dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
It was fairly inevitable that I would eventually come down with a cold: this week has been heavy on activities, and short on sleep. As well as going to two back-to-back concerts (one of which necessitated travelling to London after work, and thus not arriving back in Cambridge until after midnight on a work night), I was at yesterday's anti-Brexit march in London, and followed that up with a friend's birthday party in the evening. It seems to have been that, combined with last night's arrival of daylight savings time, that finally brought the cold on. I'm feeling decidedly exhausted, and don't think next week is going to be all that much fun...

The march itself was well attended (estimates put the crowd size at about 100,000, which is not massive, but not terrible), although I'm aware that it's a fairly futile gesture at this point. It mattered to me that I was there — as it has mattered to me that I've been present at other large marches that were nothing more than symbolic, futile gestures to register discontent. No matter how many people showed up at yesterday's march, Article 50 is still going to be triggered on the 29th, and the UK is going to continue on its dangerous course towards isolation, nationalistic extremism, and impoverished decline. But it's precisely for this reason that I felt people's presence at events such as yesterday's march were important: there needed to be a recorded, visible historical record that showed that not everyone in the country was marching in ideological lockstep out of the EU, and that leaving was not done in everyone's name, nor with everyone's consent.

Next week is going to be difficult, particularly for EU friends living in the UK (and their non-EU family members whose immigration status depends on Britain being a member-state of the EU). I wish I could offer words of comfort or courage, but I've got nothing. It's a terrible thing that is happening, a decision made by people who voted to take something away from others, something they'd never understood, never knowingly made use of (the irony being that all the times they did make use of it were invisible to them), and whose value they were unable to perceive.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This is just a brief post to mention that I have (finally) dusted off my Wordpress blog to write a review of a few books that I've enjoyed recently. The review covers The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh, Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow, and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. It's spoiler-free, but given that two of the books reviewed are not the first in their respective series, it does touch on events in earlier books. The review can be found here, and I'm happy to respond to comments either on the original post, or here on LJ/Dreamwidth.

I'm gearing up to nominate some fandoms and characters for Night on Fic Mountain, one of my favourite multi-fandom fic exchanges. It's an exchange for small fandoms (similar to Yuletide, although normally on a slightly smaller scale), and I thoroughly enjoyed it last year when I participated for the first time. I highly recommend it to those of you who participate in fic exchanges. Nominations are currently open, and will be until 31st March. There are more details about the schedule for the exchange here.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
I've been in a sort of hibernation, which is why you haven't seen me around these parts that much. Whenever I get into this state of mind, I tend to retreat back to basics: a lot of cooking, a lot of decorating. I suppose you could call it nesting. This weekend, I added gardening to the mix.

I've been growing a few herbs in our little courtyard garden for several years now: rosemary, thyme, and a mint plant that dies every winter and returns with the spring. This weekend, I also went out and bought a chives plant, some garlic bulbs (the kind that grow over spring and are ready to eat in late summer), and am contemplating adding basil (although I'm dubious about its ability to grow in the English climate), scotch bonnet chili, and radishes. I think that's about the level of my ambition so far, but if these all work out, I might try proper vegetables next year.

It's really important to me to live in a house that actually feels like a home, with pictures and photos on the walls, candles, flowers and pinboards around the house, and growing things everywhere. For years after I moved to the UK, this wasn't possible: I lived in student housing, or moved around so much that I deliberately kept only what could fit into two suitcases, and then my PhD funding ran out and I was living on what I could earn for the twenty hours my visa allowed me to work a week. So I'm deeply grateful to be in a situation where this kind of gardening, nesting and slow building of a home is possible.

Those of you who garden — particularly in the UK or a similar climate — feel free to recommend other herbs and vegetables that you think I should grow. Herbs I use a lot include parsley, coriander and chives, and cook with a lot of chili, garlic and tomatoes, but anything other than that that you think I've missed and that would be easy to grow please tell me about. Any other tips (especially re: gardening techniques, essential equipment etc) would also be gratefully received!

How have your weekends been?
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Content note: this post is about the ongoing abusive behaviour of the SFF writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew, also known as Requires Hate, Winterfox, and various other pseudonyms.

The rest of the post is behind the cut )
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
I suppose the benefit of spending every waking moment on Twitter is that eventually, we find out about stuff like the following:

  • I won a free ebook of Vanessa Fogg's The Lilies of Dawn.


  • Matthias managed to get all of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence books for something like £6. The ebooks (never mind the physical copies) of this series are normally extraordinarily expensive, which has meant we haven't been able to read more than the first book, so this is great news.


  • We also managed to get advance screening tickets to see Hidden Figures today. It's not actually out for general release in the UK until a couple of weeks later.


  • So all in all, we've got a pretty good weekend lined up. We're also going to be spending this morning trying different wedding cakes at the cake shop, so there's that, too.

