elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)

  • I'm reading Les Miserables (very slowly). I've read excerpts from it before, usually in watered-down French -- my high school French teacher was notable for migraines, scattershot lesson planning, and deep, disorganized passions for Hugo and Impressionists -- but I've never tackled the whole thing. It's great fun though I haven't hit the parts with Marius yet. I have the itch to live-blog every other page and argue back at Hugo, which I have been heroically repressing.

  • Here, have a fic rec: Dolce et decorum est, featuring Les Amis in Temeraire!verse. Enjolras is captain to the dragon Patria, deadly earnest human and draconine republicanism abounds, and so does gleeful gender confusion. Clever, cracky, and fun.

  • And another one: With Faith Unfearful, by [personal profile] carmarthen. It's not very easy to write believable ship fic for Enjolras and Grantaire and stay true to their canon dynamic, but this works beautifully well, partly by not being the sort of thing one would ordinarily call ship fic.

  • Something about Enjolras lends itself to genderfuck remarkably easily, and I think I know why. Enjolras is one of the Les Mis characters who's halfway to being a symbol, and symbolic embodiments of abstract virtues are female in Western thought. Think of Liberty, leading the people, and Marianne; the Virtues, the Graces. Enjolras is written to be the embodiment of the revolutionary spirit, and his appearance, his demeanor, all hark back to those feminine abstract archetypes. He was gender-bent from the beginning; no wonder he bends back so easily.

  • More links: today I was amused to note that as part of the New York Times' ongoing "Disunion" Civil War history project, posted today was an article about how Les Miserables, hot off the presses, was received in the US. Not much has changed: "The New York Times called the novel 'remarkable' and 'brilliant, but in the same notice labeled Hugo 'a prosy madman.'" It's fascinating to read reviews from the Southern side and see the doublethink involved, as Hugo and his messages were fairly obviously abolitionist; this is only briefly touched on in the article, and it would be interesting to read more.

  • So the thing about writing people who started out as Enjolras snip for those who aren't interested in writing blather )

    ...in other news. Uh. So, does anyone want to watch Sandglass with me?
  • elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    This may be of interest:

    Warning for annoying gender roles and the brain bending conflation of Valjean and Marius.
    elsane: an evil plot bunny. (literally.)
    (two posts in as many days! My calendar for the next few months says: don't get used to it ha ha ha help brb freaking out.)

    So saiyuki_manga has the translation of Ants of Heaven up. After deleting two screens full of key mashing, I can even say something sensible!

    but read the manga first! )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    So this year I actually wrote something for Yuletide! I was trawling Dear Yuletide Writer letters, as I do wistfully every year with varying degrees of intent, and I came across [personal profile] shati's prompt,

    Farfetched, but if you offered both Capital Scandal and Sungkyunkwan Scandal and feel like writing Cha Song Joo and Gu Yong Ha hanging out and people-watching together, I would not expect you to justify the crossover at all. AT ALL.

    Naturally, because I'm incapable of actually writing to prompts, I immediatedly started to wonder, how would you justify that crossover? Then Cha Song Joo and Gu Yong Ha started talking to each other, and then it was all over, and I was doomed to writing Step by step on the flowers placed before you. It also spawned a Yong Ha-and-Jae Shin coda, because I can never resist writing double-layered conversations when I get a chance to, After and Before. (Actually, this was also supposed to have a brief Cha Song Joo-and-Cho Seon coda as well, which would even make the title meaningful instead of "oh look I was pulled out of a hat at the last minute", but I completely ran out of time as you can totally tell. Oh well!)

    [personal profile] innerbrat was remarkably cheerful about being contacted out of the blue by a stranger on Christmas Eve to rush-beta an unfinished fic: thank you very much again!

    Since I know most of the people on my flist aren't familiar with either fandom, I recommend them both! )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Last year I hurriedly posted some recs just before reveal and called them the brief and crazed edition. Well, this year I've read an even smaller fraction of the archive and am feeling even more crazed (I notice a trend), but three awesome stories make a post, right?

