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(no subject) [Jul. 20th, 2016|08:55 pm]
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My mom and dad recently moved, and they just brought me a bunch of my junk from their house. In the bottom of one of the boxes they brought I found… yes, indeed… the MacGyver fanfic I wrote as a young teenager (I must have been in ninth grade or so). It is… I'll just say, wow. It's a look into my teenage psyche that is a little horrifying, as these things are, and is also hilariously a record of what I was reading around that time.

It's a series: two ~40-page works, and a short story (10 pages).

The first fic contains the following things:

-a Mary Sue who is the smartest and bestest at everything and everyone is half in love with her
-on the other hand, she does not get the guy
-on the third hand, her sister does (in a not-even-slightly-disguised May-December relationship! What were you thinking, teen!me? Actually, I think I had just read Damia, is what happened)
-then the Mary Sue dies tragically but also super heroically

The sequel fic I barely remembered at all, so it was… umm… very interesting to read. In this fic and the short story is a time-traveling gigantic worldwide shadow plot/conspiracy, because those are the best conspiracies (I am rather pleased to find that this love, at least, has remained constant). …teen!me actually had a good point that Murdoc makes more sense as a time-traveling conspirator than as an assassin.

Other things I did not remember about this sequel fic:

-a multigenerational and also crossover MacGyver family tree (in pencil) that manages to work in Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of MacGyver and Spock as a descendant

-an explanation to how MacGyver (and other characters like Spock) manage never to get shot, etc.: they have genetically-transmitted luck

-a whole lot of vaguely unhappy marriages due to the genetically-transmitted luck trying to propagate itself (yes, I'd also read Dune around this time)

-characters who are named after all my favorite names in Patricia Kennealy's hilariously OTT crackfic "Keltic" books, which I was reaaally into at the time (I love them! But they are Arthurian crackfic!)

-MacGyver dies tragically (teen!me was really into angst)

-MacGyver's daughter, Aeron, is the heroine; she is named after and is very much like one of the heroines in the Kennealy books, down to having an angsty revenge plot after MacGyver's death

-Aeron and her friends have psychic powers, because of course they do (I had clearly also just read the Anne McCaffrey Pegasus books, and also the Judith Tarr historical fantasies)

-Aeron INVENTS STARFLIGHT, because she is that sort of character (Zefram Cochrane is her pseudonym) (this was of course before First Contact)

-Then Aeron might have turned into a dolphin?? (it was, of course, one of those ~edgy ambiguous~ endings where her body's never found but there's this seemingly sentient dolphin that hangs out with her family etc etc.)

-a lot of quotations/dialogue/scenes lifted wholesale from whatever I was reading at the time, in best Cassandra Claire style; in addition to the previous works, I spotted Ender's Game and various John M. Ford works, as well as a couple which I couldn't place but know came from somewhere else...

In conclusion, I really want to pat teen!me on the head.
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bujold reread discussion [Jul. 19th, 2016|09:01 am]
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btw, over at [community profile] vorkosigan they're doing a Bujold reread. This week is Mountains of Mourning.
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So I read some novellas [Jun. 29th, 2016|12:50 pm]
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Penric's Demon (Bujold) - I read this before and haven't read it since. Slight, cute story about a boy and his demon. I mean… even average Bujold (which this is) is pretty darn good writing. Maybe this will take my first vote.

Binti (Okorafor) - So — there's a lot here to like (interesting narrator and worldview and cultural connotations)… I kept running aground, though, on the math. Binti is supposed to be a really great mathematics student, thus winning her entry to the celebrated Starfleet Academy Oomza University as a math major (I guess this is THE university to be in the galaxy; the others don't really register at all??) — apparently this manifests by her and her fellow students understanding the concept of tessellating triangles. And possibly being able to perform simple geometry/coordinate-transform calculations. I… was not particularly impressed by their mathematical prowess. Also, she goes into a "mathematical trance" at one point that sure looks to me like a mostly regular sort of trance; I'm not very sure what is mathematical about it. Anyway, I kept being thrown out of the story every time the word "math" was used, which was really too bad. (Compare Jemisin's Fifth Season, where the science just all seems so much more grounded and real.)

