today and tomorrow

Jul. 24th, 2017 08:59 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
Today I am grateful for:

- rereading the Toby Daye books

- lots of new nonfiction books

- coffee, meds, food I know is okay, sunlight, naps, all the things that help me feel functional

- shiny objects like metal washers that are just there waiting for someone to pick them up and polish them and make treasures

- a partner who loves me and pets me when I just want to lie there and be a flat cat

Slight case of brainweasels and fwump: Read more... )

A fannish update...

Jul. 24th, 2017 08:15 pm
settiai: (Liara -- bleeding_muse)
[personal profile] settiai
Now that I've talked about real life a bit, I guess it's time for a bit of a fandom-related update. I'm not watching a lot of television lately, and the handful of shows that I am watching tend to be webseries rather than more traditional series. We'll see if that changes in the coming months?

I finally was able to start playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and have fallen back in love with the whole ME universe. I know a lot of people didn't like ME:A, but I really loved it. It's not my favorite game (that's still ME2), but I do think it might have moved to the #2 spot on my list. Could it have been better? Sure. But that doesn't mean I don't love it (and the characters) any less.

On a somewhat related note, I still love Dragon Age. I haven't been playing it as much lately, since ME has been taking up so much of my time, but I've gone back to working on fic. Which is a good thing, because DA is one of those rare fandoms that makes me want to write longfic. Even though I kind of suck at writing longfic and take forever to finish stories that are more than 5000 words.

I've also continued with my Critical Role obsession, to the surprise of nobody. The current storyline is slowly drawing to a close, and I'm expecting Vox Machina's tale to come to a close by the end of the year. Which makes me sad, since I love the characters. But on the other hand, a new story! With new characters! My chances of convincing people to start watching will greatly increase when they don't have 400+ hours to watch in order to get caught up.

Speaking of which, Dungeons & Dragons continues to eat a lot of my free time. I have two weekly games that I play in online via Roll20, one on Friday nights and one on Sunday nights. Then I have another Roll20 game on Saturday nights where I'm the DM. And then, because I have no sense of self-preservation, every other Sunday afternoon I walk over to the gaming store near my apartment to play in another campaign.

So, basically, every other week? I play four D&D games in a little over 48 hours. And even when I'm not cramming four games in, I'm still playing three. Which isn't much better.

Oops?

Um, let's see. What other fannish things should I talk about?

Geek and Sundry and Alpha are behind most of the webseries that I'm watching nowadays. There's Critical Role, of course, which I've already mentioned. Then there's Eric's TBD RPG, an awesome Doctor Who RPG that just recently came to an end and was replaced with Shield of Tomorrow, a Star Trek RPG. Oh, and Sagas of Sundry which is just... gods, it's hard to describe. It's creepy and amazing and I highly recommend it.

I'm not watching Vast yet (another one of their RPGs), but I've heard good things about it. It's definitely on my list, whenever I have free time again. (I also watch The Wednesday Club, but it's a bunch of geeks sitting around and talking about comics for two hours each week rather someone I'm particularly fannish about. It's a lot of fun if you like comics, though.)

Based on the recent Doctor Who casting news, I'm cautiously optimistic that I might be able to start watching regularly again. I managed to watch some of the episodes from this most recent series but not all of them. Still, the ones that I was able to watch reminded me just how much I miss this show. I really hope that, once Moffat is gone, it will feel more like Doctor Who to me again.

The upcoming fourth and final season of Star Wars: Rebels has me both excited and terrified. I want to see what happens, but at the same time... well, it's Star Wars. I know going in that there was a good chance a lot of the characters wouldn't actually live through the show. The question is this: who and how?

I really need to start thinking about Yuletide and what fandoms I want to nominate this year, since it's coming up fast. This might be the first time in years that I haven't even started thinking about it yet, though. That will deserve its own post in a few weeks, when I try to start brainstorming.

A long overdue RL update...

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:42 pm
settiai: (Cass -- shoemoney2night)
[personal profile] settiai
So, yes, I'm still alive. Life in general has been busy lately, and the little bit of spare time I've had has been taken up by D&D and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Oops?

Work has been ridiculous lately. It's not really something that I can talk about in detail, but there's definitely quite a bit of tension between the higher ups and, well, a large percentage of the employees who aren't being paid six figures annually. Let's just say that the amount of work expected of most employees has gone up while salaries haven't (except for the higher ups, who magically were able to get raises when people making significantly less than them weren't), and I'm very worried the directors are going to find out first-hand just how screwed they are if a large number of people all turn in their notice and walk.

