kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
Was thinking I'd go with titles based on constellations*, which in turn have legends (in the story's world) that relate to a story's themes. So far I've got the following + the constellation's basic theme. Some of these have also already been referenced in drafts, though I was still solidifying what was where and the references/uses.

Short pondering behind the cut. )

I used to come up with names so much easier than I do now. I have no idea why it's gotten so hard.
kaigou: (2 using mainly spoons)
Went through a storm of book-reading: The Goblin Emporer, The Coffee Trader, The Thief/The Queen of Attolia/The King of Attolia/A Conspiracy of Kings, Whitefire Crossing, The Spirit Thief, Arcanum, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Lascar's Dagger.

To get a few out of the way: yes, I adored The Goblin Emperor. Maia is non-angsty (but damaged all the same), lonely, compassionate, and above all else, genuinely good. There were more than a few scenes that in a quiet, understated way, simply broke my heart. It's not a YA-style everything-amped-to-eleven. It's a quiet story; when complete, you realize there wasn't truly a bad guy in the classic fantasy sense, and the one main conflict hinged on building a bridge over a river, but somehow it all works despite that, or maybe because of that.

The one major complaint? I would've much preferred if the naming scheme had been introduced before the story, rather than after it; it was damn hard to keep track of who-was-who, and I say that as someone pretty well-versed in reading extensive historical treatises where names change and/or are fluid and most definitely are not in English. I just couldn't parse the pattern from the text, and a short intro note would've been helpful.

Many things I liked (Maia chiefly, of course), but especially how his world -- no matter how suffocating, as it consists entirely of the court -- is still immensely populated. The author is really skillful at giving you enough people in a scene to make it feel crowded, without the sense that you'll be quizzed later on these teeny details; what's important to remember gets emphasized in just enough way that it stands out even more. In terms of craft, that's a rare and valuable skill.

Behind the cut: Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Spirit Thief, The Thief/Queen of Attolia/King of Attolia/Conspiracy of Kings. )

Any way you look at it, minor quibbles are minor. I'd still recommend The Goblin Emperor and the four Thief books, unequivocally. The others, YMMV, and who knows, I may change my take if the stories pick up.

More in next part.
kaigou: have some tea with your round cake (3 tea and cake)
Over on Dribble of Ink, there's an essay that had me pondering the way we write fantasy, in the modern world. “Broader Fantasy Foundations Pt IV: The Tale of Genji, and Building the World of the Shining Prince”, in which Gladstone comments:
[Demonic possession and ghosts in Tale of Genji] are unexplained, but they’re not treated as explicitly supernatural within the narrative, since we’re talking about a time before Enlightenment nature-supernature distinctions arose. Ghosts and demons and gods are edge cases of Genji’s reality, but they’re not any less real than the people he encounters on a day to day basis.

[The] fantastical does not seem fantastical to locals. Genji’s reaction to a ghost, or to a demonic possession, is not the Lovecraftian narrator’s “THAT IS UNPOSSIBLE” followed by a prolonged paragraph on circles of firelight, mad dancing beyond the edges of reality, etc., so much as “HOLY SHIT, GHOST!” He—and the other people in his world—are afraid of ghosts because they are dangerous and terrifying, not because they represent a hole in a world system that does not incorporate them.
I didn't even need to add that emphasis; Gladstone did it already for me.

In a sidebar, Gladstone also notes:
Notably, the reaction to a hole in one’s world system varies widely even within the modern age. Folks who just live in the modern world system tend to have the Lovecraft reaction to the holes they discover; scientists, though—and philosophers—respond, or should respond, by examining the edges of the hole and trying to peer through. I can think of two great examples of this in modern fantasy: in Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky novels, the wizards of Tsarepeth are presented as scientists and scholars with a near-modern understanding of the spread of disease. When they discover a demon plague that spreads through miasma, they’re initially flummoxed—since they’ve long known miasma theory to be false. Facts force them to revise their theory, in proper fashion. The Myth of the Man-Mother in Pat Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear is another example, played for humor—hyper-rational Kvothe fails to convince a friend of his that men have any role in the conception of children, since his arguments all devolve to an appeal to authority. The best part about this: it’s entirely possible that pregnancy just works differently in the Four Corners universe—or works differently among different peoples there.
A day or so later, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) wrote The Emperor and the Scullery Boy: Quests and Coming-of-Age Stories, in which she remarked that
...there are female protagonists in fantasy who quest. Mary Brown’s The Unlikely Ones, to pick a random example, is as straightforward a plot coupon fantasy quest as you can ask for (and it still ends in marriage). But they’re swimming valiantly against an undertow, which is the great preponderance of young men who come of age in fantasy by questing. I’m thinking particularly of the trope of the Scullery Boy Who Would Be King, and I can reel off examples by the cartload, from Lloyd Alexander’s Taran to Robert Jordan’s Rand Al’Thor. (Scullery Girls Who Would Be Queen are so rare as to be nearly nonexistent.) Fairy tales, too, are full of these young men, scullery boys or woodcutters’ youngest sons or vagrants, and there’s even a version of the motif in The Lord of the Rings: although Aragorn is not a child, his path through the trilogy is very distinctly from undervalued outsider to King of Gondor. All of them are the protagonists of bildungsromans, of quests, and the pattern they trace inexorably has shaped and continues to shape the way we think about fantasy as a genre and what we think it can do.

