prettyarbitrary: (Fuzzy Cthulhu)

Testing crosspost of a post with images, this time. This here's a digital illustration I did of Gerald Tarrant, from CS Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.
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Next day, and all is going well. She's up and around. They've gotten her disconnected from most of the tubes and wires, and today she sat up in a chair next to the bed for much of the day. Her back and chest hurt from the surgery, and since she's resistant to pain killers, she'll generally have to put up with it, but she says it's feeling a little better than yesterday. Sitting up helped, stretching muscles abused from the operation and shifting points of pressure around.

She ate a bit, but her stomach is queasy from anesthesia, lack of sleep, and a day of taking medicine on an empty tummy. Hopefully she'll feel better tomorrow. Also hopefully she'll get a good night's sleep. Hospitals aren't always the most restful places. But her energy is good for what she's been through, and her vitals are excellent. Tomorrow they think they'll move her to a regular room out of the ICU, and she'll get a visit from the physical therapist, who will show her how to put pants on when you're not allowed to bend over.

Most remarkable, for me, is how she looks. Always before, when she's been in hospital she has been completely wiped out, exhausted to the point of apathy, and her complexion has tended toward an unsettling almost corpse-grey. So when they let us see her after the surgery, the first thing I noticed was that her complexion is a healthy, rosy color and for the first time ever her hands and feet feel warm! She always had very poor circulation. Also, despite how understandably lousy she feels, she really is quite perky. Comparatively speaking, at least. But her eyes are bright and she's got the energy for irritation and humor, which if you've ever been in hospital for something serious enough to get you near the OR, you know is not a small thing.

I am also doing well. I'm not getting all freaked out, I'm remembering to take care of myself, and this hotel really is quite nice (and inexpensive!). I wish I'd remembered to bring my swimsuit; they have an indoor pool, and it'd be a nice way to relax in the evening before I go to bed. The hospital is astonishingly nice as well. It almost spooks me how it has an almost resort-like feel to it. It's very strange. Hospitals have always weirded me out this way. It's like they have two faces: there's the public face, with all the well-appointed visitors lounges and cafes and lobbies and what have you, and then behind the scenes there are the operating rooms and patients' beds and nurses' stations. I know they're trying to dilute the coldness and sterility, but it feels like human suffering being hidden behind an attractive facade, and the effect is more pronounced the nicer the public areas of the hospital are. At least at this particular one it's minimized. It helps that the staff really do go out of their way to make patients feel welcome and as cozy as they can. It feels less like they're just hiding the ugly side and more like they're honestly trying to improve it.

I bought and already finished Rob Thurman's new book, Roadkill. I enjoyed it very much, though the pacing was a bit odd and I can't claim much in the way of twists. It rather read like a character piece wrapped in an external plot, but given the characters I can deal with that. :)

When Sis is feeling better, she's next in line to read it.

Night, all!
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Coldfire Noir
by *Bluesrat on deviantART

I meant it to just be a little cartoon, but this really got away from me. Also it makes less sense than I was hoping, but if you like chiaroscuro, I'm apparently your go-to gal!

Tarrant does his prince of darkness routine in a convenient shadow while Damien, as usual, rocks the hard-boiled look and feels thoroughly put-upon. Secretly he hopes his stubble irritates Tarrant like burning. He'd go hop around in a filthy mud puddle if he could find one, but sadly the mean streets of Jaggonath are currently quite dry.

*slinks away in crack-addled shame*


Sep. 29th, 2009 05:05 pm
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Courtesy of [ profile] alice_montrose:

Reply to this post by yelling "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ and explain what they mean to you.

I'll also add her addition: you can also give me five words that remind you of me... just be sure to mention them somewhere in the comments. XD

Library: I work in one. It's kind of fun to be around all these books, but I don't get as much time as I'd like to nose around in them because my job requires that I, y'know, actually get things done. This particular library is ugly and labyrinthine, but huge. It has its bizarre charms.

Baking: Baking gives me the warm fuzzies. Having the whole house smelling like pie or baking bread takes me right back to my childhood, and feeding people is fulfilling.

Lucifer: I know a lot of people get bored with the good/evil thing, but to me it's endlessly interesting. Want to know a lot about somebody? Ask them to make list of things they consider "good" and "evil." Figures like Lucifer are so enigmatic that they pretty much become blank slates for the human psyche to write on. What Lucifer is to any particular generation tells us what they found evil or untrustworthy. To us, he's beautiful, strangely compelling, has no need to lie when the truth can apparently destroy so easily...or alternatively he finally caught on to the whole "God is omniscient" thing, realized the game was rigged, and gave up.

