jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Doctor to Dragons - CoverI met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.

In April of this year, his humorous fantasy novelette A Doctor to Dragons [Amazon | B&N] came out.

I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).

Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.

I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)

There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:

“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”

“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”

“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”

I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.

One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.

I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

oursin: Illustration from the Kipling story: mongoose on desk with inkwell and papers (mongoose)
[personal profile] oursin

While I was away I noticed on, I think, Twitter, which I was scrolling through while waiting at a bus stop/train station/whatever, somebody getting into a froth over somebody deleting their tweets upon mature reflection, and how this was The Death of History.

To which my own reactions were:

a) Archivists have been thinking about the problems posed by the fragility of the digital record for a good couple of decades plus, this is not something no-one has noticed before. (Wasn't the Library of Congress archiving Twitter, and presumably there are some measures against tampering, if so? - hah, I see that there have been problems of processing and it's not actually accessible, or wasn't as at last year.)

b) Quite apart from the dangers of fire, flood and insect or animal depredation to which records in the more traditional forms have been exposed, there has been a fair amount of deliberate curating of the record over the centuries, by deliberate destruction or just careful concealment (whether it's the Foreign Office secret archive or the concealment of Turner's erotic drawings under a misleading file title).

c) While you can delete or destroy a particular record, you cannot always get rid of the information that it did exist - presumably it was other people commenting on the now-deleted tweets or retweeting them that led to the decision to delete them, but that doesn't eradicate the fact of their existence. This may even draw attention to the deleted record: this is why when I was still being an archivist we used to persuade donors not to ask for closures apart from those mandated by Data Protection, because the idea that something is *CLOSED* causes some people's ears to prick up in a supposition that there will be *HIDDEN SECRETS* (this was very, very, seldom the case).

I might also invoke the case that came up in Prince of Tricksters, where Netley Lucas under one of his identities was communicating with different officials and departments, possibly, it is suggested, as a means to confuse his trail: but, due to the growth of bureaucracy, as well as the social networks they belonged to, could also communicate among one another to discover that this was all the same guy.

There is also the phenomenon that I have mentioned to researchers, that yes [organisations of a certain ideological bent] have been very coy about placing their archives anywhere where people might do research in them; BUT the organisations and people they were against kept tabs on their activities, collected their literature, etc.

Also that if person/organisation's own papers do not survive, you can find out a good deal from the surviving records of those they interacted with.

Dog bites man

2017-07-27 05:44
supergee: (spiral)
[personal profile] supergee
There’s a new bio of Claude Shannon. The authors inform us that there were great unnoticed contributions to his work by a woman.

Thanx to Metafilter

QotD

2017-07-27 05:24
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"You can't claim to love MLK and hate BLM.

"I mean you can...but you're a liar if you do."

-- Emma Evans, 2017-01-16

(no subject)

2017-07-27 09:23
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] fjm and [personal profile] wildroot!

(no subject)

2017-07-26 23:51
jhameia: ME! (Default)
[personal profile] jhameia
Nothing much new to report aside from my brain's asinine refusal to produce new words and re-reading old ones instead.

I did apply for the Graywolf internship, sent it off this morning.

This morning I went to Coco's to work, had horrible bowel movements, at the tail end of which Jose called to see if I was down to join a Lugia raid, and of course I was. Four raids in, I've got a Lugia and another Articuno.

Latter half of the day, after a two hour nap (WHY) I started outlining the analysis for the final novel, which I'm excited about. I'm gonna sleep with the CPAP tonight and see if I can concentrate better tomorrow. The deadline looms. I'm vaguely terrified.

The walk up and down Blaine Street feels shorter, although I'm sure it is still taking me the same amount of time (I walked out around 8.30 and got back around 10; 1 and a half hours seems pretty normal for me on that stretch). This makes me wonder if I should try to up my game a little and do a little jog instead of brisk walking. It is kind of harder to play Pokemon Go while jogging though.

ETA: OH! My new phone arrived! I still can't get the SIM cards out of my Xiaomi because I don't have a pin strong enough (I don't really have any earring studs I'm willing to sacrifice) but it's here!
sovay: (What the hell ass balls?!)
[personal profile] sovay
I made a new icon. I'm not sure how much I'm going to use it, but something about the ongoing politics seemed to call for it. I believe I have [personal profile] choco_frosh to thank for introducing me to the original context in Questionable Content. Anybody who finds the icon useful should feel free to abstract it.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
because he didn't understand why there were tears rolling down.

rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I haven't reviewed anything here in far, far too long, and I certainly didn't think this book would be the thing to push me into wanting to write something. However. At Readercon, I picked up the new collection of Ursula K. Le Guin essays, Words Are My Matter, of which this is not a review because I am nowhere near finishing it, and I noticed that there are three separate essays on H. G. Wells. Three! This is not unique, in the structure of the book-- there are also three separate essays on José Saramago-- but that makes more sense to me, because Saramago, you know, Nobel laureate, relatively recent death, work in an interesting position vis-à-vis speculative fiction as a genre, there are some conversations to be had there that seem very much in Le Guin's chosen critical milieu. But H. G. Wells! Hasn't everything been said already?

