dolorosa_12: (tea)
After my month of posting every day about books, I seem to have completely vanished from the internet, and Dreamwidth in particular. This was mainly due to illness, brought on by intense stress about the political crisis in the UK and the impending Brexit catastrophe. More about that below.

But first, I'll talk about nice things.

I spent last weekend in Germany for the wedding of one of Matthias's cousins. The cousin (and indeed that whole part of the family) live in Iserlohn, and the wedding and reception were all in that part of the world. Matthias and I flew in to Dortmund on Friday afternoon and were collected by his parents, who drove us to the hotel where we were all staying (and which would also be the reception venue). We all had dinner on the Friday night in the hotel with another aunt and uncle. The wedding itself was on midday on the Saturday, in a castle on the top of a hill, and sadly I didn't get any photos of the ceremony itself, but trust me when I say the setting was very picturesque. We then returned back to the reception for what ended up being an entire day of being fed. The reception meal at German weddings (at least in my experience) is always dinner, but as it was about 2pm at that point and no one had had lunch, we were given open bread roll sandwiches as canapes with our sparkling wine. This was then followed by coffee and a variety of cakes at 3pm, and finally the huge buffet dinner in the evening. There was also apparently a midnight snack of cheeses and fruit, but I was certainly not hungry enough by that point to investigate!

There was a DJ playing (as always) the cheesiest collection of both German and English-language music, and I danced for hours. We finally staggered up to bed around 1am. Now normally I would be able to sleep fine, even with the DJ still going several floors below, but because my body's been in panic mode pretty much for the past three weeks, my sleeping abilities are wrecked, and I ended up not being able to sleep at all that night, even though the DJ finished up around 2.30 and then it was deathly quiet. Luckily I didn't need to do anything on the Sunday beyond being driven to the airport (with a detour to a nearby lake which we walked around in the sunsine).

On Monday I went down to London after work to go to a panel discussion at the Piccadilly Waterstones between Samantha Shannon, Zen Cho, Tasha Suri, and Zoe Marriott, moderated by their fellow author Katherine Webber. It was a fun talk — all, with the exception of Marriott (who was a bit rambly) were great speakers, and although it didn't really tell me anything new about their books, it was great to see them in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other and gushing over one another's books.

From the heights to the depths: the ghastly, stressful political, economic, social and psychological catastrophe that is Brexit. For several weeks, I was feverishly following every moment: Twitter open with various commentators live-tweeting sessions in the House of Commons, the Guardian's frenzied politics livefeed open in the next tab over. This did serious damage to both my mental and physical health (I couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks that lasted all night, I had nightmares, the lack of sleep gave me a cold, at one point I literally vomited from stress at work), and in the end I had to stop. I had been following every moment because I was afraid something terrible would happen and I would miss trying to stop it. On Wednesday last week, after a particularly bad night of panic attacks, I realised that I had to just completely switch off everything. So no Twitter, no news — I can't even go to news websites to look up articles on something else, in case I see anything Brexit-related. I've been living in a sort of cone of silence for over a week now, and it's helping, mostly.

I do know that the EU allowed Britain a longer extension, because Matthias told me this morning, meaning that the country will still be in the EU tomorrow, and I will still be an EU citizen for now. I'm assuming we'll have to hold EU parliamentary elections now, although even that was unclear (but surely the EU would be mad to offer an extension to October without making the EU parliamentary elections a condition?). But the panicked uncertainty was too much for me, so I think I'll have to maintain my distance.

I see also that Scott Morrison has finally called an election, so that will be another thing to vote for in May. I'm hoping desperately that all the polls are right and we're going to get a change of government (although the prospect of Bill Shorten being rewarded for essentially not being Scott Morrison is pretty depressing; I met Shorten at a dinner party before he was an MP and I was not impressed). I'm imagining that the campaign will be dismal and ugly.

