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: 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)
(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.

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May 2017

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