scarlettina: (Five)
1) Just finished reading our own [ profile] jimhines's (Jim C. Hines) Unbound and enjoyed it quite a bit.* I really like his Magic Ex Libris series, with its book magic and its librarian hero, Isaac (who looks incredibly hot on this volume's cover--guy's been doing upper body work at the gym, I see). They're fun, fast reads, peppered with history and humor. They're thoughtful and clever. I like all of the protagonists, and I also like the matter-of-fact portrayal of a working polyamorous relationship. Looking forward to the fourth and final volume in the series, Revisionary, which was just published in hardcover. And now, I'm on to Stephen King's 11/22/63. I'm late, I know, but I figure better now than after the TV series premieres.

2) I want, very much, to love my day job and I just don't. Doesn't help that it's the slow time of the year and there's just not much for me to do. I will occasionally propose a project and be told that there's no budget or that it's not the direction we're going in, or that it needs to wait until another group's plans are solidified. There's no question that it's a way to pay for my roof and cat kibble and all that. But every day I find myself less motivated and less interested in going to the office. Even working with people I genuinely like, I just . . . my heart's just not in it much anymore. And I don't know what other direction to turn in to change things up.

3) Plans for travel continue apace. It's going to be a busy year. Next week I'm off to the rainforest for Patrick Swenson's Rainforest Writers Village retreat. Next month I'll be at Norwescon (first time in years I haven't been on programming and I find myself remarkably OK with that). In April, I'm off to San Francisco for a trip with family. And it looks like, in July, EB and I are off to Ireland. I'm reading and learning and trying to prep. I'm hoping plans will pick up after EB and I are both back from the retreat.

4) Lately, I just want to hibernate, hibernate, hibernate. It could have to do with my weight gain. It could have to do with my depression. Even medicated, I struggle sometimes. I need to find that therapist I've been trying to find for three months. After two false starts, I'm weary and wary, I admit.

5) My one solace right now is the crafting. I've been working on a modified version of a woven beaded necklace that I've made a number of times before. It's painstaking, meticulous work, and I exhausted myself the other night figuring out how to create the effect I wanted, but in a really good way. Had Sophie not insisted on cuddle time, I would have continued last night. So there's that.

* Every now and then, I'll refer to an author as "our own." This generally means they're part of the LiveJournal community. But it also means that I'm pleased and proud to be associated with them in this, the most tenuous of connections, even if I've never met them in person. In these latter days, with so few of us still here, we are--in my mind, anyway--a special group. We get to know each other in ways we never would on something like Facebook. It's awesome.
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
1) Here in Seattle this morning, it is, in fact, raining like the Biblical flood is coming. Here's the thing: Seattle rain isn't usually torrential. Usually, it's mist or drizzle that just lasts and lasts. Actual, umbrella-requiring rain happens rarely here. Our volume comes from duration, not saturation. So to wake up to the sound of hard rain on the roof (and the balcony, and the pavement in the courtyard) is unusual. I am not looking forward to braving the storm to get to work.

2) Zeke has been super-needy lately. I have to play with him all the time. I wake up to him snuggling and kneading me, which then requires petting and scritching until he settles down to sleep. It's made it hard to give cuddle- and playtime to Sophie. I dislike his monopolizing my time. He's gotten very possessive and I have no idea why or what's going on. I want some time with my girl and need to figure out a way to get it.

3) Next week is the final measure for the bathroom renovation. It means that work will start within 2-3 weeks. I'm excited about this; it's been a long time coming and when it's done, I'll have a lovely new bathroom--with real tile and everything. Right now, that bathroom has linoleum and one of those one-piece shower-stall insets. And the shower surround is safety glass, with visible wire running through the panes. It's not ugly per se, but no one could call it pretty. It will be more attractive when it's done, and far more usable overall, I think.

4) I am reading Marie Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk, the third volume in her Memoirs of Lady Trent series, and enjoying it quite a bit. I like her dragonologist and her rich world descriptions. It's a fast read and an engaging one.

5) Passages: The news of editor David Hartwell's death has spread like wildfire through the science fiction and fantasy community. Though I didn't know him well, and had mixed feelings about our few encounters, there's no question he was a major influence in the field and leaves behind him a legacy of novelists and editors whose careers were made or changed as a result of his work. Respect.
scarlettina: (Five)
1) Weather: It's been insanely dark the last few days. Cliff Mass, Seattle's weather guru, says that Monday, December 7th, was the darkest day in Seattle in 9 years. If this morning is any indication we may break that record again. I've got my happy light on as I type. It's helped me before. Looks like I'll really need it today.

2) Self care: I started on antidepressants about two months ago. Yesterday, I forgot to take my medication and only realized it when I was already on the bus on the way to work. I took a dip last night that was murderous and had a really tough evening. Self care has always been a challenge for me--but I can't let that happen again.

