the_gneech: (Liberty)
I found these very interesting and think they nail the issue right on the head, and I'm leaving them here for others who might be interested as well. I'm also disabling comments because beyond spreading the word of their existence, I don't particularly want to talk about them.

Hypocricy [sic] and "SJW." - Elf M. Sternberg "SJW" isn't sarcastic; it's merely mocking. It doesn't matter whether the target is engaged in mere performative allyship or has actually gotten the beat-down for asserting the human worth of others; the speaker means to use it as an epithet. People who use "SJW" won't allow themselves to be questioned.

What ‘SJW’ really means If it were sarcasm, the scorn would be directed at the “SJWs” for being only so-called “SJWs” — for posing as SJWs while actually failing to be the true, genuine article, the steadfast advocates for social justice that we all agree we all ought to strive to be. But there is no such shared framework. And that is not the target toward which the scorn here is directed. What is being scorned, rather, is the very idea and standards of that framework — the idea that “social justice” is, in fact, a Good Thing. Their attempted mockery of “SJWs” is an attempt to mock the very idea of social justice itself.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Yesterday and today I read Brian Weiss's book, Many Lives, Many Masters, which is basically a history of how he got involved in the field of past life/reincarnation study. It was interesting, but didn't really give me a lot of insights I hadn't already come to.

This afternoon I tried to do a regression meditation, only to be thwarted by needy cats and a severe attack of grumpiness, the kind of "zero to enraged" anger that afflicted my dad every time he cooked dinner and that comes to me when I really, really need a nap.

So I punted on that session until nap and dinner had been acquired. When we came home from dinner, I tried again to go through the meditation session. This time was more successful, but it was still a fairly rough one.

Visualizing a healing color barely worked at all, although I did manage to get a tactile sensation like being under warm running water, such as in a shower. Calling up a childhood memory brought up a girl I'd had a sort of proto-relationship with around the ages of 9-10, and a specific memory of being with her on the Metro riding downtown for a visit to the Smithsonian. In many ways, this girl was much like [livejournal.com profile] lythandra, almost suspiciously so– right down to being a Star Wars and roleplaying geek named Laurie.

When Dr. Weiss asked what the significance of the memory was, I had an easy answer: the specific memory was one of the first times I realized we had a strong connection and very close friendship. As for why it was important, well, I eventually destroyed that relationship with an act of extreme pettiness that I never really understood the reason for myself (unless it's some bit of karmic residue from previous incarnations), and I have always felt very guilty about it. I imagine Laurie W. is still out there, somewhere, and I have occasionally thought about trying to look her up and apologize for being such an ass, but I can't think of any way to go about it that wouldn't just be a giant awkward mess.

From there we went on to the in utero memory, and when prompted to explore for feelings, I was overcome with a wave of profound but unfocused sadness, which I identified as actually being "psychic residue" so to speak from my mother. According to my sister, my mom used to suffer from acute depression, and if she was in the midst of that while carrying me, it would make a lot of sense that I simply inherited it. When the time came to re-experience birth, I did get a physical sensation compatible with being upside down and/or on my back, followed by a feeling as if I was being suspended in mid-air by my shoulders and chest.

I had a difficult time coming up with any imagery for a garden or door to a past life, other than getting a very brief glimpse of a teenage girl with long, very straight hair. But once "through" the door I got a fairly strong image of some kind of a sauna or hot spring, with a wooden slat floor that had a hole in the middle for some kind of heated rock and a lot of moisture underneath. There was a middle-aged man in 1950s style glasses, with a towel wrapped around his waist in the sauna, and I eventually identified him as being Japanese.

The images shifted into a very cartoony mode at this point, and I think my mind was starting to mix images from Avatar: The Last Airbender in, specifically the guy pictured here, for reasons that make sense only to my subconscious. My conscious mind broke in here to argue that Avatar's Earth Kingdom was more like Han Dynasty China than 1950s Japan, and the whole thread of my thoughts began to unravel.

When Dr. Weiss prompted me to move forward to the end of that life, I remember that there was a definite scene with some kind of significance, but it was very fleeting and I have lost it in between the time it came to me, and the time I got to my keyboard to write about it.