Then it occurred to me that I, personally, had not read any Wells since the age of eight or nine, when I'd read The Time Machine and found it pretty and confusing, and then hit The War of the Worlds and found it extremely upsetting and went away again. So I went back. The Time Machine is indeed very pretty, though far less confusing to an older person. The Island of Dr. Moreau turned out to be the most vicious piece of theological criticism I have encountered in years, and an actual novel with things like character dimensionality to boot, as well as such an obvious influence on Lovecraft that I was shocked I hadn't heard that mentioned before. And then I got to The War of the Worlds.

It turns out the reason I found it very upsetting at eight or nine was because it is very upsetting, and at that age I had no context for or capacity to handle the ways in which it is upsetting.

We all know the basic plot: Martians invade, humans are technologically overpowered and defeated, Martians eventually drop dead because of Earth's microbiota. The novel came out in 1898, after having been serialized the year before, and has been dramatized and redramatized and ripped off and remade so often and so thoroughly that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The original novel, however, is notable in intellectual history not just for the archetype of the merciless and advanced alien invaders, but because it is an ice-cold prevision of the nightmares of the twentieth century. The phrase 'concentration camp' had already been coined, c. late 1860s by the Spanish in Cuba, though it would not become widely known by the English-speaking public until the Boer War, which Wells' novel just predates; that phrase is the only part of the vocabulary of future war to which Wells could have had access, and the phrase does not appear in the novel. Here are some of the concepts that do, without, as yet, any names: Genocide. Total war. Gas attack. Blitzkrieg. Extermination camp. Shellshock/PTSD. (Also, on a slightly different note, airplane.)

Wells' vision of war was ruthless, efficiently technological, distanced from the reader of the time only by the fact that the perpetrators were incomprehensible aliens. But he does not let you rely on the comforting myth that it would take an alien to perpetrate these atrocities, as perhaps the book's worst scene, in terms of sheer grueling terror and pain, is the sequence in which six million people attempt to evacuate London on no notice, with no overall organization, no plans, and the train as the most modern form of transportation. The Martians are miles away from that, literally. The only thing Wells spares you is the actual numbers of the death toll... but you can get an informed idea.

And, just in case you happen to believe that people (as opposed to aliens) are too good at heart for this sort of warfare, this novel is also a savage theological takedown*, in which the idea of humanity as the center of a cosmos created by a benevolent God is repeatedly stomped on by the sheer plausibility of the nightmare, the cold hard logistics of enemy approach + insanely destructive new bombing technology = frantic evacuation and a military rout. The priests and churchmen in War of the Worlds generally go insane**; their philosophical framework has left them ill-equipped to handle the new reality. Wells is displaying humanity as a species of animal, no more nor less privileged existentially than other sorts of animal, who may be treated by a sufficiently technological other animal in the way that humans often treat ants. He explicitly uses ants as the comparison.

This is where I noticed something fascinating. War of the Worlds has the most peculiar version of protagonist-centered morality that I have ever encountered: only the protagonist and his nearest and dearest are allowed to perform moral actions that are not shown in aggregate.

Everyone else either does good as a faceless mass, or neutral-to-evil at close proximity. The military, as a force, is allowed to act against the Martians, which is seen by definition as moral, but they are at a distance from the novel's viewpoint such that they don't emerge as people while they are fighting-- we meet an occasional refugee from a destroyed division, but we don't see people giving orders, taking orders, firing weapons. When the ramship Thunder Child attacks two Martians at close range in order to save shipping in the Channel evacuation-- a sequence distressingly like Dunkirk, only in the opposite direction and sixty years early-- it's one of the few acts of heroism and selflessness in the novel that actually works, and it's the ship personified who takes the action. Here's the middle of the fight:

"She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard."***

Notice how there are no humans, individual or otherwise, even mentioned here. And this is the high point of the book as far as moral action taken, a direct self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Individual people range from the curate who hears the narrator calling for water "for hours" and doesn't bring him any to the men whom the narrator's brother finds in the process of robbing two ladies and has to fight off at gunpoint. Even most mob action is inimical, including things like the looting of shops and the literal trampling underfoot of the weak.

The narrator and his brother, however, mostly behave as one would hope to behave in a catastrophe. They are constantly picking up strays, helping total strangers pack to evacuate, fighting off muggers, attempting to assist the trampled, sharing their provisions with others, etc.. They are the only people in the book who do this sort of thing-- every other individual (except a couple of the strays, who are there to be rescued and get in the way) is out for themselves and can, at very best, be bought with cash on the barrel at a high price.

Now, it's not that the narrator and his brother are saints. They're fully developed, three-dimensional, relatively decent people. The brother participates in the looting of a bike shop, refuses water to a dying man for fear of putting his own people in danger, and fails to rescue anyone from the relentless trample. The narrator may well kill a man to save his own life, and certainly aids and abets the murder if he does not strike the final blow (it's impossible to find out exactly when the man dies or what specifically killed him).