3) Photography: I've been (finally) creating photojournals of the Europe trip I took in 2012, including pictures and my LiveJournal entries from the trip. I've completed and received the Paris book. (I use Blurb, which offers a lot of flexibility in design that other applications don't. It's more expensive but it's worth it for me.) Now I'm working on the one for Lithuania and Amsterdam. I'm enjoying looking back at all these pictures and journal entries. The weather was beautiful in Paris; it was dark, rainy and overcast almost the whole time I was in Lithuania and Amsterdam. I'm using PhotoShop and iPhoto to try to lighten up some of the photographs; it's an interesting exercise.

4) Work: Everyone I work with these days either telecommutes or lives and works in Portland. I'm the only one on our team that works from the office anymore. It's very lonely. There are other folks at the office, of course, in other groups. I'm trying to make connections. But it's really challenging: I go to the office and there's no one there. I come home, and it's just me and the cats. I need to make more plans and see more people. It's not healthy for me to be so alone so much.

5) Books: I'm reading very slowly these days. I started Silver on the Road by our own [ profile] suricattus recently and am enjoying it hugely. It's very good indeed, with rich and layered character building, and an atmosphere of delicious mystery in her version of the Weird West. I'm taking my time with it and I recommend it.
scarlettina: (I've been reading)
I had all these ambitions, after WorldCon, to write a complete trip report, to write about the possible crime I was a witness to (about which I may still write) and to write here more frequently in general. Instead, what's happened is that I haven't finished my trip report and I haven't written anything since then, even though I continue to read LJ every day faithfully. :: sigh :: Best intentions and all that. So, in lieu of all the stuff I haven't written about, I want to make some brief observations, and then I need to get started with my day.

1) The Congressional vote to defund Planned Parenthood, while unlikely to get past the Senate, is one more demonstration that the Republican party isn't about conservatism. It's about control--controlling anyone and anything they feel is a threat. In this case, it's women and lower-income people. The insecurity it betrays would be laughable if it weren't so sinister and driven by so much money.

2) My desk is clean and usable for the first time in a couple of years. I'm using it at we speak. Keep an eye out for winged pigs flinging themselves skyward.

3) The new season of Doctor Who has begun on BBCA. I watched the premier and, though I liked Peter Capaldi's portrayal, I was less than impressed with the episode as a whole. The channel ran a Doctor Who marathon yesterday including a couple of episodes that are particular favorites of mine. I miss Tennant as the Doctor, and I adore the episode "Vincent and the Doctor."

4) I have read a number of books since the last time I wrote about reading at all, including
--"The Philosopher Kings" by Jo Walton ([ profile] papersky, which I enjoyed more than "The Just City," the first book in what is apparently a duology. "Philosopher Kings" moved at a quicker pace than its prequel, exploring the wider world in which her characters live, but it had its difficult-to-read moments. I had less of a sense of the project being a thought experiment than I did the first. I was more involved overall. Walton's asked some interesting questions in these books and they bear thought. They are not my favorite of her work, but they were worth reading and considering
--"The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) which, while I enjoyed it, I was kind of baffled by in that while it's certainly set in a fantasy world with fantasy races at its center, it's really just an engaging court intrigue novel. The plot did not turn on any of the fantastic elements. It might have easily been told about a human court and nothing would have been lost. Rather disappointed by that. It did not get my first vote in the Best Hugo category this year.
--"The Ghost Brigades" and "The Last Colony" by John Scalzi, both set in his "Old Man's War" universe, both excellent fun and enjoyable space opera. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the Sad Puppies didn't dislike him so much, they'd enjoy the hell out of his work.

5) Autumn is a beautiful season, but it is proving a tough one this year. And I'm so not ready for winter.

6) I'm currently reading "The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell (author of "Cloud Atlas"). It's delicious reading, brilliantly literary and yet clearly in-genre fantasy. I was about to write a whole separate post ranting about why no one is paying attention to David Mitchell as a writer of fantastic fiction and what an injustice it is. Before I got halfway through my screed, I went to check this year's World Fantasy Award nominees. And there's Mitchell, nominated for "The Bone Clocks" for best novel. OK, then.
scarlettina: (All my own stunts)
It's Superman! by Tom De Haven: A licensed Superman novel published, like, 20ish years ago that takes a very realistic, pretty literary and at the same time almost pulpy approach to Superman's original story, starting at when he's done with high school and as he heads off into the real world. De Haven's voice cracks both wise and perceptive, and is rich and fully flavored with period jargon and slang, trivia and detail. I enjoyed it hugely. I studied with De Haven in college and thought he was a terrific teacher. Reading this one of his several novels makes me feel like I didn't understand how lucky I was to study with him. Wish I could have studied with him more. I've found his website and really need to drop him a note.

The Just City by Jo Walton (our own [ profile] papersky): The first of a new cycle that explores the ramifications of Athena and Apollo deciding to try to build a society based on Plato's Republic. It is probably the most cerebral of Walton's books to date, even given some of the very dramatic and, on occasion, traumatic things that happen to the characters. It's a fascinating exercise that ends a little too abruptly, from my perspective--but the next book has already been published and I'll probably pick it up at WorldCon. My challenge with The Just City is that it feels a little like an exercise to me, a thought experiment made manifest. And while there's good story here, I didn't find myself as attached to the characters as I was with other of Walton's works. I felt a little emotionally distanced from them, which is always a deficit in a work for me. I did like the working through of the many ramifications of Plato's rules, though, and the negotiation of the tougher ones to follow. The Republic is itself a thought experiment, and once you throw humans into the mix, well, things are bound to go pear-shaped. It's an interesting read, not my favorite of Jo's works, but a challenging one in many ways.