At that point, the meditation came to an end, and I was "back," feeling vaguely frustrated, vaguely ashamed of 10-year-old me's behavior, and vaguely sad. I am now simply trying to process, learn from it, and let go. I may do a bit of gratitude meditation before going to bed, to try to bring my mood up a bit before I sleep.

Three Good Things For Today


  1. Payday! Finally. :)

  2. Red Lobster, to celebrate [livejournal.com profile] lythandra and my anniversary (which is actually Saturday)

  3. Chatted a bit (via DMs) with fantasy author J.M. Frey, who seems like a very nice person

  4. BONUS COOL THING: [livejournal.com profile] sirfox texted me pics of his halloween costume, which is cool :)


Three Goals for Tomorrow


  1. Write up my recent realization on why I haven't been doing any art lately

  2. Get to the end of my book's second draft

  3. Have some downtime


-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)
Meditation session was quiet and mostly uneventful. Had to open my eyes periodically because I kept feeling like I was going to drift off to sleep, even after having 9+ hours of sleep the night before. After the meditation, spent the entire day being hungry and tired no matter what I ate or how many times I went back for more nap. Not sure what that's about.

Yesterday read Old Souls by Tom Shroder on my counselor's recommendation. Interesting, but didn't really tell me much I hadn't encountered before (except for putting just how awful India can be into concrete terms). It did have a few interesting quotes I wanted to make a note of:

"I wanted to ask you," I said. "At your lecture, that one question about your 'message'? Your answer about doctors considering reincarnation as an alternative possibility for the cause of birth defects seemed so– I don't know– small. We're talking about reincarnation, after all. Compared to that, diagnosing birth defects seems kind of a minor point, doesn't it?"

I think I expected him to see my point immediately, confess that he was just trying to avoid the question. Instead, with real feeling, he defended his answer. "Parents whose children are born with deformities suffer considerable distress not knowing what caused them, maybe believing they themselves did something that caused them. Being able to tell them that something entirely beyond their control may be at fault could be a great comfort."

Then pausing, he settled back and looked at me. He knew what I meant.

"In general, I tend not to claim too much for the spiritual benefits of proving reincarnation," he said. "When I first went to India, I met with a swami there, a member of a monastic order. I told him about my work and how I thought it would be important if reincarnation could be proven, because it may help people to lead more moral lives if they knew they would come back after death. There was a long silence, a terrible silence, and finally he said, 'Well, that's very good, but here, reincarnation is a fact, and we have just as many scoundrels and thieves as you do in the West.' I'm afraid that rather deflated my missionary zeal."


...

"That's the paradox," Stevenson said. "In the West people say, 'Why are you spending money to study reincarnation when we know it's impossible?' In the East they say, 'Why are you spending money to study reincarnation when we know it's a fact?'"


...

Tucker asked me if I had read the skeptical criticisms of Stevenson's research. I told him that I had, and was unimpressed by most of them.

"Of all the arguments," I said, "the one that still seems to me to carry the most weight is the fact that Alzheimer's patients lose every aspect of their personality– their memories, their abilities, their temperaments. And it all disintegrates in direct correspondence to the physical deterioration of their brains. The question is, if partial destruction of the brain destroys all the aspects of a person that might be reincarnated, how can we imagine that anything can survive total destruction of the brain?"

"There's a standard response," Tucker replied. "And I think it's a good one: It's like a radio. If you smash the radio, it's not going to be playing any music. But that doesn't mean the radio waves have disappeared. It just means there's nothing to receive them.

"The skeptics would respond, 'Where does the radio signal come from?' You might as well ask, 'What happens inside a black hole? What came before the Big Bang?'"

I ran into Tucker one other time before I left town. We had another long talk, at the end of which he expressed a frustration that I had long suspected Stevenson felt as well.

"I wish we could move on to attempting to understand the mechanisms behind these cases," he said, "Instead of constantly trying to establish this as a legitimate phenomenon."

"The problem is," I said, "if you start talking about how the soul migrates before you know what a soul is and before people accept that that's what your cases prove, you just look silly."

He nodded with a weary look. This was not the first time that that thought had occurred to him.


