(no subject)

May. 30th, 2016 09:19 pm
skygiants: Kraehe from Princess Tutu embracing Mytho with one hand and holding her other out to a flock of ravens (uses of enchantment)
[personal profile] skygiants
Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane was one of the first books I ever put on my Kindle but I only got round to reading it last week, I don't know why, it just felt like the stars had aligned.

Dragonsbane, definitely written in the eighties, is a fairly intentional deconstruction of Heroic Dragonslaying Tropes, ft. as protagonist Jenny Waynest, a middle-aged witch who is constantly having Relatable Struggles Between Her Career and Her Family, which is to say between having enough study time to complete her dissertation become truly excellent at magic and the distractions of her boyfriend and their two kids. Aforementioned boyfriend, John Aversin, happens to be the lord of a fairly impoverished region and also the only living person to have ever slain a dragon (with significant assist from Jenny.)

This becomes relevant when a naive baby knight named Gareth comes riding up demanding help to slay a dragon.

NAIVE BABY KNIGHT GARETH: I am here to request the aid of the GREATEST hero in ALL THE LAND --
JOHN: Yes sorry pardon all the mud etc. but we are a very small holding here and I am busy with the pigs?
JENNY: Hey babe, long time no see, how are the kids?
JOHN: Oh, fine, fine, hope your months alone studying witchcraft in the woods went well?
NAIVE BABY KNIGHT GARETH: Pigs? Witches? Illegitimate children?
JENNY: Kiddo do you maybe need a moment to go off and clutch your pearls --

Anyway, although John is reluctant to leave the pigs etc. to go kill somebody else's dragon, baby knight Gareth promises gratitude and significant financial aid from the king for the impoverished region if the quest is completed, so Jenny & John & naive baby knight Gareth ride off a-questing!

The first approximate third of the book after this is basically just The Road Trip That Shattered The Last Of Poor Baby Gareth's Illusions. However it soon turns out that what is ACTUALLY plaguing the land is the king's evil sorceress mistress who is evil, very evil, one hundred percent evil, you never can trust the pretty ones (my one complaint with the book) and the dragon is just sort of a byproduct to this, although still a byproduct that needs to be sorted out one way or another.

But, I mean, the whole political/magical plot is kind of all just a narrative excuse to force Jenny to resolve the central question of her life anyway -- whether to pursue various opportunities at power & magical knowledge & freedom (including dragon-y spoilers )) or whether she can continue with the life she's currently leading, constantly torn between her personal potential and the needs of the people who love her, whom she loves as well, but also can't help but resent.

Which: it sucks that this is a binary choice, but I can't say the dilemma isn't real. The choice is never easy and the answer is never obvious, and I spent most of the book unsure myself what I wanted Jenny to do, which really is the biggest mark of success for this book.

A sidenote: I am told this book has sequels that should NEVER, EVER BE READ. So I am not going to read them, but the people who have read them and explicitly told me not to read them (I'm looking at you, [personal profile] rachelmanija and [personal profile] coffeeandink) could maybe make it easier for me by satisfying my horrible curiosity in detailed ROT13 or something in comments. >.>

icons: K Project

May. 29th, 2016 10:08 pm
meganbmoore: (akb0048: kanata x lightsaber)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
197 x K Project: Season 1 

here ) 

(no subject)

May. 29th, 2016 11:26 am
skygiants: Azula from Avatar: the Last Airbender with her hands on Mai and Ty Lee's shoulders (team hardcore)
[personal profile] skygiants
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here has a really cool concept that is really hard to effectively pull off. The idea is that the book is about the other kids in the high school at Sunnydale/Forks/Beacon Hills/wherever the high school is where the Chosen Teens are fighting off some massive world-destroying supernatural force -- the kids who are aware of but not involved in the shenanigans, and mostly just want to make it through to graduation. The way Ness structures this is by having a paragraph header at the beginning of each chapter that describes what the heroes of that other book about the world-destroying supernatural force are doing, and then dives us back into the head of our narrator Mikey, whose concerns include a.) his massive crush on his friend Henna; b.) his rising OCD and anxiety disorder; c.) his older sister's eating disorder; and d.) the fact that he and his friends will soon all be leaving for college in different places, with e.) the rash of mysterious teen deaths and the weird flashes of blue light plaguing their town coming in down around fifth on the concern-o-meter. Mikey & co. are perfectly well aware that this kind of stuff happens occasionally, but it always happens to the 'indie kids' and everyone else is usually fine, at least until the epic conclusion.