Perfect State (Sanderson) - I mean, if you've read some Sanderson before, you know how it goes. Epic Epic fantasy - check. Complicated magic system - check. Lots of Annoying Capital Letters - check. Gary Stu Hero of Everything - check. And then Huh.Collapse ) Voting for this above No Award for sure.

The Builders (Polansky) - Grimdark Wind in the Willows. There, now you don't have to read it. You're welcome. Seriously, that was it, that was the entire content of that novella. I did appreciate the author's note in which he totally acknowledged it was a one-note joke. Voting under No Award.

Slow Bullets (Reynolds) - Okay — so, as SF this was actually pretty cool (military transports wake up in cryogenic pods and must unravel the mystery of what is going on in the ship and the universe) and the plot was probably the best of the five. Up until the end. The resolution of the plot made me super side-eye it. Spoilers!Collapse ) Not sure whether I will vote this above or below No Award; depends on how crotchety I'm feeling, I suppose.
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Some pictures of what I've been working on [Jun. 28th, 2016|01:20 pm]
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(note to [personal profile] ambyr: I have also been working on a long Byzantine chain for… uh… six months now, in little bits and pieces. I'm hoping I can actually finish it up this month. I'll try to post a pic when I do.)

So as you probably all know about me by now, I get these obsessions that last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year long. They're about different things, but fairly reliably I can count on having an obsession every couple of years on some sort of jewelry-making, particularly with gemstones. Cut because apparently once I start talking about shiny things, I don"t shut up.Collapse )

Pictures!Collapse )
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The Fifth Season (Jemisin) [Jun. 22nd, 2016|08:39 pm]
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4/5. Wow, you guys. This was amazing. And I'm speaking from the point of view of someone who really didn't like Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and who suspects that in general Jemisin might not exactly be for me? But this book is amazing. Jemisin has really got a handle on her writing (which IMO she didn't have in 100K); this thing is super ambitious and it manages to pull it off.

So, first of all: all the trigger warnings in the world. I mean, this is a book that begins in the first chapter with a baby killed by its father. Also: apocalypse, all the time.

Relatedly, it's a very angry book, which turned me off at first. And in my opinion 100K Kingdoms got over-the-top with the anger without sufficient character justification — but here it is much better handled. (I did find it a little… something… that apparently mild and disturbing spoilers for both 100K and 5thCollapse ) It didn't make my eyes roll here in the same way, though, because here it wasn't "ooh, let's do this at a party because that's what we do for fun because We Are Evil," but rather arose much more naturally out of the power structures of the society.

One of the things I really loved about it is that it's…science fantasy? Like, it's got clear trappings of fantasy (although there are hints that there might be at least a pseudo-scientific basis for it, which by the way is super cool), but if it's fantasy, it's fantasy that's rooted in science, and she seems to have a good grasp on earth science (as I'm not an earth scientist I couldn't tell you for sure, but it's got that feel to it, if you know what I mean, of someone who's comfortable with the science). I was totally unsurprised to read at the end that Jemisin had been part of a consortium where writers and scientists communicated, because it's really got that feel.

There are some parts where I felt like the human reactions were a little off. Mild spoilers.Collapse )I feel like it was manipulation by the author to manufacture reader outrage and justify the book's anger. (Manipulation that worked, honestly, because Jemisin's writing is so powerful and raw in this book; it wasn't until after I finished the book that I started thinking about these things.) (And yes, I understand it's all metaphorical too, but it also has to make sense within the story.) This was probably my biggest problem with the book. There's enough to be angry about without piling things on.

Slightly larger spoilers.Collapse )

I have another quibble — this one is extremely minor, much more minor than the others, but what is this journal for if not to vent about minor quibbles -- along these lines. Mild spoilers, again.Collapse ) I am giving her super kudos for correctly identifying the timescales, and I understand the scientific correctness sort of painted her into a corner here, but… heh.

