Look! Greg Van Eekhout is going to quote a famous person at you! For reasons! Oh, and also tell you about Pacific Fire, the follow-up to California Bones, which I liked quite a bit (I blurbed it, you might recall). And don’t worry, that famous person quote has a point.
GREG VAN EEKHOUT:
John Milton writes, “The child shows the man as morning shows the day.” Indeed, one presumes the child shows the adult of any gender. And here I am, kicking off a Big Idea post about a book that features cannibalism and dragons with a Milton quote, not because I’m trying to fool you into thinking I’m classy like that, but because the relationship between the children we were and the adults we become is one of the central themes of Pacific Fire.
I should probably backtrack a bit and put the Pacific Fire in context. It’s the second book of the trilogy that began with California Bones and will conclude later this year with Dragon Coast. These books are about wizards who get their powers from consuming the remains of magical creatures. Eat dragon bones and you get some of the abilities of a dragon. Eat a wizard who’s eaten dragon bones and you get the wizard’s abilities. The world is an alternate California ruled by the most successfully voracious wizards, or osteomancers, and our protagonists are people both magic-using and not who get caught up in the osteomancers’ power struggles.
In California Bones, Daniel Blackland is the son of a wizard and a spy. When his father is killed for the magic contained in his bones and his mother returns to her native Northern California, Daniel is essentially orphaned. He grows up in hiding, trying to avoid his father’s fate while being used by his crime lord guardian for his magical skills. Ten years later, in Pacific Fire, Daniel finds himself trying to father and protect Sam, the osteomantic sort-of clone of the chief wizard of the Southern Californian kingdom and the man who, all those years ago, killed and ate Daniel’s father. In trying to save Sam, Daniel’s also trying to save the exploited and abandoned boy he was himself. But when the powers in charge come after Sam to fuel the patchwork dragon super-weapon they’re building, Daniel sees history repeating itself.
The first book of the trilogy is, among other things, a heist story. Pacific Fire is, among other things, a sabotage caper, as Sam sets out to destroy the firedrake before the bad guys can use it. Daniel, meanwhile, sets out to intercept Sam before the bad guys use him.
And that’s where the Milton quote comes in. Amid the fisticuffs and magical and spider assassins, rock monsters, a narco sub built from the ribcage of a sea serpent, a water mage, a scary chef, and the aforementioned Pacific firedrake, is Daniel’s struggle is to prevent his own childhood from repeating itself in Sam. And there’s Sam’s struggle to become the man he wants to be while knowing he started life as an artificial creation, a treasure to be plundered.
What Milton states poetically boils down to this: adulthood is the consequence of childhood. Osteomancy is the practice of gaining magic by consuming the remains of the past. Our today is built from the stuff of our yesterday. And in their own ways, Daniel and Sam are fighting to craft their own tomorrows.
One of the great pleasures for me of last year's Days of Awe was getting to co-lead davenen (with the fabulous student hazzan Randall Miller) using a pilot edition of Days of Awe, the machzor which I created building on the wonderful work of Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser. Days of Awe was several years in the making, and went through more than thirty printed proof drafts -- and, of course, once we used it in realtime for our high holiday services, I found things which I wanted to fix. I knew that would happen; that's why this was a pilot edition! Still, it was interesting to see what needed revision.
Some of the edits are minor, e.g. places where two Hebrew vowels were trying to occupy the same space and therefore looked blurred, or Hebrew typos which needed a global find-and-replace, or places where I left out a line of transliteration. Others are more substantive. For instance, after the Days of Awe were over, I translated a relevant Lea Goldberg poem and now I want to include it in Ne'ilah. Or I realized while leading services last fall that I wanted to include the Hebrew refrain for "We Are As Clay." Or I realized that I hadn't included "Eliahu Hanavi" and "Miriam HaNeviah."
I've been working this winter on revising Days of Awe toward a second edition. Some additions, some subtractions, some general improvements. I've made a point of not changing any of the pagination. So if a community has copies of the pilot edition and then augments their collection with copies of the second edition, their prayer leader will still be able to give page numbers and they will work for both versions. The nifty material which is new to the second edition won't be in the first-edition volumes -- but a creative shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) should be able to work around that.