The worst kind of failure mode for this book would be 'you're writing about the normal kids instead of the foreground stuff, and it turns out the normal kids are just boring.' This is a hurdle that in my opinion Ness easily clears! Mikey occasionally drives me up a wall with his teen jealousy issues, but he and his friends are not boring and I finished the book largely in a sitting.

The part where the book stumbles for me is in the genre commentary -- it just makes a number of choices that I wouldn't have made. I'm not entirely sure why Patrick Ness went with 'indie kids' to define 'people who are just kind of protagonist-y,' but trope-wise I don't really associate 'trendy kids with unusual names and a large friend-group who are just a little too cool for school' with 'standard teen protagonists'? Maybe I'm behind the times of recent fictional trends, but I feel like usually the protagonist-y kids in fiction are the shy insecure kids with intense backstory/family issues and perhaps a narratively convenient small tight friends-group, which ... honestly seems to describe Mikey & co. way more than it does Satchel, the alt!heroine of that other story where the protagonists are off protagonist-ing.

And OK, we don't know very much about Satchel & Co other than that Dramatic Things Are Happening to Them And Also There's A Love Triangle, but the thing is that Ness names like twenty different 'indie kids' who interact with Satchel at various points in the story. This means that the indie kids actually appear to have a social circle that way more resembles my high school reality, in which, for ex., I was best friends with A and B, A and B were also close with C and D and E who I got along fine with but only hung out with in a group, E was good friends with F who was also a good friend of mine although F didn't get along at all with A or B, G and H and J were all kind of part of the friends-group because they were collectively all in love with D, and then I also hung out separately with L and M who were neither of them part of this friends-group at all. And, like, I would in no way say that my high school experience was overwhelmingly typical, but I do think most kid's lives and social circles are much more complicated than you tend to see in high school fiction.

And of course I don't think any author is narratively obligated to try to describe this kind of 'more realistic' social structure -- there are good story-telling reasons for these 'tight group of three or four friends!' narrative conventions -- but in this particular case it did make me sort of uncertain about what Ness thinks are the distinctive markers of 'real' kids vs. 'protagonist' kids, and what exactly he means the book to say.

I guess basically I think it works as a story but not as meta-commentary, which is definitely less of a failure mode than the other way around, so.

kdrama: Jeong Yak Yong (2009)

May. 27th, 2016 04:09 pm
meganbmoore: (detective dee: red)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
Something about Jeong Jo's reign seems to inspire short sageuks. Or at least, 3 that I've watched (maybe 4...I can't recall when Joseon X-Files was set). Jeong Yak Yong is an 8 episode procedural sageuk about the titular Joseon Scholar. Framed for charges of corruption, JYJ is stripped of his official title and sent to by a minor official in a small province, where he promptly proceeds to start coming across murder investigations and helping/annoying the local police.

The cases tend to focus on social ills and abuses, and should probably include warnings for rape and suicide, and spousal abuse in the first episode. Nothing close to most US procedurals or "grim and gritty" shows in these regards, but moreso than most sageuks. I should mention it ISN'T a "grim and gritty" show-it's lighthearted when it comes to character interactions and serious with the cases and social issues. Aside from JYJ, the main characters and his partners are Seol Ran, a female police officer who is a baby social activist (and who JYJ has a crush on) and his bodyguard Moo Young, who doesn't actually have a lot of personality. His main job is to look pretty and save JYJ from getting killed a lot. And Seol Ran, sometimes, but she's less prone to needing it. There's also Seol Ran's boss, and thief JYJ occassionally employs, the mother and daughter who runs the inn he stays at, and a mentally ill young man who has latched on to JYJ. The supporting characters are largely used for comedic relief, sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

Since it's episodeic in nature, almost all the usual sageuk faces show up at some point. My favorite is the not-so-regular-in -sageuk guest appearance of Yoon Ji Min, who I loved in both Chuno and Warrior Baek Dong-Soo. I really wish she got more sageuk roles, or major roles in general. I found it hilarious that she was playing a well known and respected investigator here, since she played an assassin in her other sageuks, even though they came after.

Overall, I thought the series was pretty good, though I did briefly think I'd have to anti-rec it after something in the last episode, but it fixed that at the last minute.

