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I'm eating Chinese take out at home, watching a Korean period drama about zombies with a glass of wine while my brownies cool on the counter under their layer of Valentine's Day chocolate ganache.
I summon a ride, go there, meet his fencing coach, he helps me hobble the Husbeast to the car and we're driven home. The very kind driver also helps me get Husbeast over the icy road, into the house, and he heaves himself bodily up to the third floor while I open doors and assist. Once in bed, with ice and water and painkillers, he's stable and fine and will be talking to a doctor in the morning. I do the dishes I was planning on leaving because there's nothing worse than being stuck at home when the house is filthy, and we agree to cancel our Valentine's Dinner out.
Because Husbeast can't walk, I do some set up for him for the day, but he's mostly fine.
I grab Chinese leftovers for lunch, head downstairs.
I pull my bike out, and do some minor maintenance I have put off for too long. Air in the tires, oil on the chain, and then wipe it clean. Ready to go!Loyal Steed is perfect, but the roads are covered in black ice and the ride is very, very slow picking our way around it. I have to pop into the car lane a lot in places where the bike lane is blocked or just looks unsafe. (Thank god for the separated bus lane in some places!) While traffic is slow, some drivers are not mindful of safe distances and it's much more stressful than usual.
I get to work, and head to the shower. I already know I'm going to be late, but hopefully not too late.
BUT. My Chinese takeout has leaked from its container into my tote bag. The sauce is dripping out onto the floor through the bag - a bunch of things are coated or soaked.
Fortunately, I never put my clothes in the same bag as my lunch! My work outfit is safe.
So, I dump everything out from the tote, and stick the empty bag under the shower nozzle. Soon, it's clean, but the shower smells of takeout while I take my shower. I dry off and start to get my clothes on.
BUT. My favorite bra has broken! The underwire is poking out of the seam, and it's going to be visible in this dress. Drat. I get dressed anyways, and head to my office.
At my cube, I hang my wet tote bag on a hook, grab my tiny emergency sewing kit, and realized, that the needles are lost.
BUT, I have my knitting kit, and that has a few sewing needles in it. I grab two and head to the bathroom. Dress off, bra in hand, I stitch up the channel for the underwire and the bra is fixed, for now. I sit down at my desk, and start to get some work done, an hour late.
So, what have we learned, children?
Okay, much is explained by this interview: The author does not in fact care about the stuff that's bugging the fuck out of me.
from Bigger on the Inside: Talking with Robert Jackson Bennett about City of Stairs
The book so far is pretty great - the main character is investigating a crime in a colonized city called Bulikov, semi based on (medieval? Imperial?) Russia, that has this really interesting history!
Bulikov used to be fundamentally constructed using some magical principles, including one that was fundamentally interwoven into its architecture and construction, so that when [historical, off-screen spoiler happened] the architecture of the medieval walled city of Bulikov was fundamentally broken and warped in a single instant.
Whole sections of the city snapped out of existence in The Blink, while other twisted and changed and started to overlap in unplanned ways. The city is characterized by hundred of sets of stairs that used to lead to buildings or paths that are just gone and now they just hang in the air, ominous and weird. In the intervening century or so, the city went from being the capital of an empire to being a completely screwed up backwater - there's very little trade, the climate got drastically colder and wetter, and the people who live there have resisted cooperating with their new ruling government so the infrastructure seems like it's very fucked. Very little has been done to make it a more livable place since the horrific disaster that befell it.
Now, this is all great and cool and makes sense! Interesting history and worldbuilding, totally fascinating stuff, really atmospheric and awesome - I'm honestly super into it.
What doesn't make is the cars.
The main character is driven everywhere in cars, and people drive in and get in and out of cars all the time. Cars are driven without commentary on the ride, the roads, the people driving them, who hires them, or the kind of vehicle it is. Again, I'm only six chapters in, maybe this gets fleshed out later, but for now, the cars are driving me up the walls.
Because cars in a medieval style walled city barely make sense if there has been a rich government pushing through funding for streets maintenance and repair on a regular basis for a century. Look at Europe - in older cities, that have had lots of money to rebuild and maintain roads, cars are still kind of poorly fitted into the structure of the really old parts of the city where the roads are narrow and twisty. I live in Boston, and cars just barely make sense here, where there's been a huge cultural push to make sure that there's always space for cars. The spacing of roads, buildings, intersections, all make for challenging conditions to drive in, and that's with basically constant attention to the roads and huge financial investment in their maintenance on a local and federal level.
If Bulikov's covered in staircases that go nowhere, never removed or maintained, aren't there a bunch of roads that similarly don't make any sense anymore? Roads that just end in weird places, or don't connect to any other roads at all, or end in cliffs or mountains where bridges or tunnels used to be? Or roads that are vastly wider in some places and narrow dramatically for no reason, so that you have to squeeze oddly down for no reason? Roads that connect with radically different historical paving methods, cobblestone here and asphalt over here?
