rushthatspeaks: (altarwise)
2017-09-16 03:46 am

Derek Jarman's The Last of England

Derek Jarman is probably my favorite film director-- the only serious competition is Ulrike Ottinger-- and in several of his books he speaks about The Last of England (1987) as his masterpiece, which of course means it's the one of his films that is impossible to get for love or money, especially if you live in the U.S..

The Brattle just screened it as part of their currently ongoing Tilda Swinton festival. Tilda Swinton, very young at the time, turned out to play England. (I probably should have expected that, but somehow I didn't.)*

He was quite right about it being a masterpiece, and, again as I should have expected from Jarman, it has had me thinking very hard about the nature and purpose of art ever since.

The Last of England is definitely a movie. It's a post-apocalyptic dystopia shot entirely using the decay of the civil infrastructure present in Thatcher's England, and I could identify a narrative-- a pair of brothers, one of whom is subverted by his attempts to subvert a balaclava-wearing, machine-gun-toting agent of the state, so that their romance causes him to wind up in a mask with a gun himself, and the other of whom winds up shot by said state agents-- and there are a lot of interesting allusions to other works of art (the opening narration at one point quotes Howl and then veers crashingly into T. S. Eliot in what is either complete literary blasphemy or the way that line was always meant to end, possibly both).** There's a year-king thing, kind of, except he doesn't get up again, and the childhood of the brothers is portrayed using home videos from Jarman's own childhood, which is fascinating because his parents were among the latest chronologically of the dyed-in-the-wool servants of the British Raj and it shows. There's a vitriolic intellectual critique of just about everything about the concepts "England" and "British".

But the thing that had me reeling and trying desperately mentally to cope is that above all, and with absolute intentionality, The Last of England is not a movie. It is a curse.

I have spent a lot of time considering evil and its relationship, if any, to art, because I try to create art myself and I feel it is a responsible thing for any artist to consider. I could get into a long digression about what I believe about evil and what I don't, but suffice it to say I do believe in evil, and the principle way I have seen evil interact with art is that subset of art which actively attempts to harm the audience, for no reason other than that it can. That sort of art can do a great deal of damage, if one runs into it at the wrong time. The other major way I have seen evil interact with art is art that is promulgating an ideology of evil, a set of beliefs which make the world decidedly worse, such as the racism of D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.

I had never contemplated what I would think of a piece of art which is definitively opposed to an evil ideology-- Thatcherism, fascism, totalitarianism-- and which is doing everything in its power to harm, to hurt, to wreak havoc on, to destroy, and, if possible, to damn in the Biblical sense-- a set of people who are not the viewer.

When I say curse I mean it in a very old way. I mean that Derek Jarman was a great scholar, and he knew more about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century magic and alchemy than most academics, and he knew more about English witch-lore than any other authority I have ever encountered. And I don't know nearly as much about either as he did, but I know enough that this movie consistently raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I am... not quite sure that there is an attempt in and by this film to summon a specifically demonic presence. They may have been aiming for neutral. Or for angelic, and... missed, but I doubt that. I don't mean summoning in an obvious way, it's not like there are pentagrams on the floor, quite. It's done with light and fire and movement and the visual invocation of archetypes. It's done with dance and cross-dressing and other very careful costume.

And it's the precise kind of anger and pain turned into hatred that would cause a pastor to make serious inquiries as to the state of one's soul, and which might cause less theologically minded persons to mutter things about the abyss gazing back. Which is a concern Jarman eyes, and then discards, because this ideology, this thing that had happened to England under the rule of Thatcher and those around her, was to him worth that kind of hatred. And I think he came out of it all right as a human being and an artist himself, because he was objectively correct about that. But possibly only because he was objectively correct about that. The anger and pain and hatred here were so lacerating, so gorgeously done, so implacable and so beautiful that I kept wanting to hide, and it wasn't even aimed at me, he kept throwing in things to remind the audience that it isn't directed at us and honestly that does not help all that much.

Because with that sort of curse witnessing it is part of what drives it and makes it active.

I spent much of the film with some part of my mind trying to figure out if I thought it was moral to do this, to make this thing. Then I came down firmly and forever on the side that it is, because Tilda Swinton came in and played England.

We initially see Swinton's character in the memories of the one of the brothers who gets executed. She's wearing a sundress, and she's sitting in a field full of so many daffodils that it cannot read as naturalistic, even though, unlike most of the rest of the movie, the scene is shot in natural colors. She's his idealized love, that he won't ever be coming back to, and she's England itself, in both nurturing and colonialist aspects. "Don't be sad," we hear her say matter-of-factly as the bullets strike him: John Barleycorn is, after all, dead. She comes in next in full wedding dress and bridal veil, surrounded by attendants who are large and burly men dressed pretty much as Marie Antoinette, wedding a placeholder of a groom (the camera never focuses on his face) in a burned-out, rubble-strewn wreck of an industrial hangar. No dialogue, just the movements of the wedding, jerky smiles, everyone congratulating everybody else, Swinton eying a pram with an odd mixture of fear and longing. Earlier iconography has made it clear that the pram, though it does, of course, represent a baby, should also be taken to represent not a baby, but a cathexis of other ideas around fear and change and darkness.

And then we cut to Tilda Swinton outside, alone, by the water, by what looks like an industrial canal. There's a fire burning in an oil barrel next to her, a bonfire. She has scissors, and she tries to hack her way out of the wedding dress. It does not want to go. (It's really a lovely dress, by the way, in legitimately good taste, with about sixteen layers of veiling.) She rips at it with her fingers. She claws. She bites off parts of it. And these motions, without ever quite ceasing, turn themselves into a dance.

A line from a short story by Tanith Lee was running through my head during this scene, and it's still the only thing that comes to mind as anything resembling an adequate description: "... when she danced, a gate seemed to open in the world, and bright fire spangled inside it, but she was the fire."***

Have you ever seen something so transcendentally beautiful that you don't know how to think about it?

It's not just that this is the best thing Tilda Swinton has ever done on film, though it is, by such a distance that it's difficult to fathom. It's that I suspect it's one of the best things anyone has ever done on film. I am not exaggerating. Watching it is the kind of experience where you don't come away as exactly the same person.

Which she did, in full knowledge, in the service of Derek Jarman's curse.

All right, then. I consider it a moral action. Those few minutes are, by themselves, sufficient justification, and I don't see how the two of them, Jarman and Swinton, Tilda and Derek, could possibly have produced those few minutes out of hatred unless the hatred itself-- well-- to some degree contained within it all of that. Magical curses are, all the books say, perilous things, liable to come back on the caster unless their motives are completely pure. I have to take that dance as demonstration of impeccably pure motivations. I can't see what else it could be.

There are a lot of interesting things about this movie that I haven't even mentioned, of course. I finally understand why Jarman hated Peter Greenaway so much, because it turns out that for Prospero's Books, years later on, Greenaway swiped the aesthetic of some bits at the beginning of this movie that are set in Jarman's actual house and have Jarman playing himself. In fact, Greenaway even swiped Jarman's handwriting for use in his page overlays on the screen. I can see being upset by that. I would have been, too.

And there's the way almost all of the soundtrack is classical, except when it very much isn't. And the way that Jarman on several occasions intercuts between two separate scenes so quickly that persistence of vision forces you to believe that you are somehow watching both of them at the same time (well, and you get rather nauseated, which I don't think could be helped). And there's a scene with a man eating a cauliflower that totally defies all description; never had I imagined such a thing could be done with an innocent cruciferous vegetable. It's not remotely sexual. I'd almost prefer if it was.

