[hxx] [story] Hunting Trip

Jun. 26th, 2017 10:00 am
yhlee: fox with nine tails with eyes (hxx emblem Shuos)
[personal profile] yhlee
For [personal profile] metaphormorphosis.
Prompt: hexarchate, "red pandas."

(NOTE: I promise this has a happy ending for the red panda.)

"Zoo?" High General Garit said. "Really, Jedao?"

Jedao, who was driving the car, glanced sideways to assess Garit's expression, even though the high general's tone of voice told him everything he needed to know. Garit had invited him along on this damned trip to a hunting preserve because Garit was desperate to bag a gray tiger, and alongside his record with firearms, Jedao had made the mistake of letting drop that he had grown up hunting. Jedao had tried to point out that going after pesky deer and jackalopes was not the same as gray tigers. Garit had merely clapped him on the back and told him not to be so modest. Modesty had nothing to do with it. On top of the stupid expense per round, the recoil on the ammo that Jedao was going to have to use was proportionate to something with its stopping power, and he wasn't looking forward to the ache in his shoulder.

"Just for an hour or two," Jedao said coaxingly. "My mom and my siblings wanted me to send home some vacation photos. And I promised my nieces that I would bring them back some souvenirs, and maybe the zoo's shop will have some mounted skeletons or the like."

"You spoil those kids rotten," Garit said with a snort.

"What are uncles for?" Jedao said. One of the great regrets of his life was that his job kept him away from his family for long periods of time. The girls grew so fast. "Besides, the folks down at the shop might have some tips for hunters."

Garit shook his head, amused. "You're transparent, but all right."

The zoo was not particularly busy. The two of them were off-duty, and the young woman who told them about the zoo regulations either didn't recognize them or didn't care, which Jedao found congenial. Jedao persuaded Garit to come into the zoo proper so Jedao could snap some photos.

Jedao fiddled with the manual exposure, trying to get the black panther to show up in its cave. The camera had been a gift from his brother, and was practically an antique. Jedao was not especially gifted at taking pictures that pleased his family ("These look like reconnaissance photos, who cares about all this kill zone stuff when you're snapping pics of an engagement party?" his sister had once complained) so he had resolved to do better.

"That's the oddest damned fox I've ever seen," Garit said, pointing.

Jedao gave up on the exposure and settled for a muddled silhouette in the shadows. "Beg pardon?" he asked.

They strolled closer to the enclosure Garit had indicated to have a look. A reddish, bushy-tailed creature was taking a nap in the branches of a tree. Bamboo shoots sprouted not far away. Some of them looked like they'd been gnawed on.

"That's not a fox," Jedao said, reading the enclosure's label. "Red panda. Apparently they eat bamboo. And sometimes birds and things."

"It's kind of cute," Garit said grudgingly. "Doesn't look like much of a challenge, though."

Jedao thought that coddled zoo creatures were generally unlikely to be much challenge, but he didn't say anything that would give Garit the idea of adding another kind of animal to his wishlist for this trip. "My nieces will like it," he said, and raised his camera.

"We should catch you one to take home to them," Garit said.

Jedao made a face. "Have you ever looked at the customs forms for importing wildlife? I'm pretty sure these critters don't exist on my homeworld."

"Well, I'll look into expediting it as a favor to you if you can help me with my tiger problem," Garit said.

"That's very kind of you," Jedao said, as diplomatically as he could, "but my nieces are notoriously good at killing goldfish. Let's just leave the red pandas alone and go hit up the shop so I can buy bat skeletons or fox-eared hats or something, and we can head to the hunting grounds."
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

A friend asked me for this blog post, and I really haven’t been feeling the blogging lately, so here we go, a way into it by talking to a specific person.

A lot of people do pacing instinctively, sometimes synaesthetically. This is why you’ll hear metaphors like an unbalanced washing machine, a car with a flat tire–things where the rhythm is off, things where the story is going THUMPa THUMPa THUMPa. If you have that feeling for it, if you have that instinct, hurrah! Lucky you. If not, here are some other ways to spot broken pacing.

Ask an external reader. If they are bored in some sections, the pacing is probably breaking down. (Also boredom, who wants it.) Also, if they can spot the scenes that are the most important to the writer, that’s no good–obviously there will be things like the climax of the piece that are important scenes, but you don’t want to have a lot of scenes that are obviously un-important. If the reader feels like a scene doesn’t matter to you and they’re right, take it out and find another way to do the thing it’s doing. If they’re wrong and it really is important to you? Probably a pacing problem.