Black Jewels: A guilty pleasure of mine. A "dark" (as in, it pretends to be but isn't really) fantasy trilogy that kinda reads like fan fiction and whose main purpose is to showcase the adventures of three really hot guys with names like Daemon and Lucivar. Has one really cool female character and one Mary Sue, and a surprisingly creative set of magical laws. Sequels suck.

Coldfire: This series cemented my love for dark, psychological stories with a lot of internal conflict. It's got its problems (argh, the ending, WHY?!), and I...speaking of the ending, I remain obsessed with these books and probably will until I figure out how that ending works. But the journey here is more important than the destination. On the surface, it looks like classic quest fantasy, but look a bit deeper and it's actually world-colonizing science fiction; but beneath that, it's really psychological horror on a planet where the laws of nature bring humanity's deepest wishes and fears to life. Remember what I said about Lucifer and the good vs. evil thing? Somebody wrote that story, and I keep coming back to it. I wrote three college lit papers on these books and I'm in the slow process of compiling another one.

Written by C. S. Friedman, titles are Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows. I pimp because I love.

Drawing: I've drawn all my life, which is saying something when most of my hobbies only hold my attention for weeks at a time. It's my primary creative outlet. It's alive inside me the way few of my other interests are. I feel driven to improve, to be able to illustrate images in my head I don't have the skill for now. I like portraying the imaginary because it's not real--it allows me to make and share something new, to bring life to images that would never exist otherwise. Mostly I do fantasy, but that's because I suck at drawing machines and monsters.
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Has everyone heard of this? They've got the trailer out now. I can't say it looks much like any version of Holmes I've ever imagined, but it's Robert Downey Jr. and it looks like too much fun for me to care much. Also Jude Law does seem to make a fantastic Watson.

Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros. Pictures) -
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A couple of years ago, Library of America released a volume of Lovecraft's tales, Neil Gaiman said on his blog was unexpectedly awesome, because the stories had been re-edited and now they worked. Somebody finally got it for me for Christmas this year, and what with one thing and another, I only just got around to reading it.

Lovecraft can really write, y'all! He's actually scary! The first story in the anthology is "The Statement of Randolph Carter," which if you know Lovecraft you're sniggering up your sleeve at. Only it was actually creepy, and the stupid thing at the end worked!

See, what happened was that Lovecraft only published most of his stories once, in the old weird pulp rags. When he died, a guy named August Derleth dug 'em all out and republished them so they wouldn't be lost. Only, Derleth was possibly the first fanboy. Like Russel T. Davies with Doctor Who, we owe him a debt of gratitude for keeping it alive, but he wrecked things up in the process. Lovecraft never had a structured vision of his continuity. Derleth added all that in. He re-edited Lovecraft's work to make it fit his vision of how he thought the Cthulhu mythos should work--and in addition, he was just a bad editor--and that's what we've all been reading all these years. The truth is, chances are better than 9 out of 10 that you've never read real Lovecraft.

So a while back, S. T. Joshi dug up the original published versions of Lovecraft's stories from old Weird Tales magazines and stuff, cleaned them up, and published them. The Library of America anthology uses these versions--Lovecraft's version, which are far more subtle, well-composed, and way less purple than Derleth's re-edits. Also (almost sadly), Lovecraft was not in fact as fond of words like "cyclopean" and "squamous" as Derleth has led us to believe.

Joshi corrected a lot more than what made it into the Library of America edition. There's also The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales, and he went around and collected Lovecraft's correspondence and essays into published volumes too, which we have here in the library and which are surprisingly interesting reading--though I have no idea how the man managed to write so many letters.
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3) Reading Fanfic As Literature

Let's be clear: I'm not talking about the dreck that exists because somebody's too lazy to come up with their own ideas. But the fact that a lot of fanfic sucks doesn't change the fact that some percentage of it is quality work that deserves recognition not only for its own literary merit but also for what it brings to the text it derives from.

Yes, seriously. Some fanficcers write as a way of engaging with the original text ('text' including movies, tv, anything with the elements of a story). It's their way of teasing out the threads of a story and communicating their own experience of it, their thoughts on it, their interpretation of it. These writers use fanfiction as...I guess you might call it an allegorical form of literary analysis.

I need to get shorter with these. )

Anyway, that's why fanfic as literature: I see it as an extension, explication, and/or interpretation of the primary text, and as such, if well-constructed, it's perfectly viable as a secondary source with which to extend my understanding and appreciation of the work (though granted, not necessarily legally or academically viable--at least, it's not academically viable yet; wait for that one, guys, because there are young academics out there working to win its scholarly legitimacy).
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First, the worst, purplest prose in the history of the color purple. [ profile] coaldustcanary pointed me at this, and I realized as I looked at it that I had seen this book before! Someone had brought it to a party in order to read aloud from it and entertain us all. And it really is the worst. These pages? Not even the worst in the book.

