Booklog

Goth beard
Waargh, let this go too long without posting it again.
26. The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
More Laundry! Not nearly so bleak and depressing as the previous installment. I enjoyed it, but found the ending a tad abrupt. I was expecting more epilogue than there was. I am starting to get more of a feeling that there's a larger story with an actual ending going on behind the books here. So, I think it's possible that we may eventually get a book title CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN that ends the series.
27. John Dies At The End by David Wong
This is not the right book to read while camping. There is a lot of bug-related body horror going on. That said, it was a nice, solid creepy horror novel that play with Lovecraft's toys in a manner quite different than Stross.
28. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This was a decent book, and I get why it's gotten so much attention. It was, very obviously, written to be turned into a movie.

Not that there's anything wrong with the story, but it's got all the biases of a Hollywood movie. A straight white teen-aged male who's smarter than everyone else overcomes adversity by being smart and brave, with the help of his friends who aren't white, straight or male enough to be heroes. The significant female character is the love interest, who has a relatively minor flaw that the protag can overlook, showing how deep and pure his love is when he gets the girl as part of his reward. Which makes it sound like I didn't like it. I have just come to expect a bit more of my literature in terms of trope awareness. I'm sure the movie will do well. Michael Bay could direct!

The other aspect of the book that's interesting is the 80s nerd culture fixation. Again, it's pretty specifically the nerd culture of the straight white kid who grew up middle classed in the 80s. It's extremely detailed, and makes it pretty clear that the book is not only fantasy for a certain kind of dudenerd, but a dudenerd of a certain age. I'm pretty close to the target demographic myself. It's this element that has gotten the book so much attention, I think. It aims itself directly at the classic SF audience. I assume the details will be sanded off for the movie version to make it more accessible to today's teens.
29. Colder War by Ian Tregillis
I confess, when I read book one of the Milkweed Triptych, I didn't realise that it was part of a trilogy. Which made the state of the end of book one rather bleak and miserable. Book two is, well, overall pretty bleak and miserable, but there are shards of hope glimmering here and there. Set 20 years after book one, Colder War does marvelous things with the terrible remains of book one. There's not too much I can say without spoiling one of the two books, but I was very happy with the way the character development was handled. I want book 3 now.
30. Distrust That Particular Flavour by William Gibson
A collection of William Gibson's non-fiction essays spanning the length of his career. It's interesting seeing the various ways he, as an author who hasn't done all that much non-fiction, has influenced the memetic atmosphere. It's more interesting when he analyzes that impact and mentions that he didn't really know what he was talking about at the time.

Which is of course, the other reason to read the book - Gibson is a fantastic writer, whose style makes everything interesting, even when it wouldn't otherwise be.
31. vN by Madeleine Ashby
Living, self-reproducing robots created as helpmeets for those left behind after the Rapture (which didn't occur).

These are the vN (von Neumann machines), a human created rival sapient species on Earth. Ashby does a fantastic job extrapolating from her premise, and builds out from Asimov's three laws, Blade Runner's Replicants and the various androids of SF's past.

There's a lot of pondering on the nature of Free Will, Humanity, etc. Also, killer androids on the loose! I loved the heck out of this book, and really hope there's more forthcoming.
32. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
The elevator pitch: standard D&D party fantasy novel, but! it's all set in a fantasy version of the Baghdad of 1001 Arabian Knights. Smart, rich fantasy that doesn't need a white dude to hang the reader's viewpoint off of.

Ahmed passed my most important test for good characterization - those moments where I say to myself, "Oh, Doctor Adoulla!" because the character has done something endearing or touching that is so very consistent with the traits that character has shown so far.

mycrazyhair, you can read this one; the characters suffer, but none are actually broken.
33. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
And, without planning it, here's another non-white, non-Eurocentric fantasy where I can almost hear the dice rolling in the background.

The setting really knocked me for a loop at first - the trick with the skies took some time to wrap my head around. And I still have questions about how the moons work.