Track things! Track all the things. Okay, not all. But any of the things. Figure out what elements are showing up in each scene, what each scene is doing. You can do this with characters. You can do it with things like description/action/dialog balance. You can do it with objects that are touchstones to your plot. You can do it with locations. Anything you are wanting to pull through the book and balance, you can track, sometimes with color. Put it on notecards, print it out in tiny font and highlight it, just do a chapter list in a different file: who is in Chapter 1 with the protag(s). Who is in Chapter 2. Or: where does the Axe of Awesomeness show up first, where does it show up again, how long is it between spottings of the Major Macguffin. Has the reader had time to forget about it or think it is no longer important or get distracted by the Minor Macguffin. Has the Shiny Red Herring come up often enough? Track it in red to see where it is swimming. Is there a love story? If there is supposed to be a love story but you are not seeing Captain Swoonypants between Chapter 2 and Chapter 13, the pants: they will not be swooning. That is what we call a major sag in the pacing. (And/or in the pants.) Negative relationship stuff, too: that distance between a fight and the next appearance of the person fought with will mean that that relationship is not carrying a lot of tension. The pacing on it will sag. The reader will forget that they are supposed to care.

A thing that I said in the previous paragraph: figure out what each scene is doing. Not just one thing. If it’s just one thing, the pacing will sag and fall over. Do more. But also: when you revise, sometimes one of the things a scene used to be doing will change. If you rip out a subplot, remember to look at the scenes around the stuff you removed. It’s not just that you have to check to get the information redistributed. It’s that the beats also have to be redistributed. If that subplot contained the moments to breathe, your new pacing will be too frenetic. If that subplot contained mostly action and excitement, a hint of that needs to creep back into the new pacing. Pacing, sadly, is not just something you can do once and be done.

Stylistic and length changes. Word length, sentence length, paragraph length, chapter length. You can change these deliberately if you want to, but if you find you have subconsciously changed them without meaning to, you may be rushing a section or meandering through a section that will not feel integrated with the rest of the book and will nag at the reader–sometimes without them being able to spot why.

Note that you do not have to do length analysis on every element of every book every time. This is more a diagnostic for when something seems to not be working or if you consistently have problems than something every writer should do at every moment. In fact, all of this is in that category. If you’re finding that people are saying things you don’t really get about pacing, that something is not working and you don’t understand why, you can poke at these things (or at ideas people will offer in the comments, maybe!). But no writing tool is universal, this is not universal, and you should feel utterly free to not do any of this if you don’t need to and don’t feel like it.

I feel like I can’t stress enough in process posts that everybody works differently, because I hear enough conversation about “I heard one piece of advice and I thought I had to,” and seriously, no, you do not have to, you never have to. Do what works for you. Discard things that sound horrifying until/unless nothing else is working and you feel like it’s worth a shot. Try things that are exciting or weird, try things that feel like they’re fixing the problems you actually have, and don’t listen to me when you don’t feel like it. Okay? Okay.

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... )

(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...?!

[hxx] [story] Squirrel-Fishing

Jun. 22nd, 2017 08:29 pm
yhlee: fox with nine tails with eyes (hxx emblem Shuos)
[personal profile] yhlee
For A.B.
Prompt: "Shuos pranks."

with apologies to the black squirrels of Stanford University campus

Jedao and Ruo had set up shop at the edge of one of the campus gardens, the one with the carp pond and the carefully maintained trees. Rumor had it that some of the carp were, in addition to being over a hundred years old, outfitted with surveillance gear. Like most Shuos cadets, Jedao and Ruo would, if questioned, laugh off the rumors while secretly believing in them wholeheartedly--at least the bit about surveillance gear. Jedao had argued that the best place to hide what they were doing was in plain sight. After all, who would be so daft as to run a prank right next to surveillance?

"Lovely day, isn't it?" Ruo said brightly.

Jedao winced. "Not so loud," he said. His head was still pounding after last night's excesses, and the sunlight wasn't helping. Why did he keep letting Ruo talk him into things? It wasn't just that Ruo was really good in bed. He had this way of making incredibly risky things sound fun. Going out drinking? In itself, not that bad. Playing a drinking game with unlabeled bottles of possibly-alcohol-possibly-something-else stolen from Security's hoard of contraband? Risky. Some of those hallucinations had been to die for, though, especially when he started seeing giant robots in the shape of geese.

Fortunately, this latest idea wasn't that risky. Probably. Besides, of the many things that the other cadets had accused Jedao of, low risk tolerance wasn't one of them.

"Not my fault you can't hold your drink," Ruo said, even more brightly.

"I'm going to get you one of these days," Jedao muttered.

Ruo's grin flashed in his dark brown face. "More like you'll lose the latest bet and--" He started describing what he'd do to Jedao in ear-burning detail.

