dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I have a brief moment of calm between a week that's been very full on, with lots of intensive teaching, and essentially a week with an event happening almost every night. This is mainly because the Cambridge Film Festival, and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas have pretty much overlapped this year. For someone like me, who has very low energy and needs to spend a lot of time doing quiet stuff at home, it's going to be fun but exhausting.

Coming up over the next week or so:

  • A concert (Aurora) on Saturday 15th

  • A film (American Honey) on Tuesday 18th

  • A concert (Birdy) on Wednesday 19th

  • A talk ([twitter.com profile] Nalo_Hopkinson) on Thursday 20th

  • A talk (on new media) on Saturday 22nd

  • Apple Day (basically show up and eat as many types of apples as you can) on Sunday 23rd

  • A film (The Handmaiden) on Monday 24th

  • A film (Toni Erdmann) on Tuesday 25th

  • A talk (Farah Mendlesohn on children's fantasy novels) on Wednesday 26th

  • A film (Into the Inferno) on Thursday 27th


  • I feel exhausted just thinking about it! But everything should be a lot of fun.

    I wrote a new post on my Wordpress blog. It's a review of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    The three things in this post's title sit rather incongruously next to each other, but together make up this weekend. I spent most of yesterday in Bedford, where Matthias had to travel to take his 'Life in the UK' test, a prerequisite for a successful application for British citizenship by naturalisation. Matthias will be applying for this in the near future, and this test is simply one of the administrative hoops through which he is required to jump. It involves answering a series of simplistic and somewhat silly questions about British history, culture and politics. Although he had studied, and passed every practice test without difficulty, we were more concerned that his proof of address (a printed bank statement) wasn't going to be accepted by the test administrators, as at least one person we know had been turned away for the rather silly reason of not having his name printed on each page of his bank statement. Thankfully, Matthias was not turned away at the door, and the test was so easy that he completed it in three minutes. He was informed that he had passed then and there, and so his naturalisation application can go ahead. For various bureaucratic reasons he will not be able to apply until early next year, but it's nice to have this out of the way good and early.

    After the test, we met up with some friends who live in Bedford for beer (or, in my case, gin) and curry, which struck me as a very British way to celebrate Matthias' impending Britishness.

    Today the two of us met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld and went to a food fair. There were a lot of free samples, and Matthias and I came away with sausages, various types of cheese, and a small collection of vinegars and sauces. We opted not to eat lunch at the food fair and headed over to a hipsterish cafe with antique bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a menu in which half the items consisted of avocado on toast. I don't like avocado, but luckily the other half of the menu was filled with things I like, so there was no danger of going hungry.

    I've just written a review of some of my recent reading. It's a review of books by Shira Glassman, Becky Chambers, and Kate Elliott, and can be found at my Wordpress blog. I highly recommend all three books.

    Yuletide is fast approaching. My nominations have all been approved (there was never any danger of that — I'm highly unlikely to nominate borderline fandoms, but it's nice to have the confirmation), so I guess I'd better get on to writing my letter and thinking about what fandoms to offer myself!

    I hope everyone else has been having wonderful weekends.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    The linkpost is early this week, as I'm going to be absolutely flat out all afternoon, and then away on various workshops and conferences. Oh, the glamorous librarian life!

    I'll start with a few reviews and posts about books I loved, or books I'm very much looking forward to reading:

    A joint review of Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall, at Booksmugglers.

    Amal El-Mohtar reviews Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho.

    Zen Cho chats with Mahvesh Murad about the book.

    She talks more about the book here.

    Cindy Pon talks about her new book, Serpentine.

    SFF in Conversation is one of my favourite columns at Booksmugglers. In it, various groups of writers sit down to discuss topics that are important to them. The most recent features Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Kate Elliott, Cindy Pon, and Tade Thompson, and I highly recommend it.

    This is the first part of a BBC radio programme about British folklore, monsters, and the landscape.

    The reviews continue to pour in a Those Who Run With Wolves. Recent reviewers have been Leticia Lara, Athena Andreadis, and Aliette de Bodard.

    Ghostwords has returned with a vengeance! The latest post sports a cornucopia of links, leading the reader off on an internet treasure hunt.

    I very much appreciated this post on No Award about Indigenous (and other) seasonal calendars.

    In case you missed it, I reviewed Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. I loved them all.

    Men Wearing A Military Helmet and Nothing Else in Western Art History: The Toast is a gift.

    I hope your weekends are filled with as much fun stuff and opportunities for learning as mine will be.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    I read a lot of fabulous books this (northern) summer, and I've written reviews of three, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine.

    You can read them over at Wordpress.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    This week's linkpost is all Terry Pratchett. I came to his writing later than most, as I was in my early twenties before I read a single word of his. A good friend of mine and I had made a deal: he would watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I would read Pratchett. I think it was a good deal for both of us. I started with Guards! Guards!, and never looked back. My favourite Pratchett book is Small Gods, for all the qualities that made Pratchett such a powerful writer: warm humour, a perceptive understanding of human nature, an intelligent way with words that included rather than excluded, and a patience with human frailty.

    This is a Storify of Pratchett's last tweets. (Warning: bring tissues.)

    Here Nymeth provides her reminiscences at Things Mean A Lot.

    Jo Walton recalls her first meeting with Pratchett over at Tor.com.

    I also liked this piece by Julie Beck at the Atlantic.

    The obituary at the BBC is here.

    As usual, xkcd says in a few words what would take me several thousand.

    I think, however, that Abi Sutherland says it best:

    He saw the monstrosities of our world: economic inequality, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, the abuses of narrative and myth. And he made them irresistibly ludicrous, laying them relentlessly out until their inner absurdity smothered them, until the least bizzare and most reasonable thing in the story was that it took place on a disc resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant space turtle.

    He was both wise and kind.


    The world could do with a bit more wisdom accompanied by kindness.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I have so many links for you this week! My Twitter feed has been very generous in sharing its fabulous internet finds, and I've gathered the best of them to post here.

    First up, have a couple of short stories. 'Translatio Corporis' by Kat Howard and 'The Monkey House' by Tade Thompson absolutely rocked my world. They're published in Uncanny Magazine and Omenana respectively.

    I went on a massive Twitter rant about failures of imagination in historical fantasy novels set in medieval Britain and Ireland, so I found this post on 'Celtic fantasy' by Liz Bourke to be very welcome and timely.

    Likewise this post by Kate Elliott on writing women characters touched on a lot of things that matter to me in storytelling.

    Joanne Harris makes some good points about the economics of literary festivals.

    This post by Renay is very perceptive on self-rejection, anthology-curation and the difficulties in amplifying the voices of others.

    I found the conversation taking place at the #WritingNewZA hashtag on South African literature really interesting.

    Tricia Sullivan writes about the pitfalls of being a mother who writes. (I would say that this potentially applies to primary caregivers of any gender, but there are particularly gendered elements of the problems she's outlining that lead me to think her emphasis on mothers specifically is correct in this instance.)

    Here is a Storify of tweets by Aliette de Bodard about the fallacy of devoting your entire life to writing.

    I grew up on Sara Douglass's books, and while they're far from perfect, she herself was a really important figure in the history of fantasy literature in Australia. Here, Australian fantasy author Fiona McIntosh remembers her.

    I've found Abigail Nussbaum's recent Hugo recommendation posts useful. Here's the short fiction one, and here's the one on publishing and fan categories.

    I want to see this film!

    I'm thoroughly enjoying watching Ana discover the Dark Is Rising sequence over at The Book Smugglers.

    This is a good summation of what made Parks and Recreation so great, over The Mary Sue.

    Finally, have an Old English text about the wonders of books.

    The sun is shining and the sky is clear here in Cambridge. It looks like this weekend is going to be excellent for me, and I hope it is the same for you.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    This week's linkpost is up a bit early, and contains many fabulous things.

    I'm a huge fan of Sophia McDougall's review of Birdman: over at Strange Horizons. In it, she compares the film to Boris Johnson. It's an apt comparison.

    Here's a great interview with Samantha Shannon. 'Cities are made of narrative' indeed.

    Aliette de Bodard's description of her subconscious as a library is a fabulous metaphor, and one that I might steal myself!

    There's a great set of guest posts over at Ladybusiness on 'What books are on your auto-recommend list?' (For the record, mine are the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, Space Demons, Skymaze, Shinkei and Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, Parkland, Earthsong, Fire Dancer and The Beast of Heaven by Victor Kelleher, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall and the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott.)

    Episode 4 of Fangirl Happy Hour is up. This week Ana and Renay are talking Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Jupiter Ascending and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I'm not quite as critical of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they are, while I think there's room for difference of opinion about the feminism of Jupiter Ascending, but as always, I appreciate their thoughts.

    The first few guest posts about representation and diversity are up on Jim C. Hines' blog.

    Shannon Hale talks about gender segregation at readings she's done at schools. It's heartbreaking.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article by Robert Macfarlane about language and landscape. Beautiful stuff.

    I really liked the recent BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. This interview by Julia Raeside of Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn, goes a long way towards explaining why.

    For reasons that will soon become apparent, although I can't provide a link to it, the #readingAuthorName hashtag on Twitter has been a powerful and positive movement. It works like this: think of an author whose works moved you and shaped you into the person you are. Tweet about it. Add the hashtag #readingAuthorName (obviously replacing AuthorName for the author's actual name). Feel happy.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    It's Friday afternoon Saturday morning (and I'm mirroring this from my Wordpress blog), and that means it's high time for your weekly links. Most of these were gathered via Twitter, because I follow some fabulous people over there, and they keep finding and doing wonderful things.

    A.C. Wise's monthly post for SF Signal on women to read in SFF is filled with some great recommendations. This post is part of a series, so if you want more recommendations, you'll be able to find them in the related posts links under the article.

    Jim C. Hines is calling for guest posters to write on representation in SFF, so if you think you fit the criteria, you should definitely try and submit something. He's already run a previous series of posts on this subject, which were collected as an ebook, the sales of which have gone to support the Carl Brandon Society's Con or Bust programme. The call for guest posts runs until today, so get in now if you want to be included.

    I'm really looking forward to Aliette de Bodard's new Xuya short story. She's posted an excerpt on her blog.

    This post by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about the struggles people face when trying to speak up (or even speak at all) is powerful and important.

    Kate Elliott's short-story collection The Very Best of Kate Elliott is out on the 10th February. She's been blogging up a storm recently. I particularly appreciated her guest post at The Book Smugglers on self-rejection and the courage tosay yes.

    Also from Kate Elliott, 'An Illustrated Love Letter to Smart Bitches and Trashy Books', which does exactly what it says on the tin. I'm not a regular reader of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (which recently celebrated its tenth birthday), but I am a firm believer in unapoletically loving the things you love, and not shaming other people for their fannish choices, so this resonated with me a lot.

    This guest post on Ladybusiness by forestofglory is full of great short-fiction recommendations that I will definitely be checking out.

    Finally, I went on a bit of a Twitter spree about cultish behaviour and abuse dynamics in fandom. These tweets should be considered the preliminary stage of a more detailed post that I've been thinking about for a while. Charles Tan was kind enough to collect my tweets together on Storify.

    Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy Armenian teenager Vika Ogannesyan singing 'Plava Laguna' (the opera song from The Fifth Element).
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I wrote a review on my Wordpress blog about Peaky Blinders, a gangster miniseries set in Birmingham in 1919.

    That’s not to say there aren’t tensions. The young Shelby men have returned, traumatized, from the battlefields of World War I, only to find that the women – shrewd, tough-as-nails Aunt Polly, and angry, romantic Ada – have been running things just fine, if not better, on their own. Tommy Shelby, who views himself as the gang’s de facto leader, has to reconcile his own grand vision for the Peaky Blinders with the more limited, but safer, scope planned by his aunt.

    At the same time, the gang relies on its ability to control the shifting network of alliances of the streets, contending with IRA cells, communist agitators attempting to unionize the factory workers, Traveller families who control the racetrack, Chinese textile workers who moonlight as opium den operators, and, one of my favourite characters, an itinerant fire-and-brimstone street-preacher played by Benjamin Zephaniah. It’s a complicated balancing act of carrot and stick, and when it works, it works because the various players have understood correctly the psychology, needs and fears of their opposite numbers.


    The review's a bit late - the first season aired some months ago - but if my description piques your interest, it might be worth catching up, as there aren't that many episodes, and the new season is due to air soon.

    This is one of my favourite times of the year, because IT'S EUROVISION TIME! I have a deep and daggy love of Eurovision, but luckily, so do my partner Matthias, and many of our friends. This time last year, we had a Eurovision party, but we were unable to do the same this time around, as most of our Eurovision-loving friends were away. Our friend B did come over, and we had a great time snarkily deconstructing all the acts. My greatest triumph of the evening? Inventing the Tumblr tag 'erotic milk-churning' to describe the Polish act. Honestly, it has to be seen to be believed. I was very happy with the act that eventually won, and a good time was had by all.

    ETA: I made a new mix on 8tracks. It's called 'Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again and Again and Again', and consists of the best cover versions of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', as well as the original. Because I'm cool like that. (Bizarre story from my past: one night, my dad and I did nothing but listen to every cover version of this song, drink red wine and generally work each other up into such a frenzy of maudlin feelings that we both ended up crying our eyes out. Good times, 2007. Good times.)


    Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again and Again and Again from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.

    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    So, I wrote a review of Mars Evacuees by [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall. And then this happened...

     photo ScreenShot2014-03-30at123206PM_zps883c9c7b.png

    So, my review convinced one of my favourite authors to read a book by another of my favourites. My work here is done!

    In all seriousness, I would urge you to give Mars Evacuees a try. It's a children's science fiction novel, and the best way I can think to describe it is 'like Pacific Rim, but if the main characters were twelve-year-old girls [and there were many more female characters]'. It shares Pacific Rim's best qualities: optimism, an emphasis on kindness, compromise and empathy in the face of destruction, and a representative, global cast of characters. It's also really, really funny.

    This weekend has been quite busy. Our friends L and C came up on Friday night. Both of them used to live in Cambridge, but they now live in Exeter, where L has a job as a university lecturer. They were visiting because C had her MA ceremony. The Cambridge (and Oxford) MA is a bit of a weird tradition. It's not awarded for completing any course, but rather given as an honorary degree to everyone who has a Cambridge BA degree a certain number of years after they've completed their studies. So, Matthias, who did his undergrad at Cambridge, has a Cambridge MA, but I, who did my undergrad in Australia, will never be eligible for one. In any case, C accidentally had too many tickets to the ceremony, so Matthias and I tagged along with her husband L and her mother and sister. We spent the afternoon after the ceremony catching up with various people, and ended up having a pub dinner.

    This afternoon we'll probably all go walking out to Grantchester, which is a small village just outside Cambridge. It's an absolutely glorious day - 20 degrees, and with enough sunshine to actually cause sunburn. The others are all out having breakfast, but I needed a little break from people before going back to socialising. So I'm just sitting here with the internet, the Daysleepers and a cup of coffee, thinking that life is pretty much fabulous.
    dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
    I've been really busy lately, which is why I haven't posted for ages and ages. I have two very good excuses, however:

    1. My PhD viva is in just a week. I'm actually feeling quite calm about it, which surprises me, but I seem to have given myself the attitude that there is nothing I can do now to change how the viva goes - as the examiners already have my thesis and I can't alter it - so I might as well not worry. I imagine I'll be a nervous wreck next Monday, though.

    2. I have a new job! It's only temporary and part-time, but it is in another academic library in Cambridge, it's a step up from my current library job* (I'm learning how to catalogue, and my job title is library assistant rather than library invigilator) and it's come along at a really good time, as I don't get money from my PhD scholarship funding body any more and was really worried about what I was going to do for money. So far I'm really liking it, although it's very different to my other library job, and I've had to cut back my hours there, which is sad as I really love working there.

    I have a bunch of links, although I must admit that some of them are very old and you're likely to have encountered them already. These are more for personal reference so that I can find them again, and close some tabs on my laptop and iPad. The first, however, is a link to my latest post on my review blog. It's mainly a review of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but also talks more broadly about the (published and unpublished) wish-fulfillment fantasies of teenage girls and whether such things are valuable or dangerous (or both, or neither).

    As someone who wrote a story about her book boyfriend being in love with her idealised character, I have a lot of sympathy for teenage (and not-so-teenage) wish-fulfillment fantasies depicting their protagonists being pursued by a multitude of love interests. It’s a powerful trope for girls who may be feeling unlovable or simply baffled at how to have romantic relationships. However, this desire to be desired should not be portrayed at the expense of functional friendships among teenage girls. Portraying all female relationships as inherently competitive and antagonistic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the real world whereby girls and women view all other girls and women with suspicion, undermining one another instead of supporting each other.

    The Dreamwidth community [community profile] ladybusiness is not new, but it is new to me, and I point it out here to those of you who are interested in reading (or participating in) thoughtful discussion about female characters in a variety of media. There are podcasts, linkspams and lengthy meta posts. At some point when I have more time, I'm going to read through all the archives. I recommend it highly.

    Speaking of podcasts, this speech by Maciej Cegłowsk, the creator of Pinboard, about fandom is thoughtful and well worth a listen. It's an old link, and I can't remember where I saw it first, but if you haven't heard it yet I would encourage you to do so.

    This link is more for my own future reference, and I haven't actually read through all its content yet. It's a series of posts on Making Light about dysfunctional families, and looks as if it will be really interesting. I'm saving it for after the viva.

    On a related note, this post about so-called 'Ask Culture and Guess Culture' had me nodding my head a lot. I don't know if there's any data to back up its assertions, but I can certainly recognise elements of this phenomenon in my own life.

    In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

    In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

    All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

    If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

    Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

    Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.


    I am definitely from a Guess Culture family (you were never supposed to ask for things unless they were the right things, the things that people would say yes to, and there were so many subtle ways to hint at what you wanted to ask, figure out whether the answer would be yes or not, or, from the other side, hint at whether or not you were going to say yes; it was considered indescribably selfish and rude to state preferences for e.g. food or drink options at other people's houses (the only acceptable answers were 'whatever everyone else is having' or 'whatever is already open'); and so on). My partner is very much of the Ask Culture school. It's easier now that we've been together for years, but at the beginning of our relationship (and indeed, in many other of my romantic and friendship relationships) I used to work myself up into a hysterical level of anxiety whenever I was required to ask for anything directly or given options to state a preference (because the asker wasn't hinting properly about what answer they wanted from me!). I'm told that this has the potential to come across as being very passive-aggressive, and if it's true that it is some sort of culture clash, a lot of things about my interactions with other people make a whole lot more sense!

    Tumblr user thefrenemy posted this great defence of the selfie.

    I hate with a boiling passion 99% of all of these photos, all of these memories of my life documented on film. Every time I get a notification on my Facebook saying that somebody added a picture of me, I get an actual nervous feeling in my stomach. Like, oh great, let me take some time out of my day to analyze my body and feel like shit about myself! I check the picture. I get taken out of the wonderful moment it was taken in to nitpick my flaws. Ew, I hate my face. Ew, I hate my tummy. Ew, my arms. Ew, ew, ew.

    [...]

    I think I look like a goddess in my selfies. I think I look like Dolly Parton, a witch, and pretty much every street blogger rolled into one. They make me feel absolutely fabulous and alive and gorgeous. I rarely feel this way and when I do, it’s because it’s exactly how I want to look for me. It’s exactly the way I’ve always wanted to look and felt I could look without all that loud noise about how I should look better. It is the evidence, the proof positive, that there are moments we can feel and look fan-fucking-tastic in our own eyes. That alone is worth its weight in gold.


    I have nothing to add.

    As a final link, have John Scalzi's predictions for the Oscars. He's not always right, but his reasoning is always pretty solid and I appreciate that he predicts what he thinks what will win as well as stating what he thinks should win.

    _____________
    *Although it actually pays less, which is a pain.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    Every so often, a book comes around that is just so perfectly written to engage with my own particular narrative tastes that it's as if it had been written just for me. The most recent such book is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Not only is it as if Shannon sat down with me and made a list of all the things I most wanted to read - and then wrote a book to those specifications - but her playlist for the book is packed full of songs by my favourite artists. And if that's not enough, the song she describes as her protagonist's 'theme' is a song that I've long considered a sort of personal mantra.

    Anyway, if you like urban fantasy, alternative versions of London, post-apocalyptic settings that offer hope rather than bleakness, young female protagonists who actually have support networks and female friends, underground networks of criminals operating as a sort of grey market for the dispossessed - in short, if you like all the things I like, you should check it out.

    If you need more convincing, my review is here.

    And if anyone else has read The Bone Season, I'd love to talk to you, because otherwise I fear this is going to go the way it normally does: namely, me being a lonely Fandom of One.

    In other news, today is Matthias' birthday (and my sister Kitty's birthday too) and our anniversary. Yes, we got together three years ago on his birthday. He's currently at a librarian training event in Bury St Edmunds, and when I've finished my shift at work we're meeting up there to have an early dinner before heading back to town for another friend's birthday party. November is such a birthday month. This week alone held my sister Mim's birthday (which she shares with five other friends of mine), my dad's birthday (which he shares with the other friend whose party we're attending tonight) and Kitty's birthday. It seems a bit excessive!
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    It is unbelievably cold here. When I was running this morning, small flakes of snow were falling, although they melted when they hit the ground. Our house is very poorly insulated, and as a result I've had to wear a hat, gloves and scarf while inside.

    I kid you not )

    It's absolutely breathtaking to run in such weather, even if I have to suffer icy-cold limbs and frequent nosebleeds as a result. On the weekend, I can sleep in slightly later and am able to run once the sun has risen, but during the week, I have to run before 8 o'clock. This means that it's dark when I set out, and by the time I'm making my return back along the river, the sky is starting to turn a delicate mauve. The trees are bare, the grass is muddy and greenish-grey, and the river is dark and swollen. It's an absolute joy to be outside in that landscape. I've never enjoyed summer, although I do love swimming in the ocean, so I'd say this is the perfect climate for me right now.

    Term starts next week, and I'm going to be flat out. I've set very strict deadlines with my supervisor, as I'm determined to finish and submit my thesis within the next six months. Every week I'm either giving her a chapter to look at, or meeting her to discuss that chapter. I'm happy with how the current chapter is looking, but no doubt she'll find things to criticise. I'm also picking up three new students who need a couple of supervisions each (supervisions are the Oxbridge system of teaching, whereby the student writes one essay per week on a prearranged subject and then meets to discuss the essay one-on-one with a supervisor, who is usually a postgrad student. In our department, first- and second-year undergrads take six subjects per year, and third-years take four, so they tend to be extremely busy with supervision essays), and I also have to give two lectures. The supervisions are generally easy, but writing lectures takes quite a bit of time. I also go back to work in the library this week, although I may not have as many shifts as last term.

    I've added Kundalini yoga to my exercise regime on top of the Hatha and Iyengar classes I'm already doing. It's very different, and involves chanting and meditation. I think doing as much exercise as possible - especially stuff involving meditation - is going to be very helpful in keeping my anxiety and depression levels low during a potentially stressful time.

    I reviewed The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature (edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn), and you can find the review here.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    I will write a post about life soon, but in the meantime, have some links and meme answers.

    I've done a meme about books and reading habits over on my Wordpress blog, after being tagged by [profile] isigfethera. If you want to hear what I have to say about books that changed my life, the one book I would recommend to everyone, where I like to read, my preferred genres, the first book I remember reading, reading outside my comfort zone, and what book I would save in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, head over there.

    The meme requires that I tag seven people to answer seven questions of my own, but rather than do that, I thought I'd simply post my questions and leave it up to you if you want to answer them or not. So consider yourselves all tagged.

    The questions are on the Wordpress post, but I'll repost them here:

    1. How have your reading tastes changed in the past ten years? In the past five?
    2. Do you read book reviews? Do you think they influence your reading habits?
    3. What is your opinion of sites such as Goodreads and reviews on Amazon?
    4. Do you note down quotes from books or poetry? What is a quote that means a lot to you?
    5. Which fictional character did you identify with as a child or teenager? Looking back, do you think that identification was accurate?
    6. What is the most important thing you learnt from a work of fiction?
    7. And I’d also like an answer to the same question I was asked: in a Fahrenheit 451 scenario, which book would you save?

    And here is the next installment of the massive, 365-day meme.

    day 2: something that’s illegal but you think it should be legal
    I feel, for the most part, very unqualified to answer this. There are many things I think should be illegal that are currently legal - I think it should be illegal to hit a child, for example. I certainly believe that far more needs to be done in terms of marriage equality (and the rights of same-sex couples more generally) and equality for trans* people, but that goes beyond any single law in any single country, and I think a lot of people act as if making same-sex marriage legal, we will magically wipe out homophobia. Same-sex marriage should be legal (or rather, to be more precise, same-sex couples should have exactly the same range of options in all areas of life as heterosexual couples), but I think it needs to go along with a lot of changes in attitude towards, and treatment of, people who fall outside the straight, monogamous 'norm'.

    the other days )
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    So, I sat down to write about Korra on my Wordpress blog, and a couple of thousand words tumbled out. Not particularly complimentary words, either. I should say that while I'm frustrated with the writing, I don't hate the series, and have been enjoying watching it. My overwhelming emotion is frustration. Because, having seen ATLA, I know it could've been so much better.

    I really didn’t want to be that fan. You know, the one taking creators of a spin-off to task because the spin-off is nothing like its parent text. But the problem is not so much that Korra isn’t ATLA but rather that Korra lacks the ingredients that made ATLA so successful. As I see it, ATLA’s quality rested on the interplay of four elements (see what I did there?). These were:
    1. A cast of rounded, complex, human characters whose actions made sense in relation to their characterisation, who changed over the course of the series and who drew us into their world;
    2. A completely three-dimensional, endlessly fascinating setting that reflected the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of the people who lived in it;
    3. An engaging narrative which kept you watching and kept surprising you; and
    4. Themes and real-world analogies that resonated but could be interpreted in multiple ways and on multiple levels.

    Korra lacks all of these things.


    I would really love to hear the opinions of people here who are Korra or ATLA fans. You can post either here or on the blog itself. Just a warning - I'm going out to yoga class in about an hour and won't be back online after that until tomorrow morning, so don't expect any replies until at least then.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    Day 28: Your first celebrity crush.
    I'm probably showing my age here, but when I was twelve, I had the most epic crush on Zac Hanson from Hanson. (Unlike most of my friends, who liked Taylor, I preferred Zac, who was closer to me in age and appeared to have more of a sense of humour.) I found this intensely embarrassing at the time, despite the fact that basically everyone around me was going mad for Hanson.

    To be honest, though, most of my crushes of this type have been on fictional characters. I fell in love with Pagan Kidrouk of the Pagan Chronicles series when I was ten years old, and there's still a part of me that would follow him to the ends of the earth if he showed up on the doorstep. (While Pagan is 16-18 in the first three books of the series, he's in his late 30s in the fourth and dies when he's in his late 50s, so I feel less creepy than if only his adolescence was charted in the books.) I rarely had crushes on celebrities because I was aware from quite early on that whatever personality I could see was to a great degree a construct. In books and other media, I could actually see what a character's personality was.

    I'm not sure how weird that makes me.

    the other days )

    I've been blogging on Wordpress about female lyricists, 'Persephone girls' and apologising for giving voice to my feelings.

    I have noticed that when people criticise these lyricists – Kate Bush and Florence Welch in particular – they are often criticised for their insistent introversion, for the way they verbalise their emotions. (I once read a review of Florence’s Ceremonials album that essentially criticised her for not being Bob Dylan.) It’s as if what they sing about, what they’re feeling, is small and personal and irrelevant, whereas when a man – say, Neil Young – sings about his feelings, they’re large and universal and important.

    Oddly enough, in light of what I'm talking about in that Wordpress post, this post about the transformation of fairytales from stories of female empowerment to Disneyfied tales of passivity and purity popped up on Twitter just as I was writing. Check it out.
    dolorosa_12: (ship)
    I've written a review of Traitors' Gate, the third book in Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. It's very spoiler-heavy, so if you haven't read the book, I would advise you to do so as soon as possible! Because who doesn't love epic fantasy set in a world inflected by China, Persia, India, the Mongols and the Silk Road, where 'women's work' is made heroic, and which explores the nature of power?

    What Elliott is actually doing in this series is interrogating the hackneyed old epic fantasy plot of ‘dispossessed man saves world and is thus its rightful ruler’. [...] She tells us the stories that people tell themselves to avoid seeing the truth of the powers that control their lives.
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    After a while fearing I'd lost my blogging mojo, I'm back (and better than ever?). I've got a post over on Wordpress about the wonderful, wonderful dystopian YA novels written in Australia in the 90s.

    After I wrote it, I realised that tomorrow (today in Australia) is Australia Invasion Day, so let's pretend I wrote that post to be entirely thematically relevant. Or something.

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    rushes into my heart and my skull

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