mindstalk: (Earth)
James Nicoll recently seemed to recommend Tekumel. I've known of this for a long time, but never gotten into it. Someone linked to tekumel.com and I started reading its history... then stopped, it wasn't that exciting to me. But it's got the common huuuuuge numbers. The world was settled 60,000 years after our present, time passed, disasters happened, now the 'currently' oldest written records are 25,000 years old. I read something about how some century was full of specified events, then the next 500 years were full of petty infighting.

Not unique to Tekumel. Game of Thrones has 12,000 years of alleged history. Eberron has hundreds of thousands of years, maybe millions. Dragaera has 250,000 years.

On the one hand I would like to believe in the longevity of intelligent beings, so at some point you 'need' deep timelines, but I feel they also fit science fiction and far speculation better, rather than fantasy stasis. And either way, authors will have trouble filling the time plausibly.

Tolkien's comparatively modest, with 6500 years since the Noldor returned to Middle Earth, and 1400 years for the Shire. Exalted has 5000 years since the Primordial War, and only about 750 since almost everyone died and half the world dissolved into chaos.

Then there's Glorantha, which in the RuneQuest III box set, is introduced at the end of its Third Age, 1500 years after the invention of Time itself. There's overlapping and contradictory myth stuff 'before' that, but actual history is 1500 years. (I'm assuming they started with writing, from the myth/hero age.) No wonder they're still using bronze! I don't know that much about the history, but the second age was dominated by two magically powerful empires, that lasted for some centuries. And not millennia.

In the real world, the oldest written symbols are from about 3500 BC, but the oldest coherent texts from 2600. Those are about earlier times, somewhat, so let's say history starts around 3000 BC. What does 1500 years get us?

In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians have come and gone (though Sumerian remains a literary language, alongside daily Akkadian), and Hammurabi of Babylon was a few centuries ago. Iron and the Bronze Age collapse are a few centuries in the future.

In Egypt, both the Old and Middle Kingdoms have passed. The pyramids are ancient history to Egyptians.

I don't know anyone else for that period. Advancing to the 'historical' eras of other places: 1500 BC to 1 BC in Greece gets you the high Bronze Age and Myceneans, Bronze Age Collapse, dark age, whatever happened that became the Trojan War stories, Homer, weird art most people don't know about, the Classical period, the Hellenistic Age, and conquest by Rome.

Rome itself only starts around 750 BC, 1500 years takes us to 750 AD. So kingdom, Republic, Empire, fall in the west and displacement to the east, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islamic Arab armies. Dark Ages and Charlemagne in the West, well past Justinian in the east.

In China, 1600-100 BC covers the Shang, Zhou, Warring States, Confucius and other philosophers, Qin, and Han. Okay, so most of us probably don't much about those periods beyond museum pieces, still the names suggest change. 100 BC to 1400 AD covers the Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming, and the invention of much of what we consider "Chinese": civil service exams, porcelain, paper, gunpowder, the compass, printing...

The history of England is about 1500 years if you count from when Roman support left and the Anglo-Saxons showed up. From 1066, not quite 1000 years.

Japan barely even *has* 1500 years of written history; we can go back to some Chinese mentions in the 200s, or spotty Kofun era records before 500.
mindstalk: (I do escher)
Hanging out on /r/fanfiction recently, I've run across multiple people who hate 1st person narrators. This baffles me, like "I won't read books by women" or "I won't read books with a girl lead". There are so many great 1st POV books out there, including seminal works of the genre or its penumbra as well as 'literature': Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, the parts of Moby Dick that aren't pure infodump, Amber, Night in the Lonesome October, Vlad Taltos, Book of the New Sun, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee, Sunshine, Heart of Darkness, the Farseer trilogies, Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Bertie Wooster, Hunger Games, Ancillary series, Black Company, 20,000 Leagues... and multiple high quality fanfics.

(Also my own Nanoha fics but I make no claims for the quality of those.)
mindstalk: (juggleone)
I'm tired and lazy. Here's some things I found interesting.

Nacreous clouds seen in UK.

