FMK: The Princess and the Goblin

Mar. 23rd, 2017 12:14 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Princess Irene is definitely D'Angeline, isn't she. Which of the angels is her Great-Grandmama?

...Anyway, somehow I was expecting this to be about a princess and a goblin, not a princess and a peasant boy and a WHOLE BUNCH of goblins, none of whom she really interacts with. I think somehow I had got the impression that Curdie was a goblin who helped her out.

That's really the core of my response to this book. As I was reading it (and I'm very glad I did) I was seeing all the ways in which this is really an important foundation block in the later fantasy I've read, missing pieces that I haven't found in extensive folklore reading but still turn up every now and then in post-Victorian stuff, even such little things as the physical descriptions of the goblins. (Such as having a jack-o-lantern face, when folklore pumpkinheads are usually very distinct from folklore goblins.)

And then there's the very strong, and very Victorian, thread in this book of beautiful = good and ugly = bad. Not to say that post-Victorian kidlit has totally solved that one, but still, there's enough pushback against it in newer kids' fantasy (and in folklore) that my response to the lady who is beautiful beyond imagining (*especially* if she admits she's wearing a glamour) is BEWARE, and you should probably go find an ugly crone to talk to instead. Also I can't think of a single reason why the goblins aren't in the right here, given the way they are being dehumanized and their lands are being steadily stolen and then destroyed. They even try for a diplomatic solution first!

Of course, the fairy-story books I was imprinting on instead when I was the age for this were The Ordinary Princess (all about how Ordinary doesn't have to be Beautiful to be Good) and Goblins in the Castle (where Our Hero realizes halfway through that the displaced goblins are in the right and he's been on the wrong side all along). Both of those books are almost certainly arguing with MacDonald and his peers, whether consciously on the part of the writers or not, but I got their side of the argument first and it's a much better side. :P

I was also interested in how young Irene was. There's a standard in kidlit publishing (or at least there was, awhile back) that your protagonist should always be at least a couple of years older than the reading level you're writing for, presumably as an aspirational thing, and also so kids who read a lot can feel smug about reading books for older kids and kids who are a little slower don't have to be talked down to.

But I'm wondering if it's also because adult authors tend to write their protagonists acting a few years younger than kids of that age feel like they are in their heads. Irene certainly feels younger than eight to me, for a lot of the book: at eight I could tell you who my cousins-once-removed were and how they were different from my second-cousins, and I can't imagine many second graders I know being confused by the concept of a great-grandma, or in general have Irene's maturity level. And when I was a kid, reading books about kids a few years older than me, the protagonists didn't usually feel like they were that much older than me. Maybe by telling grownups to write eleven-year-olds for eight-year-olds, you end up with characters who feel like eight-year-olds to eight-year-olds.

I did really like the strong message in this book that adults need to believe what kids say to them, and that if the adults don't, that's on the adults, not the kids. And if the kids let themselves be half-convinced the adults are right and the kids are imagining or exaggerating, it's also the adults' fault, and not the kids failing, and not just "part of growing up." And that the mysterious secret stranger actually tells the protagonist to tell all her grown-ups everything, not to keep it secret, because adults who tell you to keep your relationship a secret are probably not the adults you should rely on. That's something that is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT to teach a lot of kids (although probably more important to teach grownups), and I think the way MacDonald did it was a lot more emotionally real and with a lot more conviction than a lot of other people, especially modern kids' fantasy, where the parents not believing or not being told is either taken for granted or treated as harmless.

Also wow, you really couldn't get away with handing a character a LITERAL PLOT THREAD in a modern book...

FMK #5: MEN who are MEN

Mar. 21st, 2017 03:57 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
FMK #4's F winner was "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald, at a v. reasonable ~200 pages, and I will be reading it tonight.

K was "The Pilgrim's Progress". I wanted to be good, I really did, but I opened it up just to see what it was like, and, like, two paragraphs in I realize this is the book that taught the world that Heaven is full of pretty girls in white dresses with golden harps, and also notice that some previous owner has hand-annotated my copy, and, look, I can't. But I did move it from the fiction shelf to the Penguin Classics shelf where it can keep company with its boring and elderly brethren, does that count?