    • Outdwelling (Duane's Door Into aka Tale of the Five series) is about Hasai, it's from his point of view, and it moves through time and memory as freely and as changingly as sunlight through water. It's beautifully written, and makes magnificent use of the draconic sense of time.

    • The Young Chants (Chrestomanci) is a lovely series of character studies as Christopher grows up and adds people to his family, one at a time. The characterization is keenly and subtly observed and, as is perfectly in keeping with canon, occasionally veers into the hysterically funny. (Tell me you don't love the bit where Chrestomanci is called away complete with fussy baby, and I will refuse to believe you're completely human.)

    • Couldn't Drag Me Away (Sungkyunkwan Scandal) takes on Yong Ha and Jae Shin's first meeting, with an absolutely fantastic Yong Ha voice, and some brilliantly in-character cleverness.

    Please tell me about your favorites!
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Hi everyone!

    Here a few comments about things I've been reading and watching recently.

    • Lizzie Bennet's Diaries: or, Pride and Prejudice as told through the video blog of Lizzie Bennet, live-at-home grad student.

      Yeah, Pride and Prejudice gets adapted six ways to Sunday. What makes this adaptation so much fun is that the producers have clearly thought very carefully about how to translate the story to the modern day. They're deeply clued into the economic insecurity that underlies the Bennets' situation in the original PnP, and in the update have very wisely retained that as a driving factor entirely separate from the romance (apart from what is hinted to be some regressive attitudes on Lizzie's mother's part). The philosophical disagreement between Lizzie and Charlotte is being set up to take the form of a disagreement about taking unfulfilling or morally questionable jobs in a tough economy.

      It's clever (Bingley is Bing Lee!) and funny (the actors playing Charlotte and the Bennet sisters have great chemistry and comic timing) and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes -- not to mention how they're going to handle the rest of the adaptation! It strikes me that the video blog format is going to be more and more challenging to maintain as the story goes on.

    • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

      I tore through the eARC in a single day when I really should have been doing work and/or cleaning up my apartment. LMB has lost none of her unputdownability, and sets up some very funny set pieces. This is a light book, drawn along the romantic-caper-farce lines of ACC, and a gentle farewell to the Vorkosigan series. It's well-plotted and enjoyable, and it is fun following Ivan around. I liked it much better than Cryoburn, but (as expected) don't look for anything especially deep.

      Now I'm going to complain about something spoilery, so here is a cut. CVA and broader trends in the Vorkosiverse )

    • Korra! Yep, I've been watching. Overall it's been a lot of fun, but suffers from a severe case of having two seasons worth of plot and only a single season to tell it. Thus the (interesting and well-rounded) characters suffer badly from having a lot of their important character moments compressed and sometimes obscured on screen. It's a lot like ATLA, only the flaws as well as the virtues have been super-condensed:

      some general comments, no finale spoilers )

    Now I must pry myself off the Internet with a crowbar and get back to work.
    elsane: an evil plot bunny. (literally.)
    New Saiyuki! translated by the wonderful, wonderful people over at [profile] saiyuki_manga.

    There are two chapters, the last chapter of the sky burial arc, and the first chapter of a new arc that is bringing ALL OF THE AWESOME.

    spoilers! )

    In the long wait between chapters, I reread what we've got so far of Ibun, and was struck by the huge gap between the world were seeing in Ibun, and the world we see now. So Ibun is really setting up the question: what on earth happened? ibun spoilers )

    Somehow I hadn't quite processed before what it meant that Sanzo is carrying the Maten Sutra, the one that should be held by a youkai. In a very real way, this makes him more one of the ikkou: not quite human, not quite youkai, somewhere in between. And, moreover, as it is with Gojyo and Hakkai, Sanzo's halfway status is a reflection of pain, and of things not going right, or at least, not according to plan. Which adds more dimensions to the way he resists thinking of himself as part of the ikkou for so long, or the way he keeps grumbling that he's completely human, stop lumping him in with his youkai servants -- of course, the fact that he's carrying a youkai scripture, that he is in some weird metaphysical way a halfbreed priest, is deeply reflective of what he sees as his failure, and Koumyou's.
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Hi flist!

