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3+/5. This book was really painful for me to read, because it was so emotionally accurate. It's about a family with a daughter Tilly on the autism spectrum, variant PDD-NOS, Asperger's-like. Tilly is, I think, in 7th grade? She is exceptionally intelligent and also has an exceptional amount of information about her chosen topics (statues). She also has severe meltdowns, often in public, some for which the cause isn't necessarily known. She appears to have some sensory processing issues. She has a lot of social difficulty, including sexually explicit speech and using extremely derogatory terms (e.g., bitch) to describe everyone around her. She is kicked out of several schools, the last being a special-ed school for children like her. At the time of the book, she is being homeschooled, but even that is fraught. Her parents uproot their family to be part of a camp for special-needs children like Tilly, led by a charismatic child-advice guru who might or might not be the answer to their hopes.

Most of the book is from the perspective of Iris (Tilly's younger neurotypical sister) and Alexandra (the mother). Iris loves her sister, even often likes her; is ashamed of her sometimes, struggles with the sacrifices her family has to make for her sister. Alexandra bears a crushing weight of… everything, of feeling like a failure for Tilly's failures, of anxiety about what her child will become and what her life is going to be like.

And it was like reading about a dark mirror of my own life. Cut. )

Anyway. The only thing about it was that the descriptions were really stunning, the characterization and writing were great, but I felt like the ending was a little… abrupt, and it didn't quite deliver on the answers to all the hard emotional questions it was asking.

(edited 5-21-17 for wrong author, oops)
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I've noticed that I'm spending a lot of time teaching my daughter (7) stuff that I'm simultaneously reading about as Stuff Women Internalize That Can Cause Problems — not making waves, not kicking up a fuss about things, trying to accommodate other people, giving a lot of attention to other people's feelings, being deferential and respectful to people in authority.

On the other hand, with E it's on the level of "not making waves" = "not literally screaming loudly because you bumped your leg mildly in a way that your two-year-old sibling just did and didn't even make any noise," and "being deferential and respectful" at 7-year-old diva stage corresponds to "don't yell 'Don't say that!' to everything Mom says, and in general give Mom the courtesy of not yelling given that Mom doesn't yell at you." So… I think I am okay here. But I find myself talking a lot about how it's totally okay to scream and/or be super non-deferential and impolite if someone is trying to get you to do something that you're uncomfortable with. And I still worry: am I finding the right balance? Am I going too far in one way or another? Where's the line?

(I'm trying to raise the boy and girl more-or-less identically, but this is actually a difference — while I try very hard to make sure that I don't teach E anything about being polite and accommodating that I wouldn't also teach A, I probably will not lean so hard with him on the "but if someone harasses you, you can totally go off on them!" because I expect A to have a lot more in the way of examples for that. I mean, I think it's still important for him to know that as a little kid! But more and more I suspect I will de-stress or even work against that view as he grows up, whereas it will probably get more important to me to stress that for my daughter. I think. Who knows. This parenting thing is hard.)
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4/5. So I listened to clipping's Splendor and Misery experimental-hip-hop-space-opera album, which I had not heard of (because I live under a rock) before it was nominated for the Hugo.

TL;DR: It is awesome and you should listen to it (I listened to it on Spotify, but if you don't have spotify you can listen to it on YouTube, either the full album or tracks — 1-15 are the actual tracks, 16 is the full album, and 17 is a fanvid) and totally vote for it for the Hugo!

IT IS AWESOME. I mean, it's basically a Daveed Diggs tour-de-force showing him off in about twenty different ways (you know how fast he raps in "Guns and Ships" in Hamilton? I think he raps even faster here!), but also it's a space opera! and has all sorts of references to SF! and digs into questions about slavery and freedom and solitude and rhythm… It says something that the first thing I did after listening to it was… go back to the beginning and listen to it again.

From Sub Pop (clipping's label):

Splendor & Misery is an Afrofuturist, dystopian concept album that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him. Thinking he is alone and lost in space, the character discovers music in the ship’s shuddering hull and chirping instrument panels. William and Jonathan’s tracks draw an imaginary sonic map of the ship’s decks, hallways, and quarters, while Daveed’s lyrics ride the rhythms produced by its engines and machinery. In a reversal of H.P. Lovecraft’s concept of cosmic insignificance, the character finds relief in learning that humanity is of no consequence to the vast, uncaring universe. It turns out, pulling the rug out from under anthropocentrism is only horrifying to those who thought they were the center of everything to begin with. Ultimately, the character decides to pilot his ship into the unknown—and possibly into oblivion—instead of continuing on to worlds whose systems of governance and economy have violently oppressed him.


It is elliptic and somewhat abstract and it's hard to piece together exactly what's going on (which may be a turnoff to some people, of course; for me it's kind of a draw). I have a couple of thoughts on this below.

Thoughts on the plot and specific tracks; spoilers, I guess )

I don't love it as much as Hamilton. Some of the reasons are my own proclivities: I really love the Broadway/hip-hop fusion of Hamilton and the way LMM plays with musical convention. The other thing is that there's a certain amount of emotional depth and range to Hamilton that is necessarily not present in S&M, given that there are only two characters, one of which is a computer. Diggs does a great job in infusing the computer with emotion over the course of the album (contrast "Baby Don't Sleep" with "The Breach") but it's still true that the range is basically [no-emotion anger], and that's pretty much it.

