dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
2017-10-19 07:34 am

Tell them stories, twenty years on

I wrote this two days ago on my Wordpress reviewing blog, but I thought it was worth reposting here on Dreamwidth as well.

Twenty years ago (or nineteen years, nine months, and about twenty days ago, if you want to get really technical), I was a restless thirteen-year-old, stuck inside during a rainy week on holiday down the south coast of New South Wales. It was the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, which meant that I was carting around a massive haul of books, given to me for both my birthday and Christmas. I had read all my new books -- all except one, whose cover put me off. My younger sister, fed up with me moping around the house complaining of 'nothing to read,' made the very sensible point that I hadn't read that book. 'I don't like books about animals,' I objected. She insisted. I am forever grateful that she did. Feeling resentful, I sat down to read Northern Lights (or, as my edition was called, The Golden Compass), the first in Philip Pullman's sweeping, expansive children's trilogy, His Dark Materials. I was hooked from the first page, inhaled the book in one sitting, and, once I'd finished it, opened it up at the beginning and reread it without pause. I reread the book four times over the course of that one-week holiday.

It's hard to describe what it felt like, to read that story as a thirteen-year-old. I was already a voracious reader, and I had already encountered many beloved stories, books I would reread incessantly, or borrow repeatedly from the local library. There were already books I felt fannish about, and whose characters I identified with and drew courage from. But this was different. It was like being seen for the first time. It was as if ideas, beliefs and fears I had long felt but was not yet able to articulate had been given voice and shape on the page. As a teenager, my many rereads of Northern Lights (and, after impatient waits of one year and three years, respectively, for its follow-ups The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) helped guide both my reading tastes, and my burgeoning sense of political awareness. My love of the series got me a paid newspaper reviewing gig at the age of sixteen, and I continued to freelance as a reviewer for various Australian broadsheets for ten years after that.

Ten years ago (or, if you want to get technical, ten years, nine months, and a couple of days ago), I was in a bad place. I had returned to my hometown after graduating university, and although I had a good job and a lot of family support, I was desperately unhappy, and felt isolated and directionless. All my friends seemed to have adjusted to adult life in a way that I was incapable of, and I felt left behind. In a fit of desperation I — who mistrusted the internet and who barely went online except to check email — typed 'His Dark Materials fansite' into Google. I found something that saved me. 2007 was not a good year, but it was made infinitely more bearable by the incredible collection of people — most of whom lived on the other side of the world — who hung out in the forums of that site. Most of them had been there for years, and were all talked out about His Dark Materials, so instead they analysed other books, shared music tips, or just vented about their daily lives. Although by their standards I was a latecomer, they welcomed me with open arms. For a long time, the only thing that got me through the day was the prospect of hanging out in the IRC chat room they'd set up — the international composition of this group of fans (plus the fact that most of them were students or otherwise kept odd hours) meant that someone was always around at all hours. This was my first foray into online fandom, and I made friends for life. Meeting the sraffies — as we called ourselves — was like coming home. Being with them was, like reading the books that had brought us all together, like being seen for the first time. I was able to relax and be myself and feel safe in a way that I hadn't really anywhere since becoming an adult. Ten years have passed since then, and the group of us have gone through so many things together. We've graduated from university, changed jobs and careers, had books and academic articles published, moved cities, emigrated, fallen in and out of love (in some cases, with each other), mourned deaths, and supported each other through whatever life threw at us. We travel specifically to meet up with each other, and if work, study, or holidays bring us by chance to each others' cities, we make a point to hang out. One of the friends I met through His Dark Materials was even a bridesmaid at my wedding.

I recently did a reread of the trilogy, wanting to refresh my memory before reading Pullman's much anticipated foray back into the world of His Dark Materials. I was anxious that it wouldn't affect me as it had when I was younger, that I would pick up on flaws, that its emotional notes would leave me unmoved. I shouldn't have worried. Reading Pullman's words again, returning to that world, was like falling into water. Like the best and most meaningful of stories, it gave me something different, as it had done with each reread, and reading it as a thirty-two-year-old woman was different to reading it as a thirteen-year-old girl, or when I was in my twenties. But, like Lyra relearning to read the alethiometer as an adult after losing the unconscious ease with which she read it as a child, it was a deeper, richer experience — not better, not worse, just different. In the years since I first opened Northern Lights and read those resonant first words, Lyra and her dæmon, I've finished high school. I've graduated three times from two different universities, with an Honours degree, MPhil, and doctorate. I've changed careers three times. I've emigrated, lived in two new countries, acquired a new citizenship, learnt two new languages (as well as many dead languages), presented at conferences, been published academically in two very different fields, fallen in love, had my heart broken, and fallen in love again. In those years, I found my home, and I found myself again. In other words, I've done exactly what His Dark Materials urges: live, as much as I can, feel, as much as I can bear, and learn, as much as I am able. On Thursday, I will collect my preordered copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first of Pullman's prequel trilogy that will return readers to the world of His Dark Materials. I will sit down and read it in a desperate, yearning rush. I wonder what the twenty years that follow will bring. I know that having read this new book — and those that follow — will help me cope with whatever those next years throw at me.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
2017-10-01 06:17 pm

Good things: a list

  • I've written a couple of reviews of recent books I've read: stories about sisters — The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo, 'The Jewel and Her Lapidary' by Fran Wilde, and Buried Heart by Kate Elliott (the Wilde novella is not technically about sisters, but it's close enough), and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, which seemed to be written with my id in mind.

