renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
Welcome to the second half of 2017, which will go by in what feels like three weeks but will also feel like 19 years thanks to Political Shenanigans. Time is weird! Luckily, we have books to get us through it all.

I always enjoy looking at all the books I may read, even the ones that I'm going to have to make hard purchasing decisions about. Out of my anticipated books last time, I've read 10. For a lot of them I'm waiting for them to cycle out of the new collection and into general at the library so I can enjoy all the things I check out for a full, glorious month. I suspect I won't get to some of these until 2018 when my library buys all the late-year release books and cycles the others out of new. I love my library, but I wish the new book check out time was longer than two weeks. Two and a HALF weeks would help me. Alas, alas.

I have my eye on a ton of science fiction IN SPACE this time around. Some of these I suspect I'll buy if my finances work out so I can use them for my space opera challenge. Read more... )

What great-sounding books have I missed? What's everyone else looking forward to?

with a gun in his hand

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:30 pm[personal profile] marycatelli
marycatelli: (Default)
When opting for stirring up a story with Chandler's rule, I always have to decide what, exactly, is the man coming through the door with a gun in his hand.

Read more... )

Trailer Roundup

Jul. 23rd, 2017 12:36 pm[personal profile] jimhines
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

It’s movie trailer season!

1. Thor: Ragnarok – I love the banter between Thor and Hulk/Banner. Everything I’ve seen about this movie looks like fun.

2. Star Trek: Discovery – I’m intrigued enough to want to see more, and it will be nice to have some new television-style Star Trek. We don’t have CBS All Access, but I’m sure it will be available on Blu-ray eventually.

3. Ready Player One – I know a lot of people loved this one, but for some reason, the book just didn’t work for me, and the trailer seems to be following suit. The trailer looks pretty, but it doesn’t grab me.

4. Justice League – I don’t know. DC’s cinematic universe has let me down again and again…but then they did Wonder Woman, and I started to hope again. This looks like it could be fun. Or it could be a mess. I’m withholding judgement for the moment.

Which ones, if any, are you looking forward to?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

meganbmoore: (flower in prison: scenery)
I've been watching the 2011 sageuk Tree With Deep Roots, which is a political thriller about the creation of Hangul, which Six Flying Dragons is a prequel to. Tree should be watched before 6FD though. My first “I wish I’d watched this while it was airing” moment with it was the fight at the end of episode 7/beginning of episode 8. Because while I recognize that the flying/mid-air clashing effects were fairly advanced and cutting edge for 2011, they are…very dated, especially since I watched and rewatched the more advanced versions of that technology in Gil Dong and Mori’s fights in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People earlier this year.



Speaking of Rebel, as I’ve been discussing with @dingax, who I’m watching Tree with, Tree is almost an inversion of Rebel. Or more accurately, Rebel is an inversion of Tree.



spoilers for both series )
pocketseizure: (Mog Toast)
As I play Final Fantasy XII, the outfits of the female characters have been driving me a bit crazy. What I was able to accept in 2007 isn't really flying with me anymore, and I feel a burning desire to fix the stupid designs, or at least try to imagine alternatives.

The worst offender is Fran, who is from a tribe called the Viera. The Viera are basically forest bunny versions of the Gerudo from the Zelda series (link) in that they're an isolated society of warrior women whose "otherness" is marked by brown skin, while they are made less threatening to the ostensibly straight male player through their sexualized clothing. As is the case with the Gerudo, the elements of "male-oriented exoticism" are unfortunate, because the Viera have an interesting culture. Likewise, Fran is a fascinating character, but... I don't really need to watch the black leather of her thong disappear into her bare butt as she runs through the desert, you know?

This is Fran's official design (link), and here is some concept art (link). I would be interested in keeping the character's features the same while designing a battlemage adventure outfit that's a bit more practical. I was thinking about actually commissioning someone in the Final Fantasy fandom, but no one jumps to mind. I'd love to see Kashuan do something like this, but...

A lot of Final Fantasy artists have moved on (typically to the Dragon Age fandom), and the ones that are still around really intimidate me. They didn't talk to me when I was a baby fan on DeviantArt, and they sure as hell aren't going to talk to me now that I'm a slightly less baby fan on Tumblr. So maybe this is something that I should try to do myself?

moon time

Jul. 21st, 2017 09:44 pm[personal profile] marycatelli
marycatelli: (Default)
It's a classic of the planetary romance genre, to have a few moons floating about the sky, just so you know it's not Earth.