I'm uploading revised versions of both manuscripts (the right-to-left edition and the left-to-right edition) now. I plan to order a printer's proof of each, and spend some quality time with it, to make sure that I'm happy with how the changes look in print. (I may also reconvene my editorial / proofreading team.) What this means for everyone else is that Days of Awe is temporarily unavailable while I'm proofing the second edition. I assume that most people aren't thinking about the high holidays during January and February, so I figured this was a good time to do this work.
If you used Days of Awe last fall in your congregation or in your own solo prayer, and have suggestions to offer for the second edition, I welcome them!
"That's right," he said, briefly, with a small nod.
Someone speculated as to whether he was in New York City because he was concerned with things like the security of the Indian Point nuclear power facility.
"It's on my mind," he replied.
And someone else told a story of a cop or a federal agent, losing their gun while on the job.
"That's frowned upon," he noted.
Ever since then, Leonard and I have found this triad of answers endlessly entertaining. These are polite yet distant ways of giving answers in the affirmative, the negative, and the noncommital.
That said, here are some links that are on my mind (whether I think they're right or frowned upon will be your guess to make!):
Transparency about money: a fiction author, a public speaker, and a publisher are sharing real dollar amounts so you know what you might be getting into. You might also enjoy a similar HOWTO that Leonard and I wrote, about making a one-off anthology.
Disagreeing well: This distinction between task-focused and relationship-focused people (which may be very similar to Rands's organics and mechanics model or my engineer and mother leadership models) will stick with me.
Transformative work and the origins of abuse: In an interview about Jo Walton's new book The Just City, check out Walton's response to the interviewer's question, "Why have Apollo learn about 'equal significance and volition'?"
"Everything is a bit orange for some reason": I can't decide whether Holly Gramazio's hilarious analysis of games in fiction (e.g., the futuristic sports in dystopia movies) has more insights or jokes, but there are plenty of both.
Impostor syndrome tips: Concrete steps you can take to stop automatically assuming you can't do stuff.
What are you willing to consider?: Danny linked to this piece which I think stands alone (seeing as I haven't read the Chait piece it's responding to (and every time I see Chait's name I think of "TBWA Chiat/Day" and the old Apple ads)). This controversy touches on trust, courage, groupthink, the purposes of different environments and different kinds of environments, how quantity can have a quality all its own, the attention economy, and a zillion other things. Put this in the "on my mind" bucket.
Techish things: Hound is a new competitor to DXR. You should enable automatic updates on your servers. A Python developer is offering code review in exchange for donations to Doctors Without Borders. Learning to sit with discomfort: part of yoga, part of life. Changing history (advanced Git). The Mailman project wants to switch translation platforms. A gentle primer on reverse engineering.
The dream factory, the sausage factory: A television writing room feels a bit like the opening of Anathem (Socratic questioning about scifi/fantasy tropes).
Popular: I'm using Dreamwidth as my RSS reader. Check out the popular feeds, ranked by how many DW users subscribe. The top 10 feeds include the Organization for Transformative Works, Cake Wrecks, & PhD Comics. Also, as a data point, at current writing, the feed for this very blog has more subscribers than Paul Krugman's feed has.
Finally, because I have my immature moments like anyone else: A Project Gutenberg find by Leonard: "Diary of Richard Cocks, Cape-Merchant in the English Factory in Japan, 1615-1622" pub. 1882. (It's legitimately historically interesting .... but that's not what caught my attention at first.)
For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I recently linked to an article that I think is very mportant. It was written by my friend Hank Green, about the reactions to his recent interview with President Obama.
Hank, as you may know, makes amazing YouTube videos about all manners of topics, with the overarching goal of making the world a better place. This isn’t some treacly greeting-card sentiment; Hank (and his brother John, and their team of amazing young people creating videos) honestly and openly want everyone to be better people. Their motto is “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”. And they mean it.