Anyway! I keep waffling about what to put on the top of my Hugo ballot. I think on the whole Uprooted, because I thought Uprooted had deeper things to say and its flaws didn't bug me as much as in Fifth Season or Ancillary Mercy, but both of those are great as well. I'm pretty happy with this selection of (novel) nominees. (Next up: Novella!)
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Uprooted (Novik) [Jun. 21st, 2016|09:20 pm]
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4/5. I said a while back that I thought this would win at least one of the Nebula and Hugo, and, well, I was right (and in my opinion, now that I've started reading more of the nominees, I expect it'll win the Hugo as well, unless Seveneves fanboys take that). K asked why quite a while back, and I started thinking about it, and then I figured I'd just word vomit talk about it here. Some of the reasons are orthogonal to why I think it's a good book. First, Novik is a known and popular author, and a presence in fandom (holy cow, see the popularity data; I knew Uprooted would be popular, but wasn't expecting it to be that much more popular!). Second, some of its rivals have their own issues, Jemisin's Fifth Season ending on a cliffhanger, Ancillary Mercy being the third in a series, or Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown being Heyer-romance pastiche and probably not being taken as seriously by some as a result) (I wrote this bit before nominees came out, and Cho is, as you probably know, not a nominee).

Another mostly-orthogonal reason: Uprooted is pretty clearly (but not overwhelmingly so, as the Cho) homage/pastiche (here of Robin McKinley rather than Heyer); there are clear and deliberate echoes of McKinley stylistically (and of course the little Luthe Easter egg in case you didn't grok it). There is a certain generation and class of readers, of which I am one, that grew up with McKinley, for whom Hero and the Crown and/or The Blue Sword (Hero for me) were pivotal, deeply meaningful books, and you can bet that Uprooted pushes all those buttons and pushes them hard. (Only it's better than McKinley, because then plot starts happening a lot!)

One of the non-McKinley things I loved about Uprooted — let me digress for a bit and tell you a story. Over Christmas we saw my family at my sister C.'s house. My parents had just given their grand piano to C., as my parents have moved and she's the only one in our family now who has room for it. So one of the things C. and I put on the schedule was a Christmas concert — C. got out her violin and I got on the piano bench and we played "Gesu Bambino," which is our traditional Christmas song (we used to play this every year at church).

I can't even tell you how amazing this was, you guys. It's more so than it might have been otherwise, because lately I've been doing a lot of crap accompaniment work (because I never have time to learn the music) with a lot of super random people from church who are usually music beginners — but in any case, C. and I have played together for years and years, we know each other's playing like we know our own mind inside out; it's a seriously heady thing to play with someone else in that kind of partnership.

— And Novik captured that feeling so well, in her descriptions of magic, of magic collaboration. (Although I had to kind of smile indulgently in the way it turned into a romance. First because, well, I've done that with my sister, not my love interests; but also in the back of my head is the part from L'Engle's Severed Wasp where there's a conductor who has a super crush on Katherine and wants to run away with her, and she schools him by making the analogy of how they play really well together as conductor and pianist, and then they leave and play with other pianists/conductors and it all works just fine.)

The other thing I loved a lot about it — and this elevated it above the other stuff I've read this year — is the subtle but visible critique of what, for want of a better term, I shall call genderified conflict. (I don't like this term because it's not actually a breakdown by gender, as Uprooted in fact notes, not least by using the super awesome character of Alosha, but it's perceived to be.) Implicit and thematic spoilers.Collapse )

I should say that I don't think this is a perfect book, by any means. One of the ways in which I think it is weakest is the character of Kasia; she's a large part of the book, she's integral to plot and motivation, but I didn't feel like I got a good handle on her character as a real person with major things happening to her even though we see a bunch of her in the book. I would have liked for her character to be fleshed out a little more — she got, oh, two pages of really good character delineation, and then, what, that's it?

And I think it would have been better without any romance at all, but at least the romance we got wasn't treated as True Love or anything. I thought it was rather refreshing, actually, that it was treated as almost an afterthought.
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(no subject) [Jun. 6th, 2016|06:31 am]
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A: is the most charming oh-my-gosh-he's-a-toddler-now in the world. He smiles delightedly and even laughs when you play with him! He really enjoys clapping songs and tries to clap along! And doesn't cry when milk is spilled! He wants to Be Helpful and when he sees me put toys in a bin, he toddles over and tries to do it too!

More toddlering.Collapse )

E: still really likes dinosaurs, although it's not the all-consuming obsession it was several months ago.

