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13th-Apr-2009 09:39 pm - Dreamwidth Invite Available [livejournal]
teal'c is intrigued
It's gone!

One (1) invite available to the first person who responds with their email address. Comments are screened. First come, first served. :) I will update this post once the invite is gone.


Dreamwidth is an ad-free, user-centric alternative to LJ that features many improvements or improvements-to-come (it's still in closed beta.) Currently, it's very easy to import your LJ, IJ, or JF entries into a Dreamwidth journal. By open beta, which starts April 30th, it will also be easy to import from or crosspost to most blogging platforms.

As an alternative to establishing a full (invite-only at this point) account, those interested can log-in and look around using OpenID.
27th-Mar-2008 11:31 am - The Complexity of Names [srs]
what you don't read
I don't really think this comment is worthy of an entire post, but since I wrote it in answer to this The Politics of Names thread before I realized that debunkingwhite is a closed community (you can watch, but can't join), I figure I'll stow it here.

This topic reminds me of Irish playwright Brian Friel's Translations, one of many works out there, fiction and non-, that address how colonial British re-naming schemes — among other tactics specifically aimed at destroying native languages — damage(d) the culture(s) of the colonized.

Personally, I find it respectful to use the names preferred by locals when "in Rome". In conversation with other (American) English speakers translating (or, rather, failing to translate) placenames tends to come off as pretentious at best, more often just plain confusing.

Re. Uluru vs. Ayers Rock: Uluru, of course! Just like I [don't] use the Native names for all the land features where I currently live. (And if I actually were to, do I use Karuk or Yurok or Hupa or...?)

I don't think it's inherently disrespectful to use generally-understood, non-indigenous placenames, but it's important to acknowledge that the name you use is but one of many, each with it's own history.
she owns you
Follow-up to my previous post.

So the filtering of certain top search interests has been reversed, as "announced" in the changelog. (Which is to say, not in any way that non-LJspecific-codemonkeys could tell.)

The only comment from staff — buried in a comment thread — is that "it was a mistake".

Oh, but before the interest filtering was stopped, the interest slash had been added to the filter, seemingly when guys was restored.

And than there's this interview with the SUP director of LJ (translation provided by russianswinga and via darkrosetiger) in which he has this to say about dissatisfied users:
They endlessly, during the entire existence of LJ promote lour initiatives, whose only purpose is to bring harm to LJ, its founders, their goal is to criticize, destablilize and ruin our reputation.
He also suggests that SUP has indeed been f*cking up all over the place [ahem, to paraphrase], but to correct their mistakes now would be to give in to the enemy

what you don't read
stewardess does a lot of work documenting the intriguing customer relations decisions of whoever owns Livejournal at the given moment. Her recent exploration of what terms SUP (current LJ owner) has decided to remove from the LJ interests search is most elucidating. By which I also mean, angering.

Sex, Boys, Guys*, Girls, Fanfiction, Yaoi, Hardcore, Porn, Bondage, Faeries, Pain, Depression, and Bisexuality

* "guys" is back in. Speculation ensues that it was only included because of a misspelling of "gays".

** Have been depressed and in pain. Completely at peace with consensual porn, bondage and/or yaoi. Boys are OK, I guess. ;)
what you don't read
Well this should be interesting: S. Andrew Swann is now a romance writer (found via his blog). I'm very fond of Swann's Hostile Takeover and Moreau trilogies. His other titles aren't my favourites, but one thing I've liked most about them is how little romance they contain. Swann has been in my "can be relied upon not to get smarmy" file since I first picked up Profiteer

Yes, it's true: I'm one of them. The Romance Haters.

Now, of course I haven't read enough of the genre to claim there aren't exceptions. But. I've never been able to more than tolerate any of the, oh, couple dozen I've read, even those that had strong SF or Fantasy elements. I... just don't seem to be wired for romance. No matter how terrific an SF movie is, you'll still find me rolling my eyes at the kissy-face scenes. — Sex, partnership, semi-violent flirting, I'm okay with; gazing into each other's eyes and experiencing moments? Not so much. — When rating books I've otherwise quite enjoyed, I find myself struggling not to dock half a star for a single mushy scene. (The struggle is because I think it's somewhere between unfair and irrational for me to do so.)

I admit all this with some trepidation, because I know a lot of smart women who enjoy the genre. And they are pissed off about all the condescension thrown their way for it. While I may not share their object of affection, as an SF&F junkie, how can I not understand what that's like?