Because this is Bear, though, it wasn't overly distracting, because Bear's strength is her amazing characters and their living dialogue. I fell for Timur (our !Mongol warrior prince) and Samarkand (Our !Tibetan(I think) wizard and former princess), and Dumpling the horse, and the refreshingly titless tiger woman Hrahima. As always with Bear, the characters felt like real people, and people I'd like were I to meet them.

Plot-wise, there's some standard questiness and a sinister evil in the form of someone whose the head of a cult that borrows a lot from the story of Hassan-i Sabbah and Alamut. There's some interesting plot nuggets of various amounts of obviousness placed throughout - enough for me to enjoy playing my game of trying to figure out if X is foreshadowing what I think it's foreshadowing.

I'm looking forward to the next book.
34. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlusson (translated by Jean I. Young)
I had never actually read this before. The translation I was reading was from the 50s, and the translator made some weird choices - in some places the beverage of the gods is translated to mead, in others, wine. The Jotnar are referred to as "frost ogres" instead of "frost giants". There are a lot of lists of names of things and places, and the translator frequently uses footnotes to explain the literal translation of about half of them, with no explanation of why those are translated and others aren't. So, not the best translation.

As far as the content goes, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of work Sturluson had to do to place the Norse myths into a contemporary (for him) context - I'd never run into the bit about placing the Aesir as wayward Trojans from an era when, after the Flood, man had somehow forgotten the Christian God (except for a desert tribe in the Middle East, naturally). The amount of mental gymnastics going on is impressive, but given that he was writing only a couple hundred years after Iceland converted to Christianity, he had to walk on fairly thin ice to get away with writing it at all.

The stories themselves I had already read elsewhere, in more coherent and internally consistent adaptations, and I'm left with an urge to do more research - it seems to me that we've got at least a little more references for Norse myth than I ran into here.

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, or get anything out of it.
35. Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
I went into this book braced for the sort of clever, winking, self-aware sort of superhero deconstruction of Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible or Minister Faust's From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain. What I actually found was a fairly decent first novel that took a straight shot at the superhero genre. No smirking deconstruction required.

The basic setup is that Tony (whose name was derived from the Pixies song), finds himself with superpowers one day, in a fictional not-LA where the last superhero team battle frequently and inconclusively with the last supervillain. There's a couple deleted scenes at the end that I think really shouldn't have been deleted - certain bits of skulduggery fall through the cracks without one of them, and an important character change doesn't make any sense without another.

On the whole, I think the character development is on the weak side - I didn't see enough to understand why people were doing things, so a lot of character action seemed random. Things seemed pretty clearly set up for sequels, and I did enjoy it enough to read the next book at least.
36. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
A British secret society tasked with recruiting super-powered people, and using them to combat supernatural threats to the nation! Our protagonist, one Mwfanwy Thomas, comes to covered in bruises, surrounded by dead people in latex gloves, with no memory of who she is or how she got there.

So, superpowers, White-Wolfian secret societies, and Identity Horror?

Yes.

O'Malley did not disappoint me. This book was fantastic and wonderful, and hit so many of my literary kinks that I am still sad that it ended. On his blog, O'Malley states his intention to write more books, some in this world, some not.
Which saddens me only in the implication that there aren't more waiting in the publication queue already.

Industrial Music Is Problematic

Goth beard
I've had a post brewing in the back of my head for a while on Industrial music,and its problematic aspects, but kept putting off writing it.

Then Jairus did this. Which gives me a topical push to discuss this before the Internets move on.

I like Industrial music. I like the aggression, the speed, the way it fits with the way I like to dance, the way I move. I like the darkness in it and the edginess to it. I like the way it discusses taboo(ish) subjects like depression, oppression, kink and violence. I also like that it's got a solid stream of nerd running through it.

However.

There's a line, a fuzzy line, but still a line. A point at which it stops being edgy and dark and becomes flat out offensive and beyond "problematic", moving into "a problem". Of the two bands Jairus discusses, I have two Combichrist albums, and one Nachtmahr album. My review of Combichrist's Everybody Hates You does mention the discomfort I felt about some of the lyrics, while with Nachtmahr, I just don't have enough German to really know what they're singing about (see review).

