NIF: eps 17-19 the hiltless knives

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:55 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
There is plenty of action in these three episodes, but what really strikes me is the emotional complexity. More is revealed about the past, which reverberates deeply in the present day--these are the hiltless knives, memory, regret, emotion made exponentially intense by being hidden. There are confrontations that demonstrate these hiltless knives, beautifully broken up by hilarious episodes: there is no lugubrious all grim all the time.

Altogether the emotional rollercoaster is exhilarating, and it shore doesn’t hurt that everyone, and everything, is so very beautiful.

Read more... )

ArmadilloCon

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:05 am
marthawells: (Stargate)
[personal profile] marthawells
Coming up on August 4-6 is ArmadilloCon in Austin: http://armadillocon.org/d39/#/

Major guests are: Guest of Honor: Nisi Shawl, Toastmaster: Don Webb, Fan Guest: A.T. Campbell, III Artist Guest: Mark A. Nelson, Editor Guest: Trevor Quachri, Special Guest: Tamora Pierce


My schedule is:


Friday: teaching at writers workshop


Saturday

Sa1100102 Reading
Sat 11:00 AM-11:30 AM Room 102
Martha Wells
(I'll probably read something from The Murderbot Diaries: Artificial Condition)


Sa1200DR Signing
Sat Noon-1:00 PM Dealers' Room
J. Comer, J. Wells, M. Wells
(I'll have Raksura stickers with art by Pentapoda to give away.)


Sa1400BE Pantsing vs. Outlining
Sat 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Ballroom E
C. Clevenger*, B. Crider, N. Southard, J. Reasoner, J. Wells, M. Wells


Sa1500BE Novellas (non tele)
Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Ballroom E
J. Reasoner, A. Simmons*, W. Spencer, H. Waldrop, C. Ward, M. Wells
Is the Novella just a stunted novel,a spring-board for an awful fix-up novel, or the perfect length for written SF?


Sa1700SPB Fan Guest Interview
Sat 5:00 PM-6:00 PM Southpark B
A.T. Campbell, M. Wells*, T. Wilson*



Sunday:

Su1100SPB Preview of World Fantasy 2017
Sun 11:00 AM-Noon Southpark B
R. Babcock, J. Miles, M. Wells*
Co-chairs and Toastmaster of the upcoming World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio tell us what's coming

Not a new thing, and not that easy

Jul. 27th, 2017 01:46 pm
oursin: Illustration from the Kipling story: mongoose on desk with inkwell and papers (mongoose)
[personal profile] oursin

While I was away I noticed on, I think, Twitter, which I was scrolling through while waiting at a bus stop/train station/whatever, somebody getting into a froth over somebody deleting their tweets upon mature reflection, and how this was The Death of History.

To which my own reactions were:

a) Archivists have been thinking about the problems posed by the fragility of the digital record for a good couple of decades plus, this is not something no-one has noticed before. (Wasn't the Library of Congress archiving Twitter, and presumably there are some measures against tampering, if so? - hah, I see that there have been problems of processing and it's not actually accessible, or wasn't as at last year.)

b) Quite apart from the dangers of fire, flood and insect or animal depredation to which records in the more traditional forms have been exposed, there has been a fair amount of deliberate curating of the record over the centuries, by deliberate destruction or just careful concealment (whether it's the Foreign Office secret archive or the concealment of Turner's erotic drawings under a misleading file title).

c) While you can delete or destroy a particular record, you cannot always get rid of the information that it did exist - presumably it was other people commenting on the now-deleted tweets or retweeting them that led to the decision to delete them, but that doesn't eradicate the fact of their existence. This may even draw attention to the deleted record: this is why when I was still being an archivist we used to persuade donors not to ask for closures apart from those mandated by Data Protection, because the idea that something is *CLOSED* causes some people's ears to prick up in a supposition that there will be *HIDDEN SECRETS* (this was very, very, seldom the case).

I might also invoke the case that came up in Prince of Tricksters, where Netley Lucas under one of his identities was communicating with different officials and departments, possibly, it is suggested, as a means to confuse his trail: but, due to the growth of bureaucracy, as well as the social networks they belonged to, could also communicate among one another to discover that this was all the same guy.

There is also the phenomenon that I have mentioned to researchers, that yes [organisations of a certain ideological bent] have been very coy about placing their archives anywhere where people might do research in them; BUT the organisations and people they were against kept tabs on their activities, collected their literature, etc.