She's doing really well. More.Collapse )

Me: I feel like the combo of waking up with A. and having this cold (again, with almost no symptoms except being tired, which is a big improvement over the early years with E., but my focus is shot to heck) has completely tanked my productivity. AND E. is finishing up the school year, which necessitates a bunch of end-of-year rituals, much of which I'm supposed to be present for. But I am hopeful this will all calm down soon. Very soon. I hope. Ideally before things heat up at work (lately they have been pretty slow, which has worked out). Not much stuff.Collapse )
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Wicked, live [May. 11th, 2016|09:05 pm]
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I have not forgotten I was going to post about Wicked, which I FINALLY saw in person (touring company) last time we went to see my sister C. (The year before we saw West Side Story, which was also fabulous, although the women were way better than the men and we didn't bother to spring for orchestra section.) We almost ended up not seeing it, because all of us had gotten deathly ill a couple of days before, but fortunately we had recovered enough by then that we were up to spending three hours out of the house without collapsing.

It was amazing. I'd "watched" it a while back, but it didn't compare at all to seeing it live. I think a lot of the spectacle needs the full canvas of a live theater, as well as the contrast between the extravagance of the stage and the darkness of the theater. The big group numbers were totally amazing visually in a way I hadn't appreciated before.

It helped that the Elphaba (Emily Koch) was quite excellent. I'm not sure she had the belting volume of some, but more importantly, she managed to emotionally sell us on all the twists and turns of Elphaba's character (some of which really honestly don't make a whole lot of sense). She played Elphaba as a bit of an awkward idealistic nerd, which a) really resonated with C. and me, ha; b) works really well as a way of differentiating her (not just by skin color) from the rest of the [school] cast, both in terms of showing her as divorced from them and in terms of emotionally explaining the continuing rift between her and them (and emotionally showing the consequences of the skin-color rift; it goes both ways); and c) is a good foundation for the emotional twists the character has to take. E.g., it makes sense that sometimes Elphaba's awkwardness and frustration with being awkward manifests as anger occasionally in the first act and more generally in the second act. And the idealism makes a lot more sense to me coupled with the awkward nerdiness; that sense of self-righteousness (sometimes justified, sometimes over-the-top) seems to be underscored by not ever fitting in socially-emotionally as well.

A lot of this, of course, is in the musical itself (I mean, Elphaba is supposed to be idealistic and angry, and the awkwardness is definitely strongly implied), but my previous Elphaba experiences, Katie Rose Clarke (the Elphaba I "watched") and Idina Menzel (clips of whom I've watched) both played Elphaba much more straight in terms of emotional character. Their versions of the character seemed to be much more normal and well-adjusted and hardly awkward at all early on, which made her forays into angry idealism later on make much less sense to me.

The Galinda was fine; she sang well (probably better than the Elphaba, actually), but she was not exceptional the way both C. and I thought the Elphaba was exceptional. Afterwards we went and watched a bunch of Menzel/Chenoweth Wicked Youtube videos, and we agreed that Chenoweth was exceptional (and Menzel was not).

Fiyero was also fine. I've seen some clips of rather wooden Fiyeros, and this one was pretty good. I hadn't realized how important dancing is for his character, and he was an excellent dancer.

The Wizard (Stuart Zagnit) was the surprising one; I'd always found his songs super boring (and they are), but the comic acting really sells those songs. I was impressed.

I had warned my sister beforehand that the plot is sort of… nonsensical. She turned to me after Act I and said, "It really seems to all be hanging together pretty well right now!" After Act II she said, "Well… you were right about the plot."
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2016 Hugo nominees, Chuck Tingle, etc. [May. 2nd, 2016|12:04 pm]
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So, I have lots of other things I keep intending to post about, and not enough time to do it in, but okay, let's talk about the 2016 Hugo nominees (ETA: added link, oops), because although the nominees themselves, and the Sad/Rabid Puppies, are incredibly boring, there were some related developments that were actually kind of interesting and that I want to talk about because it occurs to me that some of you probably haven't become obsessive about the Hugos don't know what's going on here.

(None of this will be news to you if you follow FFA's threads about Hugopocalyse, which I know a couple of you do. I honestly haven't really been reading that much about it aside from the FFA threads.)