The odd thing is that nobody else has any of their virtues. No one else is picking up strays; no one who isn't under military orders to do it is knocking on doors to begin the evacuation; no one is giving away food and water; no one except the military is attempting to place themselves between those they love and danger. In short, there is none of the kind of everyday, tiny, sometimes futile heroism that the twentieth century has shown us is almost impossible to beat out of humans entirely.

Now, I think this is intentional, as part of Wells's argument: the Martians have broken the human social order as if it were an anthill, and none of the ants has any idea what to do anymore. It's part of the demystification of humanity's place in the cosmos and the insistence on our nature as intelligent animals.

However, I think it skews the thought experiment in two ways: firstly, the narrator (and the only other POV character, the brother) have to be decent enough that we as readers are willing to read a book from their perspectives, and in 1898 that was harder than it is now. "Probably murdered somebody who wasn't a villain or an enemy combatant, and is never punished for it in any way except by vague remorse" is a pretty radical stance for a first-person narrator in an English novel of that period, and Wells has to talk us round into considering this a sympathetic or at least justifiable stance by having the narrator be in most other ways a flat-out hero. I don't think this does too much damage to his argument, as the resemblance of the narrator to other hero-types of the period makes Wells's more radical premises easier to communicate than they would otherwise be. It's not the presence of altruism in the narrator that is the major way the experiment is skewed.

It's the absence of altruism in others, as shown by the work of Rebecca Solnit, the memoirs of Primo Levi, the oral histories of the camp survivors of several cultures: one reason The War of the Worlds is so very upsetting is that its events are more unmitigatedly depressing than the same circumstances would be in real life. One of the wisest men of the twentieth century, Fred Rogers, said that in tough situations you should look for the helpers (and somewhere elsenet I saw the corollary, which I think Mr. Rogers considered implicit but which could use unpacking anyway, that if you cannot find them, the helpers had better be you). In The War of the Worlds there are no helpers at all, except what little the narrator and his brother can manage. We have actual science now about the way people form communities in catastrophe; we have innumerable anecdotes from the worst places and times in the world about those who in small ways, quietly, do what they can for others with what they have. It's not that Wells was wrong about us being animals, about trying to knock us off the pedestal that insists that everything was made for humanity and we are the only important beings. It's that while we are a social animal, we are a social animal on the micro-level as well as on the macro, and we have now seen that the micro-level does not have to be limited to immediate biological family, because the bonds of catastrophe can cause, and in fact seem to produce, some amount, tiny though it may be, of genuinely altruistic behavior.

When I happened to say to [personal profile] nineweaving that I was in the middle of a Wells re/read, she promptly replied with a couplet from a comic verse she had memorized as a child: "H. G. Wells / Creates new hells."

Which is true. His Martian invasion, the twentieth century through a glass darkly, is right up there on the list of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, not because of the Martians, but because none of the humans are outright villains. Some of them are insane, and some are annoying, and many are behaving in ways unconducive to long-term survival, and all of them are terrified; but you believe in them not only as individuals but as a plausible set of people for the narrator to run into in the middle of a war. It's only after thinking about it for quite a while afterwards that I noticed how neatly Wells had removed the capacity for altruism from his secondary characters. The Martians are frightening and cool and interesting (and clearly described as being drawn by H. R. Giger, which has not made it into any of the adaptations I've seen), but I think one reason this particular nightmare has lasted so long and clung so thoroughly in the back of our heads is that it would take recreating these terrible catastrophes in almost every particular to prove him wrong about the essentials of human nature and the ways people would behave in these circumstances. That's part of the book's appalling genius.

The thing is, though-- we did.

And he is.



* albeit not as much of one as Moreau, which is saying something

** that classical nineteenth-century insanity in which they rant and rave and chew the furniture, i.e. nothing you can find in the DSM, and therefore I just use 'insane' as I am not sure there is a less aggravating descriptor for this particular literary trope

*** Via Project Gutenberg's HTML copy
archangelbeth: Bleary-eyed young woman peers up, pillow obscuring the lower half of her face. Text reads: SO not a morning person. (So Not A Morning Person)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
Car still not fixed. Dunno if the part came in yet. They're very busy. (If no car by tomorrow, I will ask when they expect to have some loaners, perhaps. Or swipe spouse's mom's car, maybe. Mmph.)

Spouse and kid went to Long Drive which let me introvert a bit, which was nice.

Spouse is trying to sort something out with the online course kid is taking, where one has to have an account to watch the videos -- or even see if there are transcripts -- and the handoff is not clean, and it wants a password. (There better be transcripts, or I swear, I'm gonna find who does ADA suits and I'm going to ask a lawyer to write a note about how the lack of transcripts is non-ADA-compliant. Deaf kids might need this stuff too, and sensory-issue-kids could surely use the transcript option that the d/Deaf would need.

Grrrrrr.)

I continue to putter on the Thing, for now. It's barely creative and that's all I've got just now.