  • Matthias and I seem to be getting back into running with little difficulty, after a break of about six months. I'm relieved. We're going in a race in mid-November!

  • I made pasta with tomato sauce using tomatoes, garlic, and basil grown in my garden. I guess the next step is to make the pasta by hand?

  • I'm in the process of germinating scotch bonnet chilli seeds so that I can grown them in the house over winter. This is a step up for me in terms of my garden.

  • I've written my Yuletide letter in good time, and am very happy with my choices of fandoms to request (even if they'll probably send me directly to the pinch hit list). Now I just need to figure out which fandoms to offer.

  • I have acquired dresses which are both comfortable and warm. This is something of a miracle.


  • How have your weekends been?
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    2017-09-28 07:25 am
    Entry tags:

    Dear Yuletide writer

    Thank you for writing for me!

    I'm pretty easygoing about what type of fic you want to write for me. I read fic of any rating, and would be equally happy with plotty genfic or something very shippy. I read gen, femslash, het and slash, although I have a slight preference towards femslash, het, and gen that focuses on female characters. I mainly read fic to find out what happens to characters after the final page has turned or the credits have rolled, so I would particularly love to have futurefic of some kind. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to the characters I specifically mention — I'm happy with others being included if they fit with the story you want to tell.

    Feel free to have a look around my Ao3 profile, as it should give you a good idea of the types of things I like to read.

    General likes )

    General dislikes )

    Fandom-specific prompts:

    The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon )

    An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir )

    The Pagan Chronicles - Catherine Jinks )

    Don't feel you have to stick rigidly within the bounds of my prompts. As long as your fic is focused on the characters I requested, I will be thrilled to receive anything you write for me, as these really are some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and the existence of any fic for them will make me extremely happy.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    2017-09-17 06:06 pm

    In the mist

    The weekend has been a good mix of social and hermity stuff, and I think I managed to strike exactly the right balance between the two. On Saturday we had four of our friends over -- [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, her husband E, and our friends V and P. Last year, another friend had given Matthias and me a jeroboam of champagne as an engagement gift. Now, as much as we'd like to, the two of us are incapable of drinking three litres of champagne in one sitting, so the bottle had sat undrunk in our house for a year and a half. We finally decided that we'd have an afternoon party with champagne and snacks to celebrate various successes in our friendship group: Matthias has just started a new job, E recently got a new job (actually working as a library assistant in the library where Matthias is now working), as did [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, V recently won a very prestigious translation award in Iceland (she translates Icelandic books into English), and I'd recently started a new and challenging secondment.

    We had been intending to have the party outside in our courtyard, but it ended up pouring with rain, so instead we sat in the living room, eating, drinking the champagne, and generally having a good time. Given that most of my Cambridge friends are people I met while we were all MPhil/PhD students together, people tend to move on once they've finished their degrees, so I'm glad that at least these four are still around. Afternoon snacks turned into dinner, and we ended up getting really delicious takeaway from the south Indian restaurant down the road, which I hadn't eaten at for ages and really enjoyed.

    Today I woke up good and early and made my usual trip to the markets in central Cambridge. It was a really beautiful misty morning, and everything looked gorgeous. I love this kind of weather, so cold and stark and still. Once I'd got back from the market, Matthias and I went out for brunch, and then stopped by the food fair (which happens about four times a year in one of the parks in the centre of town) to pick up stuff like olive oil, vinegar and other sauces.

    I've spent the afternoon finishing off Ruin of Angels, the sixth book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, which was absolutely wonderful, as all the books in the series are. I realised about midway through that about 95 per cent of the characters with speaking roles were female, whiich pleased me immmensely. The world of the series is just so clever and inventive, and has this unbelievably lived-in feel, and a sense of place that's stronger than pretty much any other fantasy series I've read.

    I'm now just hanging around online while tonight's roast dinner bakes in the oven. It's proper autumn here in Cambridge now, which is my favourite time of the year. There's an icy undertone to the air, the trees are at their most beautiful, and my nesting tendencies go into complete overdrive. This weekend's been a good start!
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    2017-08-28 04:20 pm

    Long weekend

    Today is a public holiday, which has meant a three-day weekend. We've been very fortunate with the weather -- although summer in the UK hasn't really been a summer at all this year, it's as if we got the entire season these three days in Cambridge, with warm weather and bright sunshine. Although I have spent some of the weekend doing rather boring life admin-type stuff, I have managed to pack in just the right amount of fun stuff too.

    On Saturday evening, Matthias and I joined a lot of friends from our former academic department to farewell one of our fellow PhD students, [twitter.com profile] BeccaMerkelbach, who, having completed her PhD, is returning to Germany for an academic job there. It was a somewhat bittersweet farewell, since she was leaving in part due to Brexit (that is, while the academic job market being what it is meant that she was willing to move countries for a job, Brexit meant she was not prepared to look for jobs in the UK at all) -- the first of many friends I know of who are leaving the UK for that reason. I'm glad she's got a job (they're not easy to come by in medieval literature!), but I'm sad, as always, to see a friend move on.

    Yesterday we went to a farmers market/temporary outdoor beer garden with food trucks run by Thirsty, which is a wine and beer seller that also runs a bar out of its store, if that makes sense. They've been holding the beer garden out near the Museum of Technology by the river for the entire summer, and we haven't made as much use of this as we would have liked, partly because it's a good forty-five-minute walk from our house. Given the summer is almost over, we're determined to get there as much as possible. Yesterday were were there around midday, and met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld, and hung out for a few hours eating food from the food truck and catching up. After that, I met up with [personal profile] nymeth after she'd finished work, and we sat in a park drinking coffee, revelling in the sunshine.

