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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

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14dec2018

cropSomewhere or other I came across a recce for Claire O'Dell's A Study in Honor, an AU Sherlock Holmes novel set in a dystopian near-future in which the south has seceded and is actively at war. Janet Watson is invalided out after losing her arm: though she is fitted with a prothesis, it works poorly, and she cannot continue as a surgeon until it's replaced.

Black in a world in which racism is creeping back to Civil War era levels, poor, out of work, & suffering from PTSD, she's willing to give living with the eccentric Sara Holmes in her luxurious apartment a shot—even though with a job it's not clear how she can provide half the rent.

As a story about a woman coping with loss—of her arm, her career, her parents, and her lover—and trying to rebuild a shattered life, the book works well. (And indeed, John Watson in the original was similarly, if not quite so direly, situated.)

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13dec2018

cropI know women are supposed to be all griefy ’n’ stuff after abortions, ’specially the spontaneous kind (aka miscarriages) but I never felt anything more than ‘oh, damn, now I gotta start over again’ —helped of course by the fact that

  • it was early in the process & not at all medically problematic
  • I was pretty confident about our fertility
  • I was perfectly ok with being childless

For people who do have issues with fertility, or had time to get excited about, let alone bond to, their embryo/fetus, or desperately wanted a child, I get that it would be devastating. But it's mostly socially unacceptable, nowadays, to be so callous unsentimental.

That was not always the case! Back in the olden days, when a lot before-fives died, the relative worth of a human who'd made it all the way to successful adulthood was starker.

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12dec2018

cropSo I went to see the new Harry Potter with my bestie the other day, and given the generally lacklustre reviews was pleasantly surprised that it was, at least, watchable. I haven't really sorted out all my feelings about some of the underlying politics, though I was unequivocally unhappy with Nagini's origin story, or rather, her eventual fate. I get the fascination with coming up with backstories for the various minor characters in the original series, but making Voldemart's ophidian pet a woman of colour, introduced in a blatantly exoticized (I would say, Orientalized...) way is, um, insensitive. At best.

So that was gross.

But I have clearer thoughts on Mune: Guardian of the Moon, a 2014 French film I initially thought was Japanese. Whoops. It appears to be aimed at the 5–8 year old set, mebbe, which justifies Netflix's decision to dub it into English, but I felt kinda dumb.

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11dec2018

crop(Another review originally written mid-2016.)

I really wanted to like Zen Cho's Sorceror to the Crown: I mean, Jane Austen Georgette Heyer crossed with Susannah Clark. With, perhaps a dash of Patrick O'Brian or Naomi Novik thrown in. What could be more perfectly suited to my own tastes?

Confession time: I really wanted to love Susannah Clark's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell too, but didn't even manage to finish that one, because the main characters were so unpleasant and unappealing. Honest, beautifully drawn, and complex, yes; appealing, no. But oh, the language! Anyway. Back to Crown. Clark's book did explore race relations, a bit, in the character of the butler, Black. Cho, who is an author of colour, takes on not only race relations, but sexism and classism as well: all three are embodied by the female protagonist, Prunella Gentleman. Like the Black character, her name is hardly an accident: women are not allowed to be thaumatages, let alone sorcerors (thaumatages who have managed to acquire a familiar.)

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10dec2018

cropHey, it's December, that means I can post old pix of red-n-green holiday wrapping—also dig out old reviews, as frex this lo-o-o-o-ng one (with spoilers) from mid-2016 about Corinne Duyvis’ YA, Otherbound. Originally recced to me (iirc) as a novel that does pale-people-on-the-bottom-of-society right—i.e. without a lot of emphasis—I thought it interesting, not only in the deadly sense of not-really-caring-for-it, but also having an intriguing premise, not quite successfully carried out.

(The go-to exploration of racism in fantasy would of course be N.K. Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy, which at that point [when I originally wrote this review] was heading towards the first of three back-to-back hugos; like Hamilton it has and will continue for a long time to come have a huge influence on its genre. And in fact, once I read The Fifth Season I immediately realized nothing I could ever write would come close to addressing this issue with the verve Jemison demonstrated. Good, I thought, someone who actually knows what they're doing has done a spectacular job, I can go do somethin’ else, that I might be marginally competent at...)

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7dec2018

cropActually today's piece is just fine, it's the links that are, to put it mildly, fugly. (I'm writing this on the 5th...) While I don't think our 41st president was as incompetent as his son proved, (let alone the current office holder) nor as mundanely bad as ole Raygun, I still think he should have been up on war crimes charges. (I'm beginning to believe that just about every president during my lifetime, possibly with the exception of Carter, should've been up on war crimes charges. Seems to come with the job. This sort of awareness is, I think, why people “seem less enchanted with democracy.” It's not the ideal —it's dealing with the reality as it plays out in this country. (And yes, I know, PoC have been disillusioned far longer.)

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