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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn


cropI have been super-busy the past several days, so didn't quite get this stuff queued up properly. So also, here's a link-dump of the some of the stuff I've been reading:

  • the NYT 10 best books of the year had some interesting titles; I ordered a couple of them from the library.
  • This year's hugo fan writer, Abigail Nussbaum, whose blog, Asking the Wrong Questions, has a ton of sharp reviews & observations on sfnal/fantasy related works, both in print and cinematic. She also links to other sharp observations about such works, such as this Lawyer, Guns & Money takedown of the international politics of Captain America: Civil War (which is considered by many fans to be among the most thoughtful & best in the superhero genre)
  • Dr Who's theme music creator, Delia Derbyshire—a woman barely allowed to work in the lab where the iconic music was created—was awarded a posthumous PhD.
  • the cruelty to which fat people, especially fat women, is subjected, is astonishing. I love the gentle, sweet pushback in this comic. Via Alas, a blog.
  • Autistic women: I thought I was lazy. I'm not autistic; but it took years for me to realize that I'm not precisely neurotypical, either. (Like so many ‘women’ [cuz I'm evidently not precisely that, either...] I didn't realize this till I saw some of the symptoms in my offspring, which held true for my M-i-L as well.)
  • Fred Clark makes an argument for reading Adam Sewer's The Nationalist's Delusion. The teal deer version is that, backed up with studies that tease apart economic insecurities and racial ones, whites voted for Trump because he assured them they were still the best, the greatest; moreover his policies have focused on assauging those fears, showing that, whatever else his failures, 45 understands his base.
  • a black man moves to the deep south —despite the history of slavery, jim crow & still-rampant racism.
  • Finally, though it's gonna be pretty emphemeral: Seth Abramson's tweetstream about Robert Mueller's investigation of the current administration is absolutely riveting, like reading a political thriller in real time.


cropI'd kind of been casually hearing—not least on Leckie's own blog—that she had a new book out, and had even read a review which I dimly recall the reviewer not finding the new pronoun scheme as convincing as defaulting to feminine pronouns, as in the Ancillary series, and also the book wasn't quite as good satisfying.

I quite liked it, and I suspect the story resonated with me in ways it didn't for that other reviewer in a couple of ways:

  1. The protagonist is a gentle—even timid—soul who sees herself unfit, either to step into her ambitious politician mother's shoes, or best her older, more handsome, & better connected brother.
  2. I know gender non-conforming folks, who immediately served as a model for the E pronoun group: I actually had to think harder about it than the default feminine, and appreciated this.

Both are fosterlings, but his family sponsored him; she was just plucked out of an orphanage, because her biological parents couldn't (or wouldn't) take care of her.

However, she risks literally everything she has on one last, desperate scheme in an attempt to win her mother's approval: extract a felon from no-return prison (called ‘Compassionate Removal’, of course) and convince him to hand over priceless ‘vestiges’ he stole, thereby building up her mother's—and her own—political and familial standing on the planet of Hwae, itself pretty obviously a backwater running beneath the notice of the Radch, (who have almost no presence in the story.)

It's a hare-brained scheme and begins to go awry pretty much from the first page. The person whom she's delivered is not the right one; a ‘numan’—evidently neither male nor female—introduces us to the new set of pronouns. Aside from a minor character's bitter animadversions on the lack of it, tea—and gloves—so crucial in the other books, matter not. (The Conclave, called at the end of the Ancillary trilogy, is a distant, years-long protocol, important to be sure, but with almost no impact on the day-to-day lives of these characters.)

Which is not to say that Hwae doesn't have its own cultural traditions, just as important to it, of which the greatest are mementos with provenance: “vestiges”. These objects, imbued with the touch and weight of history, are deeply venerated by the Hwae, most particularly the document that is pretty obviously an analogue to the USian Declaration of Independence. —Yet that is not its only analogue, as the reader slowly discovers. Nearly all the characters are politically motivated (i.e. they lie. A lot) so untangling their real layered backstories lent real pleasure to reading the story.

While Provenance has a planetary, rather than empire spanning scope and is therefore a more intimate story, I found the implications of its worldbuilding sharply critical of our current one, and its characters’ story engaging: trademark Leckie. Recommended.


cropI thought this little video essay of a simple tune rendered in various composers’ styles was a blast. This sort of thing has been done plenty of times before, but what made this example so appealing was that the performer not only labelled the various flourishes that distinguished & differentiated the composers, she also had a birds-eye view of her hands on the piano, so you could see visually how the styles differed. Bonus: a portrait of each famous composer (complete with snark of her imagined capturing of his particular style) popped up. As a visual learner, this really helped anchor what I was hearing.

It was only slightly disappointing that the only female composer she played was herself.

And seeing as it's now December, we segueing from beadcurtain to more holiday themed pages. Enjoy.


cropHere's another discussion of a band's sound, the unusual combo of bass guitar, drums and sax: Morphine. I stopped listening to radio years ago, once my favourite NPR station a) went to mostly news-show format and b) we moved too far away to get good reception.

So it's sort of cool when I rediscover songs I'd enjoyed in a sort of vague way (i.e. not enough to learn the group's name, let alone buy their album) via these critiques. This one is mostly text, nice for those not into youtube vids.

Also, second in a pair of single-strand rainbow beadcurtain strands.


cropI don't have a very sophisticated understanding of music, but I really enjoy listening to those who do when they're analyzing why or how something works, as with this essay about how Flea's bass playing is essential to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound.

Um, the bead-curtain strand streak continues.


cropTotally awesome afro hairstyles; via cain at ftb. (I don't understand how anyone couldn't find kinky hair absolutely gorgeous. Or long black Asian hair. Or red hair. Yet all of these have been deprecated.

(Nor do I get touching other people's hair. I never even heard of this particular rudeness until I was an adult for some time—say in the last decade or so? (For the record, I've ‘always known’ black hair is soft and silky, though I have no memory of acquiring this knowledge, any more than I know when I learnt what sand or tree bark feels like; I suppose I must of learned from one of my childhood—possibly even preschool—friends. But even then I don't recall touching anyone not a family member without permission. It was unthinkable.)

Oh, and I guess bead-curtain week (II), so I have another post on that:)