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interrobang studios
April 6th, 2017 04:24 pm
I have been watching the Hugo and Nebula noms come out and be raected to with glee. Finally a set of Hugo noms where I actually legit want to read nearly all the nominations! I was almost tempted to buy a vote again and then I remembered that the reason I only did it in the Puppy years is that there was no way I could read everything in a year with a proper nominations list, and I came to my senses. (I haven't even managed to pull The Snow Queen out from under my bed yet.)

But yay for the series category! That was long overdue, and they all look like series that deserve being the first series winner, even the three and a half of them that I have not read. (OMG a category where I had already read almost half of the nominees!) For those of you voting, I suggest picking one that doesn't already have ALL THE HUGOs.

(True story: I once met Lois Bujold, back when I had just started reading her stuff and didn't understand, and complimented her on her chunky author necklace with the interesting sfnal beads all along it, and she was like, "oh, right, those are all my Hugo awards". And that was several Hugos ago, iirc.)

Anyway, since this has once again become an all sff-fandom all the time blog, can we talk about Nebula award nominee Every Heart A Doorway? Because I read that one, and I liked it! Okay it was very clearly a book about the characters and worldbuilding with a mystery plot tacked on as an excuse, but I support that choice. And there are lots of things about the characterization and the way it lined up with the worldbuilding that's really interesting. Or how it just wasn't vicious enough to say the things *I* needed someone to say about kids' portal fantasy (I think I might have needed one set at the school for kids who *don't* want to go back.) or how I kind of think that one yuletide fic did a lot of it better than the original.

But on the whole, I liked it, it was fun and diverse and had things to say, would recommend,


I can't get over the fact that she made "Logic" and "Nonsense" as two opposite divisions of portal worlds.

Someone who thinks "Logic" and "Nonsense" are opposites isn't qualified to write about logic, definitely isn't qualified to write about nonsense, and absolutely isn't qualified to write about portal fantasy as a genre, because if you haven't read The Annotated Alice you don't have your foundation, and if you have read The Annotated Alice I don't understand how you could think they are opposites. The main theme of the books that basically founded the genre is how nonsense and logic are indistinguishable much of the time.

Yeah, there is some talk in Every Heart a Doorway about restructuring the classification system, which is good, but the nonsense/logic problem never comes up and *that* is their basic problem and how can none of the characters have ever properly read Carroll?

I know I'm coming on strong here about a book I basically liked but dammit Gardner's Annotated Alice is one of my foundational texts and where I learned at least 75% of what I know about formal logic and everything I know about formal nonsense. (Hell, you don't even have to have read Gardner, you just have to have made any attempt at all to understand Alice!) (Or, for that matter, to have spent much time in a traditional Fairyland.)

I spent a lot of time after reading that book grumbling to myself reclassifying worlds on a nonsenselogic - sense axis instead. It works a lot better. Narnia is basically 100% sensible. Alice is of course all the way on the nonsenselogic end. Orcus balances pretty well in the middle. (Most of the worlds in McGuire's book that we see anything of to speak of are classed under "logic" but leaning hard toward Sensible But Not Particularly Logical, much like her protagonist. Which is probably good because I suspect anyone who thinks nonsense and logic are opposites would fail utterly at writing real nonsense.)

(13 comments | Reply)

April 4th, 2017 05:44 pm - FMK #7: The Moon and Mars
So, the clear K winner last week was Harry Harrison with Captive Universe and no discussion in comments. What do you people have against Harry Harrison other than him being a boring libertarian-ish white dude? It sounds cool! Generation ships in asteroids! Possibly a hispanic MC! (Possibly he totally fucks up the Mexica culture stuff?)

The F winner was The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge, also with no discussion. All I know going in is that I really like her Psion books, and I think The Snow Queen is probably fantasy but probably not a fairy tale AU? So that should be fun!

This week's theme is The Moon And Mars.

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Bova, Bradbury, Carter, Danziger, Del Rey, Ford, Heinlein, Lem, Temple, Verne, Wells )

(29 comments | Reply)

April 1st, 2017 08:46 pm
Okay, let's see, what have I been doing lately other than reading and posting hate about beloved feminist classics.

1. I watched the Never Gonna Give You Up video for the first time in awhile due to that April's Fools Day post that's going around. I had correctly remembered that he is an Immortal, but I had forgotten that he is totally singing to the bartender. (It's not just me, right? He's singing to the bartender, that's the only way that video makes sense.)

