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CURRENT TALLY OF COMPLETED FIC WORDAGE: 410,457
All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
All Avengers stories are Steve/Tony unless otherwise stated.

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A Delighted Post About Snow

It's snowing big flakes outside and it not only looks like sugar crystals BUT if you look closely actual picturesque snowflakes. Dude. DUDE!

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Some time ago someone wrote a piece about the difference between SW and ST being about narratives of personal power; essentially SW usually hinges on a "chosen one" plot and special abilities vs. ST essentially being competence porn, where it's always about someone working really hard to get where they are. In ST power is essentially shared governance, and a lot of Kirk's (and Picard's and Sisko's) preoccupation with command comes from their desire to do the best for the community ("The needs of the many" etc.) in a way that SW just isn't (even the good guys have a blurry relationship between the Republic and the Resistance, let alone the Empire and--my favorite from the prequels--the elected monarchy and the familial Senatorial rank). TL;DR SW is about special people and ST is about how everyone can be special. >_>
"Dark books:
What’s more wholesome than reading? Yet books wield a dangerous power: the best erode self, infecting readers with ideas" by Tara Isabella Burton


In his condemnatory tract Popular Amusements (1869), the American clergyman Jonathan Townley Crane cautioned his flock against reading novels: ‘novel-readers spend many a precious hour in dreaming out clumsy little romances of their own, in which they themselves are the beautiful ladies and the gallant gentlemen who achieve impossibilities…’ only to find themselves ‘merged in the hero of the story’, losing the sense of who they really are. ...

And it’s not just toxic notions of gender that novels have the power to reinforce. Historically speaking, control of narrative and language has been inextricable from notions of political and cultural control. The power of the writer is to decide which characters, which worlds, he treats as fully human, and which as reducible and other.

In a 2009 TEDx talk, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie highlighted the dangers of the ‘one story’, explaining how she, as a Nigerian, found her self-understanding dominated by collective narratives – the ‘single story of Africa’ – in a manner not so different from Cordelia’s possession by Johannes. As a child, Adichie wrote exactly the kinds of stories she had access to:

"All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out… I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to."

To be a fully formed character, in the stories Adichie read, was to be white and British; the story of Africa, by contrast, was a story ‘of negatives, of difference, of darkness’.

Here, too, the act of reading is an act of experiencing another kind of danger: in this case, the danger to the self posed by writerly erasure. ‘Like our economic and political worlds,’ Adichie says, ‘stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: how they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.’ ...

At its most fundamental level, to read is to put our selves at risk, to make ourselves vulnerable by welcoming the presence of an other into our psychic space. This can be a radically transformative experience, challenging us to reformulate our own self-understanding. But at worst, we become like the dinner-party guests in The Torture Garden or Don Juan ­– our ‘possession’ by a storyteller awakening our inner violence. Or else we become like Johannes’ Cordelia, the books we read reinforcing existing societal threats to our being. Either way, the act of reading is an act of acceptance of power: a power that, if not god-like, is nevertheless – within the sphere of the text – absolute.

Happy New Year!!!!!

I'd meant to put up a year-in-review post before the new year, but, well, better late than never, yeah?

Favorite movies of 2015:

Avengers: Age of Ultron (I unabashedly loved it, and thought those who grumped about it were protesting WAY too hard.)

Crimson Peak (I fucking loved everything about this film. Just. Everything.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (I know, I'm surprised too, but I love how we have a recordsmashing hit with a lady protagonist, POC in the main roles, and the tons of OT3 fic!)

Favorite books of 2015:

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon (This book, man--so well-written and absorbing, and I absolutely need to find the time to read all of Wollstonecraft's own books!)

SPQR by Mary Beard (I'm going through this one slowly because it is so dense with detail, but it's wonderfully written, and presents a lot of the classic history I'd already known in a whole new, contemporary context.)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Epic apocalyptic fantasy on another world--really original writing, lovely and dark.)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (This is basically the queer YA fantasy I would have done anything to read when I was a teenager. I envy kids and teens these days with the bevy of SFF and queer lit that simply wasn't around when I was growing up.)