So that's been my life for the past couple of weeks. I've been listening to a lot of M83. Carry on, carry on/ and after us the flood indeed.
dolorosa_12: (startorial)
Massive Attack was everything I could have hoped for and more. I'm not, generally, someone who gets overwhelmed with the experience of live music, but there are rare exceptions, and this was one of them. I didn't quite realise how emotional it would make me, to see the album that I've loved so much since I was a teenager, in awe at its wordplay and dark bass and vocals both soaring and cthonic, brought to life. To hear those words, that have been at once formative foundation and the armour in which I've wrapped myself for more than twenty years, sung aloud. I was lost the minute I walked out into the Tube station and saw this (as I said to Matthias, it's moments like this that I love London, that ridiculous city). And then they sang my favourite song of all time: not just my favourite Massive Attack song, but my favourite song by any artist. I've heard Robert Del Naja whisper-growl we can unwind/ all these half flaws, and it's making up for two decades of concert regrets.

(Two links that probably sum up the concert very well — a review of the show, and an interview with the band.)

We stayed overnight in London after the concert — leaving the O2 to dense, atmospheric fog which somehow felt perfectly in keeping with the mood evoked by the music, and which was still around on Saturday morning, shrouding the post-apocalyptic wasteland which is Canning Town at 7am with a vaguely Luther-ish air. After a quick breakfast in one of my favourite Bloomsbury cafes (oh, London coffee), we wandered up to the British Museum, joining the thronging crowds on the penultimate day of an exhibition on Ashurbanipal, who was an Assyrian ruler. If the self-aggrandising quotes from his letters are to be believed he seemed rather like a more competent version of the menace currently President of the US — he won the vastest empire through battles, he solved all the complicated mathematic problems, sages and soothsayers contacted him for his predictions of the future, and so on. I was mainly struck by how much material had survived — so many letters and stories and tax records on clay tablets, so many incredible carved decorative stones, and so on. As most of this material comes from very dangerous parts of the world (mainly modern-day Iraq and Syria), there is great concern for its safety, and the final room of the exhibition had a video with interviews with Iraqi archaeologists, who had worked on the exhibition and who had been trained by the British Museum in 'disaster archaeology' (i.e. working in high-risk areas with materials that are under threat), and these archaeologists are currently excavating new sites in the region, with the aim that the materials unearthed will remain in Iraq. They were all very passionate about this work, but it sounds at once very dangerous, and a race against time.

I had grand plans today for writing book reviews, and a letter for [community profile] waybackexchange, but other than a bit of pottering around in the garden (we now should hopefully have home-grown zucchini and radishes in a few months' time) and reading a KJ Charles book in the sun, I've failed dismally to have a productive Sunday.

At least I seem to have got my reading groove back. I read Tara Westover's memoir Educated on the train to and from London, which, given how much of it involves studying at Cambridge (indeed, Westover was a friend of one of my Cambridge friends during her time there), seemed fitting. She's obviously lived a very interesting life — brought up as the daughter of fundamentalist Mormons who spent most of her childhood as Doomsday survivalists, completely neglecting her education, and raising her and her siblings in a wholly abusive environment, self-educating herself to the point that she could go to university, and then ending up a PhD student at Cambridge — and if I wished that she would condemn her parents in stronger terms, that probably says more about me than it does about her.

I also read a handful of Tor.com free short stories — three on the basis of recommendations from [personal profile] eglantiere ('What Mario Scietto Says' by Emmy Laybourne, 'Cold Wind' by Nicola Griffith, and 'The Tallest Doll in New York City' by Maria Dahvana Headley), and one of the basis of a review by Amal El-Mohtar ('A Dead Djinn in Cairo' by P. Djèlí Clark). I liked them all except the Laybourne, which, given that its point-of-view character is a survivalist prepper experiencing an apocalypse, and given what I said above about the Westover book, was never going to work for me. I really find it hard to engage with a narrative that expects me to sympathise with survivalists, or which implies that they were right to prep for the apocalypse.

Matthias and I also found time last night to finish off the fifth season of Luther, which didn't work for me for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I felt the writers lost their sense of the characters, who all behaved in ways which were for me widely out of character. I'm not sure if there'll be another season, and I'm not sure if some of the writing decisions made in this one are salvageable, but in any case I was not particularly impressed.

