(no subject)

Oct. 21st, 2017 08:55 am
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
After reading Ann Leckie's new book Provenance I went on Twitter and asked what you call a screwball plot if it isn't necessarily a comedy.

Like, Provenance, while frequently funny, is not a non-serious book -- it concerns itself with classism, wildly unhealthy family relationships, interstellar warmongering, fetishization of cultural artifacts, and inhumane conditions of incarceration, not to mention murder -- but the structure of the plot is very classic screwball. Misunderstandings! Mistaken identities! Brilliant[ly ill-advised] schemes colliding with each other and blowing up in everybody's face! The faint air of Yakety Sax playing frequently in the background!

Honestly it feels a lot like Ann Leckie channeling Lois McMaster Bujold, with less intense character dynamics but also fewer moments of side-eye.

Our Heroine Ingray Aughskold is the foster daughter of an elected official who has been locked in competition with her foster-brother since they were both small for the eventual goal of inheriting their mother's position. Ingray comes from a public orphanage, while her asshole abrother is the son of a wealthy family, which gives him an edge that Ingray has never quite been able to best.

CUE: Brilliant[ly ill-advised] scheme! Ingray decides to attempt to break a fellow political foster-kid, Pahlad Budrakim, out of Compassionate Removal (i.e. terrible jail) in order to learn the location of the highly important cultural artifacts which Pahlad has hypothetically stolen.

Complication: Pahlad is possibly not Pahlad, and is certainly not inclined to be cooperative.
Complication 2: The space captain who Ingray hired to get them back home is wanted for theft by an alien ambassador, who Does Not Understand Humans, and whom everyone is panicked about offending due to some Very Important Alien Treaties.
Complication 3: Meanwhile, what Ingray's mother would actually like her to be doing with her time is shepherding around some other ambassadors, human ones from a different planet, who want to do politically-motivated excavations in a local nature preserve
Complication 4: Also, someone is about to get murdered!
Complication 5: And the cop in the case has a crush on Ingray!
Complication 6: And MANY OF THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT CULTURAL ARTIFACTS HAVE DISPUTED PROVENANCE AND IT'S VERY DISTRESSING (for everyone but me, because the minute I heard that title I was like 'this had better be about cultural heritage' and LO AND BEHOLD)

((...though I did want to see a little more documented archival paperwork and process surrounding the question of the authenticity of the artifacts, but I mean, ignore me, it's good, it's fine.))

My favorite character was definitely possibly-Pahlad, with their bitter cynicism and constant challenges to everyone else to do better; wanting More Pahlad all the time was probably my biggest complaint about the book.

My other favorite character was the almost entirely useless Radch ambassador, who just did not want to be there that day. Everything about the treatment of the Radch in this book delights me. "So weird to hear this totally clueless woman speaking with the accent we're used to hearing from villains on the TV!" You definitely don't need to have read the Imperial Radch books to enjoy Provenance, but I suspect it does probably make the few Radch cameos five times funnier.

(no subject)

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.

Things

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:31 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
It seems like it's been ages that I've posted anything substantial and non-FMK here (which I knew was a risk; I have enough social media XP (extroversion points) to keep up with approx. 1 DW post a week, that is well-established). So here is a 5 things to break the monotony:

1. Pokemon Go will not let me install the latest update (It gives an error message that says "we hates your phone, precious" [paraphrase] and then won't install.) So instead I have been playing Magikarp Jump, which the app store always tries to tell me pokego players will enjoy. So far:

This is my fish. There are many like it, but this one is mine. )


2. Also I finally won the last boss level in Alphabear, so until I got my fish game, I was totally at loose ends for mindless phone games, and started looking for ports of the ones I played as a kid. HOW IS AN ANDROID PORT OF GODDAMP CATERPILLAR 11 megabytes? I coded that from scratch on my TI83 when I was a kid! In, like, about 100 lines of code! WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?

(I also coded a text adventure with a gender-ambiguous protagonist on that calculator, actually...)


3. I finished cleaning my bathroom yesterday! It only took me about two weeks! It is so nice to go in there and have it be clean! clean ALL the things )


4. So last November I kind of went into power-save mode for awhile, quit using Habitica and also quit a bunch of the things I had been doing on a regular basis (tag wrangling, practicing piano, working on Spanish and Icelandic, writing on a regular basis, using Tumblr...) But my sister got me back onto using Habitica again, and now that all the cat-related tasks are gone (and I trimmed some other stuff) it's a much more reasonable list of dailies.

