(no subject)

Jun. 26th, 2016 09:46 am
skygiants: fairy tale illustration of a girl climbing a steep flight of stairs (mother i climbed)
[personal profile] skygiants
At a con last year, [personal profile] coffeeandink handed me the Joan Aiken book she'd been reading on the way down there, remarked that it had not been her favorite Aiken, and asked if I wanted to read it on the way back anyway.

I said all right, because mediocre Aiken is still usually bound to have its redeeming qualities, and then forgot about it until just recently when I was feeling in the mood for a.) Aiken and b.) Gothics.

Morningquest is not really quite a Gothic, as it turns out, though a girl definitely does meet a house in it. I don't really know what it is. It begins when Our Heroine Pandora Crumbe is introduced by her mother -- a very quiet and self-contained person with an unhappy marriage and a quiet, narrow life -- to the wealthy, talented and eccentric Morningquest family.

On their first visit, Pandora's mother keels over of a heart attack at the dinner table!

Thus, Pandora is sort of accidentally bequeathed to the Morningquests, who include:

GIDEON MORNINGQUEST, a tremendously successful conductor with a moderately limited interest in his children
MARIANA MORNINGQUEST, a beautiful and famous soprano who has a mysterious connection to Pandora's mother (subtext: they were probably in love), with whom Pandora falls promptly also in love

and the Morningquest children

DAN, possibly a musical genius, definitely a smug asshole with no morals
BARNEY, the good-looking brilliant one, who leaves behind him a trail of abandoned girlfriends and cats (all named Mog)
TOBY, the sweet scientifically brilliant one who only really talks to his sister Selene
DOLLY, the passive-aggressive and mildly toxic one who is, alas, not really brilliant at all
SELENE, the reclusive one who only really talks to her brother Tony
ELLY AND ALLY, chaotic neutral telepathic twin geniuses

plus assorted household extras

UNCLE GRISCH, an artist, former dancer, and gay Holocaust survivor who is busy rewriting great works of English literature
TANTE LULIE, a Jewish refugee relative of Gideon's first wife, who makes all Mariana's clothes and keeps the household fiscally solvent
DAVE, a useless American that nobody likes

The rest of the book sort of weaves through Pandora's interactions with various Morningquests, her development as an artist, and her search to find out more about her mother.

Along the way, there are various plot threads that spring up involving baby theft and attempted murder and incest and the aforementioned telepathy and drug smuggling and secret underground tunnels and surprise marriages, but, like. Most of these .... don't actually turn out to be all that significant to the shape of the book? Not in a dropped plot-thread way, exactly; more in a 'life just sort of goes on' way. The woman whose baby is stolen in chapter five or so is obviously really devastated, and eventually ends up leaving town, and by the end of the book she's remarried and has another baby, and eventually towards the end of the book a working theory emerges about what the hell was going on with the baby theft, but by that point it's too late to do anything about it, so ...

What actually is significant to the shape of the books? Families, I guess, and a sense of home, definitely, and what home means for refugees, immigrants, people whose past has been lost -- Tante Lulie and Uncle Grisch are the most constant and stable presences in Pandora's life, Pandora's non-Morningquest love interest is a Czech filmmaker-in-exile, Mariana's a possibly-Jewish refugee from Europe, and eventually Pandora finds out that her mother was Jewish too. Which is a surprise to her, but it wasn't a surprise to me.

Because the thing is, the whole Bohemian intellectual cobbled-together family of refugees full of complicated backstory revelations feels -- well, kind of seventies, sure, but one hundred percent real to me. My grandmother and grandfather were both Jewish refugees -- he German, she Czech -- who met and married in the UK in the 1940s. My grandmother was one of a handful of women in her Cambridge med school graduating class. I never met her, but by all accounts she was a wildly brilliant and charismatic person whom everybody fell in love with, who had a habit of picking up lost people and installing them in her house. On my shelf, I have a photocopied book of the letters that she wrote to her long-term lover, who lived in Israel, which his wife sent to my aunts after my grandmother died. My mom and her sisters had a very Morningquest childhood. I'm still finding out things that I never knew, and so, I think, are they.

And, I mean, I NEVER expect to walk out of a Joan Aiken book going 'wow, such realism! what a true portrait!' ESPECIALLY GIVEN the telepathy and the baby theft and all the rest, but there we are.

(And maybe I would have been less punched in the chest by refugee feelings had I read this a different week than this week that we are in right now. There's that too.)

(no subject)

Jun. 24th, 2016 05:36 pm
meganbmoore: (stage door: AGONY!)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 Between Brexit and US politics, 2016 is bearing more and more resemblance to the backstory of post-apocalyptic fiction.

(I can't believe Leave won, and other countries are considering doing the same during all this fallout.)