I don’t want to argue against bildungsromans in fantasy—far from it. I don’t want to argue against quests, or even against scullery boys. But I want to argue for awareness of the patterns that we have inherited—the grooves in the record of the genre, if you don’t mind a pun—and for awareness that patterns are all that they are. There’s no reason that scullery boys have to turn out to be kings. There’s no reason that women’s bildungsromans have to end in marriage. There’s no reason that fantasy novels have to be quests. It’s just the pattern, and it’s always easier to follow the pattern than to disrupt it.
Both essays are (obviously) worth reading, but that single line -- "Scullery Girls Who Would Be Queen are so rare as to be nearly nonexistent" -- started me thinking. There must be at least one out there, somewhere. Isn't there?

Hello? Hello? Don't tell me those are crickets I'm hearing.
kaigou: please hold. all muses are busy, but your inspiration is important to us. (3 all muses are busy)
"No one else came to serve us, and I didn't even see any sign of someone listening from the corridor," Nakayari said. "Why did you test the staff, then?"

"Oh, the staff certainly understood enough," Tsiu said. "Little grandmother taught me that people will always find something to talk about. Since I didn't want people talking about who we'd met for tea, or wondering why, then I needed to give them something of greater interest."

"That you might buy a tea house?"

"That'd I'd buy it for you," Tsiu corrected. "It's the kind of thing my mother would've done." And did, a few times, which was why Tsiu hadn't led Nakayari -- and the trailing Ozolekh and his wife -- to the more popular tea hall at the other end of the financial street. "Also, that you were less than enthused about the idea."

"I'd hardly know what to do with such a place," Nakayari muttered. "I don't even know how to make the tea you have here. It comes in little bricks. What do I do with that?"

"Steep it." Tsiu considered several other things to say, and settled for honesty. "You're from Nasoyunukona. You may be more subtle than most, with your short-sword under your robe instead of over it, but the reputation of your fellow countrymen precedes you. The last thing anyone would expect you to want, or care about, would be some tea hall. It's not a Nasoyunukona kind of business."

Nakayari looked mystified. "Then what is?"

"War." Tsiu looked down the street to the financial hall, where Sozu and Sindhu waited, trailed by Kini and the under-consorts. "Business is complete, I see. Let's see if anyone wants to eat now, before we head back to the palace."
kaigou: Skeptical Mike is skeptical. (1 skeptical mike)
Followup post for [personal profile] whatistigerbalm, but anyone else interested, here's the entire sad list. Maybe a quarter of these are available on the web; the rest are from Jstor. Check your local city library. You might have a free Jstor account. If not, and you're as whacked as I am about research, I have the pdfs. I can email zipped version. Just don't ask for all of them because that's just lazy, and besides, there's 895 of them. (and these don't include images and other non-pdf formats).

THE LIST, OMFG, IT'S A LIST. )
kaigou: (1 olivia is not impressed)
For those unfamiliar, the culture I've been writing about is one with five genders. The first four are male or female gender-types; the fifth gender is neither all-male nor all-female. The neutral pronoun is used for agender, all-gender, and children until puberty. The awkwardness rests in the fact that I'm contrasting one language -- that lacks a neutral -- with another language that has a neutral... and all of it's written in English, which (duh) lacks an official/widespread neutral. Ugh. Not sure how it reads.