I do see a few authors in the above-linked comment thread — wherein Smart Bitches, at Swann's request, suggest a reading list — that I would never have considered romance. (Naomi Novik?) And there are other authors I like that walk a fine line, see certain Tanya Huff or Lois McMaster Bujold titles. It makes me wonder if I'm being that reader of literature (sniff) that scoffs at all science fiction until she happens upon an instance that she likes, whereupon "it rises above" or "isn't really genre"?

Still, I can't help hoping that Swann's latest is only being labeled "paranormal romance" as a marketing strategy.
4th-Jan-2008 12:54 am - Read in 2007 [book, review]
teal'c is intrigued
I did a fairly good job keeping up with my (numerical) reading goals in 2007, considering illness and the dozen or so books that don't show here because I haven't finished them yet, but that were half-way or more done by Jan 1st. Alas, I did a rotten job of my other goal, writing accompanying reviews. Oh well. Here's a list, instead.

My Top Reads of 2007Collapse )

Some Simplified StatsCollapse )
what you don't read
Horror for 12 year old girls. That's not a slam, by the way, just a facet of this book that surprised me, especially as there was no indication of such in the cover art or blurbs. Still, most of the stories in this young adult horror anthology have young female protagonists. The few that prominently feature teenage boys tend to have a strong element of romance. This collection also veers to the young side of the young adult audience. Even when the characters are in their late teens, the tone is younger, more naive.

My reaction, as an adult reader - very much not the target audience - was pretty much, "Meh." Easily my favourite is a story about a very smart kid trapped in the American mental health system, Empire of Dirt by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (who I'm happy to say has improved quite a bit from her first novel, famously written when she was 13.) Other standouts are Scapegoat by Robin Wasserman (a girl fights brutal killers disguised as members of her community) and a very short and creepy offering by Joyce Carol Oates. I also enjoyed the fairly predictable but well-written period piece La Fleur de Nuit by P.D. Cacek.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)

666: The Number of the Beast edited by ???
2007, Point/Scholastic
15th-Sep-2007 05:15 pm - Darkland by Liz Williams [book, review]
An agent with a traumatic past encounters an exploitative ex-lover and clumsily hunts him down. Along the way there is a lot of sex and violence - for those interested - and a tremendous amount of navel gazing. The characters are frequently caught up in fugue states in which they inhabit common fantasy tropes, e.g., a mysterious tower inhabited by an evil "sorceress". Much of "Darkland" takes place on the planet of Mondhile, introduced in Williams' "Ghost Sister". The action visits two other planets, where we see how differing societal mores, (op)pressures, and expectations affect women's lives.

"Darkland" is a disappointing offering from a usually brilliant author. With a firm editor, this might have made a fine novella or even a short story. As a novel, it is slow, repetitive and unconvincing, overwhelmed by a heavy-handed feminist message. In that, the book reminds of me the unfortunate latter endeavours of Sherri Tepper, who has tossed story-telling in favour of delivering sermons on the evils of patriarchal society. (Note: I consider myself both a feminist and equal to the task of reading academic works should I feel in need of a women's studies lecture.)

You can imagine my disappointment when the ending made it very clear that a sequel was in the offing ("Bloodmind", already published in the UK). I will, of course, read book two because "Darkland" marks the very first time Liz Williams has disappointed me; I fiercely hope it will be the only time.

3 stars (out of 5)

Darkland by Liz Williams
2006, Tor (UK)
22nd-May-2007 05:40 pm - Sybil's Garage No. 4 [review, zine]
teal'c is intrigued
Sybil's Garage, a slim 8 1/2" by 7 1/4" magazine published by Senses Five Press, New Jersey, is dedicated to "Speculative Fiction, Poetry & Art". I received issue #4, normally priced at $5, as a review copy

Layout and Design: The magazine has a glossy, full-color cover and is printed on fine white paper with decent margins and text sized for ease of reading without being obnoxiously large. The illustrations - mostly public domain line-drawings from the 1800s - are cIean and given generous white-space. In other words, this is a decidedly more handsome effort than your typical SF periodical. Advertising is confined to a single, topical page at both front and back.

