Reading Not-Wednesday

Jun. 24th, 2017 04:37 pm
brigdh: (Default)
[personal profile] brigdh
What did you just finish?
Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi. A nonfiction book about Sabella Nitti, a woman who was found guilty of murdering her husband in 1923 Chicago – making her the first woman to be given a death sentence by an American court. (Note: not really. Plenty of women had hung or burned or otherwise received capital punishment before Nitti, but a lack of historical awareness meant that the lawyers, judges, and general public at the time reacted as though this was a new development, and chose to be proud of it or appalled by it as their personal politics dictated.) She is probably best-remembered these days as the inspiration for the Hungarian-speaking woman in the musical Chicago; here she is protesting her innocence during the Cell Block Tango.

Nitti was an Italian immigrant, illiterate, a farm wife, ugly (at least according to the reporters covering the case), and spoke no English or mainstream Italian, but only a fairly rare dialect called Barese. In addition, she was saddled with a defense lawyer who seemed to be actively losing the ability to maintain a train of thought – his behavior during the trial was remarkably unhelpful to her cause, and he would later spend years in a mental asylum. These factors almost guaranteed she would receive a guilty verdict despite the fact that it was never even clear if her husband was actually dead (it seems likelier he just decided to abandon the family), much less that she was the one who killed him. The local sheriff and one of Nitti's own sons seem to have been the prime movers in pinning the crime on her, despite the lack of evidence.

The depiction of the prejudices and passions of 1920s Chicago was where the book really shone. Women had newly gained the vote, and many saw the potential death sentence of a woman as connected to that – with power comes responsibility. Others argued that women were inherently deserving of mercy: "She is a mother and a mother has never been hanged in the history of this country. I do not believe the honorable court here will permit a mother to hang.” And then, of course, there was the issue of looks, of proper decorum – the pretty, fashionable yet obviously guilty women judged innocent by their all-male juries, and Nitti condemned to hang.

The first 2/3rds or so of the book, when Lucchesi is guiding the reader through Nitti's life before her husband's disappearance and the subsequent trial, are pretty great. Unfortunately the last third loses the thread. Lucchesi detours into describing the backstories of various prisoners Nitti would have met or other contemporary court cases in Chicago; none of it seems to have much to do with Nitti, who disappears from the page for chapters at a time. Some of these would become the inspiration for other characters in Chicago, but since Lucchesi won't mention the musical until the epilogue, the reader is left to make the connection on their own or be confused. (Overall I found the book's lack of direct acknowledgement of Chicago odd – it's so obviously hanging there, waiting for the reader to notice it, and yet Lucchesi treats it like a devil who will bring bad luck if its name is invoked. Not to mention the missed marketing opportunity.) Others, like the two chapters spent on the Leopold and Loeb case, just seem to have interested Lucchesi and were vaguely connected, so she threw them in as a afterthought.

It's a good example of historical crime writing, even if it needed a better structural editor.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD EVERYONE READ IT IMMEDIATELY. A novel set in 1746 New York City, the book opens with the arrival in town of Richard Smith, fresh from London and bearing a bill for a thousand pounds. All of the novel's action is compacted within the next 60 days, as New Yorkers wait to receive word from England proving Smith is who he says he is and if he really is owed such a fabulous sum; in the meantime they (and the reader) are left to figure out the mysterious Smith: a conman who should be thrown in the city's freezing jail? a wealthy aristocrat who your daughters should be encouraged to woo? a French spy, come to exploit the division between the city's new-born political parties? an actor, a Catholic, a gay man, a libertine, or possibly even a Turkish magician? Through it all Smith delights in giving no answers, reveling in the New World as a place to remake himself as well. I generally am suspicious of books that deliberately hide information from the reader, but it's done so well here and leads to such a delightful revelation that I think it was the perfect choice.

