(no subject)

Sep. 16th, 2017 09:08 pm
skygiants: Beatrice from Much Ado putting up her hand to stop Benedick talking (no more than reason)
[personal profile] skygiants
If you are currently in Boston, you have one week left to go see Or at the Chelsea Theater! As [personal profile] aamcnamara put it on Twitter, "it is the Restoration queer bedroom farce spy writing-themed play of your dreams."

Or features three cast members, playing, respectively:
- former spy and ambitious playwright Aphra Behn
- Charles II of England and also Aphra Behn's ex-lover double agent William Scot
- Nell Gwyn, and also Aphra Behn's elderly and extremely cranky maid, and also in one memorably stamina-requiring and scene-stealing monologue Lady Mary Davenant, manager of the Duke's Company of theatrical players

Most of the play takes place in Aphra Behn's apartment, with cast members popping in and out of side rooms as Aphra Behn vainly attempts to keep all her love interests separate AND ALSO thwart a hypothetical plot on the king's life AND ALSO and most importantly finish writing the final act of her career-launching play by a deadline of 9 AM the next morning! Which nobody will let her do! Because they keep wanting to make out with her and/or tell her about plots on the king's life! It's all very frustrating!

The dialogue is delightful, the actors do a fantastic job rattling out natural-sounding rapid-fire iambic pentameter, I laughed aloud at the final plot twist, and the ending contains a solid dose of much-appreciated optimism; it's an extremely enjoyable experience and one I would strongly recommend.

(no subject)

Sep. 14th, 2017 06:16 pm
skygiants: Hikaru from Ouran walking straight into Tamaki's hand (talk to the hand)
[personal profile] skygiants
At first I expected to write a rather scathing post about Rachel Kadish's The Weight of Ink, and then I got like 2/3 of the way through and realized that there were in fact some things I really liked about the book to counteract the things that made me stare into the camera like I was on the office, and THEN I got to the end and -

-- ok let me backtrack. The Weight of Ink is a serious literary novel about a pair of academics (the favorite protagonists of serious literary novels) who have discovered a treasure trove of 17th-century documents in a staircase written by Ester Velasquez, a Portuguese Jewish woman who Confounded All Tradition by acting as scribe for a London rabbi. The book proceeds to interweave Ester's story and POV with that of the academics as they discover various bits of evidence pointing to the things that Rachel Kadish will then later explain to us in Ester's narrative sections.

Ester's story is .... it's mostly good? I think I have come around to largely thinking it's good. It starts to pick up around the middle of the book, when Ester starts writing letters to various famous philosophers under fake male names so that she can Engage in the Discourse.

[ACADEMIC A: [Ester's fake name] did not get much attention during his career or make any important allies -
ACADEMIC B: Oh, why is that?
ACADEMIC A: Well, basically, he was very rude to everyone he wrote to.

I will admit I was charmed.]

Ester's most important relationships are with the rabbi -- a good and wise man who respects her intellect and cannot support the ways in which she chooses to use it -- and with Rivka, the rabbi's housekeeper, a Polish Jew who acts as Ester's foil in a number of significant ways, not all of them obvious or expected. Both of these dynamics have an interesting and complicated tension to them that goes well beyond the standard 'I, A Misunderstood Woman Ahead Of My Time.'

Also there is another young upper-class Jewish woman who is rebellious in wildly different ways than Ester is; a pair of brothers who are both interested in marrying Ester for profoundly different reasons, neither of which is true love; and, for a brief period of time, a love interest. The love interest is hilariously lacking in personality and equally hilariously irrelevant to Ester's life on the whole, and mostly exists to trigger a series of philosophical musings related to desire about which Ester can fight with Spinoza. I guess The Distant Shadow Of Spinoza is also one of Ester's most significant relationships.

Anyway, I appreciate the weighting of these relationships, and the way in which the narrative emphasis shifted from what I expected, and especially all the relationships that were not grounded in romance, but in other forms of love and duty and resentment and complicated emotional bonds.

And ... then there's our modern academics.

