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interrobang studios
November 26th, 2015 02:08 pm
Today is the day that Americans celebrate by having uncomfortable political conversations! \o/

Two different kinds of uncomfortable political conversations: the first exemplified by the fact that I have sworn to walk out of family dinner the minute someone endorses Donald Trump. (I don't *think* they will - we have enough different views that we're pretty skilled at being apolitical - but I'm not sitting through it or fighting them if it starts, so. If they just put on the football instead I'm going to be sitting in the corner reading Check Please! slash on my phone.)

The second exemplified by the fact that I put up a Books by Native American Authors display at the library for the end of this month. (It's getting way less checkouts than the "How To Bake Pies" one the other librarian put up, but thus is the way of things. It also contains literally every book by a Native American author who isn't Michael Dorris that I could find in the library, which says volumes on its own.)

Anyway, in the spirit of the second, have some podcast recs:

I got onto otipêyimisiw-iskwêwak kihci-kîsikohk (Métis In Space) via a rec from [personal profile] sara, and it is now one of my favorite podcasts. Every week two Métis women, Molly and Chelsea, plus the occasional special guest, tipsily dismember a SFnal movie, TV show, or video that features Indigenous people in it. Also they occasionally get confusing dispatches from their future selves who live in a spaceship above a decolonized North America. It's the kind of podcast I like best - the kind that feels like a couple of fans have just invited you into their living room to chat - and is really smart and really compassionate and really fun. Also if you like Canadian things it is possibly the most beautifully Canadian thing I have ever encountered.

I have made very few decisions regarding my Hugo nominations yet, but otipêyimisiw-iskwêwak kihci-kîsikohk is definitely going on there for fancast, and you all should try it so you can decide whether to nominate it too. To start I suggest the recent episode The Manitou, where they watch a terrible 70s horror movie that they end up being unexpectedly fond of. Or the slightly older episode Knights of Cydonia, which is a music video that easy to watch in advance if you want to know what they're talking about, and was also taped while one of them was literally in labor - they have to stop for contractions a few times - which makes it possibly the most hardcore podcast ever.

Another podcast I have recently started listening to is Archeological Fantasies, which I don't know that I wholeheartedly recommend: I listen to it because I will listen to well-informed people make fun of the Bimini Road and the Newark Holy Stones and their ilk for as long as you can let me, but the hosts do sometimes get on my nerves, often with that sort of unconsciously arrogant PhD-knows-best kind of elitism that makes you understand why people cling to their antiscience beliefs. But that said it's mostly good and they are trying to be fair spokespeople for science (I just have high standards for public skepticism) and if you, too, will happily listen to hours of intelligent people calling out Ancient Aliens as idiotic, it's fun.

But there was a recent episode that stepped away from their usual format, and that one I do recommend heartily. It's Dr. Fader telling the story of The Legend of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse isn't an actual lighthouse; it's an oddly-named historical site where he's been working for decades. I won't go into detail about it because he tells the story really well and it was better unspoiled, but it was a lost town that had attached a beautiful legend about a mixed-race community in the early 19th century that turns out to almost entirely verifiably true, and the true story comes out better than the legend, and made me cry, and that kind of history needs to be better known. So you should listen to that episode.

(12 comments | Reply)

November 21st, 2015 06:20 pm
I can't type a key suddenly. a,e,i,u, yes, I can type that. I can't type the fifth letter in that set. This is bad because I am already using my backup USB key-thingy, I b0rked the built-in keythingy awhile back. Luckily I already did my writing in this day (and am ahead! \0/) It is weirdly hard, typing negatives in particular? I didn't ken that this many negatives used that letter but it is true. I tried writing 'must be the thing that is negative reversed' but I can't say that either, can't win.

Anyway I may be silent-ish until I get new a keythingy. I may give up and remap instead. A USB keythingy is cheap but I am lazy, we'll see. I have laundry, making things in kitchen, cleaning, leaf raking, finally finishing that musical with A.Ham, yuletide review, practicing music, mending, reading Ancillary Mercy, etc. as well anyway, typing is luxury time-waste rn.

But if any readers feel like talking with me using just a,e,i,u please say hi, it is an interesting exercise.

(Think I b0rked my backup hard drive yesterday as well. I am having all the luck with electrical things lately.)

(maybe I can make the keythingy qwerty again, in that case it will be missing 'S'. S is the key I b0rked last time I remapped. But it was the 'S' that is ';' in qwerty, a different physical keycap. This can't be sheer chance can it? I am haunted by a b0rked S.)

(40 comments | Reply)

November 19th, 2015 07:18 pm - A poll about food (well. hypothetically food.)
So guys! The church potluck is this Sunday and I have NO IDEA what to make but! I have been reading too many articles about jello-based cooking lately! And they always make me hungry for jello salad! So I pulled out the church's cookbook that is older than me and came up with a list of possibilities.