But I've summed up the major things I've been pondering since watching the movie, and also it's five in the morning, so. A masterpiece. You should absolutely see it. But be wary.






* It occurs to me only now, writing this, that Swinton's role as both an allegorical England and a theoretically real young woman is an homage to Anna Magnani's stunning performance as the city of Rome in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Mamma Roma (1962). Somehow, all of the critical writing I have encountered on Mamma Roma fails to realize that she is the entire city incarnate and it gets shoved in with Pasolini's Neo-Realist period, which I am starting to think he never actually had. But I digress.

** I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness starving hysterical naked not with a bang but with a whimper

*** From Tanith Lee's "When The Clock Strikes". Worth noting that the character described has sold herself to Satan, and is also the agent of promulgating a curse.
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
2017-09-15 02:30 am

Fox update

At one day shy of eleven months, Fox is definitely both walking and talking.

Over the last few weeks, the walking has gone from very determined cruising to one or two steps without falling down to chains of three or four steps connected by moments of serious arm waving, or squatting and standing back up again. They don't really fall down at all, and never have, but they would sometimes cease forward motion. Now we've just gotten to walking across a room, and I haven't seen them crawl in several days. They also climb much better-- can get onto the back rail of the futon, or actively pull themself up onto my shoulder when I'm sitting on the futon. They don't seem to distinguish yet between standing on/climbing on somebody and standing on/climbing on inanimate objects. We need to give them a real shot at stairs sometime here, as there aren't any in our house and they could probably use the practice.

The talking... I guess many people's first words are... more readily distinguishable? I mean, either Fox has been talking for like a week, or Fox has been talking since about April, and I legitimately do not know. They've been saying 'Hiiiiii' to people all along, literally since birth, and they've been saying 'Ma! Ma!' to Ruth and 'Da! Da!' to me and 'At! At!' to the cats for some months, but they also said those syllables to things that aren't me or Ruth or the cats. I just wasn't able to tell babble from intentional speech, and I don't really think there was a way to.

However, what we're getting now is Fox saying 'Ma! Ma!' at Ruth in the morning when they want Ruth to get out of bed and feed them, which is pretty clearly intentional, and they say 'At!' when they see a picture of a cat in any of their books. (I haven't seen them hold a book upside down in a couple of weeks, either. Something about pictures has clicked.) Also today they hugged me and then put the final d on 'Dad' for the first time, which was just as heart-melting as I could possibly have imagined. We've also had 'Es' for a while, which means general agreement, though, and this fascinates me, we have nothing even vaguely resembling no as a word, just yelling. And 'Ba' means ball or book, but 'Ba' in a different tone means bottle; I can't really duplicate this but can hear the difference clearly.

I haven't heard them babble any of the phonemes yet that would allow them to use the names of various grandparents or their third parent, and we're all actually pretty sure they consider their third parent's name too hard right now, given the timing of various looks of frustration.

Their favorite toy right now is the photo album Ruth got them with pictures of extended family, friends, and various significant occasions in their own life, which they will pore over with devoted concentration for long stretches of time. They haven't liked an object so much since they first noticed their mobile at five months. Sometimes we'll go through and say again who various people are and what the event was, though I have no idea if they remotely have or can have the idea yet of a picture of themself.

They do have the idea now of doorknobs, but not the reach. I have seen them try to follow somebody out the door by going over and batting at the knob from below. So far they are about as good at this as our smarter cat, and I devoutly hope those two never team up. I will also be shocked if Fox doesn't start climbing over baby gates rather sooner than us parent-types would like, although at least we have one more level to lower their mattress inside its enclosure if they start getting out of their bed anytime soon.

Solid food clicked some while back, and while they're still having four or five large bottles a day, they also eat two or three solid meals, things like mango puree, applesauce, avocado, yogurt, Cheerios, and/or semisolid oat cereal. Sometimes we mix some of those together. We also give them bits of what we're eating, though we're trying to avoid large quantities of sugar and salt till they're past a year old. They have two and a half teeth, the bottom front two and one I think I see lurking partially emerged in the back bottom left. They can drink through a straw, and they can drink from a sippy cup and, actually, from a regular cup, though I don't let them very often because after they drink from it they'll just toss it down like they do the bottle.

We have never cut their hair, because that's a decision they'll be able to make for themself in not all that long, so they strongly resemble a Beatle, or possibly an emo rocker circa 2004. Putting a barrette across the bangs works until they take it out and try to eat it. Pigtails actually work but are not remotely my aesthetic preference. Fortunately they don't seem to mind hair in their face-- I've never seen them push at it or get frustrated with it.

Ruth took them to a baby swimming class over at MIT for a while, so we now have some notion of how to work with a swim diaper and how to interact with an infant in the water, which is great because we're going to the beach next month.

And their first birthday approaches apace, though milestone-wise-- toddler. I'd say we have a toddler.
rushthatspeaks: (signless: be that awesome)
2017-09-10 01:34 am

holy fuck

Okay, I have to link to the most impressive human feat of anything I've seen in quite a while:

A Delta flight successfully makes the NYC-San Juan-NYC run in the teeth of Hurricane Irma.

They flew out between the arm of the hurricane and the body of the storm. Intentionally. Because their dispatching called it correctly. The flight spent only fifty-two minutes on the ground at SJU, and left fully loaded.

There are some pilots, ground crew, dispatchers, and tower staff there who I devoutly hope never have to buy their own drinks in a bar ever again. I would not have believed that was possible.

Things must have been extremely tense for the ticketed passengers; it takes some guts to get on a plane that's pulling that kind of maneuver. Whoof.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
2017-08-20 11:51 pm

Boston counterprotest

I went to the Boston counterprotest against the so-called 'free speech' (actually Confederates and neo-Nazis) rally on Saturday for a couple of hours. The energy was good, and there were a lot of people-- the radio said maybe fifty thousand counterprotestors and fifty or so Nazis, so we may literally have outnumbered them one thousand to one. The common was about as full as it was during the Womens' March, because people weren't as spread out marching; there were areas that were elbow-to-elbow and then areas where nothing much was going on and you could walk around.

There were of course many, many signs. I took one Ruth made with a graphic we got off Twitter, one of those red barred circles that mean NO over a glyph that combines a swastika and the number 45 so you can read it both ways. The person next to me on the T on the way over was also carrying a sign, so we started talking, and it turned out, completely coincidentally, that she is presently enrolled at the small liberal arts college my wife and I both went to, which is several states away. She had come up for the occasion. It was nice to have somebody there to have my back, since none of my family could make it.

We had been worried on the train about how things would go, but there were thorough barricades and we basically couldn't even see the actual Nazi types, let alone physically interact with them. Every so often one of them would break out a Confederate flag or something like that, at which point the police would immediately confiscate it. One of them got perp-walked away while I was there, but I didn't see what for. The police presence was huge and, while I was there, generally polite to us counterprotestors, although I understand they got more annoyed later. I have to say, the sirens that bike cops use are among the silliest things I have heard in quite a while, like putting a real police siren through a filter marked 'Yakkity Sax'.

There was one dude wandering around shouting about how he wanted to [insert violence and sexual profanity] Trump and Trump's children, but everybody he came near was shouting back at him to just shut up and go home. I couldn't tell his ethnicity beyond 'not white', but he was also wearing a hat with the Washington Racists' logo-- I mean their real logo-- and the crowd was not having with that either. So it was uncomfortable when he wandered by, but the crowd very clearly was not on his side and was not going to let him harass any individual people.