I am realizing that the nature of the votes here is that we are going to disproportionately vote out timeless classics that people have Opinions on while all the ones that are just Bad and Boring stick around forever. Feel free to vote K just because you know nothing about it and don't know why anyone would own it!

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Anyway, enough with courtesans and princesses and all that girly stuff. Today we are going to vote on MEN who are MEN.

Poll: Asimov, Avallone, Bester, Blish, Blum, Bova, Hale, Howard, Richards, Russ, Wells )

FMK: Kushiel's Dart

Mar. 20th, 2017 08:25 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
So! Kushiel's Dart.

That was not a one-night-stand book. That was, at best, a "mad weekend at a cabin in the mountains" book. By which I mean, it was long. I read fiction pretty fast, and it took me about nine hours of reading time to get through that. Probably I am spoiled by my reading speed, because most books I can get through in one sitting. Not Kushiel. Not unless I wanted to pull an all-nighter, and I'm too old for that now. Did I mention it is long? It's the longest book I have read since I started tracking reading on Goodreads. It is the fourth longest novel I own (and two of the three longer ones are Outlander.) It is tied for longest novel I have ever read (with Cryptonomicon. And Cryptonomicon I did read in one night of passion, but I was almost fifteen years younger and even then it didn't go real well for me.) (okay, Les Mis is technically longer, but Les Mis is also technically five books.) Kushiel's Dart is kind of long, even for an epic fantasy, is what I'm saying here. I don't think even the best courtesan in the Night Court can sustain a night of passion for nine hours.

I've been mentioning how long it is to people in RL all week, so I thought I'd mention it here just in case somebody missed that part. ^_^

It is also, however, a book I found compulsively readable, in a way not many books are these days. For people not familiar, it's an epic fantasy set in an alternate Late Medieval Europe where the Roman Empire happened differently: Britain is still Celtic, the North is still tribal, and France is [still] ruled by the descendants of Christ and the Magdalen. The main character is Ph├Ędre, who was born into a House of courtesans, and was purchased as a child by a nobleman to be trained as a courtesan and spy.
spoilers under cuts from here on )

Anyway, I really actively enjoyed the second half of the book, A++ would read another 900 pages of that, although tbh probably not the 1500 pages that is the next two volumes, at least not right away. But if the whole book was like the last half, or if the first half was about 350 pages shorter it would probably be getting a definite place on my "permanent favorites" shelf but tbh if I ever re-read I would probably start the re-read after the doomy thing happened.

But, of course, as everyone who has heard of this book knows, nobody cares about that because it is also an EROTIC fantasy full of KINKY PORN.

....except it really, really isn't.

Like, there are some sex scenes in it? Two or three of them rise to the level of mildly explicit rather than softcore or fade-to-black. And a few of them involve some fairly hardcore BDSM stuff, by mundane standards. But in terms of kinky-sex-per-page ratio, you're better off reading, like, Fahfrd and the Gray Mouser or something. They usually manage at least a couple kinky sex scenes per hundred-page novella, usually involving at least rat-girls or the Goddess of Pain in person, or something.

I wanted to say "Maybe if I'd read this book back when it first came out, before I knew about fanfic, I would have thought it was the most risque thing ever" except I realized it was copyright 2001, and I'm pretty sure I was already reading Harry Potter smut by the time it was out in paperback, so it still would've been too late. And by AO3 standards I doubt I would even give it the E for explicit for the sex scenes. In the second half of the book, I don't think there are *any* sex scenes that aren't fade to black. (It would get the major character death warning, the noncon warning, the extreme violence warning, and a provisional underage warning, though.)
Read more... )

Anyway, it gets a solid four stars for "If you like this sort of thing, it is the sort of thing you will like," and I like this sort of thing enough that it would be going on my keep shelf, except that instead the whole trilogy is being loaned on my recommendation to my friend with the hair who actively seeks out 900-page-per-volume fantasy series, and I will temporarily (?) get that foot of shelf space back \o/