Also I am going to a Mad-Max themed potluck next month where we are supposed to bring something post-apocalyptic so clearly Jello molds will work there too right. (Especially if I find vegetarian jello.)

Help me decide?

the jello of my childhood )

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 30

Which one? They all sound so good.

View Answers

8 (26.7%)

7 (23.3%)

11 (36.7%)

9 (30.0%)

2 (6.7%)

1 (3.3%)

3 (10.0%)

4 (13.3%)

(19 comments | Reply)

November 18th, 2015 06:02 pm
I am all caught up on NaNo! \o/ For definitions of "caught up" that mean "my goal for the month is 20,000 words instead of 50,000." But this is further than I've gotten most years regardless of goal, so I'm calling it win if I make 20,000.

In the process I am crossed the 10,000 word line on both the Dresden-files-in-a-Canadian-shack story and the Enjolras-and-Grantaire-are-running-for-President AU. I am posting that one as a wip on AO3. Under my pseud because who knows if I will actually keep going on it. Although I gave myself until next November, so we'll see. The first three chapters are now here: Primary Failure. Whee.

I think I'm going to let those rest for awhile and work on something else. Brick discussion on Tumblr has gotten me nostalgic for writing serious canon-setting Les Mis, so maybe I'll work on one of those. (Of course, my options for 'serious canon-setting Mis' wips are the one where Valjean's cock heals TB, the one where aliens make Valjean and Javert have sex, the Valjean/Montparnasse kink pwp, the one with the guinea pig, the one with the squirrels, and the one were Javert and Courfeyrac team up to solve a mystery, so. For certain definitions of 'serious and canon', I guess.)

I also just crossed 5,000 words on two of the original fantasy stories I have in my WIPs, which is way farther than I've gotten on anything original in an embarrassingly long time. They've both just passed their action climax and are at the start of the emotional climax, which means of course I am going "Oh crap I didn't lay the groundwork for this nearly well enough earlier on." (They were also both supposed to max out at 5,000 but ehhhh. They will both need a ton of revision anyway, I'll figure it all out then.)

Writing original fantasy is hard.

It's been awhile since I have reported on a Sunday movie night. That is partly because I had a couple of busy weekends. It's partly because this is the first time the random number generator got me a movie that was, well, bad. It was the Keanu Reeves Constantine trigger warnings for assault and also other stuff )

Anyway now that's gotten over with I should finally get around to exposing myself to some not-awful Constantine. I hear there was a lot of Papa Midnite in the TV show.

Other than that my media consumption has been mostly trying to get through Hugo-eligible stuff. (Over the Garden Wall is the next DVD. I expect it to be ~10,000% better than Constantine.)

It's been fun! I'm going slower than I'd hoped, and I haven't read anything that's blow-my-socks-off-amazing yet, but most of what I've found from this year's SF output is good. Unfortunately I am used to finding something good and then going and finding all the fanfic for it, and none of these have enough fanfic.

Would anyone be interested in a kinkmeme for 2015 Hugo-eligible works? I think it could be cool. I think there's enough of us trying to do noms this year that we could make it work. And I miss having a kinkmeme. Anybody else think we could make it work? I could run it, probably, if we had critical mass.

(11 comments | Reply)

November 12th, 2015 04:07 pm
Latest installment in Adventures in Old WIPs: So just was I was starting to drift out of Dresden Files fandom, there was a fic fest where you were assigned something in Real Chicago and had to work it into a fic, and I got assigned the Chicago Blues Festival. Which was exciting! I like the blues, and music + magic is always fun, and I'd been wanting more fic that involved Harry's guitar-playing. And Real Chicago. So to get some ideas I re-watched that episode of Due South where Holly Cole sings Neon Blue, and I read a couple of articles on Chicago's music history, and watched a documentary on Chess Records, and read a biography of Robert Johnson, and started putting together a setlist on spotify, fell a little bit in love with Muddy Waters' sound and a lot in love with Howlin Wolf's, watched a bunch of Youtube videos taken at the festival, attempted to get better at playing the harmonica, mourned that there was no clean recording for most of Ma Rainey's songs... and then realized it was a couple days before the deadline and I should probably, like, write something.

So I sat down to write a story and this is what came out, which was not AT ALL what I was planning to have come out:

a bonfire in Missouri )

...and then I decided that if Martha Liberty was warning me off then maybe I should just. Not. Not right then, anyway.

So I defaulted. One of only three times I've totally defaulted on a formal fanfic fest.

This has been your official glimpse into my writing process.

(...and now I guess I should go do my nano words, ugh.)

(6 comments | Reply)

November 6th, 2015 08:24 pm
So I am still in the process of trying to get all of my attempts at fiction-writing in one place and at least moderately organized (I have found everything that was computerized from ~2003-~2006 and from ~2009 to present, and I didn't write a huge amount in those missing years, but there's a bunch of unfinished Stargate and Highlander fanfic still hiding *somewhere*.... including a stargate/highlander fanfic that was the longest thing I'd written up to that point. Oh well.)