Worldcon is coming, but there are so many challenges going on right now for me and friends around me, it's hard for me to anticipate the trip with pleasure. It's one more thing I need to do, at the moment, in a world where friends and relations are dealing with cancer, where another is getting ready to move out of state and is feeling just abandoned by a lot of local folks, where work is busy and pressure is being brought to bear in ways that piss me the hell off. I don't want attending WorldCon to feel like a chore, but as the days dwindle toward departure, it's feeling like another thing I have to do rather than a thing I'm looking forward to.

I've been pushing back lately in ways I don't typically push back. I'm always inclined to say yes, to help friends, to do things even when I don't want to just because I've been asked. Lately, I've been saying no more. It's hard. But it's necessary. It's necessary mainly because I've been feeling really tired, really wrung out, like I don't have the time or resources to take care of myself and my own life. I need to say no more. It's hard for me, but I really need to. The fact that I spent the better part of this weekend sleeping demonstrates that I'm running out of spoons faster than I can wash them and put them away. I need to stop that.

I had the worst blood panel of my life a couple of weeks back. It was the annual blood draw, and suddenly, my cholesterol is up, I'm anemic again, and my doctor Isn't Happy. I'm trying to resolve this issue with vitamins, food changes and exercise, but in the midst of feeling like there's no room in my life for taking care of me, it's an enormous challenge.

And now, off to work.
scarlettina: (Five)
SIFF films
Saturday morning: The Primary Instinct had its world premier at SIFF. It's actor Stephen Tobolowsky's concert film. Tobolowsky--whom you may know as Ned Ryerson in "Groundhog Day" or Sandy Ryerson (distant cousin?) in "Glee" or any one of a number of character roles--is a terrific storyteller, and this movie is a record of a show he did in Seattle last year, telling the stories that have made his podcast "The Tobolowsky Files" (which I highly recommend) so popular. This guy tells a story like nobody's business. He's engaging and insightful. The monologue he offers here has, at its core, the question of what we seek as human beings--what's our primary instinct, but he starts by asking the question "What is a story?" It's great question for an actor or a writer--or a human. And he riffs on it from there, telling story after story to get to his main point, offering thoughtful commentary and laughter along the way. This was a terrific hour-and-a-half, and the Q&A with Tobolowsky and David Chen, the film's director, afterward was very good indeed. I recommend both the movie and the podcast. Possibly my best experience of the festival so far.

Sunday afteroon: I thought, for some reason, that Paper Planes was a documentary, not a fiction movie. Turns out it was the latter, an Australian film for families about a boy who enters an international paper plane folding contest. It was actually quite a sweet thing--not what I was expecting but, as the description on the SIFF site says, a crowd pleaser and a pleasant first film of two for the day.

Later Sunday afternoon: Admission: I don't really read The New Yorker; I read it occasionally, in bits and pieces. But I always look at the cartoons. So when I saw that Very Semi-Serious, a documentary about The New Yorker, its cartoon editor and its cartoonists, was going to be at SIFF, I didn't have to think twice. Turns out that it's not a documentary so much as an examination of the art of the single-panel comic, with thoughts and insights provided by David Mankoff, the editor, and many of the artists who contribute. Fun, thoughtful stuff, lots of New York images and the kind of humor that has always appealed to me. I found myself thinking about the New York Times documentary, Page One, that ran at SIFF back in 2011. Though they are very different films in focus and sensibility, yet they share that ineffable New York-ness that makes them both of a piece in some way. Good movie, well worth seeing.

Finished reading Mary Robinette Kowal's "Of Noble Family" this weekend--one gets a lot of reading done waiting in line at SIFF. The fifth and final book in her Glamourist Histories series, it takes our heroine Jane and her husband Vincent to Antigua to get Vincent's late father's estate in order. They are not prepared for what they encounter--which includes a legacy of slavery, the fallout of abuse, and Jane's welcome but awkwardly-timed pregnancy. It is by far the darkest of the books in the series, but it nevertheless still brings some of the fun and interest that Mary always brings to her storytelling. I found it a satisfying conclusion to the cycle and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Started reading "Old Man's War" by John Scalzi. Breezy and fairly lightweight, as Scalzi's work tends to be, it's science fiction of the Old Skool: colonial armed forces off to make the universe a safer place for humanity--but with a twist. As ever, Scalzi's narrative voice is strong and appealing, and I'm enjoying the reading. While I understand that the Sad/Rabid Puppy crowd dislike Scalzi for his politics, I don't think they understand what they're missing by not reading his fiction. It's exactly the sort of thing they claim to prefer. But I think there's as much professional jealousy in their expressed hatred--especially given his new book deal--as there is political difference. Their loss. Scalzi's work is fast and fun, and I'm enjoying this one.
scarlettina: (Five)
1) Warm weather: It was warm and sunny this weekend, so I did the things one does when the sun comes out. I went to the West Seattle Garage Sale Day with a friend and picked through other people's cast offs looking for treasure. (Found some!) And I transplanted the coleus into outdoor pots. I have three pretty varieties out there now. I hope the warmth lasts and nurtures them into bushiness. I will be doing my best to help along this process. I loves me my coleus. I also topdressed the strawberries and am hoping for a better crop this year. (I've already got one little berry, electric green and growing, on the vine.)