Also that if person/organisation's own papers do not survive, you can find out a good deal from the surviving records of those they interacted with.

[personal profile] penta posting in [community profile] factfinding
OK, so...There's a game I'm helping restart (after a ten year break) called World Alliances and Rivalries. (Yes the website is bad, we drew it up a few days ago in the middle of the night fueled by coffee and insomnia.) We're not sure yet when we're doing as a Point of Divergence (except that we know it'll be after 7/1/2017, because the whole reason we're restarting it is partly because Trump gives us an opening...and partly to heal from Trump-caused trauma...), but I got drafted to play Israel (on the grounds of "Look, you didn't suck at playing a tiny country last time, you do research real well, and we need someone in the Middle East").

So I'm doing my research and trying to figure out a scenario to make my character PM as the game needs...The problem is, I don't read or speak Hebrew at all (neither does anybody else who plays!), and the English translations of key materials (IE, the English translation of the Basic Law on the Government) seem to literally be missing a few lines with no indication as to what should be there or how important it is. (We are talking the English translation on the Knesset website. I cried in frustration when I figured this fact out, because ugh.)

This is going to be a bit scattershot of a post (I didn't want to put multiple posts up when it all seemed to boil down to a related set of issues). I've done my fair share of Googling and Wikipedia hunting, but there are questions those don't answer.

Questions on Israeli Government:

1. It's said in the British system that the Monarch has the powers "to encourage, to warn, and to be consulted" (and that they shouldn't really want any others). Israeli politics are at least partly based off of the Westminster System, so...Does that also apply to the President of Israel? Does he get updated on state affairs, does he get consulted by the PM?

2. How exactly does picking a PM work when there are multiple valid choices for a PM based on coalition-building (I'm unsure if I want my character to have a majority (the scenario is that the previous government had to resign after a spate of corruption indictments) or have to live in a coalition)? Are there any formalities associated like an oath of office specific to being PM?

3. Just how much power do Knesset committees have to conduct oversight of the government? Both theoretically and in real terms. It sounds like they have normal oversight powers, but maybe that's me drawing on experience with the US Congress or the UK Parliament that doesn't apply...

4. If the PM is indicted, is there a mechanism to remove *just* the PM, or is a no-confidence vote required? (No doubt it'd be howled for, but I'm trying to figure out "Did they 'go to the country' because the law said they had to, or just because the pressure to do so was insane?")

Questions on the IDF (numbering continues to make answering easier) - please note for reference, my current draft has this character born December 1977 and drafted somewhere around 1995-96, and I know the law has changed since:

5. Someone please explain to me the proliferation of Sayeret units. I realize they're mostly recon units in theory, but they're also special forces...So I'm eventually confused (aside from a few units) as to who does what. I made my character a Sayeret Matkal vet because, well, it seemed like an obvious choice for "Special forces vet", but now I'm realizing that that could be cliche...but I can't figure out what the other units do, so I'm confused.

6. Officers are drawn from conscripts and have a four month training course. Sayerets have an...18 month? training pipeline. Do officers do officer training and then unit training, or...? How does that all work? How are Sayeret *officers* recruited and trained? Not looking for deep details, just how long from "I got drafted today" to "I'm a fully qualified officer and out leading troops starting tomorrow" or something.

7. Are officers held to a conscript's 3 year term of service? Is it longer? (I presume it is, but how much longer?)

8. Presuming a guy just wants to serve his conscript term as an officer and then get out and start civilian life, given what I mention above, how long is he in for, what age is he getting out at, and what rank is he getting out at? What rank does said officer transition from "an officer" to "an officer who's going to make the IDF a career"?

9. Wikipedia is being confusing. It mentions stuff like Rifleman 01, Fighter 07, etc. when speaking about training. It sounds like stuff I should have a clue about to draw up a character. What is it talking about?

10. Reserve service: OK, when does a guy with that background (Sayeret unit, officer) stop being liable for reserve service; how frequently is he called up for said service, how long are the callups in non-emergency situations, and (because the internet doesn't give me too great a clue) what the heck do they do (besides, I presume, training of various sorts)?

11. Just what are the benefits post-service associated with service as a conscript, or what were they in the 1996-2000ish timeframe? Do they vary between officers and enlisted conscripts? (I looked this particular question up about 20 different ways on Google. I found plenty of mentions in English of benefits during service, or that benefits post-service exist, but no mention of what the post-service benefits (or in-service benefits) actually are or would have been at the time.)

