- Adam Savage (Mythbusters) on gender as a spectrum
"Being trans means often having to navigate 'myths' about gender, and it is usually a burden that trans people alone are tasked with explaining," Smith explains over email. "So it meant a lot to me to see Savage use his privilege and position to speak out on behalf of folks like me, and for scientific reality."
- Conservatives want to police everyone's gender. Mmmmm-hmmmmmmmm. Wonder why?
- (No, I haven't forgotten; she has a point.) Unsettlingness of The Handmaid's Tale (AlterNet, Jessica Valente). (Somebody mentioned that the series is somewhat gorier than the book and that some of the stratification has been subverted. Good.)
Also I have to say that the first I heard about an anti-Trump climate march was this morning. The last event by the lake had 3 days' advance notice.
As I understand, the crowd needed another thousand people. Oh well.
Serrano Series, Elizabeth Moon
You wanted fox-hunting, space-ships, and kickarse women? And some political manoeuvres? Excellent. They're over here, and they'd like to say hello. Please note, take these women seriously when you say hello, otherwise you may find your arse kicked.
Expanse Series, James E Corey
What can I say? It's an excellent space opera series, with some hard bio-science in there. (Also, warning for bio-horror - there are bits I have to skip past quickly because ewww.) The characters are interesting, and are getting better with the series. The first novel suffers a bit from a very male-centric point of view, but the writers quickly wised up and worked out that they had some fascinating female characters, and they've really let them have some excellent moments as the series has progressed.
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Paul Cornell
If you want your fantasy to look like a hard-boiled police procedural, with all the joy leeched out of the world, go for it. I found the characters too hard-boiled to be likeable, and won't be reading more in this universe, even though the premises are generally intriguing. Suffers a little bit from being nth in a series, but that for me was a far lesser problem than the fact that I just wanted to get out of the world and stop reading asap.
Ghost Talkers, Mary Robinette Kowal
You wanted an alternate history in which Spiritualism wasn't people making shit up, didn't you? Well, Mary Robinette Kowal has provided. Although it's set against a backdrop of the First World War, it's not all doom, gloom, and mud and blood up to your elbows. Also contains spies, which I'm a bit of a sucker for.
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
I really enjoyed this book. It's a strange book, quite a creepy book. But I bought it on the Friday of Eastercon, and had finished it by Monday night, despite a fully and busy con.
( Read more... )
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
I loved this. It's about constructing what we mean by 'human'. And how we understand other people, and what free will means, and the characters are fascinating, and the cultures are interesting (and strange). I want to love it and hug it and call it George. I hadn't read the first book, and it read just fine for me.
Empire Games, Charles Stross
First of a new trilogy in the Merchant Princes-verse. I haven't read the previous novels, so it took a little while to get into this, but I really enjoyed it when I did. Some excellent social commentary, exploration of spy tradecraft, and some interesting situations set up. My only problem is that it's part of a series, and I'd quite like the next books now please.
Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor (published Jan 2017) (novella)
Amazing. Binti returns from University to visit her home. Some weird shit goes down (no further comment, because I don't want to spoil it at all). Only downside is that GODDAMMIT I WANT THE SEQUEL NOW. It ties up enough for the book to be ended reasonably, but there are many, many things where I want to know more and GODDAMMIT I WANT THE SEQUEL NOW.
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, Seanan McGuire (published 2017) (novella)
Do you like American Ghosts? Do you like Seanan's writing? If either apply, I strongly recommend picking this up. I'm not a big horror fan, but this is about putting together strange clues, which is much more my thing. Evokes cornfields and big cities really well. It mentions suicide, but I in no way found this disturbing.
Forest of Memory, Mary Robinette Kowal
Well, I read it. I can remember fuck-all about it, so let this just be a record that I read it, and a reminder that I should write this shit up while I can still remember reading it.
Hooves Above the Waves, Laura Clay
Laura is a friend of mine, and I'm extremely relieved that I can recommend her short stories ;) because they're good. Hooves above the Waves is a collection of 3 stories, one about kelpies, one about superheroes, one about selkies. I thought the superhero story was the weakest, but that's partly because it belongs in its own fictional universe, and it felt like there was too much background to work comfortably with the rest of the story. The kelpie story has some nice social observation, a nice myffic feel (to reference Nanny Ogg), a good bit of creeping sinisterness, and some proper Scottish Scenery. The Scottish scenery is also on show in our selkie story, along with some history, and quite a lot of wet and sinister water. If you read short fiction, I'd give it a go.
The Burning Page, Genevieve Cogman
Libraries portals to other universes ect ect, holding back forces of chaos ect ect. Lots of intertextuality (i.e. literary references), some cool action sequences, and lust. It's not massively deep, but it passes the time.