But! it is amazing and it totally, totally should get a Hugo.
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Just realized we have only one more day, ugh. Some things that have come up:

-[personal profile] skygiants reminded me (which I had totally forgotten) that she wrote some stories in 2016. I'm going to nominate these:

“Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman”, Rebecca Fraimow, Diabolical Plots. Short story. This one is my favorite. It may be my favorite short story I read in 2016. I just love Yudah's distinctive, cocky voice, the sense of a very rich world in terms of underpinnings of relationships, the multiple twists that happen in a short letter. Just really, really highly recommended whether or not you are nominating.

Shaina Rubin Keeps Her Head Under Circumstances Nobody Could Have Expected, Rebecca Fraimow, PodCastle. Novelette. Sequel to "Proposal." Okay, I might love this one as much, actually. The greater length makes it less dense than "Proposal" in terms of twists, but it's similar in terms of the sketching in of rich characterization and relationships in relatively few words (plus plot!), and Yudah and Bluma are like old friends when they show up. My favorite part is how Shaina's voice has similar qualities to Yudah's (given that they're both Jewish inhabitants of Vilna) but is also completely different.

It stands alone from "Proposal" but also spoils it, so read "Proposal" first, okay?

-I am nominating Octavia E. Butler (Gerry Canavan, University of Illinois Press) in Best Related Work. I haven't actually gotten very far, and usually I would not nominate something I haven't actually read all the way through, but I like it so far and I really want to encourage people writing works on people like Butler.

-I am nominating Chuck Tingle for Best Fanwriter (with his twitter as the example). I could not see my way to voting for him for Short Story last year, but in my opinion his Hugo-related meta last year totally deserves nomination in some form, and I figured this was better than Related Work (since the form explicitly says "cannot be eligible in other category" -- I was totally planning on nominating "Space Raptor Butt Redemption" as Best Related Work, but it is also eligible in Novelette so I can't.)
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Have some links to short Hugo-eligible fiction!

Nebula nominees available free (hat tip: [personal profile] umadoshi)

Abigail Nussbaum’s nominees - AN’s taste in fiction isn’t congruent to mine (and sometimes we just flat-out disagree), but I do find her words about it to always be thought-provoking. Also plan to nominate her as best fanwriter. (Also plan to nominate [personal profile] skygiants as best fanwriter, if that’s OK.)

Set of nominees from [personal profile] forestofglory.

Another link from ladybusiness, with recs for all categories.

The novelettes on these lists that I liked enough to put them on my ballot: “The Art of Space Travel,” “The Venus Effect” (though I must say I didn't like it nearly as much as Abigail Nussbaum did) and “The Dancer on the Stairs” (probably my favorite).

Also, honorable mention to "The Tomato Thief," which I am not sure is going to be on my ballot, but it made me go back and reread the extremely good Jackalope Wives (to which it is a sequel), which deserved its Nebula and deserved the Hugo too, ugh.

The short stories on these lists that I liked enough to put on my ballot: “The Destroyer” (probably my favorite), “Sabbath Wine” (would be interested to know what the Jews on my f-list think about this one - ETA, probably going to take off my nom list), “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers," and "The Most Important Thing."

I haven’t read the vast majority of novellas on these lists. I’ll try to get around to Penric and Taste of Honey in the next week, I think. And yes, probably also The Jewel And Her Lapidary because of the title.
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Okay, I should maybe say something about the Hugos. In the book category, I plan to read Necessity and All the Birds in the Sky before the nomination deadline, but haven’t gotten to either yet. Some I did at least start reading:

Company Town (Madeline Ashby) - 3+. This one started really strongly, with great writing, a great POV character, some really interesting things going on with the worldbuilding. If it had ended as strongly I would have given it a 4; sadly, I felt like the ending was rushed and uneven (and didn’t address a couple of pretty major plot threads) to the point where at one point I was like, “What’s going on?” And the love interest had pretty much zero character. But worth reading nevertheless.

The Obelisk Gate (N.K. Jemisin) - 3+. I liked it. It is a second book of a trilogy, so, you know. But... so, in the first book I was able to put aside Jemisin's somewhat stark viewpoints because the writing was so strong, and here it starts to poke at me. So: one of the major questions of this book is, “When are negative actions toward a child necessary in pursuit of a greater good?” The book seems to come down on “Never!” by using a lot of straw men like breaking a child’s hand. Which, okay, yeah, I agree is probably never necessary.

But if you’re ever in my house around toothbrushing time, the toddler feels that toothbrushing is a Very Negative Action, thank you very much, and is not afraid of disseminating this opinion at Great Volume. I mean, you guys! I feel really awful brushing his teeth! I feel like I’m torturing him! I constantly have to tell myself that it’s for the greater good of him not getting cavities, which would definitely be worse. I think I'm right, darn it.

And then there’s E’s music practice, which is complicated by my never knowing whether it’s going to end in total disaster or a happy sunny child. We’ve definitely had practices where both of us are in total despair afterwards — because kiddo Hates Mistakes and they are liable to send her into a spiral of meltdown — but, I mean, she’s got to learn how to make them! (And we are talking a LOT about how it's okay to make mistakes, that I would rather her deal well with mistakes than play it perfectly, that the Right Answer isn't as important as trying, etc. ad infinitum.) So I do have meta-reasons for doing this. And sometimes she really likes it! And she likes performing! So I don’t even know.

