dolorosa_12: (newspaper)
First up, nominations have now opened for [community profile] waybackexchange, so if you're thinking of participating, you have until 20th February to get your nominations in. I've already used up all my nomination slots, but if anyone has any free, please do drop me a comment here (or a DM) as I have at least one other fandom I'd love to get nominated.

[personal profile] ladytharen has created a great new comm for Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology, so if you're interested, please do think about joining!


Join Here!
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This week's books )

This week's TV )

Other weekend stuff )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Firstly, and most importantly, [personal profile] firstaudrina is hosting a multifandom friending meme. If you're interested in participating, follow the link below:

multifandom friending meme

A few people have added me as a result of the meme, and rather than doing an entirely new introduction post, I'll point you towards my most recent one, done in January after my post-reveals Yuletide friending meme. Feel free to ask me anything about stuff I brought up in that post.

I'd also like to put in another plug for [community profile] waybackexchange, a fic and art exchange for fandoms older than ten years. Nominations will open in a couple of days' time, and in the meantime, the mod is going through a review period where you can make the case for borderline canons (such as works older than ten years which have been adapted more recently, or canons with various continuities, such as comics). Given most of my favourite canons are old, this is definitely the exchange for me, and I'm looking forward to taking part!

A few links to things I found interesting )

What I've been up to this weekend )

You might have noticed that after my flurry of posting about books read in January, my reading has slowed to a crawl. I can't say I've read anything that's blown my mind: I read a theological history of Judaism in the centuries on either side of the BCE/CE dividing line, as well as early Christianity. While many of its specifics were new to me, its overall argument was not (to sum up: Judaism was in a great deal of flux during this time, and Christianity, when it emerged, was in no means contrary to Judaism at that point because at that time there were several competing understandings of what Judaism was, and basically religions are fluid, evolving things that change to address the concerns of the times), so it didn't exactly blow my mind. I guess it would do if you had a much more rigid understanding of religion, maybe? The other book I've read so far this month, The Pale Queen's Courtyard by Marcin Wrona, is historical-ish fantasy set in an alternative version of ancient Babylon, with fake fantasy Babylonians, Persians and I guess Egyptians. Matthias and I have been on the lookout for books set in this region (not so much Egypt, as it's fairly well served), but there seems to be a real dearth. I found this novel frustrating: flimsy characterisation, cartoonish female characters, and an anachronistic understanding of religion which the author admits in his afterword he added for a sense of conflict. Basically his 'Persian' characters try to impose their religion on others and stamp out the worship of a particular goddess, but in pre-monotheistic times (and even afterwards), peoples might decide to worship a single god, or that other nations' gods were weak or evil, but they generally accepted that other pantheons existed. As I say, the book was frustrating.

I'll wrap this post up here, as it's a bit of a mishmash, but as always, I'm keen to hear what you're reading, watching, cooking and so on. How have your weekends been? And, new people adding me from the friending meme, feel free to ask me anything about stuff raised in my intro post.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
When you last left me after my discovery of K.J. Charles's books, I had read The Magpie Lord and the follow-up short story, 'Interlude with Tattoos'. I followed this up almost immediately by finishing the series, reading A Case of Possession, 'A Case of Spirits', Flight of Magpies and 'Feast of Stephen' in quick succession. They confirmed for me that Charles is above all a generous and compassionate writer whose characters are — villains and antagonists aside — fundamentally decent people trying to do good. And sometimes it's just relaxing and restorative to read things along those lines. Most of the people commenting in my previous post about K.J. Charles recommended Band Sinister and Jackdaw to read next, and I'm sure I'll get onto them at some point.

Other than the three books that I reviewed on my reviews blog, the only other book read in January that I've not mentioned yet was The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, a book by Katherine Paterson that had been on my to-read list for years. Paterson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child, although unlike most people I did not discover her through Bridge to Terebithia, but rather Of Nightingales That Weep, her gorgeous, tragic, bittersweet historical fiction set during the time of the Genpei War. So although I did eventually read her contemporary US fiction, I was always much more taken with her historical fiction set in Japan and China. Hence wanting to read The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, which I had not actually realised was a picture book. However, that is what it is — a gorgeous, fairytale of a story with beautiful illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon in the style of Japanese woodblock prints.

It's February, and that means it's time for [community profile] halfamoon again. Every year I think I should participate — I'm mostly only interested in fanworks about female characters, I certainly only write fanfic about female characters, but every year it seems to sweep past me without me being able to get involved. Part of the problem is that I can't just sit down and write fic immediately on the basis of a prompt — it takes me a bit longer than a single day to get inspired, and so everything feels too rushed. But if you like female characters and are faster at producing fanworks than I am, I highly recommend checking it out.

One challenge that I'm definitely going to get involved in is [community profile] waybackexchange, an exchange for works in fandoms that are at least ten years old (i.e. it's been at least ten years since any new installment of canon). There are more details about eligibility in the comm, and I hope that all of you who, like me, are mainly fannish about old stuff, nominate and write for this exchange!

How are your weekends shaping up?
dolorosa_12: (florence glitter)
I have very few regrets in life, but one of them is not seeing certain bands/singers perform live at specific stages of their careers. I'm not talking about musicians who were around before I was alive, but rather performances that took place at a time when I theoretically could have been there, but for whatever reason was not.

The first is The Knife's 'Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience' concert. They perform so rarely, and this setlist has every song that I love, and it's so typically them, with the masks and the big screens and all the other ways they disembody themselves during the performance.



And the live version of 'Heartbeats' as perfored during this concert is just gorgeous.



Now, technically there is no way I could have been seeing The Knife live in Gothenberg in 2006: I lived in Sydney at the time and could hardly go halfway around the world to see a concert, but the other gig I have regret about missing was much more doable: Massive Attack at the Melt Festival in 2010.



It's the usual Massive Attack fabulousness with their usual cast of collaborators up on the stage at different moments, and their live version of 'Atlas Air' here is bitter and furious and everything I could have wanted from the song.



Other bands/singers I regret missing at specific moments during their careers — although I couldn't pinpoint it to a specific concert — are Florence + the Machine during tours for either Lungs or Ceremonials (the later albums just don't do it for me), and Daft Punk when they were touring for the Discovery album.

Do any of you have concert regrets?
dolorosa_12: (mucha moet)
Three of the books I was most anticipating for 2019 were published in three consecutive weeks in January, so I've been having a fantastic time reading this month! All of them were utterly fabulous, and exactly what I hoped for — so they're going to be a hard act to follow. The books are The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (the final book in her Winternight Trilogy, historical fantasy that weaves mythology with the events of fourteenth-century Russia), The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty (the second book in her Daevabad Trilogy, a series about the political tensions in a djinn kingdom from the point of view of a girl who began her life as a scammer in the streets of Cairo during the Napoleonic wars), and The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (the first in a series of heist novels whose characters live in a magical version of Belle Époque Paris and essentially steal back the antiquities looted by colonial powers).

I reviewed all three books over on my reviews blog, and as always would love to talk with you about them in the comments either here or there.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
BBC Scotland has been posting little interviews on Twitter with people who migrated to and made their homes in Scotland. They're all really wonderful, but this one in particular really resonated with me. The specifics are obviously very different (he's a Polish baker living in Scotland, I'm an Australian librarian living in the southeast of England), but the underlying foundations of our respective migration stories — as far as I can tell from a heavily edited three-minute interview — are the same. Our adult lives in our countries of origin didn't feel right, like a coat that didn't fit. We were restless, directionless, not sure how to be where we were, and, like a last, desperate throw of the dice, we left, as if changing our location would enable us to change ourselves. And, astonishingly, that is what happened.

I forget, sometimes, until I compare my life ten years ago with what it is now, how miserable and uncomfortable and frightened I was. I felt like I had lost myself. I didn't realise how depressed and afraid I was until, in complete desperation, I emigrated, and realised, after about a month, that the fog had completely lifted. That the fear had gone. That I felt like myself again, for the first time in my adult life.

Migration isn't always big, and bold, and part of something larger. It's not always for a broader reason: fleeing danger, seeking a better life, moving towards concrete opportunities. Sometimes it's small, and personal, flailing about in the dark, moving blindly forwards without knowing whether what awaits you will be better. And, if you're very, very fortunate — and if your new home welcomes you and allows it — you shed your skin, and figure out who you are, and how to be that person again.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
It's been snowing in much of the UK this weekend, although not in Cambridge. However, it has been freezing here — witness the frost as I walked in to the market this morning. I've just returned from a walk to and from Grantchester, and although it was around 2pm when I was out, much of the frost on the ground has not thawed at all.

Other than walking around in frosty landscapes, I've spent a lot of the weekend out — on Friday night Matthias and I went out to one of our favourite wine shops/bars for a few drinks and food truck dinner, and on Saturday it was my former academic department's annual black tie dinner. The number of current students/postdocs/lecturers I know in the department shrinks every year, but most of the time alumni come back for the dinner, so there's always a good handful of people I know to catch up with at the dinner.

My remaining spare time this weekend has been spent reading. As well as Roshani Chokshi's glorious The Gilded Wolves, which I finished on Friday and will probably review more extensively later, I devoured K.J. Charles's The Magpie Lord while lying in a pool of sunshine on the couch this morning. I know a lot of people in my circle are fans of Charles (if my Goodreads feed is anything to go by), and enough people whose reading tastes I trust seemed to have read some or all of her work, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was a sweet, undemanding m/m romance novel, a great blend of mystery, historical fiction and fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt to me as if it could be an interlude within the universe of Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — the way magic worked felt similar, as did the scaffolding of myth and folklore, although it lacked the literary-ness (and playful re- and deconstruction of the conventions of nineteenth-century novels). And it was just restful to read about fundamentally good and decent people being generous and brave, you know? As a bonus, the ebook also included a short story, 'Interlude with Tattoos', set in the same world, which temporarily fed my hunger for this series — although I suspect I will be buying the next two books in the series as soon as I've finished this blog post!

Other books I've read recently include Katherine Arden's The Winter of the Witch, which again I plan to review more extensively later, The Mermaids in the Basement by Marina Warner (a short story collection in the vein of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, in which biblical tales, stories from Greek myth and so on are given a second-wave feminist twist), and The Prince of Darkness, the fourth in Sharon K. Penman's Justin de Quincy stories (historical mysteries in which the protagonist is a private detective of sorts working for Eleanor of Aquitaine). Both these latter two books had been on my 'to read' list for a very long time, so I'm glad to have finally read them.

What has everyone else been reading this week?
dolorosa_12: (sellotape)
I normally work full-time, but I'm on leave today due to having a few leftover days of annual leave to use up before the end of January. I generally tend to keep a handful of the previous year's days of leave in reserve, because the return to work after Christmas is always draining (visiting my in-laws in Germany, while enjoyable, is not exactly restful, due to the travel and the whirlwind of social events, so I tend to return after the Christmas break feeling almost as tired as I did when it started), and the winter darkness itself is draining. The few days of leftover leave in January, therefore, are a chance to recharge, and just get stuff done: it's amazing how much more I'm able to get done on weekends when I know they're going to be three days, rather than two!

What that meant, over the past three days, for me, was cleaning/housework (cleaning the bathroom, wet- and dry-dusting of all the window frames, skirting boards and hard surfaces, cleaning the fridge, and the usual weekend grocery shopping in the market and laundry), exercise (running with Matthias tonight, and, blissfully, starting the day with a long yoga session which I'd normally not have time to do before work), blogging here at Dreamwidth and responding to the remainder of comments on my various Yuletide fics, and, above all, reading.

I've read five books so far this year, most of which took place over the course of this three-day weekend. Two of the books were Christmas or birthday gifts from Matthias: The Vampire: a New History by Nick Groom, which is an academic book about the development of vampire mythology and literary representations of vampires between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries (everything leading up to Dracula, basically), and N.K. Jemisin's collection of short stories, How Long 'til Black Future Month?, of which I had only read 'The City Born Great' before. The former book was a Christmas present, and the latter a birthday present (I'm born in late December).

The Jemisin short stories were, for the most part, excellent: I generally felt those set in secondary worlds (one was set in the universe of her Dreamblood duology and one in the world of The Fifth Season) were weaker than those set in fantastical versions of various cities in the US. Those latter stories ranged in setting from modern New York to a steampunk alternate history New Orleans in which technological innovation gave Haitian revolutionaries the ability not only to overthrow those who had enslaved them but also thrive and prosper (in stark contrast to what happened to Haiti in reality) and undertake clandestine operations to improve the lot of slaves and free black people elsewhere in the region, with some excellent interludes in the Jim Crow-era US South (a woman's bargain with transplanted European fairy folk aids the civil rights movement), a side trip to Italy, and a return to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. These stories are in some ways a love letter to the cities in which they take place, but even more a love letter to black history, culture and communities that have flourished in those cities and regions in spite of everything.

Other than those two gift books, I read Jade City by Fonda Lee, the first in a trilogy about warring families of gangsters in a fantasy East Asian city (it seemed most like Hong Kong to me, but Lee has said that it's an amalgam, rather than directly inspired by a single place). Lee herself has a martial arts background, and it definitely shows — alongside the obvious wuxia influences. I felt it started a bit slowly, but once it got going, it was rivetting, particularly the complex network of obligations, family and marriage ties that underpinned her imagined society. Underneath all the magical jade, deadly intoxicating substances, and shoot-outs in casinos and cafes, Jade City remains a deeply human story, about flawed people, and the lonely cost of power.

I've also been trying to make a dent in my 'to read' list on Goodreads. Towards the end of last year I went through the whole list and looked up how easy it would be to track down the already published books at various libraries, or secondhand, and ordered a bunch of secondhand books. These are just starting to trickle in, and I read one such book, The Singing Stone by O.R. Melling, this morning. This was one of my most adored books when I was a teenager — I borrowed it repeatedly from the public library, and wrote futurefic about the characters, and so on — but I never owned a copy and hadn't read it for at least fifteen years. Given its subject matter (a fantasy retelling of various medieval Irish texts) I was concerned it wouldn't hold up (my background as a researcher of medieval Irish literature means most 'Celtic' fantasy is painful to read), but I shouldn't have worried. It did have a lot of the familiar 'Celtic' fantasy clichés, but its interweaving of myriad different texts (Lebor Gabála Érenn, which is one of the texts I focused on in my PhD, Scél Tuáin meic Chairill, and Cath Maige Tuired were the ones I recognised) was deft, and it mostly held up. It did that irritating thing of completely ignoring the fact that these, like all medieval Irish texts, were composed in ecclesiastical establishments, and have a huge Christian component, instead pretending that they were the work of pre-Christian times, but since basically everyone apart from medievalists thinks 'Celtic' literature is like this, I can't criticise Melling too much (and indeed, the story she was trying to tell wouldn't work if she didn't misrepresent these texts in this manner). In any case, it was a nice little moment of nostalgia, reading one of the books that no doubt subtly influenced me in my decision to pursue medieval Irish as a major in undergrad (although I had to laugh at the main character learning Old Irish to a level of proficiency that she was able to converse in it after a single year of study).

The final book I've read so far is Night Vine, the second in Felicia Davin's Gardener's Hand trilogy, but I'll leave off saying anything about it now as I want to write a longer review of the whole trilogy when I've read it.

The other thing I did this weekend was finally start filling some of the many new icon slots I have since I was kindly given six months of paid time here on Dreamwidth by a very generous friend. I've only ever had a free account here (and on LJ previously), so I'd been used to dealing with a maximum of just fifteen icon slots — hardly enough to convey the full range of emotions or subjects I want to convey when I'm posting or commenting! The one hundred I get with the paid account seems like an astonishing luxury, and I still haven't filled them all, but it's nice to finally be able to use some of the various icons I've been carrying around with me since I first went online more than ten years ago. I'm still very much looking for icons to convey the subjects of (paper) journalling, fountain pens, cooking, and coffee, so if anyone has any recommendations for places to look for these, or favourite icon making communities that focus on non-fannish icons, I would greatly appreciate it, as I am utterly incapable when it comes to anything involving the creation of images.

How have your weekends been? What have people been reading?
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
Welcome, new people who have subscribed as a result of the friending meme. It's great to see so much activity here on Dreamwidth, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all.

Due to this flurry of activity, I thought it best to do an updated intro post. People who've had me in their circles for a while, please feel free to read or skip as you please. And both new and old people, please feel free to ask me any questions!

Those things they see in me I cannot see myself )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
I know it's part of Yuletide culture to post recs while the collection is still anonymous, but I vastly prefer doing so after reveals, because it's important to me to be able to credit the authors.

This year had a fantastic crop of fic, and I'm really happy with both my own gift, and the reception of the four fics I wrote. I also went about commenting and keeping track of what I wanted to rec in a much more deliberate way, with spreads in my bullet journal noting down fic titles, whether I'd commented, and whether I planned to recommend the fic in question.

I received an absolutely wonderful Spinning Silver fic. One of my favourite scenes in canon was the moment when the Staryk lord joined Miryem to dance at her cousin's wedding, and I had made a prompt suggestion for another moment where either he joined her for another family celebration or Jewish festival. My author took that prompt and ran with it, and the result was a fic that took place during Purim celebrations!

True Masks (2144 words) by ariadnes_string
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Spinning Silver - Naomi Novik
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Miryem Mandelstam/The Staryk Lord
Additional Tags: Post-Canon, Purim, Canon Jewish Character, Jewish Holidays
Summary:

Miryem and her husband celebrate Purim



I wrote four fics — my assignment, which was in The Dark Is Rising fandom, and three treats (another in The Dark Is Rising, one in The Queens of Innis Lear, and another in the Winternight trilogy fandoms). The broad theme of all these fics seems to have ended up being 'people go out into extreme weather and wild landscapes and have extreme emotions', one fic had a title taken from an electropop song, and one drew from several medieval Irish texts, all of which, I feel, are my fic 'tells'.

My fics behind the cut )

I aimed to comment substantially on at least fifty works in the main Yuletide collection, and at least twenty in Madness. I succeeded in the former aim, but in the latter I was thwarted by lack of familiarity with enough of the canons to hit my twenty-comment goal. The following group of recs represent those of the sixty-plus fics I read and commented on that I most enjoyed reading.

A great many recs in fandoms including Spinning Silver, Uprooted, What We Do In the Shadows, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (book), Daevabad Trilogy, Seraphina, Jonathan Creek, Earthsea, Six of Crows, and more )

What did you enjoy in the collection? How did the writing go for you? I hope that Yuletide was great for everyone who participated.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I hope everyone had as good a Yuletide as I did! It's sometimes hard to find people who like the same small, Yuletide-eligible fandoms as you do, so I thought it would be great to do a friending meme after reveals, so that people could find and add the authors, recipients and commenters who made their 2018 Yuletides so enjoyable.

Please feel free to share this meme far and wide. To participate, just leave a comment on this post, copying the code below and filling in your own answers. I've enabled anonymous commenting so if you don't have a Dreamwidth account you can still participate.

People who didn't participate in Yuletide are also welcome to participate in this friending meme — obviously just leave out answers to the questions regarding Yuletide.

dolorosa_12: (sellotape)
I know it's due to frustrating and for some, upsetting circumstances, but I have to say I'm really pleased to see so much activity on Dreamwidth. People are returning after a long time away, people are trying it out for the first time, comms are active for the first time in years, and, above all, people are interacting with one another! Threaded comments: I love them so much.

I've seen this meme floating around all over my reading page, but I think [personal profile] naye was the first to post it. Ask me any of these questions, and I'll answer it in the comments.

    1. What made you start writing fanfic? Asked by [personal profile] naye, answered here.

    2. Which of your own fanfics have you reread the most?

    3. Describe the differences between your first fanfic and your most recent fanfic.
    Do you think your style has changed over time? How so?

    4. You’ve posted a fic anonymously. How would someone be able to guess that you’d written it?

    5. Name three stories you found easy to write.

    6. Name three stories you found difficult to write.

    7. What’s your ratio of hits to kudos?

    8. What do your fic bookmarks say about you? Asked by [personal profile] geckoholic, answered here.

    9. What’s a theme that keeps coming up in your writing? Asked by [personal profile] merit, answered here.

    10. What kind of relationships are you most interested in writing? Asked by [personal profile] schneefink, answered here.

    11. For E-rated fic, what are some things your characters keep doing?

    12. Name three favorite characters to write.

    13. You’re applying for the fanfic writer of the year award. What five fanfics do you put in your portfolio?

    14. Question of your choice!


My Tumblr import to Wordpress finished yesterday. I had to disable the importing of large media files, or else I would have exceeded the media storage allowance, and, quite frankly, I was not prepared to pay Wordpress in order to back up other people's gif sets. My Tumblr tags imported, but because Wordpress lists them alphabetically, any tag-essays are now completely incoherent. It was a weird exercise in fannish nostalgia; my Tumblr goes back to 2010, and it's bizarre to think there was a time when I was reblogging SPN, Teen Wolf, and MCU content, since I'm so resolutely fandom-of-one-ish these days. I can also see so many disntinct periods of fannish focus: the Pretty Little Liars phase, the Orphan Black phase, the ATLA period, that brief moment I tried to engage with Sleepy Hollow fandom before backing away slowly. It's like peeling back layers of personal history. In any case, now that the import is done, the whole lot is just sitting there on Wordpress. I'm going to put up a message on Tumblr telling people where to find me, possibly fiddle around with the settings on the Wordpress backup, and then draw a line under my time on the blue hellsite for good. I know some people will miss the place, but for me it feels almost like relief to leave it behind.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
My weekend has been a bit of a mix in terms of activity. I spent quite a bit of time working on various Yuletide treats. So far I've got the main assignment and two treats pretty much finished, and one final treat that needs a bit more work. I would like to be able to manage a fourth treat, but I don't think it's doable in the time remaining, as I generally find it too draining to write after work during the week.

On Saturday I met up with [personal profile] nymeth for coffee, and we talked books, libraries, and migrant life. We met in a new-to-me cafe, which is always astonishing to me, as I always think I've tried every single independent cafe in Cambridge.

Today was mostly spent shopping in town. I normally avoid central Cambridge on weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons, as it gets really crowded with tourists and shoppers, but this couldn't be avoided. Matthias was collecting various new items of clothing that he'd ordered online and had sent to the shops, and we needed a few bits and pieces for the kitchen, and this was probably the last chance to sort all this out before the new year. We did take the chance to have Vietnamese food for lunch, and stop off for some beer (him) and mulled wine (me) at the temporary winter beer garden organised by one of our favourite Cambridge businesses, [instagram.com profile] thirstycamb. They had a fire pit!

Other than these various outings, I've spent the weekend watching my Tumblr queue to import to Wordpress (it's still queueing, but having poked around in their forums, it seems that it's taking about five days for the imports to start, due to volume, so I'm not particularly worried), and finishing off a couple of books. Thornfruit, by Felicia Davin, had intriguing worldbuilding, and a great central f/f relationship between a wild, confused teenage girl with mindreading powers and the ability to wound with direct touch, and another teenage girl who yearns for something more than her family's farm and market stall. They also live on a tidally-locked planet (their city is in perpetual sunlight, other regions in perpetual darkness), which I thought was really cool. It's the first of a trilogy, and I'll likely buy the other two to read when I'm in Germany over Christmas. The second book, The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke, was a loose Beowulf retelling where instead of a lone warrior fighting monsters, we have a band of dispossessed teenage girls seeking heroism and glory. It's an interesting exploration of female anger, monstrosity, and otherness, but I felt it was a concept that really screamed for at least one f/f relationship, and was weakened by this lack.

I'm now baking some salmon in the oven, and planning to spend the remainder of the weekend watching TV with Matthias. What have the rest of you been up to?

I'm also going to close this post with a fabulous fan art rec, which I saw linked at some point on my reading page and have had open in a tab ever since. It's an absolutely gorgeous work, depicting Esme Shelby from Peaky Blinders, leading a deathly, supernatural horse, and I love it to bits.

Chovihani (0 words) by motetus
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Peaky Blinders (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Esme Shelby
Additional Tags: Art, Digital Art, Fanart, Extra Treat, Horses, ToT: Monster Mash, Trick or Treat 2016, Supernatural Elements, Trick Or Treat Prompts Challenge
Summary:

Esme has a gift for taming horses.

dolorosa_12: (le guin)
Welcome, people who have joined Dreamwidth for the first time, or who are returning back here to try it out as a new fannish home. There are a lot of good 'getting started' posts floating around, but rather than relinking them all here, I'll just point you towards [personal profile] umadoshi's links roundup. In it you'll find information on everything from image-hosting on Dreamwidth (theoretically possible, but not as straightforward as on Tumblr), how to find new people to follow, and general tips on getting set up here.

For my part, I don't much mourn the demise of Tumblr. I'm currently in the process of importing the entire thing to Wordpress (taking ages, as half the internet seems to have the same idea), and then I'm essentially adopting a 'salt the earth' policy. I'm not deleting the account — I have a deep aversion to deleting anything online, such that you can see every digital trace of me since circa 2003 — but I'm going to cease posting there once the backup is complete. Tumblr never suited me as a platform; the only people there with whom I really interacted were people I knew from Dreamwidth, LJ or various forums, or in real life — I think I made one friend on Tumblr whom I'd not encountered elsewhere beforehand. It was not designed for conversation and communication (other than one-way broadcasts whose message often got lost or distorted in the telling), and the workarounds people developed to have those conversations were cumbersome and counterintuitive. I like to be able to see every thread of a conversation, gathered in an organised way, you know?

This latest debacle drives home to me lessons that fannish types really need to learn: from Livejournal, from Delicious, and from the Patreon shenanigans earlier this year. Just because we, and our friends and communities have congregated on a particular platform, it does not mean said platform is our space, or that the owners of the platform value our presence and will continue to make it a hospitable and functional space for us. If you as an individual or the community of which you are a part do not own and control the platform, you will always be vulnerable to the rug being pulled out from underneath you in this manner.

I do know, however, that many of my friends found a great sense of community on Tumblr, and that for artists in particular, it was an absolutely perfect platform for discoverability and disseminating their work, and it must be devastating to see that being taken away through no fault of your own. I hope you find alternatives that suit you even better. Just because large social media platforms are predictable like this doesn't mean it hurts any less to see connections and community swept away without warning.

While it would be nice to see a great Dreamwidth renaissance in response to the Tumblr purge, I think that's probably unlikely. This feels more like a temporary stopping point, a moment to pause and take stock while waiting to see where fandom goes next. But for now, welcome to Dreamwidth. We have threaded comments.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm home sick with a cold, which unfortunately means I'll miss this year's annual Christmas party for Cambridge library staff, which is always a free event held in one of the local bookshops. However, it does mean I can do a quick catch up post on some of the books and short stories I've read recently, all of which I enjoyed, but don't feel warrant a full review over on my reviews blog. All are fantasy novels or short stories.

First up is The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner, an Eastern European fantasy novel in the vein of the Winternight trilogy, and Naomi Novik's Uprooted and Spinning Silver. Like the latter Novik work, it focuses in particular on the experience of shtetl-dwelling Eastern European Jewish communities, following the adventures of two sisters who are the inheritors of shape-shifting powers from the two branches of their family. Liba, the oldest, can transform into a bear like her father, while her younger sister Laya can shapeshift into swan form like her mother. Rossner blends Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market' with a tale of suspicion and survival, and the sense of close-knit community — supportive of its own on the one hand, judgemental and interfering on the other — is beautifully drawn. I also loved the porous nature of the boundary between the human and supernatural worlds, and the relationship between the two sisters is simply wonderful.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan moves us from Eastern Europe to East Asia in terms of its inspirations (the author herself describes it as simply 'Asian-inspired'). This book is set in a strictly hierarchical society, with three castes (the demonic Moon caste ruling over the partially demonic Steel and fully human Paper castes), an imperial court seething with intrigue, and simmering rebellions breaking out all over a vast empire. All this is presided over by the Demon King, a thoroughly nasty individual who, among other things, takes a tribute of sorts in the form of a group of Paper teenagers to be his concubines. While this is supposed to be a great honour, in reality it's an act of violence and dispossession, and the majority of these girls — including the protagonist, Lei — do not go willingly. However, all is not as it seems in the court of the Demon King, and from the midst of a group of what appears to be the most disempowered individuals — the 'Paper Girl' concubines — a revolution is brewing. I have a personal preference for stories about girls and women who suffer trauma, have their agency taken away from them, and carve out spaces of survival and hope in the ruins, so this was always going to appeal to me, and the fact that it features a f/f love story (with a happy ending!) was just icing on the cake to me. However, it probably goes without saying that a premise like Ngan's is going to depict and address sexual violence, and although this is mostly done in a fade-to-black kind of way, if that's something you'd prefer not to read I would advise you to give this book a miss.

The next book, Sarah Tolcser's Song of the Current, is a much more lighthearted affair. Its characters and plot are, in my opinion, pretty standard fantasy fare (a lost royal heir on the run, a tomboyish lower class girl swept up in political intrigue, pirates causing problems, and scheming grand vizier types seeking power for themselves), but its setting is marvellous. Its heroine, Caroline Oresteia, is the daughter of a wherryman — the captain of a river boat — and has spent her life travelling the lakes, rivers and canals, transporting legal, and less than legal, cargos. I loved Tolcser's community of wherrymen (and women), the sense of a life lived on the water, and the legends and folklore and unspoken rules of this world on the margins of land and river. Nothing in the plot surprised me, and indeed I could see most twists coming from a mile away, but it was a gentle, soothing, diverting book and I am keen to read the sequel.

Zen Cho's latest short story, on the other hand, surprised me immensely. The story, 'If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again', is available for free online at the Barnes & Noble website (and can also be freely downloaded to ereaders), and is about a hapless wannabe dragon, an astrophysicist seeking tenure, and the messy, complicated tangle that is life. When I read Cho's works I expect humour, and this story is hilarious, but it's also powerful, devastating, and beautifully hopeful as well, and I had not been expecting that. The story is about the danger of being fixated on and overwhelmed by dreams, and missing the other opportunities that pass us by when we're too singlemindedly focused. As someone who had gone through two career changes before she was thirty (leaving behind the possibility of work in two fields which I had thought of as my 'dream job(s)'), this resonated deeply with me. I highly, highly recommend this short story, and am now even more impatient for the follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown!

Has anyone else been reading anything good recently?
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
So, I woke up to the news that Theresa May has described EU migrants in the UK as 'queue jumpers' (or, to be more precise, that making use of — entirely legal — EU freedom of movement rights is somehow jumping a non-existent migration queue) and implied that most of them are worthless people whom Britain has been forced to accept at the expense of hordes of highly skilled non-EU migrants such as 'software developers from Dehli' and 'engineers from Sydney'. Moving on from the utterly despicable ploy of trying to pit different groups of migrants against each other (and make British people sort us into categories of 'good' and 'bad' migrants), Theresa May in her capacity as Home Secretary oversaw most of the law changes that made it more and more difficult as a non-EU migrant to migrate to the UK, even more difficult to stay here permanently if you'd migrated on a temporary student or work visa, and vastly more expensive to apply for all visas, so it's a bit rich for her to suddenly deplore this situation as if it were out of her control. She's trying to make it seem as if the EU is to blame for this state of affairs, whereas in fact non-EU migration has always been something for individual countries to handle according to whatever laws they set. And let me tell you, as a non-EU migrant who's lived in the UK for ten years, I have a pretty good idea what sort of welcome her hypothetical Indian software developer and Australian engineer are likely to get from the UK government, and it is an expensive, stressful and hostile one.

At virtually the same time, the prime minister of my country of origin (Australia) made some ghastly statement about migrants being to blame for overcrowded schools and traffic jams, clearly gearing up for an election that's going to be fought on ugly anti-immigration terms. (In Australia, these kinds of elections are ... not good. Not that I think there is a good kind of anti-immigration election campaign.) When Morrison came to power (a few months ago, in the revolving door of opinion poll results paranoia, backstabbing, and coal industry manipulation that has been Australian federal politics for the past decade), I posted despairingly on Facebook that any upcoming election would now be fought on despicable, anti-immigration grounds, and most of my Australian friends and family handwaved my concerns away, or said that it would be over quickly (Australian election campaigns are, thankfully, brief) and Labor would win, anyway. It gives me no pleasure to constantly be right about this kind of thing, but here we are.

I'm so tired of it being acceptable to give migrants a good rhetorical kicking whenever political leaders are looking threatened in opinion polls or within their own parties. I'm so tired of us being talked about as if we're thieves and parasites whose very presence in the countries we've made our homes is illegitimate, a drain on resources we have no right to access. I'm so fed up with this going largely unchallenged, other than in outraged Twitter threads or a few hand-wringing op-eds in The Guardian or similar places. And I'm so tired of being told to have empathy for people's 'legitimate concerns' about migration when those same people are never told to spare a scrap of thought for the experiences of the migrants who have made a home beside them.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
The colder weather seems to have done wonders for my writing productivity: I've finished my Yuletide assignment, and made a good start on a second treat. That wasn't all the writing I got done over the weekend — I also found the time to write a longish review on two Iliad retellings and Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. You can find the review here on Wordpress, but here's a brief excerpt:

I never had much interest in the long recitations of characters’ ancestry, names of warriors killed on the battlefield, wooden horses or lucky arrows shot through vulnerable heels. Instead, I focused on the story that whispered in the margins: the calamity of war to the women and children it made most vulnerable, the ways such women coped with the ever-present threat of male violence, and the simmering presence of this violence even in ostensible peacetime, in spaces where women were surrounded by their own families. I sought out retellings of the Iliad that brought this story to the fore.


I should note that because the two retellings focus on the character of Briseis, the review involves discussion of rape and slavery, so consider this a content warning. I also get pretty ranty about The Song of Achilles, so if anyone feels like venting with me about that book, feel free to join in in the comments (and if you like it ... I'm sorry).

Also over on Wordpress, I reviewed Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanishers' Palace, a Beauty and the Beast story where both characters are female and the Beast is a dragon. You can read that review here.

This being an Aliette de Bodard story, there are all the familiar and fabulous features that I’ve come to expect in her work: loving and mouth-watering descriptions of food and cooking, a refusal to flinch away from the devastating effects of empire and colonialism, and an intricate exploration of the different ways survival can look. This last is crucial, and resonates deeply with me. De Bodard rejects an individualistic interpretation of heroism, where a lone, special individual bravely solves the world’s problems alone. Instead, courage in her writing is all about (inter)dependence and community building — the little acts that forge and strengthen networks, reinforce familial and non-familial bonds, and the way that sometimes merely surviving and helping others survive is its own victory.


I'm now taking a break from all that writing with a bit of reading. I've just finished Leah Cypress's 'Timshala', the last in the Book Smugglers' 2018 series of short stories on the theme of 'awakenings', and I definitely think it was the best of the bunch. Their short story series tend to be pretty hit and miss with me, but this one — part Ancient Egypt-inspired death cult with religious controversies and political intrigue, part exploration of determinism and free will — was excellent. It's available to read for free online here.

Having finished 'Timshala', I've now moved on to Girls of Paper and Fire, a novel by Natasha Ngan which I've wanted to read since I first saw Samantha Shannon posting on Instagram about reading an ARC of the book. This was months and months ago, and I'm glad to finally have a copy in my hands. I think I'll curl up in my wing chair and read it, watching the sun go down and the darkness fall through the garden window.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
Matthias' birthday is 16th November, and, in a rather uncharacteristic manner,* we celebrated it early, in London, on Friday night and most of Saturday. This is because four of the '90s Eurodance acts that he grew up adoring — but, as a young teenager never had the opportunity to see live — were performing together in a club in the O2 Arena, cashing in on Gen Y nostalgia, on Friday night. Given the closeness of the event to his birthday, I offered to get us tickets as a present, and he overcame his squeamishness about 'pre-celebration'. While theoretically it would have been possible to make the last train back to Cambridge after the concert, we opted to stay overnight in a budget hotel, in order to see the British Library exhibition on the Anglo-Saxons (which covered history, and Old English literature and intellectual culture) on Saturday morning.

Both the concert and the exhibition ended up being all about international connections, openness, intercultural exchange, and the 'outward look' more generally.

I had been dubious about how four groups/singers — Maxx, Masterboy, Haddaway, and 2 Unlimited — notorious as one-hit, or at best two-hit wonders, were going to find enough material to fill an entire concert, but I shouldn't have worried. They knew why they were there: to play that handful of hits, and get a crowd of nostalgic thirty- and forty-somethings dancing, and on that they delivered. It certainly worked for me, and as for Matthias, he was bouncing around in sheer energetic joy. If the bands resented having to play the songs that made them famous circa 1992-1995 they gave no indication of it, and treated the audience in that tiny club as if it were a sold-out stadium tour.

As we queued to go into the club, we heard no languages other than Polish, and, judging by the makeup of the audience, I would say it was mainly Polish, Romanian, and Lithuanian people. And, as I jumped around enthusiastically, being elbowed in the face by the extremely tall, very perky, glowstick-covered Lithuanian guy in front of me, and being hugged and danced with by the very drunk, very friendly Irish woman next to me, while an ageing Dutch popstar yelled 'TECHNO, TECHNO, TECHNO!' at us, I felt a bittersweet kind of joy at this easy, effortless, pan-European sense of community, at home together in London, brought together by cheesy Eurodance nostalgia, and a fury at how easily it is about to be taken away, by people who never saw its value.

The Anglo-Saxons exhibition was excellent.** I didn't really learn anything new — although my major in undergrad, MPhil, and PhD are in medieval Irish literature, my department where I undertook the MPhil and PhD are multidisciplinary, focusing on the languages, literatures, history and material culture of medieval Ireland, Britain, and Scandinavia, so it's impossible not to learn about Old English literature and Anglo-Saxon history by osmosis in an environment like that (and indeed, as the exhibition makes plain, to study any medieval culture in isolation is absurd). However, it was great to see so many important manuscripts all brought together in the one exhibition space. Matthias was like a child in a sweet shop, and in particular was deeply moved to see the Vercelli Manuscript, Junius Manuscript, Exeter Book and Beowulf Manuscript — representing the entirety of extant Old English poetry — side by side. (Whenever I'm reminded that those four manuscripts are all that survive of the Old English poetic corpus I am deeply grateful that I chose to study medieval Irish, with its embarassment of riches when it comes to vernacular manuscripts!)

The exhibition as a whole was mainly manuscripts — the vernacular poetry ones I mentioned above, law codes, religious writing, hymn books with musical notation, saints' Lives, grammatical texts to teach Latin, legal codes, medical writing, history, and charters — with a few other artifacts of material culture, such as jewellery (including the famous 'Alfred jewel'), pottery, and weapons. What I particularly appreciated (and overheard many other exhibition attendees remarking on) was the relentless emphasis on the international component and outward-looking nature of Anglo-Saxon societies. The enduring networks, reinforced by diplomacy, political marriages, trade, and the exchange of ideas, were mentioned in all the displays' descriptions: the movement of manuscripts between ecclesiastical establishments in Britain, Ireland, and continental Europe (and even, in some cases, from places further afield such as North Africa), the movement of people between royal courts on both sides of the Channel, and the exchange of ideas apparent in more prosaic form — in the design of jewellery, belt-buckles, coins, or calligraphy. On one level it was dispiriting to overhear so many other attendees remarking on how astonishing they found all these connections, because this made it plain how pervasive is the common perception of medieval insularity. But I suppose on the other hand at least those attendees will go away with a new understanding of how international, interconnected, and outward-looking medieval people could be, and that the concept of national borders and identities has always been fluid and complicated. That the ocean was not a barrier, but rather a highway. That the lies nationalists tell about the peoples studied in my former academic discipline are just that — lies, deceptive myths designed to comfort and simplify for people who find complexity discomforting. That the wider world has always been there, and even premodern people engaged with it. That intellectual and creative culture has always been a collaborative effort, in conversation with itself, open to 'outside' influences.

In other words, there has always been migration, and migrants. And, as was made clear in the Eurodance concert on Friday night, we migrants are still here, and this is still our home, and we will remain, and we will go on dancing.

__________

*'Uncharacteristic' because, as a German, he has a deep aversion to celebrating birthdays in advance, which is felt to be tempting fate.
**Inevitably we bumped into someone we knew from the department at Cambridge where we did our degrees. She was there with her husband and small son. Cambridge is a very, very small town, even when it's in London.

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