Interim Errantry: On Ordeal: Mamvish, Diane Duane
CN: cannibalism - this is the best and most cheerful and excellent book involving cannibalism that you're ever likely to read. It's a story about how one of the minor characters in the Young Wizards series came to be a wizard. Mam'vish is an alien, and we've met her as a cheery and kind background character hitherto. This puts her front and centre as she works out her culture and morality. A+ for properly weird aliens, senzawunda, and generally awesome shit. Diane Duane is one of my favourite authors, because she loves space, and changing the world for the better.
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
"Nice video, shame about the song." Rather style over substance in some ways. It's shooting for a very big idea, mixing magic and science, but doesn't really pull it off.
CN: emotional abuse of children ( Read more... )
Terry Pratchett, The Shepherd's Crown
sob Oh, so sad, both because of the book, and because there is no more Terry Pratchett. A man is never dead when his name is spoken, and there are many of us who will speak his name for a long time to come. The writing isn't as polished as his best books, but the themes are well handled, and it's a good send-off for the Discworld. I've read this book twice now, and I've cried or nearly so both times (this is super-rare for me), so I shall read it at home in future.
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
Oh god. Creepy, so good. It's a post-portal fantasy novel, full of extremely creepy people. There's a murder mystery in there (which I don't think is that good, but for me that didn't matter, because it was mostly about the characters and the setting and what happens after you leave Narnia or your equivalent). It's also excellent for its explicit representation on the page of trans and asexual characters.
Magic for Nothing, Seanan McGuire (published 2017)
One of Seanan's Incryptid novels, this one with some very cool undercover stuff, and a circus! Also, this being a novel about the Prices, it also includes knives. Very readable, with some real sibling anger in there - made me glad I was an only child, tbh. The stakes are high, but the series tends to be optimistic in outlook, so it's a fun read, despite the darker things beneath the service.
I fell back into the Fallout 4 brain sink for a bit while I was trying to get my body and brain in a place where they'd work together again. But I think this upcoming week will be better.
I got a lot of the Gulf Wars submissions scanned and in a letter for Moonestone, so that should help. Note: I really like Colm. I hate his handwriting. I can't read it. I am both sad and relieved that this was probably his last Gulf Wars. And I feel a little bad about being relieved, but he is not moving with the new rules and it is getting very frustrating to be given this paperwork that someone has pinned hopes on and it not be usable. (Gleann Abhann does not have fillable pdf forms for our submissions. I really desperately wish we did. I've put out a couple of feelers to see who did other kingdom's.)
We are going to go help Jenna scrub her pool today. I hope the sun comes out at some point otherwise it's going to be really cold scrubbing. I don't even own a swimming suit. I'm going to be borrowing a pair of Brent's trunks.
Tomorrow is vacuum day. I adore my vacuum. It's hard, though, to vacuum, empty it, and move stuff to vacuum all by myself. I don't usually have to move stuff if I keep up with the vacuuming, but I haven't been keeping up. As such, tomorrow is a two-person job.
I got all the scrolls framed that weren't an odd size (really, Axemoor, why with the 11x15 scrolls?) and they're hanging in the hallway. I eventually want to do something a little more sturdy than the Dollar Tree $1 frames, but that's going to be a piece by piece sort of thing. I need to find our other framed ones - our AoA's, Brent's Arrow and Bolt, and my Onyx Chalice. For a while there, the only scroll in the hallway was my Diamond Chalice (oh my gosh that scroll! It's so beautiful. How does Jam do it? How can he still see?!) and it was framed for me as it had also been an A&S entry by Jam. I want him and Conall and zarhooie to meet up one day.
I sewed a tunic for Jenna! We had Baronial Wars where Gellis and Gida stepped down and Jenna and Nico came! Brent cut the tunic out and I sewed it. Turns out that if I don't try and sew the underarm gussets in with the machine, I can sew a tunic together in about an hour. And then I can spend thirty minutes sewing the underarm gussets in by hand. Hot diggity. This is going to make life a lot easier for me and for Brent. I think he's gotten kinda tired of having to sew all of my tunics for me.
Doctor Who annuals, necessarily constrained to telling very short stories aimed primarily at 10 year olds often written by people who have never seen the show, have a tendency towards the bland and a bit rubbish, occasionally enlivened with stuff that is a bit bonkers. The annuals in the late 1970s went for the bonkers end of the spectrum with enthusiasm which these days makes them far more interesting than many of the others. As a child I recall just being very bemused by both the story-telling and the artwork which seemed to bear relatively little relation to the show I loved.
I recall the above panel clearly. The Doctor has helped a group of apparently very nice men escape from a planet on which they were trapped, only for it to be revealed that once outside the special atmosphere of the planet they revert to psychotic monsters. This panel reveals them in their monstrous state (their psychosis is never actually shown to us, were are simply told they are also psychotic). The Doctor tricks them back down onto the planet by pretending to be stranded and, despite being (allegedly) psychotically evil, they return because of the debt they owe him. They are not happy to find themselves trapped once more and the Doctor (in a detail I missed as a child) weeps as he abandons them.