Second, a passing nod to the Great Racefail '09. For those of you who've managed to miss it (which was not me this time! I didn't participate, but I follow [ profile] matociquala's (aka author Elizabeth Bear) blog, so I saw that a couple of days after it was posted and watched the upheaval unfold from there.

My two observations on the Great Race Fail: I don't know about anybody else, but I learned a lot just from keeping my trap shut and reading. I'll have much to think on for a long time to come. And also, Stupid knows no boundaries. Neither does Smart, for that matter. They are the great equalizers, and the proof that beneath everything else, we're all human.

I was mainly interested in the topic of writing Others (aka people who aren't like you...whatever you want that to mean), because I love characters who aren't like me. I read fantasy because I want to see new and different things, but also because I like it when things I read come back to enrich my perspective on real life. If all the characters are immediately identifiable, if I don't have to learn anything about them to get to know them, then they're boring--and probably cliched. Speaking as nothing but a fan of stories, I'll say it bemuses me that this topic came up so strongly in the fantasy genre, where I'd imagined it was a matter of course to at least make an effort to get into the heads and experiences of other cultures, other genders, other lifestyles, even things like dragons and vampires and alien species. But I guess there's doing it well, and doing it half-assed, and then there's doing it for critters you've just invented and there's doing it for characters that have some grounding in real life.

I just hope people've found the whole row educational (other than the requisite flamewars), and that maybe we'll get a more diverse array of writers being published out of this. My bottom line is that you shouldn't have to put up with crap for it, but it's boring when everybody's the same.
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Courtesy of [ profile] x_los: comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate you with. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given.

1) She Blinded Me With Library Science.
2) Office Politics: How A Nice Girl Like You If Forced By Circumstance To Care About The Doings OF Stupid People Like This
3) Reading Fanfic As Literature
4) History/historical fiction in lit
5) Foooodz.

1) She Blinded Me With Library Science.

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!

I stumbled into this job, actually )

But I feel like I should make an effort to target the requestor's (requestrix's?) intent. )
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Amadis of Gaul is probably the most famous of the genre of novels Cervantes satirized in Don Quixote, and it even has the "honor" of being mentioned in the text. Once immensely popular, these books have fallen out of the public eye over the centuries. Amadis of Gaul has never even been translated.

Now one brave scholar who apparently has too much time on her hands has applied herself to the task! Via blog! Every week, she translates and posts a chapter of the work from the old Spanish. If you think that kind of thing is cool, you should check it out and read along!

Amadis of Gaul
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Ahahaha! I have had the following said to or near me:
"The Sixth Sense is fantastic. You find out the guy's dead at the end."
"Wait till you get to the part where Flint dies."
"When I got to the spot where Dumbledore died, I had to put the book down."
The entire plot of the first Anita Blake book, in an attempt to tell me how good it was so I would read it. It failed.
All the other highlights of the Dragonlance saga, in an attempt to get me to read it (I categorically refuse to ever do so, both on grounds of having been spoiled for it so thoroughly and because frankly it doesn't sound all that fantastic or original).

Things I have spoiled for someone else:
Empire Strikes Back (I'm sorry, but with 95% of the modern world being familiar with it, why'm I supposed to assume you're the 1 out of 50 who doesn't know?)
The ending to Titanic (Me: "The ship sinks." Idiot who won't shut up about Leo:"OMG, how could you spoil it like that?!" Me:" O.o Seriously?")
Pearl Harbor (Person: "I can't wait to see it!" Me: "It looks interesting. (cue me nattering about the actual events at Pearl Harbor)" Person: "Wow, thanks for ruining it." Me:"O.o Seriously?")
Dumbledore dying. Oops.

A book I explicitly asked to have spoiled for me that the other person then lied about:
Deathgate Cycle. Me: "I can't bear to keep going without knowing what happens. Does Haplo die?" Him: "Yep." Me: *sadface* *keeps reading* An hour later, "NO HE DOESN'T WTF WAS THAT ABOUT YOU JACKASS? DID YOU THINK I WOULDN'T FIND OUT?"

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I posted this to a friend who'd been through too much Lit class trauma this semester, and it occurred to me that I'm not sure how many of you dear geeks know about it.

Geoffrey Chaucer hath an extreme blog. It's true, he does. And whomever's channeling him has a scary-good grasp of Middle English (such as we know it).
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Hazard of the holidays: when you go Christmas shopping on, it's all too easy to pitch a few extra books in to get that free shipping. Thus I came by ownership of several new books in November.