Anyway, that is all to say that I felt some sympathy for Essun teaching her daughter in maybe not the most considerate and sweet way because it was the way she thought would save the kid’s life? And, I mean, she might even have been right considering what happened to her other children? I don't think I was supposed to feel sympathy for Essun; the book pretty clearly comes down on the side of the daughter, here. And I think the question is more nuanced and interesting than Jemisin is willing to admit, and the book suffers for it.

Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire, I think this is actually a novella) - 3. I actually love McGuire’s style here — it’s sort of this half-fairy-tale-ish-but-still-in-this-world quality, with some nice set pieces. And I admit I came in with low expectations which the book exceeded. All the negative things people have said about it are true (see e.g. [personal profile] rachelmanija’s review (no explicit spoilers) and [personal profile] ase’s spoilery review) but I didn’t really think about them too hard while I was reading. The funny thing is, the part that threw me out of the book was the part where people talk about the “directions” of fairy lands being, instead of north/south and east/west, wicked/virtue and logic/nonsense, with some “minor directions” in there. Those are not directions! You are not navigating by them! Those are descriptive/categorization axes.

There were two big issues I had, which are somewhat related to each other.First, most of the worlds where the girls went (and specifically Nancy’s) set off all my power-dynamic relationship squicks — I mean, older powerful dude going after young naive teenage girl who feels like she doesn’t belong, telling her that she’s wonderful and fits in and things are different with him and oh by the way he controls literally everything, and hey wouldn’t you like to leave your family and friends forever and be with me? Yeah. Do Not Like. Partially because of this, I disliked the ending intensely. Slightly spoilery. )

Too Like the Lightning (Ada Palmer) - DNF. On paper this book looks like it should be everything that delights me (rich complex future history, world-breaking sorts of events, lots of allusion, lots of historical resonance, lots of implicit statements) - I feel like… I was expecting Hild or John M. Ford and got something sort of weirdly not either? Also I suspect if I knew way more about the French Enlightenment I would appreciate this more. Also I felt decidedly as if she was trying too hard with the gender stuff, like, Mycroft keeps saying how they live in a gender-neutral society and then he is constantly bringing up gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes... Which I guess is kind of the point, but I felt like Palmer was telling me rather than showing (compare for instance Leckie’s Ancillary books, which make a much stronger point to me by being very quiet and matter-of-fact about its pronouns and describing how other people react to it).

Ninefox Gambit (Yoon Ha Lee) - DNF. Again I feel like maybe I’m not the right audience for this book, because I know a bunch of people really liked it, and on paper it seems really great (militaristic science fantasy with math words being used instead of “magic” words, with honor and belonging/place being a huge part of the culture) but 20% in I didn’t care about any of the characters at all or understand why they cared about their really pretty awful society, so I bailed.

Iron Cast (Destiny Soria) - DNF. Again on paper this seems great - Prohibition era AU with blood magic, manifested through music — this sounds awesome! I got bored and bailed after about three chapters. I dunno, maybe it was me.

Other stuff: I have to get some Related Work stuff in. Planning to look at Geek Feminist Revolution and there might be an Octavia Butler bio out there? Anything else I should be looking at?

Short fic post sometime this weekend, I hope.
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I’m still alive! Things that have taken up my time lately:

-Kiddos. For some reason two kids is much more mentally tiring than one. A. started daycare in January so we’ve all been adjusting to that. E. is probably doing Too Much Stuff, oh well, and I feel like logistics for her takes up a lot of my mental and spare time space. I can’t wait until I have to do logistics for both of them.

-After winter break which was great because we didn’t see many people (we saw D’s sister’s family and parents, which was really fun) and therefore were actually healthy for the ENTIRE WEEK following the break, we are continuing our side hobby of getting sick on a regular basis. I shouldn’t complain, because by this time we all have really great immune systems and so it’s actually not very bad much of the time (kids get cranky, I feel mildly crappy, D ranges from feeling mildly to fairly crappy, but it’s a far cry from when E started daycare and we all felt horrible with horrible cold symptoms for weeks at a stretch), but it is still annoying and takes up more time in reduced efficiency and dragging around than any actual enjoyable hobby we have.

-I have been called to be Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward. It’s a lot more work than my previous calling (teaching in Relief Society, the women’s class) — I’ve been sinking kind of a lot of my free time into it -- and some weeks have gone much better than others, and I just really love it and feel like I’m meant to be doing this, like I can really add something to people's lives. Relatedly, I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the last week or so writing a lot of email to G., a woman in my ward who is having a lot of the issues with belief that I had about 10-15 years ago. I might post some of the stuff about faith and belief (and the rather quirky LDS theology thereof) and how I deal with flat-out contradictions.

So… one thing I haven’t been doing is reading SF published in 2016. I have So Like the Lightning, The Obelisk Gate, and Necessity on my list to read. Anything else?

Earthsea

Jan. 2nd, 2017 02:55 pm
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Now that Yuletide reveals are over (I have a more conventional reveal post here) I can finally inflict on you guys all the feelings I have about Earthsea, which I read again for the first time in many years (at least ten, maybe fifteen) this fall.

...I have a lot of feelings.

The second trilogy, which I reread first. )

The first trilogy, which I read second. )

Le Guin and style. )
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Merry Christmas and Happy Yuletide! I am still alive! Okay, so, I realize I am waaaay behind on well, life in general, and the documentation thereof, but I had to say something about my (four!! You crazy awesome people, you!) Yuletide fics because they are marvelous and also because I am worried no one will see them, partially because they're all in small fandoms to begin with and partially because of a sequence of events that wasn't really anyone's fault but which meant the ones in Tiptree fandom didn't get wrangled (*) :(((((((( So please go read and shower love on these, pleeeease!

My gift:
Firebound (2345 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Der Ring des Nibelungen | The Ring of the Nibelung - Wagner
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Ambiguous or Implied Relationship(s), Brynhildr/Sieglinde
Characters: Brynhildr | Brunnhilde, Loge (Ring des Nibelungen)
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Fate & Destiny, References antisemitic stereotypes
Summary:

There isn't much to do at the top of a desolate mountain, bound by inviolate will, except to chat.

I asked for Brunnhilde and Loge, talking, because the way Ring is set up they have a lot of the same concerns, and would that not be awesome? Answer: yes! Yes, it is awesome! It is especially awesome when Norse myth and gnomic wisdom is interspersed throughout, when Sieglinde plays a prominent role even though she's not actually in the fic except very briefly, and when it is AU that is fix-it, which is totally what I want from Ringfic. I was really pleased by this and you should definitely read it if you have any interest in the Ring Cycle or Norse myth at all!

My treats were all in my requested fandom Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (anthology) - James Tiptree, Jr.. The link should get you to where you can see all the fics, as well as a tiny ficlet that some anonymous person wrote to get the fandom wrangled only that didn't happen, but anyway.

The Greek Origins of Certain Words (2788 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (anthology) - James Tiptree Jr.
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Original Female Character/Original Male Character
Characters: Original Characters
Additional Tags: Science Fiction, Post-Canon, Body Modification, Dysfunctional Relationships, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

“It’s a dying field,” Elsie said, “pornography.” She and Desmond were in bed together and she had taken to idly fidgeting with his body, as though he were terrain she was mapping: that was the term her industry used for relatively unmarked flesh. The terrain.

This is an amazing piece of work, possibly written by undead Tiptree (heh, wouldn't that be a story) -- it is so point on and spectacularly Tiptree in both voice and theme. It's sort-of-kind-of a sequel to, or at least takes place in the same universe as, "And I Awoke And Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side" -- but you don't need to have read the story to read this. Not only does this story replicate the breathless cadences and seventeen-new-worldbuilding-ideas-a-minute SF that characterize Tiptree's best work, but it's brilliantly about Tiptree's major themes: sex, love, biology, and what it means to be human. Especially the sex part -- from one point of view this fic is one extended (philosophical!) sex scene with kink, but the sex is crucial: it's part and parcel of examining the philosophical and SF-ian underpinnings of the universe, story, and humanity. This is just amazing. If you like Tiptree, this is basically required reading! But in general, if you are interested in stories about sex, love, biology, philosophy, what it means to be human, and/or in darn good SF, read it!

As Though to Breathe Were Life (2922 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (anthology) - James Tiptree Jr.
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Original Male Character(s)
Additional Tags: Original Character-centric, Alien Cultural Differences, Not Entirely Hopeless
Summary:

“It’s a human thing,” I say. “The struggle, you don’t get how much we need it. Really trying, setting your heart on something grand and impossible, win or die.”

This is the one I feel extremely protective towards, because not only is it in a super-small unwrangled fandom but it's also in Madness! So I worry a lot about it not getting anything like its fair share of love. Anyway, this one is also super worth reading and you should all read it. It isn't Tiptree pastiche and actually reads much more like original SF, and therefore I think you don't need to have read any canon, and it's enjoyable even if you hate Tiptree -- but yet has all those Tiptreeian themes -- what does it mean to have free will, or not; what does it mean to be human, in all its pain and glory and terribleness. It is heartbreaking and wonderful.

(Also, I am totally guessing that morbane wrote this for me. If so, thank you!! If not, well, take this as a compliment :) )

The Dead Authors Podcast Chapter 60: James Tiptree Jr. (1299 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (anthology) - James Tiptree Jr., The Dead Authors (Podcast), 20th Century CE RPF
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: James Tiptree Jr., Alice Sheldon, H.G. Wells (The Dead Authors Podcast)
Additional Tags: Yuletide Treat, Yuletide, Time Travel, Gender Issues, Feminist Themes, Trans Character, Politics, RPF, Star Trek References
Summary:

"I must ask, should I be addressing you as James, Tip, Alice, or Raccoona?"

Man, I wish I'd had the idea to cross over James Tiptree Jr. as a guest on the Dead Authors Podcast! (If you haven't listened to this podcast, you should at least listen to the Ayn Rand one, which is completely hilarious.) I've only listened to a couple of them, but I get the impression that generally in the podcast the "dead authors" tend to stay in their previous-life personas; here we get Alice Sheldon changed by her journey to the future into someone who can articulate things about feminism and trans-issues that she was not able to do in her own life.

(*)Cut for discussion of how no one did anything wrong but we all lost: fandom names and tag wrangling. )

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All right, I don't really want to talk about politics here and I hope not to make any more posts about politics (and I'll probably f-lock this one eventually), but I'll just make this post because I thought a couple of you might find it interesting.

