"All the Colors You Thought Were Kings" by Arkady Martine [Shimmer]. Heart-stoppingly gorgeous space opera, stars as sharp as knives. I wish I wrote half so well.

This was exactly what I needed to read tonight.

Tomorrow there’ll be ceremonies and presentations, and then your nanite horde will be calibrated for shipside on live broadcast for the entire Fleet to see – another cohort of kids full up with starshine micromechanics, bound to service and obedience, gone off into the stars. You’ve been dreaming about it since you could read. You want it so much you’ve spent the last three months feeling like your chest is going to burn out from longing.

The night after tomorrow, though. You can’t let yourself dream about that.

Under the drape of your overjacket, snugged up to your spine like you’re its best lovecrush, are the disassembled pieces of a sniper rifle. Nestled right at the small of your back is the lead-shielded explosive heart of an electromagnetic pulse bomb.
Tags:
Books 2017: 109-129


109. V.M. Escalada, Halls of Law. DAW, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Fun.


110. David D. Levine, Arabella and the Battle of Venus. Tor, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. What the hell sort of book is this?


111. Lee Kelly, A Criminal Magic. Saga, 2016.

Read for column. Good.


112-113. Sarah Kuhn, Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship. DAW, 2016 and 2017.

Read for column. Fun.


114. Spencer Ellsworth, Starfire: A Red Peace. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Space opera debut. Fun.


115. Steven Brust and Skyler White, The Incrementalists. Tor, 2013.

Kind of a dude book. Not so great.


116. Claudia Gray, Defy the Stars. Little, Brown and Company, 2017.

YA. Space opera. Read for column. Ambitious, not necessarily all that successful.


117. E.K. Johnston, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Speak, 2016.

YA. Really really good.


118. Elizabeth Wein, The Pearl Thief. Bloomsbury, 2017.

YA. Not as harrowing as many of Wein's other books. Really interesting. Girls kissing girls, too.


119. Ann Leckie, Provenance. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really good. Different to Leckie's other novels.


120. Erica Abbott, Desert Places. Bella Books, 2015.

Lesbian romance between an attorney and a sheriff in small-town Colorado.


121. Stephanie Burgis, Snowspelled. Five Fathoms Press, 2017.

Read for column. Fun.


122. Cassandra Khaw, Bearly A Lady. Book Smugglers Publishing, 2017.

Read for column. Fun.


123. Cassandra Khaw, A Song for Quiet. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Good.


124. Claire McNab, Lessons in Murder. Bella Books, ebook reprint.

Murder mystery with f/f elements. Solid, I think.


125. Claire McNab, Fatal Reunion. Bella Books, ebook reprint.

Murder mystery with f/f elements.


126. Jae, Falling Hard. Ylva Publishing, 2017.

F/F romance. Fun. Pretty good.


127. Erica Abbott, Taken In. Bella Books, 2017.

F/F mystery/suspense. Part of series. Fun enough.


128. Guy Gavriel Kay, Sailing to Sarantium. Roc, 2010. (1998.)

Well, Kay is certainly something, that's for sure.


129. Guy Gavriel Kay, Lord of Emperors. Roc, 2010. (2000.)

Second book in the Sarantine Mosaic duology. It's a pretty good duology.





And unless I'm forgetting something -- which is entirely possible -- that's the lot.
I've spent a few days now in a MUSH full of people I don't know using a typing format I don't really understand playing games I'm not in, with me watching like Ebenezer Scrooge staring through a window at a life long forgotten, and it's showed me a few things. One, when I don't know anyone and all of the other people know each other, I'm going to hang out on my own and get lost in my own head. I'm trying! But I'm really bad at it! Two, it reminds me that I haven't been involved in anything tabletop for years now, not since Final Fantasy Omega basically ran out, and getting back in could be incredibly difficult for me. To explain why will take some time. Let's give it a shot.

I moved to Kansas City roughly ten thousand years ago with two friends of mine, the players in almost all of my high school RPGs. We all decided we would run a game when we arrived, so we'd have that constant in our lives while we all attempted to adjust to a new city, new living arrangements, new friends, new jobs, no college, no fallbacks, no plan B. This failed catastrophically! SPOILER ALERT: We all ended up okay. But the game I decided to run was going to be something fully home-brewed from the d20 system, and would be a Final Fantasy game. It would be set in a modern world, styled a lot after Final Fantasy VIII, and the player characters would be part of a mercenary group, they'd be young, and they would know each other. One of my two players moved away from KC a year later, but we kept the game going online in IRC. Shortly after that, another friend and my girlfriend joined a separate game in the same universe, and we shifted between a two-player in-person game and a two-player online game, with occasional four-player online games, and eventually the player that moved had to leave full-time, and we went three-player online up through the game's ending. So the format changed a lot!