The most intense things got is that somebody set fire to a swastika flag, I believe with a blowtorch. It burned very hot and fast, to intense cheers, and produced a lot of smoke, but I think it had gone out entirely by the time the cops arrived-- it had clearly been timed for when the bike patrol was circling around the other end of the Common. At any rate, I don't believe anyone was arrested in connection with that.

I am proud of my city about this one. A lot of people in the crowd were worried about violence, I was worried about violence, my train-met friend was worried, and that worry was explicitly why we had to be there. Because no. We refuse to give up when things get scary.

It was a good counterprotest.
rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
2017-07-26 03:06 pm

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

I haven't reviewed anything here in far, far too long, and I certainly didn't think this book would be the thing to push me into wanting to write something. However. At Readercon, I picked up the new collection of Ursula K. Le Guin essays, Words Are My Matter, of which this is not a review because I am nowhere near finishing it, and I noticed that there are three separate essays on H. G. Wells. Three! This is not unique, in the structure of the book-- there are also three separate essays on José Saramago-- but that makes more sense to me, because Saramago, you know, Nobel laureate, relatively recent death, work in an interesting position vis-à-vis speculative fiction as a genre, there are some conversations to be had there that seem very much in Le Guin's chosen critical milieu. But H. G. Wells! Hasn't everything been said already?

Then it occurred to me that I, personally, had not read any Wells since the age of eight or nine, when I'd read The Time Machine and found it pretty and confusing, and then hit The War of the Worlds and found it extremely upsetting and went away again. So I went back. The Time Machine is indeed very pretty, though far less confusing to an older person. The Island of Dr. Moreau turned out to be the most vicious piece of theological criticism I have encountered in years, and an actual novel with things like character dimensionality to boot, as well as such an obvious influence on Lovecraft that I was shocked I hadn't heard that mentioned before. And then I got to The War of the Worlds.

It turns out the reason I found it very upsetting at eight or nine was because it is very upsetting, and at that age I had no context for or capacity to handle the ways in which it is upsetting.

We all know the basic plot: Martians invade, humans are technologically overpowered and defeated, Martians eventually drop dead because of Earth's microbiota. The novel came out in 1898, after having been serialized the year before, and has been dramatized and redramatized and ripped off and remade so often and so thoroughly that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The original novel, however, is notable in intellectual history not just for the archetype of the merciless and advanced alien invaders, but because it is an ice-cold prevision of the nightmares of the twentieth century. The phrase 'concentration camp' had already been coined, c. late 1860s by the Spanish in Cuba, though it would not become widely known by the English-speaking public until the Boer War, which Wells' novel just predates; that phrase is the only part of the vocabulary of future war to which Wells could have had access, and the phrase does not appear in the novel. Here are some of the concepts that do, without, as yet, any names: Genocide. Total war. Gas attack. Blitzkrieg. Extermination camp. Shellshock/PTSD. (Also, on a slightly different note, airplane.)

Wells' vision of war was ruthless, efficiently technological, distanced from the reader of the time only by the fact that the perpetrators were incomprehensible aliens. But he does not let you rely on the comforting myth that it would take an alien to perpetrate these atrocities, as perhaps the book's worst scene, in terms of sheer grueling terror and pain, is the sequence in which six million people attempt to evacuate London on no notice, with no overall organization, no plans, and the train as the most modern form of transportation. The Martians are miles away from that, literally. The only thing Wells spares you is the actual numbers of the death toll... but you can get an informed idea.

And, just in case you happen to believe that people (as opposed to aliens) are too good at heart for this sort of warfare, this novel is also a savage theological takedown*, in which the idea of humanity as the center of a cosmos created by a benevolent God is repeatedly stomped on by the sheer plausibility of the nightmare, the cold hard logistics of enemy approach + insanely destructive new bombing technology = frantic evacuation and a military rout. The priests and churchmen in War of the Worlds generally go insane**; their philosophical framework has left them ill-equipped to handle the new reality. Wells is displaying humanity as a species of animal, no more nor less privileged existentially than other sorts of animal, who may be treated by a sufficiently technological other animal in the way that humans often treat ants. He explicitly uses ants as the comparison.

This is where I noticed something fascinating. War of the Worlds has the most peculiar version of protagonist-centered morality that I have ever encountered: only the protagonist and his nearest and dearest are allowed to perform moral actions that are not shown in aggregate.

Everyone else either does good as a faceless mass, or neutral-to-evil at close proximity. The military, as a force, is allowed to act against the Martians, which is seen by definition as moral, but they are at a distance from the novel's viewpoint such that they don't emerge as people while they are fighting-- we meet an occasional refugee from a destroyed division, but we don't see people giving orders, taking orders, firing weapons. When the ramship Thunder Child attacks two Martians at close range in order to save shipping in the Channel evacuation-- a sequence distressingly like Dunkirk, only in the opposite direction and sixty years early-- it's one of the few acts of heroism and selflessness in the novel that actually works, and it's the ship personified who takes the action. Here's the middle of the fight:

"She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard."***

Notice how there are no humans, individual or otherwise, even mentioned here. And this is the high point of the book as far as moral action taken, a direct self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Individual people range from the curate who hears the narrator calling for water "for hours" and doesn't bring him any to the men whom the narrator's brother finds in the process of robbing two ladies and has to fight off at gunpoint. Even most mob action is inimical, including things like the looting of shops and the literal trampling underfoot of the weak.

The narrator and his brother, however, mostly behave as one would hope to behave in a catastrophe. They are constantly picking up strays, helping total strangers pack to evacuate, fighting off muggers, attempting to assist the trampled, sharing their provisions with others, etc.. They are the only people in the book who do this sort of thing-- every other individual (except a couple of the strays, who are there to be rescued and get in the way) is out for themselves and can, at very best, be bought with cash on the barrel at a high price.

Now, it's not that the narrator and his brother are saints. They're fully developed, three-dimensional, relatively decent people. The brother participates in the looting of a bike shop, refuses water to a dying man for fear of putting his own people in danger, and fails to rescue anyone from the relentless trample. The narrator may well kill a man to save his own life, and certainly aids and abets the murder if he does not strike the final blow (it's impossible to find out exactly when the man dies or what specifically killed him).

The odd thing is that nobody else has any of their virtues. No one else is picking up strays; no one who isn't under military orders to do it is knocking on doors to begin the evacuation; no one is giving away food and water; no one except the military is attempting to place themselves between those they love and danger. In short, there is none of the kind of everyday, tiny, sometimes futile heroism that the twentieth century has shown us is almost impossible to beat out of humans entirely.

Now, I think this is intentional, as part of Wells's argument: the Martians have broken the human social order as if it were an anthill, and none of the ants has any idea what to do anymore. It's part of the demystification of humanity's place in the cosmos and the insistence on our nature as intelligent animals.

However, I think it skews the thought experiment in two ways: firstly, the narrator (and the only other POV character, the brother) have to be decent enough that we as readers are willing to read a book from their perspectives, and in 1898 that was harder than it is now. "Probably murdered somebody who wasn't a villain or an enemy combatant, and is never punished for it in any way except by vague remorse" is a pretty radical stance for a first-person narrator in an English novel of that period, and Wells has to talk us round into considering this a sympathetic or at least justifiable stance by having the narrator be in most other ways a flat-out hero. I don't think this does too much damage to his argument, as the resemblance of the narrator to other hero-types of the period makes Wells's more radical premises easier to communicate than they would otherwise be. It's not the presence of altruism in the narrator that is the major way the experiment is skewed.

