Jul. 10th, 2017 02:04 am

Gen Ex Letter 2017

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[personal profile] zdenka
My apologies! I've had a very busy week, and I won't be able to finish this letter before assignments go out. I'll try to have it done by the end of Wednesday (or if I don't manage that, as soon as possible).


Dear Artist or Author,

Thank you so much for making art or writing for me! I'm happy that we share a love for these fandoms and characters. I mean the prompts as suggestions only, in case it's helpful to have a starting point (and it’s fine to make art from my fic prompts or fic from my art prompts). If they don't work for you or if you have an idea you like better, then feel free to go with what inspires you. I don’t want this to be stressful, and I’m sure I will love what you make.

General Things

Read more... )

Crossover Fandom [fanart, fanfic]

Aliera e'Kieron (Dragaera) & Csethiro Ceredin (The Goblin Emperor)
Arien (Silmarillion) & the Balrog of Moria (LotR book)
Csethiro Ceredin (The Goblin Emperor) & Tazendra (Dragaera)
Faramir (LotR book) & Hector (Iliad)
Finduilas of Dol Amroth (LOTR) & Uinen (Silmarillion)
Goldberry (LotR) & Indis (Silmarillion)
Goldberry (LOTR) & Melian (Silmarillion)

Read more... )

Dragaera - Steven Brust [fanart, fanfic]

Aerich & Khaavren & Pel & Tazendra

Read more... )

The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien [fanfic]

Dís & Thorin Oakenshield

Read more... )

The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien [fanfic]

Boromir & Denethor & Faramir
Boromir & Faramir
Elrond & Faramir
Éomer & Éowyn
Éomer & Éowyn & Théodred
Éomund & Éowyn
Éowyn & Ioreth
Éowyn & Théodred
Éowyn & Théodwyn
Galadriel & Goldberry
Hild & Helm's daughter
Nazgûl & Sauron

Read more... )

The Silmarillion and other histories of Middle-Earth - J. R. R. Tolkien [fanart, fanfic]

Aredhel & Maeglin
Celebrían & Celebrimbor
Celebrimbor & Narvi
Celebrimbor & Finduilas Faelivrin
Celebrimbor & Maglor
Celebrimbor & Orodreth
Curufin & Finrod
Elendil & Elrond
Elendil's wife & Tar-Míriel
Emeldir & Morwen Eledhwen
Finrod & Edrahil
Finrod & Haleth
Haleth & Guardswomen
Morwen & Rían

Read more... )

Vorkosigan Saga - Lois McMaster Bujold [fanfic]

Aral Vorkosigan & Piotr Vorkosigan
Miles Vorkosigan & Piotr Vorkosigan
Simon Illyan & Aral Vorkosigan
Jul. 16th, 2017 11:19 pm

Some things I wrote

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[personal profile] zdenka
Here are the things I've written since the last time I shared stuff here, mostly drabbles and ficlets. It's all Tolkien, for The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

Read more... )
Jul. 16th, 2017 09:13 pm

Drabbles, drabbles everywhere

zdenka: A woman touching open books, with loose pages blowing around her (book guardian)
[personal profile] zdenka
The Multifandom Drabble Exchange 2017 has just been revealed. (This is the same drabble exchange that was run on Imzy last year, but since Imzy is no more, it has now moved to AO3.)

Oh my GOSH you guys. I have ten gifts (or maybe eleven, since something on my gift page is currently stuck in a weird AO3 limbo). I feel like someone just handed me a big basket of puppies and kittens. I'm still in the middle of reading my way through them, and then there's the rest of the collection(s) to look forward to.

I was hoping to go on a treat-writing spree myself, but I was so busy/tired/distracted with Chess that I only managed a set of three drabbles for my recipient. Maybe next time!

The main collection (with one drabble for each person): here
The treat collection (with all the rest): here

Edit: It turns out the extra one was a glitch, but I'm so not complaining. I've read my gifts now and they are all just great.
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
The concluding episode in my Hugo reading marathon!  Huzzah!

The Craft Sequence, by Matt Gladstone, consists of five novels so far.  We get all of them in the Hugo Voter Pack, and, due to time constraints, I have read only the first one. 

By which I mean, I have read the third one, Three Parts Dead.

Read more... )

On reflection, I think my ballot goes Vorkosigan, Craft Sequence, Temeraire, October Daye, Rivers of London, The Expanse.  Temeraire might have been more fun than the Craft Sequence, but I think this was much cleverer. 