2. I did [personal profile] darthneko's sketch-a-day calendar for March after I saw [personal profile] sholio post about it! I haven't mentioned it before now because I had no idea whether I would actually finish or not, but it was super-fun.

scan under cut )

I did it in ballpoint with no undersketching and minimal pre-planning and deliberately picked a kind of thing I am not practiced at drawing. It definitely deserves Ursula Vernon's "you are allowed to make bad art" stamp but it was really fun and I am fond of the result. It was supposed to be a giant massive spectacular spaceship but I got the scale really wrong on the first couple days so it ended up being the spaceship equivalent of a Winnebago that was parked in somebody's back pasture for twenty years. I am pretty okay with this. Boy did I not manage consistent lighting or perspective, though! (but the wavy bit in the rings is not me misjudging my curves, it's a shepherd moon. definitely.)

3. I also made a very hungry caterpillar! For a baby shower that was two weeks ago. Ooop.

I used a different texture for every section because when I was little I really loved cloth toys with different textures, but maybe most babies aren't into that? idk. It was a fun way to use stash, anyway.

4. I have started re-shelving my nonfiction by dewey decimal number! I HATE THE RULE OF APPLICATION SO MUCH

(I'm using dd because it's what we use at work, I don't need to be convinced there are better systems. I am actually making up my own system for my books, mostly because the ptb suddenly and without input banned us from doing anything "non-work-related" on the work computers regardless of how bored we are when it's slow, so I am pretending inventing my own private classification system is work-related. It does not have any rules - I made the major divisions and most of the second-level ones and am now classifying my nf using the "random book" option on LT, putting things wherever they feel right, and I will later go back and try to figure out what rules I was using. Should be fun!)

5. There has been a sudden surge of OMGCHECKPLEASE love on my reading list the last couple days! which seems to always include a rec of my fic augh every time i look at it i see so many problems It's kind of making me want to go back to the half-finished stuff in that 'verse, which is half pre-4th of July stuff about Kent trying to deal with it and eating a lot of baked goods, and half post-4th of July stuff in which Kent proposes that he and Jack come out together as a couple and that way nobody will think Jack and Bitty are dating so Bitty will be safe, and everybody somehow thinks this is a good idea, and there are SHENANIGANS and FEELS. (I don't think I actually have the capacity to write that one, so somebody else should.) Also EVENTS have MOVED ON since then and idk if I can even still write it.

6. Cat pic?
cat pic )

(13 comments | Reply)

March 31st, 2017 02:24 pm - FMK: The Female Man
The nearest pokestop I can access is approximately 1 hour's walk from my house. Fun facts! (But I did get my third 7-day streak in a row, yay me walking four miles in the rain.)

So, The Female Man by Joanna Russ. This is a book that has A Lot Of Things To Say so I am absolutely not going to even attempt to do that justice in this post, okay. tl,dr: I am going to keep it on the shelf, but I am going to keep it resentfully.

It is very much:
a) second-wave feminist, and
b) literary fiction, not genre fiction.

Read it if you want to read a frequently didactic and/or polemical text that exemplifies second-wave feminism but is relatively readable despite that. Or if you like the sort of literary fiction that is obsessed with its own genius and hits all the cliches from over-elaborate structure to self-insert MC who is a frustrated writer in NYC to the affair with a much younger woman who you are in a position of authority over but you couldn't help it, she came on to you and you were really sex-deprived, what were you supposed to do! Only with white feminists instead of boring white dudes. At least the sex scenes are reasonably well-done.

If you are interested in really cool post-capitalist post-industrialist utopian worldbuilding, read it but skip everything but the sections in Whileaway (and maybe the chapters at the end with Jael, but only if you are willing to wade through the neck-deep transphobia in those). It's pretty easy to tell which chapters are Whileaway and you won't be missing any important "plot" if you skip the rest, I promise; it barely exists and doesn't make a lot of sfnal sense when it does. (Or just read some Monique Wittig instead, 'Lesbian Peoples' is nothing but the second-wave feminist lesbian utopian worldbuilding.)

It's honestly really hard for me to separate my problems with it between the second-wave feminist part and the literary fiction part, because they basically both reduce down to the MC is a self-absorbed asshole with no real empathy in her POV.
spoilers below, as usual. also this book gets warnings for sexual assault, statutory rape, extreme violence, and virulent transphobia. most of which the author pov is okay with. )

The above makes it sound like I hated the book, and okay, I did hate the book a little. But for all of second-wave feminism's issues, it wasn't wrong about the things it did deign to pay attention to, and on the whole, neither is this book. And if there's anything last year in America taught us, it's that the job they were trying to do in the 60s and 70s and 80s still isn't nearly done. And for what it is - for a literary novel published in 1975 but tLHoD was published in 1969 that is too into its own cleverness to get out of its own way and frequently interrupts itself for long tirades of textbook second-wave feminism, it's pretty readable and makes important points, and Whileaway makes up for a lot.