It's the absence of altruism in others, as shown by the work of Rebecca Solnit, the memoirs of Primo Levi, the oral histories of the camp survivors of several cultures: one reason The War of the Worlds is so very upsetting is that its events are more unmitigatedly depressing than the same circumstances would be in real life. One of the wisest men of the twentieth century, Fred Rogers, said that in tough situations you should look for the helpers (and somewhere elsenet I saw the corollary, which I think Mr. Rogers considered implicit but which could use unpacking anyway, that if you cannot find them, the helpers had better be you). In The War of the Worlds there are no helpers at all, except what little the narrator and his brother can manage. We have actual science now about the way people form communities in catastrophe; we have innumerable anecdotes from the worst places and times in the world about those who in small ways, quietly, do what they can for others with what they have. It's not that Wells was wrong about us being animals, about trying to knock us off the pedestal that insists that everything was made for humanity and we are the only important beings. It's that while we are a social animal, we are a social animal on the micro-level as well as on the macro, and we have now seen that the micro-level does not have to be limited to immediate biological family, because the bonds of catastrophe can cause, and in fact seem to produce, some amount, tiny though it may be, of genuinely altruistic behavior.

When I happened to say to [personal profile] nineweaving that I was in the middle of a Wells re/read, she promptly replied with a couplet from a comic verse she had memorized as a child: "H. G. Wells / Creates new hells."

Which is true. His Martian invasion, the twentieth century through a glass darkly, is right up there on the list of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, not because of the Martians, but because none of the humans are outright villains. Some of them are insane, and some are annoying, and many are behaving in ways unconducive to long-term survival, and all of them are terrified; but you believe in them not only as individuals but as a plausible set of people for the narrator to run into in the middle of a war. It's only after thinking about it for quite a while afterwards that I noticed how neatly Wells had removed the capacity for altruism from his secondary characters. The Martians are frightening and cool and interesting (and clearly described as being drawn by H. R. Giger, which has not made it into any of the adaptations I've seen), but I think one reason this particular nightmare has lasted so long and clung so thoroughly in the back of our heads is that it would take recreating these terrible catastrophes in almost every particular to prove him wrong about the essentials of human nature and the ways people would behave in these circumstances. That's part of the book's appalling genius.

The thing is, though-- we did.

And he is.



* albeit not as much of one as Moreau, which is saying something

** that classical nineteenth-century insanity in which they rant and rave and chew the furniture, i.e. nothing you can find in the DSM, and therefore I just use 'insane' as I am not sure there is a less aggravating descriptor for this particular literary trope

*** Via Project Gutenberg's HTML copy
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-07-12 09:36 pm

My Readercon Schedule

I don't expect to make the convention Thursday evening.

Friday July 14

6:00 PM 6 Terrible... but Great. Lila Garrott (leader), Bart Leib, Natalie Luhrs, Sonya Taaffe, Vinnie Tesla. Our panelists muse on books that are really bad but in an amazing way! Genevieve Valentine's term "shitmazing" may be appropriate here. What makes something both terrible and great? Are these works worth analyzing and perhaps even emulating, or do they exist simply to be enjoyed (if that's the word) on their own merits (if that's the word)?

This should be fun. Anybody else remember Lauren Baratz-Logsted's Crazy Beautiful (HOOKS FOR HANDS), or John Boyd's The Pollinators of Eden (KILLER SEXY PSYCHIC SPACE TULIPS)?


7:00 PM C The Works of Tanith Lee. Lila Garrott, Sonya Taaffe, Emily Wagner. Tanith Lee (1947-2015) was a supremely talented writer who worked in numerous genres and forms. She wrote children’s novels (The Dragon Hoard (1971)), Vancian fantasy (the five-novel Tales from the Flat Earth series), historical romance (The Gods Are Thirsty (1996)), fantasy/horror (The Book of the Damned (1988)), science fiction (the four-novel Birthgrave series), thriller/horror (the three-novel Blood Opera series), far-future science fiction (the Drinking Sapphire Wine duology), and more, including erotica, Gothic romance, and straightforward horror. Lee was clever, manipulating genre tropes and clichés in skillful and unusual ways. Lee was poetic, writing of everything from sex to childhood in lyrical fashion. And she was prolific, writing over one hundred novels and collections. She was twice nominated for the Nebula Award, ten times for the World Fantasy (winning twice), and six times for the British Fantasy Award (winning once), and was given the Grand Master Award from at the World Horror Convention in 2009 and the Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013. As critic John Clute wrote, "Lee encompassed every genre of the fantastic... with supple attentiveness and an ongoing exuberance of invention which transcends... genre constraints." Join us to celebrate her work.

I wrote the entry on Lee in The Encyclopedia of Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is one of the more random line items on my resume. I always enjoy talking about Tanith Lee.


Saturday July 15

2:00 PM C Lines of Consent in Fiction. Samuel R. Delany, N.S. Dolkart, Lila Garrott, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Josh Jasper. In science fiction and fantasy, consent is often handled in fuzzy, imprecise ways. Obvious scenarios of non-consent, such as the enslaved house elves in the Harry Potter books, are easily identified as problematic, but less is said about magical destiny that compels an ordinary person to become a hero; inherited magic, rank, or family feuds that empower or endanger a character without their consent; soul mates, who are forced to love and be attracted to each other; werewolves compelled to change shape under the full moon; and other strictures that are so common we've come to take them for granted. This panel will discuss work that either explicitly deals with consent or appears oblivious to its relevance, and will explore the writer's responsibility when placing characters in a scenario (or plot) that hinges on questionable consent or non-consent. Content note: this panel may explicitly discuss violations of consent and their consequences. For the purposes of this panel, trigger warnings and content notes are assumed to be valuable tools that assist the reader.

I haven't seen a convention have this panel before. It's an important panel. Let's hope we can do it right-- given the lineup, I should think so.


3:30 PM B Reading: Lila Garrott. Lila Garrott. Lila Garrott reads an excerpt from their novel-in-progress, The Journeyers.

PLEASE COME YOU'LL LIKE IT. The book is very hard to describe, especially since it's not like I've sat down and tried to write a blurb for it yet, but I promise it is enjoyable.


Sunday July 16

12:00 PM 6 Disturbed by Her Song: Gender, Queerness, and Sexuality in the Works of Tanith Lee. Steve Berman (moderator), Lila Garrott, Sonya Taaffe. Memorial Guest of Honor Tanith Lee thoroughly explored gender, queerness, and sexuality in her fiction, creating cultural pansexuality in the Flat Earth series and queering history in the Lambda Award–winning Disturbed by Her Song. Lee wrote lush, sensitive, poetic prose about people unrestricted by gender roles or cultural norms, and she did it for forty years. Were there any missteps along that span? Does her “channeled” writing as spectral lesbian author Esther Garber (and Esther's pansexual half-brother, Judas Garbah) stand out from the greater body of her sexually charged work? How did she handle her portrayals of trans people and their sexuality? Our panelists will discuss queer themes, sexual exploration, and sexual fluidity in Lee's work.