-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)

Because I have a terrible sense of timing, I spent August writing a novel. (Alas, no NaNoWriMo bragging rights for me this year!) After being consumed by the muse for a month and a week, I wrote the last sentence of the first draft yesterday, and did the mental equivalent of flopping over in exhaustion.


In a day or two, I shall attack the next project on the stack, which will be either to finish off a few more commissions or to draw Dungeons & Denizens, not sure which yet. But before I do that, I’m going to read a mother-hugging book.


Mere words cannot describe how important books were in my life once upon a time. My mother was a librarian until I was five or six, and never lost the temperament even when she left the job. As such our family hoarded books the way some families hoard cats, Beanie Babies, or collectible holiday glasses from fast food restaurants. Since the advent of the internet, however, books and I have somewhat drifted apart. As in, I still have more books than average and going to the bookstore is still my favorite recreational activity… but I don’t always have one in my pocket and pull it out whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, and I don’t have a room full of bookshelves stacked three deep any more.


I regret this state of things; going from someone who read two books a month to someone who reads two books a year has left me feeling out of sorts and given me the gnawing fear that my brain may be atrophying from disuse. But the reason I don’t read any more is because I tend to work myself to exhaustion, then not feel like I have the “time” to read. Generally once I start a book, I have a hard time putting it down until it’s finished, and if I try to read in small chunks over time, I lose the thread and get bored. In short, if I can’t read a book all at once, I have a hard time reading it at all.


But reading, and reading a lot, is fundamental to being a good novelist. You have to read in your genre of choice, so you know what’s going on and what’s “been done,” and you have to read outside your genre so you don’t become myopic or stale, and you have to read nonfiction to learn what the world is actually like, not just to add to the verisimilitude of your stories, but also to know how to actually be a proper human being.


Recognizing this, I have decided to treat reading as a project. When I finish one project (such as the manuscript I just wrapped up), I will read a book, and then move on to the next project. Besides getting me back into reading, hopefully this will also act as a mental palate-cleanser. When I’ve been deeply involved in a big project, even once it’s “finished” I tend to spend the next few days or weeks wanting to tinker with it, like somebody coming back and saying “And another thing!” after the argument is long over. Sometimes these thoughts are improvements, but usually they’re just puttering, and occasionally they’re making Greedo shoot first, so on the whole I’m better off ignoring them. By picking up a book, wildly different from the last thing I worked on, I hope to make my brain shift gears more quickly.


So! Having written a potboiler adventure novel about steampunk air pirates, today I delve into Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James, a nonfiction social studies book. Once I finish my next project, which is likely to be furry art or comics either way, I’ll probably re-read Soulless by Gail Carriger, or one of the various short story anthologies that have been building up by my bedside for the past few years.


By making it an assignment for myself, I can make reading a thing I don’t feel like a slacker for doing during the day, and doing it in binges is totally doing it right. Win/win!


-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Mysterious Beard)

Three Good Things For Today


  1. Earned 29 (!) freakin' activity points today, between a 50-minute DailyBurn workout and a bunch of walking around shopping. Also ended the day 5 daily points under. Take that, fitness goals! ;)

  2. Found some scented candles to replace older ones that are almost used up, including a lemon-lime one from Yankee Candle that I like quite a bit. Also got a wall calendar and helped [livejournal.com profile] lythandra begin a new bangle bracelet which she seems very taken with.

  3. Read a good short story today, "Cat Pictures, Please".


Three Goals for Tomorrow


  1. Dailyburn again in the a.m.

  2. Select and order a button maker.

  3. Brainstorm some story ideas for upcoming anthologies.


Now, gonna go flop into bed and read until I go to sleep, 'cos I woke up early this morning. Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Archie do)
I am a fan of some problematic things. In fact, I'd go as far as to say many problematic things. When I stop to examine it, it's actually kind of daunting. Just for starters...

Robert E. Howard: Huge racism problems. Huge misogyny problems. Usually not hatred so much as ignorance and constant "othering," but occasionally quite nasty.

H.P. Lovecraft: Just plain rampant xenophobia, where "other" is defined as "anyone not a white male from the gentry of 1700s Britain". Including himself. In his defense, there are at least the glimmerings of recognition that these strange alien beasts are actually people too.