    (On a weird little tangent, wedding planning is continuing, and we're getting stuff done, but every so often I have a momentary feeling of shock, like I'm nowhere near close to a 'proper adult' who should be doing wedding-related things. To put this into perspective, I'm 32, I've done a PhD, I've emigrated, I work full-time, I teach doctors and nurses and healthcare researchers how to find information that could be life-saving, in the past I have worked in jobs where I've been responsible for up to eighty primary school children, and I've never once had this feeling. It's very odd.)
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    For the first time in about six months, I was able to make it through half a day or so with all thoughts of politics gone from my mind. It was, quite literally, the aforementioned bread and circuses that did the trick.

    Last year, Matthias had the brilliant idea to get us tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna at the Albert Hall in London. He'd never seen them before. I have been a devoted, obsessive fan of Cirque for thirty years. My mother first took me to one of their shows when I was about two years old; my parents had taken me back to New York for a holiday in the northern summer of 1987 and Mum took me to see Le Cirque Réinventé. I don't remember much from that performance, other than the fact that they had an act where seven people all rode on the same bicycle, but I was absolutely hooked. The trouble was that Cirque didn't do any tours of Australia until the late '90s. It was ten years later, in 1997, before I would get to see them again, when Saltimbanco toured Australia. By this stage, my sister was born, so she came to the show too.

    For the next ten years, we saw every Cirque show that toured Australia: Alegria, Dralion, Quidam and Varekai. I taped shows off the TV years before they ever made their way to Australia, and wore out the tapes watching them over and over again; Quidam in particular was deeply important to me. My gymnastics floor routine at one point used the music from the diabolo act from Quidam. My favourite act in that show was the banquine, which I had learnt off by heart years before I ever saw it in real life. When I did finally see that act in real life, I cried because it mattered so much to me. I even ended up working for Cirque at one point — nothing as glamorous as actually performing, but I spent a month or so selling food and drink at the concession stands at their show Varekai during the Canberra leg of their Australian tour, in 2007 when I had finished undergrad, moved back to Canberra, and worked four jobs for about six months. This did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm, although to this day I cannot hear certain songs from the Varekai soundtrack without getting the strong urge to frantically clean the nearest popcorn machine.

    Thought I didn't know it at the time, Varekai would be the last show of Cirque's that I watched for ten years — I'd already seen it once in Sydney in 2006, and I got to watch it once for free in 2007 when I was working for the show. In 2008 I moved to the UK, and couldn't afford tickets (also, a lot of the shows that toured Europe during those years were ones I'd already seen). And thus it ended up being ten years before I saw them again.

    Seeing Amaluna was an almost religious experience, like coming home. I'd never been to the Albert Hall before, but it was like a gigantic, glittery jewellery box inside, and although we hadn't planned it that way, Matthias and I ended up sitting in our own private box on the second tier.

     photo 16473446_10102146397938490_6824374070497316099_n_zps16wnb4ys.jpg

    It was pretty great!

    Matthias was in utter awe, and it meant a lot to me to be with him while he was watching a Cirque show for the first time. The aesthetic was, as he described it, Nightwish-meets-Mad-Max (with an all-female live band), and some incredible acts. My personal favourites were the hand-balancing, which was done with the added difficulty of a large, human-sized bowl of water into which the balancer kept diving (which meant her hands were slippery with water, and meant she had to time the dives exactly, given that the bowl was not very deep), and an incredible act in which a group of acrobats launched each other into the air from opposite ends of a giant springboard, from which they somersaulted, leapt, and sprang. I had been looking forward to the uneven bars act, which was good, but used quite basic gymnastics moves. (Don't get me wrong, they executed them brilliantly, and they had the added difficulty of sharing the bars with multiple other acrobats, whereas in gymnastics of course the gymnast is on her own on one set of bars.)

    I also knew they had a banquine act, and given how much the banquine finale from Quidam meant to me, I had high hopes. The trouble is, being the intense fan that I was, I knew the Quidam act off by heart, beat for beat, move for move, right down to every moment of choreography and even the turns of the performers' heads. So I was gobsmacked to notice, immediately, that the Amaluna banquine was essentially identical to the Quidam one: same moves, same choreography, same movements around the stage. The only differences were that where Quidam's banquine act has a kind of violent, despairing desperation in tone (the choreography is quite aggressive and the performers give off a kind of world-weary, hopeless air), the Amaluna act is more joyful — which actually doesn't work as well with the choreography. The Amaluna performers also didn't attempt the more difficult moves performed by their counterparts in Quidam.

    The banquine was not the only act borrowed wholesale from another Cirque show: the jugggling act was lifted entirely from Dralion! I guess they're not anticipating audience members who wore out video tapes watching their earlier shows over and over again. I still loved watching the show, and our seats up high in the middle tier of the theatre were perfect for me, because they gave me a bird's eye view of all the mechanisms going on slightly behind the scenes: tech guys making their way across the scaffolding, performers waiting to be lowered down on wires, the acrobats calling proceedings during group acts, the ways in which dancers distracted from equipment being set up or moved away. This was exactly what my sister and I used to spot and discuss in muttered tones when we watched Cirque shows together as children, and it gave me a great deal of joy. Matthias' amazed enthusiasm for the show and awe at the performers' strength, agility, and the jaw-droppingly incredible things they could do with their bodies also made me ridiculously happy, and I'm so glad to have been able to share something so deeply formative and precious to me with him.