Anyway, so part of this was pulling out all the abortive starts of original short stories that were mixed up in it, and I was reading over them, and I noticed a pattern, which is something that didn't surprise me exactly - when I thought about it, it made perfect sense, but: when I start and original story, my first couple paragraphs are about establishing, not a character or a plot, but a community.

I mean, in these scattered beginnings, I have (in super-paraphrase):
We moved to a new neighborhood that was very different from our old one and felt like we didn't fit in

I went to college and loved the college community but I couldn't help notice my roommate was holding herself apart from all that

There were eight princesses who were part of a royal family that had a strange relationship with the land and people

We lived alone in the forest, the whole family, with our animals, and stayed separate from the world, but a dragon lived next door

I failed out of college but I loved the college town and stayed even when it all went wrong

I work in the library and that lets me see all sorts of interesting things about the people in this community (x2 because screw it, write what you know)

My niece who I live with woke me up to say the princess needs me on duty because the town is under threat

I'm not a native of this town and therefore when a strange thing happened I didn't know enough to pretend I hadn't seen it, the way all the locals did

The department chair stopped by my office and I moaned because I was so not interested in dealing with more intradepartmental politics

And I wondered if it was just something I was noticing in the original stuff because I was looking at it. But while some of my fanfic starts similarly, but it doesn't stand out nearly as much as a pattern. Most of the fanfic starts with strong character moments, or relationship-establishing interactions between two characters. Even the stories I thought of as about community - like, say, the Pac Rim remix - I start with strong character interactions. When I do open with something about place, it's much more about establishing setting, atmospheric description shots - "it was foggy in Toulon that night", "the parking lot was deserted and lonely" - where the ones in original fic are about setting up a character's relationship with an entire community, place and people together.

I am not sure what I think about this. If it's something that's a problem with my original fic openings, or it's something I'm doing well, or it's showing me what I'm interested in when I can make a story with no constraints. Maybe it's that having to establish a character from scratch in as few strokes as possible, the best way I know to do it is to show how they fit into their community (and vice-versa, when it comes to establishing a world in few strokes), and that with fanfic I don't have to do that. Or maybe I'm still too nervous about all that in original fic and just don't have the courage to open with strong imagery/action/dialogue the way in do in fanfic, and these are unnecessary intro bits I should cut. Maybe I'm just trying to tell fundamentally different kinds of stories in fic than in original stuff (although at least three of those original fics were supposed to be short romances....) Or maybe I don't do the community-based openings in fanfic because the canons I'm working from are generally not that good at community.

I don't know, I haven't concluded anything. But I'm finding it interesting to think about. Any thoughts? Anything similar that y'all have noticed?

(13 comments | Reply)

November 4th, 2015 03:10 pm - vote for more undercover-in-the-suburbs threesome AUs
Hmm. Time has passed, apparently? It's dark now, ugh.

I spent Halloween helping my friend who works in the comics industry hand out comics to trick-or-treaters. I think we gave out about 1200 comics in batches of five. That was fun! She lives in a neighborhood that's heavy on working-class renters and medical students, so quite a lot of the kids were having their first U.S. Halloween, which was adorable.

(They were pretty much all tie-ins to kids' TV shows. There are so few non-tie-in comics these days that you can happily hand to a ten-year-old whose parents you don't know. This is super-tragic.)

Then we watched a bunch of Muppets, I crashed at her place, and the next day I went to [personal profile] synecdochic's gathering and watched The Sentinel with a bunch of fanpeople. So now I can never again write Sentinel AUs without having ever seen canon. It's a milestone in my life.

...not that seeing canon made much difference. Canon really really doesn't have much in common with fanfic, wow. It's basically a 90s cop show with a much larger cars-blowing-up budget than writing budget. Once an episode or so they remember that they're supposed to have a gimmick about special powers and Det. Ellison finds a Clew that way, although the writing is generally bad enough that it doesn't actually matter that he finds the Clew.

Also Ellison is ... really obviously playing it gay. Let's see, I was there for the episode that had flashbacks to when he was undercover with the Vice Squad as a member of the Village People and had this super-intense relationship with Hot Older Mentor Dude that included sleeping with dude's girlfriend while they both wibbled about how much they loved him. And the episode where Ellison and Blair were each paired with a Fiery Latina Chick and Blair romanced his and Ellison attempted to avoid his at all costs. And the one where they hung out at a Catholic monastery and he bonded with the monks. And the one where they go undercover as a Normal Suburban Family, and by that of course I mean "Ellison and a female detective pretend to be married and Blair is the hot younger dude who inexplicably lives with them and everyone in the neighborhood assumes it's a threesome" because why not, show, why not.