At last one of the other first-years, puzzled by what Jedao and Ruo were doing by the carp pond with a pair of fishing poles, approached. Jedao recognized them: Meurran, who was good at fixing guns despite their terrible aim, and who had a glorious head of wildly curling hair. "Security's not going to approve of you poaching the carp," Meurran said.

"Oh, this isn't for the carp," Ruo said. He flicked his fishing pole, and the line with its enticing nut snaked out toward one of the trees.

Meurran gave Ruo a funny look. "Ruo," they said, "the fish are in the opposite direction."

"Please," Jedao said, "who cares about the fish? No one has anything to fear from the fish. That's just nonsense."

"All right," Meurran said, sounding distinctly unimpressed, "then what?"

Come on, Jedao thought, the nut is right there...

As if on cue, a black squirrel darted down from the tree, then made for the nut.

Ruo tugged the nut just out of reach.

The black squirrel looked around, then headed for the nut again.

"Oh, isn't that adorable?" Meurran said.

"Don't be fooled!" Ruo said as he guided the squirrel in a figure-eight through the grass. "Why would the commandant be so stupid as to rely on carp, which can't even leave their pond?"

Meurran glanced involuntarily at the pond, where two enormous carp were lazily circling near the surface, as if the carp, in fact, had a habit of oozing out onto the land and spying on lazy cadets. "You're saying the squirrels--?"

Ruo continued to cause the squirrel to chase after the nut. "It makes sense, doesn't it? Everyone thinks the black squirrels are the cutest. They're even featured in the recruitment literature. Damnably clever piece of social engineering if you ask me."

Meurran was starting to look persuaded in spite of themselves.

Meanwhile, as Ruo made his case, Jedao leaned back and studied the squirrel with a frown. The local population of black squirrels was mostly tame to begin with and had proven to be easy to train with the aid of treats. (Ruo had made Jedao do most of this, "because you're the farm boy.") But while Ruo and Meurran argued about squirrel population dynamics, Jedao caught a slight flash from behind the squirrel's eyes--almost like that of a camera?

He opened his mouth to interrupt.

The squirrel made an odd convulsing motion, and the light flashed again, this time directly into Jedao's eyes.

Jedao closed his mouth, and kept his thoughts to himself.

(no subject)

Jun. 22nd, 2017 08:09 pm
meganbmoore: (Default)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 PSA that both youtube and hulu have the unaired episode of Powerless that gueststars Adam West, for other fans of the show. or the actor.

fountain pens!

Jun. 22nd, 2017 03:38 pm
yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
[personal profile] yhlee
I did an essay for Tor.com, The Beauty of Physical Writing, on fountain pens! There's a photo of some of my fountain pens over there.

From left to right, for the curious: Waterman 52V, Webster Four-Star, Scriptorium Pens Master Scrivener in Red Stardust, Conway Stewart Churchill in Red Stardust, Aurora 75th Anniversary, Nakaya Naka-ai in aka-tamenuri, Wahl-Eversharp Doric in Kashmir with #3 adjustable nib, and Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight.

Meanwhile, I swear I am writing flash fic right now. This caffeine is taking an unholy amount of time to kick in...

(no subject)

Jun. 22nd, 2017 09:40 am
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
Well, I work about two miles away from this zoo, so I could go and be disdained by this giraffe calf in person.

Theoretically. The air is about the temperature of boiling right now and the idea of actually setting foot on zoo grounds is not that tempting, really, even with the possibility of being personally disdained.

an IMPORTANT question

Jun. 21st, 2017 04:04 pm
yhlee: rose in a hexagon (hxx emblem Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
Poll #18516 trying to cheer myself up from rain/flood watch/tornado watch/tropical storm
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 34


If I were to attempt CHEESECAKE [0] pinup art of a hexarchate character for lulz, it should be

View Answers

Nirai Kujen
17 (50.0%)

Shuos Jedao
17 (50.0%)

Kel Cheris [1]
6 (17.6%)

Andan Tseya
3 (8.8%)

Shuos Khiaz
1 (2.9%)

someone else I will name in comments
1 (2.9%)

ticky the EXTREMELY DISAPPROVING tocky
2 (5.9%)



[0] May or may not feature CHEESY partial nudity.

[1] The incomparable [personal profile] telophase once did me a sketch of blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret because I kept joking that I would get a cover featuring blonde, busty Cheris with her space ferret. (Hexarchate AU...?!)

(In real life, I'm working on an art assignment...ahahahahaha.)