K/B asked me two weeks ago about the LDS Church and whether it would ever come out against Trump. I said (and still say) no. The Church did not even endorse Mitt Romney in 2012, who was one of our own.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the LDS religion believes very, very strongly in freedom of religion and the related freedom to vote our own consciences. Our theology in fact explicitly postulates that the founders of this country were motivated by the Spirit of the Lord to develop a country in which these freedoms are possible. The second, more cynical reason, is that the LDS Church will never, ever do anything to call into question its nonprofit tax-exempt status as a religion, and making statements about any political candidate or party would put itself squarely in that bullseye.

(I believe both. If it weren't for the second reason, I absolutely believe that the Church would be tempted to speak out more. I could also imagine that if it weren't for the first reason, the Church might be tempted to do at least wink-wink-nudge-nudge kinds of statements, which I've heard from the pulpit in my sister-in-law's evangelical church and which I found horrifying.)

The Church has put out a single official statement on, not Trump, but in response to Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. It did not name Trump. It basically went, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns. However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom," and a couple of relevant quotes from Joseph Smith. The Deseret News (of which more later) was happy to unpack what they actually meant, though.

Utah is still red, I told K/B, but usually the LDS church votes Republican as an extremely reliable bloc [not wholly, especially those in California and Massachusetts, haha, but… pretty strongly so], and in this election that bloc no longer holds.

Then that tape came out.

The Church has not said anything officially about it, I think rightly so (see above).

Last Saturday, the Deseret News wrote a very strongly-worded editorial against Trump. (It declined to go so far as to endorse Clinton.)

And now Mormons have pretty much broken against Trump.

I've seen a couple of articles about the Mormon revolt against Trump in the last several days, but I don't think I've seen anywhere talk about exactly how important the Deseret News editorial was in the confluence of the LDS Church and politics. The Deseret News is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is not an official Church publication. It says it is not a mouthpiece for the Church. However, in the past it used to be exactly that. It still has a great deal of power and does in fact in the minds of many Mormons speak for the Church. Last week when I was at church, in fact, people (including me) were confused as to whether the Deseret News was an official Church publication or not. (This was in a completely unrelated, religion-based context, and I had not yet seen the Trump editorial because I am not the sort of LDS person who reads the Deseret News. But there are people in my ward (in California) who read it every day.)

Anyway, probably partially because of this background and the possibility of confusion, The Deseret News has not taken a stand for/against a political candidate in 80 years. But they have done so now. And it is a huge deal in LDS circles. It doesn't carry the weight of an official pronouncement, and certainly should not; but there are a lot of people in the LDS Church who will give it a lot of weight. There were already a lot of LDS who disliked Trump (that's a whole other story; Trump's brand of demagoguery is basically antithetical to Mormons -- ETA 10-14: for example see this Buzzfeed article written by a Mormon reporter) but might have pushed the lever for him out of not knowing that much about him combined with conservative solidarity; but this, I think, will have given them another path, and what's more, a path that at least appears to come with tacit approval of the leaders of the Church. (The editor of the Deseret News claims he did not run the editorial by any Church leaders, and I have no reason not to believe him. But people will assume that he did anyway, or at the very least — and I also believe this — that his beliefs are shared by church leadership.) I've already seen the editorial be passed around and convince a couple of previous Trump supporters on an LDS message board I occasionally look at.

(There's also a whole other post I could make about LDS theology and women and how Trump hit that in a way that was pretty much guaranteed backlash, but this is already enough, so never mind.)

(And I should also add that I don't think the Deseret Times affected the Mormon politician exodus from Trump which has also been happening; that seems to have happened independently (though for the same reasons that the editorial came out, see also LDS theology and women), and of course Mitt Romney has been the lone voice crying in the wilderness that is Republican politics for some time. What I'm talking about here has been more important for those people who haven't been following the political scene super closely.)

And today (er, yesterday now) a poll came out showing Trump and Clinton tied (with Evan McMullins' numbers shooting up stratospherically — he's an independent LDS candidate) in Utah. Utah. Maybe the poll is skewed, maybe it isn't quite right, maybe it's biased. But… I don't think it's that far wrong. I think, I really think, we're going to see Utah in play. It might not go for Clinton (I will laugh if McMullins wins Utah; I think he actually has a decent shot), but I think it is going to be close. This is something I never thought we'd see in my lifetime. And of course Mormons make up a small but decisive couple of percent in Arizona, which was balanced on the razor-edge before last weekend but now is turning…

ETA 10-14: Yesterday another, better poll came out which still shows Trump ahead in the state, but only by +6, which is still catastrophic for him compared to last week.
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And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married… And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them… behold, Miriam became leprous… And the Lord said… let [Miriam] be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

Numbers 12:1-14 (excerpts)


Scriptural exegesis and doctrinal discussion. Er, through fic. )
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My mom and dad recently moved, and they just brought me a bunch of my junk from their house. In the bottom of one of the boxes they brought I found… yes, indeed… the MacGyver fanfic I wrote as a young teenager (I must have been in ninth grade or so). It is… I'll just say, wow. It's a look into my teenage psyche that is a little horrifying, as these things are, and is also hilariously a record of what I was reading around that time.

It's a series: two ~40-page works, and a short story (10 pages).

The first fic contains the following things:

-a Mary Sue who is the smartest and bestest at everything and everyone is half in love with her
-on the other hand, she does not get the guy
-on the third hand, her sister does (in a not-even-slightly-disguised May-December relationship! What were you thinking, teen!me? Actually, I think I had just read Damia, is what happened)
-then the Mary Sue dies tragically but also super heroically

The sequel fic I barely remembered at all, so it was… umm… very interesting to read. In this fic and the short story is a time-traveling gigantic worldwide shadow plot/conspiracy, because those are the best conspiracies (I am rather pleased to find that this love, at least, has remained constant). …teen!me actually had a good point that Murdoc makes more sense as a time-traveling conspirator than as an assassin.