Spufford's style is a moderate pastiche of 18th century novels; here are the opening lines as an example:
The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour—and having passed the Narrows about three o’clock—and then crawling to and fro, in a series of tacks infinitesimal enough to rival the calculus, across the grey sheet of the harbour of New York—until it seemed to Mr. Smith, dancing from foot to foot upon deck, that the small mound of the city waiting there would hover ahead in the November gloom in perpetuity, never growing closer, to the smirk of Greek Zeno—and the day being advanced to dusk by the time Henrietta at last lay anchored off Tietjes Slip, with the veritable gables of the city’s veritable houses divided from him only by one hundred foot of water—and the dusk moreover being as cold and damp and dim as November can afford, as if all the world were a quarto of grey paper dampened by drizzle until in danger of crumbling imminently to pap:—all this being true, the master of the brig pressed upon him the virtue of sleeping this one further night aboard, and pursuing his shore business in the morning. (He meaning by the offer to signal his esteem, having found Mr. Smith a pleasant companion during the slow weeks of the crossing.) But Smith would not have it. Smith, bowing and smiling, desired nothing but to be rowed to the dock. Smith, indeed, when once he had his shoes flat on the cobbles, took off at such speed despite the gambolling of his land-legs that he far out-paced the sailor dispatched to carry his trunk—and must double back for it, and seizing it hoist it instanter on his own shoulder—and gallop on, skidding over fish-guts and turnip leaves and cats’ entrails, and the other effluvium of the port—asking for direction here, asking again there—so that he appeared most nearly as a type of smiling whirlwind when he shouldered open the door—just as it was about to be bolted for the evening—of the counting-house of the firm of Lovell & Company, on Golden Hill Street, and laid down his burden while the prentices were lighting the lamps, and the clock on the wall showed one minute to five, and demanded, very civilly, speech that moment with Mr. Lovell himself.

However, it's 18th century language hiding a 21st century attitude; this is a novel deeply aware of gender and racial divisions, for all that they're mostly hidden behind humor and a page-turning sense of suspense. 1746 New York is shaped and haunted by the ghosts of the slave revolt of 1741, and its shadow lies over every page, thought it's only ever directly addressed in one on-page conversation (though goddamn, it's a conversation with resonance). Smith meets and begins to court Tabitha Lovell, who is described as a "shrew" by her family and the rest of this small-town New York. Her portrayal though, is much more complex than that stereotype, and it's never quite clear how much she is an intelligent woman brutally confined by social strictures or how much she suffers from an unnamed mental illness.

I really can't recommend this book enough. I came into it not expecting much, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Mount TBR update: No change: 18


What are you currently reading?
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. A new book by the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a book which approximately one million people have recommended to me and yet I still haven't gotten around to reading. But, uh... I've got this one! :D
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
[personal profile] ratcreature
I'm wondering what the English equivalent for the German "Aktionismus" is.

In German this is a usually pejorative term to describe activities somebody (often people in a position of power but accountable to the public, more rarely subordinates under pressure from above) undertakes to be visibly seen as "doing something" to address a problem, but the actions are not well thought out, unlikely to really solve or improve the situation, but are (at least from the perspective of the speaker making the charge of something being "Aktionismus") done wholly or partly to provide cover against the accusation of inactivity or indifference.

Like when you hastily implement "security theater" measures against a real security threat, because you can't think of any actual solution to improve security for real, but not doing anything and admitting to having no solution would be politically very costly. Opponents then might accuse you of "Aktionismus".

So "Aktionismus" is a general term for hasty, thoughtless responses of this type, used by opponents of the actions. It is often coupled with "blind" as in "blinder Aktionismus" to emphasize the lack of plan or vision to arrive at a real solution.

It is similar to the accusation that something is merely a "symbolic action" but that implies more a deliberate gesture lacking concrete results, whereas "Aktionismus" is more of a harmful flailing around.