"Afakh wants to end the consort-alliance," Tsiu said, in quiet Nasoyunukona-yen, layered with a Ujira accent. "Afakh's talked this over plenty with Afakh's Second Brother. That's Ozolekh," Tsiu added. Nakayari wondered if Tsiu intended to make it harder for Ozolekh to understand; the man's head was up, eyes sharp, the look of a man who understood at least some of what was being said. "Afakh is third-soul, and wants to enter the temple." Before Nakayari or Kini could reply, Tsiu straightened up and switched to Heichunha. "Thoughts?"

Sindhu brought her hands to her waist, then dropped them to her lap again. "We can't, Tsiu-jhayu," she murmured. "The consort agreement has been sealed---" The rest of what she said got lost, too many unfamiliar words. Tsiu flicked the end of his fan, glancing Nakayari's way. Sindhu nodded, turned to Nakayari, and held out her hand. With a too-ticklish fingertip, she sketched the words she'd just spoken on Nakayari's palm.

"It's a breach of contract," Nakayari told Kini.

"You'll need to translate better than that," Kini retorted, under her breath.

Read more... )
kaigou: If I were my real size, your cow here would die of fright. (2 if I were my real size)
Let's set aside the fact that I really want to kill my team-at-work right now, and think about more cheerful things! ...which means setting aside the fact that killing my team would make me VERY cheerful. OMG it's only the second day of the year and already I'm pondering bloodshed.

Well. Anyway.

I remember reading Hunt for Red October back in college or whenever, and what seemed like so many intricate details. I do recall that this added to the veracity or the realism of the story, but I don't recall if the details really ever became pertinent. I mean, some of them did, like how radar worked (and why the Red October could slip past), and how nuclear subs worked (thus helping to explain why the sub could/would be evacuated). Not sure about the rest, or maybe those other details were meant as red herrings: talk about keeping the resolution a surprise. If you're drowning in red herrings, how the hell do you know which is gonna matter?

As relates to me, specifically, I've been reading all kinds of awesome stuff over the past few months. Much of it would never show up in a story, or at least no more than in passing: who really cares about the monetary systems and coin debasement and other economic missteps, let alone what/how centralized banking works and why it's so important in the development of modern capitalism -- but omg this stuff is just so fascinating.

In case you missed the tumblr reblog, yes, I'm a dork.

This is just mostly the craft question, where when I come across in-depth details about something (regardless of the story or genre) I find myself stepping back. Not in a bad way, but in a "I need to back up to see the whole picture here" way, and I mean that in a craft sense, not a reader-can't-cope sense. I like looking at how someone else tackled that all-important issue of the infodump, especially when I know (or can trust) that this info is still very, very important.

I really feel like that's an art, in its own right.
kaigou: Ed & Ling bumpfist. (2 word)
I decided I really wanted to see Pacific Rim (again), and the local bookstore had it, so Friday night I rewatched. (Yay!) Then on Saturday I rewatched, this time with the director's commentary. There are people who think Godzilla is cool, and people who like mecha, and then there's the level of geekery from del Toro: names, names, little trivia about the origins of Godzilla (and the makings of), and the various mecha series (no shout-outs to Eva, but certainly plenty of discussion about Mazinger). If I was in any doubt about the man's geek cred, I am in doubt no longer.

Much of what he had to say -- while really fascinating in terms of the additional visual layers of the story, like the color-coding -- was cool but not really pertinent to verbal/on-page storytelling. And he also had me totes nodding along when he complained about CGI tending to make things look ungrounded, as in, no actual weight/substance. (His emphasis on the fight scenes being in rain and water were to offset that groundlessness; by seeing the water splashing around, and things flying through the air and cars hopping as the kaiju walks, it gives your brain the message that this CGI thing is on the same ground as everything else you see.)

Other things he had to say just made me go AHA. In no particular order... )
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
Last week Aliette de Bodard posted A Few Thoughts on Other Cultures and Diversity in SFF over at tor.com. It's been open on my rss reader since, as I've re-read and contemplated. Among her many good pieces of advice, she had this bit to say:

I have lost count of how many narratives on China featured ... over-formality between members of the same family (because everyone knows that Chinese is a formal language! Guess what. Most communications within the family are brutally simple, because the respect is already implicit in the relationship itself); use of broken English (because all immigrants/foreigners speak bad English!)...

Between trying to learn new work-stuff as fast as I can (with go-live date looming large and only just now behind me, yay), and doing lots more research on economics, monetary systems, the beginnings of international trade, the transition from debt-bondage to outright slavery, and so on... I've been letting the next book(s) simmer. The story's taking mental shape, but I keep coming back to this point from de Bodard.

I've posted before about how English-language authors will represent the speakers of another language. Unlike Ludlum (see link), I have read authors who use broken-English to indicate when a character is speaking an unfamiliar/unlearned language. That doesn't bother me, so long as the character speaks fluently in their own language (albeit translated into English as well, for the sake of the book). The tl;dr of Ludlum is that he didn't do this; his non-white characters speak in broken English even when they're supposedly speaking their native tongue.

Thus, my preliminary hypothesis: do not have 'broken speaking' for any characters speaking their native tongue. Broken speaking should only indicate when someone is speaking an unfamiliar or new language (and, as the character learns, the broken-ness should slowly fade). Okay. Onward with more thinky thoughts about language and othering. )
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (3 love the stars)
Currently writing a scene in which the pivotal/cultural religion of the story's world takes center stage. This is rather odd for me, and I'm wondering if it is for anyone else.

For the most part, I'm an apatheist. For me, I don't disbelieve a god, nor believe; I just don't care. I live my life according to ethics and principles (not morals), and try to do good in this lifetime with no hope nor care for any after-life rewards. If there are, fine; if not, fine. Which really amounts to: I don't like ritual, I don't like organized religion, I don't care much for massive displays of faith/belief, or the trappings of either. I kind of look at all of it... not with a jaundiced eye so much as a disinterested one. Some people require ritual, especially of a social nature. I'm not one of them.

No surprise then that the religion I've devised for my central culture is a relatively ritual-free religion. It has a lot in common with Shinto, in that very few elements are public (no weekly sunday get-together), most of it's not just personal but also private/solitary. But for the story, it's also crucial that this religion have an obligatory aspect, as well. Certain people are considered automatically priests, and it's not always within the person's say. It's somewhat like the old European tradition that the youngest son always entered religious orders -- there wasn't much choice to the role. It was pretty much set from birth, fated.

Which, seeing how I'm rather lukewarm about ritual, it wouldn't be a surprise that obligatory ritual gets my goat even faster. Yet here I am, doing a scene in which a culture explains and justifies its obligatory ritual. And for the story's purposes, it's not right for me to subtly imply via the narrative that this is a wrong thing; to be true to the story, this must be seen as a right [for that religion and its adherents] thing.

It'd be very easy to write a story in which religion (any religion) gets its comeuppance, or gets dissed or shown to be wrong in some way. I've seen that, too, when some religions -- usually ones written as seriously-close analogues to existing/real religions -- are portrayed by authors who don't believe in that religion. It feels like a failure of empathy on the author's part, because they'd rather demonize the non-Christian (or non-Pagan, or non-Western, or non-Eastern) religion than see it from the other side. (For the record, I hate those stories even more, oddly. I don't like any religion demonized, even if that sounds strange given my intro.)

It actually feels harder to write -- believably -- characters who really do cherish, and respect, and feel obligated to fulfill, a set of religious precepts. It's like I can't quite see ever being so deep-down in it that I couldn't understand how one could not be, or believe, such-and-such. Like people I knew in college who tried desperately to convert me (since apparently Episcopalian doesn't really 'count' as A True Believer) -- they were absolutely flabbergasted, even genuinely hurt -- that I couldn't seem to see how So Very Important the issue of "what you believe" really was. To them, yes, but to them, their belief was an all-encompassing thing and thus I, as someone whom they otherwise felt something in common with or whatever, must therefore also have the same something inside me that would call me to belief just as strongly as it called them. If that makes sense. (It did in my head.)

That's really hard for me to write. I can't write strong-faith characters believably. (I could say fanatic, but with the caveat that my personal attitude kind of skews the grading curve; I'm so far below "casual religion" that someone who does church once a week and sometimes on Wednesday night get-togethers is practically a fanatic in comparison.) I have an even harder time writing someone trying to justify their fanaticism, which on a good day might just be Very Strong Belief.

Anyone else deal with this in stories, or read a work where you get the idea the author's dealing with it? Or the opposite -- an author with Strong Beliefs struggling to write non-believer characters? Any tips, ideas, something to help me make sure I'm not dissing characters who in all other ways deserve to be non-demonized and treated respectfully?
kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
Recently I read a post about writing a relationship between an ace (asexual) and a heterosexual. One of the points made was that asexuality wasn't really defined/specified as a way of being until relatively recently in history; previously an asexual woman would've been raised to a) not even think of sex because Good Girls Don't and b) to expect that at some point, she'd find The One and then it would all just happen like everyone says. So asexuality could easily have been buried under the social assumptions, especially for women.

I mention that because the topic has been bubbling in my head since the early plotting stage of my current story, and now I'm at the point where the character (to whom this all applies) is on the page. She's not POV for other reasons (and not because I don't want to get into her head, just to make that clear), but I've slowly solidified my certainty that she's definitely asexual. I'm less sure that she's aromantic, but that's mostly because my impression is that "aromantic" means "neutral/lukewarm about falling in love" though I'm not sure I have that right. She does have immense capability to love, and would very much like a loving relationship (what others might call an abiding, deep, platonic friendship), and is probably quite affectionate with close friends. She's not standoffish in that sense, and she's about as far from "socially inept" as you can get. She also very, very much wants to be a mother, and would probably be an amazing, nurturing, instructive mother for whom her children are the central point of her life.

A few more notes about the character, general outline. Am I on the right track, or am I unwittingly writing a stereotype? )

(also, screening comments since this is a public post. if you're okay with your reply being public, just let me know.)
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
This evening I ended up reading a long essay (originally a speech) which is currently the center of a shitstorm in Britain, wherein a renowned female author appears to criticize the Duchess of... whatever Kate Middleton's the duchess of. Read the whole thing here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies

It's really a well-written and thought-provoking speech. A few parts jumped out at me:

ruminations on writing/understanding royalty when I haven't the faintest RL experience or much more than a vague clue. )
kaigou: It's dangerous to go alone, Alphonse says, and holds out a cat: here, take this. (2 dangerous to go alone)
I know there's some of you out there, so if you have any ideas:

I've got a character who was poisoned. Think a milder, survivable form of strychnine (I think that's the one I mean), where the poison freezes the muscles up. He got a small dose, but it was still close, and as a result his heart's going to take awhile to recover from getting stomped like that. The analogue I've been using is open heart surgery, which apparently does a fair bit of heart-stomping. So I've had the character gradually work his way back to some form of moving about, following the advice given post-surgery to heart patients: walk a bit, then rest, walk a bit more, rest, work your way up to walking up a flight of stairs, lots of rest, etc.

However, the story takes place in the equivalent of the 16th century, so well before any of our fancy modern medicines. Doesn't mean there's no medicine, just that the reasoning might be off (even if the end results work), like thinking aspirin works because of humours, or whatever.

Anyway, so I've got a bit where the character has exerted himself too much, and from what I could tell of the warnings to post-surgery patients, this is why patients often take blood-thinning medicine, to make it easier on the heart. Extrapolating from that, seems like the heart would tire out, can't pump but the body's demanding it, and suddenly you have lack of enough blood, ergo, passing out.

Here's where it might get tricky: the medical person's logic is that a drunk person bleeds twice as much as a sober person from the same-sized wound, so alcohol must make blood run faster and/or be thinner. If blood is normally thick, and the heart is weak, then thinner blood would be easier for the heart. Thus, alcohol is the make-do medicine for someone coming to after dizzy spell, whose heart continues to beat too fast.

In discussions with one of my beta-folks, the point was made that alcohol also raises blood pressure. I know it's a sedative (calm down the heart?), and I thought I found something that mentioned it's also a kind of blood-thinner, so would those positives outweigh the blood-pressure increase? Or would the addition of two shots' worth of alcohol make no substantive difference, or would it actually just kill the character outright?

Anyone? even wild guesses, if there aren't any doctors in the house. tia!
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 what I do)
Like I ever follow that rule.

1) Applying for various things online. You want a lesson in how NOT to design a form? Apply online. You'll see every damn example possible of The Worst Way To Design A Form, aka, Utter Unusability. Ohmygawd, it seriously burnssssss ussss, it doess.

2) Anyway, applying online, and it's common now to include a link to social profile. FB, Linkedin, whatever. Fine. Not so keen on the forms that not only want you to attach resume and cover letter... but also a head shot? I'm not applying to be a goddamn runway model here. But the phrasing sure makes it sound like if I don't include it, I'm gonna get penalized. (And even if they don't mean to penalize, I bet there's an unconscious penalty all the same.)

3) Job description that says, "we have a great sense of humor, but don't work here if you're easily offended". I'm not easily offended, I just find racism, sexism, and homophobia offensive. If you're lampshading the potential for a new hire to be offended, you've got bigger problems than whether I know all the languages you want. Next!