I had forgotten how very motivating it is to get to tick the thingy. Now I am debating whether to use my Orb of Rebirth and start over or not (And whether to try to get together an active party with more than just me and my sister and a bunch of inactive accounts.)

And I'm trying to get back to doing some of the other things I stopped, too. I gave Tag Wrangling an un-hiatus notice, so I'm committed to trying to be less fail at that, and I pulled out a piano book for the first time in months (I found a copy of the very first one I learned out of, The Joy Of First-Year Piano, to warm me back up) Og ég er að læra íslensku aftur. Þótt jurtabókin er erfitt. Það er of mikið um illt kaffi í bókinni. Y yo hablé español a una clienta hoy! Un poco español, pero un poco es más que nada.

The only thing I gave up that I haven't missed at all is Tumblr. *shrug emoji* (even that's not true, I have a secret backup tumblr to which are added a couple people who post mostly personal stuff and also a bunch of nature and solarpunk and library special collections photos, and no politics or fandom, and it's still fine.)

5. One of the things on my habitica dailies is to post an AO3 comment once a day. Another one is to do something with politics once a week. I got my wires crossed in there somewhere and realized that if I don't feel up to actually engaging with politics I can just send one of my (excellent) congresspeople an email that literally just says, "Hi staffer who reads these, you are fighting the good fight, keep holding the line, thank you", just like when I want to leave an AO3 comment but don't know what to say, and it STILL COUNTS.

Also, people are trying to get public outcry going toward Congress passing the nonpartisan bill Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.) which would make it so the US President could not launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war. TBH I can't think of ANY reason why that should ever have been possible, but ESPECIALLY now. So write your congresspeople or spread the word to #PULL THE FOOTBALL

/me crosses off "do politics" for this week

FMK #27: Judge A Book By Its Title

Oct. 17th, 2017 07:40 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 winners were not what I expected! But F goes to The Red Tent and K goes to The Magicians (which is WAY more hated than I had realized! For good reason apparently.)

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)

This week's theme: I have no idea what this book is about, I'm pretty sure I only have it for the title.

Poll: Bail, Capote, Carey, Collins, Connors, Corliss, Ericson, Galloway, Gould, Morse, Shann, Shreve, Townsend, Wodehouse )

Still not entirely dead

Oct. 15th, 2017 11:52 am
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
[personal profile] calvinahobbes
I have been entirely away from DW, not even lurking. Work sucked me into a black hole of some kind, and now I have a week off (except for a number of things I still need to catch up on). I've been in a lot of physical pain from tension, and had two dives into depressive states - I can just keep it going until the weekend, and then I've crashed.

I have had almost no visits; one weekend with the BFF in August, one weekend where my mom came to my house when I crashed and realized I had no energy left to drive to her's, and one very nice and slow weekend with skuf where I just hope I was not too much of a bickering asshole about things.

At nights I am so tired that I haven't been able to read; only watch The Good Wife, which I feel never ends. I am still enjoying it, though. It doesn't really work for grand arcs, but as an organic depiction of real life it does - the way Alicia can never really get away from Peter, the way her crush on Will keeps resurfacing, the way Cary starts talking about leaving a season before anything starts to happen, the way Kalinda seems to almost leave and then sticks around. It's comforting in how chaotic and non-sensemaking it is.

I also watched The Good Place - the pilot with skuf, who didn't like it all. I was just spoiled enough from gifs to find it intriguing, and the season finale still managed to be not exactly what I expected. I am sad Netflix doesn't have the second season yet. It does, however, finally have seasons two of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!

Goodreads is so worried about my reading goal for the year now that it is sending me emails asking if I need a boost. In order to hack the system I listened to a BBC adaptation of the Magician's Nephew yesterday, which was not very good.

I also listened to most of BBC's abridged adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, which I had no idea was so very gay: Mole is the main character, and in chapter 1 he decides to quit spring cleaning in favor of adventure. He then meets Water Rat, who invites him to go boating, and then they immediately move in together, becoming Particular Friends and sharing a bed. Toad is obviously the flamboyant friend who is an embarrassment to the establishment, and old distinguished Mr Badger is everybody's queer daddy figure who flies under all the straight people's radars. But most importantly, the story is so damn hyggelig! It soothed my weary brain, and any Brit who claims Brits don't know hygge clearly needs to read Kenneth Graham, who certainly did. Oh, and as I went digging on Google, I came across many an interesting quote about Mr Graham, which makes me relatively sure the gentleman was asexual.