I mean I'm aware those episodes were carefully curated (thanks, actual TS fans who were choosing them!) but I really did expect it to be more "Jim and Blair are super codependent with each other" and less "Jim is closeted and patient, Blair is 100% oblivious about p. much everything".


The writing was terrible, the casefiles were forgettable, the action scenes were missable. The others who were watching kept saying that the acting was also terrible but TBH is was not terrible to the extent that I noticed. I mean it wasn't amazing but, idk, it wasn't distractingly bad, they seemed to be doing the best that could be expected given the material they were working with. But then IDK, I have noticed that I tend to have a different opinion of what "bad acting" means than the standard. I would not be surprised if I just don't look for the same body language/tone cues that most people do.

(11 comments | Reply)

October 30th, 2015 09:07 pm
So anyway, in an attempt to get all settled before NaNo/YT season, I've been trying to get all my fanfic wips in one place (no, all of them, back to the last century) and man, there's a lot of good stories in there that are never going anywhere. :/ It makes me sad that nobody will ever see them, but not sad enough to do all the canon review + writing work that would be required to finish them.

Here, reading list, have 7500 words of Harry Dresden and John Marcone written c. 5 years ago, before Ghost Story came out. Featuring huddling for warmth. In a Canadian shack. In a blizzard. With bonus soulbonds and spirit animals and marriage-of-convenience and fuck-or-die. And, apparently, mpreg and pot. I wonder how many other random tropes I was planning to throw in here before I remembered that I can't write feels.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright )

(8 comments | Reply)

October 29th, 2015 03:57 pm - on overcommitting
Yuletide letter is basically done now! If you saw the blank version and were saddened, be comforted that it is now quite full of blathering.

...that was kind of exhausting, gosh.

Also I signed up for NaNo, but I'm going to just cheat with 'finish wips' again as usual, although I am going to try to make half my wordcount on original works, we'll see if that goes. Anyway, if you want to watch me lose you can add me on the site, I'm melannen there as usual.

Meanwhile I am trying to get the second quarter of the Night in the Lonesome October crossover finished & posted by Halloween, we'll see. I'm getting to the point where I need to put feelings in it. ;_; writing is hard.

Also this weekend I have tentative plans to go to a used book sale in Baltimore, hang out with friends and watch Muppets and give comics to trick-or-treaters, and then on Sunday go eat leftover candy with fangirls. I'm trying to decide if I should try to squeeze "Finally watch The Martian" in there somewhere or if that would be a bad idea and I would fall over.

I'm also seriously thinking about doing ChessieCon in Baltimore at the end of November. I never did get around to writing up CapClave, did I? It was sufficiently fun that maybe doing a slightly larger one with more guests I care about would be worth it, anyway.

(3 comments | Reply)

October 28th, 2015 05:10 pm - Yuletide letter
Do you ever sit down to just, like, look up a few old entries, and next thing you know it's three days later and you're in the middle of re-reading a four-year-old kinkmeme?


Anyway, the fandom:yuletide tag on this journal should now be up to date with all my old yuletide posts and all posts relevant to this year's requests! So if you came here from my YT request, you can backread in the tag and find stuff about what I like in yuletide. And I can link it more easily in my letter.

Oh yeah I should do a letter I guess shouldn't I. Although last year I didn't and that worked out wonderfully, I got an amazing story and two amazing treats, so if you'd rather not bother with the letter, yt writer, everything you actually needed was in the request, the rest of this is just to indulge my own desire to ramble about these fandoms, so you are welcome to ignore.

Here's my requests:

19th Century Paleontology RPF
Edward Drinker Cope
Othniel Charles Marsh

I would like Shenanigans, please. Cope/Marsh hatesex in the boneyards is fine. AU where they can summon the spirits of the creatures they have Named and make them fight duels for them is fine. Rap battles in the Academy of Sciences are fine. Sent back in time by steampunk contraption and forced to work together to survive the Jurassic is fine. The Feud gets out of control until they are two mad scientists battling to rule the world is fine. Basically if it's over-the-top and tropey and about Cope and Marsh's epic hatemance, it is fine. (You can also write something historically accurate and meticulously researched, I wouldn't turn it down.)

More about Cope/Marsh if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Cope/Marsh desires )

James Asher Vampire Series - Barbara Hambly
Any Character

If you write me James and Lydia and Simon, I really really need a story where James and Lydia finally have to acknowledge that James and Simon love each other just as much as Lydia and Simon do. If you don't want to write that, you can write me gen backstory for any of the three before they met, or gen or relationship fic about literally any other pair of characters in canon, I would love any of that too because all the characters in this series are so great and have such fascinating relationships with each other. I just can't take any more J/L/S where one leg of the triangle is missing, canon is hurting me on purpose, so if you write me any part of that 'ship please write me all of it.

