Her specialties so far seem to be: nice people who genuinely like each other, heroes who are decidedly not jerks, class issues, local life and politics, sibling dynamics, the weight of parental expectations, and protagonists who have a very difficult time knowing and/or expressing what they want because they have sublimated their desires, frequently out of the desire to be nice and get along with society. And the last bit seems very evenly split between the men and the women, which I very much appreciated.
So far, there has been more diversity around the protagonists rather than embodied by the protagonists, but like Courtney Milan, my sense is that she is pushing at a lot of those boundaries. There are secondary characters who are POC and gay and lesbian—I am using these terms as a shortcut, since they don't quite match up with Regency categories/ways of thinking—and her latest hero is Jewish! And it looks like the protagonists of her next book are in the servant class, which is nice.
In for a Penny - Lord Nevinstoke's father dies, leaving his family deep in debt, and thus Nev proposes to Penelope Brown, who comes with a substantial dowry courtesy of her father's success in trade. Together, they attempt to restore his family estate and prevent a peasant uprising! The couple is probably the most traditional in terms of romance norms, and I find them absolutely adorable. It also helps that "socially inept heroine who is good at spreadsheets + hero who is not the best with numbers but great with people" is something that hits rather close to home. The book tends to fall a bit into the "wealthy titled people rescue impoverished workers" thing, and the villain and final conflict feels over-the-top compared to the rest of the story, but I liked it a lot.
A Lily Among Thorns - I bounced off this one the first time because I wanted an icier heroine, but on rereading it and knowing better what to expect, I liked it better. Lady Serena, former courtesan and current innkeeper, wants to help Solomon Hathaway find heirloom earrings, as he's the one who gave her the money to buy herself out years and years ago. And then there are French spies and threats from Serena's father and the plot is a bit over the top still. Solomon the tailor (or rather, master dyer) is very cute, but I didn't fully buy that Serena was able to terrorize the London underworld. Good, but I think it's the weakest of Lerner's work.
Sweet Disorder - Nick Dymond goes to the town of Lively St. Lemeston, where his brother is running for office, in order to convince widow Phoebe Sparks to marry a Whig so that her husband gets her inherited vote. I love that Phoebe is middle class and worries about having to wear the same dress to parties and can't afford mustard. Also, she is fat and the narrative is fine with it, and the hero needs a cane due to wartime injuries. I think this is my favorite of Lerner's books so far, and I particularly love one sex scene that manages to be hot while also advancing characterization AND tying up the hero. Bonus points for many loving descriptions of Regency era sweets.
True Pretenses - Ash and his little brother Rafe are con men, but Rafe wants to get out, so Ash comes up with one last con to get Rafe married to an heiress so she can get her money and Rafe can get money for a commission. Despite his secret hopes that Rafe and Lydia (aforementioned heiress) will fall in love, Ash somehow ends up engaged to her himself. They bond over the difficulty of raising younger siblings while also wanting to give them everything and how conning people and being a gentlewoman call on a similar set of skills. I especially like how being Jewish is integral to the characterization of both Ash and Rafe. On the other hand, I didn't like this as much as I had anticipated because both Ash and Lydia are rather overbearing older siblings and I ended up sympathizing with Rafe a lot. That and I wasn't entirely confident about the happily ever after, not because I didn't like the characters together, but because I still stressed about how Ash's past could still be dug up. Still, I think this is probably Lerner's best and chewiest book to date. Also, I love that Lydia is a Tory while the main characters in the previous book are Whigs and that she doesn't get converted and still doesn't like them.
I also realized NK Jemisin's latest book just came out and promptly got it, and then got distracted by some novellas and short stories set in the Inheritance universe I hadn't read. So... I haven't opened the new book yet, but I am looking forward to it! I have also finally started Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, thanks to hearing about the TV series. I'm not very far in yet, but I'm enjoying the voice. It also makes me happy that qian's Sorcerer to the Crown will probably be out by the time I finish the Clarke, which means my desire for fantasy in Regency-voice will continue to be fed.
On a totally different note, I thought people would enjoy the latest episode of the Criminal podcast, which is about a grisly murder in 1896 and how it got turned into a murder ballad. It ends with a modern take on the ballad, which is very mournful, as is proper, but alas, the ending totally cracks me up, probably inappropriately (and unintentionally) so.
Ryan, Chelle and Josh are desperate for bus money one night, and Josh ends up sneaking down a well to grab some of the wishing coins. But then each of them begin developing strange powers (I am still viscerally creeped out by Ryan's), and they find that they have to start granting the wishes tied to the coins they took. And since granting wishes never goes well, things slowly start to go very, very wrong.