Yes, I make my characters unusually detailed. No, that is not standard for the game it's for. It's how I learned to draw up characters and scenarios, regardless of the roleplay or the setting; it's worked so far, and in this game it enabled me to (last time) play a character otherwise completely unfamiliar to me with a good degree of clue and "I actually don't appear to suck at RPing this character".

Thanks in advance for anybody willing to help me not be dumb. :)

(no subject)

Jul. 27th, 2017 09:23 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] fjm and [personal profile] wildroot!
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Sandy wakes up to the aroma of coffee and the sounds of someone moving about the dressing-room. Hector comes out and says, they sent to Jerome at Raxdell House to send over some fresh clothes, and he confides that he himself is still quite able to shave and dress a gentleman. Sandy would protest that he is quite able to shave himself and then looks at the trembling of the coffee in the cup from the tremors in his hand. He asks Hector what time it is.

Nigh on ten of the morning, says Hector, consulting the watch that Clorinda gave him those many years ago in Surrey.

What! He has slept the clock round and more.

When he descends to the parlour, and finds Clorinda at her desk, he asks what was in that posset?

My dear, do you accuse me of drugging you? There was a little brandy, but 'twas mostly milk and spices, quite entirely sanitive. You were quite entire exhausted, my dear.

Euphemia comes to set a substantial breakfast before him: he does not think he can possibly eat, until he starts, and discovers himself quite ravenous.

When he has finished, he says, well, he has slept, he has eaten, now he should return to Raxdell House.

Indeed not, says Clorinda, I am in the very act of writing to the new Lord Raxdell to say that, after you had convey’d me home, 'twas quite apparent that you were in a state of extreme exhaustion and I am like to fear a brain-fever do you not rest. I am in considerable concern that I should send for a physician.

He snorts and says, 'tis very kind of you, dear sibyl, but you do not need to lie for me.

Alexander MacDonald! snaps Clorinda, sure there has been a certain amount of equivocation and masquerade over the years, but this is quite the entirest truth. Sure if you endeavour leave, I shall have Hector lock you up. I will not have you work yourself into illness, sure, how can you suppose that Milord would have wanted any such thing? He left you that fine independence entirely so you should not need to. I confide that 'twould be carrying out his wishes to prevent you.

My dear, she says in gentler tones, you appear incapable of manifesting your dour Calvinistickal glare, 'tis the surest of signs that you are not your wont’d self.

His chest starts heaving and he finds himself entirely overtaken by the physical manifestations of grief. And finds himself being held by Clorinda, and when thought begins to return, has fleeting considerations about the very comforting nature of female softness, and then comes to realise that Clorinda is weeping herself.

O, he cries, I am the most selfish of fellows! As if you too do not mourn a dear friend of many years.

Why, 'tis something that we may grieve together, for who else besides ourselves would know the inwardness of the matter? She hands him a large handkerchief, while dabbing at her own cheeks with a delicate lacy affair.

And after your other losses, he goes on, conscience-stricken, remembering walking across the lawns at Raxdell House with Josiah Ferraby, smoking cigars and talking of some matter going forth in Parliament, and the other man suddenly putting a hand to his chest with an expression of startlement and crumpling to the ground. And the agonizing long illness of Eliza Ferraby, Clorinda’s pretty house become a house of sickness for those many painful months, the finest physicians and surgeons in London called upon, crack nurses in attendance, nothing to be done but to try and keep her as comfortable as possible.

O my dear, says Clorinda with a tearful laugh, sure 'tis no matter upon which one may make mathematical calculations of degrees of infelicity. But sure I hope you will remain here at least for a little while.

He looks down at his hands. It would be quite infinitely more agreeable, or at least less painful, to be here rather than at Raxdell House.

But – he begins –

O, fie upon your buts!

It is entirely too kind –

Fiddlesticks! Have we not been the dearest of friends this long while? Unless there was some other course of action you preferred – travel, or return to your native soil, or to go stay with one of your philosopher friends – sure I am a thoughtless Clorinda –

No, no, indeed no, silly creature. He sees that Clorinda is trying, with less success than usually attends, to conceal tearfulness.

