Rejiquar Works 2016-02-10T18:34:14-05:00 copyright 2016 Sylvus Tarn Sylvus Tarn 2016-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 Highly spoilerific discussion of Naomi Novik's _Uprooted_ as it compares to Robin McKinley's ouevre. 10feb2016

The so the following is a paraphrase of a conversation I had:

What do you mean, you don't adore Uprooted? Why, it's right up your alley—faerytale, angsty male lead, feisty feminist magical protagonist, love story?

To which I replied—I didn't hate it; I enjoyed it; it just didn't make much of an impression—went meh and promptly forgot it. But, f2tE protested, if in fact it's an homage to Robin McKinley (my favourite fantasy author) then why not love it, instead of re-reading Chalice yet again? Good question, so I re-read it to try and figure out the answer.

Firstly: it is indubitably modelled on McKinley's work:

  1. the introduction, in which the monster isn't so monstrous: in this case, the mysterious ‘dragon’ doesn't actually eat maidens, which is a common device in McKinley's stories: cf. the Beast doesn't actually kill the people in his garden who cheat him; they die from their own guilt.
  2. The magical terms have a very Damarian feel (cf names of things Damarian vs names of spells—lirintalem; tualidetal; vanastalem; darendetal(1)
  3. The mess and klutziness of the heroine, as well as her personality in general, is set out much like Beauty or Aerin or any other of half a dozen McKinlesque heroines
  4. The initial description of the forest and its corruption
  5. And, oh yeah, the only named magical tome in the Dragon's vast library is called Luthe's Summoning.(2) Um, so no arguments there, I hope.

Well, I think a big part of the problem is that it's supposed to read much like a Damarian novel (except set in a lush Eastern European land, featuring instead of harsh deserts murderous forests,) right up to including rulers and wizards of shall-we-say dubious morality (cf Deerskin and Pegasus respectively). It's a noble endeavour, and given that McKinley has not only forbidden fanfic but also neglected to finish Pegasus, I totally get the impulse to write up some yummy McKinlesque fantasy, since the actual author ain't providing us with much these days.(3) Novik, moreover, cut her teeth in fanfic circles, and her best known series, the Temeraire books, are set roughly in the same era as The Blue Sword, whose protagonist, like Laurence, is something of a[n alt] British outcast.

McKinley's strengths, as I see them are as follows:

  • inverting the often sexist tropes of traditional faery tales while absolutely adhering to the form
  • gorgeous prose and settings, particularly exposition of magic
  • writing absolutely fabulous—and egalitarian!—love stories
  • while typically maintaining a relatively upbeat story, or at least ending (yes, even Deerskin ends on quite a positive note)

Having attempted to write this sort of story myself, because I just love it so much, I do have some idea of how difficult it is, and Novik is to be congratulated for the bits that worked, to wit:

  • the sympathetic explanation of the ‘dirty, ragged’ part of being a witch (the protagonist, Nieshka)
  • the love of sisters/friends (one of Beauty, and also Rose Daughter’s real strengths) between Nieshka and Kasia
  • the organic quality of the protagonist's magic, versus the clockwork, analytical methods of the male lead (Dragon)
  • the sympathetic portrayal of ‘commoners’ versus the powerful (both Nieshka and the Beekeeper in Chalice are poor woodcutter's daughters, frex)
  • the motivations of the antagonists, specifically the younger prince Marek and the magician Falcon
  • the fabulous dresses, obviously a callback to Beauty's outfits.

All of these elements read like hallmark McKinley stories. Less successful was the romance between the Dragon and the Witch. Romantic love tends to get short shrift in the Temeraire stories—it happens, but generally is much less important than aromantic peer-to-peer relationships—and my feeling was, either develop the growing feelings between Nieshka and Dragon properly, or leave them out entirely.

The other difficulty I had was with the Wood. As a concept, it was fine; but for a faery tale, we needed more setup, more history (earlier) in the book to understand the tragedy of the Wood people, and their misunderstandings with humans (again, something that McKinley has done in several stories, as with the Faery in “The Door in the Hedge”, or the mer-people in the Water/Elemental Spirits collection.) Moreover, the fact that Dragon is not rooted in the soil but Nieshka's people are needs to be stressed more, and earlier in the story.

