umadoshi: (purple hair)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Silks class #4 is the day after tomorrow, so I guess if I'm gonna muster up any semblance of a post about weeks 2 and 3 I'd better do that.

Week 2 )


Week 3 )

Three classes done, five to go. My feeling at this point is that this was probably unrealistically ambitious for someone who hasn't taken any physical classes in a long, long time or really done any focused exercise since I stopped climbing several years ago, but despite almost none of it coming naturally, I'm mostly enjoying it. I'm kinda hoping it'll give me a push to taking some kind of class after this (like barre!) that's more suited to where I currently am physically.

It's also probably just as well, in one sense, that (so far) I'm not in love with silks, much as I think they're incredibly cool. The sad reality is that evening classes are rarely feasible around Casual Job, so finding a level 2 (or beyond) timeslot for something as specific as silks that'd actually work for me logistically seems...unlikely. But we'll see. And meanwhile, "enjoying it well enough" is not a bad place to be.

(no subject)

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.
just_ann_now: (Reading: Books and Tea)
[personal profile] just_ann_now
Suddenly, it's fall! Nice long evenings for reading.

What I Just Finished Reading

The Language of Thorns, a short-story collection by Leigh Bardugo. I wasn't really feeling the love for this until I got to the last two stories: a disquieting re-imagining of The Nutcracker (inspired, says the author, by The Velveteen Rabbit!) and a retelling of The Little Mermaid as an unexpected origin story. Those two alone were worth it! Really wondrous illustrations, too.

The Genius Plague, by David Walton, a techno-thriller with an interesting less-techno twist. I pretty much raced through this (and found the resolution a bit of a let-down.) It was an engaging read, but I doubt iif I'll read the inevitable sequels.

What I Am Currently Reading

Still working my way through The Book of Swords, but to be honest, Ellen Kushner and Richard St Vier were the high points of that book for me.

Akata Witch, by
Nnedi Okorafor, whose Binti books I have loved to pieces. (Oh, and are you excited about Black Panther? Here's a great article from the Washington Post about Afrofuturism, to help you get ready!

What I Am Reading Next

Five of my library holds came in on Friday! So sitting in the stack are Territory, by Emma Bull, and Nod, by Adrian Barnes. Today's episode of Tremontaine just showed up on my desktop, and, and, the new Philip Pullman book is coming out tomorrow! I'm doing another Readathon session at Curious Iguana on Saturday, and so will pick it up to read then.

Question of the Day: What books are you looking forward to right now?

Wednesday Reading

Oct. 18th, 2017 08:44 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Rise of Alpha Flight was a moderately entertaining space story featuring Carol Danvers in Spaaaace with Abigail Brand and three members of Alpha Flight: Aurora, Sasquatch, and my personal favorite, Puck. One annoyance: an entertaining Latina character turned out to be an alien in disguise. Bonus points for portraying human characters of different sizes and the politics of assorted aliens.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 2: Don't Stop Me-Ow remains really cute and fun and drawn in manga-esque style. Vampire Jubilee and her adopted son showed up in this one, as did Jessica Jones and Hellcat's two ex-husbands. Also there was karaoke. In contintuity, this fell into the time period when She-Hulk was in a coma, but that plotline managed to feel hopeful even though Patsy/Hellcat was unhappy.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison is a mixed bag. There was some insightful commentary on the history of comics from the pov of a major comics writer. There were also some memoir elements and psychological musings that sometimes got a little too convoluted for my taste. I think the book was compiled from various essays and interviews, which would explain why it sometimes looped back on the same ideas after meandering the byways.
Warning for dated but not apparently derogatory use of the word tranny.

But I enjoyed it, overall, for sections like this:

Where Superman strove for modernity in everything from the image of its hero to the kinetic editing of its torn-from-the-headlines narrative, the Batman strip reveled in the trashy aesthetic of the mystery pulps and the penny dreadfuls.

From the very beginning, Batman habitually found himself dealing with crimes involving chemicals and crazy people, and over the years he would take on innumerable villains armed with lethal Laughing Gas, mind-control lipstick, Fear Dust, toxic aerosols, and "artificial phobia" pills. Indeed, his career had barely begun before he was heroically inhaling countless bizarre chemical concoctions cooked up by mad blackmarket alchemists. Superman might have faced a few psychic attacks, but, even if it was against his will every time, Batman was hip to serious mind-bending drugs. Batman knew what it was like to trip balls without seriously losing his shit, and that savoir faire added another layer to his outlaw sexiness and alluring aura of decadence and wealth.
chanter_greenie: an older house and surrounding autumn scenery (Wisconsin autumn: smells like fall)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
[community profile] fandomlovespuertorico is live! :)

Please, folks, if you have the means and the inclination, sniff around over there. Signal boosts are equally excellent and just as essential, as is simply knowing about the auction itself, so please don't feel unhelpful if you're not able to bid at the moment.