Other things I did not remember about this sequel fic:

-a multigenerational and also crossover MacGyver family tree (in pencil) that manages to work in Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of MacGyver and Spock as a descendant

-an explanation to how MacGyver (and other characters like Spock) manage never to get shot, etc.: they have genetically-transmitted luck

-a whole lot of vaguely unhappy marriages due to the genetically-transmitted luck trying to propagate itself (yes, I'd also read Dune around this time)

-characters who are named after all my favorite names in Patricia Kennealy's hilariously OTT crackfic "Keltic" books, which I was reaaally into at the time (I love them! But they are Arthurian crackfic!)

-MacGyver dies tragically (teen!me was really into angst)

-MacGyver's daughter, Aeron, is the heroine; she is named after and is very much like one of the heroines in the Kennealy books, down to having an angsty revenge plot after MacGyver's death

-Aeron and her friends have psychic powers, because of course they do (I had clearly also just read the Anne McCaffrey Pegasus books, and also the Judith Tarr historical fantasies)

-Aeron INVENTS STARFLIGHT, because she is that sort of character (Zefram Cochrane is her pseudonym) (this was of course before First Contact)

-Then Aeron might have turned into a dolphin?? (it was, of course, one of those ~edgy ambiguous~ endings where her body's never found but there's this seemingly sentient dolphin that hangs out with her family etc etc.)

-a lot of quotations/dialogue/scenes lifted wholesale from whatever I was reading at the time, in best Cassandra Claire style; in addition to the previous works, I spotted Ender's Game and various John M. Ford works, as well as a couple which I couldn't place but know came from somewhere else...

In conclusion, I really want to pat teen!me on the head.
cahn: (Default)
btw, over at [community profile] vorkosigan they're doing a Bujold reread. This week is Mountains of Mourning.
cahn: (Default)
Penric's Demon (Bujold) - I read this before and haven't read it since. Slight, cute story about a boy and his demon. I mean… even average Bujold (which this is) is pretty darn good writing. Maybe this will take my first vote.

Binti (Okorafor) - So — there's a lot here to like (interesting narrator and worldview and cultural connotations)… I kept running aground, though, on the math. Binti is supposed to be a really great mathematics student, thus winning her entry to the celebrated Starfleet Academy Oomza University as a math major (I guess this is THE university to be in the galaxy; the others don't really register at all??) — apparently this manifests by her and her fellow students understanding the concept of tessellating triangles. And possibly being able to perform simple geometry/coordinate-transform calculations. I… was not particularly impressed by their mathematical prowess. Also, she goes into a "mathematical trance" at one point that sure looks to me like a mostly regular sort of trance; I'm not very sure what is mathematical about it. Anyway, I kept being thrown out of the story every time the word "math" was used, which was really too bad. (Compare Jemisin's Fifth Season, where the science just all seems so much more grounded and real.)

Perfect State (Sanderson) - I mean, if you've read some Sanderson before, you know how it goes. Epic Epic fantasy - check. Complicated magic system - check. Lots of Annoying Capital Letters - check. Gary Stu Hero of Everything - check. And then Huh. ) Voting for this above No Award for sure.

The Builders (Polansky) - Grimdark Wind in the Willows. There, now you don't have to read it. You're welcome. Seriously, that was it, that was the entire content of that novella. I did appreciate the author's note in which he totally acknowledged it was a one-note joke. Voting under No Award.

Slow Bullets (Reynolds) - Okay — so, as SF this was actually pretty cool (military transports wake up in cryogenic pods and must unravel the mystery of what is going on in the ship and the universe) and the plot was probably the best of the five. Up until the end. The resolution of the plot made me super side-eye it. Spoilers! ) Not sure whether I will vote this above or below No Award; depends on how crotchety I'm feeling, I suppose.
cahn: (Default)
(note to [personal profile] ambyr: I have also been working on a long Byzantine chain for… uh… six months now, in little bits and pieces. I'm hoping I can actually finish it up this month. I'll try to post a pic when I do.)

So as you probably all know about me by now, I get these obsessions that last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year long. They're about different things, but fairly reliably I can count on having an obsession every couple of years on some sort of jewelry-making, particularly with gemstones. Cut because apparently once I start talking about shiny things, I don't shut up. )

Pictures! )
cahn: (Default)
4/5. Wow, you guys. This was amazing. And I'm speaking from the point of view of someone who really didn't like Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and who suspects that in general Jemisin might not exactly be for me? But this book is amazing. Jemisin has really got a handle on her writing (which IMO she didn't have in 100K); this thing is super ambitious and it manages to pull it off.

So, first of all: all the trigger warnings in the world. I mean, this is a book that begins in the first chapter with a baby killed by its father. Also: apocalypse, all the time.

Relatedly, it's a very angry book, which turned me off at first. And in my opinion 100K Kingdoms got over-the-top with the anger without sufficient character justification — but here it is much better handled. (I did find it a little… something… that apparently mild and disturbing spoilers for both 100K and 5th ) It didn't make my eyes roll here in the same way, though, because here it wasn't "ooh, let's do this at a party because that's what we do for fun because We Are Evil," but rather arose much more naturally out of the power structures of the society.