Here ends the Hugo reading for 2017!  I may read the zines for my own interest, but there's no way I'm going to have time to review them.  And it would be nice to read something for enjoyment, rather than critically and with the intent to compare it with everything else on the ballot.

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The next Series in the Best Series category is The Expanse, by James Corey.  The Voter Pack contains an excerpt from Leviathan.

I'll be honest here; I haven't really given this one a fair crack.  One big reason for this is that for some reason the Epub version on my Kobo is missing two or three lines from the bottom of every second or third page, which makes it hard to read.   But even in between that, it's not really holding my interest.  So far, all the characters seem to be of a particular 'antihero' type - the hardened cop, the hardened ship captain whose career has stalled - that doesn't do a lot for me.  I don't really care about the story.  And every time I think that something slightly interesting might be happening, there are missing lines.  This is not the fault of the book, but I really can't keep reading like this.

So I've read three chapters, and I think I'll call it quits.  I don't think it would be going high on my ballot even if I read further, because everything else on the ballot so far had me hooked within a few pages and this one doesn't.  So I think I'll leave it off the ballot entirely, unless The Craft Sequence annoys me so much that I need to put it below No Award, in which case I'll put this in fifth place, to distinguish it from the actively offensive stuff.

Incidentally, regarding The Craft Sequence, the voter pack consists of the first five novels in the series.  I'm not going to be able to read five novels by Sunday, especially since we have to drive to a funeral in the La Trobe Valley on Saturday, which is going to eat our entire day.  So I think I'll just see how far I get by tomorrow evening (and try to finish the first book, at least), and review based on that.

Jul. 13th, 2017 07:53 am

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 6

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Last novel!  Hooray! And I liked this one quite a lot, which means that now I have a problem at the top of my ballot...

But let's get on with the book.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers, is a very sweet, kindly sort of book.  It feels like an epilogue, and I believe it takes place after another book set in the same universe.  There is not, now I think about it, a lot of obvious conflict.  It still kept me reading until after 1am on a work night because I needed to know what happened to everyone.

The book tells two stories in parallel.  The first story centres around Lovelace / Sidra, a ship's artificial intelligence system who is now trapped in a synthetic human body.  And she does feel trapped by it - she no longer has unlimited memory and access to the Linkages, which seem to be a futuristic extrapolation of the world wide web.  Her narrative arc is partly about coming to terms with her situation and figuring out how people who are not AIs (humans or aliens) work, and partly about her remaking her situation to a point where she can be content with it and have a purpose that appeals to her. 

She is helped in this by Pepper, an engineer who was once a slave called Jane 23, and the second story is hers.  This story starts when Jane 23 is ten, and, almost accidentally, escapes the factory which has been her entire world (quite literally - she does not know what the sky is, and is alarmed by this gigantic 'room' without walls).  Running from feral dogs, Jane 23 is rescued by a stranded spaceship and its AI, Owl.  Owl takes her in, and... basically teaches her how to be human.  And, over time, how to repair the ship and get off this planet.  This may sound unlikely, but Jane has been working to sort and repair broken machinery for her entire life as a slave, so while she has few other skills, she is very, very good with engineering.  I must admit, while I liked Sidra a lot, and sympathised with her struggles, it was Jane's story that kept me up until 1am wondering if - and how -  she would be OK.

Note that Jane's story is fairly disturbing - the treatment of the child slaves is chilling (we never do find out what happens when they turn twelve, but I suspect they are killed at that point), and she spends years scavenging for metal and for food, and mostly killing and eating feral dogs.  Which is something you may have a visceral reaction to.  (I just tried replacing feral dogs with feral cats in that sentence and was completely horrified and grossed out, so, yeah.)

With half the story being about an AI raised by humans and the other half about a human raised by an AI, Chambers is clearly saying a few things about what makes us human, but I'm not entirely sure what those things are.  It's clear that humanity is not limited to humans; the AI, Owl, is clearly appalled by Jane 23's treatment, which, while it was at the hands of AIs called the Mothers, is clearly something that was decided and organised by the humans.  Compassion, empathy and friendship, are clearly important things, and things that AIs can share with humans and aliens.  Another important thread is the ability to lie, something that Sidra can't do at the start of the story due to programming limitations.  Once she is able to do so, it seemed to me that her relationships with humans and aliens changed for the better.  But it is clear that AIs have free will, at least to an extent.  Sidra can choose what she wants to do and how to spend her time, provided it does not go against one of her programming restrictions.