How is this Bulikov navigable by car, if there are places where it's hardly navigable on foot due to the disruption caused by disaster and disrepair?
And the weather change would also make the existing roads awful! Roads constructed for a warm dry climate would not last over cold wet winters - one of the reason roads in Boston are so bad is that the freeze-thaw cycle of ice over each winter widens cracks and breaks thru the top layers into the substructure below. And that's with roads that were purpose built for cold hard winters - the remaining roads in Bulikov should be falling apart, even if they didn't poof out of existence all at once.
So, the answer to my feelings is, of course, that cars work because the author wants characters to travel and kind of didn't care about the roads and didn't actually invest a lot of time in figuring out if cars would work or not. Which is fine! Not all elements of a world need to be equally fleshed out - there needs to be space for story. Or, possibly, since I'm coming at this from the middle of the book, this is all fleshed out and there's some reason why cars are different or the roads are repaved, or something, and it's all explained.
But for now, every time I read a passage about how the character just gets into a car and then arrives someplace else, I want to tear my hair out and go, EXPLAIN.
Is this a thing for folks? Are there books out there you love that just have, like, ONE nitpicky little detail in the worldbuilding that feels off? Or that you love everything about it so much and the worldbuilding hiccups don't phase you?
I miss Tumblr
Not the current version of tumblr, which I can go and visit, which is like the children's exhibits at an art museum, with half the important but controversial people left out of the conversation and all the bits covered up by papal fig leaves
I miss the weirdness and the art and the random porn that also commented on character and stumbling into a three-month-long fight in a fandom I legit have never heard of that turned into a gif dance off and a watercolor porn fest at the same time.
It was weird, and now it’s gone, and I love dreamwidth, don’t get me wrong, it’s much much better at having conversations and community and I think it’s better at keeping people from being harassed, and maybe I’ll get into Pillowfort if enough people I like show up there, but. Man.
I miss tumblr.
I feel like this week has been devoid of good posts because it's been delightfully social and therefore my reading time has been limited.
Or, has it? I haven't read too much in the way of actual printed traditional books, but I have read or started to read some delightful works on AO3!
A Degree of Compatibility by astolat Fandoms:Transformers Animated (2007) Arranged Marriage
Author’s Summary: ”And what’s the price for a Decepticon leader’s help these days?" Optimus said. "Head of his captor on a pike?” The Councillors started falling over each other hurriedly protesting, no, no, of course not, how could Optimus think, never—and Megatron laughed over them all and said, “It’s not your head I want to mount. I have demanded you as my consort.”“Okay, well, that’s—unexpected,” Optimus said, blankly.
Why I Love This: This an arranged marriage fic that is also absolutely about finding out that you are 100000% down for what your arranged spouse is down for. This is absurd and wonderful and leans very hard into the idea that Optimus Prime is actually not just a Good Person TM opposing the evil forces of Megatron, but, like, an actual badass in a way that only Megatron has noticed. It’s got a lot of Optimus being utterly dense about his own wants and desires until he is suddenly very much not. Quick read, and I have never seen this movie and never will!
Have I gushed about You Could Make A Life ? Because it’s a kind of wonderful novel about falling in love with your teammate in the NHL, only to discover that, wow, he’s actually even more into than you are. And then becomes a story about being together, coming out, navigating a marriage when you’re the one hitched to a rising star, and negotiating a place for yourself anyways. I'm recc'ing it now because I have been reading a companion story WIP this week called Impaired Judgment (and other excuses), which just hit a major story turning point and its damn great.
You Could Make A Life started out as an original work that was posted on AO3, and while all the characters are original creations, it’s very much a loving and deeply critical nod to NHL hockey, and its fandom and fanfic. So it’s not going to have a recognizable Big Hockey Name With the Serial Numbers Scratched Off in it, but it’s definitely something that I got into because of hockey fandom. While also being a stand alone work! The novel’s publication came about because of crowdfunding that I supported and I still support the author (I think!).
The author is still writing and posting works in this broader NHL-inspired universe on AO3, and only takes down works as they get near to publication – a lot of them never will. And that’s perfectly fine. All of the series are worth reading on their own, there are lots of small character crossovers that are not gimmicky or even really noticeable unless you have read something else, and it’s just…. It’s really good gay hockey writing. Or ace hockey writing! Or polyamorous hockey writing! She's also a safe author to trust, mostly, with a WIP - she updates carefully and reasonably often. Because she's Canadian, she's a professional author based primarily on crowdfunding, which is amazing.*******
Real life update - I am going to talk to someone at the credit union today about getting preapproved for a home loan. This is coming faster than I expected, mostly due to the financial help of my husband's family. I had thought we'd be another ten yearrs getting together a down payment. I'm both really excited about the idea of having a place in the Greater Boston Area that's MINE, ALL MINE, and not moving again, and also deeply creeped out by the idea of having to sell a kidney for the mortgage. We shall see how things work out. It's all of a sudden rather intimidating to actually go and see how much money a bank would be willing to just... give us, on the promise that we'll pay it off later. That's terrifying.
