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[sticky post] Fic Master Post

All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
All Avengers stories are Steve/Tony unless otherwise stated.

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Obligatory Statement on LJ

I've been crossposting between LJ and DW since the servers were being moved to Russia; I've also deactivated my auto-renew account for lj because I don't want them to have access to my financials. I don't think the recent LJ TOS statement will be legally enforceable in the US, but I also don't foresee any organizations going to the mattress about it either.  That said, if LJ ups and closes shop, all my stuff is at my DW account: caitri.dreamwidth.org. 

Good night and good luck, I guess.

Bookmark: The Digital Death of Collecting

"Essay: The digital death of collecting: How platforms mess with our tastes" by Kyle Chayka


The shifting sands of digital technology have robbed these collections of their meaning; the context in which they originally existed can no longer be experienced and they only appear as nostalgic ruins, the remains of once-inhabited metropolises gone silent. ...

Algorithmic feeds are by their nature impersonal, though they promise personalized recommendations. The more automated a feed is, the less we users feel the need to gather a collection, to preserve what’s important to us. If we can always rely on Instagram’s Discover page or the TikTok For You feed to show us something that we’re interested in, then we have less impetus to decide for ourselves what to look for, follow, and save. The responsibility of collecting has been removed, but that means we offload it to the black box of the automatic recommendation system. Over the past two decades, the collecting of culture — like maintaining a personal library — has moved from being a necessity to a seemingly indulgent luxury.

It goes back to the significance of the bookshelf: When we didn’t have access to automated feeds and streaming platforms, we had to decide for ourselves which culture to keep close by. 

Going into Week 4 of Term

The long weekend helped people be calmer last week, so here's hoping it'll carry through into this one. Right now I have the heaviest teaching load and have been remembering what it's like to be in rooms with people and saying things. Our unit bought accessibility masks to wear when teaching, with clear plastic windows over the mouth so people can read lips. In reality the window fogs up with condensation pretty quickly, although apparently from the sides you can see lips moving and that may or may not be helpful.

I keep thinking I have never been this exhausted at the beginning of a term before, and then remembering I've never been a year and a half into a pandemic before.

I'm a bit overwhelmed, or maybe on the edge of it: I have a laundry list of things to do and feel like I'm struggling with them. I sort of feel mentally stuck. For instance this is the first time in over a decade where I have an utter blank for something to submit for my favorite conference next year. Well perhaps not an utter blank, just a bit of an idea that feels incomplete, and like writing a paragraph would be hard. (I'm also collaborating with a junior colleague on a project, and that feels hard too. And I am working hard to sound upbeat when I don't feel it at all.)

Pure Exhaustion

First week of the new term and I am so exhausted. Apparently one of my coworkers is annoyed at me because she wanted me to go say hello to a new GA 15 minutes before the GA meeting where we would, you know, meet all the GAs, and I preferred to spend that 15 minutes trying to wrangle the four new class requests I had just gotten. I regret nothing, and another colleague and I agree that our coworker is actually mad at our boss/the world because reasons* but being mad at the boss is rather impotent, so why not snark at someone who is helpful, what could go wrong.

*Reasons: Things the boss has been dealing with, and in fairness can't immediately fix: the loss of some of our working spaces due to renovations, which means all of us are going to be all on top of each other for the next couple years by the end of the semester; two people leaving (one person's contract ended, the other got a better job) and then the Dean not placing either position on the "strategic prioritization" list; how tiny our merit raises are (I'm a millennial so this is literally the third raise I've ever gotten in my life and I was excited about it!); and of course the constant stresses of being an educator in a pandemic.

I'm also balancing some health stuff, and had planned a half-day on Tuesday that became a full sick-day because I had a hysterosalpingogram and it was terrible. I mean, my squishy bits are actually healthy, so yay, but it turns out inserting catheters of iodized dye and then just...releasing it for an x-ray is incredibly awful. You get to lay there on a table with an awful feeling of bloat that makes you think simultaneously of peeing, pooping, farting, and throwing up, and you just have to....feel it until it goes away. Then they remove the tubes and such and you limp bloodily to get dressed again and out the clinic. When I got to the car I started crying and couldn't stop, and thank goodness Scott was able to give me a ride that day because I would have hated to alarm an innocent Uber driver. So I went home, took the hottest shower I could, and then slept all afternoon, which put me behind for the rest of the week, and so here I am, class-wrangling rather than being social, and apparently irking people by being less sociable. 

