rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
In E.K. Johnston's That Inevitable Victorian Thing, a princess in disguise comes to a debutante ball in Canada, which is part of a contemporary or near-future alternate British Empire. Queen Victoria I decided to build a more inclusive empire, and her descendants, including HRH Princess Victoria-Margaret, are multiracial, multicultural royalty who, like most people in the empire, choose their spouses based on computer-assessed genetic compatibility. 

This fascinating premise is both the best and worst part of the book. On the one hand, there are balls and high-tech corsets and women friends in a friendlier, kinder neo-Victorian world. On the other hand, it's still an enormous empire, and fixing some of the colonialism only draws attention to the violence inherent in the system. For instance, the progressive Archbishop of Canterbury once praises the Church of the Empire for being inclusive -- it has welcomed Islam and Judaism and other religious groups into its fold. But it's possible to be too ecumenical. As a Jewish person, I am pretty horrified by the concept of Judaism being absorbed into a larger state religion, especially when the primary shared premise of the state religion seems to be "Thou shalt marry one of thy possible genetic matches and be fruitful with genetically diverse children."

I am, however, pleased by the resolution of the love triangle. One of the, er, points of the triangle is much less interesting than the other two, but that's okay, because the people I care about get what they deserve. vague spoiler )

Anyway, I do want people to read the book so you all can discuss it with me.
rymenhild: (plume moths)
It's time to disconnect permanently from LiveJournal, after thirteen years. I thought about deleting my LJ, but I hate leaving broken links and lost archives. Realistically, I don't have a way to remove all of my data from LJ's servers. Deleting my journal would only make the data invisible to me while still existing in backups somewhere. What I'm going to do instead is end Dreamwidth crossposting and leave the [livejournal.com profile] rymenhild journal static where it is. I've hardly been writing at all lately, but if I do use a journaling site again, it will be Dreamwidth only, at [personal profile] rymenhild.

Strength to you all in this alarming New Year.
rymenhild: A small toddler puppet carrying a bright red letter. (Uzura has a LETTER)
I subscribed to the New Yorker recently, as I'd been running out of free accesses regularly and the introductory subscription price was ridiculously cheap with a .edu email address. One of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how much work I should be doing instead of reading articles) is that the New Yorker sends me emails with links to particularly interesting articles in their archives.

Stage Mothers by Elif Batuman (December 2012) may be the best thing I've read all year, and I just want to talk about it with all of you. Ümmiye Koçak, a peasant woman from Southern Turkey with a middle-school education, saw a school play for the first time when she was in her forties:

Ümmiye had never seen a play before, and it seeped into her thoughts. For a long time, she had been puzzling over the situation of village women—the many roles they had to play. In the fields, they worked like men; in villas, they became housekeepers; at home, they were wives and mothers. "I kept turning it over in my head, how is it that I do all these things," she later recalled. "Then I saw Hüseyin’s theatre. That’s when I decided that the thing I’d been turning over in my head was theatre."

So, naturally, Ümmiye founded a theater group made up entirely of village women, and put on plays about marriage and poverty and domestic abuse inspired by the actors' lives, and performed these plays in front of the village. Then she founded another theater group. She went to Cannes with a documentary about one play. She adapted Hamlet for a Turkish audience, and put on a goatskin mustache so she could be Hamlet herself. I mean, naturally, right?

Batuman's article itself is a magnificent work about what it takes to make art, and the way art comes out of struggle.

Anyway, read the article yourself and then come talk to me about it. You won't regret it.
rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
Second review of the day, now with significantly less queer erasure!

Serial Box's Tremontaine (a serial novel by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant) has a delightful premise and terrific setup. In the nameless city of Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, perhaps fifteen or twenty years before Swordspoint, Duchess Diane de Tremontaine is trying to protect her privilege and status. Colliding with Diane's plots are Kaab, a lesbian spy from a chocolate-shipping not!Incan family; Micah, an agender autistic math genius; Rafe, a feckless gay university student; and Tess, a lovely forger from Riverside; and, of course, Diane's husband Duke William.

The plots, the swashbuckling, the queerness, and the postcolonial theory inherent in this collective story are all just the sorts of things I like. I read every entry and enjoyed it. But... (critique; not really spoilery) )

I will be buying and reading Season 2 of Tremontaine, but I hope for more even writing quality in future seasons.
rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen - Lois McMaster Bujold: 3/5 stars (enjoyable but slight)

I read Bujold's latest (and last?) Vorkosigan novel last night and this morning, while nursing a sore throat. The reading experience was peaceful and pleasant, like a warm cup of chamomile tea with honey. It distracted me from my throat without raising any anxiety or tension. If I hadn't been sick, I would have been bored.

Spoilers, although there's little to spoil )
rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
I suppose Daughter of Mystery, by Heather Rose Jones, could have been more precisely targeted to my reading tastes. All Jones would have had to change is... um... well...