Also, as the story progressed, what I think of as the intricate filigree—in the descriptions, the magic, just the overall atmosphere of the story—that so characterizes McKinley's (and, for the record, Tanith Lee or Catharine Valente) style started to fall away, to the point where I felt I'd shifted to my other favourite fantasy author, specifically Bujold's WGW.(4)

Novik came closer to replicating the best of McKinley's faery tales than anyone else; and the book works very well on its on terms; but it wasn't the romance I was hoping for, and while I was a little disappointed, I hardly felt I could blame anyone but myself for that; and so I shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

Which doesn't mean anyone else should, of course.

And speaking of others, here are some fabulous hearts made by my fellow guild members.

(1)Can't find my copies of either Sword or Crown, so no specific examples; and it's quite possible that Novik & McKinley are drawing on the same eastern European(?) languages for their vocabularies; and yes, Novik specifies spells, whereas McKinley various nouns, but my point is the feel of the language of foreign words is very much the same.

(2)If a Mary Sue (the original meaning) is an author insert (though traditionally a badly written one) then Luthe—like Lord Peter Wimsy—is the author's beloved, her beau ideal.(5) Luthe appears in a number of McKinley's stories as the ageless, secluded wizard whose mountain home has ‘clearer, more truthful’ air; his spell is not just a namecheck but refers to this aspect of his home and being, and is critical to the success of Uprooted’s protags.

(3)If my spouse had died after a long illness I wouldn't much feel like writing either.

(4)Also, the way the protags appeared to throw off the horror of 6k men slaughtered before their eyes didn't quite sit right.

(5)Why yes, I would happen to have one of these myself, who is, like Luthe, blonde, blue-eyed, emotionally perspicacious—though his jewels don't include a red dragonheart:) But these sorts of similarities are the reason, I presume, that McKinley resonates with me.

2016-02-09T00:00:00-05:00 cool linkies, aug2013 ed---samurai, cat coats, medieval PoC... 09feb2016

Sorry about the lack of posting last week—I think I had homework, or taxes or something tedious of that nature. (I still have both of those things to do, but Valentine's Day won't wait, and I'm so proud of myself for posting this stuff before the date, instead of my usual modus operandi of after.)

So here's a (slightly updated) collection of linkies from 2013, to go with our 2013 heart challenge!

And oh yes, heart bead exchange from my fellow glassact members;)

2016-02-08T00:00:00-05:00 I'm just *so* organized, collecting these 2008 heart posts together... 08feb2016

It's taken years, but I am finally on top of things enough to post about hearts before valentine's day! So very very proud of myself. (It doesn't take much, you'll notice.) So for today we're going all the way back to 2008, for an index post collecting some oldies but goodies—while all the beads have been featured before, they're kinda buried. But-but-but— the wizard DID put ‘and’ functionality into the index function, which means I can make index pages that, frex, specify ‘2008&hearts’ (instead of 2008hearts, which as you could imagine could lead to many many search terms and a lot of clunkiness.) Oh, frabjous...


2016-01-29T00:00:00-05:00 Violin player imitates car alarm. 29jan2016

This young violin player imitates the sound of the ubiquitous car alarm —oh my goodness this madr me laugh—1) cuz that exact sound tortured me all the time back when I lived in Detroit and 2) cuz it's now a memory, instead of a daily aggravation. (I was at f2tE's place the other day, and someone cranked up their base heavy car audio. I sighed. F2tE said ze didn't mind, it reminded hir of hir childhood.)

Sometimes, it's all about different spokes for different folks, as today's page, final in a series of 5 mini-beadcurtain strands, illustrates.

2016-01-28T00:00:00-05:00 The birds and the bees: 4th in a series of 18inch long mini-beadcurtain strands. 28jan2016

I had a frustrating day, fighting with my own crappy (mis)understanding of quick-disconnects (there are three kinds, regulator to hose, hose to hose, and hose to torch, and either I or the welding shop special ordered three sets of the wrong kind. Bleh.) bad concentrators, overly short torch hoses (whose idea was it to make that alpha's hoses a frickin’ foot long!?! Even two feet, I could've worked with...) Arrrrrrghhhhhh....