I don't know where to put this book on the ballot.  It was far and away the most enjoyable one to read of the novels in this category, but I don't think that it was as creative as Ninefox Gambit or The Obelisk Gate.  I still want to put it at the top of the list, because I want to encourage books that I enjoy reading.  But I'm not sure if it ought to be first or second.  Then again, I suspect a LOT of people will put Ninefox Gambit first (I'm expecting that one to win, actually), so maybe it doesn't need my vote?  I shall have to ponder this.

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[personal profile] 17catherines
"What's this?", you say?  "Best series?  What happened to best novel?"

Well.  I was supposed to read Becky Chambers' book, A Closed and Common Orbit next, but I just thought I'd have a teensy look at the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, His Majesty's Dragon, and the next thing I knew it was 2am and I was 200+ pages in and realising that I had to work in the morning.

(OK, I realised that well before this point, but I just didn't care...)

So I wound up reading that first.  A quick note on the Best Series for me, by the way.  I've actually read everything in three of the series (serieses?) nominated this year, so I already know how they are ranked in relation to each other, and will write about them briefly here, but it's hard to review an entire series, so I probably can't do them justice. 

Read more... )

Temeraire is going up to number 2 on my ballot, pushing October Day and the Rivers of London down to 3rd and 4th place.  Bujold remains unchallenged in 1st place.

Also, I've bought the second book in the Temeraire series.

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Last of all of the fan writers is Foz Meadows, who has provided us with four nice, long essays in her Hugo Voter Packet.

Bad TV Tomance: Could you not?

Read more... )

Dragon Age: Meta, thoughts and feelings

Read more... )

Diversity: more than white women

Read more... )
Gentleman Jole and the Vorkosigan Saga: Thoughts

Read more... )

And now I'm conflicted about where to put Meadows on my ballot.  I loved Luhrmann's essay about romance; I loved Meadows' essay about Bujold, and I think by now everyone knows how I feel about Chuck Tingle.  I think I shall stubbornly put Tingle first, and Meadows second, with Luhrmann coming in at third and Nussbaum at fourth.  I wish I could somehow indicate the big gap between fourth and fifth place on my ballot, but it isn't a No Award-sized gap, so the rankings will just have to speak for themselves.

And here endeth the Best Fan Writer reviews!  One more novel, and then a quick fly through the voter packets for the three series that I haven't read yet, and I'm done!
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[personal profile] 17catherines
Fan Writer number 5 is Mike Glyer, who writes for File 770.

His Voter Pack starts with two brief articles from File 770, one about terrible holiday ornaments on sale in July, and one about why we shouldn't erase people who finished below No Award in the Hugos from the nomination list (his argument amounts to – not everyone who has ever finished behind No Award is a puppy, and also, we should acknowledge our history.

He then provides us with a couple of obituaries he wrote last year, one for Bill Warren and the other for Ed Dravecky.  They are very nice obituaries.  I didn't know anything about either man, and now I know a little.  I don't really know what else to say about these.

And... that's all, apparently.

It's perfectly serviceable writing.  There's nothing wrong with it.  There's also nothing much that holds my attention.  It goes above Puppy Jeffro Johnson and No Award, but below Tingle, Luhrs, and Nussbaum, all of whom provided me with far more entertainment.
Jul. 11th, 2017 09:37 pm

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 5

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[personal profile] 17catherines
Today's novel was Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee.

I really didn't expect to like this one, since it is military science fiction, which doesn't generally appeal to me.  And, to be honest, it was rather like reading a book in another language - French, perhaps, because I understood most of it, but I had to work at it, and I felt as though there was vocabulary that eluded me.  I suspect one needs quite a visual sort of imagination to follow what was going on with the various battles and campaigns, and I just don't have that sort of brain.

But despite all of that, I really liked it.  I didn't quite love it, mostly because of my difficulty following the action sequences, but I'm definitely going to want to re-read it, and then go and read the other books in the series.

Also, let it be known that Yoon Ha Lee did not kill the cat.  And about time, too, if you ask me.  This alone would push Ninefox Gambit up the ballot for me.