It seems that Combichrist has gone further; somehow, I feel "I am a bitch/ How do you want me?" is just barely okay (because I can imagine consenting adults happily playing out that scene), while "You feminist cunts know you want it/ Give head if you got it" is way, way over the line. I hadn't been paying attention to the last couple releases from Combichrist, because what I'd heard on podcasts hadn't thrilled me.

After liking a few of their tracks, I picked up Mordacious's recent large album Dead Inside, and was fairly disappointed that nearly every song was about violent sex. And while I don't necessarily disapprove of violent sex, if it's all about punishing dirty whores and giving it to bitches - that shit's misogynist, yo. I sometimes wonder if the music I listen to isn't just the German equivalent to the rap music I turn my nose up at, with the popping of caps in asses, the acquisition of bling and bitches and hoes (is that the correct plural form? Why is this a thing I need to know in my life?). Is Industrial really just that plus some Depeche Mode covers? One of the few German words I can readily identify is the word for "slut", thanks to Industrial music.

Similarly, I loved Suicide Commando's "Bind, Torture, Kill" when I heard it in clubs; it's great for the aggressive way I like to dance. Sure, it's clearly a song about violence, but darkness and yes, violence is part of what I like about Industrial. When I did some reading while trying to find out who the artist was and how I could get the track, I found out about BTK, a real world serial killer who murdered at least ten people. Is that something I want to celebrate? Not really. Apparently my line is "imaginary, non-specific aggression and violence: cool" and "actual real world violence/violence against targeted social groups: not cool".

I'm going to toss in a quick reference to Hansel Und Gretyl here, but leave it at that since I've got another half-written essay on "Pop Culture Nazis" in another file.

I can happily continue to ignore Combichrist's new work, because I happen to not really like it. Nachtmahr is harder. The band is really just Thomas Rainer, who is involved in something like half the bands in the genre; IIRC, he worked on the latest Covenant album (which I loved), he's also the lead for L'Ame Immortale, and I seem to recall something about him joining up with one of the classic Industrial outfits, though I can't find a reference to refresh my memory on that one.

I'm not the only one who worries about this stuff; apparently Jairus got applause form the crowd at Kinetik, and the biggest (only?) Canadian distributor of Industrial music, Storming the Base came out with a "Misogyny Is Not A Music Genre" button. Though STB does still carry music and merch for bands like Combichrist, Nachtmahr, Mordacious, etc.

What is a poor confused fan to do? Give up on the genre entirely? Since that would more or less mean "give up on music", I hate that option. Research each band to make sure the sexism and violence are at levels I find tolerable? Better, but given how much collaboration and crossover among artists, the level of effort required to vet everything comes back to "give up on music" again. Especially once I consider clubs and podcasts, if I listen to Industrial, there's going to be problematic stuff.

On one hand, sometimes I just feel like throwing up my hands and going on a permanent culture fast; everything is problematic! Industrial music, rock music, Joss Whedon's Avengers, the kink scene, every movie, book, tv show or song I have ever like: almost certainly at least a little problematic. We live in a problematic culture and the only way to not endorse it is to opt out. Entirely. Any art created will be created by a person with kyriarchical baggage that will pollute their work. "Fine, I just won't like... things!"

Which of course, leads to the opposite extreme. At other times I feel like I have hit Peak Outrage. I just can't maintain the level of upset with all the wrong things in the world all the time. Maybe it's time to give up, stop worrying and love the Patriarchy? Go join the masses of derailing fanboys telling people to shut up because "it's just a joke!" or "that's censorship, yo!" Which I guess lets me like things, but I don't think I would really like myself much at that point.

There is also "How To Be A Fan OF Problematic Things". Which is a start, I suppose. What I am left with is pretty much the same as my approach to porn. Acknowledge that yeah, a lot of it is problematic, and icky, even though I like it. Try to avoid backing the ickier stuff, and try to endorse and back the stuff that manages to be good with less ickiness. Listen before reacting if I get called out on something I like. This is not a real, long term solution, for either porn or music (or anything else in our culture), but it's the best I can come up with.