The Just City by Jo Walton (A delightful philosophical fantasy where Athena decides to make Plato's Republic real, and pulls its citizenry from across human history. So much fun. The sequel The Philosopher Kings wasn't quite as fun, though I delighted in the twist in the end there.)

~

I'm not going to even try to have hard resolutions this year, aside from a vague "Survive." I feel like life has been delighted in thwapping me about, and I'd love to have some real down time, but I don't think I have time for it, alas. Too much to do, too much to write!

But most of all I earnestly hope and wish that humanity would get its shit together this year, because I am deeply tired of our assholery. There's too much to do in this life, too many problems to solve, for people to spend their lives being hateful destructive creatures. I want my Star Trekky utopia, and I just have to hope, and do my part, to get there.

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So about Star Wars...

... I meant to post something meaningful but I've been busy falling down the OT3 rabbit hole so, uh, yeah, sorry, Merry Christmas? Happy everything? Happy New Year?

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Looking for a beta!

I'm writing a short story to submit to the Star Trek Strange New Horizons anthology they're doing next year. It's due Jan 15, and I'm aiming to get a rough draft done by next week. Anyone got time to read and provide concrit? :D

Book Review: Clockwork Lives

Crossposted to The Future Fire.

Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart, Clockwork Lives. ECW Press, 2015. Pp. 396. ISBN 978-1-77041-294-1. $24.95.


How does one fill the pages of a book?

I feel as though I can hear thousands of weary sighs from people at their keyboards following the conclusion of National Novel Writing Month, but in the case of Anderson and Peart’s collaborative novel Clockwork Lives, the answer is literally blood and tears. Marinda Peake’s deceased father has bequeathed her a blank alchemy book and a mission: to leave behind the comfortable life she has always known and fill the volume with the stories of others. Though billed as a steampunk Canterbury Tales, this novel has more in common with Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story in both form and concept. The tale itself expertly connects Marinda’s story with those that she collects, and the physical volume, bound in embossed faux-leather with marbled endpapers and filled with tinted, patterned pages to recall handmade papers, is a bibliophile’s delight. (An archival one too: the case binding with sewn endbands is absolutely going to last longer than your average mass-market hardback!) It also contains over a dozen full-page illustrations by Nick Robles to introduce each of the stories that Marinda collects via drops of blood provided by those she speaks with; each of the tales’ chapter headings includes an evocative blood splat and a shading from red-to-black as the “blood” becomes print. It’s a fun graphic design element, recalling the dual red and green inks used in Ende’s book to denote what story sections take place in the “real” and “imaginary” worlds.

Clockwork Lives is a sequel of sorts to Anderson’s previous novel Clockwork Angels(2012), which was written to accompany the Rush album of the same name, but familiarity with that book isn’t necessary; Lives stands very well on its own. The world it describes feels like the best possible steampunk adventure story that you read long ago and still half-remember: there are airships, clockwork people, sirens in the sea, a prosperous Atlantis, a magic bookshop, and a carnival with fascinating denizens. Marinda records a dozen stories for our perusal, but it’s easy to imagine a number of other, similar volumes emerging from Anderson’s capacious imagination and pen.

My one problem with the book is with an element presented both on the book’s back and its first page: “Some lives can be summed up in a sentence or two. Other lives are epics.” These lines are meant to goad Marinda on her journey; as she speaks to some people in her hometown (and elsewhere), their stories are given in only a line or two, or perhaps a paragraph. These people are unimportant says the alchemical book, and Anderson—and that bothers me. For one thing, most of the “epic” stories given belong to male characters; for another, almost all of those men, at least as interpreted by Robles, are white. The seemingly only exception is ‘The Strongman’s Tale’ in which the titular hero Golson is black, and his story is about knowing the limits of his strength. This is somewhat subverted a few pages later by Louisa, his friend (and carnival bearded lady) who explains to Marinda that she meddles with Golson’s weights so that he is continually improving and challenging himself, but the thrust of the story still rankles. Another story, ‘The Seeker’s Tale,’ belongs to Cabeza de Vaca, a fraudulent hero and explorer who truthfully spends most of his time in pubs; his illustrated appearance does not differentiate him from the other white heroes, despite his name. Too often real recorded history has minimized or erased the stories of non-white men; to see this enacted all over again in playful fiction is, frankly, annoying.