One of the things I really loved about it is that it's…science fantasy? Like, it's got clear trappings of fantasy (although there are hints that there might be at least a pseudo-scientific basis for it, which by the way is super cool), but if it's fantasy, it's fantasy that's rooted in science, and she seems to have a good grasp on earth science (as I'm not an earth scientist I couldn't tell you for sure, but it's got that feel to it, if you know what I mean, of someone who's comfortable with the science). I was totally unsurprised to read at the end that Jemisin had been part of a consortium where writers and scientists communicated, because it's really got that feel.

There are some parts where I felt like the human reactions were a little off. Mild spoilers. )I feel like it was manipulation by the author to manufacture reader outrage and justify the book's anger. (Manipulation that worked, honestly, because Jemisin's writing is so powerful and raw in this book; it wasn't until after I finished the book that I started thinking about these things.) (And yes, I understand it's all metaphorical too, but it also has to make sense within the story.) This was probably my biggest problem with the book. There's enough to be angry about without piling things on.

Slightly larger spoilers. )

I have another quibble — this one is extremely minor, much more minor than the others, but what is this journal for if not to vent about minor quibbles -- along these lines. Mild spoilers, again. ) I am giving her super kudos for correctly identifying the timescales, and I understand the scientific correctness sort of painted her into a corner here, but… heh.

Anyway! I keep waffling about what to put on the top of my Hugo ballot. I think on the whole Uprooted, because I thought Uprooted had deeper things to say and its flaws didn't bug me as much as in Fifth Season or Ancillary Mercy, but both of those are great as well. I'm pretty happy with this selection of (novel) nominees. (Next up: Novella!)
cahn: (Default)
4/5. I said a while back that I thought this would win at least one of the Nebula and Hugo, and, well, I was right (and in my opinion, now that I've started reading more of the nominees, I expect it'll win the Hugo as well, unless Seveneves fanboys take that). K asked why quite a while back, and I started thinking about it, and then I figured I'd just word vomit talk about it here. Some of the reasons are orthogonal to why I think it's a good book. First, Novik is a known and popular author, and a presence in fandom (holy cow, see the popularity data; I knew Uprooted would be popular, but wasn't expecting it to be that much more popular!). Second, some of its rivals have their own issues, Jemisin's Fifth Season ending on a cliffhanger, Ancillary Mercy being the third in a series, or Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown being Heyer-romance pastiche and probably not being taken as seriously by some as a result) (I wrote this bit before nominees came out, and Cho is, as you probably know, not a nominee).

Another mostly-orthogonal reason: Uprooted is pretty clearly (but not overwhelmingly so, as the Cho) homage/pastiche (here of Robin McKinley rather than Heyer); there are clear and deliberate echoes of McKinley stylistically (and of course the little Luthe Easter egg in case you didn't grok it). There is a certain generation and class of readers, of which I am one, that grew up with McKinley, for whom Hero and the Crown and/or The Blue Sword (Hero for me) were pivotal, deeply meaningful books, and you can bet that Uprooted pushes all those buttons and pushes them hard. (Only it's better than McKinley, because then plot starts happening a lot!)

One of the non-McKinley things I loved about Uprooted — let me digress for a bit and tell you a story. Over Christmas we saw my family at my sister C.'s house. My parents had just given their grand piano to C., as my parents have moved and she's the only one in our family now who has room for it. So one of the things C. and I put on the schedule was a Christmas concert — C. got out her violin and I got on the piano bench and we played "Gesu Bambino," which is our traditional Christmas song (we used to play this every year at church).

I can't even tell you how amazing this was, you guys. It's more so than it might have been otherwise, because lately I've been doing a lot of crap accompaniment work (because I never have time to learn the music) with a lot of super random people from church who are usually music beginners — but in any case, C. and I have played together for years and years, we know each other's playing like we know our own mind inside out; it's a seriously heady thing to play with someone else in that kind of partnership.

— And Novik captured that feeling so well, in her descriptions of magic, of magic collaboration. (Although I had to kind of smile indulgently in the way it turned into a romance. First because, well, I've done that with my sister, not my love interests; but also in the back of my head is the part from L'Engle's Severed Wasp where there's a conductor who has a super crush on Katherine and wants to run away with her, and she schools him by making the analogy of how they play really well together as conductor and pianist, and then they leave and play with other pianists/conductors and it all works just fine.)

The other thing I loved a lot about it — and this elevated it above the other stuff I've read this year — is the subtle but visible critique of what, for want of a better term, I shall call genderified conflict. (I don't like this term because it's not actually a breakdown by gender, as Uprooted in fact notes, not least by using the super awesome character of Alosha, but it's perceived to be.) Implicit and thematic spoilers. )

I should say that I don't think this is a perfect book, by any means. One of the ways in which I think it is weakest is the character of Kasia; she's a large part of the book, she's integral to plot and motivation, but I didn't feel like I got a good handle on her character as a real person with major things happening to her even though we see a bunch of her in the book. I would have liked for her character to be fleshed out a little more — she got, oh, two pages of really good character delineation, and then, what, that's it?