"Aktionismus" has also some sort of specialized meaning for some performance art movement from Vienna, and apparently the word "actionism" exists in English in the translation for that Austrian art, but it doesn't seem to be used in the colloquial sense. But clearly this is a common phenomenon (and accusation) in politics, so there ought to be an English term.

I did it! :D

Jun. 24th, 2017 02:02 pm
goss: (Jump!)
[personal profile] goss
Thanks to everyone for the support and suggestions in the last two posts. You guys gave me the push I needed to get this going. ^___^

Drawesome on DW
[community profile] drawesome: A Drawing Community for Fan-Artists



Also, thanks to [personal profile] mific for volunteering to co-mod the comm. :)

I have a little bit of free time this weekend to plan out some introductory activities. And then the next step will be to signal boost the comm. Exciting! *___*
musesfool: lester bangs on rock'n'roll (music)
[personal profile] musesfool
So this week's AV Club Q&A is favorite one hit wonders (though certainly the definition of "one hit" is...elastic, and dependent in many cases on where you live), and more than a couple of songs I love got mentioned and then I ended up departing from that original premise and going on a youtube spiral of music from my teenage years, a lot of which I hadn't heard in decades probably (and some of which is still in regular rotation on my iPod, though I left out most of the usual suspects), but here are some gems:

- Let Me Go - Heaven 17
- Hit That Perfect Beat - Bronski Beat
- Don't Go - Yaz
- Love to Hate You - Erasure
- Obsession - Animotion
- West End Girls - Pet Shop Boys
- Tenderness - General Public
- I Melt With You - Modern English
- Whisper to a Scream - Icicle Works
- Cruel Summer - Bananarama
- Voices Carry - 'Til Tuesday
- Forever Young - Alphaville
- What Do All the People Know? - the Monroes
- Heart and Soul - T'Pau
- If You Leave - OMD
- Question of Lust - Depeche Mode
- The Promise - When In Rome
- True - Spandau Ballet
- Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins
- No One Is to Blame - Howard Jones
- Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House

***

Linkspam: Wonder Woman, misc.

Jun. 24th, 2017 12:41 pm
umadoshi: (Wonder Woman 01)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Wonder Woman

"Patty Jenkins is Co-Writing ‘Wonder Woman 2’ With Geoff Johns".

"5 'Wonder Woman' Amazons On The Power Of Their All-Woman Army".

"Native Actor Eugene Brave Rock Talks About His Role in Wonder Woman: As Wonder Woman smashes records, Native Actor Eugene Brave Rock talks about a whirlwind week and being gifted a headdress".

"The Revolution Won’t Be Saved By Wonder Woman — And That’s Okay". [The Establishment] "Wonder Woman is a stand-in for so many women in some position of vulnerable visibility who feel unfairly scrutinized for their ideological imperfections; she, and her at times tortured relationship with the women’s movement that adopted her as a mascot, provide a helpful case study for understanding the consequences of the demands we place on each other."


Miscellaneous

"I'm A Teenager And I Don't Like Young Adult Novels. Here's Why".

"“Boys By Girls” Is Using the Female Gaze to Redefine Modern Masculinity".

While looking up some planting info for plants we have, I learned about the existence of a couple of plant types that we're not likely to ever have, but which look really neat: arisaema (cobra lily) and tacca (bat plant).

"10+ Of The Oldest Color Photos Showing What The World Looked Like 100 Years Ago".

"Disney Illustrator Imagines A Life With A Pet Octopus, And It’s Just Too Adorable (10+ Pics)".

"Writing Advice to My Students That Would Also Have Been Good Sex Advice for My High School Boyfriends". [McSweeney's]

"These “Galaxy” Flowers Hold Entire Universes On Their Petals".

"You", via a locked post where the link was described as "How ordinary (often well-meaning) people make life much harder than it needs to be for people with disabilities."

"Adhesive Foot Pads Let You Ditch the Flip Flops with Flexible Feet Protection". [Article links to active Kickstarter.]