As for Marinda herself? Her story concludes rather abruptly with a love plot and a return home. The love plot doesn’t feel exactly organic, but it’s the sort of thing that we have become accustomed to as a conventional “happily ever after” and I won’t quibble with that, especially given how meta the novel is already. If it’s a story about stories, then we have to accept those elements that have become part of our narrative fabric, even if we wish they were more subversive, or played more with the form.

What Anderson does best with Clockwork Lives, I think, is engage with that particular love of books and stories that is so common to a certain kind of reader, and is again something that reminds me of Ende. Twice Marinda walks into a magical bookshop that has a portal to other universes; the eponymous bookseller of ‘The Bookseller’s Tale’ tells of her ventures to other bookshops slightly different than her own. As we all know, reading a good book is a kind of portal, too, one that lets you go to another world, explore for a while, and then come back, slightly changed.

This is a book for booklovers, steampunk aficionados, and with the holidays coming up, might make a good gift for anyone who enjoys a good yarn. Anderson gets a lot right here, and the book designers finished it off perfectly, which is not something that can always be said, alas. Marinda is also just the right sort of heroine for holiday reading, too: the sort who grows because of the people she meets, and the stories she reads.
No, J J Abrams – Star Wars was never “a boy’s thing” by Elizabeth Minkel

Women who like things such as Star Wars, or comics, or anything else that leads journalists to write those painful “not just for boys anymore” trend stories, have had to take it from all sides. Enthusiasm for something seen as the province of men clashes with mainstream perceptions of femininity. Even women liking this stuff in the context of traditionally feminised fan spaces, like fanfiction, find themselves fending off assumptions from men and women alike, perhaps the accusation that they are sexualising something too much, or they are placing too much weight on the emotional elements of a storyline. Basically, that they’re liking the thing the wrong way.

But women’s enthusiasm for perceived “male” spaces is always liking the thing the wrong way. The plainest illustration of this is the Fake Geek Girl, in meme and in practice: the barriers to entry are raised immeasurably high when women try to join in many male-dominated fannish conversations. The wonderful Noelle Stevenson illustrates this beautifully – and then literally, when a guy challenges her on her work. I’m sure that just by writing about Star Wars, I’m opening myself up to the angry gatekeeping-style pissing contests that men like to toss at women who claim to like the things they like. (Let’s get it all out in the open here: Star Wars isn’t my fandom. I saw the three original films on dates with my first boyfriend – our first date: Star Trek: First Contact, because we were clearly the coolest kids in town – and upon rewatches as an adult nothing grabbed me. But I am also a fandom journalist, so that’s kind of how this works.)

There’s a persistent myth – and I say persistent because I keep seeing these deluded boys get mad in new viral posts – that women who claim to like geeky things are just pretending, the somewhat confusing notion that they are doing it for attention. (And then there’s the inevitable anger that in this supposedly desperate plea for attention – why else would a woman claim to like their beloved characters?! – these women still don’t want to sleep with them.) And what never seems to occur to any of these gatekeepers is that these women were there all along, liking these things just as much – and are finally being given the cultural space to be open about their interests and passions. But that space is given haltingly; plenty of women, tired of waiting, are going out and taking it. The result is the tension (and, at times, outright hostility) that has marked certain corners of the fannish world in the past few years.

Grumpy Flails

I am very tired and should probably just go to bed and try again tomorrow, but that's what sane people do. So:

1) I've decided this will be The Year that I try to get into the Book and Paper Intensive, which is an epic eight-day book arts workshop where they do different classes every year. So for half of it you do a basic course in the morning and then another in the afternoon, and in the second half you do a hardcore all-day workshop. Everyone I know who has ever been has flailed and sung its praises. And they have a scholarship, and the scholarship application period is December 1-31, and they only sent out info about it yesterday.