Again with the dual references in the subject lines, aieeeee! Otra vez, Sr. Miranda conoce exactamente que decir...

Back-to-the-office mishmash post

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:01 am
umadoshi: (read fast (bisty_icons))
[personal profile] umadoshi
I rewrote SO MUCH MANGA this weekend (counting yesterday as part of "the weekend"). Other than a) the amount of time I spent waiting for my GP appointment yesterday morning and b) going out for ramen and having some social time afterwards on Sunday evening, I feel like rewriting is all I did over the past three days.

I also think that can't be as true as it feels, because I also finally finished reading K.B. Spangler's Stoneskin (which was wonderful, and I'm really excited for the [as-yet-unwritten, AFAIK] trilogy it's a prequel to), and [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose and I finally saw the first two episodes of Star Trek: Disco last night.

OTOH, I read most of what I had left of Stoneskin yesterday morning while doing the aforementioned waiting for an appointment, most of which was my own fault. Last month's appointment used up the last of the injectable B12, so I got a new prescription from Dr. Awesome and dropped it off at the pharmacy to be put on file, but then I forgot about it until I was on my way out the door to yesterday's appointment. Fortunately the pharmacy is right next door to Dr. Awesome's office, and I called in to get the new B12 as I started walking, and they got it ready as fast as they could, but it still meant I was late to my appointment (although at least I was able to pop in and say "I'm here! Sort of...").

--I've got a small heap of ST:D reaction posts from all of you tucked away in Memories and was finally able to start sifting through the early ones late last night. I doubt I'm going to do much (if any) commenting on weeks-old posts, but reading them is fun. ^_^


--I'm blanking on another detail about Yuletide logistics. I feel like in previous year's there's been a page (on AO3?) showing all the names of who requested what fandoms (but I think not connected at all to people's optional Dear Yulegoat letters?). Is that right? Am I simply missing it?


--My third year of "only read books (novels, anyway) from my bookcase of purchased TBR or things I've purchased in ebook" is almost up, and the status of the physical bookcase is...dire. I'm not literally out of room to put any more books on it (especially since the bottom shelf has binders of CDs and stuff on it, so the TBR only ["only"] takes up four shelves), but it's not good.

Between that and my wallet, I truly need to buy fewer books. (And relearn the habit of making purchase suggestions for novels with the library, not just anthologies and graphic novels, without getting back into putting tons of things on hold there. No going back to the days of juggling a 300 or 400-item holds list, self. *stern*) Emphasis on the "and my wallet" part, which means not simply switching to buying a higher percentage of things in ebook. (Even if ebooks are usually enough cheaper that doing that also technically means spending less money.)

As is usually the way, I feel like there were other things I meant to mention, but I now have about an hour before I have to throw on proper clothes and head off to Casual Job, and I need to use that hour to proofread some prose. Yes.

Pull The Football - Save the World

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:25 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Via [personal profile] rachelmanija

Are you worried about nuclear war? I am too. Keep reading for a way to stop it with one simple action.

Maybe you feel small and powerless. But many snowflakes make an avalanche. If we all move in the same direction, we'll be unstoppable. We will only fail if we choose not to act.

Trump has the power to order a pre-emptive nuclear strike for any reason - or no reason at all. He's always shadowed by a man with a briefcase of codes, called the "nuclear football," to enable him to launch nuclear missiles at any time. It would take less than five minutes from his order to the missiles being launched, and no one could stop him. Republican Senator Bob Corker says Trump is leading us into World War III. I believe him.

But we don't have to stand by and let it happen. Let's pull away that football!

Both House and Senate have bills to prevent the President from launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike without a congressional declaration of war. They're both called the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.) Passing those bills may literally save the world.

How to save the world:

1. Contact your representatives in Congress. Ask them to co-sponsor the bill NOW, before it's too late.

2. Contact EVERYONE in Congress who might want to prevent a nuclear war. Usually people only speak to their own representatives. But with the fate of the entire world is at stake, it's worth contacting everyone who might listen.