(no subject)

Jun. 24th, 2016 07:33 am
inkstone: Air Gear's Ringo looking dubious, text: ... (...)
[personal profile] inkstone
To my friends in the UK: I am so sorry.

(no subject)

Jun. 20th, 2016 08:04 pm
skygiants: ran and nijiko from 7 Seeds, looking faintly judgy (dubious lesbians)
[personal profile] skygiants
I really really liked Laurie Marks' Fire Logic, and I'm going to complain about some stuff below but I want you guys to keep in mind that overall I thought the book was SUPER enjoyable.

...overall I did. First complaint: the first seventy or so pages of the book are EXTREMELY GRIM and features invasions and conquest and genocide and a great deal of overall unpleasantness, so it took me quite a while to get into it.

However, I perked right up when after those seventy pages of despair Our Heroine Zanja, a professional linguist/spy/diplomat/warrior/semi-clairvoyant, was rescued from a tragic fate in prison by Our Other Heroine Karis, a gentle giant heroic blacksmith with superpowers!

Zanja pretty much falls head over heels in love with Karis like twenty minutes after meeting her, and really, who can blame her, I suspect basically ANY OF US would do the same. Alas, Karis has a.) a secret destiny and b.) a really overprotective friend who's like THIS WILL ONLY END IN TEARS and c.) a Tragic Drug Addiction that means that after a day's work of heroic blacksmithing she spends every night in a helpless state of stoned obedience, hence the really overprotective friend who's like NO, SERIOUSLY, THIS WILL ONLY END IN TEARS.

(I love Karis, but I will note that she is basically the World's Most Sympathetic Drug Addict. Her drug addiction is not even 1% her fault; when she is in withdrawal she suffers nobly and heroically but is never even a little bit an asshole; similarly when she is drugged-out she is helpless and lacking in agency but never an asshole, not even the least little bit, because fantasy drugs are convenient like that.)

Anyway, as a result, instead of following Karis around forever like a puppy dog as is her dearest wish, Zanja reluctantly lets Karis' Overprotective Friend have her way and agrees to ride off instead to join the underground military resistance. There she befriends Emil, the middle-aged leader of this particular troupe of underground military resistance who would really rather just be back at grad school, and has a brief fling with Annis, an enthusiastic pyromaniac, and then encounters a moral dilemma in the form of an enemy prophet who maybe just wants to be friends, but eventually Karis and Zanja are reunited and go back to taking turns dramatically rescuing each other/getting into peril as soon as the other one's back is turned/dramatically rescuing each other again.

Some more facts about this book:
- there are basically no straight people in it (well, that's not quite true, there are two straight married people and everyone spends the whole book being like 'well, that relationship is doomed')
- pretty much everyone is generally well-intentioned and heroic and self-sacrificing and trying their overall best, except for the people who are Definitely Shady
- there is a lot of very good found-family-ing
- also so much hurt-comfort, so much, MY GOODNESS the number of times Zanja or Karis are near-death and tender physical contact is the only way to help
- speaking of injuries, I would like to note that most people in this book who have injuries are eventually magically healed of them and this includes long-term disabilities
- speaking of long-term disabilities, Karis has no ability to feel sexual desire as a long-term side effect of the drug addiction, which everyone in-universe agrees is VERY TRAGIC, and, I mean, there are specific in-character reasons for Karis and Zanja to find this a.) distressing and b.) a significant relationship obstacle, but like. Kids, it is possible to have a successful relationship that is not 100% dependent on whether or not Karis is ever able to enjoy sex, I promise this is not the Saddest of All the Long Tales Ever Told.
- there's an elemental magic system underlying the whole thing but I have not mentioned it because I don't reeeeeeeally understand how it works
- and speaking of worldbuilding, there is a flashback whose sole purpose appears to be to establish the existence of a whole city that seems to be just sad drug-addicted prostitutes. A whole city. A WHOLE CITY.
- ... I mean, I mock, but CITY OF PROSTITUTES aside, Marks seems to be very interested in exploring violence and causes of violence and the possibility for non-violent responses to violence, and cultural shifts and cultural exchange, and despite the high levels of violence I would characterize the book as generally optimistic

(no subject)

Jun. 20th, 2016 09:02 pm
meganbmoore: (beneath)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 I watched the first 2 episodes of MTV's Scream (based on the movies) and liked them.  It enjoys the meta without being obnoxious about it, and borrows heavily from Pretty Little Liars, and some from Harper's Island* too (and notably did NOT talk about either when discussing  gothic and slasher TV shows).

THAT SAID, it has THE MOST GENERIC LOOKING CAST EVER.  Every time a character shows up, I looked up the actor to see where I knew them from because I was SO SURE I'd seen them in something where they had another major role, but NOPE.  Aside from a couple of guest roles I don't even remember, the only ones I can claim any familiarity with are Brooke's dad (who was in Mad Men for a while) and Audrey (was was briefly in season 2 of iZombie.  Sadly, she was not as genre savvy there as I would have liked.)  I do wonder if it isn't at least partly deliberate when it comes to some of the teens, but I doubt I'll lose any sleep over that.