So to apply I have to put together a portfolio of ten things to basically show-off my skill level and interests. And write a statement. So today I scanned a bunch of stuff and started to think, "Hey, this doesn't look bad. There's a nice variety of papers here, handmade and marbled. That one broadside that has a poem I wrote looks decent. Those two artist books, um, don't look awful. Etc. So I waffle. And then the statement. It only has to be 200 words, but still. "I want to learn to make more things. Also better. Better and prettier than I make things now. You show me how? Please?" Yeah, needs work.

2) Also working on a side research project with a friend of mine, and something I've been trying to figure out for ages is when the shift of meaning occurred with "fanfiction." Originally back in the 1930s-1950s, it just meant fiction written by fans, not derivative or transformative works, which came later. Well lo and behold the OED has an entry, and mentions the 1944 Fancyclopedia as documenting the first meaning, and Jacqueline Lichtenberg writing in the 1975 anthology Star Trek Lives! about the latter. Now I suspect this latter citation is because it appeared in a mass-market book, so obviously it was in usage before then, but when? And so there's a Fan History group on Facebook and I thought I'd be bright and pose it to them.

WELL. A bunch of cranky old dudes. "What are you talking about?" "Fanfiction has always just meant amateur writing." "Where are you getting this from?" ... Uh, the OED? Also, have you read anything in the mainstream media in the past fifteen years, or hell, the last three? JUST CURIOUS.

Anyway. That's been my day. Well, no, I got other things done, and other things need to get done but still. I'm tired. So. 

Yet More Random Thoughts and Updates!

I don't know what it is about this year except that I feel constantly busy and constantly behind. So, in no particular order:

* I got to go see Welcome to Night Vale live, which was awesome. CECIL HAS SUCH A DEEP MELLIFLUOUS VOICE AND SUCH A TEENY LITTLE MAN BODY. Just, wow.

* I mainlined Jessica Jones. I HAVE SO MANY FEELS YOU GUYS. Like, I feel like Joss Whedon probably watched it crying because that's exactly the sort of story he would have liked to write if Marvel hadn't made him stick to dudes and 'splosions. But aside from that 1) I love the MCU's themes of recovery narratives in general and here especially. 2) I love that David Tennant basically uses so much of his charm and wit that we've come to recognize as Whovian and then make it EVIEEEEEEL. 3) No one else has posted about this, but I really love how Rosenberg uses Will Simpson to break down "the nice guy." Like, how many times does he say he's a nice guy, how many times does Trish describe him as a nice guy, right up until the point he is fucking blowing the brains out of cops. (also: Jessica NEVER calls him a nice guy. In fact, she slaps him around and reminds him that as a cop he's supposed to protect and serve.) But anyway Simpson and Kilgrave are like the dual aspects of patriarchy--there's the obvious evil and then the just-under-the-surface evil. Just awesome. Ye gods I hope she gets a second season.

* CRIMSON PEAK. So many people on the SFF listservs have been like "Imma use this next time I teach the gothic nove" and yes, YES! I love how the use of books and writing and media, MEDIA! (I shrieked when Edith found the box of wax cylinders) interplays with the telling of the story. Also, yet another example of a powerful female protagonist and a platonic bestie. Gods bless you, Charlie Hunnam.

* Things I have done of late: I submitted applications for a BSA fellowship to spend some quality time going through Stationers' company records,and an Emerging Scholar prize because why the hell not. Also, I sent in the edits for my Maleficent essay and for my Mako Mori essay, both of which should be forthcoming next year, and which I got lovely comments from the editors on.

Uh. I feel like there's probably other things to mention, but--I forget what? So. There's me.

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A Bunch of Random Thoughts and Also Updates

I AM SO TIRED. Remember when I thought I was gonna have some down-time after those back-to-back conferences last month?

Ha.

Ha ha.

No.

I've gotten maybe 1800 words on my STBB/NaNo project? I'll probably have to drop out.