Mainly because I'm not in a position where I can afford to do that, no matter how much I might want to sometimes. Which means I'll also be somewhat screwed if anyone turns in their notice.

Add in the aforementioned extra work and the fact that several people have been out for health-related reasons, meaning our workload is even heavier, and... well, needless to say, it's not been fun.

Let's see... I should probably talk about the cats, huh?

Garrus and Percy are getting along surprisingly well. The first few weeks were a bit rocky, but once they got used to each other (and realized just how similar they are), things became a lot smoother. They're at the point where they're regularly grooming each other and sleeping just a few inches apart, which is a lot better than I was hoping for after less than two months.

I still miss Tali a lot, obviously, but the fact that Garrus and Percy are getting along so well is definitely helping. Percy is a doll, and I'm already at the point where I can't imagine him not being here. I just, you know, sometimes wish that I could have had all three of them, even though the realistic side of my brain knows that I never would have met him if I hadn't lost her.

VividCon is next week, which... I have complicated feelings about. Brain weasels! Aren't they fun? )

Anyway, I'm hoping that my brain weasels will go away once I'm actually in Chicago. At the moment, though, I'm not nearly as excited about the con being next week as I usually am by this point. Which makes me sad. Hopefully that will change somewhat over the next week-and-a-half?

... oh, I just realized that I never posted about my week of hell with FedEx here on Dreamwidth. I should rectify that. I want to make a separate fandom-related post first, and then I'll post the whole terrifying tale.

Rhetorical question is rhetorical

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:11 pm
quirkytizzy: (Default)
[personal profile] quirkytizzy
Why do I worship Death? I have no other gods, no other patrons or symbols that have captured my love the way Death has. I have loved Death for decades, long before my actual brushes with death that left my life waiting in the span of hours, in minutes of actually meeting Death.

Why do I have shrine built to the very idea of death? Skeletons, mini-graveyards filled with actual cemetery dirt (I still have that, Cemetery!) Pictures of graveyards, cards made by friends of movies that deal with death, a locket of the Catholic patron of Death. The comic of the Crow. A rose with an actual muskrat skull buried within the petals. Jewelry of bones. An actual animal skull, in full, on display.

Are people like me born this way or are we made this way?

Why do I worship Death? And why does it comfort me?
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Posted by Germain Lussier

Every year, I make it a point to stop by the Mondo booth at San Diego Comic-Con as often as possible. No one at the entire convention releases as much exciting, vibrant, and exclusive pop culture art over the course of four days—and 2017 was no exception.

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It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grandiose scope of the universe, because we are. At the same time, as Carl Sagan once reminded us, we’re made of the same “star stuff” as the cosmos. All too often, we forget how random, ridiculous, and resplendent it is to part of the stellar sorority of the universe.…

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Posted by Charles Pulliam-Moore

Today, Eon Productions and MGM sent out a four-sentence press release announcing that the next James Bond movie will hit UK theaters on November 8th, 2019. That’s it. There was literally nothing else. That’s weird... but it’s also telling.

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Posted by Charles Pulliam-Moore

When Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige announced that the Captain Marvel origin film is going to be set in the ‘90s and involve Carol Danvers fighting Skulls, we were surprised and left with a number of burning questions. Where was Carol during the Battle of New York or Ultron’s attack? Also, waiiaminute—did you say

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Posted by Cheryl Eddy

San Diego Comic-Con 2017 may be over, but io9's coverage lives on in our many, many posts, and we’ve collected them all here for you: movie and TV news and trailers, only-at-Comic-Con footage descriptions and experiences, amazing toys from the show floor, and so much more.

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Posted by Rae Paoletta on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

Most people (wrongly) assume the moon is barren and boring. Sure, our satellite might be a little clingy, but it also has moonquakes, orange soil, and could be hiding abundant water resources. New research from satellite data offers more evidence that the Moon does indeed have water trapped in its mantle, which could…

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Posted by Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

We’re approaching the end of Brothers in Arms here, which means it’s time for the dramatic rescue sequence! Miles rescues Mark from the Komarran Underground, the Barrayarans, the Cetagandans, and the London police, then rescues Ivan from the high tide and Elli from a closet (actually a closet, not a metaphorical closet).