    Am not dead! (only insanely head-twistingly busy offline, I'm sure you all know the drill)

    Anyway I have been drifting in and out of Yuletide, and I have found three beautiful things:

    A clear glass window, at a sea dawn, for Bujold's Chalion universe. This is about Umegat, and about history still trying to go right, and it is beautiful and surehanded; I cannot recommend it enough. This is a story about being middle-aged, gay, and Roknari, in a court dominated by young, straight Chalionese, and at the same time it isn't anywhere near that simple; it is about doing what is right, and it is about joy, and about faith in people as well as gods. The writing is beautiful and the characterization fantastic. Strongly recommended.

    Reemergence, about Mary Innes (of Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey), dealing with her career, her knowledge, and her second-hand guilt, afterward. It's complex and painful and many-layered, and the author's portrait of both Innes and Nash is surehanded and subtle.

    Five Nail Polishes. The fandom is: nail polishes. No, I don't know either, but it's well worth the click to read this set of drabbles. There's one apiece for five different colors of nail polish, and they are sharp-edged, dense, and sparkling, like tiny gems.
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Elizabeth Kolbert is one of my favorite writers in the New Yorker's writing stable. This week, in somewhat of a departure from her usual ecology and climate science beat, she has an incisive dismantling of the curiously blinkered* assumptions of Steven Pinker's book about violence. (sorry for the paywall.)

    What does it reveal about the impulse control of the Spanish that, even as they were learning how to dispose of their bodily fluids more discreetly, they were systematically butchering the natives on two continents?

    It is an excellent article. I have some sympathy for the basic underlying assertion that the nature of violence has changed, as the ways we identify with each other has changed, and that larger political units mean less daily interpersonal violence. But: you cannot burk a fact to support a thesis, and it seems like Pinker is doing this in spades. State-sponsored violence is a pretty big fact.

    Wandering further out along the “laser cannon versus fly” axis, there is a crackling and satisfying essay by Stephen Marche, "Wouldn't It Be Cool If Shakespeare Wasn't Shakespeare?" in the New York Times magazine today.

    You don’t have to be a truther or a birther to enjoy a conspiracy theory. We all, at one point or another, indulge fantasies that make the world seem more dangerous, more glamorous and, simultaneously, much more simple than it actually is. But then most of us grow up. Or put down the bong. Or read a book by somebody who is familiar with both proper historical methodology and the facts.

    Yay for blistering takedowns of people trying to buy their crackpot theory into discourse. At least no one has tried making a thriller (starring everyone's favorite aging British actors!) out of climate change denialism yet. Fair warning, though, the penultimate paragraphs spoil it a bit, at least for me; it's still worth the read.

    The perennial idiocy of women's Halloween costumes hardly bears reiteration, but this is pretty amusing.

    * i.e.: reliably Western-ly colonialist and racist only with carefully updated 21st century crypto incarnations of the old chestnuts


    Aug. 9th, 2011 04:23 pm
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Taking down chapter 2 until it's properly beta'd. Sorry, this is horrible of me, I know.
    elsane: an evil plot bunny. (literally.)
    Title: A Far and Sere Elysium
    Rating: PG
    Word count: 2400
    Summary: A soldier and a dock worker walk into a bar...
    Notes: Originally started for [profile] springkink, and first version posted here, though the plot and characters ran away with me completely, leaving the kink far behind, together with most of my sanity. Yes, there's more. Yes, I'm working on it. No, don't expect it to come on any kind of regular schedule (sorry).

    Bay 32 West X430-B had four gas-exchange valve locks, two electrical interchanges, six fluid pumps, and a cute structural vulnerability in its outer piping. I'd gone over the blueprints. I was pretty sure I'd know where to aim in an emergency. )
    elsane: kanan from saiyuki, dressed as hakkai, before a backdrop of sunflowers (kanan)
    Spoilers for House several seasons ago and Gensomaden Saiyuki volume 4. Cutting for length and interest rather than spoilers, because, well, I am behind the curve.

    wherein there are maunderings on women, death, and irresponsibility )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    The things one finds in one's folders.

    Wrestling with the SRS BZNS of the azkafic made my brain rebel from time to time. This is the result. It is very silly. )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (clouds)
    Still rescuing things out of my fannish document folder. This is actually the first fic I ever started, if you don't count the Classic Who fics I was writing in my Trapper Keeper in fourth grade, and the first time in several years I'd tried to write fiction.

    I'm not sure what this says about me.

    Title: The Sky in Winter
    Characters: Sirius Black
    Rating: PG
    Summary: Sirius goes to jail. He does not pass go.
    Words: 1880
    Notes: Thanks (years ago now ack) to [personal profile] athenejen for helping me remember how to write.

    The door slammed behind him with a crash that rang around the narrow walls of the cell. )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    The books I'm reading: A wind from the south, by Diane Duane. I've developed this habit of reading books in bites on my iPhone (yes, really. Stanza is an awesome and free ebook reader that rapidly fades into invisibility, try it!) and what fiction I'm reading at the moment often depends on what I can find for cheap or free in ePub format. It's epic fantasy, set in Switzerland during the Holy Roman Empire, and I find the cultural backdrop fascinating, more than redeeming the slow pace and the gratuitous Romansch. Rites of Peace, by Adam Zamoyski: beautifully written book on the slow and freighted process of reconstructing Europe in the wake of Napoleon's defeat. There are strong resonances off of Tuchman's Guns of August: strong personalities, national blinders, breathtaking egos, and the intermittent will towards stupidity.

    The books I'm writing: hahahaha oh god they're on hold, the only thing I'm writing these days is research papers. which is what I'm doing right now hi Internet I'll just be leaving.

    The book I love the most: um. ALL OF THEM except the bad ones.

    The last book I received as a gift: a book of essays by Steven Weinberg, as a Christmas gift. I haven't had a chance to read it (sob).

    The last book I gave as a gift: a small text on constructing those spectacular geometrical Islamic decorative patterns, to my dad, for his birthday.

    The nearest book: a textbook on quantum field theory. (and my iPhone.)

    The last book I bought myself: Hmm. I don't remember for sure, but probably Lifelode, by Jo Walton -- sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to have a moment to breathe.
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    unilaterally declared, and possibly the first of many.

    I do like pulling the rug out from under Ivan's feet (not to mention the narrative's), but Ivan's extreme heterosexuality is hard to ignore )

    Also, since I'm Vorkosiganing, have some recs:

    Gregor and Ivan deal with the fallout of a unusual Cetagandan bioweapon. I laughed, I cried, I appreciated the take on trans (Donna-Dono I am looking at you).

    On the off chance you pay attention to my journal and haven't already seen this, [personal profile] philomytha posted a masterwork: Illyan's POV through Shards. All of the backstory and character development Cordelia wasn't in a position to appreciate, and more. Go, read, love: Aral Vorkosigan's Dog.

    While you're there, read [personal profile] philomytha's Yuletide fic about how Byerly came to work for ImpSec. A fantastic and very plausible look at what was going on while Miles was busy hiding under floors.
    elsane: kanan from saiyuki, dressed as hakkai, before a backdrop of sunflowers (kanan)
    Right, so, Gaiden is over. The last chapter just went up over at [profile] saiyuki_manga (and thank you so much again to everyone involved in that community).

    I'm not going to be terribly coherent.

    spoilers and flail )
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    Cole Porter, Shakespeare, metafiction, and splashy choreography: it should be gorgeous, right? Except the Shakespeare is "The Taming of the Shrew," and there is nothing that rubs your nose in misogyny quite so much as 20th-century dramas, which are an unholy union of the modern world and premodern attitudes, and instead of a light evening of musical comedy, this is a fucking horror movie.

    The plot, in a nutshell: It's all fine and fun and games to play at your rape fantasies on stage where it's just drama, and, hey, it's all Shakespeare, so it's Art! and Culture! and the Way Western Civilization Is Supposed to Be! But when it's going on in real life, well, clearly, the Petruchio figure is a villain. And doesn't understand that a woman has actual individual interests, so (as a woman's choice of lifestyle clearly boils down to the choice of man she hooks up with) she is better off with the person who understands her vocation, i.e., her ex-husband (ie, you). Who properly owns her as a piece of chattel, too, just in case that wasn't clear.

    About the only way I can get through this show is by mentally gender-reversing the entire cast (and therefore necessarily imagining certain songs as being sung by very butch lesbians, snerk). Because oh, dear god, I hate men. And not with a salacious, mockable wink and a nod, either.

    (I'll keep my own personal man, seeing as he is an actual human being instead of a fucking tool of the patriarchy, thanks.)

    They can make the "It's Too Damn Hot" set piece into a variety show act and keep the genderqueer choreography. But otherwise this is one musical that should stay dead.

    In conclusion, feminism is the radical notion that women are people, and goodnight.

    (also, OH HI M I HAVE RECS ACK.)
    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)
    (oh jeez, I really should be working, but, well, this seemed important.)

    I really like Jo Walton. I really like Pat Wrede. It is thus with a sinking feeling of "oh, no", that I read Jo Walton's description of Wrede's latest book, here:
    This is an alternate version of our world which is full of magic, and where America (“Columbia”) was discovered empty of people but full of dangerous animals, many of them magical.

    I read that description and I stopped dead in my tracks. How can one even imagine creating "American fantasy" without Native Americans? How can one possibly disentangle the mythology of the American frontier from the steady drumbeat of encroachment, threat, and loss? The story of the American frontier is not, cannot be made a story only of human vs nature. This is only an alternate version of "our" world with a very narrow understanding of the pronoun.

    I completely understand wanting to have alternatives to the generic and soulless pseudo-medieval European
    settings that constitute a depressing percentage of the fantasy genre. But a wholesale removal of a continent full of cultures is hardly the way to build a world.

    The problem with "American fantasy" -- historic American fantasy, let's call it, as distinct from modern urban fantasy -- is that American history cannot honestly be separated from genocide and slavery. To ignore these ugly aspect of our national heritage, or to create a world where this original sin can be wished away, keeps only a part of the story, and feels fake. Any story which aspires to be emotionally true, artistically honest, has to acknowledge and mythologize the darkness as well as the light.

    As fantasists we want to read and write stories where good goes up against evil and wins, or at least tries very hard. Fantasy also has an urge towards epic, wanting at least a suggestion of an epic in the backdrop, if not a big one straggling across foreground -- Wrede's worldbuilding, as I understand it from Walton's post, has this sort of big story in the background, an overarching narrative, because history as told is narrative, between human and unconquered continent.

    The "American epic" latent in the history taught in American schools and the family stories handed down by (white) American relatives, is that of Manifest Destiny, cowboys and continents and the virtuous frontier. This is the raw material that's handed to white Americans by our cultural history. Sure, it's better to use this raw material to create a world where the original sins of the USA are erased than it is to try to mythologize our own history, in our own world. But it can never be real, in the sense that myths can be real. You can't deal with slavery and genocide by closing your eyes and wishing it away.

    I know the kind of American fantasy I want to read. I want to know what happened in those alternative worlds where the Native Americans had different immune complexes and their civilizations survived the first contact with European settlers. I want to read stories set in the thriving, complex societies of Dawnland and Cahokia, in the glittering sophisticated cities of the Aztecs, about the Incas at war, or the less well-known cities in the deep Amazon, cities built up in great and verdant mounds, connected by roads that ran for miles, perfectly straight. I want to read the histories of these people, I want adventures with qipu and llamas, or jaguars and jade; wetu and canoes and the sun rising beyond the waves; the thousands of stories this continent could have held.

    Anyone interested in American fantasy should go read 1491.


    elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)

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