Hank, along with YouTube creators Bethany Mota and Glozell Green, interviewed the President, asking him questions that were important to their audience. These included the government’s use of drones, Net Neutrality, Boko Haram, and racial tension. These questions were unflinching, unapologetic, and discussed without the manufactured “both sides” baloney so common in mainstream media.
The reaction to this by some of that same media was as predictable as it was maddening: disbelief and derision. This is what inspired Hank to write his article. I strongly urge you to read it.
Hank calls these older news sources “legacy media”, which is an interesting term. He describes how these current news media inherited their positions of popularity, as opposed to earning it; they’re not the same venues they once were. A lot of their inroads into our society, their ability to get their message out, is based on their past when things were very different.
And the trust they rely on now has, in many cases, been squandered if not cynically exploited and outright betrayed. The 24 hour news cycle is a huge factor in this, I think; that is a lot of time to fill, and nonsense loves to occupy that space. But corporate ownership is a huge part of the problem, especially when the owners are dogmatic ideologues with an agenda.
Apropos of that, one of my favorite parts of Hank’s article was his response to a tweet by Rupert Murdoch. The head of NewsCorp (the right-wing company that owns Fox News) tweeted this:
Hank’s response was perfect. Perfect.
As Hank points out in his article, the average age of Fox viewers is not exactly young. Young folks in high school and college don’t get their news from Fox (or CNN or even MSNBC); they’re far more likely to get it from The Daily Show, from links on social media, and on YouTube.
It’s incredibly trite, but it’s true nonetheless: The future is online. A big chunk of the legacy media still haven’t quite figured this out. They just slap their printed or TV content online and call it good, but that’s not the way things work (or, at the least, it's not enough). And they’re starting from the wrong premise anyway. Younger folks don’t want to see five old rich white guys yelling at each other about women’s rights. They want a thoughtful take on it, from people who represent them better.
People like Hank, Mota, Green, and so many others have spent a lot of time being themselves online, and have built a huge capital of trust. That’s why their audience numbers in the many, many millions.
It’s not too late for legacy media. All they have to do is win our trust back. But trust is earned, not given, and earning that trust is hard work, something I don’t see too many in the old school doing much of. Resting on their legacy is how they got to this dying cul-de-sac in the first place*.
I have no specific solutions, no road map for legacy media to save themselves. This is new territory, and it's being mapped out as it's being discovered. Maybe we just have to wait for the old media to die off... but that’ll take a while. They still have a lot of money, and a maniacal grip on a lot of politicians.
But there’s hope; the President did speak to this new group, and he did reach their younger audience.
What I can hope for is that an entire new generation will reach their adulthood having grown up under the tutelage of this new wave of media, and absorb those principles. All they need to do is don’t forget to be awesome.
I’ll leave you with this: The Presidential interview. It’s really quite good.
* I’ll note that Slate started as a totally online magazine, which is one of the reasons it’s still going strong, and one of the reasons I was happy to hitch my wagon to them. They understand online culture, and don’t carry the baggage of Old Media.
Read John Scalzi's Lock In, which is fun and fast-paced. He's clearly done his reading about the history of US cancer research, which is good to see. I would have liked it better if a mobility-disabled character without a robot body got a speaking part, but it's still pretty great.
The moment I decided to trust Scalzi:
( spoilers for a scene about midway through the book )
I hadn't read much about this book before I read it, so there were two specific things that I had not been spoilered about. I caught one of them, I didn't catch the other. V nffhzrq, pbeerpgyl, gung Funar jnf ovenpvny. V nffhzrq vapbeerpgyl gung Funar jnf znyr - Funar'f traqre vf arire fgngrq. And I'm impressed, while facepalming at myself a little bit for my own assumptions.
I will say, though, that there were a few times when a more explicit discussion of the disability issues (and the history of disability rights) would have made it sound less hypothetical and more like a science fiction exploration of something that really happens today.
There were a few places where I was kind of jumping up and down saying "The slogan you want here is 'nothing about us without us', why not use it?"
And he didn't give a shout-out anywhere in the book to locked-in people who do not have his fictional disease, which is going to leave a lot of uninformed readers thinking he made locked-in syndrome up too. I think that was a serious weakness.
But generally it was a good book and lots of fun. Would adapt very well to TV.
Played Long Live The Queen. A lot. Someone in the comments on a review I read said "It's certainly the best regicide simulator there is." This is hilarious and also true.
I won using a spoiler walkthrough. I've also died five times. I figured out how to dance with women, and one of them sent me flowers. I love that my magic tutor is a lesbian. I'm not quite as happy that if I dance with women, it's assumed I'm not interested in men. (I, the player, am not into men, as it happens. But I see no reason Queen Elodie shouldn't be bi.) But still, progress. And I won the naval battle using magic. That was fun.
Things I'm still working on:
- the thing with the cats. (I was working on that this evening, and I got all my stats right for it - yes, I am spoilering myself right and left, why do you ask? - but forgot to do the basic stuff that would keep me safe until that came up, and got killed at the Grand Ball.)
- surviving the forest side quest.
- the hostage situation
- the power of song achievement. I've read the game transcript of that part of someone else's game, and it was super cool.
Listened to Small Town Heroes by Hurray for the Riff Raff. Liked it. I bought the album on the strength of the music video of The Body Electric (tw: the lyrics are about murder. The video shows it symbolically, not graphically), which remains the stand-out song in the album.
Made my take on kaberett's pasta bake. My version used cannelini, a little bit of celery, olive oil, sambal oelek, crushed garlic, oregano, black pepper, salt, spiral pasta, and passata. The beans were a bad idea: combined with that method of pasta preparation, they made it too starchy. The celery was also a bad idea: it didn't cook fast enough. I should have added cooked veg instead. I knew this, but I was craving vegetables, and it affected my judgement. Apart from that it was good.
How to tell your fake boyfriend you would like to become a robot:
1. Tell him, "I would like to be a robot." You can also say, "I am really a robot, not a female-bodied biological machine," because that is closer to the truth.
2. Do not tell him anything. If you do, you will also have to admit that you think about ways to hurt yourself so you have an excuse to replace body parts with machine parts.
3. Besides, insurance is unlikely to cover your transition into a robot.
A Merc. Rustard's "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" reminded me strongly of last year's Hugo contender "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love". Charming, quirky, artfully secretive, and with a similar melancholic emotional pull to Rachel Swirsky's story, "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is for everyone who enjoys literature, robots, and crying in inappropriate places.
( Read more... )
"How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is available for free at Sciegentasy magazine.
It's challenge time!
Comment with Just One Thing that you've accomplished in the past 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.
Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling accomplished!
Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!
Nothing is too big, too small, too strange, or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.
Auteur : malurette
Base : Mushishi
Personnages : Nui et sa famille
Genre : drame
Gradation : PG / K+
Légalité : propriété d’Urushibara Yuki, je ne cherche ni à tirer profit ni à manquer de respect.
Prompt : « Soudain, une ombre apparut devant lui et au moment où elle se rapprocha, il s’évanouit de peur.»
d’après tamabulle sur un Arbre à Drabbles (31 octobre ’12)
+ Spéciale Halloween
Notes : peut-être basé plus sur l’anime? j’ai vérifié l’épisode en question mais je ne me souviens plus de son équivalent dans le manga
Nombre de mots : 100
( L’ombre de sa famille, au bord des ténèbres. )
Auteur : malurette
Base : Mushishi
Personnages : une Victim-of-the-Week et un Mushi d’épisode
Gradation : PG / K+
Légalité : propriété d’Urushibara Yuki, je ne cherche ni à tirer profit ni à manquer de respect.
Prompt : « Il va voir…»
sur un Arbre à Drabbles (31 octobre ’12 chez drakys)
+ Spéciale Halloween
Nombre de mots : 100
( Avant l’arrivée du mushishi. )
Here's the FFA thread in question.
I should probably be sleeping anyway.