3. Promote the Pull The Football campaign on social media. Trump isn't the only one who can use Twitter. Get on it and start tweeting #PullTheFootball.

Share this post on Facebook or Dreamwidth. Put up your own post on whatever social media you use. Ask your friends in person. If you know anyone in the media, contact them to get the word out. If you're not American, you can help by publicizing the campaign on social media that Americans follow.

How do I contact my representatives?

1. Resistbot is a free service that will fax, call, or write your representatives for you. Just text the word "resist" to 50409 to begin.

2. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the representative of your choice.

I've contacted everyone. What now?

Contact them again. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. One water drop can be brushed away. Many water drops make a flood. Call, fax, or write as often as possible. Set aside 15 minutes every day to make as many calls or faxes as you can in that time. Relentlessness works - it's why the NRA is so successful. If they can do it, we can do it.

What do I say?

Page down for a sample script. Or speak or write in your own words.

Democrats to contact:

Every Democrat not currently sponsoring one of the bills. Thank them for their courage and service to the nation, and ask them to act now to save the world.

Thank the Democrats currently sponsoring the bills. There are 57 in the House and 9 in the Senate. Especially, thank Congressman Ted Lieu (sponsor of the House bill) and Sen. Edward Markey (sponsor of the Senate bill). Encourage them to step up their efforts to make it pass.

Republicans to contact:

The Republicans listed below are the most prominent who have voiced concerns about Trump. This is not an exhaustive list. There are more Republicans who might be receptive. For instance, all the House Republicans who just voted for more aid for Puerto Rico, and all Republicans who are retiring from their seats and so not worried about getting re-elected.

Sen. Bob Corker (202) 224-3344) warned us that Trump is setting the nation on a path to World War III. If you only contact one Republican representative, contact him. Thank him for his courage and urge him to follow through on his convictions.

Rep. Walter Jones (202) 225-3415 is the only Republican to support the bill. Thank him for his courage and urge him to get his colleagues onboard.

Other Republican senators to prioritize contacting: Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Marco Rubio, and Bob Sasse.

Sample Script

Hello, my name is [your name.] I'm calling to ask Representative/Senator [their name] to co-sponsor the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.)

I believe Republican Senator Bob Corker when he says we're on the brink of World War Three. No one benefits from a nuclear war. But we can stop it if we choose to. This may be the most important action Representative/Senator [their name] will take in their entire life. It may literally save the world. I urge them to co-sponsor the bill restricting first use of nuclear weapons. Thank you.

Thank you for reading this far! Please share the post before you go.

Weekend Accomplishments

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:14 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Sorry no post yesterday; I woke up feeling nauseated, so I stayed home from work and slept and read all day.

1. Laundry! Two loads.

2. Attended two concerts, one Friday night, one Sunday afternoon.

3. Finished watching Defenders and helped a friend out with some stuff.

4. Bought a new black rayon shirt for choir, and hand-washed it in preparation for Wednesday night's concert.

5. Laid out clothes and chose makeup and packed my bag with choir folder and such for Tuesday and Wednesday, so I wouldn't have to do it in the mornings.

Dress rehearsal tonight; am currently eating oatmeal, and hoping this stomach unpleasantness has fully gone away.
umadoshi: text: "Aw Rachel, don't be scared of ghosts! They're only dead people." + "I know people. That's not helping." (AGAHF - ghosts)
[personal profile] umadoshi
[dreamwidth.org profile] mini_wrimo is open for signups until October 30!


Fannish/Geeky Things/SFF

"Hero-Princess-General Carrie Fisher Once Delivered a Cow Tongue to a Predatory Hollywood Exec". [The Mary Sue]

"Carrie Fisher Insisted That Leia’s Last Jedi Arc Honor All The “Girls Who Grew up Watching Star Wars”". [The Mary Sue]

"Who are Tessa Thompson’s LADY LIBERATORS?" "The Marvel Cinematic Universe has realigned how Hollywood thinks of blockbusters, franchises, and comic book movies. Though the films have been groundbreaking at the box office, it’s been nine years since Marvel Studios began the MCU and they’re still two years away from having a solo female led movie on our screens.

But if Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson has anything to do with it, that’s not going to stand. During a recent press conference for Taika Waititi’s much anticipated Thor film, Thompson regaled us with a rad story about confronting Kevin Feige with the possibility of an all-female Marvel movie."