P.G. Wodehouse: A certain strain of "female of the species is more deadly than the male" misogyny, that seems to stem from a combination of putting women on a pedestal and then being disappointed when they turn out not to be saints. Not actually hateful, but tiresome in large doses. As for race? Well, there are no non-white people anywhere, although "savage natives" are occasionally referenced.

Rex Stout: Summed up best by Nero Wolfe's line, "Any woman who is not a fool is dangerous." On the other hand, the Wolfe stories are filled with independent women in control of their own fates, so it's hard to say how much is actual authorial misogyny and how much is Nero and Archie's in-character attitudes and general snarkiness. I'm told there are racism issues in books of his I have not read, but I have no firsthand knowledge on that score.

Tolkien: Orcs, an entire race born to evil. Men of the east and south (i.e., Turks, Indians, Africans) willing servants of the evil lord and being held back by the virtuous proto-Hellenic and proto-Britannic peoples. Women, when they appear, being unearthly, angelic creatures that you must strive to be worthy of and will never really be, although they might be nice enough to stoop down to your level. For a bit.

Star Trek: It tried its best and was revolutionary in its context, but it still had episodes with messages such as "she could have had as rewarding a life as any woman if she hadn't tried to be a captain" and a general theme of "we advanced peoples shouldn't interfere with those child-like natives." Not to mention institutional miniskirts and an awful speech by Yeoman Rand begging Kirk to look at her legs.


All of these things are formative works for me, which I've studied in varying amounts of depth, and I love them, warts and all. But I have to recognize the problem elements for what they are, and do my best to make sure they don't get carried forward in my own work.

Doin' my best. :) Open to suggestions.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mad Red)
The New Yorker: The Pay Is Too Damn Low (Hames Surowiecki)
Still, the reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have. Historically, low-wage work tended to be done either by the young or by women looking for part-time jobs to supplement family income. As the historian Bethany Moreton has shown, Walmart in its early days sought explicitly to hire underemployed married women. Fast-food workforces, meanwhile, were dominated by teen-agers. Now, though, plenty of family breadwinners are stuck in these jobs. That’s because, over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of creating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories today pay less than the median wage. That’s why, as a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown, low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families. Forty years ago, there was no expectation that fast-food or discount-retail jobs would provide a living wage, because these were not jobs that, in the main, adult heads of household did. Today, low-wage workers provide forty-six per cent of their family’s income.


In other words, we've got an entire nation trying to make a living on what was never intended to be a living wage. It's not now, nor has it ever been, that "the poor aren't working hard enough." They're knocking themselves out and not deriving any benefit from it.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Quidditch)
So I'm looking for works, ranging from novels to anime series, that have a particular vibe, and to pin a name onto the vibe in order to quickly get across what I have in mind.

Right now the best term I've got is "gaslamp fantasy," coined by Kaja Foglio to differentiate Girl Genius from steampunk. Here's a rough description of what I have in mind:

The genre is unapologetically fantasy, with magic and monsters and all that jazz, but it's got a more contemporary feel than the quasi-medieval default. It's a fantasy setting that's more comfortable with the whole industrial revolution thing, giving rise to airships, self-driving wagons, and Da Vinci-esque contraptions that work thanks to an arcane boost, as well as walking, talking clockworks and other flights of fancy.

How is this different from steampunk? Well it depends on your definition of steampunk. I tend to associate steampunk with quasi-historical (mostly-historical Earth, alternate-history Earth, Earth with the serial numbers shaved off) and probably mostly-scientific even if the science is sometimes made of rubber. Steampunk as a genre tends to also be darker and grimmer than I'm interested in-- hence the "punk" part.

The Eberron setting in D&D is a nice example of what I'm looking for: it has everburning streetlights instead of gas lamps, but it's got a lot of the more modern sensibility applied to a fantasy setting. If there was magic of the sort seen in many fantasy worlds, why would there be peasants in hovels and infantry marching against the dark lord? Instead there'd be cities made of floating towers, elementals fueling trains and goblin cab drivers! Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett's Discworld books play a lot with these ideas as well. Diagon Alley is not steampunk, but it's not Tolkien either.

