The weather service said is was only 55°F (not quite 13°C) on the walk back form the Metro, but it felt colder. My unlined Goretex rain jacket was not adequate, and I was glad to find a pair of fleece-type gloves I'd forgotten I had in the pockets.
Honestly, 90°F in April and 55 in May. I want a refund on this bogus weather. Spring is usually my favorite time of year.
I shudder to think of what this is doing to the local fruit farms. Local strawberries are usually a big thing in June. And it's too cold to put in tomatoes, which would normally be growing well by now.
Life has been rather too much work-work-work this week. I realized I haven't checked up on Stand Still Stay Silent at all.
I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Hanging Tree, which is about to become the latest-less-one Rivers of London/Peter Grant book (the new one is due out in hardcover (!) next month). I'm enjoying it, although there's already been one kick in the gut. This is a good book to read near Mother's Day: some great and terrifying mums in here (especially Lady Ty and Peter's mum).
Before that, I did some comfort reading. I discovered two old favorites in ebook format: Shirley Rosseau Murphy's White Ghost Summer and The Sand Ponies. Both are pitched as horse stories, but actually, they're family stories with a dash of mystery. There are horses, and they're significant, but they're not actually what the stories are about.
Does anyone know whether it's worth trying to contact a publisher about scan errors in ebooks? These have repeated problems when the end of a paragraph coincides with the end of some dialog in quotation marks. Most of the time it wasn't too terrible for the flow of the story, but at one point several words were lost.
So hey, I found this:
They have a challenge that's going to close for signups real soon and like NO ONE has signed up for it.
Sign-ups: April 24-May 1
Assignments sent out: May 3 (or earlier)
Assignments due: June 14
Assignments revealed: June 21
Creators revealed: June 28
I'm not sure what to do myself. The comm has 22 members. But there is NOTHING in the exchange tag set, which I'm not sure how that would work .
ETA: Ah, the mod says to use last year's tag set, which has a pile of characters and relationships under "Characters."
And this is way last minute, but I only tripped over the comm and the exchange yesterday, while browsing Tumblr.
Somehow, between one year and the next, most of folk singer Carrie Newcomer's ouevre has ended up on Youtube, so now I can subject you to my favorites (and maybe actually catch up on her newer albums).
"Betty's Diner" "Regulars and Refugees" was a concept album, with all but one or two of the sings supposedly sung by the owner and regulars of "Betty's Diner." The chorus to this really touches me ... even the parts of it that don't make sense:
"Sit right here and rest your bones,
No one's ever so alone,
You can take this world down off your shoulders.
I don't know why or how,
All I know is here and now,
You can take this world down off your shoulders ... ."
So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).
I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.
City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.
Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).
This past weekend was Katsucon, so I have a stack of new manga. Most were recommended by "Year's Best Manga" lists on various sites, but one was something that looked intriguing when Great Big South American River brought it up in response to something else I was buying. As might be expected, I'm finding them a mixed bag.
Nichijou (Nichijou - My Ordinary Life) by Keiichi Arawi, vols. 1 and 2
Um, no. This comedy + slice-of-life high school series was billed as whimsical and surrealistic. It has a blocky, primitive drawing style that I'm presuming is deliberate. This does mean, however, that some of the surrealistic events have to be called out by the characters, or you wouldn't know what was up. When a wooden hand falls from the sky onto someone's head, for instance, it looks just as realistic as any of the characters' hands. And when the school principal tangles with a deer outside a character's classroom window, the student gazes at the spectacle with the same blank look she gives to just about anything.
The killer for me, however, was the treatment of the one character I found sympathetic, a robot schoolgirl who just wants to be a normal human being. Her creator, a child mad scientist, delights in tormenting her creation by refusing to remove the large windup key on the robot's back. She seems to have created the robot for just this purpose, plus some light housework. The whole thing left a bad taste in my brain. This one is going straight into the give-away pile.
Haikyū!! by Haruichi Furudate, vols. 1-3
On the other hand, I pretty much inhaled the first volumes of this shounen sports manga. While short, hyperactive Shōyō Hinata was in middle school, he saw a televised volleyball game featuring a player who was called the "Little Giant" for the way he dominated the game despite his small stature. Shōyō is inspired to nag and cajole his way to the creation of a boys' volleyball team at his own school. Despite their complete lack of a bench or any real experience or coaching, the team manages to avoid completely embarrassing themselves in their first and only real tournament, in which Shōyō encounters cerebral, athletically talented Tobio Kageyama.