But if an SF writer randomly put in a chapter in the middle of a book that was literally nothing but ranting about how mainstream critics failed to recognize the author's genius, they would be laughed out of fandom regardless of how justified they were.

I mean, even Ann Rice hasn't tried that yet.

There's a self-congratulatory bit at the end about how if a time ever comes where women read the book and don't resonate with it, that means its work is done. a) its work is not done, b) resonating with Joanna is not the way to finish it.

Also why the hell did she feel the need to keep translating the matronyms as ---son even after she learned they were matronyms not surnames, it's not like Evasdottir is an incomprehensible name to modern Earth people.

(20 comments | Reply)

March 28th, 2017 03:15 pm - FMK #6: Beloved Authors
So last week's FMK loser was Ben Bova's The Multiple Man, and tbh my only qualm with dumping that one is that I will no longer have a nice big pile of books with MEN in their title. Well, and also feeling a little bit bad for Jamie Madrox.

The winner was The Female Man by Joanna Russ! (The Bester was surprisingly close for awhile, probably because the Russ was getting a lot of M votes. Predictably.) I will be putting up a response for that one when I have finished reading it.

This week's theme is "Authors who have at least one series on my 'definitely keep' shelf but I am kind of afraid to branch out to their other stuff in case I don't like it". This should be a fun one!

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)
Poll: Alexander, Anderson, Bujold, Hambly, Harrison, Leiber, McKillip, Piper, Pratchett, Rosenberg, Smith, Vinge, Wrightson, Yolen )

(69 comments | Reply)

March 23rd, 2017 12:14 pm - FMK: The Princess and the Goblin
Princess Irene is definitely D'Angeline, isn't she. Which of the angels is her Great-Grandmama?

...Anyway, somehow I was expecting this to be about a princess and a goblin, not a princess and a peasant boy and a WHOLE BUNCH of goblins, none of whom she really interacts with. I think somehow I had got the impression that Curdie was a goblin who helped her out.

That's really the core of my response to this book. As I was reading it (and I'm very glad I did) I was seeing all the ways in which this is really an important foundation block in the later fantasy I've read, missing pieces that I haven't found in extensive folklore reading but still turn up every now and then in post-Victorian stuff, even such little things as the physical descriptions of the goblins. (Such as having a jack-o-lantern face, when folklore pumpkinheads are usually very distinct from folklore goblins.)

And then there's the very strong, and very Victorian, thread in this book of beautiful = good and ugly = bad. Not to say that post-Victorian kidlit has totally solved that one, but still, there's enough pushback against it in newer kids' fantasy (and in folklore) that my response to the lady who is beautiful beyond imagining (*especially* if she admits she's wearing a glamour) is BEWARE, and you should probably go find an ugly crone to talk to instead. Also I can't think of a single reason why the goblins aren't in the right here, given the way they are being dehumanized and their lands are being steadily stolen and then destroyed. They even try for a diplomatic solution first!

Of course, the fairy-story books I was imprinting on instead when I was the age for this were The Ordinary Princess (all about how Ordinary doesn't have to be Beautiful to be Good) and Goblins in the Castle (where Our Hero realizes halfway through that the displaced goblins are in the right and he's been on the wrong side all along). Both of those books are almost certainly arguing with MacDonald and his peers, whether consciously on the part of the writers or not, but I got their side of the argument first and it's a much better side. :P

I was also interested in how young Irene was. There's a standard in kidlit publishing (or at least there was, awhile back) that your protagonist should always be at least a couple of years older than the reading level you're writing for, presumably as an aspirational thing, and also so kids who read a lot can feel smug about reading books for older kids and kids who are a little slower don't have to be talked down to.

But I'm wondering if it's also because adult authors tend to write their protagonists acting a few years younger than kids of that age feel like they are in their heads. Irene certainly feels younger than eight to me, for a lot of the book: at eight I could tell you who my cousins-once-removed were and how they were different from my second-cousins, and I can't imagine many second graders I know being confused by the concept of a great-grandma, or in general have Irene's maturity level. And when I was a kid, reading books about kids a few years older than me, the protagonists didn't usually feel like they were that much older than me. Maybe by telling grownups to write eleven-year-olds for eight-year-olds, you end up with characters who feel like eight-year-olds to eight-year-olds.

I did really like the strong message in this book that adults need to believe what kids say to them, and that if the adults don't, that's on the adults, not the kids. And if the kids let themselves be half-convinced the adults are right and the kids are imagining or exaggerating, it's also the adults' fault, and not the kids failing, and not just "part of growing up." And that the mysterious secret stranger actually tells the protagonist to tell all her grown-ups everything, not to keep it secret, because adults who tell you to keep your relationship a secret are probably not the adults you should rely on. That's something that is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT to teach a lot of kids (although probably more important to teach grownups), and I think the way MacDonald did it was a lot more emotionally real and with a lot more conviction than a lot of other people, especially modern kids' fantasy, where the parents not believing or not being told is either taken for granted or treated as harmless.

Also wow, you really couldn't get away with handing a character a LITERAL PLOT THREAD in a modern book...

(12 comments | Reply)

March 21st, 2017 03:57 pm - FMK #5: MEN who are MEN
FMK #4's F winner was "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald, at a v. reasonable ~200 pages, and I will be reading it tonight.

K was "The Pilgrim's Progress". I wanted to be good, I really did, but I opened it up just to see what it was like, and, like, two paragraphs in I realize this is the book that taught the world that Heaven is full of pretty girls in white dresses with golden harps, and also notice that some previous owner has hand-annotated my copy, and, look, I can't. But I did move it from the fiction shelf to the Penguin Classics shelf where it can keep company with its boring and elderly brethren, does that count?

I am realizing that the nature of the votes here is that we are going to disproportionately vote out timeless classics that people have Opinions on while all the ones that are just Bad and Boring stick around forever. Feel free to vote K just because you know nothing about it and don't know why anyone would own it!

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Anyway, enough with courtesans and princesses and all that girly stuff. Today we are going to vote on MEN who are MEN.

Poll: Asimov, Avallone, Bester, Blish, Blum, Bova, Hale, Howard, Richards, Russ, Wells )

(36 comments | Reply)

March 20th, 2017 08:25 pm - FMK: Kushiel's Dart
So! Kushiel's Dart.

That was not a one-night-stand book. That was, at best, a "mad weekend at a cabin in the mountains" book. By which I mean, it was long. I read fiction pretty fast, and it took me about nine hours of reading time to get through that. Probably I am spoiled by my reading speed, because most books I can get through in one sitting. Not Kushiel. Not unless I wanted to pull an all-nighter, and I'm too old for that now. Did I mention it is long? It's the longest book I have read since I started tracking reading on Goodreads. It is the fourth longest novel I own (and two of the three longer ones are Outlander.) It is tied for longest novel I have ever read (with Cryptonomicon. And Cryptonomicon I did read in one night of passion, but I was almost fifteen years younger and even then it didn't go real well for me.) (okay, Les Mis is technically longer, but Les Mis is also technically five books.) Kushiel's Dart is kind of long, even for an epic fantasy, is what I'm saying here. I don't think even the best courtesan in the Night Court can sustain a night of passion for nine hours.

I've been mentioning how long it is to people in RL all week, so I thought I'd mention it here just in case somebody missed that part. ^_^

It is also, however, a book I found compulsively readable, in a way not many books are these days. For people not familiar, it's an epic fantasy set in an alternate Late Medieval Europe where the Roman Empire happened differently: Britain is still Celtic, the North is still tribal, and France is [still] ruled by the descendants of Christ and the Magdalen. The main character is Ph├Ędre, who was born into a House of courtesans, and was purchased as a child by a nobleman to be trained as a courtesan and spy.
spoilers under cuts from here on )

Anyway, I really actively enjoyed the second half of the book, A++ would read another 900 pages of that, although tbh probably not the 1500 pages that is the next two volumes, at least not right away. But if the whole book was like the last half, or if the first half was about 350 pages shorter it would probably be getting a definite place on my "permanent favorites" shelf but tbh if I ever re-read I would probably start the re-read after the doomy thing happened.

But, of course, as everyone who has heard of this book knows, nobody cares about that because it is also an EROTIC fantasy full of KINKY PORN.

....except it really, really isn't.

Like, there are some sex scenes in it? Two or three of them rise to the level of mildly explicit rather than softcore or fade-to-black. And a few of them involve some fairly hardcore BDSM stuff, by mundane standards. But in terms of kinky-sex-per-page ratio, you're better off reading, like, Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser or something. They usually manage at least a couple kinky sex scenes per hundred-page novella, usually involving at least rat-girls or the Goddess of Pain in person, or something.