So this adorable—and nicely drawn—fanfic ‘7.5’ star wars comic was a welcome tonic. Via the Mary Sue, of course.

If that doesn't float your boat, well, here's another green bead-curtain strand. Enjoy.

2016-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 Innovation, influence, and kindness: pick any two. 27jan2016

So the local library has Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America by “Diane Roberts...a self-described feminist with a PhD from Oxford” according the inside flap; but she's also a rabid football fan. I've been trying to figure out for years what the allure of this game is, and here's someone perfectly qualified to translate for me.

I'm only about 50 pages in, but I got the message halfway through the introduction, a little over 5 pages in:

I can't quit college football. It's like a bad boyfriend: you hate that he's so right-wing, his table manners embarrass you, he's barely read a book, and you don't want your mother to meet him, but damn, he's so fine and makes you feel so good (when he isn't making you feel so bad), you just can't help yourself.

I've heard all sorts of reasons for people liking football, the most recent from a grandmother who liked watching young men with nice asses run around for her edification on the telly. The book cites what was also a former yoga teacher's comparison to balletic grace. Strategy is another fave. But, the author continues, all those quasi-aesthetic reasons are, for the truefen, a sham.

It's all about the violence, and the purity of tribalism. She goes on to recount how she and her fellow students screamed themselves hoarse, a mob of people either brought low or ecstatically high. —And that's the reason spectator sports in general and football in particular fails to appeal: it's not that I have a noble aversion to pounding one's enemies (though I've never cared for even cartoony violence and have become increasingly averse over the years)—it's that, as an introvert, the prospect of crowds, noise and overwhelming sensory overload is not my idea of fun. At all.

Approximately one-third of humans are considered to be introverts, but like so many things, it's a spectrum. Compared to some other introverts I know well, I feel like a bit of a fake; for example, I genuinely enjoy having plenty of other people in a threater to share a film. However, my overriding joys have tended to be solitary, the ecstasy of wandering in a mostly empty rose garden laden with blooms.

Sf&f fen have a reputation for being shy, awkward and introverted people, (though obviously there's all kinds) and also for hating sports, organized team sports in particular (though obviously some like sport just fine.) —I can't help but thinking that the very public, rambunctious behaviours football (of both the US and rest-of-the-world stripes), geared for extroverts, is a big part of the turnoff.

But the other is that these affiliations are formed young. The author claims she knew she was a gator before she knew she was a girl; Ta-Nehisi Coates, another fan who gradually weaning himself away, wrote of bonding with his relatives, his father particularly (iirc). I didn't have that, and, moreover, though I am indubitably USian, I still feel somewhat alien—awkward, imperfectly fit in, if you will—in my own country.

There's a simplicity, I guess, to identifying with one's team, rather like the simplicity of camping—keep the fire going, the tent dry, boil water, cook food. Larger, more complex problems, during that time, recede. Football may be a lot noisier and much more violent, but for that time, the rest of the world goes away; life narrows to whether your team wins, or loses.

I read somewhere that these sorts of cultural analyses tend to appear as the practices they celebrate are dying. Football has a bit to go—there's a lot of money in it—but horrific costs to players is slowly becoming part of the public conscience—and guilt. It's only a matter of time, I think.

It's a little chilling that the author compares her relationship to the game to an abashedly abusive relationship; and as she freely acknowledges, the toll on the student athletes is enormous. Even setting aside the way tax dollars fund stadia and enrich the owners, that alone is reason to celebrate the end of the game. Perhaps brutality will always be part of human nature; but I don't know that we need to encourage it.

And today's beadcurtain features the gentle manatee.

2016-01-26T00:00:00-05:00 review of Rebecca Solnit's _River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West_ 26jan2016

Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West the third work of hers I've read (the essay “Men Explain Things to Me”, and A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster being the first two) and for the shear sheer (though sometimes brutal, cutting) beauty of the prose, is easily my favorite.

But it's also by far the most difficult because though it's a wide-ranging narrative that documents, among other things, an intense love of place by the Modoc tribe, the narrative circles around Edward Muggeridge/Eadwaerd Muybridge, who first-degree-murdered his wife's lover (and the necessarily all-male jury let him off); his wife's life spirals precipitously downwards thereafter: she dies, destitute, by the age of 24. At the same time, he was a brilliant artist and restless photographer who pushed the medium from its seconds (or even minutes) long exposures to hundredths or even thousandths of a second.