More about Ashers if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Asher-related desires )

Imperial Radch Series - Ann Leckie
Any Character

I haven't read Ancillary Mercy as of writing this letter, but I will by reveals, so if you want to go with something from Mercy please do, I am sure I will love it, I just don't know how to prompt it yet. Other than that: I would love fic about Ships' relationships with their captains or crew from the POV of anyone (including OCs) but Breq; I would love Anaander Miaanaai backstory or POV of any kind whatsoever; I would love anything about the process of Radchaaization from one of the characters who is trying to navigate between Radchaai and the culture she was part of before the Radch came; I would also love anything else you write about any of the many characters who were nominated.

More about the Radchaai if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Imperial Radch desires )

Adrienne Ashe
Raven Xingtao

I am reading this in trades so I'm behind, but mostly I really need Adrienne/Raven slash? So bad. Age them up a bit and have Adrienne suddenly realize that Raven SOO did not want to be sisters. And then adventures + kissing. Yes? Yes. If you don't feel the Adrienne/Raven I would also love anything at all about Adrienne's mother and/or brother, or about Raven off adventuring on her own.
More about Princeless if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Princeless desires )

Theophile Gautier's Cats RPF
Any Character

Hi this is your safety fandom, just find "My Private Menagerie" in Google Books and read the chapter about the cats and write me a thousand words about the Black Dynasty. (although animal harm warning, they do all die eventually, as they are cats who lived a century ago.) Mostly I would like anything at all from their POV. What did Enjolras actually do out on the streets all day? What did Gavroche's alley-cat friends think of him? What did Eponine think of her brothers, or of being left with only her new paramour, or being prevented from eating at the table like a person when there were guests over?

More about the Black Dynasty if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Famous Historical Cats desires )

Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
Any Characters

Please write me something about Lovelace and/or Babbage and/or Brunel and/or anyone else from canon or anywhere else in canon period being ridiculously awesome and awesomely ridiculous, thank you. If you are stuck for ideas, pick a page at random from Babbage's memoirs, or something from the notes that didn't get expanded in canon, and work it into the comic's pocket universe.

More about Lovelace & Babbage if you don't know the fandom )

More about my Lovelace & Babbage desires )

Also: crossovers. )

...I feel like doing this for six requests takes far more than twice as long as doing it for three...but be proud of me, I only offered 1% of the fandoms this year.

(4 comments | Reply)

October 22nd, 2015 12:44 pm - in which melannen tries to post about her 'rl' more
Sometimes it occurs to me that I am even odder as a person than even I realized.

Fr. ex., I'm sitting here at work waiting eagerly for my lunch break to start in fifteen minutes. Not because I am hungry - I actually managed a reasonable breakfast today - or because I need the break from work - it's been a pretty quiet morning - but because on my lunch break I can go read poetry to the dead fox.

(gosh, I hope the dead fox is still there, I am almost through the poetry book.)

(6 comments | Reply)

October 19th, 2015 04:30 pm - The Life of a Wrangler
The AO3's Tag Wranglers are recruiting again! If you're a regular AO3 user, tag wrangling is a nifty way to give back, and once you're through training it can be as much or as little work as you need it to be. And I promise you're pretty insulated from what goes on up the tree in the leadership...

There's some nifty stuff on the wranglers needed list this time - you know you want to be the new wrangler for Young Wizards or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Rick and Morty or Elfquest.

Anyway, I bring that up because last month, as a favor to a fan who was doing a study on social tagging systems (don't worry they had their ethical stuff all in line), I spent two weeks keeping a daily diary of my wrangling, and I thought y'all might be interested in a glimpse into the daily life of a tag wrangler.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a glimpse into how I wrangle, every wrangler has a different workflow, do not use this to judge the team as a whole, I am a BOWQ at this point, there are many fresh-faced less cynical wranglers doing very very good work.

Four days In the Life of a Tag Wrangler )

(21 comments | Reply)

October 13th, 2015 10:37 pm - It's Ada Lovelace Day!
...or at least it still was when I started writing this.

Last December we did a meme where we wrote about topics suggested by readers (you all remember that, right?), and [personal profile] redsnake05 asked me to talk about The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, which I am now doing.

...almost a year late, but we're in a small pocket universe where time sometimes folds back on itself, right?

Actually the delay was due to a couple of things, first that I wanted to get my hands on the book, which I sadly didn't manage to do until this month. Second that I don't really have anything deep to say about Lovelace and Babbage except OMG, it's the BESTTTT, you all HAVE TO READ IT ok, look I now understand about quaternions! this comic is magical.

And third that if I wanted to write anything more coherent about Lovelace and Babbage, I would have to talk about my feelings on steampunk in general, but I can't really do that, because my feelings on steampunk in general is "gosh, it's all so insipid compared to Lovelace and Babbage, why bother", and thus I don't have enough background in it to make a fair comparison.

