No art right now, just meanings. The 78-card jeng-zai deck corresponds to the traditional Tarot but is specifically a hexarchate Tarot circa Kel Cheris' era. As such, upright sixes are all positive while upright sevens are negative, and the fours are lucky/unlucky.No spoilers if you haven't read anything in the series (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem or any of the short stories), although you might be mildly confused and not get some of the jokes.
This site is for entertainment purposes only: neither guarantees nor apologies are given for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any reading you may receive, and no responsibility is taken for any calendrical rot that may ensue. Hopefully you do not live in the hexarchate.
Read Ann Leckie's Provenance (in ARC. It's coming out on the 26th of September.) Spider mech, spider mech, does whatever a spider mech does. (Disconcert people, mainly.) This is in the same universe as the Radch trilogy, but in a different region and with different characters, voice, and tone. I have some friends who couldn't get into Ancillary Justice, wanted to like it but found it too hard going, and I would be curious if this one worked better as an entry point for them.
Leckie's repeatedly cited Cherryh as an influence, and if you think of the universe the Ancillary books are set in as like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, a big canvas covering a lot of territory in time as well as space, then this book in relation to its universe is a bit like a railway junction. It opens some new routes, introduces some new important players, but the most important universe-scale historical events (as opposed to system-scale or planet-scale or individuals) are offstage.
To say more about voice and tone: the Radch books are in first person, and that person is Breq, who is... Breq. Over two thousand years old, and even if you consider the destruction of Justice of Toren as a kind of rebirth, by the point we meet her she's a hypercompetent badass who's been surviving on her own in her single body for nineteen years. Also she's not a human, so there's that.
Ingray isn't Breq. She's very much human (and has an entirely reasonable terror of AIs,) a lot younger (I don't think her exact age is stated, but early twenties would be my guess,) and infinitely less sure of herself. She's also spent her entire life to date having her head messed with by her shitty family. My first two impressions, right from the first three chapters of this book, were: one, you can really tell the author was spending a lot of time in airports when she wrote this; and two, Ingray has the sort of family life where the closer your geographic proximity to your relatives, the more difficulty you have with being a decent person. The rest of this book bore this out (I mean the family, although there were definitely more airport-equivalent scenes too.)
If you're one of the people who disliked Breq because she was "too perfect" (I disagree with you about her being perfect, but) you might find Ingray and her smaller scale problems (compared to entire empires and species) more relatable.
If the Radch trilogy is about personhood and the fight to be recognised as a person when you don't fit a society's definition of who counts as a person, then Provenance about growing into oneself not as a person (that was never in question for Ingray) but as an adult (a coming of age that, by contrast, Breq never had the luxury of needing.) And if the Radch trilogy is about resisting societal/systemic forces, Provenance is about resisting social, personal pressures (family and peers.)
Finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns. And after this and Provenance I'd like a short break from books about difficult family situations, please! I liked this better than The House of Shattered Wings, but the tone was still bleaker than I usually go for. Characters I particularly liked: Madeleine, back from the previous book; Thuan the dragon prince, and Berith and Francoise the Fallen/human couple trying to manage outside the Houses. Grandmother Olympe, the elder of the community where Berith and Francoise live, was also pretty great. And I warmed more to Asmodeus than I did in the first book.
Unfortunately, I think I'm the wrong audience for this. The things The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns do well (decayed elegance, gothicism, Paris, fallen angels), they do really well, but they're not things I particularly love (I don't dislike them, they're just not my catnip.) So, like, I can't actually rave about these books, but I do want to wave them really hard at people who do love those things.
Some zines I ordered from Rooster Tails's Etsy store showed up, and he kind of threw in a bunch of queer fanart glossy note cards (maybe to make up for a delay, idk, I'm not complaining!) and they're so beautiful and I didn't know I needed a picture of Daria holding Jane's hand and saying "I hate you the least," or adorably cartoony Finn smooching Poe, or cartoony Gabrielle climbing Xena like a tree, but I definitely did need those things. Now I'm trying to decide whether to keep or send to people.
The zines are #my gender is..., three tiny A6 cardbound volumes made in response to answers people gave the author when he asked people to fill in the blank.
Mainlined 17776, which is web based multimedia rather than comics, but I'm putting it in this category because what everyone's comparing it to is Homestuck. It's about satellites watching football in an unimaginably future, but also post-scarcity/post-singularity anxiety and Millennialism (as in epochs, as well as as in snake people) and play as the ultimate point of human existance, and it's funny and elegiac and cool and reminds me of David Foster Wallace in some ways.
That said, it is worth talking about who's at the centre of this narrative. No, not robots. No, not humans. Americans. White, suburban, minivan-driving, 80s-and-90s-born Americans. So conflated with the essential nature of humanity that they don't even notice they're doing it. Even the probes are two American probes and one European (but not Russian) one. I mean, Mangalyan does exist, you know? And so does Chang'e 2 and Kirari. And Libertad I and Fajr and... I mean, not all of those are still in space, or left Earth's orbit, but they could. Not to mention that it's science fiction and at the present date JUICE is still in development, why not a future Ghanaian or Iranian satellite mission? Which is not even my point, my point is that the regressive fantasy that the humans fall back into when faced with the crushing boredom of their eternal lives is... the 1960s and 1970s but without the race riots or Stonewall or Watergate.
It's still a good story/multimedia work/thing, and I still enjoyed it. I just... that particular nostalgic fantasy makes me very tired sometimes. And no, not tired in a way that makes me want to give up on the weary work of human endeavour/struggle/progress to take refuge in looking back down at the things that are really important to us/humanity, i.e. a sport which people in my country don't play.
TV and Movies
Watched the first episode of Black Sails. Was unimpressed. I hear it gets better, though. Flint's fury at the stolen log page reminded me of this.
Gave my sister the Hamilton soundtrack for Christmas last year or her birthday this year (I forget which -- my gift-giving punctuality standards are seriously slipping at the moment.) Success: she's hooked. Very hooked.
Third week of hexarchate_rpg. So far haven't panicked and run away yet (me, not my character) so that's good.
Still playing Binding of Isaac. In one especially good run, I met Isaac's mother for the first time, and defeated her! Which meant that, next time I got to that level, defeating her led to having to climb into her womb and fight more monsters there. Which... is definitely a narrative choice a person could make.
Started playing Hexcells, a puzzle game; not to be confused with Hexels, a different puzzle game. The latter is like 2048 but in three directions not two; the former is kind of like a griddler/nonogram, but in three directions and its own specific language of clues. Played all the way through Hexcells, then started Hexcells Plus. Got the Perfectionist achievement for the original Hexcells. Then Hexcells Plus. Then started Hexcells Infinite, and am at 90% of that.
The problem with me and Hexcells is not the logic. I'm not super great at the logic, but with time and effort and occasional appeals to online walkthroughs I can succeed (usually by speaking the chain of logic out loud over and over because I can't hold the branches in my head long enough otherwise.) The problem is that that one of the achievements is to do all the games with zero (or only one) mistakes, and the way my brain works (or the way my working memory doesn't work) it's very easy for me to make one stupid error too many and ruin an hour of work. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. At least Hexcells Infinite lets you save your progress. The first two games didn't, so if you need a break before finishing the level, you have to leave the app open.
The compost bin is full. That took about three months to fill a 220L bin. I had to look up what one does once the bin's full. Leave it to cure for a month or so while starting a new bin, apparently. Or alternatively, lift the bin off the compost (it doesn't have a bottom) and set it down next to the compost, shovel whatever still looks like vegetable peelings and cat litter back into the bin, and use whatever just looks like soil to grow things. (But not herbs and vegetables, because this is cat litter compost, so it's contaminated with toxoplasmosis. This compost can nourish pretty flowers and Native Plants To Encourage Local Species.)
Baked scones. Also tried out a couple of recipes from my long backlog of bookmarked Recipes To Try Someday:
- Jack Monroe's Queen of Hearts jam tarts recipe. Not too bad given how seldom I make pastry. If you have fifty grams of butter and a scant cup of plain flour and some jam, this is an okay thing to do with those ingredients, but the scones were better.
- AoM Bratwurst Sandwich. This contains one thing I eat normally (mustard), one thing I've had decades ago but haven't cooked with (bratwurst), and two things I hadn't had before (sauerkraut, pumpernickel.) The bratwurst and mustard and sauerkraut were good. The pumpernickel... yeah, no, next time I make this I'll just use a dark rye.
I could have adapted to the flavour, but its lack of structural integrity meant that according to the Earl of Sandwich litmus test this is not even a sandwich. (i.e. "I pretend I am the original Earl of Sandwich. I have asked for non-bread foods to be brought to me inside bread, that I might more easily consume them one-handed while gambling. This does not enable my wretched regency habits. This is not what I asked for. I do not deign to grace it with the name of my house.")
This would fall apart in his hand, scattering boiled rye grains all over his elaborate necktie and playing cards.
Admittedly, the degree of difficulty was higher for me since I had to eat it one-handed while fending off a very interested black and white cat with the other hand.
Broke my daily meditation streak at 219 days. Very pissed off about it, in a not zen at all way. The last time this happened it was at 149 days. Forming habits is hard for me. (This is not a request for reassurance or advice. Especially not advice.) Took four days off meditating out of pique.
Have been fighting a lot these last few days. At first I thought Beatrice was the main instigator, but last night while she was aggressively licking Dorian, I saw him nip her.
He hasn't learned to lift the toilet lid yet, but it's hard for me to remember to leave it down since my already established habit was to close the door but leave the lid up.
Well, I'm delighted.
(I have to thank Cine Outsider for the tip-off; I had no idea until I was scrolling down as I do about every month or so and then what? I still have dreams of seeing an actual print someday. The film was shot in Technicolor. It may have been chopped to pieces by Columbia, but what's left should still look good. Besides, I have always had the sneaking suspicion that even the most faithful digital transfer cannot properly reproduce the full effect of Dr. Terwilliker's hat.)
I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.
Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.
"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.
(My right ear is the void, apparently.)
(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)
And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.
You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.
I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.
I guess maybe it does.
Idan Raichel Project: an Israeli group with members from around the world. The song is "Im Telech" ("If You Leave"):
If you leave who will hug me like this
who will listen to me at the end of the day
who will console and calm me
as only you know how
And if you leave who will I wait for by the window
in a festive dress
to come hug me so,
when you arrive
When you leave go, I'll go out to the sun,
in the golden field, morning and evening,
the moon will light up my face
which dreams all day long of you
When you come back,
you'll carry me in your arms,
from the field to the river,
you'll wash my face and tell me words
as only you know how.
Translated from Hebrew by Vered Klinghofer of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Some general stuff about my tastes: For written works, explicit sex (slash, het, or femslash) is okay, non-explicit sex is okay, no sex is okay, but any sex should be in believable language for the source, and there should be more to the story than just PWP. If you choose to write a sex scene, I prefer those that focus on emotions and perceptions rather than on the mechanics of what goes where, and I am rather vanilla in my preferences where kink is concerned: mouths, hands, genitals, toys, all are fine, but I'm not into BSDM or bloodplay or watersports or anything that might get a special tag. Gen is a-okay with me too. For art, I prefer R-rated art to NC17-rated art, and I'm totally happy with lower-rated art.
I have made some prompts and suggestions, but feel free to take things in whatever direction you like and/or include characters I haven't mentioned. I like: historical/worldbuildy detail, scenery porn, non-explicitly-detailed sex, ghost stories, supernatural elements, what-if AUs, original characters. My favorite tropes are time travel, bodyswap, and afterlife stories, though I'm perfectly happy with an entirely canonical scenario. In general I'm not a fan of AU that completely changes the setting, but if you have a brilliant idea, go for it; I would prefer "interesting" to "mundane" AUs, e.g., in SPAAAACE yes, coffeeshop no. (Coffeeshop in SPAAAACE, okay!). Except as noted, I would like happy endings and no major character death (unless it's canonical and results in ghost-fic).
For fic, I generally prefer plot (as in, things happening; doesn't have to be elaborate or long – as contrasted with character studies), past tense (either first person or third person – I don't like second person), and lots of dialogue. But these are preferences, not hard DNWs, and if you have a brilliant idea that requires second person or present tense, go ahead. My only hard preferences are for conventional pronouns, capitalization, and punctuation.
For art, I am happier with AU than in fic. I am totally fine with simple portraits, though if you want to show characters interacting, I have a soft spot for art in which one character is doing something typical-but-alarming, and the other is rolling his or her eyes, or reacting with horror, or getting ready to douse them with a bucket of water, or whatever. I like line drawings as well as full color. Stylistically, I love interesting and experimental compositions, unusual perspectives, emphasis on textures such as hair and clothing, and scenery porn (Mountains! Trees! Cliffs with water crashing on them! Brooding ruins of an ancient castle!)
( This is a placeholder and will be edited to add specific fandom likes and prompts. )
Got up early to make the trek to Skowhegan and Steve's eye doctor. Matters have stabilized, on that front, so -- yay! stabilization!
Came home via the post office -- whereby hangs a tale, which I will now tell to you.
My Formal White Tiger pen was listed as Out for Delivery by the USPS on Saturday, but did not arrive. It is not, I will note here, Completely Unusual for the Saturday delivery-person to fail deliver packages. She simply leaves them for the regular weekday guy, because -- I have no idea. Packages hard, I guess.
So, this morning, I looked back to the site to see if indeed my pen was listed as "out for delivery" with the guy who actually does his job, but found instead a note that delivery had been attempted on Saturday, late afternoon, but nobody was home, so a note was left.
Which was...pure, unadulterated mud. First, we were home all day Saturday. Second, we got our mail 'way early, as we tend to do on Saturday. Three, nobody from the post office came by the house during the late afternoon. Four, no note was left. Five, it wouldn't have mattered if there was anyone at home anyway, because the package didn't require a signature.
I called the post office and explained the situation. As it happened, the allegation that a note had been left meant that the package was not out for delivery, but was waiting at the post office, until I called with instructions. Which I would have never known -- because no note -- if I hadn't looked at the website and discovered this, um, deceit.
So, anyway, Deirdre, who was on the desk when I called, was as helpful as one woman could possibly be. She listened to the problem, said she would go find the package now, if I would let her put me on hold. It took her twelve minutes to find it, but find it she did, and, at my instruction put it at the front desk so when I came to pick it up, it would be easy for whoever was then on to find.
That part went according to plan.
So! Eye doctor, post office, grocery store, and so to home, eagerly anticipating the meal Steve had started in the slow cooker before we left home, except!
There had been a minor power outage while we were gone. Too short for the generator to take note of and kick in, but more than long enough to reboot the slow cooker, which started a count-down-to-cooking, which meant that?
Yes -- you in the back? Yes; thank you. Exactly that.
Dinner wasn't ready when we got home, starving.
Today's dinner plans were therefore amended to hot dogs on French onion rolls, and leftover macaroni/veggie salad. We'll have today's dinner tomorrow.
Speaking of the weather...today at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory it is 64F and raining. The plants I put in yesterday are significantly perkier than they were at planting, so I'd say that timing was just about right.
As I mentioned in another venue, yesterday's writing session produced! a True Epiphany (or as a friend says, with a bow in the direction of his spellchecker -- an Apostrophe). Epiphanies often require a lot of frogging, rearranging of scenes, re-assessing motivations, and just what seems to be a whole lot of backward motion when all instincts are screaming, "I have to make words, dammit!"
Experience teaches us that True Epiphanies almost always deliver a stronger, better story, if the writer is willing to bite her tongue and do the work. Also, if the writer decides not to do the work? The Epiphany has a way of forcing its point, later, when the amount of necessary frogging leaps from a few pages to a hundred, and sleepless nights and alcohol abuse enter the equation.
So, I've got some unwriting to do today -- not much, happily, because we caught this in plenty too much time. I may even get a start on rewriting.
And the roads, they roll.
Oh, and the new pen is gorgeous. I'm really going to enjoy having it with me at Confluence.
Here, have a picture of both fountain pens, all snug in their traveling wallet:
This one is a good book.
Julie Rehmeyer, a mathematician and science writer, chronicles how chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) crept up on her until her entire life had vanished and she was frequently completely paralyzed. While she desperately tried to find a treatment, she instead encountered an array of quacks, snake oil salesmen, nice but useless therapists, nice but useless doctors, a patients’ community full of apparent crackpots, and medical literature claiming that it was a mental illness caused by, essentially, being lazy and whiny.
In desperation, Rehmeyer finally starts listening to some of the apparent crackpots… and when she applies her scientific training to their ideas, she finds that stripped of the bizarre terminology and excessive exclamation points, they sound surprisingly plausible. With her entire life at a dead end and nothing left to lose, she reluctantly decides to try a treatment which is both radical and distinctly woo-woo sounding.
And it works.
But unlike every other “How I cured/treated my illness by some weird method” memoir, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, she not only researches and theorizes about how and why it might have worked, she interviews scientists and doctors, and even arranges to do a double-blind experiment on herself to see if it’s a real cause of her symptoms or the placebo effect. I cannot applaud this too much. (I was unsurprised to find that every article I read on her book had a comment section claiming that her results were due to the placebo effect.)
Lots of people have suggested that I write about my own horrendous illness, crowd-sourced treatment, and jaw-dropping parade of asshole doctors who told me I was lying, a hypochondriac, or crazy. While you’re waiting… read this book instead. Though it’s not the same disease and she was treated WAY better by doctors, a lot of her experience with being beaten over the head with bad science and diagnoses based purely on sexism was very similar. As is much of her righteous rage. I am way more ragey and less accepting than she is. But still. It’s similar.
Overall, this is a well-written and honest memoir that shines a welcome light on a poorly-understood illness. Rehmeyer's perspective as a science writer provides for clarity, justifiable anger, and humor as she takes apart the morass of bad science, victim-blaming, and snake oil that surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. It's informative without being dry, easy to read and hard to put down.
Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand
I checked Amazon today and was surprised to see that three of my books are on sale in electronic format.
Barnes and Noble doesn’t appear to have price-matched the sale yet (they have now!), and I don’t know if this is limited to North America, but here’s what I do know:
Libriomancer is on sale for $1.99.
Goblin Quest is on sale for $2.99.
The Stepsister Scheme is on sale for $2.99.
That’s book one of all three of my fantasy series. If you’ve been waiting to check out my stuff, this is the perfect time.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I got cash and bought subway tokens and sweated a lot.
Then I met up with C. in late afternoon for the movie Dunkirk, which we saw in IMAX, bass and the sounds of explosions booming from under out seats. I ate popcorn for lunch while watching people get blown up and drown and burn but also get rescued. Sometimes all of the above, in different orders.
This movie was what I call a Spectacle. I liked it best when it was all stark visuals and no dialogue (the dialogue was minimal). The splendid British actors did a great deal with their faces and posture; Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot acted almost entirely with his eyes, as the rest of his face was covered in helmet. (Jack Lowden, playing another pilot, was out of his cockpit for more screntime.) The movie was documentary-style, where you don't know the characters' backstory or hopes or dreams (with one exception); you're in the moment throughout, and the moment keeps jumping around, and you can't always keep track of the sequence. I feel I had an experience worth having.
After, being much luckier than those poor people trapped at Dunkirk, we had dinner at a great new tapas place in South Philly called Barcelona. Cue Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe!