How have your weekends been?
How have your weekends been?
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!
On Saturday evening, Matthias and I joined a lot of friends from our former academic department to farewell one of our fellow PhD students, 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 naye and doctorskuld, and hung out for a few hours eating food from the food truck and catching up. After that, I met up with 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.
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
der mich aufbaut
wenn mich etwas
der mich zu Herzen nimmt,
wenn mir etwas
über die Leber gelaufen ist;
der mir Gehör schenkt,
wenn mir das Leben
der für mich ist,
wenn sich alles gegen mich
Da ist jemand,
mit dem ich zusammen wachsen,
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'.)
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 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, 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 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.
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.
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!
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?
So all in all, we've got a pretty good weekend lined up. We're also going to be spending this morning trying different wedding cakes at the cake shop, so there's that, too.
(On a weird little tangent, wedding planning is continuing, and we're getting stuff done, but every so often I have a momentary feeling of shock, like I'm nowhere near close to a 'proper adult' who should be doing wedding-related things. To put this into perspective, I'm 32, I've done a PhD, I've emigrated, I work full-time, I teach doctors and nurses and healthcare researchers how to find information that could be life-saving, in the past I have worked in jobs where I've been responsible for up to eighty primary school children, and I've never once had this feeling. It's very odd.)
Last year, Matthias had the brilliant idea to get us tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna at the Albert Hall in London. He'd never seen them before. I have been a devoted, obsessive fan of Cirque for thirty years. My mother first took me to one of their shows when I was about two years old; my parents had taken me back to New York for a holiday in the northern summer of 1987 and Mum took me to see Le Cirque Réinventé. I don't remember much from that performance, other than the fact that they had an act where seven people all rode on the same bicycle, but I was absolutely hooked. The trouble was that Cirque didn't do any tours of Australia until the late '90s. It was ten years later, in 1997, before I would get to see them again, when Saltimbanco toured Australia. By this stage, my sister was born, so she came to the show too.
For the next ten years, we saw every Cirque show that toured Australia: Alegria, Dralion, Quidam and Varekai. I taped shows off the TV years before they ever made their way to Australia, and wore out the tapes watching them over and over again; Quidam in particular was deeply important to me. My gymnastics floor routine at one point used the music from the diabolo act from Quidam. My favourite act in that show was the banquine, which I had learnt off by heart years before I ever saw it in real life. When I did finally see that act in real life, I cried because it mattered so much to me. I even ended up working for Cirque at one point — nothing as glamorous as actually performing, but I spent a month or so selling food and drink at the concession stands at their show Varekai during the Canberra leg of their Australian tour, in 2007 when I had finished undergrad, moved back to Canberra, and worked four jobs for about six months. This did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm, although to this day I cannot hear certain songs from the Varekai soundtrack without getting the strong urge to frantically clean the nearest popcorn machine.
Thought I didn't know it at the time, Varekai would be the last show of Cirque's that I watched for ten years — I'd already seen it once in Sydney in 2006, and I got to watch it once for free in 2007 when I was working for the show. In 2008 I moved to the UK, and couldn't afford tickets (also, a lot of the shows that toured Europe during those years were ones I'd already seen). And thus it ended up being ten years before I saw them again.
Seeing Amaluna was an almost religious experience, like coming home. I'd never been to the Albert Hall before, but it was like a gigantic, glittery jewellery box inside, and although we hadn't planned it that way, Matthias and I ended up sitting in our own private box on the second tier.
It was pretty great!
Matthias was in utter awe, and it meant a lot to me to be with him while he was watching a Cirque show for the first time. The aesthetic was, as he described it, Nightwish-meets-Mad-Max (with an all-female live band), and some incredible acts. My personal favourites were the hand-balancing, which was done with the added difficulty of a large, human-sized bowl of water into which the balancer kept diving (which meant her hands were slippery with water, and meant she had to time the dives exactly, given that the bowl was not very deep), and an incredible act in which a group of acrobats launched each other into the air from opposite ends of a giant springboard, from which they somersaulted, leapt, and sprang. I had been looking forward to the uneven bars act, which was good, but used quite basic gymnastics moves. (Don't get me wrong, they executed them brilliantly, and they had the added difficulty of sharing the bars with multiple other acrobats, whereas in gymnastics of course the gymnast is on her own on one set of bars.)
I also knew they had a banquine act, and given how much the banquine finale from Quidam meant to me, I had high hopes. The trouble is, being the intense fan that I was, I knew the Quidam act off by heart, beat for beat, move for move, right down to every moment of choreography and even the turns of the performers' heads. So I was gobsmacked to notice, immediately, that the Amaluna banquine was essentially identical to the Quidam one: same moves, same choreography, same movements around the stage. The only differences were that where Quidam's banquine act has a kind of violent, despairing desperation in tone (the choreography is quite aggressive and the performers give off a kind of world-weary, hopeless air), the Amaluna act is more joyful — which actually doesn't work as well with the choreography. The Amaluna performers also didn't attempt the more difficult moves performed by their counterparts in Quidam.
The banquine was not the only act borrowed wholesale from another Cirque show: the jugggling act was lifted entirely from Dralion! I guess they're not anticipating audience members who wore out video tapes watching their earlier shows over and over again. I still loved watching the show, and our seats up high in the middle tier of the theatre were perfect for me, because they gave me a bird's eye view of all the mechanisms going on slightly behind the scenes: tech guys making their way across the scaffolding, performers waiting to be lowered down on wires, the acrobats calling proceedings during group acts, the ways in which dancers distracted from equipment being set up or moved away. This was exactly what my sister and I used to spot and discuss in muttered tones when we watched Cirque shows together as children, and it gave me a great deal of joy. Matthias' amazed enthusiasm for the show and awe at the performers' strength, agility, and the jaw-droppingly incredible things they could do with their bodies also made me ridiculously happy, and I'm so glad to have been able to share something so deeply formative and precious to me with him.
All in all, it was a wonderful day out in London. We also ate lunch at this restaurant, and it was excellent. It's in a great location if you're going to a show at the Albert Hall or seeing an exhibition at one of the museums in Kensington, so I highly recommend it. The food is a little expensive, but there's a set theatre menu which is a bit more reasonably priced, and it has an amazing range of cocktails. It was nice to put the things that are making me anxious and terrified aside, if only for a little while, and exist in a space where everything is Cirque du Soleil and nothing hurts.
( Quick description of how a PhD is examined in the UK, for those who want to know )
I wake up almost every day grateful for the fact that I never have to do another viva again. Some examiners will tell you before you get started that you've passed, although they're not technically supposed to (Matthias' external examiner wanted everything done by the book, so he left the room not knowing if he'd passed or failed). Mine tried to tell me without saying so directly — they said something like, 'before we get started, we want to say that we do have some concerns, but you have nothing to worry about. Now let's talk about your PhD,' which helped a bit, but didn't do much to make the experience any more pleasant. Some friends have told me they enjoyed their vivas, but to this day (and I say this as someone who has had some pretty awful things happen to her), that viva remains the worst two hours of my entire life. A few weeks before it happened, I dreamt that the process would involve lying on a rooftop while two senior Celticist academics shot at me with sniper rifles, just to give you some indication of the state of my mind...
Anyway, you get the idea. I passed, and although I couldn't look at my PhD or my examiners' reports for at least two months after the viva was over, the corrections themselves only took about a week of my time, and I got my PhD, graduated, and got on with a life outside academia. But because I still live in Cambridge, and still have a lot of friends within medieval studies, and because my former department is extremely sociable, I tend to come back from time to time to local conferences, free annual guest lectures, alumni events and so on. And because medieval studies is such a small world (and Celtic Studies an even smaller world within it), I tend to run into my examiners when I least expect it. And, inevitably, I bumped into my internal examiner at a guest lecture late last year. We fell to talking about my viva, and he told me something I found both hilarious, and a great source of perspective.