*I will not be convinced that Brooke's actress wasn't cast partly because she looks like Chloe's actress.

icons: Into the Badlands

Jun. 19th, 2016 02:28 pm
meganbmoore: (badlands: butterflies)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
 120 x Into the Badlands

here ) 

Code push imminent!

Jun. 18th, 2016 06:51 pm
karzilla: a green fist above the word SMASH! (Default)
[staff profile] karzilla posting in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
Reminder that I'm going to start working on tonight's code push in the next 30-45 minutes or so. I know you just CAN'T WAIT to use the larger icon filesize for your animated gif talents, so I'm going to start a bit earlier than originally planned, closer to 5:30pm PDT. I'll update this post when we're done!

Update: All done! Comment here if you notice any issues that need our attention.

Code push tomorrow!

Jun. 17th, 2016 11:06 am
karzilla: a green fist above the word SMASH! (Default)
[staff profile] karzilla posting in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
We are planning to do a code push around 32[*] hours from now, at approximately 6pm Pacific time on Saturday.

Here's a partial list of changes that will go live with this push, apart from the usual minor tweaks and bugfixes:

  • Icon size limit raised from 40kb to 60kb.

  • Fixed the "hook: enddata returned false" error when uploading multiple icons.

  • Posting DW links on Facebook will now use the "Swirly D" logo for the link image.

  • Added seven new color variants on the popular "Teeny Tinies" mood theme.

  • The user profile page now lists "Other Services" in responsive columns.

  • The user icons page no longer uses "(Default)" in the alt text for every icon.

  • Improved non-ASCII character support in plain text email notifications.

We'll update again to let you know when the code push is in progress!

[*] I had a computer check my math this time, because it was almost wrong again. YAY COMPUTERS.

(no subject)

Jun. 16th, 2016 11:09 pm
skygiants: Hazel, from the cover of Breadcrumbs, about to venture into the Snow Queen's forest (into the woods)
[personal profile] skygiants
Tonight [personal profile] obopolsk and I went to go see Indecent, a play about a play -- to be specific, about Sholom Asch's Yiddish-language God of Vengeance, in which the nice young daughter of a pious hypocrite who makes his money from a brothel falls in love with one of the prostitutes.

So basically it is a show about a.) lesbians b.) Yiddish theater c.) metatheater, aka BASICALLY ALL MY INTERESTS, hi Paula Vogel and thank you for this. You will be unsurprised to hear that I almost entirely loved it.

The cast consists of seven actors, and three extremely brilliant musicians (including an accordionist with more swagger than I've ever seen from an accordionist before). All of the cast whirl from role to role. Sholem Asch is almost always the same, until he gets too old to be the young man, and then he's the old man. Manke and Rivkele, the two lovers in God of Vengeance, are always the same, even when they're different people -- the first cosmopolitan German Manke, who has no difficulty playing a lesbian but worries about how to portray a Jew; the two young Yiddish actresses who express their feelings for each other onstage every night, until one of them can't speak English well enough to make the leap to Broadway; the rookie all-American actress out to shock her parents by playing a lesbian Jew onstage (who gets the biggest laugh of the night when, after she surprises her Manke with an extremely passionate onstage kiss, she mentions that she went to Smith).

Lemml, the Polish villager who happens by luck to be there at the first reading of the play in I.L. Peretz's living room and falls in love with it, is always the same actor and the same person too -- God of Vengeance's guardian spirit, stage managing every production until the entire Broadway cast is arrested for public indecency, and a disillusioned Sholem Asch can't or won't do anything to stop it.

It's all very good, the cast is very good, the music is fantastic, the linguistic shifts are too. Here's the thing I really want to talk about, though. The play is an hour and forty minutes long. We were probably about an hour and twenty minutes in when Lemml went back to Poland, when the actors put stars on their shirts, when we were in the Warsaw Ghetto with the cast doing the show in pieces in order so as not to go up against curfew.

I'd been loving the play up until then, but at this point I started to get angry. I knew that we had to be near the end of the play at this point, and I was sitting there fuming and thinking to myself, 'oh, come on, Paula Vogel, you're going to end the story here? They ALWAYS end the story here, it's a huge black slash across our history but it's not the end of it by any means, ending it here takes a story that was about the power of love and language and literature and just makes it about this one thing that it's always about, PLEASE don't end it here --'

And just as I'm thinking this, as the cast is grimly lining up in front of an invisible concentration camp with ominous pronouncements about dust and ashes printed on the wall, the actor playing Lemml looks out at the audience and says, "Please don't let it end here," and the actresses playing Manke and Rivkele burst out from the line and run off into the wings for the next scene.