It's been observed on more than one occasion that history is science fiction's secret weapon (the flip side being that sf is the poor man's philosophy—obviously, not a modern saying!) Though the events documented in this book are only a little over a hundred years old, the mindsets are in some ways as alien as, say, the wonderful worldbuilding in Leckie or Vandermeer.

It's hard for modern folk to understand how intensely motion—say, the movement of a horse's legs when cantering or galloping, or even trotting—excited people back then. As a young child who ardently desired to draw horses representationally and whose access to images, let alone the real animals, was severely limited, I had perhaps greater understanding. Reading how Muybridge's work with a series of six photos instantly voided a 19century artist's 30 years of study a dim, attenuated memory floated up: I read this. Years ago, as a child, and identified with him, because I too struggled for access.

Now, of course, I can look up practically anything on my phone. The days of morgues—clippings from National Geographic and the like, shelves of obscure reference books, scouring libraries—are decades gone, residing only in my memories, shadow-like; and entirely alien to the artist generation after me. As long as there's enough battery life, I'm good to go. That kind of freedom still amazes me, every day. But I don't think my children, reared on a diet of cat videos, will really ever understand, even in the distant way I did, how place isolated experience; though even the Victorians could experience distant lands and animals, vicariously, in a way earlier people could only dream of, before printing, particularly of images, became widespread.

I loved that Solnit wove an Indian tribe's sense and love of place with Muybridge's experiments (not to mention Stanford, one of the big four railroad barons, i.e. a major 1% of his era) together to illuminate some of the lesser known strands of the ‘river of shadows’ —her metaphor as well as literal description of film: photographs that forever changed our perception of time (and space.) It's a brilliant book, beautifully written.

But, like the magnificent landscapes on which Muybridge initially made his reputation, it's also a melancholy one; I get the sense, sometimes, that the author can't quite decide whether the cost of all that progress—rendered in a great many lives—Indian, Chinese, and others, not just Muybridge's spouse and lover—was worth it.

I can empathize. I don't really want to live in the past; but I surely miss parts of it, most of them documented in those early, black and white photographs, deeply.

Heh. Speaking of documentation, oh yeah, beadcurtain strand.

2016-01-25T00:00:00-05:00 Pizza, circa 1947 homestyle. Er, yum? 25jan2016

Here's a bit of humour for your monday: a 1947 recipe for pizza. Made with biscuit mix. Even if you don't have an interest in the era, it's either good for a laugh, or a shudder, with thanks for the much greater range of foodstuffs now available. And people hate on immigrants!

That said, it did bring back a frisson of childhood: though I'm not that old, I had (& still retain) very fond memories of the local product, Jiffy Mix, which is still being manufactured not all that far from where I grew up. It, along with watching the cashier grind 8 o'clock coffee at the register during my mom's weekly trip to the A&P, and her Betty Crocker cookbook, were very much part of my experience with mid-century US homestyle cuisine.

Or, well, here's the first in a series of five mini-beadcurtain strands.

2016-01-22T00:00:00-05:00 Herstory is splendid. 22jan2016

Besides Kihende Wiley's pieces, and Nick Cave's soundsuit, the other piece that really grabbed my intention was a sort of soap-operish story about two trans women attempting a gallery opening. I wish I'd paid more attention to its date—I got the impression this thing dated back to the 80s or mebbe even the 70s—long before trans issues appeared on my horizon.

Which reminds me, via Mary Sue, a wonderful six-part series about a couple of trans women called Herstory. Each of the episodes is only about 10 minutes long, so the total viewing time is roughly equivalent to a traditional pilot. Though the shorts provide a complete arc, I hope they make the larger series, as I found these splendid: so often marginalized groups are depicted in wacky, cringe inducing ways and these ...weren't. I happened to note one episode only had about 4k views, which was absolutely amazing, because it was so good. Highly recommended.

Um, or you check out another rosary.

