dolorosa_12: (matilda)
This is just a quick note to say I've written a review of Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns, over on my Wordpress blog.

I focus in the review mainly on the female characters in the book, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy all other aspects!

Anyone who's read, or plans to read the novel is free to discuss it with me, either here, or in the comments of the Wordpress blog post.
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: (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: (matilda)
Not much to report this week, just two novels read - Runemarks and Runelight by Joanne Harris. These were solidly written, with nothing obviously wrong with them, and yet both failed to grab me, and I read the second more out of a sense of duty than interest.

I think I'm going to have to say that Harris' interpretations of Norse myth simply don't work for me. I read her Gospel of Loki last year, and it, like these two books (which imagine a Europe shaped primarily by Norse, not Roman influence, in which Ragnarök has already happened), failed to resonate. I think part of the problem is that in books about gods (whatever the mythology), I'm wanting something very specific which most authors either fail to deliver, or aren't interested in writing. I touch on it in this review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which does what I want in terms of supernatural-human interactions. Basically, what I want is a reflection on humanity, intense, complicated relationships between humans and deities, and, if possible, some kind of tense readjustment of human characters' moral landscapes once the beings they worship as fairly distant, abstract ideas become part of their world as physical realities. (If this happens in reverse - if gods and supernatural beings are forced to adjust their understanding of human beings once they spend time in close proximity to humans - then so much the better.)

I realise this a very specific requirement, and that I'm basically taking Harris to task for failing write the story I wanted to read, so if post-apocalyptic retellings of Norse myth are your thing, I advise you to read other reviews rather than taking my word as an accurate evaluation of the qualities of these books. For me personally, however, they were a disappointment.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
This post is going to be a bit Isobelle Carmody-heavy. The final Obernewtyn book came out, and I am not okay.

Monica Tan interviews Carmody in The Guardian:

Elspeth’s question is how to exist in the world, to be what she is and to find people who would allow her to be what she is. I think it’s everybody’s question to find a place in the world and to find your tribe, but the world itself has to find a way to let groups of people exist with one another.

Fran Kelly interviewed Carmody on Radio National:

[Readers write to me saying] they feel they survived childhood because of those books.

I appreciated this post by Jill S, 'Dragons and poison chalices':

I’m gathering my community of support. We are small but mighty. And this community reminds me daily that there are people in the world who can support my dreams and don’t feel threatened by them. So when you find someone who cheers you on, wholeheartedly, without fear that you are going to diminish them, cling tight.

I highly recommend 'A Cup of Salt Tears', a new-to-me short story by Isabel Yap.

I appreciate the work that Natalie Luhrs does in keeping records, bearing witness, and holding people to account. This report on the recent World Fantasy Convention was excellent:

In my experience, when many con-runners talk about best practices, what they mean is the way it’s always been done–and the way they’re most comfortable doing it.

Mari Ness' post about problems with accessibility at the con (namely, that it was abysmal) is also an important read:

Because, unfortunately, this is not the first disability/accessibility problem I have had with conventions, or the first time a convention has asked/agreed to have me on programming and then failed to have a ramp that allows me to access the stage. At least in this case it wasn’t a Disability in Science Fiction panel that, incredibly enough, lacked a ramp, but against that, in this case, the conrunners were aware I was coming, were aware that I use a wheelchair, had spoken to me prior to the convention and had assured me that the convention would be fully accessible, and put me on panels with stages but no ramp.

Aliette de Bodard offers her thoughts on the (long overdue) decision to replace the WFA trophies with something other than Lovecraft's head:

It’s not that I think Lovecraft should be forever cast beyond the pale of acceptable. I mean, come on, genre has had plenty of people who were, er, not shining examples of mankind, and I personally feel like the binary of “this person was a genius and can do no wrong/this person is a racist and can therefore do nothing of worth” doesn’t really make for constructive discussion. (but see above for the “we should give everything a fair chance” fallacy. I’m personally not particularly inclined to give reading time or space to a man who thought I was an abomination, and I will side-eye you quite a bit if you insist I should). It’s more that… these are the World Fantasy Awards. They’re not the H.P. Lovecraft Awards, so there’s no particular reason for him to be associated with them: doing so just creates extra awkwardness.