You may or may not have heard that the Puppies got a bunch of their nominees on the list of 2016 Hugo nominees, including some where they're clearly hoping everyone will vote No Award again (e.g., Bujold's Penric's Demon). I have mostly been deeply bored by this. Okay, Puppies, that's nice, and now the grownups will get on with it and, you know, vote according to which things we actually like to read.

The novel ballot actually looks pretty darn good to me (though I'm really sad that Robinson's Aurora didn't get on, which is exactly the sort of thing I'd expect would get on in a "normal" year, but given that I didn't manage to read/nominate it, I can't really complain that much); the novella and novelette ballot look decent.

Then there's Related Work, which I'm not going to say anything about (except that I'm really hoping the Gene Wolfe is halfway-decent), and then there's Short Stories. Vox Day's Rabid Puppies' slate swept both, and they both look pretty horrible.

Puppies. Dinosaur erotica. Statistics links. Unicorn tears. There"s room to be weird in space. Cut for length.Collapse )
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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Bujold) [Apr. 16th, 2016|09:59 pm]
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3/5. I was too unenthused to buy it or even to put it on hold at the library, but interested enough to check it out once it appeared on the New Books shelf at the library. And, I mean, it was fine? I had been thoroughly warned about the Babieeeees theme and the Bujold Thinks She Can Do Romance theme and the This Has No Plot property, so those didn't bother me overmuch.

Cut for mild spoilers, although, I mean, this book has no real plot, so…Collapse )
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Just a couple more things [Mar. 29th, 2016|09:31 am]
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Hopefully this is my last Hugo-related post before the end of nominations?

So I think there was a winner in the whole Puppies awfulness. The winner was everyone who published something in 2015, because I am reading (mostly library/available-online copies, but in some cases buying) all kinds of things I would never otherwise read in the year it was published, and in some cases never read at all.

Other potential best related work thingies!

Rave and Let Die (amazon link) - Adam Roberts. 3+/5. I really like Roberts' writing. I don't always agree with him; in fact, sometimes I disagree with him vehemently. Take, for example, his assertion in the Prologue (this part of which is available to read free from the link) "Putting yourself forward for an award is inevitably predicated upon the following premise: I think my work should win this award. And that means only one thing: I think my work is the best novel/short story/essay published this year."

Umm... no. That is a false chain of reasoning. It can mean that you think other people might think it's worth winning an award, which of course does not (and Roberts even says this right in the same essay!) necessarily relate to being the best anything. It can mean that you'd like other people to be able to FIND all the stuff you published that year, regardless of whether they, or you, think it's the best. (I am really happy when I find an author page where they have nicely listed the stuff they've published that year.)

Anyway! Later on in the Prologue (part of which is free) he talks about Harry Potter using an extended quotation from G.K. Chesterson who is talking about Sir Walter Scott. You can see why I think this guy is amazing :) He's not for everyone, I think! But I like him a lot. Definitely putting him down for Best Related Work.

Lois McMaster Bujold - amazon link - Edward James. Have not finished. Probably will not finish before the voting deadline. I'm not sure there's a whole lot here I don't already know, but unless I quickly find something three things better (I'm also nominating Letters from Tiptree) I'm gonna put this on my ballot, because quite frankly I'd rather have this than anything the puppies can come up with. (Why yes, I'm more bitter about Related Work 2014 than any other category.)
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Campbell nominations [Mar. 14th, 2016|08:40 am]
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So far I have three:

Sarah Pauling for Cloth Mother (I just liked it a lot, okay)

Iona Sharma for Nine Thousand Hours and Quarter Days (which I thought were really good)

Scott Hawkins for Library at Mount Char (which I had major issues with but which did impress me as a debut piece of writing)

Any other suggestions welcome!
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Hugo-eligible short fiction, part 3 [Mar. 9th, 2016|09:09 pm]
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I think this will be the last one, because quite frankly I think I have reached the limit of the amount of short fiction I am willing to seek out of my own accord. (If there are other stories you really think I should read, that might be different.) But there are a bunch of interesting stories that I wanted to tell you guys about!

These are in order of most liked to least (within categories), and I have put an asterisk next to ones that are currently on my ballot.