In other news, whenI finally hooked my PS4 up again, it would not play sound. I've tried switching hdmi cables, hooking/unhooking, rebooting, even doing a hard reset. It mocks me through it all. The weirdest part is it CAN play sound when I go to adjust volume, but nothing else - none of the ambient sounds on the main interface, nothing in games, dvds, or YouTube or anything else. It is incredibly frustrating, but I guess there's nothing for it but to send it back?

(no subject)

Oct. 14th, 2017 02:40 pm
skygiants: Mosca Mye, from the cover of Fly Trap (the fly in the butter)
[personal profile] skygiants
I was resigned to waiting until October 17th for A Skinful of Shadows to come out in the US. However, [personal profile] izilen, horrified at both the long wait after the UK publication and the clear inferiority of the US cover, acquired a copy on my behalf and mailed it over the ocean -- after first warning me it was the darkest Frances Hardinge book yet.

Having now read it, I don't know that it's actually that much creepier than the first third of Cuckoo Song, or the bits of Lie Tree where Faith in her deepest self-loathing slithers snakelike through the island purposefully destroying everything she touches. It definitely has a higher body count -- a much higher body count -- but I mean it's a book about a.) ghosts and b.) the English Civil War so maybe that's to be expected ...?

Like many of Hardinge's books, it features:
- a ferocious underestimated girl struggling to hold onto a sense of self in a world that wishes her to have no such thing
- a recognition that the people you love and who believe that they love you will sometimes betray you, sometimes for reasons they believe are good and sometimes not
- a ruthless and terrible female antagonist whom the heroine cannot help but respect and admire
- a struggling journey up out of solitude towards a coalition built of necessity with the least likely individuals
- including an undead bear
- admittedly this is the first Hardinge book to include an undead bear
- it is also the first Hardinge book about literal ghosts, a lot of ghosts, a lot of very unpleasant and sinister ghosts but also some ghosts for whom I have a very deep affection, including the very bearlike bear.

I also have a great deal of affection for Makepeace - the illegitimate scion of a very old noble family that is quite confident it will be able to chew her up and spit her out, and finds itself repeatedly mistaken. I don't think I love her yet quite as much as Trista or Faith or Mosca, but that's what I said about Faith right after I read The Lie Tree, too, and LOOK AT ME NOW.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Asterix le Gaulois/Asterix the Gaul by Goscinny and Uderzo )

Truckers by Terry Pratchett )

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch )


So halfway in, here are our stats:

Read more... )

Okay, enough of that, now onto the yuletide letter polishing.... My yuletide match this year did not require any extra canon review? WHAT AM I GOING TO READ FOR THE NEXT MONTH? Oh right, those 7 fmk up there.

FMK #26: This Is Flat-Out Fanfic

Oct. 10th, 2017 05:31 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
#26! The projected halfway point of a year's worth of reading the backlog! And in fact I went in over the last couple weeks and sorted all of the remaining into piles, so I didn't end up stuck with just a bunch of boring mismatched ones toward the end, and it looks like it might actually come out to exactly 52 weeks without me having to try too hard?

It looks like there will be more non-spec-fic weeks coming up, though, I ended up with 8 more weeks worth of that. I know fewer of you get excited about those but that's what I have on my shelves. There's also four more anthology weeks.

This week's anthologies also did not garner a huge number of votes. I will reiterate you don't have to know anything about the books to vote! A lot of these I bought just 'cause I liked the title so you do not have to feel bad if you vote that way. I suspect last week's voting was on that basis, given that it was a dead heat between Carmen Miranda's ghost is haunting space station three and Brave New Girls: Girls and Gadgets. Brave New Girls won F in the end! Cats In Space won K. Surely... surely ya'll don't have something about Cats in Space? I read all the Catfantastics back in the day; I will have to at least check that one to see how much overlap there is.

I finally finished Locke Lamora, so I have three reviews to get through; IDK if I'll do that first, or a proper yuletide letter...

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)

For the midway point, we have a very special theme this week: PEOPLE GETTING PAID PRO RATES FOR FANFIC! Hoorah!

Poll: Anderson, de Camp, Diamant, Fraser, Grossman, Lewis, Maguire, Maney, McCullough, Murphy, Niven, Scalzi, Stevenson, anthologies )

(no subject)

Oct. 9th, 2017 03:24 pm
skygiants: Jupiter from Jupiter Ascending, floating over the crowd in her space prom gown (space princess)
[personal profile] skygiants
GUESS WHAT it's another ... Jupiter Ascending fic chapter ....?

STILL UPDATING AT A RATE OF SLIGHTLY MORE THAN ONE CHAPTER A YEAR HECK YEAH.
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