    All in all, it was a wonderful day out in London. We also ate lunch at this restaurant, and it was excellent. It's in a great location if you're going to a show at the Albert Hall or seeing an exhibition at one of the museums in Kensington, so I highly recommend it. The food is a little expensive, but there's a set theatre menu which is a bit more reasonably priced, and it has an amazing range of cocktails. It was nice to put the things that are making me anxious and terrified aside, if only for a little while, and exist in a space where everything is Cirque du Soleil and nothing hurts.
    dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
    I am very much Not Coping (with, well, take your pick of the conga line of political horrors parading their way around the world), which has made posting (and indeed, being online at all) very difficult. As such, this is going to be brief.

    You may have seen this already on your own Dreamwidth feeds, but [personal profile] inkstone has set up a bullet journalling comm, [community profile] bujo, if anyone's interested. I've started using a bullet journal this year; I've always been a dedicated planner, and I'm combining bullet journal use with the online management tool Trello, as well a standard weekly planner, because one form of organiser is never enough!

    I also have a question for those of you who regularly participate in fic exchanges. Last year I had a kind of vaguely defined goal to participate in more exchanges than Yuletide, and ended up doing both Night On Fic Mountain, and My Old Fandom (as well as Yuletide). I enjoyed both immensely, and if they run again, I'll definitely be signing up. In fact, I enjoyed writing for those exchanges so much that I'm completely hooked, and want to participate in even more! That's where you come in. I'm asking for recs for fic exchanges that you particularly enjoyed. It probably helps a bit to know more about what I liked about the exchanges in which I've participated thus far:

  • They were for small fandoms (not big megafandoms) and not fandom-specific

  • Participants could write gen or shipfic (I think I'd be happy to participate in a gen-only exchange, but to be honest I prefer the flexibility)

  • The lower word-count limits were low - 1000 words is fine, but a 5000-word lower limit would probably be difficult for me

  • They weren't happening at the same time as Yuletide, or immediately before or after


  • Based on those preferences, are there any exchanges you'd particular recommend? I like writing fic that centres on female characters (M/F, F/F, or female character-centric gen), if that helps.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    I had my PhD viva nearly three years ago now, but it still reverberates in weird ways, even though I've long since left academia.

    Quick description of how a PhD is examined in the UK, for those who want to know )

    I wake up almost every day grateful for the fact that I never have to do another viva again. Some examiners will tell you before you get started that you've passed, although they're not technically supposed to (Matthias' external examiner wanted everything done by the book, so he left the room not knowing if he'd passed or failed). Mine tried to tell me without saying so directly — they said something like, 'before we get started, we want to say that we do have some concerns, but you have nothing to worry about. Now let's talk about your PhD,' which helped a bit, but didn't do much to make the experience any more pleasant. Some friends have told me they enjoyed their vivas, but to this day (and I say this as someone who has had some pretty awful things happen to her), that viva remains the worst two hours of my entire life. A few weeks before it happened, I dreamt that the process would involve lying on a rooftop while two senior Celticist academics shot at me with sniper rifles, just to give you some indication of the state of my mind...

    Anyway, you get the idea. I passed, and although I couldn't look at my PhD or my examiners' reports for at least two months after the viva was over, the corrections themselves only took about a week of my time, and I got my PhD, graduated, and got on with a life outside academia. But because I still live in Cambridge, and still have a lot of friends within medieval studies, and because my former department is extremely sociable, I tend to come back from time to time to local conferences, free annual guest lectures, alumni events and so on. And because medieval studies is such a small world (and Celtic Studies an even smaller world within it), I tend to run into my examiners when I least expect it. And, inevitably, I bumped into my internal examiner at a guest lecture late last year. We fell to talking about my viva, and he told me something I found both hilarious, and a great source of perspective.

    The entire time that I had been in a state of extreme anxiety and panic, feeling besieged and terrified, he had been in such awe of my external examiner (who, for some reason, he had never met in person before) that he had reacted by being extremely formal, and more critical than he perhaps intended, because he wanted to make a good impression on his fellow examiner. It's odd, but it's nice to know I wasn't the only one in that room feeling scared and overwhelmed!

    Anyway, academia. It's a weird little universe.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    Friends who've spent time in Iceland (either living there or on holiday), I need your help. My mother and I are going there for a holiday for a week in late May, and I'm looking for advice about what to do, where to go, and where to stay.

    Things to know about us: we both like very active holidays with a lot of walking and outdoorsy stuff. Although my mother is in her late sixties, she is fitter and healthier than I am — to give you some indication, she swims for about a kilometre almost every day, walks everywhere, and the two of us went on a hiking trip in a very hilly part of Devon and Somerset last year that saw us walk more than 100km in seven days.

    We are unlikely to have our own mode of transportation. I don't know how to drive, and she has only ever driven in countries which drive on the left-hand side of the road (and I don't think Icelandic terrain is exactly the best place to start driving on the wrong side of the road).

    At present we are weighing up whether to spend the entire trip in Reykjavik and go out on day trips using public transport, spend most of the trip on some kind of extended hiking tour (the kind where you go with guides and as part of a group, not the kind where you go off on your own and carry your own tents), or some combination of the two. Advice about which of these is likely to make the most sense (especially given that it will still be fairly early in the year, and potentially cold/difficult weather) would be greatly appreciated.

    All suggestions welcome. If you don't want to post in the comments here, feel free to send me a message.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've added a bunch of new people as a result of [personal profile] st_aurafina's recent friending meme, so I thought it was high time to introduce myself.

    Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )

    I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    The marvellous [personal profile] st_aurafina has set up a new friending meme over at Dreamwidth. Click on the image, and you'll be taken to the meme!

    dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
    This is the follow up to yesterday's post-reveals post — a bunch of fic from Yuletide 2016 that I really enjoyed. I want to take the opportunity to plug my gift fic again, as it was absolutely amazing.

    Tell me in the glance of a hand by [archiveofourown.org profile] antediluvian
    Rating: Mature
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 6270
    Characters: Mae Crawford, Nicholas "Nick" Ryves | Hnikarr
    Summary: “This is fine," Nick said. "It’s defensible.”

    “Ah yes,” Mae said. “That was obviously top of my list of qualities for a first date.”


    The other recs are in alphabetical order according to fandom.

    10 Things I Hate About Reunions by [archiveofourown.org profile] BryroseA
    Fandom: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
    Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 17278
    Characters: Bianca Stratford, Kat Stratford, Patrick Verona
    Summary: Is there anyone less likely than Katerina Stratford to go to their high school reunion? Well...maybe there is one person.

    sweet to mouth and low to sigh by [archiveofourown.org profile] blindmadness
    Fandom: The Demon's Lexicon - Sarah Rees Brennan
    Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 9815
    Characters: Cynthia "Sin" Davies, Mae Crawford, Alan Ryves, Nicholas "Nick" Ryves | Hnikarr, James "Jamie" Crawford, Lydie Davies, Matthias (The Demon's Lexicon), Sebastian "Seb" McFarlane, Toby Davies, Jonathan (The Demon's Lexicon)
    Summary: Sin and Mae, seven years later, at a Market that will change their lives (and of six Markets in between).

    The Minnow and the Dragon by [archiveofourown.org profile] raspberryhunter
    Fandom: Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 3100
    Characters: Yarrow (Earthsea), Vetch (Earthsea)
    Summary: Vetch and Yarrow: an afternoon together, a short journey, and what they find at the end of it.

    The Greatest City in the World by [archiveofourown.org profile] Isis
    Fandom: The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: General Audiences
    Word Count: 2748
    Characters: Ahmad (The Golem and the Jinni), Chava (The Golem and the Jinni)
    Summary: The Golem and the Jinni, over the years.

    The Big Picture by [archiveofourown.org profile] Pugglemuggle
    Fandom: Sense8
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 3781
    Characters: Hernando (Sense8), Amanita (Sense8), Felix Brenner, Daniela Velasquez, Jela (Sense8)
    Summary: The Normals get together to make a special gift for the cluster's birthday. The Sensates can't exactly plan their own surprises, now can they?

    Living Wild As Nature Intended by [archiveofourown.org profile] Sixthlight
    Fandom: What We Do In The Shadows
    Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 4263
    Characters: Stu (What We Do in the Shadows), Nick (What We Do In the Shadows), Viago (What We Do in the Shadows)
    Summary: Viago wants to see a kiwi, Nick wants to improve Wellington’s craft beer, and Stu just wants to get through the evening without any fatalities. One out of three isn’t bad, right?

    I hope everyone had a great Yuletide. If you have any other fics from the collection that you particularly enjoyed, feel free to link them in the comments!
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    I was planning to do a combined reveals and recs post, but I'm feeling a bit under the weather, and I think I'll leave the recs until tomorrow, when I'm feeling better and more able to write coherent recs.

    I wrote four fics this year. I had always been intending to write at least one treat on top of my assignment, as one of my goals for 2016 had been to push myself a bit more with my writing. All the four fics seem to have been well received, and overall I feel I had a great Yuletide.

    My assignment was for [archiveofourown.org profile] neuxue, and we matched on Robin McKinley's Sunshine. The following fic is the result:

    Dappled Light by [archiveofourown.org profile] Dolorosa
    Fandom: Sunshine - Robin McKinley
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 2709
    Characters: Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, Mel (Sunshine), Original Characters
    Summary: In the wake of her confrontation with Bo and unsettling alliance with Con, Sunshine needs time to come to terms with her newer, darker powers, and her fears for the future. She finds help in an unexpected quarter. This story takes place shortly after the events of Sunshine.

    I also wrote the other Sunshine fic this Yuletide, as a treat for [archiveofourown.org profile] corbae.

    Like Bitter Chocolate by [archiveofourown.org profile] Dolorosa
    Fandom: Sunshine - Robin McKinley
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 4354
    Characters: Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, Mel (Sunshine), Constantine (Sunshine), Charlie Seddon, Aimil (Sunshine), Yolande (Sunshine), Pat (Sunshine)
    Summary: Five times Sunshine stuck to the recipe, and one time she didn't. Post-Sunshine.

    As soon as I noticed that someone had requested The Pagan Chronicles who wasn't me, I knew I had to write for them. It really is one of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and it's always miraculous to find a fellow fan, especially someone who likes it enough to want fic, so I was really happy to be able to write a treat for [archiveofourown.org profile] Chocolatepot. I ended up writing a short, canon-divergent AU, and I enjoyed writing it so much that I'm considering continuing the story in a new fic or series of fics.

    Shells on the Road by [archiveofourown.org profile] Dolorosa
    Fandom: Pagan Chronicles - Catherine Jinks
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 1217
    Characters: Pagan Kidrouk, Isidore Orbus, Babylonne Kidrouk
    Summary: Pagan and Isidore have rescued Babylonne from a lifetime of drudgery and terrible relatives. Now the trio are on the run, heading west towards the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela. Babylonne is dubious about the benefits of horse-riding, Pagan is relishing every opportunity for an argument, and Isidore is longing for a return to a life of bookish, peaceful contemplation.

    It seems to have become something of a tradition for me to write Wise Child fic during Yuletide — I've been participating now for three years, and for the first two years I was assigned to write a gift in this fandom. This year, I decided not to offer it, but [archiveofourown.org profile] Merriman's prompt grabbed me, and I ended up writing the longest fic I have ever written. It's based very loosely on the medieval Irish tale Tochmarc Étaíne ('The Wooing of Étaín'), and I absolutely loved writing it. (In my head it sort of exists in the same universe as the other two fics I've written for this fandom — both mention Trewyn going to Ireland and doing doran work for kings there — but all three are self-contained and make sense if read in isolation.)

    On the Boundary Walls by [archiveofourown.org profile] Dolorosa
    Fandom: Wise Child Series - Monica Furlong
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 8009
    Characters: Trewyn (Wise Child Series), Juniper (Wise Child Series), Angharad of the West (Wise Child Series)
    Summary: After several years spent roaming around Britain together, Juniper and Trewyn part ways. Trewyn's journey takes her to Ireland, where she travels strange paths. This story occurs between the events of Juniper and Wise Child.

    I would be remiss if I didn't mention my absolutely marvellous gift, written for me by [archiveofourown.org profile] antediluvian, which made me ridiculously happy. I've been requesting Demon's Lexicon fic for several exchanges without luck, and had actually given up on nominating or requesting it. It wasn't in my original list of requests, but as I was editing my sign-up, I noticed the fandom in the list of nominated fandoms, and added it into my request on a whim. The fic I received was perfect — my author managed to include all of my prompts, and really got why I loved this canon in the first place. I'm planning to spend the rest of the afternoon going through their other fic and seeing if they've written anything else I like.

    Tell me in the glance of a hand by [archiveofourown.org profile] antediluvian
    Rating: Mature
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 6270
    Characters: Mae Crawford, Nicholas "Nick" Ryves | Hnikarr
    Summary: “This is fine," Nick said. "It’s defensible.”

    “Ah yes,” Mae said. “That was obviously top of my list of qualities for a first date.”


    I hope those of you who did Yuletide this year had as great a Yuletide as I did!
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    This has been my tradition since 2007, and I've found it to be a good way to take stock and pause for reflection in the moment as one year slips into the next.

    Questions and answers behind the cut )

    Happy 2017, everyone.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I am about to write up my annual 'year in review' post, but because this year has been A Lot, I had some things to say that weren't going to be covered by a Q-and-A-style meme about favourite songs and best new TV shows of 2016. I'm always very contemplative at this time of year, and over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about stories.

    I haven't really felt genuinely happy since June 24th this year. However, I managed to struggle on for a few months after the EU referendum result by telling myself, pretty much every day, 'I can live with the Leave vote, as long as Hillary Clinton wins the US election in November.' Well, we all know how that went. I didn't sleep much for the whole month of November, and the activities of daily life, of planning for the future, seemed utterly futile. What was the point of the next cohort of NHS doctors knowing how to search databases, or of healthcare researchers managing their data or conducting a systematic review properly? What was the point of planning a wedding, or growing a garden, or meeting up with friends, or cleaning the house? I remember very little of November, just this kind of dampening fog of despair, interspersed with flashes of fear and worry about how to help distant friends.

    And then I went to the cinema, and watched Rogue One. It's not a perfect movie — it's not even a perfect Star Wars movie — but it is the story of a ragtag found family of misfits, finding courage in each other, choosing to fight against incredible odds and an overwhelmingly technologically and numerically superior enemy. More importantly to me, it's about people making a choice in the face of utter hopelessness and despair, and the knowledge that they are unlikely to live to see the results of their actions, to save the world for others, when they know they will not be able to save it for themselves.

    This brought me back to myself, not because I believe I would be one to emulate those characters' actions — I've never been tested in this way, but I am pretty certain I do not have that kind of moral courage — but because it reminded me of the comfort and consolation and power of stories, and of the stories that I carry around with me like a kind of personal canon.

    And then I remembered the five wives of Fury Road, a quintet of traumatised and violated women, making common cause, fighting back against oppression and exploitation and a misogynistic death cult, asserting 'We are not things' as they build a better world.

    I remembered the clones of Orphan Black, women supporting other women as they reclaimed control over their own lives and choices and bodies. I remembered Jessica Jones, another abused, exploited woman, bringing herself out of the pit of despair by protecting and saving other people.

    I remembered the characters of Station Eleven choosing, in a blighted, postapocalyptic world, to create libraries, make music, and become a band of travelling players performing Shakespeare, because 'survival is insufficient.' I remembered the children of Space Demons giving up the gun and dreaming of a world of peace and plenty.

    I remembered Pagan Kidrouk, Isidore Orbus, and Babylonne Kidrouk learning, loving, and living fiercely, carving out spaces of tolerance, pluralism and integrity in a world slowing crushing such spaces in favour of extremism and ideological uniformity. I remembered the characters of The Lions of Al-Rassan doing the same.

    I remembered Noviana Una, organising a rebellion against an oppressive empire from within a twenty-first-century Library of Alexandria, and leading a mob of the dispossessed, abused women and traumatised military conscripts, to confront a violent, misogynistic, abusive, all powerful ruler. And above all, I remembered the story that started everything, that has taught and given me so much, and was the first one that ever told me, 'Tell them stories. They need the truth you must tell them true stories, and everything will be well, just tell them stories.'

    Your stories will be different to mine. They may not be in books and films and TV shows. They may not be fictional. They may not be stories at all. Whatever they are, I hope you find them, and find strength and comfort and courage in them. We are going to need all those things in the coming year, and we must draw on what we can to get them. Happy 2017, everyone. Love, hope, and stories to you all.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    [personal profile] schneefink asked me to post about fannish things I read/watch to cheer myself up. As I tend not to reread fanfic, I've chosen to interpret this as 'media that I feel fannish about, which I read/watch to cheer myself up.'

    My ultimate comfort reread is the Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, which I have read so many times that the spines of my books are split and cracked, and the pages are torn in places. I almost know them by heart, to the point that when I read them I'm no longer sure if I'm actually reading the sentences, or completing them myself in my head. This series is like the written equivalent of a warm blanket, and the best thing about it is it can be enjoyed on many levels.

    On one level, it's a Monty Pythonesque piece of historical fiction, set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade and Languedoc in the late twelfth-early thirteenth centuries, hilarious and poignant, and well researched. On another, it's a series of interrelated coming-of-age stories, about dispossessed, damaged, orphaned people mentoring and learning from one another and healing each others' brokenness. In fannish terms, it is the published equivalent of emotional hurt-comfort. Its characters are like old friends; they've been with me since I was ten years old, and I'm not embarrassed to admit that I've occasionally imagined them at my side during times of difficult, fear or anger. It's always helped.

    In terms of TV shows, Buffy is the one I always come back to, for similar reasons. Over the years I've liked different things about the show, and learnt different things from it, and identified with different aspects, but it's always been a constant. I rewatched the whole series while writing my Honours thesis, [livejournal.com profile] losseniaiel and I picked out individual episodes to watch over the course of our MPhil year (and this was, in fact, how we came to be such good friends during that time), and the first thing I did when I submitted my PhD was sit on the couch and watch Buffy.

    As I said before, I don't really reread or rewatch fanworks, but I do adore the fanvid 'Starships', because it's such a heartfelt celebration of fannishness — what it is to feel so deeply about stories that you seek out like-minded people to discuss, explore, and remake them — and it just makes me really happy. I rewatch it from time to time, and it always lifts my spirits.



    Apologies for the lateness of this post. Life just caught up with me a bit, and before I knew it, it was the end of term.
    dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
    [personal profile] umadoshi asked me to talk about my favourite animal or animals, and apologies for posting about this topic one day late. This is a bit of a difficult one for me, because I am really, really not an animal person at all. My mother is, likewise, not an animal person, so we never had pets growing up, and no one in my extended family had pets either. As a result, I never grew up with the idea that a pet was a normal and expected part of every family home. Ultimately, this was probably for the best, given how much I've moved around, as I get the impression that it's very complicated to emigrate with pets. Thankfully, Matthias comes from a similar family, and also is not an animal person, so we're on the same page there. It really would be a dealbreaker for me.

    I quite enjoy watching David Attenborough nature documentaries, and love things like the Strange Animals Twitter feed (also the feeds devoted to beautifully coloured birds), so I guess I appreciate animals in the wild. I think if I have a favourite animal, it's probably birds, especially corvids, and Australian birds like lorikeets, rosellas, Australian magpies (terrifying in the spring, beautiful song all year round; there used to be a magpie that my grandfather would feed porridge oats every morning, and he would whistle at it and it would sing back at him), king parrots, galahs, ganggangs, lyrebirds, bowerbirds, black swans and so on. There are a lot of Australian birds. I do miss the sounds of Australian birds in the morning, even though we have wood pigeons in the trees around our complex and thus aren't exactly lacking for morning birdsong.

    I suppose my attitude towards animals is probably summed up as follows: most of the time I don't give animals much thought, I have no interest in having pets, but I'm glad that they bring so much happiness to my friends who have them.
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    [personal profile] schneefink asked me to talk about fandoms I wished were bigger. For me — someone whose fannish feelings always seem to direct themselves at tiny book fandoms that, if not fandoms-of-one, are usually fandoms-of-two (where all tagged posts on Tumblr are written by me, the now-dead LJ comm was set up by me, and any fic that exists is written by me, and the second fan's activities are usually confined to passively liking my posts) — the glib answer to this is 'all of them!'

    I talked quite a bit yesterday about my favourite authors, and there's a large degree of overlap between the books of the authors mentioned yesterday, and the fandoms that I wish were more active. In the case of some — Kate Elliott, Sophia McDougall — there is some discussion out there, but it seems to be of different works to those I'd like to discuss. (So Elliott's Cold Magic series and Black Wolves, and McDougall's Mars Evacuees series. All are fabulous books and I love them a lot, but I wish others felt as affectionate towards Elliott's Crossroads series — it's even set in the same world as Black Wolves! — or McDougall's Romanitas trilogy.)

    Apart from the works I mentioned in yesterday's post, there are a handful of other fandoms I wish were bigger: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, and The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. (In the case of all three, there is a bit of fannish discussion on Tumblr, but — and this is such a small fandom problem — everyone else seems to like different characters to me!) My other intense fandom-of-one is Jo Walton's Tir Tanagiri Saga, where I've been lucky enough to meet pretty much the only other fan, [tumblr.com profile] sulienapgwien, who turned out to be awesome.

    That being said, for all my whining about my small fandoms, I've been lucky in all of them to avoid some of the problems that plague mega- or even medium-sized fandoms. There is remarkably little drama in any of the fannish communities that have sprung up around these works — there are so few of us that I think everyone collectively decided to be generous, supportive, and positive about any fannish activity, even if it's not focused on our preferred characters. When you're in a tiny fandom, any fanwork is welcome, and all discussion is a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure I'd trade page after page of fanworks on Ao3 for my calm, if inactive, little fannish oases.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    Today's topic is from [personal profile] geckoholic: talk about my favourite author or authors. For a bookworm like me, this is an impossible topic to narrow down - I have so many favourite authors, most of whom I like for a wide variety of reasons. I've limited myself here to just a handful.

    If you asked me to name just one author as my favourite, I probably automatically say Philip Pullman. This isn't necessarily because I think he is the best author in the world, but because he is the author who (unintentionally) has written the books that have given me the most. Oh, I have always loved his turns of phrase, the page-turning intensity of his plots, and his vivid characters, and the themes of his books have spoken to me for close to two decades now, but my love for him goes beyond that. When I read Northern Lights for the first time, it was like a resounding thunderclap, as if I had been given words to explain something I'd never been able to articulate, as if my (twelve-year-old's) worldview had been condensed and distilled into a single novel. And, as the years went by, Philip Pullman's writing gave me a career as a reviewer, my first introduction to online fannish communities, and a vast, international gang of friends who have been there for me through some of the best and some of the worst times of my life.

    I adore the writing of Kate Elliott because she writes epic fantasy with an eye, not to 'historical accuracy', but rather to how her imagined worlds function at every level - from the highest branches of the aristocracy to the artisans, farmers and merchants who keep things running. She is one of the rare epic fantasy writers who thinks both on a broad scale (the sweep of politics and history, the repercussions of a small event over a large period of time) and on a smaller, intimate level (the ripples of trauma and repeated mistakes within communities, families, couples). Her worlds feel lived-in in a way that I often feel is missing in more well-known, popular epic fantasy. She's the sort of writer who thinks about how characters pay for their possessions, what sorts of trade sustain large empires and small communities within them, what sort of family structures are common to particular societies - and how much scope is there for her individual characters to push back against various societal constraints. She's also responsible for one of my favourite characters of all time, Mai.

    Mai is slightly edged out as my favourite fictional character by two other authors' creations. The first is Noviana Una, from Sophia McDougall's Romanitas trilogy. McDougall is another of my favourite writers, not just because of Una, but because she writes about revolutions in a way that makes my heart sing. Her stories resonate with me, because, at their heart, they are about the dispossessed: escaped slaves, abused women, people marginalised by ethnicity or sexuality finding common cause, realising that they outnumber their oppressors, and, quietly, carefully, on their own terms, making revolution. That the revolution is run out of a never-destroyed Library of Alexandria by Una, an escaped-slave-turned-library-assistant is just the icing on the cake.

    Given we're on the topic of dystopias (the world Romanitas is most definitely a dystopia, even if the series is marketed as alternate history), I'll also mention two of my other favourite writers of dystopias: Victor Kelleher and Gillian Rubinstein. These two are Australian writers whose dystopian works were popular during my childhood in the '90s. I've been singing the praises of this genre for a really long time, and it's hard to describe why I think it's so excellent in just a few words. I think I keep returning to these works because they reward rereads (and I have definitely reread them at least a hundred times - not an exaggeration), and they speak to a particularly Australian understanding of postapocalyptic living, to a readership who already has an uneasy relationship with a hostile land and is carrying very specific colonial baggage.

    A couple of authors who I appreciate specifically for their beautiful use of language: Ursula Le Guin and Emily St. John Mandel. It's not that these writers aren't telling incredible stories and exploring really complicated ideas: they are. It's just that their words resonate, but in a quiet way, like a stone dropped in still water. I love Le Guin's Earthsea books, particularly the later ones, which I feel helped me understand myself as a woman. I really love what they have to say about the power and magic of ordinary, everyday work - the kind of work that is endless, unacknowledged and unappreciated, but absolutely essential (Monica Furlong is another author who has a lot to say about this particular topic). Neither Le Guin nor St. John Mandel is a comforting writer, but I find myself returning to their books again and again to give myself a sense of hope.

    I would be remiss to leave this post without at least mentioning Catherine Jinks, who showed me that you could write powerful, meaningful, thoughtful work that is aimed at teenage readers, upends conventional, popular understanding of historical events, and is utterly hilarious. Jinks also gave me Pagan Kidrouk, my favourite fictional character of all time, someone whose stories I've been reading for more than twenty years, and which are the first books I reach for as comfort reading.

    I could go on and on and on here, but I'll stop at this point before things get ridiculous. I think it's fairly clear that I like different authors for different reasons, but it's hard for something to be my favourite unless it provokes a great intensity of emotion - and sustains this intensity of emotion over repeated rereads, over a period of many years. While I can appreciate the craft of writing in an abstract way, I need to be made to feel things, intensely, and think things, intensely, for the writing to make any kind of impression beyond the time spent reading it.

    I'm still taking requests for this meme. You can do so here on Dreamwidth or here on Livejournal.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    [personal profile] dhampyresa asked me to talk about 'things I wish people in fandom knew'. For the purposes of this post, I'm interpreting fandom as fanworks (fanfiction, fanart, reviews, commentary, meta, and other types of fan creation, made as an unpaid hobby) fandom, and mainly the corners thereof with which I'm more familiar ('Western media fandom', as it's sometimes called). I do not think of fandom as a monolith, and when I talk about 'fandom' in this post, I'm talking about the parts of it in which I hang out, not every single fannish community in every corner of the internet.

    Honestly, the one thing I wish people in fandom knew is fannish history.

    I'm not talking about having an encyclopedic knowledge of the writing of Robert Heinlein, or knowing exactly which obscure fanzine was the originator of the term 'slash' - those sorts of things are often used as gatekeeping, and I think gatekeeping in fandom is a terrible and harmful thing. What I'm talking about is knowing where fandom has been before: what mattered, what were the burning issues being debated, what were the controversies, what were the established norms (and, if these changed, why), and who was having these conversations, and where. That way, we could avoid fighting the same battles over and over again, every time fandom moves to a new platform, or every time a new cohort of people enters fandom.

    Tied up in this is my sincere wish that people in fandom cared more about written records. To put it plainly, it worries me that so much fannish activity is currently taking place on Tumblr - an unstable platform in which links can be broken whenever a user changes their username, and which is owned by Yahoo. It worries me that a lot of the platforms previously used for keeping records are now obsolete, or were taken down in response to complaints by people who were recorded there behaving in an unflattering light. It worries me that we are so reliant on platforms not owned by us, and that the transmission of fannish history is dependent on a mixture of web archiving and, essentially, oral history. (This is also why I am generally in favour of platforms like Dreamwidth and Archive of Our Own. It's really important to have platforms owned and curated by members of fandom, because they're less vulnerable than those owned externally.) I don't think of myself as a particularly long-standing member of fandom - I've only been here for nine years - and already I can recall multiple attempts at large-scale rewriting of history, history that I was around to witness and events that I know went down in a very different way to how they're now being portrayed.

    I worry about this because it leaves fandom, especially its newer, younger, or otherwise more vulnerable members, open to the manipulations of abusive people. Two recent examples spring to mind: in the wake of the US election result, I witnessed two notorious scammers and abusers (one of whom has literally used fandom to create a cult, on at least three occasions) promoting themselves as figures of trust and authority to LGBT youth traumatised by the prospect of a Trump presidency. I'm positive that most of the people sharing these scammers' words and promoting them as helpful sources had no idea of their history, and their repeated, troubling patterns of behaviour. But this - while an extreme example - is exactly why I think keeping good records of fannish history is so important. It's not so we can have examples of bad behaviour from far in the past that we can constantly hang over people's heads. It's so that we can establish patterns of behaviour, so that fans both old and new can make up their own minds, using people's words and deeds to determine whether they are trustworthy, whether they've genuinely changed, or whether they're someone to be avoided. It's so we can help people to recognise a potential scam. It's so that we can avoid fighting the same battles over and over again, and reach out to others with whom we share common experiences, interests, and approaches to fandom. It's so we can look back at where we failed in the past, and try to be better.

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    rushes into my heart and my skull

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