1:00 PM 5 Clothes Make the Story. S.A. Chakraborty, John Chu, Lila Garrott, Kathleen Jennings, Shariann Lewitt. Costuming says a great deal about era, wealth, status, and taboo in both the setting of a work and the time and place where that work was created. It's frequently discussed in the context of visual media, but costuming can be just as important in literature, and it's a vital part of worldbuilding for speculative works. This panel will dig into the implications of clothing choices in speculative fiction, how they age as the work ages, how they interact with diverse readers' expectations around concepts such as modesty and gender, and their use as signposts to help the reader understand how to approach the created world.

An astonishing amount of post-modernist theory centers around clothing, and I'd like to see that transfer to the conversation of SFF. Lo, Barthes did not Fashion System in vain.


2:00 PM 5 Imagining a New Normativity. Lila Garrott, Shariann Lewitt, Alena McNamara, Tui Sutherland. In the varied settings of fantasy and science fiction, writers have an opportunity to model characters who don't make familiar assumptions related to personal characteristics such as gender, sexuality, politics, race, and religion. Some speculative worlds have new defaults, such as the setting of Rose Lemberg's "Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds," in which women are expected to form families with other women; in others, the default is to make no assumption at all, as in the world of full gender parity in Tanya Huff's Quarters series. This panel will explore some of the new norms of recent works, and discuss techniques for writers interested in creating worlds with new notions of normativity.

An object perpendicular to another object is said to be normal to it. This is pretty much how I feel about the concept of "mainstream"-- perpendicular. My day-to-day life, meanwhile, is apparently so unimaginable that the details of it don't come up in art, which is ridiculous.


Also I will be around generally, and [personal profile] gaudior and Fox will be there on Sunday, though I'm not sure yet at what time or for how long.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you there!
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
2017-06-18 04:33 pm

Fox update

Fox has just turned eight months old.

They are mobile. Oh, so, so mobile. They move very, very fast. Also, they went straight from crawling to working extremely hard at being vertical. Behaviors we have observed include standing on their own for a couple of seconds without holding onto anything, standing indefinitely while holding on with one hand, cruising (holding onto a crib or other edge and walking along it), and-- and this shocked me-- holding onto the crib edge and jumping up and down. They can also move from seated to squatting to standing or vice versa, easily, usually while holding on with one hand. They are clearly going to be walking pretty soon. Apparently the youngest baby documented walking was six months old, so this is early but not ludicrous. It seems that usually babies take some time to settle into crawling and make sure they've gotten good at it before focusing effort on walking this way? Not Fox. Fox wants to be UP.

We have had our first major trip with the baby, which involved driving from Boston to the D.C. area, spending a week with B., and driving back. Fox was pretty much fine with all the driving and a little weirded out by the new place-- it took a couple of days for them to be able to nap there, for instance. At B.'s, they developed a very specific 'chasing-the-cat' noise, as B.'s place has many long straightaways and lines-of-sight where they could just take off after the kitty. (Our place does not.) They had no hope of catching her, and the kitty is already putting up with a Pomeranian and an elderly Border Collie, so she seemed thoroughly resigned. We appreciated her patience a great deal.

New behaviors: within the past week Fox has started getting upset when someone they know leaves the room. Leaving the room is Just Not Allowed. We try to explain to them where we are going, what we are doing, and when we expect to be back, but it is too early for this to help much.

Fox has started sitting for stretches of up to twenty minutes at a time with a single board book, turning the pages, looking at and poking the illustrations, and chewing on the corners. It is adorable. They also crawl under their bouncy seat with a pile of books every so often.

We have only just started solid food, because they got a nasty cold at the wrong time and we didn't want to try introducing solids while they were on an intrusive and aggravating nebulized-medicine-through-a-mask treatment. Rice cereal gave them significant stomach upset, which is peculiar; oat cereal and unsweetened applesauce seem to go down better, although Fox's reaction to solid food is shock, betrayal, and confusion no matter what the food is. They're at the stage where they'll eagerly watch us eating and put small pieces of food in their mouth, but once it's there the switch flips to NO NO NO NO NO. Hopefully this will change soon, as the doctor says that at this height and weight (two feet four inches, eighteen pounds) they simply cannot get all their necessary nutrition from formula.

I've seen evidence of the babble syllabary broadening, and about two days ago they learned how to flap their lips with a finger and say 'Phhhhpppth'. If they do this in your direction, you are supposed to do it back, and one can have very long conversations this way. We are also getting more communication along the lines of holding arms up to be picked up (or not; if we ask 'do you want to be picked up?' and don't get arms up we don't pick them up, since gesturing for yes is now consistent enough that that works), and we're getting things like pats on the face that are clearly affectionate. B.'s new partner T. taught Fox how to kiss people on the cheek and it seems to have actually stuck.

They are learning how to use their voice generally, and I have asked [personal profile] gaudior on several occasions if they are aware that they gave birth to a pterodactyl. The pterodactyl screech is loud and unmistakable.

They are still focused on people more than on anything else, and need to at least say hello to everyone in the room before even considering the presence of objects. Pets get about the same amount of interest as humans, and about the same degree of gentleness, which is usually gentle enough that they can pet pets without them fleeing for the hills-- at least for a while.

Overall, an exceptionally happy, outgoing, cheerful sort of baby, who is obviously working very hard at understanding and interacting with the world. I think things are going pretty well.
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
2017-05-10 01:40 am

towards a taxonomy of babies

It's not that I spend more time with other babies, now that we have one, but I notice them more in public, I think, and also I can read them better. So I'm starting to develop a taxonomy of babies, though if I've missed anything major please do let me know.

The Omnibenevolent: this is Fox's type. They love everything. Everything. The universe, and being alive, and being awake, and you! Yes, you! They love you very, very much. They love you even if they have never met you. They love you so much that they will only cry for about thirty seconds if you hold them in an uncomfortable position and shove a giant needle into their leg, and then they will give you a look which says that they know you must have had a good reason to do this, because you are so wonderful, and they stop crying. (We do have a good reason, of course, but the automatic trust-- rather, the incapacity for anything other than utterly adoring trust-- is humbling to the point of being terrifying.) I hope Fox stays like this as they grow older. There's certainly a chance of it, as their mother is actually pretty darn omnibenevolent, though not in quite such a visible-to-everyone fashion.

Silently Judging You: At church, Fox has, not a playmate, because they are both too young for that, but another baby who is in proximity a lot. Although it is not quite her name, I think of her as Viola, because of Fox's real-life name, which makes that feel appropriate. Anyway, I have been in Viola's presence two or three times, and each time I was made aware by her facial expression that I was dressed too informally for the occasion, had dreadful manners, and was certainly living down to her expectations, but then it is so hard to find good help these days. She is about nine months. She is Silently Judging You.

Furious: I have a lot of sympathy for this type of baby, because they can't MOVE right and they can't DO WHAT THEY WANT TO DO and nobody LISTENS RIGHT and they are going to COMPLAIN until either they can DO THINGS or SOMEBODY FIXES IT. I mean, this is a set of things that really suck about being a baby, and about some kinds of problem it's going to be literally years before it gets better. I'm not sure if I'd say that it's fortunate or unfortunate for everyone concerned that the complaining, although sometimes it is dreadfully exhausting for anyone in a ten-block radius, is at other times distressingly ADORABLE.

Not Actually Present: They aren't convinced about this whole embodiment thing yet. They'll get back to you. You can kind of get their attention, sometimes, in a distant way, but they're probably astrally projecting from wherever it is they happen to come from, and we just aren't visible enough to them for them to really put in the effort, you know? As time goes by, they'll find things they care about enough to pay attention, but it can be a while-- sometimes until they're able to read, or digest chocolate, things like that.