2) Reading: Just finished reading Marie Brennan's Tropic of Serpents and while I enjoyed it, I found myself feeling as though some of the things she set up paid off rather weaker than I think she intended them to. The end felt a little rushed to me. The book felt somewhat uneven. Isabella is still a fun and interesting character and I am likely to read the next volume, but my hopes will be more reasonable.

3) SIFF is coming: With the inevitability of winter in a George R.R. Martin novel, SIFF approacheth and I'm still picking my movies. I promised myself I would have my schedule mapped out by tonight so I could go get my tickets this evening on the way home from work, but I have failed. Maybe I'll use my lunch break today to review things one more time. We'll see. I'll post my schedule once I have it nailed down.

4) Mother's Day: Though the day itself was quite fine, the cultural overlay of the day--the "holiday"--was a mixed bag of emotions, as Mother's Day always is for me. Glad it's over. Moving on.

5) Day job: There's been a lot of change at work, a reorganization that has moved me into a different department, upending a lot of plans I had and a lot of social infrastructure I was building. I'm considering my options now, considering the lay of the land and trying to figure out what I want now and what I want next. It's stressful; my stomach hasn't settled in nearly a week.
scarlettina: (Book love)
This memoir was written by Elizabeth Keckley, a woman who purchased freedom for herself and her son before the Civil War, and who went on to become modiste and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln. Over the last several years I've done quite a bit of reading about the Lincolns and am now working on a story about Mary that includes a scene or two with Elizabeth, so reading this autobiography seemed like a natural move.

As it turns out, it was a bonanza, because Elizabeth Keckley is one of the primary sources on Mary Todd Lincoln. Her memoir includes conversations recorded nearly word for word with her employer. It includes transcriptions of correspondence between them. And it includes Elizabeth's own observations about Mary's character, her habits and her manner. What a brilliant tool for capturing voice and perspective!

It's also--and just as importantly--a fascinating account of Elizabeth's own life, her experiences as a slave and then as an independent business woman in Washington D.C. before, during and after the Civil War. She was acquainted with some of the major abolisionists of the time including Frederick Douglass, who is mentioned several times. Some of her story bears the hallmarks of the classic slave narrative of the period, though Elizabeth's is more a tale of progress. Some of it is harrowing, some of it is perfectly mundane--the troubles of being seamstress to a temperamental and demanding client, the stress of a bad marriage, and so on. She writes vividly and candidly; she's excellent company for a couple of evenings' worth of reading.

I read this memoir first and foremost as research for the project I'm working on, but it's well worth reading in its own right. Keckley's account of the night that President Lincoln was shot is remarkable in its relation of the confusion and grief that held sway over the city. Her own emotions and observations about his death are familiar; one can't help feeling empathy.

It's amazing stuff, and makes history feel so close. It wasn't that long ago, only thirty years before my great grandparents came to the US. And it made me wish I could sit down and talk with her. She was an impressive lady indeed.
scarlettina: (Book love)
Years ago, I took a ghost tour of Pike Place Market. One of the stories the tour guide told was of a woman named Linda Burfield Hazzard, who in the early 20th century promoted herself as an expert in the "fasting cure." She would condition her clients with the idea that the only way to regain their health was to engage in a dramatic fast and to take her "osteopathic" treatments to purify their bodies. Many of them died of starvation and she, opportunist that she was, would steal as much of their property, money, jewels and savings, as she could. She was featured in the tour because one of the buildings we passed by was one of the places in which she practiced. It was a fascinating story.

On New Year's Day this year, I was at the Museum of History and Industry here in Seattle and stopped by the gift shop. I found there a copy of Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest, the true story of two British heiresses who "took the cure", one of whom escaped, lived to tell the tale and to pursue Hazzard's prosecution.

Olsen's account of the story is novelistic in the telling, detailed, gruesome and evocative. The scope of Hazzard's villainy--and the complete conviction with which she pursued her course--is jaw-dropping. Her sadism--starving her clients in the guise of restoring their health, beating them as part of her treatment, thieving away their agency and property, isolating them outside of remote Olala, WA in the name of preserving the efficacy of their cure--is astonishing. And Olsen's research, detail, and the way he draws the people central to the story is compelling. Hazzard's ultimate fate, an act of personal faith, provides an ironic and just grace note to the entire story. If the woods of the Kitsap Peninsula are haunted, Linda Hazzard is the reason why.

If you dig true crime, if you have an interest in the history of the Pacific Northwest, if you are turned on by obscure history and by really good narrative, then I highly recommend Starvation Heights. Excellent stuff.


Sun, Mar. 22nd, 2015 07:16 am
scarlettina: (Book love)
There's been reading and movie going lately. Here's what's up with that.

Our Lady of the Islands by Shannon Page and Jay Lake (that would be [ profile] calendula_witch and [ profile] jaylake) took me a long time to read. This is an observation, not a criticism, and partly the result of how busy and distracted I've been since the beginning of the year. Under ordinary circumstances, even given that the book is of a substantial length, I would have read it in the space of, oh, a couple of weeks, I think. That's because the narrative voice is smart and accessible.

Set in the archipelago city of Alizar, a place mentioned in Jay's previous works, it follows Sian Katte, a business woman of a certain age, and what happens when she is first beaten senseless in the street and then awakens to find herself with the power to heal anyone she touches, both physically and spiritually. Given that Alizar has political problems of major proportion as well as an heir who is languishing of a sickness that no one is able to cure, her gift comes at a key time. But for Sian, getting to that heir proves a major challenge. Reading this book was an interesting experience for me, knowing the authors, knowing their history, knowing their individual writings styles pretty well. Hearing Jay's voice so clearly in that first chapter was disconcerting to me as a personal matter; there he was, on the page, with his perspective and distinctive eye for detail--and then there was Shannon, with her emphasis on character and other kinds of details. Mostly what I enjoyed was reading a book about women who already knew their places in the world, had experiences that had shaped who they were, and were able to call all those skills into play when events took turns they weren't prepared for. So refreshing after years of reading male coming-of-age stories in the genre. I also liked this vision of a different kind of fantasy world--it's not your typical medieval high fantasy setting, but rather a tropical paradise with a strong nautical culture and a mysterious religious cult upending the status quo. There's a lot to like here: a delicious new world, smart, capable protagonists, and an adventure that transforms not just the people at its center, but the world as a whole.

I started reading Little Men by Louisa May Alcott within a week of finishing Our Lady. Given that Little Women is a comfort book for me, I've always wanted to read the sequel. I don't know if it was because of the juxtaposition against Our Lady or because I'm beyond a point in my life when this sort of thing would be appealing, but 60 pages in, I found it too sticky sweet and the characters far too perfect to be able to spend much time with them. It's a shame because the stories are post-Civil War era and I wanted detail and flavor of the era as a reference for something I'm working on, but I put it down within days of picking it up.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a lovely little movie. Like its prequel, it is sweet (in a good way), funny, and beautifully acted by a cast of veteran actors so wonderful to watch that I didn't care just how predictable the plot really was. It's by the numbers the whole way--an engaged couple whose engagement puts the relationship on the rocks, the young hotelier paranoid about business prospects. The only thing that was surprising to me is how, for a film that offers you more-or-less what you expect, producing a comforting kind of enjoyment, it was able to maintain that same perspective as the first film--that age doesn't change the experience of human relationships. We are such a culture of youth; it's refeshing--there's that word again--to see older people still struggling as younger people do, with the quest for love or the hard work of being honest with one another--because they do, and it's important that we as a culture recognize that.

Mr. Turner is Mike Leigh's interpretation of the second half of the artist JMW Turner's life. Timothy Spall plays Turner, and his performance is a masterwork of character and nuance. The cinematography is breathtaking, so many shots looking like they came right off of Turner's canvasses. I remember noticing, in particular, how the life all around Turner went on with its own little dramas: an unhappy couple on the deck of a ship, the expressions of a crowd listening to a singer at a party, the manner of the painters at the Academy gallery, women on the streets around Turner's homes. That's the hand of the director and it made it all so much richer. I enjoyed the film very much and recommend it.

Terry Pratchett

Fri, Mar. 13th, 2015 07:12 am
scarlettina: (Candle)
I've never read a Terry Pratchett book. I know, I know. You don't have to say it. I never had the privilege of meeting the man. Here's what I want to say about his passing. My Facebook and LiveJournal feeds are full of anecdotes about him. They are part personal experience with him and part reminiscence about reading his work, about the joy his work brought, about how smart and funny it is, about how smart and funny and kind he was.

First, if any of us are remembered with even half the love and goodwill this man is, we will have done life right in a manner of which we can be proud. Second, I find it extraordinary that I'm fortunate enough to travel in a circle blessed with his presence and with personal reminiscences about him. How lucky are my friends to have even had a passing moment with him! Of the millions of readers who mourn his passing only as a name on a book cover, how lucky are we few to have been in such close proximity. What a fortunate community we share.

Respect, Sir Terry. You did it right. And yes, I promise, I'll read your work. Should have done it sooner.

“I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”
― Terry Pratchett, Sourcery
scarlettina: ("So Many Books...")
A lot of interesting stuff has been popping up on my LiveJournal and Facebook feeds lately, so I've decided to aggregate them here for my reference and yours if you are so interested.

I don't know how many of you follow the delightful and thoughtful [ profile] jimhines but if you don't, you might want to consider it. He's been running a guest blog series on representation in science fiction and fantasy, and some of the latest essays have hit pretty close to home. Links are included below.

Nancy Jane Moore's essay "No More Dried Up Spinsters" gets into the issue of representation of older, unmarried women in SF and fantasy. What's missing, she says, is vibrant, independent women of a certain age who don't need a man to be complete and who aren't done living by a long stretch. (As one of those women, I'm here to say "I feel ya, Nancy Jane.") It's an excellent essay, well worth reading.

She notes, about halfway through her essay that "Catherine Lundoff has put together a great list of older women characters in SF/F, which she’s updating regularly. But to get a good list, she has defined 'older' as women 40 and above." I have made a point to mention, in the comments, Sian Katte and Arian, Factora-Consort of Alizar, from [ profile] calendula_witch (Shannon Page) and [ profile] jaylake's novel Our Lady of the Islands, as they are perfect examples of the kind of women we're looking for: experienced, independent, with agency and not in need of any man in particular.

Gabrielle Harbowy's excellent essay "Next Year in Jerusalem" gets into the issue of representation of Jews in science fiction and fantasy. As in Seattle, we are few and far between in the genre (though I will note, on behalf of [ profile] kradical, that some of the Star Trek tie-in novels feature a couple of prominent Jewish characters and, on behalf of [ profile] mabfan, his most excellent Hugo Award-nominated story "Kaddish for the Last Survivor" which you can read at the link--among others of his work--has Judaism at its heart). Steven Silver has compiled an extensive list of Jewish science fiction and fantasy and includes links to other sources as well.

Lastly, Alis Franklin's essay, "Fat Chicks in SFF" gets into another area with which I have some passing familiarity. I was surprised that she hadn't encountered Mary in Spider Robinson's Callahan stories, a character that made me loyal to Spider as author to this very day (and thereby hangs a tale for another time). But she's got a point worth making.

Finding myself in my genre has been challenging, and I'm grateful to Jim for giving space to allow these voices to be heard.
scarlettina: (Book love)
I received Mask of Apollo as a Chanukah gift from JB. I'd heard of Mary Renault--even had her work recommended to me, given my interest in the ancient world--but never actually read any of her books until now. I'm sorry I waited but glad that I finally got around to it. This volume brings to life ancient Athens and Syracuse through the actor Nikoratos, his travels from city to city, and his encounters with Dion of Syracuse and Plato, with cameos by other luminaries of the era. It's a remarkable evocation of the time but especially of the people. It's a history lesson, a philosophy primer, a glimpse into the workings of the theater of the period. And it's a terrific adventure through friendship and war and love and loyalty. I finished the book last night and woke still thinking about it this morning, sorry that I couldn't personally meet some of the people in the book.

In a bit of serendipitous timing, [ profile] papersky wrote a marvelous LJ entry about her learning to understand mortality and mourning the fact that there are people we'll never meet because they're dead. (You should go read the post, really.) Her post resonated with me this morning as a result of my experience of reading The Mask of Apollo. This tells you a couple of things: 1) Renault did a stunning job of creating her characters. 2) [ profile] papersky herself is a rather marvelous and thoughtful writer (which should come as a surprise to no one who has met her or read her work). 3) I have a too vivid imagination for this sort of thing. I've experienced the sensation she's talking about, or at least something similar. In my response to her post, I wrote:

I remember going to the Louvre and walking among statues carved by Praxiteles, and thinking that I was looking at a statue carved by the hands of a man who died in the 4th century, that time had sent this statue forward so I could know the sculptor, at least, by his work--and thereby get a glimpse of his perspective. I remember feeling as if the room was turning over for a minute, thinking that all that stood between me and this sculptor was time, and how unfair it was that I couldn't talk to him about his work. I had a similar experience seeing Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers when I was in Amsterdam. I burst into tears standing in front of that painting. I think I scared the other woman in the gallery.

So here we are, victims, or perhaps students, of time and mortality. But art and storytelling help us meet those who have gone. Maybe we mourn the chance to meet them, but they send us messages through their work, and we keep them alive through our experience of the marks they left and the stories we learn and pass on.
scarlettina: (Portlandia)
So it's Wednesday morning. I kind of can't believe it's Wednesday morning, but because the weekend didn't actually end until Monday night, more or less, I suppose that makes sense. See, I went to Portland to visit [ profile] calendula_witch and [ profile] markjferrari for the weekend, with JB--left Seattle Friday morning; returned Monday afternoon. It mostly went the way it was supposed to, except for the end there--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, I left Seattle Friday morning on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, their long-haul sleeper train, mainly because its departure time meant that I wouldn't have to get to King Street Station at oh-God-thirty in the morning. It's a lovely train, with spacious seats, a nice dining car and the option to book a room and bed if you're going state-to-state. My plan, seeing as how state-to-state in this case was only a four-hour trip, was that I'd work on the train. Except that when I got on, I discovered that there was no wifi service. After spending about an hour trying to troubleshoot and discovering there was just no way for me to connect to the office, I settled down to do background reading on one particular project. I got into the Rose City at about 2ish and got settled in with my gracious hosts for the afternoon. JB didn't join us until late, his doctors appointments in town keeping him longer than originally planned.