What I DO have are applications for a Bibliographic Society of America fellowship (which I can send off as soon as a second person confirms they are gonna do a rec letter for me) and an application for an Emerging Scholar Prize (which I can send off as soon as my diss chair says she likes it). I have a diss chapter my chair is pleased with, I have a set of essay edits due in January, and I have an outline with bits for a collaborative article. Also, I got some good feedback from my writing group on my fannish literary history project, so it's just to keep adding to that, bit by bit.

But in the meantime there's all of the attendant stress of holidays plus seasonal depression (it's dark! it's cold! DISLIKE!) plus getting roped into other things ongoing, and yeah. YEAH.

Did I mention I'm tired?

Video: "Deleted Scene - Suffragette"



"You should try coming in through the front door sometime!"

Book Review: Far Orbit Apogee

Crossposted from The Future Fire:

Bascomb James (ed.), Far Orbit Apogee. World Weaver Press, 2015. Pp. 306. ISBN 978-0-6925-0976-0. $14.95.


Far Orbit Apogee is the second in a series of anthologies dedicated to space adventures edited by Bascomb James, with two more books slated as forthcoming in 2016. The aim of the series, James explains in the introduction, is dedication to “Grand Tradition storytelling for a modern audience,” with Grand Tradition defined as “a writing and storytelling style popular in mid-century SF publications composed of plot-driven fun-to-read adventure stories with a positive message and a sense of wonder” (5). Reading this volume with a critical eye, I honestly wasn’t sure if this collection was meant to participate in the ongoing schisms in genre fandom personified by the recent Puppygate crisis, or if it was only trying to appeal to new or nostalgic readers. “Grand Tradition” is a known phrase but one seldom used; outside of the occasional brief review blurb, the only other times I’ve seen it used was in a pair of anthologies edited by Gardner Dozois in the 1990s (The Good Old Stuff, containing classic reprints and published in 1998, and The Good New Stuff, a collection containing contemporary writers published in 1999). Nonetheless, James does provide what he aims to deliver: a diverse series of stories.

In the brief introduction to each selection James also includes a short note about the form used (such as juvenile or YA fiction, coming-of-age, mystery, romance, and so forth) and then a biographical note for the author. Sometimes this can be distracting rather than entertaining; for example, attempting to digest juvenile fiction into less than a paragraph overlooks a great deal of genre history by necessity. Further, World Weaver Press is a small, independent press that specializes in genre publications; while the material was utterly professional the volume was less so, riddled intermittently with typesetting line issues and the occasional misspelling. There was also a factual error with regards to a citation of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, claiming that book’s publication date as 1848 rather than 1898. While admittedly these are nitpicks, they are ones that do distract from what is otherwise a solid publication. That said, I was impressed by the range and quality of most of the offerings presented here.

The volume contains thirteen stories, three of which are reprints that have appeared elsewhere in recent years, and one of which, ‘To Defend and Keep From Harm’ by Anne Salonen, is a story’s first appearance in English. James describes it as a paladin story, and while I’m not convinced that that’s a subgenre form, it was a fun adventure story. In contrast, James Van Pelt’s ‘This Story Will Win a Hugo’ is a recursive jaunt that doesn’t wink at the audience so much as backslap them with a familiarity that is uncomfortable and intentions that feel unkind, as a writer character creates an algorithm to study Hugo Award winners to see how they win, and imitate this formula to improve her own craft. That hiccup aside, the remaining stories are solid and entertaining: Jay Werkheiser’s ‘Contamination’ expertly sketches out the conflicts between science and human need, while Nestor M. Delfino’s ‘A Most Exceptional Scholarship’ meshes the hoary old boarding school tropes with alien diplomacy. Dave Creek’s ‘Murder at Tranquility Base’ is a mystery yarn about crime, tourism, and how history is treated in the future.

Julie Frost’s ‘The Affairs of Dragons’ is described as series story, but it is perhaps more accurate to simply call it space opera, as it has a set of heroes that have appeared in other works and will likely appear in others. It involves a familial crew trying to scrape by between jobs and getting caught up in adventures in the meantime; the titular dragons are aliens who are themselves having a familial spat. Kevin R. Pittsinger’s ‘Culture Shock’interweaves the dueling perspectives of adversaries forced to work together, while Wendy Sparrow’s ‘Lost in Transmutation’ explores similar territory using romance. Dominic Dulley’s ‘Dainty Jane’ is another juvenile adventure story where a teenage protagonist struggles to find her way after personal tragedy, and Milo James Fowler’s ‘Live by the Ten, Die by the Gun’ is space western right down to the cantankerous old Sheriff dealing with cattle rustlers.

My own favorite stories in the collection were Jennifer Campbell-Hicks’s ‘Masks,’ a “court intrigue” story in which, non-surprisingly, no one is who they seem to be, and yet, Hicks has a definite skill in pulling back layers to explore various characters, and Eric Del Carlo’s ‘N31ghb0rs,’ a robot story that favorably recalls Isaac Asimov’s yarns. The final story, Sam S. Kepfield’s ‘By the Shores of a Martian Sea’ is a story about terraforming, and will probably speak even more strongly to readers as we go forward with Martian explorations in real life.

This volume was a fun collection, and I quite enjoyed it, but I still remain bothered by the claims to return to “Grand Tradition” storytelling as a superior form of reading and writing. I read a lot, and not just for TFF-Reviews, and find that the schisms that have racked genre fandom in recent years and that claim a “return to form” lack any real awareness of SFF’s actual history. SFF has always had fun stories, and thoughtful stories, and stories meant to make political statements in times of crisis: it was true in 1906, in 1926, in 1936, in 1966, in 1986, and yes, even 2006 and, undoubtedly, 2016. That’s why SFF remains the true literature of ideas—it is where we can explore most openly the issues that preoccupy us in the everyday. As we change, the genre changes, but that’s true in all art forms. To claim otherwise is a nostalgia that ignores more than it champions.

Book Review: Dragon Heart by Cecilia Holland

Cross-posted from The Future Fire:

Cecelia Holland, Dragon Heart. Tor Books, 2015. Pp. 286. ISBN 978-0-7653-3794-8. $25.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

For the first time in ages, I’ve recently joined a writing group. Thus far we’ve had several conversations about writing genre, and what that means, both online and face-to-face. One of the things I’ve found puzzling, in both the teaching of writing and of speculative literature, is the difficulties that abound in describing what makes a genre, anygenre, a member of a specific category. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Romance stories obviously have love as a consistent theme, mysteries a puzzle or murder to solve, science fiction has rocket ships (unless, of course, it doesn’t), fantasy has magic, and history has, well, history. But if we look more closely, it’s amazing how quickly these supposed walls disappear, and how excellent writers can take a hoary staple and utterly subvert it. Further, as the popularity of Young Adult literature has shown, genre mash-ups create entirely new sub-genres like dystopian romances or historic fantasy, among many others. And it’s with these thoughts in mind that I started reading Cecelia Holland’s Dragon Heart, a fantasy novel by a writer who has made her mark in historical fiction.

With over two dozen novels published, in addition to a handful of non-fiction works, Dragon Heart is Holland’s first work of speculative fiction in forty years; her previous effort wasFloating Worlds (1976), a story about Martian colonists. Despite this lapse, which would ordinarily indicate a lengthy work that the author had crafted over ages with conspicuous care and attention, Dragon Heart is both concise and rushed. Jeon is a young prince in an embattled kingdom come to a small cloister to fetch his sister Tirza back for their mother’s wedding; on their way home their ship is wrecked by a dragon and Tirza stolen away. Using her wits, she must charm the dragon to stay alive long enough to escape and find her brother and her way home again. This is also the entirety of the first chapter, and the breakneck pace of the story never lets up once you start. This is a gift and a curse; I couldn’t put the book down once I started, but so much happens that it’s a disorienting experience for the reader. Further, the book contains no maps and minimal references to geography, only place names, so I often had little idea where characters were, how long it took them to travel, or even worse, little indication as to what was happening or even why. I wonder if this is a problem with Holland’s historical novels, but I doubt it: a story located as being “in England” and as “Celts versus Saxons” or “Saxons versus Normans” would provide a load of cultural details, taken for granted, that the reader could sketch in for themselves. Displaced to an original world where the rules are never quite explained (there’s an Empire? and a small kingdom to conquer for… reasons?), I kept hoping there would be some key to understanding who the many characters were and why they were doing what they were doing. Alas, if there was, I couldn’t find it.

This might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book, but on the contrary, I enjoyed specific bits of it while being frustrated by the rest, and nonetheless, I respect the book for what it was doing: Holland doesn’t play by the rules here, and that can be a frustrating experience. The closest analogy I can think of is when I was reading George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones for the first time and being genuinely shocked by the fate of Ned Stark. One does not kill one’s main characters willy-nilly (unless one does), and one does not introduce a dragon only to promptly forget about it for ages (unless one does). For a novel with a dragon on the cover and in the title, there is surprisingly little dragon on the page, but this too is a choice, and one Holland indicates early on when Tirza is doing her best impression of Scheherazade, constantly telling stories to live one day more:

Of all this Tirza made stories. As the generations piled one on another, like the rocks of Castle Ocean, King followed on King, rescuing Princesses, punishing the wicked, battling monsters in the sea, chasing pirates, and defending his people, stories sprouting and intertwining, growing on one another. She fed all these stories to the dragon, except one. (27)

By placing so much of the story without context, we have to query what it is that we as readers bring to what we’re reading, how we fill in the blanks of narrative with knowledge that we “know,” or have only learned through reading dozens of other, similar, books. A noble prince saving his sister from a fate worse than death? This is a familiar story, but… is that fate the dragon, or only the life that Tirza leads within the restrictive confines of a brutal patriarchy? Is a prince noble through his birth, or through the decisions he makes? The answers may, or may not, surprise you.

Lookit What I Made!!!

1022151148

Made these at a workshop at Virgin Wood Type. I actually find making wood type more stressful than making metal type because with the machines you can't actually see what you are doing. >_< You have to focus on operating around a pattern and then pause carefully and look over to check yourself as best as you can--as you can tell with the heart, I failed a bit. But, I kind of like that ding--which actually doesn't show up badly on the carbon proof--because it goes to show that I really did make it, so. *G*

Anyway, today's the slow day, so I have a little bit of time to relax that is sorely needed. This afternoon I'm heading back to campus to check out a book arts vendor fair and, hopefully, get a shot at doing a pull on the Kelmscott Press, which was the same one used by William Morris in his shop and is held at the Cary Collection at RIT. Yes, I am rather pathetically stoked at being able to have a go on a specific famous press because hi, have you met me?

Relatedly, last night's talk was by the folks at Virago Press, who primarily specialize in translations of Polish poetry from 1976-1989. One of the founders, Gwido Zlatkes, put together a book reprinting various things including a printers' manual used during the period, and when I went to chat with him we ended up talking about fanzines as underground literature, because, yes, only I can go to a print history talk and end up talking about fandom. I'M NOT SORRY.

Back and Gone Again

So CSECS went quite well; I gave my paper and got several kind comments and some folks who are interested because of their own research. Through happenstance I met Don Nichols, a big Alexander Pope scholar, who had just finished a project identifying a "lost" printer of The Dunciad of 1720, which, turns out, was Susannah Collins. So he wanted my contact info in case he has questions trying to make sense of other things. so I got to feel Quite Smart.

Also got to go to Macleod's Books, which, being in Vancouver, made my little Highlander fangirl self happy. Even better, I made out like a bandit, getting a 2 vol. reprint of the Encylopedia of Typographical Anecdotes, Plomer's English Printers' Ornaments, and a couple other bookish odds and ends.

Then I got home and nearly had a heart-attack as Varamathras had run off, and we eventually found him hiding under our porch, where he preceded to stay for the next 36 hours, and eventually I lulled him out with kibble, and ye gods, stressful.

Anyway, tomorrow, or, ah, in 5 hours, I'm heading to Rochester NY to go to APHA and hang out with Todd. So, my delight at getting to see my best bestie just about outweighs my existential terror of flying. So.

Small Victories

Sent a diss chapter to my chair this afternoon. YAY!!!!!

Anyway, I'm about to go on a conference binge--Canadian Society for 18th c. Studies in Vancouver this week, the American Print History Association in Rochester, NY next week. Then I'll have a week of downtime and it will be November. And I signed up for NaNo so I can finish my STBB. So...I feel together-ish.

My chair also wants me to apply for a BSA Fellowship. I think what I want to do is apply to go to the Folger in DC to look at microfilms of SC records. I'm going to try to get a skype meeting with her when I get back.

So. There's me.
I'm reading an interesting, older book I've never heard of until recently by Jane Marcus called Art and Anger, which is basically feminist criticism about women's reading and criticisms of women's reading. Anyway in an essay towards the end she reproduces this fascinating poem by Catherine des Roches (c. 1555-84), from an unpublished translation by Tilde Sankovitch. Art and Anger was published in 1988, and I haven't done much to track down whether the translation of the poem has since been published. Anyway, it's an interesting meditation:

To my Spindle

My spindle and my care, I promise you and swear
To love you forever, and never to exchange
Sweet domestic honor for a thing wild and strange,
Which inconstant, wanders, and tends its foolish snare.

With you at my side, dear, I feel much more secure
Than with paper and ink arranged all around me,
For, if I needed defending, there you would be,
To rebuff any danger, to help me endure.

But, spindle, my dearest, I do not believe
That, much as I love you, I will come to grief
If I do not quite let that good practice dwindle

Of writing sometimes, if I give you fair share,
If I write of your goodness, my friend and my care,
And hold in my hand both my pen and my spindle.

Some Links and Otherwise Checking In

*waves* I am so discombobulated this Fall. My summer was ridiculous and Fall is not any less so. ANYWAY. Stuff to share:

"The misogyny towards fanfiction: she, her, hers" by Nandhini Narayanan

I am concerned about this social inclination to dismiss or trivialize fanfic works. The implication is that something written by women and read majorly by women is somehow less important and unworthy of respect. There was a loud and angry twitter campaign a while ago called #fakegeekgirls. The premise was that several women were attending comic conventions in costumes in order to “seem nerdy and pick up the interest of men.” Female cosplayers were specifically picked on and accused that they were dressing up to get attention. Yes, I saved up for weeks, tailored my own spandex outfit and took a nine hour flight to trap you in my romantic clutches, dear stranger. ...

Consider how, by trivializing and marginalizing an entire body of work as unimportant, we are not paying attention to the trends that are manifesting in fanfiction. Think about the profound space fanfiction provides for representation of minority communities. Canonical books, comics and TV shows revolve around the white male. Fanfiction provides the space for a gay Clark Kent, a genderqueer Sherlock Holmes, a lesbian Nancy Drew or an asexual Harry Potter. Most mainstream blogs are cis-gender owned, but Tumblr has more out and proud gender-queer writers in fandoms than any other social media site.


A short, superficial piece, but it's a relief to have someone somewhere calling these shenanigans what they are.

~

PBS Idea Channel gets it Absolutely Right about Trigger Warnings in the Classroom:



My favorite quote is "Academic trigger warnings aren't a shield or armor, they are a horn announcing the charge is coming." Yes. This.

~

I got a paper on recovering the history of women in the book trades accepted into next year's ASECS conference, which is back-to-back with PCA. This is only the second book history paper I've had accepted and the first one in the US, so I feel very happy (and relieved) about it.

~

Other news: I've joined a local writing group with some of the cool Tolkien people I met back in April, and we're meeting for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm also very excited about that, though I haven't written anything creative in way too long. (I feel like a slacker, while fully aware that I have, in the past month, sent off two sets of book chapter revisions, finished half of a book chapter, and revised two outlines.) Because I like books on writing, I started reading The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club this afternoon to start thinking. That totally counts, right?

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