And I think it would have been better without any romance at all, but at least the romance we got wasn't treated as True Love or anything. I thought it was rather refreshing, actually, that it was treated as almost an afterthought.
cahn: (Default)
A: is the most charming oh-my-gosh-he's-a-toddler-now in the world. He smiles delightedly and even laughs when you play with him! He really enjoys clapping songs and tries to clap along! And doesn't cry when milk is spilled! He wants to Be Helpful and when he sees me put toys in a bin, he toddles over and tries to do it too!

More toddlering. )

E: still really likes dinosaurs, although it's not the all-consuming obsession it was several months ago.

She's doing really well. More. )

Me: I feel like the combo of waking up with A. and having this cold (again, with almost no symptoms except being tired, which is a big improvement over the early years with E., but my focus is shot to heck) has completely tanked my productivity. AND E. is finishing up the school year, which necessitates a bunch of end-of-year rituals, much of which I'm supposed to be present for. But I am hopeful this will all calm down soon. Very soon. I hope. Ideally before things heat up at work (lately they have been pretty slow, which has worked out). Not much stuff. )
cahn: (Default)
I have not forgotten I was going to post about Wicked, which I FINALLY saw in person (touring company) last time we went to see my sister C. (The year before we saw West Side Story, which was also fabulous, although the women were way better than the men and we didn't bother to spring for orchestra section.) We almost ended up not seeing it, because all of us had gotten deathly ill a couple of days before, but fortunately we had recovered enough by then that we were up to spending three hours out of the house without collapsing.

It was amazing. I'd "watched" it a while back, but it didn't compare at all to seeing it live. I think a lot of the spectacle needs the full canvas of a live theater, as well as the contrast between the extravagance of the stage and the darkness of the theater. The big group numbers were totally amazing visually in a way I hadn't appreciated before.

It helped that the Elphaba (Emily Koch) was quite excellent. I'm not sure she had the belting volume of some, but more importantly, she managed to emotionally sell us on all the twists and turns of Elphaba's character (some of which really honestly don't make a whole lot of sense). She played Elphaba as a bit of an awkward idealistic nerd, which a) really resonated with C. and me, ha; b) works really well as a way of differentiating her (not just by skin color) from the rest of the [school] cast, both in terms of showing her as divorced from them and in terms of emotionally explaining the continuing rift between her and them (and emotionally showing the consequences of the skin-color rift; it goes both ways); and c) is a good foundation for the emotional twists the character has to take. E.g., it makes sense that sometimes Elphaba's awkwardness and frustration with being awkward manifests as anger occasionally in the first act and more generally in the second act. And the idealism makes a lot more sense to me coupled with the awkward nerdiness; that sense of self-righteousness (sometimes justified, sometimes over-the-top) seems to be underscored by not ever fitting in socially-emotionally as well.

A lot of this, of course, is in the musical itself (I mean, Elphaba is supposed to be idealistic and angry, and the awkwardness is definitely strongly implied), but my previous Elphaba experiences, Katie Rose Clarke (the Elphaba I "watched") and Idina Menzel (clips of whom I've watched) both played Elphaba much more straight in terms of emotional character. Their versions of the character seemed to be much more normal and well-adjusted and hardly awkward at all early on, which made her forays into angry idealism later on make much less sense to me.

The Galinda was fine; she sang well (probably better than the Elphaba, actually), but she was not exceptional the way both C. and I thought the Elphaba was exceptional. Afterwards we went and watched a bunch of Menzel/Chenoweth Wicked Youtube videos, and we agreed that Chenoweth was exceptional (and Menzel was not).

Fiyero was also fine. I've seen some clips of rather wooden Fiyeros, and this one was pretty good. I hadn't realized how important dancing is for his character, and he was an excellent dancer.

The Wizard (Stuart Zagnit) was the surprising one; I'd always found his songs super boring (and they are), but the comic acting really sells those songs. I was impressed.

I had warned my sister beforehand that the plot is sort of… nonsensical. She turned to me after Act I and said, "It really seems to all be hanging together pretty well right now!" After Act II she said, "Well… you were right about the plot."
cahn: (Default)
So, I have lots of other things I keep intending to post about, and not enough time to do it in, but okay, let's talk about the 2016 Hugo nominees (ETA: added link, oops), because although the nominees themselves, and the Sad/Rabid Puppies, are incredibly boring, there were some related developments that were actually kind of interesting and that I want to talk about because it occurs to me that some of you probably haven't become obsessive about the Hugos don't know what's going on here.

(None of this will be news to you if you follow FFA's threads about Hugopocalyse, which I know a couple of you do. I honestly haven't really been reading that much about it aside from the FFA threads.)

You may or may not have heard that the Puppies got a bunch of their nominees on the list of 2016 Hugo nominees, including some where they're clearly hoping everyone will vote No Award again (e.g., Bujold's Penric's Demon). I have mostly been deeply bored by this. Okay, Puppies, that's nice, and now the grownups will get on with it and, you know, vote according to which things we actually like to read.

The novel ballot actually looks pretty darn good to me (though I'm really sad that Robinson's Aurora didn't get on, which is exactly the sort of thing I'd expect would get on in a "normal" year, but given that I didn't manage to read/nominate it, I can't really complain that much); the novella and novelette ballot look decent.

Then there's Related Work, which I'm not going to say anything about (except that I'm really hoping the Gene Wolfe is halfway-decent), and then there's Short Stories. Vox Day's Rabid Puppies' slate swept both, and they both look pretty horrible.

Puppies. Dinosaur erotica. Statistics links. Unicorn tears. There's room to be weird in space. Cut for length. )

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