(Dear Louisiana: PLEASE STOP RAINING. At least it isn't downpouring enough that I feel that I have to pack for emergency evacuation, it's just raining drearily, but...)

arg dammit

Jun. 20th, 2017 01:01 pm
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
just learned, after nuking my frozen tv-dinner-type lunch but before eating it, that pineapple has the same effect as grapefruit on antibiotics, especially those in the family that the I'm taking is in. Cooking may denature the enzyme that has the effect, but I can't get a specific answer as to whether or not 3 minutes of nuking (and whatever prep it might have had before) would destroy it.

Given that I'm allergic to a cousin of this AB* and that the bad effect is that it slows the elimination of it from the body, it's very much not worth risking it, especially as the last bad AB reaction I had kept me out of work for a very unhappy week. Dammit, it smells so good, too.


* both doc and pharmacist are well aware, and I have been given strict instructions to keep an eye on certain symptoms and phone immediately if they show up.

eta: and of course the library cafe isn't carrying the usual salads and sushi since it's summer. so i have a thing of instant oatmeal for lunch. I also brought cheese sticks, so it's not all I'm having, and we start our conversational Italian class tonight through campus' extended ed program, so we'll be eating dinner early. It's just Not Satisfying when I had my heart set on black bean chicken with pineapple sauce. Bah.

quick rec

Jun. 19th, 2017 06:19 pm
yhlee: (SKU: Anthy/Utena (credit: sher))
[personal profile] yhlee
Kat Howard's "The Key to St. Medusa's" [Lightspeed Magazine] is a gorgeous story about witches, and found family, and the hope at the heart of a fairytale:
My parents knew I was a witch before I was born. The signs were there, they told me. They were unmistakable.

Well. Not all of the signs, or they never would have kept me as long as they did. But enough: My mother’s hair, previously sedate and well-mannered, turned curly and wild during her pregnancy, sometimes even grabbing forks from other people’s hands at meals. Clocks ran backward when she went near them, and thirteen grey cats took up residence in our front yard for the last month before I was born.

Also, I was born on a Tuesday.

I loved this from beginning to end. It's a pretty fast read (under 4,000 words), in lucid candle-language. Give it a try.

[Note to the pedantic: my "books" tag is for stories as well because I am lazy and bad at tagging.]

RAVEN STRATAGEM open thread

Jun. 19th, 2017 05:27 pm
yhlee: two voidmoths at war (hxx Raven Stratagem)
[personal profile] yhlee
Since it seems that some people have finished the book.

Ask questions! Discuss! Complain!

Expect there to be spoilers in comments.
yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
[personal profile] yhlee
anything so long as I don't have to keep typing "all units banner the Deuce of Gears"

Poll #18510 Hexarchate Stories
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 33


I am most interested in the following possible new stories in a hexarchate short collection

View Answers

Jedao backstory when he was growing up with his family
9 (27.3%)

what happened to Jedao's sister Nidana after Hellspin
20 (60.6%)

Jedao backstory when he was serving with the Kel
15 (45.5%)

what happens to Cheris after everything, with bonus math pedagogy
25 (75.8%)

how Kel Ragath got Up to Things
6 (18.2%)

gay romance on the Citadel of Eyes ([redacted]/Niath) with bonus angst
10 (30.3%)

the misadventures of Andan Zhe Navo during her first military assignment
14 (42.4%)

the founding of the heptarchate feat. Liozh and Kel
8 (24.2%)

mini-gamebook about Jedao and his first anchor (actually, you're getting this regardless)
10 (30.3%)

Nirai Mahar's backstory
3 (9.1%)

follow-up on Tseya vs. Mikodez
6 (18.2%)

Moroish Nija's training
3 (9.1%)

Mikodez's rise to power, feat. Zehun
15 (45.5%)

ticky the talky tocky
7 (21.2%)

something else I will suggest in comments
0 (0.0%)



ETA: If it helps, the mini-gamebook will also feature snarky commentary from Mikodez and Zehun.

[hxx] [story] Birthdays

Jun. 19th, 2017 04:10 pm
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
For JT.
Prompt: hexarchate, "birth dates."

When she was six, Cheris stopped receiving Mwennin birthday pastries.

For reasons that wouldn't become clear to her until much later, her parents had just moved out of the Mwennin ghetto in the City of Ravens Feasting and to a small house nearer the sea. Cheris missed their old home, even though it had been smaller, and she also missed the other Mwennin children who gathered in the streets to skip rope, or play tag, or chant the counting games that were so risky in the hexarchate. But the new house wasn't all bad. It had a garden, and Cheris liked to chase the dragonflies or pick flowers for her mother and father.

Her mother had impressed upon her that she had two birthdays. One of them was the ordinary birthday that all hexarchate citizens shared. Everyone (so her mother said) was a year old when they were born, for the time spent either in womb or crèche, and then they added another year each New Year. This way no one's birthday was singled out.