Sure I should ask before going contrive, she says, blowing her nose. But I saw that fellow, quite desiring bind you to his interests, the wretch, as if you were some automaton, and – but I daresay you had your own plans already, o, I confide that behind my back I am known as that Meddlesome Marchioness –

No, dearest Clorinda, had he had time I am sure Gervase would have instructed you to kidnap me before I was beguiled by some false sense of duty into remaining. 'Twould be exceeding agreeable to me to find refuge here, but will there not be gossip?

She laughs somewhat immoderate, nigh unto hysterics, and says, my dear, we have been gossiped upon these many years, 'twill entirely be a matter of knowing tapping of noses. Sure scandalmonging tongues have had us abed together this long while.

Well, he says, was that tedious journey across France with the masquerade of marriage, and that time in Scarborough -

- The one room left in any hostelry that we would have cared to sleep in, sure I had not consider’d how popular a watering-place 'twas -

- awake half the night arguing about a device for some Gothick tale of yours!

They look at one another with affection.

I confide, says Clorinda, that Jerome would be the one to apply to about your trunks –

There are, he says, some matters of papers in the office that are to do with my own business –

Sure, says Clorinda, 'twould be a shocking thing was it discovered upon you that you were that savage critic, Deacon Brodie; and I daresay there is a philosophical treatise or so that you have never had the leisure to prepare for publication, that you might wish take in hand now –

Dearest Clorinda, you have ever read me like a book; so I will go to Raxdell House and pack them up myself, and make various commendations of the clerks to the new Viscount, and advance the interest of those that might suit as secretary –

Quite excellent ton!

So the next day he goes to Raxdell House, and the new Viscount displays excellent ton himself in saying that now he considers upon the matter and sees Mr MacDonald’s condition, indeed he realises that 'twould be an entire imposition to ask him to take on this task, but would be exceeding grateful of his advice. He also remarks upon the sanitive benefits of sea-voyages.

So Sandy says that Mr Cartwright has a very fine understanding of the general business of the Raxdell interests – His Lordship will surely know that for many years he himself acted very much in the capacity of a political advisor to the late Viscount, rather than having the day to day administration of affairs in his hands. Cartwright he confides would give entire satisfaction was he promoted to the entire oversight of the estates, the management of Raxdell House &C.

Why, says His Lordship, does not suppose he will follow in the late Viscount’s political footsteps – Sandy confides not, for just the mention of these makes the fellow look uneasy – although of course will take his seat in the Lords.

He then opens a drawer in his desk and says, sure these legal fellows take a deal of a time about settling all the matters of the will, but he and his dear lady have been looking into some of the personal matters themselves, and they confide that these are the items that the late Viscount wished Lady Bexbury to have.

There is the snuffbox – he knows that there was some private joke 'twixt Gervase and Clorinda about the snuffbox – and the various pieces of jewellery, including the famed pink diamond parure and several fine rings.

The Viscount clears his throat, and says that the Viscountess finds herself quite translated into this new and unanticipated sphere, has no connections in Town Society, is at somewhat of a loss as to how she should proceed. Has heard that there are certain ladies of fine breeding and understanding of ton that alas find themselves financially embarrassed and may be hired as advisors, but –

Sandy has not spent these many years as confidante to the exquisite Dowager Marchioness of Bexbury to misunderstand what the Viscount reaches at. He indicates that, does Lady Bexbury suppose she will be welcome, she will certainly call and her understanding of the usages of Society is everywhere most highly esteemed. (He cannot imagine that Clorinda will not relish the task.)

The Viscount looks exceeding relieved.

After they have taken civil leave of one another, he goes to the office to be about packing up his things. Cartwright comes in and says, there are a deal of letters marked for his personal attention have lately come. He frowns, spreads them out upon the desk, observes the franks and the seals and realizes that these are from members of their coterie and wider circles, and that though he is sure they have writ condolences in entire formal fashion to the new Viscount, they convey the messages of sympathy from long friendship to himself. Treacherous tears come to his eyes, even as he thinks that Clorinda would laugh and point out that he is not an antient mariner alone upon the waves with a dead seagull about his neck but has a deal of social connections.

He pushes the letters into a tidy pile, blinking as he does so, and manages to compose himself sufficiently to say, he will take them with him to Lady Bexbury’s where he may peruse them at leisure, and do any more come, should be sent there. But he dares say it gets about that he may be found at that direction.

Cartwright asks, with a trace of anxiety in his tone, whether Mr MacDonald does not intend remain in the service of the Viscount?

Sandy can tell from the change of Cartwright’s expression that his own has become dour and Calvinistickal. He blinks again and says, hoping that his features show more amiable, that he confides that the present Viscount does not have the same political interests, and in respect of all the quotidian matters of administration, Mr Cartwright is eminently fitted to carry them out; he has spoke to the Viscount already to that effect. Is there any matter of advice on particular questions required, he is quite entirely at their service.

But, he says, did His late Lordship trouble to leave me an independence, I think it shows respectful of his wishes to go enjoy it.

(Though the notion of enjoyment seems some wild fantastical opium dream, a phantasm.)

Hector’s fine strapping son Ben comes to say, the boxes are all stowed in the carriage, was there anything more needed put in?

Sandy says that he confides that Jerome has the matter of clothes well under hand and he has enough at present to serve, 'tis not as though he intends going about in Society. He picks up the letters, shakes Cartwright firmly by the hand saying he will do most excellently, and follows Ben out to the carriage. Ben goes sit beside Nick on the box after closing the door upon him, and they drive off.

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

Jul. 26th, 2017 03:06 pm
rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I haven't reviewed anything here in far, far too long, and I certainly didn't think this book would be the thing to push me into wanting to write something. However. At Readercon, I picked up the new collection of Ursula K. Le Guin essays, Words Are My Matter, of which this is not a review because I am nowhere near finishing it, and I noticed that there are three separate essays on H. G. Wells. Three! This is not unique, in the structure of the book-- there are also three separate essays on José Saramago-- but that makes more sense to me, because Saramago, you know, Nobel laureate, relatively recent death, work in an interesting position vis-à-vis speculative fiction as a genre, there are some conversations to be had there that seem very much in Le Guin's chosen critical milieu. But H. G. Wells! Hasn't everything been said already?

Then it occurred to me that I, personally, had not read any Wells since the age of eight or nine, when I'd read The Time Machine and found it pretty and confusing, and then hit The War of the Worlds and found it extremely upsetting and went away again. So I went back. The Time Machine is indeed very pretty, though far less confusing to an older person. The Island of Dr. Moreau turned out to be the most vicious piece of theological criticism I have encountered in years, and an actual novel with things like character dimensionality to boot, as well as such an obvious influence on Lovecraft that I was shocked I hadn't heard that mentioned before. And then I got to The War of the Worlds.

It turns out the reason I found it very upsetting at eight or nine was because it is very upsetting, and at that age I had no context for or capacity to handle the ways in which it is upsetting.

We all know the basic plot: Martians invade, humans are technologically overpowered and defeated, Martians eventually drop dead because of Earth's microbiota. The novel came out in 1898, after having been serialized the year before, and has been dramatized and redramatized and ripped off and remade so often and so thoroughly that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The original novel, however, is notable in intellectual history not just for the archetype of the merciless and advanced alien invaders, but because it is an ice-cold prevision of the nightmares of the twentieth century. The phrase 'concentration camp' had already been coined, c. late 1860s by the Spanish in Cuba, though it would not become widely known by the English-speaking public until the Boer War, which Wells' novel just predates; that phrase is the only part of the vocabulary of future war to which Wells could have had access, and the phrase does not appear in the novel. Here are some of the concepts that do, without, as yet, any names: Genocide. Total war. Gas attack. Blitzkrieg. Extermination camp. Shellshock/PTSD. (Also, on a slightly different note, airplane.)

Wells' vision of war was ruthless, efficiently technological, distanced from the reader of the time only by the fact that the perpetrators were incomprehensible aliens. But he does not let you rely on the comforting myth that it would take an alien to perpetrate these atrocities, as perhaps the book's worst scene, in terms of sheer grueling terror and pain, is the sequence in which six million people attempt to evacuate London on no notice, with no overall organization, no plans, and the train as the most modern form of transportation. The Martians are miles away from that, literally. The only thing Wells spares you is the actual numbers of the death toll... but you can get an informed idea.

And, just in case you happen to believe that people (as opposed to aliens) are too good at heart for this sort of warfare, this novel is also a savage theological takedown*, in which the idea of humanity as the center of a cosmos created by a benevolent God is repeatedly stomped on by the sheer plausibility of the nightmare, the cold hard logistics of enemy approach + insanely destructive new bombing technology = frantic evacuation and a military rout. The priests and churchmen in War of the Worlds generally go insane**; their philosophical framework has left them ill-equipped to handle the new reality. Wells is displaying humanity as a species of animal, no more nor less privileged existentially than other sorts of animal, who may be treated by a sufficiently technological other animal in the way that humans often treat ants. He explicitly uses ants as the comparison.