I've seen many comparisons of Hardinge with Diana Wynne Jones, and this book in particular feels very much like DWJ--the oddball kids, the way some unlikable characters grow likable and others turn bad, the slowly growing sense of dread and uneasiness. This book was very creepy in that damp fingers down your spine kind of way, which was not what I had been expecting. There's a lot here about what you wish for on the surface and what you actually want, and how you can be trapped in wishes you've outgrown. I also liked that even though Ryan, Chelle and Josh band together because both Ryan and Chelle would have been picked on at school if not for Josh, Hardinge takes time to show what bits are being friends just because there's no one else and how you can kind of be friends with someone and only get to know them better later.
The Lie Tree
So, I thought Verdigris Deep was creepy. The Lie Tree is SO MUCH CREEPIER O_o.
Faith's father is a discredited paleontologist who has taken his family and a secret project to an island to avoid the public eye, but growing a tree that feeds on lies that you spread never turns out well. This is set in the late 19th century, and it manages to make the time period feel just as alien as a built-from-scratch fantasy world. Hardinge makes fossils and the radical idea of evolution feel terrifying and world- and faith-shaking in a way I haven't really encountered before, and there's a matter-of-factness to the Victorian focus on morbidity that makes the entire worldview feel foreign. I went and looked up tons of details on Victorian photography and mourning rituals after this.
I loved Faith, who is clever and angry and not particularly nice, how she despises her mother and desperately wants her father's acknowledgement even though he is a terrible human being. I love that Hardinge doesn't try to file off her edges (or anyone else's, for that matter), and although it's not particularly new to talk about just how circumscribed women's roles were, it's rare to get that visceral feeling of being slowly stifled. Also, bonus points for not magically making Faith believe in evolution and other things we now know are scientifically correct; one of my favorite exchanges consists of one person arguing that something is caused by animal magnetism only to be pooh-poohed for being unscientific, as obviously it is spiritual energy instead.
This is a very, very good book, and I've been deliberately holding off on binging on more of Hardinge so I don't get through all her back catalog too quickly.
- skygiants' reviews of Verdigris Deep and The Lie Tree
- coffeeandink on Verdigris Deep
- rushthatspeaks on Verdigris Deep
- starlady on The Lie Tree
Link me to other write ups! I'm sad I missed the conversations!
On the plus side, the second season added some much more interesting new characters and threw a few wrenches in the "happy team yay" vibe from the first few episodes.
( Spoilers )
Arrow (spoilers through end of S3)
( Spoilers have to become someone. Something. )
The Flash (spoilers through end of S1)
( Spoilers became the impossible. )
Anyway, life stuff is going on, mostly not too eventful. And I am watching a lot of TV! Here, have some impressions since the thought of doing coherent write-ups of each show keeps me from writing anything.
This started out as my laundry folding show, except then I got hooked. It is probably not the best show ever, especially in terms of writing, but I'm fond of many of the characters and the focus on family. Also, plot like whoa. My main gripes are the romance storylines, since they are mostly terrible, and how you of course learn all things mystical and martial-arts-y in Asia. Or from Asians. (Or sometimes from possibly non-Asian people in Asia? Let's not go there...) My main delights are Oliver's relationships with his family, particularly with his little sister, and assorted Team Arrow teamwork hijinks.
( Spoilers through Arrow 3x14 )
So of course since I got hooked on Arrow, I started The Flash, largely because Grant Gustin is ADORABLE. I also love how deliberately non-gritty it is; Barry helps people because he likes helping people. I do wish they weren't making the same mistake Arrow made with Laurel, which is to keep Iris in the dark and thereby make most storylines having to do with her boring. This is especially too bad because the actress is a lot more likable than Katie Cassidy (sorry Katie Cassidy!). On the other hand, the Joe-Barry relationship is BEST.
( Spoilers through The Flash 1x14 )
I have really been enjoying this show, and having a female protagonist is such a nice change from Arrow and Flash, much as I like them. I especially love how one of the main themes is Clarke becoming a leader. My other favorite thing is the various shifting alliances and groups and all the politicking. There are some things about the worldbuilding that questionable (Grounder culture, for one), but overall I love how much worldbuilding there is, and how large the world feels. This has really been scratching my SF/F genre itch.
( Spoilers through The 100 2x11 )
Jane the Virgin
Yes, I am indeed watching all CW all the time.
This show! This is my new favorite and actually has me looking forward to something on Mondays. I love so many things about it, from Jane herself to the Villanueva family to the wtfbbq, telenovela-ness of some of the plot to Rogelio and his hashtags. This gives me all the warm fuzzies.
(Also, so many hearts to the show for having a bilingual household and not making it a big deal.)
( Spoilers through Jane the Virgin 1x14 )
I am enjoying this a lot! The Peggy and Jarvis snark is fun, and the bits fleshing out the larger MCUverse are nice as well. Mostly I am ignoring period accuracy but enjoying the clothes. Alas, this is also the whitest show on this post.
Fresh Off the Boat
This is the show I wish I were enjoying more than I actually am. I don't know how much of it is the sitcom humor, how much is the show finding its legs, and how much is stuff just feeling a little off.
One of the main things for me is that Louis and Jessica feel like second gen Chinese Americans, not first gen immigrants. Constance Wu's accent sounds a bit off (I'm not sure if Randall Park is even trying one? Which is probably the better option.), and of course, they don't speak Chinese at home! It's particularly glaring compared to Jane the Virgin's use of Spanish in the show. And when there is Chinese, it sounds a lot like it was written first in English and then translated.
That said, the 90's-ness of it cracks me up (even their light fixtures look it!), and I like it when the show focuses more on individual character quirks rather than commentary on being Chinese. Show! I hope you do well, even if you do end up being not for me.
(That said, Disney, I will be so happy if you make your next geek-oriented movie with a female lead!)
Also, the marketing department did a really good job with the trailer; I think it only goes into the first half hour of the movie and doesn't let on to some pretty big things while keeping the overall tone of the movie.
What most impressed me about the trailer was how the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie completely recontextualizes a lot of the scenes, so even if you've seen them a lot, there's more there when you see them again in the movie. As I mentioned, I was worried I would be annoyed at Hiro, and I kind of was... and then they introduced another character that helped a lot. Then when something happens and Hiro gets acquainted with Baymax the robot, it adds a new emotional layer to all the boy-plus-robot scenes from the trailer. Also, Baymax is hilarious and adorable, as the best companion robots seem to be. (Are there any girl-and-robot stories that mix coming of age with teaching your robot how to be more human or something? Boy-and-robot seems to be a distinct subgenre, with this, The Iron Giant, Terminator 2, and probably more I can't think of right now.)
( Cultural appropriation, gender, and other considerations )
I am talking a lot about the more political aspects of the movie and not focusing on just how fun the movie is, I think partly because so much of it is in the background and not that noticeable if you aren't looking for it. I thought this was a really great example of how to have diverse characters and places and make it feel organic and not the central issue of the story, and it's what I would love to see more of, especially in genre stuff.
A lot of the reviews I've read were tired of the whole superhero thing, but I did not realize it was a superhero movie going in (I had it more pegged as an Iron Giant thing), so when Hiro starts seeing everyone as a superhero team, it totally cracked me up. Because if you are a boy with a giant robot and a 3D printer, why not?
And finally, I LOVED how the entire movie was a celebration of engineering and science and making things; one of my favorite parts is Tadashi showing Hiro his "nerd school" and how clearly he loves it. I feel I should say so much more about this, because it was a huge part of why I loved the movie so much (that, and the Tadashi-Hiro relationship) and I've spent so many words on the background stuff. Except I don't really have anything outside of how much I love it and how much they made an effort to show that the whole maker culture thing isn't solely a white guy thing.
On a completely random note, I'm amused by the Disney-Pixar-Marvel mashup so that the movie has the now-famous animation short a la Pixar and the post-credits scene a la Marvel.
I met her online when I was first figuring stuff out about race and racism, and she and Dead Bro Walking opened up so much to me and introduced me to so many people. She took me to my first powwow and shared a fry bread taco with me and laughed when I insisted on getting another fry bread for dessert (she was right, that was a bit too much fry bread for my stomach...). She shared details about her regalia and her beading projects and braved the dread lack of transportation to have craft circle in South Bay and meet CB. I was really nervous around her at first because I wanted so badly to not look stupid, and I felt she kind of took me under her wing and watched out for me. I hadn't seen her for a while, even though CB would sometimes ask, because he only met her once but thought she was awesome, and now I wish I had reached out more.
And I apparently get a one month free trial I can give out! So, if anyone is interested, comment between now and Friday 8/29. If there's more than one person, I'll do a random number drawing.
Also, check out their membership drive and assorted prizes for hitting various levels.
"After configuring the devices necessary for connecting to the Internet, tap 'Internet Settings' in the System Settings menu."
(courtesy of the 2DS manual)
... I find this eerily accurate.
Flora 717 is a lowly sanitation bee, but instead of being mute like the other members of her caste, she can talk and apparently make Flow to feed the larvae in the nursery. The sisters of the Sage clan (the priestess caste) take note and let her work in the nursery for a bit, since the hive is going through rough times and there aren't enough workers. Soon, Flora is experiencing things far outside the lives of the other sanitation bees, and she eventually realizes she is even more different than she realized, for she can lay eggs when it is a crime to challenge the Queen's fertility.
I keep seeing this described as "Watership Down with bees," which mostly seems accurate? Although I find it curious that Watership Down tends to be classified as fantasy while this is slotted under "science fiction" in Amazon, possibly due to the rural setting of the former and the more urban-esque landscape of the hive for this book. I'm also not sure I find it as political as the reviews comparing it to The Handmaid's Tale, possibly because the point of view is so alien in some ways. It's something I'd rather tease apart at a Wiscon panel or in discussion, because while some reviews have been classifying it as dystopic, I don't quite agree. There is too much actual bee biology for it to feel completely dystopic to me, particularly since the book is framed by a prologue and epilogue from the point of view of the humans who own the orchard the beehive is in; it didn't feel so much like it was comparing the human condition to the bee world and more as though Paull were focused primarily on fleshing out the bee world properly. I have to noodle a bit more on this, because I haven't thought it out enough.
She does a great job detailing her particular bee society and making it feel like a complete world, from the way the bees communicate via scent and chemicals to their worship of the queen to the foppishness of the drones. From the bit of browsing I did, it seems like most of the information is fairly accurate, except a spoilery bit in the end and the fact that bee roles are not nearly so harshly delineated irl. (Also, one beekeeper wrote a review in which they felt very put out about the negative depiction of beekeepers as the theives of the bees' carefully made honey. I have to say, I laughed.) I particularly loved the way religion and government are mixed up in the hive, and the look at the various castes and clans.
I did have some nitpicks, because it wasn't always as alien as I wanted it to be; Paull refers to things like bees bleeding or having their intestines torn out, which made me wonder if it were just a figure of speech or...?? Ditto mentions of things like goblets of nectar or plates of pollen. I also thought the prologue and epilogue should have been cut, because I am not here for human context and thoughts! I want weird alien life forms that are actually from this planet!
Anyway, this was a really fast, immersive read, and I still feel like there might be creepy-crawlies on me randomly throughout the day. (For insect-phobic people: I am pretty grossed out by bugs in real life and in pictures, but I'm mostly fine reading about them in books, from fictionalized bees to real-life parasites, so YMMV? I wasn't creeped out while reading, but my skin does start to itch when thinking about it afterward.)
(Also, this makes me so happy!! I am going to sound like such an old fogey, but *shakes cane* I remember the days when we didn't have any anime/manga programming at all and coffeeandink and I had to organize "spontaneous" programming so we could talk about it!
(I was so sad to see I missed panels on Utena and fairy tales in shoujo and was kicking myself for somehow skipping those panels until I realized that was one of the years I didn't make it to Wiscon.
(It has also been really nice seeing younger people in the audience in the past few years; hopefully I will be more encouraging next year and get them on panels too. My goal: having non-Western fannish panels that are not entirely populated by the same six people, myself included, even though I love you all a ton and love hearing what you guys say.)
Anyway, my goal this year is to organize a book club for F. Compo + Hourou Musuko (and/or other works with trans protagonists? Specifically, canonically trans, as opposed to genderbending or crossdressing.), esp. since jiawen has been trying to get a trans people in anime/manga panel for forever. That way even if it doesn't make the cut due to lack of panelists and/or audience members, we can do spontaneous programming. And I really like panels that focus very specifically on one or two works.
Also, AMVs in playlists for the vid party that aren't specifically being "The AMV Playlist"!
Other ideas I vaguely remember from Twitter:
- Magical girls (and Sailor Moon Crystal!)
- Women in shounen
- AMVs and vids
- POC in SFnal music (+ weird over-the-top fantasy CPop music videos?)
Next year: more AMV playlists, including playlists that just include AMVs as part of a theme!
General warnings: I think AMVs tend to do much more visual overlays and faster cutting than media vids in general, so I hope I managed to give enough notice re: flashing lights and strobe effects, but not sure! Also, I worry a bit that I underwarned for the vid show because I have a hard time figuring out the line between action movie violence and disturbing violence so I am adding some just in case.
Magical Girls: Sparkles and Subversion
(or: morally ambiguous dark-haired girls and the pink-haired girls who love them)
- Hika Yagami - Magical Girls Take a Stand! (multifandom)
(stream/download | subtitles)
- Moezy-chan - Red Star (Sailor Moon)
Physical warnings: flashing lights and strobe effects
Psychological warnings: horror imagery
(stream | subtitles)
- WUNETTI Productions - The Utena Symphony, Part II: Rosa Infinita (Shoujo Kakumei Utena)
Physical warnings: flashing lights and strobe effects
(stream/download | subtitles)
- Chiikaboom - Devil's Game 2.0 (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
Physical warnings: flashing lights and strobe effects
Psychological warnings: horror imagery (also I find this series creepy like whoa and have a hard time with scenes in the vid, but I don't know if it's as creepy if you haven't seen the series? Comments?)
(download | subtitles)
- Tidirium Studios - Hold Me Now (Princess Tutu)
Physical warnings: flashing lights and strobe effects
(stream/download | subtitles)
( Random commentary )
Anyway, I hope people enjoyed, and if anyone wants me to flail at them re: the various series and why you should watch them, I am more than happy to do so! (Except Madoka. Madoka continues to terrify me.)