Novellas

*The Citadel of Weeping Pearls (Aliette de Bodard) (available if you are nominating for the Hugo by contacting the author here) - oh! Yeah. This one's great. Interesting non-white-male worldbuilding/characters with what I thought was a satisfying arc, although I could totally see others differing on that.

*Quarter Days (Iona Sharma) - Fantasy (magic Britain with trains). I really liked this one, and I liked Sharma's short story set in the same universe even more — I liked that it was first about characters and second about solving a puzzle, with the worldbuilding something to be untangled as the characters went along.

*The New Mother (Eugene Fischer) - This is near-future SF with interesting ideas. I liked the journalistic bits a lot.

Novelettes

*Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan, Ian McDonald (in Old Venus) - Apparently this has been recced around everywhere, and I finally got it from the library, and it is in fact extremely good writing and a really interesting story that takes the tropes of old Venusian pulp and refashions them into something rich and strange. Definitely up there as Hugo-worthy.

*So Much Cooking (Naomi Kritzer) - Awwwww, this is a super cute and also kind of heartbreaking but also heartwarming story. Food blog during an epidemic.

"Another Word for World" (Ann Leckie) (Future Visions) - I mean, Leckie is a wonderful writer, and this story about two very different women who have to communicate over a language barrier is no exception. But I did feel that the resolution of the story was something that should have occurred to anyone who had ever studied a second language and not be this huge surprise to all the characters.

"Machine Learning" (Nancy Kress) (Future Visions) - So, like, there's this emotional story in here that is probably pretty good, and then there's this near-future machine learning stuff that… I just… okay, see, I know a little about the field from work and I kept saying, but… but it doesn't really work like that… people don't actually think about it like that… and it drove me batty. This is not a rec; if anything it's an anti-rec; I just had to rant about it.

Short Stories

*Game of Smash and Recovery (Kelly Link) - Families? Sort of. Kelly Link, anyway. So, this is a really interesting story, and the more I think about it the more I like it.

*"Hello, Hello" (Seanan McGuire) (Future Visions) - Have I mentioned I am a sucker for stories about families? I am a sucker for stories about families, especially parents and children, and this is a cheerful story about a family and machine learning and I found the family really well done, and I just really liked it.

*Nine Thousand Hours (Iona Sharma) - Set in the same universe as her novella above. I read this story and really didn't understand what was happening until the end, at which point I read the whole thing again. It's got to be good if you can get me to do that. I will warn you that not much actually happens in this story (the big action happens before the story). But it's still a cool story. I am definitely nominating Sharma for the Campbell, even if this gets knocked off my ballot.

Remembery Day (Sarah Pinsker) - About memory and war. I liked this a lot. Not on my ballot through lack of space.
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Hugo-eligible novels I've read lately [Mar. 8th, 2016|09:31 pm]
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Okay — for the next little while it will be Hugos all the time. (Who are we kidding: this means, like, two posts. Maybe. If I am lucky.) Hugo-eligible novels I've looked at lately:

House of Shattered Wings (Aliette de Bodard) - 3+/5. I really like de Bodard's writing, and I was actually a little scared to read this for a while because I was worried I wouldn't like her writing for a novel's length. Which… is very weird, actually. Never mind. Anyhow, I really like this book and I think it's worth reading — it's gorgeous prose, the worldbuilding of a Paris with fallen angels is gorgeous and interesting… I, uh, realized that one of the reasons I love her prose is that she uses a lot of semicolons, which I am fully on board with, but might irritate others. Occasionally there's a weird word choice. ("Nuke"? Really?) The ending was a bit understated, but apparently there are more books to come.

The Affinities (Robert Charles Wilson) - 3/5. Well, I guess it's not Wilson's fault that I've gotten really picky about my near-future SF, or that he didn't write the book I wanted to read. But when you postulate a technology that sorts people into their "affinities," groups of people with whom they immediately "click" — well, first of all, it doesn't even make sense to me that there would only be twenty-two of them (which he does address later, to his credit), and second, I think I wanted to read about how this would actually work (oh my gosh, it sounds so interesting! Partially genetic, probably, and partially behavioral…), and third, just because you click with someone doesn't mean you can trust them! (I definitely know people who click with high-drama people, for instance.) Where is the tension between people being people (good, bad, nice, obnoxious) and in an affinity? And then at the end he starts with the book I was interested in all along— what if you can target it more precisely? What does that even mean? but then the book ends. Blah!