My pitch for the game ended up being this, in Session 7; that the world of Damocles, the world in which the player characters lived and fought, was the fifth world in a series of worlds, worlds that had been created and subsequently destroyed in an attempt to create a perfect world. In my setting, an otherworldly force came to the Planet when Meteor was called in Final Fantasy VII, disappearing into the Planet, regaining its strength, and then wiping it out hundreds of years later. It then created the worlds of Final Fantasy VIII, IX, and X, each one failing its ridiculous standards of perfection until the world had to be destroyed. There were parts of those destroyed worlds that could not be fully deleted -- fragments of a power beyond our intruder's power, so they had to be secreted away into a side pocket so they could not interfere with the actual perfect world process. That side pocket would be called Kingdom Hearts. The otherworldly force itself? EDEN, a hidden GF in Final Fantasy VIII that has no in-game explanation. I made the final boss of the entire Final Fantasy universe a hidden power-up in a game not enough people like.

I HAVE A WHOLE TIMELINE WRITTEN FOR THIS. I just don't have it open right now, and I'm not going to write ten thousand words on fanfiction.

...I did that already.

But enough about setting! Let's talk about what made Final Fantasy Omega weird and different, and why I may have a hard time playing or running in anything ever again, despite desperately wanting to.

MUSIC

I don't know about you guys, but when I think about Final Fantasy, I think about the music. I've been to either four or five Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy concerts. I was in the audience for the first-ever symphonic performance of Dancing Mad, Final Fantasy VI's operatic final boss theme. When I recently played Final Fantasy XV on the internet and discovered that you could buy soundtrack discs of past FF games and listen to them in the Regalia, I would put that on, a song would come on, and I would not only point out what it was, but when it played in its game, its overall significance to the series, and then launch into a discussion of the part of the game it played in. Musical memory is incredibly important to me, and it is a huge part of Final Fantasy for me. Clearly, this would have to be represented in the game.

It started easily enough. I asked my players to all pick music for their Limit Break, music that would play when they did a cool thing that was all about that player. I picked the rest of it. We'd have some background music that played during sessions -- usually music from a past Final Fantasy game or Kingdom Hearts game, appropriate for the setting. I had a selection of battle music, and the main enemy had his own music. When we shifted to playing online, we played in IRC because I could make sure we all had the same sound files in the same folder, and I'd type "/sound opening.mp3" to play the opening music, and it would open and play that file on all of our computers. 

Simple!

There are 926 files in my Omega Sounds folder.

At the end, let's... okay, let's take a look at Naoko Kyuudou, my girlfriend/fiancee/wife's character in the game. At the end of the game, Naoko had:
  • Her main Limit Break music, a mix of Ryoshima Plains I & II from Okami, with drums added at the beginning from a bonus CD.
  • Her Omega Limit Break music, which is that same opening drumbeat from before into The Sun Rises from Okami.
  • A quiet theme, music that would play in a Naoko-important scene that didn't involve punching people. This is an acoustic guitar/Japanese flute version of an Ayumi Hamasaki song, which was chosen to link together Naoko's original Ayumi Hamasaki theme and her new traditionally-Japanese-instrumentation Okami music.
  • A version of that on piano, for reasons that will be important later.
  • A symphonic version of that theme, which I was saving for a dramatic moment later on.
  • An electric guitar version of her main theme, which tied into her boyfriend's musical theme!
  • A theme shared between her and her first boyfriend, party member Champ Justice, which combined her hopefulness and his militaristic drumbeat in a really cool remix of a song from Super Mario 64 (?!).
  • A vocal piece from The Ordeal (see that section)
  • Another vocal piece from The Ordeal

And then her Aeons (Naoko's a summoner) all had their own themes, and then her family members have their own themes, and on and on and on.

See that emphasis on Okami up there? That was on purpose. After we settled on Naoko's new theme, I started going through music from Okami and then music from that same composer for similar instrumentation and styles, and all of Naoko's family members and plot-important events and things tied to her would get music in that same mode. I kept this up with all of the characters; they had their own musical styling, so I kept drawing from those styles for the characters and those close to them. One character has an emphasis on drums! Another, acoustic guitar. Another, screaming guitars. Another, ethereal timelessness. Another, pop! It's exhaustive and exhausting.

And then there was the music editing. In Session 14, I decided to make good on a few hints I'd thrown at the controller of our other summoner, Darien Reinholder, and his personal Aeon, Logos. Logos was a fragment of Alexander, which is basically a giant holy city that shoots lasers. Alexander is my favorite Aeon. In a dramatic moment, Darien activated his Limit Break, and Darien's player even queued me up, saying "Maestro, please," ready for his limit break to play.

