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I reread A Wizard of Earthsea

I was sorting through my calibre library the other day* and kinda fell into A Wizard of Earthsea. It's one of those childhood books that made a huge impact on me (my computer is still called sparrowhawk) but I never re-read, and so I actually remembered very little of the plot. Still don't really remember what happens in Tombs of Atuan and subsequent books - except of course Ged expending all his magic to maintain the equilibrium, that made too big an impact to forget. Falling into Le Guin's writing is the most natural thing, but her books really take me away into another world, in a way that a lot of books, books which I love, do not. And it is not a long book. There aren't any tricks to it. Maybe it's the prose, which makes the book almost feel like a written-down version of an oral work. It's a rare feeling and I love it, that wholesale transportation into another world.

At the end of the copy I have, Le Guin writes about the story she wanted to tell, and how she wanted to write something that was unlike the usual triumphant hero, who uses his - it's always a man, when she wrote it and even now - fists and strength to win. She writes about how while she still stuck to writing about a man's story, she quietly made him not a white man - this was subtle enough I missed it as a child, though I see it so clearly now, and it's so cheering - and more than that, she pushed back against the endless militarism and the stories that create conflict and excitement by throwing the protagonist against enemies. Faceless and featureless ones too, so there's no moral difficulty about showing off the protagonist's strength when he slaughters them. I read all this and then a day later I went to see Avengers: Infinity War.

Don't get me wrong, I like superhero movies. I've certainly seen a lot of them - all of the Marvel ones, except Spider-Man, more from other stories. But maybe my patience is wearing thin. I like the characters very much, some of the films are interesting visually, but I find them to be so samey in philosophy and theme sometimes. I don't like it when I can see the bones of the story poking through, because it's been repeated so many times, just in different upholstery. And some of the visuals are so repetitive - there's a certain style of science-fiction backgrounds that seems to pervade the whole genre (which is really sad), there's so much explosions and running away from same, etc. There's only so many ways you can play these kinds of fights. Instead of punching with a human fist, let's upgrade and punch with a bigger metal fist! But it has to be fist-shaped, otherwise how will our audience have any emotional connection? The science fiction feels so empty and imagination-less. Forget innovative biology, we can't even get different social constructs in totally alien planets.

Infinity War spoilersCollapse )

* It's a tragic tale. I was on vacation and had packed an ereader that day into my backpack, intending first to do touristy things, and then to find a green spot and lie out in the sun and read. It was absolutely beautiful weather, and I sat down in a garden, and I took out my trusty kobo, and it simply died and factory-reset on me. Just straight up reset. I was 5,000km away from my computer and its hard drive with my 400 ebooks. AAAAARGHHH. https://xkcd.com/466/ kicks in, except replace wifi with books in this instance, and I discovered that my absurd data plan (30gb for someone who plays hard on her at-home plan of 3gb was just...mind exploding) would tether, so I tethered my kobo to my phone's wifi, got into my kobo after guessing my password a few times (I think it's been literally 4-5 years since I logged in), and...started reading The Phantom of the Opera, which was not what I wanted to read. I was in the middle of A Civil Contract! I think at one point I'd logged about 1k hours on my kobo, so it's not like I could blame it for prematurely dying, but my god, the timing. I had so many side-loaded books and I could not access any of them!

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/183836.html.

Elemental Blessings - Sharon Shinn

I just finished Royal Airs, the second book in Sharon Shinn's Elemental Blessings series. One of the central conceits is that everyone is one of five types (torz, coru, hunti, sweela, or elay), which have associated elemental and personality traits. There are about fifty blessings also. They are associated with one of the five elements. When you're born, your parents ask strangers to draw blessings for you - the temples all have a big container which are filled with coins stamped with each blessing. People seeking guidance might draw a coin for the day.

The blessings are basically horoscopes, but they are wrapped by the story (characterization, plot points) and I am so into this worldbuilding and I don't even know why! I kinda want to make an art project to create them. I don't have the materials to do metalworking, or the skills, or the patience lol. I don't think clay would look very good in my inexperienced hands. Maybe cards are the closest I can get, though it doesn't seem as neat.

omg I've just googled and discovered that someone's made coins for sale. The whole set for $20. But alas I do not like the design. I'm very picky...I wish that this series were wildly popular, like HP, and I could pick and choose from many artists' work (though admittedly, I've never bought any HP merch.) I'll keep thinking about how I could make them.