So it goes.

Reorganizing Books

Over the weekend I decided to reorganize my office. It had really become an anxiety cave because 2020 and 2021, and so moving furniture around and also reorganizing my books and such was actually super soothing. We bought another bookcase and a stackable shelf to go on top to hold my figgies. Scott will probably work on that over the weekend, so I still have a few piles of books on the floor that will find themselves a new home when the new shelf is installed.

I'm taking today and tomorrow off as a last long weekend before the new term starts. I slept late today and it's funny how just sleeping as much as I want really helps soothe my frazzled nerves.

Notes on Watching Other People Read

 The next novel in the Outlander series* is coming out in November, and on a whim I joined the publisher's "official reread" group as people reread in preparation for the new volume. 

What I have learned is that:

* a number of people skip prologues and epilogues because they don't understand they are part of the story? I saw a couple of comments to the effect that if it doesn't begin with "chapter" they don't think it's necessary to read.

* the usual "lol this is just for fun why do you have to analyze everything??" vs "if I pull together these two things there MUST be a connection because REASONS"

* admittedly it is a series of novels with several other novels, novellas, and short stories that go with it, but people's anxiety about reading "in order" is interesting. Also "I don't understand why I have to read this bit"--that bit was written 20 years after the other part, it's a fun fill-in-the-blank/slight recon to set new stuff up, but also it is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY and the way you can tell is it's IN A DIFFERENT SERIES. Ahem. 

Anyway it's been an interesting look into how other people read. 

*This series is.... heckin' problematic and doesn't age well. I first started reading them in the mid-90s when they were still fun to read, but all of the 2000s installments have been increasing slogs where the author overcompensates for historical criticisms of the early books. To say nothing of increasingly conservative gender politics and misbegotten attempts at tackling race and such. ANYWAY.

How It's Going

 Per my email:

July 1: The University no longer requires face masks or caps to in-person class-sizes.

July 29: The University requires face masks in all campus facilities.

Classes start August 23. Wonder what will happen in the meantime.

Things I Keep Meaning To Post About

- Turns out that the reason I have been So Tired of late is that my thyroid is being wibbly wobbly. So my doc is putting me on a new medical cocktail I'm to be on for six weeks, then I'll go back for more blood work and they'll decide if I should keep on that one or if they should make a new scrip. 

- I went to the Tolkien Seminar last weekend and had a blast. It's always so great when literally EVERYONE does their homework and does good work and everything was interesting and fascinating.

- The Uni has decided since things have been going So Well that in the fall they will lift all the room caps and no mask requirements anymore and we'll just trust that unvaccinated students whose frontal lobes haven't finished forming will be on the honor system on this, what could go wrong. In related news I've been reading articles about the likelihood of covid booster shots in the fall and hope the Uni will get on that train.

- We went to Chicago for the weekend. We had the long-planned fancy dinner at Alinea (we originally planned to go last April for our anniversary, but you know, pandemic) with friends. We got the private dining room next to the kitchen so we got to watch professionals go about their business while also delighting in great conversation with fellow nerds. We got the souvenir books which is also why we have...

- ... honestly purchased a few too many cooking toys this weekend. But like!! Breaking down individual techniques and such into steps for various components seems imminently doable. Our plan once everything arrives is to do a run of a few recipes/ techniques on ourselves, and then when we have that down we'll have some friends over!

- Related to the Chicago outting, we had two meals out, one in the aforementioned private room and one where we got a super late lunch at 3pm and our part of the restaurant was virtually empty. So I was well within my comfort zone. We also went to the Field Museum and delighted in dinosaurs and such. I'm not sure if they were doing people caps but it wasn't packed, and I felt comfortable being maskless most of the time. (My mask is my security blanket.) I did appreciate that masks were required on all the public transit, that made me feel safer. 

Lordy Lordy, Caitri's Forty!

I had a splendiferous birthday weekend. I took Friday off and went to go get a haircut for the first time in a year and a half; I ditched about six inches or so and the summer air is so much more bearable. I also went for a dark purple to compensate for a year spent as a salt-and-pepper hedgewitch!

I also set up a birthday zoom with some of my friends in other parts of the country--it was especially nice to see Andrew and Todd, neither of whom I had seen in a while. Todd and I text regularly, and Andrew and I interact on FB, but neither of those things is the same as seeing a face and hearing a voice.

And a funny thing is that culture has acted as though turning forty is dramatic and terrible, but it isn't. (I mean, I have to get my boobs squished for the first time at my annual exam next week, but that's a different problem.) I bought comics and novels, and Scott gave me flowers and a comfy bathrobe (Scott: I really don't understand the purpose of bathrobes, but the NYT says people like this one a lot! Me: Bathrobes are like blankets you can wear!! They're awesome!!) and we've been blissfully lazy. 


Tiredness and Mood

I attended virtual PCA last week which cheered me up in so many ways I didn't realize I needed to be cheered up: chatting with friends and colleagues, getting positive feedback on my research projects, getting to listen to interesting talks. A side-benefit of virtual is working from home and being able to keep on top of email etc. Also the full conference ran different, shorter hours, which in my timezone became roughly 10-6 rather than the usual 8:30am-9pm ish. So in some ways I am less tired than if I had really traveled and done everything.

But I am still so tired!! And I know a lot of it has to do with the pandemic etc. A number of my friends have been talking about having more energy since they got vaccinated and have been able to see people and stuff. I...don't? I still feel tired and anxious, especially as campus ramp-up has begun and we're increasingly on campus and doing things and teaching requests etc. are starting to come in. 

I've read some stuff about the lingering trauma of the pandemic, which I am sure is true. But also how to meaningfully reset before what will assuredly be an exhausting and stressful fall??
 Dr. Eric Lander, Science Advisor to the President, has an interesting statement on the five hundred year old text he chose to be sworn in on. Very much worth reading in full if you have any kind of interest in books or the usage of books, but above all here is the snippet on his choice:

So, that is the story behind my choice of book on which to take my oath for my roles in stewarding science and technology in the federal government:

- a book that bears upon the paramount ethical obligation to repair the world, which I hold dear and which underlies the goals of this Administration and the goals of science;

- a book that is one of the earliest fruits of a revolutionary information technology that swept the world;

- a book whose year and place of publication speak of religious tolerance and intolerance; and

- a book whose existence would not be known but for the work of a scholar who chose to enter into public service.

Book Review: The Angel of the Crows

 Crossposted to The Future Fire:

Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows. Tor Books, 2020. Pp. 448. ISBN 978-0-7653-8739-4. $24.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

The Angel of the Crows is the sort of high concept story which should be ridiculous and yet totally works: Sherlock Holmes meets “war in Heaven,” or rather, its aftermath. Nineteenth century Afghanistan remains Afghanistan, but now with fallen angels and hellhounds. (The BBC Sherlock, another recent albeit problematic retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eponymous detective stories, similarly played with a background conflict in Afghanistan that was specifically twenty-first century.) Addison’s novel isn’t a straightforward retelling of Sherlock or Doyle, but nonetheless riffs cleverly on familiar plot beats to tell a story at a slant. Sherlock is an angel called Crow and Watson is called Doyle; neither of them are the characters that we already know so well, except for how they are.

Let me back up for a moment. Addison is upfront in an “Author’s Note” that the novel has its origins in a Sherlock wingfic (a genre of fanfic in which a character has wings), and the book begins with dual epigraphs quoting lines from the BBC series as well as one of the original Doyle stories: “Nothing is more deceptive than an obvious fact” Sherlock states in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” (1891). Thus the tone is set not only for this novel but how for we the readers should interpret it. The joy of fanfiction, both in the reading and the writing, is not just in adding to known stories but in transforming them; indeed, the game for many is to see exactly how far a story can be changed and still remain the same. Knowing something of Doyle’s Sherlock stories is integral to making sense of Angel in some ways, and yet as much if not more pleasure can be gleaned from these iterations of the characters as could be gotten from them either in their written nineteenth century iterations or their televised 2010s incarnations.

Here I must confess that my own attempts to read the original Sherlock stories left me cold both as an adolescent and as an adult, and while I enjoyed some elements of the BBC series I was honestly baffled by its runaway success. The Angel of the Crows I enjoyed very much for its own sake, delighting in those references to the earlier texts that I recognized but also likely totally missing many more. Does this book stand on its own? That I’m honestly not sure; reading it is the experience of reading a work by a fan author you love that takes place in a fandom (whether book or media) that you aren’t familiar with—I’m aware that I’m missing context, but I’m having enough fun to enjoy the story for its own sake.

And speaking of the story itself: This isn’t a conventional novel by any means, nor is it a set of independent short stories; like everything else, it is both a single tale and a collection of episodes linked into a continuing narrative. There is a logical conclusion rather than the story coming to an abrupt halt, but this too feels like it could be a jumping-off point to further adventures if the author so wishes (and I do hope she does). Crow and Doyle meet, become roommates and then friends, solve mysteries, and have a queer friendship. And it is very queer, albeit not sexual; the fannish preference for reading the BBC’s version of Sherlock as an asexual is clearly present, and there is a major spoiler in the uncovering of one character’s gender and sex. (Did this plot point make sense in the context of the story? Yes. Was it a delightful discovery gently dropped in medias res, blink-and-you-might-miss-it, and left there to percolate beautifully, lending a new resonance to everything? Also yes.)

Fannish reading can be contentious in some circles: the same elements that make a text pleasant to one reader is going to put another off entirely, and this book is very fannish in its idiom. In many ways Sherlock Holmes is the first mega-franchise with its own literal long-running fan club (the Baker Street Irregulars were founded in 1936 and are still extant), but to some it is still quasi-literary due to its venerable age. As such, The Angel of the Crows is inherently a controversial work to some simply for what it is and the ways it transforms well-known characters and properties. Therefore it is a vital and necessary read for anyone who fancies themselves a connoisseur of Sherlockiana, a delightful read for those like myself who know just enough to get into trouble, and likely an irksome puzzle for those expecting either a conventional fantasy or Sherlock work. But to all, I recommend this book with great enthusiasm.

Cait vs. the Brain Weasels

We got an announcement today that our mandatory twice weekly covid testing will be dropping to a single weekly test over the summer, concurrent with uploading our vaxx cards to the Uni's system with an eye towards phasing out required testing for people who got their shots. This is exciting because I will be reclaiming like 45 minutes of my week back, and I don't know why that seems like a big deal but it does.

We've also been doing our "return to site" planning with the goal of everyone being onsite full-time by the time the fall semester starts. This past year I've been going in for half-days a couple times a week so I am ramping up my onsite time. One thing that has made me twitchy is lunchtime because, you know, you take your mask off to eat. So I have been carefully picking times to hastily eat lunch by myself in solitude. But given the new CDC guidance (which, huh?), uni policy is people can take their masks off *except when in instructional spaces but to be respectful of everyone's choices. 

Like, the anxiety dreams of forgetting masks and such have disappeared since I got my shots, but masks are still my security blanket? That...maybe I have to wean myself off of?

But this has also been such a weird and traumatic year and I'm trying to figure out what makes me feel comfortable and safe. Emphasis on trying.


 It says.... something ... that the first conference panel I've seen in YEARS made up of all white men is at a Star Wars conference.

Link: Lecture/Interview with R.F. Kuang

Listening to this lecture this morning and it is *so good.* I finished reading The Poppy War last night and am now a little obsessed; I ordered the other two books in the series.

Her points are super interesting. Waaaaay back ca. 2000 I took an Asian American Lit class, taught by a white person, and while I really enjoyed the class there was very much a focus on trauma. (The book list as I remember it: Memories of My Ghost Brother, The Woman Warrior, Obasan, No-No Boy, annnnnnd one other I'm blanking on.) Asian American SFF of the last few years--The Tensorate Series, The Dandelion Dynasty, and The Poppy War books--have engaged with this too.  Kuang says here that Asian American SFF is incredibly reductionist and Orientalist and she's right. (She talks about people getting her confused with SL Huang.) So much to think about and I have a new literary crush, basically.

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Also something that struck me about The Poppy War is how it was A LOT like the cdramas I watch while also not having the cdrama tropes I'm familiar with (no background queers, for instance). Also lack of filial piety. Like, I do not think anyone is going to be punished for their bad relationships with parents and sifus. Like this is not Daoist at all, which makes it VERY different.

Anyhow, new hyperfixation and I want to write paper now...



I got a delightful email from a student writing a paper about FAWS and wanting to discuss it with me.


"I would love to discuss this further. Do let me know if you prefer email or a zoom chat." Written like a champ and not a fangirl quivering at the nerdgate.
 The Power of a Skeptical Captain America by Sophie Gilbert


From the first episode, in which Sam’s bank manager tried to place where he knew this telegenic Black man from (“Did you used to play for LSU?”), to the end, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has wrestled with an idea: Who are superheroes for? And can a nationalist symbol be reclaimed by someone whom that nation has consistently and historically rejected?"


But The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also presents an opportunity to see what might be coming in the next phase of storytelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as how far things have come. Only six years ago the MCU was still being overseen by Ike Perlmutter, the longtime Marvel CEO best known for reportedly stalling Black Panther and Captain Marvel because he didn’t think tentpole movies framed around a Black character and a woman would attract audiences. (Perlmutter is also known for allegedly scaling back production of Black Widow merchandise in 2015 because he didn’t think girls cared about superheroes, and for donating $360,600 in 2019 to the Trump Victory committee funding the former president’s reelection efforts).

There's A LOT to be broken down in Marvel generally and MCU specifically going back and forth between progressivism and reactionaryism. (Also I pointed out recently in convo when Bucky became Cap in 2007 there was a chonk of pushback because the ideal Cap was not supposed to carry a gun, vs. the pushback of Sam becoming Cap in 2015 which was very much about pushback to a Black Cap that the show was getting at.

I have more thoughts but they are still jumbled, but generally I ADORE how the show has been so bluntly political and have thoughts on that. But in the meantime the scene I can't get out of my head is Sam going full angelic pieta.

Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

 Belated realization I forgot to repost this; crossposted to The Future Fire:

Rebecca Roanhorse, Black Sun. Solaris Press (UK edition), 2021. Pp 436. ISBN 978-1-78108-947-7. £8.99.

Reviewed by Cait Coker

Rebecca Roanhorse’s novel Black Sun is an epic fantasy drawing on the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas for its world-building, social structures, mythos, and terminology. Like other fantasies that draw on history at a slant, it makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It is a true masterpiece of suspense and storytelling, and is simply the best new novel I’ve read in ages. Roanhorse structures the story in shifting times, and across several characters, leading up to the Winter Solstice and a celestial convergence leading to a solar eclipse that creates the titular Black Sun. The story moves forwards, backwards, and forwards again to illuminate what various characters know and when they know it, and providing new readings for different characters. If this novel were a film we would think of it as an homage to Tarantino; in the context of this story, in which scenes are placed against quoted texts, it is more like if Frank Herbert’s Dune series had dialed the anti-imperialist message all the way up.

A line from a scene early in the book, repeated in the blurb on the back, tells that ‘when a man is described as “harmless,” he usually ends up being a villain.’ This simple quote already plays with our expectations as readers, as it describes one of the protagonists, Serapio. Serapio is a mysterious and somewhat threatening figure to other characters in the book: blind and disfigured, dressed all in black. In the chapters told from his point of view, he is very different—an abused and neglected child who has had to grow up much too quickly. He can communicate with and see through the eyes of crows, an ability that has been done elsewhere and could have been hackneyed cliché, and yet in this universe feels completely organic and natural. As one of the two primary characters—the other being Xiala, a woman boat captain with her own mystical abilities—he provides much of the plot’s impetus with his need to travel to the city of Tova for the solstice. Serapio is also a charming and empathetic character whose Tragic Backstory™ could have been a real hindrance for the reader. Instead, Roanhorse matter-of-factly presents a narrative of horrifying abuse and makes it actually horrifying, rather than an exercise in pornographic horror that other novelists, such as Paolo Baciagalupi, have been known to indulge in.

Xiala, on the other hand, has the ghost of her own history, as a member of a marginalized culture, the Teek, that is simultaneously admired and abused. In some ways, her narrative reminded me of elements from N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. Xiala can Sing Songs that, variously, can psychically influence people as well as, in a limited fashion, manipulate weather and the sea. Her abilities make her, alternately, valuable as a boat captain, and vulnerable to make crew members see her as unnatural. Roanhorse writes about the intersections of Xiala’s identity as a Teek, as a woman in a largely misogynist society (versus the comparatively freer culture in a different part of the continent), and as an open bisexual, that deftly draws a picture of everyday cultural struggles in both the real and fantastical worlds. (I’ll also note here that the advanced reader copy that I received did not contain maps, but the released book does have them so that readers can understand the geography referenced.)

There are two other characters that provide point of views for the narrative. Naranpa is a Sun Priest who has climbed the social ladder from the poorest region of Tova to the highest rank in the city’s religious order. Upward mobility is presented as a complex thing both personally and culturally; her family feels abandoned and her brother in particular despises her for perceived betrayal, while the rest of the priesthood is torn by the politics of a designated leader from the lower classes (and this goes about as well as you would think). Finally, Okoa is the son of a murdered clan leader who must balance the responsibilities of state, clan, and family—in that order—to investigate the crime and receive a semblance of justice. Okoa is the character most neglected by this first volume in a planned trilogy, and it will be interesting to see how his role expands later on.

In her notes in the back of the book, Roanhorse presents a brief bibliography of her research with some commentary. She notes in particular that she was inspired by the city of Cahokia, which exists today as a complex of some eighty mounds in southern Illinois, and that much of that research will be seen more fully in the next volume. Since I personally have been long-fascinated with Cahokia (it is nearby, and at its apex would have been significantly greater in size and complexity than the contemporaneous European city of London), I am eager to read more and see what happens next.

Finally, Roanhorse dedicates the book “For that kid in Texas who always dreamed in epic.” Roanhorse grew up in that state, so these words have a particular meaning for a particular audience. (I myself lived in Texas for a number of years as an adult.) Texas is the second-largest state in America, where many of the country’s cultural divides are thrown into sharp relief: it contains some of the wealthiest and the poorest citizens in the country, its gerrymandering system has effectively quashed democracy for decades, and as recent news items have demonstrated, its governing and regulatory mechanisms to provide and protect people are dysfunctional. Nonetheless, the members of minority communities in the state, including people of color, LGBTQ+, and indigenous people have long been loud and proud. To be a reader of fantasy in Texas is to be aware of one’s cultural stakes and, frequently, vocal in calls for justice. In addressing those readers, Roanhorse is not just talking back to her younger self, but to those readers who are actively fighting for a better world both in the science fiction and fantasy community and in broader politics.

Video: An Alternate History of Print

I did a presentation today on women printers using books from my library's collections. A lovely time was had by all!

Latest Month

September 2021



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  • caitri
    25 Aug 2020, 13:33

    Are you on any of the ST FB groups? There are a few I'd like to throttle.
  • caitri
    14 Jul 2020, 16:55
    Nice!! I think First Foundation is fine but that the format of the stories wears thin pretty quickly, but I also know that I'm an outlier on that and lots of people think they are perfect!
  • caitri
    14 Jul 2020, 01:07
    I’ve never read Foundation but I adored the Norby series that he wrote with his wife.
  • caitri
    9 Apr 2020, 00:27
    I'm still adjusting to how quiet my email inbox has gotten--it's almost like I get most of the week's emails on Monday morning because everyone else is trying to be productive, and then we all…
  • caitri
    8 Apr 2020, 19:59
    I'm feeling the same way. I try to be the good employee--i check email incessantly; I read in my profession; I try to work on administrative stuff that always gets shoved to the side under the excuse…
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