It did, only it was a new version of the song, because earlier that week I loaded up that song in Wavepad, cut everything past the intro, and put another song after it, as Darien's call to Logos was instead answered by Alexander, massively changing the way the battle was going to go. It started a long-running trend of me sneaking music into the shared folder without letting anyone know what it was. 

The BEST version of music editing I ever did was cutting the classic Final Fantasy victory fanfare, that thing Prompto sings, short with a gunshot that threw both of my players into terrified silence, then bringing up a dreaded villain's theme straight into a battle theme. They didn't trust the victory music ever again.

But see, that's using music to tell a story in a tabletop RPG in a way that you can't do with just words or actions. It's not necessarily better -- I like it better because it speaks to who I am as a person -- but it's different, and I don't know how to play without that.

WRITING

In a game with three player characters and three GM-controlled PCs (each game had one to round out the party, and then when Darien's player retired he handed Darien to me), I never wanted the GMPCs to dominate too much screentime. So instead, I wrote the occasional short story about them, and then posted them on Google Drive for our characters. Sometimes it was to do something offscreen, sometimes it was building on an in-session moment, and sometimes I just wanted to make a dumb joke. These were usually around 2000 words. I started writing enough of these where they got session numbers -- Omega Session 211.5, for instance, so they could be found if you read the sessions in order. (We saved the logs of the sessions, and I posted them later that day.) Occasionally, my players would also write their own, because all of my players were writers. This was fun! 

Then I wrote a piece of interactive fiction over the course of many months that ended up creating a new GMPC. 

Inspired by Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, a visual novel/dating simulator set in the Meiji Restoration era of Japan, I wrote a story with Mist Walker being chosen by Kalil (one of our PCs) to infiltrate a mysterious organization he encountered called the Boryokudan. Across four parts, each of which had at least 30,000 words (and one of which had an entirely new protagonist), I would write a story, put up about three decisions, and then make him make the decision, writing the next scene based on that decision. The best compliment I got at this point was that I had to post these new entries at a time when all three players could read them, as everyone rushed to read it as soon as it went up. 

After finishing Let's Play Boryokudan, I topped it by taking all of the GMPCs and putting them in their own Let's Play Omega series, where the party could send the GMPCs off to do things they wanted to do, but didn't want to devote a whole session to. Each player got to make decisions for one of the four, with me always controlling the fourth (for important story reasons). 

I once wrote four interludes in a week. I really, really loved it.

GARAMONDE

Do you know how each Final Fantasy game has an arena, where you can go battle lots of people in order for great prizes? We did that. It was the Garamonde Tournament of Champions.

We did it twice! The first year had 8-fighter tournaments in Swordplay, Fisticuffs, Summoning, Spellcraft, a 16-team Tag Team Tournament, and then the main event, the 32-fighter No Limits Tournament. They all had weird rules, it was great.

Each fighter had a recorded intro, and by recorded I mean I recorded myself shouting into a microphone, then mixed it over music. 

We did it again an in-game year later, this time with Swordplay, Melee, Spellcraft, Summoning, Tag Team, and No Limits, but we doubled the number of entries in each tournament (yes, that means I had to write intros for 64 people for No Limits), plus I wrote multiple interludes for each in-game day, there was a concert and an animal show, and I designed championship belts using WWE Smackdown vs. Raw for the Playstation 2 and posted pictures of them for each tournament. The second tournament featured cameo appearances by characters we'd all designed in other games -- two World of Warcraft characters, an Eberron character, and a character my wife made for a game that I never ran and instead became a character in the novel that is sitting pre-editing on my hard drive. 

A WEDDING

Two beloved NPCs got married! My wife went through wedding magazines and websites to design the entire wedding theme and apparel, I put together a playlist, one character gave a speech, and one character performed the ceremony. I revealed this was going to happen by using an online tool to make an actual wedding invitation. We had this be an actual session. Everyone really, really enjoyed it. 

Tabletop roleplaying y'all.

THE ORDEAL


This is the thing I am proudest of, as a GM.

After clearing the idea with my players -- because I had to ask all of them, because this was going to be the single meanest thing I ever did to them, though I did not tell them how this was happening, just that it would, would that be okay -- I broke the party into solo sessions only, starting at Session 260. In those sessions, I was the cruelest I have ever been. 

Cruelty as a GM isn't the Tomb of Horrors, or a total party kill. It's not instant-death traps or unbeatable enemies. It's about a decision that you don't ever want to make. It's the middle section of Life is Strange, Episode 4. It's Toriel. It's the worst. I was the worst.

Each character was put into a perfect world, one that existed outside of the real world -- and one that they would never actually want to leave. One of the main villains managed to do this, so no one would be there to oppose him doing the things he wanted to do, and all of the PCs vanished from Damocles.