Read more... )

separate hobbies

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:47 pm[personal profile] mizkit
mizkit: (Default)

I saw a thing yesterday that said “Buying fabric and sewing fabric are TWO SEPARATE HOBBIES.”

I actually feel that I understand so much more about the world now.

I’m now up to 6 artist’s figurines (I need to write more reviews) and I was unable (or unwilling) to resist a set of 14 archival color pens, plus all the stuff I already own, but do I actually draw? No, hardly ever. (That said, I’ve done more this year than in many years.)

Anyway, point is I’m back to that “I want to draw some silly little story like Questionable Content only about, IDK, fat 40somethings instead of hipster robots” thing. Except I really don’t want to draw a story about fat 40somethings because ugh life. I want to do something cute and funny that I don’t have the skill set for but who cares I’ll do it anyway because it doesn’t matter. Or something. And I want just enough pressure to help me do maybe half an hour of art a day without having any real expectations.

Which of course is not much like my personality at all, because yes, I have met me. :p

Moop.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Cool Stuff Friday

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:22 pm[personal profile] jimhines
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Friday still hasn’t seen the new Spider-Man movie 🙁

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

pocketseizure: (Needs More Zelda)
Lightsintheskye just sent me a comic based on a scene from the sixth chapter of my Zelda/Ganondorf fic The Legend of the Princess, and words cannot describe how fantastic it is. She also sent me a gag version, which I want to share here because it is made of gold.

Read more... )

My post of her last illustration only ended up getting about three dozen notes, so I decided to ask for the artist's advice about posting this one. I understand that the attention any given post gets on Tumblr is random, but there still have to be ways to skew the odds. Is there a day of the week or time of day that gets more traffic? Is there a good set of tags to use? I know there are marketing strategies for things like this (for example, this is an interesting infographic), but I've never actually sat down and compared notes with another actual human being. And it never hurts to ask for advice, right?

vignette challenge

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:06 am[personal profile] marycatelli
marycatelli: (Default)
This week's prompt is:
private

Anyone can join, with a 50-word vignette in the comments. Your vignette does not have to include the prompt term.

My efforts:

Read more... )

Hamilkitties!

Jul. 20th, 2017 03:09 pm[personal profile] rachelmanija
rachelmanija: (It was a monkey!)


Curious Alex.





Erin, waiting for it.

pocketseizure: (Gator Strut)
During the past few days I've been editing the fic I've written this year, and last night I came to the conclusion that I'm a bad writer. Like, I am not a good writer, and I'm not good at writing - which is to say that I have neither talent nor skill. I mean, I'm not going to stop writing, but there's really no point in me taking it as seriously as I have been.

You know what I am good at, though? Surfing.

Fuck this "working hard" shit, I am going to Hawai'i. I've got some friends who've been pestering me to visit, and I owe myself a nice long weekend of sitting on the beach while eating shrimp and reading other people's fic for once.

And maybe I'll get drunk on the plane (as one does) and write another cracktastic Peach/Bowser story, that might be fun too.

making the join

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:51 pm[personal profile] marycatelli
marycatelli: (Default)
One third of the way through the outline, I estimate.

So, I deduce, the original idea was one third of a story idea.

Read more... )
swan_tower: (Default)

I should have posted this yesterday, but appropriately enough, I was too busy prepping for the game I ran last night. 🙂

Dice Tales: Essays on Roleplaying Games and Storytelling is out now! If you play RPGs and have an interest in them from the narrative side of things — the ways we use them to tell stories, and what GMs and players can do to make them work better in that regard — you may find it of interest. Follow the link to buy it from Book View Cafe, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, or (in a first for me) DriveThruRPG. And if any parts of it wind up working their way into the games you play or run, let me know!

Also, the New Worlds Patreon has headed off into the wilds of rudeness, with two posts on “Gestures of Contempt” and “Insults.” The theme will continue through the end of this month before turning in a new direction for August. Remember that patrons at the $5 level and above can request topics, so if there’s something you’d like to see me discuss, you can make that happen!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Recent Reads: A WRINKLE IN TIME

Jul. 19th, 2017 03:09 pm[personal profile] mizkit
mizkit: (Default)

Having cried all over the WRINKLE IN TIME trailer, I thought I’d better re-read the book immediately to get a proper feeling for it again. It’d been at least twenty, possibly thirty, years since I’d read it, and…

…it’s kind of equally weirder and more mundane than I remember it.

I was prepared for, although somewhat exasperated by regardless, the Christian allusions; whenever I last re-read L’Engle, I was adult enough to notice her books are really laced with Christianity, so I knew that was going to be there. The story itself is actually a lot more straight-forward than I remember it being; possibly I’ve conflated the other books with it, or maybe it’s just that the weird bits are SO STRANGE that I thought the story structure had to be a lot more complicated than it really is.

It’s not, from a modern storytelling perspective, especially well told. It takes about four chapters to really get going, and it’s only a 12 chapter book. There’s a lot of telling, but not much in the way of showing in terms of…*why*. Meg is not, to the adult modern reader, particularly sympathetic: she doesn’t fit in at school, she’s angry in general and specifically very defensive about her father’s absence, and is apparently some particular kind of dumb that excludes being spectacularly good at math. That dumbness may be meant to indicate she’s socially inept, but although that certainly appears to be true, it doesn’t seem to be what’s really going on.

But that…dumbness…whatever it is…is crucial through the whole book. Meg doesn’t tesseract as well as the others. Meg is more vulnerable to the Darkness than the others. Meg won’t understand if you explain the thing…but I never understood why. (I’m not sure I understood as a kid, either, but it didn’t matter as much to me then.) And it’s apparently not something that came on simply because Mr Murry disappeared, because even he comments on it, and had done so before his disappearance, so you can’t lay her anger/ineptitude at the feet of her father’s disappearance.

And, just as much as Meg’s lack is not explained, neither are Calvin and Charles Wallace’s aptitude. Calvin communicates well; well, okay, that’s fine, but why does it make it easier for him to tesseract? Charles Wallace is, as far as I can tell, not even actually human, and Calvin, who does not come from the Murry family at all, is apparently More Like Charles than Meg is. But I don’t know what they are, or why they are, or why they’re the special ones and our heroine isn’t (well, that last one is institutionalized sexism, but let’s move past that). I remember *loving* Charles Wallace (and crushing terribly on Calvin), but I find him fairly creepy now, and that’s as the parent of an extremely self-assured little kid who, like Charles Wallace, is quite certain he’s able to Do It His Way without listening to the wisdom, or at least the experience, of his elders.

The one thing that maybe felt the most true to me in the whole book was Meg coming around to being the one who can save Charles Wallace. She wanted someone else–her father, specifically, but ANYBODY ELSE–to have to do the hard work. She was terrified and resentful of having to do it herself (and possibly that’s what the aforementioned “dumbness” is, since everybody keeps saying If you’d only apply yourself, Meg,, but that still doesn’t explain why she doesn’t tesseract as well, etc), and that seems very appropriate to a 13 year old to me. To people a lot older than 13, too, for that matter. But it comes in the 11th hourchapter, and her willingness to go on there is the only time in the book that she moves forward of her own volition. I’m not saying that isn’t fairly realistic, maybe, for a young teen, but in terms of making a dynamic book, it…doesn’t, really.

There are parts of the book that remain wonderful. The Mrs W are still splendid; Camazotz (which I always read, name-wise, as being what happens when Camelot goes terribly wrong) is still EXTREMELY CREEPY, and the thrumming presence of IT remains startlingly effective. Aunt Beast is wonderful. (So basically: the aliens work a lot better for me than the humans do.)

It doesn’t feel like a book that could get published now. It would need more depth; it felt shallow to me. A lot of its weirdness seems to me like it came very specifically out of the 50s and early 60s; I don’t think that book would, or perhaps *could*, be written now. It’s very internal in a lot of ways, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the film adapts the weirdness and the internalness and Meg’s basic lack of agency into an accessible story. My *feeling* is that they’re going to do a magnificent job of it, that it’s going to be one of those cases like Frankenstein or Jeckell & Hyde where the book’s conceptual foundation proves more powerful in film than it does on the page. I hope so!

But you know what I really wanted to do when I finished reading A WRINKLE IN TIME? I wanted to re-read Diane Duane’s SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD, because I felt like the Young Wizards books use A WRINKLE IN TIME as a conceptual springboard and dove off into something that worked a lot better as a *story*.

So I guess I know what’s up next (or soon, anyway) on the Catie’s Re-Reads list. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

“There is a common poor attempt at a joke … that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it … as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.”

Invisible 3 CoverAlliah is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which came out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can order the collection at:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play

Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.

As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.

#

Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities

Growing up in the 90s and early 00s in the south-east of Brazil, all I saw in mainstream media were the same repetitive, harmful and offensive stereotypes about travestis in telenovelas and badly written comedy TV shows, and the effeminate gay men and macho lesbian women token characters whose non-conforming gender expression was grossly caricatured for cheap laughs.

As an openly queer young girl in school, I learned that I could be queer, but not too much, not too visibly. I’ve heard those laughs, and I internalized through bullying and ridicule that I should change how I presented myself to the world—which I did really fast by becoming the stock image of a non-threatening feminine girl, although I never hid my sexuality. My first awkward attempts at a masculine gender expression didn’t have time to blossom. I shoved it down some unreachable recess of my mind and avoided it for 10 years, which (along with compulsive heterosexuality and a binary cisnormative culture) is why it took me so long to understand my bisexuality and figure out my transmasculine non-binary gender identity.

Once I did, I uncovered a gender euphoria I’ve been cultivating ever since.

It took me years to understand the ways in which I inhabit my queer transmasculine genderfluid neuroatypical body, and my most powerful illumination came unexpectedly through the stories of a queer non-binary neuroatypical green witch: Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West.

Wicked: Cover ArtI first met her in the book series The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire, where most aspects about her gender and sexuality were ambiguous or obscured between the lines, and later in fan fiction, where the depths of Elphaba’s intersectional identities (canon or not) could be explored to the fullest by writers that shared those same identities.

Despite being an avid reader of speculative fiction since childhood, it was only after these encounters with trans and non-binary characters in fan fiction during the first half of my twenties that I started researching these topics, that I found out where I belonged. I discovered a thriving community of authors from marginalized groups creating astonishing rebellious versions of every world I’ve ever dreamed of and countless others I couldn’t imagine would be paramount to my process of liberation.

I owe it mostly to the fictional characters and their creators that illuminated me—from early readings like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to the most recent fan fiction stories about a non-binary autistic Elphaba, a genderfluid bisexual Korra (from The Legend of Korra), and an agender transhumanist Root (from Person of Interest). I wish I could’ve met them sooner. Along the way to self-discovery, I had to collect all sorts of missing pieces with jagged edges and weird fractal shapes, and figure out a way to put them together myself. I was lucky to stumble upon the stories that I did and then to be able to find the communities that I needed. That’s why representation is vital. You cannot search for something you don’t even know exists.

There is a common poor attempt at a joke (that I’ve seen in both Anglophone and Brazilian online spaces), often directed at dehumanizing non-binary people and mocking activists working at the multidimensional core of intersections, that consists purely in stringing together a series of marginalized identities and calling attention to it, using the accumulation of these identities as a joke in and of itself, as if the mere existence of someone like that would be so absurd it could only be laughable.

One of the things fantasy author Jim Anotsu and I wanted to acknowledge when we wrote the Manifesto Irradiativo—our call to diversity and representation in Brazilian speculative fiction—is that our lives cannot be reduced to an isolated shelf in a bookstore or a niche market, thus we cannot be constrained to discussing the realities of our identities in those compartmentalized terms. We’re so much more than single-issue stories, than the same old one-dimensional narratives constructed to serve the gaze of the oppressor without making them examine their privileges and dismantle their systems of violence.

Those single-issue stories exist and persist for several reasons concerning the maintenance of racial, economic, and social power, amongst them because there is a fear of “too much” diversity. As if a book about a bipolar asexual bigender Afro-Brazilian person, for example, would scare away or alienate the common reader—who is always presumed to be the neurotypical cis straight white default that can handle only one unit of diversity at a time, served lukewarm, unseasoned. But as Audre Lorde said in a 1982 speech at Harvard University: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Stories matter. And we shouldn’t have the full extent of our existences cut, segregated, and dimmed in them. We deserve to live as a hyperdimensional mesh of identities when they want to flatten us, to be loud when they want to silence us, to occupy the spaces that have been negated to us, and to be wonderfully written and represented as such.

***

Alliah/Vic is a bisexual non-binary Brazilian writer and visual artist working in the realms of the weird and pop culture. They’re the author of Metanfetaedro and have various short stories published in themed collections and on the web. They’re currently building too many independent projects, working on their first novel, and haunting your internet cables. Find them tweeting at alliahverso and newslettering in Glitch Lung. Or buy them a coffee at ko-fi!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Rime, Part One

Jul. 18th, 2017 11:48 am[personal profile] pocketseizure
pocketseizure: (Ganondorf)
Rime (stylized as RiME for some reason) came out this past May, and people have been describing it as a cross between Journey and The Wind Waker. This comparison is apt, as Rime has the aesthetic sense of Wind Waker with a few design elements borrowed from Journey, and its particular brand of "exploration adventure" is clearly influenced by Journey, with a few gameplay elements (such as moving block puzzles) drawn from Wind Waker.

Rime is apparently supposed to be three to four hours long, and I think I'm about a third of the way through. This doesn't include the extra hour I spent trying to get past the first section of the game, an hour that I erased by resetting the game and starting over with a walkthrough. Overall, Rime isn't particularly difficult, but I want to talk a bit about this weird failure in the design of what it's probably fair to call the "tutorial mission."

Read more... )

I frequently have trouble figuring out the internal logic of games that are new to me, so this could just be a consequence of my own relative lack of skill, but I still think exploration challenges with this level of difficulty should not be part of the tutorial mission. This wouldn't be a flaw in a game that is in fact meant to be difficult, but it's definitely a problem in Rime, and it could have been avoided with a focus group of literally one shitty gamer.

My experience of fooling around with Rime has been making me appreciate how good the game design of the Zelda series is, especially Breath of the Wild, which has no artificial barriers and doesn't force the player to use an action before they've figured out how it works in a more natural and intuitive context. That being said, there is more environmental storytelling in the first hour of Rime than there is in however many 100+ hours I spent with Breath of the Wild. After I finish Rime, I want to talk more about the intense Wind Waker feels this game has been giving me.
swan_tower: (Default)

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael F. Haspil at Denver Comic-Con recently, and he had me at the word “Egyptology.” The hero of his debut novel is a mummy and former pharaoh — how could I not be interested in that! But I’ll let Michael tell you about how it took a different character to bring his mummy’s story to, er, life for him.

***

cover art for GRAVEYARD SHIFT by Michael F. HaspilI wrote the original version of GRAVEYARD SHIFT during NaNoWriMo some time ago. However, I still remember when the story really jumped into gear and, regrettably, that wasn’t truly in the first draft, though at the time I thought it was.

As I began revisions and sorted through the aftermath of a NaNo first draft, certain aspects stood out as being decent. The main character, Alex Menkaure, an immortal pharaoh now working in a special supernatural police unit in modern-day Miami, and his partner, Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, needed minor work. The climactic battle at the end against the villains needed a lot of polish. While the action was solid, I wrote the section in a blur and it showed. Also, there was something missing. While Alex and Marcus are formidable, the villains I’d set up for them to go against were more so, and they needed help.

The help came in the form of Rhuna Gallier, a young but vicious shapeshifter with her own agenda. I’d had an idea for her character while brainstorming another novel, but realized with some minor tweaks, Rhuna and “The Pack” could fit into GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s story and world.

When I wrote the next draft, as I seeded Rhuna’s presence throughout the book, she threatened to take over the entire thing and make it hers. This may sound weird to non-writers, but she didn’t seem to understand this was Alex’s story and she was a supporting character. So I promised her besides the climax she would get a cool action scene. I knew in the scene Rhuna needed to be mostly on her own with minimal support so I could showcase her lethality.

In GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s world, a practice goes by the underground name of S&B. It stands for Sangers, a derogatory name for vampires, and Bleeders, humans who willingly let vampires feed on them to experience the pleasurable sensations that come with it. Participants meet in bloodclubs, which are akin to prohibition-era speakeasies. Many unsavory activities such as human trafficking, blood and drug dealing, and murder, happen near the clubs and they are part of Miami’s criminal underbelly.

In the early draft, I had a criminal vampire who liked to prey on young girls, take one of his victims to the club. It was an unhappy chapter and ended with the vampire killing another victim. In the new draft, Rhuna showed up. That’s when the story jumped to life. Rhuna took the place of the victim and suddenly where I had a naïve girl falling prey to an old vampire’s wiles, now I had Rhuna going in as a Trojan horse and the vampire and his companions never knew what hit them.

I rewrote the sequence, several chapters long, in one sitting. Now, I can’t wait to write Rhuna’s novel. It’s going to be great fun.

***

From the cover copy:

Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.

When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.

If they succeed, they’ll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodier than any the world has ever seen.

Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul. An avid gamer, he serves as a panelist on the popular “The Long War” webcasts and podcasts, which specializes in Warhammer 40,000 strategy, tactics, and stories. Graveyard Shift is his first novel. Find him online at michaelhaspil.com or @michaelhaspil.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

I did an art

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:50 am[personal profile] telophase
telophase: (Default)
And here is the full picture that I painted for [personal profile] selenite0's Torchship Captain cover I posted yesterday:


Torchship Captain by sfolse on DeviantArt

Why paint so much that's just going to be covered by the title and top image of a face? (a) portfolio work and (b) to potentially sell as prints. :)

(also: the window started from a 3D program and the wall started from a copyright-free set of textures, and then I painted over them and photomontaged stuff into them. I can't draw lines that straight.)

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