But the Mwennin did it differently. They had their own calendar, which Cheris had memorized. Most nights her mother made her go to bed early so that she wouldn't be too tired in the morning when she had school. But sometimes her mother let her stay up, not to play make-believe with her collection of plush dragon toys or read a book, but to study the Mwennin calendar and its feast-days.

Cheris was very good at numbers, and very good at both the high calendar and the Mwennin calendar. Even after she'd gone to bed, she'd lay awake in the darkness, staring at the comforting candlevines that glowed faintly from the walls. Her mother and father always made sure to turn them down low, but not too low, so she wouldn't have to be afraid of the shadow-monsters that lived in the closet. Her teacher at school had assured her that, yes, meditation, especially during remembrances, would keep away the shadow-monsters, but when she repeated this to her parents, their faces turned sad, so she didn't talk about that anymore.

Because she was very good at calendars, she had a hard time falling asleep the night before her Mwennin birthday. Back in the old neighborhood, on your birthday, people would bring you pastries of fine flaky dough with sweet almond paste and rosewater syrup, or little kumquat candies, goat's milk caramels with little crunchy flecks of pistachios. And after dark, in the safety of your home, people would gather and sing songs in archaic Mwen-dal. Cheris liked the songs best of all, even if she stumbled over some of the words, because she had a clear, sweet voice and the adults always complimented her on how well she stayed in tune.

Her parents woke her early the next morning. She blinked up blearily at the pale morning light filtering through the curtains, then sat up in glee, thinking of the gifts that were to come. Then she noticed the looks on her parents' faces. They'd had the same ones when she said the teacher had encouraged her to meditate.

Cheris's father took her hands between his, then looked at Cheris's mother.

"Cheris," her mother said, "we can't celebrate your Mwennin birthday anymore. Do you understand? It's too risky."

Cheris didn't understand.

"You can have an extra dessert tonight," her mother went on. "But there will be no more Mwennin birthdays. Not for any of us."

Cheris snuffled.

Cheris's mother circled her with her arms. "We'll go for a walk by the shore when I get out of work," she said. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Cheris sensed that her mother was even more upset than she was, and her mother didn't even like sweets. At least, she always gave her sweets to Cheris. "I'm all right," she said, because she wanted to be brave for her mother. "Can we have extra pastries on New Year's instead?"

There was a catch in her mother's voice. "Of course, my dear."

Cheris still wasn't sure why her mother was upset. True, she had hoped for something nice to eat today, but if she had the same number of pastries in total over the course of the year, it was basically the same. It wasn't so important what day she got to eat them.

And her mother was as good as her promise. Every New Year after that, up until Cheris left for Kel Academy, there were extra pastries.

FMK: Fantasy by Women

Jun. 19th, 2017 01:57 pm
rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Please feel free to comment! I have not read anything by any of these writers but Johnson.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 60


The Sword of Winter, by Marta Randall. In the cold and dangerous land of Cherek, emerging from an era of magic and confronted by technological advancements, Lord Gambin of Jentesi lies dying and chaos reigns.

View Answers

Fling
20 (55.6%)

Marry
6 (16.7%)

Kill
10 (27.8%)

A Rumor of Gems, by Ellen Steiber. Enter the port city of Arcato: an old and magical town set somewhere in our modern world, a town where gemstones have begun to mysteriously appear . . . gemstones whose mystical powers aren't mere myth or legend but frighteningly real, casting their spells for good and ill.

View Answers

Fling
15 (40.5%)

Marry
7 (18.9%)

Kill
15 (40.5%)

Travel Light, by Naomi Mitchison. The story of Halla, a girl born to a king but cast out onto the hills to die. She lives among bears; she lives among dragons. But the time of dragons is passing, and Odin All-Father offers Halla a choice: Will she stay dragonish and hoard wealth and possessions, or will she travel light?

View Answers

Fling
21 (40.4%)

Marry
24 (46.2%)

Kill
7 (13.5%)

Nemesis, by Louise Cooper. Princess Anghara had no place in the Forbidden Tower, and no business tampering with its secrets. But she did, and now the seven demons are loose and her world is cursed, prey to the wrath of the Earth Goddess.

View Answers

Fling
16 (40.0%)

Marry
6 (15.0%)

Kill
18 (45.0%)

Racing the Dark, by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Lana, a teenaged girl on a nameless backwater island, finds an ominous blood-red jewel that marks her as someone with power, setting in motion events that drive her away from her family and into an apprenticeship with a mysterious one-armed witch.

View Answers

Fling
34 (73.9%)

Marry
11 (23.9%)

Kill
1 (2.2%)

My Soul to Keep, by Tananarive Due. When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami.