Need to get Arkady Martine's spouse's book from the bookstore sometime, but I have gone and BLANKED on it. Incandescens, what's the name again? Help?

Kid at least seems to be recovering from stomach bug.

Havva Quote
Amelie follows. "Would this be a bad time to mention that I haven't used a phaser since basic combat training?"
--ah, Star Trek games...



INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

Fuck me. What was I thinking? Venom thought, throwing up the throttle on her aircraft. How'd I ever think this could work? Why can't that bastard just stay dead?

A couple of years of therapy and liberal use of the web spread across and through her brain had helped. She didn't wake up screaming any more, at least, not often. But the rage - the rage that still laced through her being like the chronal accelerator which kept her in place in time - hadn't gone anywhere.

I should've known. I shoulda known, she thought, as her craft jumped high towards suborbital space. The old guard had to start showing up. Just bloody had to. And ruin everything.

She'd thought she was okay with Reyes's return. She liked the Angelino, and they needed a strategy expert. Amélie was not exactly thrilled, but then, she wasn't the liaison, and she wasn't going to break the project over it. But this, she thought, this... no. No more. We find him, we kill him, we fix it.

Her thoughts had mostly turned to a stream of comfortingly creative swear words by the time her ship's comms board lit up, with Amélie and Winston both, trying to make contact. She took Amélie's signal at once.

"Cherie, are you..."

"Jack Morrison is alive."

"I've been talking with Winston. I know."

"He doesn't get to stay that way."

The spider hummed a little; Lena could see in her mind the little smile that went with it, and it calmed her just a bit. "I think I agree," the spider said. "Winston does not, yet, but that is not important. Regardless, there are times and places and ways to consider. Please return to base. We should plan."

"Don't worry, sweetie - I'm not flyin' off to Mexico half-cocked. I'm already a third of the way home."

"Good." A moment passed. "I have missed you these last few days."

"I've missed you too, love. How was Calgary?" Calgary, and a minor target. Normally, beneath Talon's radar, but something twigged in the spider's web, and so, off she'd gone.

"Magnificent," replied the spider, warmly. "Not the town, of course, it is provincial in all of the worst ways. But the shot," she continued, voice liquid, "ahh, that was exquisite. I missed you all the more for it."

Venom smiled and relaxed a little more at the tone of her lover's voice. Reunion sex was always good sex, but reunion sex after a kill that made her spider's voice do that? Magnifique, as she would say. "J'ai hâte de t'embrasser encore."

"Très bien, mon bien-aimé," the blue woman replied. "Ton accent s'améliore."

"J'ai étudié beaucoup."

"Ça se voit. C'est merveilleux et je t'aime."

Lena flipped briefly to autopilot, closed her eyes, and breathed. "You're calming me down on purpose, aren't you?"

"Of course. But nothing you've said was wrong. Not even in French."

The younger assassin laughed a little, nodded, then laughed a little more at herself - nods don't make sounds. "Merci." She opened her eyes again, and took the little ship back off automatic. "Love you. Be home soon."

"I'll be waiting. Widowmaker out."

"Venom out."

Winston's hail still blinked on the comms pad. Hoo, do I wanna take this? she asked herself. It took a moment. ...yeh, I need to. She punched the acknowledge signal. "Tracer here. Sorry 'bout that, big guy. Got myself into a bit of a race."

On the other side of the signal, Winston slumped in his chair, relieved. He looked over at Angela and Gabriel though the office window, and motioned for them to come in. "It's okay, Lena."

"Nah, it's really not," replied the pilot. "I should've reined myself in, and I didn't. No excuses here, I've got the tools, I didn't use them, it's my fault. I'll do better next time, promise." Gabriel nodded a small silent approval, hearing that.

"Where are you?" asked the Lunar Ambassador.

"Sorry, luv. But nowhere you'd mind."

Heading home, then, he thought. Good. "Our new friend has some more information for you. I'll put it in the expected place."

"Righto, thanks."

"Talk to me later?"

"Will do. Tracer out."

"Winston out."

"Well," Gabriel said, "at least she owned up to it. That's something."

Winston and Angela both glared at the former Blackwatch lead, but it was Angela who spoke first. "Do. Not. Dare."

Gabriel raised his arms in a shrug. "Hey, I'm not the one who charged out of a staff meeting just because..."

"No," said the doctor. "Do not. This isn't your Overwatch either."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, doc, this isn't a power play..."

"I know you, Gabriel. Yes, it is."

"No, it's... really not," he insisted. "I'm not a senior officer anymore. I'm done with that."

"Then don't act like one," replied Dr. Ziegler. "You are not her CO, and you are not her father."

"She was already on edge about letting the old guard in at all, other than Angela," Winston said, quietly. "She bought in with you, because she likes you, and she respects you - but I'm the one who really wanted you onboard."

"But Winston, she can't do things like that, not in her position. I'm not a senior officer here, but she is."

"Then tell her that, to her face," said Angela. "Not to us, behind hers. You may say she's a senior officer, but you are not acting like you believe it..." She frowned. "This is not the old Overwatch. Do not bring in its baggage."