Confused: What? Wait, what? What's going on around here again? Why did you...? None of this makes any sense! Ah, well. Might as well go along with it. They're sure they'd notice if something were actually wrong. It's just that... what? Why does nobody ever sufficiently explain anything?

Hail Fellow Well Met: They give the impression that up until a moment ago, they were Silently Judging You, but you have passed. Their attention is a gift, which they are bestowing upon you, because you are for some reason interesting... at least right now. But you'd better keep them amused. You come away with a vague sense of having been interviewed by a C-suite executive.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-04-28 02:41 am

recent reading

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack.

Okay, so I was as surprised as anybody when Archie Comics reinvented themselves as well-written, groundbreaking, genuinely quality comics for the twenty-first century, and the whole thing still feels vaguely surreal and as though at any moment the comics will vanish back into some kind of reality warp, but this? Is a goddamn delight, if you like horror comics at all. I grew up watching the Melissa Joan Hart TV series of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which adds another layer of frisson and piss-take to this book as a reading experience, but I don't think you need that to enjoy this, and I don't think you need to have read any Sabrina comics either. Basically, this just takes the premise of Sabrina the Teenage Witch-- witches live among us, desperately trying to keep their magic secret, bound by their own laws and customs, caught between two worlds-- and, instead of playing it for comedy, smashes it into the mass of genuinely creepy witch-based folklore out there and goes for the gusto.

Not to say that there aren't funny moments. Zelda and Hilda, Sabrina's aunts, have changed from the kind of dotty aunt who appears in sitcoms to a more Arsenic and Old Lace kind of vibe, now that they're supplementing the family larder by scavenging the town's cemeteries. Sabrina does, at one point, wonder whether she should attend her own dark baptism and consecration to Satan in the autumnal forest, or whether she should go to the pep rally and the game with Harvey Kinkle. Sabrina's talking cat remains a source of endless entertainment (when asked how he got turned into a cat, he mutters "This is what happens when you try to enact the Book of Revelations," and does a quick fade).

But mostly this is straight-up horror, aiming both at the occasional gross-out and at impressive psychological creepiness, and it's extremely well-written, with three-dimensional characters, cohesive (and unnerving) worldbuilding, and carefully researched folk magic. The art is gorgeous and expressive, and things like the (correctly icky) redesign of the 1940s Archie villain Madame Satan are labors of love (and footnoted for you at the back of the book). Literally the only complaint I have about this series is that it comes out so slowly, because I want more right away. This is both some of the best comics and some of the best horror of any genre I've read in quite a while, and yes, it will never stop being weird to find myself saying that.


Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys.

I shouldn't say too much about this because I beta-read it and am therefore pretty darn biased, but it's neo-Lovecraftiana for people who aren't racist sexist homophobic Other-haters, and it's out now, and it's great, and you should totally read it, especially if you find the Deep Ones and/or the Yith at all interesting. I am also told it works if you haven't read Lovecraft.


Within the Sanctuary of Wings, Marie Brennan.

So this is the fifth of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, who is an alt-Victorian naturalist who studies dragons, and it's the last one. You shouldn't start here-- you should start with the first, or possibly the second, as IMO they get better as they go-- but I thought I should mention that this is a five-volume series which comes to a tidy, pre-planned, and well-foreshadowed end without dragging on forever in endless not-written-yet limbo, and I am... trying to remember the last time I saw that happen ever, actually. M. L. N. Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter, I guess, a few years back, though that's urban fantasy, where I think finished series are somewhat more likely. Anyhow, it's a rare and precious thing. Also, there are many species of dragons in these novels, and they are interestingly differentiated and beautifully illustrated (literally, these illos are very cool).

I could wish the plot were a little less predictable, on both a volume-by-volume and an overall level, but by the time we get to book five the predictability has settled down into the kind of thing where you know pretty much what has to happen, but not how, and not necessarily why, and the details turn out to be fascinating. These are not spectacular books, but they are pleasant and down-to-earth and charming and comforting and should be read by persons who also like the Amelia Peabody series.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
2017-04-22 11:32 pm

The Lost City of Z (2017)

Okay, so I haven't read the book. But B., who has, was with me, and one of the things he mentioned before we watched the film is that, in the book, at one point an Amazon tribe who had come forward and said that they killed Percy Fawcett in the late nineteen-twenties later came forward and said that a Brazilian minister had asked them to say they killed him in order to stop people from sending innumerable expeditions into the jungle in futile search of Percy Fawcett. This rather stuck with B., as it was an interesting way to handle the problem, and I found it pretty striking as an anecdote. Note that both the 'we killed him, that's what happened' claim and the 'here's why we said that' claim were made decades after Fawcett's disappearance.

I suppose I should not have been expecting anything sensible from Hollywood racial politics, but for fuck's sake, don't the film people know what it looks like they're saying when they have Fawcett being Insistently Anti-Racist Person Who Insists Amazonians Are People Too, in the face of openly racist opposition, yet, all over the movie-- which from what I gather is also rather inaccurate-- and then heavily imply that he was not only killed but also eaten by natives without including the refutation which was right there in the source material for them?

This is also a film which comes down pretty heavily on Percy Fawcett being Right About Things, and I'm not even sure it was intentional on the writer's part. It's just that when the issues somebody has are things like 'is heavily overinvested in cultural conceptions of masculinity', you have to be very blatant when you demonstrate that those are actual issues, because our culture is so approving of extreme behavior along those lines that disapproval needs to be obvious in-text just to bring us to neutral. Sure, Fawcett almost certainly got himself and his son killed, but the film goes to great (and, from what I hear, also a-historic) lengths to say that maybe they just went off to live with the natives, plus the whole thing very much has an air of It's How He Wanted To Go He Was Following His Noble Dreams. Also, even when we see Fawcett doing things that are demonstrably pig-headed, sexist, and aggravating, he winds up getting vindicated by the narrative over and over again. We never see anyone arguing against his expeditions from the level of logistics on which I am assured they were bad ideas; we see people arguing against them because they are Bad People, or because they are his family and they want him home, which we are assured is understandable and tragic but just How It Had To Be.

In conclusion, I'm definitely going to read the book, because the film, despite a reasonable central performance by Charlie Hunnam (perhaps a bit too restrained) and a very fine side performance by Robert Pattinson (unrecognizable beneath layers of fuzz), some pretty cinematography, and occasional attempts at symbolism, comes off as racist, insultingly simplistic, and just not overall what you want Hollywood to do with a good source text.

Sigh.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-04-19 09:56 pm

for some reason it has taken me thirty years

to notice that Edmund's arc in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an in some ways perfectly straightforward retelling of Kay's arc in 'The Snow Queen'. In other ways not so straightforward, and Gerda doesn't come into it at all, because Aslan, but the beginning and middle of the fairytale are spot-on.
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
2017-04-18 01:09 am

Fox update

The Fox cub is six months old!

A recent habit they've picked up is creaking very loudly in their sleep. It sounds like an extremely rusty doorhinge. It can be hard to tell when they've actually woken up and are protesting, but the creaking can also be quite distinct and not really a sound I've heard a human make before. The real problem is that it's loud enough to make it difficult to sleep ourselves.

and the babe of whom I'm speaking still is creaking, still is creaking )
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
2017-04-13 03:12 am

waltzing with bears

As I'm sure I've mentioned, singing to a baby causes one to dredge out of one's memory all the songs one has ever so much as heard in passing, and because it's difficult to keep on and on doing that, most people seem to settle pretty quickly into a relatively stable repertoire.

