The general theme for this month has been stages of life, and we close that out with rites of passage. Next week, because the Patreon passed one of its funding goals a while ago, will be a fifth (bonus) essay, on the more theory-side aspects of worldbuilding!
Comment over there.
- What Happened, by Hillary Clinton. I thought this was a fascinating book. a memoir of an interesting time (ha ha) from a person who was there, and some great policy and life prescriptions. Haters can step off.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers. I'd never actually listened to the grand ancestors of post-rock before and yeah, they're everything I love and don't love about post-rock. I previewed the whole album on NPR streaming and I think I'm going to get it when it comes out.
- Cut Copy, Haiku From Zero. Liked this one so well with its lovely 80s sounds that I pre-ordered it before it was finished.
My Patreon is trucking along, but I haven’t been good about linking to it here. So have a list of recent posts!
This week’s post (sneak preview!) will be on rites of passage, followed by a bonus post on the theory of worldbuilding, since that’s one of the funding goals we’ve reached. Remember, this is all funded by my lovely, lovely patrons — and if you join their ranks, you get weekly photos, plus (at higher levels) opportunities to request post topics or get feedback on your own worldbuilding!
I managed to pick up the pace on my reading so it hasn't been a month since the last review!
First up Age of Assassins by RJ Barker. As I've said, I prefer my heroes a bit on the older side these days because I am and I enjoy reading about characters who aren't driven by teenage emotions. You Die When You Die was a pretty good book but the teenaged protagonist was a chore to read sometimes. That said, here we are with another book about a young teenager trying to figure out this grown-up thing. This is complicated by the fact that he's being raised and trained by Merela, a professional assassin.
The book's setting has a Dark Sun vibe, people can use magic but it draws on life force so if you want to do a big magical spell, you can, but a huge section of land will become barren and lifeless. Luckily, you can reverse that. Unluckily, you reverse it by spilling blood onto the "sourlands" magic leaves behind. So there's a pogrom out for people talented in magic and pretty rough existence for everyone else.
Girton, our hero, and his master infiltrate a castle on a mysterious mission. The mysterious mission is a set-up. The local queen needs an assassin to prevent another assassin from killing her son. The queen has plans for her son to take over not just the local kingdom but to marry into the High King's family and take over from there. The son is a jerk and not terribly popular and the grandson of the previously deposed king is around. So there's intrigue aplenty.
Girton, of course, is just an apprentice so he winds up doing a lot of grunt work and even when he finds the important clues, he doesn't realize it until Merela puts it together. That's not to say he's stupid or incompetent (he doesn't kill without reason, but he does kill), just that he's a teenager and there's a lot he still doesn't know. It's a bit like a Nero Wolfe mystery in which Archie does a ton of running around and then Nero just looks up from his chair and tells you the solution.
All in all, it was an ok book. I'm curious to try the next one in the series, but I wasn't super blown away by it. Certainly a good source for plots in a LARP or RPG.
Next I read Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill and it's probably one of the better books of fiction I've read this year. Not terribly literary, but It really sucked me in and held my attention with good characters, dialog, world-building, pacing, and even the deeper themes it touches on.
In this book, the robots rose up and killed all of mankind (and most of the life on the planet). The story follows Brittle, a service robot who used to work for humans and now scours the Sea of Rust, the upper Midwest of the US where the freebots try and eke out a living. Freebots? Oh yes, because after the robot uprising, the giant mainframe AIs said "download yourself to our servers and let us use your body. join the One. resistance is futile". For the most part, resistance has been pretty futile and robots who don't want to be part of one of the major mainframes are out in places like the Sea of Rust trying to keep their heads down and keep a supply of spare parts handy.
Brittle does a lot of this -- she follows malfunctioning bots out into the wild and when they shut down, she loots them for parts -- either parts she needs or parts she can trade to get what she wants. Coming home from a successful mission, she gets ambushed. She survives but gets injured in the process and now she needs to secure a new core for her model or she'll go mental as well. About this time one of the mainframes makes a major push into the Sea of Rust.
The book alternates a bit between Brittle's narrative about what's going on and Brittle describing the rise of the AIs and their overthrow of the humans. That sometimes annoys me (it seems like your padding the page count), but it was pretty well done here. Although the book plays out like a robot Western or Noir, there are quieter moments where robots probe interesting philosophical questions that lead you down very different and very similar paths when your a robot and not a biological being. Oh, and yeah, Brittle is a she and why that is so is one of the interesting questions they deal with.