A discussion on N.K. Jemisin's Facebook about the "magic system" (scare quotes hers) in the Broken Earth books. Spoilers!

Abigail Nussbaum on N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky.


Cute Stuff

"If You Ever Feel Sad, These 10+ Highland Cattle Calves Will Make You Smile".

September LaPerm pics from [dreamwidth.org profile] naye. These posts are always great, but I think this one is even better than usual.


Miscellaneous

"We Don't Do That Here". "I have a handful of “magic” phrases that have made my professional career easier. Things like “you are not your code” and my preferred way to say no: “that doesn’t work for me.” These are tools in my interpersonal skills toolbox. I find myself uttering phrases like, “right or effective, choose one” at least once a week. This week I realized I had another magic phrase, “we don’t do that here.”"

Brian Fies' "A Fire Story" is a short comic about him and his wife being burned out of their home in the wildfires.

"Art Inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities". (I haven't read the book, but the art is really neat.)

"Photographer Gets Bitten By A Deadly Black Mamba, Still Manages To Finish The Photoshoot". (Many beautiful snake photos!)

"Native-Land.ca: Our home on native land". Searchable map of North America's First Nations territories and pre-colonial histories. "There are over 630 different First Nations in Canada (and many more in the USA) and I am not sure of the right process to map territories, languages, and treaties respectfully - and I'm not even sure if it is possible to do respectfully. I am not at all sure about the right way to go about this project, so I would very much appreciate your input."

"Creating Gender Liberatory Singing Spaces: A Transgender Voice Teacher’s Recommendations for Working with Transgender Singers".

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] dine, "Pumpkin Spice and Needles: Bookish Autumn Cross Stitch Patterns".

"Video game developers confess their hidden tricks at last".

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] alisanne, "Why Do We Cook So Many Foods at 350 Degrees?" [Mental Floss]

(no subject)

Oct. 16th, 2017 06:24 pm
bjornwilde: (01: Sabine)
[personal profile] bjornwilde
 Rebels spoilers....
Read more... )

one word at a time

Oct. 16th, 2017 09:58 am
silveraspen: moiraine (NS comic) writing in a journal (wot: writing in a journal)
[personal profile] silveraspen
What 2017 has been doing for me is making me realize that I can’t do work in the same way I used to.

The above-linked piece by John Scalzi has a lot of good points, but I think the linktext I chose from it is really the core, for me.

FIC: A Sunset Romance

Oct. 15th, 2017 12:20 pm
gramarye1971: Old Ways (TDIR: Old Ways)
[personal profile] gramarye1971
Took me much longer than I expected to whip this fic into a final shape, but it feels good to post it now. So have a story wherein even my fake dating reads like gen-fic, and I can't stop myself from finishing with an A. E. Housman quote because I am predictable like that.


Title: A Sunset Romance
Fandom: The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Rating: G
Relationship: Merriman Lyon & Miss Greythorne (or perhaps Merriman Lyon/Miss Greythorne)
Summary: At the end of the summer season in Trewissick, the Professor has returned to stay at the Grey House. This time, however, he has brought a lady with him...and from the look of things, their relationship goes beyond anything that might be interpreted as mere friendship.
Notes: An expanded version of a trope prompt ficlet, courtesy of the ever-delightful [personal profile] rymenhild, who requested fake dating, Merriman Lyon. Once I stopped giggling at the prompt, I started to see how it might actually work! So continuing my original response, here is a few thousand words of Merriman and Miss Greythorne fake dating, set in the autumn between the events of Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark Is Rising. (Also on AO3.)

A Sunset Romance )

i did, though

Oct. 15th, 2017 01:29 am
rosabelle: closeup of andros/zhane hug with the caption love (Default)
[personal profile] rosabelle
"I'm reading a story that's posted on my old account and it's not awful!"
"It's not."
"Well. I've written some things that are... well. And I'm pretty sure I spelled "definitely" wrong in all of them."
"I remember that."
"It's not even like I didn't use spellcheck. I just decided spellcheck was wrong."

fic rec

Oct. 15th, 2017 12:54 am
rosabelle: closeup of andros/zhane hug with the caption love (Default)
[personal profile] rosabelle
Creature of Legend by [archiveofourown.org profile] palmtreelights, the Astronema and Ecliptor and Scrudley story I never knew I needed. Go read iiiiiit.