My mother-in-law happens to remember, and to sing pretty frequently, a tune I do in fact remember from the wilderness camps of my youth, but nowadays I have to say the connotations read, uh, differently, at least for me. It's difficult when I hear her start up for me not to need to leave the room and immediately stifle myself with a sofa cushion lest I go into spasms, because if that happened-- and I really don't want to do this to my mother-in-law-- I would have to explain.

The song is called "Waltzing with Bears". You've probably heard it.


I went to his room in the middle of the night
I tiptoed inside, and I turned on the light
But to my dismay, he was nowhere in sight
'Cause my Uncle Walter goes waltzing at night.

He goes wa wa, wa wa wa, wa waltzing with bears
Raggy bears, shaggy bears, baggy bears too
And there's nothing on earth Uncle Walter won't do
So he can go waltzing, wa wa wa waltzing
He can go waltzing, go waltzing with bears.



You see, I know from bears. I've been to enough Pride parades. They have a flag of their own and everything. It's a pawprint on the leather pride flag, and often the bears are covered with leather, as well as with fur, and they're often very tall as well as very round, and always very burly. Sometimes they carry teddy bears, but the teddies aren't usually any fuzzier than the men.

So Uncle Walter has made a significant lifestyle decision, about which his family seems dismayed, though personally I don't see the problem.


We bought Uncle Walter a new coat to wear
But when he comes in, it's all covered with hair
And lately I've noticed there's several new tears
I'm sure Uncle Walter's been waltzing with bears.



Well damn, Walter. I assume this was all at a leather bar. You probably don't want to ask for the details about how he got his coat torn.


We told Uncle Walter that he should be good
And do all the things that we said that he should
But we know that he'd rather be off in the woods
We're afraid that we'll lose him, lose him for good.



See, when people come out, they generally don't want to go back in, especially if the only reasons you give them are moralizing ones. I'm entirely with Uncle Walter here, is what I am saying.


We begged and we pleaded, "Oh please won't you stay?"
We managed to keep him home just for a day.
Then the bears all barged in and they took him away
Now he's waltzing with pandas, and they can't understand us
And the bears all demand at least one waltz a day.



As far as I can tell, Uncle Walter has at this point taken up with a biker gang. In fact has run off with a biker gang. He really sounds as though he is enjoying that biker gang-- to each their own kinks, Uncle Walter. I am picturing this all "Leader of the Pack" style, except without the crash part, Uncle Walter riding off on the bike behind the lead bear with a loud VRRRRMMM noise, the whole gang vanishing into the night with their middle claws extended. (I vacillate as to how human I think the bikers are. Maybe they're furries? There are definitely bear biker gangs, but I don't know if there are furry bear biker gangs, even though in a just universe there ought to be.)


Now my Aunt Matilda was mad as could be
She said, "Walter, that rat, never waltzes with me."
So she took her fur coat and remodeled it so
Now she can go waltzing and Walter won't know.



I feel your pain, Aunt Matilda. It's distressing that your husband turned out to have a necessary-to-him epiphany so late in life, probably after years of marriage. You love him, and you wish you were still sexually compatible.

... I have to say, I did not see BECOMING A FURRY AND JOINING THE BIKER GANG coming as a solution to this problem. You go, Aunt Matilda! Self-actualize! Claim your waltzing, motorcycle-riding power!


Anyway, by this point I am basically weeping with laughter, and the baby may well be asleep, and I have no desire to say one word about it to my mother-in-law, who is probably actually waltzing the (Schrodinger's-sleeping) baby around the room in an adorable-anthropomorphic-animal nursery-song way, which is perfectly reasonable, honestly, and why shouldn't she.

I just mostly tango with the baby, myself. Waltzing has gone all euphemistic in my head of late, and tango seems the wiser course.
rushthatspeaks: (our lady of the sorrows)
2017-04-11 09:54 pm

new home

Well. This is the first entry I haven't crossposted. It feels very odd.

If I haven't got you friended over here, it's entirely my own fault, and it's because baby. Please ping me in the comments to this entry-- I'll try to do as much crossmatching from Livejournal as I can before I delete over there, but I don't want to miss anybody if I can possibly help it.

I was using DW as a de facto backup for LJ. Now that that isn't a thing, does anyone have recommendations for software to back up DW? Critical things: must include comments, must be relatively easy to use, must produce backup in a format that is searchable (even if that search turns out to be grepping text for keywords).

I have seen the death of LJ on the horizon for some while, but I didn't know it was going to be so quick and so sudden. It does hurt. I've been there since before graduating college, and it saw me through graduation, marriage, the start of career-building, major moves, several extremely important life decisions, and the birth of a child. I met two separate partners on there, really cemented the relationship with another in ways that helped lead us to being together now, and have made friends and adopted family that I devoutly hope I never lose. I know online communities do fade eventually, but due to timing this is the first one that has collapsed from under me.

Well. I'm so glad so many of you are here, now, and I am so glad that even people who aren't moving here are deleting over there, because it may become harder to communicate but at least I feel that my queer back is being watched.

Omnia mutantur, nihil terret. Or so I have always hoped.
rushthatspeaks: ([         ]  is a badass)
2017-04-11 09:51 pm

goodbye

This is my last post here. The new TOS is unacceptable, and I will not abide by laws which consider my existence criminal. I will be deleting and purging this journal three days from today, so on Friday, April 14th.

I can be found at this username on Dreamwidth, as has been true for several years. If I don't have you friended on DW, and I do here, it's my own mistake-- I posted a couple of months ago, asking for people's usernames over there, and then because we have a new baby I failed to do anything about that information. If I don't have you friended on DW, please do leave a comment on the entry similar to this I'm putting up at that journal, and I will friend you ASAP.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-03-28 03:31 pm

slush as a form of meditation

The line I return to over and over about the slush pile is that all of human life is there, and I don't think I'm going to get sick of saying it. If I'm feeling particularly depressed about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something to make me feel better. Of course, if I'm feeling particularly good about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something that makes me despair for our future and, indeed, past and present as a species.

I feel as though at some point some ancient and secret confraternity of editors has codified the guidelines of slushomancy, and I hope someday they let me in on it: next year will be heavy on space squid, say, with a chance of light pastiche storms. I'm not sure you could use it to predict real events, although it certainly has about as much randomness included as any yarrow stalk or marrow bone.

There are a few trends that have become clear, of course. More fantasy than science fiction, always, always. Sad lesbians, or lesbians in romances that don't work out for one reason or another, are very in. People who write excessively effusive cover letters have frequently never learned how to use spellcheck. Every so often there will be a story I absolutely love which is simply completely wrong for the magazine, and I will have to write a very sad note reading Dear X, this is amazing, there is nothing wrong with it, I love it, have you tried a mainstream lit mag/a horror magazine/an erotica anthology? I always fear they won't believe me, is the problem with that.

Also, every so often we get actual answer stories, stories written in direct response to and in conversation with other works in the field. What fascinates me about these is which works people choose to respond to. I mean, more than fifty years on we are still getting direct replies to 'The Cold Equations'. That's a sub-genre of its own, people who object to something or other about 'The Cold Equations'. Which is fair, except that at this point I suspect it has all been done. There's that, and then responses to Ender's Game are a subgenre (one which has become more impassioned since Card proved to be... the kind of person he is), and then responses to 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas'.