Read more... )

I think Ninefox Gambit may actually have to go to the top of my ballot.  It's hard to compare a complete book with an excerpt, of course, but given that I am generally biased towards fantasy and away from military science fiction, the fact that Ninefox Gambit has managed to appeal to me as much as The Obelisk Gate did suggests that, for my money at least, it's the better book.
Jul. 11th, 2017 02:28 pm

Quick admin note

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[personal profile] 17catherines
I'm terrible at tagging things, but I've now gone through and tagged all my Hugo reading posts for this year, just in case anyone is specifically looking for them (rather than eyeing their reading list in horror and begging for the endless spamming to stop.  Fear not, gentle reader, I have five books and two fan writers left to review and then I will cease to torment you for this year.).  I've tagged them 'Hugo awards 2017', because that is just how original and creative I am.
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Powering through the Fan Writers here! And we now reach Natalie Luhrs, who apparently has a website called pretty-terrible.com . This is an excellent website name and I endorse it.  For the Voter Pack, she provides five essays,

Read more... )

I really enjoyed these essays.  As previously mentioned (many, many times), it's going to be hard work for anyone to beat out Chuck Tingle (count the double entendres in that sentence if you dare), but Luhrs is coming a close second. So to speak.

Jul. 10th, 2017 06:15 pm

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 4

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[personal profile] 17catherines
N.K. Jemisin has offered an excerpt from her novel, The Obelisk Gate, which is the second novel in what I believe is going to be a trilogy. Normally, I get frustrated by excerpts, but with the voting deadline breathing down my neck, and having read so many works that I really did not like, I am feeling rather more benign about the whole idea.

Of course, having said that, it turns out that this is the only novel of the four I've read so far that I've really *wanted* to read more of. This is probably partly because I prefer fantasy to science fiction, but it's also because I really love the narrator's voice, which reminds me a bit of one Ursula Vernon's narrators - knowledgeable, chatty, a little bit cranky, but with your best interests at heart.

Here's the very start of the novel:

Hmm. No. I'm telling this wrong.

After all, a person is herself, and others. Relationships chisel the final shape of one's being. I am me, and you. Damaya was herself and the family that rejected her and the people of the Fulcrum who chiseled her to a finne point. Syenite was Alabaster and Innon and the people of poor lost Allia and Meov. Now you are Tirimo and the ash-strewn road's walkers and your dead children . . . and also the living one who remains. Whom you will get back.

That's not a spoiler. You are Essun, after all. You know this already. Don't you?

It's as confusing as hell, but I somehow want to keep reading.

I'm still not entirely sure what this novel is about, to be honest. At the end of the excerpt (which is the first hundred pages or so of the book), I do have a sense of the world, but it was harder to jump into than Death's End was, so it doesn't work quite so well as a standalone. What I know is that there are people called orogenes, who can sense and influence minerals in a variety of ways, up to and including causing or preventing earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. And the general population fears such people to such an extent that they will kill them in infancy if they find out about them. There has clearly been some cataclysmic event (I suspect in the previous book) that has sent the whole world into a Season, which seems to be something like an Ice Age, or another inhospitable geological Age.

There also seem to be untrained orogenes running around who can potentially do different things.

Our main characters are Essun, an orogene who has taken shelter with a community that also shelters a former lover of hers, Alabaster, a powerful orogene who seems to have caused the recent apocalypse and is now dying, and Nassun, her daughter.  The two are separated – Nassun's father discovered that his children were orogenes, and killed Nassun's younger brother, but can't quite bear to kill Nassun, his favourite.  Instead, he took her with him, and left.  Nassun, for her part, loves her father and was desperate to get away from her mother – but she is also now more than a little afraid of what her father might do to her.  And Essun wants her daughter back, but does not know where to look for her.  And anyway, the priority right now is survival, and possibly – assuming it is possible – doing something to stop this season.

And that's it, really.  I like the worldbuilding a lot, and the characters, and I want to know more.  It's hard to judge where to put this on the ballot, given that it is an excerpt where the other novels in the voter pack are complete, but I'm inclined to put it at the top, because I actually do want to keep reading, and in fact, would like to go back and start with The Fifth Season first.  None of the other books on the list have made me want more, so I think that probably means that this belongs at the top of my ballot for now.

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Abigail Nussbaum apparently has a blog called Asking the Wrong Questions, which is an appealing title at least.  She lives in Israel, and may be the first Israeli ever nominated for a Hugo Award.  God knows what sort of politics this is likely to add to the Hugo ballot.  Hopefully we'll never know.

Nussbaum provides us with 6 essays as her Hugo Reader Packet.