Tags:

BookLog

Goth beard

9. Zero History by William Gibson

Gibson continues to be amazing. Wrapping up the Bigend/Blue Ant
trilogy, Zero History focusses on the world of fashion in a very weird
way. In addition to some interesting points about men's fashion and
its relationship to the military, he covers camera drones, weird
darts, and Gurkha martial arts.

This trilogy really only gets filed as science fiction because it's
Gibson; none of the not-quite-real stuff in the books is all that
strange, and I'd have to check to confirm what is and is not
technically possible with today's tech.

The key part, though, is that Gibson is a brilliant writer. His prose
trigger synaesthetic visions of cold blue and grey and flat techno
like the Dust Brothers' Fight Club sound track. Which isn't really a
review useful to anyone but me, but there it is.

10. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

An ancient, corrupt aristocracy that has several gods on leashes
as a result of an ancient divine war that left One True God ruling
heaven.

Then a young girl, daughter of a princess, dark of skin and hair, gets
tossed in the middle of a battle for succession, and gets pulled into
the plans of the captive gods.

It's like Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels books, but with less rape and more
agency for the heroine. Which is really what made this book for me;
Yeine (the protag) really does drive the story by making choices.

11. Soulless by Gail Carriger

At first, I was afraid that this book was going to be a period
romance with werewolves, vampires, and cogs glued on to things to make
it look steampunk. And there's a bit of that going on.

What saves this book, and made it intensely enjoyable, is the sense of
humour; it doesn't take itself seriously, and is, moreover,
hilarious. I had to keep stopping in the middle of a paragraph to
laugh, and then read the line out to whoever else was in the room.

12. Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern
Sexuality
by Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha

Again, I have this problem with non-fiction where I worry that I
think it is brilliant and insightful in direct proportion to how much
it agrees with the ideas I had going into it.

That said, I though Sex At Dawn was brilliant and
insightful. It takes as its central idea questioning of monogamy as
the "default", "normal" or "natural" state for humans. The evidence
supporting the idea that humans are no more hard-wired to exclusive
pair-binding than bonobos or chimps is fairly compelling.

The authors devote a fair bit of time to (with some occasional snark)
examining the published works of other researchers' claims; much like
Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, there's a lot of
researchers bending over backwards to try to force the data to support
their preconcieved ideas. In a number of cases, the researchers seem
to go as far as to say something like "but that would imply that
humans aren't monogamous, and we are, so it must be wrong".

The information on primate sexual biology and societies were new and
interesting to me (as a layperson), and the writing was clever and
entertaining. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in sex or
relationships.

13. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I confess that I had seen this book around, and parsed the title
as "The Lay Of Loch Lamora", and hence categorized it as some possibly
Outlander-ish Kilts-and-Claymores romance.

This is not that sort of book.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a caper book of the first order;
the titular Locke Lamora is a thief and a con man, who operates in a
magic-fueled Not!Venice. If you like White Collar and Leverage, odds
are you'll like this.

14. The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

The follow-up to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Also good,
also concerned with a mortal-god romance, but with a different god and
a different mortal. mycrazyhair points out that she found
the ending of this a lot more bleak than I did.

15. Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet

This book reminds me of Ian Tregillis' Bitter Seeds. Both
books are concerned with knowledge of the future, and both books are
unflinchingly tragedies. In the classic Shakespearean "then everyone
is miserable or dead, the end" mode.

My brain kept wanting to read Pattern Scars as a standard
heroic epic fantasy; it has the markers, a young girl with magic
powers (ability to see the future, in this case), a sneering villain,
warring kingdoms. But Sweet doesn't follow the heroic model.

The protagonist, Nola, starts out dirt poor and miserable, until her
powers manifest, and she's taken to a better place and finds people
who care for her. Then all of that is taken from her, and we get to
watch her being abused for eight years. I kept waiting for her to find
a way to use her power to fight back and free herself, defeat the
villain and get a happy ending. This does not occur. There is even a
moment where, reading, I saw an opening for her to use her power
against her abuser, hoping for a "and then she realised that hers was
the greater power!" moment. A few pages later, Nola berates herself,
having missed her chance, not having seen the opening until it was too
late. She never really gets a chance to fight back. She never really
has any choice or ability to affect the outcome of events.