4) Watching the 2011 Journey to the West, despite the mediocre subtitles that are timed to PAL and require almost constant tweaking with VLC's subtitle synchronizer. Whew, no wonder CP was a little taken aback the first time we watched Saiyuki.

5) There is a certain irony that I'm watching JttW on my right-hand screen, and for the entirety of episode 9, the left-hand screen had a shot of Sanzo. I'd just started ep10, and the wallpaper changed... to Son Goku.

6) If Hakkai in Saiyuki made people froth at the mouth for being so different in the English dub, because he's just not like that, whew. The difference between Engdub-Hakkai and Japdub-Hakkai is nothing compared to the difference between Sanzo and Sanzang. The more I watch, the more I'm like a) I think I liked Sanzo better, and b) so that's why CP went from taken aback to jaw-dropping when the gun came out.

7) Not that I mind Sanzang. He is kind of growing on me, but I did enjoy the first six or seven episodes the most, when it was All About Monkey.

8) I can't help but feel -- no idea why, just do -- that it's almost like Monkey's a completely different story that somehow got shoehorned into the historical story of Tripitaka. And then the storytellers had to figure out how to make it work. Just a strange kind of tension. Dunno.

9) Still a little in shock that I finished two books in three months. Maybe in future the secret is to spend six months ahead of time daydreaming the entire story from start to finish. I didn't have the "and then something happens" lurch at the high point this time, but knew exactly where the story was going and just had to write it. Every story before this, I've left that third-quarter "and then something happens" and then I get there and have no idea how to proceed (or have a glaring plothole that can't be duct-taped shut for love or money).

10) I wrote a small plugin for forms. Yay me! And then Github crashed, which has given me plenty of time to rethink the value of posting my small plugin. Ah, here comes the second-guessing.

11) I can't decide whether I should edit book 1 & book 2 and then start book 3, or do book 3 and then go back and edit all three in a streak. Not to mention I haven't even a clue what kind of logline to do for each, and haven't even tried to write teasers.

12) I have realized that I don't care whether or not there's a market for these three stories. Maybe no one wants to read a fantasy about a young transgender character making hir way through the world, finding love, conquering evil, and overcoming hardship to become happy. It's possible there's just not a market for that, but I tried to pay attention to the market on everything I'd written before now, and that got me nowhere. Screw it. I'll just write what I want, and when I'm done, I'll move on. I'm not quitting my day job for this, after all.

[ps: I look folks off the story-filter if they hadn't replied in a while, rather than keep spamming, especially those of you who I know are really swamped right now. I've exported to one master doc that I can output as pdf. PM me if you want it.]
kaigou: Happy typing on mac. (1 Hyperbole and a half)
I'm not dead, just been focused on a major project (went live yesterday, whee), and in the meantime, realized that I couldn't exactly frame an argument between characters over the best (oceanic) route to take if I didn't actually know the timeframes it'd take to get from one place to another. And then I realized that I didn't even know if the between-island route I'd drawn was even possible. I mean, there's the straits of Bosporus (the inspiration for the route) but it's also an insane strait with a 90' turn in the middle, and I'm writing the age of sail.

I ended up calling my best friend's husband, who's been sailing since he was only yay-tall, did time in the navy, and went on to do lots with tall-masted ships. I'd been trying to research ships, but most of the stuff out there seems to assume you already have a clue. (Shrouds? stays? sheeves? euphroes? what the hell?) That was an hour's chat on Sunday and my head is still reeling.

Not the least of which is getting over the not-so-mild terror at the sheer thought of ever being on a freaking flight control of an aircraft carrier -- not exactly at water-line, here -- and having waves so big they're crashing INTO the flight control windows. HELLO.

As if that wasn't enough, he then described going through Hell Gate (a stretch before Long Island Sound where two rivers and the ocean and a few other rivers all meet in one place and you end up with eddies, whirlpools, horrible mixed-up currents and let's not forget the submerged rocks). I had unintentionally mapped out basically a mix pretty much identical to Hell Gate's setup, but I've also been through a similar one, too, in Sydney. The conflux of ocean tides and the multiple river-mouths in Sydney harbor create a wacky spot in the middle where all the currents meet, and even the massive Staten-Island-sized ferry we were on got tossed about like a cork. The ship had several minutes of serious rapid tilt (about 45' in one direction, and then 45' in the opposite direction and then back again in a heartbeat). K commented that if you're ever going to get seasick, you'll definitely do it going through Hell Gate or similar. Since I didn't even feel queasy on that ferry, I felt a little better about it, but I won't lie and say I wasn't absolutely petrified all the same.