But I shall make a valiant effort anyway! After all, not knowing what he was on about never stopped Babbage.

So here are my Three Things I Want In Steampunk, broken down into ridiculous layers:

  1. The Victorians Were Goddamned Off-The-Wall, Turned Up To Eleven, there is basically nothing you can write in speculative fiction about them that can't be outshone by something from real history that was more amazing, spectacular, horrible, terrible, cruel, ridiculous, awesome, etc.
    • This Also Applies To Their RL Tech vs. Invented Tech, i.e., the real stuff is always going to be way weirder and more interesting that the made-up stuff, and if they didn't quite get there in real tech, there's probably some related tech in actual Victorian spec fic that's more interesting than the tech in 21st century cod-Victorian spec fic.
      • Which Is Not To Say That The Victorians Were Any More Off The Wall Than Any Other Group Of Humans, but they were courteous enough to also exist at the first point in history at which they were able to leave us copious and detailed documentation of all the weirder-than-fiction things they did

  2. New Technology Catches On When Society Is Ready For It, not as a result of some lone genius working on his own, no matter how dramatically compelling it is
    • And When Society Is Ready For It means that the materials, tools, and skill needed to make it exist and make it go are reasonably available, the transportation/communication/trade networks needed to transport those things around are in place and secure enough to be usable, and a real demand exists for the technology that makes putting all the above together worthwhile.
      • When It Does Catch On, It Changes Everything, and especially things nobody would have expected it to change.
        • Human technology is always changing at an accelerated rate, faster than we can keep up, it always has, and thirty years later we've always forgotten it was ever any different.

  3. The Victorians Lived At The Inflection Point Between When It Was No Longer Possible For One Person To Know Nearly Everything, And When It Newly Possibly For Nearly Everyone To Know Many Things
    • The Last of the "Polymaths" - the upper class, classically educated gentlemen who could make major contributions in all the sciences -- were dying out and being slowly replaced by modern hyperspecialization, as the amount of known information rapidly outpaced what one person could know
      • At The Same Time, Everybody Could Do Groundbreaking Science In Their Shed - mass literacy, relatively cheap printed materials, and urbanization which gave access to public lectures created a class of non-wealthy people who could follow science fairly closely as a hobby, but at the same time most sciences and technologies were still at a point where a relatively intelligent person could replicate groundbreaking experiments cheaply at home, and have a pretty intuitive understanding of the results.
        • The whole point of steampunk is that if anybody stuck gears on something, they would do something. Probably something that nobody had ever figured out how to make gears do before. Make your gears do something real.

If you know anything about Lovelace and Babbage - and if you don't, you need to scroll back up and follow that link and read it all, I'll wait, there's not that much - you'll probably start to understand why I love it so, because Syndey Padua quite apparently shares my views on at least the first of those things: that nothing she could make up could ever outdo the actual history, and thus her best function is to make the primary sources as accessible and compelling as possible - partly through fictionalizing in an (excellently put together and hilarious) AU, but at least as much through copious footnotes and quotations, because yes. Footnotes.

But anyway rather than talk about that to illustrate my completely unfounded by wide reading issues with steampunk as a genre, I'm going to talk about some other books I've been reading lately, which include:

Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett
Rockets, Missiles, and Men In Space, by Willy Ley
The Knight and the Umbrella, by Ian Anstruther
Passages from the Life of a Philosopher by Charles Babbage

You'll note that only one of these is fiction. )
Which is all just to say, read Lovelace and Babbage. It doesn't get any better than Lovelace and Babbage.

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October 5th, 2015 07:06 pm
1. Screw you, Hamilton. Screw you. Just. Why.

I descended to the level yesterday of re-reading Astolat's Hamilton/Washington accidental soulbond fic and I was like 'but. why is there not more of this. especially the way she hints at the way the two different types of magic interact. I want more of this.'

And then I remembered I had the library copy of Uprooted sitting right there. Oh me.

2. Accomplishments of the day: I finally finished Alaric Hall's mp3 Icelandic course! Ég tala islensku nú! (Ég tala ekki islensku.) Now I have to decide whether to take that out of my dailies on habitica, or to keep trying to practice somehow every day.

Also I made a bingo down the middle of my feedback bingo card! \o/ I've actually left a feedback comment every day since I added that to my dailies, which is pretty impressive, given it's me, even if a lot of them were pretty sad feedback comments.

3. This is your reminder that if you want to vote in the OTW elections you have to join the OTW by tomorrow.

4. Oh, also, I am going to Capclave - the DC area SF books convention - this weekend. I've only been thinking about going since 2001, so this seemed like a good year. I've never been to a book-focused SF convention before and I don't know anybody - I offered to volunteer but they got back to me saying they'd get back to me and then didn't. They do have a first-timers' mixer Saturday morning, though, it looks like. Anybody got any advice?