Any thoughts, internet brain trust?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rainbow Dash Fightin')
Huh. I didn't realize how annoyed I was by the Irene Adler ep. of Sherlock until I wrote that Fictionlet.

In the original (as I recall it, anyway, it's been a long time), Irene Adler just flat out BEAT Holmes. No vagueness, no coy games, nothing. She had his number and she called it-- and her reasons for doing so were perfectly understandable. There was sure as hell no grinding her into the dirt, humiliating her, and then turning her into an emblem of women's oppression.

Dude. When a Victorian era story fundamentally respects a woman and your interpretation fundamentally tries to crush her under the heel of guyness? You're seriously doing it wrong.

Ugh.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Legolas silhouette)

Finally reading The Silmarillion through for the first time. I’ve tried to read it a few times but always gotten bogged down before, but somehow I’m finally ready for it. The Tolkien Professor has helped quite a bit, if nothing else just by helping me keep the threads in my mind.

So far, I have two observations:

1) Fëanor is a prick.

2) Man, Maedhros never gets a break, does he?

That’s all for now! More insightful commentary later as my readings of this deep and stirring work continue.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (LIGHTNING from my FINGERS!)
I'm looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox!

[livejournal.com profile] graveyardgreg interviewed [livejournal.com profile] gailcarriger for the current episode of The Short Story Geeks Podcast!

Turns out she's a Wodehouse fan. I must now therefore pull that copy of Soulless out of the "To Be Read Soon" pile and put it on the "Read Next!" pile instead. :) Looking forward to this!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)
So let me describe the flavor of fantasy I'm looking for, maybe you can suggest a good story/author/series along those lines.

First off, it's broad fantasy. It's got elves, dragons, wizards, etc.; it's fairly light, but it's not strictly parody. Preferably, it should have a city of some variety. Skyships or other quasi-modern trappings are okay, as long as they are magical in nature and not technological. NOTE: Not looking for steampunk, here! So no "Victoria's Royal Sorcerer Corps" or anything of that sort. Think more like Dungeons and Dragons, except I don't actually want D&D tie-in works, I want stand-alone things.

Oh, and of course, it has to actually be in print, or at least available as an ePub.

Whatcha got for me, internet brain trust?

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Short Story Geeks)

Episode five is up! We respond to listener e-mail, take on the subjects of authorial focus and what it actually means to “kill your darlings,” and check out some stories ranging from the faintly-silly to poetically sublime.

Unfortunately, there are some issues with the sound; I was trying out a new headset, and the results were not all I’d hoped for. I tried to even it out as much as I could, but even with Levelator the gain was just all over the place. Back to my old headset next time!

The good news is, the show is much shorter this week. ;)

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Short Story Geeks)
http://shortstorygeeks.com/2011/05/episode-three-the-shadow-over-manchester/

The Gneech interviews Paul of Cthulhu!

Buck Turner is in a city of cardboard boxes!

Graveyard Greg is an incomplete dullard!

Much fun was had by all. :) Come take a listen!

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Writing)

Something Missing: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

Martin, the peculiar hero of Something Missing, is a burglar by profession, but not just that. Martin is a master burglar, who robs the same house again and again over the course of years or decades and never gets caught because, and here is the brilliance of his scheme: he only steals things people won’t miss anyway. Six bars of soap in the linen closet? Make that five. An unopened bottle of drain cleaner under the kitchen sink for months? Just the thing. A single dishtowel gone missing? That was probably Martin’s work.

Martin’s is an orderly and meticulous mind: he carefully researches his “clients” to find just the right fit (dog-owners are out!), and plans his thefts over the course of many, many illicit trips into the house. By taking digital photos of the refrigerator, the pantry, the china cabinet, the silver drawer, the jewelry box, he works out over time what gets used and what doesn’t, what will be missed, and what won’t. The book opens with him stealing the second earring of a matched pair: he stole the first one (but only the one) six months previously so the owner would assume she’d lost it somewhere. After all, what thief would only steal a single earring, right? Once the second is allowed to languish without its twin in the bottom of the jewelry box and thus be forgotten, Martin can safely snag it and finally sell off the pair on eBay using his cover identity of a middle-aged shopaholic housewife who’s forever selling off “last year’s treasures.”