This is where I noticed something fascinating. War of the Worlds has the most peculiar version of protagonist-centered morality that I have ever encountered: only the protagonist and his nearest and dearest are allowed to perform moral actions that are not shown in aggregate.

Everyone else either does good as a faceless mass, or neutral-to-evil at close proximity. The military, as a force, is allowed to act against the Martians, which is seen by definition as moral, but they are at a distance from the novel's viewpoint such that they don't emerge as people while they are fighting-- we meet an occasional refugee from a destroyed division, but we don't see people giving orders, taking orders, firing weapons. When the ramship Thunder Child attacks two Martians at close range in order to save shipping in the Channel evacuation-- a sequence distressingly like Dunkirk, only in the opposite direction and sixty years early-- it's one of the few acts of heroism and selflessness in the novel that actually works, and it's the ship personified who takes the action. Here's the middle of the fight:

"She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard."***

Notice how there are no humans, individual or otherwise, even mentioned here. And this is the high point of the book as far as moral action taken, a direct self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Individual people range from the curate who hears the narrator calling for water "for hours" and doesn't bring him any to the men whom the narrator's brother finds in the process of robbing two ladies and has to fight off at gunpoint. Even most mob action is inimical, including things like the looting of shops and the literal trampling underfoot of the weak.

The narrator and his brother, however, mostly behave as one would hope to behave in a catastrophe. They are constantly picking up strays, helping total strangers pack to evacuate, fighting off muggers, attempting to assist the trampled, sharing their provisions with others, etc.. They are the only people in the book who do this sort of thing-- every other individual (except a couple of the strays, who are there to be rescued and get in the way) is out for themselves and can, at very best, be bought with cash on the barrel at a high price.

Now, it's not that the narrator and his brother are saints. They're fully developed, three-dimensional, relatively decent people. The brother participates in the looting of a bike shop, refuses water to a dying man for fear of putting his own people in danger, and fails to rescue anyone from the relentless trample. The narrator may well kill a man to save his own life, and certainly aids and abets the murder if he does not strike the final blow (it's impossible to find out exactly when the man dies or what specifically killed him).

The odd thing is that nobody else has any of their virtues. No one else is picking up strays; no one who isn't under military orders to do it is knocking on doors to begin the evacuation; no one is giving away food and water; no one except the military is attempting to place themselves between those they love and danger. In short, there is none of the kind of everyday, tiny, sometimes futile heroism that the twentieth century has shown us is almost impossible to beat out of humans entirely.

Now, I think this is intentional, as part of Wells's argument: the Martians have broken the human social order as if it were an anthill, and none of the ants has any idea what to do anymore. It's part of the demystification of humanity's place in the cosmos and the insistence on our nature as intelligent animals.

However, I think it skews the thought experiment in two ways: firstly, the narrator (and the only other POV character, the brother) have to be decent enough that we as readers are willing to read a book from their perspectives, and in 1898 that was harder than it is now. "Probably murdered somebody who wasn't a villain or an enemy combatant, and is never punished for it in any way except by vague remorse" is a pretty radical stance for a first-person narrator in an English novel of that period, and Wells has to talk us round into considering this a sympathetic or at least justifiable stance by having the narrator be in most other ways a flat-out hero. I don't think this does too much damage to his argument, as the resemblance of the narrator to other hero-types of the period makes Wells's more radical premises easier to communicate than they would otherwise be. It's not the presence of altruism in the narrator that is the major way the experiment is skewed.

It's the absence of altruism in others, as shown by the work of Rebecca Solnit, the memoirs of Primo Levi, the oral histories of the camp survivors of several cultures: one reason The War of the Worlds is so very upsetting is that its events are more unmitigatedly depressing than the same circumstances would be in real life. One of the wisest men of the twentieth century, Fred Rogers, said that in tough situations you should look for the helpers (and somewhere elsenet I saw the corollary, which I think Mr. Rogers considered implicit but which could use unpacking anyway, that if you cannot find them, the helpers had better be you). In The War of the Worlds there are no helpers at all, except what little the narrator and his brother can manage. We have actual science now about the way people form communities in catastrophe; we have innumerable anecdotes from the worst places and times in the world about those who in small ways, quietly, do what they can for others with what they have. It's not that Wells was wrong about us being animals, about trying to knock us off the pedestal that insists that everything was made for humanity and we are the only important beings. It's that while we are a social animal, we are a social animal on the micro-level as well as on the macro, and we have now seen that the micro-level does not have to be limited to immediate biological family, because the bonds of catastrophe can cause, and in fact seem to produce, some amount, tiny though it may be, of genuinely altruistic behavior.

When I happened to say to [personal profile] nineweaving that I was in the middle of a Wells re/read, she promptly replied with a couplet from a comic verse she had memorized as a child: "H. G. Wells / Creates new hells."

Which is true. His Martian invasion, the twentieth century through a glass darkly, is right up there on the list of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, not because of the Martians, but because none of the humans are outright villains. Some of them are insane, and some are annoying, and many are behaving in ways unconducive to long-term survival, and all of them are terrified; but you believe in them not only as individuals but as a plausible set of people for the narrator to run into in the middle of a war. It's only after thinking about it for quite a while afterwards that I noticed how neatly Wells had removed the capacity for altruism from his secondary characters. The Martians are frightening and cool and interesting (and clearly described as being drawn by H. R. Giger, which has not made it into any of the adaptations I've seen), but I think one reason this particular nightmare has lasted so long and clung so thoroughly in the back of our heads is that it would take recreating these terrible catastrophes in almost every particular to prove him wrong about the essentials of human nature and the ways people would behave in these circumstances. That's part of the book's appalling genius.

The thing is, though-- we did.

And he is.



* albeit not as much of one as Moreau, which is saying something

** that classical nineteenth-century insanity in which they rant and rave and chew the furniture, i.e. nothing you can find in the DSM, and therefore I just use 'insane' as I am not sure there is a less aggravating descriptor for this particular literary trope

*** Via Project Gutenberg's HTML copy
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Firstly, it takes very little discussion of regulations for my eyes to glaze over. Secondly, and far less constructively, if someone proposes a system that relies on genres like science fiction and fantasy being distinct rather than overlapping sets, I will start thinking about the worthy works that live in the overlap.
galacticjourney: (Default)
[personal profile] galacticjourney
[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Silverwolf

July isn't quite over yet, and already I feel overwhelmed by all that's been going on in the world:

Two new nations, Rwanda and Burundi, have been created from the Belgian territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Similarly, France has recognized the independence of its former colony Algeria.



Despite protests, the United States continues to test atomic weapons. The USA also detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space, hundreds of miles above a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. The explosion created a spectacular light show visible from Hawaii, more than seven hundred miles away. It also disrupted electronics in the island state. An underground nuclear explosion created a gigantic crater in the Nevada desert and may have exposed millions of people to radioactive fallout.



AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we'll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell's Soup.



The Washington Post published an article revealing how Doctor Frances Oldham Kelsey, a medical officer for the Food and Drug Administration, kept thalidomide, a drug now known to cause severe birth defects, off the market in the United States.

Even popular music seems to be going through radical changes lately. Early in the month the charts were dominated by David Rose's raucous jazz instrumental The Stripper. It would be difficult to think of a less similar work than Bobby Vinton's sentimental ballad Roses are Red (My Love), which has replaced it as Number One.



It seems appropriate that the latest issue of Fantastic offers no less than nine stories, one long and eight short, to go along with these busy days:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

World Fantasy Award Nominees

Jul. 26th, 2017 03:11 pm
marthawells: (Miko)
[personal profile] marthawells
http://www.tor.com/2017/07/26/the-2017-world-fantasy-award-nominees-have-been-announced/

Congrats to all the nominees!

Novel

Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
Roadsouls, Betsy James (Aqueduct)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Claire North (Redhook; Orbit UK)
Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff (Harper)

Long Fiction

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
“Bloodybones,” Paul F. Olson (Whispered Echoes)
A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)

Short Fiction

“Das Steingeschöpf,” G.V. Anderson (Strange Horizons 12/12/16)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” Brooke Bolander (Uncanny 11-12/16)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron,” Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
“Little Widow,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare 9/16)
“The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me,” Rachael K. Jones (Clockwork Phoenix 5)

Anthology

Clockwork Phoenix 5, Mike Allen, ed. (Mythic Delirium)
Dreaming in the Dark, Jack Dann, ed. (PS Australia)
Children of Lovecraft, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Dark Horse)
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, Karen Joy Fowler & John Joseph Adams, eds. (Mariner)
The Starlit Wood, Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe, eds. (Saga)

