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Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:16 pm
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[personal profile] brooksmoses
I just looked at the Schlock Mercenary comic for tomorrow, and the sound effect for firing the Very Large Gun that was introduced a storyline or two ago is making my vibrate and clap my hands with utter glee.

It works well as a standalone strip even if you're not familiar with the comic, too, so I'm going to make you click through to see it rather than spoiling it.
roadrunnertwice: Scott fends off Matthew Patel's attack. (ScottPilgrim.Scott - Reversal!)
[personal profile] roadrunnertwice

V.E. Schwab — A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light

March 6, March ??, and July 10

I plan to head directly into the weeds on this review, but I'll make a brief pit-stop at concision before I hit the road: I definitely recommend the first book of this series. It's fast, bold, and slick — just weird enough to grab your attention (a stacked-worlds cosmology where the only constant is London? What??), and more than competent enough to hold on to it. I'm more ambivalent about the other two books, but A Darker Shade of Magic actually stands alone pretty well anyhow.

Speaking of which, HEY, let's talk about trilogies! There are several different ways to put three book-sized objects in a row, and this series uses what I think might be the worst. I don't have a proper name for it (duologies behaving badly? party in the front, sweatshop in the back?), but it's that same thing Garth Nix did with Sabriel and Lirael/Abhorsen:

  • Start with one standalone, book-shaped book, with tight plotting and characterization and some deep-but-restrained worldbuilding.
  • Follow it with a much larger and more sprawling sequel, arbitrarily split into two volumes. (Book 2 usually ends on a cliffhanger of some kind.)

Recognize it? Contrast with the "three book-shaped books" trilogy or the "one continuous scroll" trilogy, both of which work better.

Part of the problem is just setting up an expectation of book-shaped books and then flubbing it. But I'm also starting to think that two books out of a trilogy is a uniquely awkward and unbalanced story unit, and should be avoided categorically. In all the examples I can think of, the sprawly second story has major plot and pacing issues that didn't afflict the first book and could only be addressed with major story surgery.

In this case, most of book 2 is dedicated to a shōnen manga tournament plot. This is a time-tested device that works really well in a long-running combat-focused comic, because it provides a lower-stakes pause in the main action (during which you can cut to machinations in the background as needed), it's guaranteed to take up a good long chunk of serialized time, and it's a good way to demonstrate how various characters have progressed or not progressed, especially because it lets you pit allies against each other without having to completely deform the story.

But tournaments usually work so well because they take up like an eighth or a tenth of a tremendously long comic. This one is like a quarter of the damn trilogy, and while yes, it's cool to see how badass Lila is now, it basically shoots the pacing all to hell.

Also affecting the pacing: The villain of the second story seems to spend an inordinate amount of time just twiddling his thumbs out in the distance. And he's just a lot less interesting than the confluence of villainies in the first book! He kind of sucks, tbh. (Note that I had this same beef with Lirael/Abhorsen. Is this a weird secondary effect of the structure?)

I had some other plot beefs. There's a death in book 3 that just kind of comes from someone acting out of character for no good reason, plus a few other things... not gonna go super deep into this, it just felt like things generally got a little sloppy.

Finally, there's a central character unironically named "Alucard," even though the only proper use of that name is to tell the reader with a big fat wink that this is Dracula's depressed son. (This story has nothing to do with Draculas, and IDEK how Schwab managed to not realize what she was doing there. Are there truly people who Don't Castlevania?? [yes])

IDK. I did enjoy the second book quite a bit, but it's not a complete unit, and I got bored partway through book three and just put it down for several months to read other things. There's a lot of good stuff in there, but it's flawed and uneven compared to book 1's mirror-bright polish.

Martha Wells — The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red

May 7

Yay, new Martha Wells! Spoiler, I liked it.

This had a more-than-passing resemblance to her short-lived Emilie series — it's more stripped-down than a lot of her other books, with more straightforward plotting and a more parsimonious approach to characterization for the supporting cast (not flat, but with most of the depth gestured rather than rendered, if that makes sense). It's an old-fashioned sort of feel, and one that suits both series' niches (Emilie was a deliberately retro pre-"YA" subgenre of youth lit, and Murderbot is a novella, which is sort of a coelacanth format just now coming out of a long hibernation).

Anyway, this is short and enjoyable and cheap (in its native ebook form, at least; the "tor.com" imprint has been publishing pretty nice tpbs of their novellas, but they're so overpriced that I get the impression we're not actually meant to buy them), and you should check it out.

Re: recent comments about how to structure a series: this is definitely the start of a larger story (note the beautiful last-minute left turn to avoid "happy ending"), but it's nicely contained, setting the stage for a next bit without any cliff-dangling. Which, again, I always greatly appreciate.

Jason Turner — Fir Valley (comics)

July 13

I liked this! It used this really aggressive POV shifting to get kind of a cubist every-angle-at-once view of the town of Fir Valley. And the town felt pretty legit; idk, I was reading this at the same time as Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, and they both do interesting things with the, like, sensation of being in the Pacific Northwest.

Tonally, this was all over the place in a way I kind of loved. Gruesome murder, young people making music, ghostly conspirators with animal heads, drunken idiocy, all kinds of stuff in here, and all presented with this kind of goofy big-hearted cheer? Turner has cited Twin Peaks as an influence here, and I can definitely see it. He isn't following Lynch's aesthetic, but the method seems familiar.

Anna-Marie McLemore — When the Moon Was Ours

June 11

I liked this, but I don't really feel like talking about it. It was good.

elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
[personal profile] elf
Didn't I already do this one? Like, twice? Wait; this list has both "preteen years" and "childhood" songs - am I supposed to consider those as two separate, distinct categories? Does "preteen" mean 10-13 and "childhood" mean before that? If that's the case, then I messed up the "preteen" thing, because from where I am now, that's an awfully narrow slice to try to sort out. I mean, there are plenty of online lists that could help me put songs into the before-and-after 10th birthday groupings, or whatever it intended, but I'm really not going there.

But okay; I do actually have a playlist of "early childhood" songs, so I can grab a few from there. Even though several of them are TV show theme songs.

...omg, there's a whole generation who doesn't understand how nerve-wracking it was to watch them never get off that damn island.

Tom Dooley | I Wish I Was a Teddy Bear | Ballad of Gilligan's Island | Seasons in the Sun | Welcome Back | Queen of the Silver Dollar | The Aba Daba Honeymoon | Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow

Manah Manah was not my favorite back then. )

Meme list

Five Things

Jul. 23rd, 2017 12:12 am
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[personal profile] ashnistrike
 I've been somewhat neglectful here. So, a low-stress post in which I don't try to go into anything in depth, because cramps, and because the summer's round of one-thing-after-another doesn't actually finish up for another month.

1) Readercon was awesome and a thing I want to go back to. I wasn't on program this year, which is something I want to change next year but on the other hand it was really nice to have one of the summer's Things be basically relaxing. I hung out with [personal profile] gaudior and [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and [personal profile] mrissa and Greer, and had a useful lunch with my agent and editor, and picked up a large stack of books, and generally had a great time. And then read at Pandemonium after the con with Fran Wilde and Chris Sharp, and that was also great, and the large stack of books that I had to deconstruct in order to see the audience reduced quite satisfactorily by the end of the event.

2) I have my mostly-final schedules for Necronomicon and the Baltimore Book Festival, which I will post once they're final. I also know what I'm doing at the Outwrite queer literature festival, except that I can't find the time for my panel now, so that will be here later too. But it's in DC on August 5th and promises to be a fun time.

3) It's that time of year when we've finally set a date to pick up our new cow--longhorn this year, shared with the same two people I've been splitting cows with for a while now. They each take a quarter of the cow, my large family of mostly carnivores takes a half, and we all enjoy the discount that comes from buying a whole cow. But this means the freezer damn well has to be empty by mid-August, which means in turn that all the weird bits of the last cow, and other odds and ends that have filled the empty space as 500 pounds of meat gets down to the last couple of packages, need to get used up. Thus there's currently heart marinating in the fridge, rump roast in the slow cooker, and a large bag of miscellaneous poultry organs out to thaw. (We also have a lot of vegetables in the house, but they rarely get to the point of freezing. The Mysterious Manor House goes through a weekly CSA box pretty handily. Except for the rutabaga.)

4) Things I have loved lately: 
  • Theodora Goss's The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, which is about the daughters of Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde teaming up with Justine Frankenstein and Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappacini - together they fight crime and build a found family. And the whole thing is written up as a novel by Catherine, but everyone else is playing peanut gallery over her shoulder so she transcribes their objections and questions in little asides, and impatiently explains to them the literary conceits that she's using. 
  • Arrival, which I watched on a long plane flight and promptly moved to the top of my Hugo list for Dramatic Presentation Long Form, and I can't believe they actually managed to film that but they did.
  • Jupiter Ascending, which I watched on the same long plane flight and adored in completely different ways: it's as delightful and cracktastic as everyone told you on Tumblr.



5) And now I need to put down Dreamwidth and go fix a small continuity error and an anachronism for the Winter Tide paperback.

Classical doodles

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:11 pm
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[personal profile] radiantfracture
Wednesday after work LB and I hiked in to the lake. We took a more strenuous route than usual, over rough ground, but nothing requiring high endurance -- or so I would have thought. The moment I got home, however, I lay down on the couch and did not rise until night.

The last few days have been like days of recovery from illness -- not soreness or fatigue so much as a sort of muzzy-headedness I dislike much more than pain.

Therefore, I have not done much writing or reading.

I did manage to read Insomniac City, Bill Hayes' memoir of his relationship with Oliver Sacks. It's a lovely, gentle book, a kind of idyll of daily life in New York -- lots of drinking wine on rooftops and talking to strangers in the park. Hayes invokes the sensory detail of their life together with the attention you'd expect of someone who could properly appreciate Oliver Sacks.

I'd read Hayes' description of a piece of music -- Beethoven's Op. 133, say (The Great Big Fugue) -- then cue it up on YouTube and listen -- or look up a meal they ate or an artist Hayes admired. In this way, the book became a delightful multi-sensory experience.

Reading or writing for work and other projects, though, did not seem to be on.

When writing is too difficult, I draw. One of my comfort activities is attempting loose copies of the exquisitely strange radial creatures from Haeckel's Art Forms in Nature. Listening to Beethoven' bright, angular notes, I thought -- why not try to draw this as well?1

Under the cut are a few creatures drawn out of the music, though they are not perfect synaesthetic renderings of these pieces or anything -- more a fusion of what I was looking at, what I was hearing, and what I could actually draw.


Musical Drawings )

{rf}

1. I do see a little colour to music, but it's a very limited palette, shading from blue-white through golden brown to dark brown, and probably has more to do with the colour of the piano whereon I failed to learn to play music as a child, rather than any intricacy of brain connections.
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[personal profile] fandomgiftboxmods posting in [community profile] fandomgiftbox
Since it's come up a couple times, if you have a question for a recip, please let the mods know via either the mod support post or a PM. We'll figure out how to get in contact with them, and let you know your answer as soon as possible! It's much better than having a disappointed recip or gifter because of a misunderstanding or unasked question.

(Caveat to the above: Since this is not run on Ao3, we do not have the ability to send participants emails. Answers will therefore depend on how often the person checks their Dreamwidth/Twitter/LJ/Tumblr/etc messages and responds to them.)

Well, At Least It Was a Good Game

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:44 pm
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[personal profile] billroper
Softball being over for a while, I ventured down to Wrigley Field to see today's Cubs / Cardinals game. Normally, I would go to the Sunday night game instead, but the softball league's family swim party is tomorrow night. (Hmm. Ok, softball not quite over yet. :) ) It was a good game, but sadly, the Cardinals lost as the manager left Wainwright in just a little too long, followed by yet another bullpen meltdown.

Ah, well. It's not like I have very high hopes for the Cards at this point, but you never know what will happen.

Kid stayed in; spouse and I went out

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:16 pm
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[personal profile] archangelbeth
And talked mostly politics, alas. I also at least got enough ice tea to stave off the headache that'd been trying to get at me, despite me having had a mug of tea that I made myself, yesterday! Or maybe I simply hadn't had enough fluids and it was dehydration? Or both? Dunno. Hmph.

I have been eating these Sungold/golden Kiwis (not the bird) like peaches. NOM NOM NOM. Skin's just more fiber, yay!

Kid might, might, might be recovering from stomach bug. Slowly. Let us hope.

I have complained about a VLACS test where -- and I checked -- none of the answers in the multiple-choice actually fit the material. Plus one of them wasn't in the text material at all and had to be googled up. I mean, it's nice to have research as part of a class, BUT. Y'know?

Online classes that require a separate account to view part of the material are Bad Planning. If they don't also have text, then they are inaccessible to the deaf and that's an ADA violation and I will make grouchy noises because I have developed, over the years, zero patience with hurdles to my kid being able to process required information.

Anyway. Got to bed at 4am last night. Oh, well. ...I need to repair the little holes in that houserobe. O:(

(Oh, hey, a relatively new 5-star review of Herb-Witch on Amazon! Yay!)

Havva Quote
S••••• says, "Hah. Okay the way Athens financed things like warship upkeep is that rich citizens were simply ordered to finance it, something called a "liturgy". There were two ways to get an exemption -- prove you performed another liturgy last year or this one, or prove that someone richer hadn't done a liturgy last year or this one. But, of course, there were no public accountings of wealth, so how do you think they enforced the latter?"
S••••• says, "You offered to exchange everything you owned for everything the person you claimed was richer owned. If he refused, he was admitting he was richer, and thus had to perform the liturgy."
arcangel says, "Ha!"


INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )

Connecting Nerdish Dots in Star Trek

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:00 pm
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[personal profile] dewline
Noting that Netflix isn't doing business inside mainland China, but they are offering their services in Traditional and Simplified Chinese langages anyway in assorted other markets.

Also noting that Star Trek: Discovery is being carried outside of the US and Canada by Netflix.

One of the supporting cast ships in the new series is USS Shenzhou NCC-1227.

Wondering if the dedication plaque will credit the Dalian Yards in mainland China for that starship. Dalian is where mainland China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaonang, was refitted to their navy's requirements.
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[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Having seen Angels in America live (Boston, November 1995, first national tour) and on screen, this Thursday I split the difference and saw the currently-running London production on tape-delay live-stream in a movie theater. (Part one, that is; part two is this Thursday.) I don't love it but it's interesting to see the staging. Also Kushner has, per the intro to the combined ebook version I have but hadn't read until now, made unspecified changes to part two, so I will be reading that before Thursday so I won't be distracted while watching. (While I only skimmed part one, the only difference I saw between the text and this production was the dropping of the homeless woman's jokes.)

Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest: )

There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.

(no subject)

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:02 pm
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[personal profile] the_rck
I want very much to respond to comments on some fics that are still anonymous. I could respond anonymously, but reveals are tomorrow, and I'd rather respond as myself. I've gotten recipient comments on four of the five stories, and the fifth person hasn't responded to any of the three stories they got but appears to have been prompt about responding to past gifts, so I'm assuming some sort of offline life thing has happened.

We're on our way home from Scott's parents' place now. If we weren't, I'd start the next story with a due date.

(no subject)

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:09 pm
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[personal profile] alexseanchai
Do scented soaps and lotions taste good to kittan?

Clearly I am approaching due for either figuring out how to clip Thea's claw tips or how to apply the red plastic thingies.

(ow.)

Wave, Listen to Me!

Jul. 22nd, 2017 07:56 pm
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[personal profile] informationgeek posting in [community profile] scans_daily
wavelistentome0100

And now for something completely different. A digital-only title from Kodansha Comics, Wave, Listen to Me!, from the creator of Blade of the Immortal. Enjoy, especially if you wish to see something not superhero related or fantasy-based. Just something human.

The first chapter is available to read for free, thus the amount of pages below. Feel free to check them out on the site here though.


Read more... )

I wonder what I meant

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:08 pm
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[personal profile] thnidu
This is on my Google calendar for this afternoon from 1:30 to 1:45:

Trip me tryout x yt? Yt? T xxfcxffxfxffxfxfxfxfftxxxfcxfffffyyyyxxxffffng*hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhvhghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhbhvhhhhhvhhhhhhhvhhhgh Hvbhgbghhghhhhhhvhhhh Chubb hhhhhh Hvbhgbghhghhhh hh Hvbhgbghhghhhh uhh h by hvh chubby uhh bunchhh huh huh huh bunch h chubby h chubby uhh hhh hubby h by h gabbing Hvbhgbghhghhhh uhh vh Hvbhgbghhghhhh hubby hhh bubba hubby v Hugh h chubby h chubby hubbub uhh Hvbhgbghhghhhh bbq hub h chubby vhhh huh Hvbhgbghhghhhh g Hvbhgbghhghhhh uhh uhh gh hubbub Hvbhgbghhghhhh hubby hubbub h NBC rhetoric thuggery yt? YT? the b hungry nb thuggery yt? Ttxtxtffxt yfyyyytxfgy thYahoo iiyygy box

What if for 2018

Jul. 22nd, 2017 08:53 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My Friday reviews rotated between four long running series? Say, Vorkosigan, Kitty and two others?

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