"Animated GIFs Reveal Differences Between Subway Maps and Their Actual Geography".

"Oh, Lovely: The Tick That Gives People Meat Allergies Is Spreading".

"World's first water park for people with disabilities is literally the coolest thing ever created". (Now, if only it weren't called "Inspiration Island".)

"Brutally Honest Freelance Writer Bios". [McSweeney's]

"The Lunar Sea: The moon influences life in a surprising and subtle way: with its light".

Moving means not being here anymore

Jun. 24th, 2017 12:48 pm
naye: a forest road seen through a haze of light (going where i want to be)
[personal profile] naye
It's so weird to consider leaving Cambridge.

I mean, leaving Britain is something I've been wanting to do quite badly for exactly a year - waking up to the Brexit referendum results early in the morning of June 24th was a gutpunch and I've never really caught my breath again. (Mostly because the Tories/Theresa May/Brexiteers keep refusing to treat us migrants as people, preferring to regard us as bargaining chips... and they're so bad at bargaining.)

But Cambridge?

I live here now. I have friends here! And a yoga studio and a hairdresser and a weekday morning running loop and a selection of weekend long runs and a job and a dentist and I've spent longer here in an unbroken streak than anywhere else in my adult life. (I lived for longer in a Stockholm suburb with my ex, but did a year in Japan in the middle.)

It's familiar, it's safe, it's pleasant. I don't dislike our flat - I wish it had a better view (any view!), and I wish the bedroom wasn't right on the street, and I wish we had a garden or something - but it suits our needs and the landlord is nice and it's got a dishwasher and a washing machine which I will now never be able to live without. And we've made it cozy and ours.

But there's no future here. We can never get on the property market - not in Cambridge, and not anywhere within a 30 minute commuting distance. I think the current property prices exceed 10 times an average yearly salary. Even for us DINKs, that's... not really feasible. And that's not even going into how small and dark and cold British flats are. (These are facts: Britain has the smallest living space per person in Europe. A lot of British houses don't even have double glazing. And possibly due to that, or due to legacy "window tax" issues, there are generally fewer and less generous windows than I'm used to.)

And jobs-wise, Skuld might keep getting promoted, but I've worked myself into a situation where there's no room higher up in the organisation, and I don't have enough experience to take the step to management anyway. Plus I've got a foreign degree in my field, and no experience of the local system, which means I can't ever get a foot in the library door here without taking a severe paycut.

Finally: I miss living close to actual nature where you can roam off the beaten track and there are lakes where you can swim in the summer and skate in the winter and you can pick berries and mushrooms and flowers. Here we have cultivated parks and a slow meandering river you can follow up to the point where personal properties cut pedestrians off, and then it's just fields. Sweden has so much nature. And you're allowed in all of it! We have an amazing law called allemansrätten. I never understood what an amazing gift this law is until I lived in countries with fences and PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING signs and conversations like "there's a nice view up here but we shouldn't get out of the car because the landowners don't like it". I mean, look at this from Wikipedia:

Basically the only places you can't go camping is in peoples gardens and protected areas like bird sanctuaries. )

So there's plenty of reasons to long for Sweden (including the summer nights I keep going on about), but to actually move there? And not be here anymore? So strange. I can stay in touch with friends online, but where will I find a hairdresser as nice as George, or a yoga teacher as patient as Kathy? Where will I buy my kewpie mayo and frozen karaage and other necessities? There's no UNIQLO in Sweden (yet, maybe) so that's half my wardrobe I can't replace. And will I not regret this move when it's mid-April and sleeting, and instead of being out running I'm online looking at friends' beautiful shots of gardens in bloom and green grass in Cambridge.

Because the grass is always greener, and all that...

(The exception to the rule is Kyoto, which I've always felt lived up to all my love for it. It will always be the first city of my heart, and one day I hope to spend some time there again.)