The Just City (Jo Walton) - 3+/5. OMG this was SUCH a cool book. Athena puts together (through time-traveling) a bunch of people who want to live Plato's Republic. It is a whole bunch of handwaving to get to the thought experiment (no, seriously, complete with Greek gods with time-travel powers and really smart robots) and then a lot of working out of the thought experiment through in-text debates and then Sokrates shows up and annoysdebates the heck out of everyone — and, like, it's not really about plot or characters (although there are some, they are not the focus) and there are seventy zillion people I would never recommend this to because they would hate it, but I got such a huge kick out of it because working out of thought experiments is so much fun for me — and this is exactly the sort of thought-provoking thinky book that I am excited about nominating for the Hugo. I also highly recommend this article about Plato's Republic and Just City if you, like me, are a philistine who hasn't read Plato.
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Hugo-eligible works just want to be free [Feb. 29th, 2016|12:42 pm]
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Various Hugo-eligible works people might be interested in, for free or nearly free:

Future Visions [SHORT STORIES], available for Kindle for free. Lots of interesting hard SF short stories. I was wondering where all the hard SF was! Here is some, anyway. Some quite good stuff here — I'll probably end up nominating at least one of these stories, probably more. I'll try to post on this once I've finished them all.

Letters to Tiptree [RELATED WORK] is selling for Kindle for 99 cents until the end of the Hugo nomination period. I would have paid rather more than that for the Tiptree-LeGuin correspondence alone, which is wonderful and heartbreaking (although makes me feel a little voyeuristic). The "modern" letters vary widely in quality and appeal. The hilarious thing was that when the letters were written by people whose work I know, there was a 100% correspondence between whether I liked their work and whether I liked their letter. (I only guessed one, though — Nicola Griffin was pretty easy.) Anyway, it's definitely going on my Related Work list.

Citadel of Weeping Pearls (Aliette de Bodard) [NOVELLA] - [personal profile] forestofglory has informed me that she says on her website that she is happy to provide copies to those nominating for awards. I haven't read it yet (or even obtained it yet) but I really like her stuff, and let's face it, you have a novella slot left over, don't you? :)
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(no subject) [Feb. 25th, 2016|03:46 am]
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I have fifty other things that actually need to get done, and other posts I'm supposed to be making (I have two more posts still left on January meme, never mind that it's almost March), but I have to rant about this awful editorial on How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off. It's an editorial about how child prodigies don't necessarily grow up to be geniuses, and how perhaps one can in fact raise a creative child.

The thing is, I don't actually disagree with that first part of what he's saying. (I was a bit of a child prodigy, although I grew up in a small enough town that it didn't take much for other people to think so (I would probably not be a child prodigy by, oh, present-day New York City standards), and I became a reasonably competent though not particularly exceptional adult, so I am basically both a great example of and target audience for this kind of thing.) I just… think it's really poorly written. (And I actually strenuously disagree with the second part of his conclusions, but there, I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Oh hey, I feel a rant coming on.Collapse )
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Heinlein on humor [Feb. 18th, 2016|12:25 pm]
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"Mike, you want to discuss nature of humor. Are two types of jokes. One sort goes on being funny forever. Other sort is funny once. Second time it's dull. This joke is second sort."
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein

I read that years ago and thought, "That's going to be a really useful distinction once I have kids."

Well… yes and no.

It is a useful distinction! But it turns out that when you tell a slightly-ASD kindergartener that some jokes are "funny-once" and some are "funny-always" (or even "funny-more-than-once") it turns out that she immediately comes to the conclusion — and, I mean, it's a logical one! — that "funny-more-than-once" means funny again, RIGHT NOW. And right after that! And right after that!