ETA: Also, I am saddened and surprised there are so few Kushiel AUs on AO3 (not surprised that most of them are Sherlock, though.) And remain convinced that *someone* who wrote for Supernatural was a Kushiel fan because Castiel's origin story being "we can't name him Cassiel that would be too obvious" just kept getting more obvious as I went...

and another

Mar. 19th, 2017 12:46 am
anghraine: alderaan blowing up; text: alderaan shot first (alderaan)
[personal profile] anghraine
I swear I'll catch up. And that plot will happen eventually, though not here, lol.

(Tumblr tags: #jyn: his hair is VERY ANNOYING that's why i want to touch it #this makes perfect sense #later: *jyn comes out with bare shoulder muscles and loose hair* #so about princess leia #cassian: who)

(This is a serious fic on a serious blog.)

title: per ardua ad astra (9/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor; in absentia, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Padmé Amidala, Leia Organa; repressed but very definite Jyn/Cassian
stuff that happens: Jyn tells Cassian about their new destination, and they speculate about the reasons and possible consequences; Cassian explains his background with Leia, and the seeds of the Rebellion for Alderaan.
previous chapters: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight

“She tried to kill the director who took my father.” Jyn’s lip curled. “Krennic. You met him.”

He lifted a brow. “I did?”

“Well,” she said, “you shot him. In the Citadel.”

“Ah.” Cassian considered that, then met her eyes again with a slight smile. “Good.”

Smiling back, Jyn felt less gratitude than fierce satisfaction. “Good.”


Read more... )

Space Wikipedia!

Mar. 18th, 2017 08:30 pm
anghraine: jyn erso during the jedha mission (shoulders up) (jyn [jedha])
[personal profile] anghraine
orrr I'm trying to write Ch 11 of ad astra, so maybe I'll stop polishing up the *squints* eighth chapter.

title: per ardua ad astra (8/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Bodhi Rook, Cassian Andor, Jyn Erso; Bain Efrah, Quartermaster Brakas; hints of Jyn/Cassian
stuff that happens: Bodhi gets a crash course in Assets 101; Efrah offers orientation services to Lyr and meets Willix; Cassian orders the requisitions Jyn missed; Jyn stresses over Leia, Wiki-hops from Alderaan to Vaesda, and hears an inevitable revelation.
previous chapters: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven

Efrah cast a quick glance at her, unreadable except a very slight, very knowing smile.

“Well, now I can see why you’d stick around that deathtrap for your captain.

“Oh?” Her fingers tingled. Puzzled for a moment, Jyn realized she was gripping her datapad so tightly that she’d cut off blood from her fingertips. She forced herself to relax her grip.

Very solemnly, Efrah said, “His cheekbones would be a great loss to the galaxy. You’re a true hero, Lyr.”

Jyn snorted. “Just doing my part for the Empire.”


Read more... )

:( :( :(

Mar. 17th, 2017 09:29 pm
anghraine: cassian andor, preparing to assassinate galen erso with his sniper rifle (in the rain!) (cassian [eadu])
[personal profile] anghraine
I've been gleefully anticipating the release of the HD Rogue One, and now it's leaked and I just

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GIFS OF NEW SCENES AT LAST BUT MOSTLY TEARS

My principal thoughts atm are

Read more... )

(no subject)

Mar. 17th, 2017 04:57 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
I was prepping a laundry load of newly thrifted fabric and recently finished sewing projects, and decided to throw in my pincushion, as it was getting kind of grungy.

This pincushion is the one I made as my first project in 6th grade Home Ec, by sewing together two small squares of cloth and then stuffing them. I've been using it for twenty years.

After pulling all the pins out, and then all the visible needles, and then squeezing it for awhile to get all the hidden needles, I threw my hands up, took out the stuffing, and went through it that way.

There were forty-five needles hidden in it.*

...has anyone yet invented a pincushion that doesn't eat needles?