See, Daughter of Mystery is (1) a Ruritanian romance (2) about two women, one of whom is (3) a swordswoman with mysterious antecedents who generally wears men's clothing and the other of whom is (4) an heiress who is bored by balls and would prefer to attend university. These women are never happier than when they are (5) in an archival library, closely analyzing minute differences in (6) rituals requesting intercession from Christian saints. Oh, yes, and they (7) fall in love, slowly and subtly, although it takes them nearly three hundred pages to admit it.

What I'm saying is that it's theoretically possible to match more of my interests than that in a single novel, but I've never seen it done and I don't expect to any time soon. I mean, if it were only a Ruritanian romance with lesbians, dayenu!

I found the book quite well-executed. I expect that some readers might get bored during lengthy (although plot-necessary) explorations of saints' rituals, but I was delighted. (See above; this book was written for me.) My only complaint is that the copy editor isn't quite generous enough with commas, but I stopped noticing absent commas once I fell into the world.

If you like Ellen Kushner's Privilege of the Sword or Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics, or if you think Georgette Heyer novels would be better with lesbians, Daughter of Mystery is a book for you. It's certainly a book for me--just the thing for a long holiday weekend spent with the future in-laws.

Finally, I am happy to note that the sequel (link contains spoilers for Daughter of Mystery) is due out in two weeks. Time to preorder, I think.
rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
Since I got a supporting membership to last year's Worldcon, even though I never got around to voting for the 2014 Hugos, I have nomination powers this year. I intend to use these powers for good. Here are my nominations as they stand currently. Does anyone have additional suggestions? What have I forgotten? Which fan writers were on fire this year?

Best Novel:

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (Tor)
Jo Walton, My Real Children (Tor)
Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Stranger (Viking)
Seanan McGuire, The Winter Long (DAW)

Best Short Story:

A. Merc Rustad, How To Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps (Scigentasy)
Mikki Kendall, If God Is Watching (The Revelator)
Ruthanna Emrys, Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land (tor.com)
(per [livejournal.com profile] ladybird97's excellent suggestion) Saladin Ahmed, Without Faith, Without Joy, Without Love (medium.com)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Legend of Korra: Season 4, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino (Nickelodeon)
Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Commonplace Books)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Welcome to Night Vale, "Old Oak Doors", Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Commonplace Books)

Best Fan Writer

(per [personal profile] agonistes's excellent suggestion) [personal profile] skygiants (Confidential to [personal profile] skygiants: How do you want to be identified on the Hugo ballot? Is there a post from last year you're especially proud of?)
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
Seanan McGuire's The Winter Long (October Daye, volume 8) is coming out next week, so it's time to start making guesses about which mysteries the book will solve. I keep seeing dark hints that this book is a major transition in Toby's story. I'm really looking forward to finding out what's going to change this time.

Loose ends, mysteries, speculation; contains major, book-destroying spoilers for all seven previous volumes )

What do you all think? [personal profile] azurelunatic? [personal profile] muchabstracted?
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
I have been trying to write a review of Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)'s new novel, The Goblin Emperor, and it's coming out in clichés: A beautiful book, a moving book, a book about loyalty and building cross-cultural bridges and making a place for oneself in a terrifying world, a book I did not want to end.

More detailed comments behind the cut. Some general, unspecific spoilers for Goblin Emperor; some references to plot and character developments in Doctrine of Labyrinths. )
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Today I've been reading assorted seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature in order to plan a class. This is always entertaining and educational. I shall present, for your entertainment, one of the poems I found in my search. I give you "Nestor", or "Upon the Drinking of a Bowl," by the notorious seventeenth-century drunkard and libertine John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. (In the edition I found this morning, some of the language had been expurgated. I of course have posted the non-expurgated version.)

Nestor (ca. 1670, as far as I can tell; I haven't seen a precise date)

Vulcan contrive me such a Cupp
As Nestor us'd of old:
Show all thy skill to trim it up
Damask it round with gold.

How big is that cup, my lord? You might well ask... )
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
This post started out as a comment that I intend to post on Mark Watches later today, when Mark and his commenters discuss Princess Tutu episode 17 (Crime and Punishment).

I tracked down the source of a page of German text on a book Fakir reads in Ep. 17. Drosselmeyer didn't write it. Neither did the Princess Tutu screenwriters. Evidence is behind the cut, along with awful Google Translate German translations that I'd love help with. )

I thought I knew how metatextual Princess Tutu could get. I was wrong.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
In the traditional ballad of Tam Lin, as you know, Janet goes out into the wood of Carterhaugh, the terrain of the fairy knight Tam Lin, and Tam Lin impregnates her. Later, on Hallowe'en, Tam Lin is cursed to be the Fairy Court's tithe to hell, and only Janet can save him because of her power as Tam Lin's lover and as the mother of his unborn child.

I have recently unearthed evidence suggesting that there is a lost text of the Tam Lin tradition, a missing link, if you will, connecting the Tam Lin ballads and a more recent and better-known popular narrative, also associated with the discovery of sexuality, the gates between worlds, and the day of All Hallows’ Eve. Allow me to show you my argument.

Evidence for the missing link )
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
[Forgive crossposts; I posted something like this to FB.]

I am rereading The Lord of the Rings for the first time in eight years or so, now that the memory of the films has faded and I can enjoy the books as books again. Right now I am about halfway through Fellowship, and I am puzzled.

The Nazgul are immortal, ancient wraiths of mysterious and evil power. They can track Frodo by the smell of the Ring. They ride mortal horses, at least before the horses drown in the Bruinen.

Meanwhile, when Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin start their journey, they are almost entirely unaware of their danger. The hobbits go on foot, singing loudly. They eat frequent meals and take frequent naps. They are unarmed, unprotected and unafraid.

By this point, two Nazgul have entered the Shire itself, and are barely hours, if not minutes, behind our heroes. The Nazgul have horses. The hobbits don't. The Nazgul can smell the Ring. The hobbits can't track the Nazgul.

Gandalf has been trapped by Saruman. Aragorn is in Bree. Gildor and friends aren't immediately within the hobbits' reach. No one at all stands between the Nazgul and the hobbits. What I don't understand is, why don't the Nazgul capture Frodo and the Ring before Frodo ever leaves the Shire? As far as I can tell, there is no need for the remaining 2.5 volumes of The Lord of the Rings, because Frodo should have been lost by the middle of Fellowship Chapter 4. And then Sauron conquered the world. The end.
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
I took an evening off from end-stage dissertating last weekend to read a novel, Mira Grant ([livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire)'s Deadline. I would now like to babble about conspiracy theories relating to Deadline, but I have explicitly told the person with whom I would normally babble about conspiracy theories not to read the book. (I liked the book very much. You might like the book too! It's just that my friend wouldn't like it, for reasons of her own.) Here, then, are my thoughts. Please note that this is not a book review. If you haven't read Feed and at least some portion of Deadline yet you probably shouldn't read past the cut.

The inverse of Chekhov's law is true:

In a well-designed mystery, the gun which goes off in the third act must be visibly displayed on the mantelpiece during Act 1.

This foreshadowing works best when viewers don't immediately recognize the implement as a gun.

A person or persons unknown is/are commanding the conspiracy in the Newsflesh trilogy. Who's the guilty party, and have we seen them before? I've been thinking...

I will avoid spoiling major end-of-book revelations in Deadline, but I will spoil developments in the middle of the book. I will not name my actual, current guesses about who might be guilty. I will, however, provide strong hints which eliminate all other candidates. Read at your own risk. )

If you want to talk about who you think might be guilty, or guess at my candidate(s) for X, or spoil developments after the middle of Deadline, please use ROT13 to encode any spoilers.
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
I suspect that most of my friends can be divided into two groups: the friends who'd be delighted by Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making and the friends who'd thrill to Cat Valente's Deathless.

Fairyland: take young girl's quest fantasy, add meta )

Deathless: dark, adult hilarity in Soviet Russia )

That's the last fun reading until the dissertation is filed, I hope. See you all on the other side, where there will be lots and lots and lots of novels.
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
If I had to have deadly, productivity-killing insomnia last night, at least I had the perfect book to entertain me while I wasn't sleeping. Seanan McGuire's fourth Toby Daye book, Late Eclipses, showed up on my doorstep yesterday morning.

I'd write a review, but almost everything I want to talk about is a major spoiler, and whatever's left are minor spoilers. Maybe I'll write about them in a few weeks, when everyone who cares has had a chance to get Late Eclipses and read it. Suffice it to say that if you enjoyed the first three books, the fourth extends them in fascinating ways. Several questions we've had get answered. To my delight, most of my guesses were wrong, and the answers to the questions are more interesting than the ones I was expecting. Several hints in Late Eclipses set up exciting possibilities for Toby's future, not to mention Faerie's future. I can't wait to see what comes next.

That is to say, if urban fantasy about snarky fae in San Francisco is your kind of thing, please buy this book and the books that came before it. The more people who buy them, the likelier it is that DAW will pay Seanan McGuire to finish the series, and the likelier I am to be able to read the whole thing.
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
Seanan McGuire's half-fae San Francisco investigator Toby Daye solves approximately one mystery per book, but she lives in a world with plenty of mysteries left. This post, which I began writing months ago but have been saving until [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted finished the series, begins to guess at some of the hidden mysteries. Expect major spoilers for all three published books, as well as the sample chapter for the fourth book. Also, be warned that the post is enormous.

Let there be gall enough in thy ink )

I know that posting this on Christmas Eve probably limits my readers, but I encourage everyone who's read the series to join the conversation in the comments, both on LJ and Dreamwidth.
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
Last night, I dug myself out of a pile of ungraded papers, closed the file holding my unfinished chapter draft, and went to the bookstore. This was certainly a foolish and ill-conceived decision, which I do not regret overmuch.

As you may discover from my syntax, I've been reading Regency pastiche again. Book review behind the cut )

Incidentally, this is a test of crossposting from Dreamwidth. Let me know if the system works.


rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

January 2019

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