----. -..- --

Oct. 14th, 2017 11:16 pm
chanter_greenie: an older house and surrounding autumn scenery (Wisconsin autumn: smells like fall)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
Made it to the Wisconsin Public Radio centennial event tonight. I was, at first, uncertain whether or not it was a good idea - yay brainweasels, not - but in the end, I was definitely glad I went. One or two moments did make me flinch (not in the best headspace yet, though distinctly improved from a few days ago) and one particular story about a guest's big goofy dog brought tears to my eyes, but overall, a good time was had. I've still got the singalong finale, which was a version of "Imagine," led by an excellent black Gospel singer and a longtime, much older and whiter WPR host who's a known tenor in the community, stuck in my head!

I do wish Karl Schmidt had lived to see this... The next studio WPR builds ought to be named after him. Then again I'm not sure, given the general impression he always gave on air, he'd go for that much obvious recognition. A reading room somewhere, a notably community-friendly one, *that* I can see him smiling over. For those not local, Karl Schmidt was a longtime host of Chapter A Day, and when I say longtime, I mean decades. We recently lost him, at... 93, I believe he was? He was still an active host at the time, to the point that one of the books he'd recorded for the air was being serialized when his death was announced. They deliberately continued that particular book to its end, several episodes later, while making note of the loss of its reader in press releases.

ETA: I almost forgot to say. The CW in the subject line reads 9XM, which was the original call of the station that became WHA, Wisconsin Public Radio's flagship station. 100 years and still going strong! :D

A small mishmash update

Oct. 15th, 2017 12:47 am
umadoshi: (ocean 01)
[personal profile] umadoshi
I took a stab at catching up on replying to comments, but I suspect I'm not gonna get completely caught up. *stares grimly at browser* I did at least manage to get back under 100 open tabs. That's something, I guess.
Oh-so-mercifully, I don't have Casual Job work on Monday, which means I'm merely very stressed about my freelance deadlines for the coming week, where before yesterday (when we found out about Monday) I was closer to "I'm only managing to not panic because I know it won't help".

Our odds of getting bulbs in or getting any other garden work done this weekend (basically everything else falls under "fall cleanup", I guess?) still seem low, though. Dear ground: please, please do not freeze solid this month.

I keep finding myself trying to think of how long it's been since I wrote any words at all. It may be just as well I haven't figured it out yet. Even trying to piece it together is disheartening.

In "Kas is tremendously awesome" news, a week or so ago Ginny brought a piece of a recent Kas-made lemon loaf to the office for me, and it was wonderful, and in my happiness I mentioned that it'd been a while since I'd had his lemon loaf and so it was delightful to have a piece. (He used to make it quite a bit, but has been tending to bake other [also excellent!] things for the last while.) Ginny relayed that to him, and next thing I knew, Kas had made me a lemon loaf. *melts*

(no subject)

Oct. 14th, 2017 02:40 pm
skygiants: Mosca Mye, from the cover of Fly Trap (the fly in the butter)
[personal profile] skygiants
I was resigned to waiting until October 17th for A Skinful of Shadows to come out in the US. However, [personal profile] izilen, horrified at both the long wait after the UK publication and the clear inferiority of the US cover, acquired a copy on my behalf and mailed it over the ocean -- after first warning me it was the darkest Frances Hardinge book yet.

Having now read it, I don't know that it's actually that much creepier than the first third of Cuckoo Song, or the bits of Lie Tree where Faith in her deepest self-loathing slithers snakelike through the island purposefully destroying everything she touches. It definitely has a higher body count -- a much higher body count -- but I mean it's a book about a.) ghosts and b.) the English Civil War so maybe that's to be expected ...?

Like many of Hardinge's books, it features:
- a ferocious underestimated girl struggling to hold onto a sense of self in a world that wishes her to have no such thing
- a recognition that the people you love and who believe that they love you will sometimes betray you, sometimes for reasons they believe are good and sometimes not
- a ruthless and terrible female antagonist whom the heroine cannot help but respect and admire
- a struggling journey up out of solitude towards a coalition built of necessity with the least likely individuals
- including an undead bear
- admittedly this is the first Hardinge book to include an undead bear
- it is also the first Hardinge book about literal ghosts, a lot of ghosts, a lot of very unpleasant and sinister ghosts but also some ghosts for whom I have a very deep affection, including the very bearlike bear.

I also have a great deal of affection for Makepeace - the illegitimate scion of a very old noble family that is quite confident it will be able to chew her up and spit her out, and finds itself repeatedly mistaken. I don't think I love her yet quite as much as Trista or Faith or Mosca, but that's what I said about Faith right after I read The Lie Tree, too, and LOOK AT ME NOW.