It's a difficult story. Even as a child I was concerned that the Doctor accepted so easily that these creatures must be evil and I do wonder if its trying to say something about assumptions that to be ugly is the same as to be evil (a message Doctor Who occasionally strays into, much as it also has stories that assert the opposite). Given the Doctor's tears at the end I wonder if the artist also had doubts about the message the story seemed to be conveying.
All that said, it has the merit of not being remotely bland.
Novelty. New courses, new challenges, new games, new software, new music, new gadgets, new environments, new places, new relationships... I should add "success" , but it only counts when it's success in something new, or at least sufficiently new. Succeeding in tried-and-tested tasks you could do in your sleep is not fun anymore; and even getting praised for it feels vaguely embarrassing.
The problem with this model is that it's not self-sustainable. Not that it's possible to ever run out of novelties - not in the age of globalization and the Internet. But it comes into conflict with achieving mastery/professionalism in anything, which requires relentless, repetitive training and hard work.
And not only that, but the degree of novelty has to be constantly ramped up, as the whole categories of previously novel things and activities are now lumped together. Online courses? Thousands of new ones, but the whole concept of studying online is already old news. Writing challenges? So many different ones out there, but the whole concept of a "writing challenge" - been there, done that, met my word count goals, need new motivation. New programming language or framework? Try 10-20 of them, know them all. Every new gadget is less exciting than the previous ones. Every software upgrade is an annoyance to be postponed as long as possible, rather than something to look forward to. And so on.
It reminds me on that short sci-fi story (can't remember the author or name) about 2 guys stuck on an uninhabited planet with a broken spaceship and a sophisticated machine that can create any imaginable object, but only once, because it gets bored with repetition ;) So they devise workarounds to make it create all the necessary parts to repair the starship, and food so they can survive while repairing it. They have to come up with different categories of materials and food, as it goes approximately like that: after ordering a steak, they can't get any more meat; after ordering tomatoes, no more vegetables, and so on.
But how can I do that to myself? (I remember what turned out to be the optimal solution for the machine, but for me, it's thoroughly uninspiring. :)
I guess everything can be solved with an appropriate amount of medication, but the moment you start on this path, you can never turn back... I'd rather struggle some more. After all, happiness is overrated.
Afterwards we had a game of D&D 4th edition, probably the edition that's closest to a board game, making use of the Charlemagne's Paladins supplement and Open Grave. It was the beginning of a gaming intensive week, with the following night spent playing Papers & Paychecks, and the night after that reading The Non-Designer's Design Book, an excellent summary publication on such matters (reddragdiva may also be interested in this). Today has included prepartion for a session of Eclipse Phase which I'll be running tomorrow, which also has a Kickstarter for a second edition (I did some playtesting for this).
But of course, that's not the only events of the week. Much of work has been battling a monster of a suite of programs, FENiCS, which has a monstrous toolchain of dependencies (probably close to a hundred, including those we've already done). Who knew that I'd ever need, for example binutils/2.25-GCC-4.9.2-binutils-2.25? It is enough to drive one to drink and fortunately University House came to my assistance with Dr. Geoff Scollary providing a class on the various types production and tasting of sparking wine (aka 'champagne', but we're not allowed to call it that anymore unless it's actually from Champagne). Based on blind testing apparently I'm fond of Domain Chandon Pinot Noir. Finally, on other matters that drives one to drink, earlier in the week completed a two-part special of The Shambling Mound, a fortnight's summary of the activities of the current US administration.
There was one security guard from the district to run around doing the unlocking and he was mostly wrong about everything (I don't think he works specifically at that school.)
I wrote to ask how they normally handle access (cc-ing the district accessibility coordinator) And got the answer that during the school day they have someone stationed on each floor by the elevator. (I can't picture that is really true... maybe between classes though.)
And, apparently there was a buzzer and intercom but we missed seeing it. (Or, I missed it anyway)
Steeling myself for it just always being awkward. At least elevator wasn't also the mop closet!
What I find interesting about this is that they go to lengths to demonstrate that the numbers themselves are correct (if not always relevant), citing sources for them and so forth. I assume this is because demonstrably false numbers would leave them open to charges of electoral fraud (am I right? Is this the reason?). So why doesn't the same apply to the graphs? Is there a technical reason, or is it more of a cultural feeling that pictures are less definite than numbers, or something? Anybody know?
Exhibit A: Nazi Captain America holding Thor's hammer, with an associated discussion of symbology, senior Marvel staff donations to the 45th US President's campaign, etc
Exhibit B: Marvel asking comic stores to change their logos to Hydra symbols and staff to wear Hydra t-shirts.
Like. Especially maybe don't give them opening-weekend money for this shit, please?
"But I'm so over defending my own humanity. I'm so over providing a power-point presentation about the fact that I exist. And I'm completely done with engaging with anyone who has a clever theory explaining why they actually understand my soul better than I do.
"To be blunt: if your crazy-ass theory of the world doesn't ease the suffering of people whom you do not understand, maybe what you actually need is a new theory."