We do occasionally get really good response stories. I'm not inherently against the idea of publishing them. But the problem with response stories is that you don't just measure their quality against your own standards, you measure them against the original, and while that isn't a horrific problem with Card or 'The Cold Equations', I feel bad for people who are directly attempting the prose style, let alone the story structuring, of Ursula K. Le Guin. Probably the best way to go prose-wise with an Omelas response would be to be as different as humanly possible, because direct comparisons are going to be odious. Unfortunately, this memo has not reached many of the writers in question.

Ah well. You can't make an Omelas without breaking a few egos.

You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-03-28 03:31 pm

slush as a form of meditation

The line I return to over and over about the slush pile is that all of human life is there, and I don't think I'm going to get sick of saying it. If I'm feeling particularly depressed about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something to make me feel better. Of course, if I'm feeling particularly good about humanity, all I have to do is read slush for a while, and I will find something that makes me despair for our future and, indeed, past and present as a species.

I feel as though at some point some ancient and secret confraternity of editors has codified the guidelines of slushomancy, and I hope someday they let me in on it: next year will be heavy on space squid, say, with a chance of light pastiche storms. I'm not sure you could use it to predict real events, although it certainly has about as much randomness included as any yarrow stalk or marrow bone.

There are a few trends that have become clear, of course. More fantasy than science fiction, always, always. Sad lesbians, or lesbians in romances that don't work out for one reason or another, are very in. People who write excessively effusive cover letters have frequently never learned how to use spellcheck. Every so often there will be a story I absolutely love which is simply completely wrong for the magazine, and I will have to write a very sad note reading Dear X, this is amazing, there is nothing wrong with it, I love it, have you tried a mainstream lit mag/a horror magazine/an erotica anthology? I always fear they won't believe me, is the problem with that.

Also, every so often we get actual answer stories, stories written in direct response to and in conversation with other works in the field. What fascinates me about these is which works people choose to respond to. I mean, more than fifty years on we are still getting direct replies to 'The Cold Equations'. That's a sub-genre of its own, people who object to something or other about 'The Cold Equations'. Which is fair, except that at this point I suspect it has all been done. There's that, and then responses to Ender's Game are a subgenre (one which has become more impassioned since Card proved to be... the kind of person he is), and then responses to 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas'.

We do occasionally get really good response stories. I'm not inherently against the idea of publishing them. But the problem with response stories is that you don't just measure their quality against your own standards, you measure them against the original, and while that isn't a horrific problem with Card or 'The Cold Equations', I feel bad for people who are directly attempting the prose style, let alone the story structuring, of Ursula K. Le Guin. Probably the best way to go prose-wise with an Omelas response would be to be as different as humanly possible, because direct comparisons are going to be odious. Unfortunately, this memo has not reached many of the writers in question.

Ah well. You can't make an Omelas without breaking a few egos.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-03-10 11:22 pm

Stuff I Edited In 2016

Last year's stories. There was, of course, a huge chunk of parental leave in there, too.

The Angel of Divine Intent, Tim Akers. SF, despite some of the trappings. My id really likes angels in an SF context, OK? Also a good story if your id doesn't, though.

This Is A Letter To My Son, K. J. Kabza. SF. SF engaging with trans issues in a way I had not seen before. This kind of story is why I find editing so rewarding. I loved every part of working with this, from getting it in my slush email onward.

Dragon-Smoked Barbeque, M. K. Hutchins. Flash fantasy. Tiny and cute.

Heroes, Lavie Tidhar. Fantasy, subgenre superhero. In the same universe as his novel The Violent Century. Led me to listen to recordings of David Bowie's legendary 1987 Reichstag concert, which was nifty.

Timothy, Philip Schweitzer. Fantasy. Technically published after I was on parental leave, except the baby hadn't come yet, so I managed to get in another set of line-edits and galleys between when the baby was supposed to arrive and when the baby actually arrived.


Goals for 2017:

-- Edit more stories-- there are three of us editors and three publishing weeks per month, plus the fall fund drive, and minus December which we take off, so the number of stories I edited should be more like eleven or twelve per year, if I can step it up. Wasn't gonna happen in 2016, though. On this front, 2016 went about as well as it could have.

-- Figure out how to promote stories and authors I've worked with in a classy manner that still manages to let people know about the work. Nominating authors for awards, while satisfying, is a back-end process that does not actually attract any more readers unless the piece is long- or shortlisted for or wins the award; must do something in addition to that. (BY THE WAY, GO READ THE K. J. KABZA. PLEASE. RIGHT NOW. I'LL WAIT.)

-- Try not to drown in melting slush.

You can comment here or at the Dreamwidth crosspost. There are comment count unavailable comments over there.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-03-10 11:22 pm

Stuff I Edited In 2016

Last year's stories. There was, of course, a huge chunk of parental leave in there, too.

The Angel of Divine Intent, Tim Akers. SF, despite some of the trappings. My id really likes angels in an SF context, OK? Also a good story if your id doesn't, though.

This Is A Letter To My Son, K. J. Kabza. SF. SF engaging with trans issues in a way I had not seen before. This kind of story is why I find editing so rewarding. I loved every part of working with this, from getting it in my slush email onward.

Dragon-Smoked Barbeque, M. K. Hutchins. Flash fantasy. Tiny and cute.

Heroes, Lavie Tidhar. Fantasy, subgenre superhero. In the same universe as his novel The Violent Century. Led me to listen to recordings of David Bowie's legendary 1987 Reichstag concert, which was nifty.

Timothy, Philip Schweitzer. Fantasy. Technically published after I was on parental leave, except the baby hadn't come yet, so I managed to get in another set of line-edits and galleys between when the baby was supposed to arrive and when the baby actually arrived.


Goals for 2017:

-- Edit more stories-- there are three of us editors and three publishing weeks per month, plus the fall fund drive, and minus December which we take off, so the number of stories I edited should be more like eleven or twelve per year, if I can step it up. Wasn't gonna happen in 2016, though. On this front, 2016 went about as well as it could have.

-- Figure out how to promote stories and authors I've worked with in a classy manner that still manages to let people know about the work. Nominating authors for awards, while satisfying, is a back-end process that does not actually attract any more readers unless the piece is long- or shortlisted for or wins the award; must do something in addition to that. (BY THE WAY, GO READ THE K. J. KABZA. PLEASE. RIGHT NOW. I'LL WAIT.)

-- Try not to drown in melting slush.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
2017-02-26 05:49 pm

adventures in bad poetry

[personal profile] nineweaving recently gave me John Julius Norwich's Christmas Crackers, which is a commonplace book filled with the quotations Norwich has, for many years, collected and typed out as Christmas cards and crackers (the store-bought ones don't say much interesting, usually). It's a very good commonplace book, distinguished by being funnier and more impressive than those usually get, and I am treating it as one should treat commonplace books, i.e. opening it occasionally at random, giggling, and putting it down again. In no circumstance do I intend to read it straight through, because then what would there be to boggle at when I pick it off the shelf and open it randomly in a few years or decades?

Anyway, as good commonplace books do, it collects bad poetry as well as good, and I opened it to something so thoroughly appalling that the selection has been stuck in my head for more than a week. I truly think this belongs in the annals of terrible verse with William Topaz McGonagall and Julia Ann Moore, for the comma splices if for nothing else (and there is else). I showed it to Ruth, and spent the next five minutes desperately wishing for a video camera; I really thought they were going to throw the book out of the window.

Abandon hope, etcetera. )

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