AND OK, SARAH VOGEL! Fine! FINE! You knew exactly what you were doing! I've never had my mind read in such an impressively infuriating fashion before.

(The play does not, in fact, end there. It doesn't go as much beyond it as I would like, but it doesn't end there.)

(no subject)

Jun. 16th, 2016 02:29 pm
skygiants: the aunts from Pushing Daisies reading and sipping wine on a couch (wine and books)
[personal profile] skygiants
Coincidentally I've been reading a bunch of stuff lately that is somehow related to the Opium Wars. I was not expecting Courtney Milan's latest series to join the collection, but I am excited by the discovery!

Taken by itself, Once Upon A Marquess is cute but not the strongest of Milan's romances. Our Heroine Judith is the daughter of a disgraced former member of the nobility who was convicted of treason in China, along with her beloved brother, and has spent the last nine years desperately trying to support her younger siblings and achieve for them the opportunities they've lost; also she makes clockwork. Our Hero Christian is her former suitor, who also happens to have been her brother's best friend, who also happens to be the person whose testimony got her father and brother convicted of treason; also he has a history of opium addiction and what seems to be some form of OCD; also he's incapable of not making jokes.

(I spent the entire book hearing the voice of Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins doing all Christian's dialog. I don't know if there's any evidence that Courtney Milan has played Dragon Age but if she does I refuse to believe there wasn't an influence.)

Christian and Judith, as mentioned above, are reasonably cute, and I tend to find romances with significant emotional backstory more plausible than lust at first sight. But honestly the weight of the book is not really on their dynamic so much as it is on Judith's relationships with her siblings (as we all know sibling stuff is my favorite stuff!) and on setting up SIGNIFICANTLY MORE ONGOING PLOT, and specifically geopolitical/worldbuilding/history plot, than I think Milan has ever really done in her romance series before.

Spoilers )

Also I read Her Every Wish, the companion novella about Judith's friend Daisy, a flower-shop girl who's entered a competition for seed funds to open her own business, and Daisy's ex Crash, a mixed-race bisexual bicyclist and numbers man. I liked everything about the outlines of this plot, which is about how layers of toxic assumptions can work at cross-directions to hurt people who care about each other, and thought it needed about four times the page space to actually do the emotional arc justice -- like, there were enough real issues in Daisy and Crash's initial split that fixing all of their internalized prejudices and insecurities with one or two mildly anvilicious clue-bat conversations didn't quite feel believable or satisfying to me.

(no subject)

Jun. 15th, 2016 10:51 pm
skygiants: Audrey Hepburn peering around a corner disguised in giant sunglasses, from Charade (sneaky like hepburnninja)
[personal profile] skygiants
There is an amazing diner on the Connecticut-NY border called Traveler Restaurant with shelves full of books, and every time you eat a meal there you are allowed to leave with THREE (three!!!) of the most interesting-looking books that you can find.

[personal profile] genarti and I discovered this last time we were driving back from NY, at which point I acquired Jessamy Court, which promised to be the most 70's type of Gothic novel imaginable AND INDEED IT WAS.

Jessamy Court begins when Our Heroine Rachel gets a phone call from the hospital.

A KINDLY DOCTOR: Your friend Stephanie is comatose! ... from SHOCK!
RACHEL: What happened?
A KINDLY DOCTOR: Well, we assume something VERY SHOCKING! But we cannot cure her unless we know what. Anyway, since her famous estranged prima ballerina mother died last week and she has no other family or other friends, it is up to you to take responsibility for her --
RACHEL: You mean, by paying for her medical bills?
A KINDLY DOCTOR: No, of course not, we are not worried about bills here! I mean by taking her keys and breaking into her house to find out what might have shocked her into a coma.
RACHEL: ......

But Rachel obediently goes and rifles through all of Stephanie's stuff, and finds there a letter from Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's ex asking Stephanie to come visit Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's country mansion.

RACHEL: Hmmm, I wonder if this could have to do with whatever SHOCKING THING caused Stephanie's collapse!
RACHEL: ...well, I guess the only responsible choice left to me, as a concerned friend, is to impersonate Stephanie while she's in a coma and travel up there to find out what's what! This is definitely a normal friend thing to do and I'm sure I would disappoint that nice doctor if I didn't take advantage of this opportunity.

And off Rachel jets up to Jessamy Court, where of course she encounters two hot men:

FABIAN, Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's ex, a well-known ARCHITECT/MOUNTAIN CLIMBER/THEATRICAL SET DESIGNER with a SINISTER CHARM who can now no longer climb mountains due to a tragic leg injury which MIGHT have been Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's fault
DOMINICK, Stephanie's famous estranged prima ballerina mother's SAD PIANIST, a charming blonde musician with a face like SUNLIGHT

Spoilers are very seventies Gothic )


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