View Answers

Fling
23 (53.5%)

Marry
10 (23.3%)

Kill
10 (23.3%)

yhlee: I am a cilantro writer (cilantro photo) (cilantro writer)
[personal profile] yhlee
I just typed, instead of "fine flaky dough," "fine flaky doe."

I never used to make stupid errors like this, but I am informed that the meds I'm on can screw with cognition and memory. :/
rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I’m afraid I did not like this at all. In fact, it was the first FMK book that I didn’t finish—I ditched it at about the halfway mark. And it’s a very short book, too: 133 pages.

Gabriel is a mason’s apprentice in medieval England. The mason is cruel, so when a troupe of traveling Mystery players comes to town, Gabriel is delighted to briefly escape his wretched life by watching the play. Then, when the mason sadistically tries to chop off his giant mop of beautiful blonde curls that Gabriel’s lost mother told him to never cut, Gabriel flees and is taken in by the players, who whisk him away and cast him as an angel.

Gabriel assumes the man playing God is wonderful and the man playing Lucifer is terrible. But no! Garvey, who plays God, uses Gabriel to create fake, exploitative “healing” miracles which he convinces Gabriel are real. Lucie (Lucifer) is unhappy about this, but that only makes Gabriel think he must be bad.

I have no idea how old Gabriel was supposed to be. At the beginning I assumed he was around twelve, but later I decided he must be closer to ten because he was so stupid and naïve. Then he got even stupider and I wondered if he could possibly be seven or eight, or if that was way too young to be an apprentice mason. Not that young children are stupid, but the less you know about the world, the more likely you are to take everything at 100% face value, as Gabriel does.

In a totally unsurprising turn of events, Gabriel is eventually shocked to learn that people are different from the roles they play. This is exactly as anvillicious as it sounds. And while I often love books in which the reader knows more than the characters, I like it when the reason is that the characters are not privy to information or context that the reader knows, not because the characters are too stupid to pick up on incredibly obvious stuff. I don’t mean to call characters with cognitive disabilities stupid, as “intellectually disabled character fails to understand what’s going on” is a well-populated subgenre. (Which I also dislike.) I’m referring to non-disabled characters who are oblivious because they just are.

It's not that I think a child has to be stupid to be tricked by adults. Even a very bright child (or adult) could be fooled into thinking they're a miracle-worker by a clever con man. It's that the way it's written, from Gabriel's POV, makes him seem like a total idiot.

However, that’s not why I gave up on the book. The reason was the incredibly unpleasant emotional atmosphere: Gabriel smugly stupid, Garvey and the mason smugly awful, Lucie and his daughter sadly suffering (with a side of smugness, because they know the real deal.) I disliked the lot of them and did not want to be around any of them. Which is too bad, because I liked the backdrop of medieval Mystery players a lot.

The prose was good, but not good enough to make me keep reading. However, it won the Whitbread award, so my opinion may be very much in the minority.

A Little Lower Than the Angels

Books read, early June

Jun. 19th, 2017 11:30 am
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Miracles. Gods are apparently like ants in a California apartment complex in this Bennett trilogy: you think you’ve killed them all and there’s always one or two coming back again, so put your miracles in sealed containers. This is definitely a third book of a trilogy, not a stand-alone; I do not at all recommend starting here, but it does end things nicely. (The first book is City of Stairs – ed)

C.J. Cherryh, Convergence. This, on the other hand, is a sawed-off chunk of an ongoing thing. I wrote to another friend who has also read all twenty books of this series with a character’s name in all caps followed by “???” after reading this book. There is plot again, it is not like the trilogy within this series that was essentially focused on Bren getting his apartment back and furnishing it. Is it better for that? I’m not sure. I’m still reading as of book twenty, which tells you something, but for the love of Pete, do not do not DO NOT start here, it will be confusing and boring and generally awful, which it is not when you have read the other nineteen. On the other hand: will you want to read nineteen of these to get to this? I don’t know. It is very much science fiction about alien interactions, and it is very psychologically medieval in ways that I appreciate, and there are moments (like the name in all caps with the ???) where I feel like this is a very long game she has been planning in intricate detail all along and other moments where I am fairly sure it is the equivalent of going out for a morning nature walk with Auntie Carolyn and having her point out which tiny flowers and mushrooms grow under that big leaf and which ones are poisonous (most of them). On the other other hand, I do like nature walks.

Kathryn Evans, More of Me. Discussed elsewhere.

John M. Ford, The Scholars of Night. Reread. I picked this up for my Cold War Fantasy panel, and it is made of love for Christopher Marlowe and Anthony Price and intricacy. It is exactly what this panel is all about, but I reread it not that long ago; I just wanted the excuse.