Couple pieces on "Bernie bros" and sexist attacks on Hillary.
And is Bernie ready for Republican attacks? For being asked unfair questions like why he wants to destroy the economy and turn us into Venezuela, or why he thought socialism was cool during the Cold War? http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10903404/gop-campaign-against-sanders
Speaking of Venezuela, the rationing is so bad even lines are being rationed. And the economy czar doesn't believe in inflation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/29/venezuela-is-on-the-brink-of-a-complete-collapse/?tid=pm_business_pop_b
But to be positive: Bernie's Fed agenda http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10829888/bernie-sanders-federal-reserve

Harry Reid saved the renewable energy revolution.

How Houston improved bus ridership "for free": sparser network of higher frequency buses, in a grid rather than radial pattern. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10852884/houston-bus-ridership

How Likud won the 2015 election in Israel. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10861560/israel-election-amit-channel-2

From last April, one article on how taxi medallions prices have dropped due to Lyft and Uber. http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2015/04/07/as-uber-lyft-hire-more-drivers-taxicab-medallion-values-tank.html

A trippy 9 minute history of Japan. The Reddit comments linked to by Vox are good glosses. http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10905274/japan-history-video

Purported evolution of fairy tales. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487

Memoization in Python https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1988804/what-is-memoization-and-how-can-i-use-it-in-python

Thread on previews of a new edition of the Blue Rose RPG http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?775100-Blue-Rose-previews

Obama's reform of federal solitary confinement http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10834770/obama-solitary-confinement-changes
mindstalk: (Homura)
I don't know how choate these thoughts will be, but let's try. So, there's urban fantasy, a genre I am aware of but not steeped in. Fairies or wizards or vampires, usually living in the dark corners of something like the modern world. "Buffy", Neverwhere, The Gypsy, Agyar, most magical girl anime (Sailor Moon et al.), World of Darkness RPGs, etc. Sometimes the supernatural comes into the open, like Anita Blake or Sunshine.

I know of one example of 'urban fantasy' of the past: the series starting with Midnight Never Come, with a faerie court living under Elizabethan (and later) London.

But how about the future?  If we can have vampires lurking around the modern era, why not in a future society?  Captain Kirk and Vampires ('real' ones, not the salt kind).  Captain Janeway and magical girls.  Well, there are some practical problems, like anticipated future surveillance, but still, for a lot of beings with access to some sot of Otherspace and/or camera-fuzzing magic, that's not that big a problem.

So now I'll list what I know that sort of fits this, in various ways.

The most obvious is "To The Stars", set around 2450 CE of the Madoka universe, where magical girls have been covert until the last 20 years, and the fic is heavily about both magical girl society and the SFnal society they live in.

Sailor Moon itself has that Crystal Neo-Tokyo that Usagi rules over 1000 years in the future.  I don't know much about it though.

There's a fanfic I didn't read much of, blending Fate/stay night with Macross Frontier, and Emiya Shirou on the Frontier shortly before it runs into the Vajra aliens.  He's a mage in secret, so it fits.

"Buffy" had Fray, the Slayer of the year 3000 or maybe 2200, vampires mistaken for just another mutant, and genuine 100% magical demons not being as weird as the mutant fish-boss Fray works for.

Vampire Hunter D is kind of like this, though post-apocalyptic in feel.  Vampires existed, came out, took over the world and ruled it as Nobles, then got overthrown?  and D runs around killing monsters for the sake of farmers who are homesteading it with solar panels and force fields and laser home defense systems.

Nanoha takes place in our time, but achieves a similar feel by switching place: we start in Tokyo as another secretive magical girl thing, and end up in a sort of magical Starfleet in other dimsnesions? worlds?  Instead of To the Stars' immortal MGs living into the future where they work in the military, our heroines simply emigrate to a more advanced and technomagically open world where they work in the military.

Vampire Winter is in my notes, though a bit different: WWIII happens, nuclear winter happens, a vampire discovers he can go out in the attenuated daylight (yay!) but that this puts the sustainability of his food supply at risk (uh-oh), and acts on that.

Part of the interest is in magic and high tech interacting, so I'll mention Sunshine, which has a hilarious line about master vampires who can't go out any more using kickass VR rigs instead.  And using e-mail a lot.  There's also Shadowrun, at the tail end of what I'm thinking of.

mindstalk: (Mami)
Some articles on democracy (pluralist and feminist) among Syrian Kurds: NYTimes, FT, scribd copy of FT.

If we kept DST all year, or got rid of it.