On an aesthetic level, I feel like two planetary governments, one resistance movement, a police force, and a mercenary company is a lot of moving parts to involve in a single rescue mission. In defense of Bujold’s work (though it doesn’t need defending), it’s a single night’s work, but not a single rescue. We’ve got four rescuees, three of whom are partially self-rescuing or who make major contributions to the rescue of others.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

Before I delve deeply into the rescue mission, we need to take a minute for a unicorn update: Earth is working on catching up to Cetagandan unicorn technology with the Unicorn Park (a division of Galactech Biotechnologies, the same company that made Miles’s cat blanket) in Wooten, Surrey. I know, from the tyramine discussion, that some of you live in the British Isles. If you stay there for 5-600 years, you’ll be able to take a train to the Unicorn Park! The Unicorn Park also has lions, which you will be able to feed. My first thought was that the park was feeding unicorns to the lions. Miles’s reaction was that he might be able to feed Ivan to the lions as a martyr. In fact, the lions eat protein cubes. Miles describes the unicorns as looking like a cross between a deer and a horse. He doesn’t mention whether their horns are shiny, which I think shows that he’s capable of overlooking the really important details.

My initial plan was to compare this rescue to Cordelia’s rescue of Miles, back in Barrayar. The critical elements in THAT mission involved:

  • A target: Miles
  • A team: Cordelia, Bothari, Drou, and Kou (stunned and dragged along)
  • A side-mission: Alys Vorpatril and Ivan
  • An agent on the inside: Kareen
  • An enemy: Vordarian
  • A decapitation
  • Lots of revelations about everyone’s character
  • Setting the Imperial Palace on fire

As his mother was before him, Miles is forbidden this mission; Destang sends him into orbit. Even his friends don’t understand why he wants to rescue Mark—he can easily have another clone made, and Ivan and Elli don’t care for Mark. Miles never considers leaving Mark behind—the most desperate option he considers is rescuing Mark without Ivan and Elli’s help. His hand is forced when Ivan is kidnapped from a horticultural fair—remember kids, civic events are dangerous! You might be there for light duty guarding the ambassador’s wife, or even just to pick up some galactic cultural polish, but assassins and kidnappers LOVE those shindigs. They’re target rich environments because they’re full of people like you. STAY HOME! Or go to the Unicorn Park. ANYWAY—Ivan, kidnapped.

We learn about Ivan’s abduction from Ser Galen, who says Miles has to come to the Thames Tidal Barrier to meet him or Ivan dies at 2:07. Miles negotiates to bring a second. Galen assumes he will bring Elli. Every time Galen says the words “pretty bodyguard” I want to punch him—He’s just so slimy about it.

Miles uses a comm link he failed to return when he left the embassy to contact Galeni, who Ivan turned his half of the link over to. Ivan wasn’t an entirely willing participant in Miles’s plan to keep a covert inside line to the embassy. He pointed out that his effort to get Miles back into the embassy incognito a few chapters ago is already a black mark on his record. It’s a black mark that has some company, from the time Ivan turned his desk around in Ops so Miles could read his secured comm console screen, and the time he held onto a souvenir nerve disruptor he picked up in a seemingly random encounter with the Ba Lura.

At this point, Ivan is technically the target of the rescue, with Mark as the side-mission and Galen as the enemy. Miles likes to mix things up, and he knows Galeni has some skin in the game, so he brings Duv to the rendezvous instead of Elli. Not having his mother’s disadvantages in re. political optics, Miles also arranges back-up on the ground from the Dendarii. And then, what with one thing and another, Mark kills Ser Galen, Miles gives Mark a credit chit for half a million Barrayaran Marks, Ivan is rescued from being drowned in a pumping station at high tide, and the Cetagandans try to kill everyone. Elli gets stunned and shoved in a closet, somehow, even though she wasn’t initially on the scene (she rappelled in), and Galeni has a berserker moment and takes down Lieutenant Tabor of the Cetagandan Embassy and a Cetagandan assassin in blue and yellow face paint. The effectiveness of Cetagandan covert ops would be dramatically increased if they ditched the face paint. Not all the time—just for special occasions.

My personal feelings about the complexity of this rescue mission are validated by Miles’s efforts to explain to his Dendarii backup how to contact the London Police, what to say, and what tones of voice to use while saying it. Usually, Miles seems to trust his troops’ initiative on issues like how to play-act to the cops over the phone (and also how to raise eighteen million marks, and what crucial pieces of evidence or other items to drop in the mail to a friend). His unwillingness to let them manage the relatively simple task of alerting local authorities to a firefight in their tidal barrier suggests that the situation is particularly critical.