All of this long-term, intimate research of the people he refers to as his clientele has, over time, instilled in the lonely and repressed Martin a certain proprietary feeling towards them. When he stops burgling a household, say because they have a child (couples with children are unsuitable for various reasons, not the least of which is that it adds unpredictability into their lives), Martin feels like he’s losing a long-term friend. And what’s more, as time goes on, he finds himself becoming a sort of guardian angel; he starts by befriending a talkative parrot, but progresses into an anonymous and unknown sort-of-askew Mary Poppins who patches up domestic unhappiness and makes sure surprise parties go unspoiled. With few friends and even fewer family members of his own, he has become an unrequited adopter of the people he makes his living mooching from.

However, much to his dismay, the more he gets involved, the more his life goes off the rails. His chessmaster-like planning goes out the window as he starts reacting to crises and he finds himself hiding in closets, chased by (shudder!) dogs, and falling in love. And when he finds that one of his best clients is being stalked by someone with all of Martin’s skill but much more sinister intentions, everything in Martin’s life is turned upside down.

The Good

Something Missing is a breezy, enjoyable book, and Martin is both a very likeable and surprisingly relatable protagonist. Intelligent and introverted, Martin may be a shade anti-social but he’s not a sociopath. If anything, it’s his extreme sensitivity to the feelings of others that’s led him to his peculiar line of work. Not being versed on the ways of burglary myself, I don’t know how much of the equipment and techniques Martin employs are real, but they’re certainly convincing and well thought-out. And of course there’s a lot of suspense: once Martin starts varying from his pre-planned strategies and controlled situations, he keeps finding himself deeper and deeper in unfamiliar and dangerous territory which escalates every time. A chatty parrot who keeps calling him rude names seems like the least of Martin’s worries by the time he faces off against his malevolent counterpart. Themes of redemption and grace quietly underpin the story without making a fuss about themselves, making Martin’s very moving transformation over the course of the book both inevitable and desired.

The Bad

I can’t think of any real criticisms to this book. It does take a little time to get into the meat of the story: the first major “plot point” doesn’t really occur until roughly the 50% mark, but there is enough happening with setting the groundwork of Martin’s character, establishing and illustrating his techniques and patterns, and foreshadowing the events of later in the book that you never really feel like there’s nothing going on. Something Missing isn’t a Life-Changing Masterwork, perhaps, but it has not ambitions to be. It’s a fun, enjoyable read about an interesting protagonist, and considers that to be enough.

The Ugly

As I’ve been doing with so many books recently, I read this via the Kindle app on my iPad: and like everything I’ve read this way, there are the rare few spurious line breaks or superfluous hyphens. But there’s nothing wrong with the writing itself. Readers may find the conspicuous appearance of brand names for everything to be jarring: Stop And Shop, Liquid Plumbr, Rice-A-Roni. It’s a deliberate device the author uses to illustrate Martin’s character: Martin is very specific about every little detail, including the particular brand of any item he may come in contact with. But after a while it reads like product placements, particularly as most modern readers have been trained to hear about generic items rather than specific ones. It isn’t a real problem, but it does stick out and once you notice it you can’t stop seeing it every time it happens.

The Final Verdict

Something Missing is a fun book and I recommend it to anyone who is intelligent, introverted, or has inclinations towards benevolent larceny. It’s a fast read, but one that rewards paying attention to the details. If nothing else, it will make you a bit more aware of your home security…

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Writing)

There’s a lot to cover today! Starting at the top, I am looking with interest at the idea of doing a podcast on various fiction-related topics. Right now I’m trying to secure a pod-partner or two and work out the details, with an eye towards launching sometime this summer or fall. If there’s anything you’d be particularly interested in, or if you’d like to participate, let me know in the comments or via e-mail.

Next item: supernatural erotica, I freely admit, is not my cup of tea. However! If it is your cuppa, please check out The Arcane, by Mur Rathbun, an old pal of mine. I expect it’s quite lurid. ;)

Speaking of checking out fiction, thanks to Jim van Pelt I have recently found out about Every Day Fiction, a website that provides a daily short story via e-mail or RSS feed. Very cool!