A Madoka fanfic I'm reading. It's like Starship Troopers or Old Man's War crossed with Madoka crossed with transhumanism and Culture ship Minds. Kyubey said we'd go to the stars, and we did. Many fans think magical girls are potentially immortal, and here they are. I've been enjoying it a lot. Could have used some more editing passes, but generally fun to read, often funny, I'm engaged with the show characters and the original one. Downside: it's longer than Lord of the Rings and still ongoing, last update Oct 6.  I've read 34 chapters out of 44 and am thinking I should pace myself, maybe go read Ancillary Mercy while I still sort of remember what happened in Ancillary Sword.

Funny panel from the Fate/zero manga.

Japan is actually doing quite well per capita: low unemployment, very high employment to working-age-population ratio, inflation is back.  Abenomics, and Keynesianism, works.  GDP is shriking... because the population is, especially the working-age population.

James notes that Heinlein's first story is closer to Dickens' last novel than it is to us.  This will be more interesting when his *last* book is closer to Dickens than to us, but still.

Polio is judged to be even closer to eradication.

Portugal's Left Bloc, a party run by women.

Secret gardens and numinous fantasy

SF written in 1666 by Margaret Cavendish

mindstalk: Tohsaka Rin (Rin)
So, I finally finished the Lets Play of the Fate/stay night visual novel. That sentence probably made no sense to most of my readers, so let me expand:

Visual novel (VN): a Japanese thing I'm not that knowledgeable about. It could be as simple as a novel with graphics, simple animations, and sound (music and dialog). In practice, they usually have you make choices, so it's like a multimedia Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) novel. They're also thought of as a game -- and usually H (for hentai) or ero games, with some sexual content -- albeit ones with far more reading than playing. They also make use of running on a computer: as they're usually about relationships (as it were), you can accumulate relationship points with different characters, which affects branches later on, so it's a bit more complex than a CYOA book.

Fate/stay night: one particular VN by Kinoko Nasu. No one knows what the title means, if anything. The English translation has been described as 800,000 to a million words, twice as long as the Lord of the Rings. It has spawned an anime of the same name, which I'm told is not that good (though popular); a manga, about which I've heard nothing; a prequel light novel series called Fate/zero by Gen Urobuchi (basically canonized fanfic) which spawned an anime of its own; and most recently an anime Fate/Unlimited Blade Works based on the second 'route' of the VN, which I'll explain later. I've seen Fate/UBW (strong start, pacing lags later) and Fate/zero (just plain strong, though dark.)

I imagine that there might be some way to run the VN/game in a Windows environment on my Linux box, with the fan-made English translation files. But, that's a lot of work, and after playing the American-made Black Closet, I'm not sure "playing" this sort of game is really my thing. Happily, some heroic servant of the people made a walkthrough, aka a Lets Play, of the (fan-English) game, including all the bad endings and extras, but excluding the (allegedly bad) sex scenes. I started reading it over a month ago, on October 11th. Last night, I finished.

In addition to being long, the player had snarky comments about Nasu's "words word words", long (not that long) philosophical ramblings at times that didn't make tons of sense. So my ideas for snarky titles were Unlimited Verbiage (as above) or Unlimited Nasu Words, for a closer play on titles.


In addition to being longer than LotR, Fate/stay night could also be thought of as a trilogy, but in a different way. It's basically three different stories (also called 'routes') about the same characters and general events. Not three different perspectives on the same sequence of events (which could be interesting, and there is a bit of that in the prologue), but three different main sequences, branching based on early choices by the player. (I guess? I'm actually not sure if it branches solely on that; there seem to be aspects of three different related worlds, with differences that wouldn't depend on your choices. But, not sure, don't care enough to hunt it down.) Two of the routes also have two different good-ish endings each, and across all three routes there are 40 Dead Ends (you die) or Bad Ends (you otherwise fail). It's actually pretty channeled: you have to play the Fate route first, then the UBW route, then the Heaven's Feel route. Another reason I figured I might as well just read it.

So, was it good? It was engaging, at the very least: I didn't take a month to finish because I was slacking off in boredom. It does have flaws and confusing bits; never know what to attribute to the original author vs. the translator, I'd guess some of both. By the end of the UBW anime I was joking that the Holy Grail could punch holes in the plot, not just space.

It has more female roles than LotR, and strong ones. You play as Emiya Shirou (Japanese name order), a teenage boy, but interact heavily -- and not just sexually -- with various girls or women. Tohsaka Rin has been called the deuteragonist, as she plays a major role in all three routes, is the heroine (or love interest) of the second, and even gets to be the narrator in the prologue and one of the endings. (She's also an iconic character of tsundere, twintails, and zettai ryouki fashion... one of my early reactions to the UBW anime was "she's obviously tsundere, but I don't mind, because she's tsundere to *everything* and life in general, not just as a love interest.") And there's various other women, strong in combat, magic, and/or surviving a lot of crap. (And some of them do get a lot of crap to survive.)

It does pass the Bechdel test. I'm not sure it passes it often -- if two women are talking there's a good chance it'll be about Shirou, though "what an idiot" is more likely than "what a hunK" -- but it does.

Shirou's infamously sexist in some ways, like "girls shouldn't fight" despite the girls being able to fight on a completely different level than him, though someone on TV Tropes argues it's deeper than that: that he didn't want Saber fighting because she was *injured*, but (a) couldn't say that well (see: idiot) and (b) thought his life wasn't worth protecting. After barreling through the whole thing, I'm agnostic on the question, aka "I don't want to go back and re-read the first route to have an informed opinion."

The nature of the story allows it to plunder myth and legend at will. Sometimes brutally ("X was never like that!" people say, though I'm "eh, I can see it") but sometimes with research ("Y actually was described as a pretty boy").

It's inspirational: I imagine a lot of fanfic from it (though checking, not as much as I thought; it does rank higher in crossovers than on its own, which makes some sense), and have had some RPG inspirations of my own already. And I can see plundering some of the characters for future PCs. It definitely has memorable characters, of both sexes.

One cool thing for me is that at least three characters are basically Lawful Good (Saber is *officially* LG, she has a stat sheet in-universe!), with very different personalities, and none Lawful Stupid. (Shirou can be dumb but it's more your standard Shounen Stupid). I have an interest these days in how characters can be morally straight-and-narrow yet different people. (Nanoha is also good for that, and to a lesser degree Order of the Stick. Possibly superhero media in general, but that's less my thing.)

Basically, I had fun, and am glad I read it. Should you read it? I don't know if it's *that* good, objectively speaking. Would it be of interest if you hadn't seen related anime, as I had? I can't say.

I know I haven't described what it's *about*; there's a zillion other sources for that, though, so I was going for some underexploited angles, as well as "this was to my taste, if you like my taste you might too."

(Edit: one thing it's about is heroism and the sacrifices made for it. I'm not sure if it says anything deep or useful about it - -I've been more reading than thinking -- but that's definitely A Theme. Maybe even The Theme.)

The new icon is, of course, Rin, apparently giving one of her "now listen up, idiot" lectures.


2015-Aug-20, Thursday 22:00
mindstalk: (Default)
So I've recently re-read two more childhood books: A Wrinkle in Time, and A Wind In The Door. Swiftly Tilting Planet is on my shelf. The printing of Wrinkle I read had forewords and afterwords about the author, especially one by a granddaughter, talking about Madeleine's enthusiasm for science. Which, sure, you can tell in the books.

Judging by the second book, though, she had less enthusiasm for getting it RIGHT.

* Madeleine says a galactic rotation is 200 billion years, off by 1000x.
* I don't have further specific examples, but billions of years or billenniums got thrown around pretty casually.
* Calvin says the number of cells in the brain and in the universe are exactly equal. More like, brains and stars in the galaxy are approximately equal.
* Someone, I think the farandola Sporos, uses parsec as a measure of time.
* Detection of screams in space... via sonic instruments, not radio ones. Also sonic instruments to find farandolae, which are unto mitochondria as mitochondria are to us. I'm not complaining about the fantastic premise of psychic farandolae, I'm just saying I don't 'sound' is really the process at work at that scale. But definitely not space...

Granted, this is the 1970s (urban crime fears!) and you'd have had to go to an encyclopedia or such to look stuff up, and it's easy to misremember billion and million. But still.

As for the books... I dunno. I think the first was stronger. Both have more buildup than climax or denouement, as it were.


2015-Jan-12, Monday 13:52
mindstalk: (YoukoYouma)
Economics profession swings left http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-01-07/economics-stars-swing-left

Cracked on prostitution myths. Anecdotal, but consistent with studies I've read and possibly linked to in the past. http://www.cracked.com/article_21862_5-ways-life-as-prostitute-nothing-like-you-expect.html

Pew on the religions of Asian-Americans. Christian 42%, 26% none, 14% Buddhist, 10% Hindu. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/07/19/asian-americans-a-mosaic-of-faiths-overview/
As a group, they range from the least religious unaffiliated to the most evangelical Protestants. Majority of Korean-Americans are Protestant; I think back in South Korea only 25% are Christian, with 50% having no religion.

Idea on why Charlie Hebdo was attacked:
"France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination."

Westeros-world map updated for Worlds of Ice and Fire http://awoiaf.westeros.org/images/1/10/WorldofIceandFire.png
GRRM deconstructing war, dark Daenerys (spoiles for whole series https://meereeneseblot.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/untangling-the-meereenese-knot-part-iv-a-darker-daenerys/ )
Dornish vengeance (ditto) https://meereeneseblot.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/water-gardens-and-blood-oranges-part-iv-it-ends-in-blood/

no to Boston Olympics

experience of black atheists http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/black-atheists-representation/

Attack on Titan/Frozen AMV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXR0WIbubB0

Saudi Arabia and 9/11 http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/new-questions-raised-about-u-s-saudi-relationship-1.2890528

America's poor vs. those in other rich countries http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/01/05/america_s_poor_vs_the_rest_of_the_world.html

Litany of Earth

2014-Nov-24, Monday 21:23
mindstalk: (12KMap)
Review (or not) of the (novelette by Ruthanna Emrys), which is almost interesting than the story itself: Petrarch and Diderot and internment camps and libraries, Kurt Busiek's _Marvels_, 'good' magic being traditionally spiritual or luminous, 'bad' magic bodily or fleshy...


I'd already read the story myself, and liked it.
mindstalk: (beardless)
I'm re-reading, or have just re-read, a couple of books from my youth.

One is The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It's a first-person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess with the Power, later a nun; I forget if she was a priestess as such. He's small but clever, using his brains to raise big stones. He himself is touched and guided by the god. People say his father is a devil. He helps his real father recover his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

The other is The King Must Die by Mary Renault. It's a first person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess who is definitely a priestess. He's small but clever, inventing better forms of wrestling (though the Egyptians already know them), and uses his brains to raise a big stone. He himself is touched and guided by the gods. People say his father is Poseidon. He helps his real father get a more solid grip on his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

It's kind of spooky, reading these back to back.

There are differences. Merlin is never a king himself, and is a virgin dedicated to (or claimed by) the god; Theseus becomes king of Eleusis and Athens, and has been mating or raping since he was 12 or 13. Merlin's called a wizard, Theseus isn't. I think I'm finding Renault an easier writer, though her story is also more disquieting to read, what with the (non-graphic) claiming and rape of slaves, and the conversion of a city from mild matriarchy to Greek patriarchy; I don't think Merlin does anything a modern Westerner couldn't approve of, at least in the first book. Myriad other details.

But... still. Amusing similarity, for two books I decided to read on impulse. Also might be why I told my niece that the same author had written both books. Plus the Mary firstname collision.
mindstalk: (Nanoha)
I could talk about some of these in more detail at some point, but figured I'd dump for now. Also, this my first table of text and images, because I thought I'd try more images and wrapping text in HTML seems hard. Images are mostly HTML-scaled (to 150 pixels high) and larger if you 'view' them in your browser.
(Edit: I discovered the Livejournal version of this looks like shit in chromium. If you're reading this there in that, might try Firefox or the Dreamwidth link.)
Table of text and images )
If you want a blind recommendation out of all this, I'd go with RSG, because it's good and pretty short so what do you have to lose? and FMA:B, because it's awesome. Or the original FMA manga, also awesome. I have no opinion on the first FMA anime, I just know the story diverges massively. Oh, and the opening/ending of Mahou Shojoutai, because it's only 4 minutes total, and so pretty and weird. I wish I had someone to share the rest of the series with, but I can't make it a high priority cold recommendation.
mindstalk: (Witch)
Man, this book is painful to re-read. Dumbledore's an idiot for not explaining anything, Harry's an idiot for forgetting Sirius's communication mirror, Snape's an idiot about Harry, Sirius is an idiot about Kreacher, James was a big bully... plus Fudge being an idiot and Umbridge just being so utterly horrible.

And yet dim memory makes me fear that #6 will be even worse on the smart people being dumb front.

On the upside, I remember when I read #7, at the end I kind of wondered who Ginny was and why Harry was hooking up with her. She hadn't made much impression, with books years apart by the end. Re-reading the books close together though, yeah, she's there a lot, not part of the Holy Trinity but in the penumbra, and often in the plot.

I still kind of ship Harry and Luna, though. Ginny's a nice girl and all but I don't really care about her; Luna made a much bigger impression, back in the day, and seems to have more chemistry with him on page. I'm tempted to look up Luna fanfic, except I also fear how bad it could be.

Huh, I have a Harry Potter tag already. I wonder why? *checks* Oh, Methods of Rationality.
mindstalk: (bujold)
The stereotypes:

Frankenstein's monster is a shambling moron; Conan is a mighty-thewed violent barbarian in a loincloth; and Tarzan is an ape-man whose great intellectual accomplishment is "Me Tarzan, you Jane."

The realities:

The Creature is a brilliant and eloquent autodidact; I'm told Conan is a mighty-thewed barbarian who wears as much armor as he can get, is fairly smart and cunning, and becomes something of an intellectual as King of Aquilonia in his later life; and Tarzan teaches himself to read and write English solely from books (bootstrapping from children's primers and an illustrated dictionary) despite having no human spoken language at the time, his first one of which will be French, learned as an adult. He also becomes an intellectual omnivore when finally dragged off to civilization.

On the flip side, I'm not sure people remember Sherlock Holmes's physical side: he was quite athletic and a master of I think jiu-jitsu.

Seems as if up into the early 1900s heroes (or even interesting villains) were accepted or even expected to be well-rounded if not superhuman in both brains and brawn, but after that separation occurred, with rare exceptions like Khan Noonian Singh -- but his very well-roundedness is a threat, that of "eugenics". Or Batman, but he both has old roots and isn't that strong in a superhero context. Or Adrian Veidt, but he's a deliberate throwback.

If you're wondering what brought this on, the answer is that I followed A Princess of Mars with Tarzan of the Apes by the same author.
mindstalk: (robot)
Good series, though hard to describe interestingly without spoiling part of the key fun. If you trust my taste, take my word that it's a well-deserved cult following, albeit out of paper print. Available as ebooks at the usual sources, or as DRM-free epub or PDF via https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RosemaryKirstein
I just found the above link and bought the series.

If you're in the Boston area, both BPL and Minuteman seem to have access to every book except the first one, which is only $2.99 as an ebook, vs. $5.99 for the rest.

Non-spoiler hooks: female author, female protagonist, other female lead characters, people being smart, people applying the scientific method in a fantasy, interesting fantasy and non-human life.

Drawback: series has been dangling for a while. It is hoped she'll be able to finish with more sales and less cancer, and I think the books contain interesting stories as it is, but if you don't want to wait for the mysteries to be explained then this isn't for you.

http://www.rosemarykirstein.com/the-books/ has the author blurbs.
http://www.rosemarykirstein.com/free-reads/ has free first chapters (online or download), as does Smashwords.

James Nicoll reviews the series, albeit with some spoilers.
mindstalk: (12KMap)
I just re-read A Wizard of Earthsea

* The map is so evocative! And I like how you get zoomed in versions, and all the maps have, gasp, a scale. I'd estimate the maps as about 2000 miles each way. Islands aren't longer than 300 miles, but several are so long; not as long and as wide, though Havnor works on it. No one knows how big the frozen land on the north edge is.

* Not much ironwork. We meet bronze-smiths, starting with Ged's dad. OTOH they have compass needles, and iron that seeks magnets.

* "The shadow would not follow him into the jaws of a dragon." Hi, I'm a nameless doppel spirit from the lands of the dead, but dragons scare me.

* Law and order ain't all that. Ged's scared of Hort Town, a rough area; Pendor used to be a pirate kingdom before Yevaud came; the inland of Hosk is lawless; slaves row Osskil ships.