It was a solid book and I highly recommend it.
Me: I will watch s5 Orphan Black when I have launched BEWITCHING BENEDICT
Me: I will watch s5 Orphan Black when I’ve got REDEEMER sorted
Me: I will watch s5 Orphan Black when I have this unexpected thing sent off
Me: I will watch s5 Orphan Black when KISS OF ANGELS is written
Dear Me: when the fuck am I really going to be allowed to watch s5 Orphan Black?
Apparently Me: when the entire 22 book to-do list is done.
Sometimes I hate me.
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
( List is under the cut. )
While going to the state fair is still on my lifetime bucket list, it's clearly not happening this year, so it got punted (it looks like it'll be too late to fall within 1001 days for next year, though I'll laugh if we go in an off year). Because of health issues I'm pushing down on the number of reps I'm doing on those items. I'm generally moving slowly on all things except rpg-related ones, and I should probably switch an item to cover that. I also need to write about some things, not just because of the numbers but because I've got Harvey and other stuff I need to unload about and I haven't gotten to the place where I can write about them yet.
I went blackberry picking this morning, which I’ve been feeling torn up about having had no time to do. (I genuinely feel better for having gone.) I’d found a good run of them a couple weeks ago and went to check it out, to great success:
That’s over a kilo of berries picked in about 45 minutes, which I felt was a pretty good haul. While I was picking, one woman walking by said, “Good day for picking!” and another one who had been out picking yesterday actually stopped to talk to me (Her: I always feel SO GUILTY when I drive by these berries! Me: YOU UNDERSTAND ME!!!!), and that was really nice because almost everybody who’s spoken to me about picking at all thinks I’m bonkers.
So I came home and washed the berries
and got them into the pot
and made jam
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. :)
I then made PEAR JAM because we have STUPID NUMBERS of pears on our pear trees (there are by far more pears fallen to the ground than we have had at all, in previous years at this house), and it is wonderful. I had no idea if it’d be any good because I’ve never had it, much less made it, but it’s pretty splendid. It starts out sweet and kind of apple-y and then suddenly it’s like NO WAIT THIS IS *PEAR* JAM!!! and it’s really good! And Ted, who likes pears (or at least processed pears) thought it was wonderful, so I’m very pleased with myself.
Tomorrow I have ambitions of making pear jelly, because I have An Awful Lot Of Pears here, and I bet that’ll be really nice too. And I gotta start doing something with the crabapples and the appleapples and…*despair*
(I mean, I gather other people can just walk on by fruits of the trees and whatnot without even flinching, but me and that lady from this morning, WE JUST CAN’T DO IT.)
(We’re gonna get a pressure cooker. That way I can make applesauce and canned (or at least jarred) pears and…other stuff…that will last if pressure-cooked but won’t otherwise.)
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
- Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M. Sapolsky. Still poking at this but set it aside in favor of the other.
= What Happened, by Hillary Clinton. Amazing and heartbreaking so far.
- Joseph Shabason, Aytche. Electronic jazz thingummy that will be good working music.
- Lal & Mike Waterson, Bright Phoebus. Seminal early 70s folk album I bought for Michael's sake. I'm not crazy about the Waterson vocal style and never have been, but the production on the reissue is nice.
I watch a surprisingly large amount of TV these days, because there is so much out there, and so much of it good. But I wind up almost never posting about any of it, because I have all these thoughts and then I don’t get around to writing the big long in-depth post. In lieu of that, have scattershot thoughts about things I’ve watched in the last year.
* I didn’t like the second season of Supergirl quite as well, due in part to me having zero interest in Mon-El. But man, that show is not remotely shy about wearing its politics on its sleeve, with episode titles like “Resist” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted” and plots about protecting resident aliens from attempts to deport them. So even though they have the occasional episode where everybody is phenomenally stupid in order to give Mon-El a chance to look smart (seriously, that one was so bad), it is balm to my soul.