And if you want something longer than the average short story, check out The Economics of Niche Programming on the Overthinking It blog. Ostensibly about why good TV shows die young, it also has some interesting points about “the long tail” and how companies that thrive on it (Amazon, Netflix) operate.

So why did BSG succeed when Firefly failed? Why is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia entering its seventh season when Arrested Development struggled for three? What’s the element that those successful shows had in common?

When blogging for OTI, I try to avoid talking about the economic factors that go into the production of art. Economics can seem simplistic — like a “just-so story” — or reductionist. Why does The Walking Dead spend so much time at the campsite? Because they had a limited budget and could only shoot on a few sets. Done! Hit “Publish” and kick back until next week. When all you have is a bachelor’s degree in economics, everything looks like a widget factory.

But when talking about the overall logic of why one show succeeds and another largely identical show fails, economics can’t be avoided. You have to talk about what the market looks like, who the biggest producers and consumers are, and how the incentives line up.

And finally, because it suits the day somehow, let’s have a bit of brilliance from XKCD:
Socrates could've saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd just brought a flashlight, tranquilizer gun, and a bunch of rescue harnesses.

Catcha later!

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Writing)

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books))

Is it police procedural? Is it alternate history? Is it zany surrealist fantasy? Is it literary fanwank? Is it some variety of steampunk? Is it time-travel weirdness? Is it tongue-in-cheek tall-tale? No. Or, well, yes, but not exclusively yes to any of these.

It is The Eyre Affair, the first novel of the “Thursday Next” series, by Jasper Fforde, and it is … well … hard to pin down. And like the book, this review will also be hard to pin down. Was it an entertaining romp? Was it an impressive literary achievement? Did it have fundamental problems? No. Or, well, yes, but not exclusively yes to any of these, either.

Where to begin? The year is 1985 (as opposed to 1984, presumably) and the place is an alternate-England which is still the most powerful nation in the world, has never known Winston Churchill, is in a cold war with the Republic of Wales, and in a hot war with the Empire of Russia over the Crimean peninsula. The protagonist, Thursday Next, is a literary detective, tasked with keeping original manuscripts safe from fanatic academics or would-be kidnappers and generally protecting the extremely-book-minded people of Britain from the scourge of literary crimes. Next is born of a remarkable family that includes her time-stopping rogue temporal cop father, and her uncle Mycroft who invented a pencil with a spell-checker and is working on a sarcasm early-warning device. When one of Mycroft’s inventions, a portal that enables you to literally step into or out of a book, is stolen by Acheron Hades (the third wickedest man in the world), Next must stop the kidnapping or assassination of literature’s most beloved characters, including Jane Eyre herself.

And this, mind you, is the bare-bones description of the plot. We won’t even go into the vampire hunt gone wrong, the black hole that opens up over the freeway and tears a hole in spacetime, or the running subplot about who actually authored Shakespeare’s plays.

The Good

Lest I be too ambiguous for my own good, let me state clearly: I very much enjoyed The Eyre Affair and if the description above sounds like the kind of thing you’d enjoy, I recommend it without hesitation. The characters are well-drawn and plot clips along at a good pace, and around every turn of the page there’s a new nifty bit to discover. This is a book that’s packed full of interesting ideas thrown at you in rapid succession, so you’ll never be bored. Thursday Next is a likable and believable protagonist, which is a key feature considering how many other things the book asks you to believe as well. The book is very thoroughly, almost achingly, postmodern … if there was such a thing as post-postmodern, this book would be it. Some might consider this a bug, but I consider it a feature, at least in this particular case. I don’t always want books going all Ferris Bueller on me, but if a book is going to, then I want it to do it as well as The Eyre Affair does.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the further away you get from Next, the less believable the characters come to be. Almost everyone in this book has a clever shtick, whether in the form of a joke name (recurring annoyance/semi-antagonist Jack Schitt, earnest but put-upon fellow cop Victor Analogy, and of course the villain himself Acheron Hades) or in the mere oddness of their existence (such as Felix7 and his replacement Felix8, who are simply the latest in a series of Hades’ henchmen to have the same face grafted on in memory of the original Felix). After a while it can become hard to keep thinking of these characters as actual characters, because they’re more like a series of funny ideas that have been given dialog.