How is my comparison doing? Water stands in for fire—that’s really what attracted me to the idea that the rescues might be parallel; It’s very poetic. There are some other similarities; Mark has a Drou moment when he realizes he’s capable of killing, combined with a Kareen moment when he kills Ser Galen. Galeni has a Bothari moment, although he doesn’t kill anyone, when he takes on the Cetagandans. Ivan becomes a side-quest. Cordelia’s rescue of Miles was about keeping her family (and her sanity) together. The immediate outcome here has Mark pursuing a life of doing whatever he wants because Miles feels strongly about Mark’s need to make some independent choices. Miles also recognizes that Mark hates him, which is very mature of Miles, really. I think it’s interesting to keep the idea of both of Cordelia’s sons being rescued in mind, even though efforts at direct comparison quickly become tortured.

Mark doesn’t get to leave until Miles has orchestrated a little meeting with the Cetagandans with both Lt. Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismith present. I wish Miles had waited just a little longer to let the Cetas explain what they thought was going on before pushing the clone story. He’s so invested in this rare opportunity to perpetuate his cover that he doesn’t know what his enemy thinks he’s covering up. Also, I suspect the Cetagandans of doing a lot of things, and I want to know what all the things are.

Bizarrely, everyone else gets to return to their status quo. The Ambassador requests that Galeni stay at his post. Destang goes back to Sector Headquarters and devoutly hopes he’s retired before the Dendarii come his way again. Miles and the Dendarii go off on a rescue mission in aid of Barrayaran interests. Ivan is still Ivan. I wish the ending acknowledged Ivan’s newly aggravated claustrophobia here, but it does not. Poor, neglected Ivan.

Next week, we move on to Mark’s fate in Mirror Dance! I will be tacking book covers, and possibly early chapters.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

News Post: Dumber Camp, Part Three

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:55 pm
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Tycho: Thus concludes Part 3 of Dumber Camp, unless we uncover some new memory we’ve suppressed.  He tells me this is a true story, and I don’t doubt him at all.  I don’t think they even tried to send him to any more summer camps. The Mike Krahulik I met in 1993 was a curious combination of unassailable and exposed.  You really couldn’t get the best of him linguistically.  All the people I know who had hard childhoods are hilarious, not as some virtue but as a kind of intuitively generated defense matrix.  They’re “funny” as a…
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Posted by Charles Pulliam-Moore

Kite Man, a villain whose only ability is his proficiency with the huge kite he flies around with, has been one of the most consistently charming parts of Tom King’s run on Batman Rebirth. In this week’s issue, we finally learn the origins of his signature catchphrase and as is often the case in Gotham City, they’re…

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Posted by John Scalzi

It begins thusly:

The new bed:

Which you may think looks quite a lot like the old bed, and you wouldn’t be wrong, in the sense that we did not swap out the headboard or bed frame. But those of you who are sharply observant and/or are creepy creepers might note the mattress is taller than it used to be. That’s because instead of a box spring underneath we now have a frame that raises and lowers the head and foot of the mattress when desired. That’s right, no longer do we have to sit up in bed on our own! Our bed can do it for us! Surely we live in miraculous times.

It was time to get a new mattress in any event. The last time we purchased one for this bed was 11 years ago, and it had gotten to the point where the “memory foam” had lost its memory entirely and both Krissy and I were getting backaches out of it. Once at the store and finding a mattress we liked, we decided to splurge a bit and get the motorized frame. If nothing else it will make everything weird for the cats. Which is its own benefit. Also, if it turns out that elevating the head of the mattress makes it easier to type, I may finally go full Grandpa Joe and never leave the bed at all. Note to self: Check Amazon for bedpans.

(Additional note to self: Really, don’t.)

And I got some saucy tweets out of it! Which, you know. Is its own reward.


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Posted by Beth Elderkin

It was the final day of San Diego Comic-Con, and the cosplayers went out in style. Day 4's round-up includes the uncanny Gru above, some giant Lego superheroes, a stunning Princess Mononoke, Optimus Prime in his formal wear, and much more (including, uh, Darth Trump was there, too). Check out io9's final San Diego…

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Five Books About Extreme Worlds

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Michael Johnston

The essence of a great science fiction or fantasy novel is the world. There, I said it. Feel free to disagree. But I haven’t fallen in love with a novel without first falling deep into the author’s imaginary world. So naturally it was the most extreme worlds that became my favorites. And in the hands of the best authors those unique worlds produced not only memorable places and stories, but fertile ground for things like social and political commentary as well. There is something to be said for taking things to their limits. In each of these novels the author has taken ideas about our humdrum world and pushed them to the extreme (as if I hadn’t already overused that word). In doing this, in seeing these exaggerated versions of our world, we are allowed glimpses of possible futures or of alternate versions of the present or even the past.