Gabriel slowly nodded, and his eyes narrowed. "...damn, doc, you're good. This'll take some serious getting used to, won't it?"

Mercy smiled and let herself look a little smug. "At least you owned up to it."

Gabriel laughed, something he rarely let himself do in the old days, and said, "I deserved that," and the tension drained from the room. "My CO is half my age," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I must be getting old."

Angela chuckled. "She's not really your CO."

"No, but you can't take the Army out of a man. Let me think of her like that for a little while, it'll help."

"As long as it's old Army, and not old Overwatch," insisted Ziegler.

"It is," answered Gabriel, chuckling, and shaking out his arms. "I feel like a First Lieutenant again, showing up, screwing up, getting my ass in trouble... Ana would have a field day if she ever heard me say that."

"Let's not bring up any more unpleasant stories right now," said the doctor.

"Agreed," said Winston, bringing the Morrison dossier up on his displays. "We have enough old soldiers to deal with already."

sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
In today's political news, I would like to introduce the man in the White House to the Greek hero Kaineus (m.), born Kainis (f.), whom it took the entire Centaur side of the Centauromachy to defeat, his invulnerable body hammered all the way down to Hades with stones and piled pine trees. We can argue about what the United States should be doing with its armed forces, but not about who counts sufficiently as people to continue serving safely in them.

1. On the very crowded Red Line around five-thirty this afternoon, I saw two girls—late high school, early college, one white-looking and one not—practicing what they called "subway surfing," keeping their balance without recourse to poles or hangers or fellow passengers as the train rocked and bucked between Harvard and Davis. I appreciated what they were doing; the car was so sardine-packed that I couldn't get near a handhold myself, plus I was carrying a couple of books from the dollar-sticker carts outside the Harvard Book Store (I sense a theme) and a halva brownie from Tatte's that was trying to melt through its paper bag. It was a miserable commute experience and they were making the best they could of it. I did not appreciate the male commuter about my age who turned around as he got off the train at Porter to yell at the girls for "screaming in [his] ears." They stopped subway surfing after he left. They separated and found different poles to hang on to and did not try to talk to one another across the thinning space of commuters between them. The thing is, the guy had not even been their neighbor. He'd been standing right in front of me the entire time, holding on to the pole I couldn't find room on. He could legitimately have yelled at me for breathing into the nape of his neck, but even had the girls been shouting at the tops of their lungs, thanks to our respective positions their conversation would still have had to travel through me before getting anywhere near his ears. So when the train ground to a halt between stations—because there was another train on the line, because the T never has enough money, because Charlie Baker would rather privatize public transit than allocate it any reasonable amount of public funds and incidentally fuck the unions—and there was a brief lull in the racketing noise, I attracted the attention of the nearer girl and told her that she and her friend were great subway surfers, that I'd seen and appreciated them, and that the guy had been completely out of line. I hope it didn't weird her out. I wanted to give them a reality check. The guy annoyed me. Congratulations, you don't like being on a sardine car at rush hour—neither does anyone else, but at least those girls were getting something fun out of it. They weren't losing their footing and banging into people. They were laughing. Don't yell at people when they're trying to make the world better. I feel this lesson can and should be generalized.

2. I did not expect to find myself explaining the technicalities of 70 mm to a completely different set of kids at the door of the Somerville Theatre, but they all bought tickets for Dunkirk (2017) and showed interest in the upcoming 70 mm festival—they wanted to know not just about the format itself and whether it would look different from a DCP of the same movie (spoiler: yes) but the system on which the film would be shown, which I could at least explain was not a Hateful Eight retrofit but a pair of Philips Norelco DP70s designed for just this format, installed in this theater well before Tarantino started shooting in Ultra Panavision, lovingly maintained, and capable of magnetic rather than digital sound. Then I got asked how it was possible to show 70 and 35 mm on the same machines and at that point my knowledge of down- and upconverting degenerated into "I'm not the projectionist! I don't even work here!" (After the conversation was over, I promptly went upstairs and bugged David the projectionist about the specifics just in case this ever happens to me again. I hate being asked technical questions for which I have only partial answers; it makes me feel worse than having no answers at all.) Mostly they seemed concerned that they wouldn't be able to appreciate the beautiful information density of the format if it was filtered through a system that wasn't built to handle it, the same way the high fidelity of a recording is immaterial if all you can play it back through is some crackly laptop speakers. I could reassure them that was not going to be the experience at the Somerville. I realize that programs for movies are not so much a thing anymore, but I'm thinking for this one maybe it couldn't hurt.

3. I like the photograph of this person who looks like they are wearing a spell of the sea: Taylor Oakes, "Rhue."

4. I am delighted that I have now read multiple poems employing Wittgenstein's concept of language-games, also specifically this ambiguity: Veronica Forrest-Thomson, "Ducks & Rabbits."