This also makes motivations start to come off wobbly. Characters find themselves in love a lot here, except with all the usual steps (meeting, learning each others’ name, actually talking to each other for more than a sentence) all being handwaved into the backstory or just left offstage entirely; not just one but two romantic triangles are introduced and then dropped again like hot potatoes. The villains of the piece are just as sketchy: Hades is just born bad and likes it; Jack Schitt aims for the moral gray-zone but doesn’t ever really sound like he means it.

Finally, the sheer weirdness of the setting also undermines the book’s core premise: in a world as over-the-top as the book’s is, how could an essentially realistic work such as Jane Eyre even exist, without also being a reflection of the weird world it inhabits? In a setting where demonic arch-criminals walk through the walls and you occasionally find yourself jumping back in time six months by accident, why aren’t there jetpacks and dinosaurs running around in the works of Charlotte Bronë?

Still, none of these things kill the book by any means, they’re just things that struck me while I was reading. Keep in mind that I have a very analytical mind, and so I pick apart everything as I go. If you’re more inclined to just jump in to a book and ride it like a rollercoaster, these things probably won’t bug you at all.

The Ugly

Very little to say here; as befits a book about bibliophiles, the language is clear and crisp and even when things go all pear-shaped you can generally follow the thread. I read the Kindle edition and there were a few odd typos in the form of hyphens that didn’t need to be there or paragraph breaks erroneously shoved into a sentence, but nothing truly egregious. I will warn the reader that there are a few spots where the text gets even more meta than it already is, and so if you suddenly think you’re reading the most badly-proofread book ever, you aren’t. It’s working as intended.

Final Verdict

On the whole, I found The Eyre Affair to be a very readable, enjoyable tale of quirky adventure, and I plan to pick up the rest of the series forthwith. (In fact it was my scooping up the newest book, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, on a whim last week that led me to grabbing The Eyre Affair.) I’m eager to have a new series to follow, and this is certainly a promising start. I already handed my copy off to a friend who is a notorious Terry Pratchett fan, with confidence that he’ll get a kick out of it.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

the_gneech: (Archie do)
gneech_fursona_2011As weekends go, it was reasonably successful. Saturday was spent taking care of errands and/or shopping that has built up, particularly in refreshing the wardrobe for spring and making sure bills are paid. The main thing that could be pointed to as "productive" is the pic of this ridiculous mug you see here, done by request for the Confuzzled conbook.

Aside from a small amount of book work done, the other main things that happened over the weekend are that I've gotten halfway through The Eyre Affair, which is a highly peculiar book, and [livejournal.com profile] lythandra, [livejournal.com profile] sirfox, and I all went out to Ashburn to see Rango, which is a great little flick full of shout-outs to everything from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Raising Arizona to Chinatown to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I may have to see it again before I can talk about it coherently, as the movie is packed full of stuff. But I will say that what really sealed the movie in my personal "Great!" list was an epic moment involving bats and banjos which must be seen to be believed, but about which I can say no more without spoilers.

So now here we are looking down the barrel of a new week, with the transition to Daylight Savings Crime piled on top, as if that weren't enough. DST is joining forces with a small handful of internet troublemakers to try to make me bitey, but I am facing that as a challenge and determined not to let any of it bother me. Instead, I am channeling Puss In Boots and the Old Spice Guy alternatively as needed to remind myself to stay frosty and have fun with my life. So far it's working admirably, and I intend to keep it that way.

Hoping you're having a day with sufficient awesome, I am

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Mad Red)
I have a lot of stuff to do this weekend; so much that I expect I won't get to it all. However, one thing I absolutely want to make sure I do:

Read a book.

It's been entirely too long since I did that, and my brain always starts to go wonky after a while without a serious book-reading. (Not necessarily the reading of a serious book ... that's something else entirely.)

Right now the top contender seems to be The Eyre Affair. I hope it's good!

-The Gneech

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