Duma Key, by Stephen King

Oct. 14th, 2017 11:39 am
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Of all the new-to-me books by Stephen King that I’ve read in the last year, this and the middle Dark Tower books are the ones I’ve re-read the most. I’ve re-read Duma Key three times in the last two years, and I can tell it’s a book I’ll keep coming back to. Here’s the first page:

How to draw a picture


Start with a blank surface. It doesn't have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can't remember.

How do we remember to remember? That's a question I've asked myself often since my time on Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have to mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that re-makes the world is heroic. Or so I’ve come to believe.

Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone, and forgot everything. Not just her name; everything! And then one day she recalled just enough to pick up a pencil and make that first hesitant mark across the white. A horizon-line, sure. But also a slot for blackness to pour through.

Still, imagine that small hand lifting the pencil ... hesitating ... and then marking the white. Imagine the courage of that first effort to re-establish the world by picturing it. I will always love that little girl, in spite of all she has cost me. I must. I have no choice. Pictures are magic, as you know.


On the one hand, this is my favorite prose passage in the book. On the other hand, the entire book has that same atmosphere and themes: the magic of art, the bleakness of loss, the terror of opening a door into darkness, human empathy and connections, and, always, how making a mark on paper is both simple and difficult, the dividing line between nothing and everything.

Unusually for Stephen King, Duma Key is set in on the Florida coast – an incredibly vivid and atmospheric Florida, which becomes enough of a character in its own right to make the book a very satisfying sea-soaked, sunset-lit Gothic.

I am pleased to say that this is one of the least gross King books I’ve read, bar a rotting ghost or two. It’s also one of the scariest, in a very classic “terrify by keeping the scary stuff mostly off-page” manner. The Big Bad is never quite seen directly, and is one of King’s creepiest and most mythically archetypal figures.

It’s also one of King’s most heartbreaking books. Almost all the characters are really likable, and if not likable, than still very human. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon opens with, The world had teeth and it could bite you with them any time it wanted. Duma Key is about the beauty and magic and redemption of the world, but also about the teeth.

It begins with a wealthy self-made man, Edgar Freemantle, getting into an absolutely horrific accident while visiting one of his job sites. He loses an arm and gets some brain damage; he’s barely out of the hospital before his marriage has ended, his life as he knew it has ended, and he’s on the brink of suicide.

After some talks with his psychiatrist, he ends up taking up art, which he’d enjoyed as a boy but never pursued, and moving to a cabin in the Florida Keys. There he meets a chatty guy, Wireman, who’s the caretaker for Elizabeth, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s – both of whom have pasts which slowly, heartbreakingly unfold over the course of the book. Edgar finds that painting is his new passion and genuine talent… but his paintings are odd. Eerie. And they can change things…

The first half of the book follows Edgar as he recovers from his accidents, explores his new talent and gains critical and commercial success, and loses some old friends and gains some new ones. The emotional and physical recovery from the accident and its fallout (which doesn't mean he'll ever be the same as he was before) was incredibly well-done and vivid. I don't know if it was technically correct, but it felt very believable.

In classic Gothic fashion, there’s creepy stuff going on simultaneously, but it’s comparatively subtle. I found this part of the book hugely enjoyable even though tons of scenes are just Edgar painting or eating sandwiches and shooting the breeze with Wireman. On the one hand, it probably could have been shorter. On the other hand, I could have happily gone on reading just that part forever.

And then the creepy stuff gets less subtle. A lot less subtle.

This has an unusual story arc. I’m putting that and other huge spoilers behind a cut, but I’ll also mention that even for King, the book has some very tragic aspects— ones which he’s explored before, but there’s one I’ll rot13.com (feed into the site to reveal) because it’s a specific thing that people may want to avoid. Gur cebgntbavfg’f qnhtugre vf xvyyrq. Fur’f na nqhyg ohg n lbhat bar (n pbyyrtr fghqrag) naq irel yvxnoyr, naq vg’f gur ovttrfg bs frireny thg-chapurf va gur fgbel. Nyfb, n qbt vf uvg ol n pne naq qvrf.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, I suggest not reading the rest of the spoilers because even though if I’d sat down and tried to figure out where the story was going, I probably could have, the experience of reading it feels unpredictable; you can guess the outlines but a lot of the details are unexpected.

Read more... )

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