5. This week's dvd-and-crafting, I randomly drew the drawer of documentaries! \o/ There's probably something wrong with me that that felt like a week off. I pick James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep )

6. Happy birthday, sister, if you are reading this! I hope you got my excellent present in the mail.

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October 1st, 2015 09:44 am
1. My only statement on the OTW elections: when I saw who was running, my immediate reaction was "But we can't lose Atiya Hakeem or Matty Bowers to the board! They do too much good!" Later, when I was reminded of who Alex Tischer, Aline Carrão, and Katarina Harju are (names are confusing) I had the same reaction to them. Take from that what you will.

2. I started listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (Hamilton is the just-opened-on-Broadway hip-hop musical that all of musicals fandom is freaking out over right now) but I got as far as the bit where they start rapping about how if you want to change the world, first you need to get your financials in order, and I just couldn't. Take from that what you will.

3. This week's movie-and-crafts was The Great Escape! It was. A really good movie )

Anyway, say what you will about the geopolitics of it, but if you are the sort of person who would be interested in three hours of nothing but sheer uncut competence porn set during WWII, you should watch this movie. Also you get to look at David McCallum in an RAF uniform a lot, which is a nice bonus.

4. The main reason I haven't been excited about the new Man from Uncle movie is that you can't do MfU without David McCallum as Illya. Which is a weird thing for me to be hung up on, because I haven't even watched any of the original series. But! I have watched a lot of vids of it. And. David McCallum, ok I know I don't usually get shallowly invested in looking at actors. But look at David McCallum. He looks even better in handcuffs than John Sheppard and I don't say that lightly.

5. AAAGUH Yuletide noms are almost ready to close, run in circles, scream and shout, wave your arms and flail about.

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September 24th, 2015 07:35 pm - writig hard
When you see this post, feel encouraged to post something in your journal. Short or long, trivial or profound, it doesn't matter, just something. And if you like, you can pass on the token by copying this notice at the bottom of your post.

...via various people.

One of the posts that's stacked up in my head not-being-written is in response to that article about what is wrong with write every day and the responses to it that I saw on my reading list, and on the one hand I agree with them, and on the other hand now that I've gotten into a habit of 'write something every day' (not 'write 750 words', not 'write for 1 hour', but 'write at least two words for goodness sake even if you erase it immediately afterward') I really get thrown off when I break the habit for a couple days. Like I did last weekend when I went away for four days, and I'm still all blocked about 'oh I can't make tonight be the night I start the habit again, it doesn't feel right'.

On the other hand I've been *thinking* a lot about my wips, even if not writing them. Also: the 'write every day' thing has gotten me writing more on days when I'm not really feeling it, and so for the first time I'm consistently getting drafts of stuff where I can already see what revisions I need even as I'm writing it. Which on the one hand is scary and I don't know what to do, on the other hand feels like a big step forward in writing.

So here, have a list of the stuff in my wips file in scrivener and what I currently think is most wrong with them:

Maybe this will motivate me to get over the bump and move forward on some of them.... )

...ok I don't know if that actually helped but I do feel better now that I've gotten that out.

p.s. if anybody read one of those and went 'oooh, I can fix that' I would be delighted to send you what I have in return for you telling me what you think.

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September 14th, 2015 03:30 pm
This week's sunday night movie and crafting was "Sharpe's Company" (I skipped a couple of weeks due to sister being home and then backpacking.) It turned out by sheer chance to be the one that comes right after Sharpe's Dragon, which I had just re-read and is a favorite of mine. "Sharpe's Company" had a lot fewer dragons for some reason. Did have about the expected quotient of worryingly young and very shirtless Sean Bean though.

It was fun but I didn't find it quite as compelling as the Hornblower one, possibly I think because Sharpe is actually damn good at his job, and loves his job, and knows it, which was terrifically fun to watch, don't get me wrong, this is a great series for competence porn, but the catharsis was less, because you knew that if they just let Sharpe get on with doing his damn job everything would be A-OK. Being infantry based it also had a different sort of ethos around the concept of war than the Navy ones I know more about, which I'm still thinking about.

Promised analysis of backpacking pack is going up on Tumblr because, augh, DW is so much better for so many things, but not having to mess with photo hosting counts for a lot.

(3 comments | Reply)

September 7th, 2015 04:33 pm
So I am back from two days (and twenty miles, and about two square inches of skin off my feet) on the Appalachian trail. I have now hiked 2 out of 14 states' worth, that means I'm about 14% done, right?

(More realistically, I've done 3 of the 13 ~20-mile PATC maps. Which cover PA, MD, WV, and VA. Or 9 of the 13 sections in the MD&NoVA guidebook. But still! I've hiked across two states!)

I don't know why I do the AT. I don't particularly enjoy it while I'm doing it and I'm really, really bad at it.