(no subject)

May. 26th, 2016 07:29 pm
skygiants: Clopin from Notre-Dame de Paris; text 'sans misere, sans frontiere' (comment faire un monde)
[personal profile] skygiants
The Fifth Season is by far the most depressing of N.K. Jemisin's books and I think I like it best of all the ones I've read? Perhaps in fact because it is the most depressing, like, everything is certainly terrible and I and N.K. Jemisin wholeheartedly agree on everything that is terrible, which is a change from past N.K. Jemisin books where some things are definitely terrible and some things are just the author's id angling a few degrees off from mine in small but significant ways.

...I really want to emphasize that everything in The Fifth Season CERTAINLY IS terrible though. Like, a small child dies on the third page, and things go downhill from there. The apocalypse is kind of the least of it.

The Fifth Season is actually set in a world (which I suspect is probably far-future our world, but that's not confirmed) where smallish geological apocalypses happen every few hundred years and people have sort of learned to cope with them. In one strand of the book, a woman named Essun lives through the start of what's looking like an extremely epic apocalypse, but is not so concerned about that as she is about the fact that her husband has just murdered her small son and run off with her small daughter into the apocalyptic night.

Essun is a secret orogene, a person with the power to manipulate geological forces. Orogenes are considered highly dangerous; they're hated and feared by the general population, and, if discovered, are liable to be murdered by mass mobs unless sent for training to an official centralized location called the Fulcrum where they learn to do important geological work on behalf of the proper human members of civilization. This system is definitely not coercive, abusive, or exploitative in any way!

In the two other threads of the book (not taking place during the apocalypse) a little girl named Damaya discovers she is an orogene and is brought to the Fulcrum on a road trip that is no fun at all, and a young orogene named Syenite is paired up with an extremely powerful but kind of batshit orogene named Alabaster for another road trip that is no fun at all. Essun's murderous-husband-hunting post-apocalyptic road trip is also kind of by its nature no fun at all for Essun, but she does get a creepy possibly-inhuman child and an eccentric scholarly genius hobo as travel buddies, who are both WAY more fun than Alabaster. (Tonkee the hobo genius is my favorite character in the book, possibly because she spends the least amount of time being miserable; this is especially nice because Tonkee is a transwoman and frequently trans characters are narratively assigned to be the most miserable. Though admittedly Alabaster, who is very beautiful and very tortured and very gay, is there on the other end taking up significantly more than his fair share of misery. Which, again, is kind of impressive in a book that starts with a woman mourning the death of a child.)

Anyway. It's a very good book, a very dark book, and a very unflinching book which is deeply concerned with the consequences of treating people as not-people. I super want to find out what happens next, though I don't expect it will be much happier than what came before.

(no subject)

May. 25th, 2016 05:22 pm
meganbmoore: (emilia: eat your brains)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
So, I haven't picked up a superhero comic that didn't involve Jubilee in...I don't know how many years. Well before she became a vampire. When I did read more superhero comics, I sometimes read Captain America (I have most of the run with Rachel Leighton/Diamondback, Brubaker's run until sometime after Buck became Cap, and a bunch of odds and ends).

Even if I hated the character as opposed to being relatively fond of him, I would Marvel's "well what's the worst Dramatic Reveal we could ever make?" was one of their most disgusting moves to date. And that's impressive.

spoilers for Steve Rogers #1 )

It makes "Professor Xavier is Onslaught*" look like a minor misstep in comparison. (Though it was VERY quickly rewritten to be the evil literal brainchild of Xavier and Magneto's minds combining to spawn a new entity, so maybe the'll trip overy themselves to fix the Cap atrocity too..)

*mid-90s Onslaught. I know nothing about the 10 year Onslaught anniversary thing save that it existed.

(no subject)

May. 24th, 2016 07:56 pm
meganbmoore: (Default)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
Quick reminder that I will not be at WisCon this year thanks to the cruel twist of having no money. Will be avidly following tweets & posts.

(no subject)

May. 24th, 2016 06:31 pm
meganbmoore: (chuno spy lady)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
I'm glad Netflix added Dramaworld, viki's kdrama fangirl self-insert fantasy series, as it's hopefully an indicator that they'll be adding more viki content soon* but I found the first episode almost unbearably bad, and thought the main character was a horrible stereotype and not remotely sympathetic. (I know the stereotype was deliberate, but I think they went too far and landed straight up in "obnoxious narrative pov" territory with their portrayal.)

Did anyone watch? Does it get better?