* Holy crap yeah, the women... Tehanu may be controversial execution (and I have little memory of it) but I can see why UKLG looked back at the original books and went "urk!" "Weak as women's magic, wicked as women's magic." Magical women are mostly witches, the weakest and most ignorant; sorcerers might lean male, though the Lady of Re Albi is an "enchantress"; wizards of course are only male. And the women... Ged's mother just dies, his aunt tries to magically enslave him, the Lord's daughter tempts him -- maybe innocently but almost disastrously -- on behalf of her mother, who's at odds with Ogion; said daughter shows up later as Serret to tempt him again, for the Terrenon, and betraying her (much older and cold) husband. The Lady of O is harmless but childish.

OTOH Pechvarry's wife and the barely seen witch there are okay, and Vetch's sister Yarrow is nearly Ged's Magical Pixie Dream Girl. Pretty and curious if "much less clever than me" (Vetch's words), help invigorate and inspire Ged. There's got to be Ged/Yarrow fanfic (checks: yep, at least one, though non-sexual. Do Earthsea wizards *have* kids, if they're not locked up on Roke? I can't remember.), even if she's only 14. And she has a tiny dragon as a pet!

Dragons, too: the Dragon of Pendor is male, and all his children are sons. Some she-dragon came out to mate, lay eggs, and go west again. Kudos to Yevaud for being a single father, I guess, but it's also more female erasure...

* Kargish aren't the only pale people; Osskil people are too. White skin = evil, or at least antagonistic.

Tombs of Atuan next. In which an ignorant woman oversees a dark void (thank you Dave Sim) that swallows up men, until it is penetrated by the light and learning and staff of a man.

GoT POV realization

2014-Jan-25, Saturday 12:32
mindstalk: (Default)
(spoiler safe, especially if you've seen the series or read the first few books)

Someone pointed out something distinctive about A Song of Ice and Fire: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/A_Game_of_Thrones#Viewpoint_Characters
Look at the POV characters, for this and later books (though later lists have spoilers): largely women, children, underlings, or underdogs (dwarfs, bastards, knights with missing hands...) Half women in the first book, plus boy, youth, dwarf, and Ned. Second book is the same list, with Davos (underling) and Theon (jerk, and hoo boy) replacing Ned. Book 3 replaces Theon with Sam and Jaime, and we're starting to tilt male, but not males in charge. 4 gets back to parity, with lots of characters even my spoiler reading has told me little about; I don't know if underling/underdog is holding up. Book 5 has 16 POVs, wtf, not counting bookends, and only 5 are women. Some of those men are very high ranking (Lord Captain, Lord Commander), but still not *top* ranking.

Apart from Ned, *none* of the kings or lords in charge get a POV: Robert, Drogo, Renly, Stannis, Robb, Tywin, Lord Martell, Balon, Euron, Mance... closest would be Jon after his ascension, or a Lord Regent who gets the book 5 Epilogue.

I'd wondered why Robb never gets a POV, unlike all of his siblings but the 3 year old (even the foster one); "because he's 'King'" seems a good answer. The Game of Thrones is told from the POV of the pieces, not the players. Or at least not the male players.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
On the boy side:

Timothy Hunter (Books of Magic): the Opener, a conduit for magic like unto Merlin (DC Universe version), "Control the storm? I AM THE STORM", creates worlds accidentally, petitioned by gods, respected by the Endless, etc.

Coin (_Sourcery_): eighth son of a wizard, thus a sourcerer (sic), a source of magic rather than a mere wielder of it. Likewise creates worlds, is stronger than gods, could destroy the world accidentally.

Adam Young, an Antichrist (_Good Omens_): Antichrist raised by a normal English family. Has basically God/Q levels of power to rewrite the world.

Possibly others? Actually _Stranger in a Strange Land_ might qualify.

On the girl side:

Minus (webcomic) Minus: has strongly godlike powers. Why is never explained. Probably not even a teenager, tween or pre-tween maybe. Surreal one page comics with the occasional short storyline.

Haruhi Suzumiya (eponymous Japanese light novels/anime): said to be godlike, but unconsciously so. Yuki Nagato is like a drone terminal for the Q continuum, so more deliberately powerful. But the books aren't about them the way the boy books are about superpowered boys flinging power around or learning not to.

Strictly speaking, that's it.