5. In unexpected and welcome writing news, Clockwork Phoenix 5 is a finalist for a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. I have a story in it, so obviously I hope it wins, but the rest of the list is full of extremely cool people and the extremely cool things they have written and I wish everyone luck!
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Firstly, it takes very little discussion of regulations for my eyes to glaze over. Secondly, and far less constructively, if someone proposes a system that relies on genres like science fiction and fantasy being distinct rather than overlapping sets, I will start thinking about the worthy works that live in the overlap.
asakiyume: (shaft of light)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Because yesterday and last night were unseasonably cold but the air was warmer this morning, there was mist everywhere when I went out.

Everywhere was gauzy.

misty trees

sun through mist

Up the street, down the street--ethereal

looking up the road

looking down the road

It seems that otherworldly dancers passed through, too, leaving behind their handkerchiefs, as they often do, on lawns, beside paths, and in the woods:

fairy handkerchiefs

fairy handkerchief fairy handkerchiefs


catherineldf: (Default)
[personal profile] catherineldf
So many things! I'm embarking on draft 2 of my current gaming tie-in story -- more info when I can share it -- and now the sink is backed up, in a totally unrelated but tiresome event. At least I got the pesto made before that happened. Oooph.

Last weekend's shenanigans included Diversicon 25, which was...a mix of things. Hanging out with Melissa Scott was lovely and I got to introduce her to a number of my friends, who were all thrilled to meet her. We had lots of good conversations and a couple of fine panels. I also got to see some other friends who I haven't seen for far too long so that was lovely as well. On the less lovely side, a contingent of the Frenkel Fan Club turned up and apparently shared their enthusiasm with the room at large at the memorial panel for John Rezmerski (who definitely did not share their enthusiasm), Michael Levy and a longtime Diversicon fan. I missed the "fun" because I was on a competing panel, which was probably just as well. I also had to "guard" Melissa from some importuning which resulted in sulking. So many eyerolls. Never insist that anyone read your work when they are clearly otherwise engaged and are sending out very clear signals that this is not the time or the place. This is even more annoying when you clearly have the wrong person to begin with and are refusing to acknowledge it. There were some other behavior "issues" as well, and given that and all the recent deaths which I think made it a much lower energy and less pleasant con than some previous years, it was a hard weekend. I hope they can turn it around for next year.


In other news, I have seen Valerian and been mostly unimpressed. Pretty though. And trip planning is moving along. I've added a trip to Blue Lagoon, a Tom of Finland walking tour, a tour of Suomenlinna Fortress and we're discussing a tour of Stockholm and of course, tea. And the Abba Museum. Good times!

drwex: (Default)
[personal profile] drwex
It's not going to be a surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I think Trump's stated policies against trans individuals serving in the armed forces is heinous. It's despicable, divisive, regressive, and just frankly wrong. I've seen assertions of somewhere between 4,000 and 15,000 trans persons serving in the armed forces today. Even if we take the highest number, the resulting amount of cost to the VA care system is minuscule compared to the real costs of meeting our social commitment to care for those who have put their lives and careers on the line for this country.

If Trump actually cared about the costs of medical care for military personnel he'd be paying attention to the VA healthcare system and its needs. But in fact he doesn't care. Nor does he care about trans people. They're just today's convenient targets in his ongoing abdication of the job of being president for anyone who isn't his natural supporter. I hear those folk think he's doing just fine to which I say, "fuck you."

Normally I try to be a little more tolerant but between the attempt to kill people by taking away their healthcare and this nonsense I've run out of tolerant for a while. Trump is manifestly unfit for the job of Commander in Chief; the people he's attacking are either fit or not, a fact that can be determined without ever raising questions of their sex, their gender, their assigned-at-birth gender, or their gender presentation. Disqualification of a class of persons based on a characteristic unrelated to their job performance is a sign of a weak and cowardly leader.
lagilman: coffee or die (Default)
[personal profile] lagilman
 Reminder: if you're frustrated because I'm only doing one novel a year, you can get a MONTHLY fix of fiction via my Patreon....

A new short story guaranteed every month, for just $1, plus additional levels of Stuff!

https://www.patreon.com/LAGilman

edschweppe: (shadow unit)
[personal profile] edschweppe
I was browsing my Twitter feed (as one does) and came across this from Chelsea Polk (one of the Shadow Unit Powers That Be):



Which reminded me that, somewhere back in the glory days of Shadow Unit fandom, I'd joked about color-coding one's nails using the old resistor color coding scheme. So I recalculated[1] Pi to ten significant digits and provided this reply:




Which then led me to try and remember exactly when I'd made that joke.

Which (once my Google-fu failed to locate the joke in question) led me to starting a re-read of the LiveJournals of Chaz Villette, Hafidha Gates and Daphne Worth.

The good news was that I was able to find the reference relatively quickly:
Well, if you want them to think you're getting your sense of humor back, try painting the toenails as follows (left to right): orange, brown, yellow, brown, green, white, red, blue, green, orange. Then see who figures it out first, [livejournal.com profile] 0metotchtli or [livejournal.com profile] trollcatz

Alas, I discovered that the Shadow Unit forums were down hard. The Wiki has been down for years. Even the CafePress store appears to have gone poof.