In Ex Machina. Nussbaum talks about how giving robots gender (which always means making them female, since male is a neutral quality here) reflects anxiety about women and what makes a woman really a woman.  Nussbaum then looks at this through a trans lens - after all, the anxiety and feelings about gender that underlie the question of whether a feminised robot is a 'real' woman are not too far from those that underlie the question of whether a transwoman is a 'real' woman.  Also, of course, an artificial intelligence who is created to look and feel female has had gender (and its restrictions) imposed on it in ways that it might not have chosen. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream, adapted by Russel T Davies is a fun review that makes me want to watch the adaptation.  Nussbaum outlines the (many!) problematic aspects of Shakespeare's text, and then suggests, amusingly, that Davies' solution to these problems is to present the story as if it were an episode of Doctor Who, which "oddly enough, turns out to be an endlessly rewarding choice."  I'm not sure I understand what makes something seem like an episode of Doctor Who, but I'm amused by the idea. I also like her remark that "honestly, if you're putting on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in two thousand and fucking sixteen and you haven't made it even a little bit gay, you've done something seriously wrong."  This fits right in with our Shakespeare reading group's hermeneutic of 'if in doubt, assume innuendo'.  I really enjoyed this essay.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead Westworld, Season 1, and Marvel's Luke Cage, Season 1, are all interesting and extensive reviews things I don't have any particular interest in.  Nussbaum does a meticulous job of unpacking the ways in which racism is addressed - and the ways where it is left unaddressed - in The Underground Railroad and in Luke Cage.  She is particularly interested in the ways in which Luke Cage distances itself from the Black Lives Matter movement, despite being a show that is intentionally about black stories and about crime, and thus sitting squarely in a place where it could do a lot with it, and concludes that a large part of the problem is that the show is very loyal to its genre, and misses opportunities as a result.  As for Westworld, she doesn't think highly of it, and definitely doesn't sell me on it either.

Nussbaum's article on Arrival (2016), and how it adapts Ted Chiang's story "Story of your life" is perhaps my favourite piece in this packet.   I enjoy the way Nussbaum reflects on the choices made by the director, particularly speculating on which were made essential by the different medium, and which were less so.  Book and film are two quite different stories, it seems, but they both sound fascinating in their own ways. 

All in all, these are interesting essays, though I don't think my tastes overlap a lot with Nussbaum's.  Definitely a worthy contender for Best Fan Writer, but I'm still putting Tingle first at this stage, because he is so much fun, and has, in my view, provided a real service to the community over the last year.

Jul. 10th, 2017 01:28 pm

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 3

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Death's End, by Cixin Liu, is, I think, very good, but not for me.

I should start by mentioning that it is a very long novel, and I did not manage to finish it.  It didn't enrage me or anything, it just was not my thing.  It's very dense, hard SF on an epic scale, and I was finding that the only characters I really cared about or identified with were the ones who were in the wrong, at least as far as the philosophy of the book goes in the first half.  I think I gave it a pretty fair chance - I read Parts 1 and 2, and part of Part 3, which amounted to just under 300 pages all up and took me nearly to the halfway point.  I couldn't face another 300+ pages.  Sorry.

Death's End is book three of the trilogy that started with The Three Body Problem.  It stands alone quite well, which is to say, I had no idea that it was the third book in a trilogy, and certainly had no sense that it wasn't a perfectly self-contained story, at least in the half I read.

There is a LOT of plot, and I don't quite know how to summarise it.  There is a lengthy synopsis here.  Essentially, Earth has been under attack by the Trisolarans, but eventually the two sides settle into a sort of Cold War / mutually-assured-destruction scenario which allows both sides to prosper peacefully.  This goes on until Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer who originally worked on a problem at the start of the Trisolar Crisis and was in hibernation for two hundred years before being woken up to address a completely different problem, is elected the new Swordholder.  During the time Cheng Xin has been asleep, the world has become very feminised (initially she can't tell men from women), and Cheng Xin, is viewed as a reassuring, Madonna-like figure, who will keep the world safe.  Alas, when the Trisolarians attack, she is unable to press the button that would lead to the destruction of both worlds, and Earth is invaded.

And that's really just the first quarter or so of the book.

There are some fun things in here.  As an Australian, I got a certain kick out of the fact that when humans are restricted to reservations, the reservation is Australia.  And it was amusing having the Australian government being in charge of the human portion of the world, at least for a while.  Even if they did give Melbourne away.  I was also amused that AA, Cheng Xin's assistant is excited to meet an Aboriginal Australian man, Fraisse, and enthusiastically performs a Haka, and Fraisse just smiles and gently points out that no, Hakas are a Maori dance, before performing an absolutely terrifying one to demonstrate.