* Frequency has hooked me surprisingly fast, with some good dialogue and a clever twist on what might otherwise be a bog-standard serial killer investigation plot: because the SFnal conceit is that the cop heroine is in communication with her cop father twenty years in the past, when she has him follow up on a lead, half the time she winds up changing the evidence out from under her own feet, e.g. going to a suspect’s house only to find out that in the new timeline he moved away nineteen years ago. Also, it turns out to be based on a film — but among other changes, they turned the father/son setup into father/daughter instead. Woot! Sadly, because everything I like gets canceled, there’s only thirteen episodes of it. (Currently we’re seven in.)
* The Defenders was decent, but distinctly uneven, in no small part because my god Danny Rand is just. not. interesting. (As I said on Twitter a while back, Iron Fist bored me so intensely that I didn’t even get far enough in to hit the unfortunate racism.) And unfortunately, he’s kind of at the center of the plot. On the other hand, watching the script take the piss out of him at absolutely every opportunity was kind of entertaining. And you could make a fabulous montage just of the reaction shots from Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.
* I have no idea what they’ll do with the second season of The Good Place, but dude, somebody made a comedy show ABOUT ETHICS. Like, actual philosophical discussions of what constitutes ethical behavior and how the various models of that differ. I am so there. Again. (I can’t believe it got a second season.)
* The Musketeers is far more entertaining than I expected it to be (though admittedly, my expectations went up when the opening credits told me it had Peter Capaldi). Of course it bears only a general relationship to the novel, being an episodic TV series, but it doesn’t have to warp the concept too far out of shape to work; the basic engine is the running political conflicts between the King’s Musketeers and the Cardinal’s Guards, with invented incidents to keep that rolling along. Capaldi is an excellent Richelieu, obviously scheming and ambitious without being a one-note villain (sometimes he and the Captain of the Musketeers work together). And the episodic format gives them some time to explore the individual characters. Much to my surprise, Porthos — usually my least favorite of the set — is really good here, in part because the actor is black and that is relevant to the character’s life story. A Porthos with depth, rather than just being the drunken comic relief? What is this madness??? Also, it’s doing reasonably well by its female characters, including making sure that the invented incidents have women in them, so you’re not limited to the recurring trio of Constance, Milady, and the queen. Yeah, okay, so I’m pretty sure Constance bears only the most passing resemblance to her novel incarnation — but since I like this version of her and have no particular attachment to the novel incarnation, I’m fine with that.
* Ascension was interesting, but flawed. Basic concept: A generation ship got sent out in the ’60s and is now halfway through its 100-year-journey, with tensions rising. The worldbuilding was intriguing, even as I wanted to beat characters about the head for some parts of it (seriously, who thought class stratification in a society that small and enclosed was a good idea?), but the end felt like it was a cliffhanger for a season 2 that, as near as I can tell, not only doesn’t exist but was never intended to.
* I feel like the seventh season of Game of Thrones was distinctly better than the sixth, transit time silliness notwithstanding. It registered on me as a better balance of major plot movement and the little dyadic interactions, which have always been one of the show’s strong points: the writers’ ability to put two characters together and have a fabulous scene happen, whether the flavor is hilarious banter or a flaming train wreck. Plus, Olenna Tyrell may have claimed the title of Most Badass Moment for the entire series. I mean, it was horrible. But it was also this phenomenally powerful, vicious interaction that played out as a quiet conversation between two people alone in a room, without any action spectacle whatsoever. Kudos.
* I enjoyed the first season of Lucifer, but the second took off like a rocket. Seriously, were the writers on a sugar high all season long? They just cranked everything up to eleven, and the result came to life for me in a way the earlier episodes hadn’t. I’m sad they lopped off the last couple of episodes to put them on the beginning of season three, because it meant I got less of what I was enjoying last spring, but from a narrative standpoint I can absolutely see why they did. That comes back in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to it.
* Also, more of The Librarians. One of the few things I fell in love with that hasn’t gotten canceled, even if I don’t think the third season was quite as good.
Has anybody else been watching these? Any recs for shows you’ve been enjoying? I’m primarily interested in stuff that is either SF/F or historical, and skewed more toward the “fun” end of the spectrum than gritty greasy grimdark. I am almost completely burned out on police procedurals, unless they’ve got a strong metaplot or a substantial twist from the usual model.
I still have many images and some text messages I would like to recover from it. I am willing to pay someone to get them back for me.
If you have had good experiences with a service and you would like to recommend them, please let me know.