I wanted to say "Maybe if I'd read this book back when it first came out, before I knew about fanfic, I would have thought it was the most risque thing ever" except I realized it was copyright 2001, and I'm pretty sure I was already reading Harry Potter smut by the time it was out in paperback, so it still would've been too late. And by AO3 standards I doubt I would even give it the E for explicit for the sex scenes. In the second half of the book, I don't think there are *any* sex scenes that aren't fade to black. (It would get the major character death warning, the noncon warning, the extreme violence warning, and a provisional underage warning, though.)
Read more... )

Anyway, it gets a solid four stars for "If you like this sort of thing, it is the sort of thing you will like," and I like this sort of thing enough that it would be going on my keep shelf, except that instead the whole trilogy is being loaned on my recommendation to my friend with the hair who actively seeks out 900-page-per-volume fantasy series, and I will temporarily (?) get that foot of shelf space back \o/

ETA: Also, I am saddened and surprised there are so few Kushiel AUs on AO3 (not surprised that most of them are Sherlock, though.) And remain convinced that *someone* who wrote for Supernatural was a Kushiel fan because Castiel's origin story being "we can't name him Cassiel that would be too obvious" just kept getting more obvious as I went...

(31 comments | Reply)

March 17th, 2017 04:57 pm
I was prepping a laundry load of newly thrifted fabric and recently finished sewing projects, and decided to throw in my pincushion, as it was getting kind of grungy.

This pincushion is the one I made as my first project in 6th grade Home Ec, by sewing together two small squares of cloth and then stuffing them. I've been using it for twenty years.

After pulling all the pins out, and then all the visible needles, and then squeezing it for awhile to get all the hidden needles, I threw my hands up, took out the stuffing, and went through it that way.

There were forty-five needles hidden in it.*

...has anyone yet invented a pincushion that doesn't eat needles?

Anyway, I am still working on Kushiel. This week's FMK poll is still neck-and-neck, so your vote could turn it! You have until I get back from the St. Pat's dinner in an hour or two. I took the first three weeks' K books to the thrift store today (where I bought the fabric that is being washed. And two more books shhh) so I can't chicken out, augh. I am now finding myself wanting to buy books just because they will fill out a good set for an FMK poll. No, melannen! Bad! Bad!

In preparation for writing my thoughts on Kushiel, here is a poll for you about evolving terminology in reviews:

What does the word 'rapey' mean to you? )

*I did not intend that as a metaphor for rape culture, and yet there it is.


(42 comments | Reply)

March 14th, 2017 08:42 pm - FMK #4: Pre-Golden-Age SF
Okay, so FMK is going to be Tuesdays now. :P I forgot that on normal Mondays, a little distraction is good, but on busy Mondays I basically don't have time to sit down at the computer from Saturday evening until Monday evening, and that doesn't work so well. (and today was a snow day so I spent it sewing, it was excellent.)

Anyway, FMK #3 K winner was Tarnsman of Gor and the F winner was Kushiel's Dart. I, uh, haven't finished Kushiel's Dart. I'm 500 pages in! If it was a reasonably-sized novel, that would be done twice over! Anyway short version: I am enjoying it a lot although not ravishingly in love, have already recommended it to a friend who actively enjoys brick-sized books full of court intrigue, and keep getting Cassiel the Angel of Bromance mixed up with SPN's Castiel the Angel of... *ahem* "Bromance". I will post a fuller response either later this week or when I am finished, depending on which comes first.

I also started reading Tarnsman of Gor I know! I am breaking my own rules already! But I want to be able to make fun of it fairly, okay? And it's like, 20% the length of Kushiel. I did put the other two Gor books I inexplicably owned on the dump-unread pile, though?

This week's FMK theme: English-language SF written before 1930! here is where we find out who is voting entirely based on gendered author names

How FMK works: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Sunday Monday Tuesday.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll! Bennet, Bunyan, Burroughs, Eddison, Lindsay, MacDonald, Merritt, Nowlan, Polidori, Shelley, Smith, Swift, Tolkien, Walpole, Wells, Wilde, Wolf )

(60 comments | Reply)

March 8th, 2017 10:23 pm
cat in a red pussy hat

On women's day we wear red

(5 comments | Reply)

March 7th, 2017 10:24 pm - FMK #3: I heard there was some real kinky stuff in these, y'all*
Okay! Now that I have gone through all the paperbacks and have a better idea of what I actually have, this should be a fun one. :D

Results from last week's FMK.

How FMK works: I am trying to clear out my unread books piles. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away, immediately and with prejudice. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I am going to start officially closing the poll and picking winners on Friday nights because I don't always have time on Sunday to read a whole novel. (although not actually closing it probably, people can still vote.)

Link to long version of explanation (on previous poll)

Poll! Auel, Carey, Constantine, Cross, Gabaldon, Hamilton, Lichtenberg, Morris, Norman, O'Donohoe, Ringo )

*I may have heard wrong


(87 comments | Reply)

March 7th, 2017 03:31 pm - FMK #2 F U: Grimspace
Okay, a day late on this week. In my defense, I had a busy weekend and the book you all made me read was not the grippingest.

So: K was Asher's The Engineer Reconditioned with five K votes. The first speaking female character in it is not a prostitute, she's a top xenologist, but she's also a sexy catgirl. Guess which of those we learned about (in detail) first!

It turned out that most of the others with a high K to F ratio were already missing from the collection - I must have weeded at some point and not marked it in the catalog. But Anthony, Barnwell, Bass, Bishop, Brush, Buckner go back on the shelf. Or in the boxes under the bed, if you're feeling literal. (The fiction inventory is now actually done, except the "search for the ones you didn't find" part, so all polls from now on will only include books I know the exact location of.)

F was actually a tie, but the Aguirre voters were the only ones who spoke up in the comments, so Grimspace won the tiebreaker. I'm pretty sure, having read it, that I had kept it in the previous weed because a) it is by a lady, b) there is a lady on the cover who is c) wearing comfy clothes and not in a sexy pose and d) could even maybe be a WOC if you squint. Having a rule to keep all unread books that fit those requirements still does not add that much to the size of the pile, and it has served me well with comics.

Also it is about telepathically bonded pairs of hyperspace navigators, which between Bran/Tru, "The Game of Rat and Dragon", Pac Rim, and so on, ought to be my thing. Unfortunately it is not a... good book. )

Regardless, it joins the others on the K pile after its last hurrah. Ann Aguirre seems like a lovely person though and I hope she rocks on and never ever reads this review.

And that got really long, so poll in next entry. I might keep splitting these up, we'll see. instead, here is a picture of a cat in a hat:

a blind kitten being dashing and heroic in an aviator cap


(6 comments | Reply)

February 27th, 2017 12:05 pm - FMK #2: Assorted Unknowns A-B
Yesterday I went to see Rogue One for the first time at the second-run theater. I also finished reading my book on potato gardening and installed some new old bookshelves, resulting in a dream where a squad of valiant but doomed potatoes were defending a bunker against Imperial war machines. Then there was a series of tsunamis due to Death Star strikes, I was okay because I had a life jacket on but so many books got damaged in the flooding that we had to close the library.

Anyway, I think Monday will be FMK day. So 12 books go back on the shelf, Mists of Avalon goes on the kill list, and I read The Sunbird. Mary Stewart made a valiant effort to overtake it toward the end, though. I almost never see people online talk about Mary Stewart but she must still have fans! I am also curious what y'all have against Prince Valiant; that was the only other one that came anywhere near K winning. Is there something I don't know? I remember it mostly as one of the serials in my grandfather's paper that was impossible to follow when you only visited once a month, but otherwise inoffensive and with nice art.

The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein is only Arthurian by courtesy and not a fantasy novel at all, despite selling itself as an Arthurian fantasy novel. It's a historical novel set in the kingdom of Aksum (modern Ethiopia) during the Justinian plague in the 6th century. ) It is definitely going on the keep shelf and the 'find rest of series' list. Would recommend. Glad I grabbed out of the 'deep clearance' bin at Ollie's.

This week's FMK: SF books by authors I know nothing about and have no idea why I own them, letters A through B.

How FMK works: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decided. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

Long version. )

The poll! Aguirre, Anthony, Asher, Barnwell, Barth, Barton, Bass, Bishop, Boyce, Brush, Buckner )


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February 20th, 2017 09:33 am - FMK#1: Arthuriana
OK! I should have all the fiction sorted and reshelved by tonight, so WE'RE DOING THIS. If I manage to do this weekly we should be done in only a year!

Here's how it will go: I will post a list of 10-20 unread books that I own. Sometimes it will be themed, sometimes it will just be random. It will be a poll, and you folks will get to vote F, M, or K for each book.

F means "melannen should have a single night of ill-considered passion with it and then decide whether to turn that into a long-term thing or dump it with prejudice."
M means "melannen should commit long-term and continue to keep the book in her bedroom indefinitely."
K means "melannen should dispose of it posthaste."

This may remind people of a certain familiar game. Unfortunately I don't think DW polls have any way to force a three-way choice like in the game, so it's a free vote for each title. (Also I don't think I could agree to give up 1/3 of my books anyway.)

I will read the book with the most F votes, hopefully within the next week, and then post about it here.
I will dispose of the book with the most K votes, *if* there are enough total K votes on all titles to make a quorum (i.e., if only one person votes K in the whole poll, I don't consider myself bound to their vote.)
All other titles, I will think about very hard and take your votes into consideration!

Feel free to vote even if you only have a vague idea about the book or author. Or even if you've never heard of it but think the title is cool. That's why I bought most of these, after all.
Feel free to vote F on terrible books just because you want to make me read them.
Please leave comments with more information on the book or justifying your votes if you do have things to say!

Anon/no account votes and comments are on. Some background on me and my library if you wander here from far away: I am an SF fan and aspiring SF writer (emphasis on "aspiring" rather than "writing" rn). I would like to keep books that are a) good and/or b) important or foundational texts in the genre and/or c) help balance the proportion of books not by/about white dudes in my library.

Got that? Time to vote! )
(Books on the topic I have read and am definitely keeping: the Mike Ashley anthologies, Parke Godwin's Firelord, a mysterly Goldsmith "King Arthur" that is hilariously bowdlerized, Sutcliff's Arthur books, Twain's Connecticut Yankee, White's the Once and Future King, lots of pre-1860 retellings and sources, lots of "nonfiction".)

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February 17th, 2017 02:49 pm
So, way back in, um, August, [personal profile] skygiants posted about Armed Services Edition paperbacks that were printed in special editions for serving military in WWII, and I mentioned I owned one and said if I could ever figure out where it was shelved I would post pictures.

Well, I didn't manage to find it until November, and by then I had quit Tumblr for self-defense, so my lazy method of using Tumblr as an image host wasn't happening. But DW just rolled out a gui for its image hosting! So, only six months later, here are the pictures!

The one I own is "An Almanac for Moderns", which is basically a book of 365 short essays about nature and science, to be read one a day for a year. So I was almost right when I said I thought it was a field guide, yet couldn't find it shelved with the field guides. It's pretty fun, actually, but I could never stick with one chapter a day. As you might guess for an edition that was meant to be small and was published during the WWII paper shortages, the pages are very thin and very delicate seventy years later. (And I still haven't figured out why the sideways binding; to me it makes it more difficult to read, although maybe when it was newer it meant you could lay it flat on a table to read more easily?)

An Almanac for Moderns )

(There's a few more uploaded in my dw images, if you can figure out how to get there....)

As is visible in a couple of the photos, my book has a single staple reinforcing the binding, which is a large part of what makes it hard to read. I can't tell if this was part of the standard binding or it was added by a later owner. It doesn't seem to be a later addition? It's definitely not a standard staple - you would have needed a heavy-duty stapler and staples - and the binding isn't falling apart in such a way that it seems needed. So IDK unless [personal profile] skygiants knows!

And while I am posting images of cool old books I own, if you have ever been to an American public school you are probably familiar with the idea of a Marble composition book )

(the set of books I found also included an account books of day-to-day expenses in the late 19th century. Someday I am going to figure out where the dude was living and donate it to a historical society. They came with 0 provenance, so that didn't help.)

I am actually continuing to make substantial progress on the "sort all the books" project! I may start posting polls so you all can help me decide what to read off my long-unread fiction piles next - I am thinking "fuck, marry, kill" format where you get to decide if I have a sudden night of ill-considered passion, or continue my long-term relationship with having it in my bedroom, or get rid of it unread.

And finally, here is a picture of a cat:

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February 9th, 2017 11:24 am
So then I came down with a bad-cold-possibly-the-flu and went off to a farm for three days to help fence a sheep pasture, which is a better life decision than it sounds like, because SHEEPS and FREE-RANGE CHICKENS and BABY DONKEY and RIDING AROUND IN A CART also, like, farm. Yay for little hobby farms that might be something more some day.

Also I was thinking about Rivers of London, and about how I probably wouldn't have had the courage to write Mama Thames the way he did, because of the way she gets close to certain stereotypes that can be dangerous to play with, but also that I'd like to hope that I would still be able to have that kind of diversity in the story, and it occurred to me that probably what I would have done is made the West African lady be the Last Living Newtonian School Wizard instead of the Dangerously Sexual River Goddess-Mother.

And then I started trying to make it work, because, okay, if she's the last survivor of the Folly, then obviously the Nightingale jumped into the Thames sometime in the early 50s and then found himself crawling out with a whole new kind of magic behind him, which is also FUN, but means he wasn't there either when the last of the WWII veterans died or retired or were invalided out. But they needed SOMEBODY who could keep the agreements and responsibilities, at least until the magic had died out enough that it didn't matter. And they couldn't find anybody, except - there's this black woman, friend of Molly's from below stairs, maybe, figured out Lux on her own and then kept wanting to know, and became somebody's Eliza Doolittle project - just curious whether a pig could be taught to sing, not whether it was well done, but a secret apprentice kept him going when there wasn't much else that pulled him out of the fog, and she was good at it, and hungry to learn, and before either of them realized, she'd made mastery.