There's also some fairly cool fourth-dimension stuff, which I don't understand very well, but which I enjoyed nonetheless.  The descriptions are fantastic, and the translator, Ken Liu is clearly a very gifted writer in his own right.

There are also things that annoy me.  There seemed to be a pervasive sort of theme that women are nurturing and peaceful and that if men become nurturing and peaceful and too feminised, then this will inevitably result in destruction.  Everyone forgives Cheng Xin in a rather patronising way, because she couldn't help being sweet and gentle, and it's the fault of others for electing her.  It's the Manly Men of the 21st century, the ones who came out of hibernation into this feminine world and didn't fit in, who tell Cheng Xin not to run for election as the sword holder, and it's the Manly Men who turn out to be right, and who are able to run the resistance.  More Manly Men on spaceships are the ones who save the world (and even make a passing comment about how there really aren't any Real Men on Earth any more).  Even the gentle Fraisse takes the opportunity to point out to Cheng how it was that she could not intimidate the Trisolarians, because he might be gentle, but he is still a Man and therefore capable of expressing aggression in a way that Cheng Xin can't.

Now, it's possible that this gets turned around by the end of the book, but honestly, I found this quite frustrating to read.  There really aren't any other female protagonists, and it frustrates me that Cheng Xin is so consistently portrayed as being so emotional and soft compared to everyone else - at one point the Trisolarian calls her the only true innocent when it comes to their invasion, because Cheng Xin only did what she had to do.  It's the fault of the rest of the world for putting her there to fail.  Which is only true if one assumes that Cheng Xin had no ability to say no to taking up the role of Swordholder or insufficient self-awareness to realise that she would be unable to do the job.  Again, it's a really patronising attitude, and it annoyed me a fair bit.  And it smells a little bit like 'women can't be leaders because they aren't tough enough to go to war'.

Aside from the sexism, I was uncomfortable with the the way the book seemed to be glorifying the sort of military hard choices that destroy worlds, and suggesting that without such choices, if people try to live peacefully, they are doomed.  This is not a worldview I am comfortable with.

In conclusion, it's a clever book, and it's well written.  I suspect that if you are a hard science fiction person, you will really enjoy the world building and the technology.  But I don't like it's philosophy, and I don't like it's gender essentialism and underlying sexism.

Currently, it's coming in ahead of Too Like The Lightning because my primary complaint was boredom rather than rage, and because it does, at least, have the virtue of being a self-contained story.  But All The Birds In The Sky is still winning, because it managed neither to bore nor infuriate me.

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Jeffro Johnson apparently has a space gaming blog and is published by Castilian Huose.  Puppy alert! On the bright side, his voter packet is a mere 27 pages. I can handle 27 pages of puppies. I think.

The first item he gives us is a retrospective on "Song in a minor key" by C.L. Moore, and he starts by summarising the pulp ethos as 'There is always a woman'. I raise a suspicious eyebrow, but I've never really read any pulp fiction, so I'm not going to argue.  Yet.

... ah, and here we go. He feels that the romantic elements that these mysterious or classy dames bring to a story have been cruelly torn from him by writers of 'serious' science fiction, and of course by feminists.  But pulp fiction has the last laugh, because apparently it is still being read today, whereas all this dull, respectable science fiction doesn't get read because it 'made satisfying the critics a higher priority than serving the reader'.  This is because without these 'romantic elements' we no longer have human beings with human motivations.

Evidently, the only possible motivation a hero can have in life is unravelling the mystery (and, one suspects, the clothing) of one of these exotic creatures known as women.  (Evidently, such an exotic creature could never be a hero in her own right, because what possbile human motivation could she have? She's not even a proper human, really.) (Sorry, I'm feeling astonishingly objectified by a mere three pages of text, and it's making me cross. Which is an achievement of sorts.

The next retrospective is of "A spaceship for the king" by Jerry Pournelle. His thesis is that Pournelle created what would inspire the jump drive of the most popular and best developed science fiction role playing game, which is apparently 'Traveller'. I have no idea about any of this, and don't really care, but it's nice that he takes the time to be randomly insulting about The Force Awakens.