I don't know why I keep ending up writing about sailors, when the very notion of being over water where I can't see the bottom puts a fear greater into me than just about anything else I can name.
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (3 something incredible)
An intriguing, somewhat ambivalent, essay by a [male] Harvard professor: "My Life as a Girl".

Worth reading: Advertising: the Real Reason Women Wear Provocative Clothes.

A short essay from Guy Gavriel Kay, "Home and Away", about why he writes historical fantasy and not historical fiction.

Last, an excerpt from Mike's Review of Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace, about fantasy versus science fiction.
I was struck [by] how much nostalgia is coin of the realm [in fantasy]. Not just in the return to tropes of feudal society, a fetishized love of the baroque hierarchies of bloodline and class systems, or the reliance on tropes of wizardry, swordplay, medieval ordnance, etc.... ...Fantasy novels romanticize the past. But note the definite article there--"the" Past, as a concept, an Idea/l--which is separated from, even utterly disavowing, history. Sure, characters go on and on about who did what in which battle, or how so and so came from so and so's bloodline, but such historicizing is not about causes, or the way different factors alter historical outcomes. Instead, it's all destiny, Quest, fate, blood. There is a fixity to what happened, and thus--I'd argue--to what will happen. I'm being vague, so let me trace a counterpoint.

Science fiction, on the other hand... romanticizes the future, sure, but it does so to reveal and engage an historical consciousness. (H/t to Frederic Jameson...) Whatever future is outlined, the genre conventions are to untangle and examine the conditions which led to this new future--changes in tech, or species interactions, or.... you name it--the future is extrapolated extravagantly to reveal how such conditions (environment, biology, commerce, technology) alter culture and society.

In fantasy, the tropes of Identity, Family, Character are echoed in what happens. But in science fiction, History has the upperhand, and changes/alters identities, families, character.

The comments are worth reading. I may be giving the wrong impression with the quote, but Mike doesn't seem to be positing a theory or an explanation so much as thinking out loud. Not really something to argue with, that is, so much as to use as a jumping-off point for own thoughts.

I've been pondering the tropes he outlined, and thinking of how they (most often) show up. One would be the use of prophecy in a story, especially when the prophecy is tied to a bloodline. (A child of this family or that heritage, with such-and-such a destiny identified often early in life, if not at birth.) I seem to recall debates somewhere over whether Dune is science fiction or fantasy, and that like Star Wars it's really a fantasy masquerading as a space opera. Given that Dune does pivot on the notion of whats-his-face fulfilling a longstanding prophecy, I guess that would be a fantasy trope. I can't think of any full-on SF stories with heritage-based prophecies being a pivotal point, but it's not like I've read all the SF out there.

Thoughts?
kaigou: please hold. all muses are busy, but your inspiration is important to us. (3 all muses are busy)
Sometimes it's a little odd to analyze other people's stories, and also get feedback from the author at the same time. Evidence A and B being some point I made for Diana Francis once and her response was basically, "hunh." Even over the phone it was kind of clear she was trying to figure out how I'd come up with that one, whatever it was. Which is to say, I think sometimes it's what a reader sees (whether reading into, or just picking up on little details that tip the nuance one way or another), and sometimes it's just the writer being focused on this plot-point and that character arc. Or: in the process of writing, the author sees the trees and doesn't realize until the end -- or until a beta points it out -- that the forest is not high altitude evergreen after all but somehow ended up being a semi-tropical rainforest.

It occurred to me today, out of nowhere, that while my current wip has an additional (if somewhat casual) theme of a matriarchal-blend in a patriarchal world, there's another genderflip going on that I'd completely missed. Main character has two potential spouses (polygamous society). In the MC's marriage to one of them, the one who proposes is the woman (editor: more like demands, really). For the MC's second marriage, the male potential consort arranges himself as part of a political transaction, which takes all of it out of his control, and in the end is effectively given as a male-consort to the MC. (I should note that since the second is a political transaction, it's not within the MC's control, either, but that's just a side-point.)