In his mind, Shōyō paints Tobio as his nemesis, but when they both start high school, they find they're rookies on the same team. Not only that, but when their contrasting skills are put together, they become something special. At this point the story line kicks in for real as the remaining players on the team are introduced, along with their genial faculty sponsor who knows nothing about volleyball (and thus serves as the viewpoint character for similarly naive readers) and their coolly elegant manager, the only female character to make an appearance thus far. I especially enjoy the sweet senior player who has exiled himself from the team because, after freezing and woofing a key shot in a tournament, he feels he can't support his team mates properly (all the feels, Asahi!). This is probably nothing more than a typical example of its genre, but I'm enjoying the characters and their interactions.
It's not that I haven't been reading actual books, but they have been re-reads: Gentemen of the Road,The Goblin Emperor. But the new stuff is manga and comics.
I got volumes 2 and 3 of Behind the Scenes!!; I have finished 2 and am about a third of the way through 3. I'm expecting that, like Ouran, this will eventually develop a running plotline, but at the moment, it remains episodic. Maasa, the girl who specialize in special effects makeup, is convinced that she ought to have a boyfriend, but her attempts in this direction always end in disaster because she's fascinated with gory horror flicks, and her interests always come out at inopportune moments. She tries again with a group date, fails, and drags herself back to the Art Squad, where her friends are sympathetic but not pitying. We also see more of Ranmaru's seemingly perfect and snooty cousin Soh (he lives with her family), a high school student: in fact, her life is not what it seems, and the Art Squad helps her find herself a little more. In vol. 3, the Art Squad participates in Film Camp, in which one of the uni film clubs goes to film full time on location while classes are on hiatus. The film features an actual paid actor: a 7-year-old prodigy who rubs Goda, the Chief, the wrong way. I'll have to see how this plays out.
I also read the latest Ms. Marvel volume, Civil War II. This series is certainly full of All the Feels. The first part of the story finds Kamala Kahn dealing with a squad of rather fascist-leaning do-gooders whose plans put Kamala's ethics through a veritable obstacle course. One of the pieces of fallout from this episode breaks Kamala's heart and sends her in search of a change of scene to Pakistan, her family's homeland, where she learns another lesson in why it can be tough to do good.
Hey, long time no post, and this one will be short, but I've got to start getting back to posting somehow.
So I just started what looks like a delightful new-to-me manga series. It comes with an impeccable pedigree for being delightful: it's by Ouran High School Host Club's Bisco Hatori.
Behind the Scenes!! stars awkward, terribly introverted Ranmaru Kurisu, who was the odd one out in his family of hearty, hardy fisherfolk. Now at university, he's been creeping around trying not to draw attention to himself. One day, he encounters an apparent Zombie Apocalypse and is so shocked that he passes out. When he wakes from his faint, he discovers that it was a movie scene and that he has been rescued by the eccentric, creative members of the Art Squad, who provide costumes, makeup, sets, and special effects for the university's three film-making clubs.
Can Ranmaru find himself with this bunch? The answer is, of course, yes, and it's as much fun for us as it is for him.
There are two more volumes so far (I only have vol. 1 currently), and I will be picking them up ASAP. It's a good (if temporary) antidote to the current sociopolitical horror show.
So on my way to work yesterday, I came up the escalator at the Metro station to find that a train was just pulling in. The guy ahead of me was going slow and blocking my way, so as soon as I got off the escalator, I ran around him and headed for the second car, which drops me off right at the bottom of the stairs at Union Station (where I get off).
As I bounded along, I felt something catch and then pop free at the bottom of my pelvis, where my butt joins my leg. Man, it hurt!
And still hurts, although it's a little better this morning, after some Alleve overnight. From info I found online, it looks like I may have slightly torn the tendon(s) at the top of the various hamstring muscles, which attach at that point.
So here I am, literally butt hurt. Ow.
Gotta remember that I'm too old (or at least, not in good enough shape) to be running for trains. :-(
Springsteen looks like such a kid in this, although I think he was actually close to 30 at the time. The in-concert energy is palpable even over the Intarwebs, both among the band members and out in the audience.
Looking at this and listening to it just makes me feel so much better. Because even today, the Boss still loves us and stands up for what's right.
ETA: The video embed service on DW seems to be messing up—it doesn't load, and at one point I got an error that the server (on DW) wasn't responding. You can view it over at LJ or use the YouTube link. It's a live performance of "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" from 1988.
This year's jack-o-lantern:
I'm filled with nostalgia for Halloweens of the recent past, during which I spent the evening alternately giving out candy to the neighborhood kids and writing flashfics for trick-or-treating online fan-friends. I don't have the energy; don't know how I did it then, either.
We’re officially ready to start writing the actual Alliance Rising book, and along with it, we’re going to put Finity’s End into Closed-Circle. That’s a hundred or so years on…some of the same bunch.
So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.
Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.
The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.
Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .
Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.
The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).
Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.
If a fandom is your very favorite thing, and you have been dying for fanfiction from it, and you have gone through the trouble of nominating it and requesting it for Yuletide, and your canon consists of only two medium-sized paperbacks, is it really that much trouble to figure out that two of the four characters you nominated actually have full names and/or surnames in canon?
Dita is Perdita Verist: "I'm Perdita Verist, the new teacher, remember?"
Peter is Peter Merrill: "Peter Merrill! How many times have you been told not to climb things at school?" (The speaker is Peter's first grade teacher.)
I did that from memory (verified via Google courtesy of some sketchy outfit that has the full text of the books online), and it has been at least a couple of years since a re-read any of Zenna Henderson's "People" stories.
(I realize that whoever is keeping up this fandom at AO3 is at least as much to blame as the requestor: the tags give them as just Dita (The People) and Peter (The People).
Got very little serious reading done this week Because Reasons (sad RL event).
I read the openings to This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, which I mentioned last week, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which I had forgotten that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago to support our local bookstore after killing some time there between appointments). More power of concentration will be needed to continue with either.
I read volumes 2 and 3 of the manga A Silent Voice, and now I am on the horns of a dilemma. The mangaka has ticked me off in a couple of ways, and even though I love the idea of the story and have become very fond of Shoko's tough, neglected tomboy little sister, I may decide to abandon the series, which rarely happens with me.
First, ex-bully Shoya is trying to arrange for more friends for his former victim, Shoko. The first girl he digs up is at Shoko's request, a girl who was kind to Shoko when they were all in middle school and who ended up getting bullied herself. That works out well enough that Shoya sometimes feels a bit of a third wheel around them. So when he encounters another former middle school classmate about whom he has no definite negative memories, he assumes that she's another potential friend. Actually, she is a manipulative little schemer in a very stereotypically Mean Schoolgirl way, and I cringe away from the book whenever she's on the page. (Can you tell that I was bullied in middle school for befriending a girl who was in Special Education?)
Then, the author introduces a Profound Misunderstanding between Sho and Sho, just so things will become even sadder. It takes a really good author to do this without pissing me off. Yoshitoki Ōima is simply not on that level. See, the two of them are starting to understand each other pretty well in sign language ... so instead, Shoko suddenly decides that she has to start trying to speak aloud! And won't go back to Sign even when it's clear that Shoya does not understand the Startling Confession she has just made!
I swear, I was grinding my teeth when that happened.
Does anyone know if things improve in this series?
On an even more frivolous note, I also started reading fanfiction for Stand Still, Stay Silent.
I have finished Hidden Figures. It was interesting and I am glad to have read it, but I wasn't enthralled. I realize that one of the factors in that was the lack of images. Most histories of recent times have photos and so on. This had absolutely none. I'm puzzled. NASA could have supplied a number of them, because you can find them online (examples here and here).
Next, I should start the book I just got in preparation for the Days of Awe: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transfiguration, by Alan Lew (1944–2009). The author was a rabbi who was also an adherent of Buddhist thought: he's been called the "Zen rabbi."
However, I am sure that instead, I will start with volumes 2 and 3 of A Silent Voice, the manga I started last week.