Naoko, whose parents died in a car accident when she was five years old, was transported back in time to the age of 19, the same age as her actual opening session (and I used the original session opening music, which was a small touch I was inordinately proud of), into a world where not only had her parents survived, but also had three more kids. Naoko was not going to join a military organization and become a fighter -- she had a college visit to make, and a little brother to take to the library, and two little sisters to care for, and a whole normal life that she didn't know she could have.

Kogel, who spent so much of his time convinced that he had no future, zipped ahead some ten or so years into the future, where he'd restored his island, married his girlfriend, and had a son, with another on the way. He'd made peace with everything. He'd saved his brother. He'd saved the world. Everything and everyone would be fine. 

I made them give it all up to come back.

Each of these pocket worlds had about ten sessions of just role-playing. Time to try to figure out the puzzle, time to try and understand what had happened, time to get used to living there, time to not want to actually leave. 

The pocket worlds were when I first started dabbling with vocal tracks for music, too. Normally I stuck with instrumentals, thinking that the music would be distracting if it had words, but here I picked particular scenes to have a 'regular' song play. Each character had two queued up and ready, though Kogel only hit a story beat for one of his, leaving the other to be one of those Japan-only bonus tracks, I guess. Naoko's tracks were Vienna Teng's "Nothing Without You" and Angels & Airwaves' "The Adventure," while Kogel had "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. 

"But Matt," you say, "you have three players! What was the third doing?"

The Ordeal began with Kalil being dragged out of his Ordeal by the Aeons and folks that were linked to him, where he had been a nice and obedient member of the Army of Chaos (it's fine don't worry about it). Once he came back to the world proper, he found out that everyone had been missing for six weeks, everything had gone very bad, and there were a lot of problems that were coming up all over the world. But Kalil could use the vast network of allies and friends the party had made over 260 sessions to try and fight it all while still looking for his friends... but there would always be too many things to go fight. He would have four missions to pick from, and he could, at most, cover three, because they only had two airships plus his own method of traveling. Somewhere would always be ignored.

I gave every city in the world a Panic rating, and missions he couldn't cover would go up 2. Missions he sent a ship to, with a party on it, would go up 1. Missions he went to himself, which would then be that session's activity, would stay unchanged if he did well.

While the others were dealing with never wanting to leave a perfect world, I made Kalil deal with a world trying to shake itself to pieces, and he was the only one that could stop it. 

I gave him XCOM.

The Ordeal ended in a massive, multi-hour boss fight in Session 300 against the villain responsible, with Kalil breaking down the barrier between worlds so everyone could come back together, all set to Florence + The Machine's "No Light No Light."

No one rolled a single die for thirty-nine sessions. It was all role-playing and decisions. It was the finest thing I have ever done as a GM. I could never have done anything like it if not for 250+ sessions of incredible storytelling, acting, and emoting from my players and I leading up to it, and clearly this only works with players who love roleplaying. I'm incredibly fortunate, and I know I'll never have anything like that again.

HORIZON

This is the finest thing I have done as a creator.

I created Horizon as a challenge to myself. I wanted to do something special for my players, so I had a musical performance at a theater in the city of Night's Run. A pianist, Julia Tilmitt, would play a piano concerto that transported its viewers to somewhere magical, but she used these performances to tell the story of a certain set of people in the Old World, a time over a thousand years ago. The events were incredibly plot-important, but I wanted a fun way to tell them, so I did this.

I picked a series of piano-only pieces of music, cut them so they flowed into each other, and I narrated over top of them. I had a stopwatch next to me, and I had timestamps on my printed sheets of paper, so I tried to hit the narration in time with the music, because I wrote it in time with the music. I did four of these in-person.

The fifth had to be online (and we were up to roughly 25 minutes per performance now), so instead I pre-typed the entire thing in Excel, then copy-pasted each line in rhythm with the music. This meant I was no longer trapped by how quickly I could read! It was good! This happened at a Garamonde, and then ended with a massive battle and then followed by a vocal performance of "Watershed" by Vienna Teng, with Julia being the singer, because *gasp* JULIA WAS ACTUALLY PART OF EDEN ALL ALONG AND WATERSHED WAS EDEN'S SONG.

There were two more performances during The Ordeal, one for Naoko and one for Kogel, done in the same style.

But then I decided there was going to be a sixth (the fifth was supposed to be the last one, and said as much in-game), and I put it on the calendar because I knew I had to have a deadline if I was going to do it, and it was going to be the greatest thing I'd ever done. I worked on it for three actual real-world months.

I made it a video.

Working in absolute secret for those three months -- during my lunch break, using my laptop when my wife couldn't see it -- I picked out five pieces of music, wrote the script, selected a hundred photos or so, learned Photoshop to change the ones that I needed to change, learned how to use Premiere Pro to make a video and how to make text fade in and out and learning how to make effects and how to move images on a screen, made a video, tested it a few dozen times, uploaded it to Youtube and made it private (due to copyright I had to put it on a new account and give them the credentials), and then when the time came, in-session, I gave them all the credentials, put the video on the TV in my actual house so my wife could watch it, and I sat on the far side of the room, on the floor, my back on the wall, watching it and trying not to watch my wife because it was also the scariest thing I'd ever done.

When it ended, she turned to me and said, in this tiny voice, "So can I watch this any time that I want?" and it remains the best compliment I've ever received in my life.

IN CLOSING

 Tabletop roleplaying! Allegedly! And that's just the big stuff! A few other things:
  • I made a wiki!
  • I made an actual working calendar with links to sessions taking place on that in-game date. This meant I had to make up months for this fictional world, and then get images for the calendar so I had to go find images that represented in-world locations, and put all of the characters' birthdates on the calendar...
  • We had multiple character birthday parties.
  • I wrote multiple poems for in-game events and then one for a school assignment.
  • There is a file with music and voicework from Sephiroth, with lines pulled from Dissidia 012 duodecim, so it's actually Sephiroth's voice actor, recorded from a PSP onto my laptop.
  • My wife sings on a piece of music, words that I wrote, over a guitar line that a friend played, as an in-game character.
  • A voice recording featuring my original two players playing the roles I designed to be like them in real life, plus me as both a villain and a supporting character.
  • Multiple Moogle Memos
  • Entire sessions designed in the service of one joke
  • A character ability that required me to have an actual tarot deck on hand and also to learn what tarot was
  • A homemade airship battle system
  • A Google Sheet with shop inventory for multiple shops, all of which I had to make up, so there's a bunch of items that are designed after things I like, including something modeled after every party member from Persona 3 and 4. 
    • For instance, the Hat of Shirogane, modeled after Naoto from P4:
    • Description: This blue and black cap looks like the kind of thing a detective might wear in some old serial, and wearing it fills you with the willing and eager spirit of investigation.
    • Power: Daily: Investigation Team GO! For the duration of the scene, all alies share the wearer's Gather Information, Observation, and Sense Motive skills.
  • Tonberries all named after NFL wide receivers.
  • Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 characters, all of whom I can detail if given the name.
I miss it, massive, unwieldy beast that it became. But when this is all I've done for the last decade-plus, how in the world can I do anything else? How can I care about how many hit dice something has when I gave Bahamut four separate musical themes? How do I come back from this?

I'm honestly asking, because I do think I want to game again! Just... goodness.

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([personal profile] yhlee Jul. 25th, 2017 08:51 am)
For your amusement, hexarchate Tarot readings (coding and spreads by [personal profile] telophase, card meanings by me):
No art right now, just meanings. The 78-card jeng-zai deck corresponds to the traditional Tarot but is specifically a hexarchate Tarot circa Kel Cheris' era. As such, upright sixes are all positive while upright sevens are negative, and the fours are lucky/unlucky.

This site is for entertainment purposes only: neither guarantees nor apologies are given for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any reading you may receive, and no responsibility is taken for any calendrical rot that may ensue. Hopefully you do not live in the hexarchate.
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([personal profile] ursula Jul. 24th, 2017 07:23 pm)
I promised to teach a class on medieval names from Africa at Pennsic, so I've been reading up on extant inscriptions. I have a book checked out of the library called Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères, which transcribes and translates Berber names recorded in the Tifinagh script, and includes a complete name index. There's only one problem: there are absolutely no dates.

Dating the Tifinagh inscriptions is, of course, extremely hard. We're talking about graffiti scratched into rocks in the Sahara, with messages that say things like "He loves Dali," or at least probably say things like that once you guess all the vowels. But the real problem for me is a classic case of different priorities. Archaeology centered on Roman North Africa, or even better pre-Roman Carthaginian Africa, is a serious industry. It's easy to find articles on classical inscriptions, and it's at least possible to locate articles on classical inscriptions written in Tifinagh. But medieval North African archaeology is a niche interest (even setting aside the problems inherent in referring to "medieval Africa" at all), and nobody has bothered to date later inscriptions more precisely than "These must be post-Islamic conquest because they're using Muslim names."

Or, rather, there is exactly one person who has tried. He hasn't published his transcriptions, just a table of inscription locations that mentions some are "Islamic era" and others are "modern". He did very kindly answer my email and point me at his article on classical inscriptions. That tells me that the word for "son" used to record Roman African names is the same as the one used in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères (up to an unwritten vowel, at least). So it might just barely be possible to construct a Berber name for SCA use now, as long as you choose one that's both in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères and in medieval documents written in Arabic.
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([personal profile] mrissa Jul. 24th, 2017 02:08 pm)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I know a lot of writers. Really a lot. Really really. And we all have different process, and that’s great, that’s wonderful. In person I have been known to chirp “we are all a beautiful rainbow,” but it’s really hard to get my total lack of sarcasm on that point through on the internet. (We are, though! We are all a beautiful rainbow! Yay!) In this case, I have spotted what looks like a consistent red flag for burnout, and I’m having a hard time phrasing it so that it’s clear that I don’t mean to exclude some kinds of inspiration.

Here’s the red flag. Writers with a few novels or a ton of short stories under their belt who get into a place where they only want to talk about being sick of tropes and wanting to deconstruct them. I know that deconstruction is a major creative inspiration in some writers’ processes (all a beautiful rainbow!). But the larger percentage of conversation about other people’s work gets to be about deconstruction and frustration, the more I watch for other signs of burnout.

Because–squee is not just good publicity. Squee is important for your own work. If you’re not honestly feeling like squeeing about other work you’re encountering, that’s a bad sign. And it’s probably not a bad sign about what’s out there in the world, because there is a lot of stuff out there in the world. If none of it is pressing your buttons, really none? that’s a bad sign about your buttons and where you are in terms of energy levels, taking criticism, getting enough recharge, all those things.

This is not a red flag of you being (or a friend being!) a bad person, or a worthless artist, or someone who will never recover, or anything like that. I’ve seen many people come out of this kind of burnout. But just as it’s easier to talk about how to begin a story than how to deal with the middle and ending that grow out of it, it’s a lot easier to talk about early-career things than all the paths that can grow out of them. And yet it feels to me like there are a lot of mid-career/developing writer paths and pitfalls that it would be really useful to talk about more, so…I’m going to try to do some of that, and I appreciate the other people who are doing that too.

(One of my favorite roads out of this is to cast my net very, very wide and look at things that are way outside my usual so that badly handled tropes and obvious choices are less grating. But other solutions for jolting out of this kind of deconstruction/negativity trap welcome.)

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([personal profile] extrapenguin Jul. 24th, 2017 08:56 pm)
3. A song that reminds you of summer
Amaranthe - Automatic

This one was actually quite hard, as I loathe summer with the passion of a thousand fiery suns (it's too bright! and hot!) but Automatic is the sort of upbeat/energetic I associate with the good bits of summer, like sunshine in early May when it's not yet too hot to exist.
Donckels Belgian Truffles Cocoa Dusted

Where bought: Sam's Club

Oh, my god.

Aroma is subtle; on opening the bag, you don't know what you're in for.

Texture is perfect; firm, but on first bite, the truffle crumbles away under your teeth like the chocolate equivalent of perfectly-tender fish. Enough chew to feel satisfying, but not one iota more effort than necessary between you and exquisitely melty goodness.

Taste: The first ones out of the package are merely good; like other truffles I have known, the flavor gets stronger once they've had a chance to oxidize. But once it does, whoo boy. I've described these elsewhere as utterly deadly killer chocolate, and I stand by it. Slightly bitter bite from the unseasoned cocoa dusting as it first touches your tongue, followed by a mouth-filling intensity of dark-but-sweet chocolate. Damn. It's a good thing just a few are so very satisfying, because otherwise I would happily eat myself sick on them.

Did I mention they come three 1-pound boxes to a package?

These were a seasonal item at Sam's, and boy, do I hope they're back again next year.
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([personal profile] yatima posting in [community profile] 50books_poc Jul. 23rd, 2017 10:54 pm)
Bad Indians opens with a line so good I'm angry I didn't write it myself: "CALIFORNIA IS A STORY. California is many stories." Deborah Miranda is a member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation, and this angry, loving book takes a knife to all the lazy and superficial versions of the California story. Of the history unit all Californian fourth graders (including my own two daughters) are required to take, Miranda writes: "[T]he Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny."

A nonlinear collage of prose, poetry, pictures, transcriptions of interviews and more, Bad Indians can be hard to follow, but the effort pays off when the events of Miranda's life take their place in a precisely drawn and nuanced historical context. "The original acts of colonization and violence broke the world, broke our hearts, broke the connection between soul and flesh. For many of us, this trauma happens again in each generation," she writes. And: "I love my father. I hate my father. He died alone, in a hospice facility."

This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about the indigenous peoples of California, their present and their possible futures. Strong content warning for descriptions physical and sexual abuse of children, among many other horrors.
I really wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow.

Oh well. Just eight more working days, then holiday. (IE, Thursday next week.)

I will have to try not to count down the days too obviously...

---

“The dragons and the Fae are never going to be that close. Even if their cultures permitted it, they can’t tolerate each others’ worlds.” Prutkov conveniently ignored the fact that earlier he’d been suggesting they could ally closely enough to dispose of the Library. “There’s a place for us in the middle. We’re seeing the start of it now. We’re the dealmakers, the peacekeepers. We can have a real influence over them this way.” He looked Irene straight in the eyes. “Have you ever wondered what our ultimate purpose might be? Maybe we were meant to keep the peace by holding the reins on both sides. If they trust us, then we can persuade them separately to work with us. We can use this opportunity, Irene. We can use them. I’ve seen the records of your work with Kai while he was your apprentice. I know you understand what I mean.” His voice was confiding now, coaxing, encouraging. He leaned forward with the air of one sharing an intimacy. “Both sides are bound by their nature. We’re human. We can be more than that. The Library can grow. It can keep the peace rather than just steal books around the edges of creation. But for that to happen, they have to depend on us. They have to trust us. They have to need us.”
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([personal profile] kore Jul. 23rd, 2017 11:46 am)
via [personal profile] laurashapiro -- the third vid is by [personal profile] kuwdora:






"The Power (Sense8)"


Bonus (the original vocal sampled on the song ((at 3:00 in)) before Laurie Penny rerecorded it):

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([personal profile] extrapenguin Jul. 23rd, 2017 06:59 pm)
Hi, I'm [archiveofourown.org profile] ExtraPenguin. Here's my Coronation Ceremony letter! Likes, DNWs, and prompts beneath the cut.

Read more... )
...and so they are here. I wrote a big tl:dr post outlining the decade of WWE storylines that culimated in Tuesday's squee, but realising that that was a little much to inflict on the unsuspecting, here are the Cliff's Notes. )

これで以上です。
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([personal profile] mrissa Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:32 pm)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

One of the things that has been making me furious about sexual harassment lately–secondary to all the other things that make me furious about it–is the attention tax it imposes on women. The time spent figuring out whether there’s enough evidence for us to be taken seriously this time, whether the people who were in the “surely you misinterpreted” and “that doesn’t mean what it blatantly means” camp last time will finally take us seriously, the time spent recovering from someone shouting in our faces and someone else grabbing our asses, the time sharing stories and pooling information and cleaning up messes and figuring out what to do, what we can do, what we have the power to do. That is time not spent on other things that are frankly a whole hell of a lot more interesting.

When it’s in convention terms, the time spent discussing who did what and what to do and letting the adrenaline settle and coping is time not spent on ideas for books and stories and where to go with them. It is very directly a tax on attention that could and should be going toward work. And it makes me exhausted and resentful, and then I try to corral my attention back to my work, because that is a far, far better place for it to be. I have directly observed that when I am at a con where people are dealing with an ongoing situation of this type, I come back with far, far less in the way of inspired notes for new projects–not just coming away drained instead of energized, but the specifics of what business are we doing here, where is our attention going.

I’m lucky. I know a lot of good men. I know a lot of good straight, white men. One of the benefits of this is that when a straight, white dude is an asshole, I am clear that it is artisanal assholery that he is hand-crafting by choice, not a trait he can’t avoid by his demographics. And a lot of good straight, white men have been stepping up to share the work of dealing with sexual harassment on a community level. I appreciate it. I do. But that is a choice they are making. Statistically, on average, the nonconsensual part, the part where you have to cope with the fallout of being harassed again, the part where it happens several times in a row and then it’s on your mind and you go into the next professional situation having to have a plan for how to cope–that’s a drain on your time and attention that you cannot have back, that other people can help with structurally but not in the moment. They can donate their time but not hand you back yours, not give you back those hours and days of working on the situation and processing and coping. It can happen to men. It does happen to men. And as one woman I know never loses an opportunity to point out, it does not happen to every woman. But statistically, on average, it is an attention tax that falls much, much more heavily on women, for things that we did not ask for and cannot change.

It’s not just sexual harassment. This is not the only attention tax, and I don’t mean to talk as though it is. Racist bullshit and the people who visit it upon people of color? That is, among other worse things, an attention tax on those people of color. Having to cope with accessibility issues and prejudice against the disabled? Attention tax. Homophobia and other forms of anti-queer assholery? Attention tax. Navigating the world while neurodiverse, even in ways that do not feel like a disability internally, among people who are going to be utter jerks to any hint of non-neurotypicality? Attention tax. And while I’ve talked about men and women above, the amount of attention tax that falls on gender-nonconforming and non-binary people gets mind-bogglingly larger the more gender-policing the subculture they’re interacting with gets. One of the fundamental questions is: how much jerkitude are people going to blithely shovel on you for being you and then skip along with their day, and how much will that pull away from the focus you need to do your stuff that you do.

Do I imagine I’m the first to observe this? Hardly. But “show don’t tell” is hardly new advice, either, and writers get blog posts out of that several times a year. What I’m saying to you is: this is affecting the work of people you know and care about. All the time. It doesn’t have to. It is literally all entirely voluntary. The thing I said above about artisanal bullshit: last month I got very tired of people saying “so that’s a thing that happened” when they were describing a choice someone made. So let’s not do that. Let’s not ascribe to fundamental forces things that are actual bad choices people are making.