Next, our esteemed friend is going to tell us why short stories are awesome.  Oh dear - is he going to put me off writing short stories for life? No, he actually has a reasonable thesis this time, which is that short stories give you a chance to speed-date authors without making a big commitment. OK.  

We we have an article on why Joanna Russ Feared Heroic Fantasy. I'm pretty sure the answer is 'because she is a mean feminist who wants to take away all our toys'. Let's see... Oh, not quite.  He quotes her talking about how too much escapism is bad for you, and then quotes lots of important male authors saying that this attitude is wrong and deluded. And then he uses this to explain that the world really needs pulp fiction or there will be no astronauts.

I'm probably not being entirely fair, here, but I don't think Johnson is, either. Rather than analyse the rest of his essays separately, let's just say that his theme is very much one of 'can't we go back to the old days when things were fun, and there was D&D and lots of action and mysterious, yet hot, women, and manly male heroes?' And I'm actually with him on escapism being a good thing. I like escapist fiction! But he wants to escape into a world of Ayn Rand and John Wright and Lovecraft and Larry Correia.  Or, more wholesomely, perhaps, Lord Dunsany, and Tolkien and maybe Asimov, but Asimov doesn't really have hot chicks and is a bit too respectable, so maybe not. 

It's a world I'm not welcome in, and that's fine, really.  But I wish he didn't feel the need to be so obnoxious about the places where I would be welcome.

i have a feeling Johnson is not going to go high on my ballot.
Jul. 9th, 2017 11:42 pm


17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
I wrote a story!

It's called Mortal Clay, and it's for Falguiere station, and it has a sculptor who accidentally makes a deal with the devil.  It also has Falguière and Rodin bickering a lot, and getting maybe a little more bromancey than I intended, but why not? 

Oh, and it developed a lot of opera stuff.  Because you can't go around telling me that Falguière really liked singing opera arias and expect me not to put that into the story.  Especially since I know NOTHING about sculpture.  At least with opera, I kind of know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I'd better go do some more Hugo reading.  Because that is my life this week.

17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders is a strange book.  I've finished it, and I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but I think the author was deliberately trying to leave things wide open.

Anyway, I liked it, which was a nice change.

It tells the story of Patricia, a witch who can communicate with animals, and Lawrence, who is a brilliant scientist.  They meet as children and become friends, but I have to say, that whole first section of the book - about a third of the novel, I think - which takes place while they are children is absolutely harrowing.  They are both bullied, horrifically, and the adults in their lives keep on blaming them for the things that are happening to them.  Also, there is a random assassin who has decided that it is his mission to kill Patricia, so he signs on as the school counsellor.  This doesn't help. 

I was bullied pretty badly at school (though this was a whole new, horrific level), and I found this part extremely hard to read.  Also, beware - there is the now-traditional animal cruelty, though it's mostly implied.  But I have a bad feeling about what happened to Patricia's cat after she had to leave.  I do wonder why so many Hugo-nominated books are being sadistic about animals this year.  It's like they think it's the Newberry awards.

Anyway, once everyone grows up, it's easier to read, if you set aside the fact that the world is clearly about to end - the climate is breaking down, and there are food shortages and all sorts of other things going on in the background.  But in the foreground, you have Lawrence, who is part of a team trying to get things sorted so that the human race can move to another planet when this one dies, and Patricia, who is wandering around doing witchy things at the commands of her witchy supervisors who, to be frank, seem to be rather awful and manipulative people.  She is also trying to use magic to repair the world they actually have.

It's hard to describe this book usefully.  A big part of it is the central relationship between Patricia and Lawrence, who at different times are friends, strangers, lovers, enemies, and allies.  There is some fascinating stuff going on with artificial intelligence.  There are a lot of people who mean very well and do terrible things while meaning very well.  And the world is coming to pieces. Really, horribly, coming to pieces.  This should be a horrifically dark book, but it somehow manages not to be.

The writing style is transparent and coherent and lovely and so refreshing after Palmer and Tingle.  I like the way the book straddles the border of fantasy and science fiction, and even having finished it, I'm not sure entirely what side it comes down on.  I think fantasy - there is a lot of fairy tale structure - but it's fantasy with a lot of technology and science in it.

... you know, it's much harder to write about a book that I just quietly enjoyed.  But that's how I feel about this one.  I liked it.  I'd maybe even read it again.  It didn't change my world, but it also didn't ruin my weekend.  It's a solidly good book which deserved nomination, but I do sort of hope there will be something I like more in the mix.

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