    Today's been a pretty lazy day. Matthias unfortunately had work to do, so holed up in our study to get it done, and I've just been doing a lot of reading. I finished off Sunvault, an anthology of solarpunk science fiction short stories, poetry and art, and read every one of the Booksmugglers' recent Gods and Monsters series of short stories. These are all free online, and I would definitely recommend them!

    Once Matthias has finished his work, I'm hoping the two of us can go for a run, and then settle in for a lazy evening, winding down before the work week starts up again.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    2017-08-19 01:20 pm

    Take my hand and I go under, part 2

    This time two weeks ago I was drinking champagne with my mother, sister, [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia, and two family friends, worrying about the torrential rain that had suddenly tumbled out of the sky, and getting ready to head off to get married. In the end, my fears about the rain were unfounded: the storm stopped about half an hour before the wedding ceremony, and the skies cleared, meaning sunshine and warmth for photographs, and for our guests to enjoy sparkling wine in the gardens of our reception venue.

    The wedding ceremony itself was wonderful. Many of my married friends told me they barely remembered anything from the day itself, and that everything passed by in a sort of blissed out blur. For my part, I can remember everything. We got married in Shire Hall (the registry office in Cambridge), in a room that unfortunately only seated fifty people (included me, Matthias, our photographer, and the celebrant), so many of our guests were only able to be invited to the reception. However, I was happy with the mix of people who were able to attend the ceremony: a nice mix of bridal party, family, and close friends from Cambridge.

    Matthias and I entered the ceremony to the beautiful sounds of 'Black Water Lilies' by Aurora. We didn't write our own vows, and the celebrant mangled Matthias' middle name (pronouncing it in the English, rather than German way), but none of that mattered. We had two readings. The first, by Matthias' sister, was in German:

    Da ist jemand,
    der mich nimmt,
    wie ich genommen
    werden will;
    der mich aufbaut
    wenn mich etwas
    niederdrückt;
    der mich zu Herzen nimmt,
    wenn mir etwas
    über die Leber gelaufen ist;
    der mir Gehör schenkt,
    wenn mir das Leben
    Rätsel aufgibt;
    der für mich ist,
    wenn sich alles gegen mich
    verschworen hat.

    Da ist jemand,
    mit dem ich zusammen wachsen,
    vielleicht sogar
    zusammenwachsen darf.


    Translation:

    There is somebody
    Who accepts me as I want to be accepted
    Who lifts me up when something weighs me down
    Who embraces me when something is bugging me
    Who listens to me when life is posing me riddles
    Who supports me when everything is conspiring against me

    There is somebody with whom I may grow together
    Maybe even grow entwined


    (The play on words in the last stanza doesn't translate well, but basically involves two very similar sounding verbs, zusammen wachsen and zusammenwachsen, which I guess in English would translate as the two different meanings of 'grow together'.)

    [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia read the second reading, an excerpt from one of my favourite poems, 'Homing Pigeons' by Mahmoud Darwish:

    Where do you take me, my love, away from my parents
    from my trees, from my little bed, and from my boredom,
    from my mirrors, from my moon, from the closet of my life, from
    where I stop for the night ... from my shyness?


    Our friend Levi (for whom Matthias was best man four years ago) and my sister Miriam were our witnesses. While the marriage certificates were being signed, we played two pieces of music: 'All is Full of Love' by Björk, and 'Tonight We Burn Like Stars That Never Die' by Hammock. Here is a photo of us signing the certificates -- I think that gives a fairly accurate impression of our facial expressions for most of the day! After the ceremony, people left the room to the sounds of 'We Own the Sky' by M83. We then went off with our parents, my stepmother, our sisters, Matthias' brother-in-law and nephew, and Levi and [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia for photos in the gardens of our reception venue. Following this, the reception began, with drinks in the gardens, and then a four-course meal.

    Everyone was really impressed by the food, which made me really happy, since we had put a lot of thought into the menu and food is generally the thing I most remember about events such as weddings. I was particularly glad that the vegans and vegetarians attending had made a point of thanking us for their meals, and that it hadn't simply been a meal with the meat removed but no substitutes provided. The cake was a three-tiered citrus cake: the bottom cake was orange, the middle lemon, and the top lime.

    After speeches by Levi, my family friend and former editor Gia, and Matthias and me, we inflicted our absolutely glorious eurodance/'90s music playlist on everyone. It wasn't the danciest of weddings I've ever been to, but I had fun dancing, and so did those who joined in. I think there's some video footage of me, [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia and the other sraffies dancing to 'Saturday Night' by Whigfield floating around, but I'm not going to try to track it down! I'll leave that glory to your imaginations.

    The entire wedding and reception were wonderful, and I wouldn't change a single thing. I was worried about so many things, and not one of them happened. I feared I wouldn't remember the day, or that I would spend the entire time fretting about other people, or that I wouldn't get a chance to eat, to dance, to talk to the people I wanted to talk to, and none of that eventuated. Instead, the whole thing was just a lovely party, with the person I've chosen to spend the rest of my life, and all the people we love around us. There were people there I've known since birth, since preschool, one secondary school friend (*waves at [livejournal.com profile] catpuccino*), friends from my postgrad years at Cambridge, sraffies (Philip Pullman fandom friends), and people I had just met that day. It really meant a lot to have my sister there (and indeed to have three 'sisters' as bridesmaids: my sister by blood, my sister by marriage, and my sister by choice), as well as those relatives who made the trek from Australia, although I was sad that not many of them were able to do so.