And probably her teacher took himself out not long after because dude had issues. but that meant that when they needed someone, anyone to hold the Folly - when the last few half-trained survivors of the War put their heads together and sent out a spell to search for anyone who still had Mastery and could be talked into doing the job, probably only a few years after Nightingale went into the River - she was what they got: young West African woman, maybe mid-twenties, worked as a housekeeper most of her life, but inarguably oathbound to the Folly and inarguably a master of Newtonian magics.

Obviously this would not go down well with a great many people, but magic is dying anyway, right? really all they need is a placeholder to keep things from falling apart catastrophically before they wind down, and you couldn't ask a young man from a good family to waste ten years training on something that will be useless in twenty, so why not?

So then it's just her and Molly rattling around the big old place for a long time, and probably without even the police connection to keep them busy.

Of course once it becomes clear that magic isn't dying out for good it's much too late to change their minds and there's nobody else left at all; they do start trying to send her apprentices - those nice young men from good families - but none of them are interested in working hard enough to learn, or at least not working when it's her teaching them, and inevitably they learn that a "real" Folly wizard is still alive, because the Nightingale didn't exactly die, and then they go off to the Court of the Thames to get him to back them up. And when they come back from the River they aren't interested in being wizards at all any more and usually end up moving to Herefordshire.

Until she stumbles on Peter, of course.

I don't have a plot (other than that her relationship with Uncle Thomas Thames would be very very interesting) but I did have an entire night of fever dreams based on it so I'm convinced it would totally work.

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January 31st, 2017 07:05 pm - Wednesday Reading
Hi Dreamwidth!

I am back in the place where I am reading ALL THE NOVELS because being continuously reminded of reality makes me too nauseous to eat so I am avoiding pretty much all social media and am 8 books ahead on my Goodreads challenge for the year. How are you?

Also is there anyone else who has read all the way to the end of Nemesis in the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries and can explain to me WTF WAS THAT ENDING???

I mean admittedly I was blackrom shipping them pretty hard* all along but I don't think it warped my perceptions that much? How was that supposed to suddenly be justifiable?

*These books did make it clear that if you need to flesh out the personal life of a series protagonist without turning it into a soap opera, just filling all four troll romance quadrants ASAP really does make a great shortcut.

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January 23rd, 2017 09:03 am
I marched*!

I ended up catching a ride to DC with the friends coming from the Barony of Cynnabar. I'm glad I went. I'm also glad I didn't go by myself; it wasn't scary or anything but having other specific people to keep an eye on helped with scale.

(Also, wow is Michigan angry. Most people didn't bother IDing themselves by home state, but I think nearly every Michigander there had Michigan on their sign somewhere.)

Also, nobody told me I was supposed to make a pink hat, why did nobody tell me (the website specifically said there were no matching clothes or colors proposed!) I was really heartened by the number of My First Knitting Project hats people were wearing, though - someday I really do need to finally write that essay on knitting and social resistance.

My sister marched in Reykjavik; I haven't seen that one in any of the round-up photoposts so here's the best set of Reykjavik photos I've seen.

*You may have heard contradictory things about whether we ever actually marched in DC. )

So yeah, I'm glad I had that experience. I always feel like you should take part in political action like that not because you think you being there will achieve the goal, but just because you want to be there, and it was worth being there Saturday.

that said, goal-wise: )

4. Illegitimi non carborundum.

And if all else fails, outlive the bastards. And live well. They may run our country but they can't run our lives if we don't let them in.

On that note, this will probably go back to being a mostly non-specific-politics journal (until the next time I need to desperately beg for a ride, at least) because maintaining a free cultural space is also a very important means of resistance, especially over a long grind.


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January 20th, 2017 04:35 pm
Now y'all have presented me with too many options and I can't decide what to do tomorrow. :P I guess I will keep thinking about it and see if anyone gets back to me.

Anyway, I hear it is More Joy Day, so I went and posted Rivers of Ankh-Morpork. (since we all know I will never get around to getting it beta-read.) Have some joy?

Rivers of Ankh-Morpork (6335 words) by melannen
Fandom: Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch, Discworld - Terry Pratchett
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Peter Grant, Angua von Uberwald, Samuel Vimes, Foul Ole Ron, Gaspode (Discworld), Sybil Ramkin, Thomas Nightingale
Additional Tags: Crossover, community policing, hydrological engineering, Ankh-Morpork City Watch

The Faceless Man miscalculates, and Peter Grant falls into a river.

...well, more onto a river, really. He may have bounced.


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