Helen Watt is a stiff-necked elderly British specialist in Jewish history, who is on the verge of retirement due to Parkinson's disease. Helen has a Tragic Backstory: in her youth, she spent a month as a volunteer in Israel in the 1950s and had a summer fling. Sorry, let me rephrase: she met an Israeli soldier who was the love! of her life!! (For a month.)

The pivotal scene in their romance occurs when Helen shows up for one of their few actual shared off days to have a date, and he hands her a copy of The History of the Jewish People and then LEAVES and REFUSES TO COME BACK until she's READ IT COVER TO COVER. This is the only way she can understand our endless, endless oppression!

(Meanwhile, he lurks outside, and periodically brings her snacks. THIS SCENE IS SOMEHOW NOT MEANT TO BE COMIC.)

Alas, Young Helen in her frailty decides it's all a LITTLE too much for her, and subsequently regrets her lost love until the end of her days. But, inspired by the world's weirdest date, she decides to dedicate her life to the study of Jewish history, so I guess ... that's all right .....?

She is assisted in her endeavors by Aaron, the third POV character. Aaron is an insufferable American Jewish Ph.D. student. He is working on a dissertation about Shakespeare and the Jews, for which he has no evidence, so instead he spends the entire book obsessing over an unattainable Cool Girl. (And she is so textbook Cool Girl! The coolest girl of all! A girl who poses nude for artists who capture a certain something about her, a girl who's just realer than other girls, THE MAGICAL IDEAL.) He sends her incredibly long, pompous emails after a one-night stand which took place on an evening in which "he waited until Marisa was on her second beer -- he kept track from a distance, biding his time. When he approached at last, his own untouched beer dangling casually in his hand --" OKAY AARON, THANKS AND GOODBYE, YOU AND I ARE DONE.

But alas, we are not done with Aaron, we are not done with Aaron at all. Eventually Aaron does come to realize that he's insufferable! A significant part of this realization comes when he visits an archive and meets a shy, demure archivist who's bad at flirting, and is suddenly struck by how desperately sad it is that people like her may never find love because they're all overlooked by assholes like him. If only people like him paid attention to people like her, their lives might be fulfilling and the world would be better! ALAS.

(There are two other archivists in the book, The Interchangeable Patricias. They have a few moments of heroically rising to Helen's aid but mostly their role is to stand as icily competent, largely humorless glowering gate-guards over the sacred text, because of course.)

So basically everything about the modern sections was nonsense to me. (Also, I got mad every time they found a document that explained to them a Piece of the Mystery in a way that was way too narratively convenient. 'Oh, look, Ester doodled out her real name and her fake name next to each other and added a note that said 'HEY IT'S ALL MY NAMES!' Isn't that handy!')

Still, Ester's story in and of itself was good and compelling and interesting, and grudgingly I became invested in it despite myself...

And then spoilers! )

Multi-femslash Big Bang

Sep. 14th, 2017 06:05 pm
smudgythoughts: (Default)
[personal profile] smudgythoughts posting in [community profile] fandomcalendar
Welcome to the first year of wlwbigbang!



At this point writer sign ups are closed, but artist sign ups are open until October 5th 2017.

Sign Up | Challenge Info | Schedule | Contact


Challenge Overview:

This is a big bang challenge for the sapphics, celebrating femslash pairings across many different fandoms. The main ones are RWBY, Star Trek, and Supergirl, plus more than ten others fandoms.

Authors have to write a minimum of 10,000 words, while artists have to create at least one piece based on the fic they claimed. Various types of art are allowed, including traditional and digital art, graphics, gifsets, moodboards, fanvideos, and fanmixes.

Fics and art pieces are due in late November.

Please check our tumblr, or our our livejournal for more information and specifics.

(no subject)

Sep. 13th, 2017 10:38 pm
skygiants: Sheska from Fullmetal Alchemist with her head on a pile of books (ded from book)
[personal profile] skygiants
Juliet Takes a Breath was our book club book for the month of August. I am glad for the existence of this book in the world and I am glad I read it, and with that said my experience of reading it was largely one of OVERWHELMING CONTACT EMBARRASSMENT.