Actual kdramas I'm currently watching, if anyone cares:

Airing and up to date with:

Another Oh Hae Yong

Beautiful Gong Shim

The Flower in Prison (current favorite)

Completed dramas:

Seodongyo (5 of 55 episodes watched)

The Village: Achiara's Secrets (2 of 16 episodes watched)

*Dramafever seems to have packed up and moved everything to amazon, where they want me to give them extra money every month on top of Amazon's fee, and I have an eternal objection-called "my thin wallet"-for paying an extra fee for a subscription service I already pay for.

Paging Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans

May. 23rd, 2016 08:38 pm
meganbmoore: (swe7 rey + desert)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
A friend is looking for a ladies-heavy, Anakin-lite guide to SW:TCW. I've connected her to the Ahsoka primer and given her episodes numbers for Satine's appearances, as well as a few episodes for more minor characters.

I could use some help, though, with Ventress and Padme episodes, since they have more episodes than Satine but less than Ahsoka, so some can be skipped.

(I'm on the fence about Shaak Ti episodes, because she's secondary to the clones in all of those, but those episodes contribute a lot to my clones-related feelings.)

(no subject)

May. 22nd, 2016 11:12 am
skygiants: Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena holding a red rose (i'm the witch)
[personal profile] skygiants
I loved Sea of Poppies, the first book in Amitav Ghosh's Ibis Trilogy, SO MUCH!! ...and then the second two books not anywhere near as much, but it was still a cool reading experience?

The Ibis Trilogy is an incredibly rich and well-researched historical epic set right before and heading into the period of the First Opium War, in which the Chinese government tried to put a stop to the sale of opium and the British government threw a brutal capitalist hissy fit.

This brief summary of course entirely leaves out the role of India, which -- given that the opium was grown and produced in India, numerous Indian businessmen were involved in the opium trade, and a significant chunk of the soldiers fighting for the British were Indian sepoys - is what Amitav Ghosh is primarily interested in.

Sea of Poppies is set right before the war and focuses on a number of characters who all end up on a ship carrying indentured migrant workers and convicts to Maritius, including

DEETI: A poppy farmer in Ghazipur to an opium addict who, after her husband's death, ends up fleeing his awful relatives, finding the love of her life, and becoming the de facto older-sister figure for all the women on board the Ibis
ZACHARY REID: A bright young American sailor who by a number of lucky coincidences manages to rise in the ranks and jump to officer status, in large part because no one's remembered to check the original manifest listing his race as black
NEEL RATTAN HALDER: A naive intellectual raja who, after a series of poor business decisions, ends up accused of forgery, stripped of his status and possessions and thrown into prison, which leads to great suffering but also great personal growth
PAULETTE LAMBERT: The daughter of a French botanist, who grew up in India and, after her father's death, is determined to escape somewhere that she can continue doing botany, MAYBE BY CROSS-DRESSING AND JOINING THE IBIS AS A SAILOR
JODU: The son of Paulette's Indian nursemaid, who hearkens for a life of ADVENTURE on the Ibis, while meanwhile doing his best to explain to Paulette that she is unlikely to get away with cross-dressing and joining the Ibis as a sailor
BABOO NOB KISSIN: The very pragmatic but secretly deeply religious Bengali agent of a wealthy British businessman who ends up ... embodying the spirit of his saintly aunt ....?

And these are just the POV characters, there are multitudinous others! Many of the plotlines are wildly tropey in incredibly enjoyable, 19th-century-novel kind of ways. Meanwhile, Amitav Ghosh is enjoying himself tremendously in the way he plays with language -- most of the characters communicate in wildly different dialects and flavors of English, from the sailor's pidgin to Zachary's code-switching to Paulette's franglais; there's no 'correct' version of English and everyone is constantly misunderstanding each other in small ways as they try to navigate a language that's very much in flux. It's super cool, honestly -- like, the trilogy would be worth it for the language games alone.

That said, one of the other things I most enjoyed about Sea of Poppies was the astoundingly refreshing feeling of liking, rooting for, and being invested in every POV character in an epic adventure series! I was really excited to see the continuation of all of their adventures!

Alas, the next two books do not ... exactly do that. More on the second two books of the series )

(no subject)

May. 18th, 2016 10:20 pm
meganbmoore: (city hunter: na na/gun)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 One of the kdramas I bingewatched recently and keep getting sidetracked from writing up is Healer. Thankfully, I eventually remembered that [personal profile] skygiants did a writeup that covered about 90% of what I would have said. (The other 10% involves things like shouting KOREAN SUPERMAN and talking about how no one outside of anime REALLY does all that Parkour stuff, and non-awful-if not 100% consistent-handling of autism, anxiety and depression.)

So go read their post here and then watch the show.


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