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones. Reread. This is the last of my old Natalie Goldberg books, and honestly it is the one to get if you’re getting a Natalie Goldberg book for a new writer. It is straightforward and cheerful and does not self-aggrandize particularly; it quotes her teachers without acting like they hung the moon, it has ideas for what to do but sort of shrugs through them like, yep, try these and if they don’t work try something else, just try stuff. I am no longer at a point where I think it’s a good use of shelf space for me to keep this book, so I will set it free for some newer writer to enjoy, but it did not make me snippy with Batman the way the others did. (…if you didn’t read that blog post, maybe we should just draw a veil over it.)

Paul Gruchow, Letters to a Young Madman: A Memoir. Gruchow is a Minnesota nature writer and observer of the land, farming, people…he overlaps with my interests enough that I have been reading his books in an essentially random order from the library, and then I came to this one and it blindsided me. Because the present tense in that first sentence is inaccurate. Paul Gruchow. Oh God. Paul Gruchow did not survive his last bout with depression more than a decade ago. I had been darting merrily through feeling so much kinship with this man, and he was gone the whole time I was reading him, painfully and horribly gone, and he suffered so much before he went, and this is the memoir of how. I recommend it under only two circumstances: 1) If you have not read a memoir of depression and mental health treatment and hospitalization in this country. This is a keenly observed and fiercely intelligent example of its genre. It is not heartening. It is not uplifting. It is not the work of a person who managed to find his way out, to see brighter days ahead, to kick at the darkness, as the man said, until it bled daylight. The man I was starting to think of metaphorically as “cousin Paul,” struggled and fought with himself and hurt himself and his family and was hurt by himself and the world, and then he died. This is that book. If you are not yourself depressed and/or have not otherwise experienced the mental health system up close and have not read anyone’s detailed modern account of it, I think you should read at least one, and you could do far worse than letting it be Paul Gruchow’s. You also owe it to yourself to choose very carefully when you subject yourself to it. It does not have to be today, tomorrow, next week. You can look with deliberation when you must look. 2) If you have read such a book before but have come to love the other works of Paul Gruchow, you can choose to look again even if you know the facts and figures of modern mental health care. That would be me. You can see how some of his other stories are changed, cast in different lights, by these stories. By the stories of his illness. You may decide that you don’t want that of a writer whose work you love. And you may decide that you owe it to a writer whose work you love to have his whole work, not to look away. If it was me, I would want some of my readers to look away, to only have the brilliant and lovely things I said about frogs and rocks and farming. And I would want some of my readers not to look away, to read all my work, even the hardest and darkest. It is not me. But we come from the same places and the same people. It could have been. I am glad I didn’t look away. It has been a very long time since I cried so hard over a book as I did over the opening and closing pages of this book, and also many, many times over the middle, and it was not a very long book. Proceed with caution if at all.

Marvin Kaye, ed. The Fair Folk. Reread. Vividly told tales, most of which did not hit me particularly personally. The opening story from Tanith Lee is a really great example of a story that feels like it is going to be a wonderful story for someone else, a story that will go right to someone else’s heart and stay there. I think it’s easier to recognize those with experience.

Donald Keene, ed., Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Reread. This is something I purchased for a college class and kept. It is not the very last word in Japanese lit, but with twenty years’ experience it turns out to still be a quite decent first word and well worth keeping; there were things I was happy to quote and discuss with friends. I haven’t done a survey of survey anthologies, so I don’t know if this would be the one I would recommend above all others, but as the one I already have on my shelf, it had many things worth reading in it and I am glad to keep giving it space, which is a quite nice feeling. There were several place where I rolled my eyes at Donald Keene himself and his notes–his handling of notes on periods where there were predominantly women authors were not, shall we say, deft and sensitive–but most of the material was the material and could just be enjoyed for that. Good mix of poems, stories, diary excerpts, novel excerpts, play treatments.

Naomi Mitchison, Sea-Green Ribbons. This is a strangely spare novel of a young woman printer during Cromwell’s time. I enjoyed it except for the ending, which I found unsatisfying in its handling of Quakers and slavery, and I spent much of the experience cocking my head and squinting sideways at it and thinking of Gillian Bradshaw’s London in Chains and A Corruptible Crown. They are really, really, really, really similar. Young woman printer, era of Cromwell, sexual trauma, various details…I don’t think that one is cribbed from the other, their style is quite, quite different, and their endings are, and there is something like four times as much of the Bradshaw. It was just very strange. I want more novels of the Interregnum, but it’s okay if the others are not specifically about young women printers with sexual trauma, variety being the spice etc.