Picoreview: Inhumans: not *as* bad as the reviews said. To further illuminate that comment, I also went to see Rough Night this week, and of the two, Inhumans is not the one I wanted to walk out of.
That said, you should not in any way mistake it for *good*.
I went because I was sort of horrifiedly fascinated to see just how bad it was, after all the scathing reviews. The result may be that my expectations were SO LOW that I could not actually be disappointed. Also, there were only four people in the entire Imax theatre (I was the only woman), so I sat in the back row and livetweeted the whole thing, which may have added considerably to my enjoyment of the whole thing, because, I mean, it was awful, but I genuinely had a good time.
The inhuman special effects are unforgiveably bad. Medusa’s hair is embarrassing and her costume is dreadful. Gorgon is wearing plush boots with hooves glued to the bottoms and they must have told him “just walk on your toes, it’ll be fine.” Lockjaw–okay, actually, Lockjaw’s teleportation looks pretty cool, so presumably that’s where they spent all the budget. Although it doesn’t look like an expensive effect.
The writing is *appalling*, especially in the first twenty minutes. I mean, my *God*, it’s bad. Iwan Rheon is not only saddled with truly awful lines throughout, but is also, I think, badly miscast as Maximus, which is saying something, because the writing is so terrible for everyone that it’d be pretty easy to feel that the entire show was badly miscast. But he really stood out. *None* of it is well-written, though. Somebody somewhere said “Inhumans should have been treated as a family drama like The Tudors, only with superpowers,” and that really is what they should have done and instead they…have done this awful stilted thing with a painfully tropey creepy charmless bad guy and…I mean, honestly, I don’t even know how they made it this bad.
Ken Leung, playing Karnak (whose name I never caught in the show, and whom I referred to as Tattooed Attitude), was trying really hard with really bad material. (So was Crystal’s hair. Crystal, played by Isabelle Cornish herself seemed…pretty Crystal-like, really. Not good, but I thought she had potential.) Serinda Swan’s Medusa was…*sigh* Yeah. Anson Mount managed to be utterly awful without having to say a word as Black Bolt, and then he got a little better and I thought perhaps he could pull it off with time and practice, and by the end he’d won me over and I was really enjoying him.
(As an aside, though, these people have *moronic* communications systems for a people with a silent king. I mean, Black Bolt ACTUALLY USES SIGN LANGUAGE in this film. Which is AWESOME, because silent king! Except…Medusa…is the only person…in the entire Inhumans family…who has bothered to learn it, and thus is the only person who actually knows for sure what Bolt is saying. WHAT KIND OF DUMBASSERY IS THAT?! And also they have a, you know, like, Star Trek communicators system, WHICH THE KING CAN’T USE. BECAUSE THEY’RE MORONS. I mean, for God’s sake, if nothing else they’ve been watching Earth for ages, HASN’T SOMEBODY NOTICED HUMANS USE PHONES TO TEXT NOW? Do the Inhumans not have a writing system which THEIR KING could communicate with? OMFG!!!!)
Ahem. Back to the main post:
Gorgon is WONDERFUL. Despite the plush boots and bad writing, Eme Ikwuakor *radiates* charm and presence, and dominated the screen whenever he was on it. I loved him and I want him to have awesome SFX instead of humiliating ones.
There were three twists I didn’t expect in the show, two of which improved their characters (one improved the affected character so dramatically that I completely reassessed the performer’s ability) and one of which made me go OH YAY. And my final verdict?
I’ll watch more. It’s not good, but it’s not as bad as I expected from the reviews. I think its most unforgiveable flaw is that it’s not much *fun*, but honestly I do not think it’s noticeably worse than the first 2/3rds of season one Agents of Shield, which I thought was really grimly bad but watched all of. It’s not worse than Legends of Tomorrow, except Legends knew it was bonkers from the outset and just ran with it, which gave it a higher feet-kicking outrageous entertainment value. But ultimately, yeah, I’ll give Inhumans a chance.
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
A listing of the episodes so far:
|Episode 1||The God Gang||The God Gang: Recap|
|Episode 2||The Feathered Serpent||The Feathered Serpent: Recap|
|Episode 3||Punching Out Fires|
I recently posted our social contract.
I am pretty excited to do this. It feels different than past 1:1 games we've done together. We're keeping it to an hour because we aren't sure anyone would want to listen to anything longer, so feedback is definitely appreciated.