2016-01-21T00:00:00-05:00 30 Americans... 21jan2016

O hai, I kinda dumped all my links yesterday. Hmm. Well, I did enjoy "30 Americans"—most especially I finally got to see one of Nick Cave's Soundsuits, which, as they're textiles full of beads, sequins, and, in this case, flowers, were right up my alley. Cave, so far as I can tell, seems to be more on the art, rather than costuming side of things, but his work definitely reminds me of early costuming, such as Animal X —I used to have a book that featured her work, but it disappeared years ago; but costuming (which originally grew out of sf cons, especially media cons such as Star Trek) has only grown into cosplaying. It's pretty cool, really.

It was also cool to see how Kehinde Wiley's work has progressed—he's been doing this series of modern (black) people in Old Master (european) works, but what was interesting to me was the increasing playfulness with the ornate william morris curlicue plant-based motifs, not to mention the more sophisticated use of color—the first piece of his I encountered was in this garish eye-popping red-yellow-blue colour scheme; my favourite of his, the final piece in the show, a triptych that still features bright colours, lime green, hot pink and orange. The graphic curliques come ‘alive’ or ‘forward’ on top of the sitter's brown-clad torso, helping to link the various planes together—it's playful update, and I quite like it, as if the artist embroidered the background on the front of the picture plane.

Black artists, like women artists, are still seriously underrepresented, and this show is well worth checking out for seeing a nice cross-section of African-American artists.

2016-01-20T00:00:00-05:00 Lots o' links. 20jan2016

Happy 2016, everyone!

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I kinda had to step away from the internet for a bit. Here's some slightly more upbeat, or at least interesting, link-love than the downers that were occupying my mind towards the end of ’15—

  • Lawyers, Guns & Money's observations on the Sagebrush Rebellion, and how it continues to echo in the Malheur Refuge; Obsidian Wings has a post, too.
  • Also via ML/LGM, a review of looks to be a truly fascinating expose of scientific infighting, Galileo's Middle Finger.
  • On a (considerably) lighter note, an article about a woman who diagnoses her own, extremely rare condition —and directly prevented the imminent deaths of two people, not to mention pointing a researcher in a ‘once-in-a-career’ direction. I should note, despite the fact that author cites ‘google images’ as the woman's main tool, she read a lot of research papers. Hundreds of hours’ worth.
  • Oh, and led me to a website of muscular women. Oh, my.
  • via Making Light, Cory Doctorow's review of Leigh Phillips’ Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff, which, summed up, says if we want clean and green, it's got to be for everyone—including those folks with kitschy ‘consumerist’ goals. That's been the utopian dream of the sf&f genre for over a century, and one I wholeheartedly approve and support.
  • via the Atlantic a wonderful “new” missisippi delta blues performer —the oldest one left, according to him (I delta blues, but it's not a dialect I parse well—btw the Atlantic has a nice article about dialects/languages by John McWhorter—a linguist who actually knows what he's talking about, unlike the grammar peevers.)
  • via alas, how to write military fic characters. This is alas a little too specific, as I'm more interested in getting the culture than specific details. I will say I stumbled across a comment somewhere or other that conservatives policed sexual practices, whereas liberals got bent out of shape about food (and yeah, I think the concerns over GMOs in particular are overblown.)
  • The wizard simply doesn't get why I make to-do lists.
  • Yes, the musical Hamilton is splendid. It's time and past to admit that rap is the poetry of our age.

Or you can look at an old-fashioned wire-wrapped bead object.

2015-11-23T00:00:00-05:00 2 national geo pix provide the basis for some ideas about color. 23nov2015

Every autumn, I look at the tan grasses, blue sky, brown branches (and sometimes, touches of green) and think: I must make a bead (or beaded embroidery) in this colour scheme. —Someday I'll do it. I may get in a rut with regard to colour, but seldom am at a loss. Judging from the number of articles I've stumbled across over the years, this is a problem for other people, so allow me to re-iterate the advice the pundits give in these situations:


If the simplifying the colour combos all around you is a bit daunting, one way to excerpt is to look at pictures of things. Advertisements are popular (especially if you want the latest ‘in’ colours) but any photo that strikes you will work, though, again, if you're feeling overwhelmed, you might want to stick with some that have two or three basic colours: in this case, lime green, black/charcoal/white (which is just desaturated and really desaturated black) and lime green, turquoise and coral (slightly pinkish, muddy orange). (Obviously, I am all about lime green. It's my fave, couldn't you guess?)

In both cases the photographer has really simplified the job for you by selecting images that have very few hues. (Bonus: great patterns as well.) From my point of view, I suppose what this exercise illustrates is that I should make pieces without lime green. Usually that tends to happen when I'm creating art for someone else.

As with today's piece the first in a series of miscellaneous kumi. Sorry folks. I'm so disgusted with the anti christian-charity/nation-of-immigrants/thanksgiving hatred and bigotry going around I can't even find it in me to finish the intros. For kumi. But hey, it's foreign. And the braids featured were either made for foreigners OR made in a foreign country. The horror. Blergh. See you next week, mebbe. Oh, and have a nice Thanksgiving!/end sarcasm.

2015-11-20T00:00:00-05:00 Why collect autographs? Or beads? Also, popularity and turnout at author readings do not correlate well. 20nov2015

How much the world changes in a week!

Recently, I've found the way to do the webpage thing is to find some theme, write a batch of 5 webpages on it, and possibly queue up the intros for at least the first couple. For this batch, I had the perfect link all picked out for today's...then the paris happened, and it seems all so petty now. Even within the sf community, the world fantasy statuette controversy it seems so small to talk about somebody's book tour.

But, otoh, it was the perfect leadin for today's page, the last in my series about a bunch of pictures I took of Lisa St Martin's beads. So, on whatever, Scalzi explained that it's kinda petty—more than kinda—to ding someone on their book reading attendance.(1) since this happens to everyone, him included, of course. The commentariat duly chimed in with examples ranging from, iirc, Stephen King to Nancy Pelosi. Of course, inevitably some folks wondered why anyone would bother attending a reading, let alone getting their book signed.

Well, for one thing, the author can indirectly admit he kinda wrote himself into a corner for the last third of the book. That happened to me, once, and I was pretty chuffed at having my suspicion confirmed. It's also—again as someone eventually pointed out—a great memento—memory aid—of the reading, meeting the author—the experience. I'll forever treasure the time I got to sit right next to my favourite sf&f author and listen to her read from what has proved to be her funniest book.

And that leads into, why collect beads?

Well, like autographs, each is distinct. (Unlike autographs, they generally cost money, but as art goes, they're very affordable.) They're small; they can even be worn, if desired. Even for artists whose work changes only in the most subtle of ways, they also can document their evolution as an artist. And, for beadmakers, they can obviously serve as inspiration. And my collection does all those things.

But ultimately, I've come to realize that they represent, first and foremost, my connections(s) to other bead artists; and to a lesser extent, how both I as well the glass bead movement itself, has grown and matured over time.

It's been pretty rewarding, honestly.

(1)The inside baseball on this, if you care, is that the author Mr Scalzi is supporting in this context is a major sad/rabid puppy, which is a very different idealogical camp than Scalzi's own.

2015-11-19T00:00:00-05:00 I had kind of a long day yesterday, today and likely will tomorrow. So, today's link is a sciency one, an explanation of how epigenetics work (and also how people fail to understand the mechanism, i.e. cite it to support =woo= =hogwash= stuff that it has nothing to do with). Which has also a ve...

I had kind of a long day yesterday, today and likely will tomorrow. So, today's link is a sciency one, an explanation of how epigenetics work (and also how people fail to understand the mechanism, i.e. cite it to support woo hogwash stuff that it has nothing to do with). Which has also a very cool link to the current xkcd cartoon.

Or you can check out the fourth and penultimate post on my series about taking pix of Lisa St Martin's work.

2015-11-18T00:00:00-05:00 The perils of pay per view. 18nov2015

I don't try to constantly post semi (or completely altogether) depressing stuff; it's just that my sense of humour is so sadly stunted. Anyway. I found something hysterically funny about a kid who innocently thought she'd struck gold with an unknown sequel to her favourite movie. At least I thought so, because I could just imagine my kid doing this, and in fact, said child reports committing similar to this story (just to some other set of parents).

In other news, this is perhaps the apogee of the series, in which I explain how I shot this bead complicated by complex surfaces not to mention silver bearing glass frit melted on top of dichro. It was something of a challenge.