melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-25 07:07 pm
Entry tags:

FMK #9: Second Books

Note to self, things your circle is v. interested in: Library classification. Canadian art.

So, back on the wagon with FMK! I posted about Growing Up Weightless yesterday and I am very nearly done with Snow Queen. After that Electric Forest should be quick and then I will be caught up! Except the six library books! But we aren't talking about those!

Fewer of you than I thought voted that you change your poll answers after reading the comments! I am apparently in the more easily swayed group. :P


This week's theme is I Read the First One And It Was Good But For Years I Could Never Find The Next One But Then I Did So Here It Is Yay

(In a it's the first one I couldn't find instead of the next one, but close enough.)


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.

If you want to be extra-helpful, bear in mind that it may have been two decades since I read the first on, and note whether I need to re-read that one first.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Adams, Cherryh, Ellis, Gibson, Handeland, ab Hugh, Jones, Kotzwinkle, Lackey, Monette, Snyder, Watt-Evans, White  )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-24 06:30 pm

FMK: Growing Up Weightless

I went to the March for Science yesterday! It didn't have as many people as the Women's March but then what would? It still took a solid two hours to get everyone funnelled down Constitution Avenue.

Also if you are ever at the Capitol end of Constitution with a few minutes to kill, go look at The Spirit of Haida Gwaii outside the Canadian Embassy; it's in a nice quiet corner and I found more to see in that one sculpture than in the entire National Gallery sculpture garden.


...also if you are ever on the Mall and need wifi, find an idling coach bus to loiter near.

I brought Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford to read on the metro, and I don't have a huge amount to say because basically it was everything I wanted for a book about coming of age in the Moon colony )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-21 11:30 am

(no subject)

1. Have I mentioned I'm planning to March for Science tomorrow? The weather will be good. Hopefully I will not get trampled or arrested. Yay science!

2. I am stuck in the slog of the 300s in my nonfiction reshelving project. I hate the 300s SO MUCH. The 200s are also awful, but in an obvious and easily fixable way. The 300s are just a MESS.

Like, 302.2 "communication" contains a book on noise and a book on the Comics Code. 301.4 "Family structures" contains a book on the history prostitution, a book on social class in 19th century Russia, and an anthology on nomadism. I have many actual books about family structures! But no, Matrilineal Kinship is over in the 390s. Love's Promises is in the 340s. The Bonds of Womanhood is in the 305s somewhere. But we must put the one on the history of prostitution and the one on Russian peasants under "family structures".

The 310s-350s are reasonably straightforward, although why "Statistics" is under social sciences I am not sure, but then we hit 36x "Social Problems, Social Services" and oh god. 362, "Social Work", gives us AIDs and a book on Deaf culture (my other book on Deaf culture is in 305.9 "Groups of People, Miscellaneous". Why the split? No idea except that Dewey doesn't believe Deaf is a culture and bluescreened on books about Deaf culture.) Books about nuclear bombs are all under 363.1 "Health and Safety". A book of stories about psychic detectives are under 363.2 Law Enforcement, not even True Crime. Meanwile under 363.4 Drugs, Abortion, Pornography (??) we have a book about the reactions to political cartoons of the prophet Mohammed (????) 369, "social services - other" contains everything relating to scouting, even though my scouting-related books are all old guidebooks about nature topics that barely mention the scouts.

I'm scared to look too closely at the 390s.

3. I am trying to catch up on the reading! But I just had Makt Myrkanna come in from the library plus the new Ashers and Ysidro book *and* the Becky Chambers books so this is tough.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-18 08:00 pm

FMK: Break

OK, there will not be an FMK poll this week, I way way behind on reading (Still only about halfway through Snow Queen) and need a catch-up week.

I blame a) the weather being nice enough that I'm working outside, b) the two holiday weekends eating up my usual reading time, c) the fact that I did something painful to my shoulder and have been sleeping like crap as a result, and d) the cats, for being both cute and extremely manipulative.

We will be back next week, I promise! And hopefully there will be three response posts this week to catch me up.

Here is a filler poll to fulfill my need to obsessively watch poll responses once a week!

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 56


When I answer a poll, I:

View Answers

Fill out the poll, then check the comments
32 (58.2%)

Check the comments, then fill out the poll
5 (9.1%)

Fill out the poll, then check the comments, then possibly go back and change my poll answers
15 (27.3%)

I never read the comments, don't you know the rules of the internet
1 (1.8%)

I never fill out polls, what is this weird circly thing and why isn't it bringing me cake
2 (3.6%)

Pardon me, I didn't hear that?