So, over on Pillowfort, SakuraNoMiko had a great post about reading fic without being involved in the canon that I responded to, and I'm posting my response over here because I really enjoyed the process of thinking about it and would love more of people's thoughts!
Quick note: I have no idea how to format html beyond the basics, so there are parts of this that are formatting in keeping with the post on Pillowfort and I am leaving them for now. Let me know if it's showing up wonky for you!
It was a fairly light read, as compared to some other of his books, but given that it was already sort of a loving parody of Phantom of the Opera, I am completely fine with that. It was light and fluffy and made me laugh out loud more than once. I love the witches of Lancre and I found Nanny Ogg just the best damn thing. The b-plot about her novel was great.
Minor note: while Pratchett is not does not quite cross the line into fat shaming Agnes, he does repeatedly talk about how she's large and moving around takes time and it's not specifically mocking but it's not kind. Might not be for anyone who's feeling less than robustly confident about the value of large women. There is a good deal of nuance about how her weight causes people to make certain assumptions about her and how she works around or ignores those traits, but yeah, there's some stuff there.
It'd sure be a shame if that article got around by other means, wouldn't it? After all, Mayor O'Reilly would really prefer if you didn't read it.
Boosted from https://minoanmiss.dreamwidth.org/
Short Version: Oh, god, miniseries all the way.
Long Version: The 2005 film does have some great things to recommend it - Keira Knightly is awesome and certainly nothing to sneeze at. Judy Dench as Lady Catherine De Bourgh is finally an imposing figure, instead of just a self indulgent rich lady pissing and moaning about how people do things she doesn't like.
But the 2005 film simply doesn't have enough time to actually get into who Lizzie is - things happen at a breakneck pace, compared to the novel. There's almost no space for the characters to do the kind of careful, Austenish reflection on the people around them and the social implications of people's actions. The B plot of Jane and Bingley seems pretty shallow.
For example - the scene where Lizzie gets the letter from Jane that Lydia has run off with Wickham - shortened immensely. Instead of having a private moment with Darcy where they can both feel privately and deeply the impact of their mutual choice not to expose Wickham suddenly turning horribly against them, as in the novel and the 1995 miniseries, the 2005 adaptation merges that scene with Lizzie telling her aunt and uncle. So Lizzie and Darcy don't get their private moment together, where Lizzie imagines that Darcy is going to give up on a relationship with her forever with this news, and Darcy leaves to immediately go find Lydia and save the Bennets without telling Lizzie what he's going to do. That moment of horrible emotion and guilt and regret that they share is just sort of made weird and stilted because it's not private anymore - the Gardners are there watching the whole thing. It feels less like shared grief and more like just a recitation of "This is where the plot goes next, folks!"
In general, I feel like the film does a good job getting the stuffed into the film, so if you are familiar with the book, you can fill in the blanks without too much trouble. But it's not doing the book any favors, and it makes for a more trite and less interesting story. By the end of the film, I just kind of missed Lizzie Bennet.
I've been kind of proactive in updating my work computer set up to be actually kind of awesome for the kind of thing I want to do with it.
Basically, I spend a huge amount of time on the computer at work, and I had just accepted that the stuff I had there was what I had to have and had to deal with, and lately I'm not going to accept that.
SO, I got myself a trackball mouse ( https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/
In a significantly more self indulgent move, I found this compact mechanical keyboard that I'm actually typing on right now (at home! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01872MCIA) that will replace the kind of gummy and too-big work keyboard that I have been stuck with, and I am already really looking forward to using it. The keys on this one are just nice and clicky without being absurdly loud, and it makes me feel like I am using an actual piece of technology, as opposed to a piece of crap.
In unrelated news, I have been doing a slow watch of all of Star Trek The Original Series and, honestly, it's a damn great show. I'm still in the first season, so it has lots of chances to become a parody of itself, I guess, but actually, I really like the acting and the writing and even the cheapness of the sets has a certain kind of charm. It's also a version of Trek that is just so... young. It feels like everything is up in the air, that none of the big decisions have been made and the show is just having a blast making things up as they go. I only just watched Balance of Terror (aka, the episode where the Romulans are introduced) and it's just remarkably compelling TV. I'm kind of bewildered. I thought I would have to make a lot of excuses for it, and I really just don't.
Cooking was such a chore when I grew up - we hardly ever cooked fresh veggies and foods, and I never felt like I knew what I was doing.
It's been a long slow slog, acquiring the skill and experience and tools and ingredients, to get to the point where it's just easy. Where I could go to the store, grab some fish that haven't been filleted and chopped into bits, and just... bake them. Because I felt like it. And then have dinner and lunches for a couple of days, without it being a big deal.
Answer: NOPE HA NOW IT HURTS MORE.
But the whole gargling with salt like I'm following the advice of a witch from Lancre, that actually has worked.
Oh, that reminds me!
I'm reading Maskerade by Terry Pratchett and it's a freaking delight. I love the witches of Discworld books the most (Moist Von Lipwig is also pretty great, Sam Vimes is his own powerhouse, actually, wait, maybe I just love Terry Pratchett without exception...?)
Unrelatedly, I forgot my lunch and bought mackerel on rice from the lunch specials at a Japanese place near me and it was *delicious.* Precisely the kind of blue, oily, unrepentantly fishy fish that I adore that my mom would have found utterly gross when I was growing up.
Also, I made a tiny quiz in another post.
Knitting: the project to make my dad a sweater is still in limbo - tho I have found a really viable candidate! The Neighborly Cardigan is free online and is, as the name suggests, deeply nostalgic for Mr. Rogers. But I'm just not sure about it - I've only done top-down sweaters, and I'm suspicious about something I would have to knit in pieces for someone I don't see that much.
Reading: I have done so much glorious reading over this long weekend.
First, the non starter - I started reading Mr. Churchill's Secretary, the first in a series, but I'm wondering if I should move further down the series. This book's summary says it's got a lot of things I should love (historical setting, smart heroine, sneaky mysteries!) but I'm getting bogged down in the introductions of many, many side characters, and I think the stars are just not aligned for this book right now. It's got all the stuff I want, I think, but there's a lot of First Book stuff happening that I think would probably get smoothed out once the author gets her feet under her. It was recommended by a friend, so there's something here worth getting to, but it's just not suiting my current mood.
I have finished, at last, the truly excellent Spinning Silver, which has a really great ending! I took forever to read this and yet every time I picked it up again, it was enthralling - I have no idea why I couldn't commit to it. It's excellent and sneaky and has loads of characters with lots of opinions about responsibility and choices and honor and it all ties together really well - no spoilers, but man I love everyone in this novel.
I am currently reading Witchmark by CL Polk and oh, it's delightful. It's so weirdly English and full of gay drama and bicycles and social privilege and lies and gay gay gay Feelings and it's a delightful read. I am on Chapter 11 and I adore the main character, who is both careful and clever and always a bit scared and there's nothing for it except to read on, adoringly, and see how things go. I also love everyone in *this* novel.
Reading: I have finished A Conspiracy of Truths! Author Alexandra Rowland's first work was GREAT - if you love an unreliable narrator with an agenda and a fun point of view, this is a fantastic book for that. I'd put in the company of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner in terms of delightfully twisty characters telling you a story that they want you to hear that's not precisely lying, but not actually the whole truth, either. Queer friendly world with lots of women in power (and morally complex about it, too!) and a quick read, despite how long my slow ass took about getting there.
Knitting: I have promised my father a sweater! which is going to take a little work finding a pattern that he will entirely like and that I can do, but I have some ideas already about how to make it all work. His taste are kind of "chic Mr. Rogers". In the meanwhile, I am working on some socks, I have a cardigan for myself in the queue, and I am now really thinking about some fingerless gloves/ handwarmers bc it seems like the weather is a misery and touch screens are a part of my life.
astolat posted: SignalBoost bookmarklet
Okay, here is the little bookmarklet -- it's pretty limited, but it serves my own laziness, so I share it FWIW and if anyone has the time and wants to upgrade it, go for it and drop me a comment and I'll (ha ha) signal boost any new versions!
THIS IS BRILLIANT AND SO MUCH FASTER
Useless trivia about my recent life:
1. In-office flu test are a thing. I went to my doc and they had a flu test that took less than five minutes to do - will wonders never cease!
2. Reading Conspiracy of Truths and it's lovely and hilarious.
3. US pharmacies are utterly confusing and it's completely possible for an otherwise fluent non-native English speaker to be stymied by terms for symptoms or treatments. Bless my sweet dude for doing such a good job.
- My favorite distracting podcast, Be the Serpent, has gotten to an episode focusing on a book I have am in the middle of, and it is the rare book I think will be better unspoiled. So I have to pause my podcast binge and try and do some actual work with the tiny amount of focus I have.