How has everyone been enjoying their weekends?
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: (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.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
I have a lot of stuff to post about, including a great trip to Italy I made nearly two weeks ago to celebrate the wedding of two friends, but it will have to wait, because there is other, more pressing news. Namely, I was lucky enough to get to see Janelle Monáe live at a concert last night in the Camden Roundhouse in London!

Rather fortuitously, the concert was on the same day as a day conference on open access monograph publishing, which Matthias went to and was thus able to not take leave to go to the concert (as I had to do), and had the cost of his train ticket covered, making the whole day slightly cheaper than it would otherwise have been. While he was at the conference, I caught up with [twitter.com profile] lowercasename at a cute little basement coffee place in Bloomsbury. Inevitably, as it always is when two migrants in the UK meet up, we fell to venting about the Home Office, fretting about visas, and planning his next visa application with the level of tactical detail normally reserved for some sort of military campaign. Inevitably, also, his PhD supervisor was giving a keynote address at the conference Matthias was attending. It really is a very small world.

I spent the rest of the day wandering around London. I visited the free exhibition at the British Library on the Windrush generation, stopped in at Seven Dials, and walked along Regent's Canal from Kings Cross to Camden Lock, where I met Matthias at a great Caribbean restaurant over the road from the Roundhouse before heading in to the concert.

I'd definitely put it in my top five concerts of all time (so far). I've only ever been at one other concert where the singer was so generous and open and almost giving away pieces of themselves in the way Monáe did last night. She played most of the songs from her newest album, as well as some older numbers, and had a fabulous set of dancers and a great backing band, and bounced and strutted around the stage with sheer dynamic energy. And her voice! At one point she brought up several audience members onto the stage to dance with her, and the first person was so overwhelmed with emotion that she was almost crying - and then she danced her heart out.

I was up in the seating area (I can't do crowds), and by the end of the concert, almost everyone in my little corner of the gallery was out of their seat and dancing - me included, of course!

I had a wonderful time, although unfortunately I was completely unable to sleep when I got home, meaning I now have been awake since 5.30am yesterday, so today's day at work is going to be ... interesting.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I got tagged over on Tumblr by [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse to do a meme about music where I talked about ten songs that I fell in love with. I've moved things over to Dreamwidth because I prefer to do longform blogging here.

As anyone who's ever met me knows, I am completely overinvested in music, so the hard part of a meme like this is trying to narrow it down to only ten songs! I've tried to get in as wide a range in mood as possible, but given that I tend towards melodrama and big emotions (I literally have a Tumblr tag called mellow is not a genuine emotion), and tend to overidentify with song lyrics (and associate songs with people, relationships, and/or phases in my life), certain themes are likely to be apparent here.

Let's put this behind a cut, because this got long )

Looking at this list, the other common element (besides EXTREME EMOTIONS and overidentification with song lyrics) is the sea, and water more generally. I guess it makes sense. I feel all the feelings about the ocean, and it's had a profound effect on my life, like a watery thread running through everything.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Last night, Matthias and I braved the Cambridge rains and went out to see Aurora. For those who don't know her music, I can best describe her as another in the long line of fey, ethereal, slightly discordant female Scandinavian electropop singers whose lyrics are vaguely unsettling. Think a calmer Niki & the Dove, a less pointed Karin Dreijer Andersson, or a sweeter Susanne Sundfør. It's very watery music, both in sound and lyrical content.

I'm not the most seasoned concert-goer: I get really tense in large crowds, particularly if they're close enough that I'm going to have lots of strangers touching me, so I have to really want to see the act, so I'm not sure exactly where I'd rank this in terms of Concerts I Have Been To, but it was a very different experience to any other concert I've attended. It was somehow warm and welcoming and meditative, and almost magical, as if she were reaching out and enveloping the audience in a hug, or a blanket. It was interesting to me that so many of the audience — the most passionate of Aurora's fans — were young teenage girls, aged around 13-16 to my eyes. She was so gentle and encouraging to them, and I found that quite precious and moving. It was as if she could relate to them on their level and see the power of the moment — being in the same space as someone they admired and loved — without ever being patronising or minimising the depth of their emotional engagement.

And as for the music? It fed my soul, somehow. The convert came on the heels of a really trying, exhausting, and in many ways upsetting week, and being in that space, in that moment, was exactly what I needed.

My favourite songs from the set (links go to live versions, but not from my concert):

'Black Water Lilies'
'Conqueror' (in this clip, as at our gig, she engaged in what Matthias describes as 'Ronni dancing', which I'll have to admit is true)
'I Went Too Far'
'Through the Eyes of a Child'.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
As with Reading Wednesday posts, I'm not sure if this is going to happen every week, but I would like to make it a semi-regular feature. This week, I've got a couple of fics, a fanvid, and a playlist.

5 Easy Rules for the Children of A-List Celebrities by [archiveofourown.org profile] igrockspock (Veronica Mars, Logan Echolls, Aaron Echolls, Lynn Echolls, gen. Contains canon typical reference to child abuse).

What Goes Around (Comes Around) by [archiveofourown.org profile] Isis (Raven Cycle multipairing fic). This is only the first chapter of a five-part fic, and I can't wait to read more.

Still staying in the Raven Cycle, I made what started out as a Blue Sargent playlist, but morphed into something more Blue/Gansey. You can find it here at 8tracks, and I've got the full track listing here.

Finally, via [personal profile] goodbyebird, some great Festivids recs. My favourite was this one, Council Estate, which is for Attack the Block.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This week has been absolutely excellent for people saying brilliant, eloquent, important things.

To journey is to be human. To migrate is to be human. Human migration forged the world. Human migration will forge the future, writes Ishtiyak Shukri in 'Losing London'. This was the post of the week for me, and affected me deeply.

We already have the table of contents, but now we have the cover of Athena Andreadis's To Shape The Dark anthology, illustrated beautifully by Eleni Tsami.

I really loved this interview of Aliette de Bodard by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: I’ve come to realize that “appealing to everybody” is a codeword for bland, unobjectionable stuff; or at the very least for something that doesn’t challenge the reader; and, just as I like to be challenged when I read, I would in turn like to do that to my readers!

Speaking of Aliette de Bodard's writing, she's put 'In Morningstar's Shadow', the prequel short story to The House of Shattered Wings, up online for free. I read it last weekend and loved it.

I liked this essay by Marianne de Pierres on Australian myths in contemporary SF, but I've been worrying away at some of its conclusions for reasons I can't quite articulate. Certainly I appreciate the recognition of Australian writing's emphasis on the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, but I worry about her characterisation of the Australian landscape as universally barren, inhospitable and predatory. Let's just say it is not so to all inhabitants of Australia, and is not represented as such in the stories of all Australians, although it is a really significant theme in Australian literature.

Sophie Masson wrote on authors in a changing publishing landscape. I smiled a little ruefully at this quote:

When my last adult novel, Forest of Dreams, came out in 2001, I was commissioned to write a piece for a newspaper on the historical background of the novel (a paid piece), and reviews of the book appeared in several print publications, despite its being genre fiction. When The Koldun Code, also genre fiction, came out in 2014, I had to write several guest posts for blogs, do interviews for online publications (all unpaid) and reviews only appeared online.

I did not review this book, but I did interview Masson and review several of her YA works for print publications, where I was paid for my work. Now I retweet links to her articles and review things exclusively online for free. Oh, how times have changed!

Authors who are parents have been posting about the experience. There are too many posts to include here, but you can find links to all of them at the #ParentingCreating hashtag.

The latest of Kari Sperring's 'Matrilines' columns, on Evangeline Walton, is up. I've been finding these columns both illuminating - in terms of introducing me to many authors whose work sounds right up my alley - and disheartening, in that almost all of them were entirely new to me, instead of well-known figures in the SF canon.

I found this post by Samantha Shannon on judging a literary award to be a very interesting read.

In a departure from these posts' usual content, I have a music recommendation: CHVRCHES' new album Every Open Eye. It stops my heart, in the best possible way.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
This past weekend was just wonderful, without all that much actually happening. The weather was exactly as I like it, crisp, clear and bright, with the feeling of autumn in the air. While Matthias worked on his MA coursework, I pottered about, cooking, gardening, and making more fruit-infused liqueurs (blackberry-infused gin!).

I had all sorts of grand plans for lots of blogging, but in the end, the siren song of 8tracks was too much to resist. The result was this playlist:


All This Youth Makes Us Old from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



(The description: We are only young and naive still. A playlist for the years full of promise, intensity of emotion, fragility and sharpness, when summers lasted forever and the future seemed very distant indeed.)

Speaking of 8tracks (which, honestly, is one of my favourite sites on the internet, because it's filled with people who think of music in the same way I do - as a story), this playlist is simply perfect.

I mentioned Those Who Run With Wolves, a new review website set up by Aliette de Bodard, in a recent linkpost, but what I neglected to say is that I will be contributing. I don't have anything published there as yet, although a review of mine is queued up and ready to go when it's my turn in the posting schedule. The team of reviewers is great, and I'm really happy to be a part of it.

Finally, I was having a great conversation on Twitter with [twitter.com profile] rcloenenruiz, [twitter.com profile] EPBeaumont and [twitter.com profile] tylluan (with brief contributions from others, and sparked by an earlier comment of [twitter.com profile] karisperring) about the importance of mentors and institutional and community support. The conversation moved too fast to follow, and I wish I'd been able to archive it somehow (Storify might be a possibility, but it was bouncing off in all sorts of different directions and would probably be hard to follow in that format). Twitter is great for conversations, but awful for keeping easy-to-follow records thereof. In any case, it got me thinking that I need to write something here on the subject, so consider this me keeping myself accountable on that score.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
It's Friday afternoon Saturday morning (and I'm mirroring this from my Wordpress blog), and that means it's high time for your weekly links. Most of these were gathered via Twitter, because I follow some fabulous people over there, and they keep finding and doing wonderful things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy Armenian teenager Vika Ogannesyan singing 'Plava Laguna' (the opera song from The Fifth Element).
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
The 'Aims Project' is a multifandom vid album, in which each participant has made a fanvid using the music of one song from Vienna Teng's Aims album. Each vid is astoundingly lovely.

I was recently alerted to the existence of 'We Are Sansa Stark', an old essay on Pornokitsch. I don't agree with every one of its conclusions - particularly that Sansa is definitely going to end up a major political player in the series - nor do I think it's helpful to criticise fandom for pitting Sansa and Arya against each other and then...do the same. But I love Sansa and characters like her, and sometimes it's just nice to see them get a bit of love.

This post by [tumblr.com profile] anneursu takes all the sneering critics of YA literature to task, and does so excellently. Read the whole thing.

'When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami' is a short story by Kendare Blake published on Tor.com. It's set in the world of her Goddess Wars series (which I hadn't heard of but then promptly reserved at the library), and is set in a mid-'90s Miami crawling with gods and goddesses, and Lost Boys-inspired vampire wannabes.

I'm a massive fan of this animated credits to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Stephen Byrne.

While we wait impatiently for Ancillary Sword, Orbit has put an excerpt from the first chapter up on its website.

This Massive Attack retrospective sums up all my overwhelming feelings of love for this band:

British trip hop pioneers Massive Attack are one of the most celebrated acts in the history of electronic music. Their atmospheric take on hip hop and R&B, with elements of soul, funk, jazz and electronica, was an exciting new sound in the late ’80s and early ’90s. They pioneered the genre now known as trip hop and quickly became hugely influential all around the world. Few electronic acts are held in such high regard as the Bristol-bred outfit. If they had never released their five studio albums, some of today’s great artists may never have gone down the musical paths they chose. Massive Attack are more than a band, they made us rethink how music can be created, and redefined what a band could be.

I still haven't got my copy of Unmade by [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales (Sarah Rees Brennan) and thus can't participate in all the revelry, but she has some great fanart up on her blog, as well as the schedule for her blog tour. I'll be checking out all those posts once I've got around to reading the book.

'I Don't Know How But I Know I Will' is an 8tracks mix by angrygirlsquad 'for those days where you see no way through. you haven’t failed. you are alive. everything else is bonus'.

I hope you are all feeling loved by the people you love, flist.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy two days ago, and, a couple of quibbles with certain narrative choices aside, thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't really have much to say on the matter, but my friends [tumblr.com profile] jimtheviking and [tumblr.com profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves have been having a very interesting conversation about it which I felt was worth sharing. Expect spoilers for the whole film.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This particular A Softer World gives me life.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Brace yourselves! I've just done yet another music meme.

Questions and answers behind the cut )

*You haven't lived until you've driven between Canberra and Sydney listening to my mother, sister and me belting out the lyrics to every song on one of our many 'driving CDs'.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
Melissa and Haley of Permission To Live were raised in the fundamentalist Quiverfull movement. This movement teaches strict adherence to 'traditional' gender roles - women are not allowed to work outside the home, children are to be homeschooled in order to avoid 'secular' influence, marriages are arranged by parents, and contraception is to be avoided. Melissa and Haley bought into all this - Haley had a job as a pastor, their marriage had been arranged, they had four children in quick succession, and Melissa was poorly educated and ill prepared for any work outside the home. Four years ago, Haley came out publicly as a trans woman, and the two began a new life. These days, Haley is working as a hair stylist, Melissa works as a kitchen manager, their older children are being educated in public school, and the two women have a new and supportive social circle, having left fundamentalism behind them.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of 669 children during the Holocaust, celebrated his 105th birthday with family and friends, including some of those 669 children and their descendants. There are around 6000 people in the world who owe their lives to his actions.

The Everyday Sexism project is now a book. Sometimes there's a power simply in speaking, listening, and realising that you, as a woman or girl, are not alone. That your experiences are real.

One of my friends from Cambridge started a blog on Tumblr about the experiences of women in sport, either as participants or fans. She even got retweeted by Mary Beard. If you are a female sports player or fan, you might want to consider submitting to my friend's Tumblr. She would also really appreciate word about it being spread.

The 'biggest dinosaur ever' has been discovered in Argentina.

A street vendor in China caught a baby who fell from an upper-storey window. The whole thing was captured on camera.

All over the world, people have taken the time to do this to public spaces.

Your weapons are already in hand
Reach within you and find the means by which to gain your freedom.
Fight with tools.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
I wrote a review on my Wordpress blog about Peaky Blinders, a gangster miniseries set in Birmingham in 1919.

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

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


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

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

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


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

dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

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

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

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

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

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


We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



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

dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
As most of you know, I've been temping in a library job for the past couple of months (this is in addition to my original job in a different library, which has very erratic hours). A little while ago, the advertised the position as a permanent job, and I applied. I was shortlisted, and my interview was on Wednesday. I felt that it had gone very well - I tend to do a good job in interviews, because I find it quite easy to recognise the questions behind the questions that get asked (if that makes any sense) and know how to reply in order to present myself well. In any case, when I went into work on Thursday, I was taken aside and told I'd got the job! I was absolutely ecstatic, as I've loved working there so far, and it's a great first step on my road to becoming a full-time librarian.

For the sake of clarity, I will refer to my first library job (which I'm still doing) as Original Library Job, and the new one as New Library Job when blogging about them from now on.

On Wednesday night, Matthias and I went to see Chvrches play. I've been a big fan since last year, and had been really looking forward to the concert, which didn't disappoint. Lauren Mayberry had great rapport with the crowd, the music was absolutely fantastic, and the lighting was spectacular. They played all the songs I wanted to hear, including my two favourites, 'The Mother We Share' and 'Gun', although not the song Matthias wanted, which was their cover of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'. We'd booked the tickets almost the instant they went on sale, which was lucky, as a lot of people missed out and were trying to buy them for extortionate prices on eBay.

Yesterday we had friends - Former Housemate H, Former Sort-of Housemate J2 and her partner E, and J, who has never been my housemate - over to watch the three rugby matches. J2 is a massive Ireland supporter, and the last match was very closely fought, but Ireland ultimately won by two points, which meant that they won the tournament. We then watched Hammer of the Gods, a truly dreadful, cheesy medieval film. This group of friends consists of current and former medievalists, and it's something of a tradition to collect and watch terrible medieval films together. This one was very mockable. (It also features Alexandra Dowling, who is currently playing Anne of Austria in the BBC Musketeers TV series - a step up in the world for her, then!)

Today, Matthias and I watched the Veronica Mars film. I'm going to post a full review later, so suffice it to say for now that the film was very satisfying, and was exactly what I wanted. It means so much to me that the fans were able to work together with the cast and crew to make this happen. I made a point of watching it through legal means (and thus paying for it) because it matters to me that this film exists. I've been very fortunate in the things about which I'm fannish - Firefly was cancelled but got a film sequel, and now we have the Veronica Mars film too. Now if we could just make a Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles film happen, I could die happy! Just a note - if you are planning on watching the Veronica Mars film, be sure to watch through the credits, as there are a few extra things you'll want to see there.

I hope your week has been as fabulous as mine.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
This weekend, the weather suddenly turned summery (or at least what passes for summery in the south-east of England). I think I was more excited about the fact that I'd be able to dry laundry in the courtyard instead of in the house than the fact that I would be able to ditch my winter clothes. I've since done two loads of laundry, and I find the sight of sheets waving gently in the breeze oddly comforting.

Yesterday I went with my friend and former sort-of-housemate J2* to a buffet lunch at Pembroke College. It's an annual event to which all the people who supervise (i.e. provide the one-on-one tutorials that are the main part of the teaching method at Oxbridge) students from Pembroke are invited. J2 invited me as her guest, and when we arrived we discovered that another friend of ours, M, had also been invited. The meal began with sparkling wine in what I think was the college's senior combination room, and then we were treated to a three-course buffet in the hall. We sat next to a very bitter physicist who spent the whole meal complaining about how academia has changed in the past twenty years (the short version: too much admin), and an interesting woman who taught Arabic language and Middle Eastern history. She bemoaned the fact that interest in her subject area only spikes when something terrible happens in the Arab and Islamic world.

After the lunch, the three of us went to a pub that lets people take drinks outside into the park near the mill pond, and we sat on a wall, surrounded by hundreds of other people who clearly had the same idea. All in all, it was a really fabulous day.

Today I've just been lounging around at home. Matthias is working in one of his library jobs, but will be back in about an hour, at which point we'll have a late lunch. This evening I've got yoga, but other than that, I don't plan on leaving the house. I've been - rather decadently - drinking white wine in the sun and reading novels. At some point I'll probably post some reviews of them, but for now, I plan to relax.

I'll leave you with a few links to stuff that's been making me happy today.

First, [livejournal.com profile] sophiamcdougall's newest book, a children's science-fiction work called Mars Evacuees, is about to be published. She's got a couple of excerpts here and here. The second link includes a bunch of other stuff, all of which is worth reading, especially her article in the New Statesman about the gender disparity in book shop displays.

This review of the recent TV series of Dracula, posted in [community profile] ladybusiness, is making me rethink my decision to avoid the show. I find Jonathan Rhys Meyers almost unbearable to watch, and that is why I originally chose to give the show a miss, but if anyone who has watched it has an opinion, feel free to weigh in and convince me one way or the other.

Fantasy author Saladin Ahmed has started a really cool side project, tweeting the Husain Haddawy translation of the Arabian Nights.

I'll leave you with some music. Yesterday, in honour of International Women's Day, I posted a bunch of feminist music on Tumblr. Assume a broad definition of the word 'feminism' here that has room for Christine Anu singind about migration and identity, Lucinda Williams singing about loss and grief, and Ciscandra Nostalghia demanding listeners worship her.

I'm really into the music of The Daysleepers at the moment. This album and this album are simply fabulous. They sound like summer in Sydney - all diving under waves and bobbing out beyond the breakers, the glare of the asphalt hurting your eyes, jacaranda trees, standing on a roof and watching the fireworks on New Year's Eve, mangoes, cherries and grilled fish and sparkling wine - in a way that I cannot properly articulate. Just gorgeous.

Finally, Matthias and I watched the last stage of Melodifestivalen for the first time this year. We both would've been much happier if Alcazar had won.



Seriously, is that not the most Eurovision song ever?

___________________
*By which I mean that she lived in a sharehouse with my partner Matthias during the year I lived in Germany, so she was my housemate whenever I visited him.

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