I had been thinking along class-lines, not gender lines. The female consort is from the farming class, and historically it seems that since the lower classes didn't have a lot of money or land, there was little basis for making marriage into a business transaction. When your dowry is going to be new shoes and maybe a picture for the family altar, or the bride price consists of a half a leg of cow (if even that much for either), then there's just not reason for anyone to get all worked up about arranging the marriage as an alliance between two dynasties. Over and over I've read historical commentary about otherwise widely-disparate cultures where the lower classes did do the whole love-match thing, because love (or at least a general like) was the only currency the participants really had. For that matter, lower classes tended to marry later, and without a lot of hoopla, and even in societies with emphasis on arranging (for middle class and above), the lower classes didn't have, or need, or could afford, such busy-ness.

So it made sense to me that if the female-consort is from a lower class background, she'd have grown up expecting marriage to be basically a, "hey, let's me and you live together." As long as the families don't hate each other, and the two parties agree, then that's about the extent of it.

Meanwhile, women in upper-class have less freedom -- being valuable assets used in transactional politics, like marriage alliances -- so the upper-class consort had to be male if he were to participate in the story at all. (Along these lines, I also realized belatedly that there's only one woman of rank from the patriarchal society who even gets named, let alone has any role to speak of; all the rest of the female characters are lower-class, thus not shut up in the house to sit around looking pretty all day.) And that means marriage becomes transactional, so it's not a huge stretch, culturally, for him to assume that marriage between his own elite family and someone else's family will be based on business/political alliance.

Anyway, that just struck me, that I'd unexpectedly reversed the usual gender-based order of things. It's the woman who takes the traditionally-(western)masculine approach of being active and doing the proposing; it's the man who sets himself up as a commodity to be bartered for and purchased, unseen by the groom.

Hunh.

guuhhhhhh

26 Sep 2012 10:08 pm
kaigou: (2 start drinking heavily)
The hardest part in a complex plot is unravelling it at just the right speed. Too slow, and it'll require characters to make too much of a leap of intuition to figure it out; too fast, and the characters are suddenly stupid for not figuring it out already. I say nothing of you readers who are so damn quick with this stuff you had it already by the second page.
kaigou: And now I, chaos butterfly, shall flap my wings and destroy the world! (2 chaos butterfly)
I'm going to keep writing, but before I dig back into the current wip, I've been contemplating the treatment of intersexed characters in fantasy/alt-history (setting aside strict SF where we get into advanced tech that allows for gender-switching, surgical changes, and various other jazz not applicable to my wip and thus kind of outside my focus right now). First of all, there do seem to be a growing number (if still very, very tiny overall, but more than twenty years ago) of transgender and crossdressing characters, though it's much harder to find self-identified intersexed characters.

By "crossdressing" I mean the plot device whererin our hero/ine must dress/hide via clothes (or, in at least one case, via magic) as the opposite sex, in order to achieve some goal or escape some evil. (Incidentally, all the crossdressing I can think of are female-to-male, not the other way around, but it's not like I've read everything.) However, in 99% of that kind, so far, that I've read (excepting one lesbian historical fantasy work wherein the lead simply preferred to dress/act along masculine gender lines, but made no attempt to hide or lie about being a woman), the cross-dressing character is quick to return to original gender roles as soon as the evil is passed. Or alternately, as soon as the character's decloaked and forced to find a way forward despite the handicap of appearing-as-original-gender.

And in most cases, 'transgender' doesn't get used as a phrase in fantasy, probably because it's a very modern, relatively recent, notion, so its use does feel somewhat anachronistic. But authors with some sensitivity do seem to be somewhat good at signaling in many other ways that a character -- if moved to our day and age -- would effectively consider hieself 'transgender'.

So far I've only been able to find two alt-history/fantasy works with intersexed main characters, and... I'm a little bothered by something. )
kaigou: life would be easier if I had the source code. (3 source code)
Per yet another dinner discussion combined with the need to produce some displayable code for upcoming interviews, I decided it was time for yet another insightful and elegant solution to yet another non-existent problem.

Lo, I have created a conlang word generator. Except it doesn't simply spew randomized letters at you, because that wouldn't be elegant at all, would it. No, as befitting my status as a nerd of the first order and a geek of the second, this word generator requires that you enter actual rules for your language.

(As in, whether a word can start with a vowel or a consonant, and the phonetic patterns of syllables, and what vowels can be doubled and whether a word can end with a single vowel or a doubled one, or maybe doubled vowels only occur in the middle of a word and doubled consonants only ever occur in the last syllable.)

Go forth and have fun, if you're easily linguistically amused. Do let me know if you run into problems, though, since I've only tested a little, and not nearly as obsessively as I hear you're supposed to. Or something.

Enjoy!

whois

kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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