Gareth get fake married, just until the current lord dies, which is almost certainly going to happen right that night!

24 HOURS LATER, in a TOTALLY SHOCKING twist:

FRIENDLY MORDRED PENISTONE: Oops, I accidentally forgot to tell the definitely real Bishop to perform a fake ceremony, so ... congratulations on your marriage! Also, the current lord has made a miraculous recovery!

Everyone's favorite fanfic tropes follow )

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