Content: When I first added up and averaged my rankings for the individual pieces, I was surprised to see the outcome: 3 stars (which should translate to, 'Overall, the collection is of average quality; nothing to write home about, either in anger or praise.') My gut impression was really more positive. Ah, but then I must note that I consistently rank poems lower than prose and it's hardly fair to knock a magazine that mentions poetry in the masthead for actually including a healthy sampling of on-theme poems. It's probably more significant that I, a poetry-disdaining philistine, quite liked J.C. Runolfson's "define your terms" love poem, The Answer Compounded and JoSelle Vanderhooft's Flesh Into Sand in which a sly, obsessive (female) landscape considers the sexy climber she has claimed as her own.

As for the stories, Sybil's Garage #4 had two offerings that really struck me. Pairings by John Bowker is the history of a marriage written in socks told in just over a page. I wanted to hear more from Catherine, a woman whose identity seems entirely tied up in being a wife until the day she finally finds a reason to act. I do wish the catalyst was something not quite so trite, but it's a small criticism. Means of Communication by Barbara Krasnoff is the only prose science fiction piece in an issue dominated by dark fantasy. The unnamed narrator is the sole human menial on a first-contact station otherwise staffed by "hero"-scientists and their robot assistants. As rehabilitation for an unspecified crime, her memory and personality have been altered, a change that only the condescending doctors seem to regard as an improvement. I want this story to continue. I want to see more of the "alien" lizards, understand more about the station's culture, one that values learning but seems to punish emotion, and I was absolutely ready to hear more from the narrator. In short, I loved this story and will be looking for more from Krasnoff. (A novel, perhaps?)

Other standouts include
- Seas of the World by Ekaterina Sedia, an icy vignette of two people whose only remaining connection is an absence.
- After the War by Leah Bobet: the boy goes willingly off to war; the man is forever haunted by it.
- Devin Poore's interview with Stephen H. Segal (He's the creative director for Wildside Press, not an action film star.) and
- Strangeness by Steve Rasnic Tem: What initially seems to be an ordinary lifeless marriage turns out to be an infestation of succubi, head-swallowing grins and other signs of a warped reality. Or maybe it's all in the mind of a housewife driven crazy by tedium.

My final rating? A solid four stars. (Recommended.)

cut for lengthy and occasionally redundant notesCollapse )
18th-May-2007 11:48 am - Being A Kid Sucks [book, nongenre, review]
what you don't read
Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen is the diary of a smart, needfully wary, 12-year-old homeless girl. Holly's life began to fall apart when her father died, but things really go to hell when her increasingly desperate mother turns to street drugs for comfort. Holly ends up in foster care and with her "bad attitude" working against her, she ends up in the dregs of the United States social care system.

A tragic story, right? Well, yes, but Van Draanen gives Holly her own agency, furthered by the decision to tell the story in journal form. Living on the street is quite realistically portrayed, which means Holly has to work at her survival. She's a smart kid, but not all her choices are good ones. During the course of this quick read, our heroine grows up quite a bit, guided by her own words and retrospection far more than by the lessons of adults. (Though, it was a teacher who cared that gave Holly her journal book in the first place.) My only strong criticism of Runaway is the ending is too nicely-wrapped-up for a book that, for the most part, tells it how it is. Still, I would recommend this book to both teens and adults.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga covers a more traditional subject: the coming of age of a boy who doesn't fit in. Fanboy is really into - you guessed it - comics. He's smart, he's a dweeb, and he just doesn't get sports and other manly pursuits. That puts him on the outs with most of his peers and with his stepfather who, as Fanboy tells it, mostly grunts and drinks beer. His mom is pregnant and doesn't have time for him, his real dad is distant in more ways than one, his buddy Cal is a part-time friend, at best, and Fanboy can't act out at school because his grades are his only ticket out of this hell. Kyra the goth girl - depressed, angry, weird - appears on the scene and turns everything around, including Fanboy's pubescent fantasies.

I found this title to be pretty shallow. Yeah, highschool is hell, friends are inconstant, our parents aren't the ones we'd choose to live with. So? AAoFaGG didn't give me anything more. I did enjoy some of the humor and some of the descriptions of suckitude (see below), but, even as a former-Goth Girl, and continuing Nerd, I just didn't care about most of Lyga's whiny characters. Startlingly, the popular and beautiful girl of Fanboy's dreams is believably written. This in stark contrast to Kyra, who only seems to exist in order to support to give Fanboy an opportunity to find himself.

For a better, funnier (non-fiction) look at being a highschool outcast, I recommend How I Learned to Snap: a small-town coming-out and coming-of-age story by Kirk Read.

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