Heads up

Jun. 24th, 2017 02:37 pm
tamsin: (Default)
[personal profile] tamsin
Qwertee has a really cool Wonder Woman design up today. Their sizes are cut pretty small, so keep that in mind.

Naming the Art Community?

Jun. 23rd, 2017 09:44 pm
goss: (Art - crayons)
[personal profile] goss
So, looking back at my previous post, I was really delighted that fellow fan-artists indicated an interest in having a community for practicing drawing skills, be it digital or traditional media.

I'm sitting here brainstorming community names. Basic names like Art, Artists, Draw, Drawing, Drawings, Drawn are already taken. Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I'm coming up with:

drawpaint, drawnow, drawit, drawthis, idrewthis, idraw, drawnbyhand, drawntoart, readysetdraw, drawingskills, wedraw, groupdraw, drawingtogether, drawingroup, drawyes, drawesome, drawpaintgrow, drawyay, yaydrawing, drawn2art, drawn2fanart, 123draw, quickdraw, lovetodraw, drawsomething, drawingroom, drawmore.

I...kinda like drawmore, wedraw, or drawthis. IDK.

What are you guys partial to? Got any other suggests?
yhlee: Drop Ships from Race for the Galaxy (RTFG)
[personal profile] yhlee
My first introduction to Cordwainer Smith was "The Game of Rat and Dragon," which I'm guessing (alongside "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell") is his most anthologized story based on nothing more than guesswork and the fact that, for years after that story, it was the only Smith I could find. (Admittedly, this was not helped by spending high school in South Korea. [1])

"The Game of Rat and Dragon" has stuck better in my memory, but at some point in college I was delighted to discover that there were more Instrumentality stories. The one that I remembered, years later, as being particularly interesting was "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal." Peculiarly, I remembered that it had an unusual narrative structure/format, but not anything useful about its plot. Cue yesterday when I actually reread it, having checked out the posthumous collection When the People Fell from the library, and being bemused to discover that this story was almost certainly, before I ever heard of fanfic on the internet, my introduction to mpreg.

A spoilery discussion of the story follows beneath the cut.

[1] My high school library's sf/f holdings were very eclectic. They had a couple decades' worth of Analog under Stanley Schmidt. I read every page of every issue available, and remain fond of the zine although I have not read it in over a decade. They also had old classics like John Wyndham's Re-Birth, amusing curiosities like a litcrit book on the best fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock (possibly with a co-author; I no longer remember) in which he immodestly listed his own Stormbringer, a number of old Nebula anthologies, and a copy of Harlan Ellison's (ed.) Dangerous Visions that I read two or three or four times before someone else stole it or, more charitably, checked it out and lost it. (Years later, I still think Philip José Farmer's "Riders of the Purple Wage" was insufferably boring, and Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah" makes zero sense when you are barely aware of what sex is.) They had Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, which is where I encountered them. On the other hand, the librarians were very friendly, and for a number of years, because my sister and I were the only ones who made use of the request box, we pretty much got them to buy whatever we wanted to read for the year.

Read more... )

Five for Friday

Jun. 23rd, 2017 04:36 pm
lunabee34: (Default)
[personal profile] lunabee34
1. Emma's baby fan musings crack me up. Yesterday, she told me she hates incest pairings (although she has to admit it makes a great deal of sense for SPN), and that while people should be able to write what they want, they should do it away from her. LOL I told her that's why God made the back button. She also told me she doesn't get why people ship pairings that don't have a lot of subtext or canonical support, especially the characters that don't interact in canon. She has gotten waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay into Undertale--as in Undertale is all she's been able to talk about for what seems like our entire lives at this point--and she cited some examples from that video game. I told her she'd have to just take my word for it that those stories can be a lot of fun.

She told me she's not really looking for fanfic right now because she'd probably have to wade through too many fics written by 11 year olds with horrible SPAG.

And then she closed by telling me that one time she accidentally found some drawings of skeleton porn where they had ectoplasm genitals which is the funniest thing ever.

2. Downton Abbey watch continues. spoilers )

3. Fiona's birthday is tomorrow. She'll be four!!!!!!!

4. I am exhausted in the last two weeks, like way more than usual. My energy levels have been good for awhile, and I'm wondering if my thyroid levels have dropped. I hesitate to move up my August 31 endocrinologist appointment; I've done so every year for the past three years when I've had worsening symptoms, and the tests have always come back with a "Nah, not sick enough for us to do anything" verdict. I'm on the verge of starting my period, so I'm wondering if that's a factor. If I don't start to feel better in the next week, I guess I will up the appointment. I just feel so beat, and working out is a chore. :( This is definitely not normal.

5. I am done teaching for the semester! Whoooo! Grades are turned in, and now all I have to do is relax and work on the novel.

The Fifth Heart

Jun. 23rd, 2017 03:09 pm
lunabee34: (reading by tabaqui)
[personal profile] lunabee34
The Fifth HeartThe Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wanted to like this so much. Dan Simmons is one of my favorite authors. Ilium and Olympos are among my favorite books ever. Hyperion is delightful. Drood is wonderful.

The Fifth Heart is okay.

I think maybe the problem is that I'm not a Sherlock Holmes nut and so much of the intricacy of the story is probably lost on me. I also don't know much about James or the other historical/literary figures in the text.

I was also a little disappointed that at no point was anything the characters in the novel think is funny actually funny to me. Mark Twain is funny. His writing makes me laugh. Mark Twain in this novel is not funny. I would think that's the point, that the funny man is not actually funny, except that the other characters all seem genuinely amused by his stories.

IDK

This one was not for me.

I did enjoy the ending, especially the epilogue, with James standing arm in arm with Holmes on the deck of the ship the way he's always wanted to stand with someone else.



View all my reviews

6/23/2017 The Nature Area

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:58 am
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I intended to walk out Nimitz, but the fog was blowing so badly at 6:45 that I didn't even get out of the car. Instead I drove down to the Nature Area, parking outside the gate, and made four passes: north on Lower Packrat, south on the road/boardwalk, north on Upper Packrat, south again on Loop Road and back around to the car. This time I heard olive-sided flycatcher up on Loop Road; two, in fact. The List: )

Between trying to decide something and being extremely annoyed to see multiple bike tracks on Upper Packrat* I'm pretty sure I was not as observant as I can be. But I had a very active area up on Loop Road: two hairy woodpeckers (both apparently females, having no red at all, not even the red forehead of the juvenile, and yet I strongly suspect one was indeed a juvenile, by fluffiness and behavior; at one point they were beak to beak, as if feeding); a Nuttall's woodpecker; an empidonaxflycatcher, almost certainly a Pacific-slope but it a bit far and in shade; and a brown creeper that play peekaboo with me so successfully that I never got a really good look. It was great.



*What is wrong with people? What is it about "no bikes" signs, narrow wooden stairs, barriers at each end of the bridge, and several downed trees left across the trail that says, THIS IS A TRAIL I MUST BIKE ON! I don't give a shit if they fall down the slope into the poison oak but they're going to seriously injure someone who's walking and birding, like me. The trail is very narrow and the sight lines are short. It's terrifying. Assholes.

(no subject)

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:40 am
yhlee: voidmoth with starry wings in a triangle (hxx emblem Nirai)
[personal profile] yhlee
Which faction of the hexarchate are you? [Solaris Books].

A quiz! I get Nirai...?!

it's braver sometimes just to run

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:55 am
musesfool: Kermit the Frog (can't look clowns will eat me)
[personal profile] musesfool
Last night, we had dinner at Joanne's, the Lady Gaga family restaurant. The food was fine, but for the prices they charge, I expected at least two meatballs with my spaghetti and meatball dinner. To be fair, the one meatball was of decent size, but still, it's listed as spaghetti and meatballs on the menu so it's not ridiculous to expect there to be more than one meatball on the plate. I am just saying.

It's warm and clammy today, which is my second least favorite combination (cold and clammy is worse), but I'm looking forward to the weekend, as this week has seemed endless. It was so hard to get out bed. Sigh.

I did just get off the phone with 1. the realtor and then 2. the lawyer, so things are progressing there re: the negotiation of a slightly lower price due to the low appraisal (all thanks, apparently, to the fact that while the seller lists the apartment in Forest Hills, it actually exists in Rego Park which is one - slightly less expensive - neighborhood over. And if you are from Queens, you know what I mean). The question is whether this affects the lender in any way, but since the loan amount is the loan amount regardless, I'm not sure why it would? but what do I know? As per my lawyer's instructions, I am playing dumb (I mean, on this topic, despite all the info from Uncle Google, I actually am kind of dumb? so it's not hard! *hands*) The lawyer and mortgage broker are on top of that.

When I spoke to the realtor this morning, I was like, it's been a week since they received my application but I shouldn't expect to hear from them before the Fourth of July weekend? and he was like, "they don't like to disclose their schedule but I'll ask for an update," and then he just texted me to say that the board has received and is reviewing my application so EEP! That, more than the bank or the seller or the more normal processes of home-buying is what is freaking me out. I have more to say about this but probably not until it's all over, and even then, probably only in a locked post. Mostly what I want to say is EEP! At least I found my black dress (and my mom's pearls *snerk*) so I'm prepared!

I feel like I should have something fannish to say, and I'm sure I did before these phone calls all started happening, but I guess for right now, this househunting business is my main fandom. Sigh.

***

Friday For What It's Worth

Jun. 23rd, 2017 07:13 am
marthawells: (Miko)
[personal profile] marthawells
This has been a week of extreme highs and lows. The high points were awesome but the low points are...low.

I've got news I can't share yet so this is kind of a boring post. I need to get back to my book rec posts but Fridays are kind of a bad day for them.

We were supposed to have a hurricane but it turned and is now torturing a different part of the country.

Oh, I did a Reddit r/Fantasy AMA yesterday, and got a great question on Worldbuilding:

Question: One of my favorite things about your books is the incredible detail and authenticity to the cultures and societies you create. I've read City Of Bones and your Raksura books and I am always immediately engaged when the characters travel to a new city. The residents, architecture, customs, languages, and overall presentation feel well rooted and historical. It really adds an incredible flavor to your writing and inspires me to improve my own.

Are you willing to describe the process in which you develop a new city? When you sit down to create a new location, how you start the vision and do you have a system in how you begin to add layers of detail until the city/town/society feels authentic?

Me: Thank you so much!

I use different methods for different types of book. For the Ile-Rien books, where the locations are based more on real-world places, I did a lot of research into cities in similar cultures, climates, environments as my imaginary city. For the Raksura books, I tried to think of a neat setting for a city, then tried to make it as weird and extreme as possible. Like the Turning City, Keres-gedon, which started out as just a camp in the mountains.

Basically it's a process of coming up with an element you want in your city, like canals. You look at cities with canals, like Venice, and maybe Angkor Wat. What are the canals used for? Transportation, a reservoir, entertainment, defense, etc. You think about how the environment and climate of your city is going to affect your canals. Can they freeze over? Are they affected by drought? Sewage? Plant growth? Underwater monster issues? Etc. Why or why not are they affected by these things? Once you make all those decisions, you decide how they affect the inhabitants of the city, their culture, their everyday life. It can be simple or complicated, and ideally, it leads to ideas that can further characterization and plot. And the big thing to remember is that the reader doesn't need to know everything you know about your canal system. They'll be able to infer a lot from the bits and pieces they see as your characters move through the story, and the sense that the city is operating by a logical system is more important than knowing the exact details.