Juliet Takes a Breath is the coming-of-age story of Juliet Milagros Palante, a young Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx who's spending the summer of 2002 interning in Portland, Oregon! with international feminist sensation Harlowe Brisbane! author of "Raging Flower," a book about VAGINA POWER!

Unsurprisingly, pretty much every time Harlowe Brisbane spoke a sentence I wanted to retract my head all the way back inside my nonexistent turtle shell until a million years had passed and womyn power white lady feminism was a thing that could be discussed with distant scholarly complacency, like galvanism or the Cathar heresy. This is completely expected and indeed clearly intended by the book, but nonetheless, OH LORD.

Anyway, not everything is Harlowe Brisbane being exactly the way you'd expect; a great deal of the book is Juliet dealing with a wide range of family reactions to her coming-out (the width of the range in particular is really good!), and Learning New Vocabularies, and finding comfortable queer POC spaces, and attending lectures about intersectional solidarity in the wake of 9/11, and making romantic gay teen mixtapes full of Ani DiFranco songs! But oh, lord. At least one book club member said it rang extremely true to their experience and memories of Portland in 2002. Myself, in 2002 I was nowhere near Portland nor any of the Cool Yet Problematique gay spaces that Rivera is writing about here and it's PROBABLY just as well, but it does seem quite likely to me that walking around Portland in 2002 was a lot like walking around a physical manifestation of certain bits of tumblr, and that is indeed the sense I got of it from this book.

[a sidenote: the acknowledgments in the back include pointed thanks and reference to the time that the author spent with Inga Muscio, author of 'Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.' I'm not necessarily saying this book was a callout post, but .... anyway Inga Muscio also cheerfully blurbed the book on the front so it seems there were no hard feelings on her part and all is well.]

Reading roundup

Sep. 13th, 2017 01:38 pm
hamsterwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] hamsterwoman
I'm way behind on RL posting (my past week and weekend have actually bee quite busy, in a mostly-good way), but I've hit another point where I just want to talk about books. So!

37. Mackenzi Lee, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue -- This was a birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] aome, but actually even before I got the book as a gift I heard about it from [livejournal.com profile] ikel89 during the exceedingly scenic drive back from Kazbegi, and was intrigued to check it out for myself, so Debbie's gift was very timely :) Having read it, it wasn't quite as cool a book as the premise (and fabulous title) made it sound, sadly, but definitely still an entertaining and fast read.

Here's the very fun premise -- a Grand Tour by a young bisexual British nobleman, his best friend/(male) love interest, who is mixed race (and also *spoiler*), and his younger sister who isn't interested in finishing school but wants to go to med school instead. Along the way from Paris to Spain to Italy, there's political intrigue, highwaymen and pirates, and alchemical mysteries. That sounds pretty cool, right? And it is fairly fun, although a couple of things undermine the strengths of the book: Spoilers from here )

I think, overall, this book falls into the category of things like Love Interest, where I wish a better author had taken a crack at the premise. But, fortunately, unlike Love Interest, the book as-is is at least competently if overly earnestly written, so I *could* enjoy it, rather than sputtering in ever-increasing bafflement as to what the hell the author thought they were doing. But for all its flaws, it was a fun read, and I do want to know more about Felicity, in the sequel! (Thank you again, [livejournal.com profile] aome! :)

38. Avoliot, The Course of Honor -- novel-length original sci-fi m/m with a whole bunch of tropes, starting with arranged marriage (posted on AO3) -- I picked this up courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] egelantier's rec. I actually don't like arranged marriage much as a trope, and not all of the other tropes invoked are necessarily favorites of mine, but the whole thing worked very nicely (to the point that I read it straight through in a couple of hours over the long weekend). I liked both protagonists a lot, introverted Jainan, trudging slowly back from years of abuse and clinging to his dignity and uber-extrovert Kiem, who is used to thinking of himself as a bumbling idiot but suddenly finds himself having to deal with darker things than elementary school charity events and shmoozing with journalists. The secondary characters are also quite nice, and even the cameos, like Kiem's general mother, are fun and intriguing. There's also some very nice and deftly interwoven worldbuilding about all manner of things, from sports to dress and gender expression, and trans and non-binary characters whose introduction is handled in an impressively non-issuefic-y way that I feel like some profic authors could learn from. More, with spoilers )

Bonus: authorially-approved fancast on Tumblr.

39. Black Mould (Rivers of London graphic novel #3) -- interesting story (and oddly, sadly timely, on the subject of London slums), but mostly I just have random observations, with spoilers )

40. Naomi Novik, Golden Age and Other Stories -- this is the art book where each piece of (loosely) Temeraire fanart (many of them pieces I've known/enjoyed for years) is accompanied by a new story or drabble. I read this in ebook, so didn't really get to enjoy the art (more than I've already enjoyed it on DeviantArt or Tumblr, I mean), but the stories of course were new. It was mostly entertaining fluff, although one book and less than a week after I'd finished it, I had pretty much forgotten its existence and skipped it in my numbering, oops. XD The stories don't really add that much to the universe, I feel, but there were a couple that do linger -- the story set in the Americas, with John Wampanoag as the POV character, which I would've liked to see more of; the present-day Temeraire drabble that was jsut the perfect length; and my favorite thing in the book, Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth is a Longwing captain :D Individual stories, with spoilers )

41. Sarah Rees Brennan, In Other Lands -- this was another book I inhaled, pretty much over a busy weekend, and partly it was trying to keep up with [livejournal.com profile] ikel89 (reading in tandem is so much more fun when I'm actually enjoying the book. Imagine that! XD) but mostly it's because it's a really fun book. I've been disappointed and/or frustrated by SRB's latest offerings (the Lynburn trilogy steadily pleased me less and less with each book, with the conclusion being my biggest disappointment of the year, and one of those rare times where I felt downright betrayed by a book; good thing it wasn't a series I really cared about; Tell the Wind and Fire was not as disappointing, but it was frustrating anyway, in the way it was in dialogue with other books, but mostly I thought the other books more effective, even when one of them was Dickens :P So, it was lovely to have an SRB book I was actively and almost wholeheartedly enjoying (I do have some quibbles, but on the whole I liked it a lot, and immediately recommended to both L -- who is lapping it up with even greater glee than I -- and Awesome Friend Ali). I wish I could hail it as a return to form, but it just makes me worried that, because this book was written, what, in 2013-2015 (and published as a serial on SRB's blog), so, like, concurrently with the Lynburns? So it's not like SRB is back to writing books that I like and I can look forward to more -- it's that she used to. And even here, I liked the beginning (and the core of the story that was clearly set up by the beginning) more than the ending, so my enjoyment of the book is tinged with nostalgia, even though the book is brand spankin' new. More, with spoilers )

There is a Luke-POV short story set in the same universe, which I've also read by now (part of the 2014 anthology I mention below) and also an Adara POV short story on SRB's LJ.

*

Currently reading (for some pretty loose values of 'currently', admittedly, and also 'reading' :P) cut, as it got a bit long )

From this pre-publication review of Vallista we learn that Vallista is a gothic. OF COURSE! (although I don't like gothics, so... IDK.) I'm intrigued by the promise that "many of the mysteries plaguing Vlad are solved here". Like, what mysteries? That don't appear to be overtly solved in Hawk, since Vallista takes place before it...

And from Brust's Patreon, which I check out periodically, the new-=to-me revelation that Tsalmoth (tentatively the after-Vallista book) is set between Yendi and Jhereg (!!!) -- i.e. actual Vlad and Cawti marriage (/relationship), not during the honeymoon period, not when it's falling apart while Vlad is oblivious to it. That should be interesting!