Further alas, all too many of the usernames I ran across while searching had the tell-tale strikethroughs of deleted accounts, reminding me of how it was only a few months ago that LiveJournal's Russian ownership changed their Terms of Service in ways that drove many of my friends off their site altogether. (Me, I just stopped crossposting.)

Sigh.

[1] For values of "recalculate" equal to "looked it up online"

Davis Square Food Tour!

2017-07-26 15:51
[personal profile] davissquaregal posting in [community profile] davis_square
I recently started a Davis Square food tour and would love help getting the word out. I love this community and was disheartened to see the many open store fronts as well as chains like bfresh enter the neighborhood. My mission is to support the Square as an entertainment destination so that people don't start thinking of Somerville as Assembly Row :)

Anyways, we'd love it if you would support our tiny company! The tour is a lot of fun! It's called Off The Beaten Path Food Tours & Experiences (www.offthebeatenpathfoodtours.com), and we are booking our first tours this weekend with Friday - Sunday tours being available.

By way of marketing, I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions. We'd love help promoting it, and we're excited to showcase awesome entrepreneurs in our backyard and sample their delicious eats. If you have a guest in town, run an AirBNB, have a niece starting at Tufts, etc. etc. it's great to learn more about the history of our neighborhood and meet some local folks doing great things.

Storybuilding: A Ramble

2017-07-26 18:45
kiya: (rune)
[personal profile] kiya

Mirrored from Kiya Nicoll.

I’m working on this story.

I have… nine tabs of reference material open, assuming I haven’t lost some somewhere, all of them about real-world culture and organization of the Marines (both US and Royal). That’s not counting the brief things I have opened, researched, and closed (“How would a Marine address their Navy corpsman?”).

Or the other things I’ve had open. Common world surnames, say, that’s one I keep having to pull up every time I get another speaking part. The aliens’ names are easier, there are only two of them in the platoon, and I can just make something up that’s in accord with their vocal apparatus. Trying to reach out for names that paint the suggestion that there’s a broad world full of human beings that contribute in the subtext, though, that requires some actual thought. And some thought, because just snagging ‘most common surname’ by continent or something is still lazy. Just a slightly broader lazy than before. But if the worldbuilding wants to include breadth of humanity it has to actually show it in the interstitial bits.

And then there’s more overtly political questions. I sit with this story, this story that I’m trying to root in a particular military experience, while proclamations are being made about trans people in the military, and I go, “… is there someone trans in this platoon?” Because that’s as conscious a decision as having women in the platoon, as having names for people that reach beyond European standards, and the odds are good that someone like Karou the hyenoid alien does not exist but I am damn sure that Chelsea Manning does. It’s easy to just grab the easy names, the assumed genders, the just-like-every-other-story bits, easy and lazy and anyway if it’s just like every other story why am I sitting and writing it in the first place?

And it goes on. Trying to articulate a plausible Space Marine ethos means spending a bit of time sitting with actual Marine expressions to try to figure out how that would translate, how to include it, how to express it in the story without sitting down and doing the “This Is What It Means” talk from people who are busy with their actual mission. It means coming up with story twists and angles that will let that actually show, rather than remain entirely invisible underneath the events. Which isn’t a different writing problem than questions of human diversity at all – it’s all about how to take the things that are true in the storyworld and make them visible and plausible.

I did a little mini-tweet-thread about this question of breadth of humanity, mostly talking about Cracked Pots, the novel in progress, but it holds here too. My gods, it’s full of PEOPLE. And figuring out the people means figuring out the things, the details that make them all real. All the effort into the little telling details and right moments.

This particular story is capped at 5000 words for the market I’m writing for.

Longer stories produce… notably more tabs.

quirkytizzy: (Default)
[personal profile] quirkytizzy
Xanax, alcohol, other pills caused her to become unable to walk. After she began to throw up and choking on it, falling to the floor. I called 911 when she could not talk.


She broke her sobriety by drinking Rum I had, no more alcohol in the house.


All because she did not want to cut.


I am not okay, I am at a loss.

Passing the hat

2017-07-26 14:01
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My vet has an interesting receptionist and so what I was told would be a sixty dollar trip for their shots is in fact a two hundred dollar trip. This is all part of the seemingly futile effort to find them new homes. If people could donate towards the trip, that would be great.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I am reminded of the cover of a Joe Abercrombie novel where every time I took another look, I noticed yet another sword the character on the cover was carrying.
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Moonbreaker.

A novella by Heather Rose Jones, Three Nights at the Opera (2014), prequel to Daughter of Mystery.

There was indeed a new Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory, delivered to my Kobo well in time to beguile my journeyings. Very good.

Alex Hall, Glitterland (2013): m/m contemporary romance, which was an absolute page-turner and I will even give it a degree of pass on the phonetic rendering of Estuarine speech, on the grounds that this might be down to the first-person narrator's attempt to depict Difference.

Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (2016): I had a bit of a problem with the rather gender-stereotypical allocation of science vs magic, and also with the way that both of them, in particular Patricia, are shown as coming to their powers as a result of familial dysfunction and school bullying (are US high schools really quite so generally toxic as literature would have me believe?), which is not that dissimilar in its rather Spartan overtones to the ethos of the military school to which Laurence is briefly sent. But I read on.

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (2013) - there were parts where I thought this was a bit slow, and possibly about showing off the author's research, but then it all came together with all the threads meshing at the end.

On the go

The end is almost in sight with Prince of Tricksters. Also continuing with Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, as and when.

Up next

Well, I have lately had delivered to my Kobo Kate Elliott's Buried Heart (2017), conclusion (?) to the Court of Fives series. But I've also, finally, received Monica Ferris's cozy mystery, Knit Your Own Murder (2016), at last a) out in paperback and b) actually in the mailer received from the seller.

filkerdave: Made by LJ user fasterpussycat (Default)
[personal profile] filkerdave

On Friday, July 14th, the girlfriend and I went over to the Animal Adoption Center here in Jackson. Someone came home with us. We still don't have a name for her (I've suggested Purrito, but that's been vetoed. Given the date she came home, maybe I should push for Marianne).

Wednesday Reading

2017-07-26 09:27
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
I did a fair amount of reading over the weekend, and early this week.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott was too nerve-wracking and painful for me to read right now; I finished it, but the sequels will definitely have to wait. The race and class issues were very well-depicted, I thought, and the suspense was excellent. I am just too stressed about the world to handle this sort of thing in fiction right now.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch was, alas, much shorter than I had hoped. Abigail was so great! I want all the Abigail stories!!!

I was happily surprised that Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb, 43rd in the series, was much better than several of the previous volumes. There were a lot of twists and barriers to solving the mystery, capturing the perpetrators, and bringing them to justice, and remarkably little checking in with the huge recurring cast, which can become tedious. I read this partly because mysteries are comforting (justice wins!) and partly for purposes of analysis. I need to write down notes on its structure and character types and things like that.

Books read in 2017

2017-07-26 09:10
rolanni: (readbooks from furriboots)
[personal profile] rolanni
43. The Rose and the Dagger, Renée Ahdieh
42. Blaze of Memory, Nalini Singh (read aloud w/Steve)
41. The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh
40. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir, Mark Vonnegut MD (e)
39. The Rule of Luck, Catherine Cerveny (e) (arc)
38. The Cat Who Saw Red, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
37. The Girl with Ghost Eyes, M.H. Boroson (e)
36. Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
35. White Hot, Ilona Andrews (e)
34.  The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, Tom Reiss (e)
33. Mouse and Dragon, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (e)
32. Caszandra, Andrea K. Host (e)
31. Lab Rat One, Andrea K. Host (e)
30. Stray, Andrea K. Host (e)
29. The Cat Who Turned On and Off, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
28. Apprentice in Death, J.D. Robb (e/l)
27. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
26. The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs (e)
25. Hanged for a Sheep, Frances and Richard Lockridge (e)
24. Xamnesia, Lizzie Harwood (e)
23. Convergence, C. J. Cherryh, (read aloud with Steve)
22. Rock Addiction, Nalini Singh (e)
21. The Stranger in the Woods, Michael Finkel
20. Etched in Bone, Anne Bishop (e)
19. Rider at the Gate, CJ Cherryh (re-read)
18. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
17. Silence Fallen, Patricia Briggs (e)
16. The Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman
15. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
14. Memory, Linda Nagata (e)
13.  Bonita Faye, Margaret Moseley (e)
12.  Burn for Me, Ilona Andrews (e)
11. Snuff, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
10. A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (e)
9.  Some Danger Involved, Will Thomas
8.  Thud!, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
7.  White Tiger, Kylie Chan
6.  The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch
5.  Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon (e)
4.  The Wolf in the Attic, Paul Kearney (e)
3.  The Cat Who Saw Red, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
2.  Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse, Jayme Lynn Blaschke (e)
1. Sand of Bone, Blair MacGregor (e)

Profiles in Courage

2017-07-26 07:22
supergee: (disgust)
[personal profile] supergee
In 1999 a professional football player named Cecil Collins was caught climbing through a window with intent to rape and was sentenced to prison. The unusual part was that he was on the Disabled List with a broken leg. That was my go-to example of admirable personal qualities turned to bad ends until yesterday, when John McCain bravely overcame grievous health problems to vote to let millions of people die.
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker

Dream journal

2017-07-26 06:39
hudebnik: (Default)
[personal profile] hudebnik
I read in the newspaper that one of the high-tech entrepreneurs (like Elon Musk) was planning a humanned mission to Callisto, within four years. I thought this was quite ambitious, and wondered why specifically Callisto and what possible business model they had in mind to make the project pay for itself. A subsequent newspaper article indicated significant competition among high-tech entrepreneurs to get to Callisto first. Yet another newspaper article informed me that they had actually gotten there, with a four-person crew, and found native life that looked remarkably like humans, right down to the clothing.

Profile

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blue shark of friendliness

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