And if it wasn't obvious - I really like these novels! They also have a lot of twists and politicking. I really enjoyed them and could nooot put down Royal Airs on Saturday - the second half of the book kept dropping huge twists.

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/182973.html.

fountain pens

I bought myself Pilot's Metropolitan fountain pen, and I really like it. It's a starter fountain pen at a very affordable price (I got it on jetpens, where it was $18) and very unfussy. It's got a rounded nib, not an italic nib, unlike my other fountain pen, so you can write like you would normally. And it can take a cartridge and comes with a converter, which basically sucks up ink from a bottle of ink, instead of a disposable cartridge. I have a lot of dip pens, which are great because they're super flexible in effects and inks, but tends to be really fussy to work with - I have to clear off my table to accommodate everything, need water to wash nibs with, etc. And whenever I have to work with ink like that, I always get it all over my fingers. I like that with this pen it writes like a nice gel pen might, with a thin tip too, and is as easy to use as a ball point.

(I also bought like four 0.38 mm gel pens at the same time. I REALLY like the fine points. 0.5 is terrible and 0.7 is unspeakable.)

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/182547.html.


specifically, yes I'm on instagram, and there's this whole...aesthetic that is not specific to that, but I see it most highly concentrated there, where the reigning design choice seems to be extremely textured, tons of "whitespace", an empty ~inspirational~ quote that is as connected to anything concrete as an escaped party balloon in the wild blue yonder.

Layers and layers of paper and worse, thicker materials, separated by those little styrofoam or rubber dots to give it "volume" and "pop" it even further out so every page is 3 inches thick - it's a book, it's not going to lay flat, even very sturdy 120lb paper will buckle unpleasantly eventually, even when stored upright. Ugly fringes, relying on someone else's produced scrapbooking paper to fill the page, using those premade stickers that are cute but they're so generic. Colour just flung on the page - how much pastel explosion is enough? And the only text on the page being stupid quotes. Oh my god having just vented all that I think I've realized what the core problem is - scrapbooking takes a long time and it's supposed to be a way to record moments you want to remember. So instead of using your own words and your own designs and your own colours and your own thoughts let's just slap on stuff bought from stores! I know I'm very text focused but that and your own photos probably are the strongest captures of memory and by just putting stupid things like ~live love laugh~ and its equivalent all over your expensive book all you've just done is stuff your personal moments into someone else's constructed little cage. With an average of 5 words per page, those photos better be pretty good at representation of that memory.

And FINALLY I'm starting to get frankly fed up with the ultra hyper feminine designs - everything, actually. I like polka dot, pastels, stripes, bows, lace, glitter, pretty much the whole nine yards, but trying to look at instagram and bloggers is like being slapped in the face with an extremely narrow - I don't know how to describe it, but idealized 1950's proscribed lifestyle/culture/everything. It's full of that pastel/flowery aesthetic and it's all lifestyle bloggers about their two perfect children and stay-at-home life and there's nothing inherently wrong with that but WHY IS IT EVERY SINGLE BLOG?

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/181856.html.


Ancillary Justice: Anne Leckie

Help help these books omg.

It's space opera with the main character a space ship's AI, a cog in the machine for a massive, ever-expanding galactic empire, except this is now the last annexation. The AIs use humans that have been harvested for use as ancillaries, bodies to carry out tasks. It is probably the best SF novel I've read all year, and it plays with a lot of interesting concepts.

(NOTE: I read them all the way back in August, wrote most of this in September, and have posted it now. I think there are things I didn't get around to writing about, but this covers a lot of it. And I'm still catching up on book reviewing, eek.)

spoilers all the way up to Ancillary MercyCollapse )

I really, really liked these novels. I thought they were a finished trilogy too, but I hear rumours they aren't? Certainly they're not wrapped up.

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/181542.html.

Thor: Ragnorak!