And speaking of books that may or may not come out at some point: Scott Lynch interview from Worldcon has the following tidbits about Thorn of Emberlain )

(no subject)

Sep. 10th, 2017 06:37 pm
skygiants: Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender; text 'just kicked butt' (katara kicks butt)
[personal profile] skygiants
Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent is a compilation of oral history interviews with Pearl Witherington Cornioley, behind-the-lines SOE agent in France during WWII, packaged up into a YA nonfiction narrative.

Pearl's story is as fascinating as all the other stories about WWII female secret agents I've read, with the bonus that it's barely crushingly depressing at all! Pearl started out as a courier, posing as a traveling cosmetics saleswoman and working with an old school friend of hers who was running the SOE Stationer network -

(sidenote; she'd also been the one to recommend that her old school friend sign up for secret intelligence to begin with, and then was like 'yes now that I've set that up I'll pop on over to join his network now, thanks')

(sidenote 2; she'd also managed to somehow smuggle a secret message to her fiance Henri, a French soldier who had just escaped from German POW camp, and get him in contact with the Stationer network as well, so literally as soon as she parachuted in her boss was like "HEY WELCOME TO FRANCE HERE'S YOUR BOYFRIEND I'll just .... leave you two alone a bit")

- but eventually her boss was arrested by the Gestapo. Fortunately, Pearl had dragged several other members of the network out for a picnic that day, so they all escaped!

Then D-Day happened and Pearl was like "well, I guess it is now my job to be in charge of organizing all British supply drops and getting weapons and money to the French underground resistance, and no one else seems to be sabotaging the Germans around here, so ..... I guess that's what we're doing now?"

And that's how Pearl ended up being in charge of several thousand Maquis soldiers! With Henri playing support.

(There's a couple of Henri interviews in the back and they are mostly taken up with the story of how he rescued a baby bunny while retreating from the Germans and brought it along with him through numerous battles until they were about to be captured, at which point he was like 'FLY FREE, MY RABBIT FRIEND! SAVE YOURSELF!' "And that was the only life I saved during the war." BLESS.

There's also a very cute bit that the interviewers put in dialogue, because they also obviously found it super cute, where Pearl is like "ugh I get so mad when people say the men followed me because I was pretty" and Henri is like "BUT YOU WERE, YOU WERE SO PRETTY" and Pearl is like "I WAS NOT AND ALSO THAT'S NOT THE POINT.")

I have not yet managed to get my hands on Nancy Wake's autobiography, but I would love to compare/contrast -- they played very similar roles during the war in organizing Maquis during the liberation of France, but while Nancy Wake seems to have made no bones about being a very front-lines combatant (strangling soldiers with her bare hands, etc.) Pearl spends a lot of time in her account strongly disclaiming active heroism and emphasizing the logistics and support elements of her role. Could she have killed somebody herself if she had to? Well, gosh, she's so glad she never had to find out, that wasn't her job at all!

But I mean, Pearl also starts out early on in her narrative explaining that she is very conflict-averse and dislikes argument above all things, and then goes on to describe, in addition to extensive amounts of fighting with the Germans:

- fighting with the entire French government when it looked like they weren't going to give any of her Maquis any medals because they were technically working under the British rather than the French (ง'̀-'́)ง
- fighting with the entire English government when they tried to give her a civil Order of the British Empire rather than a military one because "there was nothing remotely 'civil' about what I did" (ง'̀-'́)ง
- fighting with the head of SOE after he accused a trusted French colleague of hers of being a double agent due to a misunderstanding and then failed to apologize -- "as Colonel Buckmaster is kind enough to visit me each time I come to Paris, can you ask him to alert me next time and I'll ask [the dude who was falsely accused] to come too?" (ง'̀-'́)ง (AND HER OLD BOSS NEVER VISITED HER AGAIN)
- fighting yet again with the English government when they wouldn't let her wear parachute wings, because she'd only jumped four times instead of five, "SO I JUST WORE THEM ANYWAY" (ง'̀-'́)ง (the editor is like 'we don't know where or how she got a pair to wear? but apparently she did?')

What I'm saying is I take Pearl's description of her own retiring conflict-averse shyness with a grain of salt.

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