So, we had a conversation about how the frequency of something that is funny more than once can change fairly dramatically. Some things are funny every month or so, but not any more often than that. That dinosaur joke that you look so adorable making? Is adorably funny more than once, but maybe wait an hour or so before telling it again. The bad pun that Daddy made is funny a couple of times in a row, but then after that you have to let it sit for a day before it's funny again. I know that you think how your schoolmate's calculator threw an error is the funniest thing you've ever seen, but in fact it is only funny once a day or so. (Hilariously, this happened yesterday; she then made sure to tell me the story again this morning.)

Baby laughing is adorable pretty much constantly, yes.

And we had another conversation about how Daddy might think something was always funny (e.g., stealing Mommy's food), but Mommy might think the same thing was only funny once, or maybe twice, or maybe funny several times but only once every couple of days or so. So it's person-dependent as well as frequency-sensitive.

AND this week we've been having an extended conversation on how Mommy might ordinarily find Thing X funny, but when Mommy is in a hurry and we are trying to do other tasks so we won't be late, Thing X is much, much, much, much less funny, and will be rather funnier once we are no longer in a hurry, or at least in the car.

In conclusion, humor is hard and Heinlein simplified it quite a bit :)
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Melody, harmony, ensemble, and modulation in Hamilton [Feb. 17th, 2016|02:01 pm]
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So there's one thing that really frustrates me a lot about the musical Hamilton, and that is the same thing as what I think is one of its great and wonderful strengths: I have become convinced that Lin-Manuel Miranda doesn't think in terms of melody. As someone whose musical traditions are a) classical, particularly classical violin, and b) 80's Broadway, with the Phantom/Les Mis blockbusters being the ones most strongly imprinted in my brain, I find it very hard to wrap my head around it. (And more relevant to my everyday life, it is very hard to belt out the songs to my baby, which is one of the big things I'm looking for in a musical right now, and as I have cheerfully done with Les Mis, Scarlet Pimpernel, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Beauty and the Beast, and others I can't think of right now.)

What I mean by "not thinking in terms of melody"Collapse )
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Happy V-day! [Feb. 14th, 2016|06:52 pm]
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By "V" I of course mean velociraptor.

DSC_3105_cr.jpg

(D got E a cake mix today and they had a lot of fun with it together after dinner. The design is E's, and the execution is D's.)
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Alexander Hamilton (Chernow) [Feb. 5th, 2016|09:38 pm]
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(Uh, yeah, surprising no one, this is a bunch of words not solely about the Chernow bio, but a rather a lot of opinions on how Chernow's bio relates to the musical.)

4/5. I FINALLY finished the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton, not just so I could write this post on it, but I could easily have taken another month otherwise. It's a very good and readable book, but it's also a very chewy book — it's not dense, I didn't have to read things twice or wait until I was in a super cognitive mood, like I did for Hild, but it's definitely the kind of book where I could read a couple of pages and then either go on or put it down for a couple of days.

Anyway! It was awesome and I totally understand how Miranda put this book down and was like "…surely someone's written a musical about this guy, right? Right???? No? I'm not going to throw away my shot Then I'll do it."

Chernow is clearly a fan of Hamilton, but this doesn't extend to thinking Hamilton can do no wrong. Chernow doesn't make excuses or try to rugsweep when his subject does something incredibly stupid — indeed his frustration is almost palpable. But more of that later on.

It's really really interesting to read after being obsessed with the musical. You know how Alexander Hamilton, in the musical, is this sort of archetypal hero who starts from nothing, gets caught up in all these Events, attains the pinnacle of success, and then falls from it? The historical Alexander Hamilton is all these things turned up to eleven. I mean, Miranda didn't exaggerate. If anything he downplayed Hamilton. If he'd also added that the boat Hamilton took to America literally caught on fire (I laughed out loud at this) and that, far from being a little gawky and awkward as an adolescent as he is in the musical, he was in fact possessed of an extreme poise and confidence, we wouldn't even have believed it, right? He would have come across as a complete Mary Sue, right? …And yet.

Is anyone surprised that this got long? No.Collapse )

Anyway! Highly recommended, whether or not you like or have any interest in the musical. If you are a huge fan of the musical-as-history, I would go so far as to say that this is a must-read so that you don't go around telling people that Alexander Hamilton punched the Princeton bursar (he didn't) — although the good folks at genius.com have annotated the lyrics so that you can get a pretty good idea for what's history and what's not.
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