As trails go, the Appalachian Trail is possibly the most boring and with the worst trail conditions - 90% of the time there's nothing to see except basically the same scruffy second-growth woodlands I can see from my house; and since it generally follows ridgelines, the elevation change is unnecessarily ridiculous, water is usually at least a quarter-mile straight down, and when you combine the terrain with general overuse, the condition of the trail surface is generally horrendously eroded so you basically find your way by looking through the forest and going "which bit looks the least pleasant to walk on? Ah yes, that must be the trail." And even on a weekend with basically ideal weather, like we had, it's either too cold at night or too warm in the mornings or both, the weather is unpredictable, and there are annoying insects everywhere.

And while it's not, like, super-crowded, even now - on the busiest section of the trail on the busiest weekend of the year I could still go hours without seeing another human - if what you want is grand solitude, it's unlikely you'll go more than a few hours truly alone or totally away from active human habitation or roads.

Anyway. Yeah. If you want to go hiking I recommend literally any other trail I have ever walked on.

But somehow I keep wanting to go back anyway.

The trail culture is good - because it's such a freakin' miserable trail to walk, pretty much the only people you meet are people who want to Hike The Appalachian Trail (rather than, you know, just want to hike, because in that case you'd pick a trail that was actually nice) and, within ~5 miles of a road, locals out with their dogs, so there's a real sense of shared ownership of the AT as a cultural artifact, and of camaraderie, and a laid-back spirit.

The other thing about the AT is that logistically, it's relatively easy: all the towns and roads it crosses are used to long-distance hikers stumbling in, there are plenty of campsites and shelters and water source and resupply shops, relatively well spaced; there's enough traffic and the trail is well enough marked and maintained that you can get the backcountry feeling without the actual danger of isolation and wilderness; and there's lots of other hikers around who are happy to help and share. Plus it's easy driving distance for something like a quarter of the US population. And there really isn't any cheaper possible vacation. (You can spend a ton of money on trail gear if you want to but for most of the AT, you really don't have to.)

And long-distance backpacking in general is - physically horrendous for someone with my general lack of physical condition, but mentally relaxing, because once you're out on the trail, literally the only decision you can make is "do I keep going now, or do I take a break for food/water/rest, and then keep going later?" Because there are no other options. You can't do anything about anything off the trail until you are off it, and you can't get off the trail except by keeping going, however slowly that might be by the end of the day and however heavily you are leaning on your stick. You have one path and you have to go down it and life's exactly that simple.

That would probably drive a lot of people 'round the bend, but it works for me. (Of course, in our modern world - where we talked to thru-hikers who had been on the trail for months and been on the internet on their smartphones nearly every day - that part of the trail experience is probably whittling away, too. I had mine turned off thanks.)

And I also like... the experience of having done it? The experience of long-distance walking is sort of a foundational human experience - before cars, really, nearly everybody had done multi-day walks (or multiple all-day walks in a row) many, many times in their lives, even if they were walking beside carts or animals. It's still a basic part of life for many people all around the world. Just not people like me who live in a place where a car is basically required because walkability is limited (and walking along the roads stupidly dangerous) even if you try. I know that getting out a couple times a year to hike a trail doesn't really show me anything substantial about what a long-distance-walking life is like, but it shows me more than not doing it would.

Anyway, today I am walking with a cane because my calf muscles are celebrating Labor Day by going on strike whenever I stand up, and also I have gauze pads taped across the backs of both my ankles where every shoe I have ever hiked in (from $200 hiking boots to Crocs) has worn away the skin, and I can still feel my packstraps even when I'm not wearing them, but generally I am satisfied for at least awhile, I think. I told everyone that next hiking trip I do will be somewhere level. Maybe a barrier island. I once walked half of Fenwick Island and back in an afternoon and barely noticed I'd done it. (We crossed 82 hundred-foot contour lines on the map during that 20 mile hike, which is more elevation change than climbing Old Rag. And a lot more horizontal.)

Now I need to lever myself up and unpack properly. Analysis of this year's pack contents and their usefulness coming as soon as I've managed that.

(45 comments | Reply)

September 5th, 2015 07:26 am
Ok, I'm off to do another state's worth of the Appalachian trail! If I'm not back by Monday call the park police.

(it's only West Virginia. It's less than twenty miles.)

(believe it or not, this was my original motivation for getting an lj, the possibility somebody would notice if I went hiking and just never came back.)

eta:I am back! and not dead (mostly)

(5 comments | Reply)

September 4th, 2015 11:15 am - so that does the inside of the winter soldier's head look like
So here's the follow-up to yesterday's post about memory and amnesia. This one assumes you've read that one, but it's mostly about how I choose to apply that one to MCU Bucky Barnes. (Also it was mostly written a year ago, so in some ways the fandom has moved on from where it was when I started this.)

What do we actually know for a fact about the Winter Soldier's brain? )

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