    About marriage itself I feel complicated feelings. I'm an atheist, so I was always going to have a secular wedding, and don't view the ceremony itself as being sacramental. My own parents never married (nor is my father married to my stepmother), and I don't believe that marriage is necessary to be a good partner or a good parent. But I have always had a deep love of rituals and ceremonies marking important moments in peole's lives, and unlike my own parents, I always knew I wanted to get married if circumstances allowed, and that I wanted to have some kind of party to celebrate my wedding. Being married didn't make me feel differently about Matthias, or that our relationship had changed in any perceptible way (although, being a migrant, I am painfully aware of all the ways being married privileges a person in terms of immigration, visas, and passing on citizenship to one's children). Rather, I felt in the ceremony that we were publicly declaring something we have long felt. It feels odd to talk about 'my husband', or describe myself as someone's wife, but I imagine this will change over time.

    The world is dark and frightening, and Matthias and I have gone through a lot to be able to live together as migrants in a country that is becoming increasingly xenophobic, but our life together is a light that gives me courage to keep working and trying and learning and growing. I wish that same light -- wherever you find it -- for all of you.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    2017-08-04 08:11 pm

    A night like the hinge in a door

    If there is anything considered a comfort food in my family, this Marcella Hazan pasta dish is it. It is the first meal I remember eating, and there are numerous photos of me as a baby with it all over my face, hair, and high chair tray table. I have eaten it in every house I have ever lived, and it was the first main meal I learnt how to cook. Every time I've moved house, city, country, the first thing I've done is located the few ingredients (garlic, flat leaf parsley, tinned tomatoes, olive oil, tinned tuna and pasta) and cooked it, as a sort of way of making each new house -- and its kitchen -- my own. I feel if I couldn't find those ingredients and couldn't cook this meal, I would never truly feel at home.

    Because most of the most significant events in my life have revolved around moving -- leaving homes behind, crossing an ocean, living away from my family -- I've also come to associate this dish with moments of significance in my own life.

    Of course, therefore, on the night before my wedding, I would cook and eat nothing else. It's calming to follow the same familiar motions, chopping garlic and parsley, heating olive oil, scooping tuna into the fried tomato sauce. This city, this house, and this relationship have been my home for a long time now, and in some ways getting married is simply a public confirmation of something I've felt for much longer. But still I felt the need to mark this turning point in a quieter, more personal way that would matter to me and be invisible to others. Tomorrow I will go out to the registry office and say the words, and celebrate with Matthias and our friends and families, and we will still be the same people, but something will change in a way that I find impossible to articulate. And I will carry on cooking pasta with tuna sauce, and it will continue to mean change, and comfort, and continuation, and home.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    2017-07-18 04:29 pm

    Another post where I ask for recommendations

    My wedding is fast approaching, and while I think Matthias and I have that under control (it'd be a bit late if we were still running around planning it, given the wedding is in two and a half weeks, after all!), we've only barely begun planning our honeymoon. All the flights and accommodation are booked, but we haven't yet started to plan what we actually want to do in the places we'll be visiting: Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. That's where you come in.

    I had great success earlier this year asking my Dreamwidth circle for recommendations for things to do in Iceland when visiting with my mother -- people made fantastic suggestions, and the two of us were able to put together a good itinerary, and we had a fabulous time. Does anyone have similar suggestions to make for any of the three cities Matthias and I will be visiting?

    Things we like:
    - art galleries, museums, cool old buildings/architecture. We wouldn't want to spend the entire time doing nothing but visiting museums, but one or two in each city would be nice.
    - walking, especially in quirky/pretty/interesting parts of cities we've never seen.
    - good food and drink. He likes beer, but will probably have done investigations of his own and have that covered. I like coffee.

    If anyone has knowledge regarding public transport (if there's some kind of 24-hour travel pass or the like, or if we need to pay on buses with exact change, or other local quirks to public transport systems), that would also be super helpful. In all three cities we'll be staying in hotels that are reasonably central. We will be in each place for roughly two full days and three nights.

    Thanks in advance!
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    2017-07-02 12:52 pm

    Sunshine and green leaves

    I'm determinedly ignoring British politics this weekend, which has meant that I've been able to spend the past day and a half in ignorant, productive, relaxing bliss. I know that I'm eventually going to cave and open up Twitter or the Guardian's politics livefeed, but I've been able to resist the temptation so far.

    Matthias and I spent Saturday sorting out a few remaining wedding-related tasks. As a result, he now has a suit to wear on the day, and we have ordered our wedding rings, which is super exciting! There are only five weeks to go before the wedding, and the planning has gone fairly smoothly up to this point. It helped that we were almost the last couple in our circle of friends to get married, so we benefitted from the advice and experience of many other married couples. Other than paying for stuff (which will happen incrementally over the next few weeks), and sorting out a playlist to play after the reception, we're pretty much done, which is a huge relief.

    After the wedding errands, the two of us met up with [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, her husband, [tumblr.com profile] jimtheviking and [twitter.com profile] BeccaMerkelbach in one of our favourite Cambridge pubs. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, and we sat drinking gin or beer in the shaded, tree-filled beer garden, and generally had a wonderful time.

    I'm planning a fairly lazy afternoon — I finally bought the ebook of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (the sequel to her excellent The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet, which I loved), and am intending to spend the afernoon sitting out in the courtyard and reading it. It looks as if summer has finally arrived (although I realise that's probably an overly optimistic thing to say in the UK), so I might as well make the most of it!
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    2017-06-29 07:44 am

    Night on Fic Mountain reveals and recs

    Now that the authors/artists of [community profile] nightonficmountain have finally been revealed, I'm able to share my own contribution to the exchange, and also a few recommendations. For those of you who don't know, [community profile] nightonficmountain is a fun, multifandom exchange for fanworks in small fandoms (on similar lines as Yuletide, but on a much smaller scale).

    This year, I wrote one gift fic:

    Sugar Water by [archiveofourown.org profile] Dolorosa
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 3066
    Fandom: Six of Crows Series - Leigh Bardugo
    Characters: Inej Ghafa, Matthias Helvar, Nina Zenik
    Relationship(s): Inej Ghafa/Matthias Helvar/Nina Zenik
    Summary: Matthias wants to give Nina a gift. Inej has the perfect idea.

    Three exiles in Ketterdam come to the realisation that they have found a home in each other.

    Post-Crooked Kingdom. (A canon-divergent AU.)

    My gift was a lovely Briseis/Chryseis Iliad fic:

    In the Ruins by [archiveofourown.org profile] LadyBrooke
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 1168
    Fandom: The Iliad - Homer
    Characters: Chryseis, Briseis, Chryseis' Son
    Relationship(s): Briseis/Chryseis
    Summary: Briseis escaped from the camp before the army had left the ruins of Troy, and ran towards it.

    Chryseis lived through the ruin of the city and remains within it.

    I didn't know many of the fandoms in the exchange, but there were a couple of fics I really liked, so I'll rec them here.

    A Meeting of Curious Minds by [archiveofourown.org profile] notkingyet
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 1370
    Fandom: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (TV)
    Characters: John Childermass, Arabella Strange, Lady Pole
    Summary: 2 July, 1817

    Mr Childermass,

    I require your assistance in a matter of urgency and grave importance. Please come to no. 9 Harley-street at your earliest convenience. Mr Vinculus need not attend.

    Your obedient servant,

    Lady Pole


    Smoulder by [archiveofourown.org profile] Merit
    Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Word Count: 4081
    Fandom: Old Kingdom - Garth Nix
    Characters: Lirael, Sameth
    Summary: Smoke tears through the sky.

    I hope everyone else who participated in [community profile] nightonficmountain enjoyed it as much as I did! If you have any recs, feel free to post them in the comments!
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    2017-06-07 04:48 pm

    A message, on the eve of the UK general election

    So, here we are. It's been a pretty awful few years of British politics, and this election -- the reasons behind it, the campaign, and the past twelve months in general have been ghastly. I'm not very happy to be going to the polls tomorrow, and although I'm happy with the person I'm voting for, I'm furious with his party for a variety of reasons, and feel pretty dismal about the outcome of the election.

    And yet, I'll be there at the polling station to cast my vote at 7am.

    I can vote in three countries, and have been doing so in all three, in every election (local, state, national, and referendum) since I've been eligible. In most, I've been voting against the tide; usually my chosen candidate got in, but frequently their party did not win office. It's not been a good decade for politics in my countries. And still, I vote. In one of my countries it's against the law not to, but even without this incentive I would still vote, as I do in the other two countries in which I vote. Over the years I've come to see my vote less as a marker of tribal affiliation and moral purity, and more as a shield, the last line of defense I have available to protect those more vulnerable than me, including those who live in my countries but cannot vote. I would urge all my fellow UK voters who feel ambivalent about the choices put before them on the ballot paper tomorrow to try to view their vote in the same way.

    I want to turn from fellow voters for a moment to address a group with whom I feel a great deal of empathy, and whose plight weighs on my mind: the vast majority of migrants in the UK who live here, but cannot vote. Although I am a British citizen now, before I became I citizen I was a migrant who could vote, as Commonwealth and Irish residents of the UK are allowed to vote in all elections here. However, my partner is an EU migrant, as are a great many of my friends, and still more are non-EU and non-Commonwealth migrants, and it has been awful for them to sit out election after election in which decisions are made that have monumental and terrible effects on their lives. My fellow migrants, I am so sorry. I am so sorry we have had to endure yet another election campaign in which we are painted as thieves and parasites whose motives for wanting to be in this country are suspect and illegitimate. I am sorry that the Tories have been campaigning on a platform of anti-migrant hysteria, and that the result tomorrow may have an impact on people's migration status. I am sorry that EU migrants have now lived for close to a year with no clear certainty about their ongoing right to live, work and study in this country. I am sorry that non-EU migrants are facing the prospect of even more restrictive, expensive and cruel immigration rules that will separate families, possibly permanently. I'm sorry that while Labour has been bold in offering a genuinely social democratic alternative to the Tories' vile austerity, this welcoming welfare state doesn't appear to have any room for migrants, unless you read between the lines, where Labour pledges to leave the single market, and thus free movement. I'm sorry that whenever we raise these concerns, talk about how unwelcome and afraid we're being made to feel, we're met with either open hostility from the Right, and accusations of being divisive from the Left (minor parties notwithstanding). I'm furious that the future of the NHS can be a major part of this election campaign with barely any mention of the fact that a drastic limiting of immigration will cause the NHS to cease to function.

    I want to say to my fellow migrants that you are wanted. You are loved. I am voting for you. I beg any reluctant voters who cannot muster up the enthusiasm to vote for themselves to do the same. Vote for those who live and love and give and contribute so much here, but cannot vote themselves. Convince others to do the same. Please. Vote.
    dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
    2017-05-05 03:22 pm

    Writing through despair

    I was going to write today about the wonderful trip Matthias and I made to visit friends in Poznań -- our first time in Poland -- and how it was restorative and healing and hopeful. I probably will still write about that trip, but events have pushed it from the front of my mind.

    I'm writing, of course, about the dismal UK local election results (and what they appear to predict for the general election in June), and the crushing sense of hopelessness I'm seeing all around me -- both among friends and colleagues here in Cambridge, and among friends all over the world more generally. My colleagues and I had a big screaming rant over lunch, and I think it helped. I thought I'd share with you what I said to a colleague who was feeling particularly down. These are the things I remind myself when I feel at my most hopeless. I'm not naive enough to think they'll save the world: the situation is dire in so many places, and the barriers we face are considerable. But I've been repeating these things to myself to keep myself going after Brexit; they've been helpful to me, and maybe they will be helpful to you.

  • I take satisfaction from knowing, if humanity survives, that in twenty, fifty, one hundred years' time, historians will judge harshly those who got us into the various messes currently plaguing the world. Children will learn about those responsible at school, and write essays castigating their failures. People will build careers explaining the political, social and moral failures of those who are currently running things. This may not comfort you, but it comforts me.


  • We may be powerless against the vast political tidal waves currently sweeping the world, and not everyone will survive them. But we have power to be supportive, uplifting and kind in the smallness of our everyday lives. We have the power to donate to or signal-boost a fundraiser for friends in need, to buy a cup of coffee and sandwich for a person sleeping rough, to be polite to a retail worker or call-centre worker or barista, to donate to a food bank, to join a refugee support network, to make art that comforts the powerless, to build, to teach, to vote, to love.


  • It is impossible and overwhelming to try to fight against every injustice and cruelty. It will grind you down and erode your capacity to help and hope. It's far better if you pick just one (or two, or three, or whatever you feel able) issue or cause to support, and throw as much of yourself and your energy into that issue, or those causes. And make sure it's a cause or issue where you can actually help in a meaningful way. By all means boost the causes of others, and, where appropriate, join forces -- we are stronger together. But focusing on one thing doesn't mean you care most about it, or don't care about other causes. Don't get hung up on doing activism in a certain way -- not everyone can march or demonstrate, not everyone can attend meeting with political representatives, not everyone can phone or write letters, not everyone has money to spare to donate to their chosen cause. Don't beat yourself up about this: it doesn't mean you don't care or aren't helping. It means you are using your energy and skills in the most practical, helpful way.


  • Be as pragmatic as you feel comfortable. By this I don't mean accept the status quo, or allow harmful people to be involved in your cause because they achieve results. Instead I mean don't strive for instant perfection, instant results, or instant, monumental change. Learn to think of incremental change not as a compromise, but as a starting point for further changes. (By this I do not mean people should accept scraps and be grateful for them, but rather to think in the long term and focus on survival.)


  • I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but I have to be able to get out of bed in the morning, and these things help me.
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    2017-04-27 07:56 pm
    Entry tags:

    This looks like a fun meme

    Pretty much everyone's been posting this meme, so I figured I might as well give it a go myself.

    Comment with one of my fandoms and I'll tell you:

    the character I least understand
    interactions I enjoyed the most
    the character who scares me the most
    the character who is mostly like me
    hottest looks character
    one thing I dislike about my fave character
    one thing I like about my hated character
    a quote or scene that haunts me
    a death that left me indifferent
    a character I wish died but didn’t
    my ship that never sailed

    If you don't know my fandoms, feel free to ask: my Ao3 profile might also be helpful.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    2017-04-24 12:43 pm

    Review of The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

    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: (Default)
    2017-04-22 01:40 pm

    Tell them stories, part 2

    A lot of people have been sharing Yoon Ha Lee's post, 'The problem with problematic'. In it, [personal profile] yhlee responds to criticism levelled at Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series (the first book of which is up for a Hugo this year) by trans and/or nonbinary readers — criticism which has had the effect of removing a lot of nuance from responses to the series. Worse, as [personal profile] yhlee writes, this criticism has had the effect of erasing trans readers such as himself from the discussion altogether:

    All this just to say--readers are so individual in their reactions that "never write something hurtful" is untenable.

    I think this is related to the going trend these days, which is to ask authors not to write works that are "problematic." But what do we really mean by that? Analysis of, say, racist or sexist elements in media is valuable, and we need more of it. But sometimes what I see is not that, but "don't write problematic works" in the sense of "don't write things that I consider hurtful."


    As I am neither trans nor nonbinary, I'm not going to dictate to trans/nonbinary people how they should respond to Palmer's books (which is not what [personal profile] yhlee is doing, either), except to say that I think [personal profile] yhlee is correct when he says that Palmer's future was a dystopia telling itself that it was a utopia, and that you cannot understand her novels unless you view them from this perspective.

    However, like [personal profile] yhlee, I think this response to the Terra Ignota books is a symptom of a wider problem. I saw similar discussion around queer representation in Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant, with a number of LGBT reviewers repulsed by the tragic fate of the book's queer characters, and a small minority adoring the book and feeling like their queer identities were being called into question for doing so. Amal El-Mohtar was one of the latter group, and wrote a blog post along those lines:

    I’ve been watching conversations emerging — mostly on Twitter, mostly subtweeting, mostly in fits and starts — trying to categorize responses to the book according to some sort of ticky-box taxonomy of readers. I find this utterly repellent. Some people will suggest that only queer people have problems with the book, ergo it must write queer people’s lives poorly; others will counter with “well, Amal liked the book,” as if that could be the last word on the subject; still others will try to parse whether it’s my Brownness or my Queerness that has shaped my response, in pursuit of some sort of One True Response to the book.


    I've not read this book, and again, I have no intention of dictating people's responses to it, or telling them that they should read a story which they are going to find upsetting and hurtful. What I find troubling is the idea that people — particularly those of (multiple) marginalised identities — feeling they have to march in ideological lockstep and respond in identical ways to identical stories, especially if there's an implication that a divergent opinion calls their marginalised identity into question (or that they have to pick and choose between one or the other of their marginalisations, as if responding to a story in a certain way means they've prioritised their identity as a POC over their identity as an LGBT person).

    I have my own version of this regarding the rhetoric surrounding the 'proper' way to write women. For various reasons, partly because of my personal history, partly because of my lifelong narrative preferences, I respond much better — and will choose to read, watch or be fannish about — stories where the female characters are survivors of trauma, where their heroism has come at great cost, and where their powers are in spite of misogynistic pushback. I could list a thousand examples, but the first handful that spring to mind include the five Wives in Fury Road (victims of sexual violence), the clones in Orphan Black (who are quite literally viewed as patentable property without bodily autonomy), Jessica Jones in the Netflix TV series (a victim of sexual violence and mind-control), Laia from Sabaa Tahir's Ember in the Ashes series (who voluntarily allows herself to be enslaved in order to spy on her enemies, putting herself at constant risk of sexual and physical violence), Shahrzad from Renée Ahdieh's Wrath and the Dawn duology (a retelling of the 1001 Nights played fairly straight), Una from Sophia McDougall's Romanitas trilogy (an escaped slave with a traumatic history that's only hinted at, but which is fairly obvious if you read between the lines), Briseis and Chryseis from the Iliad (captured in war and victims of sexual violence) and Paige Mahoney from Samantha Shannon's Bone Season series, who begins the series in a very Stockholm Syndrome-y situation.

    I'm not saying these are the only depictions of female characters that I respond to — some of my favourite stories entirely lack this element! — but these tend to be the fictional characters that are closest to my heart, whose stories I draw on at times when I need courage, and inspire the bulk of my fannish feelings and output. What I don't respond to, and what is very low on my list of narrative priorities, are female characters who enter their stories already powerful, suffer no trauma, and wear their power joyfully and lightly.

    And yet I am constantly bombarded (at least in my corner of fandom) with categorical assertions that what female audiences want are untraumatised, joyful, uncomplicatedly happy female characters who revel in their power. This may be true for the vast majority of women and girls — as I said above, I have no intention of dictating others' storytelling preferences. But I'm told, in furious Tumblr post after furious Tumblr post, that the Whedonesque heroine — one who experiences her power as a kind of violation, and who fights at least in part as a response to trauma — is anathema, is unwanted, is hurtful to all female fans. But for me it is precisely this kind of character that gives me courage, because such characters tell me, over and over again, that I as a woman will survive, will be brave, will live on and find power in the support and community of other women, and that women with my experiences will get to be the protagonists of our own stories.

    Most of the responses to [personal profile] yhlee's post (outside of the comments on the post itself) seem to have been along the lines of well, this gives us lots to chew on without really engaging in the points made. My feeling is that we'll never progress beyond this point unless people are prepared to talk about the broad spectrum of reactions to stories, and allow for this range of reactions without trying to police people's identities. I have it somewhat easy. I'm not exactly starved for narratives of my chosen type: the world abounds with stories of traumatised women taking back power for themselves, although of course some stories do it better than others. When it comes to depictions of more marginalised identities, the dearth of representation is much starker. This is precisely why the solution to bad or limited representation is not to enforce a uniform response to this representation, but rather to do everything in our power to encourage and enable more representation. (This obviously means significant structural changes to publishing, film- and television-making, and a huge amount of work in amplifying marginalised voices and making creative fields less hostile to creators of marginalised identities.) I believe enforcing a party line when it comes to people of marginalised identities responding to fictional marginalised characters is deeply harmful. I also believe that the cure for this problem is as many stories as possible, so that everyone is spoiled for choice when searching for stories that speak to them.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    2017-04-09 05:20 pm

    Dear Night on Fic Mountain Author

    Thank you for writing for me!

    I'm pretty easygoing about what type of fic you want to write for me. I read fic of any rating, and would be equally happy with plotty genfic or something very shippy. I read gen, femslash, het and slash, although I have a slight preference towards femslash, het, and gen that focuses on female characters. I mainly read fic to find out what happens to characters after the final page has turned or the credits have rolled, so I would particularly love to have futurefic of some kind. Feel free to have a look around my Ao3 profile if you want a clearer idea of the sorts of things I like. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to the characters I specifically mention — I'm happy with others being included if they fit with the story you want to tell.

    General likes include
  • feminism (and women's stories more broadly)

  • found families

  • people with very different perspectives and/or life experiences coming together (either romantically, as friends, or as reluctant allies)

  • human/non-human pairings, or relationships with power imbalances

  • dispossession and exile, and place and the way it shapes people


  • Major dislikes and squicks: AUs, fusions and crossovers, excessive descriptions of bodily fluids, Mpreg, incest. I am only interested in shipfic if it focuses on the pairings I specifically mention in my prompts.

    Fandom-specific prompts behind the cut )

    Don't feel you have to stick rigidly within the bounds of my prompts. As long as your fic is focused on the characters or relationships I requested, I will be thrilled to receive anything you write for me, as these really are some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and the existence of any fic for them will make me extremely happy.
    dolorosa_12: (emily)
    2017-04-07 01:33 pm

    The end of an era

    I first joined Livejournal back in 2003, at the urging of high school friends such as [livejournal.com profile] anya_1984, [livejournal.com profile] catpuccino and [livejournal.com profile] miss_foxy. We'd all finished secondary school, and were scattering to various places for university -- the idea was to use LJ as a way to stay in touch. I barely used it at all during those early years, and didn't really get a feel for blogging as a medium (or LJ as a platform) until 2007, when I got heavily involved in online fandom. My fannish activity at this point was mostly confined to the two book fansites where I hung out, but most of the people on those forums also had LJ accounts, so I ended up adding them there, where we had more personal and less fannish subject-specific conversations than those taking place on the forums. However, while I was active on LJ during its heyday, I never really felt a part of things there: most of the people I talked to on LJ were people I knew first elsewhere, and apart from the odd person I met through the two of us being the only people to list very obscure interests, LJ-based fandom seemed to pass me by. To the extent that I was aware of it, it always seemed to be a conversation that was happening elsewhere, with rules and conventions that were opaque to me. By the time I was interested in becoming more involved in this fannish community, the majority of it decamped to Tumblr. What I'm trying to say is that LJ never felt like an online home to me. Home for me was the two forums and their associated chatrooms, and, later, Dreamwidth and Twitter. Those spaces were where I met the most people, where I thought and conversed and wrote and dreamed. For years I'd been mentally thinking of LJ as a backup (as well as a place I entered occasionally to talk to a few stubborn holdouts).

    What I'm trying to say is that I don't feel the same sense of anguished loss and ending that so many of my friends are talking about. I understand their grief -- I would feel it, were any of the online 'homes' I mentioned above cease to exist, particularly Dreamwidth and the forums -- and I am furious on their behalf that they have been put in the position of choosing between erasing years of thinking and writing and creating and history and memory, or consenting to terms of service utterly at odds with their personal integrity. But written records are really important to me -- so important that I've never deleted a single online account, nor deleted a single post or comment anywhere online, save for correcting typos. I feel really strongly about the endurance of online content, of links continuing to work, of matters of historical record remaining.

    The solution I've come up with is to keep my LJ, but, after this post has been mirrored, to disable cross-posting from Dreamwidth. I'm in the process of importing a couple of tiny LJ comms I used to run over to Dreamwidth, and once that's done, I'm unlikely to log back in to LJ again, apart from doing so periodically in order to retain my username. I know a lot of friends on LJ have Dreamwidth accounts, and if you'd like to stay in touch, I'd appreciate if you could add and follow me on Dreamwidth -- I'm [personal profile] dolorosa_12, the same as on LJ. Those of you who do not yet have Dreamwidth accounts, I'm sorry. I will enable commenting from non-Dreamwidth accounts, so if you want to subscribe and interact without joining, that may be a way to stay in touch. As I said, I'm not going to import any more posts into LJ after this one.

    I'm sorry it has come to this.
    dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
    2017-03-26 06:46 pm

    UK politics: apparently able to make me sick

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

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

    Next week is going to be difficult, particularly for EU friends living in the UK (and their non-EU family members whose immigration status depends on Britain being a member-state of the EU). I wish I could offer words of comfort or courage, but I've got nothing. It's a terrible thing that is happening, a decision made by people who voted to take something away from others, something they'd never understood, never knowingly made use of (the irony being that all the times they did make use of it were invisible to them), and whose value they were unable to perceive.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    2017-03-19 02:30 pm

    Adventures elsewhere

    This is just a brief post to mention that I have (finally) dusted off my Wordpress blog to write a review of a few books that I've enjoyed recently. The review covers The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh, Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow, and The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. It's spoiler-free, but given that two of the books reviewed are not the first in their respective series, it does touch on events in earlier books. The review can be found here, and I'm happy to respond to comments either on the original post, or here on LJ/Dreamwidth.

    I'm gearing up to nominate some fandoms and characters for Night on Fic Mountain, one of my favourite multi-fandom fic exchanges. It's an exchange for small fandoms (similar to Yuletide, although normally on a slightly smaller scale), and I thoroughly enjoyed it last year when I participated for the first time. I highly recommend it to those of you who participate in fic exchanges. Nominations are currently open, and will be until 31st March. There are more details about the schedule for the exchange here.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    2017-03-12 05:31 pm

    Back to the garden

    I've been in a sort of hibernation, which is why you haven't seen me around these parts that much. Whenever I get into this state of mind, I tend to retreat back to basics: a lot of cooking, a lot of decorating. I suppose you could call it nesting. This weekend, I added gardening to the mix.

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

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

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

    How have your weekends been?