The entire time that I had been in a state of extreme anxiety and panic, feeling besieged and terrified, he had been in such awe of my external examiner (who, for some reason, he had never met in person before) that he had reacted by being extremely formal, and more critical than he perhaps intended, because he wanted to make a good impression on his fellow examiner. It's odd, but it's nice to know I wasn't the only one in that room feeling scared and overwhelmed!
Anyway, academia. It's a weird little universe.
( Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )
I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
I wrote four fics this year. I had always been intending to write at least one treat on top of my assignment, as one of my goals for 2016 had been to push myself a bit more with my writing. All the four fics seem to have been well received, and overall I feel I had a great Yuletide.
My assignment was for neuxue, and we matched on Robin McKinley's Sunshine. The following fic is the result:
Dappled Light by Dolorosa
Fandom: Sunshine - Robin McKinley
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Word Count: 2709
Characters: Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, Mel (Sunshine), Original Characters
Summary: In the wake of her confrontation with Bo and unsettling alliance with Con, Sunshine needs time to come to terms with her newer, darker powers, and her fears for the future. She finds help in an unexpected quarter. This story takes place shortly after the events of Sunshine.
I also wrote the other Sunshine fic this Yuletide, as a treat for corbae.
Like Bitter Chocolate by Dolorosa
Fandom: Sunshine - Robin McKinley
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Word Count: 4354
Characters: Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, Mel (Sunshine), Constantine (Sunshine), Charlie Seddon, Aimil (Sunshine), Yolande (Sunshine), Pat (Sunshine)
Summary: Five times Sunshine stuck to the recipe, and one time she didn't. Post-Sunshine.
As soon as I noticed that someone had requested The Pagan Chronicles who wasn't me, I knew I had to write for them. It really is one of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and it's always miraculous to find a fellow fan, especially someone who likes it enough to want fic, so I was really happy to be able to write a treat for Chocolatepot. I ended up writing a short, canon-divergent AU, and I enjoyed writing it so much that I'm considering continuing the story in a new fic or series of fics.
Shells on the Road by Dolorosa
Fandom: Pagan Chronicles - Catherine Jinks
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Word Count: 1217
Characters: Pagan Kidrouk, Isidore Orbus, Babylonne Kidrouk
Summary: Pagan and Isidore have rescued Babylonne from a lifetime of drudgery and terrible relatives. Now the trio are on the run, heading west towards the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela. Babylonne is dubious about the benefits of horse-riding, Pagan is relishing every opportunity for an argument, and Isidore is longing for a return to a life of bookish, peaceful contemplation.
It seems to have become something of a tradition for me to write Wise Child fic during Yuletide — I've been participating now for three years, and for the first two years I was assigned to write a gift in this fandom. This year, I decided not to offer it, but Merriman's prompt grabbed me, and I ended up writing the longest fic I have ever written. It's based very loosely on the medieval Irish tale Tochmarc Étaíne ('The Wooing of Étaín'), and I absolutely loved writing it. (In my head it sort of exists in the same universe as the other two fics I've written for this fandom — both mention Trewyn going to Ireland and doing doran work for kings there — but all three are self-contained and make sense if read in isolation.)
On the Boundary Walls by Dolorosa
Fandom: Wise Child Series - Monica Furlong
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Word Count: 8009
Characters: Trewyn (Wise Child Series), Juniper (Wise Child Series), Angharad of the West (Wise Child Series)
Summary: After several years spent roaming around Britain together, Juniper and Trewyn part ways. Trewyn's journey takes her to Ireland, where she travels strange paths. This story occurs between the events of Juniper and Wise Child.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention my absolutely marvellous gift, written for me by antediluvian, which made me ridiculously happy. I've been requesting Demon's Lexicon fic for several exchanges without luck, and had actually given up on nominating or requesting it. It wasn't in my original list of requests, but as I was editing my sign-up, I noticed the fandom in the list of nominated fandoms, and added it into my request on a whim. The fic I received was perfect — my author managed to include all of my prompts, and really got why I loved this canon in the first place. I'm planning to spend the rest of the afternoon going through their other fic and seeing if they've written anything else I like.
Tell me in the glance of a hand by antediluvian
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Word Count: 6270
Characters: Mae Crawford, Nicholas "Nick" Ryves | Hnikarr
Summary: “This is fine," Nick said. "It’s defensible.”
“Ah yes,” Mae said. “That was obviously top of my list of qualities for a first date.”
I hope those of you who did Yuletide this year had as great a Yuletide as I did!
This year, it's mid-August and I've already finished the fifty books in the challenge. And the whole process has been a joy.
The difference is that I gave myself permission to just read what I wanted and not worry about the composition of my reading list. And while I've still read a couple of duds, as well as a bunch of books that were merely solid, rather than life-changing, I've enjoyed reading and been enthusiastic about it in a way that I hadn't been for ages. Sure, I did read some stuff I really enjoyed last year (Silver on the Road, Sorcerer to the Crown, and Black Wolves spring immediately to mind), but I often felt reluctant or unenthusiastic about the books I'd chosen, and frequently went for entire weeks without reading a single book.
The year is barely halfway over, and I've finished my reading challenge, but looking forward to the next five months — and the books they'll contain — with great anticipation. It strikes me as incredibly messed up that I was feeling actual anxiety about reading — an activity which had up until that point been one of my favourites — and I'm glad I've been able to restore the sense of joy and happiness which had been missing. After all, what is the point of reading for pleasure if you get no pleasure out of it?
(Speaking of Goodreads, I'm Dolorosa over there if you want to add me. I only use it to log the books I've read, but it's always nice to see what others are reading, so do feel free to add me if you want. If your username is really different to your Dreamwidth/LJ one, could you let me know who you are, though, so that I don't get confused.)
I read An Alphabet of Embers, an anthology of short fiction edited by Rose Lemberg. The highlights for me were Kari Sperring's story 'Some Silver Wheel', and 'Everything Under One Roof', Zen Cho's contribution. However, the whole collection was wonderful, and I strongly encourage you to read this review in Strange Horizons, which gives a good overview of every work in the anthology. I would echo the reviewer, Karen Burnham's, sentiments:
I have also never seen an anthology so beautifully orchestrated, with tones and themes following each other beautifully like the movements of a symphony, encompassing a huge range of human (and non-human) experience and feeling while always maintaining a coherent sense of the whole. As such, while the individual stories sometimes seem too much like embers (flashing brightly but fading from memory quickly), the anthology as a whole leaves a lasting impression of weight, survival, and beauty.
On the advice of losseniaiel, I've started reading the Vorkosigan saga. I'm reading it somewhat out of publication order, starting instead with Shards of Honour and Barrayar, which I understand is roughly at the start of the series' chronology. While they're a little bit dated in some ways, I absolutely adore Cordelia as a character, and love stories about culture clashes, characters from very different backgrounds being forced to work together, and pragmatic women who exercise power in subtle, indirect ways, so as you can imagine, I'm having a great time with these books. I'm a bit limited in what I read next in the series as I'm not prepared to buy them and my local library doesn't own any copies of Bujold's books, so I'm reliant on whatever losseniaiel can lend me. I do look forward to reading more in this series when I can, though.
On Monday night I read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which I also thoroughly enjoyed, apart from one rather distracting problem. The book is a spin off of sorts from her earlier book Fangirl, in which the main character wrote fanfic of a Harry Potter-esque British children's series - Carry On is Rowell's attempt at that fanfic. As published original fiction attempting to evoke the conventions of fanfic, Carry On is excellent, and those who read a reasonable amount of fanfic (like me) will find a lot of recognisable and enjoyable fanfic tropes. Rowell's affection for the medium shines through, and I appreciated that aspect of the book a lot. However, it suffered from a common problem: Americans trying to write work set in Britain, and getting the dialogue hopelessly wrong. A lot of the supposed Britishisms were just off (I'm not even British and I noticed it), and there were scatterings of American slang and phrases that really stuck out to me. I was able to get over this by pretending the whole book was a piece of fanfic for a British canon, written by an American teenager - which indeed may have been the effect Rowell was aiming for - but it was really distracting.
I haven't decided what novel I'm going to read next, but I did enjoy 'An Ocean the Colour of Bruises', a new short story by Isabel Yap at Uncanny Magazine.
What have you all been reading?
On Thursday, that future became a lot more shaky and uncertain.
By a bitter twist of fate, my new British passport, which represented the final stage in my immigration journey, something that I had been looking forward to so much, arrived at my house in the early hours of Friday morning, at almost precisely the moment Nigel Farage was crowing on TV about 'independence day' and his 'revolution achieved without a shot being fired'. A moment that I had been dreaming of for years had become a sick joke.
I keep looking at that top line on the passport and feeling bitter, bitter sadness.
It's not just about me. Over the past few days, I've been hearing story after story from EU migrant friends, as well as non-EU migrants, and non-white British friends of acts of appalling racism and xenophobia, of feeling unwelcome in their own homes, of the feeling of suddenly facing uncertain futures. I've heard from countless people about various ways this referendum result is likely to affect their current or future employment, their visa status, their ability to sponsor non-EU spouses and other relatives for visas, as well as from British people furious and terrified that they have been stripped of their ability to live, love, work and study in 27 other countries. The loss of free movement is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for me, as someone who has lived visa to visa, keeping track of the implications of small changes to immigration law. A whole world — cosmopolitan, international, collaborative and outward-looking — has been rejected.
I'm particularly furious on behalf of the Scottish and Northern Irish citizens/residents of the UK, and those of Gibraltar, who are being dragged into this by Little Englanders (and the Welsh) without their consent, as well as residents of London, and the bigger cities and university towns of England and Wales, all of whom voted overwhelmingly to remain. My own second home of Cambridge voted to remain by 73 per cent, so at least I don't have to look around and wonder which of my fellow residents are frightened racists. I'm proud of my city. I'm also enraged on behalf of the millions of EU residents of the UK who were denied the ability to vote on their future and forced to watch helplessly as others decided it for them. (A post of Matthias' to this effect caused an ignorant Tory friend of his to question why he hadn't become a citizen if it mattered so much to him, which I must admit gave me a white hot fury. The reason why he hadn't become a citizen was that it would have invalidated my previous visa. He was on track to become a citizen in January next year, but that's now up in the air, as Germany only allows dual citizenship with other EU nationalities.)
I have particular contempt for David Cameron, selfishly bargaining the futures of millions of younger Britons, UK citizens' lives in the wider EU, and all immigrants here in the UK for a shot at stabilising his ailing leadership. Close behind come the Tory Leavers, opportunists stirring the pot for their own personal gain, as well as the Farages and Rupert Murdochs of this world. The Leave voters who didn't actually want to leave, but just wanted to register a protest are utterly beneath contempt. Don't make protest votes unless you actually want to live with the consequences. Otherwise register your disenchantment with spoiled ballots, or by staying home. The rest of us have to deal with your mess.
There was a lot of talk of reaching out and finding common ground, but to hell with that. I, and most people I know, are not taking this lying down. I will be writing to my MP and MEP, urging them to fight against the decision, given that it is an advisory, rather than binding referendum. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You can find your MP here and your MEP here. I would also encourage EU residents in the UK to write to the MEPs of their home countries. A friend of mine has written a good letter and is happy for it to be used as a template, so please get in touch if that's something you would like, and I can pass his template on to you.
If you're based in Cambridge, there is a rally on Tuesday, starting at 5pm at the Guildhall. Details are on this Facebook event, which also includes links to equivalent rallies in Bristol, London, Exeter, Liverpool and so on (although be aware that you'll have to wade through a lot of awful comments from gloating Leavers). I'm almost certainly going to be attending, although I will be late coming in from work, and I encourage anyone who feels up to it to do the same (or at equivalent rallies in their own cities).
There are also various petitions floating around, which I encourage people to sign and share. Most importantly: demand for a second referendum, and guarantee the status of EU citizens currently resident in the UK. If you have any other relevant petitions, feel free to share them in the comments.
I also want to say that I have extensive experience dealing with UKVI, deciphering their incomprehensible forms, gathering the extensive documents required for visa applications, and understanding the byzantine requirements for various visas, including the EEA (Permanent Residence) cards that are a prerequisite for British citizenship. If you or any EU resident friends and relatives want help making such an application (although I can understand if you don't feel welcome and want to get out as soon as possible), get in touch and I will help in any way I can. Please stay and help me vote this pack of fascists out!
Most importantly, if you see any acts of racist abuse, please do what you can (and what you feel safe doing) to challenge them and protect their targets. This result has emboldened a lot of racist xenophobes, who suddenly feel they have a mandate to unleash their vicious, vicious hatred. We need to speak out against this behaviour when we see it, and not yield the public square to them. I'm not naive enough to think that Britain was entirely free of racism, but I have never seen it so blatant, and so publicly acceptable. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I woke up in 1933.
But I still love this, my second home, my international city, my found family of friends from all around the world. I love my job, my university students and researchers, my NHS nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers, who enrich my life every time I teach them.
As I said on Twitter on Friday, I will remain here until the lights go out.
Firstly, Matthias recently applied and was successful in applying for a new job. His old job was an entry level library assistant job in one of Cambridge's departmental libraries, and although he liked it and got on well with his coworkers, it was more junior than he really wanted, and it was also only full-time on a temporary basis: he'd originally been hired to work two days a week, and three extra days had been added on to do a specific project, which was due to end in October. We had been quite anxious about what would happen then, and he had been applying for new jobs since January this year, and had been shortlisted and interviewed for several, but not made it past the interview stage. So it was a great relief when he was successful in this particular job - a more senior role in a different branch of the university's network of libraries, doing varied work in a field in which he has a great interest. Most importantly, the new job is three grades higher than his old one, and the resulting pay increase has come at a very good time, given that we're trying to save for a wedding. He's just started this week, and has found things to be good so far.
Secondly, my job, which was originally a two-year fixed-term contract (due to finish in December, 2016) has been made permanent, which was a great relief. I really enjoy it, like my colleagues, and appreciate how supportive my boss is in terms of letting me do lots of training, attend workshops and conferences, and generally develop my skills for career-related reasons. I was not relishing the prospect of jumping back on the job applications merry-go-round, so I'm thrilled to be able to stay on as long as I want in my current role.
As you can imagine, we are both over the moon, and realise how fortunate we've been. I hope those of you going through stressful job hunts have similar luck.
The session, however, went swimmingly. The researchers were engaged, interested, and curious, and asked perceptive and practical questions which we (I was delivering the training with two colleagues) were, for the most part, able to answer. Although we have not yet received feedback, it felt to me like one of my best training sessions ever.
It's funny how these things work out. I embarked on a career in librarianship feeling emotionally battered by six years in academia,* including a solid final year being rejected for close to one hundred academic jobs. It had made me doubt my own abilities and intelligence, and feel a little lost. I held onto my little foothold in academic librarianship for dear life. And yet two years on, after a year and a half in my current, teaching-focused role, I feel comfortable, confident, and challenged, with a clear professional path ahead of me, support for professional development, and a deep intellectual interest in my field. If you'd told me, ten, five, or even two years ago that I would become the kind of person who relished the prospect of standing up in the middle of a room of bioinformatics PIs and teaching them about data management, I would have been astonished.
*Technically, only the last three years were hard. The MPhil, and the first two years of the PhD were wonderful. The year intermitting as a visiting scholar in Heidelberg, and the final year-and-a-half's slog were draining, in every sense of the word.
I got home in time to potter around the garden for an hour or so, repotting things and digging up the inevitable weeds. Since finishing my PhD, I've had more energy to pay attention to stuff like the garden, the furnishings and decorations in the house and so on, and it's really nice to see all my plants grow, and the garden start to take shape. I'm at the point of being able to eat herbs from my own garden, and that is wonderful.
Today has been even more relaxing - I've spent most of my time reading, either curled up on the couch, or out in the garden. I'm reading my way through the Chrestomanci books, as Diana Wynne Jones was an author who completely passed me by during my childhood, and I've always felt the lack. I've read three of the Chrestomanci books, and have enjoyed them so far, although I think I prefer the Howl trilogy slightly.
Now I'm just pottering around on the internet, and starting to think about dinner. Two days are never quite enough, but at least I've made good use of them.
On another note, the fundraiser for Mia and Cy is still going. We're very close to making the target, and it would be wonderful for them to wake up on Monday and find that the target had been reached. If you want to donate, you can do so here. Please do also keep sharing it widely. If you have any questions, get in touch with me.
Oh, not too bad, not too bad, I just GOT ENGAGED!
( The ring is supposed to look like the Earth as viewed from space )
Matthias and I have been together for many years now, and getting married was always something we intended to do. It was just a matter of finding the right time(frame) to do it. We decided, while on holiday in Australia in December, that the time had come. After that, it was just a matter of determining exactly when to announce our decision. But although this clearly wasn't something that happened spontaneously, I think we'll consider today the official start of our engagement, for anniversary purposes.
I am, as you might imagine, very happy and floaty. Everything feels hopeful and wonderful, and I am very much looking forward to many more years with my fiancé (which still feels weird to say), Matthias, my favourite favourite.
A lot of this was because I started the year with a lot of clear goals and ideas about what I wanted to do and experience in the various areas of my life, and thought a lot about what I could do (what was within my control to do) to achieve them. I was also lucky in that I have a lot of really wonderful people around me in pretty much every part of my life, who were always there to make stuff that much better.
So I guess my purpose in making this post is to set out a few more goals for this year, to see if that does the trick for the second time.
I will absolutely be continuing with 2015's goal of stop, collaborate and listen. Some of the best parts of 2015 involved working collaboratively with others — both at work and outside it, and I learnt so much simply by reading and listening to others' words, and not charging into a situation with my mind already made up. So, more of the same, as far as that goes.
I focused a lot on reading lots of new work in 2015, and while that was great (Station Eleven! Sorcerer to the Crown! Black Wolves! Silver on the Road!), I used to be an avid rereader, and I really missed spending any time hanging out with old favourites. The most soothing thing for me is to dip back into a much-loved book, reminding myself all over again why its characters' existence is such a consolation to me. For that reason, 2016 is going to be the year of rereads.
One of the things that was so great about a lot of the new people I met last year was that they introduced me to a huge amount of fantastic online short fiction and poetry, most of it freely available. I'd not been much of a short story reader before last year, and while it's still not a natural fit for me (I read for character, and I find that longer storytelling mediums such as novels or TV series work best for that), I'm glad I got such an introduction to the form, and really appreciate the recommendations. So I will certainly be continuing with short fiction in 2016.
One thing I didn't do a lot of, and the absence of which I felt, was long-form blogging, particularly essays and reviews. I used to write a lot of those, whereas last year I think I just wrote four reviews, two of them fairly short. I'm not going to pressure myself with writing goals or a target number of posts, but rather simply say that in 2016, I will write more.
That goes for fanfic as well. All I wrote last year was my one Yuletide assignment, but I have a lot more stories in me. There's the Five Wives-centric Mad Max fic that takes place after the movie, and the alternative ending epic Galax Arena Presh/Allyman story I've been planning forever, for starters. So yes, I will write more fic.
One thing that did wonders for my mental health last year was to focus my energies on things that made me happy, celebrating the successes of friends, rather than constantly drawing attention to the actions of horrible, hurtful people. Long may this approach of mine continue! And with that in mind, I would love it if people could share things in the comments that make them happy. It can be stories (both fic and pro), it could be a beautiful piece of art, it could be a piece of meta you're proud of, a song that makes you dance, a particularly hilarious Twitter or Tumblr exchange, or something else that hasn't occurred to me.
I hope this year is good to all of you.