Anyway, I am still working on Kushiel. This week's FMK poll is still neck-and-neck, so your vote could turn it! You have until I get back from the St. Pat's dinner in an hour or two. I took the first three weeks' K books to the thrift store today (where I bought the fabric that is being washed. And two more books shhh) so I can't chicken out, augh. I am now finding myself wanting to buy books just because they will fill out a good set for an FMK poll. No, melannen! Bad! Bad!

In preparation for writing my thoughts on Kushiel, here is a poll for you about evolving terminology in reviews:

What does the word 'rapey' mean to you? )

*I did not intend that as a metaphor for rape culture, and yet there it is.

Photobucket

Mar. 17th, 2017 02:41 pm
karzilla: a green fist above the word SMASH! (Default)
[staff profile] karzilla posting in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
Thanks to everyone who let us know that Photobucket images were not loading properly on some pages. The problem seemed to be mostly limited to HTTPS requests; Dreamwidth maintains a list of known high-traffic image sites that support HTTPS, so that our secure content proxy service doesn't cache them unnecessarily. Unfortunately Photobucket seems to have recently changed their site configuration such that HTTPS requests aren't being served as expected, and we've now taken it out of our list of "proxy-exempt" sites.

If you continue to have issues, make sure you're not using HTTPS Photobucket links. It's a bit counterintuitive, but if you use HTTP instead, it will be automatically transformed on our end to an HTTPS link that uses p.dreamwidth.org.

Hope that clears everything up for now! Let us know if it doesn't...

Vernal

Mar. 15th, 2017 02:16 pm
jenavira: Cap of Delenn from season one of Babylon 5, with the caption "We are Starstuff" (starstuff)
[personal profile] jenavira
Paradoxically, as a Pagan with an academic-historical bent, I've always found it harder to dredge any meaning out of the solar holidays, the solstices and equinoxes. Maybe these holidays are under-studied because their meaning seems obvious to the non-religious academic; maybe it's just that the latitude here in the upper Midwest is different enough from northern Europe that the changes aren't as drastic. (I didn't realize how different the latitude was until I was in Ireland for the summer solstice, and it barely got dark at all. That is...not what I am used to, and I can see how that would be a bigger deal, particularly in a world without good artificial lighting.)
 
Or maybe it's because the solar holidays are older than the religion most Irish-flavored Pagans are practicing. The passage tombs (which are probably not primarily tombs at all, but that's what they were always called, and the name's stuck) that align with solar events - Newgrange with the sunrise on the winter solstice, but also the lesser-known Loughcrew tombs aligned with the sunrise on the equinoxes - are five thousand years old, older than Khufu's pyramid; what written records we have can't meaningfully reflect a culture any older than fifteen hundred years. And from what we do know, the late pagan Irish looked at these tombs as otherworldly portals, dwellings of the sidhe, who I am still superstitious enough to call the Good Neighbors. They knew these places were powerful, but they didn't know quite how. Whether or not anyone practicing a religion they would recognize as similar to what I am trying to do ever knew that these places were aligned with the rising sun - we have absolutely no idea.
 
So in a way, I feel that these holidays don't belong to me. They belong to something older and more mysterious than I have access to. I will never feel the difference between summer and winter light in the way someone who has never known electricity will feel it. I will never know why hundreds of people came together over probably dozens of years to build something like Newgrange or Loughcrew, a massive structure under a massive hill of earth, carefully aligned to the rising sun, where, yes, the dead passed some time, but where many other sacred things also doubtless happened. I can never understand it, so the best I can do is to get out of its way.
 
That doesn't mean I don't feel the changing seasons. The extra few minutes of light at the end of the day give me time to take a walk after work, to unwind a little from my day, to move at a slower, more human pace than I'm usually allowed. But the changing of the seasons is broken right now, and a little frightening. There are buds on some of the bushes, but snowstorms keep blowing through. This kind of change heralded the end of civilizations in the past. Climate change probably had a lot to do with the fall of the Egyptian kingdoms, and the Hittites, the Maya, the Viking colony on Greenland. There's something almost comforting in that realization, that other people have lived through this kind of disruption, too.
 