Of those books, The Somnambulist stands out. It stands out, in fact, against everything I have ever read. This isn't because it's obviously better or hits my reading-buttons more perfectly or anything so quantifiable. It's because it is NOTABLY WEIRD.

It's about Edward Moon, a stage magician in post-Victorian London, who in his spare time is also a famous amateur detective, a la Sherlock Holmes. Also his partner, a golem-like mountain of a man who never speaks or bleeds named the Somnambulist. Edward uses that in his stage act, stabbing the big guy with multiple swords and then showing off the total lack of effect. They spend the first couple of chapters of the book completely missing numerous references to a bizarre new case (involving fat perverts being shoved out of the window of a tower, which shouldn't by rights exist in London, by the concerted efforts of their mothers and a monster--that's the prologue, I'm not spoiling you) until their police inspector friend comes and gets them and makes them help.

But that's not the weird part. The weird part is...everything else. It's like reading Neverwhere with circus freaks. It has that sense of another world under and between the cracks of our own, that you can fall into if you're not careful (Edward isn't out of place there to begin with), and also a powerful sense of, I dunno, logical disconnect--like you're looking at something that your mind is rebelling against.

It's an interesting sensation, which I've had from other things--the "Carnivale" TV series, for example, and a little bit with Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. But it's much stronger here, a subtle thread teased out from other works and expanded to its full potential. It's creepy, without being exactly scary.

The plot is a conspiracy. The narration is in first person by a mysterious stranger who seems to know everyone well enough to offer us their interior thoughts. The tantalizing allusions to Edward's history are almost the most compelling thing about the book (I'd so read prequels if we got to see any of it). There's a strange little gnome of a man who claims to live backward through time (not Merlin...I think).

Lurid, in the most sensationalist sense of the word.

If you can deal with a sense of mind-bending but indefinable oddness and a couple of scenes weird enough to make you a bit queasy, I think you might enjoy it. ...Though then again, I think perhaps the mind-bending oddness really is the point, so if you don't enjoy that, it might not be such a good book after all. If you're inclined to try it, I recommend hunting it up through the library system, if you can manage, as it might not be a keeper by many peoples' standards.

Aside from all the above, the book contains a sort of literary "Where's Waldo" game, where the author works in various allusions to other stories (not all of which are necessarily high classic lit), some more of which subtle than others and none of which have any bearing on the actual story. See how many you can identify. The several quotes from Arthur Conan Doyle near the beginning (just in case you miss the blatant hint about the "great detective" in the blurb on the back) are a gimme.
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Which, of course (get your minds out of the gutter, you perverts!) is a term indicating books and libraries worth drooling over.

Now Scanrobot apparently wants you to get your minds back into the gutter.

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Just a thought: ever since [ profile] alice_montrose introduced me to Within Temptation, they've been my soundtrack for the Coldfire Trilogy. It just sounds right. Especially because of Deceiver of Fools.

Book Rec!

Nov. 23rd, 2008 07:47 pm
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Just finished Elizabeth Bear's Ink and Steel, and I am obsessed.

Kit Marlowe is a spy for the Crown and a worker of magic, through his plays, which sustain Elizabeth's power on the throne. At the beginning of the book, he has just died (there's in medias res!), and the members of the secretive "Promethean Club", the Queen's secret cabinet of magicians, are trying to decide what to do in the face of the loss of their greatest playwright. Until Master Burbage pipes up, "I know a man."

Enter one Shakespeare.

The first amazing thing is how Bear perfectly captures Elizabethan England. It's one of those books I'd read just for immersion in the setting. You can feel the sensations of a 1500s London street. Someone once said "The past is another country," and it's true. The people of the time had a different morality in some ways, hopes and fears that we've long left behind. But Bear seems to wave her hand and make it all make sense to you.

The second amazing thing is that she writes Marlowe and frigging Shakespeare, and she writes them well. If you've read their plays, it strikes you that yes, this is how they might speak. This is how they might think. They're real human beings, not rhyme-and-meter-chanting caricatures, but the wit and brilliance are there. What's more, she takes the history (and mysteries) of these two men and weaves them, plays and all, into a hidden history made up of occult conspiracies, not forgetting their families, friends, and enemies (Annie Shakespeare figures! I bet most of you didn't even know his wife was named Annie!). She takes many liberties, applying lots of the juicier rumors that have always circulated about them, and occasionally deliberately ignores some bit of historical evidence, but if you're willing to accept exercise of poetic license, it fits.