Much of the weekend, as is often the case with Jews and Italians, was centered upon food and talk, and my goodness, our hosts spoiled us! There was the vigorous and theatrical production of delicious homemade ravioli on Friday night, and tasty savory and sweet crepes on Saturday morning. I fed us dinner on Saturday night--the family brisket, which was a hit. (Personal criticisms of my work: I still can't seem to get the gravy just right; and I forgot the bay leaves again. But I tried adding sun-dried tomatoes, which added a hit of sweetness that I liked so much that I may continue to include it.)

Friday and Saturday nights both involved playing games. I introduced everyone to Mexican Train and gifted our hosts with a Fluxx deck, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Sunday morning, the four of us trooped over to [ profile] davidlevine and [ profile] kateyule's place with a bagel brunch in hand (a dozen bagels, two kinds of cheese, smoked salmon, hummus, berries and fruits, cold cuts, coffee and tea). Brenda Cooper was there to round out the group to seven people, and we had a delightful morning noshing and catching up.

At that point, [ profile] calendula_witch went home to get some work done, and [ profile] markjferrari, JB and I headed out to the Chocolate Festival. We spent a couple of hours tasting wine and chocolate of all sorts. I spent part of the afternoon a little tipsy as a result of all the wine tasting. We didn't find any wine that was especially fine, though it was all good, but we did each bring home some lovely chocolate treats. From there, we went to Powell's for the ritual pilgrimmage. I came home with copies of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (at seemingly everyone's urging this weekend) and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (whose novel The Shadow of the Wind I so adored). I also bought a poster that will eventually be framed and hung somewhere here in the house (still have no idea where; I need a TARDIS to properly display all the art I have, all the art I want, and all the art I create).

We spent Sunday evening working on a special project for Mark, and then Monday, after a scrumptious eggy-sausagey scramble breakfast, we were off on our separate ways. The original plan was that JB was going to drive me back to Seattle and stay a couple of days. Because he unexpectedly needed to stay in Portland for a couple more days, I ended up taking the train back to Seattle--and there was wifi, though it was spotty at best. The current plan is that JB will be up here sometime this weekend.

So, yes, it was a long, lovely weekend weekend, and I couldn't have been happier with it. I am blessed with such marvelous people in my life, and I'm grateful to have had such (tasty) quality time with so many of them.
scarlettina: (Book love)
Just finished reading Tooth and Claw by [ profile] papersky (that's our own Jo Walton, if you don't know). It's Jane Austen for the dragon set, a World Fantasy Award winner, and clearly worthy of the prize. What great fun it is! I don't want to give anything away (though spoilers 10 years after publication seems silly); the book is such a delight that I don't want to ruin any surprise for anyone. Go read it, if you haven't already.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Cartoon Menorah)
I slept in this morning (despite Zeke's best efforts to dislodge me from the bed), and had a fairly late breakfast. At around 1 PM, I met [ profile] varina8 at the Museum of History and Industry because they were offering free admission--it's Free First Thursday, so it seemed like a great opportunity to explore the museum's new location (at South Lake Union) and facility.

The new museum building is just gorgeous--broad and light and airy, with clerestory windows that let in the soft sunshine. The exhibits are well-deployed and much more modern than in the old facility. The top floor has an exhibit about maritime Seattle and features a beautiful march of windows that overlook Lake Union. You can see some of the boats from the Center for Wooden Boats, and watch as seaplanes swoop in to land on the lake at the Horizon Air water terminal.

One of the reasons that we went was to see a particular exhibit they were offering: Shalom! Open for Business: Tales of Jewish Merchants in Washington State. The exhibit was terrific. I learned about how big a role Jewish merchants have played in Seattle's growth and development. I was struck in particular by how influential the Sephardic community is in Seattle--struck but not surprised, since one of my earliest encounters with the Jewish community in Seattle was to attend a Sephardic Passover seder--one of my fondest memories of my early days here. Strolling through the exhibit was fun partly because, well, Jewish history and Seattle history, but also because of the number of business names I recognized. (Costco was founded by Jews! Many of the first fish mongers in Pike Place Market were--and still are--Jewish. Three Girls Bakery? Jewish!)

After we finished with that exhibit, we strolled through the maritime exhibit and then went downstairs to the cafe--which has a very nice menu--for some lunch. We poked through the gift shop, where I picked up Starvation Heights (, a book about the quack, swindler and murderer, Linda Burfield Hazzard, whose notorious "sanitorium" was the last destination for many of her victims. It's a fascinating story that I've heard about as oral history and as snippets in TV documentaries about women serial killers; I decided I wanted to read what's considered one of the authoritative narratives of her grim and terrible tale.

We concluded our visit with watching an entertaining multimedia presentation about the Great Seattle Fire (including the notorious glue pot in which said fire began).

All in all, it was a lovely way to begin the new year. If you're local and you can catch the exhibit (it closes January 20), I highly recommend it.
scarlettina: (Book love)
The Kobold Guide to Combat (edited by yours truly) gets a shout-out in this list of the reasons that 2014 was the best year for tabletop games ever. It's included at #13 in company with Kobold Press's gorgeous volume, Deep Magic, and with the Guide to Magic as well. I'm proud as could be.