Pattern Scars is certainly a well-written book, and one that is
aware of the tropes of the genre while playing with them. It is also a
bleak tragedy that never extends hope without then crushing it.


16. Tiassa by Steven Brust

Vlad! Now with alternate POVs, including the ever-lovable Paarfi
of Roundwood. I even liked the Cawti section.


Goth beard

Food



Curried red snapper with rice, spinach and green beans. Our classic "one pot" meal - toast the rice, pour on stock, then layer spinach and green beans on top of the rice. Set the fish on top of that, and douse liberally with curry powder. My only regret with this leftover lunch is that I forgot to spice it up to my preferred level before taking it. Instead, I added hot sauce, which wasn't quite the same.

Music



Album: Unter Null's Moving On

Genre: Electro Industrial

Similar Bands: See 2/3 of the other bands I've picked up in the past 23 weeks.

Review: Much like the Failure Epiphany, I found myself listening to this on repeat for days. Most of the music buys get at most a day of devoted listening time before I go back to the random shuffle. Unter Null has branched out a bit here - while she's still clearly hard Electro-Industrial, there are more melodic notes, and the occasional 8-bit-ish elements. Some time in the next couple weeks I suspect I will be picking up the companion album, Moved On. Her cover of Nick Cave's The Mercy Seat was especially nice.

Playlist Potential: Possible Workout and Driving Mix contenders.

Booklog

Goth beard

24. Dzur by Steven Brust

Foodie Vlad is a foodie. Also, there's something in there about him interfering in Cawti's life again, allowing him to save her while being a douche. But the primary focus of the novel is clearly dinner at Valabar's.

25. Jhegaala by Steven Brust

Ass-kicked Vlad is ass-kicked. Vlad gets beat up a lot in this book. It's like someone pointed out that Vlad seems to get away with risky stuff without consequence too often to be believable, and this book was the answer to said criticism. Even by the end, when things are resolved, it's not really cathartic.

26. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Book one of the epic, ten book long "Malazan, Book of the Fallen" series. This grew out of a shared RPG setting that Erikson and his co-GM wrote years ago, first for D&D and then for GURPS. As often happens with GMs who love world building, they realised that players would never explore the setting satisfactorily, and became authors. I myself have a strong urge in this direction. So, there was a decent chance of me enjoying this book on those grounds. My coworker had been urging me to read it for some time, as he's a big fan of the series.

Unfortunately, I didn't really like it. It feels too much like an RPG setting in a lot of places - the place names and character names and randomly looted from real world sounding names. Kruppe (who I assume pronounces his name like a German) lives in Darujistan, where one of the major noble families has a French last name.

The other, more distracting issue I had with it is that it felt like being in a 90s comic book. Like being trapped in Wolverine's sideburns. *Everything* is grim, gritty, dark and dire. People only smile blackly, ironically or cruelly. I keep imagining the characters as drawn by Rob Liefeld, making that 90s Liefeld shouty-face. There are multiple obese wizards whose movement is surprisingly graceful for their bulk. I prefer my miserable fiction to at least have some humour and self-awareness in it. This is nearly as bleak as China Mieville, but without the awareness and genius that he puts into his books.

Also, the world has drow. And I hate drow.

On the plus side, the world is very racially diverse, and you can't pick out good or bad guys by the colour of their skin, or even their race. It even passes the Bechdel test, though it might be a technicality based on one of the conversants being possessed by a male diety at the time. Women in the setting are free to be damned by their terrible choices and ground into powder by the relentless misery that is existence.

Additionally, the setting is very detailed, and I'm told that even small details in the first book are still having impacts by the tenth. The series also really does actually end in the 10th book, though Erikson and the other guy who writes in the world have other books in the same world on the go. So, it avoids the Wheel Of Time problem and the Song of Fire and Ice problem - the series does have a solid end, and book ten is written if not yet published.

Which is to say, I can see why the books are popular, and why some people enjoy the, I just don't think that I will ever be one of those people.