Collection

Sharp Ends, Joe Abercrombie (Orbit US; Gollancz)
On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories, Tina Connolly (Fairwood)
A Natural History of Hell, Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer)
Vacui Magia, L.S. Johnson (Traversing Z Press)
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)

Artist

Greg Bridges
Julie Dillon
Paul Lewin
Jeffrey Alan Love
Victo Ngai

Special Award, Professional

L. Timmel Duchamp, for Aqueduct Press
C.C. Finlay, for editing F&SF
Michael Levy & Farah Mendelsohn, for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press)
Kelly Link, for contributions to the genre
Joe Monti, for contributions to the genre

Special Award, Non-Professional

Scott H. Andrews, for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Neile Graham, for fostering excellence in the genre through her role as Workshop Director, Clarion West
Malcom R. Phifer & Michael C. Phifer, for their publication The Fantasy Illustration Library, Volume Two: Gods and Goddesses (Michael Publishing)
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny
Brian White, for Fireside Fiction Company


The awards will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention, which this year is November 2-5 in San Antonio, TX. http://wfc2017.org/wfc2017/

Headliner guests are Tananarive Due, Karen Joy Fowler, Gregory Manchess, David Mitchell, Gordon Van Gelder TOASTMASTER: Martha Wells

Passing the hat

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:01 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My vet has an interesting receptionist and so what I was told would be a sixty dollar trip for their shots is in fact a two hundred dollar trip. This is all part of the seemingly futile effort to find them new homes. If people could donate towards the trip, that would be great.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I am reminded of the cover of a Joe Abercrombie novel where every time I took another look, I noticed yet another sword the character on the cover was carrying.
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Moonbreaker.

A novella by Heather Rose Jones, Three Nights at the Opera (2014), prequel to Daughter of Mystery.

There was indeed a new Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory, delivered to my Kobo well in time to beguile my journeyings. Very good.

Alex Hall, Glitterland (2013): m/m contemporary romance, which was an absolute page-turner and I will even give it a degree of pass on the phonetic rendering of Estuarine speech, on the grounds that this might be down to the first-person narrator's attempt to depict Difference.

Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (2016): I had a bit of a problem with the rather gender-stereotypical allocation of science vs magic, and also with the way that both of them, in particular Patricia, are shown as coming to their powers as a result of familial dysfunction and school bullying (are US high schools really quite so generally toxic as literature would have me believe?), which is not that dissimilar in its rather Spartan overtones to the ethos of the military school to which Laurence is briefly sent. But I read on.

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (2013) - there were parts where I thought this was a bit slow, and possibly about showing off the author's research, but then it all came together with all the threads meshing at the end.

On the go

The end is almost in sight with Prince of Tricksters. Also continuing with Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, as and when.

Up next

Well, I have lately had delivered to my Kobo Kate Elliott's Buried Heart (2017), conclusion (?) to the Court of Fives series. But I've also, finally, received Monica Ferris's cozy mystery, Knit Your Own Murder (2016), at last a) out in paperback and b) actually in the mailer received from the seller.

Catching Up

Jul. 26th, 2017 08:06 am
marthawells: (Default)
[personal profile] marthawells
I went on vacation last week, first actual vacation in a long time. Me, my husband, and two friends went to Galveston Island, which is about a three hour drive away and stayed on the east beach: https://marthawells.tumblr.com/post/163287314212/yesterday-we-got-back-from-three-days-in

We swam everyday, and stood on a sandbar over a hundred yards out in the water and looked at rainstorms out in the gulf. The water was warm in the afternoon, like a giant saltwater spa. We ate a lot of seafood and had margaritas and went out in the harbor in a little boat. It was awesome.

Then yesterday I had jury duty for traffic court, got picked, and everyone there got to tell a mean, angry, scary old white guy clearly used to controlling everything around him that yes, he did have to pay his fine just like everyone else. I don't even know how someone could be this confident in his belief that he can get away with anything, but watching him change his story and lie, and have the woman DA point out the body cam and dash cam video showing he was lying, and Judge Navarro being completely fair yet also bored and unimpressed, and effortlessly cutting off the guy's attempt to rant and swear on the stand. The Judge also made the DA skip over what was probably 20 minutes of video that didn't show anything except that the guy was a terrible person, but believe me, the jury already knew that.

I'm going to try to catch up on book rec posts, and I need to do another Raksura story for my Patreon this month. (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2458567)

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