I should note the key commentary on the Kobold Guides:

...the Kobold Guides are collections of thought pieces that inspire entirely new designs. I challenge any gamer to read the articles in either of the Kobold Guides to leave the reading without at least four ideas for entirely new games.
scarlettina: (Fantastic!)
Very nice review of the Kobold Guide to Combat at Money shot:

"There is some amazing bits of RPG 'wisdom' hidden in the pages of the Kobold Guide To Combat....a valuable resource and just a really excellent read!"

I'm quite gratified. Congratulations to all the contributors!
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
Right now, I'm looking for reasons to be cheerful. So here's a list:

1) I got to spend a lovely, quiet Thursday evening with [ profile] ironymaiden, who was perfect company after a tough week. W had pizza for dinner, then sat by the fireplace place talking, drinking whiskey, and discussing girl things. It was a perfect visit.

2) I got to attend a friend's large, fun 60th birthday this past weekend. She booked the Fremont Abbey for the event, which turned out to be a pretty terrific party venue. She had a DJ and bar upstairs, and a gaming room and food downstairs. I invited [ profile] suricattus along to meet some of the locals and party along with us. I danced a lot because I really wanted to, and without realizing it ended up leading some folks doing the Time Warp. Apparently this is now one of my roles--and one I gladly embrace. Rocky Horror was so formative an experience for me; the Time Warp seems to have become my personal folk dance. We had a pretty great time.

3) I had a small group of friends over this past Sunday night to watch the series premier of The Librarians, the new TV series based on the three Noah Wylie TV movies. It was light, goofy fun, very much what was needed. I was glad to have friends over--EB, [ profile] suricattus, [ profile] varina8 and [ profile] oldmangrumpus--for a pleasant, low-key evening.

4) I've been reading a book on loan from [ profile] varina8 called People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and quite enjoying it. It's about an old, mysterious, and beautiful haggadah, and the book restorer who's been asked to conserve it and learn about its history. The book alternates between stories from the haggadah's history and the conservator's search and her life. It's very well-written, very well-managed. As I continue to try to navigate my way through writing my own novel, I find myself examining things like structure from an entirely new perspective and it's a fascinating way to read.

5) I spent so much time away from home last week that I've been savoring being home with the kitties. It's hard for me to leave for work--for pretty much anywhere right now--that will mean being away from my four-footed housemates. With the coming of the cold, they've both been pretty cuddly, and I can't say that I object.

I've been feeling and thinking about other things, too, how relentlessly dark it's been, how I seem to be coming down with a cold, how I'm not ready for the holidays, how unhappy I am with my weight right now. But I'm not going to dwell upon them here. Right now, it would serve no purpose. I'm going to go spend some time playing with Zeke. I don't think there's been quite enough of that.
scarlettina: (Blood love and rhetoric)
I have so many things I want to write about, but I need to acknowledge a cool thing. Today is the official release day of The Kobold Guide to Combat, edited by yours truly. The book examines combat in role-playing games and, to a lesser extent, in fiction. I'm pretty pleased with this project. It features work by a lot of terrific writers whom I respect and admire and just really dig as people. Every one of these writers is a rock star in their own right in their fields and I'm delighted they're in the book. You can get it directly from Kobold Press at the link above in print and PDF, or from your preferred store (Barnes & Noble | Amazon).

It also turns out that our publisher (and contributor) Wolfgang Baur was interviewed for The Tome Show, talking about the book. You can hear that podcast here. Wolf starts talking about 00:50.

And if you're in the Seattle area tomorrow night (Wednesday, 11/5/14), you should drop by University Bookstore. I'll be joined by six of the contributors for a panel discussion and book signing at at 7 PM.


Here's the complete table of contents:

Entering the Fray by Janna Silverstein

Why We Fight: Combat as Communication by Jeff Grubb
Tactics for Tyrants by Chris Pramas
Military Systems at War by Steve Winter
The Importance of Tension and Raising the Stakes by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Gaming the Novel by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Speed of Combat by Wolfgang Baur
Scratching the Surface: 10 Things Fiction and Film Get Wrong about Violence by Rory Miller

Fighting in a Real Fantasy World by Ed Greenwood
Through the Looking Glass by Colin McComb
Tossing Kegs and Smashing Chairs: How to Stage a Great Barroom Brawl by Steven Robert

A Note on Anatomy by Richard Pett
Combining Magic and Arms in the Field by Aaron Rosenberg
Taking Aim: The Role of Archery in Gaming by Miranda Horner
Siege Engines and War Machines in Fantasy by Wolfgang Baur
Inspiring Words: A Warlord’s Field Guide to Battle Cries by Mario Podeschi

Reconnaissance and Scouting by John A. Pitts and Ken Scholes
Combat from the Shadows by Carlos Ovalle
Healing Heroes: Combat Medicine and Magic by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Monsters: The Pointy End of Fun by Rob Heinsoo
On Being the Target by Wolfgang Baur

The Illusion of Conflict: Spoiler-Alerts & Combo-Moves by Clinton J. Boomer

PS--I can't think of a better use for my "blood, love and rhetoric" icon than with this post. Truly, it applies here more literally than many other icons I could use.


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