There's also Jame Talissen (Chronicles of the Kencyrath): avatar of the Destruction aspect of God, so closest to those three boys. But she's focused on destruction, without world-creating powers, and doesn't wield even that power as casually as Tim Hunter or Minus.

And various magical prodigies: Korra, later Willow (but it's not her story), anime magical girls. But I can't think of world-making ones. (And Hermione? Way weaker relatively than even those.)


Tolkien's Goblins

2013-Apr-16, Tuesday 20:59
mindstalk: (Homura)
I was just looking at _The Hobbit_, particularly when they've been captured by goblins and are about to be presented to the Great Goblin, and noted a couple of things. One, goblins are said to eat horses and ponies and donkeys as well as more dreadful things, and I realized that AIUI English culture has a particularly strong abhorrence of eating horse, so this probably seems far worse to an English child than it did to me. I thought it was sad and practically unfortunate if their ponies got eaten but it wasn't "OMG ewww they eat horse!!!"

And the next paragraph is a decent piece of evidence for anyone who supports the "Tolkien thought technology was evil" thesis; it's also an interesting contrast to RPG goblins and orcs. Goblins are described as making not beautiful but clever things, especially axes, swords, tongs, pickaxes, and elements of torture. So... weapons and tools? They mine as well as the dwarves, if not neatly. They take particular delight in wheels, engines, and explosions, and avoiding work with their hands. So, labor saving devices? Honest Men of the West grind grain and remove rocks by hand, they don't use mills or dynamite! Goblin Industrial Revolution indeed...

(Not that goblins get much grain, I'm sure. "We Do Not Sow.") (And the *Shire* had a watermill. Saruman somehow replaced it with a polluting one...)

Relatedly, I was long impressed by when Merry and Pippin are prisoner: the orcs apply fast-acting (magic?) healing salve and a drink that tastes foul but energizes like miruvor. RPGs commonly treat orcish stuff as crude and badly made, but by the source material it should arguably be as effective as elvish stuff, just unpleasant. Hard to convey aesthetics in an RPG or nethack though, not like you have to taste the stuff your character does. And we see no orcish magical weapons or armor, for all their cleverness.
mindstalk: (lizsword)
No spoilers before the cut.

I've called the Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire series a long advertisement for democracy. I've since wondered if there's any hope of such reform within the world. I don't know where Martin's going, but if one wanted to write fanfic with a happy democratic ending, is there any potential for doing so without doing horrible injustice to the canon and making stuff up?

Short answer: yes! There's actually more potential than there's been written for, say, Barrayar.

Spoilers for I don't know, so best to assume everything through A Dance of Dragons. If you care, stay out. S, that means you!

Read more... )

Game of Thrones

2013-Jan-18, Friday 00:33
mindstalk: (Default)
After avoiding this series for length and grimness and ramblingness, I've finally been sucked in. I blame my friends: they got into the HBO series, then the books -- partway; they've read the first two books and are watching the second series now. I've seen a bit, and started watching season 1 yesterday when I was alone in the house. (It is NOT FOR KIDS.) It is interesting, and I also sort-of-read part of the book, more finding scenes in it to see differences (lots!) or clarification (who was that?) OTOH, I know enough to know I may not want to Read Them All -- actually, I'm happily plundering Tropes and Wiki spoilers, both for worldbuilding details in compact form, and to see if the characters are like get killed or abused too much. This means I in some ways know more than my friends, and have to watch what I say.

I keep calling the series one long advertisement for democracy; they agree.

It's well acted, and I'm told GRRM has lots of screenwriting experience, and may in fact still be better at it, so the serie sis arguably tighted and more coherent. I have no comment; my other association with GRRM is Wild Cards.

Remember me asking whether Hobb or Martin was more grim? I note more similarities now: both are highly political fictions, with fairly subtle magic now, that's remnants of a stronger magic in the past, cut down by catastrophe, but returning.

Also, I can agree with my commenters: Martin's more grim. Character death *and* torture. Hobb's mostly about the torture.

I also re-read this critique of how women are treated in the series, which was depressing, and doesn't seem entirely unfair, though I know from wiki that one negative element gets reversed.

Nice music.

Current thoughts: I'll keep watching with my friends, may not seek it out otherwise.

April 2017

2 345678
9 10 11 1213 1415
161718192021 22
232425262728 29

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Style Credit