Last book read for bookclub wasn't that great either. I feel like all I do is froth at the mouth about bad books, but I HAVE read good ones this year - I still have this massive thing half-written-up for Ancillary Justice, and I'm currently reading SPQR which I really like! Though I have to say, I never have done much reading into Classics so what I really also need is a very broad, very basic chronology with years in BCE to help. And a index of names and what they are most known for.

I also saw Thor: Ragnorak today! I really enjoyed it - more than I expected. I like the MCU generally, and of all the strands of MCU I like Thor the best. I like all of them, except Spider-Man which I've never seen, but I like Thor the best.

Spoilers!Collapse )

More to come but basically if I'm not posting them a few days after I start writing, posts don't get posted. D:

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/181437.html.

Walden/On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

I considered writing a review of Walden and On The Duty of Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, but I've decided I'm just going to link this: Pond Scum, by Katheryn Schulz, who says it far more eloquently than I do.

But I struggled (and snarled) through it, so I'll say it as succinctly as I can: what a hypocritical, narcissistic, uncharitable and self-righteous worm. How dare you preach from above what you don't even adhere to (hungry, so walk to your mother's place half mile down the road?) How could you even dredge up the self-importance to say humanity's life is meaningless and worthless when you refuse to even live among people, to learn anything about humanity and civilization? How self-absorbed can you be to think living without a doormat makes you more "pure"? Did you lose your empathy, to say "I have tried [Doing-good] fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution", and feel proud of putting those words down?

You idolize subsistence farming because you never had to live it; you don't put manure down because you only expect to plant and harvest once. You look down on young people who have to go off to make their fortunes before they can "go up to the garret to write their poetry", because you're so myopic you can't understand not only poverty, but not even the whole class of people who have to make a living. You draw out sums that feed a single man in good health in good weather who owns his own property, but since everyone else is deaf and blind to all the truths you see, surely this is enough for all other lives and families. And there isn't even internal consistency! Is having an editor also impure, Thoreau?

P.S. a hundred Romantic poets, novelists, and essayists did nature writing better.

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/181170.html.


So I am grumpy tonight, but man, Every Heart A Doorway. I should have a tag that simultaneously expresses my love for libraries and annoyance: #backtothelibrarybin #wouldhavethrownagainstwall #exceptlibrarybook #nextreaderbeware #wouldveburnt #exceptlibrarybook

(camelcase, what's camelcase? it doesn't look as good, ok)

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/180977.html.

Every Heart a Doorway: Seanan McGuire

OH BOY this book.

I read it for book club and then I managed to miss book club (it was Monday! On Tuesday, I looked at my email again....) and I have feelings about it. And by feelings, I mean I pretty much hated it by the end.

The book's premise is that it's set at a boarding school for the children who have gone through the portals of Fantasyland and then been spat back out. The way the Pensevie children grow up, become kings and queens, and then tumble back out of the wardrobe as children again - that's always been a bit of a weird cognitive dissonance for me, because while on one hand, it's great for the story for them to achieve those prophecies and rule a great kingdom and all. On the other hand, I can't imagine going an adult right back to a child and not having major issues. If right now I went back to being eight, keeping those memories, I'd be so messed up! And I don't even rule a kingdom.

The story's told through the perspective of a newly-returned girl, who went to a kingdom of the dead. Silent, unmoving, black. Six months pass in the real world, but much longer in the other world, and she's unsurprisingly pretty different when she comes back. Her parents, concerned, send her to Miss Eleanor West's boarding school.

Reader, I did not enjoy this. Also, I'm spoiling the end of the book. It was bad. How did this win a Hugo?!Collapse )

3/10 because I also read Walden this year. Walden deserves 0/10, possibly lower than that. But yeah. I did not like this, do not recommend. You want portal fantasy? Don't even bother.

ETA: I just made myself mad by reading reviews. You know what a resilient heroine looks like for kids who were weird and didn't fit in? Growing up, trying, sometimes failing, making a space for themselves. NOT AN ENDING WHERE BAM, PERFECT WORLD DROPPED IN THEIR LAP! What an utterly stupid statement. What's emotional payoff, what's character arc, what's "creating a gothic world" (haha except no because we see none of it)? Argh!

Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/180606.html.

omg yuletide!

oh wow, assignments are already out! But signups only just closed!


Crosspost: https://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/180433.html.




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