In fandom news, I kind of had to drop out of Check Please! really suddenly because I needed something way more escapist than that for awhile, and also the last thing I posted got jossed basically immediately and I remembered why I hate open canons. But I have been starting to catch up lately. Last night I dreamed that Prince Eric the Fair had sworn never to marry anyone except the person who could out-skate him, and somehow nobody on AO3 has yet written that particular AU, so now I've been forced to spend all day daydreaming out it. Also there is a book on the display at our library called "Shifty's War" and my coworker misreads the title every time and then brings it to me and tells me we need a Check Please WWII AU, so somebody get on the Tragic Gay WWII Fighter Pilots AU pls, or at least draw me the art.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-13 10:58 am

housekeeping

1. Does anyone know if ljarchive still works on DW? A lot of people have been asking about backups now that they aren't crossposting anymore, and I thought it still worked, but it's been awhile so I did a test yesterday and it sat downloading "sync index" for 24 hours and then said it couldn't contact the server.

That could be because I have the settings wrong or because the DW servers are still super-busy with imports though maybe?

2. I need/want a new DW style, but I am still using the one I hand-ported over from lj in 2009 and it was obsolete then. And I haven't done anything with styles since. I really like my current one except for me knowing it's not super-accessible and a few things that have slowly broken on it, but a new one doesn't have to be exactly the same as long as it works.

What I do want:

a) something very clean in appearance, I don't need a lot of extra boxes and widgets and things, just the ability to read entries and easily navigate the site.
b) easy to customize stuff like which links appear and what the graphics are with a minimum of CSS/styles knowledge.
c) good on mobile screens, since I apparently surf DW on mostly on mobile now, who knew. Also good on Vivaldi and really old slightly broken versions of IE, since those are the non-mobile browsers I use most now apparently. Mostly what this means is that most of the screen space is actually used for content, there's not a lot of whitespace or big graphics, a web bs score below .2, the content starts within a couple hundred pixels of the top, it scales easily. Also, obvs, reasonably good on accessibility overall.

d) and most importantly (and the reason I still stick with this one after all this time!) it uses custom friends colors and lets me have the custom colors be the vertical height of the entry. Having the custom friends color as a vertical cue when scrolling is really important to me reading my reading list, especially on small screens, but apparently that vertical color stripe is super-hard to do in accessible CSS despite being really easy with tables? It doesn't have to be positioned just like the current one but it needs to go the length of the entry somehow. Anyone know of a current style that does that or is willing to write me the css for it in an existing style? I'll pay in DW points.

3. Once I have my nonfiction books organized I'm totally doing a photo of a shelf of mad science books and using that as my header image it'll be great and make this journal way more likely to pass as work-related. I'm finally up to the 290s! Man the 200s are a slog, even if most of my early 200s are on like the Shroud of Turin and people looking for Noah's Ark and weird apocrypha and stuff.

4. PS: Welcome to everybody coming in from LJ! It's good to see you all back around.

5. The cat is learning about walkies, this may have been a bad idea
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-11 07:03 pm
Entry tags:

FMK #8: Short Books

Last week's winner was Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford. I had mixed opinions of his Star Trek novels that everyone loves, so we'll see how this one goes!

Loser was Rocket Ship Galileo which I kind of really want to read after the discussion in comments ;_; I seem to have accidentally planned an overseas hiking holiday in a couple months, so maybe I will save up the K books that I really want to at least read first to take there and leave behind.

You people voted in another MASSIVE TOME with The Snow Queen so it may be a bit of a delay. It's interesting so far!

In revenge (and to give me a bit of a chance to catch up and do my taxes and stuff) this week's theme is "Books under 200 pages", so there.


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: Anderson, Binder, Brunner, Clarke, del Rey, Key, Lee, Lindgren, Norton, Sleator, Turnbull, Van Vogt, Zelazny )


p.s. I am enjoying observing the latest 'harassers at SF cons' redux, but why has nobody filked "Banned from Wiscon" yet? It scans. You could be really scathing. And "Banned from Wiscon" seems to be that dude's official epithet at this point.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-06 04:24 pm

(no subject)

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,

EXCEPT

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.)
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-04 05:44 pm
Entry tags:

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 )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-04-01 08:46 pm

(no subject)

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 )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-31 02:24 pm
Entry tags:

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.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-28 03:15 pm
Entry tags:

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 )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-23 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...
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-21 03:57 pm
Entry tags:

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 )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-20 08:25 pm
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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...
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-17 04:57 pm
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(no subject)

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.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-14 08:42 pm
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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 )
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-08 10:23 pm

(no subject)

cat in a red pussy hat

On women's day we wear red
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-07 10:24 pm
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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
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-03-07 03:31 pm
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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
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
2017-02-27 12:05 pm
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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 )