And on a much lighter note, this story is just the most Australian thing ever: paramedics in Queensland have stopped asking patients the name of the prime minister, because nobody can keep track.

“We would ask patients that question because it gave us an idea of their conscious level and ability to recall events,” Mr Abood said. “But the country’s prime ministers are changing so often, it’s no longer a good indication of their mental status.”

Mr Abood once asked a patient to name the prime minister, only to be told: “I haven’t watched the news today.”


I had a good laugh at that.
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: (what's left? me)
The links this week are a bit of a mixed bag, partly because I've been somewhat distracted, and as a result this post is a bit shorter than usual.

Tade Thompson made some important points about literature and diversity, storified by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. I see Tade's thoughts as another part in the conversation I linked to last week.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz had some further thoughts on the matter.

Zen Cho posted 'Ten Things I Believe About Writing'. There's also a great interview with her up at Kitaab:

I write stories as a way of answering questions.

Another post by Rochita talks about language, identity, and the process behind writing her latest published story, ' Bagi: Ada ti Istorya':

While thinking of language recovery, I found myself thinking too about what lies buried in language. What narratives had I chosen to erase when I chose to leave behind that language? What narratives could be pulled out of a text or a few lines or a word? What memory–what emotion would rise up from the use of a language that has lain dormant for so long.

More on language and storytelling: Samantha Shannon interviewed her Dutch translator, Janet Limonard.

I loved this new, bilingual Ghostwords post.

Kate Elliott had lots of thoughts about Mad Max: Fury Road, and Charles Tan storified them.

This review of Mad Max: Fury Road by Julianne Ross really resonated with me:

But where Fury Road really surprises is in its genuine respect for the five women Furiosa is trying to save. They are beautiful, generous and kind — deliberately feminine traits that have allowed them to survive as long as they have, and which the movie refuses to treat as a burden or incidental.

This Mad Max fanvid by [tumblr.com profile] jocarthage is simply breathtaking.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This week's post goes from the sublime to the ridiculous (but mainly focuses on the sublime).

To start off, an absolutely fabulous roundtable on diversity. The participants are Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, M Sereno, Bogi Takács and JY Yang, moderated by Charles Tan.

Over at Ladybusiness, Renay has created a fabulous summer (or winter) reading recommendation list.

On a sadder note, Tanith Lee has died. Athena Andreadis has written a lovely tribute. Sophia McDougall shared an old anecdote about meeting Lee.

There are a lot of new updates at Where Ghostwords Dwell.

Sophia McDougall has posted an excerpt of Space Hostages, which will be published really soon.

You can enter a giveaway to win an ARC of House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard here.

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road this week and absolutely adored it. (If I had endless money and more time on my hands, I would have seen it at least five more times since Tuesday.) This essay by Tansy Rayner Roberts goes a long way towards explaining why.

I found this post by Kaye Wierzbicki over at The Toast very moving. (Content note: discussion of abortion.)

This is the last week of A Softer World and I am really not okay. This and this are probably my favourite recent comics of theirs.

Natalie Luhrs is reading what looks to be a terrible book for a good cause. I encourage everyone who has the ability to donate. I will be donating to an equivalent UK-based charity.

This post's title comes from my favourite Eurovision song this year, which didn't win. This did not bother me in the slightest.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
So. Lots of stuff to get through this week, as my corner of the internet has been particularly full of people doing wonderful, clever and awesome things.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz had a busy week. Here's Rochita on the uses of anger, her new short story, and being interviewed for Lightspeed magazine's author spotlight.

Catherine Lundoff has had so many submissions to her 'Older Women in SFF' recommendations post that she's had to split it into two. Part one, part two.

I really liked this review of Zen Cho's writing by Naomi Novik.

This review by Sarah Mesle of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones made a lot of points I've been struggling to articulate. Content note for discussion of violence, abuse and rape.

I really appreciated this thoughtful post by Tade Thompson on safety, community and dissent.

Natalie Luhrs makes some really important points here:

This is part of the ongoing conversation about the importance of different voices in our community. About making space for people who have been told–explicitly and implicitly–that what they have to say isn’t worthwhile and that they need to sit down and listen and that someday, maybe, they’ll be allowed to speak.

This list of Best Young Australian novelists looks great, and reflects the Australia that I grew up in. Congratulations to all the winners!

I have to admit that the #hometovote hashtag has been making me cry.

I wrote two longish posts this week. One is over at Wordpress: a review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The other is here at Dreamwidth/LJ, and is a primer to Sophia McDougall's Romanitas trilogy.

My mother is a radio journalist. Her programme this week is on Eurovision, and you can listen to it here (not geoblocked). There are additional features . I am an unashamed Eurovision fan, and as you can see, it runs in the family.

Texts from Hieronymous Bosch made me laugh and laugh.

Happy Friday, everyone.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Ambelin Kwaymullina talks about diversity in Australian YA literature.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 'Fear of causing offense becomes a fetish'.

Here's Daniel José Older on diversity, power and publishing.

Laura Mixon talks about building bridges and healing divisions.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz talks about self-care and 'staying in touch with the child-self'.

Aidan Moher discusses writing military SF without combat.

Astrid Lindgren's Second World War diaries have been published in Sweden.

Ana of Things Mean A Lot reviews Pride in the light of the recent UK elections.

I love this review by Electra Pritchett of Stranger and Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith:

If I had to pick a post-apocalyptic YA society in which to live, I'd pick the community of Las Anclas hands down, warts and all: rather than a hierarchical dystopian society where something random is outlawed and the government controls something else crucial to society, Las Anclas represents a kinder, gentler post-apocalypse. It's not quite a utopia, except in the sense that everywhere in fiction is, but that's precisely what makes it a believable and desirable place to live: its busybodies and jerks are notable because they're not the only kind of people in the town, and dealing with them would be a small price to pay in order to live in such a supportive and inclusive place.

The upcoming publishing schedule at The Book Smugglers makes me so happy.

I am really looking forward to the publication of Tell The Wind And Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan's latest book.

Via Sherwood Smith, listen to the oldest (recorded) song in the world.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I know it's a bit late, but I was in Germany without my laptop, and then flat out at work this week, so this is the first chance I've had to post a bunch of links to Yuletide fics. This was my first year participating, and it all went a lot better than I was expecting.

[archiveofourown.org profile] kmo wrote Ouroboros (Wise Child series, Juniper and Wise Child, gen) for me.

I wrote one gift fic and one treat, and both were well received, considering they were for very tiny fandoms.

Beyond the Ninth Wave (Wise Child series, gen). After being driven from their home by Fillan Priest, Juniper and Wise Child adjust to a new life on Finbar's ship.

Reverberations (Romanitas trilogy, gen). Several years after the events of Savage City, Una, Makaria and Noriko meet. All three feel the effects of the war and slave rebellion in different ways.

I really enjoyed many of the fics in the collection this year. Here are some of my particular favourites:

Far from the Blessed Isles by [archiveofourown.org profile] Miss_M (Greek Mythology; Penelope, Circe, Nausicaa, Calypso; T). The dead talked a lot among themselves, there being little else for them to do. Conversation tended to run along circular paths. I love this because it's absolutely unflinching in how it reveals what a raw deal women got in Greek mythology, but still allows these women a space to express their anger about the injustice they experienced.

The Banishing of Winter by [archiveofourown.org profile] Skeiler (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; John Uskglass; G). In 1202, The Raven King "quarreled with Winter, and banished it from his kingdom so that it enjoyed four years of continual Summer." This is that story. This is absolutely fabulous, managing to retain the whimsical, scholarly tone of the book while also perfectly capturing the spirit of a folk tale.

The Price of Honor by [archiveofourown.org profile] keilexandra (The Lions of Al-Rassan; Rodrigo Belmonte/Jehane bet Ishak/Ammar ibn Khairan; M). Jehane and Ammar try to make a life for themselves in Muwardi-occupied Al-Rassan. Some things, a very few of them, may be more important than honor. What-if? AU. Warning for implied sexual violence. If this isn't what happened, this is what should have happened. I particularly appreciate that the author managed to resolve the love triangle in a way that still included Rodrigo's wife, Miranda.

Robbing Peter by [archiveofourown.org profile] cantstoptemplarswillgetme (The Musketeers; d'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, Aramis, Constance; T). There's no summary, but this is a very silly heist fic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Somebody's Waiting for Someone by [archiveofourown.org profile] stellatundra (Peaky Blinders; Ada Shelby/Freddie Thorne; T). It might be Tommy he goes to France for, but it’s Ada he comes home for. A Freddie-centric fic examining his relationship with various Shelbys.

I also loved almost all the Clarke/Bellamy/Raven fics for The 100 fandom.
dolorosa_12: (ship)
Day Twenty-Nine: A female-centric fic rec

Most of the fic I like is female-centric (the same goes for original fiction), so it was quite hard to make a choice here. I've narrowed it down to three fics.

The first is 'Rabbit' by [archiveofourown.org profile] sanguinity. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, with a focus on Jesse Flores. It's such a melancholy, emotional piece of writing, and captures a lot of the tone of the show itself, with its focus on destiny, free will, and the unbearable weight of history and time-travel.

'Mother Tongue' by [archiveofourown.org profile] elle_dritch is Earthsea fic focusing on the different women of the series, and on the notion of quiet, unnoticed 'women's work' that Ursula Le Guin explores in the Earthsea books.

Finally, have my favourite piece of fic ever: 'Words In The Margins' by [archiveofourown.org profile] Jenwryn. It's a character study of Orihime from Bleach (and I think is fairly canon-divergent), and it's hard for me to explain exactly why it appeals so much. I never watched or read Bleach, but I went through a phase of reading a lot of fic for it about five years ago, and something about this fic really caught my attention. I love that Orihime doesn't apologise for her choices, that she admits privately that she can't explain them even to herself, and that that's okay. I love that it's about monsters and humans, about monsters falling in love with humanity, and humans made monstrous. It's wonderful.

The final day )
dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
Day Twenty-Seven: A female character you have extensive personal canon for

Presh (Galax Arena, Gillian Rubinstein)

I first read Galax Arena when I was ten years old, and I think I've been writing personal canon for Presh in my head ever since. I know where she comes from in China, I know how and why she was taken by Project Genesis 5 into the Arena, I know why she chose to stay silent and close her eyes to the cruelty taking place around her, I know what strategy she developed in order to survive as long as possible (make no friends, give nothing of herself away, trust no one, practice her acrobatics forever, never fall), and I know all her complicated feelings about Allyman. Although it was mostly jossed by Terra Farma, I also worked out what happened to Presh after the last page of Galax Arena, and remain adamant that it was a better conclusion to her story than what we saw in Rubinstein's sequel. (I also maintain that Leeward, Liane, Mariam, Allyman or Presh would have made much more interesting narrators and protagonists than Joella.)

I suppose you could say that the character has fascinated me for nearly twenty years. At this point, the character as she exists to me is probably 50 per cent Gillian Rubinstein's creation and 50 per cent my own invention, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
Day Nineteen: Favorite non-human female character

Cameron Phillips (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

Do you remember this meme? I'm sorry for completely dropping the ball on it, but things elsewhere got so hectic that I lost the will to blog. Anyway, I'm picking this meme up again today.

Can a cyborg be said to have a gender? I don't care, because I'm going with Cameron anyway. Certainly the other characters in the show call her 'she', and that's good enough for me.

One of the things I love about Cameron is that, just like the human characters on the show, she grows and changes, and lives, even if she is made of wires and metal and computer chips. Her motives are opaque, and the other characters frequently wonder if they should trust her at all. In Cameron the show's theme of the tension between fixed destiny and free will finds its purest expression: she was literally created for a single purpose (to kill John Connor, and, by extension, all the hopes of humanity), and then she was remade for another. However, as the show progresses, Cameron reveals that her old programming is returning, but that she is actively fighting it and choosing to defend John (and humanity) because it's what she wants to do.

Summer Glau, the actress who played Cameron, has said that she had her own interpretation of what drove Cameron and where her loyalties truly lay, but that she wanted to leave it up to the audience to draw their own conclusions. It's certainly possible to read Cameron's actions as antagonistic or at least as muddying the moral clarity of John's cause. However, I've always been of the belief that once Cameron developed the ability to override her own programming, she developed something close to a moral compass and the ability to perceive and understand emotions. Once she had these, she was unable to avoid empathising with human beings.

I've always felt strongly that where most stories of human and non-human interaction fall down is in the characterisation of the non-humans. Writers always feel that they have to make them essentially humans with fangs, humans with wings, humans made of metal and so on. This, to me, is wrong. Human morality is tied up with human mortality. If you live forever, if you're invulnerable, if your existence isn't even really living, why would you feel things in the same way as a human being? I prefer it when non-human characters regard humanity with a sort of baffled wonder, and if they grow in their understanding of humanity while never becoming human themselves. This is Cameron Phillips in a nutshell. Every note in her interaction with her human charges is perfect, and my only regret in her characterisation is that the show's cancellation meant viewers never really got a chance to know what moved and drove her.

The other days )

Also, please check out my latest post on my reviews blog. It's an essay on The Fall, and I'd be interested to discuss it with you either here or on the post itself.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
What with life draining my energy in various ways, I've found it hard to keep writing regularly for these past few weeks. So when [livejournal.com profile] author_by_night started a new thirty-day meme about female characters, I thought it might act as a good way to ease myself back into blogging. I'm going to try and do the meme within thirty days, but we'll see how that goes. The full list is behind the cut.

The list of days )

Day One: Favourite Lead Female Character

Sarah Connor (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

Sarah is my absolute hero. She's written with such careful complexity, and what I've always appreciated most about the series is how it makes explicit the sheer effort involved in being Sarah Connor day after day. Being the mother of the saviour of humanity is exhausting. She has one task, and one task only: keep her son John alive long enough for him to fight back against the apocalypse, which leads her initially to play a very passive, reactive role: Skynet threatens, and Sarah runs. However, over the course of the show, Sarah begins to realise that the best way to save John might actually be to prevent the apocalypse altogether, rather than hiding out until it inevitably occurs. As such, she begins to take on a more active role, seeking out potential leads, gathering allies and standing her ground. One of the big themes of the show is that the future is unknowable, and thus almost anything can look like a threat, almost any innocuous action can seem to Sarah to hold the seeds of humanity's destruction, and so as the show progresses she becomes increasingly paranoid, seeing Skynet in every hint of artificial intelligence.

Her love for John wars with her desire to protect him, and the pair clash on how best to prepare him for the future. Being the mother of the messiah is hard work! Sarah's task is often thankless, and I love the quiet moments where the series shows Sarah making piles of sandwiches, doing laundry, or scrubbing the bathroom floor, juxtaposed with the trappings of her trade: the sandwiches are piled up next to weapons, the bathroom floor is covered with blood, and so on. The other characters very rarely realise the depths of what Sarah endures, let alone thank her, and yet her actions, no matter how small, are usually what keep them all alive. She is utterly selfless, brave in the face of the terrifying reality of her existence, relentless in the face of exhaustion, and resolute in spite of her increasing realisation that none of her actions have any effect on the inevitable apocalyptic future she is working so hard to avert.

[Note: I think ten, or even five years ago, Buffy Summers would've been my answer to this question, but I suspect that my own age has made me appreciate Sarah more and more. I still love Buffy, but she is a character who speaks to someone much younger than I am now.]
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy two days ago, and, a couple of quibbles with certain narrative choices aside, thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't really have much to say on the matter, but my friends [tumblr.com profile] jimtheviking and [tumblr.com profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves have been having a very interesting conversation about it which I felt was worth sharing. Expect spoilers for the whole film.

This review of The Magicians by Lev Grossman by Choire Sicha doesn't really make me want to read the series, but makes a couple of points about writing women in fantasy literature that really resonate with me:

“When I was writing the story in 1969, I knew of no women heroes of heroic fantasy since those in the works of Ariosto and Tasso in the Renaissance. … The women warriors of current fantasy epics,” Le Guin wrote in an afterword of The Tombs of Atuan, “look less like women than like boys in women's bodies in men's armor.” Instead, Le Guin wouldn't play make-believe, and her women were sometimes vulnerable, including physically. She refused to write wish fulfillment, even the wish fulfillment many of us crave.

The first time I read the Earthsea quartet (as it was then), the stories of Tenar and Tehanu resonated with me in a way that was powerful and profound. I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and I think it was the first time I'd read stories that gave me a glimpse of how terrifying it was going to be to be a woman. They are not easy or comforting stories, and they showed a world that I was about to enter and told me truths I had at that point only dimly understood.

Here is a post at The Toast by Morgan Leigh Davies about attending the Marvel panel at SDCC. It made me deeply grateful that my fannish interest lies in characters and not actors.

This post by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast is deeply hilarious:

Far be it from me to criticize the tactics of modern union organizers, but frankly I think the world was a better place when tradesmen organized to agitate for their rights in the workplace and practice esoteric mind-controlling spells at the same time.

The Society of the Horseman’s Word was a fraternal secret society that operated in Scotland from the eighteenth through to the twentieth century. Its members were drawn from those who worked with horses, including horse trainers, blacksmiths and ploughmen, and involved the teaching of magical rituals designed to provide the practitioner with the ability to control both horses and women.


(As an aside, if you're not reading The Toast, you're missing out.)

Samantha Shannon has some good news. Her Bone Season series was intended as a seven-book series, but Bloomsbury had initially only committed to publishing three. But now they've gone ahead and confirmed that they will publish all seven. Samantha is awesome, as is the series, so I am thrilled.

Speaking of The Bone Season, I made a Warden/Paige fanmix on 8tracks. I go into more detail about the reasons behind my choice of songs here.

The [twitter.com profile] PreschoolGems Twitter account is one of the most fabulous things ever to exist on the internet.

This particular A Softer World gives me life.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Recs behind the cut )

For the history lovers out there, I've also got a couple of fascinating videos. The first is archival footage of my Cambridge college (and the wider university) during the 1940s.



The second is something I encountered just today, and is truly amazing. It's a virtual map that traces the growth of London from Roman times to today, and is the best thing I've seen on the internet for a long time. I'm getting a very Troy Game vibe from it!



Finally, I've noticed some people have been complaining about the latest changes to Livejournal. As far as I can tell, I've managed to avoid them because I never chose to have the 'new' friends page (if I wanted have to endure endless scrolling, I'll go to Tumblr), and I'm only seeing differences on the login page, and if I comment on other people's posts. However, I think there's a possible way to avoid them if you go to Display section of the Settings page, and select 'View all journals and communities in my own style' and 'View comment pages from my Friends page in my own style'. That may make things slightly better. The only other thing I can advise is to keep your friends page in the 'old style' as long as possible. I'm not going to change until it's forced on me.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

Anyway, after they left, Matthias went to Aberystwyth for four days. He's just started doing an MA in library and information studies there (via distance learning), and you need to attend a week-long course there every year. The rest of the coursework is done by distance. I really, really dislike being home alone. I find it almost impossible to sleep and generally feel unsafe at night. I can cope with it when I live in an apartment building, or at least on the upper floor of a house, but our house is single-storey, which is just about the worst for me. But Matthias had a good time on his course, and met all the other people in his cohort, who all seem a very interesting bunch. They're mostly in their 20s or 30s, and tend to have done at least a BA (and in some cases an MA and PhD) in some kind of humanities field and come to librarianship indirectly, like him. I'm interested to see how he goes with the course, as I'm keen to do it myself in a few years' time (once I've recovered from the exhaustion of doing a PhD!).

On Friday, I went to London to hear Samantha Shannon (author of The Bone Season, the first of a series of novels about a dystopian London where people have supernatural abilities) in conversation with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, whose film company has the rights to adapt the first book. I did a write-up on Tumblr. The event was mostly awesome, although there was one sour note. One of the main characters in The Bone Season is an otherworldly being called Warden. He's not described in much detail in the book, aside from mention of him having 'dark, honey-gold'-coloured skin. People in the audience were asked to suggest actors who fit their mental image of him. Those suggested were Tom Hiddleston and Cillian Murphy. I think you can figure out why those are appalling suggestions, but in any case, I was heartened to see that most of the fandom seems to support me in perceiving Warden as just about anyone other than a white actor. What was even more encouraging is that Samantha Shannon herself agreed with me and said she was committed to fighting against whitewashing in any adaptation of The Bone Season. I will be very disappointed if a white actor is cast as Warden, and will not see any film in which this is the case.

Yesterday, our department hosted the annual colloquium which we share with Oxford. It's for students of Celtic Studies at both universities to present papers on aspects of their research, and alternates between Cambridge and Oxford as a location. I found it interesting to note that when we went around introducing ourselves at the beginning, all the Oxford students said their individual college affiliations, whereas the Cambridge people all said the name of our department rather than our colleges. It's a subtle indication of how we perceive ourselves, I guess.

The conference was good fun, particularly as I didn't have to give a paper this year. I just relaxed and hung out with all my friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a month. My supervisor was there, and we were talking about my decision to leave academia and work in libraries. She asked me if I missed research, and I realised that I didn't miss it at all. Most people I know who work in academia have this drive, this single-minded obsession with whatever they research (in much the same way as authors have this drive to tell stories). I've never had it, and I guess that's another indication that I was never cut out to be an academic.

I finally succumbed to the lure of 8tracks. I'm ridiculous enough about music as it is, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I joined. If you're on there, you should add me. I've already made one playlist.


We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



In other musical news, the new Seven Lions EP, Worlds Apart, is simply glorious.

dolorosa_12: (Default)
One of my friends on Tumblr asked me to talk about why John Marsden's Tomorrow series had such a profound impact on me as a child and teenager, and why I continue to care deeply about the series to this day. Because I don't like writing long posts on Tumblr, I'm answering him here.

Content note: It is impossible to discuss this series without talking about war, violence and rape.

I made a list )

I hope that answers any questions about what the Tomorrow series meant and means to me!
dolorosa_12: (ship)
Yesterday, Matthias and I made a flying visit to London. We'd originally planned to go there for the whole day, but that was when we thought I'd be finished my PhD by now. As it turns out, I'm not finished (though I'm so close I can see the end of the tunnel), and thought it better to spend the morning working. We caught the train after lunch and were there by 3pm. One thing I love about living in Cambridge is how close it is to London!

Our original purpose in visiting was to see Matthias' old PhD supervisor give a paper at the British Academy. The paper itself was excellent. Richard (Matthias' old supervisor) is a very good speaker, and was able to pitch the content at exactly the right level so that the very senior experts in Old English, Middle English and other fields of medieval studies, and the enthusiastic members of the public would all be able to get something out of it. A lot of old friends of mine who have since graduated and gone on to work outside academia in London also showed up, and it was great to catch up with them over a glass of wine afterwards.

Prior to the paper, we had a coffee in my favourite London cafe, and then wandered around Soho for a bit trying to figure out where we would eat dinner.

I insisted on stopping off in Seven Dials and having my photo taken. It's getting to the point where the entire city of London is crisscrossed with a network of Significant Sites That Feature in Ronni's Favourite Works of Literature. (Almost the first thing I did when I moved to the UK was visit the ruins of St Dunstan in the East, a place which features prominently in Sara Douglass' Troy Game series.) Seven Dials is where the criminal gang of clandestine clairvoyants are based in Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season, which as you'll recall is my latest literary obsession. So I made poor Matthias take my photo in Seven Dials. The Christmas lights were on, and it was almost dark, so it looked very pretty.

A couple of photos behind the cut )

So, anyway, after that, we made it to the talk, which as I've noted was in the British Academy. I'd never been before, and I was very impressed by the setting. If you can make it in academia in this country, you get to go to some pretty cool places.

After the talk, we went out for dinner at this Vietnamese restaurant in Soho. I love Vietnamese food, and can't get it in Cambridge, so I was very keen to see what Banana Tree was like. The food was excellent, and extremely cheap, especially by London standards. When I'm in London, I normally go to the same places over and over again, so it was good to try something new.

After dinner it was back to Cambridge and reality.

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