And also: people who are doing work through all these attention taxes, who are managing to push it aside and fight their way through to focusing on making something awesome: I see you. I appreciate you. I’m sorry it’s like this. I keep hoping that some of the draining work will gain us some ground and it will be long-term less necessary. But in the meantime, thanks for clawing back some of your own in the face of it. It’s so hard, and it matters so much.

Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is one of the best things I have ever read. His latest book, The Gene, shares the former's wealth of capsule life histories that draw out the deep humanity of his subject. Ironically, though, given its subtitle, The Gene feels less personal and immediate than its predecessor.

Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, and where his description of cancer is a front line soldier's portrait of a respected nemesis, The Gene is more of a flyover survey of an emerging science. I learned a great deal about the origins of Genentech and Celera and the genetic underpinnings of sex and orientation. That said, the passages about his family - his paternal uncles and their mental illnesses, played out against the backdrop of Partition; the relationship between his mother and her identical twin - are as wise and lyrical as anything Mukherjee has written.

It's a long book. As is my habit with formidable non-fiction, I listened to it on Audible. Shoutout to narrator Dennis Boutsikaris for bringing this complex material to life.
kore: (Prozac nation)
([personal profile] kore Jul. 21st, 2017 08:24 pm)
DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY WORKBOOK: //arrives

MOI: //stares at it with mixture of fear, wariness and resistance

//eyes copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn instead
Some excitement at the Gleason Public Library (in the center of my old hometown of Carlisle) yesterday:

Library Director Abby Noland started her new job with a “bang" when she discovered live artillery shells in a box stored in a closet. She came into the library early on July 20, just her fourth day, to clean out the closet in her new office. When she looked inside the box, there were three shells from the civil war era and a note that said the contents had been examined by an expert in historical artillery ammunition and the contents could be live. The note advised to handle with care.
Noland immediately called Town Administrator Tim Goddard who advised her to call the police. She did, and the police evacuated the library and brought in the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad. The artillery shells were determined to be live and were taken to the transfer station where, according to a statement released by the Carlisle Police, they were “rendered safe.”

(http://www.carlislemosquito.org/index.php/news/31954)
I wonder where those shells were back when I was a kid walking to the library every day after school...
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
([personal profile] yhlee Jul. 21st, 2017 09:39 pm)
ETA: And if anyone knows where on earth I can find an Angel S4 AU vid to Will Smith's "Black Suits Comin'" I will be eternally grateful. (I can't remember the vidder, which is making this difficult to Google.) Also a Buffy/Angel shipper vid to Darren Hayes' "Insatiable," likewise apparently impossible to Google without the vidder's name.

I have gotten out of the habit of chasing down fan vids and would like to download some to my laptop for enjoyment purposes. I find them to be a lovely pick-me-up--they don't necessarily have to be cheerful vids. But I probably can't deal with extreme gore or realistic violence (I've seen half an extremely well done Hannibal vid that I had to nope out of because I am chicken).

Some vids already in my collection that I really like, to give you an idea (in no particular order):
- [personal profile] bironic's "Starships"
- bopradar's "I Kissed a Girl"
- Lithium Doll's "All These Things"
- [personal profile] laurashapiro's "Ing"
- [personal profile] giandujakiss's "A Charming Man"
- obsessive24's "Cuckoo" and "Remember the Name"
- [personal profile] shati's "Hope on Fire"
- sisabet's "Cowboy" and "Two Words"

Fandoms I especially like watching/or have some clue about:
- Buffyverse
- Firefly
- I like the visuals of Game of Thrones although I've only watched one episode (have read most of the extant books, though)
- Leverage
- Arrow
- The Good Place
- recent Star Wars
- The Great Queen Seondeok
- Suits
- The Good Wife

That being said, if the vid can be understood without having seen the show, I'm happy to watch it. :)
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([personal profile] yatima posting in [community profile] 50books_poc Jul. 21st, 2017 05:40 pm)
(Hi! I'm new here. Let's jump in.)

Kel Cheris is a gifted mathematician underemployed as an infantry officer. Shuos Jedao is the technological ghost of a genocidal general. Together, they fight crime, where "crime" is defined as heresy against the calendar. In Yoon Ha Lee's brilliant device, a calendar is a social contract from which physics - and hence, weaponry - flow. Calendrical heresy disables these weapons and thus undermines the power of the state.

If you love bold, original world-building, reflections on colonialism, and complicated relationships between clever protagonists who have every reason to distrust one another, you'll eat up the Machineries of Empire series as avidly as I did. If military SF and n-dimensional chess sound like a bit of a slog, see if you can stick with it anyway. The language and imagery are utterly gorgeous, and these very timely stories have a great deal to say about complicity, responsibility, and the mechanisms of societal control.
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