I also don't usually figure out too many of the details of my settings in advance, since I'm going to concentrate mainly on the parts my characters are interacting with. Like most of the city may be sketched in, but the characters are going to need this little train system and this temple hospital, so those bits are going to get more attention and development. Also keep in mind that cities change over time, with new buildings, new roads, and what stays in place and what gets built over or torn down all say things about the people who live there.

It also helps not to set too many boundaries. You never want to tell readers that there's nothing over the mountains, because it's going to make the world feel closed in, like a puddle instead of a huge mysterious ocean. And if you keep writing in this setting, you may eventually need those empty places to put things in.

I hope that helps!


***

Also:

I have a signed copy of The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red in the Authors for Grenfell Tower Auction: https://authorsforgrenfelltower.com/2017/06/23/signed-copy-of-the-murderbot-diaries-all-systems-red-by-martha-wells/

There are tons of other great items up for auction to benefit the tower fire victims. Please check it out or pass it on.

Links

Jun. 23rd, 2017 01:10 pm
selenak: (rootbeer)
[personal profile] selenak
Confessions of a Trekker: I really don't like ST VI - The Undiscovered Country. Which is, I've discovered, something of a minority opinion, for at least the vocal part of fandom holds this last cinematic outing of the TOS crew in a fond light. However, now and then the dissent becomes vocal, too, as in this rewatch post about the movie in question .


In more fun Trek news, check out this vid about everyone's favourite Cardassian tailor-plus-spy:

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

(Every now and then I wish the movies instead of going for the nth version of Wrath of Khan (with or without a villain called Khan) would tackle the Cardassians instead. And then I conclude the movies would probably mishandle the Cardassians as badly as they did the Romulans, and am glad the Cardassians so far have been reserved for tv.)

And lastly, a BSG fanfic rec:

Rippling Light: tender and heartbreaking take on the friendship of Felix Gaeta and Anastasia Dualla, two characters for whom the phrase "they deserved better" might have been invented.

The Great Vole Adventure...

Jun. 22nd, 2017 08:18 pm
ellenmillion: (Default)
[personal profile] ellenmillion
I was drawing on the couch, minding my own business, when I felt a tickle against my thigh.

I looked down to discover that a VOLE was wiggling in the space between me and the arm of the couch. Being a grown woman of great sensibility, I shrieked like a little girl, and leaped from the couch like it was on fire. The vole, sensibly, dove under the cushion into the recesses of the couch.

This resulted:



Heavily gloved and armed with a flashlight, I probed and prodded the interior of the couch, nearly cornered the terrified rodent several times, and finally gave up and set the live trap baited with peanut butter nearby.

The cat continued to doze.

We sat down to dinner, debating the idea of leaving Norway outside, because if he caught the scent of vole and saw it scrabbling around through the fabric, chances seemed good that we would wake up to shredded couch. We also speculate on how the vole got into the couch, let alone into the house, and decide the likely culprit is the sleeping bag we brought in from the garage that had been laying on the couch for several hours.

The cat snored louder.

Then, suddenly I caught sight of it braving the outside world and coming around the corner of the still-sideways couch. I hissed and pointed and generally flailed, and as quietly as we could, Jake and I got out of our chairs and started stalking the wily beast.



It made basically a beeline for the cat, who slumbered blissfully on, then darted back behind the entertainment credenza.

I put on the heavy gloves and positioned myself at the escape end of the credenza while Jake poked and prodded and hissed and generally flushed it my direction. "This is a terrible idea," I said, but patiently waited. The vole, cautious but not terribly cowed, came my direction.

I waited.

The vole hesitated, just out of Jake's reach. I could have made a grab for it, but it would have sent him hiding if I missed.

The cat snored.

Jake rattled wires.

The vole darted.

I pounced.

Vole safely in my gloved grip, we all cheered.

The vole took a swift air flight out into the woods, and we returned to our dinners.

The cat wheezed on in sleep.

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