 

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

To grasp the significance of J.G. Ballard’s novel it’s important to remember that it was written in 1962 because it sounds like a novel that was written in the last few years. In fact, more than one book has been written in the last few years with a similar premise. The Drowned World was the first book I read in what I’ll call the “scientific expedition into an unknown world” genre. A kind of global warming has devastated the world. The polar ice caps are melted, flooding the northern hemisphere, transforming the land into something that resembles the Triassic period (now that’s extreme). But what’s truly great about The Drowned World is the way in which this transformation shapes and affects the characters. Our protagonist literally finds himself regressing into an earlier state, feeling more primitive and impulsive, devolved like his world. It’s a perfect of example of the interplay of character and environment and a keen commentary on the fragility of our society.

 

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Here we encounter another world wrecked by flooding and eco-disasters, a world in which biological plagues wreak havoc on the population and strange, genetic experiments run wild (a population of feral Cheshire Cats). We are in the drowned world of 23rd century Thailand, a place that is powered (literally) by springs (check the title of the book). Food sources are controlled by vast global conglomerates (this one is just a fact of the modern world) and the last remaining seed bank is a treasure our protagonist will do anything to acquire. The Windup Girl might just be the future of agriculture or our present.

 

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

There is a point in the novel where the narrator, Genly Ai, wonders whether the peculiar nature of the people of Gethen—also known as Winter, the perpetually cold and snowy planet in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness—are a product of the extreme environment or some sort of genetic experiment long ago abandoned. We never discover the answer. Rather, Le Guin’s novel is a meditation on the nature of the Gethenites’ sexual identity. See, the people of Winter have no fixed sex. They shift from male to female in a cycle and choose partners to suit their current sex. Our narrator is an envoy, a man from another world trying to make first contact with Gethen. He is ultimately thrown out by one faction, embraced by another, betrayed, befriended, and saved. The novel concludes with one of the more memorable segments in science fiction, a month’s long journey across a glacier that leaves Genly (male) alone with Estraven (alternately male and female). The two are trapped, isolated as they move across the ice. In this private world we confront the notion of what it is to be a man or a woman and how we define our relationship between the two.

 

Dune by Frank Herbert

Arrakis, also called Dune, is a planet entirely devoid of surface water, a desert from top to bottom. And everyone who lives there—the native population, the fremen—is entirely focused on conservation and desert survival. The desert of Arrakis is merciless, but it’s also the only place in the universe where the spice, mélange, exists. Born of sandworms, the spice is a kind of catchall mystical, pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious super drug. Control of the spice equals control of the empire. And the spice is born out of this extreme environment, as are its spice-consuming, blue-within-blue-eyed population, the fremen. These folk are the true children of the desert. Their stillsuits turn every man or woman into a walking ecosystem, a self-sufficient, recycling machine in stylish brown leather. There are a hundred different reasons to praise Dune, but it was the severity of Herbert’s depiction of desert life that most struck me when I first read it.

 

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Okay, I saved this one for last because Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris gets the prize for most extreme world. Solaris, the eponymous planet, contains only one living organism. The planet wasn’t populated by a billion life forms that rose out of the ocean, rather the planet-sized ocean became a single life form. As the novel opens we learn that scientist have already spent decades studying the ocean. Volumes have been written about it. Generations have studied Solaris, but the ocean remains a mystery. The people of earth are unable to communicate with Solaris and it’s not for want of trying. Even the planet wants to communicate with humanity. It creates grand structures and humanoid figures, using mimicry to attempt communication. It doesn’t work. Contact is never achieved. Solaris is about the limitations of our species. It’s about trying to understand something that is completely different from you. It’s a contemplation of what is alien and thus human as well.

 

Michael Johnston has always been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. He studied architecture and ancient history at Lehigh University and earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University. Michael worked as an architect in New York City before switching to writing full time. He is the co-author of the YA Heart of Dread trilogy with his wife, Melissa de la Cruz. His new book, Soleri, is now available from Tor. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can find him online at his website and on Twitter @MJohnstonAuthor.

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Posted by Germain Lussier

Twitter began to buzz this weekend when reports circulated that comic books were banned from checked luggage leaving San Diego, Cali., the site of Comic-Con. While it’s true those claims were made, the Transportation Security Administration vehemently denies that they’re correct.

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