The more of a lit geek you are, the more you'll like these books. If you're not a lit geek, they're still awesome.

As a caveat for those of you who're more discretionary about what you read: there is, however, both homosexuality and sexual violence in here. Not explicit, by and large, but it features. Historically, Kit Marlowe's said to have fancied the male persuasion, and there are always theories about old Shakespeare, and Bear works with that. Additionally, if you understand Elizabethan slang, the lads' dialogue is fairly vulgar...but it's more or less like swearing in a foreign language (an example: "will" is slang for penis, so...yeah. If you remember your high school Shakespeare, suddenly it seems a lot dirtier, doesn't it?).

There's a sequel called Hell and Earth, because apparently she wrote them as a single book but it got too substantial, so they were split before publication. Stupid me, I only ordered the first one, so now I have to wait for the second.
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I should be swatted for forgetting to pimp this before.

Most of the Coldfire trilogy fans on my flist already belong to the comm, but over on [ profile] hunters_forest we are doing a group re-read of the trilogy, chapter by chapter.  I think we're averaging two chapters per week, with a discussion post for each.  Those of you who are fans and not members yet, go check it out!  We're not too far into it--just at the point where the main protagonists meet for the first time (chapter 15)--so easy to catch up.

For those of you who haven't read these books, DO IT!  You can read, and if you feel moved, go ahead and comment in the older chapter reading posts.  People are still doing that, so you don't need to feel like you're the weird one backtracking through dead discussions.

I cannot pimp these books hard enough.  They're in my top 3 greatest reads ever.  I can never quite explain why they're so good, except that they appeal on so many levels.  My favorite thing is that the setting is internally consistent, with world-building that always asks, "So what does that mean?"  Which results in a world that helps shape the societies and the people living in it.  It's a science fiction story with fantasy trappings.  The "magic" of this world--this planet, on which human colonists long ago landed--is actually a natural phenomenon, a psycho-reactive world in which humans, with all our conflicting impulses and imagination juxtaposed against rationality, find ourselves the aliens, struggling to live in a place where myth and superstition seem to become physics.

The characters are also internally consistent, and deeply developed, with their own motivations, priorities, and thought processes.  They have a tendency to break whatever stereotypes you start forming around them, and typically display a refreshing possession of common sense.  I would say that this is foremost a story about these characters, who are so opposed in many respects that just having to deal with each other is putting them through hell.  From that perspective, the trilogy rests firmly in the gothic, as they drag each other into dark psychological territory and philosophical questions.

But while there's a lot you can enjoy if you're into critical reading, they're also very fun, accessible books.  I read them for the first time in high school, when they kept me up for several nights straight. :)  Some people think the first one starts slow (well, there's the prologue, which I should probably warn you plunges straight down the well of horror...but the rest of the story doesn't skew that dark), but all agree that by chapter 15, it's on the move.

Also, there is a glorious, utter lack of smut, which at this point is a rarity in any kind of dark fantasy novel (was that sarcastic?  Surely not!).

...Okay, I lie.  Those are all great things about the books, but my favorite things are Damien and Gerald.  Sure, they both get beaten over the head frequently with the psychological torture stick (mostly by each other).  They're forced into all that philosophical existential broody stuff I mentioned before, but while they're at it, they snark and bicker at each other like an old couple or two tom cats circling each other.  They hate each other's guts, read many of the same books, and work together like a seasoned team.  Both of them display that trait so seldom found in a novel: the ability to prioritize.  Mutually assured destruction can come after they get done saving the world, which Damien is really quite fond of and, well, Gerald keeps all his stuff there.  It's like Gerald's the villain Damien was always meant to have, but the story got hauled off its tracks by some jackass who insists that he should be the bad guy.  It's sheer chemistry, and after their initial encounter in chapter 15 (they think they're parting ways, but here's a hint:  they're not), I just bet you you'll be hooked.
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This is pretty much It. Sexiest thing you've ever seen? I think so!
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Some of you might know that Robert Downey Jr. is doing Sherlock Holmes. [ profile] coyotegoth linked to the first pictures from the production scene today. I know I've got some Holmes-lovers on my flist, so I figured I'd pass them on.

First pictures from the set

I'm really not sure what to make of it. He doesn't look like Holmes (though Jude Law, playing Watson, could rather pull it off), and yet I have no doubts of his acting ability. That said, the bowler hat throws me. Perhaps he's in disguise? Or maybe he's an odd, slummy Sherlock. I dunno. Either way, Jeremy Brett will forever by My Holmes, but I'm betting that even if it's weird, RDJ as Holmes will not be bad per se. The result should be intriguing, at least.


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