Well. Maybe not lived. Not always.
 
The curious thing about archaeological history is that, when you're not looking at hunter-gatherer sites or garbage dumps, a lot of what you find probably doesn't represent society at its height but society as it fails. A temple doesn't get covered over in dirt if someone's still using it every day, after all. What we dig up isn't the past wholesale, but the very end of things. At some point, someone used this site for feasts, for celebrations, for religious observances - and then they stopped. Maybe there weren't enough people any more to keep using the big site. (Where did they go?) Maybe it became forbidden to hold such rites. (Who forbade it?) What we can find are the remnants of the very last celebration, and I at least can't help but wonder if whoever cast aside those bones, whoever lit that fire, whoever closed those doors, knew that it was for the last time. Did someone once bring the cremated remains of their king, their priest, or their grandmother into Newgrange knowing that they would be the last person so interred? Did someone once stand inside one of the Loughcrew tombs on a cold March morning, watching the sunlight creep down the passageway and wonder if any human would ever do this again?
 
I feel more kinship in these speculations this year than I have before, even while my suspicion grows that no, no one realizes their world is ending until it's really over, because the human instinct is toward hope, toward the one unlikely event that will save us all, and that makes it so hard to see the end coming. It probably puts off that end, too; I don't want to diminish the importance of hope. But everything ends. History teaches us this if it teaches us nothing else. The prevailing theories in history and archaeology right now emphasize continuity over massive change: the slow decline of the Aztec Empire, not a single catastrophic fall; the progressive expansion of the Indo-Europeans, not the single invasion of Europe. Probably our end will be like that, too, the kind of thing that can only be clearly seen fifty or a hundred or five hundred years down the road. But you have to think, then, too, of the people fifty or a hundred or five hundred years from now, who will look back on us and wonder, Did they know? Did they see the end coming? Did they wake up one morning and know that this would be the last time?
 
And I'm not sure if I want to send a message forward to them to say yes, some of us did, some of us saw it and fought it every inch of the way. Because we don't have messages like that from the past, not for the most part. What we have are the scraps of things they left behind: old tombs and old gods, midden pits and abandoned villages, jewelry and game pieces and the shadows of old roads. Things that let us look back and see, not the end of things, but our own roots: the beginnings of who we are now.

FMK #4: Pre-Golden-Age SF

Mar. 14th, 2017 08:42 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Okay, so FMK is going to be Tuesdays now. :P I forgot that on normal Mondays, a little distraction is good, but on busy Mondays I basically don't have time to sit down at the computer from Saturday evening until Monday evening, and that doesn't work so well. (and today was a snow day so I spent it sewing, it was excellent.)

Anyway, FMK #3 K winner was Tarnsman of Gor and the F winner was Kushiel's Dart. I, uh, haven't finished Kushiel's Dart. I'm 500 pages in! If it was a reasonably-sized novel, that would be done twice over! Anyway short version: I am enjoying it a lot although not ravishingly in love, have already recommended it to a friend who actively enjoys brick-sized books full of court intrigue, and keep getting Cassiel the Angel of Bromance mixed up with SPN's Castiel the Angel of... *ahem* "Bromance". I will post a fuller response either later this week or when I am finished, depending on which comes first.

I also started reading Tarnsman of Gor I know! I am breaking my own rules already! But I want to be able to make fun of it fairly, okay? And it's like, 20% the length of Kushiel. I did put the other two Gor books I inexplicably owned on the dump-unread pile, though?

This week's FMK theme: English-language SF written before 1930! here is where we find out who is voting entirely based on gendered author names

How FMK works: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Sunday Monday Tuesday.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll! Bennet, Bunyan, Burroughs, Eddison, Lindsay, MacDonald, Merritt, Nowlan, Polidori, Shelley, Smith, Swift, Tolkien, Walpole, Wells, Wilde, Wolf )

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