Toni Morrison, Jazz. Lots of people failing to make their relationships work, but the language is rich and improvisationally jazzy, very successfully evocative of the ’20s urban setting and newly urbanized Black American culture of the Great Diaspora. If someone other than Toni Morrison had been writing this, the petty, angry despair of the major characters might well have put me off, but Morrison’s writing is so beautiful it was worthwhile for me.

Jim Northrup, Marcie R. Rendon, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Denise Sweet, Nitaawichige: Selected Poetry and Prose by Four Anishinaabe Writers. Highly varied voices and forms, but the traditions they’re drawing on are very recognizably Anishinaabe in their own ways. A very short chapbook, definitely worth the time if you can find it. Hilarity and anger and pathos and beauty all represented here.

Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepherd’s Crown. Rereads. After long hiatus, I have finished the Tiffany Aching series. Last first: The Shepherd’s Crown is Pratchett’s last book, and you can see that he was not quite done with it, that it is the bones of the book he meant to write rather than the full book, with its gestures toward third-wave feminism and a love letter to the geezerhood the author himself would never achieve. It has some great things to nod at. It makes me wistful. As for I Shall Wear Midnight…I find myself ambivalent about books with the “they persecute us for our virtues because they are stinky jerks” plots right now, and this is one. And yet it is a pretty good one, and sometimes “they” do. And the virtue in particular in this one is being willing to step up and help where help is needed, and I want more of that in fiction and in life.

Frederick Taylor, The Downfall of Money: Germany’s Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class. This sounds a bit dry but is very, very human–it’s very much about how the German people experienced the interwar hyperinflationary period, what played into it and what it created. Interesting and a much quicker read than one might expect.

Catherynne M. Valente, Deathless. Reread. This is far and away my favorite Valente novel for adults. I picked it up because I misremembered the time frame–I had thought, for some reason, that the ending was long after it was, deep in the Stalinist period, instead of 1942–and so I thought it might be of interest to my Cold War Fantasy panel at 4th St. Well, this is why we do panel prep, and of course 1942 is the exact right year to end this book. It is so vivid, so food-oriented and so full of myth and relationship and history. It is not for my panel. I still don’t regret the reread.

Martha Wells, All Systems Red. Murderbot! I was one of the last on the Murderbot train, but I do like Murderbot. All Murderbot wants is to be let by to figure things out and watch videos, is this too much to ask? Apparently so because humans, ugh. We are with you, Murderbot! We are with you through the rest of your adventures among humans, ugh, and whoever else you may encounter. Intimate voice far future SF, hurrah, more please.

More of Me, by Kathryn Evans

Jun. 19th, 2017 11:25 am
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Review copy provided by Amulet Books.

Some spoilers are our friends, although I will not visit them upon you unsought. This is the first time I remember in ages flipping to the last few pages of a book to make sure that a particular concept was not how a book ended, because if it was, I did not want to be there for that experience. It wasn’t. I kept reading. In fact, I turned the pages compulsively.

The science fiction concept of this YA novel makes a better special effect than actual science: the cells of an entire person reproducing themselves and pulling apart fully formed, so that an entirely new version can step out and also leave the old version intact. Teva has been doing this annually, so that there is herself, age 16, but also her previous selves, known by their ages: Fifteen, Fourteen, and so on. Her mother, for reasons later made clear, has decided that it isn’t safe for this to be known, so once the split happens, the earlier version has to stay in the house all the time, and no one else is allowed in.

This is not, as you might well imagine, a long-term tenable situation.

I will not want to reread this book, because it is emotionally well-done. The claustrophobia of the well-meant captives, the panicked family turned in on themselves, the girl(s) taught to distrust the school friends and teachers who are part of her/their daily life…and inevitably led to doubt her/their own sanity. It was all incredibly evocative. There were times when I writhed reading it. The speculative conceit was not realistic. The teenage psychology was. And it was very clear that you do not have to intend to be a monster to wind up treating your loved ones monstrously, and you do not have to intend to be a jailer to put them in a prison they need to escape.

Those who have issues with reading about self-harm will probably also find this book really, really difficult. Like, you would need a serious good reason to read this book if you are a person in this category because there are substantial amounts of very vivid description of self-harm. This is for plot reasons due to the speculative conceit, but I’m not sure that will make the experience less difficult to read and may well make it more so. Beyond that I cannot honestly tell whether people whose families were less loving and healthy than mine will find this book cathartic or personally horrifying or some of each. You should tread with caution not because this is badly done but because it is well and lovingly done. This is not a hopeless book. Its ending is a substantially positive one. But I think it will be a wall-climbing experience for many readers.

Please consider using our link to buy More of Me from Amazon.

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