27. Misframing Men by Michael Kimmel

The basic theme of this collection of essays is that feminism is good for men, too, and that we should be allies for the feminist cause. Kimmel examines various social constructions of masculinity, and looks at how they're breaking down, how thier at odds with how a lot of men are living thier lives, and how they constrain and cripple us. This includes looking at the sense of entitlement that is a part of traditional masculinity, and the reactions that are drawn from that. This was a fascinating book, and I spent a lot of my time reading through it saying "Ooh, yeah, that, that exactly!" to myself. I can't really do justice to the content in a review this short, but I stronlgy recommend it to my feminist and feminist ally friends. northbard, lemme know if you want to borrow it; I'm giving you first dibs.

28. For The Win by Cory Doctorow (ebook)

Doctorow did a really fantastic job here. The book is, essentially, a near future YA book about MMPORG enconomies and global labour. It avoids the "What These People Need Is a Honky" trope while having well-developed characters from multiple countries. Also, I really like that the global gamer union got called the IWWWW, aka the Webblies. Doctorow's growing as a writer in just the right ways for me - there's an ever-increasing realism to his optimism, and his charcter continue to be better and better developed. It'd make an interesting counterpoint against Stross' Halting State, in some ways, if anyone knows kids looking for books to do essays on.

29. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Neuromancer, grown up and moved to Thailand. I'm working my way through the Hugo nominees, starting here. TWG is set in a nearish future where peak oil has come and gone, global warming has raised the sea levels, and GMO food products and custom plagues have wiped out the world's food supply. The only food crops are those purchased annually from the big food corporations. Except in Thailand... Bacigalupi paints a believable and unsettling future, with the kind of accelerating future shock that reminds me of William Gibson. It's not a cheerful book, but it is wonderfully written.

Goth beard

Food



SO MUCH BACON!

We fried up a pile of thick cut bacon with onions. Half of that got fried up with perogies. The other half with green beans, green chard and red chard. So, there were definite healthy *parts* of the meal. We just covered those parts in bacon. This lunch was leftovers from the dinner of severe baconing.

Music



Album: NeoCaine compiled by D.J. Edoardo.

Genre: Trance? Not quite enough "noises that sound good on the right drugs" to qualify as PsyTrance, I think.

Similar Bands: Astrix and MFG, sort of.

Review: Random compilation of electronic music that itunes reccommended. It's... okay. Nothing to complain about, but nothing really stood out as awesome.

Playlist Potential: Meh.

Two quick feminist links

Goth beard
Two links from Feminist Philosophers;

The Gender Stereotype Game is an awesome game.

Gendered Food. "Ever wondered why chocolate is for girls, and steak is for boys? (Ever wondered whether chocolate is for girls and steak is for boys?) "

Tags:

Goth beard

Food



Last day of Kaleidoscope Gathering meals. One last vegetarian sausage onna bun. I confess that I was, by this point, a touch sick of them.

Music



Album: Johnny Hollow's Dirty Hands

Genre: Darkwave...ish? Strings and synth and goths oh my.

Similar Bands: Early Rasputina, Emilie Autumn, selected Voltaire.

Review: misslynx was right - this JH album is even closer to the early Rasputina stuff I love than their previous album. It did, in fact, at least partially scratch that itch for me. Floaty, string heavy music that hits one square in the goth. Good cover of "People Are Strange."

Playlist Potential: I again lament that I have yet to make a "goth music" playlist.

Medical

Goth beard
Positive update for once. Just got back from the doctor (GP). Blood pressure is under control with current meds. As far as breathing goes, last time I biked there it took a bit over 15 minutes, and I was wheezing when I got there. Today, it took 10 minutes and I was breathing fine.

His theory on why my ankles keep swelling is sodium intake. Which sounds hinky to me, but I can use the motivation to cut out salt anyway. I go back in a month to see how the ankles are doing.

All in all, I'm feeling somewhat positive for once.

Tags:

Nobilis news

Goth beard
The inestimable Power of Nobles, Dr. Jenna Moran, has posted a promo PDF for the new edition of Nobilis and the various things she has coming from EOS press.

I confess that I am most excited about the book form of Hitherby Dragons.

Latest Month

October 2012
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner